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June 14, 2017     Hays Free Press
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June 14, 2017
 

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+ QUOTE OF THE WEEK "Itputs them (large landowners) in the same category as the people that work here and live here and need water here." -John Dupnik, Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District general manager, on the failure of House Bill 4122. See story on 4A. Hays Free Press June 14, 2017 Page 3A By SEN. KIRK WATSON AND REPo TODD HUNTER Five of the most frightening words to hear from elected officials from all levels of government are these: "I'm all for transparency, but .... " The phrase following the "but" is usually an excuse to weaken government transpar- ency, not protect it. Our open government laws were once considered the nation's best, but in recent years they've been eroded by court rulings and loopholes that weakened Texans' right to know what their state and local govern- ments are up to. Information that was rou- tinely available for decades is now off limits - particularly information about dealings between government and business inter- ests. This has led to a dangerous erosion of accountability. We worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers to reverse that trend in the 2017 session. Even though our proposals didn't pass the full legislature, we're already working to get them passed in the 2019 session. Here's a sampling of the bills we hope to revive: SB 407 and its companion, HB 792, would have repaired the loophole created by a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling called Boeing. In that case, the court ruled that businesses and governmental entities may withhold information about their contracts with each other by claiming the information might put them at even a slight competitive disadvantage. In an era of public-private partnerships, this makes it impossible to know how the public is faring in countless arrangements. SB 408 and its companion, HB 793, would have addressed a Texas Supreme Court ruling that redefined when private entities supported by public funds have to comply with transparency laws. Because of that ruling, citizens now have no way to know how the hard-earned money they paid in taxes is spent once it's channeled through a private entity like a chamber of commerce, a local non-profit, or even a for-profit busi- ness. HB 2710 would have restored citizens' access to dates of birth in governmental re- cords after a 3rd Court of Appeals ruling put much of that information off limits. Busi- nesses, journalists and even private citizens need access to dates of birth in otherwise public documents to ensure individuals with common names are not confused with each other. HB 2670 would have closed a loophole used by some officials to hide public doc- uments on their private electronic devices. The bill would have established a process to compel every official to follow the law. These were not pie-in-the-sky measures that would endanger public-private part- nerships or facilitate identity theft. Quite the contrary. They were vetted by a diverse set of stakeholders over many months; further, we amended them multiple times to address legitimate concerns. But despite our best efforts, all of these bills ultimately fell victim to special interests whose desire for secrecy won out over the rights and needs of the people of Texas. We can and should do better when it comes to an issue as funda- mental as government transparency. But there was one silver lining: The Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Sen- ate passed a concurrent resolution request- ing a select committee to study transparen- cy laws and make recommendations before the 2019 legislative session. This provides a great opportunity for us to reaffirm and strengthen the public's right to know what its government is up to. We hope the creation of this select committee will mark the beginning of real change. But that will only happen if public officials and citizens take a strong stand for government transparency. Simply put, we need leaders who aren't afraid to challenge the status quo. We have heard "I'm all for transparency, but..." far too often. Now it's time to come together to restore and improve our open government laws. The people of Texas de- serve no less. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Rep. Todd Hunter, R, Corpus Christi, spearheaded efforts to reform government transparency laws during the recent session of the Texas Legis- lature. BY KATHY SCANLON AND PATRICK COX, PH.D. Recent decisions by the PEC Board of Directors leading to the departure of CEO John Hewa have set off alarms and serious concerns about the future of our co-op. We were the first two PEC board members who were fairly elected in a democratic election of all PEC members in 2008. We inherited a discredit- ed organization that was ethically bankrupt, fiscally irresponsible, and one that totally ignored its mem- bers. PEC members were unhappy, creditors were concerned, employees were dispirited, and few people trusted the PEC management and leader- ship. All that changed through hard work and dedication to reform the PEC and make it a responsible and successful organization. Those changes did not come easy- it took many years to change policies, systems, and build a new management team. When we hired John Hewa in 2013 we knew that we had found the right person to fulfil the co-op's vision - to make PEC a national lead- er in the utility industry and meet the demands of our rapidly growing elec- tric cooperative. As a not-for-profit utility, PEC is about serving our members in the most effi- cient, cost effective and in- novative manner possible. Since 2008, we built PEC's industry-leading reliability, our member services and our commitment to fiscal responsibility through an open and transparent business model. Our PEC employees are number one when it comes to serv- ing our members and our communities. This service Our call is for this board to provide complete disclosure to members at the upcoming June 17 annual meeting of the true reason for the departure of one of the most outstanding, accomplished CEO's in the nation. Failure to do so is inexcusable. is demonstrated through the excellent ratings and approval that PEC has achieved. Our members have also enjoyed the rewards of improved fiscal over- sight - rate reductions that provide real savings to every member's account. We provided extensive cost reductions and installed a state-of-the-art com- puter and data processing system. Honoring our fiduciary responsibilities, PEC increased its equity, received independent clean financial audits, achieved a AA- bond rating and distributed millions of dollars in capital credits to our members since 2008. We also recognized our duties as stewards of the beautiful Texas Hill Coun- try. We initiated energy efficiency and renewable energy