Posts belonging to Category Politics

Divide And Conquer

After giving it some thought I’ve decided to vote AGAINST the Tarrant County senior tax freeze. 

It’s not that I don’t sympathize with their situation.  But as long as we’re all going to have to pay property taxes, I want them in the same game as the rest of us.  Seniors are very politically active, and they’re very sensitive to tax increases.  In many past elections they’ve been the deciding factor in blocking various boondoggles that came up on ballots. 

They’re sort of the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to taxes, and they serve as a brake on unbridled government.  In my more cynical moments I can’t help but think that some politicians like the idea because it keeps the seniors from complaining and organizing against future bond proposals.  That they can also be seen sucking up to seniors doesn’t hurt, either.

Followup To KISD Bond…

Things got kind of hectic on Friday and I didn’t get back to the issue concerning “Citizens for Great Schools.”  However, Friday’s Keller Citizen pretty much answered the question, which rendered my request to KISD moot.  KISD, however, responded this afternoon with a copy of the committee filing.

Anyhow…  I found it rather disconcerting to see that the largest contributors to this committee have the most to gain.  Not that it’s illegal.  I haven’t studied the Texas Election Ethics sections with regards to this sort of donation, but I’d guess that these companies have vetted their contributions with their legal staff members.  It seems to me that a commercial entity with financial ties to a project ought not to be able to fund a committee for the purpose of lobbying people to vote for that project.  It just smells bad.

Citizens For Great Schools?

It’s hard to fail to notice the synchronicity of the arrival of the postcard exhorting us to vote “YES” for the two KISD propositions and the arrival of a letter from KISD Superintendent James Veitenheimer on KISD letterhead. 

I noticed that the postcard (addressed to “CONCERNED KELLER CITIZEN”) says that it is a Political Advertisment Paid For By Citizens For Great Schools.  I tried to find out more information about this political committee, and all I could find was a passing mention in a Star Telegram article about the KISD stadium.

When the stadium opened, it met standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Veitenheimer said. But times have changed, and so have the standards. Once the five parking spaces for handicapped people are filled, people must park at least 200 feet away. Handicapped seating is another problem, Veitenheimer said. The stadium has about 40 handicapped-accessible seats on the concourse, which is basically the bottom floor of the bleachers. Watching the game, however, is difficult because fans constantly walk in front of the seats. “This is no longer acceptable,” said David Vasquez, a member of Citizens for Great Schools, a bond support group that is mailing information to voters.  (emphasis added)

A little bit more searching shows that Mr. Vasquez is a member of the KISD Citizens Bond Advisory Committee as well as a founding member and a director of the Keller ISD Foundation (please note use of “it’s” on main page…  cool grin  … sorry, can’t help myself…).

I’m not trying to be a muckracker here.  It’s just that when I saw this group’s name I wanted to know more about it as well as who was funding them.  The first thing I looked for was a website (hence the Google search).  I was a little surprised that they didn’t have one, since it’s an easy and inexpensive way to provide information about your position.

Since they appear to be a political committee I took a look at those rules to see how I could get more information.  If they spent or took in more than $500 they’re required to file an appointment of a campaign treasurer with the appropriate filing authority (in this case, the secretary of the school board). 

I have submitted an email to inquire about whether they’ve filed an appointment of campaign treasurer and how to examine the documents, if they have done so (no thanks to the KISD contact form, though, which ate my request and appears to have sent it to /dev/null).

Which reminds me about the “BondQuestions” address that Dr. Veitenheimer referenced once again in his most recent letter.  I’m a bit curious as to whether anyone is actually monitoring it since I sent a question there 7 days ago and have yet to receive any feedback (not even a “we read your message and will get back to you” message).  Or maybe it’s just us cantankerous CAVEs who get ignored.  blank stare

My question concerned getting a breakdown of what went into the cost estimate of the new high school.  I really, really want to know just what’s driving that huge cost estimate.  Was this addressed in one of the “community forum” sessions they held that I couldn’t make?  Or is it just something they don’t want to discuss?  I certainly didn’t see anything that addressed the issue in that nice, glossy, mailer (how much did that cost us?) they sent last week, nor did I see anything in the information provided on their website.

Election 2006: Due Diligence

It’s a non-trivial exercise, but I try to go through the ballot ahead of time and at least take a look at the candidates’ positions via their websites, if available. We’ve got a ton of offices that you don’t hear anything about until election time and I can’t really keep up with all of them, so it helps to refresh my memory just before going to vote.

The following list is based on the Tarrant county “generic” Sample Ballot (PDF), customized for my own districts and leaving out all uncontested races.

