Thursday, August 30, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) – A three-judge panel in Washington ruled Thursday that the law imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor" and noted that racial minorities are more likely to live in poverty. Read the complete story
. . . to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech
Editor's note: Today is the last day, mercifully, of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Two take-away predictions: The convention will cause a slight dip, not a bump, in the polls for the GOP ticket. Future physicists who dabble in quantum mechanics will look back upon this event as proof of the existence of an alternate universe.
From the DallasMorningNews | By Todd J. Gillman Washington Bureau |Ryan promises tough choices, sweeping changes from Obama | Wed Aug 29, 2012 TAMPA, Fla. — Rep. Paul Ryan, the cheerful architect of a plan to reshape tax and entitlement policy, urged voters Wednesday to accept some bitter medicine to help nurse the nation back to fiscal health.
From Associated Press | By Jack Gillum | FACT CHECK: Convention Speakers Stray from Reality | Thursday Aug 30, 2012 WASHINGTON – RYAN: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama." ...... THE FACTS: Ryan's own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program's spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.
By Sally Kohn
Aug. 30, 2012
Read the complete story
To anyone watching Ryan’s speech who hasn’t been paying much attention to the ins and outs and accusations of the campaign, I suspect Ryan came across as a smart, passionate and all-around nice guy — the sort of guy you can imagine having a friendly chat with while watching your kids play soccer together. And for a lot of voters, what matters isn’t what candidates have done or what they promise to do — it’s personality. On this measure, Mitt Romney has been catastrophically struggling and with his speech, Ryan humanized himself and presumably by extension, the top of the ticket.
On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The ruling is the latest in a process that started in June 2011, when the Texas Legislature passed new political maps but failed to get them "pre-cleared" by the Justice department
By Paul J. Weber
Aug. 29, 2012
Read the complete story
SAN ANTONIO — The future of Texas' voting districts is again in question after a federal court Tuesday found evidence of discrimination in new district maps approved by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature last year.
The U.S. District Court in Washington wrote in a 154-page opinion that the maps don't comply with the federal Voting Rights Act because state prosecutors failed to prove that Texas lawmakers did not draw the new congressional and state Senate districts "without discriminatory purposes."
The ruling applies to the maps originally drawn by the Legislature in 2011, and not interim maps drawn by a San Antonio federal court that are to be used in the upcoming elections this November. The Washington court's Tuesday decision is most likely to impact the maps that will be used in the next election cycle in 2014.
Luis Vera, an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, called the ruling "better late than never" and a win for his and other minority rights groups that sued the state over the maps.
"The three-judge panel unanimously found intentional discrimination across the state. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Vera said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
New York Times Op Ed | By Nicholas D. Kristof | Tues Aug 28, 2012 | complete story
The Republican National Convention opened by smacking President Obama with the theme “We Built it.”
To pound that message, Republicans turned to a Delaware businesswoman, Sher Valenzuela, who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor. Valenzuela and her husband built an upholstery business that now employs dozens of workers.
Valenzuela presumably was picked to speak so that she could thunder at Obama for disdaining capitalism.
Oops. It turns out that Valenzuela relied not only on her entrepreneurial skills but also on — yes, government help. Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, documented $2 million in loans from the Small Business Administration for Valenzuela’s company, plus $15 million in government contracts (mostly noncompetitive ones).
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
These two areas of Bishop Romney's beliefs are only a small fraction of what he should be coming clean about and explaining in detail so that Americans can have a clear picture of who and what kind of man Mitt Romney is
Note: Lord knows President Obama has received his share of scathing attacks from the "far side" about his past associations, questioning his Christianity, patriotism and citizenship. So all things being equal – especially on the eve of Mitt Romney's official nomination for President of the United State at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida – isn't it time for voters get to know more about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith? No disrespect intended to Romney or the Mormon Church, but a man who wants to be president should hold no great secrets from the American people – least of all about his religious beliefs or personal business and financial history.
Related story: WBUR Boston | Tues Aug 28, 2012 | Mormons Consider What Romney Nomination Means For Faith – As she introduces her husband to delegates at the Republican National Convention tonight, Ann Romney may talk about how her family’s Mormon faith shapes their lives.
For many elected positions, like dogcatcher, (an) evasive posture could skate by the smell test without protest. But for The Office of The President, Mitt Romney will have to share more of his core religious beliefs and his business records by way of his taxes, too.
Did I mention he was a Bishop in the Mormon Church? Yes, "The Master" is a Bishop, too. Which one would you think would qualify him and cause him to tell us more about the intricacies of the Mormon Church more than probably any other candidate in the history of Presidential elections. But instead, Romney shies away from telling us details about Mormonism. Not only is that illogical but it's very suspicious to say the least.
Could it be the Planet Kolob thing? As cut and pasted from my friends at Wikipedia:
[Kolob is a star or planet described in Mormon scripture. Reference to Kolob is found in the Book of Abraham, a work published by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. According to this work, Kolob is the heavenly body nearest to the throne of God. While the Book of Abraham refers to Kolob as a "star", it also refers to planets as stars, and therefore, some LDS commentators consider Kolob to be a planet. Other Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) consider Kolob to be a metaphor.]
