Friday, July 29, 2011

Observing the Right Wing Ideological Addiction; or, The Tea Party: Nation Slayer

The fanatical Republican faction may well destroy the Republican Party's chances for electoral victory through and well beyond 2012 – if they don't first destroy the republic

Send your comments to, to Rocky at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story


By Rocky Boschert

Legislating while under the influence of an ideological addiction is not only bad government, it is also a menace to much of what Americans hold dear for themselves and their children.

The dominant Republicans in the US House – both the new and many of the longer-term incumbents – appear to be in heat. It is as if a mob psychology has seized them, starved them of facts, and deprived them of reality. Their chief mad dog is Eric Cantor; he of the sneering sound bites.

John Boehner is clearly allowing himself to be bullied by the fanatic from Virginia, and the even younger fanatics elected in 2010 on the Tea Party wave. Yet the Republicans have suckered President Obama into a game of budgetary chicken, and the uncompromising fanatics aren't blinking.

Why should the nation's debt limit be raised to pay for debts already incurred by Congressional appropriations – especially the interest accumulating debt on our two trillion-dollar wars rubber stamped by the Republicans in the last decade, as has been routinely done dozens of times? And what gives with these fanatical Tea Partiers behind Cantor?

First, it seems they're having fun just getting all the attention shaking up Washington on spending. This is called “dysfunctional arrogance and grandiosity” in the addiction community.

These extremist Republicans are also having fun and getting off with a spineless president who already has given them 80 percent of what they want and seems ready to slip further into their budgetary abyss. But as I mentioned in a recent column for the Roundup, maybe President Obama isn't spineless, maybe he is closer to his opponents in his real beliefs than his liberal/progressive supporters like to think.

The right wing fanatics in Washington are having fun because many of the House Republican freshmen class don't care about being re-elected if the price is to adopt the old ways of a despised Washington.

They must be thrilled with the attention, holding hostage small health and safety budgets such as food safety, auto/truck safety, air and water safety, and needy children's programs, while giving a pass to massively bloated military spending and very profitable corporations that pay no federal income taxes.

Their fanatical addiction is reinforced by other wealthy addicts when they go back to the country clubs where the wealthy elite slap them on the back and cheer: "Way to go, Congressman!" Wealthy Americans are absolutely beside themselves, paying the lowest rates of taxation on their capital gains and dividends in modern history.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, a conservative, thinks the "Republican Party may no longer be a normal party," but is "infected by a faction that is more psychological protest than a practical governing alternative." He sees this dominant faction as having "no sense of moral decency," having "no economic theory" worthy of the “conservative” name.

If they are really against Big Government, why aren't they cutting hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare, subsidies, handouts and giveaways or gigantic Pentagon over-spending and waste, or enabling federal law enforcement to crack down on corporate crime that is looting Medicare, Medicaid, royalty collections and violating pro-competition laws?

Arrogant fanatics tend to shoot themselves in the foot. Already, 470 business leaders have written Congress urging it to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a financial crisis, along with spending restraints. More than a few of these leaders, Republicans or not, think the Tea Party faction on Capitol Hill is nuts and playing Russian roulette with the American economy.

The fanatical Republicans are playing a game of Russian roulette with their own Party's electoral future. The polls are starting to turn against them. Wait until October when the cuts hit conservative Main Street and Elm Street.

Republican voters want at least some tax increases on the wealthy and tax scamming corporations, as part of a deal. Independent Republican-leaning voters are starting to turn away from the right wing fanatical extremism on Capitol Hill.

In the end, the Republican faction that David Brooks and other functional conservatives are increasingly appalled by may well destroy the Republican Party's chances for electoral victory through and well beyond 2012 – if they don't first destroy the republic.

Although the Democrats on Capital Hill may not be much better at this point, let’s hope Brooks is right.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Senate committee hears testimony on high water rates

Public testimony has started in a day-long public hearing now being held by the Senate Subcommittee on Water Utilities in Rural and Unincorporated Areas. The hearing is chaired by Austin State Sen. Kirk Watson. Woodcreek and area residents are expected to testify. You can watch it live stream from the Texas Legislature's website. Scroll down to the Natural Resources Committee, then click on the Real Player window.

The hearing adjourned shortly after 3pm. Watch the recorded video at this link, click on July 28.
Requires RealMedia player. There are interesting and sharp exchanges between committee members and witnesses.

Here are some of the comments taken live from the hearing . . .

Senator Deuell, district includes Rockwall: Tells investor-owned utility lawyer, "There's some evasion going on here . . ."

George McIntyre, Hornsby Bend: "The water rates we're paying right now do not reflect any kind of policy for conservation . . . I'm going to pay $72 right out of my pocket (without using any water) .... my bills run between $106 and $110 per month . . ." Asks committee to reevalute fixed rates on water bills.

Woman: "Somebody needs to look at these (rate increase) applications . . . the TCEQ needs criteria for what is just and reasonable . . . it is affecting our property values . . ."

Woodcreek Mayor Eric Eskelund: "Woodcreek is a small retirement community . . . with 824 water connections and 542 sewer taps . . . the issues raised here affect the quality of life of our citizens . . ." Eskelund mentions the city's survey of Aqua services among city residents in which 70% rated Aqua's service poor.

Sen. Watson: "We have a strong perception (that the system is broken) . . ."

Witness representing the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (in east Hays County/south Travis County): "It is vitally important to implement incremental pricing (higher rates for higher consumption)."

Witness from Harris County, area served by Aqua Texas: "Water is the only utility for which we have no competition" . . . fixed charges have risen by 85%, four times the rate of inflation.

DuAnne Redus, Wimberley business owner and
Woodcreek POA vice president: "My top criterion (in moving to Wimberley) was quality of life, the beauty of nature and flowing rivers and streams." Speaks about talks under way between Aqua Texas, Will Conley and other stakeholders which "have allowed citizens to begin making progress towards solutions."

Melba Porto, City of Houston: Speaking about a municipal bailout of $11 million of a substandard, failed investor owned water utility . . . recommends changes to the state water code to minimize rate case costs.

