Monday, February 20, 2012

The great Texas water crisis, it's not IF but WHEN

It's half past time, do you know where your water's coming from in the next 10 to 20 years?

Note: We'll leave it with ya for a short station break. Please use this space to comment about any subject or to contemplate our water future. Will it be one of abundance, severe shortages, a slow emptying, too expensive for the less well off to afford? Will it be a time of plenty for some and extreme rationing for others? You might ask your local elected officials what answers they have to offer.

YNN | By John Salazar Experts stress action to curb Texas' water crsis – It's only been a month since water experts announced the 2012 state water plan, but many worry Texas' precious resource will continue to disappear if the one-inch thick book of recommendations is not put into practice.

The Texas Water Development Board's Executive Administrator Melanie Callahan said the state’s water situation is so dire, the worst-case scenario is closer than we think.

"It's a resource and it has to be managed. It's not always going to be there,” she said. “If we don't take care of it, you may go to the tap at some point and it may not be there.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Texas: 'Send us your packaged garbage, your air pollution, your nuclear poisons'

graphic by: Todd Wiseman / Jay Root
Note: More on the subject from The Texas Tribune . . . By Jay Root Pipeline Sparks Property Rights Backlash – As the White House and Congress battle it out over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian company that wants to build it is still using its land-seizure powers to get property easements for the ambitious project. And it’s ruffling some feathers in a politically conservative patch of Texas.
“I’m just an angry steward of the land,” (Lamar County farmer Julia Trigg) Crawford said. “A foreign-owned, for-profit, nonpermitted pipeline has taken a Texan’s land. Doesn’t sound right, does it?”
Texas Observer | By Forrest Wilder Billionaire wins another radioactive favor from TCEQBureaucrats at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will be nervously watching the stock market for the next five years. That's because the agency, in an unprecedented move, has allowed Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons to financially secure his burgeoning West Texas radioactive waste dump with stock in one of his companies.

Send your comments to the story links above, to retired educator and Wimberley area resident Barbara Hopson at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

By Barbara Hopson

Guest Commentary

WIMBERLEY, TX – The U.S. – especially the Texas Gulf Coast – is fast on its way to becoming the dumping ground for the rest of the world.

BP has a meltdown of huge proportions, polluting the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida and receives a slap on the wrist from the U.S.oil-igarchy.

Congress has authorized tax incentives of between $1-2 BILLION to Texas refineries which will retrofit themselves to refine Saudi "sour" oil which WILL BE SHIPPED to Texas to be refined. (The Saudis don't want to pollute their own country by refining that dirty oil, and they don't want to put a dent in their huge treasury by building refineries in Saudi Arabia to do the dirty job.) Let Texas take the pollution and pay to do it!

TransCanada wants to send its hot liquid tar sands from Alberta, Canada to Texas via the Keystone XL pipeline built over the Ogallala aquifer. The pollution from refining will be spewed onto Port Arthur and the rest of the Gulf instead of further devastating Alberta. And the kicker is that the refined oil won't even be used in the U.S., but will be tanked from Port Arthur to places where TransCanada can demand a higher price for it than we will pay in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Gov. Perry has agreed for West Texas to take nuclear waste from other states.

Maybe we should erect a crying Statue of Liberty off Port Arthur, holding a tablet that says, "Please don't give us your packaged garbage, your air pollution, and your nuclear poisons, yearning to break free!"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Breaking update on the Texas Keystone face-off

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) Court Blocks Keystone Oil Pipeline From Crossing Texas Farm (Thurs. Feb. 15, 2012) – Texas Farm owners of a northeast Texas farm have obtained a court order to block TransCanada from crossing the farm with a proposed pipeline planned to carry Canadian oil to refineries along the Texas Gulf coast.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Late May primary is best bet in Texas redistricting drama; and the undramatic Conley-Brannon race

The ramifications are national because Texas was awarded four new congressional seats after the 2010 Census. Whether they go Democratic or Republican could affect the balance of power in the U.S. House

Read more here:

Update: State GOP Chair Steve Munisteri yesterday sent this lengthy advisory to rank and file Republicans.

