Monday, April 25, 2011

Thank you, Dan Branch

Well, it appears as though Morrison's HB 2556 will not be considered by the Texas Legislature this session. Regardless of your stance on the issue, Representative Branch's decision to hold a meeting of all interested parties in Victoria has to please you. I always believe that open discussion is often the best cure for a festering problem. It is far easier to despise someone you don't have to see or talk to. This will be a great opportunity for all parties to express their concerns, and possibly be taken to task for spreading false information.

Since this entire ordeal began, I have repeatedly heard statements that either cannot be proven, or are just outright false. I keep hearing that A&M has an undeniable track record of growing universities in rural areas, which is not true. I keep hearing that A&M is a better "partner" for Victoria than UH, which cannot be proven. I keep hearing words like "destination university" and "accessible education", with no meaning attached to them. 

Hopefully this will be a REAL meeting, accompanied by a public hearing section. I want to hear the truth, straight from the horses' mouths. I want to know what A&M plans to do. I want to know what UH has to say. I want to know what both chancellors and the elected officials think of higher education cannibalism, and what sort of precedent they think this could set.

So let's have this meeting, and let's demand that it be for real, instead of some going through the motions spectacle. I can't wait to watch people like Pozzi, Patillo, Fowler, Burns, Polasek, Vivian, and Crew have to explain the propaganda they have been spreading. They should bear in mind that facts are stubborn things.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Call From The RPT

Some unfortunate soul drew the task of having to lob me a phone call this evening for the Republican Party of Texas and attempt to solicit funds. Apparently he was looking to renew my membership at a rate of $45, which is funny, because I don't recall ever having secured a membership before. This guy goes into one heck of a diatribe about how terrible Democrats are, and how the only force on this planet that can stop them from the complete destruction of the human species is the Republican Party. Once he had finished, I let him know that I regretted to inform him that I had no intention of cutting a check to any Republican organization any time in the near future, and my purpose was two fold.

First of all, my main focus was going to be on individual local races, which is completely understandable and appreciated by the RPT. The second reason was not quite as welcomed by the young gentleman on the other end of the line. I had to explain to him that I was done with the two party system, and in particular the left/right paradigm. 

Here's the deal.

I am sick and tired of being lied to. I am done with believing that Republicans mean what they say, any more than the Democrats do.

Think about some of the big political topics of the last couple of years:

Financial responsibility? You're kidding, right? After George W. Bush? Are you insane?

States rights? Uh, yeah, OK....When is this Republican-heavy State that believes so strongly in States rights going to actually have a State Legislature that can pass a resolution stating such? I sat right there in my Republican County Convention in 2010 and watched Geanie Morrison keep her seat when we voted on that plank of our platform. When is the State of Texas going to kick the BATFE out? Oh, that's right...Obamacare is the ONLY legislation that is unConstitutional. Try that on the idiots that believe it.

Or shall we talk about some old political hot topics that just never seem to go away?

Maybe, oh, I don't know....abortion? OK, that works. The Republicans always claim to be steadfastly opposed to abortion, right? If that is the case, then someone will have to explain to me why, for the six years starting in 2001, they did nothing about it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Republicans have the Presidency, the House, the Senate, and seven of the nine Supreme Court justices? Oh, I must be missing something....I guess only immigration laws can be challenged by States. Silly me.

Family values? Do we really even need to go there?

So basically what I told this poor guy is that the RPT needs to get their collective "you know what" together before they will ever see another dime from me. Call me irrational, but I am tired of being made a fool of.

The analogy I finally left the fellow with was that giving money to one party or another was akin to thanking one neighbor for not stealing near as much from me as another neighbor. They both steal from me, but the one who does it the least deserves my respect and thanks?

No thanks! Feel free to lose my number.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Government Power is a Bad Thing, ALWAYS!