... According to several LDS (Latter Day Saints) writers (such as Cleon Skousen in his book The First 2000 Years), the earth was created near Kolob over a period of 6000 years (six "days" in Kolob time), and then moved to its present position in our solar system
In addition to the literal interpretation of Kolob as an actual heavenly body, the LDS Church has proposed that Kolob is also "a symbol of Jesus Christ," in that like Kolob, Jesus "governs" all the stars and planets similar to the earth.
Why won't Bishop Romney and the Mormons openly share those stories with us? Exactly who is Joseph Smith? How is he viewed by his Church? Inquiring minds want to know from the candidate who believes in these things.
Or maybe it's the "magic undergarment" as people often refer to?
From Wikipedia as well:
"Mormon underwear is a type of underwear worn by a vast majority of adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement, after they have taken part in the Endowment ceremony. Garments are worn both day and night and are required for any previously endowed adult to enter a temple..."
According to the LDS Church, the temple garments serve a number of purposes. First, the garment provides the member "a constant reminder" of the covenants they made in the temple. Second, the garment "when properly worn...provides protection against temptation and evil... General authority Carlos E. Asay adds that the garment "strengthens the wearer to resist temptation, fend off evil influences, and stand firmly for the right."
Is Romney going to wear this undergarment everyday or when he has to make his most important decisions because he feels like it's going to help him and America some way? That's a very fair question we should ask.
Lastly, there are special symbols written on these garments that have a wide range of interesting meanings. Too long to go into here but I encourage each of you to be independent and critical thinkers and research for yourself.
These two areas of Bishop Romney's beliefs are only a small fraction of what he should be coming clean about and explaining in detail so that Americans can have a clear picture of who and what kind of man Mitt Romney is. But again, we get the distinct feeling that he doesn't really want us to know anything about him that would cause us to question his judgment, character or business acumen in taxes and finances. All of which he says are superior to that of President Obama's.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Cartoon of the Week
Who's telling the truth in the great medicare debate?
Note: If you are enrolled in Medicare, approaching the age when you can enroll, or if you are a member of the younger set paying into Medicare through your payroll deductions, you should be paying close attention to the big ad wars being waged by the Obama and Romney campaigns over their respective plans for Medicare. Check out the dueling ads below and see if you can tell which side is telling the truth and which side is three sheets to the wind. You'll have to fine tune your inner truth detector (and do your own research) because these days in what passes for political debate, it's harder than ever to tell fact from pure D bullshit.
Friday, August 17, 2012
She loved driving the winding roads and admiring the Texas landscape, just as she loved spending time with her dogs, traveling with Jay, and staying politically active through the Wimberley Democrats
Editor's note: Ann was truly a delightful person to be around, fun-loving and wise. She will be missed.
After a long struggle with a rare neurological disease, Ann Merritt, 75, of Woodcreek, TX, died Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at the Deer Creek Nursing Center in Wimberley. Feisty, funny, and clever, Ann always enlivened social gatherings with her wit, energy, and good natured-humor.
Ann was born on April 10, 1937, to Marian and Harry Merritt, and raised in Houston, TX. In 1955, she graduated from Lamar High School, and then in 1959 completed her bachelor's degree in economics at Smith College. After graduation she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she worked for Bank of America and married Nelson McClung, an economist working at the Federal Reserve. Ann and Nelson lived in Sausalito for two years before moving to Washington, DC, where they had a son, Andrew, in 1963. However, the marriage did not last, and Ann returned to Houston, working at NASA and getting involved in the politics of equal rights for women. Ann enjoyed the intellectual atmosphere of NASA, but her career focus on fairness in hiring took her to New Orleans in 1975, working for the Department of Defense. There, she met and married Jay Strickler, who managed a steel container plant.
Ann and Jay bought a house together and enjoyed living in New Orleans, but in 1984 the container plant was closed, so they bought a Dutch houseboat in the Netherlands and began their next adventure overseas. The boat let them travel the inland waterways of Europe for nearly five years, from the Netherlands to Paris and the south of France, and making friends among the international expatriates they met along the way. In late 1988, seeking more stability on solid ground, Ann and Jay moved to Austin, where they lived for almost 10 years before moving to the Wimberley area in 1998.
Ann had always loved the Texas Hill Country, since her family spent summer vacations near Junction when she was a child. This last move gave her a chance to renew and strengthen friendships from her high school days at Lamar. She loved driving the winding roads and admiring the Texas landscape, just as she loved spending time with her dogs, traveling with Jay, and staying politically active through the Wimberley Democrats.
Ann is survived by her husband of 32 years, Jay Strickler; brother, Harry Merritt, Jr., of Mobile, AL; and son, Andrew. She leaves behind a large, diverse assortment of friends, and will be greatly missed.
A memorial service and reception will be held Sunday, August 19, 2012, at 4pm, at the Leaning Pear restaurant in Wimberley, TX. Those who plan to attend are requested to contact the family beforehand at firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, please make memorial donations to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, to promote the natural splendor of the Texas hill country.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Tonight – Ledge Stone apartments on Dripping Springs city council agenda; Isaac says many citizens in ETJ will have no say
"Despite the overwhelming opposition, the (Planning & Zoning) Commission approved the variance. One of the commissioners went so far as to berate the citizens in attendance who had taken time out of their evening to voice their opposition to a project that will greatly alter the community in which they live."
