Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Cost of Running for Democratic Party Chair

One week until the anticipated floor fight. We know that Glen Maxey, Charlie Jones, and Boyd Richie will all be nominated to be the chair of the State Party. We don’t know if there will be a dark horse or whether Lakesha Rogers will do more than stump for LaRouche.

The race for Democratic Party Chair has been engaging for the first time in over two decades and a quick look at a recent poll and the posted finance reports give a hint as to why.

Boyd Richie was named interim chair on April 22nd, a month after Charles Soechting resigned from the post and nearly 5 months after announcing he was a candidate for the position.

Boyd has run an aggressive campaign that focuses mostly on e-mail from both the party and his personal e-mail. In a poll released at BOR Richie was around 13%. The cost of that 13% has been $18,706.45 to one consultant. Peck Young has made more than I did my first year doing fieldwork across the country for environmental issues.

To put that into further perspective, Richie has raised approximately $11,645 and loaned himself $25,000. He has spent $26,913.84. Peck Young, a consultant, has received more than half of the total amount Richie has for the campaign and almost twice what individuals have given him. According to the financial records at the Texas Ethics Commission, Young’s services include e-mails, (no cost involved in production), postage ($ .20 a piece), printing (unknown), stickers ($.35 each usually), and flyers.

Will he spend the party money the same way if elected?

Charlie Jones on the other hand has raised approximately $3,925 and spent about 3,038.95. The filing was done by hand (paper record) and there is no digital record of who has donated or what he has spent money on.

Lakesha Rogers has filed, but as of May 8th has neither received or spent any money.
The Maxey camp has said they have filed with the TEC but no copy has been put online.

Richie is clearly the big money candidate and should have higher name recognition because of it. I now receive one to three e-mails from either his campaign or the party (which has triggered my spam filter for all party e-mails), but he still need 62% of the undecided delegates to win next week.

Jones and Maxey are running a conversation with all 254 counties and it shows. They are spending less money to do more with it. They are practicing what they preach by implementing new technology and empowering delegates and activist to change the party compared to the Richie plan of one consultant, $20,000, and few tangible results going into Fort Worth.

A Word from President Al Gore

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tuesday Morning News

John Snow is out at the Treasury and Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry Paulson is the new Sec of Treasury.

Canada has terrorist trained by al-Qaida. Do we need to raise more money to build the wall on the northen border or are we only concerned with people trying to better their lives? To bad this is a story that hurts Republicans.

Kinky is still a lousy independent because he is so Republican.

What did I miss?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

2007 Speculation

On May 10th the rumor began circulating, in mass, that Mayor Phil Hardberger would be a one-term kind of guy.

San Antonio has more restrictions on its council than any other major city. We don’t pay them for the hard work they are doing, we will not let them serve more than two, and two-year terms, and we have a spring election when only people like us are paying attention.

Hence, after only one full year as Mayor, the questions are swirling as to who will challenge Hardberger if he decides to run and who won’t run if Hardberger sits a re-election campaign out.

The Express-News had a piece by Greg Jefferson on May 21st outlining the clearly ambitious that will be term limited in 2007.

Jefferson’s analysis is right on but fails to think of any office past Mayor. The candidates mentioned in the article are Richard Perez, Roger Flores, Chip Haas, Art Hall, Kevin Wolff, and Julian Castro.

The candidates most likely to run for Mayor are Perez, Flores, Hall, and Castro. Before going any further, let me say that I think Hardberger runs for re-election virtually unopposed and Roland Gutierrez, Kevin Wolff, and Julian Castro run for the open seat in 2009.

Of the term limited city council members, Perez and Flores are great candidates for state office and should consider running for either state senate or house depending on the 08 landscape. If state senator Leticia Van De Putte or state representative Mike Villareal keep voting with Republican leadership, either Perez or Flores may challenge them. In the off chance that Joe Farias doe not win in 118 then either men would be a strong and viable candidate for the legislature.

Haas should be setting his sites on the slew of offices in the Northeast side of Bexar County- SD 25, HD 121 and 122, and a possible Congressional race.

Hall has the appeal to run for a county position or again look to state house races. His appeal in district 8 cannot be over estimated.

While we as pundits are trying to be more prophet than professional, realize we are making assumptions about 07’s local race and 08’s presidential cycle before this election cycle has really started.

Whether Harberger runs or everyone else does let’s keep our eyes on the ball and win this November.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

$250,000 and the State Party Chair Race

$250,000. That was all the talk yesterday.

During the end of Molly Beth Malcolm’s term as Party Chair or at the beginning of Charles Soechting’s, the party was given a substantial gift in order to develop party infrastructure. The State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC), voted to set aside the funds for a permanent office for party use.

Needless to say, the money was used for election purposes and general office upkeep instead.

This has always been a very public point of friction with certain activists, campaigns, and SDEC members. While Soechting publicly and privately apologized for his disregard of the SDEC vote, he was able to net house seats for the first time since the Democrats lost control of the Texas legislature. Something often overlooked in Soechting’s tenure as party leader.

Dennis Speight, vice-chair of the finance committee and vocal Boyd Richie endorser, send out an odd memorandum to “2006 Delegates, Alternates, and Activist” titled “How Boyd Richie fixed Charles Soechting’s money problem”.
In late 2004 and January 2005, Sub-Committee Chairman Boyd Richie called a meeting to study the books with the Comptroller of the party both with the presence of the State Chair and without. The sub-committee discovered the party was clearly in bad financial shape after the 2004 elections. We also discovered that the $250,000 that was voted to be set aside for a future home for the TDP had been spent. It had been spent on normal everyday expenses at the party like payroll, telephones and rent. The party also spent nearly $100,000 on campaign activities like mail during the 2004 election cycle on House races including Hubert Vo, David Lebowitz and Mark Strama, all races that we won. These expenditures had no over-sight from the SDEC, except by the State Chairman himself.
Now here comes the disclaimer. I am a Glen Maxey and Charlie Urbina-Jones supporter and enjoy their vision. I appreciate the hard work and extensive traveling that both men are doing in their quest to rebuild the party.

However, Interim Chair Richie’s “fix” was the simple fact that he did the job he was appointed to do and doing it AFTER the money was already gone. He stepped up the fundraising and edited rules that were already in existence.

