Saturday, January 19, 2008

HD 46: Hire Dukes, Get A Bill Passed?

By Vince Leibowitz - Capitol Annex - Jan. 19, 2008

Suppose a Legislator gets a contract to work as a “consultant” for a multi-million dollar land developer. The Legislator then passes a bill that increases the overall value of the entire development by providing millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives for one of the land developer’s most high-profile, anchor tenants.
Sound ethical, or even legal?

Well, you’ll never guess who were talking about…again. Yep, increasingly ethically challenged, Republican-funded Craddick Democrat, Dawnna Dukes.

Apparently, when she’s not accepting contributions from GOP Contributors, or defending Tom Craddick, or helping her sister get a toll-road contract the day after she votes for toll roads, or running up $89,000 in illegally reported “campaign” credit card expenses, or missing a crucial vote on the house floor because of a vacation in France, or skipping an important Medicaid Reform Hearing for a conference in La Jolla with a weekend stay-over in Vegas, (to name just a few of her shortcomings) she is using her office to help get personal contracts with multi-million dollar land developers.

I’ve been told off the record by quite a few lobbyists that at the end of meetings about legislative initiatives with their clients Dukes will pop that most uncomfortable of questions…“what’s in it for me?” This is the point in the program where the testicles of the lobbyists shrivel up, the lobbyist turns beat red, and he starts to seek solace in a close corner behind a thick drape. The Southwest Airlines “wanna getaway” ding starts ringing in his head. And he starts to imagine what it will be like to testify in front of a grand jury after Ronnie Earle finds out about the meeting in which he probably just witnessed an act of legislative bribery. Oh, c’mon – there are a dozen of you who will read this post and know exactly what I’m talking about.

Well, folks are talking…

Here’s a fact pattern that would make any 1st year law student with the intent of becoming a District Attorney froth at the mouth. And every bullet is footnoted so that you don’t have to take our word for it, you can see for yourself.

*Dukes’s company, DM Dukes & Associates, gets hired by a company named Catellus Development Group sometime during or before 2006. (1)

*Catellus is the developer who is redeveloping the old Robert Mueller Airport, in Dukes’s East Austin district.(2)

*Dukes is listed on Catellus brochures as a contact. (3)

*Dukes’s company, DM Dukes & Associates is listed on the Robert Meuller web site as a contact for Catellus. (4)

*Dukes attends neighborhood association meetings, not in her capacity as a State Representative, but in her capacity as an agent of Catellus.(5)

*One of the anchor tenants and crown jewels of the new Mueller Development is The Austin Film Society. (6)

*During the legislative session in 2007, Dukes passed HB 1634, a bill that provided a mechanism for $22 million in incentives for the film industry and the Austin Film Society.(7)

*Dukes and one of her Republican pals, Rick Perry, appeared together at a press conference and bill signing ceremony at the Austin Film Studios.(8)

*Dukes issues a press release bragging about her bill that explicitly states that her bill will benefit the Austin Film Studios. “Film Incentive legislation will not only benefit the Austin Film Studios presently located at Robert Mueller in District 46 but also the planned $2.5 billion Villa Muse studio development to be located in District 46.” (9)

*Dukes potentially violates Texas House Rules and the Texas Constitution by never disclosing her personal or business interest with Catellus Development.

*Article 3 Section 22 of the Texas Constitution requires “A member who has a personal or private interest in any measure or bill, proposed, or pending before the Legislature, shall disclose the fact to the House, of which he is a member, and shall not vote thereon.”(10)

*Rule 5 Section 42 of the Texas House Rules sets out this same requirement

We are that the mainstream media has not picked up on this story!
Here you have an elected official working for a multi-million dollar developer as a consultant, who then goes and gets $22 million taxpayer dollars for an incentive program that benefits one of the developers anchor tenants.

How is that legal, moral, ethical, or right?
And I hear this isn’t the only unseemly contract…

Endnotes, links and sources:
According to the document linked below, dated February 15, 2006, Dukes is working on behalf of Catellus Development Group, the same group responsible for the Robert Meuller Development project. On Page 8 of the above link, Dawnna Dukes of DM Dukes & Associates is clearly listed as the MWBE Outreach Consultant for Catellus Development Group. Her address, phone, fax and email are given.

