Thursday, October 26, 2006

'Anybody but Perry' attitude expressed by two out of every three Texas voters

A Day In The Life Of Rick Perry

Oct 26, 2006

Keith Elkins Reporting
Copyright 2006

It's just 12 days until election day and candidates for Texas governor are working hard for your vote.

Thursday Governor Rick Perry stumped for Central Texas votes.

CBS 42 political reporter Keith Elkins has a day in the life look at his campaign.

As many know, Rick Perry is one of the most polished and experienced candidates in this race, but with four opponents nipping at his heels he is not taking anything for granted.

Although, the only opponent he mentioned all day long was Houston Democrat Chris Bell.

Rolling into town with his 'Proud of Texas' re-election campaign Governor Rick Perry discovered not everyone is proud of him--especially his plans to build toll roads across their land.

"I don't think the governor cares one way or the other but perhaps people watching this will perk up their ears a bit and say, 'hmmm maybe he's not the best man for the job after all," Bastrop voter Jeremiah Davis said. "I don't know who the best man is running, but I think I'll vote for Chris Bell."

It's an "anybody but Perry" attitude being expressed by two out of every three Texas voters.

Making tough choices, according to Perry, doesn't always mean making new friends.

"It doesn't surprise me, but the fact is most Texans understand we have to have a vision for the future, we have to build the infrastructure, we have to deal with the environmental issues of our air and doing nothing is absolutely not an acceptable position," Perry said.

From Bastrop the campaign headed southwest, delivering an identical message to Caldwell County Republicans.

"Are you ready to go on the path of progress and continue going forward, or do you want to go the other way?" Perry asked. "We're going forward. If you'll go work hard for the next 12 days, hang those signs up and make those calls, take those people to the polls and get them there, we'll win this election in a big and powerful way."

Then on to Seguin and more toll road protestors, with some saying they're no longer voting Republican.

"He has forgot us and he needs to know what Texas is about and if he knew what Texas is about he wouldn't be splitting it in half," Wilson County voter Melvin Krahn said.

There was a warmer reception from a younger crowd.

"I feel strongly on the way he's taking Texas and I may actually, I probably will vote for Perry this election," senior high school student Kandi Knippa said.

And without a runoff where every vote counts, Perry is not taking any chances.

If Governor Perry is re-elected and serves a full second term, he will become the longest serving governor in Texas history.

Throughout this campaign, Perry has consistently polled in the low to mid-30s, which means he could be re-elected with about a third of the voters approval.

He never mentioned Independent candidates Carole Strayhorn or Kinky Friedman or Libertarian James Werner, trying to leave the impression voters can either vote for Bell, who he calls the Washington liberal, or for himself and a record of what he calls proven conservative results.

© 2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc.:


Texas Politicians Get Blacklisted

The Blackland Coalition Blacklist

"Since these folks have worked so hard to give our land to the Spaniards, I feel they deserve a vacation. Let's send them home."


Ralph Snyder
The Blackland Coalition
Copyright 2006

These politicians are the people who brought you the Trans-Texas Corridor and tolls on roads we have already paid for. They voted to confiscate our land and roads for special interest profits (HB-3588).

Governor Rick Perry (R)

AG Commissioner Todd Staples (R), (Senate sponsor of Trans Texas Corridor bill)


Dist 1 Kevin P. Eltife (R)

Dist 2 Bob Deuell (R)

Dist 5 Steve Ogden (R)

Dist 12 Jane Nelson (R)

Dist 15 John Whitmire (D)

Dist 17 Kyle Janek (R)

Dist 22 Kip Averitt (R) (Falls, McClennan, & Hill Co.)

Dist 25 Jeff Wentworth (R)

Dist 29 Eliot Shapleigh (D)


Dist 2 Dan Flynn (R)

Dist 4 Betty Brown (R)

Dist 7 Tommy Merritt (R)

Dist 8 Byron Cook (R)

Dist 15 Rob Eissler (R)

Dist 19 Mike Hamilton (R)

Dist 20 Dan Gattis (R) (Milam Co, Northern Williamson Co)

Dist 24 Larry Taylor (R)

Dist 29 Glenda Dawson (R)

Dist 32 Gene Seaman (R)

Dist 45 Patrick M. Rose (D)

Dist 46 Dawnna Dukes (D)