My method for finding websites was to enter the candidate’s name in Google and scan the first page for a result. If nothing looked likely (i.e. the candidate has a very common name), I added the title of the office being sought to the query and tried again. For incumbents without a campaign page I linked to their “official” bio, if one was available.

Stupid Season: Like Javelinas In Heat

Like a political episode of Itchy and Scratchy, the candidates for Texas governor are whacking each other over the head with successively bigger and nastier allegations. 

My take so far is that I’m annoyed at all of them.

Chris Bell lost me when he started running commercials about the “Texas that’s in our hearts.”  Whenever I see a politician making doe eyes at the voters and talking about what’s “in our hearts,” I grab my wallet because the bastard is trying to distract you while he’s reaching for it.  Further, I find it rather ironic that someone who’s taken millions of dollars from a trial lawyer has the nerve to call the current governor corrupt. 

Not that Rick Perry is above reproach when it comes to the appearance of corruption.  The trans-Texas corridor deal has a bit of a whiff surrounding it.  I do have to give Perry credit for the “one giant Washington liberal” commercial against Bell, though.  But then Bell opened himself up to it with the silly BellZilla commercials with him sitting on the capitol building or standing next to the skyscrapers in downtown Austin. 

I still don’t know what Kinky Friedman stands for, other than gambling and putting Willie Nelson in charge of energy/transportation policy.  I guess that’s not a bad choice, since all we have to do is keep Willie well stocked with prime bud and we won’t hear from him until the next election.  cool smirk  I can also credit Kinky for the title of this post (or at least part of it).

Carole Keeton Strayhorn lost me when she was endorsed by two teachers’ unions.  This was doubly reinforced by the constipated, angry teacher commercial that those unions have been running.

What a mess.  I guess I can fall back on my single issue of interest for guidance, which means Perry, as he’s signed the car-carry legislation and opened up reciprocity considerably since he came to office.  He also seems to be pissing off the right people on immigration.  I still don’t quite trust him, though.  He’s just a bit too slick (and there’s the ever-persistent undertone that there’s nothing much under the hair).

Anyhow… I think I’m going to have to avoid answering the phone and only watch TV in DVR mode until the election is over.  The phone calls and incessant negative ads are just getting to be too irritating.


I may have occasionally griped about delayed garbage collection, but I do acknowledge that our scheme is a pretty good one when I compare it to some of other locations.

But the award for most complicated and unsanitary scheme probably goes to Cambridge, England, as noted by Paul Woods at the Adam Smith Institute.

My local city council’s explanation of its new refuse collection system is remarkably complicated. We have a black bin (or white bags), a black box, a green bin (or brown sacks) and a blue box involved. Not only are we expected to remember what type of rubbish goes in which bin or bag, but also which two sit on the street together and whether it’s week one for the first combination or week two.

Living in a house with three people easily creates more than three normal kitchen bin bags full of rubbish each week. Because of my council’s new system, this means that the day before collection, I’m looking at six bags of rubbish in my back yard, three of which have been there for more than a week. It’s unhygienic and it’s ugly. I’m fortunate enough to have a large back yard which holds the bags easily, but many people on my street do not. Their back yards will be fully occupied with bin bags the day before collection. And that’s without thinking of space in which to store bottles, paper and plastics.

I would hate to have to keep stuff for up to two weeks.  Not only is there a logistics problem of where to keep the stuff, it can be unsanitary and unsightly.  Will the town council reimburse them for their extra extermination and rodent-killing costs? 

I wonder why they had to make it so hard?  Or, conversely, how can Allied Waste handle collecting our garbage twice a week and separating our mixed recyclables for $8.91 per month?

Smells Like Teen Spirit…

From the “tit-for-tat” department

Monty Snow at Keller City Limits has written about some interesting comments made by a council member and the mayor concerning the new fire station. 

In particular, consider the mayor’s comments (The Keller Citizen, Friday, October 6, 2006, Volume 27, No. 10, Page 7A—Not Available Online):

Mayor Julie Tandy agreed that more data should be presented on the need for the station.  “Citizens want to know what they’re getting for their money,” she said.  “It’s a longterm commitment.  At the end of the day, the building is a small part of it.”

She wondered if the project should be placed in the hands of the voters.  “As the community has evolved, they have a great interest in the buy-in,” she said.  “That’s another reason to get numbers.”

Smells a little like library payback to me.  Many of us who opposed the library thought it was a case of misplaced priorities and that items like the new fire station and frozen fire and police positions were more important at the time.  And I certainly still think that’s the case.  But where I find this particular cry of “send it to the voters” disingenuous is that it concerns a core city government function, rather than a peripheral item like the library.  Honestly, I find it odious that the mayor would attempt to hold an important public safety component hostage in an attempt to make a political point. 

But if it takes a vote to make her happy, then so be it.  Let’s get it going.  Put it on the ballot.  I don’t object to a vote.  In fact, I know that I’ve said that government in general shouldn’t be able to create large debts or obligations without public approval, so I’m willing to stand behind that.

Oh?  And even if this fire station causes a tax increase, I’m STILL likely to vote for it because, unlike art and libraries, it’s a CORE CITY FUNCTION. 

On a more serious note, though, I can’t help but think that the folks at Keller Fire-Rescue have done too good a job looking out for the citizens of Keller, to the point that certain factions find it convenient to forget their needs in doing that job.  Keller has negotiated mutual-aid compacts with surrounding cities so that response times have been maintained by calling on those cities when all Keller units are already working. 

Most people don’t think about Fire-Rescue’s resources because they just always seem to be there.  But consider that Keller, a city of approximately 36,328 residents, has only two fire stations.  There are two medic units (one at each station).  For fire apparatus, the city has a 100-ft ladder truck (T583, housed at station 3), a quint (at station 2), an engine (E582 at station 2), and one or two brush trucks (or so I recall, I’m working off of memory here).  All it takes is two major accidents, or a large fire to completely use up all of our resources, at which point we rely on Colleyville,  Southlake, or one of the other surrounding cities.  The same holds true for those cities—if they have a major incident Keller will respond, which means someone else (yet another city) has to backfill Keller if there’s an incident here.

I often listen to the Keller talkgroups on the Northeast Tarrant Public Service system on my scanner.  It’s interesting to hear the patterns that arise.  All it takes are the traditional Friday afternoon wrecks to tie up our Fire-Rescue folks (i.e. one major at 1709/Keller-Smithfield and another on 377 somewhere).  It’s interesting that they seem to come in around 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, usually within a few minutes of each other (although fortunately it hasn’t done so today… yet).

We’ve just been extraordinarily lucky that response times have been maintained so far.  If we reach the projected population of 40,127 by 2010 (one year after the new station is projected to be in service), we’ll just barely be keeping up with demand.

Slowly Sinking The Statist Ship

I haven’t taken the time to read the actual text of the bill, but this announcement marks an interesting turnaround in disaster-related firearms policy.

Fairfax, VA- The National Rifle Association (NRA) and law-abiding gun owners scored a significant victory yesterday when the United States Congress acted to prohibit the confiscation of legal firearms from law-abiding citizens during states of emergency, barring practices conducted by officials in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This action was included in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that passed both chambers of Congress. This bill now heads to President Bush for his expected signature.

I remember some years ago that CDC was pushing a rather odious idea known as the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (which later came under the “Turning Point National Collaborative on Public Health Statute Modernization”).  The model legislation had been around for a while, and 9/11 gave them the excuse to push it under the guise of homeland security.  Here’s a brief summary of the key points of the act (emphasis added):

Under the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, upon the declaration of a “public health emergency,” governors and public health officials would be empowered to:

  1. Force individuals suspected of harboring an “infectious disease” to undergo medical examinations.
  2. Track and share an individual’s personal health information, including genetic information.
  3. Force persons to be vaccinated, treated, or quarantined for infectious diseases.
  4. Mandate that all health care providers report all cases of persons who harbor any illness or health condition that may be caused by an epidemic or an infectious agent and might pose a “substantial risk” to a “significant number of people or cause a long-term disability.” (Note: Neither “substantial risk” nor “significant number” are defined in the draft.)
  5. Force pharmacists to report any unusual or any increased prescription rates that may be caused by epidemic diseases.
  6. Preempt existing state laws, rules and regulations, including those relating to privacy, medical licensure, and—this is key—property rights.
  7. Control public and private property during a public health emergency, including pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, nursing homes, other health care facilities, and communications devices.
  8. Mobilize all or any part of the “organized militia into service to the state to help enforce the state’s orders.”
  9. Ration firearms, explosives, food, fuel and alcoholic beverages, among other commodities.
  10. Impose fines and penalties to enforce their orders

Sometimes I really worry about “health professionals.”  So often when you scratch the surface of one you run into an unalloyed statist, and this proposal is just more of the same (it’s interesting to note that one of the key players in this nonsense was also deeply involved in the Hillarycare debacle). 

I can only hope that this new legislation overrides or invalidates any confiscation-related firearm provisions that might have been adopted in various states:

As of July 15, 2006, thirty-two (32) states have introduced a total of one-hundred and three (103) legislative bills or resolutions that are based upon or feature provisions related to the Articles or sections of the Turning Point Act. Of these bills, thirty-nine (39) have passed.

