As conservatives, we should be involved in non-partisan elections. This year in the Houston City Elections, conservatives were the main battleground and were instrumental in victories and runoff candidates success. TCR, as a public service, sent out a questionnaire of ten questions related to fiscal issues and public safety. Based on the results, TCR endorsed or editorialized about the choices and mailed and emailed the results. Eight of the nine candidates endorsed by TCR were victorious, four won outright (Clutterbuck, Bradford, Sullivan, and Pennington) and four are in runoffs (Khan, Stardig, Christie, and Costello) and the mayoral candidates with top grades, Morales and Parker, got a combined 51.29% of the vote. All of which proves that our votes matter and candidates, regardless of party in a non-partisan election, want our votes. This creates an opportunity to encourage fiscal conservatism and advance our common sense agenda. There is a runoff coming on December 12th and yes, you should vote for the most fiscally conservative candidates running and there are differences. TCR in a future mailing and email edition will make recommendations and comments on those choices.
GOP Leaders Say No Way To Public Defenders System in Harris County
HCRP leadership recently passed a resolution rejecting the expensive and unnecessary bureaucratic and costly hybrid public defender system for indigent defense in Harris County pushed by the liberal editorial pages of the Houston Chronicle and Democrats Rodney Ellis and Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. The message to GOP candidates and officeholders: stay away from this idea to grow government and spend more taxpayers money at the same time the rest of County government is under a hiring freeze and budget limitations.
A Public Defenders Office:
A Solution in Search of a Problem
by Court Koenning
OK, I admit it. I'm guilty. But I bet I'm not alone. I'm guilty of being one of the many who don't see the wisdom in the County's new hybrid Public Defenders Office. Now, I must also admit, I'm not a lawyer or judge, but I am a good listener and someone who does his research. I think that perspective gives me the opportunity to have an independent view.
Proponents of the new Public Defenders Office contend this system will reduce overcrowding in the jail as those who are arrested can be processed quicker. This argument suggests our criminal court judges coupled with the district attorney's office are not processing cases as quickly as they should or the present system doesn't give defendants the opportunity via an attorney to get released quickly. If that's the case then we need turn our attention to those judges and the DA's office and have them called onto the proverbial carpet in the next election. However, I contend the judges and the District Attorney are doing a great jobs. Adding a public defender's office in and of itself will not reduce jail overcrowding.
It has also been argued judges are now only appointing indigent defense counsel from a select few of the judge's friends and supporters. But the present system has hundreds of qualified and experienced attorneys who are appointed. A hybrid public defender's office does nothing to fix this. Under the plan, judges could simply opt out in favor of the traditional way of appointing lawyers or spread cases between attorneys and public defenders.
Here are some facts to consider. Currently, appointed private lawyers have to pay for their own staff, overhead, retirement, medical benefits and computers. Under this new plan, we, the taxpayers, will have to pay for offices for these public defenders, their staff, their computers, their copiers, their phones, their parking, etc. etc. A new government agency that would rival the size of the District Attorney's office with the efficiency you would expect from the government. Moreover, at the District Attorney's office you can hold that elected official accountable for the office's operation and effectiveness. The judge who currently appoints indigent counsel has to stand for election. If they aren't handling their cases appropriately then we can vote them out. At the new Public Defender's Office, the responsible person would be some unelected bureaucrat. Taxpayers would have no recourse except to pay considerable more than the present system costs. Ready for higher property taxes anyone?
To see how a Public Defender's Office would work here in conservative Harris County one would only need to look at liberal San Francisco. San Francisco's officials have had to take an unconventional conservative stance as caseloads and budgets are ballooning. According to the San Francisco Examiner "public defenders represent more than 28,000 defendants, each handling a caseload that is two to three times what a private attorney would reasonable be expected to manage." The caseloads and budget cuts have forced the San Francisco Public Defender's office to... wait for this... outsource cases to private attorneys. Which is the present Harris County system.
The hybrid Public Defenders Office here reminds me of the traditional arguments when the government evaluates a pilot program. If it works, proponents will come back and say "see it works, we need to expand it and we need more money." If it doesn't work they will say "see it doesn't work because we didn't have enough money."
Nothing the government undertakes can be done better than the product the private sector can produce. Would you favor government health care over private health care? I doubt it. And God forbid if you are ever in need of court appointed counsel I bet you'll pray for a private attorney over a government one.
