Friday, December 21, 2012

Grapevine, not Fort Worth, says WTH??

Kudos to Grapevine for pushing for answers before committing to blow OUR money.  We can only hope they won’t be bought into selling us all out.

Questions all cities involved should be asking is WHERE does the money come from?

Keep in mind a federal grant is still YOUR money.  And we don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Feds are broke too.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Grapevine’s integrity vote.

A plan spearheaded by the North Central Texas Council of Governments to extend passenger rail service from southwest Fort Worth to Plano hit a snag in Grapevine this week.

The Grapevine City Council is not yet ready to support the plan -- or even to sign an agreement asking the council of governments to work on it, a requirement under state law if the project is to move forward.

The council balked for good reason. Council members decided that they did not have enough information, City Manager Bruno Rumbelow said in a Thursday interview.

The Grapevine-to-Plano segment depends on funding from a private entity, which would then take a share of revenue generated by development around stations along the line.

That last part stumped the Grapevine council, Rumbelow said. The council wants to know more about how the finance mechanism would work and to determine whether it might drain development revenue that otherwise would come to the city.

That's important information. The council was wise to withhold its support until it gets answers.

Read more here: Grapevine balks at rail project's lack of specifics

In what universe?

Does the Fort Worth Star-Telegram write a column that calls out elected and appointed officials spending millions without anyone knowing what’s really going on?  It could have only been better if they were talking about TRV…if you read between the lines, it reads like they are.  There are so many things wrong with these projects, it would take days to point them all out.  YOU need to read this.  These secrets could cost YOU more than you know.

And no surprise, NCTCOG is right in the center, again.  WHO gave them the money they operate with?  WHO gave them any power?

Thanks to the FWST for joining the party.  Better late than never.

Be sure and read the comments… YOUR kids can’t afford for you not to. Here was one of our favorites -

"Government Gone Wild" is the only way to describe what the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is doing.

Read more here: Private rail initiative gets $100 million in public money

All roads lead to …

Your pocket.  And your rights, or lack thereof.

Several interesting articles in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as of late.  Seems like they are finally starting to pay attention to what is going on with our roads.

First was the NTTA article by the FW Watchdog.

The NTTA is circulating a draft of its proposed bill for the 2013 Legislature. The Watchdog asked NTTA for a copy, but the authority declined. Instead, The Watchdog obtained a draft from another source.

I can exclusively report details of what may be seen by some as NTTA's leap above and beyond basic constitutional rights. Others, wanting violators to pay up, will see the proposed system as a way to offer violators a chance to tell their side of the story.

When I think of an NTTA-operated court, legendary Judge Roy Bean's courtroom in Langtry comes to mind: "Do you have anything to say before we find you guilty?"

The bill gives NTTA even more power than it already has. For instance, a guilty toll debtor must either pay the debt, fines and penalties or else satisfy "the authority in its sole discretion." That's pretty open-ended.

The Watchdog asks: Is the NTTA competent enough to create its own judiciary?

We all know the answer to that but Lieber gives you three examples.  Read them all, cause YOU could be next.

Right on, Clyde

Clyde sent us a copy of his letter that he sent to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  Too bad the big city folks don’t read…

Water is one of the most important issues having a bearing on our future. The Tarrant Regional Water District is on one hand engaged in obtaining water by court action and on the other maximizing gas drilling on TRWD property and using copious amounts of water. The second priority seems to be economic development.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments and member cities should lobby the Legislature to eliminate fiefdoms like TRWD and create a metropolitan water district serving north central Texas that is wholly engaged in providing an adequate water supply for the future.

The Fort Worth City Council is making a mockery of the code of ethics. Members are doing nothing less than writing themselves a free pass to avoid public censure. A major conflict of interest occurs when the city attorney, who is hired, fired and given pay raises by the council, is the one who rules on ethical conduct.

A code of ethics encompasses more than just conflict of interest, it addresses moral standards as well. If it doesn't look right to the public, it isn't right. Without impartial committee selection and adjudication of ethical conduct, the council is violating the public trust.

-- Clyde Picht, Fort Worth

WHAT Senators?

