Monday, October 15, 2018

#TXLEGE: Burton's opponent pledges to defend Protectionism and Corporate Favoritism


"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

Beverly Powell is Konni Burton's Democrat general election opponent; the things you learn scrolling through Twitter:
Seriously...Chapter 312?!?

Powell goes further in her linked op-ed:
As a starting point, Chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code, which authorizes cities and counties to temporarily abate property taxes for economic development projects, will expire on September 1, 2019, unless the legislature extends it. Thanks to the tools available in Chapter 312, thousands of jobs have been created or retained in Fort Worth and General Motors has expanded its operations and created hundreds of new jobs in Arlington.

Considering that Texas has some of the highest property taxes in the nation and most states offer similar economic development incentives, it is imperative that the legislature extends Chapter 312 authority in the next session.
Apparently, Powell's solution for high property taxes is to make it easier for people who can hire lobbyists to pass their tax burden onto the rest of us.  Tax abatements are great for politicians who want to get photo ops.  But they're wretched policy.  The phrase "opportunity cost" comes to mind.

Chapter 312 is a textbook case of collusion between big business and big government at the expense of everyone else.

It's also worth noting the degree to which Konni Burton has been a champion on this issue.

Bottom Line: Special privileges for the rich and powerful is a strange premise around which to base a campaign....
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More on Chapter 312:


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Major League Soccer saves #atxcouncil from itself


"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,"
Ephesians 2:8

Some good news:
Austin’s bid to land its first major-league pro sports franchise went into extra time Friday when Major League Soccer announced plans to bring a team here — but not the team the city was expecting.

MLS said it is working on an agreement that would keep the Columbus Crew in Ohio and allow a new franchise — complete with a yet-to-be determined roster — to play in Austin.

A group led by Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who own the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, is negotiating a deal with MLS to keep the Crew in Columbus, the league announced.

The deal caps a year of drama that has played out in the capitals of Ohio and Texas. Austin spent months negotiating a deal for a privately financed stadium on city-owned land to be built by the current owner of the Crew. Now, that team appears set to stay in Columbus, where it was a charter member of the MLS, while Austin starts fresh with a new team.
Phew; it's worth pointing out that our two biggest objections are no longer relevant:
  • We're no longer trying to reach a March 2019 deadline that is no longer realistic (and hasn't been for awhile).

The debacle has been averted (for now).

Moving forward, any potential stadium agreement needs to be a good deal for taxpayers.  The team needs to pay for the land.  They also need to pay property taxes.

NO SPECIAL TREATMENT!!!

If that happens, this may yet be a win for the city.

Only time will tell.

Bottom Line: Disaster has been averted, it'll be interesting to see what the final deal looks like.

Friday, October 12, 2018

#TXSEN: Campaign Vendors continue Fleecing Gullible Liberals


"Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom,
Since he has no heart for it?"
Proverbs 17:16

LOL:
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, raised $38.1 million for his U.S. Senate campaign in the third quarter, a new record for the largest fundraising quarter ever in a U.S. Senate race, according to his campaign.

The haul more than tripled Republican incumbent Ted Cruz's fundraising for the past three months, which Cruz has said was over $12 million. O'Rourke has consistently raised more than Cruz in the race, but this is the widest gap yet. The $38.1 million is by far the largest amount raised in a quarter by a Senate candidate, surpassing Republican Rick Lazio's record of $22 million in 2000 for his bid against Democrat Hillary Clinton in New York.
Soo...Bobby Francis is shattering fundraising records.  That's not new.  But what can he show for it?!?

For starters, he has no field operation.  We live in East Austin.  This is exactly the type of neighborhood where D's have to maximize turnout (high likelihood to vote D/low likelihood to vote in the first place) if they're to have any chance statewide.  The Texas Observer has observed a similar phenomenon in similar neighborhoods in South Texas.

Back in July, we took a deeper look at Bobby Francis' campaign expenditures.    The obvious conclusion is the the overwhelming majority of it was going to out of state vendors.  We haven't had time to parse the latest numbers but, given the recent trajectory of the campaign, it seems likely that the previously observed trend continues.

Bottom Line: During the Obama era, especially in his second term, there were a proliferation of so-called "scam PAC's."  These were entities that raised large sums for their staffs and vendors, but spent little of the money on actual political activity.  Bobby Francis' campaign looks to be something similar for the Trump era.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

#TXSEN: How Bobby Francis Appeases anti-Semites


"I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Genesis 12:3

We've previously discussed the anti-Semites funding Bobby Francis' campaign; the Times of Israel documents what he's already given them:
Rep. O’Rourke has voted AGAINST overwhelmingly bipartisan pro-Israel positions on,
  • Emergency Iron Dome Supplemental Funding during the Gaza War of 2014 (Protective Edge);
  • the House Resolution of Disapproval on the Iran Nuclear Agreement,
  • the House Resolution Condemning UNSCR 2334 (the Anti-Israel UNSC Resolution), and
  • several Iran sanctions legislation.
To put this into context, out of 435 Members of the House of Representatives, he was:
  • one of only 8 to vote against the emergency funding of Iron Dome,
  • one of only 20 to vote against the Royce/Engel Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013,
  • one of only 80 to vote against condemning the UNSCR 2334,
  • one of only 162 to vote against the consensus pro-Israel position on the Iran Nuclear Agreement, and
  • one of only 48 members of Congress to boycott the address of the Prime Minister of Israel to a joint session of Congress.
You can learn more about the well documented anti-Semitism of the Iranian government here.

Bottom Line: Texas was one of the first states in the nation to take in holocaust refugees so, well, good luck with that....

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

#TXLEGE: The School Spending ## the Trib Neglected to Mention


"and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved."
2 Thessalonians 2:10

Ross Ramsey has an "analysis" column this morning about school finance:

Ramsey goes on to make standard arguments about the state "shifting the burden" of school finance onto local taxpayers.

He's not necessarily wrong.

However, there's another chart Ramsey doesn't show:


In other words, while it's true that local property taxes account for a higher percentage of total education spending, that spending is not being used to benefit children.  Instead, the local ISD's are using local property taxes to hire bureaucrats.  That's where all the money is going.

TPPF has more:
In the 2015-16 school year, for example, Texans spent $12,257 per student, with a standard classroom of 20 students receiving roughly $245,000. But teachers – the biggest factor in the quality of education – received only 21 percent of that per-classroom expenditure. The average teacher salary was $51,891.

Where did the money go? In large part, it went to administration.

Since 1993, the number of students in Texas has increased by 48 percent, while the number of staff has increased by 61 percent. Yet the number of administrators and other staff employees, not including teachers, has increased by 66 percent. Our public schools grew rapidly, but their administrations grew more rapidly still.

One study shows that if school districts had kept the growth of non-teaching staff to the same rate as the increase in students, Texas' public education system could have saved $2.2 billion annually or increased each teacher's benefits by $6,318.
[Note: Obviously, there's a discrepancy between the numbers in the two sources we cited.  We're not sure why.  Regardless, they point in the same direction and reveal the same phenomenon.]

Of course, that's also why we recently discussed necessary pre-conditions for any increase in state level education funding.

Bottom Line: "Shifting the burden" of education spending back to the state might make sense.  But the money needs to go to the classroom.  It would be nice if the Trib could make that distinction.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

#atxcouncil: The Soccer Stadium DEBACLE Gets WORSE


"Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge,
And he sins who hastens with his feet."
Proverbs 19:2

From yesterday's Statesman:
A date that could have marked the end for Major League Soccer coming to Austin will come and go without much commotion.

Lawyers from Precourt Sports Ventures and the city of Austin are still drafting the final lease and development contract for a Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place. The terms sheet approved by the Austin City Council in August specified Oct. 9 as a day when either side could terminate the deal if a final agreement had not been reached. Although signatures are still likely months away, representatives from both sides told the American-Statesman that they have no intentions of backing out.

"It was there as a failsafe, just in case there were any substantial roadblocks and things just weren't coming together," David Green, a spokesman for the city, told the Statesman. "It would allow either party to back out, but wasn't meant as a hard deadline. We're coming up on Oct. 9, and right now we've made very good progress. There isn't any reason for either party to consider invoking that clause of the terms sheet at this time."

MLS lobbyist Richard Suttle, who works for PSV, declined to comment other than to say he agrees with the city about Oct. 9.

....

"We always said it would take 90 to 120 days," Green said. "We're still confident in that as a good window. November, December timeframe, probably more likely to be December as both sides go through multiple reviews from their lawyers to make sure everything is above board before anybody signs anything."

While both sides agree things are moving smoothly, there are still several potential stumbling blocks, starting with the lingering uncertainty surrounding the possible relocation of Columbus Crew SC. Team investor-operator Anthony Precourt, who started exploring a move in October 2017, intended to finalize a move for the 2019 season, but MLS has yet to sign off. A lawsuit hangs over proceedings in Ohio, and appears unlikely to be resolved by the end of the 2018 season.

....

MLS normally releases its schedule for the coming year in early January, with the first games kicking off in early March. PSV had a brand reveal for a potential MLS team, to be called Austin FC, but other specifics for a possible 2019 launch (season tickets, temporary stadium, etc.) are on hold.

....

There's also the matter of local opposition from political action committee IndyAustin, which is circulating a petition challenging the stadium deal.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Wow.

To recap:

  • They're aiming for a final contract in December...but they're expecting to be able to play games in March?!?

    That seems...ambitious!
  • The lawsuit in Columbus remains unresolved, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
  • Speaking of lawsuits, there's one coming in Austin the deal is finalized.  The only reason it hasn't happened yet is because you need a final signed contract before a plaintiff has standing.  Does anyone doubt the 3rd Court of Appeals will issue a temporary injunction?!?
  • They have to get through the petition campaign.

    [Note: They won't; Soccer fans don't vote.]
  • They don't even have a temporary stadium agreement!!!  Yet they want to play games in MARCH of next year.  NEWSFLASH: It's already mid-October!!!
  • It's long been rumored that the team wants to use UT's facilities as a temporary stadium.  It's not a secret that UT isn't particularly interested.  Given everything we know about how the University of Texas does business, just IMAGINE what UT would end up charging Precourt in a situation where they have THIS much leverage.
The best part, however, is that this is exactly what we warned Council would happen:




Oh well, they're the ones who chose not to listen.

Bottom Line: This is going down exactly how we predicted, and it's only going to get worse (for Adler and Precourt)....

Monday, October 8, 2018

Carter is probably safe (for the midterm)


"Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes;
But by a man of understanding and knowledge
Right will be prolonged."
Proverbs 28:2

The New York Times (of all places) just released a poll on the closer than expected Congressional race in Williamson county:


Carter looks likely to survive this year.  But these numbers are still soft.  And there's other polling that suggests the race is much closer.

As we've discussed previously, anyone who doesn't see a gigantic liability in a Presidential year is fooling themselves.

The geographic vote distribution tells the story. Round Rock and Cedar Park are bad.  Georgetown is still red, though not as red as it used to be.  Bell County looks solid (but it's not the major population center).


Bottom Line: Carter's number's are fine for this year.  In a Presidential year, however, we're spooked.  Consider yourselves warned.

Government Official Bullies Private Citizen Exercising Their Free Speech Right


"My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent."
Proverbs 1:10

Ahem?!?
A campaign sign in Central Texas this week drew the scorn of an elected state official — and then it was confiscated by police.

At issue in the small community of Hamilton was a homemade yard sign featuring an elephant decorated in red, white and blue with its trunk up the skirt of a female saying the word “Help.” The sign said “Your vote matters.”

Other signs promoting Democrats from U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke to Agriculture Commissioner candidate Kim Olson were in the background.

This “is supposed to be Judge Kavanaugh’s young daughter,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller posted along with the photos on Facebook this week. “The Democrat sleaze knows NO bounds!”

....

Miller’s Facebook post drew attention to Stanford and her sign, prompting countless reactions, including those that called for her to be arrested.

Police did show up at her home.

Some say she was told to remove the sign or it would be confiscated. City officials said police visited Stanford’s home and she asked them to take the sign, the Dallas Morning News reported.

....

Miller posted again on Facebook that he’s happy with the result.

“I’m glad that I called out this offensive campaign sign and am pleased that hundreds of others did so as well,” he said. “It’s vulgar and just plain wrong and it had no place in someone’s yard visible from the street.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
 Miller's Original Facebook post:



Obviously, we don't agree with her characterization.  The Republican Party of Texas has the best record of any state-level party in the country at dealing with this garbage.  Ms. Stanford might want to research the fate of former Congressman Blake Farenthold and soon-to-be former Congressman Joe Barton.  She also might want to contrast RPT's record with how the Texas Democrats have handled Carlos Uresti and Borris Miles.