Where is the fix? As chair of the committee, how much did he raise and why was fundraising not originally written into the plan? Do we only need $250,000 to win back the legislature, the US Congressional delegation, and the dozens of statewide offices?

Rule changes are a necessary and often boring part of any statewide political machine. Vision and foresight to check on our budget more than once a year and to fundraise regardless of how much is in the bank is crucial for success.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vacation Style Open Thread

I am recharging my battery and recovering from the exhausting legislature. It is better to have a happy Matt for the campaigns and convention, than a grouchy, tired, angry Matt, right?

Let's talk about what you would like to take a vacation from. Where you would want to go? Best vacation ever?

Heck, let's just keep the place fresh while I am gone for the weekend.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Building, Building Everywhere

Construction is on the minds of the ACCD Board and Mayor Phil Hardberger. While Mayor Hadberger is giving it to a “substantial minority”, the ACCD Board is just trying to set some guidelines for on how to spend the money San Antonio voters gave them.

Mayor Hardberger has clearly tried to transform the city in his first term. From ensuring that the Texas A&M satilate campus is established, to getting Washington Mutual in town, going all the way to the extravagant New Orleans Saint and Florida Marlins proposals.

Now it is remodeling a downtown plaza.

The first proposal would have closed down Dolorosa and Commerce (two main downtown roads).
The biggest concern for opponents was Commerce, which handles up to 18,000 vehicles per day and is the busiest street bordering the plaza. Dolorosa, for its part, takes on 13,800 vehicles a day.
The new compromise has appeased some but not Frost Bank’s Tom Frost, Mark Penner, and other local businesses.

The votes in city council is expected in mid-June and it few are expected to notice.

The ACCD board is more boring and twice as confusing. Some say we are eliminating competition while others think we are getting contractors involved in the process earlier.
Jim Rindfuss reminded his colleagues that the method, construction manager at-risk, played a role in a bribery scandal three years ago that ended with the indictment of three former board members. In that case, trustees used the method to award architect Louis Cruz a $14.4 million contract based on questionable criteria.

"We are returning to the very thing that put ACCD in the hole," Rindfuss fumed.
No one else on the board or on the citizen’s advisory panel has public agreed with Rindfuss, but some are concerned with the bid delivery method that could favor larger contractors and individuals with ties to the bid.

The first round of contracts has an estimated cost of $22 million, and it should be a good test case to see how easy it is to bribe the board again. The question is how easy does the board want it to be… again…

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sine Die, Sad Day

Oh how 29 days flies when you read fiscal markers and map strategy. Yesterday the legislature wrapped a 30-day call with 24 hours to spare.

Some are hailing Sine Die as an accomplishment of bipartisan cooperation. Others, point to a $10.5 Billion deficit already in place for 2008.

April 17th marks the date that Warren Chisum filed his self proclaimed "get out of dodge bill" that would buy down property taxes with the unused education funds and appease the Supreme Court until the January regular session. The original fiscal note of the bill is about $2.4 billion for the next two years. Once the legislation was enrolled and sent to the Governor’s desk, the two-year marker was estimated at nearly $4 billion dollars.

In 29 days the fiscal marker jumped nearly 100% to buy down property taxes, and this is were the argument of the tax cut comes in.

Three days later, Speaker Tom Craddick institutes a rule vote that will require the House to ignore education funding and forces the focus entirely on property tax reduction. With this rule in place, tax hawks, teachers groups, and education supporters are playing with an uneven deck.

This rule vote made HB 2 increasingly likely to pass and forces all revenues to go to property tax. The shell game starts.

HB 2 mandates that the tax on your car, your tobacco products, and the increased tax on businesses that do not own their property, will all be shuffled over to HB 1. All the low hanging fruit taxes are gone. In order to ensure the property tax level is reached in HB 1 groups are suggesting that a sales tax will be inevitable in the 2007 session, and this will still only resolve the property tax issue and not the education issue.

HB3 and the franchise tax is the most interesting piece of the “tax legislation”. It created an interesting windfall for large corporations. Your apartment complex owners, strip mall owners, and mega corporations like Exxon-Mobil will get tax breaks. In 2007, Utilities will see a net tax break of $90.4 million, Insurance/Finance/Real Estate will get $227.5 million, and Manufacturing will see $114.6 million. This is close tot eh $400 million originally budgeted for education.

In the wave of record-breaking profits, I am glad the state found some time to give them tax cuts.

On the other hand, your local dry cleaner, family restaurant, farmers market, or corner store will be paying the same rent while their landowner is paying less.

The worst part is that in 2007 HB 3 will lose about $2 million and in 2008 it will net about $3.3 billion-- $700 million less than the fiscal note on HB1.

HB 4 and 5 are merely attempts to find $700 million somewhere. HB 4’s enrolled fiscal note (liar’s affidavit) is only $30 million and HB 5 (tobacco tax) is only $432 million.

Even the House estimates do not match up to the most conservative estimates in HB1. There is already a gap between the tax increase and the property reduction.

This November legislators will campaign on property tax reduction and legislative success, but they have put the burden on the next session and the future of the state. We don’t have extra cash lying around now, and we have a commitment to buy down property taxes to a $1.

Yes it is true that property owners will see a reduction in their property taxes, but business (especially small and family firms) are getting hit with one of the largest tax increases in history. If you plan on selling your car and grabbing a pack of smokes, I hope you own your house or you just paying for someone else to get a tax break.

ITPT has the articles to what the largest papers in the state are saying, but the legislature took the easy way out now for a much harder road tomorrow.

Watching Washington: Diversion Style

Monday, May 15, 2006

PEAR Analysis on the Legislative Windfalls

Public Education Advocates' Report (PEAR) has more to say on how the special session went down. I wish I had been receiving these the whole session, but it is good to see the infrastructure is now in place for January.

Monday’s Bottom Line–
  • “Buyer’s Remorse” is Already Setting In.
  • That Giant Sucking Sound You Hear is the Future.
The Legislature has dug itself into a huge hole. As the respected political newsletter Texas Weekly says, “The most important program in Texas state government is now local school property tax relief. … Job One next session will be to make sure there's enough money going to that relief; other state programs will be in line.”

