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Friday, December 30, 2011

Sobering news on demographics, the end of for-profit health care and Texas climate change


West of Fredricksburg for 100 miles to the edge of the forest the desert has arrived. Fully half of the trees in that region are defoliated from drought (only a small amount is from oak wilt)

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, click on the story links or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post


La Politica | Texas Will Be The Hub For Latino Growth In Next Decade By Sara Ines Calderon (Dec. 27, 2011) – A new analysis from Real Clear Politics estimates that Texas will gain three new congressional seats after the 2020 Census. And attorney Michael Li noted in a blog post on the Burnt Orange Report:
The Census Bureau has not yet released demographic or geographic information on its 2011 population growth estimates – that’ll come next year. But if recent trends hold up, about 2/3 of that growth will be Hispanic.
Forbes | More Proof That The American For-Profit Insurance Model is Doomed By Rick Ungar (Dec. 28, 2011) – Recently, I published a piece arguing that the medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements of Obamacare would spell the end of the private, for-profit health insurance payer system in the United States and clear the way for universal, single-payer coverage provided by the federal government.

The MLR requires that insurance companies selling to small groups and individuals spend 80 percent of premium dollars received on actual health care (not administrative costs or profits) and 85 percent for large group policies.
. . . a report issued this week by, of all places, the conservative Galen Institute, reveals that you can’t judge the long-term viability of an industry by its current share price. Indeed, the results of the Galen study highlight that the exodus of insurance companies from the health insurance business may be happening far more quickly than I imagined.
EarthSky/Jay Janner/AAStatesman
The Rag Blog | By Bruce Melton Drought and Wildfire Welcome To Climate Change In Texas Austin, TX (Dec. 29, 2011) – If this is not climate change, then this is exactly what climate change will be in as little as a decade. What has been happening in Texas, with these unprecedented (in time frames that matter) droughts and wildfires, is exactly what the climate scientists have been warning us about for over 20 years.

We have been building up to this point since about the turn of the century, and now ecosystems have tipped over the edge. Climate feedbacks have kicked in hard.
The Texas Forest Services tells us that a half billion trees have died. Many more will die in the next five to 10 years from disease and insect infestation allowed by the damage that has already been done. These are the trees that have died in the drought, not the fires.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Edu updates: School financing doubled over 10 years but performance remains flat


State's five largest districts join list suing the Legislature


According to the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board says “more than half the entering freshmen at Texas colleges and universities need remedial classes.”

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, click on the story links or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

Empower Texans | By Michael Quinn Sullivan (posted Dec. 28, 2011 / read the complete story) – Texas public schools have doubled per-pupil spending over the last decade, but the academic results should leave teachers, parents, taxpayers and lawmakers wondering where the money has gone. And one school administrator doesn’t think college readiness should be a factor in considering public-ed performance.

According to the Texas Education Agency, school districts reported spending more than $25.2 billion in 2000 on 3.9 million school children. In 2010, the districts reported $53.7 billion in spending on 4.7 million kids. That means per-pupil spending rose from $6,360 per child in 2000 to $11,427 per pupil in 2010. Inflation over that period would get you up to $7,971, so where is the other $3,456 per student going? Shouldn’t we see some of that in the form of higher academic outcomes, and greater preparedness for post-secondary education?

Instead, SAT scores remained mostly flat: 985 in 2000 to a 989 in 2010. (The average scores for 2011 actually declined several points.)
One college administrator recently told me that when considering how unprepared so many public-school graduates are for higher-education, he sometimes thinks his institution's trustees should sue school districts for not performing as advertised.
Texas Public Education | By Dr. Jerry Burkett School funding lawsuits: Forcing the Legislature to fix education funding (updated Dec. 27, 2011) – A fourth lawsuit has now been filed against the Texas State Legislature and others. The latest comes also from the Haynes and Boone law firm whose suit will represent primarily wealthy school districts that are still giving revenue back to the state as part of leftover “Robin Hood” rules still embedded in our current school funding system. The Texas Education Agency, Commissioner Robert Scott, Comptroller Susan Combs and the State Board of Education are named as defendants.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD has joined the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition suit which now means that the top 5 largest school districts in the state are suing for equity and adequacy for Texas students.

Representing over 120 school districts, the Texas School Coalition plan to argue that the current finance system is in direct violation of the Texas State Constitution because it does not provide access to funding to provide adequacy for Texas students.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!




A very Merry Christmas to all from The RoundUp.
Use this space as an open thread, for peaceful comments
about
any subject under the North Star you wish.
We'll see ya after New Year's.


Monday, December 19, 2011

WISD considers new lighting, but will it be good for 'learning?'


Before WISD invests in this type of lighting (which is a type of fluorescent lighting) it should determine whether the lighting is suitable for classroom use


Note: We've all heard a lot of stories about the effects and efficacy of different kinds lighting on the eyes. Teachers, parents and students might be interested in learning more about whether this particular type of lighting will enhance, or detract from, the learning process.

Send your comments and news tips to
roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Ms. Hopson at hopsonbarbara@yahoo.com, WISD Superintendent Dwain York, 512.847.2414, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Barbara Hopson
Guest Commentary

The lead article in the December 17 issue of the Wimberley View concerns the possible use of induction lighting for Wimberley ISD.

One reason WISD is considering that type of lighting is that it can get the fixtures, bulbs, and installation at no upfront cost. Instead WISD would pay the installer, Green Lighting Solutions (formerly Green Energy Systems of South Texas), 75%-80% annually of the money WISD would save on lighting costs, for an unnamed (in the View) number of years. (Who determines the savings, and how?)