resources in a fis- cally responsible manner. We provided new tech- nologies and rate designs that reflect our members' needs. In governance, we es- tablished policies to cover conflicts of interest, a code of ethics, continuing edu- cation, an open meetings and open records policy, and a "Members' Bill of Rights" to guarantee open, fair elections. We created one of the most transpar- ent utility cooperatives in the nation. With all of these achievements, why has PEC CEO John Hewa "re- signed" from his position in 20177 The board of directors' role is to provide guidance and oversight of the CEO to fulfill the strategic plan and oversee management of the entire coop. In today's complex world, decisions require extensive research and evaluation by managers who supply this information to the board. John Hewa did this and was an exceptional CEO. However, with all these accomplishments, Hewa did not depart because he could not do his job. It is all too apparent that this "resignation" was due to causes unrelated to his performance. The current PEC Board of Directors is not being straightforward with the members. They need to be honest about Hewa's departure. Hewa pub- licly stated that certain board members retaliated against him and other employees for questioning statements and actions by directors. And it also raises more concerns - since there are no issues of mis- conduct or professional capability, why is he leav- ing? How much is he being compensated to leave, what is the plan for finding a new CEO, how do you expect to find a top notch CEO under these circum- stances, and how are we going to earn the respect and trust of members and employees again? Contrary to two separate votes by the membership to maintain the at-large voting system for directors, the current PEC board changed the election pro- cess. Instead of members voting for every director on a rotating basis, we now vote every third year for a director in a smaller region of the PEC service area. Now, it is virtually impos- sible to replace any board member for misguided actions that threaten the overall stability and continued success of PEC. PEC Directors Kathy Scanlon and Cristi Clem- ent unsuccessfully fought this outlandish move. The PEC Board of Directors is not a political office - and directors should leave their partisanship at home. Our call is for this board to provide complete dis- closure to members at the upcoming June 17 annual meeting of the true reason for the departure of one of the most outstanding, accomplished CEO's in the nation. Failure to do so is inexcusable. Truly responsible board members would look with- in themselves and confess their inability to exercise proper judgment. Resig- nation of the five current board members involved in this unfortunate de- parture of Hewa would be the most honorable and ethical decision to protect the PEC and our future. Kathy Scanlon is an Austin resident and former PEC Board President from 2012-13. Patrick Cox, Ph.D., is a Wimberley resident and Former PEC Board Presi- dent from 2013-15 "ave y'all seen the latest fashions in . menswear? Last month, some goofy-lookin' outfit called a men's romper was introduced to the fashion world. In case you haven't seen this atrocious attire, allow me to describe it. The romper is a one-piece shirt/shorts combo that comes in several pastel colors. It is similar to those coveralls our dads wore back in the '60s except they are short pants and come in colors you'd find on the walls of a women's boutique. I don't know if rompers button up or have zippers, but either way, it won't be easy to drop trou quickly if that burrito from 7-11 has an express pass. IfI was the designer of the romp- er, I would've put in a trap door like those long-han- dle underwear because there are times where every second counts. A new fashion for hy- poandrogenic (look it up) men that popped up on Facebook today are lacey shorts. These are what From the CrowJs Nest by Clint Younts they sound like; they are flimsy shorts made out of a lacey material. I suspect this fashion began over in France or perhaps Italy and made its way across the pond to America. I can't fathom any designer at Levi Strauss coming up with the idea of making pants with doilies. So, now we men have the choice of donning a romper or lacey shorts once we get tired of wear- ing Wranglers. Personally, I don't plan on making the switch to unmanly mens- wear. I have been wearing jeans for over 50 years, and I don't plan to switch to prissy pantaloons in this lifetime. And if some fami- ly member thinks it would be funny to dress me in a romper as I lie in my cas- ket, I swear I'll come back and haunt you. Some ofy'all folks who might be city-dwellers may wonder why I wear jeans so often and not a more comfortable, loose-fitting pair of pants. Sure, baggy shorts might be comfy and cooler on a hot day, but living out on a ranch, you never know when you will have to climb over a barbed wire fence. With well-fitted denim jeans, it is much safer to cross over the wire while someone wearing baggy britches could easily snag his dangly bits on a sharp barb. I have not yet seen any fellas 'round here wearing a romper or lacey shorts, but then I don't go into the Land of the Weird very often. I suspect they are individuals wearing such attire walking around on 6th Street, but I doubt I'd see any guy walk into Riley's Tavern wearing a fuchsia romper with matching flip-flops and ordering a Lone Star draft. He might walk in but he'd probably get carried out. Hey, I'm not one to talk bad about men's fashion. I admit I don't know what's stylish. I have a wife and daughters to keep me from looking like a clown. I haven't bought clothes without female supervi- sion since 1979. I wonder what ever happened to that fishnet tank top and my favorite Farrah Fawcett T-shirt? They both disap- peared from my dresser drawer shortly after get- ting married. Nope, there ain't no way you'll see me dressed like a toddler going to church on Easter morning. Until some new fashion comes along where the outfit makes a man look mighty fine, doesn't cause a ruckus in beer joints and keeps his bojangles in place, I plan to live and die in my faded blue jeans and sweat- stained T- shirt. (:lint Younts' bull might run for his neighbor's pasture if he ever showed up in pastel lacies. In the meantime, you an reach him at crowsnest78610@ gmaiL com. Barton Publications, Inc. News tips: news@haysfreepress.com Opinions: csb@haysfreepress.com 113 W. Center St., Kyle, TX 78640 www.haysfreepress.com 512-268-7862 Publisher Reporters Proofreaders Production Manager Circulation/Classifieds Cyndy SIovak-Barton Samantha Smith, Lesly De LeonJane Kirkham David White David White News and Sports Editor Moses Lees III Columnists Bartee Haile, Chris Winslow, Pauline Tom, Glint ounts Marketing Director Tracy Mack Marketing Specialist James Darby, Daniela Arriaga Production Assistant Christine Thorpe Distribution Gabe Ornelas Tanya Ornelas + i |i! ;[i