Dist 50 Mark Strama (D)

Dist 52 Mike Krusee (R) (Southern Williamson Co--author of TTC bill)

Dist 55 Dianne White Delisi (R) (Bell Co--co-author of TTC bill)

Dist 56 Charles "Doc" Anderson (R) (McClennan Co)

Dist 58 Rob Orr (R) (Bosque Co)

Dist 59 Sid Miller (R) (Coryell Co)

Dist 60 James L. "Jim" Keffer (R)

Dist 62 Larry Phillips (R)

Dist 64 Myra Crownover (R)

Dist 65 Burt Solomons (R)

Dist 69 David Farabee (D)

Dist 70 Ken Paxton (R)

Dist 81 G.E. "Buddy" West (R)

Dist 83 Delvin Jones (R)

Dist 84 Carl H. Isett (R)

Dist 86 John Smithee (R)

Dist 88 Warren Chisum (R)

Dist 89 Jodie Laubenberg (R)

Dist 96 Bill Zedler (R)

Dist 97 Anna Mowery (R)

Dist 98 Vicki Truitt (R)

Dist 99 Charlie Geren (R)

Dist 102 Tony Goolsby (R)

Dist 103 Rafael Anchia (D)

Dist 105 Linda Harper-Brown (R)

Dist 107 Bill Keffer (R)

Dist 108 Dan Branch (R)

Dist 112 Fred Hill (R)

Dist 113 Joe Driver (R)

Dist 114 Will Hartnett (R)

Dist 120 Ruth Jones McClendon (D)

Dist 121 Joe Straus (R)

Dist 122 Frank J. Corte Jr. (R)

Dist 123 Mike Villarreal (D)

Dist 127 Joe Crabb (R)

Dist 129 John E. Davis (R)

Dist 130 Corbin Van Arsdale (R)

Dist 132 Bill Callegari (R)

Dist 134 Martha Wong (R)

Dist 138 Dwayne Bohac (R)

Dist 144 Robert E. Talton (R)

Ralph E. Snyder
Holland, TX 76534

© 2006 The Blackland Coalition:


Krusee : "Toll roads are enormously popular."

Three Legislators Face Challengers

Education and toll roads dominate races that include Ogden, Gattis, Krusee.

October 26, 2006

By Lisa Ogle
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Education and toll roads have been hot topics in three legislative races that affect Williamson County.

State Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and state Reps. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, and Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, face Democratic and Libertarian challengers in the Nov. 7 election.

Some of the eight candidates' priorities also include cracking down on illegal immigration, lowering property taxes and giving more money to the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Senate District 5

Ogden's challengers, Democrat Stephen Wyman and Libertarian Darrell Grear, have emphasized education, but Ogden has said his priorities are writing a balanced state budget and cleaning up the business tax bill passed in the most recent legislative special session.

Wyman said he supports introducing a flat-rate state income tax to finance education. He said he envisions statewide multimedia classes and tutoring via teleconferencing, particularly to give students in rural areas a better education.

Wyman said he also supports term limits for all elected officials.

"We have a system now that's built by and for incumbents," he said. "That's not a good thing because politics become self-serving."

Ogden said legislators are looking at how to allocate money to school districts for construction and said he thinks high school seniors could be challenged more.

His priorities will be to write a balanced budget that is conservative while also meeting the state's needs and to ensure that the new business tax is fair by clearing up any flaws in the law, he said.

Ogden said he also supports making parole more difficult for prisoners such as sex offenders, which could require building more prisons. "The problem is that building new prisons is very, very expensive, but I believe that not building prisons is very, very expensive," he said.

Grear could not be reached for comment.

House District 20

In his bid to oust Gattis, Democrat Jim Stauber is opposing toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"It's the biggest land grab this state has ever seen," Stauber said of the corridor, Gov. Rick Perry's plan for 4,000 miles of tollways, railroads and utility lines. "It's going to actually cost people their farms and their livelihood. I don't see anything beneficial for Texas. They're going to use it to transport goods from Mexico."

Gattis voted for the corridor in 2003 but said he also has several problems with the plan. He said he questions having "a private company setting the tolls that the citizens of the state of Texas will have to pay."

However, Gattis said toll roads are a separate issue.

