Tuesday, January 31, 2012

USDA's new map for gardeners and farmers shows a warming America

Overall, the map generally shows warmer winter low temperatures than the 1990 map. "
It reflects a new reality: The coldest day of the year isn't as cold as it used to be, so some plants and trees can now survive farther north," AP reports.

An updated map that will likely be familiar to anyone who has planted a packet of seeds was presented last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is the first new version of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map since 1990.

Read the complete story / Find your Plant Hardiness Zone by state & Zip Code

The government is "catching up with what the plants themselves have known for years now: The globe is warming and it is greatly influencing plants," Stanford University biology professor Terry Root told the Associated Press.

The map has "greater accuracy and detail" according to a USDA press release, thanks in part to 30-years of temperature data. The map also shows America's climate is changing.

Compared to the 1990 version, zone boundaries in this edition of the map have shifted in many areas. The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States.

Monday, January 30, 2012

In redistricting talks, early primary seems to be chief concern for GOP

It's bad if (Texas AG) Abbott convinces plaintiffs to split off and benefit a few, rather than all members of the group. It's even worse if any members of the plaintiff group seek out a private settlement that doesn't help solve all of our redistricting woes

Update from The Austin Chronicle |
By Richard WhittakerLULAC attorney Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. who confirmed that his clients (who are still pushing for coalition districts) are still pushing to wait for the DC ruling . . . "As to negotiations," he wrote, "they have totally broken down as of now. I am sure they will resume but I doubt an agreement if at all by this Monday so I don't expect an April 3rd election."

From Burnt Orange Report
| By Katherine Haenschen ( Jan 30, 2012 1 pm cst) – Over the weekend, it was reported that redistricting plaintiffs (minority and Democratic groups) were poised to win big in a settlement over the map used for the 2012 elections, in return for the ability to hold an early April primary that makes Texas more relevant in the Republican presidential primary.
Michael Li blogged about it over the weekend, writing:
Sources cautioned, though, that there are many moving pieces to the deal and that it is not clear whether it will be possible to get all plaintiff groups on board. Some closely involved in the process are said to be concerned that the state is attempting to divide and conquer plaintiff groups in negotiations and that any partial deal could prove to be divisive.

Makes sense, right? The State of Texas – which in this case has aims that are essentially identical to those of the Republican Party – would try to split up the plaintiff group to eke out the least-bad settlement that preserves as much of the Legislature's map and ensuing Republican seats as possible.

If some members of the plaintiff group consider working with Attorney General Greg Abbott on a short-sighted settlement that only benefits some, not all members of the plaintiff group, that's bad news for everyone in Texas.

The plaintiffs look poised to win in court, so it's in the best interest of Abbott, the State of Texas, and the Republican Party to settle and try to eke out any gains they can, while they still have a chance. Since the Republicans' prime motivation seems to be an early primary, that gives extreme urgency to the proceedings, since maps need to be finalized and county elections divisions need to know to get a move-on to be able to hold April primaries.

The incumbent and establishment Republicans seem to want an early primary not only so our state matters in the overall Presidential nomination process, but also to avoid a split primary where Tea Party challengers would have a much easier time knocking out incumbent State Senators, congress members, and legislators.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Redistricting update: Judge says settle or forget about an April primary

The San Antonio judges had ordered all parties involved in the state’s redistricting dispute to court yesterday to discuss splitting the primaries onto different dates and whether the state could repay counties for the cost of holding multiple primaries. The session was the latest round of a six-month redistricting fight that has already reached the U.S. Supreme Court

By Laurel Brubaker Calkins

Read the complete story

Bloomberg Businessweek (Jan. 28, 2011) – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office was urged by a panel of judges to keep trying to broker a compromise with Latino activists that would let the court create interim election maps and allow Texas to conduct primary elections without further delays.

The only chance Texas has to salvage its current April 3 primary date, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said at a hearing yesterday in San Antonio is for “all the parties to get together in a room and resolve this. Short of that, it is not likely we are going to have an April primary.”

Texas Deputy Attorney General David Mattax told Garcia, “I’m going to work as hard as I can to settle whatever I can.”

Garcia asked the parties to submit their proposed compromises to the court by Feb. 6 for its use in creating interim maps. The deals won’t be binding on the court or constitute formal settlements of claims that the Republican- controlled legislature’s redistricting plan discriminates against Latino voters.

