Israel Award given to Texas Gov.

This is just so odd to me, that I have to pass it along.

Apparently today in Israel, where Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been all week, he received the Defender of Jerusalem award.  Never a dull moment for Rick Perry, the DMN is reporting this, about the award:

But the award also is interesting because of who it comes from – a South Florida foundation started last year by Guma Aguiar and his wife. Brazilian-born Aguiar, 31, who shuttles between Florida and Israel, is the founder of Leor Energy. The company discovered a ridiculously large natural gas field in East Texas several years ago that has turned him into a billionaire.

In January, Aguiar was sued by his uncle, who claimed that Aguiar believes he is the Messiah and is trying to bolster that image by giving away millions of dollars. The suit was dismissed in June.

Um, what?

What’s ironic about the entire situation–Messiah claims aside–are Rick Perry’s own words, a mere three years ago:

Gov. Rick Perry, after a God and country sermon attended by dozens of political candidates Sunday, said that he agreed with the minister that non-Christians will be condemned to hell.

“In my faith, that’s what it says, and I’m a believer of that,” the governor said.

In no way am I judging one’s own personal beliefs, but does it seem odd to anyone else that Perry is visiting this nation in the first place?  Not to mention receiving an award from a man who might claim to be the Messiah?

Rick Perry’s TTC Quagmire

Gov. Rick Perry has had, over the last decade as governor, an opportunity to appoint many of the state’s agency heads.  One of those is the head of the Texas Transportation agency, TxDOT.  Currently, that post is filled by Deirdre Delisi–Perry’s former chief of staff.  Delisi’s predecessor, Ric Williamson,  was replaced largely because he politicized the post.  This leaves one to wonder why Perry selected Delisi–his top political aid–to be the state’s top transportation official.

She has, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Christy Hoppe, toned down the politically-charged rhetoric of the Williamson era (see Williamson link above).  At least…  until now.

This week, Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign has hammered away at Perry for this interview, conducted by the Victoria Advocate:

Perry dodged the question about whether he would support the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), Hutchison’s camp says.  And so, as Delisi spoke to a crowd in Irving on Wednesday morning, she forcefully defended her boss, toll roads and the TTC:

But far from shying away from the corridor and private toll roads, Delisi said Wednesday that her department continues to support both, even though most legal authority for private toll deals will expire next month. Lawmakers will discuss renewing that authority in 2011.

Meanwhile, Delisi said the commission will support private toll roads wherever it can.

One such place is in South Texas, and on a segment of the Trans Texas Corridor that remains active.

The outspoken nature of Delisi (who, in her defense, used to be part of an attack dog regime) is unsettling at best for a non-partisan state agency head.  But it’s also puzzling:  toll roads and the TTC have received so much resistance from Texans, it’s hard to imagine any situation in which this helps Perry.

Meanwhile, the Hutchison campaign has a counter on their Web page, eagerly awaiting Rick Perry’s response to the question:  “Do you support the Trans-Texas Corridor?”

Hutchison rips union’s arrogance

Unions, you guys.  When will they learn?

According to The Hill, United Transportation Union (UTU) released a statement after President Obama nominated UTU General Counsel Daniel Elliot to the Surface Transportaiton Board that said:

The selection by President Obama of Dan Elliot and [former UTU official] Joe Szabo to head major transportation regulatory agencies is tribute to the political influence of the UTU, which flows from the UTU [political action committee (PAC)]. We have good reason to expect President Obama to reach into the UTU ranks for other appointments in the near future.

Oops.  Someone forgot to tell the UTU public relations team that you don’t publicly talk about being in bed with liberal presidents.  Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller and our own Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (who is the ranking Republican member of the committee) ripped into the UTU during the confirmation panel meeting.

Highlights include the following terms describing the UTU’s actions:  embarrassing, ridiculous, troubling, self-aggrandizing, inappropriate and harmful. ZING!

So glad this is a right to work state.  You can read the UTU’s side of things in their press release here.  The Senate blog SENATUS also covered the flap.

Rick Perry cyclist veto haunts him (again)

In case you missed it, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would make the roads safe for cylcists, construction workers and humans in general.  Here’s an Austinist post about the initial veto, then a story from the Statesman about the cyclists reaction.  Said one voter:

“I have never voted in a Republican primary in my life,” said Hill Abell, owner of Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin. “But more than likely, if Perry has a significant opponent in the primary, I’ll be supporting that opponent with my vote, and financially.

Well the anger at Perry has boiled over in recent days, as the granddaughter of a Texas House member was struck while riding her bike by an SUV that didn’t have a “share the road” bumper sticker, I’m guessing.  According the Houston Chronicle story:

Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, sponsor of a bill to protect bicyclists, expressed relief Wednesday that her granddaughter and a friend suffered only minor injuries after getting hit by a SUV. Gov. Rick Perry recently vetoed legislation that Harper-Brown plans to push again next session to protect vulnerable road users.

“Now I can put a face to it,” Harper-Brown said about efforts to help raise awareness for the perils facing vulnerable road users. “It really does touch home now.”

Luckily the girl is doing fine now. It’s sad that sometimes this is what it takes to make issues “real” for us, but I know we’ve all been in a situation like this.  Problems never seem as serious as when they hit close to home.  (Also, they’re talking about this story over at the Lone Star Times, if you’re interested.)

So the question arises, why did Perry veto this bill? The Chron story says the bill “would have required motorists to give cyclists and other vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, runners, motorcyclists, construction and maintenance workers at least 3 feet clearance when they pass, or at least 6 feet for commercial vehicles.”  This seems reasonable.  Actually, this seems almost like common sense.  How is this not on the books already?

