Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Houston, Gulf Coast drowning while protestors picket Trump

Yes, that's an 'Impeach' sign
Hurricane Harvey just set a domestic rainfall total record as of this afternoon (51.88 inches at Cedar Bayou), as President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump head to Austin Bergstrom International Airport after a visit to Corpus Christi and Austin to support and address statewide emergency response coordination.

For most people, it's a no-brainer: helping fellow Texans survive and recover from historic-level flooding (with much more to come) is a cause that has no bearing on one's political beliefs or personal preferences. We can argue about FEMA trailers, floodplain zoning, and the merits of the Trump Administration later.

And others? Well, take a look at what those who don't get that are saying this afternoon ...
Guadalupe and Koenig this afternoon, as Trump's motorcade approaches
Thankfully, the great majority of Texans get that it's not about politics: This isn't a chance to promote your pet cause, to denigrate our nation's leaders who are doing their best to help, or to kick flood victims when they're down. It's time to pack sandbags, open our wallets, gather donations of necessary goods, and get to work on what's sure to be a long road to recovery.

Below are some resources we hope you'll be able to use, followed by a message from Gov. Greg Abbott, who called Texas' response so far "nothing short of remarkable." We'll keep this list updated -- if you know of any other compilations of flood relief efforts please leave them in the comments section below and we'll be happy to include them here.

KXAN: Stand Strong Texas

Austin American-Statesman:

Texas Tribune (statewide resources for those assisting and those who need help):

Must Read Texas (subscribe for daily round-up of Harvey news and opportunities)

ALSO ... The Tracker recommends anyone in harm's way download the Zello app for your smartphone ASAP. Search for the channel titled "Texas Search and Rescue" and there you will be able to instantaneously communicate with search-and-rescue workers in your vicinity. More info:


Below is a message from Team Abbott with some helpful links, especially for those in immediate need ...

... As Texas continues to experience heavy rains in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I want to share some additional information and resources for those affected by the storm.

I have activated the entire Texas National Guard--about 12,000--in order to respond to Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery. The Texas National Guard is working closely with FEMA and federal troops to respond urgently to the growing needs of Texans who have fallen victim to Hurricane Harvey, and the activation of the entire Guard will assist in the efforts already underway.
Check the Texas Hurricane Center page on the Office of the Texas Governor website to see the most up to date list of mandatory and voluntary evacuations. However, if you are living in a flooded area, do not attempt to evacuate by driving your car--doing so will put your life and lives of rescue personnel at risk. Visit the FEMA website for safety tips or call 2-1-1 for evacuation information.

If you need assistance,
 visit the FEMA disaster assistance site or call 800-621-FEMA.

If you need immediate medical attention or emergency evacuation assistance, call 9-1-1. If you cannot get through on the first try, keep calling. You can also call one of five numbers for the Houston Command Center of the United States Coast Guard:

Do not attempt to drive on flooded roadways! Remember, “turn around, don’t drown!” If you need roadside assistance, call
800-525-5555 or 9-1-1 if it is an emergency. Check Drivetexas.org for flooded roads and road conditions before driving anywhere. Call the Texas Department of Transportation at 800-452-9292 for statewide road closures.

If you are in Houston,
 visit the City of Houston Emergency Information page or call either 3-1-1 or 713-884-3131 for Houston emergency updates.

If you are a hurricane evacuee seeking shelter,
 visit the Red Cross website to find open shelters or call the Red Cross Hotline at 800-733-2767. I have opened Texas State Parks to free camping for hurricane evacuees. Check here for a list and a map of park availability. AirBnB is also providing free accommodations to Harvey evacuees. You can find a free place to stay or offer up your space to evacuees in San Antonio, Austin, or Dallas.

If you have been affected by Harvey in any way, know that Texas has your back during this difficult time. I ask that Texans continue to keep affected regions in their thoughts and prayers as we continue to endure this severe weather event and its tragic effects on our state.


Greg Abbott

Photo credits: Protest photos shared by Leland Freeman via Facebook.com. Thanks, Leland!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Tax swap: Robin Hood workaround or revenge for SB 6?

Where the other half lives in Travis County
UPDATE: Tax swap proposal on hold (at least for now). More.

In a move being billed as a way for Austin ISD to get around a high amount of "recaptured" funds under the state "Robin Hood" school funding scheme, the Austin City Council voted 6-4 this month to initiate part 1 of a "tax swap" plan with the school district.

But could the tax swap also be retaliation against the Texas Legislature's recent action to reign-in big city annexation powers? A Republican House member suggests it may be related (see below).

The first step of the tax swap plan, which the City took on Aug. 10, raises the city’s property tax rate to 46.51 cents per $100 in appraised property value. It's a move that had bipartisan opposition, with Council members Ellen Troxclair (R), Jimmy Flannigan (D), Delia Garza (D) and Ora Houston (D, with fiscal conservative sympathies at times) voting no.

Step two: What's known as an interlocal agreement between the city of Austin and the Austin ISD to do the swap would have to be approved by both entities. This seems like a done deal -- Austin ISD will gladly lower its tax rates to keep Robin Hood away and the City would provide some services to the school (which hearkens back to the days before Independent School Districts became the norm in Texas public education -- more on that little irony in a future article).

Here's step three: That tax hike happens to be 2 cents higher than what's known as the "rollback rate" of 44.51 cents. It amounts to an increase of around 14 percent over the current budget year, by the way. That means the taxpayers, if they successfully circulate a petition with enough signatures (38,000, we understand), will defer final approval of the tax rate to the voters in a yet-to-be-scheduled rollback election (rumor has it on the March primary ballot).

Confused yet? Here's what it all boils down to: According to KXAN-TV, it's a move that may save Austinites money, but every other resident in the non-Austin ISD portions of the city (see chart above) will be stuck with the full 14 percent tax hike (though Mayor Steve Adler is promising perks for neighboring hamlets like funds for a youth center for Del Valle).

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Austin-based Yeti ices Breitbart ad after one person tweets 'hate'

We can all agree lately that overreaction to allegations of hate on either side of the political spectrum is getting out of hand. Sometimes you just want to pack your Yeti cooler and head out to the lake for a few days to get away from all the bickeri ...

Oh wait ...

Friday, August 18, 2017

GOP priorities hit and miss during special lege session

Click to enlarge

As you can see from the chart above (courtesy of the Texas GOP's Strategic Texas Activist Team) it was hit and miss for Republican priority bills -- but mostly miss. The Governor is placing blame square on the Texas House, while it appears there's enough criticism to go around.

Below is a press release from the Texas GOP, followed by a screenshot by the Greg Abbott campaign.
AUSTIN – With the close of this special session of the Texas Legislature, Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey has outlined the bills passed relating to the Republican Party platform: 
“We are constantly working to advance the official Platform of the Republican Party of Texas, which is rooted in conservative principle. Following the special session, there is still much work to be done, but I’m encouraged that the Legislature acted on these important items that will help keep Texas free and prosperous.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Petition surfaces to impeach Travis County Democrat Judge

An online petition calling for the impeachment of Judge Tim Sulak, 353rd Civil District Court, has surfaced.

Below is the description from Change.org [bracketed edits ours]:
"Judge Tim Sulak has a lengthy history of conducting himself in a dishonest and discriminatory manner. Additionally, he has engaged in a pattern of discrimination against vulnerable parents in a manner that puts domestic violence survivors and their children at risk for abuse. Judge Sulak has repeatedly ignored signs of abuse in cases before him and has demonstrated a willingness to engage in ex parte communication and receive ex parte evidence to justify his actions. [...]

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Texas Privacy Act seeks to remedy an 'uncivil right'

Guest Opinion by Kaeley Triller Haver

Earlier this year, both the NBA and the NFL made headline news with separate but equally hypocritical statements condemning Texas’ recently proposed privacy bills. The Texas Privacy Act (SB3 and HB 46), would ensure that government policies for bathroom and shower use in government buildings and public schools is based on the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate. It also prevents opposite sex participation in scholastic athletic competition, with some accommodation and exceptions.

Now even an NHL franchise, the Dallas Stars, is joining this “nondiscrimination” chorus.

In the midst of a national voyeurism epidemic, the Texas Privacy Act (SB 3 and HB 46) is a common-sense solution to a problem that shouldn’t even exist. But its opponents argue that it unfairly discriminates against transgender individuals. And apparently the NBA and NFL agree, having threatened to relocate their all-star games and big ticket events should the bill be enacted.

This issue is being framed as the new frontier of civil rights, abusing words like “discrimination” and “equality” to shame common sense privacy supporters (even some who were personally participated in the historic Civil Rights Movement) into silence.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bad news doubles down on Dawnna Dukes (and it's only Monday)

We interrupt this brief hiatus for the Travis Tracker with not one but two pieces of bad news for embattled Rep. Dawnna Dukes, adding to the tragedy that is her continual defense of her indefensible behavior that earned her the social media hashtag #MasTriste.

Her bad day began this morning with a deal Rep. Dukes perhaps should not refuse, tactically speaking. The District Attorney offered to drop charges for Dukes if she resigns from office!

