Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Southern drought, Texas consequences.

I will come right out and say it, we need to institute strict water conservation efforts. There are many states suffering under severe drought conditions, Texas of course, is one of them. Here in Texas we are highly reticent to give any level of government the ability to dictate our actions or decisions. We should however, give up some of that say to benefit Texans on the issue of water usage. I know there are some who say when the price gets too high the market will correct our habits. That would be perfectly acceptable reasoning and in line with our conservative beliefs of being resistant to change, but it is flat out wrong.

There has been a battle raging between rice farmers and LCRA for a while about supplying enough water for agricultural purposes. One just needs to watch the news to see how woefully inadequate the lake levels are across the state and there is a mounting realization that the drought is going to increase national food prices in the coming months. I won't get into the climate change debate about what the drought may or may not signal because it is unnecessary. We can ignore the drought and still have reason for concern. Assuming our water supply comes back up to reasonable levels, the economic growth Texas is experiencing and the population boom it is going through are taxing those resources beyond their normal capabilities. If water is used by the farmers it reduces the supply to the public and the businesses that make our economy and the reciprocal is true.

The state is fairing well compared to the other states and our population and economy is its reward. Texas has to accomodate the growth however and water supply is a necessary service to preserve and expand on that growth. If we do nothing it will get to a point in which rationing our water supply will not be optional. As a state so strongly independent and individualistic, WE should decide on what restrictions are put into place. Until the drought is over and Texas has a better grasp on its water supply we need to be vigilant and preserve what water we do have. Weather may control how much water we get, but we control how long it lasts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stop reading this and vote already!

Seriously, find your closest early voting center, learn who's on the ticket, know their position on whatever your watermark issues are and go vote. Look, everyone knows that voter turn out is low. On the Off the Kuff blog, a recent post was made that explains in statistical terms why you should vote immediately. Charles Kuffner's article explains quite deftly why we should be getting out there and making ourselves heard.

Mr. Kuffner's blog utilizes the Texas Tribune's article to show that, statistically speaking, the Dewhurst/Cruz runoff election could be decided by as few as 300,000 Texans. Kuffner extrapolates this to mean that the Democratic nomination could be decided by as few as half of that. He then quotes an article of Democratic Senate candidate Paul Sadler. Mr. Sadler pleads to a gathering of teachers the importance of voting and Mr. Kuffner echoes the sentiment. The post concludes with links to voting information on Harris County. He doesn't belabor the point, instead letting the other articles stand on their own merit while linking them together into a undeniably strong point of view.

His reasoning is very clear, though I feel he is a little too optimistic about Democratic chances this election. With the exception of his partisan bent, I find it hard to disagree with his positions on any of this. Texas has over 25 million residents. Maybe a million will vote in the runoffs and that will be split between both parties. This leaves roughly 300,000 deciding the Republican nominee and thereby the next US Senator for Texas. That is less than percent of Texans deciding who holds power in Texas for the next six years. Off the Kuff has compiled the information, put it all in context, and given (some of us) information about when and where to vote. There is not much to complain about in his article so save the left versus right debate for another day. Right now, it's time to vote.

Kuffner, Charles. "Your Vote Is worth 30 times What It Usually Is." Off the Kuff.  July 2012. Web. 24 July 2012. <>.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Austin vs Austin Statesman: Booming Populace, Booming Taxes

Austin is growing and The Austin American Statesman has put out an editorial (found: here) about the rapid expansion of taxes in this city. Their target audience is the Austin metro taxpayer and elected officials; while the data presented should strike a chord with any one reading it. The author of the article is the nebulously named "Editorial Board" so I will accept the name of the Austin American Statesman as their qualifier for their respectability. Their point of contention is that the city's massive growth is failing to pay its way.

The position held by the Editorial Board is that the tax increases are excessive and unduly penalize long term Austinites as opposed to the new blood. These are tax increases of 23 to 184 percent over a decade and are of course property taxes. The first solution they suggest is a clarification of the tax policies instituted by Austin Community College, City of Austin, Travis County, Central Health (our local hospital district), and AISD. They request what everyone should have, transparency and full disclosure with local taxing information. It is pointed out that AISD is building new schools while older ones sit empty or suffer from low attendance and suggest filling those schools first. Another step they advocate for is a moratorium on tax increases for the 2013 budget.

 Texas has been growing at an exceptional rate for a while (thanks to our favorable business policies) and Austin has been a major benefactor of this shift. I do agree with much of their stated position. I can't fathom a leap of 184 percent in any on property tax item in a decade. Full disclosure of taxes is another aspect no one would debate. The one harsh criticism I will draw however is this: The city IS expanding. When the general public is in an economic slump it is always popular to suggest limiting taxes. We are still expanding however and a quick look at our infrastructure explains how well prepared we are for it. The rates are exceptionally high, but we live in a low-tax low-service state. If we expand services for a burgeoning population in a city that wasn't ready for it, we can't help but have severe growing pains.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Who Needs Facts This is an Election!

Our incumbent Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, is squaring off with Ted Cruz, our former Solicitor General, in a heated runoff election. This election is for the Republican nomination for the senate seat vacated by Key Bailey Hutchison. Both of these candidates are being as vociferous as possible to make points and sway their base. The Texas Tribune posted a fantastic article detailing some of the allegations. There are multiple occurrences of this in the Dewhurst/Cruz runoff. Both Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst are hurling accusations and lies at each other at breakneck pace. There is little rebuttal of offenses instead focus is more on increasing slander against the opponent. Dewhurst accuses Cruz of hiding aspects of his work as a lawyer, while Cruz accuses Dewhurst of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. 

The article is objective while I am not. I am not suggesting that their should not be debate, disagreement, or even outright anger between the candidates, I am saying that there should be at least a modicum of honesty when running for public office. I know, you are saying," But Ross, all politicians lie!" True they do, but we have the benefit of organizations like Politifact. I believe that the article is important because it establishes an organized timeline of the tit for tat in this runoff election. It is also an important article as it aggregates statements that need to be fact checked; as former Senator Moynihan famously said," You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts"