Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What? Another Petition?

OK, here's the deal. Here in Texas we have a state legislature that is struggling to balance a budget because for 6 years now the governor and the Republican majority have been cutting taxes and giving incentive money to corporations. And they have failed to collect enough revenue to pay for basic needs.

And from what I am reading, it looks like the Republican-led state house is going to balance the budget on the backs of public sector workers, nursing homes, and sick children.

Such that, as projected by a study conducted by the Legislative Budget Board in this report, over 270,000 total jobs will be lost in 2012 as a result of these cuts, and that jumps to over 335,000 jobs in 2013. This is completely unacceptable. Texans wanted to send a message to Austin in 2010, but I don't think they were saying they would really appreciate it if a third of a million people would lose their jobs.

People need to speak up again. People need to send another message to Austin: stop balancing the budget on the backs of those who didn't have a single thing to do with this budget shortfall. I signed another petition today saying just that. I really like this part:
"These job losses are the direct result of a permanent structural deficit caused by Perry’s out of balance 2006 tax swap plan. Not only are cuts to education and health care a real threat to our economic future; cuts that kill over 335,000 jobs are a threat to our economy right now. It’s time to fix the structural deficit so that future budgets don’t require use of the Rainy Day Fund and find a reliable revenue stream to ensure schools are funded and basic needs of Texans are met."
So what are you waiting for? Click here and sign there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FBISD Board of Trustee Candidate Forum

A representative of The Fort Bend Employees Federation asked me to post this announcement on the website. Don’t know why. My six readers already know about it. But if you by any chance didn’t hear about it, go and see the candidates for Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees. See them and judge them for yourself. I know I have to reconsider my judgment in one of the races as I clearly do not know the difference between Clayton Alpaugh and Bruce Albright. I kept getting them confused in the last election and the confusion seems to have resurfaced.

Again I am sorry for any stress or inconvenience that my simple honest mistake may have caused, especially to the 15 who had to view the mis-attributed video. It was a mistake of identity due to faulty memory and nothing else.

Press release follows:

FBISD Board of Trustee Candidate Forum
to be Hosted By Fort Bend Employee Federation

Sugar Land, TX - March 29, 2011 - With the current state budget crisis as a backdrop, the Fort Bend Employee Federation will host a "Cake and Coffee with the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustee Candidates" at 7:00 PM, Thursday, March 31, 2011. 
 
The event will be held at the Sugar Land Marriott Town Center Square Conference Center and is open to the general public.

Audience members will have an opportunity to receive a copy of the candidate questionnaire published by the Fort Bend Employee Federation.  Answering the questions presented in the questionnaire is a prerequisite to participating in the event as well as making the candidate eligible for endorsement by the Federation. Attendees will have an opportunity to submit questions to the candidates as well as enjoy cake and coffee immediately following the event.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 7:00 PM
Sugar Land Marriott Town Center Square Conference Center
16090 City Walk
Sugar Land, TX 77479

Oops

Sorry guys. That wasn't Bruce Albright. Looked like him to me. Dang. Hate it when that happens. (And yes I apologize for making an honest mistake.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Free Education is Not Free

Imagine my surprise this morning to read in this article at the Austin American-Statesman that Bill Hammond, who heads up the Texas Association of Business, a pro-business lobby, was slated to speak at the rally to save Texas’ schools earlier this month. True, the rally was billed as bipartisan, but still . . . Bill Hammond? TAB? Pro-education?

Education is just about the biggest drain on Texas’ budget. Business, I thought, eschews the payment of taxes, taxes that fund education.

So I was surprised.

Not surprised that he ginned up an excuse to get out of speaking at the rally by claiming a bum knee acted up that day. I attended the rally with one as well, and lived to tell the tale. Attendees at the rally were clearly partisan, and clearly laid the blame for the possibility of the demise of public education in Texas squarely at the feet of Rick Perry. This would not look good for Bill Hammond to appear in front of that crowd.

