Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dripping political action committee takes aim at school tax measure in Nov. 8 election

"We're being squeezed, y'all. DSISD has a spending problem and the Governor and Texas Legislature want to appear to be cutting spending when they're actually just passing the buck to Texas property owners." -- Stop Hays Tax Increase website

There will be 10 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution for voters to consider on the Nov. 8 2011 election ballot. Check this link for an explanation of each amendment from the Secretary of State. Also on the ballot will be the two tax measures for the DSISD, two San Marcos City Council races, Places 3 & 4, and a proposed sales and use tax increase for the Hays County Emergency Services District No. 8 (Buda). Early voting begins on Oct. 24. Check the Hays County website, elections office, for the sample ballot and early voting dates, times and places.

Send your comments and questions to, to The Committee to Stop Hays Tax Increase at this link,, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Bob Ochoa


If you are a taxpayer upset by seemingly nonstop property tax increases, a political action committee recently formed in Dripping Springs – The Committee to Stop Hays Tax Increase (website) – may be the place to go for some action.

Organizers say they are a grassroots effort by people who are tired of paying more than their fair share of taxes. "The only power we really have is our vote," says the PAC's website. "Texas is among the 3 highest property tax states in the USA. And, if you're a Hays County property owner, you're among the top taxed in Texas."

The committee is taking direct aim at a measure that will be on the Nov. 8 2011 election ballot proposing a steep increase in the school tax rate. Voters are being urged to vote No.

Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees in August voted to place two measures on the Nov. 8 ballot. The first asks voters to consider a 13-cent increase in the property tax rate, from the current $1.04 per hundred valuation to $1.17 – the highest allowable under state law. If approved, owners of an average valued property would pay $340 more in annual taxes.

The second item asks voters to consider the issuance of up to $3.6 million in school building bonds to refinance previously issued maintenance tax obligations from the general fund and move the $400,000 annual payments from the general fund to the debt service fund. The move is not expected to increase the debt service tax rate, according to a school district press release.

In a June 17 press release, Dripping school officials had said the tax rate would remain unchanged ($1.04 per hundred) after absorbing $2.5 million in reductions in the 2011-12 budget, most or all of it resulting from cuts in state funding. The district anticipates an additional $3.1 million reduction in state funding for the 2012-13 school year.

The school board surprised many with its announcement two months later on Aug. 19 that it would place a 13-cent tax rate increase measure on the November ballot. (Local tax trivia question: Has an increase of that magnitude ever been proposed in Hays County's history?)

"That was the trigger . . . that the DSISD folks went for the maximum increase allowable," the PAC's founder, Val Asensio, said in an email to the RoundUp. "Then, Rick Perry, love him or hate him, said in one of the debates "Local school districts are absorbing the cuts [to education]." Not so much. They're passing the bill on to property owners. The goal is to make area residents aware of what's on the ballot. They'll decide if it matters or not."

If you think you haven't reached your limit in taxes, consider a table published in Forbes magazine in January of 2009, listing the top ranked taxed counties in the U.S.
Hays County was ranked in the top 100, based on homeowner median income and taxes as a percentage of income.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

News Round Up: Water and Politics

But King wasn’t willing to let the would-be presidential nominee off the hook. "I do have one problem with his statement," King said. "He has admitted to eating road-kill, and knowing what it tastes like. How can this person possibly judge any food?" LA Times: Pork chopped - Perry takes heat for barbecue blast

The Texas Tribune | By Kate Galbraith - Sept. 27 Draft Water Plan says Texas "will not have enough" – "The primary message of the 2012 state water plan is a simple one," the introduction states. "In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, and its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises."

Houston Chronicle | The Factchecker By Nolan Hicks - Sept. 27, 2011 Forget the rhetoric, Texas gets significant help from Washington – You wouldn’t know it from all the anti-federal government rhetoric that pervaded the 2010 election, the recently concluded Legislative session, or Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, but Texas received almost $44 billion in direct federal aid to state and local governments in 2010, according to figures released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, making it the single largest funding stream for state government.

New York Times | By Mimi Swartz - Sept. 28 A Crisis of Confidence Deep in the Heart of Texas – One influential Houston Republican explained to me that the country-club set “thinks Perry is a great guy, but as far as having the intelligence to lead the country, there’s just no way.” That’s why many other Republicans down here find Mitt Romney to be a better bet than another cowboy-booted, g-droppin’ governor. But given Perry’s reputation for vindictiveness, these Republican apostates are still most comfortable criticizing him from the shadows. As the same Houston power broker said of a recent Romney fund-raising event, “I had someone else pay for me to go, because I didn’t want people to know I was there.”

Finally, a video from the Texas Democratic Party that has already received 44,700 views. Laugh or cry, just don't get mad . . .

Commissioners court pledges $5 million, takes new tack on traffic congestion in northern Hays County

The resolution adopted Tuesday states that Hays County expects to proceed with a $70 million expansion of FM 1626 into a four lane divided roadway from FM 2770 north to the Hays-Travis county line

Send your comments and questions to, to Hays County Communications Specialist Laureen Chernow at, to Pct. 2 Commissioner Jones at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

Click on map to enlarge

County commissioners voted Tuesday to start over with a new plan to relieve traffic congestion in northern Hays County and southwest Travis County and to abandon a controversial years' old state transportation plan, known as the State Highway 45 southwest extension.

A resolution adopted by commissioners court at its regular Tuesday meeting:

- requests the Texas Department of Transportation to remove SH45 between Loop 1 and FM 1626 from the state highway system
- asks for the return of previously expended right-of-way money
- and pledges $5 million to construct a (new) 2 to 3 lane three-mile long county road in partnership with Travis County connecting Loop 1 and FM 1626 near the north Hays County line.

"By taking the project back from TxDOT, we will have local control and can build the road faster, cheaper and in accordance with all environmental guidelines," Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones states in the resolution.

