Saturday, June 30, 2012

Texas GOP's 2012 Platform Opposes Teaching of 'Critical Thinking Skills'

Elsewhere in the document, the platform stipulates that “[e]very Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”

Note: Oops!

Send your comments and questions to the story links, to the Texas Republican Party at, to State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Hays County) at, to Isaac's November general election opponent Democrat John Adams (Dripping Springs) at, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

From TPM Muckraker

By Eric Lach
Posted Friday June 29

Read the full story

The Republican Party of Texas’ recently adopted 2012 platform contains a plank that opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” in schools. The party says it was a mistake, but is now stuck with the plank until the next state convention in 2014.

The plank in question, on “Knowledge-Based Education,” reads as follows:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Elsewhere in the document, the platform stipulates that “[e]very Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”

Contacted by TPM on Thursday, Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Communications Director Chris Elam said the “critical thinking skills” language made it into the platform by mistake . . ."

[More from Education Week: "the Texas Republicans go on to state that they "oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten." And, in a statement that human rights groups (and many others) will find difficult to stomach, the platform says, "We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas."]

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act mandate

House Republicans said the decision would prompt them to redouble their efforts to repeal the law

( Poll top left column: Agree or Not Agree )

Note: Looks like a lot of the folks reading tea leaves got this one all wrong. Turns out Chief Justice John Roberts (George W's appointee) was the wild card in the decision, siding with the court's "liberal" justices. Predictions: All the noise aside, Republicans will lose their fight to repeal the law. The private health insurance industry will get a well deserved and long overdue smack down in the marketplace, and, over time, most Americans will come to view the law as good medicine for the country. Don't forget to eat your vegetables.

Los Angeles Times By David G. Savage (complete story) – [T]he Affordable Care Act does not impose a true legal mandate on Americans, (Chief Justice Roberts) said. It simply requires those who do not have health insurance by 2014 to pay a tax penalty. And that is constitutional, Roberts said. "The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance," he wrote in the majority opinion. "The federal government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance," he added. The mandate is expected to raise about $4 billion a year to help pay for healthcare coverage.

The Baltimore Sun
Staff and Wire Reports
June 28, 2012 | 11:01 am EDT

Read the complete report

U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law Thursday, ruling that the government may impose tax penalties on people who do not have health insurance.

The court's long-awaited ruling rejected a broad legal attack on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought by Republican state officials and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The legal challenge focused on the law's so-called mandate that all must have insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.

The administration defended this requirement under Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. The challengers insisted the mandate was unprecedented and unconstitutional because the federal government would be forcing Americans to buy a private product.

The ruling was not a total victory for the Obama administration.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts said the required expansion of Medicaid violates states' rights and may be unconstitutional.

"The states are given no choice in this case. They must either accept a basic change in the nature of Medicaid or risk losing all Medicaid funding," he wrote.

He said the federal government cannot require the states to follow this part of the law.

Initial projections show about 84,000 Marylanders would have gained coverage through Medicaid's expansion in the first year, according to the Governor's Office of Health Reform.

Roberts' opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered a dissent for Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Speaking of the PEC – Are we stuck with high rates and No Choice? And what about those Smart Meters?

PEC's monopoly rates are the highest in Texas, perhaps the nation. Whereas, competitive rates in the deregulated market are much, much lower

Note: Mr. Klaus emailed his letter (below) Tuesday June 26 to State Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), vice chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, and to a list of newspapers and reporters. So far as we know, PEC has not "opted in" to the competitive, deregulated power market since deregulation of investor owned utilities was rolled out in Texas beginning in 2002. The Texas Electric Choice Act of 1999 (implemented in 2002) gave power cooperatives such as PEC the option of participating in the deregulated market. But once in, a co-op cannot opt back out. So it's a dicey and complicated proposition, at best, that PEC member-customers would benefit from lower rates and better service if they had the choice. PEC could answer the points raised in Mr. Klaus's letter through a simple study comparing its rates and quality of service with power providers in the deregulated market. We understand the subject may be on the agenda at the (next) July 16 meeting of PEC's board of directors.

Smart meters: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Thanks to some interesting comments in the previous post (scroll down to 'PEC annual meeting'), we made some calls and did a little research on the subject. The article below the letter to the editor can get you started. PEC member-customers should get better informed on this one because of the potential for weird outcomes, depending on which side of the conspiracy theory divide you lean, or how much you can trust your power co-op to not turn off your lights or appliances by remote control when you least expect it. We have learned that the PEC is nearing completion of a Smart Meter pilot study with a hundred or so volunteer commercial and residential member-customers in the Plum Creek community of Kyle. We wonder, if the study is deemed "successful," will it lead to forced smart metering? Will we give up control of how and when we can use our electricity in order to lower energy costs across the system? Exactly what direction is PEC headed with this thing?

