Friday, October 20, 2017

On whose behalf, pray tell, did the Chamber submit "Austin's" Amazon bid?!?

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

Soo...this happened:

The natural follow up:

Umm, excuse us?!?

The Chamber of Commerce is submitting an a "Region" bid for the Amazon project, but the public isn't allowed to see any details?!?

To this point, we've been relatively agnostic on Amazon.  We feel similarly to the way we feel as a Yankee fan about signing Bryce Harper.  It might be a mutually beneficial partnership, but only up to a certain price tag.

Instead, we're given a top-secret "process" where the public isn't even permitted to know the price tag; if things don't change soon, this will rapidly become the hellest of no's.

Questions off the top of our head:
  • What political subdivisions are involved in this "region" bid?!?
    • eg. City of Austin, Travis County, Williamson County, Hays County, Various other ISD's and Cities.
  • Are the provisions of this bid legally binding on the afore mentioned political subdivisions?!?
  • Is the State of Texas involved in this bid?!?
  • Will the public be allowed to see the terms of this bid before the relevant political subdivisions commit?!?
  • What happens to this "region" bid if some of the political subdivisions want to move forward while others don't?!?
  • Are any sort of wage/benefit mandates contained in this bid?!?
Like we said, that's off the top of our head; we're sure we could come up with another 50 to 100 questions if we thought about it for awhile.

This secretive process needs to stop.  Say what you will about some of the stranger proposals other cities have made, at least they're being open with their citizens and taxpayers.  But, apparently, Austin's "civic leaders" think they can write a proposal in secret and who cares what the public thinks.

Good luck with that.

[Note: We've already sent the relevant open records requests.]

Bottom Line: Six months ago, this website helped lead a coalition that defeated Warren Buffett; if things don't change, soon, we can do the same with Jeff Bezos.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cruz explains the connection between Robin Hood and Confiscatory Taxation

"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



  • "In his opening, Bernie invoked Robin Hood."
  • "Robin Hood was 'robbing' the tax collectors, who were collecting too much [sic] taxes from the working men and women, and taking it for the rich."
  • "In Bernie's analogy, it is the Democrats who are King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham."
  • "Robin Hood is saying: 'Tax collectors, stop hammering the people who are struggling, who are laboring in the fields, who are working; stop taking it to the castle, to give out to your buddies'."
  • "The Democrats love corporate welfare."
  • "When you have Washington giving out goodies, the big guys do great; it's the little people who hurt."
  • "Bernie didn't disagree with what I said...."
    • Note: Goes on to make point about big government fueling 'economic inequality.'

#TXLEGE: Tinderholt to monitor Straus' Loathsome little "Economic Competitiveness" dog and pony show....

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

Good for him:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Central Health, UT Med School, get the lawsuit they so RICHLY deserve....

"Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy."
Psalm 82:3

It's about time, via the Austin Bulldog:
Three Travis County taxpayers filed a lawsuit this morning against the Travis County Healthcare District, dba Central Heath, and its president and CEO Mike Geeslin, complaining that property tax funds are being used for purposes not authorized by the Texas Constitution and state statutes.

If successful the litigation’s biggest impact would be to force Central Health, through its nonprofit Community Care Collaborative, to stop giving $35 million a year to the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School. That would make vastly more funds available to provide direct healthcare services available for indigent, uninsured, and underinsured residents of Travis County.

Under an Affiliation Agreement, that yearly allocation has already yielded $105 million for the medical school through FY 2017 and the $35 million annual payments are scheduled continue in perpetuity. Stopping that flow of money would undermine the financial foundation upon which the medical school was built. In June 2012 the UT Board of Regents committed $25 million a year to operate the medical school and $5 million a year for eight years to equip laboratories, but made those funds contingent upon the community providing $35 million a year. Otherwise there would be no medical school.

The lawsuit petition tackles that premise head on: “The issue in this case is not whether it would be cool or wonderful to have a medical school in Austin (or whether defendants consider other goals cool or wonderful). This suit is necessary because defendants are not complying with Texas law and are expending funds on items unrelated to its statutory authorization of providing health care to our poor and vulnerable residents.”
Read the whole thing here.

#TXLEGE: Lower profile issue illustrates Straus doesn't give rat's rear end about "economic competitiveness"....

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Proverbs 29:1

As Straus pursues this loathsome little "economic competitiveness" stunt, it's worth reflecting on an issue from the special session that didn't get a lot of press at the time: PERMITTING REFORM.

Low housing costs are routinely cited as a major reason why both businesses and individuals move to Texas.  Unfortunately, as the number of people moving here this past decade has driven up demand, supply has failed to keep pace.  The natural result is higher prices.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening.  But one of the biggest is that the permitting process is a bottleneck that adds costs and delays construction projects.  Obviously, Austin is the worst offender, but they're not alone.