(2) and

EXCERPT – “November 2007, Catellus Development Group officially broke ground on November 14, 2007, on the Seton Family of Hospitals’ new headquarters at Mueller during a ceremony held near the site of Mueller’s future town center.



EXCERPT – “For general inquiries about Catellus’ M/WBE policy and program, please contact: D.M. Dukes and Associates,”

(5) I have this from a personal source who lives in her district and attended one of those meetings.


On Page 3, the Austin Film Society is clearly located within the Meuller Development. On the 8th bullet – left hand side of page 3, the Film Society is clearly mentioned.

(7) In 2007, Dawnna Dukes passed HB 1634.
The bill set up a mechanism for $22 million in incentives for the film industry. The money was appropriated through the Trusteed Programs within the Office of the Governor – A.1.4. Strategy – Film and Music Marketing - $22 million increase relating to HB 1634. This is located on Article I page 52 of the conference committee report for HB 1. It is also mentioned in Rider 20 – Article I page 58 of the conference committee report on HB1.


(9) Dukes campaign continually brags about her legislative achievement in passing HB 1634. EXCERPT “In 2007, Representative Dukes was the prime architect of legislation that will bring Texas into the forefront of the competitive Film Industry. HB 1634 by Dukes created the Texas Film Incentive program which provides an incentive to a project that produces at least 80% of it work and hires at least 70% of its workforce from Texas. Film Incentive legislation will not only benefit the Austin Film Studios presently located at Robert Mueller in District 46 but also the planned $2.5 billion Villa Muse studio development to be located in District 46.”

(10) Texas Constitution

Read more on Capitol Annex

Friday, January 18, 2008

Prosecutor drops arson indictment against judge, wife

By John Moritz - Fort Worth Star Telegram - Jan. 18, 2008
AUSTIN -- Indictments were dropped Friday morning against Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife in the June 28 arson fire that the destroyed the family home in the Houston suburb of Spring.

The move came one day after a grand jury in Harris County charged the couple in the fire that had been ruled arson, and one day after Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal was quoted as saying that his office did not have sufficient evidence to move forward with prosecution.

Two members of the grand jury publicly rebuked Rosenthal, telling media outlets in Houston that the justice process had been thwarted.

"I've just never seen anything like the vigor with which these two defendants were defended by the Harris County District Attorney's Office,"’ Jeffrey Dorrell, the assistant grand jury foreman, was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying. "It was theater of the absurd. We knew before we handed the indictment down that the district attorney was going to refuse to prosecute, but we did it anyway."

Medina's 5,000-square-foot home burned after a fire started in a detached three-car garage. Neighboring houses also sustained heavy damage, and investigators found evidence of an accelerant where the blaze started. Medina, who was serving as Gov. Rick Perry's top lawyer when the governor appointed him to the state's highest civil court in November 2004, has maintained his innocence.

"He testified before the grand jury on Oct. 31 saying that neither he nor anyone in his family had anything to do with this," Medina's attorney, Terry Yates of Houston, said Thursday night. "This comes as a real shocker. We thought this was behind us."

The indictments accused Francisca Medina of arson and David Medina of tampering with the investigation.

According to news accounts, the fire broke out in the Medinas' garage and spread to their house and two neighboring homes, causing an estimated $900,000 in damage. The Harris County fire marshal's office ruled it arson.

Investigators discovered that a year before the blaze, the mortgage holder on the Medinas' $400,000 house filed suit to foreclose after five payments had been missed, according to the reports. The suit was settled in December 2006.

In an interview with The Associated Press late last year, Yates confirmed that David Medina, who is paid about $150,000 as a Supreme Court justice, had been dealing with financial problems. The family had also failed to keep up payments on the homeowner's insurance policy, Yates told the AP.

