Monday, February 27, 2006

Strayhorn: "It is the largest land grab in Texas History. You're going to have to pay to play both ways. "

One Tough Grandma addresses McKinney Rotary


02/26/2006

By Krystal De Los Santos, Staff Writer
Plano Star-courier
Copyright 2006

Gubernatorial candidate and Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn on Friday campaigned in McKinney as a guest of the Rotary Club, promising to fix Texas's flawed school finance system, protect jobs and shrink the size of the state's government.

Strayhorn, in addition to being the first female comptroller, reelected with the highest number of votes ever in any run for a Texas political office, was the first woman elected to the Texas Railroad Commission, and the first female president of both the Austin School Board, and of the Austin Community College Board of Trustees.

She was the first female mayor of Austin, and the only Austin mayor to be reelected to three consecutive terms.

Her stump speech was full of Keetonisms-the folksy, colorful comparisons for which Strayhorn has become known.

While she refrained from referring to Governor Rick Perry as a "weak-leadin', ethics ignorin', pointing the finger at everyone blamin', special session callin', public school slashin', slush fund spending, toll road building, special interest panderin', rainy day fund raidin', fee increasing, no property tax cutting, promise breakin', do-nothin' phony conservative," as she has in the past," she did fault the Governor for failing Texas' children by placing school finance low on his list of priorities.

Shifting state funds around to pay for school finance, she said, "is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic."

"The Titanic's problem won't go away, either," she said. "We need a long-term solution."

"Over the past five years, we've had nine sessions of the legislature. Nine opportunities to fix serious problems, nine opportunities to cut property taxes, cut government spending and fix our unconstitutional and broken school finance system but instead of fixing out problems, we see that school funding is in crisis, property taxes are up and judges are having to do our government's job," Strayhorn said. "He sat in the Governor's office and while he sat there, education has been ignored, our children have been forgotten, taxes have gone up not down and the state budget has gone up $40 billion, a 41 percent increase. Spending is at its highest level ever while dollars going to our children and our teachers are at the lowest level ever. Pocketbook expenses have skyrocketed for everything from insurance rates to our electric bills and our border has been abandoned to the point where ordinary citizens, not law enforcement officials, are having to fight illegal immigration."

Billing herself as "one tough grandma," Keeton explained her decision to shed her party affiliation for the campaign and run for Governor as an independent.

"I believe we need to put partisan politics behind us," she said. "We can't wait any longer. It's time to shake Austin up...We need a strong leader who will put Texas above politics."

Strayhorn said that she wants to shrink the size of government applying her Yellow Pages test and letting competition regulate markets.

"Government should do no job if there's a business in the Yellow Pages that can do that job better and at a lower cost," she said. "The chief role of government in the economy is to provide incentives for work safety and investment and protect private property owners."

She said that compared with the Gross National Product of other countries in the world, Texas' Gross State product is the tenth largest, but that its reputation for educating its future work force is poor.

"Texas is great, but we can do better," she said.

She also spoke about the local economy, praising the low unemployment rate in McKinney, saying "ya'll are outpacing the state all over the place."

"McKinney is booming," Strayhorn said. "With gross sales, with the $200 million gateway center project. You've got fine employers here from Raytheon to Blockbuster and your small business retail." The city's sales tax revenue was up nearly 29 percent over 2005.

She joked that she watches several economic indicators everyday, one of which is Girl Scout Cookie Sales.

Strayhorn, a former teacher, also praised the city's school district.

"There is not a single low-performing school in McKinney Independent School District and that's good that's something to be proud of," she said.

She also spoke of her opposition to toll roads.

"I think we can have the transportation system that once was and will be again the envy of the United States," she said. "TxDOT is coming in and building tollroads like S.H. 121 and not working with city and county officials to keep toll rates down and keep toll profits local, and I think the North Texas Tollway Authority has been very responsive to local concerns and local accountability... I think nobody knows what's best for the local community like the local agencies."

Another major concern, she said, is the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"It is the largest land grab in Texas History. You're going to have to pay to play both ways," she said. "What really gets me is not only is it... totally ignoring local private property rights, property that has been in the family for generations...but now, they've signed a contract, a secret contract with Cintra, a foreign company, a 50-year contract for a $184 billion boondoggle."

Strayhorn's father was the long-time dean of the University of Texas law school. Her oldest son, Mark McClellan is the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, and is former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Her twin sons, Brad and Dudley McClellan are both attorneys. Brad McClellan is former Assistant Texas Attorney General and manager of her campaign. Dudley McClellan is Assistant General Counsel for the State Bar of Texas and her youngest son, Mark McClellan is President George W. Bush's press secretary.

But her biggest joy, she said, are her granddaughters.

After raising four boys, "I've earned those five baby granddaughters, and the good lord really does have a sense of humor."

The Rotary club presented Strayhorn a banner and thanked her for visiting.

"I'm honored to stand here with each of you who put service above self," Strayhorn said. "To stand shoulder to shoulder with you... I salute the McKinney Rotary chapter."

Contact Krystal De Los Santos at krystal.delossantos@scntx.com.


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