in Houston, Texas
Texans carry state/local debt load of $9,212 per person, for statewide total of $233.2 billion, according to comptroller
Thursday, Sep 27, 2012, 10:20AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
debt

Texas taxpayers were on the hook for $233.2 billion in debt in 2011, the cumulative result of spending by local and state government officials.

Local spending accounting for $192.7 billion or 83 percent of the total, has increased by more than 122 percent from $86.7 billion in 2001, according to Your Money and Local Debt, a new report by State Comptroller Susan Combs.

State debt, making up the remaining $40.5 billion, has grown by 134 percent from $17.3 billion during the same period.

Debt is rolled up by the state to finance transportation, university, housing, water and military projects. Cities, counties, school, hospital and water districts take on debt to pay for their projects.

Texas ranks fifth in the country in its combined state and local debt, $9,212 for every Texan behind New York, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The state’s per capita local debt, $7,983, is second in the country behind only New York, the report says.

As might be expected, Houston had the highest outstanding debt of any city in Texas, $13,150,526,369. Houston was followed by:

  • San Antonio: $9,424,770,314
  • Dallas: $6,555,273,086
  • Austin: $5,315,491,444
  • Fort Worth: $3,139,402,000

San Antonio, however, carried the highest per capita debt at $7,100, followed by Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth.

While the report issues no dire warning, Combs says taxpayers should be concerned that a small percentage of registered voters bothers to cast ballots for or against  issuing new debt locally or statewide.

Combs proposes that ballots make clearer what projects voters are deciding on, what their debt obligation is and the total debt being carried by the governmental body asking for new funding.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of 'pile of debt' by flickr user msaari, used via a Creative Commons license.

El Paso considers ban on plastic bags, which make up less than 1 percent of national waste stream
Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012, 02:28PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
bags

Banning plastic bags. Everyone’s doing it, from Austin to San Fransciso to Delhi.

El Paso thinks it might want to join in and why not? It’s cooler than telling people Sherman Hemsley lived there or getting your own Triple A baseball team.

The El Paso City Council on Tuesday asked city staff to explore an ordinance to ban plastic grocery bags or to assess a fee for their use, the El Paso Times reports.

The council then took a vote to assure the public it would continue to support the city’s plastic bag recycling program, for which the council was responsible.

Should a bag ban pass, the council will be able to go to bed at night (early and without a nightcap) knowing it stood up courageously against less than 1 percent of the city’s total waste stream.

While El Paso hasn’t studied it, and votes in cities like Austin suggest the facts don’t much matter, plastic bags accounted for 0.6 percent of the litter in the most comprehensive national study done to this point, by Keep America Beautiful.

When the California Integrated Waste Management Board studied the state’s overall waste stream, it found plastic grocery bags made up 0.3 percent or half the national average. (Please see Table ES-3 on page six of the study for the breakdown.)

There has been precisely no movement to ban the sale of tobacco products, whose packaging and butts make up more than a third of the litter, perhaps because federal and state governments profit so handsomely from their taxation.

There are no popular uprisings against paper, which makes up more than 20 percent of our litter, or plastic containers and packaging at nearly 20 percent. Metal, glass, organic waste, construction and motor vehicle debris, even waste with no category are bigger litter problems than plastic grocery bags.

Coalitions will inevitably form when the technology to produce reusable hemp soda bottles, cigarette filters and fast food clamshells with clever environmental slogans on them catches up.

It’s much easier to punish grocers and their customers. And besides, the folks in Austin, San Francisco and Delhi will think El Paso is cool.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of plastic bags by flickr user Heal the Bay, used via a Creative Commons license.

As city of Austin asks voters to back bond vote, projects totaling $356 million from bond votes back to 1998 yet to be finished
Tuesday, Sep 04, 2012, 09:53AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
austin

Remember the excitement back in 2000 when you helped pass that municipal bond issue to finally widen Davis, Deer, Howard, Rundberg and Todd lanes here in Austin?

If you don’t, you probably don’t live on or near those streets. The work was never done.

