The Houston City Council, except for a few true fiscal conservatives: Oliver Pennington, Michael Kubosh, and David Martin, are on a spending spre, jacking up the budget for non-core spending, like after school care, all while neglecting public safety and infrastructure and continuing its archaic pension policies. The budget is up over last year and now is estimated at $5.2 billion.
Taxpayers Get Double Whammy From HISD
And Other School Districts
The declining enrollment in the largest school district in the Houston area has a new present for taxpayers. On top of the approximate 17% increase in appraised values for homeowners, last year HISD added 3 cents to the tax rate to "fund operating expenses," and this year the district is looking to add another 1 or 2 cent tax hike! With all this extra money, are we making progress in educating our children? Not if you look at test scores and the dropout rate.
What do we call someone who continues to spend more money on a solution that doesn't work? CRAZY.
Acceleration Of Obama Foreign Policy Disasters
For months now it seems the foreign policy of President Obama (and Hillary Clinton) is in free fall.
A quick review: In September 2013, Obama's red line about chemical weapons in Syria was abandoned and he cut a toothless deal that has faded and changed. In October 2013, Obama agreed to dispose of sanctions against Iran in exchange for talking (and now making little or no progress) on the critical nuclear weapons issue. For months, Obama and Kerry were futilely working on an Israel-Palestine peace treaty, which went nowhere. In April and May, Russia invaded parts of the Ukraine and Obama talked. Last month in the midst of a scandal, Obama traded 5 Taliban leaders for a U.S. soldier who was either AWOL or a deserter. And last week, Iraq lost a number of its significant cities to Al Qaeda affiliated ISIS, which is led by a 2009 releasee from Guantanamo by Obama. The story, of course, is developing.
It seems to us that if you were to design a foreign policy on the theory that retreat from victory is a good idea, you would find it in the current clueless White House. Of course, there is another explanation, America's retreat is all part of a plan to make the U.S. a second-rate power.
Change Of Leadership At
Harris County Republican Party
Paul Simpson has finally taken over as HCRP Chair after his election in March. Early on, there are a few troubling developments. First, one of Paul's agents is circulating a fundraising letter seeking money from officeholders and candidates, which Paul said he would not do but apparently changed his mind, correctly we might add. In addition, the letter slams the prior Chair and claims we have failed as a party in the last three cycles, which is not true and not helpful.
The truth is as follows: Jared Woodfill led the party to four out of six countywide sweeps. In 2010, we experienced the best election cycle in the history of the HCRP, electing the first Republican ever to serve as Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner (Jack Morman), sweeping all countywide races by record margins, and outpolling the Democrats by over 50,000 straight-ticket votes. In 2012, all of our incumbents won and we picked up seven new seats while establishing a record straight-ticket Republican vote of over 404,000, to be fair, an outstanding record.
So instead of continuing to have his predecessor trashed by his agents, Chairman Simpson needs to instruct his team to build on past success, reach out to all parts of the party to come together, and above all, to be positive.
Success in 2014 requires all of us working together, and these early petty attacks are harmful to the cause.
City Of Houston Misses Opportunity
To Make Tough Choices
By Oliver Pennington, Houston City Councilman
On Wednesday, June 18th, Houston City Council debated and voted on the City of Houston budget for Fiscal Year 2015. The week prior to the vote, I submitted three budget amendments in response to the Mayor's budget and its projected $141 million budget deficit: the first would reduce the budget by 3.5% which amounts to almost $70 million (almost half of the forecast deficit), the second would be an alternative to the first and would reduce the budget by 2.5% amounting to $50 million in cuts, and the third would require that all revenues above projected amounts must be dedicated to the fund balance and not be spent this year. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that any revenues that are received above budget projections cannot be used for new spending. Council Member Martin and I offered this similar amendment capping spending during last year's budget process which passed by a 13-3 margin and has kept the reins on spending this past year to a certain extent.
In the week leading up to the vote, I publicly called on my colleagues on Council to support those amendments to begin addressing our serious financial problems and to return our great city to a path of financial health and fiscal responsibility. It was an opportunity for all of us on City Council to show some grit and make the tough decisions for the sake of our city's future.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The spending cuts were not made and the $5.2 billion budget was passed by a vote of 13-3 with only Council Members Martin and Kubosh joining me in voting against. I am disappointed that we missed the opportunity to do the right thing. I'm even more disappointed that the vote wasn't even close.
The Mayor's projections show that we will have serious cash flow problems next year unless financial conditions change and that we may be forced to make draconian employee reductions to pay our monthly bills.
In a recent article, "A Time for Tough Choices" (www.oliverpennington.com), I stated, "We taxpaying citizens must live within our means and I believe that it is reasonable to expect our government to do the same. The city of Detroit provides a perfect example of the financial disaster that can result when a city and its leaders do not have the will to make tough decisions and live within its means. I have faith though, because we are not Detroit. We are Houston and we can do better."
I believe this now more than ever-but we must start immediately, before it is too late.