So why was he on the speakers’ list anyway? Well, as the article explains, Bill Hammond is self-interested, as all business people are, and wants educated people in Texas so that business can thrive.

From the Austin American-Statesman:
“Hammond, a former business owner and Republican lawmaker from Dallas, is accustomed to steering the state business organization between its support for Perry and his fervent belief that now is not the time to short-change public or higher education.”

“Hammond, who's been interested in public education since his days as a lawmaker in the 1980s, has added higher education to his list of concerns for the state's future workforce.”

“‘If we don't have an educated workforce, the jobs will leave,’ Hammond said. ‘We are not meeting the needs of the future.’”

On the other hand, if you read further on down, you wonder just how Hammond thinks it is possible to be in favor of fully funding education without coming up with new taxes and/or fees to pay for it. A free public education is anything but free.

Hammond says he hasn't changed his political stripes. He's still opposed to raising taxes and increasing or creating fees. But his proposition that state funding should be kept level for the next two years contrasts with a Legislature that is contemplating deep budget cuts and layoffs.”
It really is elementary. The reason the state lacks the funds to fully pay for the education of its own schoolchildren is because the state has failed, since 2006, to collect enough revenue to pay for it. It is now time to realize this simple fact. It is now time to redraw how education gets funded and make sure that this looming crisis in education doesn’t happen or happen again in the future.

Because a free education is anything but free.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Texas We Have 4 Nukes

A few nights ago Lawrence O’Donnell, on his MSNBC news and commentary show, The Last Word, cited an interesting statistic. Most people in America live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. Politifact got out a map, a census, and a calculator and verified O’Donnell’s claim.

So then, having absolutely no idea how close I live to a nuke I had to look.

Texas has 4 nuclear power plants.

Two of them are near Fort Worth, a far piece from Fort Bend County. And the other two are near Bay City.

Bay City is in neighboring Matagorda County.

50 miles away from me?

Nope.

60.

It’s Friday

I commented on the effect of Jackie Evancho on opera late last year. An amazing performance by a surprisingly young person.

Now we have an amazing YouTube video by yet another young person that I need to mention. Mention at least.

Young Rebecca Black has burst upon the media scene with her amazingly disconnected and verbose narrative about the fact that it has happened to be Friday. I have polled my classes and the vote is that kids either love it, hate it, or laugh at it out loud.

(LOL)

I don’t know. It just makes me smile. The disconnect. How a young girl relates to a really much older guy driving around in his car rapping. The kids think it is funny, too. So, anyway, enjoy the trip. Fifty million views on YouTube at this posting.

Since February.

3 million just since late this afternoon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Denial Ain’t Just a Tsunami in Japan

The latest news out of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor complex is sobering. It is the worst news yet. They suspect that the partially melted nuclear core in Unit 3 has breached the containment structure and now water tainted with nuclear contamination may be entering the groundwater.

“A breach could mean a leak has been seeping for days, likely since the hydrogen explosion at Unit 3 on March 14. It's not clear if any of the contaminated water has run into the ground. Radiation readings for the air were not yet available for Friday, but detections in recent days have shown no significant spike.”

“Elevated levels of radiation have turned up elsewhere, including the tap water in several areas of Japan. In Tokyo, tap water showed radiation levels two times higher than the government standard for infants, who are particularly vulnerable to cancer-causing radioactive iodine, officials said.”

Bottled water is disappearing off the shelves in Tokyo.

All of this began, I have come to believe because of immense denial in the Japanese nuclear industry. Denial that an event like this could ever occur, or that if it did, their systems and backups were failsafe.

This catastrophe was actually an inevitability.

Now it’s true that Japan has no oil reserves and no natural gas reserves to burn for energy, and no coal either, and it’s true that they import every burnable thing, so nuclear power seems like a viable alternative. So it comes as no surprise to me that Japan has so many nuclear power plants.