The SH45 southwest extension has been on the drawing board for at least 20 years but has been stymied by resistance from Travis County commissioners and property owners along the proposed route. A major source of concern is that major highway construction could have adverse effects on environmentally sensitive areas over the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer.

The resolution adopted by commissioners Tuesday states that Hays County expects to proceed with a $70 million expansion of FM 1626 into a four lane divided roadway from FM 2770 north to the Hays-Travis county line. The planned expansion, also several years in the making, is still not universally supported by area residents.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Flocke appeals for support for local sidewalk, road projects

$13 million Elder Hill Rd
project / Click on map
to enlarge

Public input is being sought through September 30th. The CAMPO Board will make its decision in early October

Note: CAMPO and Hays County officials are proposing more than $140 million in road improvements in the county, spread over more than 50 projects. Some have strong community support and others are raising questions about funding sources, affordability, justification, debt concerns as well as complaints from citizens that nobody seems to know any of the background and details. Among the more expensive projects are: Loop 82 (Aquarena Springs Dr in San Marcos - $39.7 million; RR 12 Parkway right-of-way acquisition - $6.7 million; Old Bastrop Hwy (CR 266) - $6.8 million; and Hunter Rd - $3.5 million.

The CAMPO survey fortunately provides some explanation, along with a comment box for each of the proposed projects. Go to this link
and click on the 'Hays County only' box. Click on the individual project links to download a very basic description and a diagram. You can vote "Support," "Do Not Support" or "Neutral." Meanwhile contact your county commissioner or County Judge Bert Cobb,, 512.393.2205, for more information. This is your county and your money. Please take the time to get informed and participate in the survey.

Full address link to survey: Send an email to CAMPO at

Also send your comments and questions to Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Bob Flocke
Mayor of Wimberley

Guest Commentary

A significant step in Wimberley's efforts to increase awareness about the need for funding to construct sidewalks along FM 2325 has been taken. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has submitted a funding application to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) in an attempt to secure funding for the Wimberley sidewalk project.

CAMPO is charged with selecting projects to receive funding in the region under Federal Highway Administration Surface Transportation Program Metropolitan Mobility (STP MM). TxDOT’s funding application seeks $2,151,500 in funding to install 6 foot sidewalks with curb and gutter along the south side of FM 2325 from Carney Lane to Ranch Road 12.

Last night, several of us attended the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board’s public hearing in Austin, and I testified in support of the sidewalk project and two other Wimberley projects (improvements to the RM 12/Old Kyle Road intersection and completion of the hike and bike trail from the RM 12/Winters Mill Parkway intersection to Joe Wimberley Blvd.)

Public input is currently being sought on the various transportation projects under consideration for funding, including the Wimberley sidewalk application, and public input is much more significant than mayor input.

This is an excellent opportunity to voice your support for the FM 2325 sidewalk project to those most likely to fund such a project.

It is important to note that Wimberley’s sidewalk project was not ranked high in CAMPO’s initial project ranking, thus making the need for a show of public support for the project even more important. Please take time to let your feelings be known to the CAMPO Board about the need to fund the project that will resolve critical safety issues in our community.

Public input is being sought through September 30th. The CAMPO Board will make its decision in early October.

Please note that this is a starting point in the effort to find the funding needed to construct the sidewalks on FM 2325. If the project doesn’t receive funding in this current CAMPO funding cycle, TxDOT’s application has at least helped plant the seed for possible funding in the future.

Epic scorching drought testing Texas' ways

[T]he drought is testing Texas' model of local control over water, says Melanie Callahan, interim executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board in Austin. There's more interest now in balancing that local control with regional or statewide coordination of water policy

"The law basically says you can pump whatever you want that's beneath your property, which is an extremely poor model of water resources planning," says hydrologist Paul Hudak at the University of North Texas in Denton. Because of the drought, "there's going to be more and more emphasis on trying to transfer water between parts of the state. But the entire state is suffering right now, so where do you get it?"

The drought has put the ruggedly individualistic state in the awkward position of demanding quick and massive help from US taxpayers. Federal aid will offset most of the $5.2 billion in agricultural losses and $250 million in wildfire damages and firefighting costs.

Related story: Politics of fighting wildfires: Did Rick Perry's Texas do enough on its ownJust last week, the most recent budget cuts meant 90 Texas Forest Service employees were laid off. Some volunteers pay for expenses out of pocket. And the repeated emergency calls are stressing equipment like tankers and pumpers not built for continuous use.

Christian Science Monitor | By Patrik Jonsson Staff Writer | Sept 26 2011

Read the complete story

Lake Conroe, Texas – The onset of a Dust Bowl-like drought has forced 25 million Texans to go beyond questioning whether to turn on the sprinklers.

As massive wildfires sully the air over Houston and Austin, and as ranchers sell off cattle to prevent mass starvation of their herds, the unfolding environmental crisis in Texas is changing everyday patterns of life – and even causing some to reconsider the Lone Star State's famous low-tax, react-as-you-go political philosophy.

Pitted hardest against each other are cities and agricultural interests, the ranchers and farmers who use 60 percent of the water and whose water rights help them to maintain their slipping grip on the land and political power.

The Llano River was down to a trickle in June, flowing at little more than 3 cubic feet per second, compared to its normal flow rate of more than 300 cfs. Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

As the drought has deepened over the summer, so has unease among Texans about what's being done, or not being done, to cope with it.

"We're scared to death," says Kerry Williams, city secretary for Llano (pop. 3,000), where charcoal barbecuing – the essence of Texas cuisine – is outlawed because of fire risk. "No one has any clue what anybody is going to do," she says, not only about water used for recreation but also for drinking.