Mattax said he’s opened negotiations with all the principal voting-rights groups opposed to the state’s maps to discuss temporary solutions for the “handful” of U.S. congressional and state legislative districts he said are truly disputed as potentially discriminatory.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Florida primary pits Tea Party vs. Cocktail Party

“The Romney campaign has been the cucumber sandwiches on silver trays campaign,” said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos. “Newt is running a torches and pitchforks campaign. Who do you think Republicans would want to storm the castle with? When you’re storming the castle you don’t care if your leader has slept around, is on his 50th wife – you just want somebody who says, ‘Let’s go kill them!’”
Here's an excellent piece of reporting on the big divide between Romney and Gingrich supporters. Did someone mention class warfare?
["The cars in the parking lot both at Romney’s gathering and the Columbia hotel where many of his out-of-state supporters stayed were dotted with late-model Lexuses and Mercedes."] | By Jonathan Martin

Read the complete story

TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 26, 2012 — As the Republican race moves to a state defined by the extremes in recession-era America — where the underwater and unemployed live just a few miles from the 1 percent — a sharp class divide is emerging between the two top contenders.

Mitt Romney’s crowds look like something out of the president’s suite at a University of Florida football game — prosperous, trim, Tattersall-clad, and supportive but not rowdy.

Newt Gingrich supporters, with their spray-painted signs, American flag tees, flip-flops and fanny packs, more closely resemble a group that would fit in nicely playing a few bucks at the dog track.

. . .

The sense of anger is palpable among Gingrich’s middle-class supporters. They’re often fearful about their own financial situation and think Washington doesn’t need to be changed — it needs to be blown up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Local government debt climbs to $197.7 billion in 2011

This report focuses on the trends in bonded debt from 2005 to 2011, where bonded debt rose 61.4 percent while population and inflation rose about 33 percent during this time

Note: Looking at the numbers in the report below brings new meaning to the question, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" because that's what it takes to afford things these days. High population growth is pushing the public debt, taxes and tax rates higher and higher. No argument there. However, the time has come to ask some serious questions about how our local elected representatives are handling growth, debt and taxes. Remember, we're in election season and there are several out there asking to be re-elected, as well as challengers.
Here are 5 questions we recommend:

Is it your policy to a) encourage growth b) by passing the costs straight onto the backs of current residents and taxpayers (water, roads, subdivisions, playgrounds, police and fire protection, etc.)?
Do you think growth is paying for itself (it sure doesn't look like it is), a yes or no will do?
Do you think taxpayers have reached the saturation point – if not now, when?
What have you done lately to try to shift the cost of growth away from taxpayers and more directly on to the developers of new projects (like subdivisions)?
Do you favor (have you ever voted for) giving industry and big box stores large property tax breaks (abatements) to lure them to Hays County? (Hint: Tens of millions in taxes are being deferred and guess who is making up the difference).

Answers with long pauses, mumbling or beating around the bush are not allowed.

By Curt W. Olson
Published Jan. 23, 2012

Read the complete story

The combined debt of local governmental entities in Texas is fast approaching $200 billion. The Texas Bond Review Board has compiled data for fiscal year 2011 showing cities, towns and villages, community and junior colleges, counties, health or hospital districts, public school districts and special districts have $192.7 billion debt. It’s an increase from $183.8 billion in 2010 . . . ISDs have surpassed cities, towns and villages for the total amount of bonded debt.

Data for Hays County, school districts and cities, as of Aug. 31, 2011

Hays County
- debt service outstanding: $464.3 million
- tax debt per capita: $1,800
- population: 158,312

Dripping Springs ISD
- total debt: $217.2 million in principal and interest
- tax debt per capita: $5,860
- tax debt per ada (student/average daily attendance): $31,500
- total voted debt service in 2012: $10.6 million
- estimated district resident population: 22,935

Hays Consolidated ISD
- total debt: $531.4 million principal and interest
- tax debt per capita: $6,029
- tax debt per ada: $20,967
- total voted debt service in 2012: $25.7 million
- estimated district resident population: 50,000

San Marcos Consolidated ISD
- total debt: $188.2 million principal and interest
- tax debt per capita: $2,200
- tax debt per ada: $17,500
- total debt service in 2012: $10 million
- estimated district resident population: 53,055

Wimberley ISD
- total debt: $66.7 million principal and interest
- tax debt per capita: $3,200
- tax debt per ada: $18,700
- total debt service in 2012: $2.5 million
- estimated district resident population: 11,050

City of San Marcos

- debt service outstanding: $276.4 million
- tax debt per capita: $4,230
- population: 44,890

City of Kyle
- debt service outstanding: $83.1 million
- tax debt per capita: $2,083
- population: 28,016

City of Buda

- debt service outstanding: $29.7 million
- tax debt per capita: $3,093
- population: 7,295

City of Dripping Springs
- debt service outstanding: $11.6 million
- tax debt per capita: $5,075
- population: 1,788

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blindfolded: Keystone and county appointments to citizen advisory group

The idea that Keystone XL will improve U.S. oil supply is a documented scam being played on the American people by Big Oil and its friends in Washington DC

Editor's note: The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline is a bit outside the RoundUp's bailiwick but it serves to illustrate how the conventional media, along with powerful political and business interests, conveniently obscure information that could otherwise turn the debate (and story line) on its head.

