Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wind powers 24% of Texas' electric grid, and State Comptroller Combs warns voters to beware of debt

On March 18, wind output reached 7,917 megawatts — more than 500 megawatts above last year's record

Austin American-Statesman
By Laylan Copelin
Published March 27, 2012

Read the complete story

The state's primary electricity grid is experiencing record amounts of electricity generated by wind this month.

March winds are only part of the story.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas this month initiated a new computer program that fine-tunes how much wind-generated power can be safely transmitted.

"In the past, we've had some slack built into some of our transmission limits because those limits had to be set well in advance," said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT's director of grid operations. "The new tool runs an analysis on real-time conditions every 30 minutes, so it gives us a more fine-tuned analysis."

ERCOT initiated the new analysis March 6. The next day, a new wind record was established, and 11 days later, the record was broken.

At the time, wind accounted for almost 24 percent of the electricity on the grid, which serves 80 percent of the state's population, including Central Texas. 
KLBJ Austin TX (March 22, 2012) – The woman in charge of public accounts in Texas says voters need to do more research on public debt, or "bond" projects before headed to the ballot box. Susan Combs, the State Comptroller, also is urging public leaders to be more fiscally prudent with projects to put before voters. She says Texas is #2 in the United States, in the ten most populous, next to New York, in the local debt on the books. She says Texas has $7,983 per person, as of 2009, while New York was $8,700. 

Texas Observer | By Forrest Wilder (March 8, 2012) To Avoid Blackouts, Texas Regulators Plan to Artificially Boost Profits for Utilities – Ten years into the experiment with electric deregulation in Texas, state regulators have reached an interesting impasse. They've abdicated almost all their responsibilities as public stewards to the marketplace but face enormous pressure not to allow rolling blackouts to darken the grid this summer. With Texas' fully deregulated power market, the Public Utility Commission has few tools to bring new power generation online.

It appears the the PUC's solution is to artificially boost prices, almost assuredly driving citizens' electric bills higher (and padding some corporate bottom lines). The Austin American-Statesman reported on a meeting of the PUC commissioners, three Perry appointees, yesterday:
The Texas Public Utility Commission on Wednesday signaled a willingness to address looming electricity shortages by allowing wholesale prices to hit new highs during peak demands for power . . . Utility commission Chair Donna Nelson suggested raising the cap to $4,500 (from $3,000 per megawatt-hour) by July 1 and phasing in an increase to $7,500 over several years, depending on a study by outside consultants. That study is to be completed by June 1 . . . "I want to send the market a strong signal so we can get the investment we need," Nelson said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Video of Conley-Brannon debate: Debt, (non)transparency and who's more conservative

Here's the exchange that took place at the Republican candidates forum Sunday March 24 between Precinct 3 County Commissioner Will Conley and challenger Sam Brannon. It's worth a watch.
In the video – did you know commissioners court recently slipped past the voters an additional $4 million in debt for a new government building? If you depended on the vague wording in the court's agenda, you wouldn't have a clue. Voters in Precinct 3 will determine the winner (and next commissioner) in the May 29 Republican primary. Thanks to Nerissa for sharing the video.

If you're a resident and taxpayer in Precinct 3, you'll be stuck with one of these guys as your county commissioner to 2016

Monday, March 26, 2012

Good size crowd attends Republican candidates forum; Conley, Brannon clash over county's fiscal policies

Conley asserted the county is on sound fiscal footing.
Brannon countered that county debt has increased 810% during Conley's time in office

Note: Here's a short take from last night's Republican candidates forum provided by RoundUp contributing writer Barbara Hopson of Wimberley. The forum lasted a little over two hours. A good size crowd, estimated at 250, filled the Wimberley Community Center auditorium. Candidates running in contested races for at least six important public offices in the May 29th Republican primary election gave opening statements and answered questions. Several current Republican officeholders running unopposed for re-election were in the audience and recognized. There were also a few recognizable Democrats at the forum, including former County Judge Liz Sumter. "I attended because there are many races that don't have Democrats in them, so it was important to know who the Republicans were," Sumter later explained. "My overall impression of the event is that the group that organized it did an excellent job."