Let’s review the math: The cost of buying property taxes down to the $1.00 level will be $31 billion over five years. The revenue from the new menu of taxes adopted by the Lege this session is a little over $18 billion over five years. The gap between the two is $13 billion.

As the session ends, the message to our legislators, our members and allies, and the general public must be clear:
  • This plan does almost nothing for schools, and makes adequate, equitable funding from the State even more precarious in the future.
  • Because it focuses on local property tax cuts instead of necessary education funding, it will accomplish neither in the long run. Property taxes will have to increase as schools struggle with enrollment growth, inflation, old textbooks, technology needs, higher transportation costs, and crumbling infrastructure.
  • This plan is a budget-buster for the future, and will force the Legislature to drastically cut services or increase taxes in all areas of state government.

Bush to Address Public on Immigration

President Bush has decided to grace us with his presence in a TV rare appearance tonight at 7 p.m. Bush will lay out plans on immigration from inside the oval office of the White House.

Traditionally, Bush has only discussed terrorism and war from inside the oval office, and tonight will likely be no different. Bush has already given into radical hardliners and will be sending approximately 10,000 National Guard troops to patrol the frontier border between Mexico and America.

Tonight's press stunt appears to show the public and Congress that the Bush administration is still relevant. Congressional leaders and the majority have been drifting away from the President as his poll numbers have fallen, and now that he is barely cracking the 30% mark the communications staff is just trying to show that Bush is doing something.

Mexico's President Vicente Fox has already told Bush that he is nervous about militarizing the 2,000 mile border between US and Mexico, and the Democrats will likely make this yet another issue to discuss during Gen Michael Hayden's hearing to take over the CIA.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Legislative "Successes" Harm Texas

Tax Holiday for Big Oil, Big Insurance, Big Utilities

We came here to help the school children of Texas. Instead, we are giving big oil companies, big insurance companies, and big utilities the Texas 2007 Year-Long, $400 Million Dollar Tax Holiday.

By cutting property taxes immediately but delaying the new business tax plan until 2008, these big businesses will save about $400 million in taxes next year. $400 million.

Is it just coincidence that $400 million is the amount we have cut from our $1.8 billion promise to Texas schoolchildren, a promise already in the state budget?

Like bullies on the playground, we are taking $400 million from our children and giving it to the oil companies, the insurance companies, the utility companies and others.

Those are the very industries making record profits by charging $3 for a gallon of gas, by making car, home and health insurance unaffordable, by forcing many in Texans to turn off their lights so they can buy food.

[Note: The $400 million tax holiday windfall for 2007 is based on the LBB’s tax equity note on HB1 as engrossed by the House.]

Schools Promised $1.8 billion – We Shortchanged them by $400 million

HB 1 gives our school children a moldy old hot dog and awards big business a thick, juicy steak, baked potato, salad and martini.

Our current appropriations bill locked away $1.8 billion for education. Mr. Pitts reassured us right here on the House floor that we were putting a fence around that money. We are tearing down that fence and breaking into that lockbox. We are stealing $400 million for the governor’s friends in big business. We are telling teachers and school children to be happy for their hot dogs.

In HB2 We Will Slam the Door on Future Spending for Education, Health and Other Critical Needs

If it’s not bad enough to break promises and steal from school children, we’re going to pass HB2 that prohibits the use of business tax revenue for schools, CHIP or any other critical need. We are slamming the door in the faces of our school kids. We are telling businesses that don’t have any responsibility for educating our future workforce.

We Are Taking Way Local Control, Privatizing Schools, Changing School Board Election Days

And, hoping no one is looking, we are using a property tax bill to authorize private companies to take over public schools. We are changing school board election dates for no good reason except some extremists want to. We are dismissing local control.

Here’s a question. What tax category will these new multi-billion private school companies fall into?

And does it make any since to shortchange our schools, guaranteeing that some will fail, and then turn over those schools to private companies who will be held to lower standards?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

PEAR Responds to Senate Vote


To all progressive leaders and activists in Texas:
  • Progressive leaders (that’s you) might be excused for not paying careful attention to the special session on property tax reduction. After all, education issues – and particularly school finance – are intricate and, frankly, boring. More importantly, they really do not affect (INSERT YOUR INTEREST HERE – environment, hunger, CHIP, higher education, criminal justice, etc.) at all – OR DO THEY?
  • The Perry Plan dedicates all revenues from the new sources of state income (the business margins tax, the used car sales tax, and the increased cigarette taxes) to property tax reduction. Period. Since the business margins tax replaces the franchise tax, which means there’s already $4 billion a biennium less available for all the needs of the state.
  • The Perry Plan also promises property tax reductions down to $1.00, regardless of whether the new revenues are adequate to pay for them. And, according to the Comptroller, the gap between the total cost of the property tax reductions and the revenues from the new sources will be $13 billion over the next five years! Look at Nifty Chart #1 from Representative Garnet Coleman’s office at the end of this memo. Nifty Chart #2 shows the year-by-year gap in the state budget under the Perry Plan.
  • Here’s the bottom line: Beginning next session, you will be competing for resources with a smaller pool of available revenues, and against a hungry, multi-billion dollar monster called “property tax reductions.” Where will any money come from? You’ll be asking your allies in the Legislature to raise sales taxes to pay for your priorities.
  • What you can do: Get off your ass. Now. The critical vote may happen tonight!
    • Contact your State Representative and ask him or her to vote NO ON CONCURRENCE WITH CSHB 1.
    • Contact your organization’s leaders and members, asking them to contact their representatives to vote NO on concurrence with CSHB 1. We will be sending you talking points for your communications very soon.

Special Session Run Down

Good news, we have a stronger equity system; Philip can tell you all about the bad news. I warn you, it is not for the faint of heart.

Last night was busy for the Senate and while nobody was watching, HB 1 passed with some horrid effects, however it did pass unanimously so we can only blame everyone.

The Express-News has an article that glows with the achievment of the Senate. It reads like the Dewhurst/Craddick Campaign Committee wrote it.
The deal on equity was reached among key senators and assured Senate passage of the bill — part of a package of tax cuts designed to meet a Texas Supreme Court ruling and a June 1 deadline to change the state's school funding system.

"I'm getting thumbs-up from all of San Antonio," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, after phone calls from her Senate floor desk to superintendents in the Northside, North East, San Antonio and Edgewood school districts.
Craddick is pushing for it to stay out of conference committee and go straight to the governors desk. This would give him more time to twist arms on HB 2.

HB 2 is in conference committee today, but should still make it to the Governor's desk by tomorrow. Democrats are uneasy about the fact that a sales tax might be on the way, but the concern in conference is whether HB 2 properly dedicates all the money raised from new taxes to buying down property taxes.

According to the Quorum Report:
The bill’s author, Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), said that questions remained as to whether the Senate amendments were in keeping with the will of the House to dedicate all of the revenue growth from HB 3, HB 4 and HB 5 toward property tax relief. Speaker Tom Craddick said he shook hands about noon Wednesday with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on an agreement to remove language reallocating tax revenues after the tax rate gets below 75 cents.

The move was questioned by three Democrats, Pete Gallego (Alpine), Garnet Coleman (Houston) and Sylvester Turner (Houston). They criticized the Republican leadership for not providing for future growth in spending on public education. Democrats are also concerned that so much revenue is being dedicated to property tax relief that the Legislature will need to raise the sales tax to meet other current needs.

The conferees from the House are Pitts, Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) and Beverly Woolley (R-Houston).
With that conference, I have little doubt Craddick will get his way. It looks like schools, teachers, and students are going to lose out again. My hat goes off to the leadership who was able to pass the largest tax increase in history and still didn’t find a way to help out the average Texan.

Just to put it into perspective: our schools are no better off and the average Bexar County homeowner with a house valued at $117,300 would save about $174 next year.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: One Term for Mayor Hardberger

The rumormill site, San Antonio Lightning, is reporting that current Mayor Phil Hardberger will not seek a second term.

This puts Julian Castro as the favorite for the '07 election with current city council members Roger Flores, Richard Perez, Art Hall, and Chip Haas all in the hunt. I wouldn't be surprised if Roland Gutierrez gets in so he can improve his chances instead of running against an incumbent.

If the rumor pans out, expect immediate analysis. The site says there willLink be more news at 9 p.m. tonight.

UPDATE: Matt Flores has Christian Archer's response and The Jeff has their thoughts.

UPDATE: Shenanigans, here is TJ trying to explain what happend.

Afternoon New Round Up

So much news going on, and so many good writers. Here is a brief round up of some recent headlines. If you aren't reading Capitol Annex or getting Vince's from the blog's round up, there is something missing in your life and you never knew it.
Did I miss anything worth reading?

One Man's Advantage is Another's Speaking Event

I am officially offering my service to Klein High School in Spring or Trinity University in San Antonio. My resume includes on-going political experience and no job title of merit. If you would like me to speak at either graduation cermoney please contact me and

Sounds crazy? Well apparently merely graduating and working a short time in a political office is enough to be able talk to a full room of graduates. Republican candidate George Antuna doesn't have much of a resume, but he was the keynote speaker at the Texas A&M satellite school in San Antonio-- launching the future generation of leaders into the world.

Antuna is been garnering a lot of press lately and been given some odd and advantageous opportunities. I can’t figure it out either. Why is the FORMER political staffer and currently unemployed candidate (a man who has told voters he is a butcher) talking to college graduates in an economically disadvantageous area? Time to inspire them George. Tell them your success story.

Democratic candidate Joe Farias has shown true integrity during this. The Express-News’ blog Strange Bedfellows quote Farias saying, "Nothing surprises me or upsets me," Farias said. "I feel more for the elected officials of that area that should've been invited to speak but weren't."

The most striking thing is that the district has close to 50% of the CPS retirees, has a largee veteran population, and has schools in need of leadership like Carlos Uresti.
I have been told Farias has worked with and for CPS, he is a veteran, he has served three terms as a Harlandale Board member. Most importantly, Farias won out right in a four man primary, while Antuna had to go to a runoff.

With a resume like Farias, Antuna could use all the help he can get for the November election.

What PEAR is Saying Today

Wednesday’s Bottom Line –
Senators should get the message: no backpedaling on equalization as negotiations continue.

  • The conference committee report on CSHB 4 was adopted by both houses Monday. CSHB 4 is the “liar’s affidavit” bill that changes the way used car transactions are treated for sales tax purposes. The House and the Senate had each modified the original bills to address an issue over insurance valuation of “totaled” cars, and were not able to resolve their differences. The CCR does not mention that issue.
  • The Senate debated CSHB 2 Tuesday. The bill had been returned from the House on a point of order. Senator Williams offered an amendment to flow a portion of funds generated through the guaranteed yield rather than the basic allotment which, after some sound and fury, was adopted. The amended bill passed the Senate 20-10 and now goes back to the House.
  • The Senate Finance Committee has reported out CSHB 1, and the battle over recapture moves from the committee to the full Senate. After two days of negotiations, the differences are still unresolved.
    • The Duncan-Staples amendment allows equalization but endangers recapture. It does that by allowing wealthier districts to keep the revenue from additional tax effort (up to four cents) and having the state kick in money to equalize for poorer districts.
    • Here’s the problem: If CSHB 1 survives the Senate and goes back to the House, then recapture will be on the table in conference. So it’s important for Senate members to insist that no bill comes to the floor of the Senate until there’s a guarantee that the Senate version, and specifically the state-funded equalization enhancements, survives any conference committee process.
    • If Dewhurst, Shapiro, et al. cannot make that promise, then CSHB 1 deserves to die. Remember, many of the Senate “add-ons” are problematic:
      • The Magical Disappearing Pay Raise. CSHB 1 promises a pay raise to teachers, but does not give them enough to recover from cuts over the last three years. Plus, it takes away health benefits from 300,000 school support staff like cafeteria workers and janitors.
      • Hey, buddy, wanna buy a school? CSHB 1 proposes to turn schools over to private, so-called “not-for-profit” companies that will manage the schools. If you think HMOs have made your health care better, you’ll love this idea!
      • Support real accountability. Focus on student achievement, not on teaching to the tests. For instance, eliminate the provision tying a school’s funding to English immersion programs, which sacrifice overall education for “gaming” yet another standardized test.
      • Local control. CSHB 1 mandates a uniform start date for the school year and makes it harder for school districts to set tax rates without expensive, time-consuming voter approval.