(Comments from PEC staff and director honchos are welcomed)

Send your comments and questions to, to Mr. Klaus at, to PEC board directors Cristi Clement, William Boggs, Kathyrn Scanlon, Chris Perry, Ross Fischer, Larry Landaker and Patrick Cox, to PEC CEO RB Sloan, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

Letter to the Editor:

In 1999 the Legislature unknowingly created a set of second class Texans when it imposed Customer Choice (choose your own electric provider) on investor-owned electric utilities, but not electric cooperatives. The legislature may have assumed that members of a tax-exempt, non-profit electric cooperative would not benefit from Customer Choice since cooperatives are not for profit, have access to cheap capital and are member owned. It’s 2012 and nothing could be further from the truth.

For example, take a look at Perdernales Electric Cooperative, the nation’s and the state’s largest cooperative. Except for a couple of green-energy plays, PEC's monopoly rates are the highest in Texas, perhaps the nation. Whereas, competitive rates in the deregulated market are much, much lower.

Today, the average residential member pays PEC a whopping 12 cents per kWh. In the deregulated market, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 cent rates are commonplace.

Today, for a majority of a cooperative’s membership the only way they can lower their electric bill is to sell their home, farm, ranch or business and move out of the cooperative’s monopoly serving territory. That’s an extraordinary measure and most members cannot do it.

And guess what? Even though cooperatives can opt into Customer Choice at anytime under current law, only one has and it appears quite obvious that the others will not. The sole business purpose of an electric cooperative is to provide safe, reliable and low cost electricity, but it’s not happening. Customer Choice is the solution.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature will have an opportunity to fix the 1999 legislation and give the captive members of Texas’ electric cooperatives the same benefit that a majority of Texans already enjoy: lower electric rates brought through competition – Customer Choice.

Randy Klaus, CPA
PEC Member Since 1990
Austin, TX

Growing Controversy Over Texas Smart Meters

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Clement, Landaker, Cox reelected as directors at PEC annual meeting

“[PEC] reduced controllable expenses by $7.4 million — that’s our lowest cost-per-customer since 2006 . . . "
-- PEC Chief Financial Officer RB Sloan

PEC Press Release

June 23, 2012
TO: All PEC-area newspapers
MEDIA CONTACT: Kay Jarvis (830) 868-4961

Pedernales Electric Cooperative welcomed more than 750 people at its annual meeting Saturday, June 23, in Kyle. The annual meeting is the Co-op’s largest and most important event, bringing together members from across PEC’s 8,100-square-mile service area to participate in the democratic cooperative election process, learn more about Cooperative business and see new ways to save energy and money.

Members re-elected Cristi Clement, Larry Landaker and Dr. Patrick Cox as directors and voted in favor of amendments to the Co-op’s Articles of Incorporation. Election results were announced at the conclusion of the annual meeting.
From left: Cox, Clement and Landaker
The incumbent directors each will serve another three-year term on the Board.

Board of Directors election results were as follows:

District 1 Director

• 11,489 votes: Cristi Clement
• 5,347 votes: James P. Halbert
• 4,458 votes: Mark Mayfield
District 6 Director
• 9,011 votes: Larry Landaker
• 6,403 votes: Linda Kaye Rogers
• 3,508 votes: Michael Donegan
• 2,097 votes: Mike (Doc) Cantu-Withoff
District 7 Director
• 18,472 votes: Dr. Patrick Cox

The approved amendment eliminates an Article VIII, Section 1 mandate and adds the payment of interest and principal as an allowable use of the general reserve. Any changes to the Co-op’s Articles of Incorporation, a legal document filed with the state that defines the organization, purpose and highest-level business rules of the Cooperative, must be approved by members.

Member voting results for the Articles of Incorporation amendments:

• 13,376 votes in favor
• 3,355 votes against

During the meeting, PEC Board President and District 1 Director Cristi Clement gave a brief overview of the Board’s accomplishments.

“I am very proud of my fellow directors for their work this past year,” Clement said during her address. “Among other things, together we established a Cooperative-wide ethics policy and a code of conduct for directors. We worked hard to achieve alignment with our new CEO while he builds our workforce and the PEC organization. … Members deserve the best that is in each of us.”

PEC’s Chief Executive Officer RB Sloan gave a report on 2011 activities, plans for the future and the importance of the cooperative difference.

