I’m currently in the middle of multiple political firefights and am ticking off a BUNCH of traditional political people. One fight is because I dared to challenge a somewhat questionable bill- put forth by someone viewed as a solid conservative- that he tried to slide through the consent agenda. It is one of those ‘Private-public’ things with ‘innovative’ financing; not like I haven’t been raising questions about such things for about 40 years. In the area affected, half of the people are upset with the rep and half are upset with me; the first half will come around to being ticked at me after they’ve been smooth-talked. But corporate welfare on the taxpayers risk and expense has to stop like all other non-core government functions until we get a better grasp on current and future government expenditures.
In the other scuffle, traditional political conservatives are upset with me with my redistrict efforts, where I am advocate something of a compromise (not as much of one as conservatives fear) with the maps submitted by the powers that be. The conservatives- in insisting on no compromise- risk replaying the House Speaker fight. which we lost badly. they insist on trying to get 100% of the loaf, rather than 75% of it (and half of the rest obtainable in the next primary with a good scape).
It’s a good thing I DON”T have political ambition; traditional political type don’t understand that the issues are to be fought, that personal loyalties don’t mean you can’t vehemently disagree on one or two points, and that the time for keeping everything ‘under the cover’ is passed. Open and transparent governance is essential- especially for conservatives.
I’m TRYING to go on this political sabbatical, I really am! But stupidity at the level of what went on at the Plano ISD meeting has to be witnessed- and answered. Here is my letter to the group of arrogant buffoons (Nancy Humphries and Tammy Richards showing the only sanity here):
I can’t say I personally seen such thinly disguised contempt for the viewpoint of the average voter and citizen by an elected body as I witnessed tonight since a 1983 Duncanville City Council meeting where they literally told the audience that the voters got it wrong on the DART election and rescheduled another one immediately afterward (The outcome for the ‘redo’ was worse, and 4 of the 5 council members were out within 12 months.)
Where to start on this hasty decision to spend $6.5 million to buy a new building on an Academy whose very definition is not yet complete? Even with underused classroom space more than adequate to use existing facilities?
The recorded admission that the Board makes non-personnel, non-contractual decisions in executive session- in CLEAR violation of the Open Meetings Act?
The restriction of public comment to well under half of those who formally requested to speak on the issue and for a total of 30 minutes, while a Board member felt bloviating for 15 minutes was worthy of the time for a meeting supposedly that was a public hearing?
The presentation of the project occurring AFTER public comment, so no one in the public could address the comments to the actual numbers and facility details (See below)?
ZERO acknowledgement of the MAJORITY public opposition to the project (Carrolyn’s statement being denied by the people who actually showed up)
The argument that you have to trust the staff; a staff dumb enough to accept a 60 day limitation on 100K earnest money, on a building that had been empty for YEARS and commercial property market still in a nightmare of non-movement?
The insistence that private companies will come up with ‘pig in a poke’ money- expecting us to ‘trust our betters’ even though a similar ‘betters’ have massively underperformed on private money for things like the Arts Center? Anyone who expects the same result as in the flush years must believe in unicorns and the Tooth Fairy.
OK: let’s get beyond that and let me give you to just a single point your ‘trustworthy’ staff and committees either missed or are smoke-screening. Have any of you actually worked in a facility like that? I spent 2 years in one and I’ve got two words that will prove to be a major unreported expense:
A school is NOT an office. Especially one practicing ‘collaborative education’. The noise level is considerably higher and- without interior work, it will be like trying to do surgery during an artillery barrage (Possible, as my Dad found out in Korea, but not efficient). The 200K startup won’t get close to doing the job (and considering the building is EMPTY the cost of equipping it wasn’t made clear). Possibly you have been given some presentation on this that the Great Uwashed are not privy to?
Just one issue, you might have heard about if you’d had any interest in interacting with those paying the bill (including the payments for those ‘free’ bonds.) I could probably walk through the building and come up with a half dozen more potential ones in 10 minutes. (For example, bathroom capacity, sewage requirements of significant food service, etc.) Glossing over the traffic issue didn’t exactly make friends of the site’s neighbors either.
I’d like to thank Nancy and Tammy for their votes for sanity here. As for the rest, I so look forward to seeing some of your replacements on the Board whoever they may be. I’ll have them reference the video of this meeting on how not to interact with the public and the voters.