Message to Senators: Equalization is non-negotiable, and their voters will let them know that if they allow it to be undermined.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why Can't They Take a Joke?

C-Span is getting in on the act. It is time to rain on the parade of those who got the joke. C-Span is asking EVERYONE to take down the video of Stephen Colbert at the press club dinner because they have a copyright on the material.

While everyone is saying "Thank You" to Colbert (if you know what is good for you, you will click on that link!), C-Span is saying "pay me" to the interested public.

I wonder if Bush's approval was anything higher than the ghastly 31% (Gallup) to 34% (CNN), would C-Span care? I doubt it. Colbert has a national audience in the millions and the buzz around the roast is huge. It is possible that the copyright of the event will double the budget for C-Span for the year.

Check out the "Thank You" site before it is too late.

San Antonio is NO Austin

With all this focus on the legislature, I didn’t realize just how busy our elected officials have been in the city of San Antonio, and unlike Austin, they are accomplishing something.

What started as just a proposal in February has become a policy in May. The city council passed a policy that allows hybrids to park for free downtown. With the recent gas spike and relief is a good one. This will also give an incentive for San Antonians to buy a hybrid instead of a huge SUV.

The city has also started floating a bond proposal that would not increase taxes, raise $550 million for road and drainage improvements and would generally help the cities infrastructure. Recently appointed City Manager Sheryl Sculley was quoted in the Express-News saying:
"We need to set up a public process because I strongly believe the citizens should be involved for it to be successful," Sculley said. "The real key is having citizens involved in identifying projects and prioritizing those projects."
Sounds good. No new taxes and improving the notorious roads and sewers of San Antonio? All we need now is a football or baseball team.

I think I know where they might be getting this money though? The city sued online hotel booking agents because they aren’t paying taxes in the Alamo City. Oops, now they will have to answer to City Attorney Michael Bernard.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Senate Clears Hurdle

From Capitol Annex, the Senate has now passed out the remaining bills. The House is planning to extend the call tomorrow to actually talk about funding education.

They have a little over a week to pay teachers, fund facilities, and get text books, and they have to do it all knowing they will be running historic deficits as soon as 2007. Where will they find the money? Your guess is as good as mine.

Repugnant Hypocrisy

(originally inspired by Karl-Thomas at Burnt Orange Report)

There are 31 Democratic Congressional candidates out of 32 seats and how do the incumbents stand up against their Democratic challengers?

Let’s start with the new leader of the Texas Republican Congressional caucus, Smokey Joe Barton.

Barton represents lobbyist, corporation, and special interests more than his constituents. As Vince Leibowitz showed us today, his conflict of interest with the oil companies is creating a “love-hate relationship”. It is important to note, that Barton receives a large chunk of change from the oil and gas lobby and at the same time he serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Conflict of interest? No way, Barton very clearly supports higher gas prices over losing his lobby money.

While Barton loves money, he hates free speech. Barton is the congressional official championing the fight on restricting the internet and making opinions like mine and yours illegal. Net neutrality is complex debate, but like so many complicated things… a lobbyist is behind its inception and the lobbyist found a champion like Barton to lean on.

But what about the people of Texas? How does Congressman Barton feel about them? Simple, if you have $2,000 lying around, you can sit on a train with him. This is Barton's idea of getting in touch with the people.

All in all, Barton loves money. His vice is his love for green and the perks of Congress (Barton is the longest serving member in Texas), and the people of his district are the ones paying for this vice.

Barton is being challenged by David Harris.

Joe Barton isn’t the only bad apple in the bunch, there is also Henry Bonilla. Bonilla is a man of conviction. He opposes immigration reform and disagrees with letting undocumented workers in the United States. Bonilla went on Meet the Press to announce his support for HR 4437 which makes any person who aides, employs, feeds, or clothes an undocumented worker a felon.

A concerned citizen of San Antonio brought up that Bonilla has a Zoe Baird problem. Under the law he is supporting, Bonilla would have made himself a felon by hiring an undocumented British nanny. Another clear example of do as I say, not as I do.

Bonilla is being challenged by Rick Bolanos.

Finally, my favorite hypocrite, Lamar Smith. Smith bought a seat on the House Ethics committee so he could make it more favorable for Tom DeLay. Smith was also a key roadblock on getting lobbying reform past the house. Instead, the house only has to announce who is buying them off 4 times a year instead of once. They can still take trips, meals, money, and favors. Good thing Smith is on the House Ethics committee and is running to become the chair of the house judiciary committee (the group that investigates congress)

Smith, the second longest serving member of the Texas Republican Caucus, has lost touch with his constituents by saying that the national anthem and items of national unity should be in English only. English only? Interesting statement when you district includes over 33% of San Antonio.

It didn’t stop there. The new TX-21 includes one of the largest universities in the nation- the University of Texas. Smith has failed students time and again by reducing pell grants and leaving child behind, that recently more students at UT protested Smith’s visit than attended his lecture.

Smith is being challenged by John Courage.

Why is it that these three Republican’s represent the worst of our current leadership. They talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. They vote for restricting rights for American’s to work, have a family, use the internet, become educated, and have open government. They are bought by the highest bidder and bail out their friends like Tom DeLay when they get in trouble.

It is time for our elected official to do more than lecture about the moral degradation of America. It is time for them to help try and fix the problem, not be the problem.

Monday Morning News Round Up

Are you tired from the weekend? It seems like there was more going on this weekend then the whole special session! Here is a quick run down some interesting news.
  • The session gears up again with added pressure.
  • Those close to CD-22 have been writing with a fury about the possible DeLay replacements. There are 7 possible selections and Kuff, Vince, and Jack have the details along with fun photoshop. It is good to see the republican party wants to avoid an election at all cost by having precinct chairs and republican insiders pick the candidate and not the same voters that will go to the polls in November.
  • A Cinco de Mayo baseball game causes a ruckus.
  • Vince selected the best blogs on the right and left this weekend and did an amazing guest post over at Dallas Blog. Thanks Vince for the amazingly kind words! It is a great read and a great way to find new sites.
  • Burnt Orange Report did great analysis on the Shane Sklar and John Courage races and the importance of the netroots.
  • Democrats are on the proactive side of legislating today in Washington as they announce a plan to prevent price gouging by oil companies.
  • The Bush administration wants to play defense today as they announced Gen Michael Hayden to be the new chief of the CIA. Democrats and Republicans are uneasy about a military official is right for spy agency.
  • In sports news, fans are uneasy with Giants' slugger Barry Bonds getting within one swing of the timber to a tie with Babe Ruth's homerun numbers. With two, Bonds becomes second on the all-time career homerun record.
  • The best news of all, the Spurs are up 1-0 over the Mavs in the second round of the playoffs.
What did I miss?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bexar County United?