Sally Caldwell, former Woodcreek city council member: Aqua rates "are really starting to have an impact . . . a lot of people won't even look at Woodcreek just because of the water rates . . . if the state has a right to grant a utility a monopoly it should have the right to put some restrictions on it . . . much like these signs put up for zoning changes, at the major entrances to a subdivision, there should be a sign for who's providing the water."

Kyle resident speaking of Monarch Water Supply: "Their current rates are higher than the city's (Kyle's), we have major taste and other problems" . . . water sometimes is brown. "New business and industry will not choose to move where it is uncertain whether their (water) demands can be met. I have personally seen that in Kyle."

Groundwater district issues Critical Drought Stage 3 Alert – 30% use reduction

The present drought may be one of the worst if not the worst drought in history. We all must work together to reduce our groundwater use, educate neighbors and set examples for future generations

Editor's note: The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District late yesterday released the advisory below. Preliminary information indicates this may be the first "Stage 3" drought alert issued by the District since its formation in 2001. According to the District, groundwater levels in monitoring wells have been dropping steadily. All Exempt (residential) and Non-exempt well owners are being asked to limit outside watering to twice a week, avoid washing of vehicles and deactivate decorative fountains.

Send your comments and questions to, to the HTGCD at, 512.858.9253, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

HTGCD Stage 3 Advisory, Dripping Springs, Tx – Residents of western Hays County are advised that beginning on August 1, 2011 the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (District) is enacting Order 150, Drought Critical Stage 3. This is a mandatory and enforceable 30% reduction of groundwater production for all “Non-Exempt” permit holders.

If you do not have a permit with the District, you may be classified as an “Exempt” user. Exempt users are residential users of groundwater. The District is requesting that all Exempt groundwater users participate in drought conservation reducing their use by 30%.

For those of you who receive water from a water supply company such as LCRA, Aqua Texas, Dripping Springs Water Supply Company, etc. the District asks that you follow their drought contingency plans throughout this drought.

The present drought may be one of the worst if not the worst drought in history. We all must work together to reduce our groundwater use, educate neighbors and set examples for future generations.

Visit our website for more information on how to conserve water, see monthly water levels or review drought triggers. Please also review the link to the U.S. Drought Monitor at The monitor shows the condition of the drought throughout Texas as primarily D4, “Exceptional.”

The Texas Water Development Board estimates normal water use of 330 gallons per day per household though many subdivisions use much less, around 250 gallons per day. Understanding how much water you use per day is key to reducing your usage. Please help by doing your part for the aquifer and the community.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Goose and the gander: Will county's LCRA purchase be passed on to other water users?

The heavy debt taken on by HCPUA ratepayers is staggering. Kyle water customers may already be seeing the effects with the city's new budget and anticipated steep increases in water rates

Note: For more on what Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant has to say about the county's plan to purchase LCRA water properties, read this earlier post in the RoundUp.

Send your comments and questions to Barbara at, to Commissioner Whisenant at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Barbara Hopson
Guest Commentary

Two friends in San Marcos have told me they are concerned they may end up helping pay off the county revenue bonds which Commissioner Ray Whisenant says will be issued to buy LCRA water and wastewater properties to serve customers in the north part of the county around Dripping Springs.

Map shows areas of HCPUA members
and water
providers. Click on map
for slight enlargement

Officials in San Marcos, Kyle, and Buda formed the Hays County Public Utility Agency (HCPUA) in 2006 to jointly secure water sources for their future water needs, and they are already paying "dearly" (one friend says) for that PUA. (See list of officers and board members here and FAQ link here.) They've already provided for themselves, they feel, and they want Dripping Springs to do the same for itself; they don't want to pay both to the HCPUA and to retire the LCRA revenue bonds.

The HCPUA water acquisition and distribution plan, drawing imported groundwater from Gonzales and Caldwell counties, will be accomplished in two phases, according to information from the PUA's website: Phase 1 is expected to be on line in 2018 and Phase 2 in 2032. The website appears not to have been updated since February.

The heavy debt taken on by HCPUA ratepayers is staggering. Kyle water customers may already be seeing the effects with the city's new budget and anticipated steep increases in water rates. The expected cost of constructing the facilities is $323,296,000 (in 2008 dollars). On top of that, there is a high annual operating cost, expected to reach $43,566,000 when both phases are complete.

Since Commissioner Whisenant, of Dripping Springs, seems not to know himself the eventual cost of buying, renovating and expanding the LCRA water utility properties, it is hard to compare those costs with the expense HCPUA has already signed on to.

Hays County and other entities are preparing to make offers to purchase LCRA's properties by an Aug. 8 deadline.

It is generally supposed that Hays County will buy the West Travis properties, and LCRA is asking $142 million for those. In addition, LCRA had planned (before it decided to sell 32 water/wastewater properties) to upgrade and expand the West Travis group over 2011-2015 at a cost of $23,576,000. That's a total of $165,576,000 that we know of.

Woodcreek, Woodcreek North, and Wimberley Springs complain about their outrageous water/wastewater bills from Aqua Texas, but those bills may seem moderate when compared to the cost of imported LCRA surface water. The City of Wimberley customers, for the time being, seem happy with the current low rates of Wimberley Water Supply Corporation.

So it all comes down to the fact that San Marcos, Buda, and Kyle have HCPUA for their future water, and Wimberley, Woodcreeks, and Wimberley Springs have WWSC and Aqua Texas for their water. It would seem only fair that Dripping Springs should pay for the LCRA assets which they want for their future water needs.

Tom Toles Cartoons, Blog Posts and Outtakes

Washington Post
| July 27, 2011

And for you Michelle Bachmann for President fans, here's an informative piece from yesterday's Post: By Kimberly Kindy | Bachmann benefitted from federal home loan program – Like many members of Congress, Rep. Michele Bachmann has been a fierce critic of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, blaming the government-backed loan programs for excesses that helped create the financial meltdown in 2008.

And like millions of other home purchasers, Bachmann took out a home loan in 2008 that offered lower costs to the borrower through one of the federally subsidized programs, according to mortgage experts who reviewed her loan documents.