Note: This guest editorial from State Rep. Jason Isaac might also be titled "Welcome to the world your Legislature has Wrought." Isaac is correct in pointing out that thousands of people live in a kind of "no man's land" inside Dripping Springs' ETJ (unincorporated area), forced to live by development decisions made by a small cadre of city officials without the right to vote in city elections, without the opportunity to replace city officials whose decisions they disagree with. What Mr. Isaac fails to mention is that the Texas Legislature has designed a system under the Local Government Code tilted to favor developers, whilst leaving many citizens and their right to have a say twisting in the wind. Isaac's public opposition to the Cypress Creek at Ledge Stone apartment project is a safe bet. By doing so, he stands to gain a lot of support for his own re-election campaign, although it may not stop the development from going forward. Dripping Springs' Planning & Zoning Commission members recently approved Developer Stuart Shaw's final plans for the Ledgestone apartment complex, which gives the city council the green light to approve it tonight. The typical explanation is that the developer has met all the criteria in the law, "There's nothing we can do to stop it." Should the council approve it, the project's next and final move is to the desk of County Judge Bert Cobb, who, we predict, will give the project his blessing and repeat the explanation of the city council. As for Isaac, if he is as frustrated with the system as he claims, he should be advocating long lasting changes in the law to give ETJ residents all across Hays County and Texas more say in development decisions in their neighborhoods.
Send your comments and questions to Mr. Isaac at email@example.com, to Ms. Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, to the city of Dripping Springs at email@example.com, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post
Taxation Without Representation
By State Rep. Jason Isaac
As the Dripping Springs area continues to grow, a troubling trend is emerging. While only 1,500 people live inside the city limits, the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) is home to more than 20,000 residents. With thousands of single-family homes, many children in public schools, and a lot of money spent in local businesses, the population in the ETJ makes up almost the city’s entire tax base.
Yet, because these citizens do not live within the city limits, they are unable to vote in the city elections that have a huge impact on the future of their community. In fact, less than seven percent of the area’s population is eligible to vote. This means that our City Council members, and the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission (whom the City Council appoints), are only held accountable to this small group of citizens.
This discrepancy has never been more apparent than it was in the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting held on July 24th. The Commission considered granting a variance for a large, low-income apartment complex proposed for the Dripping Springs ETJ. This development is heavily opposed by those who will be most affected by it, the residents of Ledge Stone, Heritage Oaks, Highpointe, and Belterra.
By my estimation, there were about 300 people who signed up or spoke in opposition of the complex, and petitions with thousands of signatures were also presented. The Commission sat through hours of testimony from residents with valid concerns about the strain that this complex could place on our schools and county services.
Despite the overwhelming opposition, the Commission approved the variance. One of the commissioners went so far as to berate the citizens in attendance who had taken time out of their evening to voice their opposition to a project that will greatly alter the community in which they live. I can’t help but wonder whether or not this approval would have been granted if the many residents who are seriously concerned about this issue were able to vote in city elections.
Public input is an integral part of our democratic republic. One of the greatest things about our country is our ability to make our voices heard, whether it’s through testimony at a public hearing or by exercising our right to vote for the elected officials who best represent our beliefs. In the case of Dripping Springs, I worry that the ability of the minority to control the majority translates into taxation without representation.
The decision has now been passed on to the City Council, who will meet on August 14th at 7:00 PM to consider the matter. Regardless of your stance on this issue, I encourage you to attend this meeting and contribute to the discussion.
Jason A. Isaac
State Representative, House District 45
** Letter from Teresa Scott, grassroots organizer opposing the Ledgestone Apartment project:
From: Teresa Scott
Sent: Sunday, August 5, 2012 12:51 PM
Subject: No to the Ledgestone apartment complex
Dear Mayor and City Council Members of Dripping Springs,
I have been following the progress of Stuart Shaw's development since early February this year. I have met numerous times with Mr. Shaw and have had multiple conversations via phone or email as well.
I am not opposed to development in the Dripping Springs area. As you can see by my signature block, I depend on progress to feed my family. However, I am opposed to development that is harmful to a community.
Over the past 5-6 months I have researched other communities that Mr. Shaw has developed. I have spoken with residents of his complexes, neighbors to his complexes, schools that are fed by his complexes, and governing entities with jurisdiction where his complexes reside. I wanted to know and learn about what might be coming into my area. I have yet to find and speak with someone that will give a thumbs up to his projects who has nothing financially to gain from the project. The general consensus has been, "sorry to hear they are moving into your area," "good luck with that," "I hope you can stop it." These comments give me a lot to be concerned about.
In no particular order, the reasons for these comments have been the following:
1. Lack of tax dollars
2. Drop in school performance
3. Calls to police
4. Disruption to neighboring homes from apartment residents
5. Drop in home values (one home appraised $40k less - the appraiser told the home owner this was largely due to the complex)
I spend a lot of my days with potential home buyers. I know what scares them away from an area. One big draw back is the tax rates which vary greatly from one neighborhood to the next.
I have more clients shy away from the Belterra, Highpointe, Ledgestone areas because of the ridiculously high tax rate. This tax rate is among some of the highest in all of our MLS area. Hays County is one of the most in debt counties in all of Texas. In talking with Williamson and Harris County tax offices where Stuart has other complexes, they have either received NOTHING or very little from his PILOT program. Harris County was shocked that he was tax exempt, they have other low income complexes that pay a reduced amount and the gentleman I spoke with doesn't understand how Stuart got in tax free. I can tell you first hand that taxes have a big impact on an area's home market. Other areas of Austin are thriving and are moving into a sellers market. The neighborhoods mentioned above are moving in that direction, but much slower than, for instance, Circle C Ranch that is only an 8 minute drive north-east.