But the very reason Japan has no natural energy resources, its location in the Pacific Rim of Fire as an island arc immediately west of a subducting plate boundary, is the same reason why not one nuclear power plant should have ever been built in Japan. Japan has earthquakes, lots and lots of earthquakes. Take a look at this seismicity map. Every square mile in Japan, it seems, has been the epicenter of an earthquake. And look, the color code shows the depth at which the earthquakes occur. Orange is shallow. Shallow earthquakes are the strongest ones. They all occur offshore. Japan’s entire east coast is prone to tsunamis.

And on the coast is where they put the plants, because that’s where the water is.

But Japan needs power and they have no natural resources for energy.

No, wait, that’s not exactly true is it? As I mentioned, Japan is an island arc. A volcanic island arc. They have lots and lots of volcanoes. Japan is sitting on top of what could be called a Saudi Arabia equivalent of geothermal potential. 23.5 gigawatts of geothermal potential to be more precise. But how many geothermal power plants are on the books to be constructed in Japan? Zero. How many nuclear power plants are being planned? Thirteen.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

President Michele Bachmann

President Michele Bachmann. How does that very idea grab you? Does it scare you about as much as it scares me? I should hope so. I should hope that even the notion that this incredibly ignorant woman who keeps getting elected to Congress would even come close to sitting at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office would scare the bejesus out of anyone but the most fanatical evangelical Teabagger.

Michele Bachmann would make the ideal GOP candidate to run against Barack Obama in 2012. Ideal.

I hope she runs, and I hope that she outshines that miserable pack of unglamorous men who are laughably considered frontrunners for the GOP nomination. She will turn the 2012 campaign into a rout that will make the 2010 midterm election that brought Teabaggers into power look like, well, a tea party.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

FloShap Slaps Non-Teacher Education Positions

At a press conference this morning, (the 21 minute video can be found here) State Senators Florence Shapiro and Dan Patrick led a senatorial chorus that echoed what is starting to become a snowballing movement. With limited funds for education – the State Senate is toying with a 5% cut across the board in education – they are all urging that any layoffs that take place in education first take place outside of the classroom. Lay off the non-teaching positions first they all said.

Gee you don’t say.

Florence Shapiro said these things:
“Local school district officials are in the process of making some very difficult and very painful budget decisions. Leadership is about making choices. We strongly urge them not to be short-sighted by sacrificing the classroom in favor of bureaucratic education establishment. As an example the Legislative Budget Board has provided us a document that indicates that non-teaching salaries in the state of Texas exceeds $9 billion. That’s not in the classroom that’s outside of the classroom. If we merely cut 10% of those non-classroom positions we would nearly create savings of almost $2 billion in a biennium. That’s real savings back at the local level. Protecting the classroom is much more than just a slogan. . . .While cuts are unavoidable, protecting the classroom is our number one priority.”
This has been a bone of contention among educators - the ones in the classroom that is. You hurt education first when you cut teaching staff. They are the ones producing the product: educated people.

So if there are to be riffing, what these senators are saying is let’s start in administration and staff support. Let’s start with curriculum specialists and administrators who don’t teach a single soul but end up adding to the burdens of those who do. Let’s start with the people who have made it their personal business to stay gainfully employed in education, but have striven to avoid, at all costs, being a classroom teacher.

Those are powerful ideas. Trouble is, the ones who make the decisions are so distantly removed from the classroom, and come into contact with these very classroom-avoiding people every single day, it is human nature to preserve yourself and your associates first.

Those were fine and noble words to come out of these conservative senators, but unless they build the idea of prioritizing funds for the classroom first and foremost into the budget bill, I am afraid that local school districts will undertake “the painful chore” of layoffs for teachers at the expense of educating our school children rather than look at their own classroom-avoiding number.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Betty Baitland is Back

FortBendNow is reporting that Stafford Municipal School District, a district that borders Fort Bend ISD (and was once a part of it) has hired Fort Bend ISD’s former superintendent, Dr. Betty Baitland, as its interim superintendent.