“This past year, we produced our first budget compiled by staff, distributed $13.4 million in member capital credits and continued our tradition of exceptional member services and reliable electricity,” Sloan said. “The Co-op also reduced controllable expenses by $7.4 million — that’s our lowest cost-per-customer since 2006. (This) recognizes the significant effort and commitment that staff and the Board have made to give members the best rates.”

Sloan said that the Co-op anticipates this year’s capital credits distribution will be similar to last year’s, and that PEC is implementing new technology for even greater efficiency.

“This is the year of the cooperative at PEC,” Sloan said. “I ask everyone — the Board, our employees and you — to join us. I am convinced that PEC’s best days are ahead.”

Following Sloan’s message, attendees were shown a PEC-produced video that highlighted the cooperative difference — the fundamental way PEC differs from for-profit electric utilities. The video touched on the seven cooperative principles that guide PEC, paying special attention to the principles related to democratic member control and governance, members’ financial participation through capital credits and PEC’s commitment to its members and growing communities.

After the election results were announced, the meeting’s door prizes were awarded. Members winning door prizes were:
• Retired PEC pickup truck — Christine Rougeux, Buda
• Energy Star refrigerator — Bonnie Wade, Austin
• Energy Star washer and dryer — Frederic Sternberg, Round Mountain
• Apple iPad — Richard Priekup, Horseshoe Bay

A special organizational Board meeting was held immediately following the annual meeting, and officers for the next year were elected as follows:
• President: Kathy Scanlon, District 3 Director
• Vice President: Dr. Patrick Cox, District 7 Director
• Secretary-treasurer: Chris Perry, District 4 Director

The next regularly scheduled Board meeting will be held Monday, July 16, at 10 a.m. at PEC’s E. Babe Smith Headquarters Building in Johnson City.

At the conclusion of PEC’s June 23 annual meeting, Ryan O’Connor of Survey & Ballot Systems, which managed the election, announced 21,961 total votes were cast, including 14,789 by mail, 6,846 online and 326 in person at the annual meeting. There were 1,563 more votes cast this year compared to last year’s 20,398 voting total.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wimberley's new community notification system – 1,255 phone calls made, only 325 "no answers"

. . . (only) five citizens showed up – at the first of two public meetings two weeks ago, it seems that not many are interested in having a hand in the city's next budget. That thought doesn't jibe with the number of unsolicited spending or saving ideas that I hear almost daily

The next opportunity for you to share your ideas will be this Monday June 18, 6 p.m. at the Community Center
Note: City Hall Briefs Update – Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke writes and edits City Hall Briefs as a public service to inform citizens of city activities. It is neither an official nor an authorized publication of the City of Wimberley. Anyone who wishes to be added to the distribution list should send their email address to Mayor Flocke (below). The RoundUp has edited the Briefs for length and style.

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

That phone call you may have received
from the City of Wimberley . . .

Some of you may have received a phone call Friday June 15 from Wimberley’s new community notification system. City Hall sent its first public message using the new system to remind residents of Monday’s budget public meeting. It appears to have been a successful first run with the system as we only had 325 “no answers” out of 1,255 phone calls placed. We only received six calls at City Hall from residents inquiring about the call they received. If you have not yet signed your home phone or your cell phone, go to and sign up.

White chosen as mayor pro-tem

In last week’s Briefs, I left out the very important item that Place 5 Councilman John White was chosen by the city council to serve as mayor pro-tempore for the next year. White’s unanimous approval for the position came after he was nominated by Place 4 Councilman Steve Thurber, the outgoing mayor pro-tem. The mayor pro-tem performs the duties of the mayor in that official’s absence.

A reminder, people – What do you want the city to spend your tax dollars on?

We've said it before, but not many seem to listen: the city of Wimberley wants to hear your ideas on how to spend your tax dollars. What do you or don't you want in the annual budget?

I really don't know how to say that any more plainly.

However, after the extremely low turnout – five citizens showed up – at the first of two public meetings two weeks ago, it seems that not many are interested in having a hand in the city's next budget. That thought doesn't jibe with the number of unsolicited spending or saving ideas that I hear almost daily.

The city's Budget Advisory Board – five of your fellow citizens – is looking for public input for the fiscal year 2013 budget which takes effect on Oct. 1 this year. What projects do you think should or should not be in the budget? Whether it's streets, parks, sidewalks, directional signs, traffic control, landscaping, tree trimming, streetlights, parking, or anything else, now is the time to voice your opinion – not in October after the budget is approved. We want to know if there are any services or capital projects the city is not currently funding but should

The second opportunity
for you to share your ideas will be this Monday June 18 at 6 p.m. at the Community Center. At the informational meeting, city staff and Budget Advisory Board members will provide a brief overview of the City’s revenues and expenses, explain the budget preparation process and then gather ideas from the public on future City spending.