Note: Latest updates from tweeters following the courtroom drama live today in San Antonio over the redistricting cluster-mess are quoting that Texas's primary elections will be delayed until at least May 29, with a possible fallback date of June 26. Forget about a primary in April. Such late dates essentially wipe out any meaningful influence Texans will have on picking the Republican nominee for president, not to mention the high anxiety it is causing GOP and election officials across the state. Follow Dallas attorney Michael Li's excellent ongoing coverage here.

Send your comments and questions to, to the Star-Telegram link below, to Mr. Conley at, to Mr. Bannon at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

By Paul J. Weber
The Associated Press
via the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

SAN ANTONIO, TX (Tues. Feb. 14, 2012) – The chances of Texas voters having much influence in the Republican presidential race faded Tuesday after a panel of federal judges acknowledged that the state's deep divisions over political maps had made it nearly impossible to preserve an April primary.

Texas was originally scheduled to be a part of next month's slate of Super Tuesday primaries, but the redistricting clash forced the state to reschedule its contest to April 3. With that date now all but dead, too, elections workers who squeezed into a packed San Antonio courtroom Tuesday advocated a new date of May 22, which could be long after Republicans settle on a nominee to face President Barack Obama.

Mirror, mirror, who's the most fiscally conservative of all?

Meanwhile, here at home in Hays County, we have the remarkably undramatic, mostly under-the-radar campaigns in the GOP primary match-up between incumbent Pct. 3 County Commissioner Will Conley (Wimberley) and challenger Sam Brannon (San Marcos). Anybody heard from these guys lately? Conley sent out a nice letter (at county expense) last month welcoming new constituents/neighborhoods that were brought into Precinct 3 following the county's redistricting. "I am very excited to have you in my precinct and look forward to working with you in the future," Conley chirped in the letter. "Please feel free to contact my office if you have questions, or if I can be of assistance to you in another circumstance." Another circumstance? Conley may amp up his campaign for re-election to a third 4- year term later on (term limits anyone?) but for now appears to be satisfied that he has a leg up on Brannon due to a perceived good constituent services record and the allegiances he has won over the years with his many road upgrade projects and willingness to take over county maintenance of miles of private roads.

Map of Pct. 3 / link to enlarge (pdf)

Brannon has been quietly scoring points with fiscal conservatives by pointing out that Conley is very much the fiscal Un-conservative, having presided the last eight years over a huge growth rate in Hays County government size, spending and debt. County debt was approaching $500 million at the end of 2011. Not all of it can be explained by population growth alone.

This local primary is shaping up to be a real choice for conservatives between a challenger campaigning for lower spending and debt reduction and an incumbent who is unabashedly proud of his long and consistently pro-spending record.

"This election is about stopping the special interest politics in Hays County, and acting more responsibly and transparently in the business of county government," Brannon asserted in a recent e-mailed message. "A little focused effort from the people who care about our community will make the difference."

Brannon's campaign has scheduled two meet-n'-greet fundraisers, Sunday Feb. 19, 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Brewster's Pizza (512.847.3299) at the RR 12 Junction in Wimberley; and Saturday Feb. 25, 4-6 p.m. at the Price Senior Center (512.392.2900), 222 San Antonio St. in San Marcos. Live Bluegrass and gospel music will be provided by Sasquatch Holler at both events.

Bob Ochoa

Remore here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In battle of the budget, poll says safety net trumps defense

Click on chart to enlarge

If this poll is any indication, Americans, by a solid majority, want to save their social entitlement programs and cut defense spending in the battle over the federal budget.

The Congressional Connection Poll surveyed 1,000 adults Feb. 9-12.

Read the details

Keystone Pipeline is getting personal
"Texas politicians talk tough on eminent domain, but with Keystone we have a private pipeline company acting as a ‘common carrier' and bludgeoning private property owners with eminent domain while many of our Republican leaders cheer from the sidelines . . ."
From The Vindicator/Liberty County | Houston, TX (Feb. 13) – A new statewide coalition of groups and advocates for private property rights has announced its support for landowners along the path of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. The groups charge that TransCanada, the company proposing to build the pipeline, has used eminent domain to bully landowners and condemn private property.