Before WISD invests in this type of lighting (which is a type of fluorescent lighting) it should determine whether the lighting is suitable for classroom use. Induction lighting currently is used mostly outdoors (malls, street lighting) and in giant warehouses and parking garages. It might be suitable for night games on football fields, but perhaps not for classrooms.

LED lighting might be considered by WISD also. (LED bulbs would not require new fixtures.) See what the Federal Energy Management Program has to say about various lighting sources at www1.eere.energy.gov.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Transportation plan survey online; city interviewing city marshall candidates


Business owners located near the (reconstructed junction) intersection are concerned about customers being able to find their business locations both during and after construction


Note: City Hall Briefs, written and edited by Bob Flocke to inform the citizens of Wimberley about city activities, is neither an official nor an authorized publication of the City of Wimberley. City Hall Briefs is distributed by email to anyone who wishes to receive it. Anyone who wishes to be added to the distribution list should send their email address to Mayor Flocke (below). The RoundUp has edited the Briefs for length and style.

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Flocke at rflocke@austin.rr.com, 512.847.5421, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report


Hays County transportation plan survey available on line

The first Hays County Transportation Plan Workshop drew more than attendees who provided the plans development team with good feedback for this early first stage. All of the input will be evaluated and incorporated into the process for developing the county transportation plan

Those who could not attend the workshop may complete the survey below and send any comments. Public involvement is an important part in the development of a successful countywide transportation plan, and planners are still reaching out to residents and businesses in the county for their input.

The HCTP Transportation Priorities Survey can be accessed on the project web page through Sunday, January 15, 2012. Please complete this survey if you have not already done so and/or forward this link to anyone that may be interested in the Plan.

www.co.hays.tx.us/transportationplan

The next public workshop will be in late winter/early spring 2012 and the last in summer 2012. At each of these workshops, attendees are urged to give their input and participate in the planning process.

To sign up for email updates or submit comments, please contact us at: haystransportationplan@gmail.com or contact Cathy Howell at 512-533-9100 ext 10.


The Meadows Foundation Grants Friends of Blue Hole $150,000

Friends of Blue Hole received a $150,000 grant from The Meadows Foundation of Dallas for Blue Hole Regional Park acquisition and development.

Believing that their lives had been richly blessed, Virginia and Algur H. Meadows established the Foundation in 1948 to benefit the people of Texas. In doing so, they stipulated that the Foundation’s philanthropy would continue in perpetuity under the guidelines of family members and trusted advisors. The Meadows legacy has contributed greatly to enriching the lives of countless Texans in areas of arts and culture, civic and public affairs, education, health, human services, mental health, and the natural environment.

Friends of Blue Hole, Inc. is a not for profit organization whose mission is to promote, protect, preserve, and sustainably develop the Blue Hole Regional Park owned by and located in Wimberley, Texas.

Peter Way, President of Friends of Blue Hole, said: “This very special grant from The Meadows Foundation will go a long way toward reaching our goal of finishing the initial development of Blue Hole Regional Park. I want to thank The Meadows Foundation for the generous help in this effort.”

Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke added: “Private foundations throughout Texas have recognized how special this Blue Hole project is and have been especially impressed with the grassroots effort of the citizens of Wimberley to make this happen. Thank you to The Meadows Foundation and their Board of Directors.”

Algur H. Meadows established General American Oil Company of Texas in 1939 and led it to become one of the nation’s most successful independent oil and gas production companies. Since its inception, The Meadows Foundation has dispersed in excess of $750 million in grants and direct charitable expenditures to over 3,000 Texas institutions and agencies. Grants have been awarded in large urban areas and small rural communities and in every Texas county.

The acquisition and development cost for the park is $7,423,500 of which $6,533,500 has been funded. In addition to the Meadows Foundation grant, the Blue Hole Regional park project has been awarded $2.7 million from Hays County Parks and Open Space Bond Fund, $1.9 million from the National Park Service Land and Water Conservation Fund administered through Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, an additional $500,000 grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife, $785,000 from Friends of Blue Hole, $200,000 from the Lower Colorado River Authority, $160,000 from the Burdine Johnson Foundation, $100,000 from the Brown Foundation, $55,000 from the Greater Houston Community Foundation, and $25,000 from the Austin Community Foundation.

October sales tax revenue up for Wimberley


Wimberley's December sales tax revenue check from the state comptroller's office was in the amount of $37,388.08. That total is a nine percent increase from the same period last year. The December check represents sales in the city during October.

Interviews begin for city marshal position

Wimberley has received applications for the newly recreated city marshal position from more than 50 persons, and according to City Administrator Don Ferguson, they are still coming in. A panel began interviewing applicants last week and will continue during the next few weeks. Ferguson said that he would like to name the finalist on January 6.

December 15 Wimberley City Council actions

Unanimously approved application for a conditional use permit to allow the construction of a second residential structure on a four-acre tract of land located at 400 Hillview. The property is properly zoned for such a structure and is owned by Jeffrey and Cynthia Anderson. The Planning and Zoning Commission had unanimously recommended approval of the CUP.

Discussed possible remedies for businesses located at the Junction that have seen a reduction in the number of customers since construction began on the new intersection of RR 12 and FM 32. Business owners located near the intersection are concerned about customers being able to find their business locations both during and after construction. At this time, Wimberley officials are working with the Texas Department of Transportation in conjunction with Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley to find a solution. If TxDOT abandons the triangle of land at the newly-created intersection to the city, city council members brought up several possible solutions to improve passer-by recognition of the businesses' locations.

No action was taken on the agenda item regarding the proposed development of requirements relating to rainwater harvesting for new commercial and residential development in Wimberley. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Thurber brought up the issue and led the discussion. Council members agreed to continue the discussion at later meetings.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sheriff Cutler misleads, commissioners caught napping


We asked Sheriff Hamilton about Cutler’s representation to commissioners’ court of the inmate food cost only Agreement, and Hamilton characterized it as, “definitely misinformation.”