The Budget Advisory Board is expected to present recommendations to the city council regarding the FY 2013 operating budget in late July.

At that time, City Council will start talking about its spending priorities. A proposed budget will be presented for review and consideration in mid-August. The proposed budget, with any amendments, must be approved by the city council no later than September 30.

For more information on the upcoming public meeting, please contact City Administrator Don Ferguson at 512.847.0025 or at

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Commissioners court renews support, and $5 million, to build FM 1626 expansion

Jones told the Court he will attend the June 14 meeting on behalf of the Court and encourage Austin to keep SH 45 SW in its plans

Update (Friday June 15) – Late last night, the Austin City Council unanimously adopted, by ordinance, the city's Imagine Austin 30-year development plan. The vote was 7-0. Imagine Austin as finally adopted, according to a member of the city's planning department, excludes the controversial SH45 southwestern extension to Interstate 35 – not exactly what Commissioner Jones and the Hays County Commissioners Court were lobbying for. The council also approved an action item to consider recommending to CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) that it drop the SH45-SW proposal from its transportation plan – an even worse outcome for county officials' wishes – which would pretty much make SH45SW disappear altogether from the map.

The press release from Hays County Commissioners Court was sent to media Wednesday June 13, 2012. The letter to the editor below it was sent also on Wednesday to Hays County citizens by Friendship Alliance member Rob Baxter. Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jone intends to do some lobbying in support of the road plan today at a public hearing of the Austin City Council. Baxter is encouraging citizens to voice their opposition to the plan.

Join the conversation with the Friendship Alliance at this address: Send your comments and questions to, to Commissioner Jones at, or click on the "comments" below the letter
County Judge, Bert Cobb -
Commissioner Pct. 1, Debbie Inglasbe –
Commissioner Pct. 3, Will Conley –
Commissioner Pct. 4, Ray Whisenant -
Laureen Chernow
Hays County Communications Specialist
Office: 512.393.2296, Internal 1-2296

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court Tuesday unanimously renewed its dedication to seeing State Highway 45 Southwest from Loop 1 to FM 1626 built, passing a resolution calling on the Austin City Council to support the roadway in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan and the Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan.

The Austin Planning Commission and Imagine Austin have recommended that the Austin City Council delete SH 45 SW from its plans during a public hearing set for June 14.

The roadway has been adopted in the Austin and CAMPO plans for many years and Hays County relied on that adoption in its decision to join with TxDOT in funding the expansion of FM 1626 from FM 2770 to the Hays/Travis County line.

Last year, frustrated by the lack of progress on building SH 45 SW, the Hays County Commissioners Court had offered to spend up to $5 million to help fund a smaller version of the roadway in conjunction with Travis County – an offer that is still on the table awaiting additional studies requested by Travis County officials.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Jones

“SH 45 SW, which has been planned since the 1980s, is necessary to help traffic flow between Hays and Travis Counties and to relieve congestion on local roads through neighborhoods that were not designed to carry such large amounts of traffic,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones, whose precinct borders Travis County along FM 1626. “The population has grown dramatically since SH 45 SW was first deemed necessary.

“Today’s technology allows roads to be built with less environmental impact, and a large portion of the area along the proposed roadway is designated as the City of Austin’s Water Quality Protection Land and, therefore; not available for development, stemming concerns about the new road contributing to environmental degradation and future growth along that corridor,” Jones said. “Currently, vehicles creep along inadequate neighborhood roads adding to air pollution issues in Central Texas that drive us all closer to federal non-attainment designations for air quality.”

Jones noted that some 40 percent of residents in Hays County actually work in Austin, while 20 percent of Texas State University students live in Austin and commute. Jones told the Court he will attend the June 14 meeting on behalf of the Court and encourage Austin to keep SH 45 SW in its plans.

Building 1626 extension is ill-conceived – your worst traffic nightmare

Dear FA Friends, Neighbors and Members,

Sadly, SW 45 keeps rearing its menacing and ugly head as our clueless politicians in Hays County continue to vote against our interests, their constituent's interests, while voting for illogical and ill-conceived plans that favor developer interests, not the taxpayers. While MOPAC grows more crowded daily, they now seek to flood it with one endless traffic jam plus truck traffic it does not see today as they seek to turn it into a western bypass of I-35 that will also open precious watershed lands to rampant development. Never mind planning it when you can just build it.

