Friday, September 24, 2010

"Ah, arrogance! Ah, insensitivity! Ah, general stupidity!"

Perry: "Y'all Know What a Bidness Plan Is, Right?"

Rick Perry's AIG: Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed


Alan Webber
Rules of Thumb
Copyright 2010

In my last post, I introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry into the discussion.

But have I ever told you the story about the time I met him and watched him in action?

Well, here goes.

I was in Texas to give a speech. The sponsor asked me, before it was my time to talk, if I'd like to meet the governor.

Sure, I said.

Having written speeches for the governors of Michigan, Massachusetts, and Oregon, I figured it would be fun, a real treat, to meet the Governor of Texas.

The sponsor told me that the occasion was a meeting Governor Perry was having with two visitors from Mexico: one of Mexico's leading newspaper publishers, a distinguished leader and accomplished businessman, and a member of the Mexican Senate. They were eager to talk with the governor about the state's laws and practices concerning open meetings and freedom of information. What could they learn to help Mexico have a more transparent public sector?

I could sit in on the meeting as an observer.

I was ushered into the room where the meeting was to take place; the newspaper publisher and senator were already there. We shook hands and waited.

In came Governor Perry.

He sat down and immediately plopped his cowboy boots on the coffee table that sat between us.
I think the idea was to show us the map of Texas that had been engraved on the boots.

Then he started to lecture the visitors from Mexico on a long-standing water dispute between Texas and Mexico.

"I know you're keeping our water on your side of the border," he told them. "We got satellite images that show it. And it's illegal. Strictly against the law, violates a treaty between us. You're gonna have to give us back our water."

He went on like that for about five minutes. It must have taken him that long to realize that he was talking about the wrong thing to the wrong people--or maybe that's just what he does when he's introduced to people from Mexico.

Finally, he shifted gears to the topic of transparency in government, open meetings and freedom of information.

"It's a two-edged sword," the governor said. "I know you're thinking it's a good thing, but let me tell you, it has another side to it."

Interesting, right? The governor says there's a negative to public access to information. What could that be?

"Now say you come to the government and you're asking for money for a project you want to do. And you show the government your business plan... "

(Only, of course, he didn't say "government" he said "go'mint" and he didn't say "business plan" he said "bidness plan." But I digress.)

"Now, you'll know what a bidness plan is, right? That's the document you need to write up when you're starting a bidness that explains how you're gonna do it. So say you want money from the go'mint and so you have to show them your bidness plan. Now, if there's freedom of information, your competitors can go into the go'mint files and read your bidness plan! So all this transparency stuff, it's a two-edged sword!"

And he sat back, very pleased with himself for having educated his Mexican visitors on the real nature of open meetings laws and freedom of information acts, and even what a bidness plan is.

After he left, however, it was clear that his guests were a little under-impressed.

I'm certainly glad the governor explained to me what a business plan is, said the senator from Mexico. That's not something we covered when I attended Stanford Business School.

Ah, arrogance!

Ah, insensitivity!

Ah, general stupidity!

No wonder the chairperson of the Texas Board of Education, appointed by Governor Rick Perry, is a creationist who believes that our history books betray an Islamic bias!

I'll bet she doesn't know what a bidness plan is, either!

© 2010 Rules of Thumb:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"Texans are facing another four years of government of, by and for Gov. Rick Perry and his cronies..."

My Rick Perry Problem...and Yours


by James Howard Gibbons
Texas Observer
Copyright 2010

During the 1980s I spent several Easter vacations sailing with the late columnist Molly Ivins and some of her leading liberal friends. After the day’s sail out of Corpus Christi or Port Aransas, our party would reassemble on land for drinks and dinner. I wish I had a double Scotch (and probably did have a double Scotch) for every time Ivins remarked: “Whenever two or three reporters and commentators are gathered together, they tell the most revealing, engaging, sometimes appalling stories of happenings behind the scenes, but rarely share a word of it with their readers.”

Now that I am a writer on my own, having left the Houston Chronicle after 34 years, and with Texans facing another four years of government of, by and for Gov. Rick Perry and his cronies, I see no reason to hold back.

After three terms as a state representative and two as agriculture commissioner, in 1998 Perry successfully ran for lieutenant governor. During the campaign he appeared before the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board. Asked what was his first priority, Perry said that the highest and most sacred duty of every public official is ensuring that children get a good education.