Matt Mackowiak, Travis GOP Chairman said this would still not be enough restitution for her HD 46 constituents:
"The allegations of corruption and misuse of office against Dawnna Dukes are very serious. Whatever the legal resolution is, it does not address her breaking her promise to the voters that she would resign if reelected, or her flagrant absences from official duty in the Capitol. Travis County residents in District 46 deserve better."
Gabriel Nila, former (and prospective) candidate, HD 46, said it's time to get it over with already and urged Mrs. Dukes to accept the deal:
"The report of a new plea deal is further proof that House Representative Dawnna Dukes has committed several violations and is given the opportunity to do the right thing and protect her reputation as a representative and as a parent. We call on Dukes to be on the right side of history and accept the plea deal so the district can move forward in having proper representation."
Mercy. But then Monday got worse for her.

Translation from legal-ese: two of her lawyers no longer wish to defend her against her 13 felony charges. This document asks the presiding judge if they may be dismissed from future trial proceedings.

Mas triste, indeed -- roughly translated from a Spanish idiom for "even sadder than before."

"Expect a continuance," Nila warned.

UPDATE: (5:37 p.m. 8/1/17) DA's office reporting Dukes offer has expired as of 5 p.m. Trial will commence.

Monday, June 5, 2017

State Republican execs: We're not done, yet!

Short of calling for a special Texas legislative session, the State Republican Executive Committee voted to send this letter to Gov. Greg Abbott at its meeting on Saturday.

The Tracker found this letter to be an excellent summation of the 2016 Legislative Priorities (a list approved by state GOP delegates in convention) and how much of it was approved by the 85th Legislature. The second portion of the letter requests Gov. Abbott place the the Legislative Priorities that were not passed on the "call" for any special session.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Congratulations to James (or the difference 1 year can make)

Though Travis County Republican Party Chairman James Dickey's election as state chairman was by a razor-thin margin (32-31 this morning at the State Republican Executive Committee meeting) he is receiving a ton of congratulatory remarks. We would like to join that chorus by providing a brief perspective on what this victory means.


James Dickey was getting ready to preside over his final Executive Committee meeting on June 7, 2016. The new chairman term began on June 13, 2016. Party stalwarts were preparing to transfer assets and financial resources to a group "Friends of the Travis County Republican Party" and a steering committee to be headed by David Duncan was in formation to lead all operations of the party that were not given by law to the elected chairman. No one knew how this would play out, or that by the end of the summer Robert Morrow would be declared ineligible and removed. The mainstream media falsely predicted the "implosion" of the county party. Though undaunted, TCRP morale was at a low point.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Let's get a few things straight about the health of the Travis GOP

The proverbial bus.
Let's set a few things straight about the health of Travis GOP under recent leadership.

It has been inferred in the race for Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas that County Chairman James Dickey, one of two candidates vying for the position, led the Travis GOP into chaos.

All's fair in a race for state chairman, but let's not throw the hard work and dedication of some of the most passionate Republicans in the most liberal city in Texas under the proverbial bus. These hard-working conservatives who give of their time and treasure to fight against high odds in "the blueberry in the tomato soup" of Texas deserve better.

The Travis Tracker will not fire back at these individuals by naming names or quoting these persons verbatim. We have opted to focus on the accusations themselves.

1. Dickey lost seat to Robert Morrow (the "court jester") because Dickey did not campaign adequately or inspire enough volunteers to defend his incumbent status.

Bottom-line: Mr. Morrow had so awful a reputation among local conservatives that no one ever dreamed he would win the election. Out of an abundance of caution, Chairman Dickey commissioned a poll which showed Robert ahead by a comfortable margin -- a complete shock to anyone privy to this information. This gave Mr. Dickey a few weeks to campaign (sound familiar?). His campaign consisted of everything you would expect in a chairman's race, including lawn signs, plenty of TV and radio appearances, and lots of visits to clubs and various official meetings. Morrow, on the other hand, barely lifted a finger other than writing his personal email list.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

State Chairman James Dickey? It's now very possible (UPDATE: He's in)

Dickey, Ramsey, Figueroa
UPDATE (5/23/17): James Dickey has thrown his hat into the ring. Mark Ramsey issued a letter he will not seek election. Rick Figueroa sets up campaign page.

Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chairman Tom Mechler has announced his decision to step down from his office.

Travis GOP Chairman James Dickey, SREC member Mark Ramsey, and former candidate for RNC National Committeeman Rick Figueroa are names presumed to be in the running. Below is some background, followed by the text of Mechler's resignation letter.