This summer, Governor Abbott partnered with Konni Burton on SB 13: "Relating to the issuance of a permit by a political subdivision."  The bill would have eliminated bureaucratic slow walking by making the permitting issuance mandatory after a certain period.  It also would have eliminated a number of the excuses political subdivisions use when denying permits.

You can see what happened:

Bottom Line: If you aren't serious about abusive municipal permitting, you aren't serious about housing costs.  If you aren't serious about housing costs, you aren't serious about "economic competitiveness."  Case closed Joe.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Construction Interests Bankrolling the Austin ISD Bond....

"Like a roaring lion and a charging bear
Is a wicked ruler over poor people."
Proverbs 28:15

From Travis County Taxpayers Union:
Corporate Cronies, Special Interest Unions Contribute $81,500 to Sell AISD $Billion Tax Increase


Austin, TX -- The Travis County Taxpayer’s Union (TCTU) has analyzed and released their findings regarding the 30-day financial disclosures of the Austin ISD pro-bond campaign, and the results are alarming.

Among the biggest campaign contributors is a host of corporations, architects, contractors, lawyers, and service providers to AISD, further evidence as to who is the true beneficiary of the bond: not the students, nor the teachers, but the bureaucrats and crony capitalists who directly and monetarily benefit from the extravagant spending in the taxpayer-funded bond tax increase.  Some of the corporate donors:

ABC Home & Commercial Services - $10,000.00
Greater Austin Economic Development Corp. - $10,000.00
Education Austin PAC - $10,000.00
Heritage Title Company of Austin, Inc. - $5,000.00
Pfluger Associates, L.P. - $5,000.00
Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle, P.C - $5,000.00
American Constructors - $5,000.00
Bartlett Cocke General Contractors - $3,500.00
DLR Group - $3,500.00
O'Connell Robertson - $3,500.00
PBK, Inc. - $3,000.00
Encotech Engineering - $2,500.00
Ranger Excavating, L.P - $2,500.00
BLGY Architecture, Inc. - $2,500.00
Flintco, LLC - $2,500.00
Joeris General Contractors - $2,500.00
D'Amato Conversano, Inc. DBA DCI Engineers - $2,500.00
Husch Blackwell LLP - $2,500.00
JE Dunn Construction - $2,500.00
Ranger Excavating, L.P - $2,500.00
Square One Consultants - $2,000.00
Journeyman Construction, Inc. - $1,000.00
Studio 8 Architects, Inc. - $1,000.00
MWM Design Group, Inc. - $500.00

“Don’t be deceived, Austin ISD taxpayers - this is a corporate contractor’s bond,” says Don Zimmerman of TCTU. “The school district is shrinking, and no bond money is going towards our teachers. Our kids - and our educators - deserve better.”

“What this amounts to is that Austin ISD has severely mismanaged their maintenance budget - a whopping $54,000.00 per month, and is now being bankrolled by opportunistic contractors and construction companies to try and trick taxpayers into bellying up. Austin voters should not stand for this.”

Meanwhile, the district continues to claim the bond will not increase tax “rates” - a rhetorical device being used to deceive voters that borders on a lie, and perhaps even an ethics violation according to the rules set by the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC). The ballot language itself reads that, if the bond passes, Austin ISD will be authorized to increase taxes “without limit.”

Ballot Language:
The issuance of $1,050,984,000 school building bonds for the construction, acquisition, rehabilitation, renovation, expansion, improvement, modernization and equipment of school buildings in the district, including (i) technology systems and equipment, (ii) safety and security systems and equipment, (iii) improvements to address overcrowding and safety concerns, (iv) improvements for students with special needs, and (v) reinvention programs for twenty-first century learning;  the purchase of the necessary sites for school buildings;  and the purchase of new school buses, and the levy, pledge, assessment and collection of ad valorem taxes on all taxable property in the district, sufficient, without limit as to rate or amount, to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds and the costs of credit agreements executed in connection with the bonds.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fox News suddenly interested in chaos at Texas' public universities....

"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

Briscoe Cain on Fox Business this morning:

During the appearance, Briscoe discusses last week's incident at Texas Southern.  Readers are welcome to watch it themselves.  But we're primarily interested in the fact this happened in the first place.

As we explained in June:
But, for as awful as this fall portends to be, it also makes us weirdly optimistic over the longer term. The reason why is that, as these events unfold, we suspect Fox News will cover them. And we all understand the degree to which a certain Governor cares what Fox News thinks.
And, all of a sudden, here's Fox News covering shenanigans on a public university campus in Texas.  The only thing about which we were wrong is that the incident that produced Fox News' interest didn't occur at UT-Austin.  Instead, it was the failure of UT-Austin to address the incidents on their own campus three weeks ago that allowed this to occur at Texas Southern.

And, eventually, Fox News is going to figure out that (at least in Texas) public universities fall within the jurisdiction of the Governor's office.  And we suspect you'll get whiplash at how quickly Greg Abbott acts once that happens. Whiplash.

Bottom Line:  This morning's appearance was a necessary step in the process.