"I think toll roads do play a part in addressing our transportation needs," he said, adding that Williamson County residents have been asking when Central Texas' toll roads are going to open. The extension of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), Texas 45 North and Texas 130 from U.S. 79 to U.S. 290 will open Tuesday. Tolls will be waived for the first two months.

Stauber said toll roads discriminate against the poor and middle class, including himself.

"I'll be riding where the stop lights are," he said.

But Gattis said that the introduction of toll roads will not reduce the number of free lanes that drivers can use and that existing roads will not be tolled in the future.

Gattis said he wants to give law enforcement officials the ability to enforce immigration laws, address property appraisal districts' lack of accountability and use part of the expected budget surplus to pay for education and lower property taxes.

Stauber said he wants to strengthen environmental laws, make it easier for people to be able to form and join unions, improve CHIP and raise the minimum wage.

House District 52

Toll roads and education are also issues in the race among Krusee, Democrat Karen Felt- hauser and Libertarian Lillian Simmons.

Felthauser said tolls are a wasteful way to pay for roads."We'd get more roads for our money if we made them freeways," Felthauser said.

Simmons also opposes toll roads. "The roads in the urban areas need to be improved, maintained and widened," she said.

But Krusee said toll roads are enormously popular.

"It's rather disingenuous to campaign against toll roads in general and not mention that toll roads are opening in a matter of weeks and the growth and opportunity that are brought to Williamson County," he said.

Krusee responded to critics of the Trans-Texas Corridor who have said it will not benefit Texas, but instead will be used to transport goods from Mexico.

"Its purpose is to relieve congestion and provide opportunities for growth because (Interstate 35) is too crowded," he said, adding that I-35 also is a route for transporting goods from Mexico. "Our economy is dependent on trade, and trade is dependent on transportation, thus it becomes a thread to prosperity and job growth."

In Williamson County, Texas 130 will probably become a part of the corridor plan. The toll road is intended to be an alternative to I-35 from San Antonio to the Oklahoma border.

Krusee also emphasized higher education. He said he will push for money for a nursing school at Texas State University's Round Rock Higher Education Center and will continue working on an initiative for a college in the eastern part of the county.

He also said he wants the expected budget surplus to go toward education and property tax cuts.

Felthauser said she supports giving more money to CHIP and a more progressive tax structure.

"I'd like taxes to be based on ability to pay, not on ability to make campaign contributions," she said.

Simmons said she is in favor of private schooling and border security.

"We cannot let anyone in, not knowing who they are, knowing that terrorism is a possibility," she said.; 246-1150

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ric Williamson: "Nothing's sacred about any kind of land—ranch land is not more valuable than someone's Exxon service station in Downtown Temple."

Funding Sought for Texas Rail

Relocation Projects a Legislative Priority


By Elizabeth Albanese
The Bond Buyer
Copyright 2006

Dallas-Texas Transportation officials have a hefty agenda planned for the upcoming legislative session that begins January 9, 2007, including requests for a new series of revenues to finance rail relocation projects.

Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton has unveiled for the first time revenues identified by the Texas Department of Transportation to finance a Rail Relocation Fund approved by the state Legislature in 2005.

"While lawmakers approved the fund itself during the regular session, they did not fund it," Houghton said. "Here, for the first time, is the list of five detailed funding options that we will recommend for that purpose."

Included in the anticipated request are a diesel fuel tax or a freight rail container tax on intermodal transportation, a per ton-per mile tax on freight transportation, an origin/destination fee on rail transports, and a sales tax on freight transportation.

The Rail Relocation fund was developed to finance the relocation of rail lines away from busy urban centers or highways, where train traffic can hinder motor vehicle mobility.

Projects could be self-supporting projects, such as intermodal freight centers, or could be built in partnership with the railroads or on their behalf. The fund would likely back bonds issued to finance selected projects.

It is anticipated that the Rail Relocation Fund could be used much like the Texas mobility Fund for highways, with local officials and railroad representatives working with TxDOT to identify projects.

"The areas that we are targeting now include rail lines that cause bottlenecks, grade separation, economic development opportunities, and safety improvements," Houghton said.

Ric Williamson, the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission—which oversees all financings and projects by TxDOT—said once rail lines were moved, the department could take title to the land that formerly housed active private rail lines.

"Those tracks could be used for passenger rail," he said. "And in many instances, those corridors could be used for additional highway lanes."