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to O'Dell at codell@austin.rr.com, to Sheriff Cutler at gary.cutler@co.hays.tx.us, 512.393.7808, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Charles O'Dell

Contributing Editor

Sheriff Cutler / Statesman photo
Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler caught Commissioners’ Court napping during its December 6, 2011, meeting when the court voted unanimously to approve an inmate housing agreement with the Travis County Sheriff Office (TCSO).

Cutler misled the court when he told them, “It costs $50 per day per inmate to house Hays County inmates in a Seguin inmate facility, but that he (Cutler) had worked out a deal with Travis County Sheriff, Greg Hamilton, to house Hays County inmates for just the cost of inmate meals in emergency situations.

When asked for an estimate of daily inmate food costs, Cutler responded that meals would cost his Department between $4.00 and $5.00 per day per Hays County inmate housed in the Travis County Jail.

We asked Sheriff Hamilton about Cutler’s representation to commissioners’ court of the inmate food cost only Agreement, and Hamilton characterized it as, “definitely misinformation.”

A copy of the Agreement included in December 6th commissioner’s court backup materials clearly states that, “…TCSO may request financial reimbursement for any supplies, equipment, services, materials, and all other expenditures identified as related to the emergency or exercise.”

Cutler also emphasized to the court that the Agreement was to be exercised only in emergency cases. Cutler gave an example of emergency as the jail A/C malfunctioning in the middle of summer. County Judge Bert Cobb cautioned Cutler to define “emergency conditions” carefully and sparingly. “One man’s emergency is another man’s opportunity,” Cobb told Cutler.

The agenda item was sponsored by Cobb/Cutler, and court backup material contained an Agenda Item Request Form along with a Draft version of the proposed Memorandum of Agreement.

The Agenda Item Request Form clearly states that, “This agreement would allow TCSO and HCSO, in times of emergency conditions or for purpose of practice exercises, to evacuate inmates to each other’s facilities.”

The Agreement also includes language clearly identifying, “practice exercises,” as well as emergency conditions. Court members apparently relied on Sheriff Cutler to accurately represent the Agreement to them and skipped reading it for themselves.

We tried to obtain a statement from Sheriff Cutler about his misrepresentation of the Agreement to commissioners’ court, and of Sheriff Hamilton’s, “definitely misinformation” characterization, but Cutler didn’t return our telephone call.

Some may find it ironic that an inmate in our Hays County jail can be charged with perjury if he/she makes a false unsworn declaration under Chapter 132, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, but our Hays County Sheriff can, with intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement’s meaning, makes a false statement to commissioners’ court and not be charged with perjury under Texas Penal Code, §37.02, that he swore to uphold.

Our Sheriff has apparently taken his cue from our county prosecutor who protects elected officials when they break our laws, refuses to prosecute an individual who lied under oath about his military record, and protects a county employee who ambushed a young Hispanic man and shot him dead.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Redistricting update: Texas politics in disarray


The proceedings could delay some or all of the state's primaries. The state has suggested splitting those elections, keeping the presidential, State Board of Education and other statewide primaries in place and moving congressional and legislative primaries to a later date

Note: From Texas Redistricting Michael Li –
With the 2012 election process having kicked into gear and action now taking place in three courts, here’s a combined timeline of what’s on deck the next few weeks.

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to the Tribune's complete story link or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story. For the local election schedule and updates, contact the Hays County Election Administrator's Office at 512.393.7310, or email
elections@co.hays.tx.us

Texas Tribune
By Ross Ramsey
Dec. 12, 2011

Read the complete story

Forget everything. The candidate announcements, the relocations, the decisions not to run again, the who vs. who vs. who and the campaign finance. Poof!

With a one-paragraph order on Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court froze the Texas congressional and legislative elections and replaced pre-holiday candidate filings, politicking and fundraising with uncertainty and chaos.

For now, there are no new legislative districts in Texas, no new congressional districts. None of the maps has been declared illegal, but no maps for House, Senate and congressional districts are in effect either. What the Legislature drew earlier this year remains mired in court, awaiting preclearance under the Voting Rights Act from a panel of three federal judges in Washington. Maps drawn by a separate panel of judges in San Antonio — drawn because time was running out and the legislative maps hadn't been approved, or even heard by the D.C. court — were temporarily blocked Friday evening by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Supreme Court blocks redisticting plan for Texas


The maps created new districts for the Texas legislature and congressional districts reflective of the state’s enormous population growth over the past decade


– Related stories –

San Antonio Express-News | By Nolan Hicks (Dec. 10, 2011) Supreme Court temporarily blocks interim redistricting maps
The decision effectively prevents candidates from filing for office and could delay legislative and congressional primaries — now scheduled for March 6 — until May.

Texas Redistricting By Michael Li – Answers to some common questions about the ruling
____________

By Robert Barnes
Washington Post
Dec. 9, 2011

Read the complete story

The (U.S.) Supreme Court Friday night blocked a redistricting plan for Texas drawn by a panel of federal judges, putting the justices in the middle of a partisan battle over how the state’s electoral maps should change to recognize the state’s burgeoning minority population.

Texas had objected to the judicially drawn maps, which analysts said would increase chances for Democrats and minorities, and favored maps drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature. Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) requested the Supreme Court’s intervention; the justices will hear arguments Jan. 9.