Just a few weeks before Bachmann called for dismantling the programs during a House Financial Services Committee hearing, she and her husband signed for a $417,000 home loan to help finance their move to a 5,200-square-foot golf-course home, public records show.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

County's first redistricting public hearing: 'Slam, bam, thankyou ma'am!'

"How are we expected to discuss maps if there are no maps on display. How lame can they get?"

County Judge Bert Cobb:
"Public, what public?"

We received these dispatches from two citizens who attended last night's first of three public hearings scheduled by the county to review and discuss the different county redistricting plans. It must take some real chutzpah for our county judge and commissioners to completely ignore the public at a "public hearing."

Nine or ten redistricting plans are now circulating, up from five plans initially a few weeks ago. The latest, Plan O, was drafted recently by Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant, attempting to find a middle ground in splitting geograhical areas between Kyle/Buda, Wimberley/Woodcreek and Dripping Springs. Plan N seems to be generating a lot of heat from Wimberley/Woodcreek residents,
currently inside Precinct 3, and a lot of support from Kyle/Buda residents, currently inside Precinct 2.

You can view the plans at this county web link: Plan O is not currently up for view.

Maybe the next public hearing, Tuesday Aug. 9, 1:30pm at the county courthouse, will be conducted more like a public hearing by the county judge.

If you have an interest in who represents you at the county courthouse, you may want to email commissioners to share your thoughts. R
emember, whatever plan is finally voted on will stick for the next ten years . . . County Judge Cobb, Pct. 1 Commissioner Ingalsbe, Pct. 2 Commissioner Jones, Pct. 3 Commissioner Conley, and Pct. 4 Commissioner Whisenant

. . . or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story


I attended the meeting (Monday night) and there was not one display map to be seen in court. Not one! In this day of technology, audio/visual support, not even one map to be seen. No easels, no projected maps on a screen. How are we expected to discuss maps if there are no maps on display. How lame can they get?

How disrespectful of the public that took the time to go. And not one single statement from the court. Just some rhetoric from (County Judge Bert) Cobb on how he's trying to make the best decision that he can and how the 4 person committee appointed on March 1 wasn't legally required to hold open meetings with the public. We didn't learn anything new. They didn't share any news with us. Not one commissioner spoke.

I suggest that for the next meeting the "public" take a projector with the maps and show the maps on the walls ourselves. Or print out the maps and place them on easels ourselves since our officials are too lame to do it. I can't be there due to work but if anyone wants my slide projector, you can borrow it.

The redistricting meeting at the Courthouse tonight was shorter than the time it took me to drive from Wimberley and back. Judge Cobb did ALL the talking. No commissioner spoke. Will Conley (commissioner pct. 3) sat sipping on something like a Slurpee, leaning back in his chair, the whole time.

Judge told the people who wanted to speak for 3 minutes to sign up and to speak for or against one map. Several people from Kyle spoke in favor of Plan N. I spoke against Plan N. There were no maps on display, and so many people there had no idea what the speakers were talking about. Judge wound up the meeting with some platitudes about no map would please everyone.

Meeting adjourned.

Commissioner Whisenant had sent around the email below, referring to a Plan O he's working on.

Hays County Citizens,

I feel it is my responsibility as Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner to be involved in the redistricting process. I have never intended to circumvent or subvert the efforts of the Redistricting Committee. My involvement began when an early map was released putting the Texas State campus in my precinct and removed part of Driftwood from Precinct 4.

I worked on a map that was released prematurely and became known as Map J. My effort was to return the Driftwood area sub-community to Precinct 4 and let the university remain in Precinct 1 or Precinct 3, precincts that currently share representation in San Marcos.

The Committee released Maps L, L2 and L3. I took the features of those maps and made minor changes to return a small area of southeast San Marcos to Precinct 3. I also placed the western half of Leisure Woods subdivision in Precinct 2.

The Precinct 4 office sponsored several town hall meetings in Dripping Springs, Kyle and San Marcos (Hilliard Road area). I was able to see a proposed Map N during the Kyle meeting. This map has some similar implications for the Wimberley community as expressed by Kyle residents about Maps L and M1 Revised.

I have worked with the Hays County GIS Office on a map called “Draft Map O.” This map, like all the other maps I worked on, considers communities, Congressional and Senatorial Districts, existing voter precincts, census blocks and the statistical and demographic numbers provided by the County’s legal counsel. This proposed map has been discussed with the individual Commissioners and the County Judge as a recommendation from my office.

The major changes compared to plan M1Revised and N are that Hometown Kyle and Hays High School remain in Precinct 2, the area west of FM1626 and north of Mustang Branch become Part of Precinct 4 and the entire voting Precinct 447 remains in Precinct 4. Map O also removes the narrow strip of land connecting two large portions of Precinct 4 that has become known as “the gorge” by most critics of the “L” maps.

I have stated and believe I can and I am willing to represent these areas in a fair and equitable manner. All of my recommendations have had these considerations and my commitment.

I appreciate your comments and hope you can attend one of the public meetings held during Commissioners Court. Meetings are being held on July 25th at 6PM and August 9th and 16th at 1:30PM. All meetings will be held at the Hays County Courthouse on the 3rd floor.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wimberley: Possible changes to election dates, zero-based budgeting, and Sunday jazz concerts

Local jazz musicians will perform in Johnson Hall at the Community Center one Sunday each month

The Briefs has been edited for length. Send your comments and questions to Mr. Flocke or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

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. The Briefs is distributed by e-mail to anyone who wishes to receive it. Please forward it to anyone who is interested. Anyone who wishes to be added to the distribution list should send Mayor Flocke their email address:

New Texas law could force city elections to move to November

The Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 100 during its most recent regular session, and Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law in May. SB 100 was enacted to bring Texas into compliance with the federal Military Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.

Among the new law’s requirements is the designation of the fourth Tuesday in May of even-numbered years as the runoff date for the March primary elections. Because Hays County election administrator Joyce Cowan will no longer be able to conduct elections for Wimberley on the second Saturday in May, the city will be forced to move its elections to the state’s November uniform election day—Tuesday after the first Monday in November–or to May of odd-numbered years. The city also has the option of acquiring voting machines and conducting its own elections.

