Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat: A Scary Economic Halloween Story

Now, when I put two and two together, I get four. But if you were to believe the Republican Party, you would have to say that two plus two equals three

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Boschert at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Rocky Boschert

Guest Commentary

On October 25 in the
Daily Beast, these facts were written about the Republican Party:

“Companies that received money from the much-reviled federal bailout - also known as Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) - are now giving to the politicians who attacked their rescue. The 23 companies with political action committees that received at least $1 billion in TARP funds gave a total of $1.4 million to candidates in September. These companies include GM, J.P. Morgan, and Citigroup. Despite the fact that only three Republicans voted for the bill in the Senate, most of the money is going to Republican candidates. GM gave $5,000 to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who opposed the bailout of GM and Chrysler. TARP was passed under George W. Bush.”

After reading this, I would like to ask the conservative voters out there: “Don’t you ever wonder why you have the same economic values as rich people, when your chances of ever being rich are almost zero? I also ask you: “Don't you think that maybe all the TARP hypocrisy of the Republican Party, as described above, may just show that you are a little too easily manipulated by your right wing corporate idols like Steve Forbes, Larry Kudlow, or even Dave Ramsey?

And if you could take a minute to read this Wikipedia definition of what a
plutocracy is, does this description of what constitutes a corporate state ring any bells?
“The influence the wealthy minority of the population has over the political arena includes campaign contributions, as well as bribing to achieve corporate objectives (profits) by essentially any form of manipulation of the government. Buyers of media properties shape public perception of political issues (see: fourth estate). We see an explosion of wealthy individuals and organizations exerting financial pressure on governments to pass favorable legislation. Plutocracies permit partisan organizations to raise funds for politicians, and it is well-known that political parties accept significant donations from various individuals (either directly or through corporate or advocacy groups). These donations may be part of a cronyist or patronage system. Some describe these donations as bribes, although legally they are not unless a quid pro quo exists.”

Now, when I put two and two together, I get four. But if you were to believe the Republican Party, you would have to say that two plus two equals three. So, I ask: “Why are you conservative voters again falling for the same misinformation and bogus free markets rhetoric put forth by the failed big business Republican Party political machine? Wasn’t eight years of Bush/Cheney/Boehner/McConnell enough to show you that the Republican Party is completely void of fresh economic solutions?

And, you, Joe Six Pack. What are the chances of you ever being rich? Yes, almost none. So why are you sacrificing your own financial security – as well as your critical thinking – for the rich Republican (or Democratic) plutocrats who only see your social security and health care premiums as another pool of your money to pilfer, while making you think they are looking out for your family’s interests?

And why, Tea Partiers, do you wish to dismantle the few remaining regulatory agencies that provide the anti-monopoly consumer & industrial safety laws and regulations we still need? What about your children and grandchildren? Are they going to have any of your leaders around to help protect them from the corporate criminals like BP, Massey Energy, and some of the Wall Street bankers, who are shaking your hand while they are killing your spouse or poisoning your children?

Local Voters, National Fears

On the national level, Obama has had only two years to try and repair eight years of mostly incompetent Republican leadership. And yes, he clearly has made two big mistakes domestically: One, he focused on health care instead of creating jobs; and second, his inexperience let the Clinton liberal corporatists who control the US Treasury further enrich their crony CEO friends on Wall Street – and so far has changed little of the greedy corrupt culture there.

But after Tuesday, it will be good to have a Republican majority US House of Representatives again. Why? Because maybe then voters with such an unbelievable short term memory will see AGAIN that the Republican Party hasn’t changed for the better. In fact, they are worse, i.e., further to the right and even more out of touch with valid solutions.

Thank you, Hays County

As voters, we do the best we can in local elections. I believe the politicians who run for local and state office from Hays County are basically good people. But they have a job to do. And for most of them, their job is not to represent the citizens who voted for them. It is to make money for the people who got them in office – while sacrificing as little of their own integrity and community grace as possible.

At the national level, and to some degree the state level, it no longer matters if you vote Republican, Democrat, or Independent. The big business plutocrats will continue to control the US and state economies until voters see we no longer live in an economic democracy.

Fortunately, voters have more control over our local economy and how our elections affect our personal finances. But I still thank God every day we don’t have a Sharon Angle running for office in Hays County.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's snowing MAILERS! Please recycle responsibly

RoundUp News/Photo

Tons of them . . . but are they helping the voters decide?

Last election we complained about all the mailers overloading our mailbox and hoped to goodness we might see fewer in the future, as a friendly gesture to our forests, environment and informed citizens' mailboxes. Fat chance. We're not only setting records on fund raising contributions (or payoffs) to the candidates this cycle, we are approaching a personal record on received political flyers! Two more big waves are coming Monday and Tuesday, Election Day. The mailers might be lovely keepsakes for political junkies but for the vast majority they probably add up to a lot of junk/mail – that has to be dumped somewhere. They are one-sided attack pieces, rarely fair and accurate on the issues, and probably have little effect on persuading voters to vote for one candidate over another. Out here, everybody knows somebody and that's how voters make their choices. There's gotta be a better way. Meantime, please remember to RECYCLE your mailers responsibly.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Out on the back 40 – How much longer can we keep our open spaces quiet?

Through it all, I’ve learned that our state law, which everyone defaults to (as if defaulting to common courtesy isn’t the obvious option) is 85 decibels, at the complainant’s property line. This is like living next to a lawn mower just outside your windows, or a jet aircraft flying over head

This one is what we call a "sleeper" issue. Hays County is growing and getting noisier all the time. Outdoor music and entertainment venues are here and spreading, causing discomfort to many of the county's more rural residents who moved out here for the quiet and open spaces. Unfortunately, the lives of Ms. West and her neighbors south of Dripping Springs off RR 12 and Memory Lane have been turned upside down by the loud noise of a neighboring "great outdoors" party venue. Welcome to country living. Medical experts say hearing damage can occur with extended exposure of any noise over 85 decibels.

West says she is fighting to change state law to reduce the maximum allowable level to 60 decibels, a happy medium, in unincorporated areas. Politicians, right and left, are turning a deaf ear to her problem and ours. Why? Ask your favorite candidates and officeholders that question the next time you bump into them. And while you're at it, ask your favorite deputy or constable if he works off duty at one if those outdoor venues as a security guard. There are some issues with that, too, we'll be taking a look at down the road.

To learn more and sign up, visit Read this April 2010 story in the RoundUp for more background.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Ms. West at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Let’s keep the peace in rural Texas

Good neighbors
keep their noise
to themselves

By Kimly West
Guest Commentary

Let it be known that I’d like the choice of peace and quiet. I’d like the freedom of our rural way of life. I’d like to live in a community where all are protected from harm. I’d like everyone to consider each other when making decisions about activities that impact others. I’d like for northern Hays County to continue to be a place where peace and quiet and happy residents abound. I’d like respect and courtesy to be the unwritten law of our community.

But alas, these things are just dreams of times past. Or maybe we really didn’t have these things concretely, but neighborliness blanketed all who lived here.

Folks, we all have a problem, and it’s neighbor noise. Currently I have counted upwards of 10 noisy outdoor venues in northern Hays County. If this noise trend continues then many more will sprout, next door to you.

No one is protected, as our current state laws are practiced. A noisy neighbor will most assuredly move more near you, or near a friend, or near a loved one. Or a previously friendly neighbor has turned into a noisy nuisance.

I have lost the right to choose a peaceful and quiet lifestyle. It’s not an option anymore. I feel that my freedoms have diminished and I miss my old life very much. This unhealthy situation has been foisted upon me and my love ones and we do not like it at all. My noisy nuisance neighbors have totally disrupted my previous lifestyle.

You may think I’m the complaining type. Let me share with you that I am an author (Spiritual Guide to Bumper Stickers, vol.1), and my plan has been to work on vol.2, as well as a children’s spiritual book called ‘A Child’s Spiritual Guide’. Up until most recently, I have chosen to live a peaceful and very quiet life. You could have called me a hermit, but that is the lifestyle I chose in order to write the first Spiritual Guide. Being a writer is a solitary experience. External noise and disturbance disrupts the creative flow and I’ve not been able to get my work done.

One of my first bumper sticker sayings, and one of the most potent sayings, is Heal’thy Self (healthy self). In order to experience a healthy lifestyle, one must first find the cause of the health issue. In my case it’s unwanted and intrusive neighbor noise and disturbance. My nuisance neighbors have invaded my peaceful home, changed my lifestyle, created all kinds of physical ailments, and unhealthy conditions. Until the laws are changed, there really isn’t anything I can do about it.

Initially when the noise started, I tried to ignore it. I really believe in live and let live. I have no personal interest in what any of my neighbors do or how they choose to live their lives. That is until it impacts me and mine in a negative way.

I called my noisy nuisance neighbors and asked for peace and quiet. My polite neighborly requests were ignored and their response has been to continue their noisy tide (very loud…and bad disco music, much clapping, cheering and yelling, car honking, and at times fireworks(!). One never knows when a particular party will be loud, or what type of party plans are in store – this has caused all kinds of worry and stress about what the future holds.

Shockingly, I realized that northern Hays County isn’t a wonderful place to live (we have been here 18 years with no plans to move) because we all now have noisy nuisance neighbors who refuse to be neighborly.

Anger, frustration, irritation, and shock then set in. How could this uncomfortable and uncaring situation have occurred (especially among folks who used to be friendly)? When did we collectively acquire this uncaring attitude towards others? Remember when we used to wave to everyone on our country roads?

Through it all, I’ve learned that our state law, which everyone defaults to (as if defaulting to common courtesy isn’t the obvious option) is 85 decibels, at the complainant’s property line. This is like living next to a lawn mower just outside your windows, or a jet aircraft flying over head. At times I expect to hear a sonic boom happen over my home and family.