Candidates already have begun to register to run under the districts drawn by the panel of federal judges in San Antonio, and it appears likely the state’s March primaries now will be delayed.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Vetting statement: Brannon's got character and conservative principles


Our sources emphasize Sam’s integrity, determination, and positive, can-do attitude. They also noted that his sincere “look you in the eye” leadership approach was key to the project successes they achieved together


Editor's note: Imagine that, an actual committee of peers – 13 in all – has checked the background, professional and personal references, of a candidate for public office in Hays County and has found the candidate to be not only in good standing but well suited for the office he seeks. This is the committee's "vetting statement" for all to see and read. In our memory, we don't recall a candidate undergoing such a test and then releasing a public statement about the results. Endorsements from politicos and business leaders are the usual fare, and typically come at some price, but a background check is a true and welcome rarity. Mr. Brannon is challenging current Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley in the March 6 Republican primary. Conley is expected to announce his intention to seek re-election to a third term.

Below the signed statement, in answer to a question from the RoundUp, Brannon explains more about the members of his campaign steering committee who participated in his background vetting.

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Sam at sam_brannon@hotmail.com, 512.925.2592, to steering committee chair Col. Charles Walts at charleswalts1@yahoo.com, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report. For more information, visit the Sam Brannon for county commissioner website

Sam Brannon
Vetting Statement

The Campaign Steering Committee is fully convinced that Sam Brannon will provide a new standard for strong, conservative leadership on the Hays County Commissioners Court as Pct. 3 Commissioner.

In order to better understand Sam’s professional and personal background, the members of the Campaign Steering Committee initiated a formal vetting process, interviewing a number of individuals who knew Sam at various stages in his life.

The following information was obtained from these sources.

Sam Brannon was born at Charleston Naval Base, Charleston, South Carolina, in 1964. At the time, his father and mother were both members of the United States Air Force assigned to Military Airlift Command. Sam’s parents were raised during the Great Depression, and their influence played a major role in the development of his character and conservative principles.

In 1969, the Brannon family moved to the Houston area. In 1983 Sam graduated from McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Texas, where he was a highly respected member of the community. He was elected President of both his junior and senior class, was recognized as an All-District football player, and was the recipient of scholarships from the Rotary Club and InterFirst Bank of Conroe.

Sam then attended the University of Texas at Austin where he was a member and Special Projects Chairman of the Texas Wranglers, an honorary service organization. Sam also played for the university Rugby Football Club, and worked part-time jobs to finance his education. Sam earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance in 1989.

Sam spent 17 years in business, working in corporate financial services and supply chain software and consulting. The clients, peers and supervisors we interviewed describe Sam as a principled and respected leader, diligent in his research and intelligent in his analysis, and as one who created effective solutions to complex business problems.

Our sources emphasize Sam’s integrity, determination, and positive, can-do attitude. They also noted that his sincere “look you in the eye” leadership approach was key to the project successes they achieved together.

The Steering Committee has a high level of confidence in the validity and sincerity of the sources we contacted. Their insights confirm our conclusion that Sam Brannon possesses the professional credentials, conservative principles, and strength of character to be the New Standard for Fiscal Responsibility, Transparency and Local Decisions in Hays County as Commissioner Pct. 3.

Signed,

Col. Charles Walts, Sam Knutson, Powell & Mary Hinson, Al & Macel Sullivan, Larry & Sue Diegelman, Edward Sullivan, Justin Padgett, Lee & Sandy Schroeder, Lenee Lovejoy

________________


Brannon:

The committee members are all Hays County Republicans. I chose them, and they gladly accepted. I've gotten to know them through the Hays Citizens Budget Project I led last winter and spring, and they've closely followed my other work with the Commissioners Court. They fully understand how much is at stake in this race for Pct. 3, and they're in it for all the right reasons. They're not political operatives or hobbyists ... Just good, very respectable neighbors doing what they know is right. My kind of people.

Our Campaign Chairman is Col. Charles Walts, U.S. Army (Retired). Col. Walts is a Vietnam-era veteran, a former SMCISD school board member, and a member of Oath Keepers. He's also frequently published in the San Marcos Daily Record. Our Campaign Treasurer is Powell Hinson. Powell is a retired from the aerospace business, an engineer and CPA, and he is very active in the community. He's also the Treasurer for Friends of the San Marcos Library and other organizations. Mary Hinson is a local angel spreading the love through her volunteer work, and is active in the community.

Macel and Al Sullivan are well-known San Marcos residents and Republicans. Al just retired as professor from Texas State. Macel is a former Justice of the Peace here. Edward Sullivan is their son, and a wonderful guy. Sam Knutson is a WWII veteran, a practicing attorney, and the former City Attorney for the City of Kyle.

Larry Diegelman is a retired Air Force staff officer with experience in communications intelligence, management analysis, and manpower management/budgeting. Post military, Larry has worked as consultant/project manager in the private sector, at the State of Texas and at Texas State University. Sue Diegelman is a retired health care professional with experience in hospital management, and home health services, and director in a full service senior retirement community. In retirement, she spends her time as a staff trainer and Zumba instructor, is President in the auxiliary at CTMC, and is chairperson of the deacons at First Christian Church San Marcos.

Lee Schroeder is a former Hays County Republican Chairman and an investment advisor. Sandy Schroeder is yet another angel, and she organizes the Sunrise Breakfast Club that I attend. Justin Padgett and Lenee Lovejoy are degreed professionals of my generation, and are highly regarded for their work keeping up with the current county issues. They're great resources.

In short, I couldn't have better human beings guiding our campaign. These are folks we all love to have as neighbors, and this group has some reach. There are still 2-3 important spots I'm working to fill, and I'm pretty sure we'll fill them well.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

City resolution to support appeal of 30-foot drawdown of Trinity Aquifer fails in 3-2 vote


The city's Transportation Advisory Board has been working on the development of an information signage program designed to help motorists get around Wimberley more easily


Note: City Hall Briefs, written and edited by Bob Flocke to inform the citizens of Wimberley about city activities, is neither an official nor an authorized publication of the City of Wimberley. City Hall Briefs is distributed by email to anyone who wishes to receive it. Anyone who wishes to be added to the distribution list should send their email address to Mayor Flocke (below). The RoundUp has edited the Briefs for length and style.

