Republican Party of Texas Gets One Right
TCR says "hats off" to the state GOP and Chair Tina Benkiser for putting key issues on the March 2006 GOP primary ballot.
Now scheduled for referendum: appraisal caps, revenue caps, eminent domain and photo identification required prior to voting.
It's your chance to vote on issues that can control spending and cut taxes: sounds good to TCR, so don't forget to vote!
"All Politics Is Local" - Why Conservatives Must Pay Attention To Local GOP Officials
You all have heard the saying "All politics is local" and it's true. Local officials, including judges, are the closest contact voters will have with the government.
One of the things we have sold voters on is entrust us with the courts and we will be fair, efficient, and hard working. If we start letting those promises slip, we will begin to lose the courthouse. Of course, what happens in the courthouse soon affects what happens in Austin and D.C.
One way that a majority party stays entrenched is to periodically prune out those who no longer deliver, especially when there is an alternative that would be a major improvement.
In 2006, in Harris County there is an emerging example. A test whether we can upgrade so the GOP can continue to provide fair, effective, and hard working courts. Since our judges often ride together, they are only as strong as our weakest link.
Some are opposed to primary challenges of sitting office holders, but at times it is necessary so we can maintain our qualitative edge over "the other party."
In Harris County Probate Court No. 4 incumbent William McCulloch is being challenged by Probate Court No. 3 Master Georgia Akers. This race is a test of whether the GOP can upgrade where necessary.
When reviewing a courts performance there are a number of indicators of performance: (1) cases disposed of, (2) the number of attorneys appointed on appointed cases, (3) the promptness with final rulings, (4) the time the average case takes to be disposed of, and (5) number of open cases on a court's docket.
Probate Court No. 4 under current Judge McCulloch is dead last of all the Probate Courts in every key category.
Most appallingly are the long delays and big backlog in a court where families are often eager to probate a will and obtain distribution of estate funds that are often critical to them.
Probate Court #4
2005 Case docket
(as of July 2005)
3,253 - 611 more than the average number of cases in the other three probate courts.
Appointed Lawyer Use
(24 month period)
Only 12 attorneys received 77% of the fees awarded while the other probate courts have an average of 200 lawyers on their appointee list and rotate through the entire list.
Promptness of Final Rulings
Takes under advisement and the decision may be weeks or months before being announced.
Other probate judges consistently rule from the bench the day of the hearing.
Average Case Dispositions
34% of the contested cases are over two years old, while the average number of cases this old in the other combined probate courts is under 20%.
Number of Open Cases
3,253 (19% more than the average probate court as of July, 2005).
In contrast, his opponent, Judge Akers, has a long record of accomplishments in the Probate law field and as Mental Health Master for Probate Court No. 3, where she has personally disposed of 429 cases over the last 18 months. In the court she serves, over 200 attorneys are appointed on cases and her reputation is one of the hardest working Masters in the courthouse.
A majority party should be always willing to upgrade, thus in 2006, this is the test. Can we do what we need to do to stay in control or do we just let things go downhill, so over time our reputation sinks until finally the voters decide to try another party? (which is what usually happens.)
Harris County Probate Court No. 4 is both a test and an opportunity for us. TCR will keep you posted on the rest of the story in March 2006.
Why New Orleans Will Never Be Rebuilt
As A Major American City
By Bud Schauerte, Contributing Editor
Some communities in and around New Orleans and Orleans Parish are returning to life, repopulating, and making progress toward becoming productive remnants of a once great city. More than $100 billion of Federal and Louisiana state disaster assistance plus property insurance indemnifications, earmarked for rebuilding the city and parish, may have guaranteed this outcome at least for the short term if not for the long.
Communities which sustain natural disasters always gain instant public sympathy and abundant public and private financial support. But disaster victims soon learn that surviving on the magnanimity of others usually wears thin with the public and becomes a short-lived experience. What New Orleans needs to survive and prosper, and which the city has not minimally acquired, is the commitment from private sector business enterprise that they will invest, employ, rebuild and aggressively pursue business activities as usual.
Everyone understands that the devastation in August and September, caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, exposed disturbing frailties in the city's and parish's levee and flood control systems. Since the storms breached the levees almost four months ago, only rudimentary repairs have been done to protect the city from the Gulf's waters. What is more, examination of the levees and floodwalls indicate a history of inadequate maintenance.
And questions persist about the capability and willingness of New Orleans and Orleans Parish officials to win back the public's confidence in their abilities to govern.
Here is how The New Orleans Times-Picayune, the home town newspaper, in November described the local government: "The city's crazy quilt of elected offices was duplicative, wasteful and patronage-ridden in the best of times. And now in the post Katrina world with a shrunken city population (down from 469,000 to about 100,000 or the size of Abilene, Texas) and pinched financial resources, the bloated system must be liposuctioned."
