Category Archives: Uncategorized

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?”

Special Session started today

Just a quick reminder to my readers:  The Special session started today.

For quick, accurate updates (well, most of the time…  it IS the media, after all!) track these blogs:  The Dallas Morning News’ Trail Blazer’s blog, The Fort-Worth Star-Telegram’s PoliTex blog, and the Austin American-Statesman’s Postcards blog.

These are the sources I scour, among others, so they could be valuable to you.  Any of you read other blogs I should check out?

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in Iraq

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is in the Middle East.  Who knew?  Her staff announced the trip to Iraq this morning while she was in Kuwait.  The Dallas Morning News reports:

Congressional missions to war zones are routinely unannounced ahead of time for security reasons. Congress is on recess this week.

“Senator Hutchison celebrated the Fourth of July holiday a little early, meeting with Army troops and members of the Texas National Guard in Iraq,” her office announced.

This makes sense.  First of all, she doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would publicize this type of thing anyway.  And secondly, it’s in everyone’s best interest if these trips are announced after they happen.  It’s a safety issue for all involved.

HutchisonIraq

According to the story, Hutchison will discuss the trip with journalists this afternoon.  Keep your eyes peeled for that today.

Gib Lewis arrested on DWI charge

Former Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis was arrested at 11:30 last night for DWI in downtown Austin.  Police picked up Lewis at 4th and Lavaca streets with a 0.16 blood-alcohol level, which is twice the legal limit.  Police became stopped Lewis’ black Porsche when he went straight through an intersection while in the turn-only lane, according to Houston Chronicle reporter Peggy Fikac.  The story continues:

“The driver was observerd to have slurred speech and bloodshot and watery eyes,” Stresing said, so the patrol officer who stopped Lewis called over a DWI unit.

The DWI officer had Lewis perform a field sobriety test and took him to central booking, where he agreed to a breath test. Results not yet available.

The Chronicle also published Lewis’ mug shot here.  Another blurb about the arrest can be found at the Dallas Morning News’ Trailblazer’s blog.

Unfortunately for Lewis, it’s a relatively slow news day.  Lewis was a Democrat who represented Fort Worth in the Texas Legislature.  He served as speaker from 1983 to 1993.  He’s now a lobbyist in Austin.

Reaction to Rick Perry vetoes

With the veto period of the legislative session drawing to a close, people are beginning to react to what Gov. Rick Perry signed into law and what bills he killed.  The Dallas Morning News wrote an editorial on the topic today.  In it, they discuss vetoes of Pre-K funding (HB 130), Child Protective Services (SB 1440) and Television recycling (HB 821).  Of these, the Pre-K funding veto seems to be getting the most attention.

Perry’s veto of full day Pre-K funding means poorer quality Pre-K for Texas students.  Perry claims he could reach more students without the bill.  The editorial counters:

Here’s the problem: That money will come with none of the standards the pre-K bill contained, standards that would have incorporated the latest research into what makes for a quality pre-K education. What’s more, the measure would have given districts more options, like the ability to offer classes with smaller teacher-student ratios.

The veto is a major missed opportunity for early-childhood education. Right now, Texas doesn’t require districts to offer full-day pre-K, although many, including Dallas’, do. Districts that don’t offer full-day pre-K classes cite a lack of funds as the prime reason.

Another veto that caught many off guard was the so-called “safe passing” bill (SB 488) that guaranteed rights to “vulnerable road users.” These include pedestrians, highway construction and maintenance workers, tow truck operators, stranded motorists or passengers, horseback riders, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

The veto surprised many since Perry, who broke his collar bone recently while mountain biking, is an avid cyclist.  The Houston Chronicle story continues:

The veto of the cycling measure, which would have required motorists to give cyclists and others at least 3 feet of clearance when passing on most highways, drew a strong reaction from some cyclists.

“We are stunned because he’s our guy, and we feel disappointed, even betrayed by our guy,” said Robin Stallings, executive director of BikeTexas, the educational arm of the Texas Bicycle Coalition.

As more time passes and the dust of the legislative session finally settles, Texans will be able to take a closer look at which bills made it, which died and which were killed.  The results will surely have a big impact on our state’s future.

Obama admin. delays Twitter update

This was an interesting read from The Houston Chronicle this morning.  Those of you intimately involved with Twitter (cheap plug:  follow me at http://www.twitter.com/texan4texas ), you know it must go down from time to time for maintenance.  One such shut down was scheduled for Monday, but because of the protests in Iran, the Obama administration asked that the microblogging social network site to delay the maintenance—and it did.

The Chronicle story continues:

The request, made to Twitter’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the U.S. government that a blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country.

“This was just a call to say: ‘It appears Twitter is playing an important role at a crucial time in Iran. Could you keep it going?’ ” said P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs.