Right answer, but, quell surprise, Perry’s actions have run counter to his words. He has kept state support for public education – state government’s largest and most important function – anemic. As governor he appointed as chairman of the State Board of Education a man who not only rejected evolution and modern biology, but also wanted to deny Texas children a basic knowledge of physics and cosmology. Perry appointed an education commissioner who fudged the numbers to hide poor student achievement and rampant failure.

Soon after George W. Bush was elected president of the United States in November 2000, he resigned the Texas governorship, and Perry became governor. A few days after his inauguration, Perry invited the Houston Chronicle editorial board to dine with him in a private room at Post Oak Grill in Houston. Perry sat at the head of the table. He was flanked by his bodyguard of state police officers wearing ridiculous, oversized white cowboy hats in the style made famous by Tom Mix. I was seated to the governor’s left, appropriate enough considering my position on the political spectrum.

Toward the end of the meal, Perry affected a humble demeanor and beseeched my colleagues and me to just give him the benefit of the doubt, a chance to show he could do the right thing by the citizens of Texas. Perry promised, as a point of personal honor, that we would not be disappointed. He seemed so sincere, he had me going there. For a moment, I actually thought a new desire to add some distinction to his leadership and legacy had caused him to turn over a new leaf.

Yeah, sure. On his opposition to adequate state support for the public schools and the teaching of legitimate science to Texas children, Perry proceeded to heap large cuts in state support for undergraduate education and university research, the very engines of the growth Perry rightly regards as essential for Texas prosperity.

The problem is not simply that Perry lacks integrity, which he does. The worst of it is that Perry is so dedicated to perpetuating himself in office and so mindless of the public interest that he doesn’t even know what integrity looks like. From my decades-long observation post on the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board, I saw many examples of how Perry auctioned his power to the highest bidder, including the one that follows:

As the Texas Legislature was wrapping up in May 1999, Port of Houston commissioners voted to spend $75,000 in taxpayer money to hire two lobbyists in Austin for only a few days’ work. Lobbyist Mike Toomey, Rick Perry’s on-and-off aide, adviser and longtime crony, would get $50,000.

Port officials said there was no particular threat to the port’s interests in the Legislature. If that were true, the late-session lobbying fees would be not only a complete waste of money, but a pointless transfer of public money to private hands. What port officials feared was that some obscure legislation diluting local control of port finances and operations would sneak through as the session ended. They hired Toomey because they thought he could get Lt. Gov. Perry to keep such a bill off the Senate floor until the clock ran out.

I wrote an editorial for the Chronicle condemning the expensive hires and what they represented, pointing out that Toomey was already paid by the city of Houston and Harris County to watch out for Houston-area interests. Shouldn’t Harris County residents be able to look to their local governments’ lobbying teams, working with the Harris County delegation in Austin, to safeguard their all-important seaport, the editorial asked.

Stung by the criticism, Ned Holmes, chairman of the Port Commission at the time, asked to meet with the Chronicle editorial board to defend the late payments to influential lobbyists.

“Is it your position,” I asked Holmes, “that bills rise and fall in the Legislature based upon who pays Mike Toomey $50,000 and who doesn’t?”

Holmes said it was.

“Well,” I replied, “that is an abomination in the sight of the Lord, and you should be decrying it as loudly as we are.”

With that, Holmes burst into tears. Perhaps he realized he had too easily lost the moral high ground and would not soon get it back. Perhaps he just couldn’t stand being lectured by a poor newspaper man who could barely afford his own yacht.

Holmes’ position rested on the premise that not even a prominent Republican civic leader and campaign contributor such as himself could approach Rick Perry directly with any hope of gaining his cooperation. First, according to Holmes’ theory, Texans had to pay Perry’s crony and campaign finance bundler $50,000 if they wanted Perry to act in the public interest. If Perry’s tea party supporters succeed in returning him to the governor’s mansion, how many of them will be able to come up with $50,000 when they want the governor’s support for some pet policy?

(Ever wondered why Perry was so keen to give away countless acres of prime farm- and ranch land and billions of dollars in highway tolls to a Spanish-owned company in San Antonio? Two words: Mike Toomey, who had been on the company’s payroll.)