As expected, the veto started a grassroots movement against Perry.  Unfortunately for the governor, he’s used to things like this (TTC, HPV, etc.), but cyclists have already gathered more than 4,000 signatures for “a petition declaring they will keep the governor’s veto on their mind when they vote next year.”  For an incumbent who received 39 percent of the vote last time, this doesn’t bode well.

The thing that would get to me, if I were Perry, is that story about the granddaughter.  Obviously the cyclists mobilized almost immediately following the veto because the believed in the bill in principle.  But the story of Harper-Brown’s granddaughter getting hit by a car?  I’m just glad that blood isn’t on my hands.

Texas higher ed has much room for improvement

Carlos Guerra of the San Antonio Express-News has an eye-opening commentary in today’s paper.  He chronicles the rising and falling standards of higher education in Texas. According to Guerra, Texas was falling behind other states in the late 90s in terms of offering competitive universities and programs.  Research dollars were leaving the state in droves, as were our brightest students.
Guerra hinges his commentary on the following set of conditions:

Too few Texans were going to college and earning degrees. And exacerbating it all were the gaps among the state’s racial and ethnic groups. Blacks enrolled and graduated at rates lower than Anglos, but it was the abysmal rates for Latinos — Texas’ fastest-growing group — that are the worst economic threat.

To combat this, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board unveiled a plan titled “Closing the Gaps by 2015.” The goal was to “increase college enrollment and graduation rates while upgrading university excellence and research.”
Improvements have been made, particularly among African American enrollment in Texas schools, but Hispanics still lag.  Why?  Because Texas has the highest dropout rate in the country. A comprehensive plan to keep students in high school and adequately train them for real life experiences has not been offered by any state-level official in the last 10 years.
If education becomes an issue in this upcoming governor’s race, it will be interesting to see if Rick Perry decides it’s an important enough issue to add to his states’ rights platform.

Rick Perry and food stamps

A Dallas Morning News story today highlights a critical issue that’s being either ignored or swept under the rug by Texas legislators and Gov. Rick Perry.  According to the Texas Legal Services Center, the last month has seen thousands of Texans applying for food stamps who’ve been ignored by their state government.  The story says:

Last month, more than half of new food stamp applications from metropolitan Dallas and Houston languished beyond a 30-day processing deadline required by law. Statewide, one-third weren’t handled in timely fashion last month, according to a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Austin late Friday.

The Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman, Stephanie Goodman, said the recession and Hurricane Ike have caused an overload on the states’ infrastructure.
Regardless of excuses, deputy director of Texas Legal Services, Bruce Bower, said “it’s unacceptable for nearly 60,000 households a month to be applying for food stamps in desperation, and not receive prompt word on whether they qualify.”
Adding to the drumbeat, Celia Hagert, a nutrition expert with the CPPP, said that recent events such as the recession and Hurricane Ike cannot be blamed for the current situation, since the system has been failing to meet federal timeliness standards for three years.
Why does this matter? Well, it’s all a bit ironic, considering Rick Perry has been marching around the state saying how great the Texas economy is and how we have a $9 billion surplus.  Need a reminder?  Here’s a graf from his Washington Times op-ed from last week:

For example, our just-concluded legislative session yielded a balanced state budget, tax relief for 40,000 small businesses, and it left $9 billion unspent for future state needs.

I guess I’m unclear about what our future needs are, if they aren’t Texans who are forced to go hungry? I understand that he has to campaign right now to keep his job, but can we reevaluate our priorities for a second and take care of our own?

Rick Perry’s fundraising follies

Today’s Dallas Morning News throws egg all over the faces of Rick Perry and his spokesman Mark Miner.  Miner asserted a few weeks ago that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison “looked into the camera and lied to the people” when she said that she and Perry had the same amount of time to raise funds during the January to June fundraising period.

It turns out that Hutchison was right. Christy Hoppe reported this morning that Perry made no less than 11 cross-state trips to gently remind his biggest donors, known as the Century Council, that he’s running for governor again in 2010.  Further enforcing Perry’s “pay to play” style politics, Hoppe also reported that in 2009 Perry gave $300,000 in contracts and $11,000 in steaks to past supporters.

Hutchison’s claim (now bolstered by facts) was something everyone knew, but that Perry and his team tried to gloss over.  The Texas Ethics Commission campaign report showed that Perry met with 30-60 supporters in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and several other cities across the state.  As Hutchison announced she outraised Perry by more than $2 million in the same period, Perry’s team focused on Hutchison’s claim that both candidates were playing by essentially the same rules.  Because of Perry’s weak fundraising, his team tried to shift the focus from Hutchison’s $6.7 million raised.

This news has to blister bloggers like the Perry-supporting “Rick vs. Kay,” who wrote, “Kay was lobbing accusations of serious felony campaign finance violations at Rick and not being challenged by the msm on it.”  Today’s DMN story not only gives MSM attention to the accusation, but supports the very candidate “Rick vs. Kay” is trying to tear down (“Advice to Kay… just shut up” …sounds balanced to me!)

I have no guesses what Perry’s next step will be, but this Miner quote from the DMN story might give us a clue:

“I’m not saying politics didn’t come up,” Miner said. “He’s sitting around in a group, and so politics is bound to come up.”

Hutchison’s campaign slogan recently has been “Results. Not Politics.”  Apparently Rick Perry’s new slogan is simply “Politics.” He’s currently in California–the land of Nancy Pelosi and like-minded liberals–raising money there.  Has Perry run out of people in Texas willing to join his “pay to play” games?