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Flocke at rflocke@austin.rr.com, 512.847.5421, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report


In a 3-2 vote at a Wimberley City Council special meeting Nov. 30, the council declined to take action on a resolution proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Thurber. The proposal would have placed the Wimberley City Council on record in support of a Wimberley Valley Watershed Association petition appealing the desired future condition (DFC) recently set by Groundwater Management Area 9 for the Trinity Aquifer.

In July 2010, GMA-9 adopted a DFC for the Trinity Aquifer that would allow for an average drawdown in the water level of approximately 30 feet by 2060. An average drawdown of 30 feet would translate to 19 feet in Hays County, according to studies. In order to be considered with WVWA's appeal, the proposed resolution would have had to have been delivered to the Texas Water Development Board on December 1, the day after the council meeting.

Thurber and Place 2 Councilman Mac McCullough voted in favor of the resolution. (Council members John White, Tom Talcot and Matt Meeks voted against.)

Wastewater treatment plant contract awarded

Council unanimously approved awarding a contract to operate and manage the city's municipal wastewater treatment plant to Severn Trent, an international utilities operator. Severn Trent was one of two proposals submitted to operate the plant in response to an October request for proposals issued by the city. Aqua Texas submitted the other proposal.

The two proposals were evaluated and ranked based on qualifications, technical proposals and quality assurance, experience, pricing and corporate information, continuity, disaster preparedness plans and references. In its proposal, Severn Trent indicated that it would operate the plant at a base fee of $5,000 per month plus any additional expenses, as needed and approved by the city. That operating cost is slightly less than the current monthly operating fee charged by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority.

Under its agreement with GBRA, the city will assume responsibility for operation and maintenance of the plant, which is located on the Blue Hole Regional Park property, on January 1.

December 1 Wimberley City Council actions

Passed on second of two readings a proposed animal control ordinance. The proposed ordinance bans roadside animal sales within the city and requires health and vaccination disclosures to be made when animals are properly traded. In addition, the ordinance prohibits animals from being left unattended in vehicles under certain conditions and places limits on the tethering of dogs and the intentional feeding of feral animals on public property (feeding of feral cats on private property is not affected by the ordinance). City staff is working with volunteers to establish a program to manage the city's feral cat population. The vote was unanimous.

Following a presentation by the Wimberley Transportation Advisory Board on a proposed wayfinding signage program for the city, the council agreed to meet with TAB members in a special workshop session to plan further the details. The TAB has been working on the development of an information signage program designed to help motorists get around Wimberley more easily. The board has identified the destinations to be referenced on the signs along with approximately a dozen sign locations throughout the community. Input from the public has been sought regarding the program.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Letter to editor: Hybrid balloting is a source of concern in WPOA board election


There is a reason that Federal, State and Local Governments don't use e-mail balloting and this is a prime example of why they don't


Note: The letter to the editor is from WPOA board director Richard Sullivan. Sullivan served a brief stint on the board in 2010 and returned to the board later that year. He will be vacating his seat next month. Sullivan and his wife Pat have been regular attendees of board meetings and active WPOA members since moving to Woodcreek in July of 2008. Balloting is underway to elect three new members to the board. Ballots (by mail and e-mail) must be received by WPOA staff by 10 a.m. January 21, the day of the next members meeting. Ballots will be tallied and announced, at which time the new board members will be seated. Needless to say, a response or comments from the WPOA, board members and property owners to Mr. Sullivan's letter are welcomed by the RoundUp. For additional information, visit the WPOA website.

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Sullivan at rlsnpjs@anvilcom.com, to the WPOA office at woodcreekpoa@gmail.com,
512.847.9889, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the letter

To the Editor:

Starting on December first, the Woodcreek Property Owners Association (WPOA) was supposed to have sent out ballots to the Property Owners in Woodcreek North and Eagle Rock for the annual Election of 3 new Directors for their board. The Board's Nominating Committee nominated a slate of candidates including a couple of familiar names, Sally Caldwell and Liz Sumter along with an unknown newcomer Col. Mike Regan.

More commonly, the Board would simply ask for a vote by show of hands of the 30 or so attendees present at the November Members Meeting and zap, their picks would be elected. Many property owners believe this scenario has created a board of cronies with a groupthink mentality. This time, a real election was forced on the board by additional nominations from the floor at the Members Meeting.

Property Owners, seeking a change from the status quo, nominated 4 alternate candidates, Pat Sullivan, Dottie Sweeton, Donna Hathway and last but not least, popular past president, Susan Howard. Much of this was brought on by the very unpopular stance of the board regarding their resistance to handing over some roads to the County.

As is usually the case with the 2011 WPOA Board, things are not going well for the balloting process. They decided for the first time to adopt a hybrid balloting system, where some property owners would receive paper ballots by snail mail while others would receive "electronic ballots" by e-mail.

After 4 days, several owners had not received their ballots by e-mail although the WPOA President Merry Merian and her Office Manager Janelle Delaney claim they were sent out to everyone. Coincidently, many of the ones reporting not to have received a ballot turn out to be the more outspoken ones in conflict with several recent decisions of the Board, e.g., Winton Porterfield, and Directors Duanne Redus and Richard Sullivan.

We really don't know how many were denied their right to vote since so many are unaware that they were to receive a ballot by e-mail or snail mail for that matter. If you don't know it's coming, how can you report it not arriving, a fact that seems to elude the individuals doing the balloting. There is a reason that Federal, State and Local Governments don't use e-mail balloting and this is a prime example of why they don't.

