Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Speaking of Greg Abbott's ownership of UT....


Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

Yesterday, we discussed how the UT board just elected Abbott's hand picked choice as chair; we suppose when it rains it pours:
AUSTIN, Texas — Two-time Texas Ex and state Capitol veteran Jay Dyer is returning to The University of Texas at Austin to oversee the flagship campus’s government relations office. Dyer, who most recently served as legislative director for Gov. Greg Abbott, will be UT’s deputy to the president for government relations beginning Oct. 16.

“Jay brings tremendous knowledge and experience in state government as well as a deep commitment to The University of Texas,” said President Gregory L. Fenves. “As the state’s flagship university, our future depends on having the trust of the Texas Legislature and state leadership, being accessible and affordable for students and their families, and providing value to the entire state. Jay will help us accomplish these goals.”

An Austin native, Dyer earned a B.A. in government from the College of Liberal Arts in 1995 and a J.D. from the School of Law in 1998. After holding several positions in the private sector, he served as general counsel to the Texas secretary of state from 2006 to 2008; deputy attorney general for intergovernmental relations and special assistant/senior counsel to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott between 2008 and 2014; and deputy legislative director and then legislative director to Gov. Abbott between 2015 and 2017. He served in the governor’s office through two regular legislative sessions and one special session.

In his new role, Dyer will oversee the university’s interactions with the Legislature and state agencies on all issues including those related to funding, research and student support.

“It was an honor and privilege to serve the state of Texas as a part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration,” Dyer said. “I very much appreciate the opportunity to return to The University of Texas, and I look forward to helping UT build upon its well-established commitment to excellence.”

Violent UT Communists Vandalize Conservative Students' Property


"As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent."
Jeremiah 28:9

Remember, back in June, when we observed that violent communists were recruiting at the University of Texas' flagship campus and that it would lead to some very bad incidents this fall?!?

Yeah, about that:


A campus source sent the following pictures:

The original sign
How the sign was discovered.


We also received video of one of the RSF vandals fleeing after being caught:



And all this, literally, on the day after Abbott's hand picked candidate is elected to chair the Board of Regents.

Obviously, President Fenves and (to a lesser degree) Chancellor McRaven are the ones who should take the lead rooting out this nonsense.  If history is any guide, they won't.  Assuming Fenves and McRaven refuse to do their jobs, the Board of Regents (which Abbott controls) should fire BOTH.

Bottom Line: Greg Abbott owns this.  It's his Board of Regents and his hand picked board chair.  If Fenves, McRaven, and the Board refuse to act that's where the blame lies.

-----

President Greg Fenves:
(512) 471-1232
president@utexas.edu

Board of Regents:
(512) 499-4402
bor@utsystem.edu

Governor Greg Abbott:
(512) 463-2000


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Abbott quietly asserts further ownership over the University of Texas


Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

[Note: The most interesting aspect of Sarah Martinez Tucker's background can be found here.]

Another very interesting tidbit from yesterday's special UT board meeting:
AUSTIN—Regent Sara Martinez Tuckerappointed in 2015 by Governor Greg Abbott to a six-year term on The University of Texas System Board of Regents, was unanimously elected chairman of the board at a special called meeting Monday.
Tucker was nominated by Chairman Paul Foster, and the motion was seconded by Vice Chairman Steve Hicks.

Sara Martinez Tucker photo
Chairman Sara Martinez Tucker

“It has been an immense honor to serve as chairman of the board these last four years, but it was time to pass the gavel to a new leader,” Foster said. “It was a pleasure to nominate Regent Tucker, who has brought great insight and guidance to the Board over the last two years. The UT System and all of its institutions are going to benefit greatly under her very capable leadership.”
Prior to her appointment as regent, Tucker, a native of Laredo and resident of Dallas, served as the nation’s top higher education official as under secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush. There, she oversaw all policies, programs, and activities related to postsecondary education, vocational and adult education, and federal student aid.
Tucker also served as the CEO and president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, where she pursued an aggressive goal to double the rate of Hispanics earning college degrees. Prior to her work in the nonprofit sector, she was a long-time executive at AT&T.
Tucker currently serves as chairman of the Regents’ academic affairs committee, in addition to serving on the health affairs, finance and planning, and audit, compliance and risk management committees.
“Sara Martinez Tucker is going to be an incredibly effective chairman, and I know that I and everyone at the UT System is looking forward to working with her in her new capacity,” Chancellor William McRaven said. “She gives tremendous time and energy to the UT System, and she is extremely knowledgeable and cares very deeply about higher education. We could not ask for a better leader to guide us forward.”
Tucker earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in business administration from UT Austin. Tucker has been named as an Outstanding Young Texas Ex and a Distinguished Alumna at UT Austin and among many honors has received honorary doctorates from the University of Notre Dame, Boston College, and the University of Maryland University College.
“I am honored and humbled by this great privilege, and I am grateful to my colleagues for entrusting me with this responsibility. Having the opportunity to work with extraordinary board members, system administration leaders and visionary university presidents to ensure that UT students and patients have access to the best possible outcomes is and will always be my top priority,” said Chairman Tucker, following her appointment.
LOL, as the Statesman's Ralph Haurwitz explains:
Although by outward appearances the regents select their own leader, in actual practice the governor’s office signals the choice and the regents follow suit.
In other words, the UT Board now not only contains a majority of Abbott appointees, but it's now led by Abbott's hand picked chairwoman.