I’m very tired- more of the soul, than the body. I see all the sound and fury of the birth of our Tea Party effort, hoping that something could sustain things from a philosophical, not a personality standpoint. It has yet to be determined if that is going to occur, but the time for my particular skill sets seem to be at ebb. Others will have to carry the torch for awhile; the wounds- both front and back- need to heal awhile. This is an easy decision to make for one without personal political ambition.
I will maintain the North Texas Tea Party web presence and email lists, but others will need to pick up the slack elsewhere if they want the other aspects (meetings, etc.) to continue. At this point, I would plan on returning to the other parts of the fray in September. Things could change, but it would take a personal call to action from someone I politically respect, and the number of people who fall into that category is small and gets smaller almost every day. (Listening to a speech of one of those very few as I write this; Rep. Allen West).
Well, Alan had his 6 months review and got a boost in pay for his exceptional performance. With his shifter differential, he’s now paid more that his Old Man; Proud of him! Another review like that and he’ll get promoted and that will be great.
And now I’ve gotten great news about BOTH of my saviors during my last visit to Uganda. Esther Gray, the lovely young lady who dropped what she was doing to come to help Ritah in the recovery of my stolen camera. She was able to pull a paid position with a fine Children’s charity: Children At Risk National Collaboration of Christian Agencies. She had been volunteering for them and the competition for the paisd slot was stiff. She claims the website I put together for them at her request was the turning point to her favor. I doubt it; I think they just realized what an excetional employee she would be, but I’m flattered and pleased if it the website above was a help to her. A little bit of repayment for her kindness.
And I just heard that Ritah Namwiza, who had pulled a paying job earlier, is doing extremely well. I’ll bet her employer is fast tracking her for the great things she is capable of. I give her at the most 3 years before she a Director for a local NGO. She and her colleagues at LEAD Africa are also establishing leadership programs is several schools. They are making great use of my small financial efforts to get them rolling. Ritah, Esther and my daughter Winnie (who has a couple prospects herself) represent the future of their country and I am proud to be some small help to them.
Good things happening for the next generation; a good legacy to have.
FINAL DECISION: No, I’m not going to run. The Tea Party stuff I currently am doing is having too much impact to give up. Others will have to try to represent the unrepresented- the taxpayer- on City Council.
UPDATE: This is close to final. More expensive, but I HAVE to keep Gadsden Yellow.
As various candidates for city council come to me (as if I’m some sort of Tea Party equivalent to the Godfather- I’m not, folks!) and, with my previous dealings with the Plano Council, one significant question arises:
Is there no place for someone who is merely representing the average Taxpayer?
Each candidate I have met, many of them very good people, represents some interests that are not the norm for 80% or more of the city. A large number of them are either professionally or personally involved in local real estate (other than their domicile). Others are involved in the legal profession, often in areas dealing with the city and zoning. And these professional, financial involvements- with all of their related social networks- cannot help but influence their viewpoints and decisions. They deal vastly more day-to-day with those whose profession revolves around the city decisions than their tax statements- and not just as a councilperson.
And then there are the hoops that such candidates are expected to jump through; the ‘leadership training’, service on various volunteer committees, the Chamber lunches, and the like. Yes, educational and they establish working relationships, but also are intended to ‘mold the potential candidate, to start them down the path of ‘thinking like the rest of us’. The upside of that approach for most is far greater than the downside. The city is pretty well served by many who have gone this route.
But is the city served best if these are the only voices heard, the only experiences represented on the Council? Is the City of Plano served best by vote after vote that is 8-0 (or 7-0 because of someone’s conflict?) Is the continuing rubber-stamping of whatever passes through the City Manager’s hands really the best thing for the citizens?
There is no question that Tom Muehlenbeck has done a pretty good job overall, but questions must arise, simply because someone who has so long held the position will inevitably develop a rigidity of thought that may not see things from any perspective except the past (which- in Plano- has been filled with ever-growing economic growth and such growth can cover a LOT of managerial sins). The fact that the ‘found’ $5 million suddenly in last year’s budget cycle should have certainly caused more than offline grumbling by council members. It should have gotten people significant downwind from Tom up before the council to adequately explain this.
And, with a new City Manager in the offing, it won’t serve the City well to only hear the people shaped by the ‘Muhlenbeck’ experiences with the city, as the high-growth phases gears down somewhat through the normal lifecycle of a suburb.