Oliver Pennington is serving his third term on Houston City Council representing the citizens of District G. Oliver is a native of the Houston area and a graduate of Clear Creek ISD, Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law. Prior to his election to Houston City Council, Oliver was a partner with the Houston law firm Fulbright & Jaworski where he specialized on municipal issues, including: municipal finance, municipal law, municipal utility law, environmental law, and administrative law. Oliver is an announced candidate for the mayor of Houston in the November 2015 election. Oliver can be reached by e-mail at oliver@OliverPennington.com or by phone at 713-640-5165.
The Middle East Decoded In 5 Minutes Or Less
By Dennis Prager
TCR Comment: Dennis Prager, the brilliant talk radio host, is an expert on the Middle East and in the short paper to follow lays out the history and nature of the problem in 5 minutes of reading time! Clear and compelling, it's worth your time. Dennis can be found on the Salem Broadcasting Network, 1070 AM Houston, and on the web at dennisprager.com.
When I did my graduate studies at the Middle East Institute at Columbia University's School of International Affairs, I took many courses on the question of the Middle East conflict.
Semester after semester, we studied the Middle East conflict as if it was the most complex conflict in the world - when in fact, it is probably the easiest conflict in the world to explain. It may be the hardest to solve, but it is the easiest to explain.
In a nutshell, it is this: One side wants the other side dead.
Israel wants to exist as a Jewish state and to live in peace. Israel also recognizes the right of Palestinians to have their own state and to live in peace. The problem, however, is that most Palestinians and many other Muslims and Arabs, do not recognize the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist.
This has been true since 1947, when the United Nations voted to divide the land called Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state.
The Jews accepted the United Nations partition but no Arab or any other Muslim country accepted it.
When British rule ended on May 15, 1948, the armies of all the neighboring Arab states - Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, and Egypt - attacked the one-day old state of Israel in order to destroy it.
But, to the world's surprise, the little Jewish state survived.
Then it happened again. In 1967, the dictator of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, announced his plan, in his words, "to destroy Israel." He placed Egyptian troops on Israel's border, and armies of surrounding Arab countries were also mobilized to attack. However, Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and Syria.
Israel did not attack Jordan, and begged Jordan's king not to join the war. But he did. And only because of that did Israel take control of Jordanian land, specifically the 'West Bank' of the Jordan River.
Shortly after the war, the Arab states went to Khartoum, Sudan and announced their famous three No's: "No recognition, no peace, and no negotiations."
What was Israel supposed to do?
Well, one thing Israel did, a little more than a decade later, in 1978, was to give the entire Sinai Peninsula - an area of land bigger than Israel itself, and with oil - back to Egypt because Egypt, under new leadership, signed a peace agreement with Israel.
So, Israel gave land for the promise of peace with Egypt, and it has always been willing to do the same thing with the Palestinians. All the Palestinians have ever had to do is recognize Israel as a Jewish state and promise to live in peace with it.
But when Israel has proposed trading land for peace - as it did in 2000 when it agreed to give the Palestinians a sovereign state in more than 95% of the West Bank and all of Gaza - the Palestinian leadership rejected the offer, and instead responded by sending waves of suicide terrorists into Israel.
Meanwhile, Palestinian radio, television, and school curricula remain filled with glorification of terrorists, demonization of Jews, and the daily repeated message that Israel should cease to exist.
So it's not hard to explain the Middle-East dispute. One side wants the other dead. The motto of Hamas, the Palestinian rulers of Gaza, is: "We love death as much as the Jews love life."
There are 22 Arab states in the world - stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. There is one "Jewish State" in the world. And it is about the size of New Jersey. In fact, tiny El Salvador is larger than Israel.
Finally, think about these two questions: If, tomorrow, Israel laid down its arms and announced, "We will fight no more," what would happen? And if the Arab countries around Israel laid down their arms and announced "We will fight no more," what would happen?
In the first case there would be an immediate destruction of the state of Israel and the mass murder of its Jewish population. In the second case, there would be peace the next day.
As I said at the outset, it is a simple problem to describe: one side wants the other dead - and if it didn't, there would be peace.
Please remember this: There has never been a state in the geographic area known as Palestine that was not Jewish. Israel is the third Jewish state to exist in that area. There was never an Arab state, never a Palestinian state, never a Muslim or any other state.
That's the issue: why can't the one Jewish state the size of El Salvador be allowed to exist? That is the Middle-East problem.
TCR on the Air
Red, White & Blue featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland, liberal commentator David Jones and moderator Linda Lorelle on Fridays at 7:30 pm on PBS Houston Channel 8.1, replaying Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 8.1, Mondays at 11:30 pm on Channel 8.2 and on the web at www.houstonpbs.org.
John Barr, Author, Loathing Lincoln.
Scott Anderson, Author, Lawrence In Arabia.
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About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his fifteenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last thirteen years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. As a public service for the last 11 years, Gary has published election guides for the GOP primary, general elections and city elections, all with the purpose of assisting conservative candidates. Gary is also in his 13th year of co-hosting Red, White and Blue on PBS Houston, longest running political talk show in Texas history. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.