All taxpayers got was a bill for the debt on the $42 million portion of the bonds you signed off on.

In all, Austin has yet to begin work on $356 million, or almost a third of the $1.2 billion in projects approved by taxpayers in four bond issues in 1998, 2000, 2006, and 2010, the Austin American Statesman reports today.

The Austin City Council is requesting your approval in November of another $385 million bond issue for a whole lot of new projects like a new fire station, arts center and library renovation and new low income housing.

Many of which will someday be completed.

The city provided the Statesman with explanation for many of the delays and provided assurances that the old projects would eventually be completed. Like the $86 million approved in 2006 for a new central library, the construction of which is just a year out.

The widening of Davis and Deer lanes has been tied up with environmental studies. The city has been waiting on Travis County to build Howard Lane and had trouble buying land for Rundberg and Todd lanes.

The city cobbled together enough staff to finally make $4.5 million in improvements worth doing to Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park. And to build that hike-and-bike trail along Walnut Creek you were so hepped up about.

In 1998.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of Austin skyline by flickr user StuSeeger, used via a Creative Commons license.

An Ott-of-this world pay package: Austin City Manager Marc Ott in line for a $7,000 raise -- and a cool $400k if he’s fired
Monday, Aug 27, 2012, 02:08PM CST
By Curt Olson
money

Austin City Manager Marc Ott will receive his second raise in as many years if rank-and-file city employees receive a raise proposed in the 2012-13 city budget that will be up for approval next month.

Austin’s non-civil service employees would see an increase of 3 percent, which would simultaneously boost Ott’s salary to $256,746, up $7,478 from his current salary of $249,268. It would be the second raise for Ott since he became Austin city manager in January 2008, the Austin Bulldog reports.

The amount of more than $256,000 reflects Ott’s base pay. His compensation catapults higher with contract perks that include $50,620 in deferred compensation, executive allowance, automobile allowance, cell phone allowance, and retirement or health-care related benefits, the Bulldog reported.

Ott’s recommendation for a raise surfaced following a lengthy Austin City Council closed session earlier this month. After council members emerged from the executive session discussion of personnel, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said, “I just wanted to say that we did in executive session (take up the issue of) compensation and benefits of the city manager, and we look forward to his continued service.”

Ott’s raise comes in a package of 3 percent raises forthcoming for the city auditor and city clerk. The municipal court clerk would receive a 5 percent raise to bring her up to the market rate, said Mayor Lee Leffingwell, the Bulldog reported.

In advance of Ott’s personnel evaluation, the Austin American-Statesman reported there were grumblings about the city manager. Those who complain about Ott focused on his handling of the Austin Energy rate hike, which will be in place in October and took two years to resolve, and his grasp of environmental battles that still exist in Austin. One council member expressed concern about how city government responds to the needs of a growing population.

Ott ranks third in base pay among city managers in Texas, according to data compiled by the Texas Tribune.

If Austin City Council terminates Ott, he would be entitled to severance pay of more than $431,000, according to the Austin Bulldog.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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Photo of the money by flickr user Unhindered by Talent, used via a Creative Commons license.

Austin-area homeowners won’t see tax break if bevy of government entities have their way
Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012, 04:47PM CST
By Curt Olson
broke

About 10,000 property owners in northeastern Travis County face the possibility over the next two years of five taxing jurisdictions raising tax rates in addition to possible higher electric rates and other fees from Austin utilities.

People with homes or businesses in the Pflugerville school district, Central Health, City of Austin, Travis County and Austin Community College could see a combined 14.67-cent rate increase per $100 of assessed value the next two years, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Pflugerville’s increase to pay off debt and Central Health’s increase to fund some operations of a proposed medical school require voter approval while the others don’t.

Under unchanged tax rates and current decreased property values, the average property owner in this area would see an tax break of $129. Increasing tax rates change the personal finance dynamics and approval of Central Health’s plan would raise taxes $100 on certain taxpayers come January 2014, the Statesman reported. Meanwhile, the value of commercial property has risen 9.1 percent, to $2.8 million from $2.54 million, which will raise that tax burden even higher.