There is not a lot of factual information on whether an apartment complex will increase or decrease home values. However, when I have a buyer in the car they will be very particular about what is around the homes they are interested in. They don't want to back power lines, gas lines, stores, warehouses, and especially not apartment complexes. If they can find an equally good property away from these and other "perceived" negatives, they will most always go away from the perceived negatives whether it truly is a negative or not.
I know there is a place for a complex this size and this restricted. Does it make sense at Ledgestone...no. We don't have the public transportation, the day cares, the jobs within walking distance or on a bus route, or the shopping close by. I also work with and have worked with section 8 clients and low income clients and they have all had the same needs as mentioned above.
I have researched our school situation in DSISD and worry that a complex of this size, tax free or tax reduced, will have serious negative impact. DSISD is the crown jewel of Dripping Springs and is quite frankly the reason most of my clients move into the area. If we are not careful on decisions that dramatically affect DSISD, we could damage that vital entity that drives a lot of our housing market.
I have called and spoken with offices of Lake Travis ISD and Eanes ISD to inquire about their financials since they are similar to DSISD and they are exemplary districts. Those districts also get many buyers moving into their areas primarily due to the great schools. While they are pinched because of Chapter 42, (Robin Hood), they have no tax exempt or tax reduced complexes in their districts that they were aware of. In fact, they are surrounded by growth and business that contributes to their tax base. These areas are much better equipped to have and support affordable housing and the residents who live there. While they also lack some public transportation, in contrast to Dripping, they have grown enough to financially support a reduced tax complex.
Right now we need growth that will add to our tax base, not take away. The housing market is bouncing back and there is plenty of room for growth in our DSISD boundaries. With the house tops come the business', so let's work on keeping our area attractive to home buyers by working at lowering the tax burden in the ETJ areas. The neighborhoods located in the ETJ provide a substantial amount of tax revenue and sales tax to Hays County, DSISD and the City of Dripping Springs. If the desirability of these neighborhoods drop, so will the growth and the tax dollars coming in.
Lake Travis wasn't always a booming area. In a few short years they have become one of the fastest growing areas in Austin. If we are needing and looking for growth, I'd like to see us follow in their path, great schools, great neighborhoods, ample business, and low tax rates.
There may be a time when Dripping Springs and Hays county are in a stronger financial situation where we can financially and economically support and welcome an income reduced complex the size of the proposed Cypress Creek at Ledge Stone project. It is clear from the information that has been gathered over the past 5-6 month, now is NOT the time.
I urge you to make the right choice and deny this complex at this time.
Friday, July 27, 2012
In Texas . . . 92 percent of consumers who purchased individual policies are expected to get rebates because insurers spent too little of their premium dollars on medical care
"This alone is not going to make health insurance affordable for large numbers of people, but it is getting excess administrative cost out of the system," says Larry Levitt, a study author
Send us a comment if you (or somebody you know) has received a medical insurance rebate check or letter
Note: From the Mason County News, Letters to the Editor, July 25, 2012. Rebate checks from health insurance companies are dropping in the mail all over the country due to requirements of the Affordable Care Act. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation says Texas consumers and businesses will be receiving an estimated $186 million in rebates – $1.3 billion nationally. So far, the media is otherwise reporting no major complaints coming from pooh-poohers of the health insurance reform law.
I received a shocking letter last week—along with a $400 check. From, of all places, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. It said: “The Affordable Care Act requires the BCBSTX to issue a rebate to you if BCBSTX does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums it receives on health care services such as doctors and hospital bills, and activities to improve health care quality…no more than 20 percent of premiums may be spent on administrative costs such as salaries, sales, and advertising.”
My husband and I are self-employed and pay for our own health care; some years we have insurance, some years not. In 2010, because I had promised my mom I would get a mammogram and colonoscopy when I turned 50, I signed us up for a Blue Cross Blue Shield high deductible plan, figuring that I would at least get the cheaper insurance-negotiated prices for those procedures (and if any problems were diagnosed, then future treatment would be covered). Turned out that BCBSTX was already implementing some of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (known also as ObamaCare), including one that directed insurance companies to pay for certain preventative tests regardless of the deductible. That provision alone saved me several thousand dollars, which made it less painful to pay for the quarterly premiums. And now the rebate check.
Finally I feel like I am getting something for my money. This letter is to pass on word of my experience with President Obama’s health care overhaul. Basically, I approve.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Note: We're on summer break of sorts, so use this space to report on, comment on, or start a discussion on any other hot topic in Hays County or the Universe that grabs you. Have fun. Be nice. Try to be as factual as you can. And remember to eat more watermelon.
Note note (from the youtube video): T-shirt artist Bo Muller-Moore defies Chick-fil-a, a multi-billion dollar fast food chain, when they lay claim to his 'Eat More Kale' t-shirt design and website. This is a trailer for the documentary in the making. Learn more at www.ADefiantDude.com.
Boston Herald | Full Story | By Greg Turner (Fri July 20, 2012) – Mayor Thomas M. Menino is vowing to block Chick-fil-A from bringing its Southern-fried fast-food empire to Boston — possibly to a popular tourist spot just steps from the Freedom Trail — after the family-owned firm’s president suggested gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino told the Herald yesterday.
