Saturday, June 27, 2015

So What Is A TIRZ, Anyway??

Here at The Political Chicken, more often than not, I'm focused on fiscal issues, and of course, government overreach.  So, I'd like to bring your attention to something that actually falls under both of those categories;  a little thing called, Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone or TIRZ for short.  As defined by wikipedia, a TIRZ is a political subdivision of a municipality or county in the state of Texas created to implement tax increment financing. They may be initiated by the city or county or by petition of owners whose total holdings in the zone consist of a majority of the appraised property value.

So why should you care?  Because the people that work on TIRZ are unelected and aren't held accountable by the tax payers!  And as we speak, there's an effort underway to put Bus Lanes on Post Oak.  The Uptown TIRZ has allocated $204 million for the project, oh, and did I mention they've blown through $43 million just to PLAN the project???  Yeah, nothing to see here.

The idea is to add managed METRO bus lanes to the CENTER lanes up and down Post Oak, which would actually cause a bigger traffic flow problem.  Considering that METRO rider numbers have not risen in quite sometime, that makes one wonder why the Uptown TIRZ would find this project necessary in the first place

They've also decided they need to add bigger sidewalks and more foliage.  They won't stay under the projected budget.  I can almost guarantee it.

There is a group of folks that have gathered and formed The Uptown Houston PAC in an effort to oppose the construction in the Uptown/Galleria area.  They've got a website called  Go there and look for yourself to see if you'd like to  sign their petition to oppose the project.

The last thing we need in the City of Houston is more unelected bureaucrats who are unaccountable to the taxpayers spending more of our money on wasteful projects.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong??

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Happy Third Birthday, Political Chicken!

It's that time of year again, fair readers!  Yep, you guessed it!  Time to celebrate another trip around the sun with yours truly, The Political Chicken!!  TPC is officially three years old and in that time, we've covered lots of issues, candidate endorsements and challenges to folks running for office, not to mention the 84th legislative session of the Texas legislature.

Let's take a look back at a few of the articles that topped the charts here at The Political Chicken, shall we? As I mentioned in this particular blog post, nothing gets folks in a community excited like a bond election, amiright?  That's why "Katy ISD: Got Debt?" shot to the top of the charts with 667 views, an all time high for The Political Chicken (TPC).

Coming in a close second was the article I wrote about the resignation of Steve Munisteri as State Party Chair for the GOP and the choice that the SREC faced in choosing his successor.  Check it out here, titled "State Republican Executive Committee to Select New State GOP Chair March 7th".  It hit second place with 652 views.

"As Iron Sharpens Iron", one of my very first favorite blogs, comes in at number three with 347 views.  Good articles can stand the test of time, and I'm especially proud of that one.  Check it out, you won't be disappointed, I promise.

I'll share the two articles that were nearly tied for fourth, one that I wrote a long time ago that also stands the test of time titled, "Sex, Lies and Politics" and another article that I wrote fairly recently titled, "Jared Woodfill: Tenet vs. Track Record".  Each one had around 340 page views.

Now for a few of my favorites that I wrote that didn't have a stellar amount of page views.  "Could We Be Living In The Twilight Zone?" was one of my personal favorites, but it didn't top the charts.  With only seventy-seven views, it didn't even break the hundred mark.  Next on the list was what I considered to be a timely message, titled "Come Back To Me Before You Go Back To School" in which I encouraged parents, students and teachers to revisit their faith to help see them through a new school year.  It had just seventy-eight views total.

Just a few more to go.  Two of my favorite topics, if you haven't noticed are politics and Christianity.  So of course, the next title should be no surprise, "Politics and Christianity: Can The Two Work Together?"  That came in with a grand total of ninety-three page views.  And one of my absolute favorite past-times is, yep, you guessed it; picking on my favorite Congresscritter, John Culberson.  I put his 'Jeffersonian Republican' principals to the test here in, "Is John Culberson a Jeffersonian Republican or Not?"  Sad to say, his platform was full of holes; Swiss cheese, even.

That's all for this edition of TPC.  This isn't the end, it's just the beginning!  Remember, The Political Chicken is going places!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Want More Local Debt Transparency? Senator Bettencourt Delivers with SB 1041

The 84th Texas Legislature is coming to a fast and furious close.  Will there be a special session?  Will there be TWO special sessions?  Only time will tell.

