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June 5, 2013     Hays Free Press
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"It means THEY REALLY SAID THAT? the world to me, to graduate and leave on such a high It is the best thing that couM have happened." - Clarissa Gonzalez, Lady Rebels' first baseman note. Hays Free Press une 5' 20i3 Page 3A + begins on CAPITAL n May 27, the last day of the 140-day regular session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry called a special session to begin that very day. Perry's only stated purpose in keeping lawmakers in Austin is for the Legislature to pass legis- lation that "ratifies and adopts redistricting plans ordered by the federal district court as the permanent plans for districts used to elect members of the Texas House of Representa- tives, Texas Senate and United States House of Representa- fives." In 2010 and 2011 various redistricting maps were in and out of federal courts over mat- ters relating to preclearance, a requirement under Section 5 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act that subjects Texas to when new laws relating to voting are passed here, because of the state's history of discrimination in conducting elections. Quickly, eight redistricting bills, House Bills 1 through 4 by House Select Committee on Redistricting Chair Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, and Senate Bills 1 through 4 by Senate Select Committee on Redistricting Chair Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, were filed to address the gover- nor's call. Of the eight bills, HB 2 and its mirror, SB 2, relating to the composition of districts for the erection of members of the Texas Senate, incited the least resistance at hearings conduct- ed last week. The Senate Select Commit- tee on Redistricting met May 30. Input voiced by Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, and Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, made it clear that maps the gover- nor wants enacted face more rounds of court challenges over the tack of minority opportu- nity districts and dilution of the voting strength of certain comomnities of interest. West asked, in essence, if the purpose of the special session was simply to rubberstamp the federal court's interim maps or to accept amendments to those maps that cure constituents' voting rights concerns. Chair- man Seliger said the governor's call does not limit amendments to the redistricting bills. The House Select Committee on Redistricting met on May 31 and on ]tme 1. Committee member Rep. Trey Martinez- Fischer, D-San Antonio, ex- pressed doubt that issues with the court-drawn maps could be resolved in the time frame contemplated by the governor. Of the citizens who testified be- fore the committee, several said the hearings were scheduled on such short notice few potential witnesses could testify. Chairman Darby tentatively proposed regional redistricting hearings to be held June 5 in Dallas, June 6 in Houston and June 7 in San Antonio. Reps. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, and lee Pickett, D-E1 Paso, both members of the redistricting committee, indicated that their home districts also would be appropriate sites for redistrict- ing hearings. The House redistricting committee is composed of 12 Republicans and seven Demo- crats. The Senate redistricting committee is composed of nine Republicans and six Demo- crats. COMPTROLLER PLANS NOT TO RUN The state's top accountant, Comptroller Susan Combs, announced May 29 she would not seek reelection or election to any other post in 2014. First elected state comptroller in 2006, Combs is a former Texas agriculture commissioner and a former state representative. Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Kay, said he plans to run for comp- troller in 2014, and other cur- rent lawmakers have indicated interest in the post. edsteding@texaspress.com W~soeen the dust settles from an- ther hard-fought legislative ssion, the people of Texas will have a clearer picture of current events in the Lone Star State, thanks to the hard work and determination of two Texas statesmen- one Republican, one Democrat. Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, scored major transparencyvictories in the 83rd Legislature. Three of those victories will be particularly helpful in strengthening and clarifying the public's right to com- plete and accurate information. One crucial bill that Ellis and Hunter shepherded through the legislative dust storm strengthens a crucial First Amend- ment law they passed two years ago. That law took aim at legal actions known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) - suits filed against whisfleblowers by individuals or entities who have plenty of money to pay lawyers. SLAPP suits are designed to intimidate and stifle those who dare to exercise their First Amendment rights. Thanks to the 2011 law, however, it was finally possible for a David Q. Citizen with meager re- sources to defend himself against a SLAPP suit filed by a deep-pocketed Goliath. Unfortunately, an appeals court ruled that the 2011 law did not include certain appeal rights for David. If a judge ruled against David's motion to dis- miss Goliath's suit early in the process, David could very quickly find himself bankrupted by the expensive discovery process following that denial. :: GU T LUMN a the 2013 session by Hunter and Ellis z it crystal clear that David does have a right to appeal, the discovery process heard on appeal. It is a major victory for those who believe the quality of justice shouldn't be determined by the depth of one's pocketbook. Another measure championed by Ellis and Hunter makes it clear that a govern- ment official's use of his private electron- ic device for messages regarding public business does not allow him to hide those messages from public scrutiny. In recent years, a number of local officials across Texas have maintained that their government-related messages are no business of the public so long as the official uses his private device to send or receive them. Texas attorneys general have consistently ruled against that strained and arrogant line of reason- ing, but officials continue to try to evade Texas' open records laws anyway. Once signed by the governor, the law will establish in black and white that citizens do indeed have the right to ac- cess these electronic messages about the public's business. There should be no doubt going forward that if a public official is discussing public business in cyberspace, those messages are, yes, public - regardless of whether they're transmitted on the official's government computer or his personal e-tablet. The third bill enhances public dis- course by establishing clear and fair rules for prompt corrections by publish- ers. Until now, there was no established legal framework for a citizen to request a correction, nor were there guidelines for publishers to follow in addressing that request. The new law establishes clear processes and deadlines, which will re- . suit in the record being corrected quickly and fully when a mistake is made. None of these important legal ad- vances would have happened without the hard work and legislative prowess of Hunter and Ellis. For decades the two veteran lawmakers have fought hard- often against daunting opposition- to expand and protect citizens' access to government information and journalists' right to cover the complex issues that affect our daffy lives. The 83rd Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature saw these two veteran legislators from different parties- men who do not consider the First Amend- ment a partisan issue -- at the top of their game. And because they were at the top of their game, the citizens of Texas can see more clearly now. Dennis Baggett is executive vice presi- dent of the Texas Press Association. His email address is dbaggett@texaspress.com. THE EDITOR SUPERINTENDENTS NEED FINANCE BACKGROUND What does our new superintendent know about school finance? It's an im- portant question. We've seen what has happened when the last three and one inter'un superintendent had mediocre school finance acumen. In the most recent instance, we opened two new elementary schools simultane- ously when district elementary student growth was only 267 students and existing facilities were thousands below historic capacity. In May 2008, voters approved $88 million in school bonds on the prem- ise of no tax increase. They omitted dis- closing the whole story. This was achieved by making interest only payments on the majority of the debt for 22 years and by transferring millions annually out of instruction for debt payments. We buy computers with 30 year bonds! We use scarce bond funds for "renova- tions" because of poor budgeting. Used to be, debt was repaid in equal payments over a 15-20 year term. This constant refinancing deferring repayments to future generations means we are spending beyond our means. The cumulative effect of $80 million in new debt that did not in- crease capacity is coming back to haunt us. In October 2008 the economy col- lapsed and the district's buying power increased by 30% overnight. We should have used this windfall to add more ca- pacity than previously thought possible. But, enrollment growth slowed too so the district unwisely built more extravagant- ly but within budget of course. Nuts! The common denominator in all this points to the Central Office and a superintendent woeflflly ignorant of school finance. While we've focused on hiring superintendents with classroom teaching experience, the district failed to meet federal standards for adequate yearly progress again in 2012 and SAT and ACT scores have been in decline for over a decade. We have placed