The anxiety is as intrusive as drifting wildfire haze. Prayers for rain have not been answered – at least not yet. At the same time, Republican Gov. Rick Perry, a presidential aspirant, is holding up his state as a model for American growth and rugged self-determination, even as many residents hope for an infusion of federal aid.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pensions of Texas lawmakers are boosted by tricks and tying them to judges' salaries

Pensions for these Austin elites are untouched while those of the rank-and-file are continually assailed
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, gets her state pension of $23,774 based on her service as a two-term legislator and state treasurer. U.S. Rep. John Carter, also a Republican, receives a pension of $76,458 based on his 20 years as a state judge.
[S]tate Rep. Tom Craddick, a Republican who took office in 1969, is guaranteed a $125,000 pension — more than 17 times his $7,200 salary. Another 58 state lawmakers are guaranteed pensions of more than $40,000, USA Today found.
Send your comments and questions to the Watchdog article or click on the "comments" here at the bottom of the story

Texas Watchdog | Sept 26 2011 | By Steve Miller

Read the complete story

USA Today cover story on Friday regarding state legislator pensions is a heady journalistic stew of policy analysis, numbers crunching and dialing.

It exposed the hundreds of thousands
of dollars taxpayers around the U.S. pay to their elected officials in their retirement and how those officials betray their trust by basing their pensions on things like expenses and stipends.

For our fair state, we get this:
Lawmakers (in Texas) haven't raised their pay since 1975. They convene every other year and get a $7,200 annual salary. But because of a law they passed in 1981, their pension is based on whatever the lawmakers decide to pay Texas trial judges . . . Since 1981, Texas lawmakers have nearly tripled a judge's salary — and, by extension, their own pensions — raising the pay from $42,500 to $125,000.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Web verdict on Perry: Brutal

How bad was the Texas governor? Bad enough to have sparked an untold number of biting critiques, many of them speculating about his intellectual heft — or lack of it. And this was all from his putative allies on the right

AP Photo
Join in on the comments at Politico or click on the "comments" here at the bottom of the story

Read the complete story

The conservative commentariat spoke with near-unanimity Friday on Rick Perry’s debate performance: The Texas governor didn’t just lose, he bombed.

There was no election-ending gaffe or singularly disqualifying remark. But his second consecutive weak outing set off alarms on the right, where too many cringeworthy moments raised questions about Perry’s durability, his seriousness and ability to compete on a stage with President Barack Obama. Worse, after a near-flawless August rollout fueled his rise in the polls and quieted critics who fretted about the quality of the GOP field, Perry’s nationally televised face-plant revived dormant talk — and hopes — about the possibility of new candidates entering the race.

Commissioners court approves voting precinct boundary changes

After the 2000 Census and subsequent redistricting, the County had 36 voting precincts, which now number 50 following this year’s redistricting . . .
it costs an average of $25,000 per voting location

The new voting precinct map is available at under Government/Elections and Voting

Press Release
Laureen Chernow
Hays County Communications Specialist
Office: 512.393.2296
County Elections Office: 512.393.7310

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX
– The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a map prepared by the County Elections Administration and Geographic Information Systems offices that realigns voting precincts in Hays County based on recent redistricting.

“Because the 2010 Census required changes to the congressional, state and county precinct lines in Hays County, changes needed to be made to the geographic areas of some voting precincts to properly place voters in their new jurisdictions,” said Joyce Cowan, Hays County Elections Administrator. “Some residents will see that their voting precinct number has changed when new voter registration cards are issued.”

Along with the new precinct lines come new voting places for some residents. “The new locations have not yet been determined,” Cowan said. “The redistricted areas will not take effect until January 1, 2012, and we will wait and ensure that all of the new district and precinct lines are approved by the Department of Justice before issuing new voter registration cards.” The first scheduled election in 2012 in Hays County is March 6.

After the 2000 Census and subsequent redistricting, the County had 36 voting precincts, which initially increased to 58 following this year’s redistricting. Efforts by the Elections Administration office and the Commissioners Court, in conjunction with Justices of the Peace and Constables, reduced that number to 50 current precincts.

And, as in the past, some voter precincts with small populations will vote at locations in nearby precincts, but will continue to have the proper ballot style for their precinct. “Hays County has co-located precinct voting places whenever possible,” Cowan said, noting that it costs an average of $25,000 per voting location, and that a small precinct alone can cost upwards of $10,000 for staff and equipment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

County loses bid for 290 water line to two out-of-state companies

County officials had expressed hope that by acquiring the system they could ensure a stable water supply and avoid high water rates for thousands of north Hays County customers

LCRA's board of directors
today voted unanimously to divest a large chunk of LCRA water utility properties – including the Hwy 290 water line that serves north Hays County subdivisions and Dripping Srings – to one of two out-of-state companies.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant led the county's
failed efforts to acquire the Hwy 290 water line

According to the resolution passed by the board, LCRA will consider final offers by the Canadian firm, Corix Infrastructure, Inc., and the California Water Group, at its next meeting on Oct. 19.

The board's decision virtually knocks Hays County out of the competition to acquire the 290 water line infrastructure and distribution.

County officials had expressed hope that by acquiring the system they could ensure a stable water supply and avoid high water rates for thousands of north Hays County customers that could result under private ownership. The county's efforts were led by Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant. Whisenant was not immediately available to comment when the RoundUp contacted his office.

In the run up to today's news, the county had invested more than $60,000 in due diligence research and other costs associated with its bid to the LCRA.

The RoundUp received a copy of the board's resolution passed today from LCRA's public information office.

It states that LCRA agreed to the following sales:

- Sandy Creek water System to the City of Leander
- Lakeway Regional Raw Water system to Lakeway Barge Participants
- Glenlake Water System to the City of Austin
- Whitewater Springs Water System to the Whitewater Springs Water Supply Corporation

It sets a deadline of Oct. 14 for the sale of the Liberty Hill Wastewater System.

The resolution excludes from divestiture/sale: Rollingwood Wastewater System, Tahitian Village Wastewater System, Westlake Hills Wastewater System; and raw water and wastewater system serving Windmill Ranch.

The Hwy 290 water line is a part of the LCRA's West Travis Regional Water System, one of the systems identified by the board in its resolution as "not previously named . . . or not already progressing toward divestiture," which are to be sold to either Corix or the California Water Group.