85 decibels does not take into account low bass sounds that are the most invasive and physically offensive. These low bass sounds rattle windows, shake floors and foundations, and synchronize with one’s heartbeat The absolute worst physical effect is when the bass sounds stop (even for a few seconds, you know, that transitional phase when the noise stops), one’s heart has to re-calibrate itself without the external pacemaker boom, boom, boom. Ouch, it actually hurts my heartbeat.

I’ve given this huge problem much time and attention. Seeking a healthy solution consumes my life. One positive avenue has been the creation of Our on-line petition drive is gathering signatures from folks in our county and state, who’d like to change this 85 decibels down to a reasonable and more peaceful 60 decibels, sundown to sunup.

All of our large cities in Texas, as well as everyone who lives in a subdivision community, must live with a noise ordinance. Austin has one, and so does San Marcos. This noise issue is happening to homeowners who live in the unincorporated areas of our counties. There has been, and will be again, bills in the Legislature, that request county land use regulations be granted to our county commissioners. This would give our counties the power to make and enforce laws. Our counties desperately need this power and I will work towards making this a reality.

tackles the problems from a different angle and that is changing the current nuisance noise statute from 85 decibels down to a reasonable and respectful 60 decibels (sundown to sunup).

60 decibels would ensure that ALL folks have the option of peaceful and quiet homes.
60 decibels is bearable to live next too, and 60 decibels does afford event attendees a good time too.

Please join our efforts. Please sign our petition. Your signature will work towards the guarantee of a peaceful life here in northern Hays County as well as all rural areas of our beautiful Texas.

Thank you and peace to all. ‘May Your Higher Self Rule Your World’ (from Spiritual Guide to Bumper Stickers, vol. 1).

18,688 early voters so far; Friday is last day to vote early

A lot of voters are undecided or keeping their powder dry, waiting for the traditional Big Day to make their choices

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Note: Go the Hays County Elections Office website for the complete schedule of Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 2 voting locations, plus polling location maps. There are 36 voting precincts and as many voting locations that will be open all over the county on Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call the elections office, 512.393.7310, if you are not sure in which precinct you are registered to vote.

By Bob Ochoa

Early voting turnout Thursday at five locations totaled 3,268. "Another good day," said Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan.

It was the largest one-day turnout since early voting began on Oct. 18. Thus far, 18,668 voters have cast their ballots early in the November 2 election, according to county elections office tabulations.

Cowan has predicted 40,000 people will vote, including on Election Day, Tuesday. If the prediction holds up, that means a lot of voters are undecided or keeping their powder dry, waiting for the traditional Big Day to make their choices.

Here are Thursday's totals: Belterra Clubhouse - 1,027; County Elections Office (San Marcos) - 271; San Marcos City Library - 409; Texas State University Campus - 566; Wimberley Community Center - 995.

Today is the last day of early voting . . .

Co. Elections Admin. Office
401-C Broadway
San Marcos, TX (7 am – 7 pm)

San Marcos City Library
Large Meeting Room
625 E. Hopkins
San Marcos, TX (7 am – 7 pm)

Buda City Hall
121 N. Main St
Buda, TX (10 am – 8 pm)

Seton Medical Center Hays
6001 Kyle Parkway
Kyle, TX 78640 (10 am – 8 pm)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Barton, in letter to supporters: "Truth is, we're in trouble"

"Our imprecise late polling indicates we're trailing because of straight-ticket voting and low projected turnout among supporters - people who think it doesn't matter, people who assume I'm going to win. Truth is, we're in trouble."

Update Friday Oct. 29 – Dr. Cobb's response received yesterday: "I do not condone Jeff Barton's cheap political theater or last-minute false attacks against my supporters or me. It is the height of arrogance for a politician to raise taxes on homeowners while raising his own salary, and then get mad when the people criticize his record. These antics distract from the issues that matter to Hays County families.

"Mr. Barton's actions do not dignify the office to which he aspires. This election is about choosing a county judge who we can trust to lead with integrity and vision and Mr. Barton's arrogance and desperation have confirmed that he is unfit for that important role."

The letter below (edited for length) is from Hays County Judge candidate Jeff Barton emailed to his supporters yesterday. We'll try to get an update and response from Dr. Cobb.

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

One of Barton's many faces, from the
website of
Doucet & Associates where he has been
employed as a
planner; many consider it a clear conflict
with his current
other employment as a county commissioner.

It's close, really close. It looks like we're slightly behind, with significant numbers of voters still undecided. There's less than one week left.

Supporters suffered mudslinging attacks on their past. Lying emails from people and groups with fake names continue to go out to thousands of residents every few days, distorting some things about my record, fabricating other "facts" from thin air. They even challenged where I was born.

I don't like asking for your help, but I need it. Sure, we could use money - we can always use money - but over the next seven days we need people power.