Perry's office had no comment on Thursday's events. Medina, a Republican who won a six-year term in 2006, was a corporate lawyer for Cooper Industries in Houston and served as a state district judge in Harris County before joining Perry's administration. He is a native of Galveston and graduate of the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

The last sitting Texas Supreme Court justice to face indictment was Don Yarborough, who took office in 1977 while under charges of forgery and perjury. He resigned seven months after being sworn in. He was convicted and then fled to Grenada. Yarborough was apprehended in 1983 and returned to Texas to begin his five-year prison sentence.

Under the indictment, Medina could have faced from two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

ACTION ALERT: Tx House Committee on Transportation Public Hearing on role of MPO and Rural Planning Authorities within COGs

Texas House of Represenatives Meeting Notice - Jan. 18, 2008


COMMITTEE: Transportation

SUBCOMMITTEE: Planning Authorities

TIME & DATE: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 06, 2008

PLACE: E2.012

CHAIR: Rep. Fred Hill

The Subcommittee will meet to consider the following:

Charge #5: Examine the role of metropolitan planning authorities in state law, as well as the creation of rural planning authorities to address the planning needs outside of metropolitan planning organizations but within council of government boundaries.

Hearing on Wendy Davis' Candidacy for Sen. Distict 10 Scheduled Monday, Jan. 23

By Tarrant County Democratic Party - Jan. 18, 2008
Hearing on Wendy Davis' Candidacy for Sen. Dist. 10
Scheduled for Monday, January 23rd, 11am

The Firefighters' appeal to Chairman Art Brender's decision to declare Wendy Davis eligible as a candidate in the Senate District 10 Primary will be heard by the Court of Appeals on Monday, January 23rd, at 11am.

The Hearing will take place on the 9th Floor of the Tarrant County Justice Center.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Governor's appointee indicted - Texas Supreme Court justice, wife indicted

By Houston Chronicle, Jan. 17, 2008
Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife were indicted today by a Harris County grand jury in connection with a fire that destroyed their Spring home last summer, the judge's attorney said.

Medina is charged with evidence tampering, attorney Terry Yates said. His wife, Francisca Medina, is charged with arson, Yates said.

Flames gutted the Medinas' 5,000-square-foot house, destroyed a neighbor's home and damaged a third home on June 28.

In an interview last October, David Medina said he didn't know how the fire started and that he, his wife and four children were innocent.

"Nobody in my family has done anything wrong and we continue to cooperate with investigators so that this matter will come to a conclusion," David Medina said at the time.

District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said in October that David Medina was not a suspect in the arson.

Read more in The Houston Chronicle

The Supreme Court of Texas website
Justice David Medina, Place 4

Justice Medina, a former Harris County state district judge, succeeded Wallace B. Jefferson in Place 4 after Jefferson's appointment to be chief justice. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Justice Medina, who was the governor's general counsel since January 2004.

Before that, he was associate general counsel for Cooper Industries Inc. in Houston and served on the Harris County bench in 1996-2000 after appointment in May 1996 by then-Gov. George W. Bush. He was elected in November 1996 and again in November 1998.

Justice Medina was born on Galveston Island, attended public schools in Hitchcock and graduated with a bachelor science degree from Southwest Texas State University in 1980 (now Texas State University-San Marcos). In college he competed on the university's karate and baseball teams and was on the Dean's List. In 1989 he earned his law degree from South Texas College of Law. He was on the Dean's List and a member of the American Bar Association Regional Moot Court National Championship Team.

He joined Cooper Industries in 1987 and was promoted to litigation counsel upon his graduation from law school. Governor Bush appointed him to the 157th State District Court. The Houston Bar Association voted him as one of the top jurists in Harris County.

He rejoined Cooper in 2000 as associate general counsel for litigation, responsible for supervising Cooper's litigation and product-safety matters throughout the world.

Justice Medina is a former Board Member of Habitat for Humanity and Houston Metro. He currently serves on the Board for the Spring Klein Baseball Association. He is also the manager of his son's Select baseball team and has served as an adjunct professor for South Texas College of Law, where he taught advanced civil trial litigation.

