Monday, October 31, 2011

In the news: Redistricting battles heat up; companies pull out of contract deals with state

The back and forth is set to escalate Wednesday when a three-judge panel in Washington holds a hearing on the state's request to clear the redistricting maps

By Aman Batheja
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Read the complete story

The 2012 Texas primaries are more than four months away, but the next two weeks could have a major impact on how some of those races play out.

Lawsuits over the political maps that Texas lawmakers passed this year and that Gov. Rick Perry signed into law are scheduled to move forward, with the outcomes potentially influencing the political futures of Democrats and Republicans statewide.

Federal judges in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio are considering allegations that the redistricting plans were designed to reduce the voting power of minorities. A hearing in the case is set for today in San Antonio.


Dallas News | By Kelley Shannon (Oct. 29) More companies pull out of deal to bring jobs to Texas – Four companies pulled out of their Texas Enterprise Fund contracts in the past year, and three others changed their agreements as Gov. Rick Perry embarked on a presidential run based on his job creation record. The state originally gave the businesses hundreds of thousands or millions in taxpayer dollars to locate jobs in Texas.

Empower Texans | Constitutional amendments (Oct. 27) Passing Prop 1 right thing to do; defeat Props 4 & 7 to help end property tax – Ultimately, the state should look to phase out the property tax system altogether and transition those government services dependent on it to the more equitable and stable state sales tax. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize the problems that naturally occur when an unelected board is responsible for assessing the value of your home.

Ballot News
| By Jimmy Ardis (Oct. 28, 2011) DOJ says Texas redistricting plan discriminatory and retrogressiveThe DOJ’s briefs claim that “discriminatory intent permeated the congressional redistricting process, based on a broad array of circumstantial evidence…Texas unsurprisingly disagreed with the DOJ’s take and stood behind the maps.

Austin Statesman | By Tim Eaton (Updated Oct. 31) Redistricting court battles to heat up this week – The racially charged battle over newly drawn political districts in Texas will heat up this week, with scheduled court hearings in San Antonio and Washington. But don't expect a resolution on redistricting anytime soon.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Council votes 3-2 to prohibit use of sprinklers for watering

The city of Wimberley has issued a request for proposals to secure a firm to operate and maintain the city-owned wastewater treatment plant located within Blue Hole Regional Park

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

Send your comments and questions to, to Mr. Flocke at, 512.847.5421, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report

The following actions were taken at the city council's regular meeting, Thursday, Oct. 20

Ordinance passes prohibiting use of sprinklers to irrigate landscaping

In a 3-2 vote (Talcott and Meeks voting "nay") the council approved the amendment which will allow landscape watering only with hand-held hoses without end nozzles, hand-held buckets and drip irrigation systems. Such watering can occur only between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. and 8 and 11 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, depending on whether the address of the property ends in an odd or even number. That schedule is the same as required for customers of Wimberley Water Supply Corporation. This ordinance applies to all residents, regardless of water source. The ordinance will be reviewed after 90 days to determine whether the mandated conservation measures are still required.

Green Acres Dr. added to city's Transportation Master Plan

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to add the future extension of Green Acres Dr. between RM 2325 and RM 12 to the Transportation Master Plan. The extension was recommended by the Transportation Advisory Board which said that future construction of such a roadway will enhance traffic mobility and discourage neighborhood cut-through traffic in the area. The proposed extension, when built, will include a sidewalk.

Flashing traffic signal at intersection of Flite Acres Rd. and RM 3237

Council voted unanimously to include a request that the Texas Department of Transportation install a flashing traffic light at the intersection of RM 3237 and Flite Acres Rd. to slow traffic in the vicinity of the heavily-traveled intersection. That request to TxDOT will be included with a request for a deceleration lane for west-bound traffic turning from RM 3237 onto north-bound Winters Mill Parkway and a request to reduce the speed limit on RM 3237 within the city limits.

Mill Race Lane first in line for improvements in FY 2012

The council voted unanimously to complete a chip seal resurfacing of Mill Race Lane before reopening the intersection and adding safety improvements in the Las Flores/La Buena Vista Drive neighborhood. The city's FY 2012 budget includes $50,000 for street improvements, and the Mill Race Lane improvements are expected to cost $40,000. The council expressed a desire to revisit the $30,000 Las Flores/La Buena Vista improvements when the Mill Race Lane work is complete.

Appointments: Council approved the appointment of Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Thurber's nominee, Steve Gartside, to the Wimberley Ethics Commission.

Zoning Application: Unanimously approved John McCrocklin's application for an amendment to the existing planned unit development on property at 14835 RR 12 (old VFW grounds). Amendment was requested to reduce the size of an assisted living/memory care facility to a two-story, 30,000 square foot building. Other buildings on the proposed project were downsized.

Removal process changed for Planning and Zoning Commission members:
In a 3-2 vote (McCullough and Thurber voting "nay") the council approved on second reading an amendment to the ordinance which established the removal process for members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The change came from the Planning and Zoning Commission, which proposed changing the ordinance so it would state that, upon recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the city council may, with a super majority vote, remove a board member for violating the attendance requirement.


City seeks firm to operate Blue Hole wastewater treatment plant

The city of Wimberley has issued a request for proposals to secure a firm to operate and maintain the city-owned wastewater treatment plant located within Blue Hole Regional Park.

The plant will be operated by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority
until Dec. 31. Under its recent agreement with GBRA, the city is purchasing the plant at a cost of $250,000. City staff is working with GBRA to complete Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requirements for transferring ownership of the plant.

Proposals from bidding organizations are due at City Hall by 3 p.m. on November 18. A pre-proposal tour will be held on October 28. Copies of the RFP can be found on the city's website,

The wastewater treatment plant serves Deer Creek of Wimberley and Blue Hole Regional Park.