Several years ago I came to the realization that any time the voters give the government more power, they will eventually end up regretting it. I used to be fooled by the idea that a powerful government was OK, just as long as "my guys" were in charge. Unfortunately, most people are still stuck in that matrix. Most people are still slaves to the left/right paradigm. Sadly, many still believe that Republicans are pro-gun and anti-abortion, and that Democrats are pro-working man and anti-war. Hopefully someday, those lost souls will reach at least a recognizable level of enlightenment and consciousness.

So why do I think that granting government more power is a bad thing? Because government and those who advocate for it will tell you whatever is necessary to gain the power, but will not follow through on any of the promises. Having learned this lesson, a few months back I decided to start asking a few questions and doing a little digging around about the origin of the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation.

The first thing I wanted to know was what the voters had in front of them when they made their decision "for" or "against" the 1/2 cent sales tax. Namely, what was on the ballot. Here is how it read:

Proposition No. 1
The adoption of an additional sales and use tax within the city at the rate of one half of one percent as authorized by Section 4B, Article 5190.6, V.T.C.S., as amended (the Development Corporation Act of 1979), with the proceeds thereof to be used and applied to the purposes authorized by the Act. La adopción de ventas adicionales y usar el impuesto dentro de la ciudad a razón de una mitad de un por ciento como autorizado por Sección 4B, Artículo 5190.6, V.T.C.S., como enmendó de (la Corporación del desarrollo Actúa de 1979), con los beneficioses que se emplear y aplicar a los propósitos autorizado por el Acto.

 Naturally, that leads to two questions...

1. Who in the world actually read Section 4B of the Development Corporation Act of 1979?
2. What does Section 4B say?

Whatever the answer to the first question is, it was definitely not enough. As for the second question, wonder no more:

Creation of Corporation; Texas Small Business Industrial
Development Corporation
Sec. 4. (b) There is hereby created the Texas Small Business Industrial Development Corporation which
shall act on behalf of the state to carry out the public purposes of this Act. The Texas Small
Business Industrial Development Corporation shall be considered to be a corporation within the
meaning of this Act, shall be organized and governed in accordance with the provisions of this
Act, and shall have all of the powers, and shall be subject to all of the limitations, provided for
corporations by this Act, except as otherwise provided by this section. For purposes of this Act,
the state shall be considered to be the unit under whose auspices the Texas Small Business
Industrial Development Corporation is created and the department shall be considered to be the
governing body. To the extent that the provisions of this section are inconsistent with other
provisions of this Act, the provisions of this section shall control as to the existence, powers,
limitations, organization, administration, operation, and affairs of the Texas Small Business Industrial Development Corporation.


Notice how many times the words "small" and "business" appear in succession just in this one section? Do you think this Act would have passed if the truth had been told - that it was a way to make big businesses a lot bigger? Who among us would consider Caterpillar a "small business"? Starting to see how the government lies to get what it wants? But wait, it gets better.

Once the idea was sprung, the City of Victoria had to act as though they were objectively considering the creation of such an entity, rather than licking their chops at the idea of a slush fund that very few would pay attention to. After all, who ever checks the sales tax rates in a given town before they decide to shop?

Once they had all their ducks in a row, the City issued a Statement of Position. I am not going to go over this document point by point, but I recommend reading it several times. With the knowledge of what has transpired over the past 15 years, some statements made in this document should raise your blood pressure just a little bit.

Then the City passed a resolution to place the measure on the ballot. An interesting excerpt from the resolution:

"WHEREAS state law allows cities to hold an election for the purpose of submitting to the voters a measure for adopting up to an additional one half of one percent sales and use tax for the purposes of funding a Development Corporation as authorized by Section 4B Article 5190 6 V T C S as amended the Act with the proceeds thereof to be used and applied to the purposes authorized by the Act including but not limited to public street traffic control drainage parks water and wastewater improvements and the maintenance and operating costs associated with such projects
WHEREAS the City Council finds that funding such projects as authorized by the Act through such a tax will be less costly to the City than deferring maintenance or issuing bonded indebtedness and
WHEREAS the City Council desires to hold any property tax increases to City residents to a minimum;"

Um, yeah, you are reading that correctly. Let it sink in just a moment. you may want to wrap your head with duct tape to keep it from exploding.