We need everyone who gets this to reach out to just one or two friends: ask them to vote for me. I need each of you to send a short, blunt email to your social network, telling them this race matters.

Bert Cobb, my opponent, ducked the last two debates, presumably because the debates before that went so badly for him. He is woefully uninformed on the issues facing Hays County. He's on record in favor of unlimited commercial pumping of our aquifers, saying it's a "property right" to take water from the ground - even if it dries neighboring wells.

Cobb has no plan to fix traffic or address budget challenges. He frequently gets facts wrong about taxes. He spouts clich├ęs about cutting services that would mean longer waits for EMS and cuts in services like libraries and the battered women's shelter - all without really saving the tax rate.

All around the county I find people who think I'm going to win this race easily. They say the choice seems obvious. And in fact our polling indicates I am way ahead with people who are tuned in, people who follow county government, who know the candidates.

Our imprecise late polling indicates we're trailing because of straight-ticket voting and low projected turnout among supporters - people who think it doesn't matter, people who assume I'm going to win. Truth is, we're in trouble.

It's time to rally up those of us who believe in common ground. It's time to take back the public sphere from hate mongers at both political poles who want to tear down instead of building bridges, who are so far gone they can't tell the difference between loud-mouth smears and solutions.

I'm all in - 15-17 hours a day. Every day. Cyndy and I loaned the campaign $5,000 from savings this week. We believe in what we're doing. We believe we can win. We believe we're in it together, like we have been from the first, with each other, and with you.

Thanks for everything you've done. I need more - six days worth of more: all you've got, all you can give. Call (512) 663-1719 or reply to this email to get involved and push us over the finish line.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'No bid' county contracts catch the eye of San Marcos resident

"The same companies cited in the Comptroller's report have contributed to Jeff Barton’s campaign, and they have received over a million dollars in road work contracts in Hays County so far this year."

This letter to the editor is from Lenee Lovejoy of San Marcos. The RoundUp received confirmation via email that she is the author. The information matches what the RoundUp has previously researched on budgeted road construction and engineering projects in Hays County. So, we're wondering, where have the Statesman, that has endorsed Mr. Barton for Hays County Judge, and all the other Hays County press been all this time?

Open Letter from Lenee Lovejoy, San Marco, Tx

Some of the buzz about NO BID road contracts seems legit.
Questions came up because the companies doing road work for Hays County were cited in a State Comptroller's report for overcharging on NO BID road contracts in Williamson County (the old WilCo and TxDOT toll story).

The report described "a handful of individuals, chosen without competition, resulting in the appearance of favoritism and self-enrichment". The report is at

The same companies cited in the Comptroller's report have contributed to Jeff Barton’s campaign, and they have received over a million dollars in road work contracts in Hays County so far this year. This, combined with Barton’s resistance to answering questions about bidding of contracts, does give an appearance of favoritism and self-enrichment.

Some of the companies: Prime Strategies / Mike Weaver (got $521,956 for road consulting in Hays this year), HNTB and HDR (got $814,674 this year), Survey and Mapping, Inc.

It didn’t help that Mike Weaver sprang for refreshments at Barton’s spring fund raiser last year - $1,352 that didn’t make it into Barton’s July 09 campaign finance report with the other $$ from the fundraiser. To Barton’s credit, he did later reimburse Weaver. (See Barton’s Dec. '09 finance report.)

All of this info is from Barton’s campaign finance reports and Hays County 2010 disbursement reports on the county website. See .

The bottom line is that Hays county is spending a lot of $$ on county roads. Some people are worried that the abuse of tax payer $$ that went on in Williamson County could be going on here. Some straight answers from Commissioner Barton would help clear it all up.

Rose tops $1 million in fundraising; will money buy the race?

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story
The chart below, from the informative Texas politics website CAPITOL INSIDE, shows that incumbent Patrick Rose's campaign for state rep has topped $1 million in fundraising – nearly double that of his Republican challenger Jason Isaac. The two candidates hail from Dripping Springs. We're not sure if that's a record for a State House race, but it sure must be up there in the all-time rankings. The big question is, who wants Rose re-elected to a 5th term so bad that they would contribute over a million dollars? The other big question is, will it be the money and not the man or vice versa that wins the race? The vast majority of Rose's money is coming from outside Texas House District 45 (Hays, Blanco and Caldwell counties). We're picking up that despite Rose's fund raising advantage, his race with Isaac is running about even (among polled voters). This one will be a Princeton – Stephen F. Austin State U. fight all the way to the goal line.

Early voting continues today thru Friday, Oct. 29. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2. For a complete schedule of early voting locations and times, and election day polling locations, go to this link at the Hays County Elections Office.