May elections for Woodcreek city council, Wimberley Independent School District and the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District also are affected by SB 100.

Wimberley voters currently elect five council members and the mayor to staggered two-year terms. Two council members and the mayor will be elected in 2012, and three council members in 2013. If the city opts to move its elections to November, the terms of the two council members and the mayor will be extended six months from May until November 2012. Wimberley has until December 31, 2011 to adopt a resolution changing to November elections.

The second option is that beginning in 2013, Wimberley would conduct unstaggered elections, in which one election would be held in May of each odd-numbered year for all council members with all being elected for two-year terms. The two council members currently scheduled for elections in May 2012 would hold over for one year so that all elections occur at the same time—in May 2013.

If Wimberley could enter into agreement with a sufficient number of local government entities to rent or purchase election machines and adequately share other costs, there is the possibility that the city could continue its current election cycle in May of each year.

A possibility exists that council member terms could be extended to three or four years, but this type of change would require Wimberley to hold a special election to decide on extending the present two-yer terms.

Council adopts zero-based budgeting in preparation of future city budgets

In a unanimous vote at its Thursday July 21 meeting, the city council adopted a proposal by Place 1 Councilman Tom Talcott to phase in zero-based budgeting in the preparation of its annual operating budgets.

The first phase, to be adopted in preparation of the fiscal year 2012 budget which takes effect on Oct. 1, will be to include a detailed explanation of all budget line-items. This will make the budget more transparent with more easily understood individual expenditures.

The second phase will begin early next year with the Budget Advisory Board’s work to draft a budget for FY 2013 by first determining exactly how much money will be needed for each item rather than using what was spent the previous year and increasing it by a predetermined percentage.

According to Talcott, zero-based budgeting is “a technique of planning and decision-making which reverses the working process of traditional budgeting." In traditional incremental budgeting, managers justify only increases over the previous year budget and what has been already spent is automatically sanctioned. By contrast, in zero-based budgeting, every department function is reviewed comprehensively and all expenditures must be approved, rather than only increases. No reference is made to the previous expenditures. Zero-based budgeting requires the budget request be justified in complete detail starting from the zero-base. The zero-base is indifferent to whether the total budget is increasing or decreasing.

Citizens invited to participate in review of ordinances

The city council voted Thursday evening to undertake a comprehensive review of Wimberley’s code of ordinances. The task force will consist of two city residents and at least one business owner who does not have to live within the city limits. Anyone wishing to serve on the ordinance review task force is invited to complete an application at City Hall or download a copy at

Council adopts FY 2012 budget preparation calendar

At its July 21 meeting, the city council adopted a calendar to guide in the preparation of the city’s fiscal year 2012 budget which takes effect on Oct. 1.

Late July – Development of proposed budget in draft form by mayor; budget work sessions, if necessary
Friday, July 29 – Distribution of preliminary FY 2012 budget (draft version) to members of the budget advisory board and city council
Tuesday, Aug. 2 – Joint meeting of city council and budget advisory board and community budget forum
Thursday, Aug. 4 – City council budget work session (regular city council meeting); set date for public hearing on proposed FY 2012 budget
Tuesday, Aug 16 – Final draft of proposed budget (mayor’s version) developed by mayor presented to city council and budget board and copy placed with city secretary and at Wimberley Village Library
Wednesday, Aug. 17 – Special budget board meeting and budget work session if necessary
Saturday, Aug. 20 – “Notice of public hearing on proposed budget” published in newspaper
Monday, Aug. 29 – Budget work session at joint meeting of budget board and city council
Thursday, Sept. 1 – Public hearing on proposed budget at regular city council meeting
Wednesday, Sept. 7 – Budget workshop at special budget board meeting
Thursday, Sept. 15 – Budget work session if necessary at regular city council meeting; adoption of budget and appropriation resolution
Tuesday, Sept. 20 – Special city council meeting and adoption of budget and appropriation resolution if necessary

Blue Hole swimming season extended to Oct. 16

The city council approved a Parks and Recreation Board proposal to extend Blue Hole’s swimming season for 2011 until Oct. 16.

Zoning actions

The city council unanimously approved a request by Bren and John Carr to change the zoning classification on three tracts located at 12500 RR 12. A 7.58-acre tract was rezoned from Residential Acreage and Single Family Residential 2 to Scenic Corridor. The Scenic Corridor zoning category allows low-density commercial uses of the property. Two 1.77-acre tracts were rezoned from Residential Acreage to Single Family Residential 2.

Also approved was a request for a conditional use permit for the sale of beer and wine for on-premise consumption at Marco’s Restaurant and Pizzaria on the Wimberley Square. The council voted four to one to approve this request with Place 4 Councilman Steve Thurber voting against.

City receives $5,000 donation for sidewalks

A Wimberley resident who wishes to remain anonymous donated $5,000 for future sidewalk construction on RM 2325. According to city officials, the money will be placed in a special bank account reserved for sidewalk project funds. City Administrator Don Ferguson said that he hopes this “seed money” will encourage other donations from community-minded citizens for sidewalk construction.

Community Center to host Sunday night jazz concert series

The Wimberley Community Center will host a free community concert series. Local jazz musicians will perform in Johnson Hall at the Community Center one Sunday each month. The musicians will donate their time and talent, and the city will provide the room at no charge and generate revenue for the center from concessions. No date has been established for the concerts to begin.


Tom Haley to Planning and Zoning Commission by Place 3 Councilman Matt Meeks. Charles Roccaforte to Ethics Commission by Place 5 Councilman John White

Kyle considering raise in property tax, increase in utility bills

"The problem is not that Kyle city officials mishandle money. The problem is that they have the misguided philosophy that growth pays for itself. So they encourage growth with low taxes - and enticements to businesses - and they get the growth, which always costs more in the form of infrastructure than they bargain for."

– A commenter

Note: This story is attracting howls of protest and blistering comments from the locals. We hate to say it, but this is what happens when a community grows too fast, and beyond reasonable means to support the growth except (later) through draconian utility and tax rate hikes. There is a lesson in this for every citizen in every other part of the county. If growth is what you want then you better be willing to pay for it, big time. If you can't afford it then you should let your local elected officials know about it before it's too late.