Send your comments and questions to Ms. Hopson at, to Mr. Conley at, to Mr. Brannon at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

By Barbara Hopson

Sunday night was the Republican candidates forum at Wimberley Community Center. Probably the most interesting exchange was that between Will Conley and Sam Brannon, the two candidates for Hays County Commissioner, Pct. 3.

Conley & Brannon

Questions posed to both Conley and Brannon focused on the county's fiscal policies.

Conley asserted the county is on sound fiscal footing: On his watch the county's credit rating has improved, budgets have been balanced, and several millions of dollars are stowed in banks as reserves.

Brannon replied by saying county budgets have been balanced only because the county has taken on incredible bond debt to implement necessary projects and state law demands county (and State) budgets be balanced. Likewise, it is State law that counties maintain money in reserve. Brannon pointed out the county's credit rating has improved because it does have money reserves and has not failed to make bond payments – not because of any improving fiscal practices of the county.

Like the Federal government, Hays County, during Conley's tenure, has added tremendous debt in order to finance its operations. Brannon noted Hays County is now number one among the 254 counties in Texas in amount of debt relative to total property value of the county. And Hays County ranks 6th in per capita debt.

Current taxpayers are struggling to pay on the huge bond indebtedness of the county, but their children and grandchildren will be crushed by the taxes they will have to pay because of the runaway county debt. That debt will continue to grow – and at an accelerating rate – because of 1) very expensive water acquisition projects that will be constructed over the next 20 years and 2) lavish road projects.

Brannon stated that county debt has increased 810% during Conley's time in office. Meanwhile, social services have been curtailed.

Another contentious exchange was between the two GOP candidates for Hays County Sheriff. Tommy Ratliff and incumbent Gary Cutler "corrected" each other back and forth about what may or may not have occurred concerning conditions and needed upgrades at the county jail.

Scott Field and Madeline Connor (candidates for 3rd Court of Appeals, Place 3) argued over who has more qualifications and experience for the judicial job.

All four Republican candidates seeking to replace retiring 22nd District Court Judge Charles Ramsay were present and gave opening statements: Ronnie Dickens, Bruce Boyer, David Nigh and David Glickler.

Also present were candidates for State Board of Education, District 5, incumbent Ken Mercer and challenger Steve Salyer; and the two candidates vying for Hays County Republican Party Chair, John Pacheco and Shawn Blakely.

Questions for the candidates were prepared in advance of the forum. No questions were taken from the audience.

The primaries will be held on May 29. Two additional local Republican candidate forums are scheduled April 29 in Kyle-Buda and May 6 in Dripping Springs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Texas gets D+ in Risk of Corruption Study

The state received Fs for the accountability of the governor, for public access to information, the accountability of civil service managers, state insurance commissions and the state’s handling of

Note: Back in the day, taking home a report card full of Ds and Fs would prompt a stern lecture, or worse, from mom and dad. "You're grounded, sonny boy, until you get these grades UP!" We're not sure who to blame more here, the shameless politicians in office who control the levers of power or the voters who keep putting these losers in office. Either way, it is becoming abundantly clear politicians winning elections in the Texas Legislature today essentially believe in closed-door government, with little regard for public accountability, transparency and fair play. Maybe things would change if voters began thinking more as parents and asserted some discipline at the polls come election time.

You might ask the two state representative candidates running for the 45th House District seat (Hays and Blanco counties) in November what they intend to do about this abysmal report card for Texas. Republican Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs (left photo) is running for a second term. As the incumbent, it is his duty to his constituents to address how he plans to help raise the bar on good government standards at the state Capitol. A grade of D+ in Legislative Accountability certainly is not a good reflection on Isaac or the rest of the members of the Legislature. Isaac's Democratic challenger John Adams (on right) is serving his second term on the Dripping Springs school board. Adams is campaigning on restoring the huge cuts in public school funding enacted by lawmakers last legislative session. He should campaign equally hard on confronting the loose oversight lawmakers place on themselves and the governor's office, and he should not let Isaac take a free pass on this vital public issue.

Send your comments to the complete story link, to Rep. Isaac at, to Mr. Adams at or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the report

Texas Watchdog
By Mark Lisheron
Published March 19, 2012

Read the complete story

Texas does a pretty lousy job creating through its laws and implementation a system of government resistant to corruption.