Tax rate hikes may be compounded by Austin Energy’s rate hike in October and other Austin utilities that serve these residents and businesses also hiking rates for water, sewer and trash removal.

The following are the planned tax rate increases per $100 of assessed valuation in question for these Austin area residents, as the Statesman reports:

  • Pflugerville school district’s 6 cents is on the ballot.
  • Central Health’s 5 cents is on the ballot for bills due January 2014.
  • Austin proposes 2.18 cents.
  • Travis County proposes 1.46 cents.
  • Austin Community College proposes 0.03 cents.

The $385 million bond issue on the ballot for libraries, roads, housing and other projects in Austin would not raise Austin’s debt portion of the tax rate, the Statesman reports.

The quintuple hit of taxes leaves some current residents considering their options.

"Talking with my friends in some of the nearby cities about all the taxes here in Austin makes me want to get out,” as the Statesman quoted Dan Repich, who lives in the area in question.

Odds are, he’s not alone.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us onTwitterand Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.

Photo of 'Broke' by flickr user Phoney Nickle, used via a Creative Commons license.

Documents show Circuit of the Americas wants $566K solar panel handout
Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012, 11:59AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
solar

We can’t be sure what is more surprising: that it took so long for Circuit of the Americas to ask for a half a million dollar Austin Energy solar power handout or that the public was able to find out about it.

Credit the Austin American-Statesman again for going after documents attesting to the request by the operators of a new Formula One racetrack in Travis County for no more than $566,200 over the next decade for a solar array.

The Statesman has tracked an agreement with the state for as much as $250 million in taxpayer funds to be returned to Circuit of the Americas for meeting certain sales tax goals in its first decade of operation.

Local government has offered up taxpayers as partners in two road expansions needed by the track. There may be other partnerships the public isn’t aware of because Circuit of the Americas would rather you didn’t know so much about their internal business affairs.

In exchange, the company has generously offered to pay some, but not all, of the expense to send Austin city officials on a Formula One fact-finding junket to England.

Showing a deep environmental commitment, Circuit of the Americas has a plan for a series of solar panels that could produce 330,000 kilowatt hours, the equivalent of power use for 28 average homes per year or 40 percent of the power needed for the track site -- when it isn’t in use.

It is a commitment forged by years of sending two dozen cars with engines getting five miles to the gallon for 190 miles around tracks all over the world.

Why else would a racing company have its own sustainability director?

Whether or not the company fulfills its grand commitment depends on the incentive, courtesy of Austin Energy rate payers, paid in advance, Edgar Farrera, the sustainability director, says.

As it did during the time of the Great Stimulus Giveaway of 2009, solar energy proved time and again its value as a taxpayer investment, with projects often paying for themselves in less than 75 years.

Austin Energy has entertained asking its rate payers to subsidize a $700-$800 million project to put solar panels on every major building in Austin.

What is another $566,200 in the name of sustainability?

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of solar panels by flickr user Photo Mojo Mike, used via a Creative Commons license.

Ignored that traffic ticket from city of Dallas? You’re not alone. Study examines Dallas municipal court
Tuesday, Aug 07, 2012, 08:21AM CST
By Steve Miller
ticket

A two-year study of the municipal court system in the city of Dallas delivered a couple of telling facts that we suspect are true in many cities; judges dismiss a high number of cases for a variety of reasons and over 30 percent of court notices are ignored by defendants.

The good news? An increasing number of violators are paying their fines online.

The study, which is also an excellent primer on the function of local city courts, was presented by the city’s managers to the Dallas City Council last week. Municipal courts adjudicate traffic violations as well as a number of lower-level, quality-of-life crimes including prostitution, disorderly conduct and property violations.

The study found that most defendants either ignore their court appearance or roll the dice with a court appearance rather than pay the fine outright for a number of reasons including the “likelihood is the violation will be dismissed or result in less penalty than paying the fine upfront.”

