in Houston, Texas
mark jones
Allen ISD approves $2 million in one-time payments to staff
Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012, 11:37AM CST
By Curt Olson

Allen Independent School District, known for its shiny, new $60 million football stadium, has a split school board over $2 million in lump-sum raises to district teachers and staff.

The recent 4-3 board vote authorized the one-time payments in November, ranging from $375 to $1,000. The payments are aimed at keeping district pay competitive with that of its neighbors, the Allen American reports.

Trustee Mark Jones contended the raises are fiscally irresponsible after asking taxpayers to dig deeper for Allen ISD last November.

"Our greatest charge is to ensure the future financial viability of this school district,” he said. “I don't think we can do that by offering a $2 million bonus when we just got finished asking our taxpayers to pony up 13 cents extra just last year.”

Supporters see the move as the district keeping its promise to employees at a time of state budget cuts that have hurt Allen ISD. They argued it is the best conservative option given the district’s circumstances.

The district of about 19,000 students in Collin County, north of Dallas, has gained national attention for its $60 million football stadium, which opened in August. There’s also been controversy over the location and about $40 million in construction costs for a new bus service center, CultureMap Dallas recently reported.

Contact Curt Olson at 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 on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of money by flickr user 401 (K) 2012, used via a Creative Commons license.

Felicia Harris, Randy Weber vie for GOP nod to succeed Ron Paul in Congress
Friday, Jul 13, 2012, 05:44PM CST
By Curt Olson

Playing to anti-Washington sentiment, the two candidates in the GOP primary runoff to succeed Ron Paul in Congress have each staked their claim to being more Texan, and unlike Washington, than the other.

In Texas, after all, one day officials are hurling verbal rebukes at President Barack Obama and federal lawmakers about the $16 trillion national debt. On another day, they’re challenging moves by federal regulators that hurt oil and gas production, the engine of the Texas economy.

That scorn has spilled into the race for Paul’s old district, where two-term state Rep. Randy Weber, a self-employed businessman, faces lawyer and Pearland city councilmember Felicia Harris, in the July 31 primary runoff for District 14. Harris stepped down from her post July 1.

The district just south and southeast of Houston has the counties of Jefferson, Galveston and Brazoria. In the May GOP primary, Weber received 27.6 percent of the vote, Harris, 18.9 percent.

Both claim the conservative brand based on endorsements and track records.

Weber received Paul’s endorsement in June, while Harris has been endorsed by GOP U.S. Reps. Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Bill Flores of Bryan and Ted Poe of Jefferson County. Harris also has endorsements from GOP U.S. Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Jeb Hensarling of Athens and Francisco Canseco of San Antonio.

Randy WeberRandy Weber

Weber counters with Texas-based endorsements from Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and Texas Rangers owner Nolan Ryan.

Touting his Texas endorsements, Weber said the choice comes down to “the Washington way or the Texas model.”

Harris doesn’t back away stating she has support from people in the district who identify with the Tea Party movement.

With early voting July 23-July 27, Perry held a rally for Weber on Wednesday in Galveston.

In a phone interview, Weber said Harris’ Washington endorsements are tainted with votes by Olson, Flores, Granger, Hensarling and Canseco to raise the debt ceiling nearly one year ago. Poe voted against it, as did Paul.

“I think the Harris campaign’s in a world of hurt,” said Weber. “If you like the way things are going in Washington, D.C., vote for Harris.”

Harris’ website states her stance against raising the federal debt ceiling, She questions Weber’s own conservative credibility.

“Mr. Weber forgets his own record,” Harris said.

Felicia HarrisFelicia Harris

She points to key votes by Weber in the Texas Legislature in 2011 that gave him a 48 percent conservative rating with Texas Eagle Forum, a key conservative organization in the state.

She also highlights Weber’s vote for Texas Senate Bill 1 in the June 2011 special session (See page 659). SB1 compelled Amazon to charge Texans sales tax, which the comptroller started collecting July 1.

Harris said this raised taxes.

“He says he won’t raise taxes, but look at what he did?” Harris asked.

She said Americans ridicule members of Congress because “they say one thing and do another.”

Weber fires back that as a Pearland City Council member, Harris increased property taxes and city spending. He also contends she has been absent from 30 percent of city meetings.

Mark Jones, chairman of Rice University’s political science department, sees a close race.

He said after the May primary he gave the edge to Weber because of support by Texas establishment Republicans. He said that has evened out with Harris’ endorsements from several members of Texas’ congressional delegation.

“It helps there’s no doubt about it. It’s a key ace in the hole,” Jones said of Paul’s endorsement of Weber. “Paul has a core of dedicated supporters, but a lot of the Tea Party people are going with Harris.”

Despite the fight over conservative cred, Weber and Harris are strikingly similar on the big issues. They agree on repealing Obamacare, needing to cut the national debt, and creating jobs, specifically in the oil and gas-rich district on the Gulf of Mexico.

Both seek less regulation on energy businesses and play up their expertise in this area. Weber pointed to his service on the House Environmental Regulation committee, which has some jurisdiction over oil and gas, during his first term. Harris said she has represented energy businesses as a lawyer.

Weber has a potential advantage having represented a segment of Brazoria County, including almost all of Pearland, as part of his state House District 29, and the name recognition that comes with a state office.

But Harris said 53 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the primary voted for someone other than Weber or herself. Since the primary, Harris has been endorsed by two primary opponents, Robert Gonzales, founder and chairman of the Clear Lake Tea Party, and school administrator John Gay.

“Mr. Weber hasn’t been endorsed by any of the other candidates,” Harris said.

Meanwhile, there’s still time on the calendar before runoff election ballots are cast to have some debates.

Harris has said she would like some debates, but it’s uncertain at this time.

“We’ve given her three or four dates,” Weber said.

“He has told me he doesn’t want debates,” Harris responds.

Jones handicapped the race heading into November, when the winner will face former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson.

He said the district leans Republican although Lampson has a past of being a conservative Democrat. Jones envisions the winner of the GOP runoff succeeding Paul in the U.S. House.

“Obama at the top of the ticket is too much to overcome,” Jones said.

Contact Curt Olson at 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 on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of the U.S. Capitol via the Architect of the Capitol website.

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