While we may not live in Austin, it can't hurt to tell them what we think, so please let the Austin City Council know what you think before they vote on this issue this Thursday.

Dear Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioners:

Please help us. Please keep SH 45 Southwest out of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, as recommended overwhelmingly by the Austin Planning Commission and the Imagine Austin Citizens Advisory Task Force.

*Building SH 45 SW would put 30,000 more cars on to south Mopac everyday, converting Mopac from a local commuter highway into a western bypass for I-35 traffic.

*Building SH 45 SW would pave over or deliver pollution to hundreds of fractures, caves, and sinkholes that feed pure Hill Country rain into Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer.

*Building SH 45 SW would promote unmanaged, far-flung sprawl in northeast Hays County – in direct conflict with the Imagine Austin plan goals of building a compact, affordable and sustainable Austin.

Thank you for your consideration.

A Hays County resident.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Agreement fails, city to proceed with plans to pave Mill Race Lane; improvements to Square coming soon

. . . work (on the Square) will include narrowing the travel lanes, adding left-turn lanes and parking spaces, one-way entrance to and exit from the Square parking area and changes making Old Kyle Road intersect with RR 12 perpendicularly

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

Wimberley's next monthly moon walk
Monday, June 11 at Blue Hole

Wimberley's community moon walk for June will take place on the hike and bike trail at Blue Hole Regional Park on Monday, June 11.

This monthly series of non-competitive fitness walks begin at 7 in the evening at the entrance to Blue Hole Regional Park at the former First Baptist Church parking lot. The course is mostly level and covers approximately two miles on the crushed granite of the hike and bike trail. Walkers of all ages and experience levels are welcome as are pets on leashes.

Now beginning its third year, the community moon walks are one of the Mayors Fitness Council's programs to make Wimberley the fittest little town in Texas. For more information, contact the Mayors Fitness Council at 512-847-0025.

The final chapter? Council vote defeats Mill Race Lane Deal

The Wimberley City Council Thursday evening June 7 failed to approve an agreement with Mill Race Lane property owners.

The agreement reached after two weeks of negotiations between property owners on Mill Race Lane and the city would have permitted private funding for repaving the 1800-foot street that follows the trace of a mill race that once provided water to power a mill owned by William Winters and, later, Pleasant Wimberley and his descendants.

A motion by Place 2 Councilman Mac McCullough to approve the agreement negotiated by the mayor, city administrator and city attorney failed for lack of a second. In discussion prior to the motion, council members indicated that their lack of support for the agreement was based on the fact that the standards for paving failed to meet normal city standards and a concern that allowing private paving of a street the city claimed as public might hinder that position in the future.

The council's negative consideration of the agreement means that the city will proceed with plans to repair and repave Mill Race Lane. The city currently has a request for bids for the work posted, and bids will be opened next week. The city staff will recommend a contractor for the work to the council at its June 21 meeting.

June sales tax receipts up

Wimberley received its June sales tax check from the state comptroller's office totaling $46,594.41 – an increase of 13 percent over the same period in 2011. The June check represents April sales in Wimberley.

Square improvements may begin in September

City officials meeting with Texas Department of Transportation representatives report that work on improvements to traffic patterns on the Square near the intersection of RR 12 and Old Kyle Road will begin in late September or October and last for 45 days. The work will include narrowing the travel lanes, adding left-turn lanes and parking spaces, one-way entrance to and exit from the Square parking area and changes making Old Kyle Road intersect with RR 12 perpendicularly.

Council plans goals and objectives workshop

The city council will hold its annual goals and objectives workshop at the Texas Disposal Service's facility in Creedmore on Saturday, June 23. Council members meet each year to establish working goals and objectives for the upcoming fiscal year. These goals and objectives include items that may be included in the budget for the following year. Although this meeting is informal, it is open to the public as are all council meetings. Details for the time and location of the meeting will be posted at a later date.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Is it worth Democrats' time to gather this weekend?

Racial divisions still exist, and a black man's presence in the White House is contributing to the malaise afflicting Democrats here. Says University of Texas professor Jim Henson, "Democrats have not been helped by the intense opposition to (President Barack) Obama. Republicans are so energized."

Houston | By Patricia Kilday Hart | Read the complete story

As the Texas Democratic Party gathers in Houston this weekend for its annual statewide convention, an obvious question suggests itself:

Why bother?