But, that being said, Ms. Stanford is a private citizen.  Sid Miller is a statewide elected official.  This is an obvious, clear-cut, case of constitutionally protected free speech.

To review, Sid Miller:

  • Posted a picture of a private citizen's yard to a Facebook page with over 700k followers.
  • Lied about the content in the picture.
  • Ginned up an angry mob against a private citizen; said mob subsequently called cops on a afore mentioned private citizen.
  • Tried to dictate what kind of political speech private citizens can display on private property.
    • [Note: Do you even property rights, Sid Miller?!?]
This is outrageous.  It's no different than what Maxine Waters and Sheila Jackson Lee are doing nationally.  If anything, it's worse because Miller is calling for the mob to go after a private citizen.

We didn't vote for him in March and, after this, we doubt we're voting for him in November.

Bottom Line: Private citizens have free speech rights.  Private citizens also have private property rights.  Sid Miller doesn't get to direct how those rights are exercised.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Sam Ehlinger is a LEGIT Heisman Contender


"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9

What a game!!!

It almost goes without saying, but Sam Ehlinger is the primary reason the Longhorns won today's game.  Three rushing touchdowns, along with two from the air, speak for themselves.  Again, what a game!

But here's the thing: He's been doing this all year.  Under Sam Ehlinger's leadership, the Longhorn offense has become elite.  It starts with the guy under center.

The beautiful thing about this Longhorn offense is its balance.  From the receiving corps, to the backs, to the tight ends, this offense has many ways to beat opponents.  It's impossible to cover them all.  But for this sort of an offense to work, you need a quarterback who makes good decisions and who has the physical skills to execute.  Sam Ehlinger is showing both in spades.

Then there's his running ability.  Sam Ehlinger forces the defense to keep an extra defender near the line of scrimmage to defend against QB keepers.  That's a defender that can no longer drop back into pass coverage.  That creates opportunities.

Last season, Sam Ehlinger became very predictable.  That's no longer the case.  Now, the only time Sam's predictable is when you know he's going to run the ball.  But he's still successful almost every time!

Bottom Line: We're not necessarily saying he should win.  But he should be in the conversation.  And, if Sam Ehlinger keeps playing the way he has been, he will be.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Long Term Solution to our George P. Bush problem


"Woe to those who devise iniquity,
And work out evil on their beds!
At morning light they practice it,
Because it is in the power of their hand."
Micah 2:1

Confession: Over the past couple weeks, since George P. Bush started mucking around with the land offices' school finance obligations, this author has had quiet discussions about putting together a group effort to torpedo his candidacy in November.  But that won't happen.  Post-Kavanaugh, people are simply too mad at the Democrats to do them this sort of a favor.

But the George P. problem isn't going away.

There is, however, a solution (even if he gets a second term): Impeachment.

According to Article 15 of the Texas Constitution, the power of impeachment lies with the legislature.  The house has the authority to impeach statewide officers for pretty much any reason they want [Note: This power was abused a few years back].  If a simple majority in the house votes to impeach, it goes to trial in the Senate.  If two-thirds of the Senators vote to convict, the office-holder is removed.

Obviously, this would be a drastic step.  But it might be a necessary one.  He's not backing down on this Alamo nonsense.  And what he's doing with school finance is a gigantic threat to property tax reform/relief.

That being said, George P. should not be impeached over transgressions committed during his first term.  The voters had a chance to weigh in on that one back in March.  They'll get another opportunity next month.  Bush survived the first and is likely to survive the second.  So his first term has been settled.  But any new offenses that occur after he's sworn in for the second term are fair game.  Does anyone those offenses will inevitably occur?!?

Bottom Line: George P. Bush is going to get re-elected.  But there are still ways to hold him accountable in a second term.  They might just have to be used....

Thursday, October 4, 2018

#atxcouncil: There's no good reason to oppose an Independent Audit (aka. Prop K)


"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
Ephesians 5:11

Last night, TPPF hosted a discussion about Prop. K, the independent audit on this fall's ballot.

Art Martinez de Vara, the former mayor of Von Ormey, TX, spoke of his time in government.  He explained how budgets are typically written by department head, not elected officials.  Too often, bureaucrats control the budget process.

Fred Lews, a well-know Austin activist with whom we have both agreed and disagreed over the years, supports an audit.  Lewis spoke about how, in dealing with the city over the years, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the city is poorly run.  It can do better.  As someone on the left, Lewis explained that "the government has to be effective" if it is to have public credibility.