But so do most of the states in the union, according to a new study headed by the Center for Public Integrity of the accountability of the three branches of state government, public access to information, maintenance of ethics laws and other categories.

Two other nonprofit groups, government transparency specialist Global Integrity and Public Radio International collaborated on the study.

Texas was one of 26 states given a grade of D+ or worse, eight of those Fs. No state got an A, and the apple polisher of the class, New Jersey, earned the top grade of B+ because its history of entrenched corruption prompted the passage of strong government accountability laws recently.

You can find the rankings of all of the states in several major accountability categories here.

The state earned its dismal grade by failing in five of the 14 areas examined in the study: Fs for the accountability of the governor, for public access to information, the accountability of civil service managers, state insurance commissions and the state’s handling of redistricting.

In other news: Women Set Rick Perry's Facebook Page on Fire
“I would like your opinion since I can’t make medical decisions myself being a woman and all,’’ one woman wrote on Perry’s Facebook wall.

Monday, March 19, 2012

News round up: Texas AG's Voter ID lawsuit against Feds more smoke than fire, South Padre windfarms and school cuts

Abbott found 26 cases to prosecute - all against Democrats, all but one against blacks or Hispanics. Of those, two-thirds were technical violations in which voters were eligible, votes were properly cast and no vote was changed


Dallas Morning News | By Wayne Slater AG Greg Abbott's Failure to Find Widespread Voter Fraud Won't Bolster His Voter ID Appeal – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says he'll appeal the Justice Department's rejection of the Texas voter ID law, which would require voters to show a photo identification in order to vote. The law would have gone into effect by the May 29 Texas primary. But it's been held up in court amid challenges that it's actually aimed at depressing the minority vote, largely Democrats. Republican Abbott is looking to run for governor in 2014 and he has been promoting the voter ID idea, which is popular among Republicans.

Several years ago, Abbott announced there was an "epidemic" of voter fraud in Texas and he launched an investigation. But his investigation and subsequent prosecutions failed to confirm any such epidemic. Abbott found 26 cases to prosecute - all against Democrats, all but one against blacks or Hispanics. Of those, two-thirds were technical violations in which voters were eligible, votes were properly cast and no vote was changed. None of the cases would have been affected by the voter ID requirement. A spokesman for Abbott defended his crackdown on vote fraud, saying it's a very real problem. Still, the voter ID idea is a staple among Republican politicians in Texas and other states that have adopted similar voting requirements.

Army Corps Launches Study of Proposed South Texas Offshore Wind Farms | Caller-Times | By Mark Collettee CORPUS CHRISTI TX (March 15, 2012) — The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing for an environmental study of a proposed offshore wind farm poised to become the first in Texas. The first public meeting on the project is planned for March 28 in Brownsville. The Corps is accepting public comments that will help define the scope of its environmental study, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2014. Environmental groups are tracking the project and have raised concerns about the turbines' effects on birds and sea life. Austin-based Baryonyx Corp. wants to install about 200 wind turbines in each of three areas off the South Texas coast. The environmental study covers two areas, which the company calls its Rio Grande and North Rio Grande leases, in state waters off South Padre Island.

25,000 Fewer School Employees |
The Texas Tribune | By Ryan Murphy and Morgan Smith (March 5, 2012) – Since the start of the legislative session, speculation has abounded about how cuts to public education would affect educators' jobs. With the release of the 2011-12 school district employment figures, the Texas Education Agency has an answer. Schools employ about 25,000 fewer employees than they did at this time last year — a 3.8 percent decrease that includes teachers, administrators and other staff.

It will take more to answer how budget cuts have affected the state’s public schools, but the figures provide a window into the kinds of decisions the state’s 1,200-plus school districts and charter schools are making to cope with a $5.4 billion reduction in funding.

Reductions in Hays County school districts:

Hays CISD Full Time Employees 2011 1040.96 / FTE 2012 1005.92 / -3.55%
San Marcos CISD 2011 540.92 / 2012 531.86 / -1.67
Dripping Springs ISD 2011 282.46 / 2012 278.36 / -1.45%
Wimberley ISD 2011 149.71 / 2012 142.01 / -5.14%

Total: 55 positions

Here are some initial takeaways:

- There are fewer teachers in public schools — just under 11,000, about a 3.2 percent decrease.
- The most commonly eliminated positions were those having to do with teacher support — staff members who help educators with professional development outside of the classroom, often filling in for overstretched principals.
- No positions are safe. Districts are trimming staff in all areas, from administrators to librarians to teachers aides, to yes, teachers.