Wimberley's October sales tax check from the state comptroller's office for $39,382.93 is the largest check the city has ever received for the month of October. The amount represents a 16.2 percent increase over the $33,889.23 received in October 2010. The total sales tax revenue received by the city since January 1, 2011, is $447,589.57, up 4.9 percent over the same period last year. The October check represents sales in August.

The swimming hole at Blue Hole Regional Park is now closed for the season and work is about to resume on the remaining park elements with an expected completion date in March 2010. The trail to the swimming area of the park will be blocked during the off-season.

On October 10, the Capital Area Mobility Planning Organization approved full funding for the $440,000 Wimberley Square improvement project that includes improvements to the Old Kyle Rd./RM 12 intersection. A decision on the RM 2325 sidewalk project and installation of shoulders on RM 12 was delayed to give the CAMPO board time to discuss further the organization's project rating criteria.

Join the Walk to End Alzheimer's Nov. 5

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Saturday, November 6, the Hays County Chapter of Alzheimer's Association is sponsoring the Walk to End Alzheimer's at the San Marcos City Park Recreation Hall at 8:30 a.m. Join one of the Wimberley teams including the Mayor's Fitness Council team. To join a team or to contribute to ending Alzheimer's, visit and register for one of the Wimberley teams, or call 512-738-7048. This is a non-competitive event for the whole family.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Independent audit: DSISD is almost maxed out on bonds

Our total DSISD debt exceeds assets. The school district’s preferred accounting graphs and charts, like the brochure that was mailed last week, omits all debt-related figures

Send your comments and questions to Val Asensio at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story


By Val Asensio
Stop the Hays Tax Increase

There's a new bond issuance measure on the Nov. 8, 2011 ballot. Early voting is under way. Election Day is Tuesday Nov. 8.

I was curious what the total outstanding bond debt is for DSISD. I tracked down the official independent Annual Auditor’s Report and found something unexpected. DSISD has almost maxed out the bonds they can issue under limits set in the Texas Education Code.

The limit is .50 per $100 assessed value; DSISD is at .45 as of the end of 2010.
From the auditor’s report 2009-10 (2010-11 is not yet published)

For the general obligation bonds, the District has pledged as collateral the proceeds of a continuing, direct annual tax levied against taxable property within the District without limitation as to rate. The Texas Education Code generally limits issuance of additional ad valorem tax bonds if the tax rate needed to pay aggregate principal and interest amounts of the District’s tax bond indebtedness exceeds $0.50 per $100 of assessed valuation of taxable property within the District. The District currently has a debt service tax rate of $0.45.

The complete auditor's report is here in pdf (pages 39 – 40 cover bond indebtedness).

A fiscal snapshot for DSISD at the end of 2010, according to the independent auditor:

- $2,705,146,498 “Assessed Property Value” [total appraised value of DSISD tax base]
- $144,357,096 “Total long-term debt payable”
- $133,228,206 “Capital Assets”

Our total DSISD debt exceeds assets. The school district’s preferred accounting graphs and charts, like the brochure that was mailed last week, omits all debt-related figures. But it’s clear these numbers are not only significant, but they lie at the heart of our taxation problem.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Financial shell games continue at county commissioners court

Unfortunately, this was just another week of the status quo at the Hays County Commissioners Court. We are seeing some distinct patterns play out over and over, and they are costing us more than just tax dollars

Note: We're not sure what the percentage would be in a survey asking citizens what their level of trust and confidence is in their county government, but it probably wouldn't be much higher than the 9% people have in their federal government these days. Commissioners continue to show taxpayers and voters that they are still good at doing at least one thing, and that's whatever pleases them at any given moment without regard to prior stated commitments or fiscal accountability.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Sam at, to County Judge Bert Cobb
(the county's chief fiscal officer) at, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Sam Brannon
Guest Commentary

At its regular meeting Tuesday Oct. 25 the Hays County Commissioners Court voiced a substantial change in policy regarding the disposition of county buildings that will be vacated as part of the move to the new Government Center on Wonder World Drive.

Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe reminded the court that taxpayers had been assured that the proceeds from the sale of these properties would be used to pay down the $70 million debt associated with the new building, and yet she joined Commissioner Will Conley and Judge Cobb in their obvious support for alternative outcomes. Commissioner Mark Jones sat mostly silent.

No longer are they interested in top dollar and a timely sale which is part of their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. Now the court is on the record with their concerns about who buys the property and to what use it will be put. This is very disconcerting behavior.

Among the various reasons they stated for their concern was the possibility that a grandfather might buy a building for his young grandchild, and it might sit vacant for a generation. Another of the reasons offered was that a buyer may open a strip club on the square, as if the City of San Marcos had not yet considered downtown zoning. These nonsensical explanations only add insult to the injury of irresponsible financial policies.

The only rationale with any plausible credibility was the economic impact to businesses on the square. It was discussed that the City of San Marcos may decide to rent the buildings, and that the employees who office there will economically back-fill the county employees moving south to Wonder World. Perhaps, but their new found concern for small business people is shaky at best. I don’t like the decision to move the Government Center to the southestern-most part of the county because it hurt a lot of people and makes government less accessible, but this isn’t the answer.

This policy change is the equivalent of taking on millions more in debt without voter approval.

What is NOT in the Budget

Back in September I noticed that the proposed Precinct 2 building was not included in the 2012 budget in spite of it being clearly a priority to this Commissioners Court. Several weeks ago I asked Lon Shell, Judge Cobb’s Chief of Staff, why it was omitted. Lon explained it was because they didn’t have a funding source, though he confirmed they were planning to proceed with construction. When I asked where the funding would come from he said it would most likely be from the sale of the soon-to-be vacant county buildings.

I’m not sure which buildings will sell to pay for the new Pct. 2 building, and which will be held and rented out or sold to an "acceptable" buyer. But it's pretty clear that our elected officials are not interested in paying down the debt as was assured by the previous court, which also included Will Conley and Debbie Ingalsbe.