A letter in the FW Star-Telegram makes a valid point.  Does Texas have Senators?

Texas senators

The recent letter by Herman Morris about Texas' U.S. senators was in error. 

Texas has no senators. We do have two people in Washington, but the man represents the Republican Party and the woman represents herself

-- Don Prager, Fort Worth

Saturday, December 15, 2012

God Bless CT

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sold to the public...Fail

We were forwarded this note so we're not sure WHO wrote it, but we are sure they know what's up.  Too bad those river ruining, convention center building, public money spending folks don't.  Maybe they don't read...

"How many more cities are going to be duped by the convention center craze? I do not support any government owned businesses, but two facts make this a no brainer. One, convention business is declining, and two, construction of convention facilities has ballooned nationwide. More competition for a smaller pie. Yeah, let's jump right in.

The article even says that most convention centers lose money and require government subsidy (on top of the government building them). And their solution is to put $250 million into a new one? Plus they're already talking about the oh so critical convention center hotel. Where have I heard this story before?

Maybe they're thinking that Oklahoma City is such an amazing tourist destination that they will defy the national trend and all the fundamental laws of economics?

Oh, but it's worth building this loser because, "CSL claims that economic development from conventions would nearly triple with a new center." Every single city has been sold on these market studies that have proven to be bogus time and time again. Their self serving empty promises are just to give the illusion of legitimacy to the project. But in reality it is all about a tiny minority getting rich off of construction contracts and land deals. The development, if it comes at all, likewise has to be heavily subsidized due to nonexistent market demand, making it a triple loser for the taxpayers.

So that's my rant on this, but for a more academic approach, just Google Heywood Sanders. He's a professor of Public Administration at UT San Antonio who has been studying these things for years. They all follow the same pattern of how they're sold to the public and how they fail to meet expectations."

We usually only talk about Oklahoma when it comes to water and drillers.  This was too good to pass up.  Read more here

Monday, December 10, 2012

No ethics?

No problem.  It's Fort Worth.

Read the letter to the Fort Worth Mayor and council.  Then show up, tomorrow.  YOU are the only one that can save YOU.


At the recent Fort Worth City Council meeting, the City Officials appear
to be in a rush to change the Code of Ethics. I was very disappointed
in the absolute lack of knowledge the City Council seemed to posses
regarding these changes on which they were voting at the December
4, 2010 meeting.

From the meeting, it was apparent the City Council wanted to rush the
change to the Code of Ethics Ordinance. But that shouldn't have
surprised me. The City Attorney addressed the Ethics Committee and
told them what the Mayor and City Council expected.

"Specifically, on August 19th, the council announced that
they definitively want the ability to appoint members to task
forces that have particular expertise in an area without those
members being subject to an automatic violation of the
ethics code simply because of their profession.

This was the directive from the former Mayor and Council at the time. I
had hoped the current Mayor and Council would have realized the
citizens expect more ethical behavior and not less.

At the December 4, 2010 Council meeting, the first of the comments
coming from the Council members, included, how the citizens were
confused about what the new Ordinance included and the confusion
was not on the part of the Council. The Council member insisted it
was a result of a news journal that printed half-truths, as the Ordinance
actually tightened things up according to that Councilperson. He then
explained that one example of what was tightened up, was how the
proposed Ordinance offered more protection for the Council and Board
members. The Council member failed to explain what was incorrect in
the news journal.

This Council member continued with his observations that in the Ethics
Code are many gray areas. Unfortunately, he is correct. The
Ordinance, as it is written is very cloudy and unclear in its meaning.
That is one of the many problems with the proposed Ordinance. The
Ordinance must be rewritten in a manner that is not gray, it must be
absolutely clear for the citizens to understand. An Ordinance is a law
that must be easily understood by all. When even the City Council
states it is gray, the Ordinance must really be confusing to many.
I have read what was written in the news journal he was speaking of,
and find the articles very accurate and not confusing. In fact, the
articles are amazingly correct.

It also appears the council member has not read enough of the Code
of Ethics and certainly doesn't understand its intent. In the preamble of
the Code of Ethics it explains what that intent is and why.