This happens time and again with important matters at the local level, right here in Hays County – roads, development, water deals, over-the-top debt, millions and millions in consultant contracts (nearly $3 million to just one road consultant so far – Prime Strategies). Very recently, there was a flareup over two county appointments to a citizen advisory group
. Not all the facts have been revealed nor reported about how an ex-convict and a man who reportedly pleaded guilty to public lewdness in 2001 came to be appointed by county commissioners to the current Hays County transportation plan citizens advisory group. The same two offenders served on a 2008 transportation advisory committee. One has mysteriously resigned from the current transportation advisory group (and been replaced) and the other remains listed on the county's website but is supposed to have resigned. While the resignations are appropriate, the two commissioners (Messrs. Conley and Jones) who made these appointments should explain why they made them in the first place. Constituents have a right to know if any ethics related policy was violated. But as in so many other cases, this matter is likely to be brushed aside as irrelevant. No need for accountability and no need to clean up the appointment process. So the story line remains the same: "The people don't think it's important, we can handle it. It is business as usual for Hays County Government."

As for Keystone, President Obama will continue to get hammered for stopping a project that big media and politicians are saying will make America more energy independent and produce thousands of jobs. Keystone's proponents will stick to their story, which big media will report. Information that disproves the two biggest assertions – energy independence and jobs – will be ignored.

Meanwhile, consumers, voters and taxpayers, the common people – we who are supposed to count the most in a democracy – are reduced to playing the blindfold and spin game Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but we certainly have the choice not to play. Is it any wonder that voters are leaving the Republican and Democratic parties in droves?

Send your comments and questions to, to Commissioners Mark
Jones,, and Will Conley,, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

Keystone – The Conventional Story Line | By Jake Sherman Keystone XL pipeline a priority for Fred Upton (BALTIMORE Jan. 20, 2012) — House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said on Friday he wants to jump-start the Keystone XL pipeline project on the back of legislation to extend the payroll tax holiday until the end of the year.

Eric Cantor, John Boehner
and Upton, foreground

“I’m there,” the Michigan congressman said at the GOP’s annual retreat, adding it’s “within the scope” of the negotiations by the joint House-Senate conference committee considering the tax-cut extension.

It’s an attempt by Republicans to continue the fight over building the pipeline after President Barack Obama announced this week that he would not allow the construction to go forward.

And as the Energy and Commerce chairman and a member of the conference committee, Upton is a key player.

Republicans obviously see the issue as a winning one for them, bringing out more than a half-dozen members to meet with the reporters about the pipeline during their annual weekend confab here at a waterside hotel.

“Bottom line is this,” Upton said. “As much as the president may want this issue to go away and come back, maybe, after the election, we’re going to do everything that we can to keep it on the front burner, keep it in front of the American people and do what we can to get this mission accomplished.”

The Unconventional, Inconvenient Facts

Switchboard staff blog – National Resources Defense Council | By Anthony Swift Keystone XL is a tar sands pipeline to export oil out of the U.S. (Dec. 20, 2011) – One of the most important facts that is missing in the national debate surrounding the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is this – Keystone XL will not bring any more oil into the United State for decades to come.

Canada doesn’t have nearly enough oil to fill existing pipelines going to the United States. However, existing Canadian oil pipelines all go to the Midwest, where the only buyer for their crude is the United States. Keystone XL would divert Canadian oil from refineries in the Midwest to the Gulf Coast where it can be refined and exported.

Many of these refineries are in Foreign Trade Zones where oil may be exported to international buyers without paying U.S. taxes. And that is exactly what Valero, one of the largest potential buyers of Keystone XL's oil, has told its investors it will do. The idea that Keystone XL will improve U.S. oil supply is a documented scam being played on the American people by Big Oil and its friends in Washington DC.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Supreme Court ruling likely to push back Texas primary again

Local election administrators around the state have said they won't be able to conduct April 3 primaries unless they have maps by the end of this month

Read the compete story

The Texas Tribune | By Ross Ramsey (Jan. 20, 2012) – The U.S. Supreme Court threw out court-drawn Texas redistricting maps on Friday morning, saying a panel of federal judges should have used the Legislature's maps as their starting point.