Commissioners Court Approves New Admin IV Position

Also this past Tuesday, District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and Assistant District Attorney Mark Kennedy made their case to create a new, elevated level of Administrative Assistant IV that would allow the D.A.’s office to promote and increase the pay of a particular staffer. There was only token resistance to this request before taking a vote of 4-0 (Commissioner Whisenant was out).

You may recall that for most of this year, all new hires and promotions had to come before the court for special approval. Since all requests that I’m aware of were approved during this time, the intent was clearly to give the impression of fiscal responsibility without actually having to act responsibly. Now inside of 30 days into the new fiscal year they’re creating a new salary level, one that other departments will surely find an urgent use for soon enough.

Unfortunately, this was just another week of the status quo at the Hays County Commissioners Court. We are seeing some distinct patterns play out over and over, and they are costing us more than just tax dollars.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Open Thread

Feel like you've been left hanging on an important question or issue? Got something new and interesting to report? Feel free to use this space as an open forum. Please keep your comments civil. (Click on the "comments" below the photo)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Water coalition sets up website; LCRA again postpones sale of 290 water line

Send your comments and questions to the UDC at, to Commissioner Whisenant at, to LCRA's board of directors at or click on the "comments" at the bottom the story

The Coalition of Central Texas Utilities Development Corporation (UDC), of which Hays County is a member, now has a website to keep citizens informed about the LCRA divestiture of water and wastewater properties. The address is

Hays County's Pct 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant (R-Dripping Springs) serves as vice president of the board of the UDC.

The UDC website encourages citizens to contact their legislators, LCRA, and water suppliers to say that they want public utilities (including water) to stay in PUBLIC hands – not in the hands of investor-owned utilities (IOUs).

As stated in the website: "Many of the current customers realize their rates may go up; however, they would prefer to see those rates set through public ownership, covering only the costs of service, rather than allow those rates to be dictated by corporate resolution, satisfying a distant pocket’s need for profit."

At its meeting Wednesday Oct. 19, LCRA's board of directors decided again to postpone the decision as to whom to sell its remaining water and wastewater facilities, saying that LCRA has yet to receive a bid with the desired compensation for its investments.

Included in the postponed sale is the Hwy 290 water line (a part of the larger West Travis Regional Water System), which serves about 7,000 north Hays County subdivision customers and the member-owned Drippings Springs Water Supply Corporation.

At its September meeting, the LCRA board had signaled that it would be taking a closer look at bids for the West Travis System from Corix, a Canadian firm, and the California Water Group.

Late Night Funnies: Keep GOP Weird

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Open San Marcos scores big with city council reforms

The guidelines, 12 in all, are a mix of
new reforms long sought by the Open San Marcos organization and ongoing improvements by the city

Send your comments and questions to Mr. Thomaides at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

Open San Marcos coordinator and city council candidate, Place 3, John Thomaides forwarded the following news late last night:


Tonight the City Council passed the attached Policy for Open Government!

I believe Steve Harvey (Open San Marcos co-founder) would be proud of our entire group, the city staff and City Council for accomplishing this goal and improving our city for many years to come.

Congratulations and Cheers!

The San Marcos City Council voted to adopt a resolution (with Open Government Guidelines attached) containing a list of reforms that include more and earlier public input into policy and procedure, accountability measures, easier to understand records and public notice postings, and an ethics commission to "detect and prevent fraud and abuse of public resources."

Resolution/Click to enlarge

The guidelines – 12 in all, are a mix of ongoing improvements by the city and new reforms long sought by the Open San Marcos organization – became effective "in full force" immediately after the resolution's passage.

Under the "Available Media" guideline the city has agreed to make its website more user friendly and interactive, allowing for citizen questions and concerns to be posted, expand its TV live broadcasts of council and planning commission meetings, and expand traditional means of communicating with the public.

Two guidelines address feedback to citizens and campaign finance:

"Feedback to residents on how their input affected a public decision is important. The City will provide feedback through various outlets, such as conveying results of citizen surveys or responding promptly to citizen questions and requests."

"Campaign finance reports by elected City officials and candidates are filed with the City, posted online and accessible to the public."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Texas' culture of corruption

Politicians depend on this lucre to stay in power to advance personal, ideological and professional ambitions, which more often than not involves higher office or easing into lucrative lobbyist jobs

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

San Antonio Express-News
Published Oct. 14 2011

Read the complete story

By O. Ricardo Pimentel

Help me with something.

Eduardo Elizondo was the senior director of the San Antonio Independent School District's federal programs department and Tony Mayhan was the department's compliance monitor. They resigned after an internal district investigation found thousands went to companies owned by their wives.

Clearly wrong if they steered these public dollars, right?

So, has anyone noticed the special relationships that our state elected officials and special interests enjoy in Texas? This coziness is also between people in bed with one another — figuratively, if not literally.

Low-level school district officials do not create laws. Legislators do and — coincidence! — Texas has no limits on how much individuals or PACs can give in “campaign contributions.” And there are ways corporations can get around laws that prohibit direct giving.

CAMPO Plan: Do you know where your transportation future and dollars are going?

"This plan will help us come together as a region to address the transportation challenges ahead, and will ensure that our region continues to receive transportation funding through the US Department of Transportation."
CAMPO: Your 25 Year Transportation Plan

Note: These projects are taken from the CAMPO 2035 Plan.
Many other projects are listed. These may be the ones of greatest interest and impact to Hays County residents. Thanks to RoundUp contributing writer Barbara Hopson for compiling the list. Download the plan at the CAMPO website (click on 2035 Regional Transportation Plan):

Send your comments and questions to CAMPO at (512) 974-2275, to CAMPO Director Maureen McCoy at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

1. p. 78 - Hwy 290 at the "Y" at Oak Hill. "Ultimate 6-lane turnpike with 2-lane non-tolled frontage roads in each direction. Circle Drive to Joe Tanner Lane." Begin 2017, open 2019. Cost: $35.5 million (the turnpike apparently IS tolled).