Besides the potential for fraud and abuse, as we can see here it is not reliable and subject to mistakes or operator error. Currently, I have no firm idea as to whether this dereliction was by accident or design.

Richard Sullivan

Saturday, December 3, 2011

NASA satellites find Texas aquifers at record low


"People rely on groundwater, especially in times like this when it's dry, because groundwater provides a reserve of water when it doesn't rain. But we're in a deficit now. We're drawing down our bank account." -- NASA hydrologist Matthew Rodell

Nasa's twin GRACE satellites

Note:
The recent rains have been a welcome relief but nowhere near the levels needed to fill the tank. As this report points out, we are now drawing on our water resource reserves. So-called "surpluses" may be a thing of the past.


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roundup.editor@gmail.com, to the 'complete story' link, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Associated Press / November 30, 2011


Read the complete story | See story from NASA's website

NASA/National Drought Mitigation Center
New groundwater and soil moisture drought indicator maps produced by NASA are available on the National Drought Mitigation Center's website. They currently show unusually low groundwater storage levels in Texas. The maps use an 11-division scale, with blues showing wetter-than-normal conditions and a yellow-to-red spectrum showing drier-than-normal conditions

HOUSTON—A historic drought has depleted Texas aquifers to lows rarely seen since 1948, and it could take months -- or even years -- for the groundwater supplies to fully recharge, scientists who study NASA satellite data said Wednesday.

Climatologists, hydrologists and even local residents had suspected the drought that has parched Texas for 14 months was significantly hurting the precious aquifers that course beneath the Lone Star State.

Data compiled by NASA satellites combined with information from the University of Nebraska's National Drought Mitigation Center confirm those fears."We can say with more confidence that yes, the groundwater storage is being reduced," said drought center climatologist Brian Fuchs.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Corporate Welfare Marshall Plan of 2011 – US Fed leads Euro bailout


Of course the whole purpose of this global monetary intervention is to allow stock market investors to temporarily feel better, believing that the global debt crisis is being solved by the banking “masters of the universe”

Send your comments and questions to roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Rocky at arrowbiz@texasorp.com or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the column

By Rocky Boschert

Financial Editor

The recent end of November stock market ascent was most likely a powerful bear market rally. We will know soon enough.

On Wednesday, November 30, the stock market bounce was big, only exceeded by one other day this year and likely one of the top ten performances of the decade. The DOW finished +4.24% (up nearly 500 points), the S&P 500 at +4.33%, the Russell 2000 at +5.94% and the banking sector at +7.21%.

The week of November 28 – December 2, 2011 is close to the greatest stock market advance since early 2009, when the massive Fed-manipulated corporate welfare banking bull market rout began. And all this buying was on the heels of the worst performing Thanksgiving week in 70 years.

In a surprising international banking move, the US Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of England, Bank of Japan, Bank of Canada and Swiss National Bank announced a joint, coordinated bond swap/loan facility to boost money market liquidity throughout the global banking system through February 2013.
searcheeze.com/europe crisis news
The premise is to provide large short-term liquidity, mostly in dollars (with a safety valve to distribute other currencies if necessary), to allow the world banking system a window for obtaining overnight and short-term money market funds – to continue normal operations and stave off a potential bank freeze.

But before we get too excited about this impressive one week stock market rally, it is important to understand that this intervention is primarily the US Federal Reserve Bank that will do the lending, forwarding dollar-denominated funds to the other five global central banks, who in turn can lend the money to their myriad of crony banking friends. The US Fed says these are “risk free loans” since they are between central banks that will always be “in business.”

An interesting side note is that the borrowing rates for this global central bank effort will be below the rate that our own U.S. banks borrow from our own US Fed. So not only is the U.S. Fed becoming the lender of last resort to the Europeans, it is doing this at preferential interest rates for foreign borrowers. It’s the 2011 Marshall Plan for European banks.

And where do all the dollars come from that the Fed will use to loan and/or buy up other currencies for the benefit of foreign banks and sovereigns? Ironically, they will simply become numbers on a ledger sheet, courtesy of another US Fed “printing press.”

A Weakening Dollar

What does this move do to the comparative value of the dollar? The dollar will fall and other currencies will rise, which is good for U.S. government borrowing – as the government can pay off foreign debt with cheaper dollars. And it is also good for US exporters, who essentially receive more dollars for their exported products via an exchange rate that favors U.S. manufacturers.

Unfortunately, it also forces commodity prices higher. Suffice it to say that the US dollar and commodity prices have an inverse price relationship due to various economic factors.

Hence energy costs and food costs will rise – as we clearly saw in the 2009-2011 bull market – in a difficult-to-manage commodity inflation cycle for citizens all over the world (including the 99% Americans). Since the U.S. taxpayer’s purchasing power goes down under this scenario (the falling dollar), and since wages are clearly not rising proportionately, this monetary trick by our U.S. Fed to help bail out Europe earns the private Fed shareholders (i.e. bankers) another source of interest income but becomes another inflation “tax” on U.S. citizens.

Here is a quote from the collaborative US Fed and the global central banks effort to inject liquidity into the global banking system:

“The purpose of these actions is to ease strains in financial markets and thereby mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses and so help foster economic activity . . .”

According to the bankers, they want to have a smooth “supply of credit to households and businesses.” This phase is basically a bald-faced lie. Banks haven’t been lending to households and businesses. Most are not credit worthy in this new lending environment and those who are don’t need loans. In fact, market uncertainty has driven demand for credit to record lows.

A Global Bank on the Verge?