That's a victory for the state, which argued for the Legislature's maps. But it still leaves Texas without maps for the primary elections this spring, and probably ensures that those elections will be held later than April 3, the currently scheduled date.

SCOTUS rules: Sends case back to San Antonio for further proceedings | A legal analysis of the opinion by attorney Michael Li – The court held that the state’s maps should have been used as the starting point for interim maps but that the San Antonio court could adjust those maps if it found a likelihood of section 2 or other (Voting Rights Act) violations as a result of the case tried before it or if the court found a “reasonable probability” of section 5 violations.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Double Jeopardy: Jacob's Well Elementary and namesake Jacob's Well

Kids at Jacob's Well / Courtesy TM Raines
One thing is certain, people living in the Hill Country region need to stay informed and engaged, and elect persons to local groundwater district boards who are committed to sustainable management of the local groundwater resources. When the water table drops, not only is every single public and private residential and agricultural well at risk, but the dancing waters of our creeks, springs and aquifers may cease to provide the benefits we’ve received from them for centuries. (See story below from the Hill Country Alliance)

Note: Below is an open letter sent by area resident and school parent T.M. Raines. Ms. Land is the principal at Jacob's Well Elementary School. The letter is timely – a wider discussion about the future fate and management of the Jacob's Well Natural Area will be held tonight at 8:30 at a county-sponsored meeting at the Wimberley Community Center. A question: County taxpayers have invested around $5 million in the Jacob's Well Natural Area. Should it remain a protected preserve with restricted public access or should it become a public park?

Note note: Parents might also want to contact principal Land to check on a report floating around that water service to the elementary school is so unreliable at times that water fountains go dry and school toilets are filled with water stored in buckets . . ., 512.847.5558.

An Open Letter

Greetings Linda Land / WISD Parents, Teachers, Taxpayers:

I hope your New Year is off to a great start. As you remember, we started the Parent Teachers Taxpayers Association (PTTA) in a effort to stop the District from feeding our kids otherwise good food that has been contaminated with substances such as Red/Yellow Dye #5, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil. There has been some progress but we have to date failed to really clean up the School Lunch Program.

Now another threat is facing the future of our students and community. It is the destruction of our School's namesake, the beautiful Jacobs Well. The Texas Water Development Board, backed by big land developers, is attempting to justify pumping the water table down another 30 feet. This will turn Jacobs Well into a stagnant muck-hole in the bed of Cypress Creek and the creek will no longer flow through town. If the TWDB is allowed to permit more large wells and one or two more environmental disasters like Belterror are built in our area, it will mean the end of flowing water at the Spring and Creek.

Can you organize the teachers and students at JWE to speak out against impending disaster? There are many organizations and individuals that will help with your effort.

For further details see:

If anyone has more ideas on stopping the lowering of our aquifer please share them with the PTTA.


Terry Raines

Hill Country land owners take action
to protect springs and property rights

From a report from the Hill Country Alliance. Read the entire article
So, what happens when local residents and landowners don’t agree with the groundwater management plan handed down by a regional governing body that affects the future of a precious, local groundwater resource?

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has a process for such situations, and it’s now playing out with precision in the Wimberley Valley of Hays County. It’s a process worth paying attention to because it will further define the roles state, regional and local authorities play in key decisions about our water.

Questions abound. Will this process adequately address the water planning grievances brought forth by Wimberley citizens and community leaders? Will the State intervene on behalf of the locals? Will the local groundwater conservation district step up with real water conservation strategies? Will rules change? Or, is the process simply a public dance that will change little to nothing?

Perry Ends Bid for Presidency

Mr. Perry was in the single digits in recent polls here, but his withdrawal from the race could affect the outcome of the primary by giving conservative voters one fewer alternative

Read the complete story


Gov. Perry and wife Rita / AP Photo/David Goldman

11:45 a.m. EDT | Updated NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Gov. Rick Perry of Texas dropped out of the Republican presidential race here on Thursday and announced his endorsement of Newt Gingrich, a man he called a “conservative visionary.”

“I’ve never believed that the cause of conservatism is embodied by one individual,” Mr. Perry said at a news conference here. “Our party and our conservative philosophy transcends any one individual.”

“I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me,” Mr. Perry said. “I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich.”