As individual activists and collectively as communities in varying school districts across the state of Texas, I think it's safe to say we're all concerned about mounting local debt, especially debt for our school districts through bonds that are issued.  We've all experienced the frustrations that come with those hidden elections, when precinct numbers are changed and mobile voting is introduced, ensuring a low voter turnout to those who would normally be against the bond.

I'm a resident of the Cy-Fair School District and they passed a $1.2 Billion Bond Referendum last May that I worked against that passed with flying colors.  They employed the same tactics that other school districts and taxing authorities use to get their bonds pushed through on an unsuspecting public.  These tactics are not new, and as long as they keep being successful, they won't ever stop.

I know how hard I've personally worked alongside other volunteers and activists to defeat certain bond measures and to defeat increased taxes.  Not because I hate children or don't want to see children succeed, but because as a taxpayer I have to wonder, when is enough, 'enough'?     

Thankfully, not all hope is lost.  One of the ways we can try to rein in local debt is through the Texas state legislature.  The representatives we send to Austin, (or even you) can write and introduce bills to make changes to current laws to ensure the changes that we want on how bond measures are presented on the ballot get made.

Enter SB 1041, introduced by Senator Paul Bettencourt.  Here's a little about the bill from Senator Bettencourt, "Taxpayers have a right to know how much debt their local government has taken out and what the cost is to taxpayers. For the first time, taxpayers will get to directly see how much they should expect to pay when they vote for bonds - right on the ballot itself.

My bill, SB 1041, just passed the Senate 26-5 and would require on any ballot to approve property tax backed debt, information about the
ir local government debt and the amount of taxes the average homeowner would pay to pay off their local government debt. This information is required for ALL of the property tax backed debt the local government currently has, and the debt they are asking voters to approve."

Wow!  Right on the ballot?!?  Right on, Senator Bettencourt! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

HB 4 passes the House and is now in the Education Committee in the Senate.

Pro-liberty House Member Jonathan Stickland writes about his position on House Bill 4.

"This weeks worst bill of the week didn't quite start out that way, but by the time the liberals in the Texas house were done with it, it earned the ‪#‎WBOTW‬ award.
HB 4 by GOP Rep. Dan Huberty sought to establish a "High Quality" pre-k program in the state of Texas. The first obvious question is, "Why would we be spending money on our other pre-k programs if they aren't "high quality"?
After an amendment offered by conservative Rep. Jodie Laubenberg to put a ceiling on the amount of money spent on this pilot program was gutted by progressive liberal Trey Martinez-Fischer, it was effectively opened up to unlimited spending. Things only got worse from there. The measure initially limiting it to a half day program was also stripped allowing, for full day programs for 4 year olds. New requirements and testing of our teachers and children also found their way on to the legislation.
The final end product in my opinion was nothing but a first step for the state of Texas requiring an unlimited, full day, mandatory pre-k program.
I wish that value was placed in fostering an environment of stronger family units instead of government daycare. How can we on one hand complain when parents are not as involved in their children's education as needed, and then promote handing them over to government at a younger age?"

House Bill 4 has a companion bill in the Senate; SB 801 and it is in committee now.  Here is a link to find all of the committee members.  Click here to find the names of the members.

We need to stop the intrusion of the government into the family unit.  Call the Senate Education Committee Members to tell them to kill this bill.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Tea Party: A Look Back

T.E.A.  Do you remember what those letters stand for?  Taxed Enough Already.  A lot has changed since the dawn of the tea party movement, but I think we can all agree on a few things; the Tea Party, although not all of the members still go by that moniker, it is still a force to be reckoned with.  To T.E.A., we could add, 'regulated enough already' and 'spied upon enough already' or 'targeted enough already' to the list of growing things that the American people are fed up with from the feds.  With as a storied of a past as we've had, I can still think back on fond memories of the tea party movement in its infancy and all of the excitement that surrounded its beginnings.  For me, the kick off of the tea party movement was the rant heard round the world, given by Rick Santelli.  Remember that?  It was epic and still stands the test of time.  To jog your memory, here's a link to the video.