“That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
Chick-fil-A did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But the company released a statement yesterday saying it has a history of applying “biblically-based principles” to managing its business, such as closing on Sundays, and it insisted it does not discriminate.
In other news:
Early voting in Texas' primary runoff elections begins Monday July 23 and runs through Friday July 27. Election day is Tuesday July 31. Click on the links for the ballot listings and early voting locations in Hays County for the Democratic primary runoff election and the Republican primary runoff election.
Note: This comes via an old and recycled email chain letter (from 2009) that has been making the rounds lately. Its message is simple and makes more sense than all the claptrap emanating from Washington. If you're voting in the upcoming primary elections, or even if you are not planning on voting, you might want to contact your favorite congressperson or candidate and ask if they would support at least the spirit of the purported "Congressional Reform Act of 2012 (USNews 3-13-12)." The email that ties Buffet to the letter and the Act was actually a hoax (urbanlegends Oct 2011), but it nevertheless offers a pretty effective 'quick kill' alternative to the status quo.
Blowin' in the wind: Why the Act will never pass – The Congressional Reform Act isn't a real piece of legislation. Even if it were, what are the chances members of Congress would vote to eliminate perks and jeopardize their own job security?
Email: Warren Buffett (left in photo), in a recent interview with CNBC, offers one of the best quotes about the debt ceiling:
"I could end the deficit in 5 minutes," he told CNBC. "You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election."
Congressional Reform Act of 2012
1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.
Congress made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.
THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Pennsylvania Voter ID Law May Bar 9% From Presidential Election
Voter ID Laws Could Deter Would-be Voters
Pennsylvania Republican Admits Voter Suppression Is All About Electing Mitt Romney
From huffingtonpost.com | Full Story | By Henry C. Jackson | WASHINGTON (Mon July 9, 2012) – The state of Texas and the Justice Department gave opening statements Monday in a trial over Texas' new voter ID law, setting the stage for a legal battle over the federal Voting Rights Act.
The state argued Monday that the law represents the will of the people and does not run afoul of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to ensure minorities' right to vote.
"Texas Democrats, like their national counterparts, have been wholly out of step with their constituents," said Adam Mortara, a lawyer representing Texas. "Voters want photo ID."
Lawyers for the Justice Department strongly disputed Texas' view.
Elizabeth Westfall, in her opening for the Justice Department, said the evidence would show as many as 1.4 million voters lack any form of acceptable identification under Texas' new law. She also stressed Texas wouldn't be able to prove there was no intent to discriminate against minority voters when it passed the law.
Westfall noted the law was passed in the Texas Legislature under "the uniform objection" of minority lawmakers and that the Justice Department would show evidence it does in fact discriminate against minority voters.
Monday, July 9, 2012
With most of Central Texas' river and aquifer water spoken for, desalination has special appeal to meet the growing demand for water as the state's population grows
Patterson's office plans to announce today that it has contracted with two water consulting firms to examine the feasibility of building a desalination plant between Austin and New Braunfels on land the General Land Office owns.
"We want to do something scalable and deployable," said Patterson, who said he is looking at placing a desalination facility either just west of Kyle or just north of New Braunfels. "This is one of the elements of solving Texas' water problem."
Texas has 32 municipal desalination facilities that use brackish groundwater as a source, with a capacity of 70 million gallons a day. The largest is El Paso's Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, which can clean 27.5 million gallons a day.
The city remains committed to helping the WCA locate appropriate land for a new cemetery and to facilitating the formation of a new on-profit organization to own and operate such a facility
Note: Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke writes and edits City Hall Briefs as a public service to inform citizens of city activities. It is neither an official nor an authorized publication of the City of Wimberley. 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 Mr. Flocke at firstname.lastname@example.org, 512.847.5421, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report. Visit the city's website, www.vil.wimberley.tx.us, for more news and updates
on list of Council-approved goals and priorities
At its June 23 retreat at Texas Disposal Services' Creedmore facility, the city council developed a list of goals and priorities for the next two years, a process the council has undertaken annually since 2010. The goals and priorities were reviewed and approved at the council's regular meeting on July 5. In order of priority, the goals are as follows:
1. Develop sewer system for the Wimberley central business district
2. Develop and secure alternate water supplies for Wimberley
3. Acquire and install a lighted information sign
4. Development of a sidewalk on RM 2325 from the "Y" park to Carney Lane
5. Implement a way-finding signage program
6. Develop a capital improvements Program and funding (drainage, street lighting, sidewalks)
7. Complete development of the regional hike and bike trail
8. Maintain citizen involvement
9. Develop the "Y" park in partnership with adjacent business
10. Implement a community radio station
11. Initiate an underground utility program in the central business district
12.a. Development of a master plan for the downtown area
12.b. Initiate work on the development of a community development master plan
12.c. Implement a historic preservation and awareness program
13. Acquire Oak Drive property for enhanced public access and restroom location.
Downtown group's plans to bring sewer system to Wimberley
A group of business and property owners formed last year to bring a wastewater system to the downtown area. The following information is from the Wimberley Central Improvement Area and is intended to bring addressees up-to-date on the group's plans and activities. The group's email address is mailto:email@example.com.
Wimberley has sought for decades to solve the economic and environmental problems caused by septic systems in Central Wimberley bordered by Blue Hole Regional Park to the north, FM 3237 to the east, the Blanco River to the south, and Cypress Creek to the west. In 2010, the City was granted a low interest loan for the project, but had no way to guarantee that loan.