North versus South sounds like a civil war story, but for the past decade it has been the two major segments of the Democratic Party of San Antonio. It has been a feud in every sense of the word.

The northside democrats were widely ignored by “consultant” and the political establishment and the southside democrats typically picked the countywide leaders or were blamed for a bad turnout.

It finally seems like change is in the air.

Last night I attended the Northeast Bexar County Democrats dinner, “Dining with Democrats” and the crowd of 125+ were joined by the party chair Carla Vela, Congressional candidate John Courage, Attorney General candidate David Van Os, State Rep Ruth Jones McClendon, Lt Gov candidate Maria Luisa Alvarado, Land Commissioner candidate VaLinda Hathcock, candidate for HD 122 Larry Stallings, and many more.

Of course there were tons of judicial candidates and sitting incumbents. County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson graced the 125 democrats with a stirring speech on the Democratic Revolution currently going on. Katelyn Werner and Jeremiah Rigsby were shown a moment of appreciation for their hard work in putting together a primary election in a time of conflict and the long time advocates and soul of the party (the women of the Bexar County Democratic Party) were given a round of applause.

It was a night of unity. Something that I have never experience in San Antonio. Larry Balser and Ian Straus put together an evening that is more than a symbol, it was the first sign in a decade that we are truly a united party.

It is true that some consultants want the party to focus on just the south. It is true that some want to rely on the blueist precincts to elect Chris Bell and Barabara Radnofsky and the numerous judicial candidates, but Carla Vela and the Northeast Bexar County Democrats put an event together that shows a larger network.

It is time the party finally becomes more than the 19 individual clubs and two parts of town. It is time that the candidates are not required to pay over priced and ineffective consultants to win. It is time for new leadership to “crash the gate” and unify the party, and last night was the first sign of that in the past decade.

Now it is a matter of the old guard consultants who only work in one part of a huge city to change their ways. It is time for a county wide strategy and a unifed party, and Carla Vela understands that. Let’s sweep the old way and the old losing consultants under the carpet and start winning.

Come See John Courage!

John Courage Campaign Open House

Sunday, May 7th
1:00pm to 5:00pm
8107 Broadway
For info call 210-602-4213

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It Just Doesn't Make Sense

Watching the legislature last week was as confusing when I was a lil lad and watched the Usual Suspects while sick.

ITP says Rep Brian McCall has the votes to become speaker in January. This adds one more name to the list of possible candidates of Pitts, Kefer, Krusee, and Craddick all say they have the votes. If Craddick does feel challenged, I would expect him to step down for family reasons and throw his support behind Krusee.

You have to wonder if this newly found support is due to the wheels falling off the bus.

Craddick put together a very smart rule that limited the debate to just property taxes. Lt Gov Dewhurst, however has been oscillating like a fan... going back and forth between wanting to treat HB2 like a Christmas tree hanging on cuts and additions of every kind and wanting nothing on the bill at all.

Now all the pressure is on the Senate to get HB 2 back to the house without Rep Williams' amendment that would divide the new taxes (2/3 for a property tax buy down and 1/3 to education). As long as that amendment is on it, the House will not consider the new bill, but Sen Shapiro has threatened to scuttle the bill if the amendment is taken off or if the Senate refuses to consider education reform.

Shapiro tried to logic and reason, and like all good legislator... they didn't get it. From the Quorum Report:
Shapiro declared that, yes, she was willing to pull down her substitute– and give up all of its proposed education reform measures– if it meant passing the Duncan-Staples amendment. The House version proposed current law for the entire enrichment tier. Shapiro said she would prefer to withdraw her bill if she knew that the money being spent in CSHB 1 “would not be spent for the good use of all the children of Texas.”

Shapiro produced a chart from the Legislative Budget Board that estimated the net cost to CSHB 1 using three scenarios with different percentages of equalization and different amounts of enrichment, by pennies, over the next five years. According to the chart, equalizing up to the 96th percentile, at 16 cents, would be $2 billion in 2011. During discussions, Shapiro referenced a two-year cost of $3.6 billion for the enrichment tier, which would have been the combined 2010 and 2011 costs, according to the chart.

To take the problems one step further, tax hawks in the Senate have gone one step further. According to Philip Martin at BOR the Senate passed a bill that would get property taxes to $1 by 2008.

It is a Grover Norquist proposal. Starve the states programs in order to force smaller ineffective government. Guess who is not happy with this idea? That's right.

Right now the special session is slated to end around May 18th, and it looked like legislators would be able to walk away solving the Supreme Court problems and increase education. However, if Lt Gov Dewhurst continues his failed leadership, Craddick fails to work with the Senate, and the Senate fails to compromise among it factions... schools just might not open next year.

Friday, May 05, 2006

HB 2 Down, But is it Out?

Rep Garnett Coleman raised a point of order on the Senate version of HB 2, and won. Because of the House rule, the Senate's dedication of 1/3 of the new taxes towards schools and teachers is not germane and cannot be considered by the House.

This will send it back to the Senate and puts all of the pressure on Lt Gov Dewhurst to pass out the foundation for the special session. The idea is for them to simply strip off the amendment, but this will force bad votes in the Senate, re-activate the education lobby, and fuel a campaign issue for November (legislature and Perry fail schools).

If Dewhurst and the Senate cannot resolve this with the House and Governor’s office, then there will be no dedicated funds to buy down property taxes as mandated by the Texas Supreme Court.

No funds for property taxes means that HB 1 is meaningless and all the new taxes from HB 3, 4, and 5 do nothing more than tax more Texans.