His term ends December 31, 2012.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TAKS testing moved from election day to another date

January 16, 2008


To resolve the conflict created by having Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) assessments scheduled for March 4, 2008, the same day as primary voting in Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has developed a revised testing calendar. Two changes are being made to the original schedule: first, the TAKS exit level social studies retest is being moved from Friday, March 7, to Monday, March 3; and second, the TAKS tests that were scheduled to be administered from March 4 through March 6 are now scheduled to be administered from March 5 through March 7. As a result of these changes, no test administrations will occur on the day of the primary election, Tuesday, March 4.

This new testing schedule will address the following:

Districts will not be burdened with planning the logistics of serving as testing sites and polling places on the same day and at the same location.

Moving the exit level social studies retest from Friday, March 7, to Monday, March 3, affects the fewest number of students, approximately 10,000 statewide.

Three of the four exit level retests––English language arts, mathematics, and science––will be administered one day later but in the same order as originally scheduled.

The grade 10 English language arts primary and make-up administrations are still separated by one day. The primary administration is now scheduled for March 5, and the make-up is scheduled for March 7.

The Student Success Initiative (SSI) reading administrations are now scheduled for March 5, leaving March 6, 7, and 8 for make-up opportunities.

Out-of-school examinees taking an exit level retest in March will not be negatively affected by this schedule change. Students who have already registered for one or more retests will receive a follow-up letter from Pearson with the revised test administration date(s). Out-of-school examinees who plan to register for the retest onsite and arrive at school on the originally scheduled days will be permitted to take the retest needed.

Attached to this letter are the original and revised test administration schedules for the week of March 3; in addition, TEA will update the 2007–2008 testing calendar on the Student Assessment Division website. Pearson is revising the calendar of events to reflect this schedule change and will post the new calendar as soon as possible.

The Student Assessment Division will work with district testing coordinators on a case-by-case basis if there are problems with testing on either Monday, March 3, or Friday, March 7. Districts should submit a request in writing using the Request for Alternate Dates, Modified Scheduling, and Off-site Testing form located on the TEA website at:

I apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause; however, I hope that this schedule change will allow your students to demonstrate their best performance on TAKS. I believe it will also demonstrate to your students and community the importance of voting.


Robert Scott

Commissioner of Education


cc: District testing coordinators

ESC directors

ESC testing coordinators

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hutchinson defensive about border fence

By Tom McGregor - The Dallas Blog - Jan. 14, 2008
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas showed an uncharacteristic display of frustration with party colleagues on Friday when she sharply criticized two Republican congressmen who had accused her of a stealth effort to derail a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Houston Chronicle reports that “conservative blogs and pundits have attacked Hutchison ever since Reps. Peter King of New York and Duncan Hunter of California accused the Texas Republican of essentially repealing Congress’ mandate to build 700 miles of fencing.”

Hutchison had been labeled a ‘Pander to the Criminal Invader’ and called a traitor to border security. But, the senator claims that the two congressmen “have been a little loose with the facts.”

Rep. King and Rep. Hunter have expressed surprise about the Hutchison amendment to the legislation requiring the border fence. Hutchison claims she notified both of them that she intended to amend the law ordering 700 miles of double-layer fencing as far back as September 2006.

Her amendment repealed parts of the 2006 law that dictated both the fence’s location and design – to the disappointment of King and Hunter, who advocate the construction of double-layer fencing to halt illegal crossings.

See article in Houston Chronicle:

Hutchison on defensive over border fence amendment

By MICHELLE MITTELSTADT - Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau - Jan. 12, 2008
WASHINGTON — In an uncharacteristic display of public frustration with party colleagues, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Friday sharply criticized two Republican congressmen who had accused her of a stealth effort to derail the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Conservative blogs and pundits have attacked Hutchison ever since Reps. Peter King of New York and Duncan Hunter of California accused the Texas Republican of essentially repealing Congress' mandate to build 700 miles of fencing.

"This was a midnight massacre," King said of an amendment Hutchison shepherded into law last month. "It was absolutely disgraceful."