Despite a presidential permit denied to TransCanada for the Keystone XL project just weeks ago, the company continues to bully and pressure landowners along the Texas pipeline route.

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude more than 1900 miles through six states including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. In Texas, the pipeline crosses eighteen counties, from Paris to Pt. Arthur. Groups with landowners near the cities of Paris, Winnsboro, and Wells joined in press events held in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston to ask for support from agencies and officials on the continuing plight of landowners who would be impacted by the pipeline.

"Texas, we have an eminent domain problem," said Terri Hall, director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF). "There is absolutely zero oversight for pipeline companies that want to take private property from Texans - all you have to do is check the right box on a form and declare yourself a common carrier, no questions asked."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Yin & Yang: America's growing income gap and an expanding social safety net

He (Romney) would become the new American royalty – ironically a Mormon, to boot – and we, the 99% would be the serfs and farmers, like in ancient Rome. Is that what we want this country to become?

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

Sunday read | From Daily Kos
By Scott Emerson Thoughts about capitalism from a Baptist minister Ancient Israel was built around the concept that nothing belonged to the individual. A farmer was required to give up to 30% of his crop to the community or the religious leaders. He was told not to go back and pick up what was dropped so that the poor and the widows could pick up what they needed. The story of Boaz and Ruth show this clearly. Jesus takes this concept a step further when he reminded his listeners that everything we own ultimately is not ours.

New York Times | By Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It LINDSTROM, Minn. (Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012) — Ki Gulbranson owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government. Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.

From the American Dream to Income Hoarding

By Rocky Boschert

Guest Column

Every day we hear that income inequality continues to increase in this country. Somehow we are supposed to accept it, as if it is a law of the natural world. Yet Americans are recoiling increasingly at least against extreme income inequality.

Aren’t we supposed to live in a democracy? Isn’t the democratic process supposed to guarantee that everyone participates to some degree in who we can vote for – as well as who gets elected? Clearly the answer is NO.

What we average income Americans are now up against in the political process is the unfettered power of money that the rich and the very rich possess. The power of money is winning big time. No matter how many 99%-ers there are, if your net worth is only 1,800th of the net worth of the likes of a Romney you can kiss your income equality dream good-bye.

The American Dream is now about income hoarding. To achieve income hoarding, the rich and super rich are increasingly using their “material Power” to control the political process, pitting it against the traditional electoral “participation” power of the many.

A recently created Material Power Index (MPI) shows that people with extreme wealth have an MPI 10,000 higher than an average citizen. The elephant in the national room, and the cause of most of America’s current economic problems, is that the rich have very effectively used their MPI to rewrite the tax code almost entirely for their benefit.

["Measured by income, oligarchs at the very top of American society have an MPI just over 10,000, which happens to approximate the MPI of Roman senators relative to their society of slaves and farmers. When measured by wealth, the MPI for the richest Americans is 30,000 (it jumps to 50,000 if home equity is excluded). The weakest American oligarchs have between 125 and 200 times the material power of an average citizen."]
When taxes were first introduced in this country, only the richest 10% of Americans were being taxed. But they have managed to shift an increasing burden of taxation downward ever since. And even in our newest revision of our “progressive income tax” system, the rich have all the advantages, as we see with Mr. Romney's 14% tax rate. And have no illusions about his candidacy and what he represents: protecting the interests of his very rich class.

What makes the political process in the Republican primaries even more telling is we are now witnessing a new battle between the rich and the super-rich (as if their unbridled greed and avarice isn’t already too much). Romney, one of the 'super-rich' (net worth $250 million), is battling Gingrich, the 'merely rich' (net worth $6.7 million). One is being accused of vulture capitalism, the other of having profited as a high paid lobbyist for Freddie Mac.

This is, on its face, absolutely pathetic. How exactly does that help you and me and the rest of the non-rich decide who in the Republican Party, if elected President, would be the best representative for us non-rich citizens?