In 2011, number of property owners formed the Wimberley Central Improvement Area (WCIA) to methodically seek out and thoroughly study all of the information relative to acquiring the required sewer infrastructure.
- Funding options were thoroughly studied and the decision was made to seek a solution wherein only the property owners within the defined district would bear the financial burden for the improvements.
- The formation of a Municipal Management District, which can receive assessed fees and taxes from within the district, became the best avenue to guaranteeing a low interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board.
- The WCIA entered into an agreement with the City of Wimberley to fund professional feasibility studies regarding engineering and rate structures for the system
Thankfully, we are nearing the point of being able to bring forward well-analyzed options for the property owners within this area to consider. It is important to note that no options have been eliminated from consideration at this time, including partnering with neighboring private service providers.
Property Owners’ Forums are held every two months (notice of each Forum is sent by post to each Owner’s address of record). Once all of the required information is in hand, the WCIA will gather signatures from property owners in favor of forming the MMD, and will then petition the City and State respectively for the formal formation.
Following the formation of the MMD, the system will be designed, monies collected, and construction scheduled for 2013-14.
Council approves Friends of Blue Hole position for Parks Board
The city council approved unanimously a Parks and Recreation Board recommendation that the consensus position on the board be held by a representative of the Friends of Blue Hole. With the new policy, Friends of Blue Hole will provide the city council with the name of a representative to serve a two-year term as the consensus member of the board.
Lance Cawley appointment to Planning and Zoning Commission-Place 3 Councilman Matt Meeks
Jesse Brown reappointed to Building Code Board of Review-Mayor Bob Flocke
Bob Bullock reappointed to Building Code Board of Review-Consensus
Mike Stevens reappointed to Ethics Commission-Mayor Bob Flocke
Paul Polhemus reappointed to Ethics Commission-Consensus
Christine Byrne appointed to Parks and Recreation Board-Mayor Bob Flocke
Dell Hood reappointed to Parks and Recreation Board-Consensus
Tracey Dean reappointed to Planning and Zoning Commission-Mayor Bob Flocke
Beth Mitchell reappointed to Planning and Zoning Commission-Consensus
Dorothea Dare reappointed to Transportation Advisory Board-Consensus
Craig Mooty reappointed to Water Wastewater Advisory Board-Mayor Bob Flocke
Joe Malone reappointed to Water Wastewater Advisory Board-Consensus
Dick Larson reappointed to Board of Adjustment-Mayor Bob Flocke
Bill Cline reappointed to Board of Adjustment-Consensus
Council votes "No" to city owned and operated cemetery
In a 3-1 vote at its July 5 meeting the Wimberley City Council voted against the city owning and operating a cemetery. In recent years, representatives of the Wimberley Cemetery Association have requested the city's help in finding the land needed to expand the current Wimberley Cemetery or, if that's not possible, the land needed to develop a new cemetery. Those same representatives have suggested that a city-owned cemetery could generate significant revenue for the city.
The city does not have land that can be used for a cemetery expansion or for the development of a new cemetery. The city's limited financial resources also make it difficult for the city to consider buying land for a cemetery or to operate such a facility. The city remains committed to helping the WCA locate appropriate land for a new cemetery and to facilitating the formation of a new on-profit organization to own and operate such a facility.
Councilman Matt Meeks voted against the motion, and Mac McCullough, Steve Thurber and John White voted in favor. Councilman Tom Talcott was not present.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Many people are expressing opposition to the project, but their actions indicate that many seem to expect others to step forward and demonstrate the opposition. If that attitude prevails, then we all will probably have to live with the results of having a low income housing project in our midst
( * Poll top left column: Development – Right direction, wrong direction? )
This has been an interesting case study in community grassroots organizing in opposition to perceived unsustainable development projects in the face of mounting pressures from rapid growth in the region. According to Ledge Stone (see the FAQ link above), water to the apartment project will be supplied by the (formerly LCRA-owned) West Travis Regional water system, of which Hays County has a big stake, and a big need to generate revenue via the Hwy 290 water line recently acquired by the county. Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant (left) sits on the board of the West Travis Regional water system. The county needs many more retail customers, and revenue, to keep the system viable. So it's easy to imagine the deck could be stacked and this deal will ultimately get the appropriate approvals, it's just a matter of the right timing and lining up a few more face cards.
Send your comments and questions to DS Our Backyard, to Teresa Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, to Ledge Stone, to the City of Dripping Springs at email@example.com (512.858.4725), to County Judge Bert Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org, to Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant at email@example.com (512.858.7605), or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report
Contributed by Mark, a resident of Ledgestone. Posted by Teresa Scott at D.S. Our Backyard Our Future.
(Friday June 15) – Stuart Shaw submitted his first Developer's Agreement (DA) to Dripping Springs on or about May 4. It was incomplete and missing all relevant information needed for the Dripping Springs Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council to reach any recommendation or decision, so it was totally invalid. So what was his motivation in submitting an invalid agreement to the city? Was it to meet some mandatory deadline that none of us were aware of? Possibly, but we just don't know. If it was to meet a deadline, the deadline wasn't met merely by submission of an incomplete and invalid agreement. But let's let that go for the time being and move on.