A few days after the meeting with Holmes, I got a call from a lawyer at a Houston firm that did significant business with the port. The lawyer wished to take me to lunch and, at Holmes’ request, explain “how things really work in Austin.” The unstated assumption was that unless the lawyer succeeded in straightening me out, the firm’s business with the port would be placed in jeopardy.

The lawyer said I didn’t fully appreciate the role of personal relations in state government. But even the most naïve voter knows that in Austin, “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” is practically the third law of thermodynamics. The way things really work is precisely the problem. Up against insider relationships and mutual greed and ambition – all oiled with millions in campaign cash -- the public interest stands little chance.

At this point, full disclosure requires that I mention my 20-year-old, often admiring acquaintance with Perry’s Democratic opponent on the November ballot, former Houston Mayor Bill White. White and his wife, Andrea, and my now ex-wife were all in law school together at the University of Texas. I first met White at a dinner party attended by some of his former classmates and their spouses. For some reason I was talking before dinner about my favorite cousin, a natural scientist who had spent her career studying societal insects – ants, bees, termites – in southern Africa. At some point White interjected, saying in so many words that he practically lived for the study of societal insects and had written of the lessons they hold for human activity and society.

Here then, is a candidate for governor whose knowledge and intellect know no bounds, who has a proven record of commitment to good government and whose personal pride and dignity don’t allow him to say one thing and do the opposite, or to place the levers of government exclusively at the beck and call of moneyed interests. Yet unless thousands of shortsighted, unthinking Texans change their mind before the November election, Texas will be stuck again with Perry et al.

I’m getting ready to go to France to look for a place to live, but I shall return in time to cast my vote in November. The question before the people of Texas is whether we will be led for more years by someone who needs somebody’s hired gun to tell him what to do, or whether we will elect a candidate capable of figuring it out for himself – no charge.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of The Texas Observer. The author is solely responsible for its content.

© 2010 Texas Observer:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"What we heard from Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt was the same thing we were told about the Trans-Texas Corridor. There’s not much we can do to about it."


Asks representative to debate


The Bastrop Advertiser
Copyright 2010


Many people are turning their attention to the water war now fully underway in our area, thanks to Aqua Water’s terrific forum last Tuesday night in Smithville.

Thousands of residents now know that End Op, LLC a private corporation, led by former Williamson County Commissioner Frankie Limmer, is attempting to finalize a deal to take our groundwater to Hays County, potentially leaving us high and dry.

Citizens can read more details at - then click on “Kill the Trans-Texas Water Highway”. That said, there are thousands of residents who remain uninformed.

I politely asked our state representative for District 17 (Bastrop, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Lee and the westside of Brazos counties) Tim Kleinschmidt, who spoke at this forum, to debate his opponent, rancher Pati Jacobs. We want to hold forums on this issue throughout our region so that more people can get informed. His response was “anywhere, anytime.”

We are waiting. We are also wondering. What we heard from Mr. Kleinschmidt at this forum was the same thing we were told about the Trans-Texas Corridor. There’s really not much we can do to stop it.

We are now – as politely as we can – asking publicly if the representative is compromised by the fact that he has leased his own water rights? Is his relationship with Gov. Rick Perry, who tried to force the Corridor on our region, keeping him from being independent enough to fight something in his own backyard that is clearly not in our interest?

Independent voters are not naive. We are starting to shop the ballot in this race. And we are waiting to hear from our representative.

Linda Curtis


© 2010 Bastrop Advertiser:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Staples' new-found zeal for protecting property rights is not exactly sincere...."

Staples pushed Trans Texas Corridor, no friend of property rights


Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
Copyright 2010

(SAN ANTONIO, TX - September 20, 2010)
Terri Hall , of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), released the following statement in response to Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples' Thursday press conference on eminent domain reform. Staples is seeking re-election amidst Texans' outrage over the Trans Texas Corridor and the eminent domain abuses it created.

BEGIN STATEMENT: "I find it offensive when politicians use the sacred right of Texans to protect their property from unjust government takings through eminent domain for their own personal and political gain.

"Enough with election year platitudes, actions speak louder than words. Let's look at Todd Staples' actions. He has FAILED to prevent gas tax theft and properly inspect gas pumps across the state (go here to see recent revelations about rampant gas tax theft due to stations falling through the cracks), and he's only encouraged eminent domain abuse by voting to create the Trans Texas Corridor when he was a legislator.