Send your comments and news tips to, join the comments in the Statesman (link below), or click on the "comments" here at the bottom of the story

Reprinted from the Austin American-Statesman
Published Sunday, July 24 2011

Read the complete story

By Melissa B. Taboada

Kyle residents might see double-digit percentage increases to their tax and utility rates under preliminary figures presented to council members by city staff last week.

The city is proposing a $37 million budget, down 12.5 percent from last year. But despite slimming down, the city would raise taxes by nearly 8 cents, or almost 19 percent, to 49.24 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

In addition, the average monthly water bill will jump 30 percent to $42.94, and the average monthly wastewater bill will increase 25 percent to $28.40. The plan also calls for 20 percent increases to water for the next two years, and 20 percent and 10 percent increases in each of the next two years for wastewater.

The city began the budget process earlier this year to help the council establish financial priorities. In February, City Manager Lanny Lambert announced a three-month hiring freeze and said officials would have to raise taxes in the next few years to cover the city's debt.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who Wins in the Deficit Reduction Debate? Not Us!

No observant American can justifiably dispute that our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, for millionaires and billionaires, and the rest of the country be damned

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

By Rocky Boschert

Financial Editor

Most of the federal budget debate now occurring in Washington DC is nothing more than political party game playing, financial crisis double talk, and citizen directed media propaganda. And to the trained observer, it is all a cover-up for a larger economic duopoly party collaboration.

First, take the Republican Party's now robotic mantra that the US budget deficit is a product of "runaway spending" and that more tax cuts are the key to economic growth. Republicans claim that the budget deficit, around 10 percent of GDP, is the result of a rise in government outlays, mainly entitlements. This is largely bogus scapegoating.

If you ignore party political misinformation, reality shows the deficit comes almost equally from 1) a fall of tax revenues due to the last recession, and 2) higher spending due to runaway health care costs, an aging population and the leftover budget disaster of the Bush/Republican years when we saw unnecessary tax cuts for the rich and America's chronic addiction to misdirected wars and military occupations in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

The short-term factors involve reduced federal revenues due to high unemployment and the drop in income tax revenue as a result. The primary long-term factor involve repeated tax cuts for companies and high-income individuals that have systematically eroded the tax base, giving fiscally unaffordable tax benefits to America's millionaires, billionaires, and multinational corporations. The Republicans are also either ignorant or flat out lying about the costs and benefits of reducing the budget deficit through higher taxes on the rich.

For the past twenty years, the uber-rich have clearly walked away with the prize money in America. No observant American can justifiably dispute that our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, for millionaires and billionaires, and the rest of the country be damned. Yet the Republicans and their propaganda mouthpieces like Rupert Murdoch's media empire and the right wing think tanks like the Club for Growth, etc. claim with outrageous audacity that taxing the rich would kill economic growth.

This is nothing but more trickle-down, voodoo, supply-side economics propagated purely to benefit the super-rich. Trickle down economics is a proven failure for middle class Americans living in a world of fast paced globalization and shareholder value obsession.

The truth is America has failed to modernize both its industrial and energy infrastructure and its financial regulations and is steadily losing its international competitiveness. Good jobs are disappearing and wages are stagnant, unless of course you are a corporate CEO or a politician who becomes a lobbyist for whoever they pimped for during their political career.

The Blue Side of the Duopoly

On the other side of the make-believe aisle, the Democrats in the White House and much of Congress are less obvious but no less deceptive in their duplicity. Obama's promise to "change Washington" was electoral bait and switch. In fact, we are now seeing the Wall-Street-owned Democratic Party of the future.

The idea that the Republicans are for the billionaires and the Democrats are for the common man is no longer true. It's more accurate to say that the Republicans are for Big Polluters while the Democrats are for Big Scammers (banks). This has been true since the modern Democratic Party was re-created by Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.

Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class at almost every opportunity. He refuses to tax the Wall Street banks and hedge funds properly on their outlandish profits; he refuses to limit in a serious way the bankers' mega-bonuses even when the bonuses were financed by taxpayer bailouts; and he even refused to stand up against extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich last December, though 60 percent of the electorate repeatedly and consistently demanded that the Bush tax cuts at the top should be ended.

The truth: Obama and Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions the same way that the Republicans rely on oil and coal. In America today, only the rich have political power.

And let’s not ignore one more very important fact about Obama. He is either afraid to stand up to the Pentagon or is now part of the same neoconservative imperial outlook as his predecessor. Yet the cause matters little now since the outcome is the same: Obama is the same type of war President as Bush. One thing is pathetically clear: Obama is abandoning the poor and middle class, by agreeing with the plutocrats in Congress to cut spending on Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and discretionary civilian spending.

At the same time Obama is protecting the military budgets and the low tax rates on the rich. In fact, he may now be planning to lower those top tax rates further according to the secret machinations of the Gang of Six, now endorsed by the president in his pretty obvious theatre in Washington DC.

We know who the winners of these phony debt ceiling negotiations will be. Obama wins, since every word and action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country's needs. Another winner is the big money lobbyists who now seem to win in every negotiation. For anyone with a brain and the courage to admit it, it is obvious the rich and the multinational corporations run America these days.

Who loses? The American people, who have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts wasteful military spending, ends the no-win wars that kill our sons and daughters, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America's future.

The time is ripe (if not mandatory) for America to start establishing a viable and intelligent third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the two-party duopoly financial elites. But until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, America will continue to destabilize and the country will continue its economic decline, possibly resulting in mass demonstration, work stoppages, or tragically, an increase in domestic terrorism.

In the end, the conservative middle class needs to stop being foolishly gullible to the illusion that the Republican Party elite will take care of them if they can just get enough tax dollars to create more jobs – and that having guns and credit cards is the ultimate definition of freedom.

On the other side, liberals and Democrats should realize that their party leaders – at least at the Federal and State level, are the same lobby money whores and uber-rich mascots as the Republicans. Our two party political system is now almost a total failure for the working man and women in America.