Given that the Board of Regents is now led by Abbott's hand picked chair, let's consider several incidents that have occurred since May 1st of this year (the Board has jurisdiction over all of these):

[Note: Even we didn't realize that there had been 12 separate terrible incidents in the past 4.5 months and we follow this stuff closely.]

Bottom Line: Anytime you wonder how the University of Texas consistently gets away with terrible behavior, and what can be done about it, remember that the Governor's office controls the Board of Regents.

Details emerge on University of Texas' pursuit of nuclear weapons


And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

[Note: You can read our longer explanation of why allowing the current UT leadership anywhere near nuclear weapons is a terrible idea here.]

Given that they were discussing the Los Alamos bid, we intended to attend yesterday's special meeting of the UT board.  Unfortunately, a very late arriving bus made that impossible.  Fortunately, the Statesman had it covered:
The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Monday authorized spending up to $4.5 million to prepare a bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, a key part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.

....

The spending vote was not a surprise, as the board encouraged its staff last month to explore development of a bid. The regents still would have to vote again before submitting a proposal to the federal government to operate Los Alamos, which is tucked into the mountains of northern New Mexico.

The UT System, partnering with Lockheed Martin Corp., lost a bid to operate Los Alamos in 2005. The system later joined with the Texas A&M University System, the University of New Mexico, the Boeing Co. and Battelle Memorial Institute in a failed bid to run Sandia National Laboratories, also based in New Mexico.

Sandia and Los Alamos are part of the Energy Department, whose current secretary, Rick Perry, is a former Texas governor [Note: Considering the history, that's why this fool's errand is HILARIOUS].

A bid to run Los Alamos, which has 11,200 employees and a $2.5 billion budget, would be a quest for the prestige, the opportunity for national service and the legacy that attach to the institution charged with ensuring that the nation’s nuclear weapons would work as intended, without actually detonating them.

Running the lab wouldn’t necessarily be pure glory, though, because mistakes could damage the UT System’s reputation [Note: Gee...ya think?!?].

Industry partners, and perhaps academic partners, would be part of the UT System team, and UT-Austin would have a key role, officials have said. But unlike the previous bids involving the UT System for Los Alamos and Sandia, the system would be the lead player if it goes forward with the initiative.
Read the whole thing here.

A tale of two Texas politicos with ties to 9/11


"A man’s pride will bring him low,
But the humble in spirit will retain honor."
Proverbs 29:23

Obviously, the anniversary of 9/11 was last week.  On this year's anniversary we realized something we've been meaning to discuss.  We want to commit this to writing before more time passes.

Senator Brian Birdwell and Chancellor Bill McRaven are both veterans.  During their military service, both were involved in incidents with direct ties to the 9/11 attacks.  But the contrast between how each discusses those experiences is striking.

On September 11, 2001, Brian Birdwell was stationed at the Pentagon.  Not only was he stationed at the Pentagon, but he was stationed in the section of the Pentagon where the plane struck.  The only reason he survived was because he had left his office to go to the bathroom.



Birdwell was burned on over 60% of his body and a plurality of those burns were third degree.  His full recovery took several years.  Nevertheless, he persisted to a full recovery before retiring from the military.

In 2010, Birdwell won a special election to the Texas Senate.  Since then, he's served as a faithful conservative in that body.  During that time, he's focused on the issues in front of him rather than looking backwards.

While Birdwell doesn't hide from his 9/11 experience, he rarely discusses it unless he's asked.  We've never heard him discuss it in a political context except when it's directly relevant to the issue at hand.  Indeed, this author didn't realize the Brian Birdwell from 9/11 and the Brian Birdwell in the Texas Senate were the same person until a couple years ago.

Bill McRaven, by contrast, was appointed by Obama to head special forces.  As such, he was involved with the raid that killed Usama bin Laden.  While McRaven likes to present himself as a crucial participant in that mission, numerous special forces sources (at least five) have told this author that McRaven was a bit player who has embellished his role to advance his career.

[Note: Direct quote from a Navy SEAL with whom we spoke approximately two years ago, "McRaven's story of his role in the bin Laden raid is the biggest horse shit political fairy tale I've ever heard in my life."]

Three months after the bin Laden raid, SEAL Team 6 was shot down while performing a mission in Afghanistan.  This tragedy highlighted many shortcomings of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and was thus politically embarrassing to the Obama administration.  To avoid said political embarrassment, Bill McRaven ran point on the Obama administration's cover-up.

Furthermore, Birdwell only brings up his 9/11 experience when he's asked or it's directly relevant to the situation.  McRaven, on the other hand, never shuts up about having once been in the military.  It's become a running joke at the Capitol and among UT Board watchers that you could turn McRaven's incessant references to his former military employment into a drinking game.

Bottom Line: It's a very revealing contrast.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Citizen Activists catch government with pants down; Government backs off....


"A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies."
Proverbs 14:5

[Note: Pressley has more on today's hearing here.]

We caught the tail end of a public Secretary of State hearing this morning that illustrates both bureaucratic mendacity and the ability of an engaged citizenry to get the bureaucracy in question to back down.