He said TxDOT was the natural choice to take title to such land.

"Even on lines that have been abandoned, we don't really see the railroads selling their land," Williamson said. "It's basically environmental wasteland. But for us, that land represents a number of opportunities."

Williamson said TxDOT officials hope the Legislature will approve funding that will allow the department to continue the transportation initiatives that have already bolstered mobility efforts in the Lone Star State.

"Every dollar that we have already identified—including our $3 billion general obligation bond authorization, the Texas Mobility Fund, and our state and federal revenues—are already committed," he said. "It's misleading to discuss the fact that we have these revenues and think they're the answer to our problem. It's an $86 billion problem, not a $4.5 billion problem."

State Rep. Charlie Howard, R- Sugar Land, said he will continue to support both private and public toll roads. He said he believes toll roads can resolve some mobility issues in areas that will support such endeavors.

"Toll roads won't work everywhere, but in those areas where user fees can support a toll road, they make sense," he said, adding that he believes arguments that such roads are too costly are disingenuous. "There are already free alternatives, and congestion on those roads will be relieved by the opening of a toll road. And if you don't want to pay the toll, you don't have to use the toll road."

Independent candidates for Governor Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman have spoken out against private-public partnerships, saying that such projects included in the Trans-Texas Corridor will cut through ranch land and displace some homeowners and business owners.

Williamson, however, maintains that concessions deals will play an important role in getting needed mobility projects built years before the state could finance them.

"On private-public toll roads, TxDOT owns the right of way, and local and regional leaders are all involved in the decisions about where they'll be," he said. "The private sector partners know what to expect—that there will be a level of government interference."

He said that as for displacing Texans from their land, it's an unfortunate reality of building highways.

"There's nothing easy about this," Williamson said. "But there's nothing sacred about any kind of land—ranch land is not more valuable than someone's Exxon service station in Downtown Temple. If I had to say something to such a landowner, I'd tell tham I was damned sorry this was happening. And if they don't want to cash out—sell their property outright—they can be an active participant in the revenue stream of these projects. Texas is the only state that allows that, and I think that shows how much we care about the rights of landowners."

© 2006 The Bond Buyer:


Monday, October 23, 2006

Australian tollway operator Transurban 'short-listed' for projects in Texas

Transurban to invest in US toll roads

October 23, 2006

The Age (Australia)
Copyright 2006

Tollway operator Transurban Group will set up an unlisted company in the United States to facilitate further investment in lucrative US toll roads.

Transurban on Monday said the new vehicle would likely be jointly owned by Transurban and institutional investors keen to tap into the toll road market.

Transurban chairman Laurie Cox said Transurban had appointed a North American advisory board to help it expand in the US.

"The US is a really exciting place for us to expand our activities, and the returns available from toll road investment opportunities in the US are more attractive than they are here in Australia," Mr Cox told reporters.

"The reason we are restructuring the business is to create a more efficient means of holding these offshore assets and at the same time enabling us to continue to make cash distributions to our Australian unit holders.

"It also separately gives us the ability to raise foreign capital."

Transurban, which owns and operates the CityLink tollway in Melbourne and the M2 Hills Motorway toll road in Sydney, already has interests in three US toll road projects.

In June this year, Transurban acquired a 99-year concession on the Pocahontas Parkway in the US state of Virginia for a total cost of $US611 million ($A815 million).

Transurban is also negotiating two HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lane projects in Virginia, between Richmond and Washington DC.

HOT lanes are usually set aside for vehicles with three passengers. Cars with single or dual occupancy can use these lanes by paying a toll.

Transurban managing director Kim Edwards said there was "a pipeline of other opportunities" in the US.

He said the new US vehicle, which is yet to be finalised, would be unlisted and partially owned by Transurban shareholders via Transurban International Ltd.

"We'll be seeking co-investors to invest alongside of us into that vehicle... we'll be looking for similar types of shareholders to us that are interested in extracting value from these assets over the long term," Mr Edwards said.

"So it's most likely to be pension/superannuation funds."

It was expected that Transurban would retain about 25 to 35 per cent of the new vehicle over time but in the short term Transurban might hold more than that.

Initially, the US vehicle would be seeking equity commitments of around $A2 billion.

Mr. Edwards said there had been enormous interest from potential seed investors around the world.