A Public Defender's Office here is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. A problem I'm sure we will find in the years ahead.
Court Koenning is the owner of Koenning Consulting, a full service public relations and marketing consulting firm based in Houston. Prior to starting his own company, Mr. Koenning was the Executive Director of the Harris County Republican Party. Court has served as Chief of Staff for Senator Dan Patrick the last two sessions. Court has previously worked for US Senator Phil Gramm, served on US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's first campaign and was the Special Advisor to then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn.
State Democratic Party Chair Editorial Histrionics
by Jared Woodfill
State Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie's continuing attacks on Leo Vasquez and Paul Bettencourt are reaching hysterical levels even for a political "hit" piece editorial. His Saturday November 7th diatribe tries to make our former and current Republican Tax Assessor-Collectors the aggressors in his constant, "twisting of the truth", to use his words, assault on Harris County's Voter Registration System that successfully registered a record number of voters, 1.963 million, in last year's 2008 Presidential Election.
Mr. Richie charges that both of these good public servants went to the press to claim nothing was done wrong before the ink was dry on a settlement, which when read, proves that his own claims are baseless. The current Tax Assessor-Collector, Leo Vasquez, had to respond to Democrat attacks that started at 12:53pm by the George Soros funded Lone Star Project group on the day the settlement was signed, and then continued with a press release by Mr. Richie himself on October 30th! The former Tax Assessor-Collector, Paul Bettencourt, only requested and received a correction on a news story and an editorial on the subject November 3rd by the editors of the Houston Chronicle. What he corrected was local Democratic Party Chair, Gerry Birnberg, saying that "70,000 rejections" of voter registration applications in Harris County took place in 2008. The real number was only 3,518 and that means Mr. Birnberg told the Houston Chronicle repeatedly a figure that was 20 times higher than reality.
What's even more amazing is that Mr. Birnberg continues to claim this figure is true even though the Houston Chronicle has published in the newspaper and posted this correction of fact online for all to see. Just this past weekend he made this claim on PBS Television's Red, White, and Blue program where he was roundly criticized by myself and a co-host for not making a factual statement.
I have read the Resolution Agreement between the Democrats and the County and none of it applies to any events in 2008. The Democrat County Attorney's office describes it as a "go forward" agreement and they are right. Not a single number, statistic, or figure of any type appears in the document, and you can see it for yourself at www.hctax.net in the press release archive of the tax office.
Therefore, not one claim Mr. Richie uses with his "statistics" is backed up in writing by the document he signed personally! Talk about who's the spin doctor here! If everything he claims occurred, why didn't he insist it be included in his own Resolution Agreement? If his claims "required by law", "illegal rejection", or "sometimes illegal practices" were true, why didn't he continue the lawsuit?
The fact of the matter is the State Democratic Party Chair's wild claims are not true. As accurately described in Paul Bettencourt's editorial of Friday November 6th, the voter registration system worked exceptionally well in 2008. This fact was proven when the only judicial election contest, Pierre vs. Halbach, was thrown out of court by a visiting judge because "not a scintilla of evidence" existed to support the Democratic challenger's lawsuit. This same plaintiff, Mr. Pierre, is a part of the recent settlement as well, so why don't these Democrats just admit the truth "and go away", to paraphrase his final attack in the editorial on Mr. Bettencourt.
Mr. Richie, why don't you just go back to Austin unless you can produce a definitive list of thousands of Harris County voters that were denied their right to vote in this election? The Resolution Agreement you signed doesn't have one, the year's worth of discovery in the case didn't find one, and your continued propagandized statements can't conjure up one either. Until you submit a list of thousands of voters that had real problems in this election process that can be verified by election officials, stop desperately trying to tear down our Tax Assessor-Collectors and hardworking voter registration department personnel of both parties in this county.
Jared Woodfill is the Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.
TCR on the Air
Red, White & Blue, featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones on Houston PBS Channel 8. Next up: Runoff Election Mayoral & City Council Candidates. Coming soon: Kathy Whitmire in a rare TV appearance, and the post City of Houston Election Show. As a new fun feature, visit Red, White & Blue on the Houston PBS website, where you can see after-show commentary about the show and its guests by Gary and David.
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 twelfth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last seven years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.