After being labeled "Panderer to the Criminal Invader" and called a traitor to border security, Hutchison fought back Friday.

"There is misinformation, and I think the congressmen who should know better exactly what has happened have been a little loose with the facts," she said in an interview.

"I am a little frustrated that Rep. King and I guess Rep. Hunter are feigning surprise," Hutchison said, noting that both men were notified as far back as September 2006 that she intended to amend the law ordering 700 miles of double-layer fencing.

The controversy is over an amendment that Hutchison inserted into a $555 billion spending bill that President Bush signed into law the day after Christmas.

The measure repealed the parts of the 2006 law that dictated both the fence's location and design — to the dismay of King and Hunter, who advocate the use of double-layer fencing to halt illegal crossings.

The Department of Homeland Security essentially had been ignoring the order to build double-layered fencing anyway, with only a handful of the 166 miles constructed to date comprising a fence, a patrol road in between and a second fence.

Hutchison, who insists her measure in no way jeopardizes the fence construction due to get under way in Texas in the spring, noted that similar language passed the Senate on three separate occasions last year.

What the new law does, Hutchison said, is require that the government consult with landowners and local elected officials, many of whom have felt bulldozed and ignored by the federal government as it moves ahead with its plan to build 130 miles of fencing in Texas.

"I feel like this has been a little blown out of proportion," Hutchison said.

'Full steam ahead'
The Department of Homeland Security echoed Hutchison's view that her language does not put the fence in jeopardy. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's pledge to build 370 miles by year's end is "full steam ahead," said spokeswoman Laura Keehner.

But a prominent fence critic and a coalition of Texas border officials critical of the fence argued that her measure should force Homeland Security back to the drawing board and breathed new vigor into the anti-fence revolt along the Rio Grande.

"We plan to see the Department of Homeland Security in court," said Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which may represent some Texas landowners who object to fencing on their property. ''Building the fence is back to square one."

The Texas Border Coalition cited the Hutchison measure in calling on Chertoff to retract the plans that suggest where the Texas fence will be built "to assure that the consultation is authentic."

Though the new law, which provided $1.2 billion to build the fence, directs Homeland Security officials to consult with affected local residents, it does not decree what constitutes appropriate consultation.

Homeland Security officials, who insist they have been consulting closely with border residents, reject the stance that the new law changes anything.

Hutchison herself appears to view the Homeland Security outreach effort, which included 18 town hall meetings and a dozen community briefings, as sufficient. "As far as I can tell, it's working fine," she said. "It doesn't mean they are going to do exactly what the local people request, but they have some ability to work it out."

Border policymakers offered mixed assessments of the consultation to date.

Mayor feels betrayed
Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, was frustrated Thursday by new word that the government intends to build nearly one mile of fencing in his city.

Foster and the City Council thought they had fended off the fence last year in a deal with Homeland Security to cut down Carrizo cane along the river and add lighting and decorative fencing to a swath of land between two ports of entry.

"We get to an agreement in January, and a year later that doesn't count," Foster said.

But Del Rio Mayor Efrain Valdez was more complimentary of the department's outreach. "They have been listening to us," he said.

Hutchison, caught between a national demand for border security and Texas constituents fearful that the fence will destroy their way of life, said she is trying to steer a careful course that achieves both objectives.

"It's a difficult issue," she said.

Since the esteemed Congressmen from New York and California are so concerned about securing our borders from invaders from foreign lands, before they mandate fencing along the cities and towns and ranches of southern Texas, they should propose double fencing along the California coastline and the Atlantic coast. When you plug up one hole in a container, the contents pours out other holes. If they truly could create an effective fence along the southern border of the United States, they'd need to fence in our coastlines to prevent "illegal immigrants" from becoming boat people or long distance swimmers entering on our nation's beaches.