"Our aim is to have that settled by the first quarter of next year," he said.

Currently, Transurban's US business - the Pocahontas Parkway - represents only four per cent of Transurban's total assets.

If the HOT lanes are finalised, US interests will comprise 15-20 per cent of total assets.

But Mr Edwards said opportunities to grow assets in the US were far, far more substantial than in Australia.

He said Transurban had already been short-listed for some projects in Texas and there were a number of other opportunities that were presently confidential.

Transurban securities were steady at $7.35.

© 2006 AAP:


"This is the fruit of the poisonous tree that we're dealing with here today. And that poisonous tree is the Trans-Texas Corridor."

Corridor touted as train solution


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

San Antonio can get new railroad tracks built around the city, but they'd likely be part of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor, state officials said Monday.

"I know of no mechanism to relocate rail in rural areas other than the Trans-Texas Corridor," said David Casteel, who heads the Texas Department of Transportation's local office.

Casteel and other officials asked the Metropolitan Planning Organization board to authorize a $5 million federal study to select a route for the new tracks, which could take three years. TxDOT would put up a 20 percent local match.

"We are listening to what the public is saying," TxDOT engineer Jessica Castiglione told the board, referring to last week's Union Pacific train derailment in Beacon Hill that again raised alarms about trains going through the city.

No one was hurt, but memories were reignited over the way a June 2004 collision, though in a sparsely populated area, released a cloud of chlorine that killed four people and hospitalized at least 30.

About 80 UP trains pass through San Antonio each day. The company says 50 of those trains could be rerouted if new tracks and rail yards were built.

Metropolitan Planning Organization board members, who represent local governments and various agencies and oversee federal transportation dollars, agreed to consider the study for new tracks when they meet in December.

However, some board members wanted assurances that they wouldn't be endorsing the Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed 4,000-mile network of toll lanes, railways and utility lines financed by private developers that would criss-cross the state to deal with growing traffic.

Critics say companies would profit from tolls, gas stations and restaurants while communities would see their tax bases shrink and economic opportunities diminish.

Also, farmers and ranchers would be forced to give up land for the 1,200-foot-wide corridor, and some farm-to-market highways won't connect while other roads won't even cross it.

City Councilman Richard Perez, who is chairman of the organization's board, said moving forward with the rail route study doesn't constitute an endorsement of plans for the corridors.

"That is an affirmative," he said.

The board approved a resolution asking the Legislature to put $200 million a year into a statewide rail relocation fund, which could bond $2 billion worth of projects to start.

County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, a member of the board, persuaded the panel to amend the resolution to say that it does not endorse the corridor project, and that the Federal Railroad Administration should step up oversight of rail safety.

"I'm just telling you this is the fruit of the poisonous tree that we're dealing with here today," Adkisson said. "And that poisonous tree is, in my judgment, the Trans-Texas Corridor."

The two TxDOT officials on the board, Casteel and engineer Clay Smith, voted against the amendment.

"It's short-sighted to think that we can relocate rail without the Trans-Texas Corridor," Casteel said.

There are nine rail studies under way around the state, and TxDOT officials estimate that relocating trains to rural areas, separating some of the rail and road crossings in cities and making improvements to ease rail traffic congestion would cost more than $16 billion.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


"If undecided voters break strongly for either Bell or Strayhorn, then Perry could be beat."

Polls still not clear on governor's race, thanks to undecided vote


Harvey Kronberg
Quorum Report
Copyright 2006

OK, here's how things stand based on traditional polling. Gov. Rick Perry has dropped to the low 30s. Democrat Chris Bell and Independent Carole Strayhorn hover at about 20 percent and the Kinkster has plummeted to single digits.

Since the one with the most votes wins without a runoff, today it looks like Perry will serve another term. Maybe. But the most important number in these polls are the undecided.

Undecided numbers usually drop late in the campaign, but this year is different. They have actually increased to around 20 percent. If the undecided break strongly for either Bell or Strayhorn, then Perry could be beat.

One Democratic operative said African-Americans frequently tell pollsters they're undecided, but then vote the straight Democratic ticket when they get into the voting booth.

But then, African-Americans constituted a significant percentage of Strayhorn's ballot petition signatures.

The Perry campaign still has one of the best political organizations I've ever seen. In the past, they have known how to get traditional Republican voters to the polls.