The buzz surrounding Mechler's future started Thursday with a livestream of Raging Elephants Radio, citing anonymous sources who claimed Mechler was stepping down. Raging Elephants is not exactly warm and fuzzy with Mechler ever since being denied a media pass at the 2016 RPT convention (amid other criticisms), and basked in the news.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pedernales Co-op election could jolt entire electric market

Ohm sweet home.
What happens on the PEC board of directors doesn't just stay in your billing envelope. It has a ripple effect that extends well past the Pedernales River basin.

The Pedernales Electric Co-op (PEC) is the largest member-owned utility co-op in the nation. Even if your electric service provider is not PEC, it stands to reason that your company is paying close attention to them. With several consecutive rate decreases in a row and some innovative approaches to helping consumers watch their electric consumption, we're liking what we see from PEC's customer member-centered approach.

The candidates are as follows. Voting takes place from May 18 to June 17, 2017 (PEC co-op members only -- ballots to be delivered by mail and members may also vote in an upcoming annual meeting as well as online).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What's on your ballot? Travis GOP explains what's at stake May 6

The Travis GOP reminded its supporters this morning that today is the last day for early voting in the May Local Elections, with election day on Saturday, May 6. Below is their communique, explaining why this election is important, and including a handy chart outlying which jurisdictions are voting.

According to a recent analysis, Central Texas voters spread across several jurisdictions will be voting on around a billion dollars' worth of local bond debt proposals.

While this figure includes a few jurisdictions outside Travis County, and not everyone in Travis County can vote even in the contests within the county lines, it's apparent that we're going to have to pay VERY CLOSE ATTENTION to this election. If we fail to do so, the usual people who vote in these elections will make the decision -- union organizers and education bureaucrats, as two examples.

We have a chance to shift the balance. Read carefully ...

The following jurisdictions have elections: Bee Cave, Cedar Park, Lakeway, Pflugerville ISD, Round Rock, Round Rock ISD, West Lake Hills, Travis County Emergency Services Districts 9 and 14, and the yet-to-be-created MUDs 23, 24, and ESD 15. If you live in any of these jurisdictions, please cast your vote today or on Saturday.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Add ethics complaint to RRISD bond opposition

We already know that the Round Rock ISD tops the list of over a billion dollars' worth of bond proposals in Central Texas. But financial extravagance isn't the only reason opponents are shouting "Vote No!"

See below for a grassroots-written press release concerning a press conference scheduled for noon on the last day of early voting (emphasis ours).

Press Release - Opposition to Round Rock ISD Bonds
1-May-2017 -- Austin, TX: 
Grassroots individuals and groups will hold a rally/press conference against the Unaffordable, Wasteful and Dishonest Round Rock ISD $572 million Bonds on the last day of early voting. There may be a new Ethics Complaint unveiled against an illegal campaign mail piece from the professional, corporately funded pro-Bond S-PAC, and there are new revelations about WHO IS FUNDING the slick pro-Bond campaign. 
What: Press Conference and Rally against Round Rock ISD Bond, Introduced by Pat McGuinness, Round Rock Parents/Taxpayers
When: Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017) at 12:00 PM (noon)
Where: 1111 N Interstate Hwy 35, Round Rock, TX 78664 ( Round Rock Leader News Offices)
Why: New grassroots opposition to Bond, new Ethics complaint against illegal pro-Bond activity funded by out of town corporations hoping to profit off wasteful Bonds.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pelosi 'has a lot of nerve' promoting Obamacare on hospital campus

Friends in low places.
Nancy Pelosi walks into a bar. An Austin bar, it happens. Last night, with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and other liberal leaders.

That's not a joke as Austin has become quite the ATM for lefty politicians with its high concentration of "limousine liberals." [Update: She's here as part of a Georgetown University alumni event.]

But what is surprising is her choice of venue the following morning. According to the Travis County GOP, U.S. Rep. Pelosi (D-Calif.) is scheduled to speak at the Dell Seton Medical Center's Clinical Education Center on the Brackenridge hospital campus as we write this (10 a.m.). Travis GOP's press release says it all:
... "First do no harm" is the primary rule of medicine.  
This is why the Travis County Republican Party finds it odd that Congressional minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would want to be anywhere near the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas considering all the harm that was done by Obamacare. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

$75 city rebate for a chicken coop? We suspect fowl play

Why the City of Austin is offering $75 per person in taxpayer money to help prospective urban farmers buy chicken coops seems strange when chickens are already in heavy demand. We at the Tracker can't resist a good mystery, and decided to scratch around for an answer.