A fence on the border will not solve immigration problems. It will be wasteful, ineffective spending. The Congressmen from New York and California are posturing and pandering to segments of their own voters.

written by lee , January 14, 2008

The fence is a nutty idea and more power to Kay for doing whatever it takes to prevent it from being built. It is a waste of money that will not work.

written by tom madrzykowski , January 14, 2008

Build a 13 foot fence and sure enough someone will have a 14 ladder.

written by HSH , January 14, 2008

I spent four days last fall on one of the largest ranches in South Texas which shares the border which Mexico. It has its own security operation, as do most if not all ranches in the Valley. They never let the Border Patrol on their property without someone from their own professional operation around. They also think the fence is a ridiculous idea. Everyone I talked to from Kingsville south thinks its a stupid idea. They say if you really want to spend money on infrastucture to try to make a difference then dredge the Rio Grande. Maybe KBH is merely trying to listen and help her constituents.

Read more on The Dallas Blog

Monday, January 14, 2008

Educators fuel election chaos

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - Jan. 14, 2008
The Texas Education Agency receives my "Bonehead of the Year Award" for scheduling TAKS testing on primary election day without sending clarification to school districts that state law requires that public buildings (including schools) must accommodate elections on election day.

Across Texas County Election officials and County Chairs of both political parties are scrambling to sign election contracts while many school districts are refusing to accommodate the elections. Some counties are suing school districts to get access to the buildings. Some school districts are accommodating the elections. Others are standing firm refusing to accommodate the elections. Citizens are confused. Most news coverage is sketchy and incomplete or inaccurate.

Here is what I've learned about how educators who are charged with teaching our school children civics and government blew this one out of the water!

Some school districts wanted to delay the start of the school year for the Spring Semester. The State Board of Education is responsible for administering a "student assessment instrument and is charged in Texas Education Code Chapter 39.027 (a)(2) with adopting a schedule for administrating the end-of-course assessment.

State law was change so that the Texas public schools' spring semester could start later than last year. A change was made in the Texas Education Code 39.023(c-3) so that this year the first end-of-course assessment tests must be administered at least 2 weeks later than that they were last year.
The language in the Education Code was changed to read:
(c-3)In adopting a schedule for the administration of assessment instruments under this section, the State Board of Education shall require:
(1)assessment instruments administered under Subsection (a) to be administered on a schedule so that the first assessment instrument is administered at least two weeks later than the date on which the first assessment instrument was administered
under Subsection (a) during the 2006-2007 school year;

Texas Education Code 39.023.c-3 does not require that the TEA set the TAKS test on March 4th (election day). It merely requires that the date must be at least 2 weeks later than last year. I have phoned TEA Legal inquiring if they reviewed Texas Election Code 43.031 requiring that public buildings accommodate elections and sent information to the school districts clarifying that TAKS testing cannot hinder the accommodation of elections on election day when they scheduled TAKS testing March 4, 2008? I have not received a response yet from them.

Texas law does not require TAKS testing on March 4th (election day). TEA chose to schedule it on March 4th (one of many dates after the time stipulated by state law that the first end-of-course assessment test must be scheduled.

I think this is a very boneheaded decision by State Bureaucrats. Those who scheduled TAKS testing on election day and those who approved that schedule have thrown the election process into unnecessary chaos. Election administrators, parties, candidates are struggling to determine where the elections will be held. Some counties are suing the school districts to require them to accommodate the elections according to Texas Election Code 43.031. Others moved the elections to other sites, often at an inconvenience to the voters. (When election sites change, a percentage of voters fail to learn the new sites in time to vote - depressing electoral turnout.) Some communities simply do not have suitable alternate sites available in the precincts to hold the elections.