This past spring, election integrity activist (and former #atxcouncil candidate) Laura Pressley joined with a voting machine vendor to ask the Texas Secretary of State's office (which oversees elections) to permit county election officials to purchase voting machines that would leave create a verifiable paper trail.

When the proposed rule was announced in July, it included a provision that would have significantly weakened provisions requiring 'audit logs' for electronic voting machines.  This would have had the effect of gutting the effort to create a verifiable paper trail for future elections.  Fortunately, Pressley caught the proposed change while reviewing the Texas register (where proposed regulatory changes are first announced to the public).

The bureaucrats in the Secretary of State's office claimed that the petition they received from a different group of bureaucrats elsewhere in the Sec'y of States office was requesting the rule change under consideration; both Pressley and the vendor disputed that account and stated that they only requested the paper trail provision.  At best, it appears that one group of bureaucrats in the Secretary of State's office isn't communicating with a second group of bureaucrats in the Secretary of State's office.  Fortunately, the Secretary of State's office backed down and agreed to drop the 'audit log' provision.

We haven't been in particularly close contact with Pressley (outside of seeing her at occasional social functions) for about a year.  Thus we walked into today's hearing cold, with no knowledge of the specific issue that led to today's hearing.  Furthermore, we were 40 minutes late today.

Coming into today's hearing cold led us to observe body language and vocal tone much more closely than we would normally.  We were struck by the amount of passive-aggressive lawyer talk used by the bureaucrats, while they attempted to shift blame to other folks in the Secretary of State's office.  Pressley, by contrast, had a calm and reasonable demeanor throughout.

Bottom Line: The good guys won one!!!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Left Wing UT Student assaults Student Reporter


Do horses run on rocks?
Does one plow there with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into gall,
And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,
Amos 6:12

Remember, back in June, when we pointed out that violent communists were recruiting on campus and that it would bear poisionous fruit this fall?!?

Well, apparently we missed this incident from two weeks ago, but about that:
University of Texas Police arrested a protester on charges of assault and bodily injury at 11:45 Friday morning after a Daily Texan reporter was hit, drawing blood and requiring stitches for the injury.

The protester was Latin American studies graduate student Eric Nava-Perez, who joined fellow students Friday morning to protest anti-sanctuary city legislation and support immigrant rights. Journalism sophomore Chase Karacostas was covering the protest when he was struck at around 11:30 a.m., just as the protesters began marching to the Texas Capitol.
Police arrested Nava-Perez on Speedway in front of the Blanton Museum. University spokeswoman Cindy Posey said Nava-Perez was booked into the Travis County Jail shortly after.

Roughly 25 protesters gathered that morning in opposition of Senate Bill 4, a piece of Texas legislation requiring cities to comply with federal immigration authorities and authorizing local law enforcement to question a person’s immigration status during routine stops. A federal judge temporarily blocked the legislation last week.

Fifteen minutes after the incident occurred, Nava-Perez was arrested while marching to the Texas Capitol building with roughly 25 other student protesters.

Many of the protesters did not know any violence had taken place. After Nava-Perez was escorted from the scene, protesters chanted, “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”

....

Students from social justice campus organizations such as Sanctuary UT and Solidarity 6.04 attended the event, as well as unaffiliated students who joined for personal reasons.

(h/t Student Press Law Center)
You'll notice that Presidet Fenves, Chancellor McRaven, and the Board of Regents haven't said a word.

Bottom Line: Following two on-campus murders in 13 months, the University of Texas began the current school year with a politically motivated assault.  Unfortunately, we expect more of this until someone cracks down.  Have we mentioned that a majority of the Board of Regents have been appointed by Governor Abbott?!?

Why #CodeNext ABSOLUTELY should be subject to voter approval


"I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings."
Jeremiah 17:10

Yesterday, a group of activists from across the political spectrum held a press conference at city hall:
if approved by voters this proposition would require both a waiting period and voter approval before CodeNEXT or any subsequent comprehensive revisions of the City’s land development laws becomes legally effective.

In addition, no land development entitlements would be granted or vested under such new laws until June 1st following the next regularly scheduled council elections after the City Council adopts CodeNEXT or the comprehensive revisions.

Council members serve four-year staggered terms, and council elections are held every two years in November.

The purpose of the waiting period is to ensure that voters have the opportunity to learn about the proposed changes and elect council members who then have sufficient time to amend or reject the prior council’s adopted changes before they go into effect.

After the waiting period, the changes would not go into effect until Austin voters approve the laws at the next available municipal election.

Should voters not approve the new laws then the existing land development laws would remain in effect.
The group is also circulating a second petition that would make it significantly easier for voters to reverse policies enacted by council.

And it's here that we need to make a disclosure: While we had nothing to do with the planning of this campaign or yesterday's event, this author was LITERALLY the first person in the entire city to sign the CodeNext petition (we were the second person on the other one).

Here's why: Based on everything we've seen to this point, it appears to us that CodeNext is headed towards a last minute cram down in the spring.  We don't think anything good can come from that process.  And that's why we want the city to take the final draft to the voters.

Right now, it appears that CodeNext is being drafted by a tight circle consisting primarily of the consultants, the city bureaucracy, and the Mayor's office.  We don't trust any of those groups.  Thus, we want the voters to have the final say.

Obviously, we have our opinion about what we'd like to see out of CodeNext.  But this petition drive isn't about the specific contents of the final draft.  In the event that this petition drive is successful, it's virtually guaranteed that's its various organizers will end up on the opposite side of the resulting referendum.