This telling sort of infighting in the Republican Party exposes the naked and corrupt excesses of 21st century American capitalism. Whereas in the past the rich and the super-rich were in the same camp, they are now attacking each other. The mountain top is not that big and everybody wants to stand on it.

America is morphing into an oligarchy and oligarchies are bad for democracy. We do not elect our government leaders anymore. They are selected for us by the rich and the super rich with their Super-Pacs and their owned and propagandized corporate media.

As the situation stands now, no matter how many crooks in high places we expose, there are no repercussions for them. What is the point of exposing corruption and the bad guys if we the people don't have the power to do anything about it? Even President Obama – who campaigned on getting justice for us against the corrupt perpetrators of the Iraq invasion and the financial collapse – has failed to display the courage of his pre-election rhetoric.

It is said that Americans do not hate the rich, but admire them. We are told we are supposed to emulate them as role models. Sadly, this is all part of the great brainwashing. Who wants to be governed by someone whose net worth is 2,000 times more than yours? There is a limit to what even Americans will tolerate in terms of economic inequality and political castration.

Until recently, the very rich have been smart enough to not be too much in the political limelight. It once was more effective to use your money in the background to influence politics. But with someone like Romney in the White House, things would be different. He would become the new American royalty – ironically a Mormon, to boot – and we, the 99% would be the serfs and farmers, like in ancient Rome. Is that what we want this country to become?

Whenever the 99% criticize the 1%, their pat reply is that we are engaging in “class warfare or envy.” This works very effectively with the ignorant and within an idolatry mindset, because in America, anyone accused of “class warfare” is considered an evil “socialist” or a Kenyan-born “Manchurian Candidate.”

All of this, of course, underscores another huge problem in America. Public education (even private education) has clearly failed to instill critical analysis and intellectual problem solving in the minds our current adult population. Let’s just hope for the sake of our country we don’t continue to let that happen to our children and grandchildren.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Week in review: Sonogram law takes effect & state's budget is in a world of hurt

WND (WorldNetDaily) WASHINGTON | 20% of Republicans Leaning to Obama (Wed. Feb. 8, 2012) – For critics of Barack Obama, 2012 has been portrayed as a do-or-die year for the country – an election that will determine whether America stays on the road to European-style socialism or veers right to reclaim its positions as the most vibrant economy in the world and the home of individual liberty. But the 2012 election is looking more like a replay of 2008 than a do-over. The latest WND/Wenzel Poll shows none of the current crop of Republican presidential candidates has solidified the base of the party, with one in five GOP voters leaning toward support of Obama in November.

" . . . the bloody fight for the Republican presidential nomination – by most estimations the nastiest GOP fight in memory – has really hurt the images of the challengers in the eyes of both Republicans and, especially, independent voters. For Republicans, each candidate carries with them now some taint that cannot be ignored.”

Houston Chronicle | By Zain Shauk & Todd Ackerman Sonograms evoke strong reactions as mandate takes effect (Wed. Feb. 8, 2012) – Some women covered their ears as the sounds of fetal heartbeats echoed into their exam rooms at a Houston abortion clinic. Others tried to drown out the noise with their own voices, said Planned Parenthood officials, nervously humming or talking over the sounds of fetuses in their wombs. Still others turned their heads away from ultrasound images, an effort to opt out of part of the state's new sonogram requirement for abortions, which the Department of State Health Services began enforcing Tuesday.

"These patients are livid, they are hurt," said Tram Nguyen, director of Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, describing recent scenes at her clinic. "They feel that we are the ones being condescending and questioning their decision when we are just messengers."

Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, said she's not surprised to hear that many women are reacting strongly to the evidence of life they're carrying.

National Geographic Water Currents | By Sandra Postel Texas water district acts to slow depletion of Ogallala Aquifer (Tues. Feb. 7, 2012) – A group of farmers in northwest Texas began 2012 under circumstances their forbearers could scarcely imagine: they faced a limit on the amount of groundwater they could pump from their own wells on their own property. The new rule issued by the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District, based in Lubbock, declares that water pumped in excess of the “allowable production rate” is illegal.

Texas Tribune | By Morgan Smith In Texas, a backlash against student testing (Mon. Feb. 6, 2012) – It is a precarious time for Texas school districts. Faced with roughly $5.4 billion less in state financing, districts this year will administer new, more rigorous state exams called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. And for the first time in high school, the assessments are linked to graduation requirements and final grades.

There is anxiety among school leaders, educators and parents about meeting the increased standards with fewer resources. In the Panhandle, the Hereford Independent School District superintendent may withhold her district's test scores from the state. An Austin parent is considering a lawsuit to stop the rollout of the tests. Some legislators are mulling how to postpone some of the tests' consequences for students.
YNN | By Harvey Kronberg Key Perry Appointees Sound Budetary Alarm (Mon. Feb. 6, 2012) – [I]t was an extraordinary moment last week when three of (Perry's) highest profile appointees tasked with administering some of the biggest responsibilities of state government stepped up to all but say that Texas could no longer afford the Grover Norquist model of shrinking government until it was small enough to fit into a bathtub and drown.

Ted Houghton
. . . (Education) Commissioner Scott did personally and publicly apologize to educators for budget cuts that made it all but impossible to keep their schools properly functioning. Commissioner Suehs (Health and Human Services) did tell hospital administrators that Medicaid funding was going to be around $17 billion short next session and a third of that was because of smoke and mirrors adopted in the last session of the Legislature. And Chairman Houghton (Texas Transportation Commission/TxDOT) did publicly propose raising automobile registration fees to help deal with traffic-strangled cities and suburbs.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Charles Albert O'Dell • August 2, 1936 – February 1, 2012

Memorial service scheduled
Saturday March 3 at the Wizard Academy

Charles Albert O'Dell, who was born August 2, 1936, the second of four children to Maurice "Pat" O'Dell and Mary Frances Davis in a converted barn in Refugio, Texas, died tragically in an automobile-motorcycle accident in San Marcos, Texas, February 1, 2012. O'Dell was in San Marcos conducting business for Hays Community Action Network, the non-profit county watchdog organization he co-founded in 2003 and to which he had dedicated the past several years of his life.

Growing up on a farm in Lancaster, Texas, O'Dell was driven and industrious, and he loved a challenge. He raised prized calves, could pick a bale of cotton in a day and loved to fish and hunt. He and his brother were the first in his family to go to college. O'Dell attended Catholic Seminary in Kentucky. He graduated from Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and a master’s in agricultural economics. He earned a Ph.D. in resource economics at the University of Maryland while working as an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

A strong believer in creating opportunity for all, O'Dell took time off from his doctoral studies to serve as a USDA federal liaison officer at Prairie View A&M College in support of a federal development project. When administrators blocked his recommendations, O'Dell supported students and faculty in their demands for reform. His analytic skills and expertise in commodities earned him assignments in both the public and private sectors. O'Dell served on President Richard Nixon's Cost of Living Council to provide food policy analysis, and he later worked as manager of materials planning for Anheuser-Busch Inc. in St. Louis. He also served as director of economic research and commodity analysis for The Kroger Company and as CEO of AgriShip International Systems Inc. in Washington, D. C.

O'Dell and his wife Susan moved to Hays County in 1999 where he saw the need for an organization to inform and educate Hays County citizens regarding public affairs and responsibilities. He joined with Erin Foster of Bear Creek to incorporate HaysCAN. The two began to attend meetings where public business was being conducted and to publicize their findings often through the Hays County RoundUp. When public servants were reluctant to conduct the public's business openly, HaysCAN learned to use the power of the open records request to get information that belongs to the public.

His research focused on issues that affect citizens, most often land and water use. Concerned about the effects of rapid growth on water quality in Hays County, O’Dell became a water quality monitor for Lower Colorado River Authority. He participated in numerous stakeholder processes including the Dripping Springs-LCRA Regional Water Quality Protection Plan, Hays County Subdivision Rules Revision committee, and Hays County Envision Central Texas. He served as a poll watcher, and he became a master naturalist. He served as president of the Ethical Society of Austin, as a scoutmaster in Virginia, and he served meals to the homeless at Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. He never was able to say "no" when someone asked him for help of any kind…even a 2 a.m. ride from the airport.