A primary conclusion in the report is that violators are responding to the way the court system works first with regard to the least cost, then the least trouble and last the least damage to their driving record. Good news for auto insurers, which routinely increase rates for driving infractions.

Compared to other cities, from larger ones like Houston to smaller ones like Plano, and counties including Dallas County, the city of Dallas is failing on several levels, the report noted.

In Austin there is a tiered fine system, with a lesser fine for timely payment, while in Dallas there is none. In the city of Garland, defendants are instructed on working out a payment plan for fines, while in Dallas, explanation of the payment system was found to be poor. And in Dallas, a defendant can opt for a courtroom trial to see if the officer is a no-show – a frequent occurrence – but is still eligible to receive a reduced penalty if he loses the case. In Plano, there is no plea deal on a trial date, so most defendants take a deal before the case even gets to court.

The Courthouse News Service delivers its own account of the report here.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of traffic ticket by flickr user marklyon, used via a Creative Commons license.

A Texas tale of two technologies
Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012, 04:40PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
solar

Today we tell the tale of two technologies in Texas (while alliterating effortlessly), one very old and one very new, with one thing in common: their ongoing dependence on government.

Solar Austin, a solar energy trade group, has offered to Austin Energy what it believes is an energy solution far superior to expanding its natural gas-fueled plant just east of the city, according to a story today by the Austin American-Statesman

To ease the suspense, let’s say it involves solar energy, which should delight the alarming number of people in Austin who believe that solar energy is free.

The plan would be to put systems of solar panels on the roofs of Austin buildings enough to generate 300 megawatts of electricity by the year 2020. Larry Weis, Austin Energy’s general manager, guessed to reach that goal 15 percent of all the roofs in Austin would need festooning in silicon plating.

Although the story doesn’t say it, Austin Energy estimates such a project would cost $750 million to $800 million, hundreds of millions of dollars less than the plant expansion.

Not to mention how much cheaper it is to generate power with natural gas. Or that Austin Energy ratepayers have subsidized 61 percent of the costs of solar system installation for commercial buildings and 59 percent of residential systems since 2004, according to the utility’s figures.

Or that even with all the federal and state subsidizing solar power doesn’t pay for itself in most of our lifetimes. If it were even possible to increase overall solar megawatt output 50 times the current 6 megawatt generation in Austin over the next eight years.

But c’mon. It’s new. It’s clean. It’s hip. It’s solar.

Fortunately for lovers of technology old and new, there’s a template for government involvement that reaches across time.

The state of Texas at a loss of $2 million a year once subsidized something called the Texas State Railroad in East Texas. Relieving itself of this burden after damage to the railway by Hurricane Rita, the state turned over operation to a volunteer group, the Texas State Railroad Authority.

To help the authority along the federal government put up $10 million and the state $2 million to bring the historic railway back to its 19th Century glory. The authority has spent just under $5 million of the grant money, authority president Steve Presley says.

The Legislature in 2007 also signed off on a $1 million loan to help the authority and its new private partner, American Heritage Railways, get up and running. Taxpayers in the little cities of Rusk and Palestine backed loans of $500,000 each.

After annual losses of $900,000 to $1 million, American Heritage last year reported a loss of $141,000. To celebrate, the company is demanding that Rusk, Palestine and Texas forget about the loans or it will stop operating the trains this week, according to a story today by the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

For his part, Presley, who told Texas Watchdog he is a penny pinching conservative businessman, says he feels a responsibility to pay back the loans. He can’t speak for American Heritage.

Given the historical track (pardon the railway pun) record, don’t don’t be surprised if we’re all called upon to subsidize the government’s infatuation with a technology it believes must never be allowed to belch thick black smoke into the receding horizon.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at@marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us onTwitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.
Illustration from the story "Chicken Little" in the New Barnes Reader, published 1916, posted for re-use on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of solar panel by flickr user greenlagirl, used via a Creative Commons license.