Dr. Baitland was ousted by a reactionary neoconservative school board in 2006. That was, you might already know, the last year that Fort Bend ISD had a budget that ran in the black. Deficit spending became the norm after Dr. Baitland left and the school board started firing cannon shells into the deck.

Stafford Municipal School District isn’t short on the smarts. It removed itself from Fort Bend ISD when school children living within Stafford city limits kept getting the short shrift even though the city, with its heavy industry presence and lucrative tax base, contributed mightily to the district’s coffers.

And now they have taken advantage of Fort Bend ISD’s short-sightedness again.

Have to say it again. I love irony.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Voter ID Bill Gets A Smackdown

You have to love it when Democrats, even though faced with a 2 to 1 majority in the Texas state house, can still delay the seemingly inevitable passage of the of Voter ID bill, simply by requiring that it be consistent.

Perfectly consistent.

Here is what happened. The Voter ID bill, also known as the Poll Tax Bill of 2011 had been moved to the House floor for a vote. State Rep. Armando Martinez, a Democrat of course, raised a point of order which Speaker Straus subsequently sustained.

The point of order? As written the Voter ID bill’s text did not agree with the bill analysis. By one word. But it’s a big word, at least 3 syllables depending on how you pronounce it. The word?

“Business.”

That Republicans make it a point that they are the guardians and saviors of business in Texas makes the irony deeper.

In the bill, it states that a voter my cast a provisional ballot without presenting a photo ID, and that it will be counted if he returns within six days with a valid photo ID. The bill’s analysis, however, says the voter must return within six business days.

It does make a difference.

So the bill was taken off the floor and should not see the light of day for at least a week.

All of this is much ado about nothing, you know. Texas, as a former combatant in the War of Northern Aggression – on the wrong side - and then as a state whose official policies discriminated against African-Americans and their voting rights for decades after Reconstruction, will end up having its soon-to-be law taken off the books by the federal Justice Department. Texas is on the list of offenders on the Voting Rights Act. Different rules apply for Texas and all states which had and enforced Jim Crow Laws.

Lots of good things can be worked on right about now in the state legislature, but instead the Republicans are pushing all of these red meat issues – especially Voter ID because they allege voter fraud at the polls. They could be doing lots of things but they do this instead – a law that will inevitably be tossed on the trash heap of irrelevance.

Your State Legislature, inaction.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hey, What About That 800 Pound Gorilla Over There?

Well this past week we saw broad agreement on how to plug that $4 billion hole in the 2011-2012 Texas state budget. It took some doing, but people finally saw that letting the state workforce decrease by several hundred thousand through mass layoffs because of budget cutting was simply not an option anyone wanted to consider anymore.

So part of the hole, they decided, could be filled with the Rainy Day Fund, and the rest would have to be made in those budget cuts that will still mean job losses.

Lots of self-congratulatory back slaps handed around. All that’s left is the vote, and how to divvy up a whole lot of “found money” – 3.1 billion dollars to be exact.

But wait. What about the fact that year two in this biennial budget is still a monstrous $23 billion short? If you can’t or won’t do spending cuts, how the heck is the 2012-2013 budget going to get balanced?

What about that 800 pound gorilla that is still sitting in the living room?

Clearly, cuts won’t solve the problem. Clearly the state doesn’t collect enough revenue in order for it to carry out necessary services. Clearly, the state’s revenue collection strategy must be reformed.

But when you listen for all of the verbiage on getting this done, all you hear are crickets.

No one is willing to talk about this, it seems. But at some point someone is going to have to move that gorilla or the gorilla will start doing what it does best: throw its feces around the living room.

Except for Republican State Senator Steve Ogden. Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Ogden has given this a little thought and has even weighed in, in the press.

“Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said legislators should consider a constitutional amendment that would clarify that an income tax could be assessed on corporations but not individuals.”

“The objective would be to use the corporate income tax to replace the current franchise tax that is considered unfair by many businesses.”

“‘Even if you lose your shirt, you still may be liable for paying the business tax because it isn’t an income tax,’ Ogden said. ‘That business tax is a mess.’”
And it also doesn’t pay the bills, does it?