Sunday Morning Read

Dust Bowl 2: Drought detective predicts
drier future for American Southwest

Water managers in the Southwest seem to be paying attention, and even taking action. "They understand that it's going to get drier," says Seager. "So it is probably not a good idea for them to sit around and wait until our models get better."

What are your thoughts? Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the page


Texas Drought Now Far Worse Than When Gov. Rick Perry Issued Proclamation Calling On All Texans To Pray For Rain | By Joe Romm | July 15 2011 . . . since Bachmann and Pawlenty are working to turn Minnesota into Texas, it is worth remembering that the ‘adaptation’ strategy of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has been to designate 3 “days of prayer for rain” while cutting the budget of the agency battling record wildfires.

It would seem no one is actually listening to Perry’s prayers because the only alternative would be to believe that whoever is listening is doing the exact opposite of what Perry has prayed for. As the latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows, the Texas drought is considerably worse than when Perry issued an official proclamation drawing on his constitutional authority designating three days as Days of Prayer for Rain back in April . . .


By Seth Shulman | Grist
Published August 2010

Read the complete story

If you're one of the tens of millions of people who live in the southwestern United States, get ready for drier weather. That's the message from Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The American Southwest, says Seager, is soon likely to experience a "permanent drought" condition on par with the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

The Hadley Cell is growing – that Creator of Deserts, that driver of the Horse Latitudes ... but it's NOT the only Climate-driver changing its non-beneficial behavior of late

That rather frightening prediction is the most likely scenario for the region, given the global warming now underway. "It is a matter of simple thermodynamics," says Seager. "The region will face a considerable increase in aridity over the coming decade."

The Southwest is as dry as it is because the local atmospheric flow tends to export far more moisture than storms can carry into the region. This is the case in other parts of the so-called subtropics, those areas directly north and south of the equatorial tropics. But as earth's atmosphere becomes laden with heat-trapping greenhouse gases, it will be able to retain even more moisture. That means more evaporation from lakes and rivers, more moisture loss from plants, and drier soil.

A critical player in this drying cycle is the planetary-scale circulation system known as the "Hadley cell." This vast atmospheric system links rising air near the Equator with descending air in the subtropics, giving rise to the subtropical jet streams.

In the northern hemisphere the jet stream flows west to east across North America. Rising moist air condenses and forms thunderstorms in the tropics, but the moisture is largely lost by the time the air descends at subtropical latitudes. That's why most of the world's deserts are situated in the subtropics.


Seager recognizes that the stakes of his drought research are high. "The prospect of a drought on par with the 1930s is a matter of serious concern," he says. "With some two million people displaced, the Dust Bowl was probably the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history -- even counting the current oil spill in the Gulf."

Seager is quick to add, however, that many features of the Dust Bowl are unlikely to be repeated. For one thing, he says, "we have learned an awful lot about soil conservation since the 1930s."

Seth Shulman has worked for more than 25 years as a writer and editor specializing in issues in science, technology and the environment. A graduate of Harvard University, he has written five books and hundreds of articles for magazines including Smithsonian, The Atlantic, Parade, Discover, Rolling Stone, Popular Science, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Progressive, and Time, and for newspapers including the Times of London, The Boston Globe, and The Los Angeles Times.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Whisenant says county will submit bid on time to LCRA, contrary to newspaper report

"We are using five different approaches to look at (the system's) value and none of them have to do with (county) ad valorem taxes or speculation . . ."
– Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant

Send your comments and news tips to, to Commissioner Whisenant at, 512.858.7268, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

Whisenant is leading the county's
in purchasing LCRA
water properties

By Bob Ochoa

Contrary to at least one local newspaper report, Hays County Commissioner Ray Whisenant says the county intends to submit a bid to purchase a portion of LCRA-owned water utilities by the time a new deadline set by the LCRA, August 8, arrives. The initial deadline was Aug. 3.

A front page banner story in the Wimberley View Wednesday July 20 edition apparently got it wrong. The headline says "Hays County holds up bid on LCRA water and wastewater utilities."

The paper reported that county commissioners, at their July 12 commissioners court meeting, "decided to delay committing their bid, through the Central Texas Utility Development Corporation, to buy utilities from the Lower Colorado River Authority."

West Travis system/Click on map to enlarge
In a phone interview today with the RoundUp, Whisenant said, "On the Hays County portion of the bid on the West Travis County system, there have been no delays in regards to the ongoing process of the utility development corporation." He added, "In terms of delay, I don't recall using that term . . . The delay has been in getting information out of the LCRA to work with."

Hays County is part of a coalition of more than 20 cities, counties and special municipal and utility districts that are engaged in a "due diligence" financial review of LCRA's network of Hill Country water and wastewater systems. The coalition is represented by the Central Texas Utility Development Corporation. It is the only entity authorized to act on behalf of the coalition, Whisenant said.

LCRA put its water systems up for sale last year, stating that the systems are revenue losers, to the tune of $3 million-plus annually.

An LCRA representative, speaking to commissioners in February, put a price tag for the West Travis system at between $130 million and $140 million.

Whisenant and the commissioners court (save for Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones who has opposed Hays County's involvement) have come under increasing criticism and scrutiny from the public for launching into a possible purchase of a section of the West Travis Regional Water and Wastewater System without knowing all the potential financial costs and pitfalls.

The Hays County portion of the West Travis system includes the Hwy 290 LCRA surface water pipeline that serves retail and wholesale customers in the northern part of the county and the old Hill Country Water Supply pipeline system. LCRA also supplies water through the 290 pipeline to the Dripping Springs Water Supply Corporation.

Whisenant and Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley have repeatedly stated the county would pay for its investment through the sale of revenue bonds supported only by users of the Hays County portion the LCRA system. Critics say 7,000 customers in the county couldn't possibly support a system reportedly deeply in debt and which may be in need of costly repairs or expansion.

Whisenant said he is hoping financial consultants hired by the coalition to conduct the due diligence review will soon have more information on the LCRA systems' revenues and other information.

Whisenant said he couldn't guess what amount the county's or the coalition's bid will be.

"We are using five different approaches to look at (the system's) value and none of them have to do with (county) ad valorem taxes or speculation. It is being studied," Whisenant explained. "The real story is the LCRA decided to sell this because everybody knows they couldn't show on their books that they could hold on to it."