There is no shortage of demand for backyard chickens in Austin. Chickens are hot. Everyone's peckish for farm-fresh eggs. There's even a popular documentary on Netflix featuring those who keep chickens as pets.

So incentivizing chicken ownership can't be the goal of this rebate. What else is there?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Natives getting restless about $1 billion in proposed local bond debt

Hat's off to our friends at Texas Insider for pointing out this development from the Comptroller:
The [Comptroller's] updated page includes information for about 70 local bond elections, ranging from a $1.8 million bond election for the Chico school district to a $737.5 million bond package for the Lewisville school district. Local elections will be held on May 6. [...] 
The Comptroller’s office also released the Debt-at-a-Glance tool with updated debt totals and trends for Texas cities, counties, school districts and community college districts.
With that, word has been spreading lately of some gargantuan local debt proposals brought forth by the Hays and the Round Rock ISDs. We thought we'd use the Comptroller's new debt-finding tool and the perennial listing of bond proposals and see what Austin-area taxpayers may be on the hook for should these items pass. See below -- it appears Central Texas voters will have nearly a billion-dollars' worth of proposals to sift through.

As always, if we missed anything or you have a differing opinion than what is being presented, please make use of our comments section.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bobcats beware: Faculty brownshirts lurking about on social media

Mwrawr ...
It's not easy being a college student these days. At least when intolerant leftist radicals are in faculty positions -- in which case the job you have to work to pay for ever-increasing tuition and fees is in jeopardy if you dare step out of line in regard to liberal orthodoxy.

The following article from Leadership Institute's Campus Reform site relays a situation at Texas State University where a Texas Public Policy Foundation employee and Bobcat was tattled on at work by a college instructor for a simple Facebook argument. But it didn't end there: a student who merely "liked" said posts was targeted for "hate speech," as well.
[Texas State Instructor Elizabeth] Bishop contended in [a telephone] call that [Alexander] Morrissette had made a disparaging Facebook post about her, but refused to provide details on what the post said. The employee who answered the call said she would talk to Morrissette about his Facebook habits, and Bishop hung up the phone shortly thereafter. 
Seemingly unsatisfied with [Texas Public Policy] Foundation’s response, as Morrissette said they “laughed the ordeal off,” Bishop set her sights on an anonymous Texas State student who had “liked” several of Morrissette’s comments. 
Bishop allegedly called the university department where the student works and requested they investigate her and her “associates” for “hate speech,” and further demanded that the student be removed from her leadership positions on campus.
Read more: http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=9002

We've been told that Ms. Bishop is the same instructor who has called for boycotts of campus police for offering self-defense classes (a culture of violence, perhaps?), and frequently advocates for the divestiture of funds from companies that do business with Israel. Her Texas State faculty profile indicates a fascination with the same type of "anti-colonialism" that marked the Barack Obama Administration's regrettable foreign policy.

And, yes, your tax dollars are paying this.

Ever had a situation like this happen to you in class? Share it in the comments below.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Delicious irony: 'Mayor of all the brisket' once voted to destroy Austin's BBQ scene

Austin nearly trimmed off the very soul of its foodie identity two years ago.

The City Council veered searingly close to banning restaurants that produce smoke in residential areas. Of course, that means barbecue and all its smoky, hazy goodness.

Councilman member human Pio Renteria, at the request of NIMBY complainers, attempted to ban charcoal or wood burning grills from 100 feet of property zoned residential. In other words, bye-bye Franklin's and most of Austin's 'cue establishments (or raise gobs of money to pay for smoke-scrubbing technology). This strict requirement was never enacted -- despite an affirmative vote from Mayor Steve Adler and other free market meddlers.

Our friend Adam Cahn pointed out an irony: When Franklin's was recently ranked lower than (*gasp!) the Salt Lick in a magazine's ranking, Mayor Adler rushed in to equivocate, crowning himself "mayor of all the brisket ..." and crowing about barbecue being "widely available in such huge quantities in this magical city."

Adam has more on the smoke-and-mirrors here: http://acahnman.blogspot.com/2017/03/adler-tries-to-promote-thing-he-tried.html

Travis Republicans create blue ribbon task force to avenge Brad's Wife

Location of Sunday's meeting
It's the shock-scandal that's sweeping the Internet. And Travis County Republicans are more determined than their Democrat opponents to get to the bottom of mystery that's tougher to crack than those triangular table-top peg puzzles no one seems to be able to actually solve.

The Travis County Board of Executive Steering Republican Chairmen voted unanimously this morning to create the #JusticeforBradsWife Committee.

For those not familiar, here's the backstory and why conservatives ought to be very concerned: