Friday, October 21, 2016

Jeremy Story's pro-Student, pro-Taxpayer, agenda for Austin Community College...

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."
1 Peter 5:8

[Author's Note: We didn't record the specific sources Jeremy cited for his factual claims in our notes.  That being said, they all came from various governmental entities.  That being said, you can contact the campaign for more specific information here.]

We finally had an opportunity to hear Jeremy Story speak last night.  He's running for the Austin Community College board of trustees, place 9.  He's running to promote better student outcomes and greater fiscal accountability for taxpayers.

ACC ranks near the bottom of community college systems in Texas in terms of positive student outcomes.  Positive outcomes are defined as completion of an associates degree, transferring to a four year college, or obtaining a trade certification.  We were astonished to learn that only 4% of ACC students transfer to a four year school.

Story wants to focus on core functions of students success.  He wants to increase the number of academic advisers to shepherd students through the bureaucracy, especially the first 15 hours.  Currently, there are 700 students for every adviser, so it shouldn't surprise us that there's a high dropout rate.  He also wants to increase the number of dual credit courses in local high schools.  He wants to streamline the online registration process, which we've heard described as a "nightmare" from various quarters over the years.  Finally, he wants to increase the focus on certification for skilled trades.  These are all things a community college should, by definition, be doing.

On the pro-taxpayer side, Jeremy Story is the only candidate running for any ACC trustee position who supports a moratorium on tax hikes.  Considering the gigantic tax hike ACC passed last month, this is important.  Considering that ACC recently ran a $9 million surplus, there's plenty of money available as long as the organization focuses on core responsibilities.

As an example of core responsibilities, he discussed a recent proposal to expand CapMetro service to the various campuses.  Whatever the merits of such an idea it is, at best, a long term solution.  To paraphrase Story: "It may or may not make sense to make it easier for a student in Austin to attend a class in Round Rock, but in the meantime why don't we make it possible for that same student to take that course online from their living room?!?"

Also, he's a YCTer from the UT chapter; to put it mildly, that speaks well of him.

Bottom Line: Anyone who gives the Austin Chronicle a conniption fit is off to a good start, but it was good to flesh out specifics.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

TPPF defends landowners from Feds with Guns....

"If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard."
Exodus 22:5

New developments in the Red River case:

TPPF Defends Red River Landowners
From Armed Searches

AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) today filed a response to the Bureau of Land Managements motion to compel access to property owned by TPPF’s clients in Aderholt, et al. v. Bureau of Land Management, et. al. TPPF’s Center for the American Future represents individual property owners, the counties of Wichita, Clay, and Wilbarger, and the Clay County Sheriff in the lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) unconstitutional and arbitrary seizure of thousands of acres of private property along the Red River in Texas.

To read the response to defendant’s motion to compel access to individual plaintiffs’ lands, please visit:

“The Department of Justice and Bureau of Land Management’s demand to enter upon our Clients’ properties with armed federal law enforcement officers is outrageous,” said Robert Henneke, General Counsel and Director of the Center for the American Future at TPPF. “The individual landowners, like Ken Aderholt, simply want to be left alone and have their private property rights respected. Now, without any legitimate justification, the federal government insists that armed guards accompany federal surveyors onto our Clients’ properties. Our Clients have not broken the law, and BLM’s demand violates their Constitutional rights. On behalf of our Clients, the Center for the American Future has filed strong objections with the federal district court and will fiercely defend our Clients’ private property rights before the Court.”
Read the whole thing here.

Independent Businesses along "Corridors" wise up to Adler's Bond

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

Take this story, multiply it at least 1000 times over (esp. on Burnet rd. and South Lamar), and you begin to gain a picture of the devastation this bond will cause if it passes:
More Austin business owners are getting upset as they learn what effect passage of Proposition One will have on their livelihoods. Ashley Schor is the owner of "Bead-It", a jewelry supply store that's been on South Lamar near Oltorf. She says the corridor plans for Lamar would likely cut her income in half during construction. "It's going to change the landscape of this whole entire strip of businesses. So it will make Austin look like wall-to-wall condos."

Schor has lived in Austin all her life and has been in business here for fifteen years. She says the corridor plans aligned with Proposition One mean her store and old oak trees on the land could be endangered, to make way for the city's preferred streetscapes. "And it will also destroy all these old houses that are just floating, barely hanging on by a thread. It will just knock us all out, one by one by one by one."