The "bloated system", referred to by the publication, includes 24 Levee Control Boards, two elected sheriffs of Orleans Parish, seven elected Orleans Parish tax assessors, and a multi-tiered court system which includes 12 sections of criminal courts and 14 divisions of civil courts, according to The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Add to these extravagances the recent discovery by the FBI that up to 700 so-called "members of the New Orleans police force" simply did not exist. Funding for many of these phantom officers was provided by the Federal government. An FBI spokesman commented that: "Further investigation indicates that these posts had never been manned and that the funds supposedly paid in wages have disappeared."
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin explained: "Sure we overstated the number of officers on the force. We did this to deter crime." Nagin's strategy has not been effective, according to John Semmens, writer for The Arizona Conservative newspaper: "The effectiveness of Nagin's strategy is in doubt since New Orleans has one of the highest crime rates per capita (9.7 per 1,000 persons) in the nation," he writes.
All profitable business ventures, operating in any part of the nation and dealing with all products and services, have two common characteristics: Firstly, they readily accept the inevitable risks coincidental with business enterprise but will assiduously avoid risks which could destroy the company. And, secondly, they oppose establishing plants and offices in communities where taxes on business are the primary sources of government revenue.
On either criterion, New Orleans and Orleans Parish fail to qualify as good places to establish and grow a business.
The unique geography of the Mississippi delta area indicates that New Orleans and environs already are 2.4 to 3.0 meters below mean sea level and still subsiding at the rate of one centimeter per year. What prudent business owner would invest in property and equipment and ask employees and their families to live in a city without an assurance of flood protection and already made toxic from polluted floodwaters.
Near bankruptcy and with no tax base, the City of New Orleans has been forced to lay off some 6,000 city employees. Most elected officials, however, continue to receive compensation from a city reduced in population to about one-fourth its pre-Katrina size.
The flooding washed away half of the city's 115,000 businesses and left homeowners facing six-figure repair bills for 100,000 flooded and rotting houses. Without property and sales taxes to draw upon, where can local governments be expected to impose new taxes except on business enterprise.
The physical and financial collapse of New Orleans and Orleans Parish would appear to be an opportunity for long-overdue and wide ranging civic reform. But even if that were possible, given the entrenched social structure and profligate spending habits of city government, is star-crossed New Orleans worth the money and long-term effort to save it?
Bud Schauerte, is an independent insurance agent in Austin, Texas and a free-lance writer. Schauerte served as Federal Insurance Administrator in the Federal Emergency Management Administration under former President George Bush and he is a contributing editor for TCR.
Palestinian Acts Tells Why The U.S. Should End All
The Palestinian Football Association plans to punish players under its jurisdiction for participating alongside Israelis in a "Peace Match" in Barcelona, an official said recently.
"The Palestinian Football Association will form a committee to investigate the players who participated in the match…everyone involved will be punished," senior FA official Jamal Zaqout said.
Fifteen Israelis and 12 Palestinians from the West Bank joined up for the match sponsored by the Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian Abu Sukar Center.
What else can TCR say? The Palestinians do not seem to be interested in building bridges for peace and cooperation. How can Israel be asked to take risks for peace under these ridiculous circumstances?
The View From The Middle East:
Defeat In Iraq Not An Option
TCR has just returned from a mission to Israel with key Texas legislative leaders. While there, the group met with government, NGO, and military officials. They all feel if the U.S. does not finish what it started in Iraq, the Middle East situation will deteriorate and the war on Islamic terror will suffer a major setback. President Bush is correct, we need to pursue a victory by defeating the Islam-fascist terrorists there and now.
There He Goes Again - ADL's Foxman After Christian Conservatives Again
As long-time readers may recall, in 1993 TCR's editor joined many other conservatives at The New York Times, defying the Anti-Defamation League's assault on Christian conservatives in a book published back then.
Well here we go again. ADL Director Abe Foxman is on the prowl again, this time replaying some of the tired old times and Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians are asking, what gives? In simple terms, Foxman is hostile to most of the evangelical Christian political agenda, family, life, freedom, sanctity of marriage, etc. Fortunately, Foxman does not speak for the vast majority of Jewish Americans who understand that people of faith in America need to stand together. Maybe Foxman should try that idea on for size.
COMING - (Friday, December 30 at 8 pm) to Channel 8 PBS in Houston, Texas - the connection - Red, White & Blue featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones. The guest is Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman. And coming soon Rick Noriega, Attorney General Greg Abbott, radio superstar Edd Hendee, Governor Rick Perry and many more.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently 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 ninth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last four years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant and can be reached at (713) 621-6335.
Tune in Thursday
Nights - Houston Warner Cable channel 17 at 6:30 PM for Texas Politics-The Real Deal
with co-hosts David Jones and Gary Polland, awarded Cable T.V. personalities of the year by the Houston Press.