I guess Ben Harris can be thanked (more likely cursed) for setting my decision in motion. I decided to visit the Council meeting on one of their more typical days. Ben came up to me and said: ‘What are you doing here? We’re not spending any money.” My response was “You’ve got the lights on, don’t you? You’re spending money.” However, while I watched the meeting and reviewed the agenda, I added up what was there and informed Ben at the end of that meeting, they had spent $1.27 million at that meeting. He was taken aback by that; it was all routine stuff, so his viewpoint was they weren’t ‘spending any money’. But that amount represented the tax payments of over 1,000 houses just like mine and need to be thought about. That is the mindset that is troubling at City Hall.
So I have the paperwork to file and I contemplate my options. Three of the four slots I am qualified to run in; let’s see where this all leads.
…And I can’t get out of it! A long phone call an Christmas eve…while driving through a monsoon to see Alan. A meeting on Dec. 28th: 2 State reps, me and about a dozen ticked off activists. Meeting on December 31st: one state rep, me, and 45 ticked off activists! Video work, postings, commentary. And now, City council candidates wanting to meet! Planning an Austin trip on the 10th; signs, emails, blogging, oh my! I’ve been accused again of being a hired professional at this; I almost wish (couldn’t take the loss of speaking my mind, though!)
Got a Skype call from my dear, beautiful friend Huibo Wang in China while I wrote this (and got 4 emails). Huibo is the sunshine that helps: pretty, always cheerful, not demanding at all, anxious to hear me prattle to improve her English to come back. A refreshing break!
My recent trip to Uganda, after a too-long three year hiatus, was definitively an eye-opener. Especially in the area of education. At one end was being awaken every morning for over a week by the gathering and initial, disciplined recitation of a pre-school class of 76 crammed into a single classroom, managed by one teacher.
In the middle, the appalling state of materials being overcome by horribly paid, but dedicated teachers:
all the way to was the joyous college graduation- and the related celebration- of my daughter Winnie, a product of such hardships, and as fine an intellectual as I’ve met.
More than anything, it reminded me that education is more about desire, focus, discipline and moral support by family and community, than facilities and expenditures. There is no question, facilities and expenditures can help if the other elements are in place; but the LACK of the initial components CANNOT be made up for with money. THAT is more the reason the Chinese- and others- are kicking our tails in the area of education, as clearly demonstrated by these results. And, until we start bringing back the basics of desire, focus, discipline and day-to-day family support, throwing money is simply a waste of resources we borrow from future generations.
Stefani Carter responded to an open letter from Ken Emmanualson of the Dallas Tea Party calling her to pull her pledge to Joe Straus for Texas House Speaker, making the point of how unhelpful Ken had been to her election. While true, it did NOT address the question of her instant signing of a Pledge letter to Joe, despite repeated input for the vast number of her volunteers on this issue otherwise. Since she circulated her response to ken to many people, I responded to those same people with the following response to the response:
First, let’s point out a few things Stefani (because I DID work for you AND brought along others to do likewise, not to mention drove the ‘TeaApproval of your group).
I would point out that Straus violated his own pledge card to Craddick to get elected in the first place. The entire Pledge Card system is- and has been- only honored out of convenience and frankly, it’s time for that antiquated system so rife with potential intimidation to go!
Were you impressed with the Ethic Commission hearing? the one where Hughes, the accuser, took the oath (apparently both in the 2+ hour private session and in under 15 minute public session to make his accusations. And the chairman- who received $42K from Straus- and did not recuse himself- allowed the accused to NOT take the oath to read a carefully written statement (as apparently is required, per this writeup by a group that was a significant backer of you) Does this REALLY sound like the kind of stuff you want to be party to? (As I said before, being Hughes was in Straus’s camp and all of this can do for him is political damage, there was no motivation except principle for him to make such an accusation.)
Your FIRST commitment is to your constituents and supporters; if they are publicly coming out in droves for you to back Straus and ‘the way things are done’, fine. But if it’s mainly from a few Austin ‘powers that be’, please realize some of these are the same forces we did battle with in the primary up our way. Not afraid to do it again, as needed.
I went to the Plano City Council meeting last night (I was specifically invited by one council member; they are looking into zero-based budgeting, which is exactly what they should be using). Councilman Ben Harris walked by and said: ‘What are you doing here; we’re not spending any money tonight.” Classic political class snobbery; we Tea Party types get used to it.
At the end of the meeting I ran into him again and told him: “You just voted on spending over $1,270,000; perhaps you need to pay attention to what you do.” He was really taken aback; he actually didn’t realize it.
The political class, even at the City Council level, really acts like the money just falls out of the sky magically. That’s one way to tell them from the real public servants; and one thing to look for when looking to replace people on City Councils.