Also: the numbers from the current school year come with the caveat that many districts, depending on their financial status, will undergo further cuts next year.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Democrats can vote in May 29 Republican primary; and Brannon answers critics about job history

Aside from a few up ballot contests, including for U. S. Senate (a long shot in November), the election of precinct chairs and county chair, voting in the Democratic primary will be a lot less interesting

If you're a registered voter – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, Green or other – mark your calendar for Tuesday May 29th, 2012. Texas will hold its open primary elections on that day, and about the only reality show in town will be the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, plus a couple of important local races. The Democratic Party primary in Hays County arguably will be less consequential than the Republican primary since there
are far fewer, if any, contested local races among Democrats. Redistricting has left the county split into three congressional districts – the 21st, 25th and 35th – so, the county's influence in picking winners in the congressional races is now so watered down as to be negligible. Aside from a few up ballot contests, including for U. S. Senate (a long shot in November), the election of precinct chairs and county chair, voting in the Democratic primary will be more an exercise in housekeeping and a lot less interesting. The one exception for east Hays County Dems will be the primary contest for the new 35th congressional district. Obama for President, we know, will be a shoo-in among Dem voters across the state, despite primary opposition from two or three little known challengers.

Texas allows "open" primaries, which means voters of any political stripe can vote in the other party's primary and still vote for the candidate of their choice, from President on down, in November. It's called 'cross-over voting' and it's perfectly legal. Only party officials are prohibited by rules from voting in the other party's primary. The open Republican primary in Hays County will feature not only the contenders for president, the Fearsome Foursome – Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, but also two important local races.
Will Conley
Cutler & Ratliff

The two local Republican races are for Sheriff and County Commissioner Precinct 3. Incumbent
Sheriff Gary Cutler is seeking re-election to his first full 4-year term. The likable former Sheriff Tommy Ratliff is challenging Cutler. The county commissioner's race has up-and-comer Sam Brannon of San Marcos challenging two-term incumbent Will Conley of Wimberley. The winners will be the only candidates for these two offices on the ballot in November. No Democrat had filed for sheriff or Pct. 3 commissioner as of the deadline Friday March 9. So for Democrats, what you see is what you get to vote for in November. The only way Dems can influence these two critical races is by voting in the Republican primary. Not surprisingly, Cutler, Ratliff, Conley and Brannon are all actively courting Democrats and Independents, who could very likely swing the election their way. The offices they are vying for carry considerable authority and power, and the winners will be with us for the next four years. Dems and Indies should be discussing amongst themselves which primary to vote in. We heartily suggest the Republican primary. You can help pick a winner or a loser and have some fun while doing so. Either way, please VOTE.

Brannon: "I spent the better part of 20 years
solving problems for clients"

Even before San Brannon decided to challenge Will Conley for county commissioner in Pct. 3, his confrontations with officials against closed county government practices and runaway spending and debt began to earn him the ire of critics and cronies. Most of the attacks Sam has received have centered on his current job status, or lack thereof. We know that when attacks become personal, it's a sure sign the critics are running from the truth and their own bad practices. Sam answers his critics in the Q&A.

With the primary election on the way, the candidates’ backgrounds are relevant. The RoundUp certainly welcomes background statements from Mr. Conley, as well as from Sheriff candidates Cutler and Ratliff.

RoundUp: Tell us about your professional experiences, past and present.

Brannon resume/click to enlarge
Brannon: My resume is attached, and you’re welcome to post it.

I’ve been working with SMCISD as a Substitute Teacher since January of 2011, and have been on long-term assignments since the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. When the senior officer of the ROTC program at the high school was out for a few weeks in September, I was requested by the school Principal to fill in. As that assignment was ending, the Focus Program at the middle school had taken on new students and needed additional help, and I’ve been there since early October.

The Focus Program concentrates on kids with various challenges, such as slight autism or ADD, and who tend to have behavior or disciplinary problems. The goal is to help them progress with the help of individual attention, while still integrating them with the general student population, and without creating a disruption to the learning environment. It can be pretty challenging work some days.

RoundUp: Why did you choose substitute teaching?

Brannon: Hays County doesn’t have the kind of work that I used to do, so I realized that I’d probably have to find a new profession since I intended to make this my home. I enjoy working with kids, and have always related well with them. I’ve been a Big Brothers volunteer in the past, and have also done volunteer work with other youth organizations.

Teaching has interested me for a long time, and I’ve spent some time teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), and enjoyed it. I thought this would be a good way to help me determine whether I was interested in becoming a certified teacher.

RoundUp: What have you learned in school this time around?

Brannon: I have a great appreciation for the teachers and administrators. Their jobs are not easy. It has also been a good exercise in patience and understanding. Our young people and their families face many challenges.

RoundUp: Why just 4 days per week?

Brannon: I spend Tuesday of each week attending the Commissioners Court meetings and following up with staff or researching the issues.

RoundUp: You were a consultant in Turkey?

Brannon: One of my ESL clients was a medical doctor, and had just left her General Manager position at a pharmaceutical firm to co-found a consulting practice that serves European pharma companies with operations in Turkey. What began as a language review of one proposal led to me developing and presenting the final proposal, and that led to projects on market targeting and process design.

My ESL clients were largely business owners and senior executives of European subsidiaries, and we spent a lot of time talking business. Turkey is about 20 years behind the U.S. in business methods, so I was a great resource for them at times.

RoundUp: Your resume indicates that you spent 10 years in “Supply Chain Consulting and Software”. What is “Supply Chain”?

Brannon: “Supply chain” is a term used in the manufacturing industries that refers to a broad set of processes that involve purchasing materials, selling, manufacturing and being able to deliver the product, as promised. The goals are to eliminate waste, to decrease order delivery lead-times, and improve quality. In short, I helped companies improve their performance by making and delivering products better, faster and cheaper through a combination of process improvements and technology.

RoundUp: Your last role in the corporate world was as Vice-President at JCIT International. Explain the role and how you got there.

Brannon: JCIT, BORN Consulting and JD Edwards were business partners that offered complimentary products and services to manufacturers, and we regularly worked on projects together. I developed a solid reputation in sales and engagement management at JD Edwards and was hired to run a region for BORN, and then later was recruited by JCIT to run their North American sales.

At JCIT I reported jointly to the CEO and the COO. I had four sales people that would qualify the opportunities and set the appointments, and then I was on the road 3 weeks out of the month visiting the management teams of our clients, walking plant floors, and creating plans to help them improve their business.

JCIT revolutionized American manufacturing during the late 80’s and 90’s with their Demand Flow methods. Jack Welch, then the CEO of GE, sang praises for the way JCIT transformed GE’s manufacturing businesses.

RoundUp: How did your business background prepare you for public office?

Brannon: I spent the better part of 20 years solving problems for clients, and for my employers. I come from industries where high degrees of complexity and ambiguity are the norm, and that presents interesting challenges in securing new business and finishing projects on-time / on-budget / as-expected. My job was to bring order and predictability in chaotic environments.

My constituents were the people in my firm, our business partners, and our clients. My clients often were literally betting their careers on the success of doing business with me and my firm. I take that seriously, and built a reputation for success, professionalism and leadership.

I have a lot of experience at processing information, context, personalities and patterns in real-time, and keeping track of what we knew and don’t know. I also had to account for the likelihood that there were things that we weren’t yet aware we didn’t know. The environment was often high stress, and I became convinced of the power of honest, direct and thoughtful communication.

In short, I developed a solid reputation for knowing my business and earning the trust of my constituents. Taxpayers expect both of these.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Exploding gun sales in Texas a forecast of Obama's re-election prospects?

There are enough guns in Texas for every man, woman and child to have two each. Every third NRA member lives here, and about a half million Texans have concealed handgun licenses. But with Obama heading towards re-election, Texans want more

By Jason Stanford

You can forget the improving economy, the pundits and the polls. The surest sign that Barack Obama will be re-elected president is that Texans are hoarding guns.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran a big story the other day about how gun sales were exploding, what with everyone afraid that the African-born Muslim socialist was going to get himself elected to another four years in the White House.