2. p.79 - New freeway (design only) - SH 45 (SW). Loop 1 to FM 1626. Design and other planning being done 2012-2014. Cost: $6 million

3. p.79 - New freeway - SH 45 (SW). Loop 1 to FM 1626. "Construct 4-lane TOLL freeway." Construction 2020-2025. Cost: $93.5 million

4. p.79 - New freeway - SH 71 at "Y" at Oak Hill. Silvermine to Hwy 290 West. Engineering, ROW acquisition, and construction of 2 TOLLED connector bridges from US 290 West and continuous non-tolled access road lanes. Start 2015, open 2017. Cost $229.1 million

5. p.80 - FM 1626 in Hays County, FM 2770 to Travis County line. "Widen to 4-lane divided roadway." Start 2010, open 2012. Cost: $53.3 million

6. p.80 - FM 1626 in Hays County, Hays County Line to Bliss Spillar Road. "Widen to 4-lane divided roadway." Start 2010, open 2012. Cost: $19.1 million

7. p.80 - In Hays County, "reconstruct to 4-lane undivided roadway" the part of RR 12 between the Junction and San Marcos City Limit. Begin 2010, open 2012. Cost: $24.1 million.

8. p.82 - Intercity rail - Lone Star Rail from Georgetown to San Antonio. Start 2013, open 2015. Cost: $467 million. (Rail line goes to San Antonio, but CAMPO members pay only to south Hays County Line.)

9. p.83 - Intermodal Facility (apparently city station for Lone Star Rail) - Buda. Start 2026, open 2035. Cost: $2 million.

10. p. 83 - Dripping Springs Park and Ride (provider not given) - Start 2026, open 2035. Cost: $2 million

11. p. 83 - CARTS Intercity/Express Bus - Dripping Springs to San Marcos. Begin 2020. Cost: $2.2 million

12. p.83 - CARTS Intercity/Express Bus - Hays County Connector (location?). Begin 2020. Cost: $2.8 million

13. p.84 - CARTS Intercity/Express Bus - Route 726-San Marcos. Open 2020. Cost: $2.5 million

14. p.84 - Intercity/Express Bus (provider not given) - From RR 12 in Dripping Springs to downtown Austin. Begin 2026, open 2035. Cost: $3 million.

15. p. 84 - CARTS Intercity/Express Bus (service area not given). To San Marcos. Start 2026, open 2035. Cost: $10 million.

Drought conditions fueling ‘red tide,’ decade’s largest algae bloom along Texas Gulf Coast

The geographic scope of this red tide — affecting areas from Galveston to South Padre Island — is the largest since 2000

Tx AgriLife Extension Service via
Brownsville Herald/Tony Reisinger/AP

Washington Post
Published Monday Oct. 17 2011

Read the complete story

By Associated Press

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Historic drought conditions are fueling the largest algae bloom in more than a decade along the Texas Gulf Coast, killing fish, sparking warnings about beach conditions and making throats scratchy, researchers said Monday.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rick Perry officials spark revolt after doctoring environment report

Texas is the only state to refuse to sign on to the federal government's new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions

Related story with professor's edited article: Houston Chronicle | By Harvey Rice University professor says state censored his article
The deletions by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are ideological and political, said John Anderson, the Maurice Ewing professor of oceanography at Rice.

Think Progress | By Joe Romm Flood-gate: Perry officials try to hide sea level rises from Texans
In one of the most flagrant recent instances of scientific censorship, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) refused to publish a report chapter unless all mention of climate change and its impact on sea level rise were eliminated. The author — Rice University oceanographer John Anderson, a leading expert on sea level rise with more than 200 publications — refused. As a result, TCEQ killed his chapter in The State of the Bay, a regular publication of the Galveston Bay Estuary Program.

Click to enlarge / See article
By Suzanne Goldenberg
US Environment Correspondent
The Guardian

Read the complete story

(Friday, Oct. 14, 2011) - Officials in Rick Perry's home state of Texas have set off a scientists' revolt after purging mentions of climate change and sea-level rise from what was supposed to be a landmark environmental report. The scientists said they were disowning the report on the state of Galveston Bay because of political interference and censorship from Perry appointees at the state's environmental agency.

By academic standards, the protest amounts to the beginnings of a rebellion: every single scientist associated with the 200-page report has demanded their names be struck from the document. "None of us can be party to scientific censorship so we would all have our names removed," said Jim Lester, a co-author of the report and vice-president of the Houston Advanced Research Centre.

"To me it is simply a question of maintaining scientific credibility. This is simply antithetical to what a scientist does," Lester said. "We can't be censored." Scientists see Texas as at high risk because of climate change, from the increased exposure to hurricanes and extreme weather on its long coastline to this summer's season of wildfires and drought.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Third Court panel affirms Ramus deadly conduct conviction

Hays County District Attorney, Sherri Tibbe, subpoenaed Ramus’ military records after HaysCAN filed a documented complaint containing numerous perjury allegations against Ramus

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

By Charles O'Dell

Contributing Editor

The Texas Third Court of Appeals Friday issued a Memorandum Opinion in the case of Nicholas George Ramus, Jr. v. The state of Texas, regarding Ramus’ June 2010 conviction of deadly conduct by Hays County Court at Law Judge, Linda Rodriquez.

The Appeals Court affirmed Ramus’ conviction by Judge Rodriquez.

Justice Henson wrote the opinion for the Court comprised of Chief Justice Woody Jones, and Justices Bob Pemberton and Diane Henson.

Ramus has thirty days to appeal the decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. This is Texas’ highest court for criminal cases. The Court consists of a presiding judge and eight judges elected by Texas voters. The Court has discretion to hear or refuse to hear a case.