But this is not where the story ends. You see, corporations have these pesky little things called Articles of Incorporation. These Articles perform several functions, among them is spelling out the tax status of the corporation, along with any requirements and prohibitions that may affect said tax status.

The Articles of Incorporation for the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation say several things, including:

In accordance with the provisions of Section 501 c 3 of the United States Internal Revenue
Code the Corporation a shall not pay dividends and shall not permit any part of the net earnings
of the Corporation to inure to the benefit of any private individual except that reasonable
compensation may be paid for personal services rendered to or for the Corporation in effecting one or more of its purposes b shall not direct any of its activities to attempting to influence legislation
by propaganda or otherwise
c shall not participate in or intervene in including the publication or
distribution of statements any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office and
d shall not attempt to influence the outcome of any election for public office or carry on directly
or indirectly any voter registration drives"

That bold part is pretty interesting, considering recent developments, wouldn't you agree?

It goes on to state "No part of the Corporation s income shall inure to the benefit of any private interest. No dividends shall ever be paid by the Corporation and no part of the Corporation s net earnings
remaining after payment of its expenses shall be distributed to or inure to the benefit of the director
or officers or any individual firm corporation or association other than the City of Victoria."

This statement would appear to me to be a prohibition against the expenditure that is transferred every single year to VEDC. VEDC is a corporation, right? And they are not the City of Victoria, right? OK, just wanted to make sure.

Just to recap:

Idea to get more of the public's money - CHECK!

Sell only the most palatable portions of the law - CHECK!

Make people think they will actually be saving money by allowing an additional tax - CHECK!

Make people think that someone else is paying for the additional tax - CHECK!

Annihilate all opposition by calling their concerns and reservations stupid and stone age - CHECK!

Get the local propaganda machine (aka The Victoria Advocate) to sell this beast to the serfs - We will explore that in a later blog...

The moral of this story is that the government is not to be trusted. I was once told by a man that whenever an agent of the government speaks, ask yourself this question - How does the government benefit if I believe what I am being told?

That is good advice, considering it is impossible to un-ring that bell.

Friday, April 1, 2011

VEDC and Chamber of Commerce: We got a man down!

Well, It appears as though the first readings are registering on the Geiger Counter Victoria from Mayor Will's nuclear warfare. In an interesting turn of events, UHV has decided to suspend their memberships in both the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and VEDC. This may not seem like much, but it could turn into something more. I have to hand it Don Smith. He did the right thing, and he did it with grace and integrity.

But as in most things, I tend to want to use this as an opportunity to discuss an aspect of VEDC that has been puzzling me for some time. According to VEDC's website, they have 74 voting members. I was thinking about breaking them down by category, but I think I will save that for a future blog. What I would like to focus on are just a few of their members, namely those that are government agencies. VISD, The Victoria College, and Citizens Medical Center are all voting members of VEDC. My thought is, Why? Why are these entities, two of which have direct taxing authority, helping fund an agency whose purpose it is to attract business? I am sure someone will comment on this blog, explaining how all things are interrelated, the leg bone is connected to the knee bone, synergy, strategic partnership, blah, blah, blah. You can save it. I have heard it all before.

Let me tell you what I think about it. I think it is just another way of taking public dollars and funneling them through a private agency, whose disclosure standards are nowhere near as stringent. I think it is more manipulation by those who believe in an unholy alliance between government and business.

In the past, I have referred to VEDC as the Victoria Economic DESTRUCTION Corporation. While I still think that title is appropriate, not to mention that it is acronymically correct, perhaps a more perfect name would by the Victoria Government Development Corporation.

I will go further into detail in Part 2. Stay tuned.