Saturday, January 20, 2018

Now that we're a "finalist," will the public ever get to see the "Austin's" Amazon bid?!?


"For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light."
Luke 8:17

A new development:
Austin and Dallas are among 20 North American metropolitan areas being considered for a second headquarters for Amazon, the online retail giant announced Thursday morning.

The cities were among several in Texas that had been competing to lure the company. Competition has been fierce, since Amazon says it plans to invest $5 billion in its new headquarters and create "as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs" in the city it picks.

Thursday's list eliminates two major Texas cities — Houston and El Paso — that were also vying for the spot. Despite initial plans to do so, San Antonio did not submit a bid to host the company's second headquarters. City officials told Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in October that "blindly giving away the farm isn't our style."

....

In a brief statement Thursday morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler recognized that "mobility and affordability" are among the city's greatest challenges in attracting businesses like Amazon, and said the city council is focused on addressing those two concerns.

Cities across North America have offered major economic incentives in attempts to lure Amazon, including tax breaks and land. And while some cities have publicly offered up their proposals to the tech giant — New Jersey, for example, has pledged up to $7 billion in tax incentives, and Chicago officials offered Amazon credits totaling about $1.32 billion in income taxes — Texas cities have stayed quieter about what they're willing to put on the table.

Austin city officials said in October that no local financial incentives were included in their bid for the headquarters. Adler said Thursday he still has not heard any talk about offering local incentives.

Mike Berman, spokesman for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, called the bid a "great success" but wouldn't offer details on any specific sites that the city proposed.
Cool...you guys want to share any of that information with the public?!?  Or are we just supposed to glean tidbits here and there from open records requests?!?

Bottom Line: We remain neutral on this project pending the receipt of more information.  That being said, the fact that we've been discussing an Amazon bid for three months without more information being forthcoming is very frustrating.  At a minimum, the optics surrounding this secretive process continue to stink....

Friday, January 19, 2018

#TXLEGE: Phillip Huffines and Angela Paxton are BOTH solid conservatives (and their supporters need to stop acting like Children)


"Folly is set in great dignity,
While the rich sit in a lowly place."
Ecclesiastes 10:6

Sometimes, it pays to stay out of a race.

With the release of campaign finance reports, a juvenile slap fight has broken out between supporters of Phillip Huffines and supporters of Angela Paxton over obscure campaign contributions; neither of the contributions in question should remotely concern anyone.

First, Angela Paxton: On her most recent campaign finance report, Angela Paxton reported $17,500 in contributions from liberal Republican former state senator John Carona.  That seems bad, until you remember that DON Huffines beat Carona four years ago.  Clearly, Carona is still miffed over his loss to Don Huffines, and is using Angela Paxton as a mechanism to get back at the Huffines family.

[Note: It's also worth pointing out that Carona served in the Senate with KEN Paxton; Senate collegiality being what it is, it's also not surprising to see a former Senator donating to the wife of a former Senator with whom he served.]

As for Phillip Huffines: In 2006, he made two donations, totaling $1500, to Dallas Democrat Helen Giddings.  This against the backdrop of two decades as a political donor that have seen him give hundreds of thousands to explicitly conservative causes.  We assume Huffines had a business interest in Giddings' district and, well, it's a little hard to stomach watching people belatedly complain about Republican candidates making donations to Democrats to protect their business interests when nobody seemed to have a problem with this guy doing it.

For those who are interested, they can check out all of Philip Huffines' campaign contributions since 2000 below:



Bottom Line: No matter what happens, Senate District 8 is going to be represented by someone with whom the average Conservative Texan agrees at least 98% of the time.  Neither of the respective political donations about which we've learned changes that fact. People need perspective.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#TXLEGE: School Choice Advocates headed for YET ANOTHER EPIC Election Season FAIL

Dan Huberty (Center), Gary VanDeaver (Right), and Ken King (Left);
of those three, King is the only one who *might* face a competitive primary. 
"For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."
2 Peter 1:9

Last week, one of our most trusted sources expressed the following sentiment: "The [school choice] lobby has to be the dumbest, most incompetent, group at the Capitol.  Here you have the public school lobby actively encouraging Democrats to vote in the Republican primary, and it's being left to individual county party executive committees to smoke this behavior out.  What gives?!?"