After all, Texas hasn't voted Democratic in a presidential race since 1976, nor elected a statewide Democratic official since 1994. Republicans have controlled the Texas House since 2002 and the Texas Senate since 1996. My colleague Joe Holley suggested Houston - the site of Sam Houston's retreat - was an appropriate venue for a Democratic gathering. But Democrats are unlikely to stage the reversal of fortunes that good ole Sam pulled off: Only 4 percent of eligible Texans voted in the May 29 Democratic Primary, compared with 11 percent who participated in the GOP election.

Those who did show up were egregiously uninformed: In the U.S. Senate race, highly esteemed former Rep. Paul Sadler was forced into a runoff with a 75-year-old retired educator whose sole qualification is his shared last name – Yarbrough – with a long-dead U.S. senator. In Harris County, perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver bested respected attorney Zach Fertitta in the Democratic district attorney's race. (Could a last name – Oliver is also the name of a Houston Community College trustee – also have fooled voters in this critical race?)

Perhaps the Democrats chose Houston – home to the best medical care in the world – to summon skilled diagnosticians. What disease is eating away at the body politic known as the Texas Democratic Party? What's the prognosis? Is the condition fatal, or is there a prescription for recovery?

From the Statesman:

By Chuck Lindell | Complete story | — Calling their state convention to order Friday evening, state Democratic leaders told cheering delegates to take heart, suggesting that increasingly extremist Republican candidates and policies could help usher their out-of-power party back into contention. "Republicans haven't just departed from the mainstream, they've departed from mainstream values," San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said in the convention's keynote speech. "Since when does cutting health care for children make you the party of family values? Since when does denying women their basic rights make you the party of family values?"

Tea Party Takes Aim At Pro-Amnesty Conservatives

Reported by VoicesEmpower from the Texas Republican Convention, June 7-9, Fort Worth | Via PushJunction

Read the complete report | More reporting from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

The 2010 “Immigration” section of the Republican Party Platform has been removed and now contains the Norm Adams/Steve Hotze Rino Language that allows cover for any Pro-Amnesty, Open Borders, Free Flow Human Trafficking vote.

Here is a reminder of why Norm Adams and Steve Hotze are: When Republicans Deceive: Pay for Play~ Steve Hotze is Not A Conservative Republican

Get ready Tea Party Grassroots Delegates and Alternates ~ We must move, during voting on the Platform to replace the 2012 Proposed Language with the 2010 language.

IT IS GOING TO BE A FLOOR FIGHT FOLKS!! This is a fight worth fighting for!!

WHY is this a problem for Texans besides the fact that we do not have the funds to provide social services for Mexican citizens? It is not only Hispanics who are coming into our State through our virtually open borders. This is a National Security Issue!!
It seems as though David Dewhurst and Gov. Perry have many of the same financial backers, so it is no surprise that Gov. Perry has come out so strongly in favor of David Dewhurst. But let’s take a look at what it is these financial backers have in common.

Did you know that it was not only the Democrats who stopped the Texas Anti-Sanctuary Cities Legislation during the 82nd legislative session. That’s right it was Texas’ largest Republican donors and now we find that all the key players who Killed the Sanctuary Cities Bill in the 2011 session are backing David Dewhurst.

Friday, June 8, 2012

All the Earth's water

If you want an image of all water on, in, and above the Earth, here it is

From the Interior Department, US Geological Survey website. See the full fascinating report here

The largest sphere represents all of Earth's water, and its diameter is about 860 miles (the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Topeka, Kansas). The sphere includes all the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, and rivers, as well as groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.

How much of the total water is fresh water, which people and many other life forms need to survive? The blue sphere over Kentucky represents the world's liquid fresh water (groundwater, lakes, swamp water, and rivers).

Do you notice that "tiny" bubble over Atlanta, Georgia? That one represents fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the planet, and most of the water people and life of earth need every day comes from these surface-water sources. The volume of this sphere is about 22,339 mi3 (93,113 km3). The diameter of this sphere is about 34.9 miles (56.2 kilometers). Yes, Lake Michigan looks way bigger than this sphere, but you have to try to imagine a bubble almost 35 miles high—whereas the average depth of Lake Michigan is less than 300 feet (91 meters).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New: The RoundUp's occasional local government quiz – take it at your own risk

Who are these people?