Deadly Conduct charges were filed against Ramus on September 5, 2008, after he pointed a loaded shotgun at Carolyn Logan while she was mowing her pasture. Following several delaying tactics, Ramus was found guilty of deadly conduct on June 1, 2010. He was fined, sentenced to two years probation and required to complete community service. All of that has been on hold while Ramus appealed his conviction.

The Back Story

At the time of his deadly conduct charge, Ramus was running as the Republican candidate for Hays County Precinct 1 Commissioner. Ramus was recruited by Commissioner Will Conley and supported by then Hays County Republican Chair, Linda Kinney of Dripping Springs. Both Conley and Kinney called Ramus, “A great man and a great candidate.”

Incumbent Debbie Ingalsbe (D) easily won reelection.

Ramus has a long history of criminal convictions and of lying under oath. Hays County District Attorney, Sherri Tibbe, subpoenaed Ramus’ military records after HaysCAN filed a documented complaint containing numerous perjury allegations against Ramus. Tibbe claimed the statute of limitation had expired for most of the alleged perjury, but will examine Ramus’ military records that are expected to arrive next week from the military records center in response to a subpoena.

Ramus became County Commissioners Pct 2 Jeff Barton's and Pct 3 Will Conley’s cause célèbre in their 2007 scheme to force then County Judge Liz Sumter out of office.

After the County revoked Ramus’ illegal septic permit issued by Tom Pope by a 3 – 2 vote in April 2007, Barton and Conley encouraged Ramus to sue the County, planning to settle the suit for up to a million dollars and blaming the cost to taxpayers on Sumter.

Even though the septic laws were violated, Conley and Barton insisted they were, “protecting County staff,” because, “that’s the way the law had always been interpreted.”

Their scheme failed because Logan, the actual injured party, intervened in the Ramus suit against the County and refused to settle because she believed every citizen should enjoy protection under the law and that no one should benefit from breaking the law.

Logan’s tenacity in the face of repeated official harassment saved the County taxpayers from the expensive Barton/Conley scheme. District Judge Robert Pfeuffer dismissed the Ramus lawsuit and vacated his previous partial summary judgment.

Barton was defeated in his 2010 bid for county judge.

It was Conley who started spin that the Ramus septic case was simply a “feud between two hostile San Marcos neighbors,” and Conley is now trying to distance himself from Ramus by claiming that he had nothing to do with Ramus’ candidacy or with the scheme to oust Sumter.

Conley is expected to run for reelection in 2012.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A shout-out to pass the word!

We need to work on those things we agree on, to stop paying all the bills that both the Texas Legislature and the Local School Districts keep passing on to us. We need to send this plate of bad pork back up the line every time they serve it up

Note: Dripping Springs ISD officials and school board members are welcome to send a letter and to chime in on the comments.

Send your comments and questions to, to Val Asensio at or click on the "comments" below the letter

An Open Letter

"The House is On Fire"

First, I'd like to thank Bob Ochoa, the editor of the Roundup for giving area residents a source of news and opinion. Austin Statesman doesn't cover DS, the DS Century News is irrelevant. I agree with the post-er (scroll down to story below this letter) who said we need to deal with the larger problem that leads to tax increases, but we need to deal with the house fire right now, which is this unwarranted 9% tax increase. Voting will start on Oct. 24.

Without lobbyists working on our behalf, we have a small chance to impact change, especially when most don't vote. How do we get the attention of the decision makers? We act to vote down a tax increase and we keep voting them down. Not because we hate anyone, or don't like this or that. We'll never agree on some things, but it doesn't matter. We need to work on those things we agree on, to stop paying all the bills that both the Texas Legislature and the Local School Districts keep passing on to us. We need to send this plate of bad pork back up the line every time they serve it up.

I've been at these school board meetings and haven't seen a lot of you there. I know that because the last one I went to was 99.99% for the tax increase and only myself making the argument that they need to possibly make some cuts to their budget before taxing us more. That was big fun. Believe me when I tell you: DSISD School Board and admin staff does not feel your pain. It's totally about their wants, right now. And they want more. It's still not clear to me how they're justifying it. They have a $16mil surplus. Their average administrator salary is $95K / year, higher than Austin's, and I could go on. They fired 11 janitors in a very public way. Wow. Talk about a cosmetic cut. It got a lot of press, though. It was a smoke screen. I feel bad for the janitors who were used as a political pawn. It's not fair.

In the meetings, School Superintendent Dr. Mard Herrick said that deeper cuts will only take place if the tax increase fails. You see, it's tax first, cut only if absolutely necessary. They have not made real cuts and won't unless the voters send a message. There's a tremendous amount of grousing and hopelessness here from commenters on this site. We don't have time for armchair bitching about things. Back it up, guys, with doing. If the residents of the 'burbs don't know about this - tell them. Blog, post to newsgroups, write letters the editor, post signs on telephone poles. This is our time to act. Now, not after the tax increase is voted in. I refuse to believe it's hopeless. The costs of just giving up are high and will continue to increase for anyone who owns property in DSISD.

I'm re-invigorated since attending the unpublished Executive Board Meeting yesterday, 10/13. Property owners are not a part of their decision making process. I sat there and said "It's not all about you, DSISD. We homeowners are hurting. Many are unemployed, under-employed, or like myself and my husband, our business revenue is down 40%."

You know what a nice lady told me in response, "If we don't raise taxes and the schools go downhill, I'll move and everyone else will, too (lots of nods of agreement in the room) and you'll lose 40% *more* revenue."

That's the response to your pain, and mine. I almost fell out of my chair. Of course, there will be *no* businesses in Drippin' if these guys keep raising taxes, but there's no connection with that reality, in that room anyway.

This is what we're dealing with. Open your checkbooks. There is no limit to what they want from you. Talk even commenced that the current $1.17 rate cap was "too restrictive." Among the school admin there was a clear longing for the old days of the $1.50 cap, and how that was too low.