It's been argued by those with whom we are in closer alignment over the final outcome that this petition campaign is a smokescreen to kill the whole thing.  It isn't; it's an accountability measure to make sure ensure the final draft actually serves the public.  That being said, if the final draft does little more than serve the usual suspect special interests...then you're dadgum right we want to be able to kill the whole thing at the end.

Put differently, we would prefer to avoid this situation.

Former city council candidate Ed English had some other thoughts with which we concur:

Those who are interested can learn more about, and sign, the petition here. [Note: You have to print the petition and mail it in, you can't sign it online; sorry, that's the law in Texas.]

Bottom Line: Only a crazy person would trust the current council to come up with something good without this additional accountability mechanism.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

#TROXROX: Predictably terrible budget passes...but Troxclair KILLS SxSW SUBSIDIES!!!


"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it.
Proverbs 21:20

Good for Ellen:



Highlights:
  • $1 BILLION General Fund this year.
  • "Taxpayers might be given the short end of the stick."
    • Note: That's the understatement of a lifetime.
  • Troxclair: At the rate city property taxes are going up, the average bill will double in nine years..."it's ABSOLUTELY unsustainable."
  • Troxclair: "People's #1 complaint is the skyrocketing cost of living."
  • Troxclair: Travis county has adopted the effective tax rate for the past three years.
    • "That's exactly where the city of Austin should start."
  • Troxclair: "When we're talking about gentrification and being economically segregated, this is one reason why; people who have lived in Austin for years cannot afford to keep paying the increases in their property taxes."
  • Council only gets to determine $5 million out of the entire $4 BILLION budget.
More from this morning's Statesman:
Austin leaders on Wednesday night passed a $3.9 billion 2018 budget — a new record for the growing city — after days and months of City Council frustration over wanting to add social services money and feeling hemmed in by previous spending commitments.

The budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 includes a $1 billion general fund, which covers most city operations, plus self-sustaining funds for things like electricity, water and aviation. It raises tax revenue 7.9 percent, just under the 8 percent limit that could trigger a rollback election, for a tax rate of 44.48 cents per $100 of property value.

An owner of a median valued home of $305,510 will see a $151 increase in city taxes and other fees.

Both the budget and the tax rate passed 8-3, with Council Members Ellen Troxclair, Jimmy Flannigan and Ora Houston opposed. Those three raised concerns that the city was dipping into its 12 percent reserve fund buffer, even if only slightly, and they wanted to slightly lessen the tax increase.

The budget does not increase the city’s 8 percent homestead exemption — that ship sailed in July — but the city’s homestead exemption for senior and disabled residents to bumped up from $82,500 to $85,500. The exemption lowers the value of a home for taxation purposes.

....

Some tensions flared when Troxclair led a successful vote to have $1.2 million in hotel tax revenue pay for security at festivals, intending to follow that with a request to put the corresponding savings from the general fund toward tax relief. But Council Member Greg Casar preempted her with a motion to put $580,000 of it to various social services. That measure passed 7-4, with Troxclair, Flannigan, Houston and Alison Alter opposed.

....

The 2018 budget built in cost increases for things already approved, like $1.9 million and nine new employees to staff the new Central Library, set to open next month, and 2.5 percent pay increases for civilian city employees.
 From the Monitor:
Council also voted unanimously to use $1.2 million of Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to cover security-related costs at South by Southwest, therefore liberating that much money from the General Fund for other uses.

Troxclair, who led the effort to free up those HOT funds by reducing funding for the Austin Convention Center and Visit Austin (formerly known as the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau), celebrated the moment by thanking her colleagues and city staff for making the effort possible. “This is a big moment. This didn’t come easy,” she said, referencing a policy decision that Mayor Steve Adler had at first vigorously opposed.

Troxclair’s delight quickly turned to outrage, however, after Adler recognized Casar, who introduced a motion to use $580,000 of that money to boost funding to many of the same programs that his previous motion had reduced funding for.

The mayor, said Troxclair, had told her that he was going to allow her to offer a motion to return the $1.2 million to taxpayers. Adler replied that she still could – after the vote on Casar’s motion. “If this passes I won’t have the opportunity to do that,” she argued, asking if she could offer a substitute motion. Adler denied her request, saying that the motion was not germane to what Casar was proposing.

The heated procedural debate between Adler and Troxclair became even more complex when Council Member Alison Alter chimed in from the other end of the dais with her own substitute motion to put the $580,000 in the city’s budget reserve. “Your difficulty is with what now?” asked the flummoxed mayor, who also rejected Alter’s motion.

After further back-and-forth over procedure, Council voted to approve Casar’s motion, with Troxclair, Alter, Flannigan and Houston in dissent.

Troxclair then motioned to essentially undo some of the prior committed spending and instead put $1 million toward reducing the property tax rate and $200,000 toward increasing the senior exemption.