8 reasons Perry's campaign failed

Houston Chronicle | By Richard Dunham (Jan. 19, 2012 9:53am) – You all know the “oops” moment. You know about that really weird speech in New Hampshire. And the other campaign missteps. But if Rick Perry’s campaign was damaged by a series of small (and sometimes large) gaffes, it was doomed by a number of major strategic miscalculations. Here are eight of the most important . . .

(Read the complete story)

God may have called Rick Perry to run for president. But, as Perry joked this week, He didn’t tell the Texas governor he was going to win. You need to prepare the groundwork for a national campaign, from a grassroots organization to a media strategy. Perry jumped into the deep end of the pool. And he hadn’t yet learned to swim in the murky waters of presidential politics.

Monday, January 9, 2012

When Romney Came to Town

A Super-PAC friendly to GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will soon be blanketing South Carolina with a reported $3.4 million advertising buy that will include a 28-minute movie entitled "When Mitt Romney Came to Town." It is a powerful critique, to say the least, of Romney's time as CEO of Bain Capital. The trailer, posted on YouTube, is just beginning to make the rounds . . .

Saturday, January 7, 2012

County authorizes $472,000 for new Pct. 2 building site; schedules Jacob's Well master plan meeting Jan. 19

The County has selected RVI, a landscape architecture and planning firm based in Austin, to facilitate and compile the Master Plan

Note: Press releases from the county recently have added written directions to the new $60 million county government center at Hunter Rd & Wonder World Drive in San Marcos. They advise, "GPS locators/maps do not have the correct location of our new building and may show you a similar, private address that is not close to the Government Center." The address is 712 South Stagecoach Trail, San Marcos, TX 78666. The government center is a real monument for taxpayers to behold. You should take a spin by it if you have the time and can afford the gas expense. We hear it will soon to be listed among the Seven Wonders of Hays County.
Directions: "Take the Wonder World Drive exit off of IH-35 and head west, or head east on Wonder World Drive from Hunter Road. At the bottom of the Wonder World Drive railroad overpass, turn North on South Stagecoach Trail. The Government Center is a large, stand-alone building at the end of the cul-de-sac."
Two press releases, sent Jan. 6, 2012, from the Hays County public information office. For more information, contact communications specialist Laureen Chernow,, 512.393.2296, County Judge Bert Cobb at, 512.393.2205, or your county commissioner.

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday (Jan. 3) to authorize County Judge Bert Cobb, M.D., to offer the owner of 3.495 acres at 5458 FM 2770 a contract to purchase the land for its new Precinct 2 office building. The authorization limits the land cost to no more than $471,950.00.

The land is across FM 2770, also known as Jack C. Hays Trail, from the Plum Creek subdivision and on the south side of Crystal Meadow Drive across from Barton Middle School. The County has been seeking a new location to accommodate a 13- to 15-thousand- square-foot building it intends to construct following an unsuccessful search for a larger rental space in Precinct 2. The County currently rents a former bank building owned by the City of Kyle at 111 N. Front Street.

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX
– Hays County is in the process of developing a master plan for the Jacob’s Well Natural Area and is inviting the public to a discussion of development options at a January 19 Open House. The County has selected RVI, a landscape architecture and planning firm based in Austin, to facilitate and compile the Master Plan, which is expected to be finished in Spring 2012. The meeting is set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. January 19 at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 Ranch Road 12. For more information, contact county grants administrator Jeff Hauff at, 512-393-2211.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 state water plan released, Wentworth questions opponent's residency and UT students push back on tuition hikes

The Occupy students’ draft statement catalogs a list of grievances with the university: tuition increases “such that lower- and middle-class students can no longer afford to attend”; students accruing massive student loan debt . . . and an administration that “has leveled no serious rebuke against the legislature" by demanding the re-regulation of tuition . . .

State Water Plan: It appears San Antonio area State Rep. Roland Gutierrez is one of the first out of the bag to comment on the newly released 2012 Texas Water Plan. You can download the 310 page plan, produced by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), at this link:
A one month public comment period ended on Oct. 26, 2011.

The plan goes into considerable detail about present water sources, projected shortages, future needs, recommendations and associated costs – estimated statewide at $53 billion through 2060. For Water Planning Regions K and L, in which Hays County is located, the price tag is estimated at nearly $7 billion. Thus the questions going forward for Texans and Central Texans will be not only "Got Water?" but also, "Got Money?" The Hays-Caldwell Public Utility Agency, in which the cities of Buda, Kyle and San Marcos have teamed up to acquire and pay for future water supplies got this brief mention in the Region L summary:
" . . . would provide up to 33,314 acre-feet (over 10 billion gallons) per year of groundwater (Carrizo Aquifer) in 2060 with a capital cost of $308 million."