October 26, 2010

Texas House Fundraising 2009-2010:

Top General Election Races to Watch

The chart below contains fundraising and spending totals from January 1, 2009
through October 23, 2010 for candidates in Capitol Inside's Top Texas House Races
to Watch in the November 2 general election. The chart is still a work in progress.
Source: Texas Ethics Commission

Texas House Candidates
Cash on Hand
Oct. 25 Report
Total Contributions
Total Loans
Total Spending
Total Fundraising

Patrick Rose (D-Inc)
Jason Isaac (R)

Diana Maldonado (D-Inc)
Larry Gonzales (R)

Carol Kent (D-Inc)
Stefani Carter (R)


Chris Turner (D-Inc)
Bill Zedler (R)


Monday, October 25, 2010

Kyle "Showdown" descends into chaos

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Bob Ochoa


The much ballyhooed "High Noon Showdown" today in downtown Kyle started on time, but that's about all that appeared to go according to County Judge candidate Jeff Barton's campaign plan.

The showdown quickly descended into chaos.

People asked if it was a real showdown for a debate with critics or a political rally for Barton. Sam Brannon, the San Marcos resident who sent a signed email letter to Barton saying he'd be at the showdown with questions about Barton's public record was not given a chance to speak.

Late last week, Barton issued a challenge to his anonymous critics to face him "in the light of day."

Plenty of folks showed up, but no one claimed authorship of an anonymous emailed letter from "Hays County Democrats." The widely circulated email a couple of weeks ago criticized Barton for taking a pay raise in 2008. The letter and the pay raise have become prickly issues in the campaign.

Barton today again blamed supporters of Dr. Bert Cobb, his Republican opponent, for the email. Cobb has denied any involvement.

See what happened in the video. Barton grudgingly admits he was not born in Hays County, San Marcos, as his campaign website stated before it was changed apparently some time today. It now says he was "raised" in San Marcos.

If the video is slow to load, let it play to the end then replay it without interruption

428th District Court Judge candidates Scott Courtney (D) and Bill Henry (R) got in some air time at the showdown

A voters guide from Open San Marcos, and early voting continues

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the comments button at the bottom of the story

Update, Tuesday, Oct. 26 – Steve Harvey informs that the Open San Marcos Wednesday meeting will NOT be held at the Tap Room (last minute change). Please call Mr. Harvey at
512.557.1298 for the rescheduled meeting location.

Early voting locations today, Monday Oct. 25: Woodcreek City Hall (10 am-8 pm), Kyle City Hall (10 am-8 pm), San Marcos City Library (7 am-7 pm) and County Elections Office, San Marcos (7 am-7 pm). See the complete list of early voting locations and times at the Hays County Elections Office website.

Open San Marcos, a non-profit organization, is relatively new on the political scene in Hays County. They don't take sides in elections and they don't publish investigative stories or commentary. Co-founder Steve Harvey says what they are doing is promoting open and accessible local government with a focus, now at least, on the
City Council and City of San Marcos.

From their website: "Our driving mission is to help foster open government processes, supervised by an informed and engaged citizenry, which is the cornerstone of democracy."

The group has published a voters guide for the San Marcos mayoral race and three city council seats. See it on their website, which includes a discussion forum page with more details on recent activities.

They have a workshop scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 27, 6:30-8 p.m., at The Tap Room. The workshop is on the "3rd initiative" of the "First Ten," calling on the city council to adopt a resolution "for open government that articulates appropriate basic principles."

Contact Mr. Harvey at this address:

The Place 1 City Council race between Dave Newman and Kim Porterfield is attracting some attention outside the San Marcos area because of some of Ms. Porterfield's affiliations. She is the wife of Winton Porterfield of the Wimberley Springs development group.

Some of Porterfield's contributors, through the July 1-September 23 contributions reporting period, include:

Randall Morris, San Marcos (real estate broker)
Jim Powers (former Hays County judge; on Board of Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which is currently trying to get approval to pump water from aquifers in Bastrop & Lee counties and pipe it to San Antonio – an action those counties are protesting)
Thomas Loomis, Austin (of Loomis Engineering)
Halff Associates, Richardson, TX (engineers)
Rebecca Conley, San Marcos

For a look at Mr. Newman's contributors and all the candidates' campaign finance reports, click on this link to the city's website.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Long term prognosis for groundwater in western Hays not looking good

You can download a copy of the Draft HTGCD Groundwater Management Plan at the District's website here. Public comment is still being accepted. Email the District with your comments and questions at this address:

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Bob Ochoa

Time is precious, and so is our groundwater. Take a little time to view the video below. A
public hearing was held Thursday night, Oct. 21, called by the the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District to take testimony and comments on a draft groundwater management plan.

It was the second public hearing on the draft plan. A good size crowd turned out for the hearing at the Wimberley Community Center.

One of the issues central to the draft plan, and a big point of contention, is a proposal to allow a 30-foot drawdown of the Trinity Aquifer over the next 50 years. The Trinity is the main source of water for an estimated 35,000 residents, farmers, ranchers and business owners in the western half of Hays County.