Adler said that he wanted to keep taxes low but could not support the level that Troxclair proposed. Troxclair ridiculed the notion that $1 million out of a $1 billion budget was too much. “This is the absolute very least we can do,” she said, before she was joined by Flannigan, Houston, Alter and Council Member Ann Kitchen in support of her defeated motion.
TPPF also released a statement:
“Austin city government continues to make Central Texas’ affordability problem worse,” said James Quintero, who leads the Think Local Liberty project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “The city’s mammoth $3.9 billion budget significantly increases taxes and fees for the average Austinite, making it that much more difficult for struggling families and businesses to make ends meet. It’s disingenuous for city officials to talk about Austin’s affordability problem while endlessly growing the burden of government.”
Thoughts:
  • You GO Ellen Troxclair!!!
  • Of the new members: Flannigan votes no while Alter votes yes.
    • Once again, we find ourselves missing Sherri Gallo (also, lesson learned).
  • Adler and Casar doing something shady together...imagine that.
  • "$151 increase in city taxes and other fees...."
    • One top of the increase last year, and the year before that, and the year before that....
  • Even if Adler and Casar had to do something cute on re-allocating the money, for Troxclair to successfully kill the SxSW subsidy remains pretty huge!!!
  • So, in the end, Adler faked 14% to make 8% sound reasonable; it still doesn't sound reasonable.
Bottom Line: We've been resigned to this happening for awhile.  But there's going to be some very interesting coalition opportunities in the coming months.  To quote Jonathan Stickland, #onward....

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SCOTUS temporarily bails out Texas' Congressional Delegation


"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Revelation 21:8

On the one hand, a positive development:
The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a serious setback to those hoping Texas would see new congressional and House district maps ahead of the 2018 elections.

In separate orders issued Tuesday, the high court blocked two lower court rulings that invalidated parts of Texas' maps where lawmakers were found to have discriminated against voters of color. The justices’ 5-4 decisions stay the rulings — which would have required new maps — as they take up an appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

....

The development could upend efforts to get a new map in place ahead of the 2018 elections. After years of legal wrangling, Texas and the minority rights groups suing over the maps were finally set to hash out new maps in court last week, but those hearings were canceled as the Supreme Court asked for responses from the minority rights groups to the state’s emergency request for the high court to intervene.
On the other hand, Congress has the authority to permanently shut down this farce...yet Texas' congressional delegation continues to do NOTHING.

Even if we manage to make it through this election cycle with the current map in place, so long as the current Federal law remains the same, does anyone believe:

  • a) They won't be back in 2020 attempting to pick off a seat or two during a presidential year?!?
  • b) Another round of lawsuits won't follow the next round of redistricting?!?
Bottom Line: Yesterday's decision was better than the immediate alternative, but as long as the current vague Federal statutes remain on the books this ongoing fiasco will continue.

#atxcouncil: Late Breaking opportunity to curtail corporate welfare in budget?!?


"If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us."
2 Timothy 2:12

Sign us up:
Austin’s 2018 budget discussions are crawling to a close this week, and City Council members are looking for more cash.

Council Member Leslie Pool began the week’s talks Monday with a request for the city to revisit its economic development payments to the Domain — revitalizing a debate that’s been ongoing for at least a decade.

It wasn’t clear whether the suggestion had any support to move forward, and the council didn’t immediately return to it after an executive session to discuss legal matters behind closed doors. The council is expected to adopt the budget sometime this week. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Austin in 2003 approved a $37 million tax break over 20 years for the Domain in exchange for the development creating jobs and affordable housing. Some buyers’ remorse settled in after that, and a push to revoke the Domain’s incentive package became a ballot proposal in 2008, but voters rejected it.

The city’s agreement with the Domain, which is in Pool’s North Austin District 7, includes a stipulation that any payments are subject to agreement from future councils. But Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Jimmy Flannigan pushed back strongly against the city backing out of its end of the economic incentive agreement, saying it would be a terrible precedent to set. Austin needs to live up to its deals, they said.

“Every time, as a city, we talk about going back on a previous agreement, the next agreement becomes more expensive,” Flannigan said. “Every time we send a signal to the community that we’re not going to hold ourselves to agreements we make, the next negotiation becomes more expensive.”

....

Some council members have expressed frustration with the budget overall and want more funding for health and social programs.
 Thoughts:
  • While the Statesman article says Pool is a longstanding opponent of corporate welfare, this is the first time we remember hearing her speak about it.  We will point out she voted for the Merck deal back in April.  Still, welcome to the fight!!!
  • This actually builds on a recent experience of our own.  Last week, we attended an event where we were able to come to an agreement with several people with different views from our own to cut corporate welfare in order to create room for both tax relief and social services.  Thus, this might be an outline for a "grand bargain" on the city budget.
  • Broadening the tax base allows you to lower the tax rate.
  • Flannigan's argument is cute.  The opt out clause was part of the original deal to which the developer agreed.  Thus the city wouldn't be backing out of anything but merely executing authority it already has.
  • Speaking of Flannigan, this is the biggest contrast with his predecessor during his time on the council to date.  If Flannigan really wants to make this a hill on which he's willing to die, we are absolutely willing to make this a campaign issue in 2020.  Remember, District 6 residents are the one's paying the higher property tax rates that are the natural results of this sort of carving up of the tax base.
  • Speaking of which...have we mentioned that broadening the tax base allows you to lower the tax rate?!?
  • Broad base, low rates.  Broad base, low rates.  Broad base, low rates.
Bottom Line: Anything that moves us away from special privileges for big players and towards clear and consistent rules for everyone is a trend we should encourage.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Casar uses service industry as human shields for terrible idea


"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
Matthew 7:15

No thank you:
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar helped kick off a campaign Monday to get an ordinance passed requiring all employers in the city to provide paid sick leave to their workers.

“Almost 40 percent of Austin’s workforce is not allowed to earn paid sick days by their employers,” Casar said in a news conference at the Workers Defense Project on Manor Road.

“If you are a service sector worker or a construction worker, it’s more likely than not you don’t have paid sick days,” he said. “But this isn’t just low-wage workers. Twenty percent of middle-income Austinites are not allowed to earn paid sick days by their employers.”

About 223,000 Austin workers (37 percent of the total workforce) do not receive paid sick days, according to figures from Work Strong Austin, a coalition of community organizations that launched the campaign Monday.

Casar said he will introduce a resolution at the Sept. 28 City Council meeting and hopes to work with the community, businesses and the rest of the council to get an ordinance passed by the end of February. It would apply to part-time and full-time workers, he said.
Where to begin?!?

Start with the fact that Casar's proposal would lead to fewer jobs and lower cash wages for the jobs that remain.   That's what happens when you mandate higher benefits while the employer's revenues stay the same.  We also wouldn't be surprised if Casar's proposal accelerated the move from 1040's to 1099's.

When you mandate higher costs for something, you shouldn't be surprised when you get less of it;  when Greg Casar wants to mandate higher minimum benefits for each new employee hired, you shouldn't be surprised when a lot fewer people are hired.

Beyond the generally anti-employment nature of Casar's proposal, move on to the fact that for the jobs that remain it would stack the deck in favor of large, established, employers.  That's because large, established companies are more capable of absorbing cost mandates than their smaller, newer, competitors.  Casar's proposal is as anti-startup as it gets.

[Note: Because Casar's proposal would stack the deck in favor of large employers, we wouldn't be surprised if the Chamber ends up supporting it; that's what we would make of any potential "business" support.]

[Note II: We also wouldn't be surprised if Casar's proposal resulted in a new round of wage waivers for big employers.]

Consider some of the Food and Beverage companies currently achieving national prominence that began as Austin-based startups in the past few decades:
  • Amy's Ice Cream
  • Pluckers
  • Chilantro
  • Peached Tortilla
  • Deep Eddy/Tito's/Dripping Springs vodka.
  • Every craft brewery that's sprung up over the past few years.
  • We could continue naming local brands, but we think you get the point.
None of the companies we just listed would have survived their early years if the type of mandate Greg Casar now proposes would have been in place 10 or 20 years ago.  At this point, most of those companies pay higher wages and offer more benefits than the industry average.  But none of those companies could have done so had they been forced to absorb those costs in their early years.

Casar wants to frame this as a fight against McDonalds.  But the truth is that McDonalds is going to be fine either way (and they might even benefit from his scheme).  The reality is that Casar's proposal is a declaration of war against the next Amy's, the next Pluckers, and the next Chilantro.

Finally, there's the personally insulting nature of this entire proposal.  It's not a secret that this author works in the service industry, and we will simply point out that we are perfectly capable of negotiating with our various employers without 'help' from grandstanding politicians.  If anything, by making it more difficult to find another job, the afore mentioned grandstanding politicians decrease our leverage with various employers.

[Note: While we're on the subject of how #atxcouncil mandates have effected us personally, don't tempt us to tell about our experiences navigating the stupid little "ban the box" ordinance they passed last year.]

We understand that Casar et. al. have cherry picked sympathetic examples to justify their position.  That doesn't change the fact that the best way to produce favorable working conditions is to have a robust market with lots of competing employers.  Mandating higher employment costs doesn't help anyone.

Bottom Line: Casar's proposal is kryptonite for local employment.  It would be bad for everyone, but it would be even worse for early stage startups.  Nothing good can come from this mandate.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Austin unaffordable for Harvey evacuees


"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?
John 11:25-26

But of course:
But Perez said she doesn’t think they can afford to live in Austin, which has the most expensive housing market in Texas.

“Austin is more expensive than we can actually afford,” said Perez. “We’re gonna start looking outside and see what we can find that we can afford.”

City of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson said Katrina evacuees looking to relocate faced a similar problem a decade ago.

“The folks from New Orleans, they were able to get jobs, but even then the housing was too expensive and we lost, we think, many of those potential households,” said Robinson. Many ended up in other Texas cities. “We think we lost them out to Houston because the housing in Houston was so much more affordable.”

This time around Harvey evacuees face even steeper housing costs.
Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Longhorns Accomplish Bare Minimum....


"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so."
Proverbs 3:27

We know it was San Jose State.  We don't care.  Yesterday's game was AWESOME!!!

Coach Herman secured his first victory in the most dominant performance we've seen in years.  You can say what you will about the opponent, but you still have to go out and execute against them.  Remember, this is the team that struggled against Iowa State and lost to Kansas last year.

We'll take it.

Sam Ehlinger did everything you could reasonably expect in his college debut.  He went 15 for 27 for 222 yards in passing situations.  He also went 7 for 48 rushing.

Running back Chris Warren had a commanding performance with two touchdowns and several long rushes.  But it was in the trenches where Warren really made it count.  Warren came up big in several short yardage situations.

Jerrod Heard also looked fantastic.

Bottom Line: The Horns were 24 point favorite coming into the game; they won by 56.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

What the [REDACTED] is DON Huffines thinking?!?


"Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread."
2 Thessalonians 3:12

By now, we assume you've seen this monstrosity; to say that it drips with entitlement would be the understatement of the year:



[Note: We're not going to provide a summary of highlights for this video, it's just too weird.]

Most of the commentary we've seen regarding this video surrounds the open seat race between Phillip Huffines and Angela Paxton.  Suffice to say, this only helps Angela.  That being said, we are confident that whoever represents SD-8 next session will be someone with whom this website agrees over 90% of the time.

But, let's pause, and consider SD-16.

In 2014, Don Huffines beat an incumbent psuedo-Republican in the primary...by 635 votes.  While Huffines has been a good Senator, and light years better than his predecessor, there are still lots of people gunning for him.  Good grief, Dan Branch lives in that district....

Then consider this: In 2016, HILLARY CLINTON WON SD-16; does anyone think the Democrats aren't salivating after watching this video.

SD-16 district ain't a slam dunk.  Holding it through both the primary and the general will be very challenging.  The palpable sense of entitlement this video conveys is kryptonite for that effort.

Bottom Line: However you feel about the open seat race in SD-8, DON Huffines needs to be re-elected in SD-16; this video does not help that effort.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Four Texas Congressmen REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE in Harvey Hostage Taking!!!


"Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;"
Proverbs 3:9

Signs of life in our congressional delegation?!?
The U.S. House approved $15 billion in aid to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey's destruction in southeast Texas on Friday, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. Later in the day, Trump signed it into law.

The funding is only meant to serve as a short-term measure, and a much more expansive bill is expected to be negotiated later in the fall. The aid was also part of a larger deal to avoid a government default and shutdown for the next three months.

....

Four Texas Republicans voted against the bill: U.S. Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis, Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Sam Johnson of Richardson and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon.

....

"I am not against voting for relief programs to help hurricane victims, but I am against raising the public debt ceiling without a plan to reduce deficits in the short term, and eliminate them in the long term," Barton said in a statement. "The money we vote to spend today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren."

Thornberry, chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, cited an aversion to short-term funding measures that he said harmed the military.
Good for them.

Hensarling also put out a longer statement:
Obviously, what happened this past week in D.C was disgraceful. And, unfortunately, it's probably something we're just going to have to deal with in the coming months.  But it's good to see four members of the Texas delegation (none of whom are typically known as profiles in courage) reject this act of political blackmail.

Bottom Line: Good for them.

Austin crosses dubious cost of living threshold....


"And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
Revelation 6:6

That's not good:
Mortgage resource HSH.com has crunched the numbers to find the yearly salary needed to afford the principal, interest, taxes, and insurance payments on a median-priced home in Austin, and it's one of the highest in the nation.

The country's 50 most populous metropolitan areas were analyzed, and Texas makes a three-city showing on the 25 most expensive list.

Austin is No. 13 overall and the priciest in Texas, with residents having to bring in $69,952.75 a year in order to afford a $308,000 median-priced home. Nationally, workers have to earn $56,159.89 to afford a home that'll cost them $255,600.
It gets better:
Austin's current salary figure is $3,008.69 higher than what was required during the year's first quarter. If homebuyers in the Austin metro put 10 percent down instead of 20 percent, the required salary would increase from $69,952.75 to $80,004.77.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Abbott-appointed Regent helps UT expand "Social work" industrial complex....


"If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them."
Ecclesiastes 5:8

LOL, appointed to the Board of Regents by Greg Abbott:



Highlights:

  • Some quote from Fenves about "compassion."
  • Some quote about "service."
  • Community organizing!
  • Fenves claims school of social work "changes the world."
  • "We want to help people."
  • "Scholarships and financial aid create better social workers."
  • Hicks praises the "mission" of social work: "It's God's work, in my opinion."
If you can stand to read it, there's also a nauseatingly self-serving press release here.

Bottom Line: Appointed to the board of regents by a Republican governor.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

#txlege: Cindy Burkett's HILARIOUSLY TERRIBLE Campaign Announcement....



"The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of wisdom."
Proverbs 10:21

LOL:



Notes:
  • It sometimes said that "a rich man doesn't have to tell you he's rich"; we mention this because she calls herself 'conservative' 12 times in this video and mentions her 'Christitan values' or faith 4 times.
    • Maybe she's creating a new drinking game?!?
  • It's not a secret that this author a) has long hair and b) has worked in a number of restaurants over the years; we only bring this up because our hair has NEVER stayed perfectly in place while mopping.
  • Tries to claim credit for open carry when, except for voting for it when it came to the floor, she had nothing to do with it.
  • Ditto the border and sanctuary cities stuff.
  • Ditto the tax stuff.
  • Claims her primary opponents the legislature are the Democrats.
    • Note: LOL.
    • Note II: If the Democrats are so terrible, why has she voted for the same leadership they have over the past few sessions.
  • Claims to support property tax relief even though she supports house leadership that killed it in both the regular and special sessions.
  • Takes credit for dismemberment abortion ban.  This is farcical.  While the dismemberment ban was adopted as an amendment on a bill she was carrying, she refused to even accept the amendment as friendly.
  • We're tempted to take a closer look at the bills she's passed over the years.
Bottom Line: It's seriously worth four minutes of your time to watch the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Following Maryland loss, McRaven Grandstands over Immigration....