Undecided vote

It looks like Gov. Rick Perry will win the election, but that's not counting the undecided voters.

But despite claims to the contrary, national despair with Republican governance may have penetrated Texas. President Bush's approval, even here, hovers around a historical low of 50 percent.

There is some talk around in GOP circles that moderates who usually vote straight ticket Republican may have swung back into the independent column. The whispered concern among these Republican professionals is that they could lose their first down ballot statewide race in a decade.

If so, Republican financial advantage may not be enough to stave off Democratic gains in the Texas House. No, unlike Congress, Democrats have no chance of taking over the Texas House. But they do have a shot of reducing GOP numbers by as many as four seats. That leaves only 82 Republicans in the 150-member House and at least inches open the door to an effort to replace Speaker Tom Craddick with a less partisan and bruising Republican leader.

For a decade, Republicans have excelled with their get out the vote machine and may well do so again.

But as one well-placed Republican told me last week, "We know we can get them to the polls. But this is the first time we're not 100 percent certain they are going to stick with us."

© 2006 Quorum Report:


Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Texas needs a change of leadership. Strayhorn is the person for the job."


Strayhorn best for reform

October 22, 2006
The Waco Tribune Herald
Copyright 2006

Because the Texas Constitution limits the powers of the governor, the person who holds that position needs to provide strong leadership.

On Nov. 7, voters will select the person who will act as the state government’s top leader for the next four years.

The Tribune-Herald editorial board recommends Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Four major candidates for governor will split the votes in this election. It is likely that the next governor will take office without the support of a majority of Texans.

Rick Perry, who ascended to the office from lieutenant governor in 2000 after Gov. George W. Bush’s successful presidential election, is the Republican candidate. He was elected to office in 2002.

The Democratic candidate is Chris Bell, a former Houston city council member and member of Congress.

Strayhorn, in her second term as state comptroller, is running as an independent.

She is a former teacher, school board president, Austin mayor and member of the powerful Texas Railroad Commission.

The other independent in the race is Kinky Friedman, a musician, author and comedian.

Considering the state of affairs in Austin over the past few legislative sessions and in numerous special sessions, a strong argument can be made that Texas suffers from weak leadership.

Strayhorn has a long record of taking bold positions and standing up to members of her own political party who wanted her to back down and be a team player.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of Perry’s weak leadership was when he turned the reins of state government over to then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The now-indicted DeLay flew to Austin and was allowed to bring lawmaking to a halt while he shuttled about throughout the Capitol building whipping the GOP lawmakers into line on a second-time-this-decade redrawing of congressional districts.

Perry previously told Texans that his priority was passage of a school finance reform bill. Instead of putting that promised priority first, Perry allowed DeLay to become the de facto leader of state government in that unfortunate chapter of politics run amok.

The school teachers and children of Texas had to wait while the Legislature, under DeLay’s leadership, developed a redistricting plan designed to hurt the election prospects of Democratic congressional candidates.

Under Perry, bipartisanship has become a rare commodity, which is unfortunate. His predecessor as governor, Bush, worked to foster bipartisanship in state government.

As comptroller, Strayhorn’s job has been to collect state taxes and make sure budgets are balanced, among other duties. When she failed to go along to get along, she had popular state performance reviews taken away from her office. She also was accused of dispensing favors. A subsequent state audit cleared her of those charges but steeled her resolve to bring strong, independent leadership to the governor’s office.

Strayhorn has more experience in state government than Bell, another qualified candidate.

She has detailed knowledge to help improve Texas public schools retain quality teachers and to make higher education more affordable.

She promises to institute needed ethics reforms, limit the influence of lobbyists, ensure transparency in budgeting, foster bipartisanship and reinstate the cost-saving Texas Performance Reviews and the Texas School Performance Reviews.

Texas needs a change of leadership. Strayhorn is the person for the job.

Sponsored Links

© 2006 The Waco Tribune Herald:


Austin American-Statesman endorses Perry, calls TTC opponents 'xenophobes,' and falsely claims that an Anti-TTC PAC took money from Strayhorn



Perry best fits Texas' need for serious leadership

October 22, 2006

Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

We have often been critical of Rick Perry's leadership, but in the past 18 months, the Texas governor has produced results that required initiative and creativity.