Austin bag ban pushed with faulty numbers; author of cited report says it did not address plastic bags, ‘a minute portion of the waste stream’
Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012, 05:26PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
bags

City of Austin officials wildly inflated the volume of plastic bags in Austin’s litter stream and the cost to dispose of them, based on a misreading of a key report cited by the officials, one of the authors of the report told Texas Watchdog this afternoon.

It was unclear how the error, an extrapolation more than three-and-a-half times larger than it should have been, will affect a proposed ordinance that would make offering disposable shopping bags of plastic or paper a misdemeanor in Austin beginning in January of 2013.

The city’s Solid Waste Advisory Commission is expected to consider the ordinance at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Austin’s City Hall. Should an ordinance be approved, the City Council is expected to vote on it sometime in March.

As of 4 p.m. Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery, was unable to respond to Texas Watchdog’s questions about the calculation he used in the report upon which the disposable bag ban is based. He was, however, expected to address them at the commission meeting, his spokeswoman, Lauren Hammond, said.

The reason Gedert could not make an estimate of plastic bag volume or cost in Austin based on the report he cited was the figure for plastic bag volume in the U.S. was not in the report, Steven Stein, an environmental scientist and co-author of the 2009 study of litter in the U.S., told Texas Watchdog.

The Keep America Beautiful litter study listed the top 10 sources of visible litter on American roadways. Cigarette butts were responsible for 36.3 percent of the litter. Plastic bags, at .6 percent did not make the top 10 list or the study, Stein said.

“We had, like, 60 categories, and we weren’t going to include them all,” Stein said. “Because plastic bags made up such a minute portion of the waste stream we didn’t include it.”

In his report to the City Council in January of 2011, Gedert cites Stein’s study and uses a 2.2 percent figure, which corresponds to a type of litter Stein called Other Plastic Film. This category refers to agricultural plastic like the sheeting wrapped around big round bales of hay.

“That’s the only place I can think of where he might have gotten the 2.2 percent,” Stein said.

On Tuesday, Stein sent an e-mail letter to Gedert pointing out the error.

“You have overstated the amount and cost impact of plastic bags by about 366 percent,“ Stein wrote. “Additionally, since retail plastic bags only constitute a portion of the study’s plastic bag category (dry cleaner bags and trash bags are also in this category), even 0.6 percent for retail plastic bags is an overstatement.”

“Specifically, page three of your memo indicates that plastic bags constitute 2.2 percent of litter. The 2009 National Litter Study found that plastic bags of all types comprise only 0.6 percent of litter. Percentages for categories that constituted minute portions of roadside litter, such as plastic bags, were not addressed in the 2009 National Litter Study.”

“Thus, the wrong data point was used in this memo’s analysis. The mix-up may stem from Figure 3-3 (Top 10 Aggregate Litter Items, All U.S. Roadways) on page 3-3 of the KAB 2009 National Litter Study. That table lists “Other Plastic Film” as 2.2% of all litter. Note that this category specifically excluded plastic bags.”

Stein said he has so far not heard from Gedert, before or after his letter.

“Regardless of this position you take on this issue, what is of consequence is that you dig deep enough to make sure you have the correct data to base your assumptions on,” Stein said. “I think it was an honest mistake that I would have been happy to point out to him. But I think the public in Austin ought to know about it.”
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of plastic bags by flickr user taberandrew, used via a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License
Like this story? Then steal it. This report by Texas Watchdog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. That means bloggers, citizen-journalists, and journalists may republish the story on their sites with attribution and a link to Texas Watchdog. If you do re-use the story, we'd love to hear about it. E-mail news@texaswatchdog.org.

Weekend Watchdog: Houston schools ethics reform, Austin’s proposed crack-down on the shopping bags, and more
Saturday, Dec 17, 2011, 10:44AM CST
By Trent Seibert
eggnog

We’re getting into the holiday spirit here at Texas Watchdog. We’re putting up the stockings and dusting off grandma’s famous eggnog recipe. Now, where is that nutmeg? 