too much emphasis on teaching experience and it has gotten us exactly nowhere. The biggest detriment to student suc- cess is wasting resources that could oth- erwise be applied to instruction. Then, get out of the way! If the district expects voters to trust them on a new school bond in May 2014, they need to become better stewards of our money. Bryce Bales Manchaca IS KYLE HI'rrING SOCIO-ECONOMIC PLATEAU? Lower incomes for Kyle families from service businesses as retail and restaurants does little for economic growth and wealth creation. And Kyle never has had quality upper income homes as W'unbedey. Ex- panding retail may help pay our bills short term but how about Kyle's future? Newer neighborhoods as Hometown Kyle and Amberwood initially have active Home Owner Associations and vigilant deed restriction enforcement. But after 10-15 years decline sets in with an inactive, broke HOA and deed restriction violations escalating. Basic home maintenance is neglected with houses needing paintingy replacement roofs, maybe foundation work. "Curb appeal" becomes non-exis- tent with garbage cans left on the street permanently, vehicles on jacks, parking on lawns, overgrown shrubbery and weeds, and general trashiness. Rental homes increase in number with multiple vehicles parked on street, driveways, and lawns. Kyle's elected officials and administra- tors exacerbate these problems for ho- meowners. Few city codes are enforced, animal control is part-time, and traffic law enforcement is hit or miss, with jaw-dropping traffic jams. And city staff grossly favors businesses, even marginal and non-contributing, over homeowner that live in Kyle and pay the bills. Cur- renfly the city is crafting zoning to put businesses right next door to homes all over the city. No sensible homeowners wants to live next door to a business. Most people I meet selling and moving from Kyle are looking for a nicer place to live, in a nicer neighborhood. Almost none are "moving up" in Kyle. The City's neglect and disregard of homeowners has consequences. Prop- erty values decline and Kyle becomes an unpleasant place to live. All one has to do is look at what happened to San Anto- nio's one-time business thoroughfares as Commerce Street and quality residen- tial streets such as New Braunfels. Now run-down once-grand homes large and small, as well as, commercial buildings are valued $50,000 or less, and quality businesses are completely absent. Kyte's stock of small cheap houses in de- clining neighborhoods does not bode well for a successful future. Cityleaders should do much more to enhance and support our homeowners and neighborhoods instead of pandering to struggling and unsustainable businesses. A successful city is one where people want to live; economic development will then take care of itself. Jerry Kolacny Kyle COMMENTs FROM THE WEBSITE So proud of my Lady Rebels. I'm so glad that my school has a champion. Thank You Lady Rebels for the ride. - Jakechoir2010 on "Lady Rebel softball wins 2013 4A State Championship" SWAT Teams are for special situations - when it hits the fan, and these men and women run towards the emergency and not away from it, I don't give a damn what they look like. I'm just going to hope they have what they need to protect themselves and get the job done with the fewest casualties possible. - Joel Kirkby on "Kyle Police hold SWAT training" These responses are alarming, even though they may not be statistically significant. I recall taking a similar test when I was in high school and my impression was that the students took it very seriously. Memories dim, and maybe I do not remember accurately. The school district is to be commended for taking this proactive stand in running the survey, but the larger question remains: What is school and society to do about it? - Donn Brooks on "Risky behavior:. Survey illustrates what issues teens are dealing with most" Sad there are 30000 riving in Kyle. Big voter tumout. - Laura Dunnem Raley on "Chad Benninghoff winning Distdct 3 Kyle council seat" m MANAGEMENT BARTON PUBLICATIONS, INC. Publisher Cyndy Slovak-Barton csb@haysfreepress.com NEWSROOM Editor Kim Hilsenbeck kim@haysfmepress.com Sports Reporter Moses Lees III Staff Reporter Andy Sevilla Community Columnists Sandra Grizzle Pauline Tom Columnists Bartee Haile Clint Younts Will Durst John Young Proofreaders Jane Kirkham Christine Thorpe OFFICE MANAGER Connie Brewer business@haysfreepress.com ADVERTISING Tracy Mack tracy@haysfreepress.com Debbie Hall debbie@haysfreepress.com CIRCULATION/CLASSIFIEDS Suzanne Hallam paper@haysfreepress.com PRODUCTION Production Mgr. David White Assistant Designer Nick Trussalo Distribution Pete Sizemore Contact Us: news@haysfreepress.com business@haysfreepress.com FAX: 512-268-0262 BUDA 512-295-9760 KYLE 512-268-7862 METRO AUSTIN 512-262-6397 www.haysfreepress.com 113 W. Center Street Kyle, Texas 78640