But I don’t know if it will fly. Voters will be easily fooled when corporations flood 5 major media markets with advertisements telling Texans why voting for corporate income tax is a bad, bad idea. They will have to lie in order to deliver that message, and mark my words, the bigger the lie, the more convinced voters will be.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Charter Schools: The Other Shoe Drops

I have long-suspected that it is an agenda item of the Republican Party to end public school education in America. It certainly looks like that is the case in Texas. In Texas, with a $27 billion budget shortfall, and with half of the total budget being in the area of public education, I suspect that this government-created crisis is being used to gut the education system.

And now I see that the other shoe has dropped.

Austin legislators are now talking about raising the cap on how many charter schools can operate in Texas.

“State law caps the number of charters the State Board of Education may grant at 215, and there are currently 210 active charters. House and Senate committees will take up bills related to raising that cap as early as Tuesday. The most ambitious would allow up to 100 new charters per year, with no total limit. A more moderate proposal would allow 10 new charters annually.”
The trouble is, this couldn’t come at a worse time. The TEA is the agency that monitors the performance of charter schools, as it does public schools. Except because charter schools are not subjected to the same testing requirements as public schools – no TAKS testing in other words, the monitoring process is different at charter schools. And the TEA just laid off 91 full time and 11 contract workers. They must make do with fewer staff, but are now going to be expected to monitor the performance of more of these charter schools.

And charter schools have a poor reputation for quality education. While a total of 1.4% of public schools are rated “academically unacceptable,”11.1% of the 210 charter schools operating in Texas were rated at that level.

I just wish they’d  come clean and state the real reason they want to increase the cap on charter schools. One thing for sure it isn’t, and that’s giving a quality education to Texas’ schoolchildren.

Face it, its not quality education we are talking about here. We aren’t concerned with quality education are we? The real concern is clear to anyone, it’s all about making money. Public schools are money sinks, charter schools are a cash cow.

Charter schools: Kids lose, too.

France Shoots Down Some Tanks

Wouldn’t you know it? The first action in this UN-sanctioned “No-Fly Zone” over Libya, a resolution meant to protect civilian populations from being attacked by their own government was to shoot down some tanks.

In Libya, apparently, tanks can fly.

Obviously this isn’t just a no-fly zone.


Friday, March 18, 2011

To No-Fly or Not to No-Fly

Make no mistake I was thrilled to hear that Libya was going to be the next Middle East nation to throw off its dictator, and then horrified to hear that their dear leader was killing the insurgents with artillery and helicopters.

Shades of Russia in Afghanistan.

But when I heard President Obama speak today about our participation in a UN No-Fly Zone resolution a chill ran down my spine.

Shades of America in Iraq.

Shades of the Bush Doctrine.

A doctrine which says that America has the right to militarily interfere with the affairs of another country when nothing happening in that country is a direct threat to American security.

Yes, Moamar Gadhafi is a bad, bad guy and deserves nothing less than a firing squad for what he has done to his own people. But there are ways to help the Libyan people without violating the sovereignty of a nation. I will support my president, make no mistake. But right about now I want to remind my president of the words that came from his own lips when he sat in the US Senate, and another president was rattling his saber:
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
Well-said Mr. President.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Billions for Education, But Not One Cent for Prisoner GEDs

I couldn’t help but notice two related stories in the Austin American-Statesman today, both dealing with funding our public schools.

Now as it turns out, there is a school district that I have never heard of, mainly because it operates entirely within Texas’s state prison system. They have 77,000 students and 1300 employees. And in the current budget, this district gets $128 million.

Now before you go tsk-tsking about this, do the math.

That’s a 59 to 1 student-teacher ratio. Probably more. And they spend $1662 per student.

But Florence Shapiro, a former classroom teacher herself, thinks this is a waste of money. True, they don’t teach rocket science, it’s mainly so inmates can get GEDs and vocational certificates, but it would appear to this teacher that this program is very proper in a prison system that seeks true rehabilitation and not just retribution.

Because it seems to me that these inmates are where they are precisely because of their lack of education and skills. These are the people who cut classes and eventually dropped out of school and inevitably ended up on the wrong side of the law.

And these are the people we are going to make more of when the state cuts the public education budget.

You see, there is another side to this. The reason Florence Shapiro doesn’t think much of this system is because she says it is a waste of money and the GEDs and certificates are worthless.

And because she wants to give that $128 million to public education.

In fact, in this second article, it seems that she and other state senators want to increase the size of the slice of the budget that public education gets by $6 billion. Giving TEA Education Commissioner Robert Scott everything he asked for.

So these are the kinds of decisions we have to make, literally whether it would be better to cut off your left hand or your right foot because one of them has got to go.

Do we eliminate a school program in our prison system giving the inmates no tools or skills to succeed outside of a criminal life? Or do we do massive cuts in public education and run the risk of increasing our prison population? Or worse, because the prison system will also be cut back, run the risk of having more criminals in the state out free because there isn’t room for them in prison?

It’s a devil’s dilemma.

Looking For the Answers

A friend recently shared a link with me for a group called “The Killers” who are anything but. They gave themselves that name at their own peril, I think.

Anyway, I have been very morose about the things that have been transpiring of late at my state’s capitol and I thought I should share my friend’s hopeful wish to everyone who reads this blog.

We are all looking for answers.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Partial Victory: The Rainy Day Fund Will Be Tapped

In a move that is sure to anger his Tea Party base (the only group of Texans who would still vote for him if last year’s mid-term election was repeated) Rick Perry finally relented and agreed to sign a budget bill that included a draw from the Economic Stabilization Fund aka the Rainy Day fund.

I call that a partial victory because while it will surely knock down the hits to public education we are all expecting to come next year, the amount that Perry will OK is only $3.1 billion - or $3.2 billion depending on which source you want to believe.

Heck, what’s a hundred million dollars here and there?

But I see this as a partial victory because the shortfall this next year is $4.3 billion.

This leaves untouched over $6 billion, and Perry pledges not to sign a 2012-2013 budget that has another draw on the fund. Which is probably a moot point because a full 2/3 vote in the house would be needed to get funds for that budget year. Tea Party caucus votes are going to make the 60% vote needed to release the funds this year close, but probably doable. But 66%? That’s 100 Yea votes. That’s probably not doable.

But here’s the thing: Perry stood up to the Feds last year and said that he was constitutionally unable to make any educational budgeting guarantees to the Department of Education, and that means that Texas will not receive a total of $830 million in federal education grants that other states received.

He got a lot of yippees from the yahoos in his party when he announced that, but now it is easy to see that those funds could have nearly made up for the $1.2 billion gap between what is needed to close the gap and what we are going to fill it with.

It is the governor’s own fault that we are in the mess we are in right now. Everyone knows it. But now it seems that if Perry moves to correct the situation in a proper fashion that is tantamount to admitting to the past mistakes and errors in taxing policies.

And Perry wouldn’t want to do that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

Shakespeare used a little poetic license in his play Julius Caesar when Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to “Beware the Ides of March” In Act I Scene 2. But these days the warning seems appropriate.

The soothsayer was warning Caesar that he would be killed on March 15th. A bad day to be emperor of Rome.

So too is it a bad day to be teacher in Texas. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Because here in Texas we get to see the whole process unfold and the numbers posted that tells everyone the same thing. Unless something isn’t done about it, cuts to education are coming, and coming big time.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities has several spreadsheets on its website, found here. The one I looked at is the Public Education spreadsheet showing revised figures from HB 2485 county-by-county, along with total job losses, not just in education but from education job losses and the ripple effect that it would have in the private sector.

Statewide, total job losses could be as high as 289,532.

But if you scroll all the way to the bottom you see a link to State Rep Scott Hochberg’s District-by-District breakdown.  The news there is even more unsettling. On average, according to his figures, school districts will stand to lose over 17% of the funding they normally would receive from the state. Some districts are lower, some are higher.

But here’s the thing. All of this could just go away if there is a vote to open up the Rainy Day Fund to get the budget balanced. School districts could get some much-needed good news ahead of hearing what their budgets will actually look like, and in time to make staffing level decisions that they will have to make, by law, in mid April.

So when Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts scheduled a committee vote on tapping the Rainy Day Fund, he was hoping to get an approving nod from Rick Perry, something that they had already heard they would get – privately, that is.

But what did they hear from the governor’s office? Crickets. Not no, not yes, not anything at all.

“So the expected early morning vote was delayed, and Pitts extended an invitation Monday for someone from Perry's office to testify at the rescheduled afternoon hearing. But no one showed. Nor did they respond to the phone calls or text messages from Pitts and his aides as the committee awaited the arrival of Perry's representatives.”
Would it not be tragic that public education as we know it in Texas can be saved with the Rainy Day Fund, but news of the release of money from this fund is delayed past the deadline that school districts must honor?

Perry is very much like a child playing with his toys unaware or uncaring that there is a coming storm that he can prevent if only he puts his Tonka truck down and picks up the phone.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nine File For Three FBISD Board of Trustee Seats

Awhile ago I mused to myself about who on Earth would ever want to serve on the Fort Bend ISD school board right about now? The state legislature is making noise about short-changing Texas’ school districts to the tune of billions of dollars. No good can come of that. Draconian decisions will have to be made on the order of whether it is better to cut off one’s left hand or right foot.

Or worse. They might have to decide that public education is something worth keeping around for awhile, but to do so they might just have to raise taxes.

In Texas, deciding to raise taxes is, well, akin to being hit by a 10 meter high tsunami: nothing good will come of it.

So, yeah, rock, meet hard place.

But much to my surprise, today, the filing deadline for the May 14th 2011 BOT election, I come to find that nine brave souls have filed to fill three seats. And only two of them are incumbents.

As reported before, Jonita Reynolds filed for the East Side Position 5 that is being vacated by former “Gang of 4” board member Laurie Caldwell who has called it a day (and in my opinion, called that well). Unelectable is a word that might just describe the soon-to-be former board member. Additionally, we see that Patsy Taylor and Rodrigo Carreon, both of Fresno, have filed for this position. I know Rodrigo. He is a perennial candidate who has actually surpassed Harold Stassen in his bids to occupy a vast plethora of county and municipal positions, both paid and unpaid. Rodrigo actually has his own name engraved in a seat in the FBISD boardroom. OK, I exaggerated on that one. Let’s just say he knows the way to the boardroom.

Patsy Taylor. I don’t know about her.

David Menendez has drawn two opponents in his bid to be retained on the BOT for another two years on his At Large Position 4 seat. A bid that should see sure and certain failure. Menendez hasn’t a prayer. Bruce Albright, who ran in the 2009 election, and lost, has a website up and I am starting to see campaign signs for him up in the neighborhood. He probably has a good chance of knocking Menendez off the board. A third person, Kevin Daniels of Missouri City, an “English Lecturer” has also filed.

Kevin Daniels. I don’t know about him.

But the big surprise is that the West Side Position 1 seat, currently occupied by Susan Hohnbaum, a candidacy that was unopposed for much of the month-long filing period, also drew not one but two challengers: Kyle Brantley and Wade Watassek, both of Sugar Land. Brantley lists is occupation as “Marketing” and I assume by that he doesn’t mean what I just did earlier today when I went out to pick up some milk and eggs. Watassek says he is in “Risk Analysis” although the only Wade Watassek I could locate was married to a teacher in Fort Bend ISD. Same guy, I think.

Anyway, it looks like I will have to attend the Fort Bend Employees Federation Candidates Forum to be held at the JW Marriott in Sugar Land Town Square on March 31st. My mind is made up on Position 5, and I think it has all but been decided in Position 4. Menendez is history and people seem to be flocking to Albright, who has a website now.