"Look who the Republicans are trying to put against Obama," said DeWayne Irwin, owner of the Cheaper Than Dirt gun store in Forth Worth. "It's the Keystone Kops and people are getting scared. People are terrified he's going to get re-elected and then he won't care about getting votes next time. He'll just pass whatever legislation he wants."
I could tell DeWayne that I've worked on literally hundreds of congressional campaigns over the last decade, and I can't remember any Democratic candidate ever polling gun control. But really, if you're dumb enough to think that Obama will ever be able to pass whatever legislation he wants, then you are probably prone to the delusion that Democrats want to take away your guns. Suffice it to say that no matter how deep your paranoia runs, when they sell Russian-made ammunition for an AK-47 at Wal-Mart, this debate is over, and the gun nuts have won.

In Texas, being a liberal means owning only one firearm, and gun control means using two hands and gently squeezing the trigger. There are enough guns in Texas for every man, woman and child to have two each. Every third NRA member lives here, and about a half million Texans have concealed handgun licenses. But with Obama heading towards re-election, Texans want more. The FBI has been getting about 1 million requests for background checks on people wanting to buy guns every year just from Texas.

It is considered horribly impolite in Texas to mention the recent school shooting in Ohio that left three kids dead. The Star-Telegram story failed to mention it because to do so would open the reporter up to charges of being anti-gun. It is a local custom to observe your First Amendment right only to support the Second Amendment.

In Texas, the only logical response to gun violence is making sure it's a fair fight. This makes sense to Texans even when it makes no sense. When a mentally ill 22-year-old shot Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others with a legally bought Glock 19, Texas Republicans did not waste a second figuring out how to keep guns away from crazy people.

Instead, some proposed that politicians should be allowed to carry guns wherever they damn well pleased even in designated gun-free zones, such as schools and churches. The idea died not because of the inevitable crossfire but because it would be unfair to those constituents taking fire from both sides. They deserved guns in churches, too.

The problem with gun-free zones such as schools, say some, is that criminals don't care about the law. Fair point. But when a depressed 19-year-old math major named Colton Tooley shot his AK-47 at the University of Texas in 2010, SWAT teams had the campus locked down within a half hour. While Tooley holed up in the library, police, not knowing if he was alone, searched the backpacks of any student in the area.

Tooley killed himself without hurting anyone else, but that didn't stop the Texas legislature from demanding that all students be allowed to have guns on campus. Perhaps because some people still look at the UT tower and think of Charles Whitman, that proposal died too.

This is Texas, where you can get around the capitol's metal detectors with a concealed handgun license and our governor jogs with a Ruger .380. When Rick Perry bragged that he shot a coyote that was threatening his daughter's puppy, I didn't hear a blessed Texas soul question the wisdom of politicians exercising with deadly weapons. Instead, everyone kept asking where he put the gun when he jogged in those little nylon shorts. Apparently it's strapped to his hip with some kind of a jogging holster.

That's what passes for a fashion accessory in Texas, where guns are always the solution and never the problem.

A political consultant, writer and family man, Jason Stanford is a Texas resident. He is the co-author of "Adios Mofo: Why Rick Perry will make America miss George W. Bush," writes a syndicated column for Cagle Cartoons and blogs for The Huffington Post.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Commissioners approve new voting precinct boundaries, and new voter cards in the mail next month

If you are not already registered, you must register by April 30 to vote in the May 29 primary election

Press Release | March 14, 2012
Contact: Laureen Chernow
Hays County Communications Specialist
Office: 512.393.2296

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved county election precinct boundaries, which in turn will allow voter registration cards to be finalized and mailed to Hays County residents who are registered to vote.

The Commissioners Court had approved election precinct boundaries in September 2011, but adjustments to those boundaries were necessitated by the change in redistricting maps ordered by federal courts.

“The changes to the precinct boundaries approved by the Commissioners Court are relatively slight compared to the original boundary map drawn in September 2011,” said Hays County Elections Administrator/Voter Registrar Joyce Cowan. “By law, we had to have our boundaries redrawn by March 20, so we are ahead of that deadline. We also expect to be able to meet the requirements for military and overseas ballots to be mailed by April 14 and new voter registration cards to be mailed by April 25.”