If HB 2 fails, the house of cards comes tumbling down, and Perry, Dewhurst, Craddick, and Strayhorn will have failed teachers, students, public schools, home owners, businessmen, people who buy and sell cars, smokers, and the average Texan. The four horsemen will increase your tax and not resolve the Supreme Courts ruling.

The main problem is that HB 2 on the House side, cannot give money to anything by property taxes and the Senate cannot figure out a way to help schools and work with the fractured leadership in the House.

UPDATE: This has just come in from the Quorum Report:

OGDEN PUTS A CALL OUT ON THE ABSENT SENATE FINANCE MEMBERS Missing include Shapiro, Janek, Deuell, Williams, Nelson and Brimer.

Chair Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) says he is waiting for eight members to start a vote on CSHB 1. Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), angry at Ogden when he refused to let her pull her substitute of HB 1, stormed out of the meeting earlier. Ogden is using his maximum authority to return her to the room.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Public Education Advocate's Report

Walked into work and was going to do a quick post on what happend yesterday (Eye On Williamson County did a great job yesterday and Philip Martin has a fantastic letter at BOR). As I was looking up all the foolish things the legislature I get an e-mail.

It appears Deece Eckstein and People For the American Way, spent some time and mapped out what they did wrong yesterday and what they need to do to help average Texans.

Today’s Bottom Line –
House members should vote NO on concurrence with House Bill 2 as it came over from the Senate.

Senate Finance Committee members need to fend off attacks on equity, sweetheart deals for wealthy school districts, and efforts to undermine local control and fiscal discipline by privatizing public education.

  • CSHB 2 comes to the House floor today. It dedicates all future revenues from the new “margins tax” on business, the “liar’s affidavit” fix on used car sales, and the tax on cigarettes exclusively to property tax reduction. It was a bad idea in the House. Even though it was modified in the Senate, it’s still a bad idea.
  • CSHB 2 ties the hands of future legislatures, no matter what emergencies or unmet needs may befall the state. If this had been in effect last summer, Governor Perry would not have been able to marshal Texas resources in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • CSHB 2 leaves higher education, transportation, health care and other areas of the state budget starving for air while a miniscule percentage of Texans sees their property taxes drop even further.
  • Message to House members: vote NO on CSHB 2.
  • The Senate Finance Committee has taken House Bill 1, which was a bad idea and made it worse. Finance Committee members need to “fix it or kill it.” How do you fix it?
  • Preserve equity. CSHB 1 is a full-frontal assault on fairness and equity in our public schools. For years, our school finance system has been based on a simple principle: my dollar of taxes will buy the same education for my kids as anyone else’s dollar of taxes. The attack on equity is coming in two forms:
    • Under Senator Shapiro’s proposal, a small number of school districts will be able to keep excessive revenues generated from lower property taxes rather than contributing to the common good.
    • So-called “incentive” programs for high school enrollment, teacher pay, and the like will benefit a few school districts and leave most neighborhood schools underfunded.
  • Don’t play games with educators. CSHB 1 promises a pay raise to teachers, but does not give them enough to recover from cuts over the last three years. Plus, it takes away health benefits from 300,000 school support staff like cafeteria workers and janitors.
  • Maintain local control. CSHB 1 proposes to turn schools over to private, for-profit companies that will “manage” the schools. If you think HMOs have made your health care better, you’ll love this idea!
  • Support real accountability. Focus on student achievement, not on teaching to the tests. For instance, eliminate the provision tying a school’s funding to English immersion programs, which sacrifice overall education for “gaming” yet another standardized test.
Message to Senators: “Fix it or kill it.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

2008 Presidential Election in Full Swing?

Former Senator Mike Gravel announced April 17th of this year (here is the video announcement) and now Rudy Giuliani is in Iowa to test the waters.

I am still way to focused on the 2006 mid-terms and the 2006 NBA championship to care much about what happens in 2008.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Senate Recap

Here is something to sleep on, HB3 passed final reading today and is headed to the Governor’s desk. No big deal, right? Just a procedural vote, right?


The buzz is that Senator Mike Jackson voted with the Democrats the first time so he could pick up some favors in Congressional District 22. The quid pro quo of the Texas legislature.

After losing the vote to suspend the rules, Lt Gov Dewhurst called for a “brief” at ease call and asked the Senate reconveneene at 2:15. The second that happened Jackson was dragged to the Governor’s office so that leadership could talk some loyalty into him. Not the silliest thing I have hear, but this is.

Around 5pm, the Senate got back to work, and one Senator was nowhere to be seen and Jackson had a change of heart.

The journal isn’t up yet and the vote isn’t recorded, but the Senate archive is up. It is interesting to watch Jackson announce his discomfort in the business tax right after he suspended the rules and voted for it. This is one of the shining examples of politics not done well. Next up, Jackson will show us how to make sausages!

The Quorum Report has a few more details on the rest of the votes taken today and the plans for the rest of the week.
Senators on Tuesday also gave final approval to two other pieces of the overall tax package. Passed on third reading were HB 2, the property tax relief fund, and HB 4, the liar’s affidavit tax.

Senators plan to discuss HB 1, next year’s property tax relief bill, and HB 5, the increased cigarette tax, tomorrow in Senate Finance.

Want to Save Twenty Cents?

San Antonio Representative Trey Martinez-Fischer wants to help you do just that. Well… not just that, but twenty cents per gallon every time you fill up your tank for the next 90 days.

Thinking outside the box, Martinez-Fischer got the idea to help his neighbor and every Texan pinched by the exploding price for gas. The idea is to call time out on state gas tax for 90 days during the summer and help families.

Martinez-Fischer hosted a conference call today saying, “this isn’t going to save a family from a financial crisis, but it will help them pay an a/c bill during a hot Texas summer.”

The proposal will use about $700 million dollars of non-appropriated funds, and may be supplemented close to $780 million from a federal government transportation payback.

If we can work this short term solution with long term taxes on industries that make it impossible to find drinkable water and give our kids asthma, we can help now and again in January when the legislature reconviens. Maybe extending the tax cuts for people that buy hybrid or zero emission vehicles?

Gas Tax Cut, the site developed for HB 120, outlines the policy, the facts, and offers some help finding the cheapest pump near you.

Senate is at Ease

...And that's not a good thing.