The house is on fire and I'd really like to see some of y'all get on board with the StoptheHaysTaxIncrease website and movement. There’s so little time before early voting starts. Stop bitchin', Drippin'. Start acting. Let's do this.

All the Best,
Val Asensio

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What/who to believe? DSISD says one thing, TEA says another about tax and spend

[T]he important numbers are how much revenue they collect per student, $11,291, versus how much they spend on instruction per student $4,444. That’s not 54% spent on instruction; it’s 40%

Note: An information war being waged over a huge property tax increase proposed by the Dripping Springs school district seems to be boiling down to two central questions – does the school district have a revenue problem or a spending problem, and, is it spending far less in classroom instruction than the state's 65% rule ?

We hope voters get some clear answers before the Nov. 8 election. The school district has a measure on the ballot proposing to increase the property tax rate from $1.04 per hundred valuation to $1.17, the highest rate allowed under law. Early voting begins Oct. 24.
There's nothing like an honest campaign and a well informed vote.

Two school sponsored community forums have been held. The third and last is scheduled Oct. 24, 6:30 p.m.
in the Dripping Springs High School Lecture Hall (940 Highway 290 West).

This update was sent by a Dripping Springs concerned taxpayer . . .

Point: The position of DSISD is that the tax rate caps put in place by the Texas Legislature in 2005-06 have reduced revenue into the district. Budget data, however contradicts this assertion.

Counterpoint: In the meeting Tuesday night (school district's second of three community forums), DSISD Superintendent Dr. Herrick mentioned several times the negative revenue impact of the 2005-06 property tax rate caps that were put in place. Research done using the actual financial reporting data on the TEA system ( shows rather than a revenue decrease, that per student tax revenue has increased by 14% since the rate caps were put in place.

What the TEA report labels "Total Revenue Per Student" has increased from $9,880 (2005-06) to $11,349 (2010-11), representing a per student increase in revenue of 14%, not a decrease as Dr. Herrick implied.

The problem is clearly on the spending side, not the taxing side.

2010 TEA report on DSISD: Tax revenue per student $11,291, amount spent on instruction $4,444, $8,209 on “operating expenditures.”

This TEA report shows revenue collected per student of $11,291 and instructional expenditures per student of $4,444. That’s about 40% spent on instruction. $8,209 per student per year is listed as “operating expenditures.”

This TEA report also lists the 54% number that DSISD uses for percent spent on instruction. The calculation inexplicably omits a large part of their spending from the calculation.

But the important numbers are how much revenue they collect per student, $11,291, versus how much they spend on instruction per student $4,444. That’s not 54% spent on instruction; it’s 40%.

The report link is:

Go directly to the report at this link:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Council nixes wind turbines, receives CAMPO approval for road upgrade through the Square

The current
(wind turbine) technology would appear to provide more of a sight and noise nuisance than benefit when used on individual lots within an area such as Wimberley

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

Council approves temporary ban on swimming pool construction in the city

In a 3-1 vote at its Oct. 6 meeting, the Wimberley City Council approved an ordinance prohibiting the issuing of building permits for new construction of in-ground and above-ground swimming pools within the city. The ban is temporary until drought conditions ease. Place five Councilman John White voted against the ordinance.

Current drought conditions are such that a growing number of area water purveyors such as the Wimberley Water Supply Corporation are prohibiting the use of their water to fill new pools and to refill existing pools. The city continues to receive occasional requests for permits to build new pools from property owners hoping to find the water needed to fill their pools once built.

City to lease voting machines for May '12 election

The city council approved a lease agreement for electronic voting machines for the May 2012 city council election. Under the one-year agreement, Election Systems & Software will provide the city up to eight touch screen voting machines along with various election materials and on-site support services needed for the election. The cost to the city will not be more than $11,640, and the city had the option of extending the agreement for a second year at the same "not to exceed" price. The city is in discussions with the city of Woodcreek and the Wimberley Independent School District about the possibility of contracting with Wimberley to hold a joint election in May with the participating entities sharing the costs of the election.

Blue Hole swimming area to close after Oct. 16

This coming weekend will be the last opportunity to swim at Blue Hole this year. The swimming area will close Sunday and will not reopen for the public until Memorial Day weekend next year. The swimming area is available for private party rental. This is the first year since the city has operated the swimming area that it has remained open after the Labor Day weekend. Since Labor Day, nearly 500 people have passed through the Blue Hole gates, putting the total attendance for the year at more than 22,000.

Planning and Zoning to consider boarding house regulations

At its Oct. 13 meeting, the Wimberley Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss the possibility of amending the zoning code to allow limited adult care facilities or boarding houses in residential areas, as a conditional use. Current regulations do not allow for such facilities in residential areas. The commission may recommend changes to the zoning code to the city council.

CAMPO board decisions a mixed bag for Wimberley

One Wimberley transportation project qualified high on the list for funding while another failed to make the list in Monday night Oct. 10 voting by the Capital Area Mobility Planning Organization's Transportation Planning Board. The panel had not taken action on a third Wimberley area project by press time.

CAMPO approved full Texas Department of Transportation funding for the $400,000 project to realign the intersection of Old Kyle Road and Ranch Road 12 on the Square. That project includes drainage, sidewalks, a left turn lane through the Square and revised entrances to the Square parking area. The project had been jointly funded by TxDOT, Hays County and Wimberley. Following Monday evening's CAMPO action, TxDOT will fund the entire project.

The CAMPO board voted to designate Wimberley as a "small center" for its 2035 Transportation Plan. Cities designated as small centers receive a higher priority for transportation project funding. Twenty-four cities in the CAMPO five-county area have the designation.