Copies of the map showing the new precincts will be available by early next week at all County Commissioner offices, the first-floor rotunda of the County Courthouse at 111 E. San Antonio Street and the Elections Department at the Government Center, 712 South Stagecoach Trail in San Marcos. It is also available on the Hays County website at under the Government tab, Elections & Voting.

Voters who are currently registered to vote will automatically be mailed new voter certificates to replace the ones that expired on Dec. 31, 2011. If you have changed your name or address contact the Hays County Voter Registration Department or call 512-393-7310 to update your information. If you are not already registered, you must register by April 30 to vote in the May 29 primary election. For more information about voting, including finding out if you are already registered, see

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

East Texas landowner wins right to take on Keystone in court; jury trial set April 30

While federal private property bill exempts pipeline, two judicial victories Friday in Texas clear path for Julia Trigg Crawford’s eminent domain challenge

Crawford speaks to supporters at a rally
in Paris, Tx / Reuters, PostMediaNews

Update from IndependentTexans. Read more at the website. Background from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

This story – a classic little guy versus the giant – is being reported all across the country. Rooting for the underdog is an old American (and Texas) tradition – remember The Alamo? We wish small farm owner Ms. Crawford luck in her legal battle against Big Oil.
[ In other news: GOP Aide Jumps Ship Over Women's Health Policy and Fees Climb in Texas, Millions Diverted From Original Purpose to Balance State Budget ]
LAMAR COUNTY, TX – Julia Trigg Crawford's fight to prevent TransCanada from seizing her property scored a big win late last Friday when an appellate court reinstated her temporary restraining order. With confidence renewed, Crawford and groups allied with her cause launched this week to help Crawford raise funds for her April 30th jury trial with TransCanada.

“The support that’s been coming my way from regular folks is just unbelievable,” said Crawford. “But we know TransCanada sees my property as a key battleground and they’re going to come at us with guns blazing, so we have to be ready to defend ourselves.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of organizations in Texas who are backing Crawford is expressing “exasperation” that the “The Property Rights Protection Act,” H.R. 1443, will likely include an exemption for pipelines including Keystone XL. The bill recently passed in US House of Representatives and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“TransCanada and the Keystone Cushing/Gulf Coast segment are exempt,” stated Calvin Tillman, former mayor of DISH, Texas, “This leaves landowners like Julia Trigg Crawford in Oklahoma and Texas in the lurch, subject to the clutches of TransCanada’s ongoing eminent domain proceedings. But let’s remember that it was the bravery and the tragedy of the Alamo that inspired victory the Battle of San Jacinto. TransCanada’s bullying and lobbying has led to a groundswell of support for Julia and landowners like her, and I think TransCanada should be worried.”

Tillman urged citizens across Texas and America to stand with Julia and the Crawford’s lawsuit by giving to the Crawford Defense Fund.

The reinstatement of Crawford’s temporary restraining order against TransCanada was not the only big news for her case last Friday. The same day the Texas Supreme Court also denied a motion for rehearing in the Denbury-Green pipeline case, subsequently reissuing an opinion that decidedly favors landowners.

The groups maintain that TransCanada has yet to prove its own common carrier status in its case against landowner Julia Trigg Crawford. TransCanada says its T-4 permit issued by the Texas Railroad Commission makes it a common carrier, but the group points to comments from the Railroad Commission itself saying it has no authority to grant common carrier status.

Those interested in helping the Paris landowner can give money to help her cause by visiting the site and donating via paypal or by sending a check to the Crawford Defense Fund at:

Crawford Defense Fund,
PO. Box 155,
Sumner, TX 75486

Contact Ms. Crawford at:

Five file in May 12 Wimberley municipal election; lower speed limits set for RM 3237 & 12

The city council at its Thursday March 1 meeting voted to ease landscape watering restrictions and to resume issuing permits for the construction of in-ground swimming pools

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

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

Former Mayor Tom Haley to challenge Mac McCullough for Place 2

Tom Haley, right photo front, at an April 2010
county strategic planning meeting.

Mr. McCullough, below

At Monday's March 5 five o'clock closing time for the filing period for the May 12 municipal election, five persons had filed for the three city council positions up for election this year. Former Mayor Tom Haley and incumbent Mac McCullough are running for the Place 2 council seat, and local business owner Lance Cawley is challenging Place 4 incumbent Steve Thurber. Mayor Bob Flocke is unopposed as he seeks a second term.