"So Staples' new-found zeal for protecting property rights is not exactly sincere.

During his entire tenure in the legislature, he did not author or pass one single piece of legislation to protect property or landowners from eminent domain abuses. He voted for the legislation authorizing the Trans-Texas Corridor and sponsored legislation preventing landowners from negotiating directly with the toll operators along the path of the Trans-Texas Corridor to develop businesses along the corridor.

However, he allowed the state to lease a private citizens' condemned land to private companies. This same bill, HB 2702, also severely limited the rights of property owners whose land was to be bisected by the corridor.

“In addition to all of this, Staples essentially served as the official spokesperson for a major effort by the political action committee of an insurance company to encourage Texans to pass a fundamentally flawed constitutional amendment, Prop 11, that did little to really protect Texans from eminent domain takings, but instead gave voters a false sense of security.

For Todd Staples to stand up this week and say Texas needs stronger laws to protect citizens from eminent domain takings is comical. It is an admission to the voters of this state that he sold them a flawed constitutional amendment to further his own political career.

His record on transportation isn’t any better. Staples authored legislation to make EVERY Texas taxpayer subsidize loser toll projects that can’t pay for themselves. ‘Staples’ bill removes an $800 million-a-year lid on tax subsidies of toll roads…’ [SOURCE: Austin American Statesman, May 12, 2005].

“Todd Staples has also taken thousands of dollars from Zachry Construction, its executives, and its PAC. Zachry is the San Antonio-based company that along with two Spanish-based companies, CINTRA and ACS, won the development rights to two TTC corridors, TTC-35 and TTC-69.”

© 2010 TURF:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"The whole reason for this exercise is the absolute FAILURE of SH 130 toll road to provide congestion relief on I-35."



To find out where the I-35 workshop is in your area. Go here.

Tolling EXISTING LANES on I-35 is just ONE of the many toll proposals by the I-35 Corridor Segment 3 Committee...get your comments ON THE RECORD!


Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
Copyright 2010

Four toll proposals...

  1. Add toll lanes to I-35 called “I-35 HOV / Toll Lanes from SH 45 SE to I-10”
  2. Toll US 290 from Austin to the SH 130 toll road (FYI, the only free lanes will be access roads, not expressway lanes. TxDOT info very misleading on this project!)
  3. Convert existing lanes of I-35 to toll lanes and expand routes (SH 21, SH 71, SH 80, SH 290) that could feed more traffic to the SH 130 toll road a higher priority than non-toll improvements to our public freeways. Did you know that TxDOT signed a contract that gives it a higher share of toll road profits if it feeds more toll payers to Cintra’s SH 130 toll road? That’s why its pushing these connectors routes to be expanded instead of just expanding I-35 and keeping it a FREEway.
  4. The other, called “I-35/SH 45 SE/SH 130 Improvements” is to remove the interstate designation of I-35 and re-designate it “Business Route I-35” making the SH 130 and 45 SE toll roads the de facto interstate that runs throughout our state...problem #1 - it’s approx. 30 miles to the east of existing I-35 and significantly out of the way and is currently so underutilized it serves next to no practical purpose for those traveling to major urban areas like Austin. In part, they’re throwing this one in there in order to have people “reject it” and push other proposals that feed traffic to Cintra’s SH 130 toll road.

What’s the best solution?

Expand I-35 and keep it a FREEway. Support the project proposal called “I-35 improvements from SH 195 to I-10” and “I-35 improvements from SH 195 to Williamson/Bell County Line.” Say ‘YES’ to all non-toll FREEway improvements in the master plan.

What makes no sense...unless you’re the Spanish Company Cintra?

The proposal called “I-10 Improvements” that would expand I-10 from San Antonio to the Cintra-owned SH 130 toll road in Seguin. There is no significant traffic or congestion problems along this portion of the interstate, so why should taxpayers pay to expand a route that primarily benefits a private toll operator instead of fixing the heavily congested I-35? Say ‘no’ to the I-10 improvements proposal.

Also, the New Braunfels and San Marcos Outer Loop projects make no sense, unless you’re a developer. These projects constitute eminent domain abuse and will pave over private property to primarily benefit DEVELOPERS, not for a legitimate public use. There is NO congestion problem in these areas. These are greenfield projects that heist private property to essentially benefit another private entity.