Gallup Poll: Republicans support Obama's jobs creation plan

This is the second Gallup survey conducted in the last two weeks showing that the American public broadly supports Obama's jobs plan

[Other news: Perry releases stock holdings – According to the governor’s tax returns, the trust lost $308,496 between 1996 and 2009.]

Gallup | Published Sept. 20, 2011 - Polling period, Sept. 15-18 | Americans Favor Jobs Plan Proposals, including Taxing the Rich PRINCETON, NJ – Slightly more than half of rank-and-file Republicans and Republican-leaning independents favor the idea of eliminating certain corporate tax deductions as a way to pay for a jobs creation bill. Forty-one percent of Republicans favor raising taxes on higher-income Americans. Democrats strongly favor both proposals for paying for the cost of the jobs bill.

Americans agree with a number of the job-creation proposals included in Obama's jobs plan -- specifically including the ideas of providing tax cuts to small businesses; providing additional funds for hiring teachers, police officers, and firefighters; and giving tax breaks to corporations for hiring the long-term unemployed. Slightly less than half favor reducing Social Security taxes for workers and employers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The winners and losers in LCRA's venture into the water utility business

LCRA water line construction facilitated helter-skelter development that put humans and their property at great risk. LCRA water lines led unsuspecting home owners into high risk wildfire traps and generally unsustainable suburban sprawl

Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it.
~ George Santayana

Drought approaches
worst in history as lakes
are 39% full and dropping
one foot a week
Note: LCRA's 15-member board of directors will once again consider the sale of LCRA's remaining water utility assets at its Wednesday Sept. 21 board meeting. The board postponed announcing a sale at its August meeting to a Canadian firm, saying more review was needed. Hays County is making a bid for LCRA's Hwy 290 (North Hays County/Dripping Springs) water line but the prospects reportedly still are not looking good for the county. The item is No. 13 on the board's agenda: "Authorize the general manager or her designee to negotiate and execute agreements for the sale of LCRA’s water and wastewater utility assets . . . Further declare that the LCRA water and wastewater utilities are no longer necessary or convenient or of beneficial use to the business of LCRA . . . "

Send your comments and news tips to, to Charles O'Dell at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story


By Charles O'Dell
Contributing Editor

The current drought is just one of Mother Nature’s harsh reminders of who is really in charge on our planet. This reminder can be made especially difficult by those placed in charge of our public assets and who use them without responsibility or honor. Such is the story of former Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) board of directors and former General Manager, Joe Beal, now living in Bastrop, Texas and receiving a handsome LCRA pension.

Beal orchestrated and directed the building of unsustainable water infrastructure for short-term financial benefit of special interests. This unsustainable infrastructure came at great long-term cost to taxpayers and LCRA customers. LCRA is now divesting itself of those $300 million water infrastructure assets that are still being paid for by LCRA utility customers.

LCRA began as a conservation and reclamation district created by the Texas Legislature in 1934. It's mission statement:
To provide reliable, low-cost utility and public services in partnership with our customers and communities and to use our leadership and environmental authority to ensure the protection and constructive use of the area's natural resources.

Deeds without Honor

In just seven years as General Manager (2000 – 2007), Joe Beal and his Perry appointed board of directors facilitated huge profits for large land owners, developers, law firms, engineering firms, consultants, banks, insurance, title and building material companies, and expanded tax revenues for local government entities.

At the same time, Beal and his board helped to destroy the very wildlife habitat and other natural resources LCRA was charged to protect, increased public infrastructure costs (roads, schools, EMS, etc), and created a large debt that required increasing its customer utility costs by double and triple digits.

LCRA water line construction facilitated helter-skelter development that put humans and their property at great risk. LCRA water lines led unsuspecting home owners into high risk wildfire traps and generally unsustainable suburban sprawl. The current drought, wildfires and crush of dry water wells (24/7 bulk water truck deliveries are running 1 – 2 weeks behind) emphasize just how unsustainable this development is.

In 2005, HaysCAN engaged in an extensive review and analysis of LCRA records and determined its water/wastewater business plan was seriously flawed and that LCRA was failing in its mission to serve Central Texas. We reported our findings to the LCRA board on November 16, 2005. On August 22, 2007, Joseph J. Beal announced that he was ending his career as general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Fox in the Hen House
“The opportunity to serve as their (LCRA) leader has been the highlight of my career.”
~ Joe Beal, LCRA General Manager, August 22, 2007
Beal joined LCRA in 1995 to lead its Water Services division, which provides, "water resources management, flood protection, drought management, agricultural irrigation and water and wastewater utility services.” Beal became LCRA's eighth general manager on Jan. 20, 2000, and seven years later announced that he would leave LCRA in mid-January 2008.

Before joining LCRA, Beal was senior vice president at Espey Huston & Associates, a large engineering and environmental consulting firm in Austin. Espey Huston & Associates are the folks who offered New Braunfels city officials expanded flood plain boundaries along the Guadalupe River for an additional $2,000. A city councilman owned property in the flood plain and wanted to develop it despite repeated floods that destroyed many homes.

As if to rub salt in Beal’s gaping public wound, LCRA Board Chair Ray Wilkerson (now deceased) turned the Beal $300 million debacle and other Beal miscues into “great accomplishments.” “Joe Beal has served LCRA and the people of Texas with distinction,” said Wilkerson.

Wilkerson lived in Austin and was president of Ray Wilkerson Companies, Inc., a commercial real estate development company. Wilkerson served on the board of Stewart Title of Austin, Inc. LCRA Chair Wilkerson also served on the boards of several financial institutions. Clearly, Wilkerson had an interest in LCRA facilitating new development.

Those who lost their homes in the recent wildfires, and those who have seen priceless natural infrastructure destroyed, their water quality degraded and sharply higher utility bills wouldn’t agree with Wilkerson’s claim of great accomplishments.