The purchase price and other details of the negotiations will not be made public until after a final deal is signed with the LCRA because of privacy agreements between the parties, Whisenant said.

Texas pulls veil of secrecy over redistricting, and a DA's investigation in Leander

The state contends that testimony from the four staff members would evade the witnesses’ “legislative privilege and jeopardize the legislative independence it fosters.”

Editor's note: On the first story, we say "Bullshot" to the state's attempt to hide the true story behind the GOP's gerrymandering of Texas Democrats and minorities out of their due representation in Congress. On the second story, a reminder that in some Texas counties the DA's office takes seriously allegations of public sector misconduct, very much unlike present day Hays County.

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

Texas Redistricting | State of Texas moves to bar depositions of legislative staff | July 21 2011 – In the consolidated redistricting cases in San Antonio, the State of Texas has moved to bar depositions of four witnesses who worked for or with members of the Legislature on the redistricting process. The four staff members are: Jeff Archer, counsel for the Texas Legislative Council; Ryan Downton, committee counsel to the Texas House Redistricting Committee; Doug Davis, counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting; Gerardo Interiano, counsel to Speaker Straus. The state contends that testimony from the four staff members would evade the witnesses’ “legislative privilege and jeopardize the legislative independence it fosters.” Copy of the state’s motion for protective order here:

— In the latest infighting among city officials in Leander, Mayor John Cowman said that an unidentified "traitor" on the City Council has filed accusations of corruption and misconduct against him, prompting the Texas Rangers and the Williamson County district attorney to begin an investigation.


Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley confirmed that his office, along with the Texas Rangers, is investigating allegations against the Leander mayor."Beyond that, I don't have anything to add until the investigation is completed and we make some decision about whether there's any merit," Bradley said. "If that investigation yields enough information to believe a grand jury should hear it, then we'll present it to a grand jury.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

County commissioners move forward with countywide transportation plan

By mid August the Court expects to begin the process of selecting appointees to a Citizens Committee

Big things are happening in Hays County and the commissioners court is at the center of a lot of them. An updated 10-year transportation plan certainly ranks near the top, along with water, parks and open space planning, redistricting, spending our taxes efficiently and wisely, and managing the public debt.

We have just three suggestions about planning for the county's future transportation needs. First, don't let the population increase scare you, go with the flow in meeting the different transportation needs in the county's distinct and different regions; second, watch for red dotted lines on any new transportation maps, they could mean a road right down the middle of your property; and third, make sure someone in your family or group of friends watches this process carefully and/or volunteers to be on the Citizens Committee. PS – citizen committees and studies such as these are typically a procedure in "going through the motions" to put the seal of approval on someone else's development agendas.

Send your comments and questions to, to County Judge Bert Cobb's office, 512.393.2205, (Judge Cobb or his chief of staff Lon Shell,, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

News Release July 21, 2011
Contact: Laureen Chernow for more information
Hays County Communications Specialist
Office: 512.393.2296

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court has authorized its transportation consulting company, Parsons Brinkerhoff, to move forward with developing a countywide transportation plan to update the County’s 10-year-old plan.

At its July 19 meeting the Court agreed that considerable input is needed from municipal government planners and the general public to ensure that the new plan takes recent population growth (some 60,000 people have moved to Hays County since the last plan was adopted) and future growth corridors into consideration.

By mid August the Court expects to begin the process of selecting appointees to a Citizens Committee that will work with County staff and Parsons Brinkerhoff to address planning needs. A series of public meetings and workshops will also be held to give the public an opportunity to voice transportation concerns and recommendations.

The Court also noted that while regional transportation plans exist that have had County input, it is critical for the County and municipalities to coordinate on transportation planning within Hays County to maximize available dollars and minimize the potential for bottlenecks that can occur when different road systems intersect.

The Court set a cap of $325,000 for the study, with instructions to Parsons Brinkerhoff to build on previous plans as much as possible to keep the cost under the maximum. All but $50,000 of that amount is available in the current 2011 budget.

Specific scope-of-work items to be addressed by the planning process include:

- Development of a transportation plan that is based on sound technical analysis,
- Accommodate growth while maintaining and improving access to destinations for the traveling public (e.g., work, school, shopping, residential)
- Maintenance and improvement of the transportation system and the mobility of its users,
- Provide Hays County with the information and tools needed to preserve the right-of-way needed for future transportation improvements,
- Development of a transportation plan through an open and transparent process that provides numerous and various ways for the public to stay involved and provide input into the process,
- Creation and adoption of a transportation plan that not only addresses specific project needs but ones that also sets an overall direction for the transportation future of Hays County.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

State Representative Jason Isaac wants to hear from you

Legislative updates:
The State of Texas has filed a lawsuit in D.C. federal district court seeking pre-clearance of the state’s redistricting plans. A copy of the complaint and the state’s letter to the DOJ (and other materials) can be found at: Unlike Virginia, the state is seeking ‘informal pre-clearance’ with the DOJ but is not simultaneously seeking formal administrative pre-clearance. Here is a copy of the pre-clearance advisory filed by the state in the pending Austin and San Antonio cases:

Texas Tribune | Texas voters will consider 10 constitutional amendments – In a little celebrated — in fact, hardly noticed — biennial Texas tradition, voters will decide the fate of 10 new proposed constitutional amendments in November.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
| Change coming in vehicle registration fees | By Gordon Dickson – Many Texas automobile owners are getting a surprise in the mail, and for some it will mean fewer dollars in their pockets. For others, it will mean more. In 2009, the Legislature overhauled its vehicle registration fees but delayed implementing the changes until Sept. 1, 2011. Well, that time is here.

Editor's note: In an e-mailed message sent yesterday, State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs/Belterra) is asking constituents for input on election-related and agriculture and livestock-related issues. Mr. Isaac probably won't mind hearing from constituents about other important issues in the district, and perhaps also what you think about his performance in his first term in the Legislature.