He enlisted former Comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat, to craft a school finance bill. It was a truly inspired move that generated bipartisan support for the legislation that finally led to an overhaul of the state's business tax and a bit of property tax relief. He has taken the lead on border security, and gets a tip of the hat for appointments that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of modern Texas.

Against a weak field of sometimes right but never uncertain opposition, moreover, the governor looks good by comparison. We would be more enthusiastic in recommending Perry's re-election if we were sure that the governor will follow the direction he set for himself the past 18 months. Our reservations notwithstanding, Perry, 56, is the best of the five-candidate lot.

Any fair examination of Perry's record has to include the positives. As we have observed previously, any border governor has to develop a foreign policy, and Perry has. He understands the importance of a close-working alliance with his Mexican counterparts, and he is respected by them.

Perry had sense enough to abandon tax foe Grover Norquist and voucher advocate James Leininger, and enlist Sharp in overhauling the Texas school finance system. As pressing as the need was to overhaul state school finances, the Legislature couldn't come up with a bill. Sharp helped break the logjam.

Perry has been criticized because the bill isn't a long-term fix, but nobody said it would be. School finance is tricky enough without tying the hands of future legislators with a "long-term" solution that only looks good now. The Gilmer-Aikin Act, hailed as the school finance bill to end all school finance bills when it was adopted in the 1950s, was showing signs of social and economic fatigue by the 1960s.

As for the Trans Texas Corridor, we don't understand why Perry and his highway commission sat on some of the toll road's contract details for so long. A project of this magnitude can't succeed without public confidence, and disclosure builds confidence. Perry should it make clear that he and the taxpayers he represents won't settle for anything less than full and clear disclosure of plans for the corridor. We need roads.

Perry sat on the details of the contract long enough for independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the state comptroller, to pander to xenophobes who speak darkly about the foreign ownership of Cintra. The Spanish company has partnered with H.B. Zachry of San Antonio, which has been building Texas roads for decades, but the seeds of doubt have been planted.

For a good retail politician, Perry can be downright tone deaf to the wholesale aspects of the business, as this episode shows.

Democrat Chris Bell, on the other hand, is adept at neither wholesale nor retail politics. He has some ideas worth looking at, but it's doubtful that any of his policy proposals have a chance of resulting in action. Bell is right about public education's over-reliance on the TAKS test, but one issue does not a governor make.

Bell's opposition to tuition deregulation is not only short-sighted but potentially injurious to Austin. The Legislature's stinginess in funding higher education is well-documented. Denying the University of Texas and other state institutions the flexibility to set tuition rates limits their ability to raise money elsewhere. Perry appointed one of the strongest chairs to the UT system in recent years. UT Regents Chairman James Huffines has led the effort to restructure higher education and strengthen it financially.

It's disappointing that Bell, who showed the courage to take on Tom DeLay when the former House majority leader was at the zenith of his power, offers so little in the way of alternatives.

Speaking of alternatives, independents Strayhorn, the former Austin mayor, and entertainer Richard "Kinky" Friedman, are running full tilt to nowhere.

We are extremely disappointed that Strayhorn has thrown financial and political support to the political action committee founded and led by toll road opponent Sal Costello, who exploits the personal problems of policymakers with whom he disagrees.

He traffics in old divorce cases as a way of smearing his opponents, which is the lowest denominator of public debate. Strayhorn tossed Costello's PAC $15,000 in three $5,000 payments in February, March and September of this year. Lending her name and stature as a statewide official to someone of Costello's ilk is truly troubling.

Friedman's candidacy is a joke, much like the oft-repeated one-liners that have gone as stale as a day-old cheap cigar. Ethnic jokes aren't funny in a demographically complex state like Texas, or anywhere for that matter. The idea of a governor who doesn't respect that indisputable fact would be a cruel joke on all of us.

Perry's record of appointing minorities and women to positions of responsibility is excellent. His appointment of Louis E. Sturns of Fort Worth to the Texas Public Safety Commission, the panel that oversees the Department of Public Safety, was most welcome. Sturns is the first African American to sit on the commission. That was a significant if unheralded move, but one that shows Perry's eye for the details of managing a complex and growing state.

Like any incumbent, he gets his share of brickbats, and like any incumbent, he deserves some.

We have disagreed with the governor before and most likely will again. Against the field, however, Perry is the best choice.

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