A Brief History of Accountability vs. Accomplishments

Accomplishment spin – LCRA and the San Antonio Water System launched a multi-year, $42 million study of a unique, collaborative water-sharing agreement that could allow both regions to enjoy expanded water resources.

Accountability reality
– This expensive and hair brain Beal project ended in wasted dollars and a major law suit against LCRA.
- May 7, 2009 - LCRA population decision prompts legal claim by San Antonio Water System Board of Trustees
- Aug. 24, 2009 - LCRA disappointed in SAWS’ decision to file meritless lawsuit
Accomplishment spin – Grew water utility operations to serve rapidly growing needs and applied stringent water quality protections to new developments in western Travis and northern Hays counties.

Accountability reality
– A flawed business plan forced LCRA to divest its $300 million water/wastewater infrastructure after destroying wildlife habitat and degrading water quality.
- Feb. 18, 2011- LCRA formally announces sale of water/wastewater systems to financial market
The convergence of money, politics, greed and drought in Central Texas has clearly exposed the need for accountability at LCRA. Droughts come and go, but money, politics and greed are with us always, making accountability essential.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Department of Justice to fight Texas Congressional and House maps

Big news from Washington: The U. S. Department of Justice will oppose Texas' redistricting plan in federal court

From the Lone Star ProjectDOJ will join the argument for a new Texas map – The U.S. Department of Justice filed a federal court brief earlier today objecting to the racially gerrymandered Republican drawn Texas congressional map. The DOJ objection is an important step forward in winning the federal court fight in Washington, D.C. and forcing a redrawn map that fairly reflects Texas’ growth over the last decade.

From the Statesman
Published 2:33 p.m.

Read the complete story
and join in on the comments

By Tim Eaton

The U.S. Department of Justice has declined to sign off on two redistricting maps, setting up a fight between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Texas attorney general’s office.

While the department did not take issue with the state Senate map and the State Board of Education map, it said today that it would oppose pre-clearance of the re-drawn congressional map and the Texas House map.

Fundraiser set for Bastrop fire victims; new marshall position added to Wimberley city budget

In a split vote of 3-2, the council approved a plan that will reopen one intersection of Las Flores and La Buena Vista Drives, an intersection that the council voted to close one year ago

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 e-mail 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, to Mr. Flocke at, 512.847.5421, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report

Wimberley Burning Love benefit to aid Bastrop fire victims directly

Local business owners Madonna Kimball and Tom Keyser told the Wimberley City Council and those in attendance at Thursday evening’s Sept. 15 meeting about their plans for a community-wide event on the weekend of October 1 and 2 to raise funds for victims of recent wildfires in Bastrop County.

The planners say that the Burning Love event was conceived to directly aid fire victims strictly with monetary funds, not supplies and items of clothing. A portion of the funds raised during the benefit will be used to establish a local area victims’ resource fund in the event that our area experiences fire, flood or other natural disasters.

Since the first weekend in October is a Market Day weekend, many visitors will be in town. Several large sale events are being planned by businesses, and fundraising has already begun by several businesses, individuals and organizations.

For more information and for ideas on how to participate, please contact Tom Keyser at for general information and contact Elizabeth Danforth at to volunteer.

Council adopts revised traffic plan for La Buena Vista, Las Flores neighborhood

The city council at its Thursday meeting adopted a revised traffic plan for a neighborhood in the northern section of Wimberley where thousands of cars use the streets as a shortcut between RM 12 and RM 2325.

In a split vote of 3-2, the council approved a plan that will reopen one intersection of Las Flores and La Buena Vista Drives, an intersection that the council voted to close one year ago. The traffic realignment will make La Buena Vista a one-way street westbound between its two intersections with Las Flores. The reopened intersection will be reconfigured into a “T” intersection, and westbound traffic on La Buena Vista will not be permitted to turn left onto Las Flores. Traffic on Las Flores will be two-way. Speed humps will be added to both streets, and signs limiting the size of through-trucks will be posted at entrances to the neighborhood.

Residents have complained about the speed and volume of traffic through the neighborhood for years. In 2006, three-way stop signs were added to the intersection of Las Flores and la Buena Vista. Last year, the intersection was blocked. Councilmen Mac McCullough and Steve Thurber voted against the plan.

Newly adopted budget includes a city marshal

Wimberley will soon have a City Marshal again. Funding for the local law enforcement officer is part of the $2.7 million City of Wimberley Consolidated Budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that was approved in a unanimous vote of the Wimberley City Council.

Mayor Bob Flocke said "The City Marshal will work in concert with the Hays County Sheriffs Department and Precinct 3 Constable to provide comprehensive law enforcement services for our community.”

The position of City Marshal was eliminated from the City’s budget two years ago to free-up additional funding needed for street improvements.

The $2.7 million Consolidated Budget is 19 percent less than the City’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget. General Fund expenditures total $976,200, operating expenditures for the Blue Hole Regional Park total $422,662 and $1,355,656 is budgeted to complete development of the park.

On the revenue side, funds for development of the park will come from donations and grants while user fees will fund park operations. Sales tax revenues along with development fees and franchise fees will fund the City’s General Fund expenditures.

“The FY 2012 budget is balanced and focuses on the City’s core services, addresses City Council budget priorities, and meets community needs while maintaining financial strength,” according to Mayor Flocke. “The budget demonstrates how smarter, more efficient government can provide additional investment in key City services.”

The approved budget includes funding to acquire portable digital data devices for City Council members to use when accessing their meeting agenda packets. This purchase will result in a significant savings in copier and paper costs. Additional savings were found in other areas such as training, postage, drinking water and mowing/tree trimming.

In Fiscal Year 2012, the City’s budget directs just over $82,000 to an on-going pavement preservation program and approximately $50,000 to street improvements and $25,000 for new sidewalks. Funding is also allocated for an emergency notification system and a re-codification of the City Code.