New speed limits coming to Wimberley

The Texas Department of Transportation has advised city officials that the state agency has authorized lowering the speed limits on two state highways within the city limits. After numerous citizen complaints about high speeds on RM s 3237 and 12 and two speed studies, TxDOT gave the go-ahead to lower the seed limits. The new speed on RM 3237 from the city limit sign to RM 12 will be 45 miles per hour. The current speed limits range from 50 to 60 mph. On RM 12 south of town from the city limit sign – near CR 1492 – to the Blanco River the speed limit will be 45 mph. The current speed limits are 45 and 55 mph in that area. At its March 1 meeting the city council enacted an ordinance confirming the speeds. TxDOT has ordered new speed limit signs, and no delivery date has been established.

Work to reopen Las Flores begins next week

Wimberley will begin work next week to reopen the intersection of Las Flores and La Buena Vista Drives. The intersection was closed in 2010 in an effort to reduce the volume and speed of traffic through the residential neighborhood. Council voted last year to reopen the intersection and to emplace other traffic calming devices, but budgetary constraints didn't allow work to begin until now. The current work includes reopening the intersection, establishing one-way traffic west-bound on La Buena Vista from the intersection to La Buena Vista's western intersection. Left turns from west-bound La Buena Vista onto Las Flores will be prohibited. Later improvements will include speed humps on Las Flores.

Watering restrictions, swimming pool prohibition rolled back

The city council at its Thursday March 1 meeting voted to ease landscape watering restrictions and to resume issuing permits for the construction of in-ground swimming pools. The move will bring city watering restrictions into harmony with those of the Wimberley Water Supply Corporation – landscape watering is allowed two days a week during specified hours. The vote to roll back the restrictions was unanimous. The action on the issuing of permits for swimming pool construction comes 90 days after the council voted in November to stop issuing such permits. The council voted four to one in favor of lifting the prohibition with Mayor Pro Tem Steve Thurber voting against it.

Wimberley community moon walks
resume next week

After a three-month break for the winter, Wimberley's community moon walks will resume next Monday, March 12. For the next few months, the walks will begin on the Wimberley Square at the Wimberley Cafe at 6:30 in the evening. This non-competitive fitness walk follows a course of about two miles over mostly level, smooth surfaces. Pets on leashes are invited to participate. Now beginning their third year, the community moon walks are one of the Mayors Fitness Council's programs to make Wimberley the fittest little town in Texas.

Monday, March 5, 2012

'The Essence of Corruption'

A fox would be embarrassed to ask for the kind of access Toomey got to Perry’s henhouse, but Texans have become so numb to this kind of corruption that no one has the good manners to pretend to be surprised anymore

Send your comments to the complete story link or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

BehindFrenemyLines | by Jason Sanford

Read the complete story

Matteson Ellis is an international man of mystery, literally. An international anti-corruption lawyer based in Austin and DC, Ellis has spent years looking for what he called “the red flags of corruption” in some of the riskiest parts of the world. He used to help an international development bank ensure that the billions it loaned to rickety governments actually ended up building bridges, schools and roads.

“We pursued companies for paying bribes to corrupt officials in developing countries,” said Ellis. “These cases almost never involved bags of cash. Unusually, they involved manipulation of high-dollar procurement processes. For example, contracts are steered to friends and relatives. Normal processes are bypassed. And the government officials receive benefits in return.”

What about a hypothetical of a governor steering a billion-dollar contract to his best friend who recently donated $100,000 to his super PAC?

“That’s an obvious example,” said Ellis. “That’s the essence of corruption.”

Under Rick Perry, the kind of corruption that Ellis rooted out in places like Tajikistan is just a slow news day in Texas.

Even if you read every newspaper in Texas, you probably didn’t know that shortly after lobbyist Mike Toomey gave $100,000 to a pro-Perry super PAC, Toomey’s client, United Healthcare, landed a $1 billion contract to provide health insurance for around 440,000 retired state employees.

A political consultant, writer and family man, Jason Stanford is a Texas resident. He is the co-author of "Adios Mofo: Why Rick Perry will make America miss George W. Bush," writes a syndicated column for Cagle Cartoons and blogs for The Huffington Post.