"They utter speech, and speak insolent things;
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves."
Psalm 94:4

The arrogance is palpable:
Statement from Chancellor William H. McRaven on DACA
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2017

With today’s announcement by the Administration regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, I want to take a moment to share some thoughts.

Our state and nation have benefited for decades by attracting and retaining great students, scholars, physicians, and researchers from around the world. As I have said before, the men and women who show up on our shores and at our doors – ready to study, work, and participate – make us stronger, smarter, more competitive, and more attuned to the rest of our ever-shrinking globe. Over time, we have seen that their contributions and discoveries help us secure our nation, care for our people, foster economic growth, and provide scientific expertise and innovation that improves the human condition.

For years, Texas has supported students who were born in foreign countries but were brought here as children and raised in the U.S. In fact, Texas was among the first states to grant these Texas high school graduates the opportunity to pay in-state tuition, a benefit The University of Texas System continues to support.

These students consider themselves to be Americans and Texans, proud of the state they see as their home. They, like others, have served our nation with distinction in their academic pursuits, in our nation’s military, and as productive members of society. This service should be applauded and honored. Our nation should recognize the potential in these students, granting them the opportunity to pursue their education and enter the workforce in this country.

The UT System will always follow the law. And while I understand the concern of the President and others about how DACA was implemented, the critical fact is that I and the UT System believe in our DACA students and that their opportunities to contribute to Texas and our nation should be upheld and continued by our leaders in Washington. Congress must now act quickly to provide a bridge for these students to remain in the U.S. and become citizens.

Let me also speak directly to you, our UT DACA students. You can be certain of our support as you continue to pursue your dreams – the American dream – to obtain an education and build a better future for you and your families. As UT adheres to federal and state laws regarding immigration, rest assured our campuses will remain places where you can safely study as Congress takes up this issue.

The international competition for the best students, scholars, physicians and researchers is fierce. We need loud and clear signals that the U.S. and Texas will continue to seek out the foremost talents in the world and welcome them to our institutions. For its part, the UT System will always pursue young men and women from around the world who wish to learn, and the scholars and researchers who will train and educate them.
 Thoughts:
  • Despite the attempt in the latter part to tie it back to the university, this is nothing more than an attempt to generate press coverage over an issue where the Chancellor's office and the University of Texas have virtually zero jurisdiction.
  • If this were really about offering guidance to current students, that could have been covered in a one paragraph statement.
  • Sure, historically they've defied Governors over issues related to university governance, but as far as we can tell this type of defiance over high profile national issues is a new development...and we suspect it's one that will make it politically difficult for the current friendly Governor to run interference for them indefinitely.
    • Note: We certainly don't remember them doing it at a time when the Football team is losing.
Bottom Line: If you can't beat Maryland, you shouldn't be sending out press releases over controversial national issues where you have virtually no jurisdiction.

Monday, September 4, 2017

#atxcouncil: #TroxRox two wins while Adler suffers multiple setbacks....


"Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do."
Deuteronomy 29:9

OK, before we go any further, we have to discuss last thursday's council meeting.  Ellen Troxclair passed two items UNANIMOUSLY.  Mayor Adler, meanwhile, saw his latest complicated real estate scheme receive an...unenthusiastic reaction.

Troxclair's first success was an item to increase employment opportunities for the homeless population by partnering with local non-profits.  It would pay panhandlers to do currently unmet maintenance work for the city instead of begging in the street.  This is similar to a very successful early welfare reform measure that Rudy Giuliani implemented in New York City.  We had yet to arrive when this item was considered, but by all accounts it went well.  You can learn more about the program here.

Item #60 was Troxclair's item to redirect a portion of hotel occupancy taxes away from corporate welfare and towards maintenance of city parks.  This was a small, tangible, step for council to take in using existing funds to cover core services without asking the taxpayers for more.  We testified as such:



But here's where things get interesting: Kathie Tovo was a co-sponsor!  Beyond that, Save our Springs also testified in favor!  For this website to testify on the same side of an issue as Kathie Tovo and Save our Springs just proves that if you live long enough, anything is possible.

As for Adler, he clearly sees this new policy as a threat to his convention center expansion scheme.  He offered an amendment to gut the policy at the beginning of discussion, but following public testimony he withdrew that amendment and offered another to conduct a study alongside the new policy.  Troxclair accepted Adler's second amendment, solidifying Adler's cave.

Speaking of Adler's convention center expansion scheme, that was the subject of Item #101.  This proposal is a hot mess of bad ideas, including tax increases and wildly unfair corporate welfare mechanisms we think should be abolished at the state level.  While the state level question is an issue for another day, we certainly don't think Austin should expand this practice locally.  Then there's the fact that seemingly every city in the country is expanding their convention centers (eg. Vegas is about to put a football stadium in theirs), which renders this project a fools errand in pursuit of an arms race we can never win.

And that's pretty much what we said:



In Adler's second setback of the night, council took no action on the item and postponed consideration until September 28.

They also took testimony on the budget and the tax rate, but we didn't stick around after we finished testifying on Adler's item at 10:30.

Finally, we have to comment on a representative from the hotel industry who took the opposite position we did on the two issues.  That means they testified against using existing funds to cover core services then testified for a tax increase on their own industry.  We're sure that has nothing to do with the big hotel chains protecting themselves from competition.

Bottom Line: Long day, but good one.