But we haven’t stopped publishing some of the best accountability journalism in Texas. This week, we’ve looked at the North Forest ISD merger with the Houston Independent School District along with HISD’s ethics reform, such as it is.

We also put a spotlight on pension problems in the Lone Star state as well as the proposed ban on paper and plastic shopping bags in Austin.

Also, Texas Watchdog was front-and-center in a ABC Undercover Wayne Dolcefino report on tough talk -- but little follow-through -- on getting to the bottom of possible widespread misconduct in a Harris County constable’s office.
Now, for your Weekend Watchdog.


North Forest ISD's merger with Houston ISD may be tougher than it looks


Forget the niceties spouted by Houston schools Superintendent Terry Grier and school board President Paula Harris last month about next year's merger with the North Forest Independent School District.

Outgoing Houston schools Trustee Carol Mims Galloway said combining the two districts is going to be a nightmare.

Read the full story here

 


$14 million to double-dippers in NJ pension scheme -- but what about Texas?   

 
It's a story of 23 current investigators and supervisors who pocketed nearly $14 million in pension pay in addition to their salaries from the New Jersey Attorney General. It's a double-dipping pension scandal that's making waves across the Garden State.
  
And it's impossible to find out if anything similar is going on in Texas.

Read the full story here
 

Will Eastman, Meyers duke it out for HISD school board presidency next year?

 

A battle for the presidency of the Houston school board appears to be looming. Trustee Anna Eastman announced her desire to lead the Houston Independent School District governing body months ago.

But a faction of the nine trustees who oversee Texas' largest school district - and the seventh-biggest in the nation, with a $1.6 billion budget and about 203,000 students - has asked Trustee Greg Meyers to run against her.

Read the full story here  

 


Grocery bag ban -- one of the toughest in nation -- considered in Austin  

 
Offering disposable shopping bags to customers will be a crime in Austin beginning in 2016 should the City Council pass an ordinance drafted by the director of Austin Resource Recovery.   

Read the full story here

 

   

Young newcomers lead charge for Houston ISD ethics reform, but veterans -- like Larry Marshall -- say it's not needed

 
In the Houston school board's debate over a new ethics policy, it's a case of young turks bent on ethics reform versus veterans who want no additional ethical rules placed on them.

At least, that's how longtime Trustee Larry Marshall -- one of the veterans -- sees it.

Marshall recently attacked fellow trustees Anna Eastman, Juliet Stipeche and Mike Lunceford, all of whom have spoken out in favor of ethics reform, as "the youngest, most inexperienced members" of the school board, who he said helped draft an ethics policy to address "assumptions that are these mythical situations that don't exist."
 
Read the full story here

***
Contact Trent Seibert at trent@texaswatchdog.org or 832-316-4994 or on Twitter at @trentseibert  or @texaswatchdog.

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Photo of ‘Egg Nog 2008' by flickr user queenkv, used via a Creative Commons license.