Twitter complied with the request, saying in a blog post on Monday that it put off the upgrade until Tuesday evening — 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in Tehran — because its partners recognized “the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.” The network was working normally again later Tuesday evening.

Not on Twitter?  It’s probably easier than you think.  Click here and set up an account!  There’s a useful video there that shows you how it works and what it’s for.  You’ll be tweeting in minutes.

Texas A&M pres. Murano out

UPDATE: Texas A&M has named TAMU Galveston CEO R. Bowen Loftin the interim president of TAMU in College Station.

News is exploding out of College Station today.  In case you missed it, Texas A&M president Elsa Murano resigned Sunday. The TAMU board of regents was slated to meet today to discuss Murano’s performance.   Here’s your straightforward news story detailing the resignation and the events that led up to it.  In short, Murano was given a poor performance review by A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney.  Speculation has swirled that McKinney wants to combine the TAMU president position with the chancellor’s position.  The Statesman did a tremendous job detailing the rift between Murano and McKinney prior to her decision to resign.

You can read Murano’s statement that accompanied her resignation here.  An excerpt, with a link that also includes important documents such as McKinney’s performance review and Murano’s response to the review, follows:

“My husband Peter and I fell in love with Texas A&M the moment we set foot in Aggieland back in 1995,” she continued. “This deep and abiding passion for what the university represents, and for the people of the Aggie family, reinforces my duty to do what is best for Texas A&M. For this reason, I will be resigning as President of our beloved university, effective tomorrow, June 15, 2009, to return to the faculty, subject to approval by the Board of Regents.”

Not surprisingly, this story has implications outside the world of academia.  McKinney once served as Gov. Rick Perry’s former chief of staff.  Furthemore, Perry has appointed all nine regents of the TAMU system.  Many who know the governor well have wondered if A&M might be his preferred “final destination” in public life:

Apart from having a favorable selection board, Perry also has the benefit of good timing. The final legislative session of Perry’s term recently ended and a competitive, high-dollar gubernatorial primary race with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has not yet begun. If Perry has ever dreamed of becoming President of Texas A&M, the open position couldn’t have come at a better time.

On to the reactions—and boy have there been reactions.  Perry, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Jon Hagler (A&M distinguished alumnus and board chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation), A&M faculty and reporter Jason Embry all weigh in:

Perry‘s reaction:  Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he was not surprised by the sudden resignation of Texas A&M president Elsa Murano.  Perry says he considers it part of his job to stay in the loop about university administrators but that he has faith in the board of regents to make the right decisions. . . . Perry says Murano served the school well.

Hutchison‘s reaction: “Texas A&M University is one of the premier universities  in the country. The current situation with the leadership is unfortunate, unacceptable, and does the great Aggie community a disservice. I hope at their meeting today, the Board of Regents remains focused on keeping A&M a nationally recognized university and ends the politics involved now.”

Hagler‘s reaction (excerpts): Today’s crisis really isn’t about Dr. Elsa Murano, who has announced her intention to resign as President, or for that matter, Chancellor Mike McKinney. It is about whether an academic institution of almost 50,000 students and 250,000 former students – a member of the Association of American Universities – deserves the freedom to aspire to better things and to manage itself as an institution of higher education. . . .

So, today we have a System empowered by its regents – all nine of whom are appointed by our current governor – to make all critical decisions for the flagship university, as well – presumably – as for all of the other System universities. And, the regents have delegated that responsibility completely to one person, a non-educator, a politician who was not selected through a national or even regional search. One person agreed with himself that Chancellor McKinney was the choice: his former boss, Governor Perry, for whom he had served a stint as chief of staff.

Embry‘s reaction:  Will Republican primary voters who are Aggies (probably not a small group) hold the turmoil against Perry next year, when he runs for re-election against a devout Longhorn?  And this will all probably give new life to speculation that Perry himself would like to go be chancellor of the A&M System — speculation that Perry has never publicly validated, to my knowledge.

Faculty reaction:  A poll of faculty members found that 85.5 percent of those responding oppose combining the jobs of chancellor and president, said Robert Bednarz, a geography professor and speaker of the Faculty Senate.

And not surprisingly, the blogosphere is exploding with reaction.  Check out the Aggie Forum Board for a public discussion of the Murano situation from Aggies past and present, a look at the Latina/woman issue here, a blogger unsettled by Murano’s remarks here, and a decent summary of everything here.

Reaction has also been vibrant on Twitter.  A search of TAMU on the microblogging site returns responses like these:

dbarrettmoorethe TAMU good ole boy strikes again. They got too caught up in trying to be diverse. Next University president… Rick Perry.

myspi: 100 Texas A&M professors gather at today’s regents meeting opposing combining chancellor/president posts. TAMU president resigned Sunday.

aerognome:  Am v unimpressed w the shenanigans of the Chancellor. Seems to me that he ran our president out on a rail while gunning for her job. #tamu

So, after all that…  what’s your reaction?