A consensus seems to be forming that a steep decline in the aquifer level over time will not have good results.

In the video, the groundwater district's board president Jimmy Skipton says this: "At 30-foot, we'll be oversold. There's not that much left. Over 50 years if you take all the exempt (home wells) that could be here . . . it's pretty much gone."

Early voting resumes today at 6 locations

Early voting in the Nov. 2 election resumes today at six locations. The polls open at 10 a.m. and close at 4 p.m.
Last day of early voting is Friday, Oct. 29. Click here for the complete schedule of early voting locations and times.

County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan sent an update on early voting results through Friday morning, Oct. 22: Total votes - 5,922. Totals from Thursday early voting at the Wimberley Community Center - 858; from the Belterra Clubhouse box, Dripping Springs - 848.

Saturday early voting locations:

Co. Elections Admin. Office
401-C Broadway
San Marcos, TX (10 am – 4 pm)

San Marcos City Library
Large Meeting Room
625 E. Hopkins
San Marcos, TX (10 am – 4 pm)

Buda City Hall
121 N. Main St
Buda, TX (10 am – 4 pm)

Kyle City Hall
100 W Center St.
Kyle, TX (10 am – 4 pm)

Dripping Springs ISD Office
510 W Mercer St
Dripping Springs, TX (10 am – 4 pm)

Wimberley Community Center
14068 Ranch Rd. 12
Wimberley, TX (10 am – 4 pm)

Barton issues "high noon" challenge; local resident Brannon answers

Click on image to enlarge

"You have repeatedly claimed that you did not take the 14.61% pay raise, and that is an insincere answer at best . . ."
-- Sam Brannon

Note: Hays County Judge candidate Jeff Barton has issued a challenge to his anonymous critics to face him in "the light of day" at high noon Monday in downtown Kyle. Soon after news of Barton's challenge was reported in the Statesman, Hays County (San Marcos) resident Sam Brannon responded in an email and said he'd be there. This will be interesting. From the sounds of Brannon's open letter below (and some of the comments in the Stateman's story), candidate Barton best be practicing up on his draw. (Mr. Brannon has confirmed via email to the RoundUp that he is the letter's author.)

The RoundUp might be there to record the showdown. We have two questions in particular for Mr. Barton that we've been wanting to pursue – a simple yes or no would be good: 1) Is it true that you are not a native born Texan, that you were born in Colorado? 2) Is it true that a well known local Democratic name who has endorsed you in a recent mailer is a convicted felon? We'll follow up as soon as we have some answers. The questions come from reliable information already received by the RoundUp.

Send your comments and news tips to
or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story. Contact the Barton campaign and the Cobb campaign

Click here to read the complete story and comments.

By Patrick George | Thursday, October 21, 2010
Jeff Barton

Update 9:51 p.m.: Bert Cobb released a statement regarding Hays County Commissioner Jeff Barton’s comments earlier today.

“I share Mr. Barton’s frustration with these anonymous e-mails and wish they would stop.

“To be perfectly clear, when I criticize Mr. Barton’s tax increases and selfish pay hike, I do so openly and with the facts.

“However, if Mr. Barton wants to face-off with his detractors, I suggest a much larger venue than a street corner. A parade permit is probably in order.”

Hays County Commissioner Jeff Barton says he’s tired of the slew of anonymous e-mails he says have come from faceless detractors over the past few weeks.

Barton, the Democratic candidate for County Judge, says some of the e-mails have ranged from fake county party statements to messages critical of his performance written under pen names that can’t be found in public records.

Open Letter from Sam Brannon

There are a few things on my mind that I want to share with you. I'm sharing this with some friends and neighbors, and suggest they pass it along to their own friends and neighbors, too.

I'll be at your "High Noon" meeting on Monday, at the corner of Front Street and Center Street in Kyle, as you advertised in yesterday's Hill Country Rambler section of the Austin American-Statesman. I'll be happy to discuss these items with you in front of whoever chooses to join us.

1) You and I have talked about insincerity in the commissioners court meetings at least twice. When I was addressing the court about the Nicholson Ranch purchase on Tuesday, you broke into an animatedly smug grin. I called you on that. This and other comments from you while I and others were addressing our concerns over the last few months demonstrate your contempt for the people you were hired to serve. That's undignified in any context, and is unacceptable conduct by a public official to tax-paying constituents.

2) I recall the day in court when a couple of dozen Wimberley and Dripping Springs residents drove in for the discussion on the Park Bond project funding. There was a great deal of anxiety over the lack of a process or any scoring mechanisms in the spending of about $25 million of that bond money. It's clear to anyone familiar with the ordeal that the project decisions were essentially arbitrary. And when taxpayers stated their displeasure with this, you told the people who pay your salary – and whose borrowed money you were spending – that you don't have to allow them to speak in court. Another example of your contempt for the people of Hays County, and it's completely unacceptable from a public servant.