Schor says she is considering repainting the outside of her store to protest Proposition One.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Will Pool's spiteful NIMBYism derail new housing?!?

"And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[a] There is no other commandment greater than these."
Mark 12:31

[Author's Note: Read the first linked Austin Monitor article here, and the second one here.]

We first discussed the Grove three weeks ago; some new developments:
ARG Bull Creek Ltd. is ratcheting up pressure on City Council members to approve the Grove at Shoal Creek, a massive planned unit development it hopes to build on a 75-acre lot at the corner of Bull Creek Road and 45th Street.

In a letter addressed yesterday to Mayor Steve Adler and all 10 members of Council, Jeff Howard, an attorney for the developer, states that the company will abandon its plans for a planned unit development if Council adopts a number of changes to the project offered by Council Member Leslie Pool, the leading opponent of ARG’s proposed project.

If ARG ditches the PUD application and instead pursues conventional zoning, the developer warns, the resulting project will be a group of expensive single-family homes rather than a mixed-use development that includes affordable housing, office space, retail and more parkland than would be required under conventional zoning.

Among the many amendments Pool has proposed, the one the developers view as the most unworkable would reduce the number of daily vehicle trips the project is allowed to generate by 25 percent, from roughly 24,000 to roughly 18,000.

That limit, argues Howard in the letter, would result in a nearly 50 percent reduction in office space, a 33 percent reduction in retail development and a 25 percent reduction in residential units.

Pool and the Bull Creek Road Coalition, a neighborhood coalition that Pool used to lead and that opposes the current Grove proposal, have said they do not object to the amount of housing proposed for the site. Instead, they want less commercial space on the site.

ARG has countered, however, that if it reduced vehicle trip counts only by reducing commercial space, the commercial development allowed would be too small to create the necessary “critical mass” of retail.
In other words, rather than taking a meaningful step to address Austin's housing shortage, Pool wants to continue business as usual.

Also, the notion that the opponents only object to the commercial space is nothing more than a disingenuous stall tactic.

Then this happened:
Mayor Steve Adler hopes to start the process of approving the Grove at Shoal Creek, a controversial planned unit development in Central Austin, at City Council’s next meeting on Thursday.

At a Council work session on Tuesday, Adler explained to Council colleagues that he supports approving a draft plan of the PUD on “first reading” at their next meeting. He noted, however, that whatever is approved on the first reading (of the required three) will simply be a “placeholder” draft that he will be open to changing after further talks with city staff, neighborhood groups and the developers pushing the project.

Adler suggested that the “placeholder” ordinance largely mirror the recommendation made by the Zoning and Platting Commission in July but incorporate some of the amendments proposed by Council Member Leslie Pool that would reduce the amount of retail and commercial space allowed on the now-vacant 75-acre field at the corner of Bull Creek Road and 45th Street.
So...Pool's stalling has gotten us to a situation where Adler's office is trying to "broker a compromise."  Great.  That usually works out swimmingly.

We honestly don't know what to say.  We have no idea what will happen.  We find ourselves tempted to use language inconsistent with a family friendly website, but will suffice to say that this is a textbook example of 'governance' under Austin's old guard.

Bottom Line: We live in a city with a chronic housing shortage.  Someone wants to build LOTS of housing.  How is this even controversial?!?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Paxton helps TPPF protect local Austin taxpayers!!!

"By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted,
But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked."
Proverbs 11:11

This is great:

Texas Attorney General Intervenes in TPPF & Goldwater Institute Lawsuit to Halt Taxpayer-Funded Union Employees Agreement

AUSTIN – The Texas Attorney General today filed a plea in intervention in Pulliam, et. al. v. City of Austin, et. al., a lawsuit filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and Goldwater Institute challenging the City’s labor agreement with Austin Firefighters Association, Local 975. The lawsuit, filed last month, seeks  to halt the practice of “release time” also known as “association business leave,” and “union leave,” which assigns city employees to work for the union at taxpayer expense. The agreement violates the Texas Constitution “gift clause” provision that prohibits government from giving taxpayer funds to private entities without a public purpose.

            TPPF General Counsel and Director of the Center for the American Future Robert Henneke said, “The City of Austin’s illegal release time agreement with the firefighters’ union hurts all citizens. By choosing to fund private political activities, the City diverts these resources from public safety services for Austin residents. As this practice negatively impacts the public as a whole, Plaintiffs applaud the Attorney General to intervene in order to represent the interests of all Texans.”
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Zimmerman gives Unconstitutional Bureaucracy HECK!!!

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,"
Romans 1:18

This is great:
The outspoken conservative possibly broke city campaign rules, the commission decided Wednesday, when he failed to include the following disclaimer on a mailer he sent to voters in his Northwest Austin district: “This campaign has not agreed to comply with the contribution and expenditure limits of the Austin Fair Campaign Chapter.”

The disclaimer is required of candidates who do not agree to strict spending limits ($75,000 during the general election campaign and $50,000 in a runoff). Candidates who do agree to spending limits are rewarded with campaign money from the city’s fair campaign fund, which is funded by lobbyist registration fees.

In recent years, few candidates have taken advantage of that option; the only current Council members who signed the fair campaign contract during the last campaign were Pio Renteria and Leslie Pool. Those two, along with candidate Susana Almanza, received roughly $28,000 from the city – or a third of the $83,000 in the fair campaign fund at the time.

Zimmerman also opted not to sign the fair campaign contract. And in an ostensible attempt to express his contempt for the rule, he added a couple of extra words, along with some strategic punctuation, to the required disclaimer: “This campaign has not agreed to comply with the contribution and expenditure limits of the so-called “Fair” Campaign Chapter.”


In a short statement, Zimmerman vigorously rejected Morgan’s claim. He had “substantially complied” with the ordinance by including a disclaimer that included all of the key information required by the rule, he argued.

But just as important, he said, the disclaimer requirement is unconstitutional since it “compelled” him to engage in speech that he disagrees with. His first oath is to the U.S. Constitution, he said, not city ordinances.


As he did in hearings over two ethics complaints last year – one against Zimmerman and one against Arif Panju, Zimmerman’s appointee to the Historic Landmark Commission – Commissioner Brian Thompson barely concealed his contempt for the respondent and his defense. He criticized Zimmerman’s claim that the ordinance was unconstitutional, pointing out that the commission’s own legal counsel had said that courts had upheld similar laws throughout the country.
Read the whole thing here.

Texas continues funding Planned Parenthood....

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness."
Matthew 23:27

Rah, rah Texas GOP; from the Trib:
But after an initial feint at cutting off the money, the state has little to show for it. Abbott, who generated national media attention and launched fundraising emails over the issue, still expects “the appropriate authorities to move forward in eliminating taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood,” his spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen, an Abbott appointee and the state official who led the move to defund the women’s health organization, faces an uncertain future as the state’s top fraud investigator, as his appointment expired in February. A spokesman for the governor declined to say this week if Bowen would be reappointed.

Planned Parenthood is by and large keeping its head down, continuing to provide services as the initial political hullabaloo has faded.


In the Medicaid fight, the governor’s public relations campaign began the same day last year that state inspectors delivered a notice of intent to boot Planned Parenthood from the public insurance program. A press release that day from the governor’s office boasted the headline: “Texas Eliminates Taxpayer Funding To Planned Parenthood Providers.” The next day, Abbott was interviewed about it on Fox News.

Texas gave Planned Parenthood 30 days to respond its notice and request an “informal resolution meeting” with health commission attorneys. If the organization did not act, the state said it would issue a “final notice of termination,” formally ending Planned Parenthood’s participation in Medicaid. That order would have gone into effect 15 days after the organization received it.

But the state has never issued the final notice.


It appears the inspector general’s delay in issuing the final termination of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract is out of line with the agency’s previous practices, according to a Tribune analysis of similar notices sent to other Medicaid providers.
Read the whole thing here.


For the most part, we think the Trib story speaks for itself.  We also, for the most part, draw the obvious conclusion.  That being said, we can't overlook an alternative hypothesis that reflects certain realities of how government operates that might be more charitable to Abbott.

One unfortunate reality of large government bureaucracies is that the bureaucrats frequently do whatever the heck they wish while ignoring the elected representatives of the people.

So, while we still think the obvious conclusion from the Trib article is also the most likely one, we can't overlook the possibility that Abbott is doing everything he can given the current system and that the bureaucrats are blowing him off (*).


* -- Of course, if this is the case, the real solution is to take a much deeper ax to the agency's budget than anyone at the capitol would be willing.