A lot of the provisions that have passed were related to reporting of diseases, so you’d have to check state-by-state for emergency firearms laws.  But that this passed is a positive step in the direction of invalidating odious laws.

Update.  The new law forbids the Federal government, or anyone working for or on behalf of (takes Federal funds), from confiscating firearms, etc.

No officer or employee of the United States (including any member of the uniformed services), or person operating pursuant to or under color of Federal law, or receiving Federal funds, or under control of any Federal official, or providing services to such an officer, employee, or other person, while acting in support of relief from a major disaster or emergency, may—
‘‘(1) temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize seizure of, any firearm the possession of which is not prohibited under Federal, State, or local law, other than for forfeiture in compliance with Federal law or as evidence in a criminal investigation;
‘‘(2) require registration of any firearm for which registration is not required by Federal, State, or local law;
‘‘(3) prohibit possession of any firearm, or promulgate any rule, regulation, or order prohibiting possession of any firearm, in any place or by any person where such possession is not otherwise prohibited by Federal, State, or local law; or
‘‘(4) prohibit the carrying of firearms by any person otherwise authorized to carry firearms under Federal, State, or local law, solely because such person is operating under the direction, control, or supervision of a Federal agency in support of relief from the major disaster or emergency.
‘‘(b) LIMITATION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person in subsection (a) from requiring the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entry into any mode of transportation used for rescue or evacuation during a major disaster or emergency, provided that such temporarily surrendered firearm is returned at the completion of such rescue or evacuation.”

The repeated references to “Federal, State, or local law” have me wondering, though.  Reading (3), it would appear that if a state passed a law in advance that gave the police power to confiscate firearms in an emergency, that it might just fall under the “not otherwise prohibited by Federal, State, or local law” phrasing.  I suppose the proof will be in whether we see anyone actually win a suit based on this law and the size of the verdict (it’s somewhat telling that no criminal liability appears to be attached to violation of the new statute).

Save Your Ammo For A Real Battle

I’m probably one of the more irreligious people you’ll find, yet I can’t find the energy to get worked up over Gideons Bibles being available at Rockwall High.

Students say it would be one thing if a private religious school allowed Bibles to be passed out. But for it to happen at a public school raises constitutional questions.

When FOX 4 arrived at Rockwall High, school was just letting out, and the folks with the Gideons Bible company were just packing up. The company estimates it handed out roughly 2,000 Bibles, which is practically the entire student body.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said student Darren Childs. “I walked into school and there, right on top of a table with our school colors, are Bibles and they’re being passed out.”

From what I saw on the TV this morning, they’re simply available on a table in an area where groups commonly put out literature.  No one was passing them out in class and no one was forced to take one.  It seems to me that as long as Rockwall ISD’s policy for the use of this area is content-neutral, there’s no harm in it.  But to hear the tone of that last student you’d think they were passing out porn or something.

Heck, I remember getting these things issued to us in class (remember the little red bibles?) when I was in school.  I actually kind of liked it, as I like free stuff (except for all the free fungus in the air right now).  I also recall some groups handing out English translations of the Koran when I was in college (at a state school).  That didn’t bother me, either (except for the fact that the damn thing was so obtusely written as to be unreadable).

Now if you want to talk violations, we can mention the fifth grade teacher I had who decided BoR and SCOTUS-be-damned that we were going to have a prayer every day… 

Nattering Nabobs of No Electricity

Just as we finally conclude a long run of sweltering days, complete with record power usage, Mayor Mommy and friends come out to obstruct TXU’s plans to construct new power plants.

Voicing concern about air quality and global warming, Mayor Bill White and other top city officials in Texas announced Thursday that they will fight plans to build more than a dozen coal-burning power plants across the state.

The Texas Cities for Clean Air Coalition, spearheaded by Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, hopes to encourage companies planning to build those plants to use cleaner technologies, such as natural gas, to run the plants and meet the state’s power needs.

I have zero tolerance for this kind of nonsense.  TXU is taking steps to make these new plants cleaner than the old ones, but it never seems to be enough for some people.  The minute you mention coal they lose their minds.  They also whine and make noises about “affordable” options, but they’ve taken the most affordable one off the table.  Ultimately, if they get their way, not only will TXU be delayed in building power plants, but they’ll likely be more costly to build and more costly to operate, which translates as even higher rates.  Doesn’t sound very “affordable” to me.  And along the way their obstructionist delays could force us past the point where ERCOT has to institute rolling blackouts to save the grid.  We came within a couple of hundred megawatts of that point this summer.

Anyhow, here’s my statement on the issue:  If next summer, or the following one, I’m sitting around sweltering due to rolling blackouts because TXU couldn’t build the needed plants, I may start conducting experiments to see if burning environmentalists would work for generating power.  cool hmm