Lastly, most rail projects are taxpayer-funded boondoggles. The cost to build and maintain these systems far exceeds the cost of expanding highways.

The SNEAKY reason for tinkering with FREE routes...

...contract signed with Spanish Company

The non-compete agreement in place for the SH 130 segments 5 & 6 toll road prohibits FREE road expansion surrounding that toll road...this is a fraud upon the public and puts private interests over the public interest of a public road system freely accessible to ALL Texans, not just those who can afford toll taxes (especially when those tolls taxes go to a private, foreign company).

TxDOT claims it's responding to the public backlash to the Trans Texas Corridor plans for TTC-35, by soliciting public input on what to do on I-35 now that they've pulled the plug on TTC-35. However, if you look at TxDOT's 100 Most Congested Roads list, it labels improvements to I-35 as tolled.

Cintra-Zachry won the only Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 segments that will be built (called SH 130 segments 5 & 6). The State signed a contract in 2007 that granted Cintra-Zachry a non-compete agreement (prohibiting the State from building FREE roads/lanes within a certain mile radius of the toll road). So the toll option remains a part of the plans for I-35 despite the opposition to tolling by citizens on the committee.

Why? So the State won't violate Cintra's non-compete agreement by building FREE lanes on I-35 that would draw traffic away from Cintra's SH 130 toll road where they're GUARANTEED profits!

Moving the alignment of I-35 and tinkering around with its interstate status is NUTS! TxDOt needs to leave I-35 an interstate, expand the lanes without tolls, make SH 130 a free road (so trucks not destinating in Austin can take it), and expand our other public roads WITHOUT tolls! Tolls are the MOST EXPENSIVE way to fund roads and are far less efficient than gas tax-funded roads.

The whole reason for this exercise is the absolute FAILURE of SH 130 to provide congestion relief on I-35. Why would anyone want to go 35 miles out of their way to take a toll road that doesn't end up saving you any time because the distance is too far flung from Austin and other destinations? Obviously, the answer is very few since so few take SH 130. Tolling ANY existing lanes is DOUBLE TAXATION which Texans oppose. Making SH 130 a FREE route would incentivize trucks needing to bypass Austin to use it (which in turn would relieve congestion from I-35). However, merely reducing toll taxes won't do the trick. It needs to become a free road in order for people to go out of their way to use that bypass route.

No toll should be on 45 SE given the fact it was 100% built and paid for with gas taxes! So, yes, take the tolls off that FREEway. Removing tolls on 45 SE should NOT be tied to tolling existing lanes on I-35, which is also built and paid for. Expand ALL these suggested "alternate" routes and make them freely accessible to ALL Texans, without tolls.

For more information go to:

© 2010 TURF:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Texas Farm Bureau gives Rick Perry thumbs down on endorsement

Texas Farm Bureau declines to endorse in governors race

bum steer
"Bum Steer"

Wayne Slater
Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2010

The Texas Farm Bureau -- which has always endorsed Rick Perry in the past -- voted today not to endorse anybody in the governor's race.

The decision by the bureau's political committee is a victory of sorts for Democrat Bill White. Perry was state agriculture commissioner -- and the Farm Bureau's Friends of Agriculture fund endorsed him twice as the state's agriculture chief and in his last two races for governor. Since it began making endorsements in 1990, the bureau has always picked the Republican at the top of the ticket. But not this year.

Spokesman Gene Hall says the board voted today to stay neutral in the race. Otherwise, the bureau is pretty much endorsing Republicans down the ballot in statewide races. Hall says he'll leave it to the campaigns themselves to interpret the decision.

Both Perry and White appeared earlier this year at the Farm Bureau's convention. White directly addressed one of the bureau's top issues -- eminent domain -- in his address. Perry didn't.

In the Republican primary, the Texas Farm Bureau endorsed Kay Bailey Hutchison over Perry because of his land-consuming Trans-Texas Corridor project and his 2007 veto of an eminent domain bill favored by farmers but opposed by business.

Moreover, a Perry campaign spokesman dismissed the Farm Bureau as "an insurance company that supported the (federal) bailout." Avoiding the bureau's top issue of eminent domain at its summer convention, Perry delivered a patriotic speech underscoring anti-Washington and pro-states rights themes.

© 2010 Dallas Morning News:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE