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June 1st, 2007:

Sylvester wants a special, Dewhurst wants a do-over

David Dewhurst is still telling lies.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst considers the legislative session a “success” but also says he regrets the failure of a voter identification bill that split his chamber along partisan lines.

“I was disappointed we did not get a voter ID program out there,” said Dewhurst, who asserted there is evidence of “thousands and thousands and thousands” of noncitizens voting in Texas. “This is a no-brainer.”

Bullshit. There is no evidence of this. David Dewhurst knows there is no evidence of this. He just doesn’t care. From 2002 to 2005 there were a grand total of twenty-four federal convictions for illegal voting, despite a White House-driven focus on the subject that ultimately led to the termination of multiple US attorneys for not arresting enough Democrats. Our own very partisan Attorney General has been trumpeting his own accomplishments in “voter fraud” by arresting people responsible for a grand total of forty illegal votes statewide (PDF). And all of which were done by mail, thus putting them outside the reach of the voter ID bills that died. If Alberto Gonzales and Greg Abbott can’t turn up more than that, I guarantee you David Dewhurst can’t either. He’s lying. There’s no other way to say it.

What David Dewhurst is doing is selling the idea that Democrats are stealing elections from Republicans. That’s been the subtext throughout this debate. It all goes back to the Heflin-Vo election contest, when the equally reprehensible and irresponsible Andy Taylor made the same wild and phony charges, none of which he came close to substantiating. This has become an article of faith among Republicans. It’s pathetic.

It’s interesting, too, how voter ID has suddenly become this great crusade for Dewhurst. Voter ID came up in the 79th Lege, too (thanks to the odious Mary Denny), and it was ultimately killed by Senate Democratic unity, which prevented the original bill from coming up for debate on the floor, a filibuster threat, and a last-minute point of order, both also in the Senate. Read through those blog posts and notice whose name is conspicuously absent in the stories that were reported at the time – David Dewhurst. It’s only now, in his third term legislative session as Lieutenant Governor, that he’s noticed this allegedly massive crisis and gone into By Any Means Necessary mode to deal with it. What’s different this time around? David Dewhurst is now running for Governor, and he has to plan for a contested Republican primary. And so he adopts Tina Benkiser’s pet cause as his own.

By the way, since it seems to go unmentioned every time this accursed subject comes up (and I’m as bad about this as anyone), we already require voters to bring identification to the polling places with them. It’s called their voter’s registration card. What “voter ID” bills like HB218 claim is that this isn’t good enough any more. Apparently, all these years we’ve been doing it wrong.

All of this would be little more than extra incentive for electing more Democrats to the Lege in 2008 if it weren’t for the possibility that Dewhurst will get another opportunity to cram these measures through. And there’s Sylvester Turner calling for a special session, which is exactly the opportunity Dewhurst would need. Remember, thanks to the 2003 editions, we already have a precedent of no blocker bill in the Senate for a special, which means that a simple majority would suffice to get the bill out of that chamber. But even if Dewhurst failed to invoke that, do we really want to put Mario Gallegos in the position of having to risk his life for another 30 days to keep this at bay? Nothing good can come out of this.

I realize that Turner is calling for a special for other purposes. I’m sure the legislation he wants to bring up again would do some good, even if I have doubts about its genesis. But Sylvester Turner doesn’t get to control the agenda for a special session. Governor Perry does, and if you think he wouldn’t add voter ID to the call, you’re not living in the real world. And it wouldn’t just be voter ID, either, but other noxious bills that died on the clock last month – the Shapiro/Patrick anti-abortion bills, Jackson’s anti-clean air SB1317, and who knows what else. Is it really worth the cost of seeing those bills pass? I can’t see how.

Please. No special session. Make David Dewhurst fight this battle again in 2009, hopefully on less friendly turf for his side. It’s much harder to undo bad legislation (*cough* *cough* Trans Texas Corridor *cough* *cough*) than it is to keep it from becoming law in the first place. Don’t make it any easier for this piece of bad legislation.

UPDATE: Minor error fixed regarding Dewhurst’s time in office. Thanks to Evan for the catch.

Still not out of the woods for the West 11th Street Park?!?

Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate the salvation of the West 11th Street Park, you find out that there may be another bullet to dodge.

About a week ago, I posted a press release from Senator John Whitmire’s office stating that the remaining monies needed to save the 11th Street Park from development had been added to the state budget and the park was now safe.

Um…cough.

I got an email from a VERY reliable source stating that Councilwoman Toni Lawrence said there is a glitch in Whitmire’s deal and that the funds may be MATCHING funds still leaving the park some $1.5 million short. There was no mention of this in his victory proclaiming press release.

Gah. I hope this is just a misunderstanding, and that a phone call will clear it up. Cutting the debt in half would have been huge if there were enough time to pay it back, but at this point it’s pretty much all or nothing. The difference is chump change for the state budget, but a huge hurdle for park supporters. When I hear how this shakes out, I’ll post an update.

Julie Boyle update

Back in 2005, I wrote that the proprietor of the Midlothian Family Network website and an outspoken critic of the cement plants in that area and the Congressmen who let them pollute at will, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am extremely pleased to report today that I received an email from Julie yesterday afternoon with the wonderful news that she has been declared cancer-free. Way to go, Julie!

She also included a PDF copy of the D Magazine article from 2004 about her family’s experience as a voice against the cement plants in Midlothian. It’s a fascinating read, so give it a look.

Prior to her cancer diagnosis, Julie wrote an op-ed piece for the Star Telegram that called on the Dallas Cowboys to support clean air efforts in North Texas by refusing to spend any of the public money they were getting for their new stadium on polluters. Unfortunately, it appears that they didn’t listen. Maybe now that they’ve gotten their Super Bowl, that facet of their construction can get a little scrutiny.

But whatever the case, what’s important is that Julie Boyle is healthy. My best wishes to her, her husband and kids for closing that chapter in their lives.

Wallace will not run in CD22

One less contender for the right to challenge Rep. Nick Lampson.

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace is getting out of politics, at least temporarily.

Wallace, who announced last summer he would not run for mayor of Sugar Land again, said Thursday he also has decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Congressional District 22.

“So beset was he with questions regarding next year’s race for Congress that Mayor Wallace wanted to set the record straight: He will not run for Congress in 2008,” said a statement sent by Wallace’s secretary, Rosemary Mascarenhas, late Thursday afternoon. “The congressional seat, currently held by Democrat Nick Lampson, is anticipated to draw a wide range of potential Republican candidates. Wallace will not be among them.”

[…]

Ironically, it was only two weeks ago that Wallace disavowed rumors that he had changed his mind about running for Congress in part due to a lawuit filed against him and [Wallace Bajjali Development Partners LP] in January by developer Will Perry, son of uber GOP campaign contributor, swift boater and home builder Bob Perry.

Feels weird to see Wallace drop out like this. It sure seemed like everything he did in 2006 was geared towards his long-awaited candidacy for CD22. You have to wonder what made him change his mind.

As for the rest of the field, we know of one person who’s running, much to the delight of political watchers everywhere. Everything else is speculative. I figure the June 30 campaign finance statements might tell a few tales. We’ll see.

Friday random music question

One of the songs that KACC radio has on fairly regular rotation is “Metro” by The Vincent Black Shadow (music video here, for those who are unfamiliar with it). Recently, every time it has played, Olivia has announced “I like this song”. I can’t think of any other song for which she has voiced an opinion, positive or negative. So the question for you is, what does this portend for her future musical tastes? If it helps, I like it, too. Does this make me more or less likely to be appalled/freaked out/horrified by the stuff she’ll be listening to as a teenager? Please discuss. Thanks.

Stop the damn fence!

Will the feds ever listen to the people who will be directly harmed by the stupid and useless border fence?

Mayors, county judges and others up and down the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border are pressing the Department of Homeland Security to delay construction, saying community concerns are being ignored.

But the government’s sense of urgency could intensify because the fence has become enmeshed with the push for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.

[…]

“Absolutely, we have a concern,” said Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, head of the Texas Border Coalition. The group of elected leaders is fighting the fence on grounds it is unnecessary, will harm flood-control systems and wildlife habitats, cut livestock off from watering places and harm relations with Mexico.