Speaking in opposition was council candidate Bobby Levinski.  He's a former staffer to three council members and has an insider's insider resume.  Levinski made the standard arguments about how an outside audit is redundant because the city has in-house auditors.  He also literally accused audit supporters of wanting to kill puppies (through animal control) to beliittle the idea of government efficiency.

Even if Levinski's argument were valid [Note: It's not, internal and external audits measure different things], it doesn't change the fact that sometimes having a fresh set of eyes take a look helps.  People who aren't invested in a situation sometimes see things more clearly.  As Martinez de Vara explained: "It's very difficult to audit yourself."

To further this point, we asked Levinski a question premised a cynical hypothesis.  Based on our observations, we cynically hypothesize the real reason Mayor Adler opposes this with such vehemence is because his friends and cronies are getting rich off of city government (*).  We asked Levinski, point blank, if he could come up with any less cynical objection to a fresh set of eyes.  Levinski dodged the question with the same talking points about an independent audit being "redundant."

Bottom Line: Whether your goal is lower taxes OR more city services, an independent efficiency audit has something for everyone.  That's why it's widely supported across the political spectrum.  That opposition only seems to come from those with a financial interest in the status quo is becoming increasingly difficult to overlook.

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* - We have no specific evidence, but we have A LOT of unresolved questions about the 2016 "transportation" bond, the 2017 "downtown puzzle," and the recently passed soccer stadium that an independent audit could help answer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

#TXLEGE: Will Abbott do anything after ANOTHER Higher Ed incident?!?


"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
James 2:17

By now, you've heard:



Obviously, this isn't good.  There's a lot that can be said.  We've said a lot of it before.

But it comes down to this: Abbott has jurisdiction.  He's not using it.  Nothing else matters.

Last year, we predicted the situation would eventually get so bad that Fox News would notice.  Well, Fox News picked this one up.  And we all know how Greg Abbott feels about Fox News....

In fairness to Abbott, he's been telegraphing for awhile that he's getting sick of UT's nonsense.  He forced out the Chairman of the Board last fall.  But none of that has changed anything.

Instead, there's this:



Bottom Line: Abbott has jurisdiction.  He's not using it.  Nothing will change until he does....

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Governor Greg Abbott:

Phone - (512) 378-0285

Twitter - @GregAbbott_TX

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

#TXLEGE: Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying -- The Core Problem


"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

TPPF's Chuck Devore explains it in Forbes:
But beyond the issue of effectiveness, should one part of government have the right to petition redress of grievances to another level of government? To answer this question it is important to understand that government has no rights—only people have rights—government has powers.

When a lobbyist works for a corporation, a labor union, a special interest group, or even a wealthy individual, that lobbyist, and the person or group that hired them, are participating in free speech. But when the same lobbyist is working for government, the same cannot be said. Government itself does not have a right to free speech.

In addition to the approximately $41 million spent on outside lobbyists by local government by mid-2017, there are dozens of local government employees who are assigned to lobby in the Texas state capital in Austin. For instance, the City of Austin itself spends about $1 million annually to lobby, employing a mix of city employees and contract lobbyists totaling some 14 people.

These lobbyists, employed with taxpayer money, typically use their influence with state lawmakers to advocate for greater spending, more taxing authority, and greater regulatory power, leaving 28 million individual Texans at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to getting their representatives’ attention.

Further, many of the outside lobbyists contracted by local government also have commercial clients. This multiplies their effectiveness as it equips the lobbyists with a wider array of influence tools, such as steak dinners, tickets to sporting events, and campaign donations targeted at state legislators or staff.
Bottom Line: Free speech protections exist to defend citizens from the government; they don't operate in the other direction.

Monday, October 1, 2018

#TXLEGE: Guess who just endorsed Rinaldi's opponent!!!


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

FORMER President Obama [Note: That still feels good to say.] made news in Texas this afternoon:



See here, specifically:

Most of these are obvious plays from a national Democrat perspective...but Julie Johnson?!?

If you think an endorsement from Barack Obama is helpful in a swing state rep district, in TEXAS, that's an...interesting strategy.

Rinaldi replies:


Bottom Line: They do realize this is Texas...right?!?

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Note: We don't care enough to write a full blog post about it, but we do find it interesting that Obama's not showing any love to Bobby Francis or MJ Hegar.