3) At the recent Public Hearings on the property tax rate increase on the people of Hays County, and the pay raise you were trying to give yourself, one citizen asked the court a question about other recent pay raises. You and the other commissioners took a few minutes to explain the 2% raise in FY 2008. But that was all you mentioned. You refused to fully answer her question.

When I was allowed to follow that question up, asking "What other recent pay raises have you had," you and the others on the court took 5 or 10 minutes talking about calculations and citizen councils, but you never did answer the question. I commented on that at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, I had to visit the County Auditor's office to find the answer. In addition to the 2% raise in FY 2008, you gave yourself a 14.61% pay increase in 2009. You voted yourself a 17% in the past two years and couldn't say it out loud in front of taxpayers (voters). You couldn't give the honest answer... the answer two people were looking for from you. You refused. Again, unacceptable.

4) You have repeatedly claimed that you did not take the 14.61% pay raise, and that is an insincere answer at best, and I can just as easily call it an outright lie. According to the County Auditor's office, you DID immediately accept a 3% pay increase, and just 10 weeks later began taking the other 11.61%. When you use clever wording to let people think you rejected the pay raise you gave yourself, it's a lie.

5) The fact that you were – in these tough economic times – attempting to give yourself another pay raise while raising property tax rates is disgusting. But at last week's League of Women Voters candidates debate, you claimed credit having "led the way" on keeping property tax rates constant for FY '11. I'm pretty sure the 100 or so taxpayers who helped defeat your increases would call that another lie. I sure do.

6) On Tuesday we saw another example of the commissioners' court's "Slush-Fund Accounting." Several weeks ago the court approved $2 million in "emergency spending" to fix problems at the jail. $500,000 was approved for air conditioning. In court Tuesday, we learned that it would only cost $270,000. When Judge Sumter asked why it wasn't really $500,000, it was explained that that number was just a place holder... list price, and that the commissioners expected the real number would be less. It was clear that the court intended to find another project on which to blow the savings.

If you don't understand why this is a problem, you're not worthy of the trust we've given you. There is no justification for authorizing inflated projects in an "emergency spending" situation, only to later pass the inflated amount off to other projects that were not directly associated with the $2,000,000 you authorized.

I've had enough of hearing the court discuss how you're going to "spend the savings"... it's an almost weekly occurrence. That's what we call "Slush-Fund Accounting," and it makes your numerous public claims of the "millions you saved on projects" meaningless, because you surely inflated the budgets, and passed the spending off elsewhere. Taxpayers resent such shenanigans with OUR money.

7) Lastly, you're very eager to pin the anonymous emails on Dr. Cobb and his campaign. You know Dr. Cobb is above such nonsense. It's much more likely to be from some ambitious and mis-educated College Republican, but I also would not be surprised if it came from one of your own supporters in an attempt to deflect the attention away from your real record and behavior in office. Your enthusiasm in blaming Dr. Cobb does look very suspicious to me.

The People of Hays County deserve much better than this from a County Commissioner with aspirations of being County Judge. Your behavior in public office is not worthy of the trust you have been given.

I'll see you Monday in Kyle.

Best Regards -

Sam Brannon
Hays County Resident

Thursday, October 21, 2010

RoundUp FUNraiser and mixer is ON!

Recently spotted yard sign

Friday night
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Hills Edge Grille

The Hays County RoundUp has been in existence for over two years – two years and eight months to be exact. With this post, we've now published 540 articles and videos covering mostly the political scene in Hays County.

We like to think we're making a difference in offering an alternative style of reporting and commentary that is not standard fare in the local newspapers.

Readership has been growing steadily. We'll share the numbers at the mixer.

So, partly in celebration and partly as an exercise in thinking aloud, the RoundUp is hosting a community mixer and what we are calling a FUNraiser Friday evening, Oct. 22, 6:30 to 8:30 at Hills Edge Grille & Pub in Wimberley
(directions here). Come early if you want to order food and drinks or order from the Koi Room. Gather in the Koi Rm at 7:15. Live music starts at 8:30.

We want to share our plans moving forward. The plans are fluid – enough that we might not be around after three months. We want to hear from readers and the community: a) if the RoundUp is valued and b) how can it best be sustained financially and remain an independent news and information source.

Everyone is invited. We want to extend a special invitation to all candidates and officeholders. Come on down and shake some hands. We're pretty sure not everyone attending will have already voted. You still have 11 days before Election Day Nov. 2 to convince folks you're the right person for the job.

We'll have several speakers, a brief talk from the editor, followed by an open forum and Q&A then a call to arms.

Note to politicians: We can take it as good as we give it.

A wave of early voters in Dripping Springs

Click on the link to the Hays County Elections Office for the complete schedule
of early voting locations and times. Early voting ends on Oct. 29. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Bob Ochoa


Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan said this morning that a little over a thousand people voted early in Dripping Springs on Tuesday, double the number on the first day of early voting in 2006.