I guess I just need to figure out which of the two candidates in Position 1 is most likely to oust Hohnbaum out of the boardroom.

She just isn’t working out.

UPDATE (3/16/2011): FortBendNow is now saying that Fort Bend ISD improperly reported that Rodrigo Carreon was running for Position 5 against Jonita Reynolds and Patsy Taylor. Now we find that he is, instead, running for the At-Large seat against incumbent Menendez, Bruce Albright and Kevin Daniels. This is big news for Menendez who can now take advantage of the fact that Albright is putting his name out there - and also ran in the most recent BOT election, and Carreon has name recognition in local elections. They will most certainly split the anti-BOT vote.

Senator Tommy Lee Jones

When I first heard the rumor that some people wanted to draft Tommy Lee Jones, that’s the stage and screen actor Tommy Lee Jones, to run for the open seat being vacated by retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2012 I was incredulous.

Surely this is just someone’s idea of a joke, I told myself.

But no. having checked it out there actually is a Draft Tommy Lee Jones website out there.

It was created by a local political commentator who has a radio show on the local Pacifica station in Houston, Geoff Berg. Apparently this is Berg’s own brainchild. Here is the logic as posted at Berg’s website:
Texas’ conservative voters aren’t about to send just any Democrat to the Senate in 2012. Hell, it’s been seventeen years since a Democrat has won any statewide race here. That’s quite a record – and one we’d like to see broken.”

“To do that, whoever the Democratic nominee is in 2012 better bring something awfully special to the race. Tommy Lee Jones is the only Democrat (or potential Democrat) who does. His name ID, near-universal popularity, fundraising ability, residence in and love for this state, his success as a cattle rancher, Spanish fluency, his image as a western tough guy and his impressive academic credentials would instantly make him the frontrunner, regardless of who the Republicans nominate.

Well that makes some sense, I guess.

Even Democratic Congressman Gene Green thinks the idea has some merit.

And he was Al Gore’s roommate at Harvard.

And oh yeah, he went to Harvard.

Besides, if Minnesota can send Stuart Smalley to the Senate, why can’t Texas send Agent K?

video

Processing Japan

Earthquake


Tsunami



Exploding Nuclear Reactor


Erupting Volcano

Sunday, March 13, 2011

And Oh Yeah . . . One Ticketing for a Messaging Issue

Oh Yeah.

I almost forgot to mention that as I was leaving the protest rally to Save Our Texas Schools, I came upon a scene that had developed just outside the capitol grounds.

One of us was getting a ticket.

A small crowd had gathered just outside the south entrance gate and a woman was asking for crowd volunteers who had witnessed what had just happened. Now as it turns out, what had just happened was that a young woman, a teacher, was being ticketed for her illegal usage of chalk.

A teacher being ticketed for writing on the sidewalk with chalk.

How ironic is that?

She was surrounded by eight, count ‘em, eight Department of Public Safety officers, several of them were on bikes and wore blue bike helmets. The rest of them were in their regular khaki uniforms and cowboy hats.

One of them was busy writing on a ticket book. The rest of them were watching.

And no, the DPS has not been able to find and arrest the nihilists who torched the governor’s mansion a couple of years ago, but gosh darn it, they caught this teacher writing pro-education messages on the sidewalk with her chalk.

Caught her red-handed.

Now the irony deepens because what could have gone unnoticed and un-regarded by the public and the police have now not gone unnoticed. In fact, photographs of her messages now appear on the internet.

Thanks to the DPS.

Here is a shot of the crowd that formed. See? Two sets of DPS troopers.


Here is another shot. The guy in the blue helmet has the ticket book and he is receiving a lesson in government relations and first amendment rights from a teacher.


Here are shots of the results of this teacher’s dastardly act. Nice block handwriting. A practiced hand with chalk as a messaging tool I think.


Simple messages conveyed in a simple way that will wash away with a spring rain now enshrined on the internet.