Though not a typically reliable source of “true” data, CNBC investment clown Jim Cramer leaked on Wednesday morning that possibly a large European bank was on the brink of immediately going down. This rumor was reinforced by an article in Forbes, and at Zerohedge.com.

Or perhaps the fact that the Standard and Poor’s ratings agency downgraded a number of the too-big-to-fail banks this week contributed to the Fed taking action now. It takes attention off the U.S. banking sector and allows analysts to jawbone the banking sector back into the black. Note that the banking sector led the gains. (Fed bankers protect bankers!)

Of course this is not the first time the Fed has intervened internationally in the banking system. Following the collapse of Lehman the U.S. Fed provided liquidity to nearly any banking interest in the world from 2008 through early 2010 (not counting any stimulus or formal QE program). Most of the details of this unpublished international assistance have come via Bloomberg’s freedom of information lawsuits to obtain Federal Reserve records.

While on the surface this new banking bailout plan seems big, in reality very little funding is expected to flow. Why? Because the mere existence of this funding facility during the next 15 months should allow banking confidence to return, confidence that “something is being done.” And that something is already driving the dollar down and the euro up. As long as these currencies stay in this agreement there is little need to extend short-term dollar loans in exchange for the euro currency.

But does this monetary intervention trick solve the Eurozone debt crisis? European leaders still need a way to provide sovereign bail out funding and/or some type of “quantitative easing” via the ECB. Perhaps this newly created multi-central bank funding source will morph into a Fed “quantitative easing” of dollars for the ECB, who can then distribute dollars instead of Euros and debts can be rolled over, settled in deflated dollars rather than inflated Euros.

Of course the whole purpose of this global monetary intervention is to allow stock market investors to temporarily feel better, believing that the global debt crisis is being solved by the banking “masters of the universe.”

Am I am becoming a conspiracy nut? Not sure; but this looks more and more like the beginning stages of a single global currency to me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Isaac files for re-election in new 45th House District, Hays & Blanco counties


“Central Texas and the Hill Country are a great place to call home, and it’s important that we maintain a strong local economy and are good stewards of the area’s natural resources so that we can continue to sustain this growth.”
-- State Rep Jason Isaac


Editor's note: Rep. Isaac released his re-election announcement (below, edited for length) in an email to constituents Tuesday Nov. 29. (See his website for more info.) Isaac has no known challengers as of now. Filing deadline for state and local office candidates is Dec. 15.

Isaac probably received more than the normal local coverage of his votes and actions in the last legislative session than past state reps representing Hays County. So more voters should know by now that Isaac is a no-holds-barred social conservative (sonogram/abortion bill and voter ID), as well as a no-new-taxes pledge signer. Recall he voted for $4 billion in state education cuts and publicly opposed the Dripping Springs ISD tax increase measure in last month's election.

In his re-election announcement Tuesday, Isaac also makes it clear he will be an advocate for the "club for growth" (our phrase) in Hays and Blanco counties. Being "good stewards of the area's natural resources so that we can continue to sustain this growth" is nice sounding campaign speak which means more developer-friendly, taxpayer-subsidized bills filed in the Texas Lege. Voters and constituents should not let Isaac off lightly in the run-up to the election. He's got a lot of splanin' to do of exactly what his agendas will be next session under social engineering, growth & development, education and natural resources.

Send your comments and questions to
roundup.editor@gmail.com, to Mr. Isaac at
Jason.Isaac@house.state.tx.us, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

Jason and Carrie Isaac

AUSTIN, TX – Yesterday, Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) filed for re-election to serve House District 45 in the Texas Legislature.

Rep. Isaac stated, “Now more than ever, Texans need a strong conservative voice in Austin, and I am grateful that my constituents have allowed me to represent them at the Capitol. It is my hope that I can continue my efforts to stand up for our families and protect our economy during the next legislative session.”

Under the new map, House District 45 loses Caldwell county and will consist only of Blanco and Hays counties. Because of the population in this area, the district is unlikely to change even amidst the current challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Although I will no longer have the privilege of representing the people of Caldwell, this change illustrates the incredible growth that we are experiencing in our region,” Rep. Isaac said. “Central Texas and the Hill Country are a great place to call home, and it’s important that we maintain a strong local economy and are good stewards of the area’s natural resources so that we can continue to sustain this growth.”

Rep. Isaac is a small business owner who lives in Dripping Springs (Belterra subdivision) with his wife, Carrie, and their two boys, who attend public schools in the area.


More now disagree with Tea Party – Even in Tea Party Districts


But the steep decline in GOP favorability in Tea Party districts means that these constituencies now view the Republican Party about as negatively as the Democratic Party


Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, click on the survey link or click on the "comments" below the story

Pew Research Center
Released Nov. 29, 2011

Read the complete poll analysis


Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party has not only lost support nationwide, but also in the congressional districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus. And this year, the image of the Republican Party has declined even more sharply in these GOP-controlled districts than across the country at large.

The Republican Party’s image also has declined substantially among people who live in Tea Party districts. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of the GOP, while 48% say they have an unfavorable view. As recently as March of this year, GOP favorability was 14 points higher (55%) in these districts, with just 39% offering an unfavorable opinion.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Update: Federal panel refuses to suspend interim map


The crux of the dispute is whether the Legislature created enough majority-minority districts to reflect the state's minority-driven population boom

Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, click on the article link or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Nolan Hicks
San Antonio Express-News
Published Nov. 25, 2011

Read the complete story
Texas AG Greg Abbott
A three-judge federal court in San Antonio on Friday rejected Attorney General Greg Abbott's request, made Wednesday, to suspend enforcement of its own interim Texas House and Senate redistricting plans.

The majority in the 2-1 vote wrote that the state's lawyers had confused key points of the Voting Rights Act and “misinterpreted” key case law throughout the map-drawing process.