I remember the very first, or actually the second tea party rally that was held in Houston.  It was in Jones Plaza in downtown Houston.  I wasn't a true activist yet, let alone an organizer of any kind, but the event holds a special place in my heart.  I made two posters, one with a hand painted coiled up snake to represent the ubiquitous Gadsen flag and one with my favorite political cartoon by Ben Franklin, you know the one with the dismembered snake telling us to "Join Or Die".  There were rumored to have been 15,000 people there and even if that's not true, there WAS a lot of people there!  We were squeezed into Jones Plaza like a bunch of sardines.  It was a fantastic experience, no doubt.

I followed the tea party movement around that year in 2009.  I went to Discovery Green in July, followed it to Austin and finally the coup de gras was the March on Washington on September 11, 2009.   There will never be another tea party like that one, and it was proven in my opinion, the year after that when Glenn Beck staged his March on Washington.  The first one was more special to me because it seemed more 'organic'.  It was a true up-rising of citizens who had been and still are Taxed Enough Already.

From my very first Political Chicken article, titled "Why I'm Supporting Bill Tofte for U.S. Congress" I touched on the beauty of the ebb and flow of the movement and my thought was and still is this, "I love the tea party movement and how it has empowered folks like myself, who normally wouldn't even think twice about politics to get involved.  I also love how it has evolved, too.  It's not about just waving signs and flags in the middle of town squares across America anymore.  It's about taking the people from the town squares and putting them into positions in state house races, school board races and mud board positions."

I remember how excited I was to meet and become patriot buddies with so many of the tea party regulars here in Houston.  You can't say the word 'tea party' in Houston without mentioning my good friend and mentor, Felicia Cravens.  Another name that I remember hearing early on who is also a good friend of mine, Natalie Arceneaux.  While we were at the tea party rally in Austin, I remembered hearing Natalie talk about the fact that she was glad we were all there, but she wondered what we were going to do with all of our excitement when we left the rally.  It was a fair question, I thought, and it really made me start to think about my own personal involvement as an activist. 

So, after leaving there, I dove in head first into the local political scene and I didn't look back.  I started off with becoming the precinct chair for my precinct.  I soaked up as much information from the tea partiers as I could to learn how to be a better activist.  I attended activist boot camps and even went to FreedomWorks headquarters for a training class and later became a volunteer for their organization.  I worked as a volunteer on campaigns and had hands on experience, which was invaluable to my growth as an activist.  I even started my own blog, The Political Chicken and now write for Texas GOP and Raging Elephants  I've done radio shows and interviews and have made trips to Washington, D.C. to speak on behalf of Tea Party Patriots.  I guess I should be thanking Natalie for pushing me outside of my comfort zone and really challenging those of us at that rally.  "Thank you, Natalie!"

Remember what I said earlier?   A lot has changed since the dawn of the tea party movement, but the tea party is still out there, working behind the scenes, getting elected to office, running campaigns and elections, knocking on doors, and making efforts to get out the vote.  Happy Anniversary, Tea Party!  And for those of you who are skeptics out there, the tea party isn't dead, it's surely alive!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Two Katy ISD Board Positions Up For Grabs On May 9th

It's election time again!  Yes, Political Chicken readers, Katy ISD School Board elections are around the corner!  It may seem as though the November elections just ended, but it's time to dust off your voter registration card once again and put it to good use; to elect a solid, informed school board trustee to represent the taxpayers in the Katy Independent School District.

It is imperative that we get voters out for the May election.  Looking at election history for Katy ISD Trustee elections, more often than not, the trustees are selected by a small number of the district population.  Here's a statistic that should get your attention; for the 2014 Katy ISD board election in which three trustees were up for election, out of 142,000 registered voters, only 4,000 votes were cast!  The trustee election was decided on by less than three percent of registered voters.  I've always said that local involvement is important, and that theme once again runs through this blog, and the Katy community.

Two positions are up for grabs, position six and position seven, currently held by incumbents Charles Griffin and Bryan Michalsky.  They have served a three year term and have both drawn opponents; John Pendergraff and Leonard Ledford.  Here's a little information about all four candidates.

Bryan Michalsky "was elected to the Katy ISD Board of Trustees in May 2012. Michalsky is a graduate of Sam Houston State University where he holds a BBA in accounting. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.  Michalsky currently works as Chief Financial Officer for Cotton Holdings, Inc. and sits on the Advisory Board for Cotton Foundation that is dedicated to helping children affected by life-changing challenges. He has lived in Katy for six years and is a member of Parkway Fellowship, where he serves as a Men's Small Group Leader. He has served the Katy community through various sports organizations. He also serves Katy ISD through both the Seven Lakes and Katy High School Booster Clubs."