You get an A+ – If you know them all, what sort of vital local issues they are discussing lately and the local elected body they are involved with

You get a C – If you know only a few and maybe a little something about the important local issues and the local elected body they are involved with

You get a D-/F (with a red circle) – If you cannot identify any of the people, have no clue what important local issues they are talking about, and no idea what important local elected body they are involved with . . . in which case you will need to retake the course on Local Government: Citizenship, Awareness & Responsibilities, and read the book, "The Water Masters, Who Can You Trust?"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Say what? In re-election, Conley claims mandate for more 'heavy investments'

Will Conley won re-election for, no doubt, many reasons, but there wasn't nearly enough discussion on the county's financial future to claim a mandate to "keep investing heavily"

Editor's note: Outside of his close circle of supporters and political contributors, the reality is very few voters are informed of Mr. Conley's actual plans going forward into his 3rd term as Hays County Commissioner for Precinct 3. It is a large area Conley represents, about 275 square miles, stretching from the county's western and southern borders with Blanco and Comal counties to the west side of San Marcos. The precinct includes Wimberley and Woodcreek and a good number of long-settled subdivisions like Burnett Ranch, Rolling Oaks and River Mountain Ranch. It surrounds some of the most treasured, scenic open spaces and natural water features in the county. An estimated 30,000 voters reside inside Precinct 3. Conley defeated Mr. Brannon in the Republican primary, winning re-election with only 2,604 votes. So we are mystified by Conley's claim of a mandate for anything. Sooner or later, Conley – who will have been paid close to $1 million in salary and taxpayer-paid benefits by the end of his 3rd term in 2016 – must start a dialogue with his 30,000-plus constituents. He could start with a series of town hall Q & A meetings or an occasional electronic newsletter. No doubt his many constituents would appreciate hearing about his vision for future development, road plans, water supply, subdivisions and big box stores on the drawing board – and all the assorted financial and quality of life costs involved. Talking in vague terms, as is Conley's habit, about "investing heavily" and "modernizing" Hays County just won't cut it anymore. Let's hear what you have planned for your constituents, Mr. Conley, in all the graphic details.

* Send your comments and questions to, to Mr. Brannon at, to your county elected officials (see below), or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post

Commentary: Fiscal conservatives should be asking questions

By Sam Brannon

Just one day after last Tuesday's Republican primary election, the headline of the San Marcos Mercury read: "Conley claims mandate for roads, capital projects."

The story opened as follows: "Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley says Republican primary voters’ verdict in his race is a mandate to keep investing heavily in roads and infrastructure while modernizing Hays County government."

Having just re-elected Will Conley to serve another 4 years, and with a new transportation plan in development and numerous other large capital projects on the drawing board, we'd be wise to pay close attention to this statement and its various implications.

Fiscal conservatives and other good government types should be asking some very specific questions of our county elected officials prior to assuming that any new spending is both necessary and affordable.

County Commissioner Pct. 3 in blue
Among that list of questions, I suggest including:

• What capital projects are being discussed for the next 2-, 5- and 10-year horizons, and what are their estimated costs?
How do we intend to fund them (debt, savings, pay-as-we-go)?
• What are the 2, 5 and 10 year debt targets for the county? What are the tax rate targets?

• Will new debt issues be taken to the public for vote in a referendum prior to commitments being made?
What does "modernizing Hays County government" mean?

I've been asking similar questions for 18 months now, and the questions have to this point gone unanswered. In December of 2010, there were 3 of us asking. By Mar 22, 2011, there were 93 of us asking. On May 29, 2012, there were 1,017 of us asking in Pct. 3 alone. It’s a good time to add your voice to the discussion, and to make sure we get answers.

As many of us are aware, Hays County's debt has risen 810% in the last 7 years (population increased about 20% in the same time period) to $291 million. Hays County now ranks worst among 254 Texas counties when you compare debt to appraised property value, and 6th worst in debt-per-person.

Will Conley won re-election for, no doubt, many reasons, but there wasn't nearly enough discussion on the county's financial future to claim a mandate to "keep investing heavily." Those who are concerned about property taxes, government spending and public debt would be well advised to begin having these conversations with our Commissioners and County Judge, before the planned heavy investments gather too much steam.
County Judge, Bert Cobb -
Commissioner Pct. 1, Debbie Inglasbe –
Commissioner Pct. 2, Mark Jones -
Commissioner Pct. 3, Will Conley –
Commissioner Pct. 4, Ray Whisenant -

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Big hole opens in public ed leadership, conservationists advance, and teaching the Amalekites' lesson to schoolchildren

There'll be other big education challenges to face, like the growing public discontent with standardized tests and the school accountability system

Read more here:

Send your comments to the 'complete story' links or click on the "comments" below the post

By Mike Norman
Editorial Director
Fort Worth Star-Telegram | May 31, 2012

Read the complete story

To hear Texas House Speaker Joe Straus tell it, Tuesday's elections went pretty well.