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Debtors-prison policies decried, DPS cuts license center hours, and other stories Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused on preparing for a much-need break next week.SCOTUS...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Junk-science based false convictions in Houston lampooned by comedian Someone has finally grokked and managed to convey in an accessible, understandable way the unmitigated travesty of justice surrounding drug...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Just Liberty post-session roundup podcast Here's the latest Just Liberty podcast - this time reviewing criminal-justice reform legislation from the 85th Texas Legislature -...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Governor signs omnibus innocence bill to track informants, record interrogations Governor Greg Abbott today signed HB 34, Texas' latest omnibus innocence legislation. Grits explained in this post why the eyewitness ID...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston meeting of Texas Latino GOP PAC tomorrow evening From the InBox: The Texas Latino GOP PAC are the gatekeepers to the conservative Latino Community, for far too long GOP outreach to Latino...
Update:2 years 9 months
Big Jolly Politics
Sen. Joan Huffman to recap the 85th From the InBox: Join us THIS WEDNESDAY, June 14 (Flag Day!), for our meeting with State Sen. Joan Huffman, SD 17, who will be discussing...
Update:2 years 9 months
Big Jolly Politics
Gov. Abbott mistakes incarceration smell for "freedom" Governor Greg Abbott made a speech in Bell County recently declaring that, as one drove north out of Austin, one could notice a different...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Unanswered questions about law-of-parties beyond death penalty In our podcast the other day, Texas Defender Service Executive Director Amanda Marzullo estimated that 10 percent of death-row defendants...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
Priorities The headline from the Victoria Advocate declaring that the Texas Legislature prioritized mental health treatment over incarceration is...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
Legislative Session The 85th Legislative Session was different in many ways. Two things changed the narrative this session. First, Empower Texans successfully...
Update:2 years 10 months
Big Jolly Politics
Court trends advise tempered enthusiasm for HB 34 eyewitness ID reforms Does this sound like a suggestive photo array to put before a witness?A witness described being robbed at gunpoint by a “[b]lack male,...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
MAY 22, 2917 / Theodore Dalrymple on secularization and transcendence THE SECULARIZATION of Europe is hardly any secret. Religion's long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no...
Update:2 years 10 months
Unca Darrell
MAY 10 / James B. Comey . . . . . . needed firing. Everything he did during the 2016 election was wrong. He was wrong . . . . . . back in July to release information...
Update:2 years 11 months
Unca Darrell
Droppin' F bombs, Beto O'Rourke style It's not often that a politician decides to start cursing repeatedly during speeches and interviews. But that hasn't stopped...
Update:3 years 1 week
Rick Perry vs The World
APRIL 5, 2017 / Weeding out the audience at the Alley is . . . . . . a feature, not a bug. Houston's Alley Theatre is running "An Act of God," a loosely dramatized collection of irreverent one-liners...
Update:3 years 1 week
Unca Darrell
Statewide primary rumors It's that stage of the election cycle where politicians are trying to figure out if they should run for something else or stay put. ...
Update:3 years 2 weeks
Rick Perry vs The World
Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Not really. Sure, he's not liked, Texans think Ted puts Ted first, his approval rating is upside down, etc...
Update:3 years 1 month
Rick Perry vs The World
MARCH 16, 2017 / Jim Webb on what it means to be a redneck, and . . . . . . why redneck culture matters. In 2004 Jim Webb wrote Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Though the 2016 presidential...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
MARCH 3, 2017 -- Goodbye, and thanks, to Thomas Sowell THOMAS SOWELL, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of America's most important public intellectuals, retired from...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
March 2, 2017 / The poem our teachers got wrong TWO ROADS diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Generations of commencement...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
FEBRUARY 27 / Eric Hoffer on . . . . . . baby boomers and alienated intellectuals. "SCRATCH AN INTELLECTUAL, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
2017 Project: January “Progress” There are two different ways to interpret my 2017 project: that it's a way more complicated New Years Resolution, or that it is essentially...
Update:3 years 2 months
Greg's Opinion
Ted Cruz's first senate term in a nutshell The National Review's Tim Alberta switched to Politico, and one of his opening pieces put Ted Cruz's first term in a nutshell It...
Update:3 years 2 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Andrea Parquet-Taylor named KTVT CBS 11 news director Former KHOU 11 assistant news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor named Vice President, News Director for KTVT CBS 11 Andrea...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
VIDEO: KPRC 2 10pm newscast (1-24-99) ...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
Democrats actually thought Wendy Davis was a serious candidate? Hat tip to Willisms: VIDEO- Wendy Davis being Wendy Davis: https://t.co/SHq3ACGVDJ #txlege— Will Franklin (@WILLisms) January 24,...
Update:3 years 2 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 7 years 10 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 7 years 10 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 7 years 10 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 7 years 10 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 7 years 10 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 7 years 10 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 7 years 10 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 7 years 10 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 7 years 10 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 7 years 10 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 7 years 10 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 7 years 10 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 7 years 10 months
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 7 years 10 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 7 years 10 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 7 years 10 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 7 years 10 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
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