Charles knew how to have fun when he wasn't working for HaysCAN. He was a movie buff, he could "name that tune" in three notes if it was from the Big Band era, and he was a world traveler, not a tourist. He loved to dance, especially the two-step when Hank Williams was playing. He wrote poetry and he grew vegetables. In fact, his old blue pickup with the "Okra is Alright" sticker was known all over Hays county.

Surviving O'Dell are his wife Susan Doupé; his son Michael O'Dell and wife Beth Mertz and their daughter Madeline of San Francisco; daughter Alice O'Dell Brannon and husband Benjamin and their son Jonathan of Cincinnati; and daughter Kate O'Dell, also of Cincinnati; his children's mother Peggy Maloy O'Dell of Cincinnati. O'Dell is also survived by his sister Judy White of Seguin and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Mike O'Dell and his sister Vera Ann Vaught.

A memorial service for Charles will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, 2012, at Wizard Academy just off County Road 1826 in Austin. All are welcome. Doors open at 2 p.m. More information can be found at

The family asks that in lieu of flowers contributions be made to radio station KUT 90.5, Hays County Food Bank, or

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Isaac letter: TxDOT will have new plan to re-pave RR12 in two weeks

"I am confident that the urgency of the situation was conveyed by the passion of over 200 people who attended the meeting."

Stretch of road lies between
Hwy 290 and Hamilton Pool Rd

The letter from Rep. Isaac was received earlier today. Here's more background from Austin |
By Andrew Horansky and photojournalist Robert McMurrey | TxDOT Ponders Compromise (Tues Feb 7, 2012) – Last summer Christy Vickrey lost her friend, a Bee Cave elementary teacher, in a head-on collision near Dripping Springs. A cross still marks the spot. The accident happened along Ranch Road 12. It is a road that Vickrey said went from bad to worse.

Letter to the editor:

Although Dripping Springs is a growing community, it's still the kind of tight-knit place where we know our neighbors and look out for one another. This was never more evident than at the Ranch Road 12 town hall meeting this week. Although the re-pavement of this road has affected us personally in different ways through decreased property value or slumping business sales, we all share the same basic concern for the community's safety.

Soon after the re-pavement, I met with TXDOT officials in November to share my constituent’s concerns about the new road. Although we were assured that using chip seal was the sound financial decision and that noise and gravel levels would abate, we are still dealing with the same issues four months later. I knew that TXDOT needed to hear directly from the local residents about how the re-pavement has affected their lives in order to understand the importance of this issue and was happy that they accepted my invitation to attend our town hall meeting.

I am confident that the urgency of the situation was conveyed by the passion of over 200 people who attended the meeting. Thank you for taking the time for your voice to be heard. For those of you who might have left early, our District Engineer, Carlos Lopez, was able to make the last part of the meeting and hear our concerns firsthand.

We have been told that TXDOT will have a new plan for how to proceed within two weeks, and I will distribute that information as soon as I receive it. If you weren't able to make the meeting or haven't already contacted my office about RR 12, please email me at so that I can keep you updated on the progress.

Simple repairs to a job that was poorly done will not solve the problem. Although I don't have any direct influence over the decision TXDOT will make, I have strongly expressed the need for a hot mix overlay on the road to them. I am hopeful that our plea will be seriously considered.

Jason Isaac State
District 45

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gasland filmmaker gets fracked, hauled out of a House committee public hearing

Here's one for Charles O'Dell. He would understand the difficulty that front line journalists and government watchdogs often face in trying to report the facts about their government, regardless of the party or personalities in charge. First question always is, what have they got to hide? Charles' last bill estimate from the county for an open records document search to try to answer that question for an upcoming article was $241.15. Stiff-arming the public with high priced information is no way to instill confidence in our public offices and officials. Charles knew that, yet he always persisted.