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

Here are excerpts from a press release issued today by Rep. Gutierrez (phone 512.463.0452):
Late yesterday, The Texas Water Development Board ... released the 2012 State Water Plan calling on Texas Legislators to lift current restrictions on the transfer of surface water from one basin to another.

TWDB concedes that even with the aggressive 2012 plan to conserve and find new water sources, that with the current restrictions, the greater San Antonio area will not be able to meet its growing needs. "We need a fresh approach to our water provisions as a state."

Other recommendations of the 2012 Water Plan include creation of new reservoirs, increased water loss audits, and sustainable financing for water projects.
– Other News –

San Antonio Express-News | By Brian Chesnoff and Clay Thorp Wentworth sparks residency battle in state senate race (Jeff Wentworth represents Hays County in the Texas Senate) Jan. 5, 2012 – When she filed last month to run for the state Senate, Texas Railroad Commission Chairwoman Elizabeth Ames Jones swore she was a resident of San Antonio. The state Constitution, however, requires that railroad commissioners “reside at the capital of the state during (their) continuance in office.” Now, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, her opponent in the Republican primary, is accusing Jones of violating the Constitution by holding onto her office while claiming to live in both places at once.

Buck Wood, a 30-year ethics and elections attorney in Austin, said Jones has a problem. “You can't have it both ways,” Wood said. “The constitution fixes your residency in the capital of the state. She's either ineligible to run against Wentworth, or she's got to resign as railroad commissioner in order to change her residency.”

The Texas Tribune | By Reeve Hamilton UT-Austin prepares for fight over tuition increases (Jan. 5, 2012) – A group of students taking their cues from the Occupy movement wants the University of Texas System regents to know they won’t take tuition increases without a fight.

At a meeting in front of UT’s iconic tower tonight, the students will settle on a final version of a protest document they hope sparks a larger pushback against the growing cost of higher education . . . recommendations (by UT's governing regents) will mean an extra $127 for in-state students in the coming academic year and $131 in the next. Leaders at UT argue that increases are necessary to avoid immediate cuts to crucial programs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Heehaw: 8 votes – hell, Rick Santorum got more kids than that!

A slightly different take (from the back 40) on the GOP presidential sweepstakes coming out of the Iowa caucus.

Note: For folks with a political sense of humor . . .

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Perry disappoints, Texas primary elections in limbo and prospects of a state property tax

Perry could undo some of the consequences of his policies, but the best thing he
can do for Texas in the time left to him is to resign

Send your comments and questions to, click on the story links or click on the "comments" below the post

AP Photo

Update: Washington Post – Less than 12 hours after he announced he was heading to Texas to “reassess” his campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) tweeted Wednesday morning that he plans to compete in the South Carolina primary.

Texas Monthly Burkablog | By Paul Burka Surrender Jan. 4, 2012 – Is Perry history? It would seem so. It’s hard to imagine a reassessment that would result in his resuming his campaign. He could start over, moving forward with a new team, but he has already tried that once, and the new team had no chemistry. Move forward to what? He is nowhere in New Hampshire and in single digits in South Carolina. Florida is no better. He’s done.

As others have pointed out, Perry is still governor, and will be until his term expires in January 2015. Unless he decides to run again, the 2013 legislative session will be his last. In a perfect world, Perry would settle back into the governor’s office and try to redeem himself for the damage he has inflicted on Texas during the ten years of his governorship.

The Texas Tribune | By Ross Ramsey Texas Primaries Await Supreme Court Ruling (Jan. 4, 2012) – If Texas is going to hold primary elections on April 3, the federal courts will have to pick up the pace.

A panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., is deciding whether congressional and legislative district maps drawn by the Legislature last year give proper protection to minority voters under the federal Voting Rights Act. At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether an interim map drawn by federal judges in San Antonio is legal.

In the meanwhile, there are no maps in place for the impending Texas elections.

Amarillo Globe News | By Enrique Rangel Legislature Prepares For Next Session Austin TX (Dec. 25, 2011) — Few state legislators command as much attention as Steve Ogden, the outgoing chairman of the Texas Senate Finance Committee.

When the Bryan Republican suggested at a recent business forum that Texas voters should weigh in on some critical issues the lawmakers will face in the next session, his audience paid close attention.

Ogden, who has chaired the finance panel for four sessions, proposed asking the Texas electorate to pass a statewide property tax to fund the public school system and to revamp the franchise tax. The latter would leave the door open for a state income tax on businesses.

He also suggested increasing the state’s gasoline tax — which despite sharp fuel price increases in recent years has been set at 20 cents per gallon for the last two decades — to pay for maintenance and construction of roads.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Important transportation planning meeting Wed. Jan. 4 at WHS Library

This idea of building to rural density will preserve the beauty of the Hill Country and very importantly recognizes the limited water groundwater resource within central Hays County

Send your comments and questions to, to (online survey at website, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

Hays County officials and members of a county advisory group will be holding an important transportation planning meeting Wednesday Jan. 4, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at the Wimberley High School Library, 100 Carney Ln. The county is in the process of updating its 10-year transportation plan. And they want your input. Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke, a member of the advisory team, says the plan "will be used to provide overall policy and project direction to guide the transportation future of Hays County. It will focus on improving mobility and accessibility throughout the county, provide for future growth and preserve right-of-way for future transportation facilities."

The usually open and informative Mayor Flocke also
reminds that the county is paying consultant Parsons Brinkerhoff up to Three Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars to coordinate the updating process. Way to ring in the New Year, guys!

These are your high-paying tax dollars at work.

So all you who care about the roads you travel and their safety, bridges you cross, hike and bike trails, cross walks,
traffic lights, traffic efficiency – just plain traffic – low water crossings, storm drainage, storm runoff, open spaces, scenic spaces, crowded spaces, air quality, water quality, quality of life, or getting your money's worth, should plan to attend.

How we manage our roads and transportation is a big part of the picture we want for our future community and kids. It would be fine with us if the county would just stick by a perfectly reasonable plan reached by consensus (thus far) to concentrate development infrastructure along the Hwy 290 and I-35 corridors and leave the central and western rural part of the county largely scenic, tranquil and uncluttered. Our two western county commissioners, Mr. Conley (Pct. 3) and Mr. Whisenant (Pct. 4), would do well to focus their attention on keeping our county roads in the best and safest possible condition, and staying clear of "build to suit" planning schemes. In the final analysis, a good transportation plan worth $350,000 of the taxpayers' money (plus tips) must answer the question: "Who/what will it benefit most?"

Bob Ochoa
/ RoundUp Editor

Jim McMeans, a co-founder of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD), recently e-mailed the note below. CARD is a Wimberley Valley citizens organization that takes active stands on groundwater management and development-related issues affecting mostly western Hays County.

I would like to share some thoughts about western Hays County and its growth patterns. Some wise planners have envisioned that Hays County should grow with higher density development corridors along Hwy 290 and along Interstate 35. These growth corridors would extend about five miles either side of these highways and would be supported by high capacity roads/freeways and water/sewer infrastructure.

Within central Hays County the vision would be for the area to remain at rural density with transportation systems planned to be compatible with rural development densities. Roads within the central Hays County area would be lower capacity designed to serve rural travel demands.

Roads that would remain as two-lane with limited safety improvements at intersections would be: RR 12 from the Wimberley junction to Dripping Springs; RR 2325 from Wimberley to FM 165; FM 3237 east out of Wimberley; and FM 32 from the junction west across the scenic backbone toward Blanco. Right-of-way should be acquired for the future safety improvements at an early date but the improvements should only be made when needed. RR 12 from the junction east toward San Marcos should be built as a divided parkway as was promised in the 2008 Hays County Bond Package promotion.

This idea of building to rural density will preserve the beauty of the Hill Country and very importantly recognizes the limited water groundwater resource within central Hays County. If a reliable, long-term surface water supply is ultimately brought into central Hays County, the price to area customers will be very expensive and it will only serve organized water systems such as Aqua Texas and Wimberley Water.

There will be pressures to build high capacity roads through our Hill Country to serve traffic demands that might evolve. But with limited transportation dollars, the best plan is to concentrate transportation spending in areas where it is needed - along planned growth corridors.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Economic narcissism, and positive freedoms vs. negative freedoms

The economic values of the elitist neoRepublican Party are based on an addictive selfish and counterproductive attitude of me, me, me. It erroneously pretends that only the state intrudes on our liberties

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

By Rocky Boschert
Financial Editor

As we enter the Presidential election year, the words “liberty” and “freedom” are commonly being used to justify a narcissistic form of elitist economic exploitation. We see it almost everyday mostly throughout the right wing press and blogosphere, among so-called free market think tanks, and from blatantly obstructionist Tea Party Congressional representatives.