“You have to show irreparable harm, and it's really pretty hard to show irreparable harm in an election,” said Michael Li, an elections law expert who has been closely tracking the redistricting trial. “The state's argument is the same argument that Democrats tried to use in 2004,” which the Supreme Court rejected.

Abbott said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay.

Earlier Friday, Abbott slammed changes proposed by the same federal panel to the congressional map in a legal filing, claiming the court overstepped its bounds. Abbott accused it of “undermining the democratic process.”

The panel, which oversaw a key redistricting trial in San Antonio, proposed significant changes to the Legislature's congressional redistricting plan that could give Democrats three more congressional seats and put another three seats in play.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Proposed Texas map a blow to GOP


The interim plan was released just ahead of Monday’s opening of the filing period for candidates to declare their intentions to run in Texas races


Note:
Scroll down two stories for a view of the San Antonio federal court-proposed map.

Send your comments and news tips to
roundup.editor@gmail.com, click on the story link or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

Read the complete story

Politico | By Alex Isenstadt (Nov. 23, 2011) – A federal court-proposed map positions Democrats to gain as many as three congressional seats in Texas, dealing a sharp blow to Republicans who had hoped the state would help solidify their new majority.

Under the plan, Democrats could capture three of the four new seats Texas is gaining in the current round of reapportionment, and would be positioned to compete against one of the state’s freshman Republicans, Rep. Quico Canseco, whose southwestern Texas district would become considerably less GOP-friendly.

The interim plan was crafted by a San Antonio court, which was tasked with providing a congressional map until a Washington, D.C.-based court determines whether a Republican-drawn plan, approved by the state legislature earlier this year, adequately accommodates the state’s exploding Hispanic population. The Justice Department, along with several minority groups, instigated legal action earlier this year, alleging that the GOP blueprint dilutes minority voting strength.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stories of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come
nurture grace. Stories teach and inspire . . . tell your children and grandchildren



Commentary: A story on Thanksgiving

By Fabiola Santiago
Miami Herald
Published Nov. 24, 2011 | Sacramento Bee

Read the complete story

In difficult times, in a country divided by petty partisan politics without any goodwill in sight, it’s tough to muster enough reasons to feel grateful this Thanksgiving. When we’ve become so estranged from each other that Congress can’t even agree on what to serve our children during the school lunch, it’s tough to sit at the table in harmony.

But more than ever we must, individually and collectively, carry out an inventory of all that’s right in our midst, and perhaps Thursday, when we kick off the holiday season with a plump turkey (or a budget turkey) and trimmings, there won’t be room at the table for the frown of ingratitude.

As an antidote for the times, I offer this thought I recite like a mantra and carry with me like a shield: We are a metropolis of survivors.

That is our strength, our point of connection.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Democrats put casino gambling on primary ballot


The Democratic Party also voted to include two other referendums regarding education. These include policies that would free moneys from the Dream Act for in-state tuition and making college more affordable for middle-class Americans

– BREAKING NEWS –

The San Antonio federal court's proposed new map keeps most of Hays County inside the 25th District. Courtesy Tx Legislative Council. Click on map to enlarge

Austin American-Statesman | By Tim Eaton Court ends Doggett-Castro fight – When a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio released its redrawn congressional map today, it put an end to the anticipated race between U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, who have been battling each other in an acrimonious fight for a proposed congressional district that would have extended from Austin to San Antonio.
Send your comments and news tips to roundup.editor@gmail.com, click on the story links or click on the "comments" below the story

Houston Chronicle
By Clay Thorp
Published Nov. 21, 2011

Read the complete story

The Texas Democratic Party will include a ballot measure asking if Texans support casino gambling to fund public education.

The non-binding question will appear on the party’s March 6 primary election ballot.

“We want to see where Texans stand on this issue,” said Anthony Gutierrez, a party spokesperson.

Gutierrez said after the Republican-controlled legislature “decimated” education in Texas, the state will have to come up with new ways to fund our children’s future.

– Also In the News –

Politico | By Maggie Haberman The GOP Debate: 6 Takeaways (Nov. 23, 2011) –
The GOP debate on national security Tuesday night raised far more questions — and exposed far more divisions — than it resolved. While the topic isn’t central to the 2012 nomination battle, it was nevertheless critical for candidates to meet a modest threshold to remain viable — at least a minimal level of fluency in international affairs.

LA Times | By Paul West, Washington Bureau | Reporting from Austin, Texas Perry's leadership is sometimes costly (Nov. 21, 2011) Rick Perry launched his Texas gubernatorial campaign in 2002 with an idea that he hoped would become his legacy: a 4,000-mile-long, 21st century transit network on which motorists would drive 90 mph on toll roads 10 lanes wide, high-speed trains would hum alongside, and there would be room for electric power lines, broadband fiber and pipes to pump oil, natural gas and water to a rapidly growing state.

What happened to the most controversial initiative of his 11 years as governor provides a window into a style of management that doomed not only the transit corridor but has contributed to the severe turbulence that has wracked his presidential candidacy. It is the sometimes lethal combination of inattention to detail and an insularity that blunts opposing views until it's too late.

Tulsa World | By Janet Pearson, Associate Editor Texas ratchets up efforts to obtain Oklahoma water (Nov. 20, 2011) – The Fort Worth-area water district serves 1.7 million customers in 11 fast-growing counties, and wants to buy billions of gallons of water from the tributaries that feed into the Red River. Under an old compact agreement, Texas and three other states have an arrangement to draw water from the Red River - a pact that has proven to be a major obstacle to the Texas case. The Texans could access Red River water, but they don't want to because the river is very salty and would require expensive treatment to be usable. It's much easier, they figure, to just tap into water flowing throughout southeastern Oklahoma.