Update: WOAI, San Antonio | Quakes in Karnes County Linked to Fracking Industry (Tues. Feb. 7, 2012) –
After the third earthquake in four months rattled residents of Karnes County southeast of San Antonio over the weekend, there are increasing concerns that the earthquakes are being caused by the widespread oil and gas fracking industry, which is underway in the region.

Read more about the Oscar-nominated Gasland documentary (trailer here) and the flap over the EPA's findings earlier this week at a public hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. You should be very concerned if you or a loved one lives anywhere near natural gas drilling activity that is using the controversial underground hydraulic fracturing procedure. There's a lot of it going on around the Lone Star State.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Motorcycle accident claims life of Charles O'Dell

Editor's note:
Charles penned dozens of hard-hitting columns for the RoundUp, many exposing political malpractice and possible criminal malfeasance inside Hays County. Here's one from Nov. 20, 2009 that was particularly prescient, "Thoughts on politicians, Pirahna and the public interest" By Charles O'Dell, PhD –
Driving past Austin Memorial Park Cemetery the other day brought to mind a reflection that every one of us is heading in that direction. Such a sobering thought brought into sharp focus the importance of making the most of life’s journey . . . Our neighbors’ problems are our problems – unless we choose not to care. We need skilled individuals who will address the public interest first to run for office. Otherwise, the Piranha among us will devour our community.

My friend and the RoundUp's chief investigative political writer and columnist, Charles O'Dell, died today from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in San Marcos. At the moment, words cannot express the shock and sadness of Charles sudden passing. Our prayers go out to Charles' wife, Susan, and to his children and family. Charles will be missed by many friends and believers in freedom of information.

Charles co-founded HaysCAN, a community based government watchdog organization in 2003. Its mission statement and Charles personal commitment was
to "provide clear and accurate information to help Hays County residents understand the actions taken by their elected officials." We believe Charles was in San Marcos to collect copies of documents from his latest public information requests from Hays County.

San Marcos PD dispatch said the department is investigating the accident that occurred on the 400 block of Hopkins St. No other details were made available.

Update, Thursday Feb. 2: From a report this morning from the San Marcos Mercury:

According to Sgt Brandon Winkenwerder, O’Dell was traveling east on Hopkins around 4:15 p.m, on a Kymco Grand Vista Motor Scooter behind another vehicle approaching the North Street intersection.

A westbound Dodge Durango driven by Joshua Matthew Eismann, 22, of New Braunfels, attempted to turn left on North Street and struck O’Dell’s motor scooter.

O’Dell was knocked off the cycle. He was taken by ambulance to CTMC where he was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace JoAnn Prado shortly before 5 p.m.

Amber Land, a Texas State sophomore, told the University Star that she witnessed the collision and attempted to render aid to the victim, who she said was breathing but unresponsive immediately following the accident.

Eismann was cited for failure to yield the right of way. San Marcos Fire department, San Marcos-Hays County EMS and SMPD Collision Investigation Team responded to the scene.

New Dripping Springs ISD Sup to make $167,000

'It is unusual for a district to get to this level,’ said Debbie Ratcliffe, TEA director of communications

Note: The school district has scheduled a 'Meet and Greet' with the new superintendent on Thursday Feb. 9. See the details here.

By Curt W. Olson

Read the complete story

Dripping Springs Independent School District taxpayers should watch the next moves from the district now that it has a new leader.

Superintendent Bruce Gearing started working Monday after moving from Marshall ISD, now earning $167,000, a jump from the $150,000 in Marshall ISD, according to the contracts.

Dripping Springs ISD and Marshall have something in common. Both districts sought approval of Tax Ratification Elections and voters shouted with a resounding, “No.”

TREs drew attention last fall as school trustees in several Texas ISDs sought power to raise property taxes because they would receive less money from the state. State lawmakers appropriated $47.3 billion for public education in all funds for 2012-13, a decrease of $2.8 billion, according to the Legislative Budget Board’s Fiscal Size-Up document.

Voters in Dripping Springs and Marshall essentially told district leaders to live within their means.

Meanwhile, Gearing gets that higher salary despite Dripping Springs having a smaller student enrollment, about 4,256 compared to 5,393 in Marshall.