I sent this message to the Texas Education Agency:
You have flunked the test in citizenship and applied civics! Entrusted by the citizens of this state to teach our children about CIVICS, GOVERNMENT, PARTICIPATION in the DEMOCRATIC PROCESS, you either failed to check or chose to ignore that March 4, 2008 is a primary election day. State law requires that public buildings be made available for elections yet you chose to schedule (or approve scheduling) TAKS testing on election day. Your irresponsible, short-sighted, ignorant actions diminishes the ability of election officials and candidates to clearly communicate where the polling places will be in time for ALL CITIZENS to participate. If you allow school districts to refuse to allow the elections to be scheduled in school buildings, you are violating the law and betraying the trust of the citizens. Testing is important. Education is important. Showing our children by EXAMPLE is also important. The message you have sent is loud and clear: Elections don't really matter that much to the Texas Board of Education. Elections are an inconvenience that do not merit careful examination of dates on the calendar which ANY ELECTED OFFICIAL, POLITICAL APPOINTEE, CIVICS TEACHER, REGISTERED VOTER reserves for participating in elections.
The boneheads in your agency who scheduled TAKS testing on Election Day should be informed that it was a MISTAKE. Correct your mistake. Send a strong message to teachers, educators, pupils and your fellow citizens that your agency values our Democratic process enough to relinquish accommodate the elections on school premises March 4th. Make it a policy that all election days will be scheduled on your calendar before you begin filling in dates which are not SET BY LAW.

If you want to write them the email link to their website form is:

I recommend that you also phone them. It is easier to ignore contact forms. When their switchboard also lights up the e-mail responses have greater impact.

The Texas Education Agency is located in the William Travis Building
1701 N. Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas, 78701

Those who oversee (and vote to fund) the TEA include:
Gov. Rick Perry - Tara Balleau (512) 799-9240 is the governor's point person on education.
In the Lt. Governor's office Andre Sheridan (512) 463-0108 is the Education Point Person.

Members of the Texas Senate Committee on Education include:

Chair of the Senate Education Committee: Senator Florence Shapiro (512) 463-0108 (972) 403-3404 - email form

Senator Royce West - (512) 463-0123 or (214) 467-0123
Senator West's education point person is Lajuana Barton

Senator Kyle Janek - (512) 463-0117 (800) 445-2635
Senator Janek's point person on education is Casey Haney email:

Senator Judith Zaffirini (512) 463-0121 (956) 722-2293
Her education point person is Warren von Eschenbach email:

Senator Steve Ogden (512) 463-0105 His education point person is Patty Guerra

Senator Leticia Van de Putte (512) 463-0126 (210) 733-6604
Her point person on education is Ida Garcia email:

Senator Tommy Williams (281) 364-9426 His point person on education is his chief of staff Janet Stieben email:

Senator Dan Patrick (713) 464-0282

I suspect that there may be attempts at TEA (if there is enough outcry)to blame some low level staffer. However, this date was set months ago. It went all the way up the supply chain and officials all the way up signed off on it. The responsiblity for ensuring that directives from the TEA complies with State Law (including State Election Code) rests with the top. The legal team should have reviewed this, conferred with the Attorney General and SOS and issued a directive to all school districts clarifying that if TAKS testing occurs on an election day, the school districts still have to accommodate the elections. The buck rests at the top. They are responsible for triggering law suits between county election officials and school districts throughout Texas, impacting every voter in Texas and sending a very bad message to our school children that elections really aren't that high a priority with this state's "Educators."

I think it is time to EDUCATE the educators.
REFERENCE: Texas Election Code 43.031
Education Code 39.023(c-3)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Definition of democracy is slippery in 17 counties

By Sara Inés Calderón - San Antonio Express-News - Jan. 5, 2008

Ben Briscoe is a Republican in Democrat's clothing.
Frio County has been without a Republican Party chairman since 2005. So Briscoe said he and other conservative voters in Pearsall register as Democrats.

Otherwise, he said, they would have no way to influence local elections that have been largely decided in Democratic primaries.

For much of the 20th century, Democrats ruled the state with little or no competition. It's rare now for Texas counties not to have both parties in place, although in many places the competition is still one-sided.

Seventeen Texas counties lack a party chairman and therefore won't hold primary elections.

Legally, the primaries are set up by the county party chairmen, so Republicans can't hold primaries in the 14 counties without a GOP chairman and Democrats are likewise out of the picture in three counties in the Panhandle.

State party organizations can't do anything about it except try to recruit someone, but spokesmen for both parties said they tend to leave that to the grass roots.

"If somebody really wanted to vote in the primary, they could contact the party and we could appoint them county chair to administer the Democratic election there," said Hector Nieto of the Texas Democratic Party.