Mr. Shaw submitted his second Developer's Agreement to Dripping Springs on or about 24 May with the required attachments containing the technical information about the project. The attachments reveal that Mr. Shaw is requesting exceptions to the current 6 ft. "cut and fill" limits. He is requesting multiple variances so his company can cut and fill up to 16 feet in various areas of the project. This is not "slightly over" the standards set by the Dripping Springs city council, but far in excess of them.
Mr. Shaw submitted the PILOT proposal to Dripping Springs on 6 June. As I read it, there is no way for the city to enforce the proposed PILOT payments should Mr. Shaw simply chose not to pay them for whatever reasons. And if you examine his business model and his actual record of none to next to nothing PILOT payments to other communities where he has built these projects, one comes to the conclusion that the probability of his making any payments to the Dripping Springs community is slim to none.
Shaw, right, with Amarillo Mayor
Debra McCartt at ribbon cutting
of new apartment project, April 2010
As for Mr. Shaw claiming to drop the PILOT proposal and make "full ad valorem tax" payments on his project, I believe he never intended to do that. Even as he was making his public statement to the DSISD board on 17 May, he was talking with people about doing the PILOT program instead because "it would benefit the community much more than paying taxes." His words. It appears his intent is still to apply for the tax exempt and 4% tax credit financing through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) with funding provided by a qualified Housing Finance Corporation (HFC). The original HFC, Capital Area Housing and Finance Corporation (CAHFC), appears to have temporarily withdrawn from this project. However, there are other HFC's that Mr. Shaw could obtain this tax exempt financing through, and it is possible that CAHFC could step back in if necessary. If the special tax exempt financing is granted, I believe the state sanctioned tax exemption would be a higher authority than any PILOT agreement signed with a local community and allow Mr. Shaw to withhold any payments.
This is something the Dripping Springs city attorney should be charged with completely investigating and rendering a legal opinion upon. If the attorney isn't tasked by the city council to do so, then I don't believe the city will have conducted its proper due diligence before voting on a proposal that will have multiple adverse impacts on the surrounding areas.
To sum things up, I will state my opinion, which is solely my opinion. I have concluded that Mr. Shaw's proposed low to moderate income apartment project is blatantly out of place, unneeded, misrepresented, places a large burden on the already highly financially stressed DSISD, is devoid of any benefit to low income people who work in Dripping Springs and would like to live in Dripping Springs (as opposed to living out on the Hays/Travis county line), is targeted to attract mostly people who live and work in Austin and Travis county, adversely impacts the property values of the home owners in the immediate vicinity (ask any realtor), increases the occurrences of social disturbances in the area (ask any police officer), and places a higher burden on the police and emergency services without the supporting taxes that all homeowners and businesses are required to pay.
I see absolutely no justification for the city council of Drippings Springs to allow it to be built.
Many people have expressed opposition to this project. However, the extent of the opposition must be clearly demonstrated to the Dripping Springs city council. We must be present in large numbers at the appropriate public meetings of both the planning and zoning commission and the city council to express the magnitude of the public opposition. If this doesn't happen, the council members might possibly succumb to arguments and pressures from the small number of special interests who stand to benefit if the project were to be approved.
Many people are expressing opposition to the project, but their actions indicate that many seem to expect others to step forward and demonstrate the opposition. If that attitude prevails, then we all will probably have to live with the results of having a low income housing project in our midst.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
As Newt Gingrich put it during the primary season, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.” But Romney has, as well as other interests in such tax havens as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands
Full Story | By Nicolas Shaxson (August issue, 2012) – For all Mitt Romney’s touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney’s fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate.
Though he left the firm in 1999, Romney has continued to receive large payments from it—in early June he revealed more than $2 million in new Bain income. The firm today has at least 138 funds organized in the Cayman Islands, and Romney himself has personal interests in at least 12, worth as much as $30 million, hidden behind controversial confidentiality disclaimers. Again, the Romney campaign insists he saves no tax by using them, but there is no way to check this.
Monday, July 2, 2012
of Aborted Fetuses, Government Records Show
From Mother Jones | Full Story | By David Corn (July 2, 2012) – Earlier this year, Mitt Romney nearly landed in a politically perilous controversy when the Huffington Post reported that in 1999 the GOP presidential candidate had been part of an investment group that invested $75 million in Stericycle, a medical-waste disposal firm that has been attacked by anti-abortion groups for disposing aborted fetuses collected from family planning clinics. Coming during the heat of the GOP primaries, as Romney tried to sell South Carolina Republicans on his pro-life bona fides, the revelation had the potential to damage the candidate's reputation among values voters already suspicious of his shifting position on abortion.
But Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, tamped down the controversy. The company said Romney left the firm in February 1999 to run the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and likely had nothing to with the deal. The matter never became a campaign issue. But documents filed by Bain and Stericycle with the Securities and Exchange Commission—and obtained by Mother Jones—list Romney as an active participant in the investment. And this deal helped Stericycle, a company with a poor safety record, grow, while yielding tens of millions of dollars in profits for Romney and his partners. The documents—one of which was signed by Romney—also contradict the official account of Romney's exit from Bain.
for Illegal Dumping of Aborted Baby Remains
From Operation Rescue – "one of the leading pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation" | Full Story | Austin Texas (December 1, 2011) – The Texas Commission on Environment Quality has released documents to Operation Rescue that show two Texas abortion clinics and the disposal company Stericycle have been slapped with fines in excess of $83,000 for illegal dumping of aborted baby remains. The fines are the result of complaints filed by Operation Rescue against Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen and Austin after a three-month undercover investigation. The TCEQ then conducted its own investigation and broadened the case to include Stericycle. In June, the TCEQ notified Operation Rescue that the two abortion clinics and Stericycle had all been cited for violations involving the improper disposal of human fetuses.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Residential & small business electric customers are last tapped market to reduce demand – hello smart meters
A combination of technologies, including smart meters and thermostats with two-way communications, can cycle air conditioning and other appliances off and on for a few minutes at a time to cut customers' electricity bills while keeping them comfortable
[Note: Fyi, related article, The Kindred Spirits Project | Animal Health Alert - Dogs Reaction to Smart Meters – “One of my dogs awoke at the same time, wandering the hallways whining and crying. This dog refuses to sleep inside at night now, as the pulsed radiation also makes him sick. This dog had slept at the foot of my bed since the day I brought him home until the night the smart meter was installed. I have numerous friends and family who will testify to this, if called to do so.”Austin American-Statesman
In addition to their questionable economic value and privacy issues, there actually seem to be potentially significant health effects on people and now seemingly on animals. This article presents the first documentation of the health hazards of smart meters to dogs. The interesting point is that the dog has no concept that a smart meter was installed or that anything changed, so that any behavioral changes such as the one’s described cannot be written off as a negative placebo effect. This is the first dog in a clinical collection of individual cases for a study on the health effects of smart meters on our animal companions.]
By Laylan Copeland
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Read the full story
On Aug. 3, 2011, operators of the state's largest electricity grid watched as wholesale prices jumped fortyfold in a matter of minutes and Texans set a record for electricity usage.
Wholesale prices that had been $75 per megawatt-hour only moments earlier stayed at the $3,000 cap for about 4½ hours before dropping just as precipitously as they rose. The next day conditions worsened, as several power plants, including an Austin Energy unit, tripped offline because of equipment failure amid a record string of triple-digit temperatures.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the grid for three-fourths of the state, narrowly avoided a rolling blackout that day by urging residential customers to turn up their thermostats and by paying some industrial customers to interrupt their operations.
Since then, the debate among state officials has focused on how to encourage the construction of more power plants, but the state's consultants, the Brattle Group, have reminded officials not to forget the other half of the law of supply and demand.
"I agree we've needed more demand response for years," said Trip Doggett, ERCOT's president and CEO. "If enough people reduce (electricity) load, the price might not go to the cap."
But Doggett said it's not enough to rely on customers reacting to a crisis out of a sense of civic duty.
Consider Aug. 3, 2011, again.
Residential customers typically account for about a fourth of the peak demand for electricity on a spring day. But add air conditioning and residential customers accounted for half of the electricity demand at 5 p.m. on Aug. 3.
The 35,000 megawatts consumed by residential customers that day was four times what they consumed on a March day.
A combination of technologies, including smart meters and thermostats with two-way communications, can cycle air conditioning and other appliances off and on for a few minutes at a time to cut customers' electricity bills while keeping them comfortable.
"Residential and light commercial is the last tapped market for demand response," said Jeff Ebihara of Concert, an energy management company that has partnered with CPS Energy, San Antonio's city-owned utility.
Over three years, Ebihara said, the plan is to sign up 140,000 residential and small commercial customers as part of its Virtual Peak Plant — which would give the utility the ability to reduce 250 megawatts of power during peak demand.
By tying together control devices on air conditioning, pool pumps, water heaters and electric car chargers with two-way communication, the utility can reduce its need to buy electricity in the wholesale spot market when prices are highest.
In other news:
Horse Stable to Zetas Money-Laundering Case
From the Texas Observer | Full Story |By Andrew Wheat and Forrest Wilder (June 21, 2012) – A prominent Texas family with connections to the state’s top officials is alleged to have purchased and boarded horses for a Mexican drug cartel engaged in money laundering, according to court records.
Federal indictments recently unsealed in Austin allege that 14 defendants with Spanish surnames used elite U.S. racehorses to launder millions of dollars of drug money for Mexico’s ruthless Los Zetas cartel. The indictments also implicate the renowned Southwest Stallion Station breeding stables outside Austin, run by a veterinarian named Charles Graham and his grandson Tyler. Over the past decade, they have contributed almost $250,000 to federal and state politicians led by Texas’ top three officials. In 2008 Gov. Perry appointed Dr. Graham to the now-defunct Texas Department of Rural Affairs. The Grahams haven’t been charged with wrongdoing, and their names don’t appear in the indictments. But allegations made against their stables in the indictments suggest that the Zetas cartel paid the Grahams a small fortune in recent years. In all, Tyler Graham bought more than $1 million worth of horses that ended up in the hands of the Zetas cartel, which made at least $550,000 in payments to the Grahams’ stable, according to trade publications and the indictment. The Grahams didn’t respond to calls and emails seeking comment.While never mentioning the Grahams, the money-laundering indictment alleges that the Zeta conspirators paid their Southwest Stallion stables $550,000 last July to board and breed Zeta racehorses.
Since 2001, the Grahams have contributed $32,025 to Perry’s campaign account, according to state records. They’ve also donated to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ($17,100), House Speaker Joe Straus ($15,500), a San Antonio Republican, and state Sen. Kirk Watson ($15,500), an Austin Democrat.