2-236 - Declaration of Policy
"The city council deems it advisable to enact this code of
ethics for all officers, employees and advisory board
members, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, to
serve not only as a guide for official conduct of the city's
public servants, but also as a basis for discipline for those
who refuse to abide by its terms.

The Code of Ethics as it is written, indicates it is to protect the citizens
from improper actions of the City Council, employees and advisory
board members. It is not written with the idea of protecting the Council
members and board members from the citizens.

The City Council and Boards have a City Attorney for that purpose.

The Mayor also made the following observations about there being a
great deal of confusion.

I agree with the confusion, but it appears the City Council members are
the ones who do not know the true details.

She stated there was a great deal of citizen input.

I would question there being a great deal of citizen input on this matter,
as it appeared there are many citizens who were not aware of the
proceedings. If many citizens and neighborhood organizations are not
aware of a major Ordinance or policy change, shouldn't the city accept
some responsibility for that? Perhaps it wasn't publicized enough or in
the right places. Perhaps it was intentional.

The Mayor went on to say the following about the proposed Ordinance.
It doesn't mean they will meet behind closed doors.
The City will publically post these meetings and they will be subject to
Open Meeting requirements.
It has been said that all the meetings would not be subject to the Open
Meeting Act, is simply not true.
It clarifies when it is appropriate to appoint members, for short term
advisory only, Task Forces.
The truth is, no new "Advisory Only Committee" is required to meet
the Open Meeting Act requirements and the City's proposed Code has
no provision that requires it either.

The Code provides no clarification that explains when it is appropriate
to allow or require a committee or board to be called "advisory only" or
otherwise and what the distinctions must be. It refers to short term, but
it fails to explain how short term is defined. The Gas Drilling Task
Force and Air Quality Committee lasted over a year. I don't view that
short term and the City Attorney continues to insist they were "Advisory

The Mayor stated, "they have heard said, the City Attorney has the
power to give Absolute Immunity and that is not exactly true.
According to the new code there are provisions that require the
individuals follow the City Attorneys advice and receive it in writing.
Otherwise, the Ethics committee can still take it up."

At the beginning of the proposed Ordinance, Absolute Immunity is one
of the stated provisions. The new regulations of the Ordinance would
actually make the Absolute Immunity rule an unreasonable hurdle to
cross if one were filing a complaint. Additionally, if one files a complaint
when Absolute Immunity is the defense, it will most likely be dismissed
on its face due to the Absolute Immunity provision.

A horrible situation would arise if the advice the city Attorney provides
should be wrong. Not only will there not be a hearing to resolve the
issue, but the wrongdoer is allowed to continue the wrongdoing and
there is no recourse available to prevent them from doing it over and

The attorney General has already provided an AG Opinion, "that a
City may regulate conflicts of interest involving City Council
members by adopting ordinance provisions that are not
inconsistent with Local Government Code chapter 171.
Thus, the city may not attempt to exempt its officers from
requirements imposed by Local Government Code chapter

The Absolute Immunity provision is without a doubt, an
attempt to exempt its Officers from requirements imposed by
Local Code 171 and other State laws.
Additionally, there are various types of immunity recognized
in Law and Absolute Immunity has a legal meaning.
Absolute immunity means the official engaged in judicial, prosecutorial
or legislative acts within the scope of duty is absolutely immune not
only from liability but also from suit concerning the act. A valid claim of
this immunity is an absolute bar to the suit, and will result in dismissal of
the suit itself. No discovery or any other suit-related process is

A defense Attorney would use this defense against any complaint filed.

When there is a Written Opinion that provides an Absolute Defense,
the complaint would automatically be dismissed regardless of what the
Ordinance states.

The Mayor also stated, "the change on Substantial Interest simply
supplements the State Statue and goes beyond what the State Ethics

The City Attorney in their power point presentation "amended the
definition of Substantial Interest to be consistent with State law." There
is nothing in the Ordinance or that was said about going beyond State
Law, the City Attorney only said it was consistent with state law. In
other words, the new Ordinance actually ends up requiring less ethical
behavior of the public Officials than the current Ordinance.
The proposed Code of Ethics does not go beyond any provision
already provided by State Statute. The proposal regarding the ability of
the City Attorney to provide an Absolute Defense actually appears to
be an attempt to exempt Officers and committee members from
certain State Statues and would appear to be contrary to what the
Attorney General has stated in a legal Opinion.