In current practice, the words “freedom” and “liberty” are being used regularly to excuse or justify almost every new assault on the economic lives of the middle class, the poor and the disenfranchised – as well as almost all forms of income inequality to which the controlling 3% subjects our nation’s workers.

As a result, libertarianism, once a noble if not idealistic small government economic philosophy, has become synonymous with narcissistic right wing big corporate injustice and oppression. In the name of “freedoms” and “liberties” – mainly the freedom from government regulation – we are asked by the elitist right wing to 1) vilify government efforts to repair a US economy wrecked by failed Bush era “free markets” economic theories; 2) sustain tax cuts for the super-rich without regard to economic stimulus and job growth; and 3) ignore powerful Wall Street companies using their huge coffers of money to attack and diminish American worker wages & benefits, humane working conditions, and effective public safety and public health protections.

Encouraged by a nationwide elitist right wing agenda, US insurers are allowed to bribe politicians with lobby money to thwart a cost-effective health care system; planners at all levels of government are encouraged to snub reasonable economic development regulations; and big oil and gas are encouraged to trash the environment in the name of energy independence. This economic and legislative haughtiness is nothing more than the powerful exploiting the weak and the rich exploiting the middle class and poor.

Sadly, the right wing elitists have become so self-centered with their greed that they acknowledge few legal or environmental limitations on their power and on the lives of others. And their greed is promoted by think tanks like the Club for Growth, American Enterprise Institute, etc. Their new concept of “freedom” has become simply a dangerous rationalization for more concentrated greed and power.

So why are most Americans so slow or fearful to challenge this false concept of liberty?

One reason has been the effective distortions by the right wing of the difference between negative and positive freedoms. Described briefly, “negative freedoms” – the economic belief system adopted by the right wing elite – are “freedoms” that encourage everyone to live or to act without regard to the economic and social values of the majority. Positive freedoms, in contrast, are freedoms that simultaneously respect both the individual and groups – freedoms that combine both personal and social responsibility.

Positive freedoms exemplify the values of most progressives. Strangely, “positive freedoms” clearly threaten America’s right wing. For some reason they seem irrationally afraid that allowing positive freedoms to thrive will force them to give up their political power and economic success. And unfortunately, for our nation, the right wing elite have been very successful convincing the conservative middle and lower class that the more egalitarian positive freedoms are not in the best economic interests of the nation as a whole.

Today, the elite right wing corporatists continue to hammer home to their middle class base the big lie that libertarian economic values of limited government regulation can be applied equally and effectively to both small businesses and monopolistic corporations. They do so by spewing mean-spirited false accusations against planned economy capitalists, environmentalists and social justice campaigners as being communists or unpatriotic anti-capitalists. Fox News has become the exemplary propaganda tool for this right wing ruling elite.

Unfortunately, this dysfunctional conservative mindset seems unable to acknowledge that one man's pursuit of “liberty” or “freedom” can often conflict with the values and the pocketbooks of others in many ways.

In a productive and economically healthy society, some people's so-called freedoms must sometimes be curtailed to insure the freedom of others. It’s the only mature and productive way to live in a real democracy. In other words, your freedom to swing your fist must end where my nose begins. The freedom to protect my nose (or to protect the contents of my wallet from abusive unregulated businesses) is the freedom and liberty that progressives, environmentalists and social justice campaigns defend.

In America today, the freedoms espoused by the narcissistic right wing elitists intrude heavily on the economic equality of most middle and lower class Americans. In fact, if liberty for myself, any economic class, or nation depends on the misery, exploitation or the repression of other human beings, that system of liberty and freedom is both unjust and immoral.

Yet the right wing controlling elite arrogantly refuses to even recognize this moral conflict. These right wing narcissists aggressively assert that their freedom to pollute, exploit, degrade, and regarding gun rights – to kill, are fundamental human rights. It is a moral social dysfunction and today’s biggest threat to America as a democratic nation.

The economic values of the elitist neoRepublican Party are based on an addictive selfish and counterproductive attitude of me, me, me. It erroneously pretends that only the state intrudes on our liberties. It dangerously ignores the role banks, corporations and the super rich play in controlling and potentially destroying our positive freedoms.

As of this writing, the future political pallbearers of this new elitist right wing mindset is being hashed out by the false prophets with names like “Mitt” and “Newt” – power addicts controlled by their super-rich Super-Pac handlers.

Even someone with memory loss must know that after two long wars fought by everyone’s children but the children of the richest families of America – and after little chance for the country to recoup in three years after eight years of the Bush/Cheney recession-creating war profiteers – returning to those same failed policies would be a perfect example of Einstein’s definition of insanity.