Don't be bashful. Mr. Isaac is your state representative. Last month, he set an end-of-June $50,000 fund raising goal to prepare for a probable run for a 2nd term in 2012. He literally cast hundreds of votes this past session, in which more than 1,200 new pieces of legislation were passed and sent to the governor. Isaac joined the GOP stampede in voting to cut $4 billion in public school funding, supported the sonogram anti-abortion bill, sponsored several local developer friendly municipal utility district bills, and supported a voter ID measure that critics believe will lead to suppressed voting of minorities and the elderly. Isaac also was named a "Tax Champion" during the session (an award
from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility coveted by conservatives).

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


With the 82nd regular and special legislative sessions behind us, we are already starting to look ahead and identify our goals for 2013. During the interim, the Speaker works with the committee chairs and members to identify interim charges. The committees will research and hear testimony on these charges over the next year and a half in order to become better prepared to address the issues next session.

I have been asked to submit suggestions for the two committees on which I serve, Elections and Agriculture & Livestock, and I want your input. Although the Speaker makes the final decision regarding the charges, I want to provide him with information about what issues the constituents in my district think are most important. Keep in mind that in order for me to submit your ideas, they must specifically relate to elections or agriculture and livestock.

CLICK HERE to fill out a short form and let me know your thoughts.

To learn more about interim charges, you can click here to view the charges from last session.

I appreciate your input!


Monday, July 18, 2011

HaysCAN files complaint of aggravated perjury with Hays County DA

Recently, a 29-year-old man in Palestine, Texas who lied about his military service was sentenced to eight years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Note: Following an unsuccessful run for county commissioner in 2008, the Texas Ethics Commission assessed Nick Ramus a fine for violations of the state election code. Ramus claimed the complaint filed against him was unfounded.

News Release

Hays Community Action Network
Contact person: Charles O’Dell
Nick Ramus/Statesman
Hays County, Tx HaysCAN filed a criminal complaint Friday July 15 against San Marcos resident Nickolas George Ramus, Jr., alleging multiple instances of aggravated perjury, including lying about his military service.

The complaint was filed with the Hays County District Attorney, Sherri Tibbe.

“Lying about your military service dishonors those who serve, and is vigorously prosecuted in Texas,” wrote Charles O’Dell, President of Hays Community Action Network (HaysCAN). “Nick Ramus clearly has lied about his military service,” said O’Dell.

Recently, a 29-year-old man in Palestine, Texas who lied about his military service was sentenced to eight years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Ramus, who received an Administrative Discharge in 1971 after only eleven months in the U.S. Navy, claimed under oath in court and in a sworn deposition that he held the rank of Machinist Mate, was in training for Machinist Mate Nuclear, and had received FBI top secret clearance after turning 19 and receiving his Administrative Discharge from the Navy. These claims are all false.

HaysCAN also documented instances of aggravated perjury by Ramus in his unsuccessful 2003 pro se civil suit against Chartwells, Inc., alleging age and race discrimination.
Ramus was demoted on January 18, 2001 for issues of personal hygiene, insubordination and laziness. Ramus claims he is Native American but indicated on his sworn 1984 divorce petition in Caldwell County that he was “white.”

In his 2008 Deadly Conduct trial (his conviction in Hays County Court at Law is currently on appeal at Third Court of Appeals in Austin), and in an August 14, 2007 Hays County Commissioners Court hearing regarding a contested permit, Ramus testified that he "was one of (the) top 17 chefs of America invited to participate in the Reagan/Bush inaugural and one of the first three chefs in the Reagan White House.” Ramus also told commissioners they could read about his achievements in the "1992 Who’s Who in Rising Young Americans.”

In 1982, Ramus was hired as a cook at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University). Before that he kicked around California before coming to Caldwell County, Texas.

It’s not clear if the Hays County District Attorney's Office will investigate or prosecute Ramus who is known to have connections with local elected county officials.

Go to for a full copy of the complaint.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday morning read: TEA layoffs, schools plan to sue state, and Perry rhetoric

According to the official bond statement, (Texas) employers will pay an extra assessment intended to generate more than $300 million annually, starting this year, and peaking at $478 million at the end of the decade.

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

From the Texas Association of School Boards | TEA fires 178 employees, July 15, 2011 – The Texas Education Agency (TEA) laid off 178 employees this week in its continuing effort to reduce its operating budget by $48 million – 36 percent of its budget. The current firings are in addition to 91 employees laid off in February of this year, bringing the total number of positions eliminated through layoffs and attrition to 343 positions. Staffers being laid off will receive 45 days of severance pay, the same amount that was given in February. The total number of employees left at TEA after this round of layoffs will be 717.

San Antonio Express-News
| Schools preparing to sue the state over funding, again | By Gary Scharrer, July 16, 2011, AUSTIN — Texas lawmakers who left town recently after cutting public education and doing little to fix school funding disparities have guaranteed another school finance lawsuit, according to educators and lawyers involved in the case. They expect to file a school finance lawsuit later in September.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram | Texas debt practices contradict Perry's rhetoric | By Mitchell Schnurman, July 16, 2011 – Texas' public debt has more than doubled in the past decade, but people often say it's different from federal debt. Most of the money pays for facilities, roads and other infrastructure, not social programs. Here's one exception: In November and December, the state's public finance authority sold $2 billion in bonds for unemployment benefits, and it's authorized to sell $1.5 billion more if necessary.

Texas Tribune | Texas Communities struggle to fund public safety, By Brandi Grissom, July 14, 2001 – The tiny East Texas town of Alto made national headlines this summer when it furloughed its five-man police department in an effort to save money in this ailing economy.

But Alto is hardly the only Texas community struggling to fund public safety amid falling tax revenues and shrinking state and federal aid. Most cities aren't taking the drastic measures Alto did, but they're finding other ways to scale back costs, said Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League.

City officials in Alto, population 1,100, seem to have tired of the attention to their budget crisis, after stories on CBS News and in The Wall Street Journal, and an attempted robbery at the local bank. Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell, who is now responsible for law enforcement in Alto, didn't respond to calls requesting comment. A call to the city offices on Wednesday was answered by a woman who identified herself only as the "city secretary" and adamantly declined to comment about the situation, citing legal advice.