An Attorney General Opinion basically carries the weight of law until it
is overturned in a court of law or rewritten. However, the City Officials
seem to downplay or ignore many Attorney General Opinions that
don't meet their needs.

On November 30th, I requested from the City Council, an explanation
or example of what benefit the proposed Code would offer the citizens.
There has been no Council Person willing or able to advise me of any
benefit to date.

The Mayor went on to say, "The Ethics Committee looked at other
Cities and these are standard practices in other large Cities."
The Ethics Committee did not look at any other City Ordinances.
The City Attorney advised the Ethics Committee they had looked at
other Cities and then "Cherry Picked" from certain other City
Ordinances. They also said that in many cases those City's Attorney
did not know where some of their Ordinances came from and in many
cases they had never applied them.

Our City Attorney advised the Council, That San Antonio and Dallas
had provisions in their Ordinance that granted immunity as a result of
their Ordinances.

Those two City Ordinances have additional provisions indicating, "that
other state and federal laws may apply" too. Absolute Immunity is not
a term they used in their Ordinance either. This is a case of "cherry
picking" only the part of other Ordinances the City Attorney wants to
meet their specific needs. It is much like taking "something out of
context". The Fort Worth Ordinance does not include other provisions
that should part of certain types of rule changes.

Mr. Danny Scarth provided his understanding of the Code change by
using the example of "having a friend who plays golf occasionally and
that person having an interest in golf, so should he be subject to a
violation if he votes on a rate change"? Mr. scarth then states his
opinion, saying, "That would be silly".

Mr. Scarth of all people should know about Ethics issues, but
apparently doesn't.

Taken from, 2010 Texas Conflict of Interest Laws Made Easy -
Office of the Attorney General

#8. What is the test for conflict of interest regarding a business entity?
State law provides a two-part test for ascertaining whether a local official has a
conflict of interest regarding a business entity that would prevent the official
from participating in a vote or discussion on that item. To determine whether a
conflict exists that would prevent that official’s participation, one should follow
the following two-step analysis:

Step one (substantial interest analysis): First, the official must determine if he or
she received more than 10 percent of his gross income in the previous year
from that business entity or if he or she owns 10 percent or more of the voting
stock or shares of the business entity or has some other substantial ownership
interest in the business entity. If the official has such an interest or a close
relative of the official has such an interest, the official must consider the second
part of the test for determining if a conflict of interest exists.

Step two (special economic effect analysis): The official must determine whether
the action that the local entity is considering would have a special economic
effect on the business entity that is distinguishable from its general effect on
the public. If it is determined that the official has a substantial interest in the
business entity and it is likely that the action would have a special economic
effect on the business entity that is distinguishable from its effect on the
general public, a conflict of interest would exist. If a conflict of interest exists,
the official is prevented from discussing or voting on an issue involving that
business entity.

There are certain thresholds to be met and are determined by law.
The City can write stricter requirements than required by State law, but
not less. Therefore if the golfer in question only has an interest in Golf
as indicated by Mr. Scarth, then by all means they should be allowed
to be on the advisory committee. On the other hand, if the interest
were financial, then the thresholds would be one of the determining

In my opinion, Mr. Scarth should be ashamed for deliberately trying to
mislead the citizens with this comment.

Virtually every issue the City Council addressed at the December 4,
2010 Council Meeting shows a complete lack of understanding of the
problems with the proposed Ordinance or even what it says.

The Ordinance must be rewritten in a manner that is not foggy as the
Council indicated and it must be easily understood by all to be

It will require individuals from both sides having input, for there to be a
reasonable Ordinance.

This Item will require time to get correct and it should be important to all
that it is correct this time.

This proposed Ordinance should be vetoed or at least delayed

Fracking Lousiana

Truthout shares the latest on the sinkhole forcing people from their homes.  Think it can't happen to YOU?  Think again...