There's almost no reason to have a party chairman in counties with a sparse Republican population, said Hans Klingler, spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas, although he added that 14 empty county chairmanships was not an "optimal" situation.

This year's unpredictable presidential race makes the lack of a primary more irksome than usual for the handful of partisans who won't be able to cast a primary ballot because of where they live.

But as with Frio County, voters in counties dominated by one party are drawn to that party's primary for its local impact, whatever their underlying loyalties.

"If you're not a registered Democrat, then you don't get to participate in the political process (in Frio County) as a rule," Briscoe said. "The local elections are determined in the Democratic primaries."

Keith Dennis, pastor at Redemption Baptist Church in Devine and former Republican chairman of Frio County, agreed.

"You just about have to vote in the Democratic Party in order to have any input in who gets elected to the county," he said.

In 2005, Dennis decided he couldn't handle both his congregation and his duties as chairman, and resigned.

"I tried to get somebody in the county to take it over, but I couldn't get any response," Dennis said.

Frio County, like others in predominantly Democratic South Texas, has never really had much of a Republican presence, he said.

Both parties claim they are trying to fill the 17 vacancies, but the situation smacked of disenfranchisement to some observers.

"What does that say for democracy?" said Sharon Navarro, a political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

A few rural counties could make a difference in a tight statewide race, and voters in traditionally Democratic or Republican areas could cross over, influenced by everything from the war in Iraq to the housing market to immigration, she said.

"There are new variables in this election," Navarro said. "You have people who are willing to cross party lines because of war, gas prices, Social Security — all these things are coming into play."

Although the two parties are complying with state law, Richard Gambitta, also a UTSA political science professor, maintains that their actions run counter to the fundamentals of democracy.

"The parties have an obligation to provide access to the ballot to those who want to vote," he said. "Should I have any more right to choose the nominees for the Republican or Democratic ballot if I live in a Democratic area as opposed to a Republican area?"

A solution is simple, he said: The state parties could simply mail ballots to their voters in the affected counties.

Debbie Avery, originally from Frio County, helped organize the first modern-era Republican Party there in 1960. She laughed when asked if a Republican had ever been elected to office by the time she moved away in 2000.

Both she and her husband were active GOP members for 60 years, she said. Pretty much every other activist she could remember has since died.

Briscoe thinks even a Republican Party leader wouldn't change the situation in Frio County. Since he can still vote for his national choices in the November election, he wouldn't register as a Republican and risk losing his local impact.

"I don't see how this is going to change," Briscoe said. "It's been Democratic since the beginning of time, just about."

Read more in the San Antonio Express-News

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

State Rep. Garnet Coleman Endorses Dale Henry for Railroad Commissioner

Calls Henry "Most Progressive" Candidate In The Race

HOUSTON-State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) today announced his endorsement of Dale Henry for Texas Railroad Commissioner.

"I believe Dale to be the most progressive candidate in the race for Railroad Commissioner. Dale's plan to put environmental protection and citizen safety at the forefront of the Commission's agenda is something that should resonate with every Texan," State Representative Coleman noted.

Rep. Coleman, who has served the people of House District 147 since 1991, is the immediate-past chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and has served as the chair of the non-partisan Legislative Study Group since 2003. An outspoken, respected advocate for Texas families, Rep. Coleman said he is pleased to offer his endorsement of Dale Henry in the Democratic Primary.

"I'm very pleased to endorse Dale. With the difficult issues facing the Texas Railroad Commission today, we need someone like Dale," Coleman said.

Dale Henry, a Lampasas Democrat, has more than four decades of experience in the oil field service industry and holds a bachelors degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He has formerly served as City Manager of Lampasas, a county commissioner in Mills County, and as a member of the Lower Colorado Regional Water Planning Commission.

Henry faces Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton in the March 4 Democratic Primary. The winner of the March 4 Democratic Primary will face Commissioner Michael L. Williams in the general election. Photos of the press conference suitable for reprint may be obtained from the campaign by emailing