To find out more about the FY 2012 City of Wimberley Consolidated Budget, log on to

Wimberley municipal elections will remain in May

Despite the potential of spending an additional $2,500 to $10,000 each year for elections, the city council reaffirmed its September 1 decision to keep city elections on the second Saturday of May each year.

The reason the item was brought up again at the September 15 meeting was that at its September 6 meeting, the Woodcreek city council unanimously voted to move that city's elections to November, leaving Wimberley without a major partner for leasing voting machines. Mayor Bob Flocke had told the Wimberley city council at its September 1 meeting that the Woodcreek council had not acted yet, and that they were waiting to see what Wimberley did. At that time, Flocke said that he thought that Woodcreek would probably follow Wimberley. They didn't.

The WISD trustees and the Hays Trinity GCD board have not yet decided on a course of action. If neither entity opts to keep elections in May and partner with Wimberley for leased voting machines, Wimberley will pay the full estimated amount of $13,500 for each election.

The city council voted 4-1 to keep elections in May with Place 1 Councilman Tom Talcott voting against.

Citizens Code Review Task Force approved

The city council unanimously approved the formation of a task force of citizens to undertake a comprehensive review of Wimberley's Code of Ordinances and recommend changes to the city council. The task force will review all ordinances relating to public works, administration, traffic, general offenses and land usage, and the Planning and Zoning Commission will review the subdivision code and the zoning code. Both groups will make recommendations to the city council regarding any suggested additions or deletions.

The entire review is expected to be complete by December 2012. The council appointed Steve Klepfer, Patrick Rehmet, Charles Roccaforte, D'Anna Tindal and Steve White to the task force, which will begin its work in October.

Ordinance prohibiting through truck traffic on RM 12 and RM 2325 in Wimberley approved

An ordinance prohibiting through truck traffic in downtown Wimberley and establishing a truck bypass route was approved by the city council.

Trucks continuing through town on RM 12 will now use portions of that highway, RM 3237 and Winters Mill Parkway to avoid traveling through the Wimberley Square. Trucks entering or leaving town on RM 2325 will connect to the designated truck route via Jacobs Well Road. Emergency and utility trucks, along with trucks making deliveries in Wimberley are exempt from the restrictions.

The alternate truck route involves three state-maintained roadways, and approval of the route by the Texas Department of Transportation is required. To obtain that approval, the cities of Wimberley and Woodcreek along with Hays County must take action supporting designation of the alternate route.

Friends of Blue Hole fundraiser to celebrate park’s first anniversary

The Friends of Blue Hole organization is throwing a party celebrating the first anniversary of development at blue Hole Regional Park on Saturday, October 8, from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. The Starlight Symphony Orchestra will provide musical entertainment, and there will be tours of the developed portions of the park. A tram will be available for tours of the ongoing construction of the soccer field, basketball court, wildflower gardens, trails tennis courts, children’s playscape, community pavilion, volley ball court, walking trails and more.

Beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Tickets are $45 per person in advance and $50 at the gate. Tickets may be purchased at the Old Mill Store, City Hall, Blue Hole and on line at, or by mailing a check to PO Box 1601, Wimberley 78676.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reports summarize water legislation and effects of the drought; Kyle to receive more water

On the local water supply front, the City of Kyle last week decided to exercise its contract option with the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority to receive an additional two million gallons-plus of water daily, raising the total to about 4.8 million gallons. The original contract provided 2.6 million gallons daily from Canyon Lake via the San Marcos water treatment plant. An expansion of the plant enabled Kyle to take its option, said GBRA spokeswoman Lamarriol Smith. The City of Buda also has an option for additional water supply. "To my knowledge there would be no more contracts from Canyon Lake . . . all of Canyon Lake water is, I believe, allocated," Smith said. Also of note, the controversial GBRA project proposing to extract and transport huge groundwater reserves by pipeline from the Simsboro Aquifer (in Bastrop County) is on hold. It has been "taken off the front burner because of budgetary issues," said Smith, but efforts to restore start up funding (from the Texas Water Development Board) are in the works.

With Texas experiencing its worst single-year drought on record, its effects and debate over what constitutes proper water policy and management are again at center stage. Here are two reports – one from the Texas Water Journal summing up water-related legislation passed in the last legislative session and the other from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department summarizing the condition of lakes, springs, fish and wildlife. The Parks and Wildlife report was published in July. Conditions have since taken a turn for the worse.

Staying informed and having a stake in the state's and your water future make both reports worthy reads.

Send your comments and questions to,, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report

The Texas Water Journal is published in cooperation with the Texas Water Resources Institute, part of Texas AgriLife Research, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. (Photo by Leroy Williamson, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

"Water, taken in moderation,
cannot hurt anybody."

- Mark Twain, 1866

Read the full report (pdf download) from the Texas Water Journal website: (Scroll to the bottom and click on the cover page)

In the 82nd Legislature a proposed constitutional amendment (and accompanying bill) championed by The Nature Conservancy and supported by Sierra Club and others was introduced to extend the tax break to landowners practicing water stewardship (these landowners must qualify for the agricultural tax break first). The proposed amendment passed both houses easily and will be on the November ballot for voter approval as Proposition 8. Rulemaking would have to follow voter approval in order to establish the process for qualifying for a water stewardship tax break.

TPWD Drought threatens fish, wildlife and parks – Across the state, many springs and rivers are trickling and Texas lake levels are way down. In the west, some reservoirs have gone practically bone-dry, including O.C. Fisher near San Angelo. “What’s on my mind is with continued lack of rainfall we could see impacts on fish and wildlife that could be apparent for years to come,” said Cindy Loeffler, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s top water resource expert.

Website for the Texas Drought Task force:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

County continues drive for road improvement and safety funding

Media release Friday September 16, 2011

Laureen Chernow
Hays County Communications Specialist
Office: 512.393.2296

Visit the Hays County website:

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday heard from transportation projects consultant Michael Aulick of Aulick and Associates about the status of special CAMPO and TxDOT road project funding and gave a collective “thumbs up” to continue to push for 30 projects that would improve mobility and safety around the county.

Competition in the Central Texas region is fierce for the funding which totals nearly $224 million over a two-to-three-year period – 170 projects with a combined price tag of $835 million have been submitted.

On October 29 the Texas Transportation Committee will select projects from around Central Texas for $91.3 million available for FY 2012-13 and on October 10 CAMPO will approve projects for a total of $132.4 million. Most of the $224 million ($139 million in state funds) is available to local governments without requiring any matching funds, which makes this an especially attractive opportunity.

“Hays County is competing for the funds with other counties and cities,” Aulick said. “Dripping Springs, Kyle and San Marcos also submitted project funding applications. There are a lot of shovel-ready projects just waiting for funds to get started. The Commissioners Court feels that the County projects under consideration will benefit areas throughout the County, and is eager to get started as soon as money is available.”

During initial scoring of all projects submitted, CAMPO and TxDOT gave relatively high scores to three Hays County projects, including I-35 ramps and turnarounds between Buda and Kyle, median work on Hunter Road between Centerpoint and Posey roads and improvements to RR 12 in the Wimberley business district.

The public comment period for the projects under consideration closes at 5 p.m. September 30.

For detailed information about all the projects under consideration or to take the online survey, visit Call for Projects at Your Hays County Commissioner’s Office is also available to answer any questions. For details about Hays County projects submitted for funding, go to Hays County Transportation Projects.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Texas unemployment rate increases to 8.5%

Other news: Rain pours over San Antonio Friday morning . . . keep your fingers crossed.
The fate of Texas' entire redistricting plan could hinge on just a few districts among the dozens that have been proposed by state lawmakers.

Hark Texas environmentalists: Rumors of your demise are premature – [E]nvironmental organizations are spreading their influence across Texas. National and state-based groups are adding staff at the state capital or opening new field offices in other major metropolitan areas. Others, like the Texas Campaign for the Environment, (TCE) are branching out to every corner of the state soon.

From the Austin American-Statesman
By Jason Embry
Friday, September 16, 2011

The Texas unemployment rate reached 8.5 percent in August, its highest rate since June of 1987. That’s an increase from 8.4 percent in July.

Those numbers come from the U.S. Department of Labor. The numbers were confirmed by the Texas Workforce Commission, which says the state lost 1,300 jobs in August.

Texas gained 8,100 private-sector jobs, but those jobs were wiped out by job losses in the public sector.

For the year, Texas has added 272,000 jobs in the private sector but lost 19,000 government jobs. In August alone, the state lost 11,500 jobs in local government, for a net loss of 9,400 government jobs.

The Texas unemployment rate ranks 27th, tied with Colorado.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

LCRA prepares for water restrictions to farmers in face of drought

The goal would be to select a level so that water is not released to start a crop next year and then cut off mid-crop. This would waste the water since the crop would not be able to mature

Read the complete news release from the LCRA
September 14, 2011

Highland Lakes water
storage will be half empty by
October according to LCRA
Photo courtesy LCRA

Because of the severe and ongoing drought, the Lower Colorado River Authority's Board of Directors will consider asking the state for permission to reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers next year.

The Board will discuss this and other options for managing the drought at its Water Operations Committee meeting on Sept. 20 and its next meeting on Sept. 21.

This comes as new projections show that the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan, the region's water supply reservoirs, could drop to 640,000 to 680,000 acre-feet by January 1. This would move the lakes very close to the 600,000 acre-foot level that would trigger a declaration that conditions are worse than during the worst drought in the state's history, the 10-year drought of the 1940s and 50s.

"These are unprecedented conditions, and it's important to evaluate options to protect our municipal and industrial customers while balancing the needs of agriculture," said General Manager Becky Motal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

American Jobs Act carries big impact for Texas

Here's a summary of the Texas impact of President Obama's American Jobs Act. The White House's website has the full report at this link,

Cuts the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages – 390,000 Texas firms will receive the payroll tax cut.

Expands the payroll tax cut passed last December by cutting workers payroll taxes in half next year. A typical household in Texas, with a median income of around $47,000, will receive a tax cut of around $1,460.

$2.6 billion for modernization of highways, transit, rail and aviation that could support a minimum of 33,800 local jobs.

$2.56 billion to support up to 39,500 educator and first responder (firefighters and cops) jobs.

$2.3 billion to rebuild and modernize public schools supporting more than 30,000 jobs.

$114 million to refurbish and revitalize local communities.

$458 million to modernize the state's community colleges.

Reforms in the unemployment insurance system could help put the 329,000 long-term unemployed workers in Texas back to work. An extension in unemployment insurance will prevent 123,900 people looking for work in Texas from losing their benefits in just the first 6 weeks.

The Pathways Back to Work Fund could place 8,700 adults and 29,200 youths in jobs in Texas.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kyle City Council to take final vote on 2011-12 budget

Water and wastewater rates also are set for a sizable jump, 30 and 25 percent, respectively

Update, Wed. Sept. 14 –
The council voted 5-1 to approve the budget, along with the increases in the property tax and utility rates.

Note: Download a pdf copy of the council's meeting agenda from the city's nifty website at this link (under Agendas):

Send your comments and questions to Kyle City Hall Administration, 512.262.3927 (contact by e-mail,, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

Reprinted from the Statesman

By Clara O'Rourke
American-Statesman Staff
Published: 7:42 pm Monday, Sept. 12, 2011

The Kyle City Council is scheduled to vote on its 2011-12 budget for the second and final time tonight (Tuesday Sept. 13)

Council members gave preliminary approval to the $37.1 million budget last week. The budget is $5.2 million leaner than the current one, and raises property tax and utility rates.

The tax bill on the average homestead in Kyle — valued at $127,330 after exemptions — would increase $87.22, or about 17 percent, under the proposed budget to $616.91. Water and wastewater rates also are set for a sizable jump, 30 and 25 percent, respectively. The average water bill would be $42.94 ; wastewater would average $28.40.