Sure, three committee chairmen, key people on his leadership team, got bounced out of their jobs largely because constituents deemed the brand of Republican conservatism they share with Straus to be not conservative enough. Two others were forced into July 31 runoffs.

The bouncees included Rep. Vicki Truitt of Keller, chairwoman of the Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton of Mauriceville, chairman of the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. These are real losses for Straus, and, in the case of Truitt, a real loss for Tarrant County.

But the third loss, Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler of The Woodlands, may end up stinging Straus and Texas the most.

There's already a similar vacancy in the Senate, where longtime Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro of Plano decided not to run for re-election. And, crucial for the legislative session coming up in January, Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden of Bryan also decided to go.

Over at the Texas Education Agency, Commissioner Robert Scott is leaving after 18 years at the agency, five in the top job.

All of this comes together as a special predicament for public schools.

For one thing, the next Legislature is likely to have to face deep-seated problems with the state's school finance system. More than half of the school districts have joined in a new round of lawsuits against the state over that system's inadequacies and inequalities.

Those suits are scheduled to go to trial Oct. 22 in an Austin district court. The ultimate decision likely will come from the Texas Supreme Court, as have decisions in previous cases dating to 1984. But a district court ruling is likely by early next year.

In other news:

Primary Election Roundup – Conservationists Advance

Texas League of Conservation Voters | Complete Story | By David Weinberg, Ex Dir (May 31, 2012) – As the dust settles on the May 29 Texas Democratic and Republican Primary Elections, it’s time to see how conservation candidates fared. In this primary election cycle, TLCV-PAC focused its efforts on a handful of important races where we could make a difference through endorsements, contributions, events, messaging to voters on environmental issues, and get-out-the-vote efforts. TLCV-PAC endorsed candidates made a strong showing and notched some solid victories in the march toward the November General Election and the next state Legislative Session. Here’s a sampling of “green wins” on Tuesday:

√ Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston/Missouri City) handled her primary opponent with considerable ease, a nod to her strong campaign and record on public health, education and waste prevention issues. Rep. Allen garnered a convincing 59 percent of the vote in her Democrat primary election, guaranteeing her return to the Capitol next year.

In the Texas Senate, the race between Incumbent Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) and two challengers proved to every bit as close as the candidates themselves had suggested. His Republican challengers, former Texas Railroad Commissioner and Texas House member Elizabeth Ames Jones and Dr. Donna Campbell, a Tea Party favorite who moved into the district to run, split the votes fairly evenly.

In the end, Sen. Wentworth will face Dr. Campbell in the Republican Primary run-off election on July 31. TLCV-PAC endorses Sen. Wentworth in this race because of his strong conservation voting record in the Texas Senate, including successfully fighting to protect a San Antonio ordinance regarding development over the Edwards Aquifer.

√ In Congressional races, the national League of Conservation Voters showed strong support and an endorsement for State Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) in his Democratic primary election against former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez and lesser known John Bustamante.

The League of Conservation Voters made a late ad buy ahead of the May 29 primary to turn up the heat and attention on Rep. Rodriguez’s history of anti-environmental votes, including his opposition to President Obama’s clean energy plan. In the end, LCV-endorsed Rep. Gallego drew a run-off against the former Congressman for a chance to represent Democrats against Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R-San Antonio), who ran unopposed in the May 29 primary.

How Christian Fundamentalists Plan
to Teach Genocide to Schoolchildren

The Guardian | Complete Story |By Katherine Stewart (May 30, 2012) – The Bible has thousands of passages that may serve as the basis for instruction and inspiration. Not all of them are appropriate in all circumstances. The story of Saul and the Amalekites is a case in point. It's not a pretty story, and it is often used by people who don't intend to do pretty things. In the book of 1 Samuel (15:3), God said to Saul:

"Now go, attack the Amalekites, and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."

The story of the Amalekites has been used to justify genocide throughout the ages. According to Pennsylvania State University Professor Philip Jenkins, a contributing editor for the American Conservative, the Puritans used this passage when they wanted to get rid of the Native American tribes. Catholics used it against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics.

This fall, more than 100,000 American public school children, ranging in age from four to 12, are scheduled to receive instruction in the lessons of Saul and the Amalekites in the comfort of their own public school classrooms. The instruction, which features in the second week of a weekly "Bible study" course, will come from the Good News Club, an after-school program sponsored by a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The aim of the CEF is to convert young children to a fundamentalist form of the Christian faith and recruit their peers to the club.