"It's definitely up from '06 (gubernatorial/midterm), definitely up for the first day I'll say, and the first week," said Cowan. "They were voting at a little over a hundred an hour (at the Dripping Springs ISD Administration Building). Nobody really waited any more than an hour. It went very smoothly."

Monday's early voting totals were 344 at Woodcreek City Hall and
697 at Kyle City Hall.

Two additional early voting locations opened today at the Wimberley Community Center and the Belterra subdivision, east of downtown Dripping Springs off Hwy 290. Cowan said she was expecting at least a thousand voters at each location by day's end.

Looks like voters are excited and turning out in good numbers. Dripping Springs is home to incumbent State Rep. Patrick Rose and his challenger, businessman and Belterra resident Jason Isaac. No surprise on the turnout there with both candidates pushing their supporters to the polls. Wonder who Belterra will be turning out for?

Check the two candidates' websites for a clarification from Isaac on his position on concealed handguns on university campuses (Isaac was heard explaining to voters he preferred universities decide the question); and from Rose, an old update "Water and Politcs" on the back story of the uncomplimentary catchphrase "you've been Rosed" first penned by former State Comptroller John Sharp in a Statesman letter to the editor ("Sharp retort").

We'll have updates on early voting as they arrive.

Click on graphic to enlarge

Personal Finance page debuts in RoundUp

The RoundUp is pleased to introduce a new page devoted to personal finance issues and topics. One click on the "Personal Finance" tab up at the top will take you to the page. Click on the "Home" tab to return to the front page. Rocky Boschert, Owner and Managing Principal of Arrowhead Asset Management in Wimberley, will be writing a weekly column on the subject. They will be short, straight forward and easy to read. No sales pitches, no politics (at least as much as it can be avoided). The title of the first week's column is "Understanding Insurance Annuities." We hope you enjoy it and we hope you can take away some new and helpful information.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Groundwater management plan: How fast do you want it to go?

Click on graphic to enlarge

Public hearing Thursday in Wimberley

If you want to learn more or have something to say about how you want the groundwater district board to manage your groundwater for the next five years, this would be the time to speak up

Send your comments and news tips to, to the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District at or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the page

Click here for a look at the groundwater district's regulatory page, top water users of 2009, and aquifer-related scientific reports

A second public hearing will be held Thursday, Oct. 21, on the Hays Trinity Groundwater Management Plan. The five-member board of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District will take comments and testimony from interested citizens. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Wimberley Community Center.

There are two items on the posted agenda: 1) Discuss and possible action on the (District's) FY 2011 Budget (Jimmy Skipton-Board pres.), and 2) Discuss and possible action on Management Plan (Board VP-David Baker).

The public will be allowed 3 minutes to make comments on both items.

Some background:

The HTGCD's current management plan calls for 3,713 acre-feet (acf) of pumping and the district estimates it is currently pumping 5,671 annually (2,371 acf non-exempt, 2,403 acf exempt, 897 acf in agriculture, 286 from the Lower Trinity with an additional 900-1,500 acf of pumping not registered or permitted and unreported.

(We like using gallons rather than acre-feet.
An acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons. It's easier to grasp the great volumes of groundwater use we're talking about here. Current estimated annual pumping of 5,671 acre-feet equals to about 1.84 Billion gallons.)

The 30-foot DFC (Desired Future Conditions, commonly referred to as aquifer drawdown) policy if carried forward would allow 9,155 acre-feet of total available groundwater with projections of somewhere between 4,000 acre-feet and 6,900 acre-feet in exempt (non-regulated private wells) growth to be subtracted from the 9,155 to establish the Managed Available Groundwater (MAG) under the state's 50-year planning period.

Even with the proposed 30-foot drawdown, the district will most likely be issued a negative Managed Available Groundwater (MAG) amount for non-exempt pumping permitted wells. The Texas Water Development Board will estimate current pumping and projected pumping to be subtracted from the Total Available Groundwater amount to determine the final MAG for the HTGCD.

The short of it is – according to most experts in the field – we are currently pumping more water than is sustainable from the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County and the district faces a scenario where it may not have much more to parcel out. (This partially explains the mad scramble to import water from outside sources.)

With the 6,500 wells in the district, people's water wells are going dry now during short dry periods (55 reported to the district last summer) and springs are drying up after very short droughts. Jacob's Well the largest perennial spring in the Trinity Aquifer stopped flowing last Summer midway through an 18-month drought. Jacob's Well flowed through the entire drought the 1950's and was measured at 2.6 cubic feet per second in 1958 before the end of the longest drought on record. (Gunnar M. Brune, Springs of Texas)

Even with such a dramatic increase in allowable pumping under a 30-foot drawdown policy, there is no water left for the current permittees to expand their pumping. We are in a deficit pumping scenario now and losing one to two feet a year in the aquifers water levels under current pumping, which is at least 2,000 acre-feet more than the current management plan calls for.