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June 2nd, 2006:

We’re on a fax to nowhere

It’s time for another stupid and inexcusable screwup by everyone’s favorite privatization project.

Three months ago, dozens of documents from Texas containing highly confidential financial and health information began arriving over a fax machine at a Seattle warehouse.

Shaun Peck, a clerk at the warehouse, searched through the mysterious documents – revealing Social Security numbers, medical evaluations, income tax forms and pay stubs – and wondered why they kept coming and where they should be going instead.

Back in Texas, frustrated elderly, disabled and poor people have long wondered why they sent applications for benefits to the state only to be told they never arrived.

Peck didn’t know it, but he had discovered the much-rumored “black hole” eating up Texas applications for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The snafu is just the latest example of confusion during the state’s transition this year from public to private screening of health and welfare applicants under an $899 million contract with outsourcing giant Accenture LLP.


Accenture issued a statement to the Chronicle on Thursday. It said as soon as it became aware that faxes were going to a wrong number, it began a thorough investigation leading to actions that should stop faxes from landing in Seattle.

“We found out about it yesterday,” said the company’s spokeswoman, Jill Angelo of Public Strategies Inc. in Austin.

Just read the whole thing – it’s too detailed to excerpt effectively. This really is a bad joke, isn’t it? These yahoos at Accenture can’t do anything right. But hey, think of all the money we’re saving. You have to admit, they really thought outside the box on this one.

It’s a go for red light cameras

From yesterday, the Houston City Council has voted to approve the use of red light cameras at certain intersections.

The red-light vote ended more than a year of debate about whether the city should monitor Houston motorists and, if so, who should be hired to develop the system.

The vote clears the way for the contractor, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions Inc., to begin installing cameras within 45 days, initially at 10 city intersections, after a monthlong public awareness campaign.

The measure had been delayed several times while another contractor vying for the deal raised concerns about the selection process.

Mayor Bill White, who first brought the issue to the council in 2004, said the cameras will protect motorists.

“It’s a big day for public safety in Houston,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re not short on intersections where there have been lots of intersectional collisions or red-light violations.”

Critics have charged that the real intent of the cameras is to raise city revenue through the civil penalties that would be assessed against violators caught on camera.

Those $75 violations wouldn’t count against a motorist’s driving record, unlike tickets issued by police officers.

I’ve expressed skepticism about these cameras before, mostly on privacy grounds. Lord knows, I don’t want Chief Hurtt getting any bright ideas. But it seems to me that if we’re going to go ahead and install these things, the least we can do is to make an effort to determine if they really do reduce accidents and improve safety. Let’s design a study, right now before the first camera goes up, to measure baseline accident and injury/mortality rates at the targeted intersections and similar ones that can be used as controls. Compare the data after a year’s time and publish the results for all to see. If we do see a decrease in accidents and/or injuries, then at least we have a rational reason for continuing the program. If not, then we can admit our mistake and correct it before it becomes to big and unwieldy to undo. Fair enough?

I know, I know, it’ll never happen. Ah, well. It was worth a shot.

No wedges

From The Red State:

Democratic State Representatives Joaquin Castro (HD-125), Trey Martinez Fischer (HD-116), and Jose Menendez (HD-124) of San Antonio will hold a press conference Friday, June 2nd at 10:00 am to call on Governor Rick Perry and the Republican Party of Texas to stop their election year gimmicks and truly work to solve the problem of illegal immigration.

“It is disrespectful for Rick Perry and the Republican Party to use the immigration debate as a wedge issue to divide Texans,” the Democratic Representatives said. “Republicans are clearly split on this issue and have profoundly failed to provide meaningful solutions to the immigration debate. What they claim to be public policy amounts to nothing more than a band-aid approach that deals with the issue symbolically and not realistically.”

WHO: Democratic State Representatives Joaquin Castro, Trey Martinez Fischer and Jose Menendez

WHERE: Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center
200 E. Market Street
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(At the corner of Alamo and Market.)

WHEN: Friday June 2, 2006

If anyone here reading this attends, please take pictures.

Hey, Kay Bailey, how about a debate?

I don’t actually ever expect Kay Bailey Hutchison to deign to agree to a debate with Barbara Radnofsky. She just doesn’t do that sort of thing. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a public call from a voter to engage herself in the process. Click the More link for the full letter.


What about Bob (Talton)?

The Muse has a host of interesting tidbits concerning the state of the selection process in CD22. The latest buzz:

deal has been reached between three of the four counties involved in selecting Tom DeLay’s replacement on the ballot in Congressional District 22 – Harris, Brazoria and Galveston. Who does that leave out? Fort Bend County. Does this explain Gary Gillen’s (Fort Bend Republican Party Chair) decision to cancel the scheduled June 8th candidate forum? So who does the rumor mill say is Nick Lampson’s opponent:

Robert Talton

Texas state representative, district 144, Pasadena. Gay-obsessed. Ultra-conservative. “My yes is a yes and my no is a no (see my post on last Thursday’s candidate forum.)

I won’t say a whole lot more on Talton right now since we are at the level of rumor, but I will say that some of my friends have been saying for awhile, “Please let it be Talton! Please let it be Talton!” If that tells you anything.

I just want to say that if Talton is indeed the Chosen One, the first ad by Team Lampson should be more or less as follows::

“Why would you want to replace the worst Congressman in America with one of the worst legislators in Texas?”

Feel free to use that one to your heart’s content.

Anyway. There’s more good stuff at the link above. We’re about a week out from DeLay’s official departure from Congress (woo hoo!), but it all gets a little murky after that. Stay tuned.

The race for TDP chair enters the home stretch

I confess, I haven’t been following the race for Texas Democratic Party chair very closely. I don’t really have a strong preference among the three leading contenders. All I really want is for us to emerge from this contest with a minimum of blood being spilled. This is about as favorable an electoral climate that Democrats have seen in Texas since, what, 1990? Let’s please do our best to not screw it up with infighting and hard feelings.

So far, at least, most of the bad stuff has happened on mailing lists and other generally not-in-front-of-the-public venues. I’ll be lighting candles for the next week or so in hopes of keeping it that way.

If you want to know more about who’s running, check out Phillip Martin’s interviews with Boyd Richie and Glen Maxey. If there’s an interview with Charlie Urbina-Jones in the works, I’ll link to it when it’s up. As I say, I don’t really have a strong preference at this point, but there’s good information out there for you if you want to make a reasoned choice. Check it out.