John Pendergraff, concerned Katy ISD parent is running for position 6.  From his website, his qualifications include, "I have a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri, Columbia.  I am an engineer at a small company where I am known to be an outside the box problem solver.  I have a very strong ability to use common sense to solve problems. I am also good at detecting bad ideas and the unintended consequences of seemingly good ideas. I love my kids more than I fear getting involved with the school board."

Leonard Ledford is also challenging an incumbent for position seven.   From his website: "As a Katy ISD concerned parent and taxpayer, I believe we need to be more focused as a community on the quality of education that is offered to our children. We need a school board that will communicate with the community before, during and after issues and votes. A board that will work with and listen to our teachers, not set direction and sit back and watch."

Charles Griffin "was elected to the Katy ISD Board of Trustees in May 2012.  Griffin graduated from Katy High School in 1985, making him the second generation to graduate from the high school. Following graduation, Griffin attended the United States Air Force Academy and started his path towards a retirement from the military. He held many jobs in the Air Force, including flying, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Currently, Griffin works for United Arlines as a Captain on a 737.
Griffin is married to Nikki, who is also a Katy graduate, and they have four children. The Griffins wanted their children to attend Katy schools so, following the military, they moved back to Katy. For three generations and more, Katy ISD has done an outstanding job educating Griffin's father, himself, his wife and his children.
Griffin became a school board member to pay back the community for all the skills, education, and support it has provided for his family. He has been active in his children's PTA, local sport teams, and booster clubs for many years."

So, Katy ISD parents and residents, you have a decision to make!  The election is May 9th, 2015.  Get out and vote and bring a neighbor with you!  We CAN'T let such a small portion of the electorate be the deciding factor in this election.  I'm not supporting or endorsing anyone in this race, but the need to GOTV in these May school board and bond elections is paramount.  Remember, grass roots grow in your own backyard!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Third Times A Charm: The 84th Texas Legislature Revives House Voter Registration Bill

Ever get stuck on ONE topic and write about it until you can't possibly write about it anymore?  Nah, me neither.  So, you'll excuse me for writing once again about election law and election integrity.  Both are extremely important to maintain free and fair elections.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to be one of those countries that has to dip our thumbs in purple ink to prove that we haven't voted more than once.  Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

So, to prevent us going to that extreme, despite some differences in opinion that we all may have with our representatives, there is some good legislation that has been written and introduced to help keep voter fraud at bay, none of which, I might add, have ANYTHING to do with approving online voter registration.  That's another topic for another day.

House Bill 1096 has been written and introduced by Representative Jim Murphy and it's a bill "relating to the residence address of a person for purposes of registration under the Election Code."    Now, as election law sits, there are lots of loopholes in the laws regarding voter registration.  For example, you could put your place of residence as a big open field that you, 'plan' to build on later, all the while living somewhere else.  Or, you could live in a mansion and have your address for your voter registration be some tiny apartment with 100 other voters registered to the same address in Sheila Jackson Lee's district.  I kid you not. 

This bill, should it become law, basically tightens down on the loop holes and makes it so that the following matches your voter registration:
a) your drivers license
b) your primary residence
c) concealed handgun license adress
d) address of property where person has a homestead exemption

So, here's where we're at in the process of HB 1096.  It has been reviewed by the Elections Committee and testimony on the bill is scheduled for March 16, 2015.  A panel of the committee members will listen to testimony, both pro and con for the bill and then they will make a decision based on their findings there.  Once they decide to let it leave the Elections committee, it will head to Calendars committee and they will determine whether the bill makes it to the house floor.  This particular bill has been brought up twice before.  Testimony has been heard on it both times, and unfortunately, it has never made it out of committee.

So, if you agree that this bill needs to be passed out of committee and a chance to be handed off to calendars and the process continued, I would encourage you to contact the members of the Elections Committee.   Click on the link provided here to see all of the members. 

I said it before, and I'll say it again, the game to steal elections is always afoot, so please help protect your ballot.  Through GOTV efforts at election time, staying vigilant at the polls when working as an election judge or clerk and paying attention during the legislative session, we can all work together to ensure free and fair elections continue here in the state of Texas.