TxDOT's request for funding for a sidewalk project on RM 2325 was turned down by the panel. The $2.6 million project would have provided for construction of a sidewalk on the west edge of the Wimberley highway from its intersection with Carney Lane to its intersection with Ranch Road 12. It is possible for the project to be reconsidered for funding in the future.

A decision had not been made on the completion of a hike and bike trail from the Winters Mill Parkway/Ranch Road 12 intersection to Joe Wimberley Blvd. by the deadline for this newsletter.

CAMPO is responsible for channeling federal and state transportation dollars to projects in its five-county area.

Council bans wind turbines in Wimberley

The city council at its Oct. 6 meeting approved an ordinance prohibiting wind turbines and accessory equipment along with utility grid wind systems within the city limits. The ordinance was proposed by the Planning and Zoning Commission after considerable discussion about the possible development of regulations relating to the installation of turbines in the city. Published information about individual wind turbines indicates that such towers would range from 45 to 85 feet in height. In addition to issues relating to tower height, concerns have been expressed in some communities about the noise made by the turbines.

The Planning and Zoning commission indicated that it is possible that future technology will provide a less intrusive way of harnessing energy from the wind, but until then, the current technology would appear to provide more of a sight and noise nuisance than benefit when used on individual lots within an area such as Wimberley.

City to urge construction of a traffic deceleration lane on RM 3237 at Winters Mill Parkway

The city of Wimberley will urge the Texas Department of Transportation and Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley for construction of a traffic deceleration lane on RM 3237 north of Winters Mill Parkway for added safety. The city's Transportation Advisory Board recommended the action based on experience with crashes and near crashes between westbound traffic continuing toward Wimberley and traffic slowing in the travel lanes for a right turn onto the Parkway.

City plans brush-collection event

The city is proposing a one-time brush collection event to help prevent the start of wildfires and to slow any that might get started in the city. With a burn ban in place, residents have no current way of eliminating the large piles of brush they have gathered. The city staff has met with representatives of Texas Disposal Systems and Hays County in an attempt to develop the details of a proposed one-time community brush collection effort.

Join the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's in San Marcos on Nov. 5

The Alzheimer's Association will hold its annual Walk to End Alzheimer's in San Marcos on Saturday, Nov. 5. Visit the website at, pick out the Wimberley teams and join one. Or you can call 512-738-7048. The non-competitive walk begins at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the San Marcos City Park Recreation Hall.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Numbers indicate DSISD spending less than 25% on classroom instruction

Dripping Springs’ total expenditures by the last TEA Snapshot available was $75,218,200/year. Total Instructional expenditures was $18,346,049. Thus, only 24.39%
was spent on instruction

Note: The Stop the Hays Tax Increase Political Action Committee of Dripping Springs is expanding its outreach effort to alert local taxpayers of an unprecedented property tax hike proposed by the Dripping Springs school district. (They say signs are being torn down almost as fast as they are put up – check the website for a report.) Dripping ISD voters will consider the tax measure and a $3.6 million school bond measure in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.
Early voting begins on Oct. 24. Check the Hays County website, elections office, for the sample ballot and early voting dates, times and places. The school district has scheduled three public meetings on the tax measure. The first is Tuesday Oct. 11, 8:30 a.m. in the cafeteria of Rooster Springs Elementary School, 1001 Belterra Dr.

Send your comments and questions to, to the Stop Hays Tax Increase PAC at, to the school superintendent at, 512.858.3002, to Empower Texans (Texans for Fiscal Responsibility) or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the story

By Dustin Matocha
Reprinted from Empower Texans
Map of DSISD / Click to enlarge
or go to the Google address
Think it’s only big city school districts pushing for tax hikes to cover their negligent spending habits? Think again. Dripping Springs ISD wants to raise taxes to the maximum allowed by law, despite the fact that they spend less than 25 percent of their total expenditures on classroom instruction.

Come November 8th, Dripping Springs ISD residents will be asked to ratify a new property tax rate of $1.17 per $100 of appraised property value, the maximum allowed by state law. The state requires voter approval because the new rate exceeds $1.04.

With no surprise, Dripping Springs ISD lays blame for the need to raise taxes on the state for not adequately funding enrollment growth. In an information flyer they published, the school district claims they have the lowest Funding per Student figures out of comparable neighboring ISD’s, and that 54% of their total budgeted expenditures for 2011-2012 will be going towards instruction.

What they don’t tell you is how they manipulated the Texas Education Agency data to come up with those figures.

Dripping Springs ISD actually spends less than 25% of their total funds on classroom instruction, with per pupil spending reaching almost $17,500. Compared to the other ISD’s, here’s how the other central Texas school districts they cited compare:

  • Wimberley ISD – $22,354 per student
  • Dripping Springs ISD – $17,448 per student
  • Eanes ISD – $13,598 per student
  • Lake Travis ISD – $12,656 per student
  • San Marcos ISD – $12,385 per student
  • Hays CISD – $11,835 per student
  • Austin ISD – $11,598 per student

So where did Dripping Springs get such distorted numbers to claim they spend less per student than all other ISD’s listed above? The answer is simple, and it has to do with manipulated data from the Texas Education Agency.

Instead of using total district expenditures, school districts like Dripping Springs base their per-pupil spending numbers solely off their total Operating expenditures (like administrative and teacher salaries, utility usage, etc…). This completely ignores an entire sector of spending, like repaying debt on bonds issued by the school district.

Dripping Springs’ total expenditures by the last TEA Snapshot available was $75,218,200/year. Total Instructional expenditures was $18,346,049. Thus, only 24.39% was spent on instruction. It’s only by ignoring non-operating expenses ($41,333,262) that they can claim a 54% instructional spending rate.

So how does a school district like Dripping Springs end up with such pathetic instructional spending rates? The fact that the district has it’s own performing arts center should shed some light on it.


At a Dripping Springs 9-12 meeting on September 22nd, DSISD school board president Tim Kurpiewski spoke about the district’s new High School Auditorium and how the district could justify such spending. His explanation?

“We just…you know… we just felt like we would go ahead and put that in…”

Such an irresponsible mind-set is probably how the school district set such high administrative salaries. According to the last TEA Snapshot, Dripping Springs ISD average central administrative salaries exceed that of Austin ISD, at $95,612. Their average school administrative salaries compared to their neighboring districts are even worse. DSISD’s average salary at $72,213 is greater than Austin ISD at $66,342, Wimberley ISD at $68,400 and Hays CISD at $69,074.

But the most egregious administrative spending as of late has to be at the very top of the school district. Superintendent Dr. Mard Herrick, with two years left in his contract, will be retiring at the end of the year. According to his Voluntary Separation Agreement obtained through an open records request, he’s scheduled to walk away with over $150,000 (a full year’s salary).

In other words, Dr. Merrick is being paid three or four annual teachers’ salaries for voluntarily retiring from his position. The cost Dripping Springs ISD will pay for a search committee to replace him? $6,800!.

(You can watch Mr. Kurpiewski try to justify the board’s decision here).

Clearly, Dripping Springs ISD is nowhere near the dire straights that the Texas Tribune would like you to think they are. Just because they are a small district doesn’t mean they aren’t plagued by the same irresponsible spending habits as our state’s larger districts. Approving a tax hike in the midst of such poor instructional spending will do nothing but perpetuate the problem.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Most Money Democracy Can Buy

As soon as the banks were saved with public money, the Republicans, the Wall Street Journal, and most of the right wing political class conveniently swung back to deregulation. They voted against reforms for Wall Street

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

By Rocky Boschert
Financial Editor

How can we restore politics to the true mainstream of American values, rescuing democracy from the clutches of corporate power that the Republican Party and more and more Democrats champion – in deeds if not in words?

In addition to the freedom of true free markets, the ideals of individual liberty must also be protected with the beneficence of a fair and limited government. Governments are the only entities that can regulate banks, protect the environment from pollution, promote science, fairly tax millionaires and billionaires, and limit the lobbying power of the naturally greedy and sociopathic corporation charters. When one is on the far right of the political spectrum like most of the Republican Party today, even moderate and sensible policies look like "unlimited government."

Republicans think an economy mixed with government incentives and citizen protections is anti-American. History, however, shows otherwise. From the start of the republic, our Founding Fathers and our greatest presidents have championed an affirmative role of government in the economy.

Most Republicans seem to be unaware that Jefferson vigorously opposed the untrammeled actions of commercial banks and corporations. Jefferson famously wrote, "I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies." He declared the need to "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

From Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt to now, the federal government has played a vital role in public works (canals in the 19th century, highways in the mid-20th century, and someday a low-carbon renewable energy system in the 21st century). From the founding days until now, government has championed public education, such as in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act establishing America's great land-grant universities. From the founding days until now, the federal government has championed research, from Lewis and Clark's expedition under Jefferson to the mission to the moon under Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

The neoRepublicans ignore extensive evidence showing that Americans support the values of a mixed economy, not the extremism of free-market libertarianism. Americans today by large majorities support public education, Medicare, Social Security, help for the indigent, stronger regulation of the banks, and higher taxation of the rich. The problem is not with American values – as the Tea Party claims, but with the failure of our government to translate American values into American policies.

On issue after issue, Washington is presently shunning the public's values, rather than respecting them. A majority of the public wants to preserve social programs, but they are being cut anyway. A majority wants higher taxes on the rich, but they are being cut rather than raised. A majority wants to end the wars, but they continue anyway.

The reason America is losing its democracy is because the politicians are trading their responsible representation for campaign contributions from the corporate lobbies. We clearly now live in a corporatocracy now rather than a democracy. And that corporatocracy is most clearly represented by the neoRepublicans (and the big money corrupted Tea Party), the Wall Street Journal and Fox News (both owned by Rupert Murdock) and most other big broadcast and cable media, including NBC, CNBC and MSNBC (owned by GE), and CNN (owned by Time Warner).

Even the old guard top hierarchy of the current Republican Party fought to prevent effective oversight and regulation of the banking sector. In 1999 they strongly supported the repeal of Glass-Steagall regulations on behalf of Citibank and other wannabe financial giants, helping set the stage for the financial crisis just a few years later.

Yet both the neoRepublicans and now more and more some Democrats are being consistently bankrolled by the insurance, banking, and energy and commodity industries – at the direct expense of the middle class. Banks such as the Bank of America and Citigroup, two of the largest bailout recipients, have been high on the anti-regulation politician contribution list; as have major lobbying groups for the financial industry, such as the American Bankers Association and the Securities & Financial Market Association.

America's corporatocracy is governed by elite vested interests rather than moral or economic principles. After financial deregulation led to the 2008 collapse, the neoRepublican politician’s tough enthusiasm for free enterprise suddenly took a second place to their new enthusiasm to rescue the banks through giant taxpayer-funded government bailouts. The "free-market" Wall Street Journal similarly defended the bank bailout, all of a sudden lecturing its readers about market failures and the limits of the free market. They were and still are the epitome of hypocrisy.

As soon as the banks were saved with public money, the Republicans, the Wall Street Journal, and most of the right wing political class conveniently swung back to deregulation. They voted against reforms for Wall Street. They rallied against taxing or otherwise controlling the bonuses received by the CEOs and senior managers of the bailed-out banks. When it comes to the poor, however, the Republicans have a different response: slash Medicaid and public education spending, come what may.

What happened to “a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people?” Instead, we now see “a government of the corporations and the rich, by the corporations and the rich, and for the corporations and the rich.” Americans with their eyes open know the truth. The rich and their owned politicians are getting richer, and you and I are being forced to foot the increasingly burdensome bill for public education, public safety and to live in the hazards of a deteriorating national transportation and public health infrastructure.