The City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Kyle City Hall, 100 W. Center St.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stakes are high for importation of water into Hays County

Forestar's LOI with Hays County
Click to enlarge

Editor's note:
Local retired educator Barbara Hopson has been attending meetings and following developments on some of the water importation projects in Hays County. Texas Water Alliance, End Op and Forestar (FOR-NYSE) are among the biggest private interests seeking to export groundwater to Hays County from the Carrizo-Wilcox and Simsboro Aquifers which lie east of the county.
Forestar is a publicly traded investor-owned company. It is not certain that their efforts will be successful. Legal challenges and state agency reviews loom over rights to the groundwater, local groundwater district control, and the aquifers capacity to handle large withdrawals over the long term.

Forestar, with which Hays County has recently signed a letter of intent to receive as much as 45,000 acre-feet annually over 50 years, has interests in real estate, timberland, minerals and water. Under terms of the letter, the county and Forestar have until September of 2013 to reach a final agreement which is to include water reservation fees and related costs. According to an investor report, Forestar
has a "45% nonparticipating royalty interest in groundwater produced or withdrawn for commercial purposes from approximately 1.4 million acres in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama and about 17,800 acres of ground water leases in Central Texas."

Send your comments and news tips to, to Ms. Hopson, to Hays County Judge Bert Cobb at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Barbara Hopson

Guest Commentary

Probably the main worry of north Hays County water consumers is that their water/wastewater rates will go up tremendously if the LCRA facilities are sold to an investor-owned utility (IOU). Water rates in Texas will rise anyway because of the increasing scarcity of it and because of the enormous cost to transport it, but IOUs must seek large profits for their investors from water sales.

As reported in the Westlake Picayune (Sept.1), "Food and Water Watch, an independent nonprofit . . . looked at the 10 largest sales of public water and wastewater utilities to private companies in the U.S. and found that, on average, rates tripled over the average ownership of 11 years. Corix [the Canadian company which is vying to buy all the remaining LCRA water facilities] ownership of the Fairbanks, Alaska water and wastewater utilities was included in the study, and it was found that, adjusted for inflation, Corix raised rates 61 percent over the course of 14 years of ownership."

Huge water-rate hikes will likely hit San Marcos, Kyle, and Buda when construction on the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA) project gets underway, but at least that agency is in public hands. The project will bring water by pipeline from the Carrizo Wilcox aquifer in Gonzales and Caldwell counties to those three cities.

I think we should beware of the offer of the Temple-Inland subsidiary Forestar to Hays County Commissioners Court to transport and sell water to Hays County. The Court is now considering a plan for Forestar to transport water from the same Carrizo Wilcox aquifer to Hays County. That would put a water supply in IOU hands, and the effort also would duplicate the HCPUA project.

Sunday read: Terror attacks permanently altered life along the border

[T]he increased security has divided communities, separated families, and, according to Cynta De Narvaez, a West Texas activist who lives in Terlingua, weakened cross border communication and made some border communities more susceptible to the corrupting influences of drug traffickers

The fence is intermittent, meaning migrants and drug traffickers just come through the gaps. About an hour west in Granjeno, now backed by a reinforced levee-wall, resident Gloria Garza said one such opening funnels migrants through at a rate that has neighbors terrified.
Related story: Drop in illegal immigration opens door for real reformLess than a decade ago, a half-million Mexicans were coming to the U.S. illegally every year, accounting for 60 percent of all illegal immigration. But last year, fewer than 100,000 Mexicans crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas. And it appears that an even greater number of Mexican illegal immigrants left the U.S., resulting in a net reduction in the number of Mexican illegal immigrants living here.

Send your comments to the Express-News (complete story) or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Jason Buch and Lynn Brezosky

San Antonio Express-News
Saturday, September 10, 2011

Read the complete story

LAREDO — In the decade since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, property owners along the Rio Grande have lost land to the border fence and those who live near gaps in the unfinished structure are in the mouth of a funnel for illegal immigration and smuggling.

Travelers can no longer gain entry into the U.S. simply by declaring “American citizen.” Instead, they're met with long lines, rifle-toting customs officers and an array of electronics to scan documents and vehicles.

Cross-border communities in West Texas have withered and died when the unofficial crossings they relied upon were closed. A privately run detention center holding thousands of immigrants went up in a flash near the border.

RFID scanners, X-ray and Gamma-ray machines, SENTRI passes and FAST lanes have become part of the border lexicon, the response to the terrorist attack that cost thousands of U.S. lives and the effort to prevent it from happening again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Walgreens, CVS help spread message to conserve water

Contact the HTGCD District office at 512-858-9253 with your signage contribution

Related story

By Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle | La Niña's return may extend drought – La Niña is back, and that bodes ill for the state's deepening drought. On Thursday scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the pattern of cooler temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean has returned, and likely will strengthen this winter. "This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.


From HTGCD General Manager Rick Broun
Friday, September 9, 2011

For updates on the drought and reports of dry wells, visit the District's twitter account at!/HTGCD

Send your comments, news tips and any silver linings you wish to share to, to Mr. Broun at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (District) is working with local area Dripping Springs businesses to join together in displaying the drought conditions using existing electronic outside signage.

The Walgreens located in the intersection of Hwy 290 and RR12 has been displaying drought warnings for some time now. Also helping the community display the drought conditions is the CVS located in the intersection of Sawyer Ranch Rd. and Hwy 290. Their locations are critical in helping announcing the drought as their signs can be read in all four in-coming directions to Dripping Springs.

Both Walgreens and CVS were eager to help with the community outreach program and should be recognized for their efforts. Both Walgreens and CVS signs announce a reduction of usage by 30% and will continue to say so through the drought.

The District welcomes any additional businesses or schools who wish to participate in this community outreach program. Please contact our office at 512-858-9253 with your signage contribution.