“We’ve just got such a wonderful relationship on the border, that’s why we hate to see some yahoo in Washington impact it, not having ever seen the Texas border,” Foster said.

Politicians embrace the fencing in Texas for political, not enforcement, purposes, said Brownsville Mayor Eddie Trevino, who also worries the fence is on a fast track.

“There is such a mismatch and smoke-and-mirrors that’s been utilized in order to scare the American public into thinking that the building of a wall will, in some shape or form, answer the problem of illegal immigration,” he said.

Trevino, Foster, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas and Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas offered a similar complaint: Homeland Security officials are moving behind the scenes to finish fence construction plans despite promises to consult with local authorities first.

After they were promised consultation, Texas officials learned in April of a secret Homeland Security memo pinpointing fencing locations in great detail. Though Homeland Security officials have since dismissed the document as premature, the Texans found out the government already is asking private contractors for bids.

The Senate last week approved an amendment by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, saying the department “shall” consult with local authorities in fencing decisions. But it doesn’t give Texas cities any actual power to block the plans.

In other words, no, they won’t listen. I attended the same conference call on the immigration reform bill as Jonathan Singer, and I asked about the border fence, which is clearly being pushed as a way to make the Senate bill more acceptable to Republicans. I did not hear anything to contradict my thesis about the fence, or to indicate that there’s any push to change the basic parameters of this beast. It’s very depressing.

The Houston Press has a great story about the effect the fence will have on the environement, and in doing so to the local economy.

In the last 20 or so years, the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife Services has spent $80 million in taxpayer money buying up old farmland, empty lots and any other property for sale along the Rio Grande. Then, with the help of volunteers — including classes of schoolchildren — they’ve gone about replanting native vegetation on it to create a wildlife corridor with a series of refuges. The area is about as biologically diverse as it gets.

It’s a top birding destination — and when there are birds, there are 150,000 to 200,000 birders bringing an estimated $150 million a year in trickle-down economics to the area.

The corridor is not only home to many bird species year-round, it is a major flyway for migrating birds moving up and down from North America to Central and South America. It is No. 1 in reptiles and No. 2 in mammals, and it is home to some of the few remaining ocelots and jaguarondi in Texas and the United States.

Now much of that same tract of land is going to be handed over for a fence, wiping out years of restoration work, say a chorus of critics that includes environmentalists, conservationists, farmers and city leaders. Yes, they support secure borders with ground sensors, cameras and whatever high-tech gizmos the feds want to trot out. They want more “boots on the ground.” They are 95 percent with their federal government on this.

But what they don’t want is a “physical” fence, and the construction work and brush-clearing that would accompany it.

They don’t like the symbolism, the stay-out message it sends to their No. 1 trading partner, Mexico. They want to know why the Canadian border isn’t getting a fence. They are disappointed that their senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, voted for the fence, but say they hope the two will work to temper the plans to something more reasonable.

They don’t like its reality. Besides the fact that they believe it’s going to wreak devastation on the environment, they say it’s bad for business, both for tourists and for the farmers who may be cut off from their pump stations and water sources in the Rio Grande. They compare it to the Berlin Wall.

They don’t like the fact that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff can circumvent the same federal environmental studies they would have to undergo if they wanted to put in a road or a bridge. He has specially granted waiver powers, and if he wants a fence, he gets one — no matter how many dead birds and ocelots are left behind to clean up.

They can’t stomach the representatives they’ve met in the Department of Homeland Security, from Chertoff on down, who seem to them to be unreasonable, untrustworthy creatures, arrogant in manner and not always inclined to truthfulness.

Most of all, [economic development official Mike] Allen and others want to know why the same federal government — the one that for years ignored their repeated requests for an interstate (“We’re the only area with 1 million population that doesn’t have an interstate”), $10 million to repair their levees (“We’ll be like New Orleans when Katrina hit) and money to help them improve their public schools — all of a sudden has untold millions of dollars to plunk down on a fence that none of them want.

Oh, and they don’t think it’s going to work, either.

Why isn’t Homeland Security listening to these people? Why are we wasting this money?