That was a good start, but there are several other reasons why we think the effort remains doomed for the foreseeable future.

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Democrats voting in Republican primaries:

The Texas Monitor summarizes a recent event from Hood County:
A school superintendent running as a Republican for the Texas House was slapped with a “no confidence” vote by the local party this week.

Granbury ISD Superintendent James Largent called the move “shameful.”

Hood County GOP Chairman Jim Logan said Largent had it coming.

“To our knowledge, he has never participated in local or state Republican Party activities. He has said he disagrees with most of the party platform, and openly disparages Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick,” Logan told The Texas Monitor in an interview.

As a result, the executive committee of the local party issued a unanimous vote of no confidence in Largent in the House District 60 race.

State Rep. Mike Lang is running for re-election in HD 60 against Largent and Gregory Risse in the March 6 primary.

....

Largent, 52, does not hide his politics. Opining regularly on the Granbury ISD website, the superintendent’s commentaries echo increasingly shrill attacks from the state’s “Big Ed” establishment.

In a post titled “Conservative Leadership,” the superintendent defends forced collection of union dues, assails school choice legislation and attacks state Republicans, ridiculing Abbott and Patrick.

Slamming the so-called “bathroom bill” last session, Largent wrote that Patrick “does not understand the transgender issue.”

Hood County residents question whether the superintendent understands the boundaries of professional ethics.

Plumping for an $85 million school bond, Largent emailed teachers urging them to call parents to support the debt package at the polls. Some instructors balked at the political gambit, and public-records requests into Largent’s official correspondence are pending with the district.

Meantime, Hood County Democrats, including the wife of a GISD School Board member, are actively pushing their support for Largent.

“He’ll attend Democratic Party meetings and has declined our invitations,” Logan noted.
That's all well and good.  We're glad that the Hood County Republican party stepped up to the plate.  But this is going on all over the state, and it shouldn't be left up to local activists to play an ad hoc game of whack-a-mole to smoke this out.

Empower Texans and the Texas Monitor have done good work exposing this nonsense, but they're general interest publications.  They can only do so much.  Where are the single issue education reform groups?!?

Imagine an alternative scenario: Every time one of these socialized education front groups attempts to get Democrats voting in the Republican primary, the conservative "education reformers" are on it in the local community.  Then they get the message out in each individual community on their own.  Nobody waits for general interest websites that might or might not ultimately pick up the story.

It's too soon to know the ultimate number, but there will be house seats left on the table this cycle because the socialized education bureaucracy gets democrats to vote in the Republican primary.  And a big reason why will be because the single-issue education reform groups failed to take care of business.  General interest websites can only do so much.

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Huberty coming back:

Between his disgraceful personal conduct and the lies he's told related to school finance, there are few house members less deserving of another term than Dan Huberty.

Unfortunately, look at his opponent's latest campaign finance report:


It's bad enough for Huberty to have a cakewalk re-election campaign from an ethics perspective and a school finance/property taxes perspective.

But lets remember what Dan Huberty did last session on school choice:



So, you have a committee chairman who disses you in the most humiliatingly public way possible?!?  And you represent an issue where donors have recently started to open checkbooks.  Yet the only person opposing the committee chairman in question has $440.00 cash on hand.

The school choice advocacy community's failure to make an example out of Dan Huberty means their issue will be just as dead on arrival in the house next session (even with a new speaker) as it was last session (they'll just be nicer about it).

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VanDeaver running unopposed:

But beyond Huberty's cake-walk, check out what's happening to the guy long known to be house leadership's next public ed chair after Huberty cashes out:

In other words, in addition to failing to unseat the biggest obstacle to the legislative change you're seeking, you're also leaving in place the guy being groomed to be his successor.

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Answer this question: If you're a Republican house member, and you're personally on the fence about school choice, how would YOU interpret Huberty and VanDeaver coming back without much of a fight?!?

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Inadequate Effort focused in the wrong direction:

Beyond the shortcomings of any particular election cycle (after election cycle, after election cycle, after election cycle), the biggest problem school choice advocates face is that their efforts both fall short and aren't focused where they need to be.

School choice advocates love to talk about how school choice is "the civil rights issue of our time."  But their actions don't match their rhetoric.  Where's the urgency?!?