The Senate is moving around trying to find a single vote as Democrats have stopped a suspension of the rules. Right now Lt Gov Dewhurst and the leadership are shopping for a vote to pass HB 3.

If it is this hard to pass the business tax, imagine how hard it will be to pass HB 2 and prevent education reform.

UPDATE: Strange Bedfellows has a few more details. Seems like someone is getting spanked by daddy.

"Day Without An Immigrant" Wrap Up

Nationwide the results were as varied as the support. Going into yesterdays organized boycott, immigration leaders, media personalities, Hispanic leaders, unions, and business professionals formed two clear lines of thought—boycott and show what this country would look like with out immigrant workers (documented or not) or work and show the importance of immigrants through dialogue and the 250% increase in Hispanic purchasing power since 1990.

Both strategies occurred simultaneously and both worked.

Dos Centavos, a great site, and Kuff both have a Texas based wrap up and a full list of links for your pursuing. I highly recommend you check them out.

I started the day opposed to the rallies, but ended it with a new view on what was going on. I was skeptical that many cities would be able to recreate the magic in a bottle from the April 10th rally, but organizers captured the spark and were able to do it again yesterday. Over 15,000 rallied in San Antonio’s Milam Park, 75,000 in Denver, hundreds of thousand in LA and Chicago. First reports are saying there was a 90% decrease in trucking in LA and Denver may have seen as much as 3% loss in commercial sales and the service sector.

While some kept shops open, most allowed workers a day off if they wanted.

The most interesting impact from yesterday is the personal stories about legal immigrants across the nation. Stories on NPR include students talking about the struggles of simply living in America, Indian doctors who are treating patients in Iowa and get by on only a visa because the United States cannot issue enough green cards, and workers from African nations who come over legally but are forced to secondary service jobs because the government’s immigration policy loses people in the system.

The system is broke and instead of making it a felony to teach children, treat immigrants in hospitals, or give starving families food and water, why can’t we pass the legislation written by McCain/Kennedy?

In this reactionary time, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is trying to play dodge ball with the problem, by submitting a resolution for the consideration of the full Senate on “why the national anthem must be sung in English.”

Great way to address immigration reform Senator. Good way to NOT legislate some more.

I started out against the boycott because I was nervous about feeding unfounded stereotypes. I was hesitant to write about it because of the way it may be perceived. But truth be told, the rallies were well organized in Texas and across the nation, and the importance of the issue is only increasing.

President Bush said himself that, “mass deportation is not realistic.” Why no then work to create a path to citizenship and documentation. Allow workers and families to pay into taxes, get drivers licensees, and better themselves and the country.

For more stories on the immigration rallies visit here, here, and here.

UPDATE: Rep Pena has a birds-eye perspective on the Austin Event.

Meet Your Democratic Party

HB 3 Clears Another Hurdle with Senate Vote

If Only Carlos Uresti was already in the Senate! HB 3, the business tax, narrowly passed the second reading in the Senate with an 18-13 vote.

According to Quorum Report the stand out votes include:

Republican Sens. Kevin Eltife (Tyler), Mike Jackson (La Porte) and Kyle Janek (Houston) voted with 10 Democrats against HB 3. Democrat Sens. Ken Armbrister (Victoria) and Frank Madla (San Antonio) voted with the majority.

The Republican Party has now officially become the tax and subsidize party. This is like putting a band aide on an amputee.

Interestingly, Lt. Gov David Dewhurst is happy about the business tax hike, even though not a cent of the $3.4 billion will go to education.

Democrats Elliot Shapleigh and Gonzalo Barrientos attempted to fix education, resolve the issues with property taxes, and create a consensus, but leadership steamrolled the attempts to wait on voting on HB 3.
Sen. Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) questioned the legislation, which he called "the great Texas tax shift," with winners and losers. He claimed the new tax was in essence a business income tax and that poorer Texans would not benefit from swapping the new tax for lower property taxes.

He also complained about how the Republican leadership passed the bill out of committee, bypassing the amendment process. Shapleigh pointed out that amendments were due in at 5 but the Chairman called for a vote at 3.
The real bill to watch is HB 2 to see if ANY money can be dedicated to a teacher pay raise/bonus or at least eliminates the provision that dedicate all future revenue from the taxes in HB 3, 4, and 5.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Day Without Immigrants

Nationwide protests are gaining more momentum. While the Senate is still in deadlocked over what to do with HR 4437, workers and immigrant rights groups are showing what it looks like when there is a "day without immigrants"

San Antonio Isolationist Policies

It happened again—my computer broke. I didn’t forget about you out there and definitely still had opinions to write, but my Dell broke for the last time. I kicked it to the curb and have become a Mac user.

While my computer was breaking down, it seems like a few things in the city were breaking too.

The two leaders of our city are pushing us in a new direction of isolationism. Popular Mayor Phil Hardberger announced that San Antonio is not interested in either the Democratic or Republican National Convention in 2008, and the famous (or infamous depending on your politics) County Judge Nelson Wolff may have lost us the Florida Marlin’s bid.

Is this the new goal of San Antonio?

After years of impressive growth and expansion, we have been able to acquire a Texas A&M satellite, Washington Mutual, and a PGA golf course.

Conventions are big in San Antonio and a major source of revenue for the city.

"San Antonio is an extremely popular convention destination, and we have many large conventions scheduled for the summer months of 2008," Hardberger wrote. To accommodate either convention, he said, the city would have to find new quarters for nearly 24 conferences, many of them booked by longtime customers.

To land either party convention would pump millions of dollars of revenue into the city, spur needed infrastructure growth, and create an expanded tourism base for the future. The fact that we would have been one of 11 cities in consideration for the Democratic Convention and one of 31 for the Republican Convention can’t be overlooked either. So why not submit a bid? Do we need not need the national press or money?

With press like this, San Antonio would be able to get a national sports team. With Wolff’s recent boondogal with both the Florida Marlins and New Orleans Saints, maybe it is time for a new chief negotiator.

Wolff imposed a May 15th deadline on the Marlins which forced them into talks with Miami-Dade. These talks seem to going well since Wolff hasn’t heard a thing from them since establishing the timeline.

It is starting to seem like the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. If this continues, San Antonio will move into more and more isolationist policies harming San Antonio and its residents.