Newsflash: The actual civil rights movement didn't limit themselves to a passive political strategy.  While politics were certainly a component of their strategy, it was only a component.   The actual civil rights movement held boycotts (hint, hint).  The actual civil rights movement held sit-ins.  The actual civil rights movement did a heck of a lot more than simply holding rallies at the state capitol every other year.

Then there's the fact that, while school choice advocates can sometimes "drive a conversation" in Austin, they rarely seem to do much in the districts of recalcitrant members.

Last session, we suggested to a well known school choice advocate that, if you really wanted to pass a school choice bill next session, you need to start holding sit-ins at high school football games in the districts of recalcitrant rural Republicans.  Force the issue at Churches and coffee shops across the relevant districts.  We got a blank stare in response.

[Note: Having had several additional months to ponder the strategy, we actually wouldn't start with sit-ins at football games.  We'd start with sit-ins at rural school board meetings and threaten to take them to Football games as the next step.  But, either way, if this is truly "the civil rights issue of our time" you need to be holding sit-ins in the districts of recalcitrant rural Republicans and that ain't happening.]

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Bottom Line: Absent a gigantic course correction, school choice will remain dead on arrival in the Texas house for the foreseeable future, and the issue's most passionate advocates have no one but themselves to blame.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

#TXLEGE: Abbott's property tax related political theater includes FOUR (recent) tax-hikers

Left: Villalba, Geren and Button today in Ft. Worth;
Right: Jim Murphy yesterday in Houston

"He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence."
Psalm 101:7

[UPDATE: It gets better, apparently Bonnen voted for HB 486 in committee.]

[UPDATE II: Apparently, Giovanni and Linda Koop were there as well, which just further illustrates our point.]

Question: What do Angie Chen Button, Charlie Geren, Jim Murphy, and Jason Villalba have in common?!?

Did they?!?
  • a) Vote to grease the skids for property tax hikes last session?!?
  • b) Appear at one of Governor Abbott's recent press conferences promoting his property tax plan.

    -- OR --
  • c) BOTH.
The answer, unfortunately, is "C."

Over the past 2 days, Governor Abbott has held press conferences in both Houston and Ft. Worth extolling the benefits of his new property tax proposal.  In fairness to Abbott (as we explained yesterday) it's a good proposal.  Unfortunately, many members of the cast of characters with whom Abbott has chosen to surround himself leaves us...less than sanguine about the proposal's chances of passage.

As a particlarly flagrant example of why, consider HB 486 from last session:



Next, consider which Republicans voted for HB 486 and cross reference them against attendance at Abbott's press conferences:

Bottom Line: If you want us to believe that you're committed to reigning in the property tax system, you probably shouldn't surround yourself with four legislators who voted to grease the skids for further property tax increases as recently as last May.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

As Kendal "White Women" Briles situation continues to fester, [U of H Board Chairman] Fertitta attends big party


"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 7:20

10 days ago, the University of Houston hired an assistant Football coach who had been caught facilitating racially charged sexual assaults during a previous coaching gig at Baylor.

Last Monday, we wrote an open letter to the Chairman of the U of H Board of Regents outlining our concerns; on Saturday, we outlined the specific questions U of H needs to successfully address.

So, how does the chairman of the University of Houston's Board of Regents respond?!?
Floyd Mayweather Jr. surprises Slim Thug's gala guests, joins Tilman Fertitta at Minute Maid Park

....

The elevated Sunday funday bash toasted two Bayou City entrepreneurs, Tilman Fertitta and Daymond John. Fertitta's claim to fame includes ownership of Landry's Inc., Golden Nugget Casinos and, now, the Rockets, as well as being a potential dreammaker on "Billion Dollar Buyer."

[Note: Emphasis in original.]
In other words, in the midst of this festering sore of a situation at the public university where Tilman Fertitta is chairman of the Board of Regents, Tilman Fertitta chooses to attend a big party.  Got it.

Bottom Line: With every day that passes, it's gets harder to conclude anything other than that the University of Houston simply does not care about the racially charged sexual assaults their fancy new football coach was previously caught facilitating.   When it already looks like you're stonewalling, to have the Chairman of your Board of Regents show up at a high end "gala" probably doesn't help matters.  At a minimum, the optics are terrible.

Incoherent Abbott makes good local government accountability proposal (how he plans to pass it is anyone's guess)


"But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
Nehemiah 5:15

We'll start with the good news:
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday unveiled a plan to "rein in skyrocketing property taxes" in Texas, looking to lay down a marker in a debate that dominated the legislative sessions last year and promises to remain front and center through the 2018 primaries and beyond.

"Under the plan I am announcing today, Texas will take action to limit property tax growth, secure private property rights and ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in the nation," Abbott, a Republican who is running for re-election this year, said in a statement as he embarked on a tour of the state — with stops planned here and in Arlington — to promote the plan.

A key tenet of Abbott’s proposal is to prevent cities, counties and school districts from collecting more than 2.5 percent in property tax revenue than they did in a previous year without voter approval. That’s a far lower cap than controversial thresholds that twice failed to make it through the Legislature last year. And his plan would require that two-thirds of voters — well beyond a simple majority — approve any increase above that 2.5 percent threshold.

But Abbott’s plan also offers local leaders something last year’s property tax overhauls didn’t. The state would no longer be able to saddle local governments with providing new services without providing state funding to cover the costs, he said. And when it comes to funding public education — which makes up the majority of local property tax bills — Texas lawmakers would likely be required to put up more state funds under Abbott’s proposal.


....


Another provision in the proposal would also require local governments to be more transparent about the debt they carry when asking voters to approve new bond packages. And it would also require a supermajority of voters to approve additional debt.
This is good.  The unrestricted growth of government at the local level is the number 1 long term economic threat to Texas.  And Abbott's proposal today goes further to address the issue than anything we saw during either the regular or the special session of the 85.

But let's not kid ourselves: It's hard to see how this proposal goes anywhere as long as Dennis Bonnen and Drew Darby remain in the house, and Greg Abbott has endorsed both Dennis Bonnen and (*yack*) Drew Darby.

So there you go: Abbott's making good proposals, but he's not doing the legwork necessary to give himself a legislature that will be receptive to said proposals.

Bottom Line: The Abbott campaign loves to run stupid hashtag campaigns asking people to pledge "hashtagI'mwithAbbott."  But we often find ourselves wondering whether or not Abbott is truly with Abbott.  Today's announcement was a textbook example why.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cruz saves UT Politburo from itself (prevents National Security crisis in the process)


"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan."
Proverbs 29:2

Holy late afternoon on a holiday document dump Batman:
After months of internal uproar and a letter from U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the University of Texas at Austin has declared its China center will not accept funding from a Hong Kong-based foundation that the Republican from Texas said helps spread Chinese government propaganda abroad.

The decision – first reported in an article in the “Opinions” section of The Washington Post – was disclosed in a letter sent Friday from UT-Austin President Greg Fenves to Cruz.

The school must "ensure that the receipt of outside funding does not create potential conflicts of interest or place limits on academic freedom and the robust exchange of ideas,” Fenves wrote. “I am concerned about this if we were to accept funding from [the foundation].”

The week before, Cruz had written to Fenves to “express concern” about UT-Austin's new China center's relationship with the China-United States Exchange Foundation – a “pseudo-philanthropic foundation,” Cruz wrote, that has ties to an arm of the Chinese government that manages “foreign influence operations.”

In his letter, dated Jan. 2, Cruz wrote he’d heard that the UT-Austin center was considering a partnership with the foundation. Launched around the start of the fall semester, the China Public Policy Center was charged with making “fresh and enduring contributions to the study of China-related policy topics while advancing U.S.-China relations and Texas-China relations,” according to a UT news release.

Its executive director, David Firestein, was formerly a U.S. diplomat and senior vice president at the EastWest Institute. He did not respond to requests for comment made by phone and email.

Cruz said in his letter that he was worried about the center's collaboration with the foundation and that it would disseminate “propaganda within the center and compromise its credibility.” The same concerns were raised in emails circulated on an internal UT-Austin faculty e-mail list in December, just four months after the China center launched.
Seriously, do read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: In their neverending financial avarice, the University of Texas was initially willing to accept money to spread propaganda for the Chinese government.  They were only thwarted by an attentive United States Senator.  On a semi related note: Yes, this is the same University of Texas that wants to manage the nation's nuclear weapons....