And for those that claim the industry and their actions would never harm an aquifer...please, shut up.

On August 3, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a statewide emergency, and local officials in Assumption ordered the mandatory evacuation of about 300 residents of more than 150 homes located about a half-mile from the sinkhole. Four months later, officials continue to tell residents that they do not know when they will be able to return home. A few have chosen to ignore the order and have stayed in their homes, but the neighborhood is now quiet and nearly vacant. Across the road from the residential community, a parking lot near a small boat launch ramp has been converted to a command post for state police and emergency responders.

Geologists say they have never dealt with anything quite like it before, but the sinkhole has made few headlines beyond the local media.

According to Hecox and the USGS, the collapsing cavern shifted and weakened underground rock formations, causing the earthquakes and allowing natural gas and oil to migrate upward and contaminate the local groundwater aquifer.

From 2005 to 2009, Assumption Parish had the seventh highest breast cancer rate among Louisiana's 64 counties, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A moment of silence...

For Miss Betty.  Our hearts go out to her family and her Fort Worth Weekly family.  We'll be looking forward to their cover story and we'll be missing those done by Brink.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hard hitting journalism...

Just kidding.  It's as soft as ever from the Fort Worth cheerleader, um, "news"paper...

WHY are they just now writing on the Fort Worth ethics fiasco?

Just when you think they might do the right thing, along comes a line like this -

Residents who have expressed alarm about the proposals have every reason to do so, though some council members say they're just trying to do the right thing.

Read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram "article" on the Fort Worth Ethics changes.  Though as usual, the best part may end up being the comments from the readers.

Here's a question, should a newspaper be granted full immunity for lack of transparency, lack of bias and lack of information?  If they lack those things, WHAT purpose do they serve?

That's nothing...

If they think this Fort Worth spending is ridiculous, they should come visit for a day or two.  They'd be amazed at what a city that can't pay its bills will waste money on.

Read about Texas making yet another list in the, Texas projects highlighted in national "wasteful spending" report.

Hey, Stateman writers, come on down!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Another conflict of interest?

In Texas?  Say it isn't so.

This time it's UT and their "Fact-based" Fracking Study.  How much drilling is done on the UT campus?  How much money has the industry donated to UT?  WHO would expect anything less?
Two more bite the dust.  WHO's next?

Review of UT Fracking Study Finds Failure to Disclose Conflict of Interest (Updated)

The long-awaited review of a controversial study on the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” was released today, and it finds numerous errors and flaws with how the study was conducted and released, as well as University of Texas policies for disclosing conflicts of interest.

The head author of the study, Dr. Charles “Chip” Groat, has retired in the wake of the controversy, and the head of the Energy Institute that released it, Dr. Raymond Orbach, has resigned as head of the Institute, the University announced today.

After similar issues at the University at Buffalo over a report on fracking that also lacked scientific backing and failed to disclose industry ties, the Univeristy shuttered its Shale Resources and Society Institute, which released the study, last month.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Word of the Day...


The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has two front and center articles that if weren't so sad, would make us laugh.

"North Texas classrooms getting crowded as districts seek waivers" and "Lieutenant governor says Texas needs to speed up process for closing failing schools".  Yes, we saw the irony.  Read the articles, you will too.

More than 600 districts are suing the state, saying the school finance system is not adequately funding the education system and thus is unconstitutional.

Then there is the school article in the FW Weekly that has more comments than we've seen on their articles.  Harrassment at Haltom? reads like a Lifetime movie...a new principal who was put on leave at another school, changed his name and now students and long time teachers are complaining and leaving, due to bullying.  The BISD school board meeting is coming up December 13th.  Sounds like it may be standing room only.  Sometimes that's what it takes to get answers.

Read more here:

Are you really that dumb?

The Trinity River Vision Authority has used YOUR money to send out their latest propaganda piece.  If you read between the lines, you have to ask yourself, are you really that dumb?  And aren't you just a little insulted they think you are?

Durango breaks it down for you.  For those Fort Worth history and Heritage Park fans, YOU don't want to miss it.  Really, you can't afford to.

Our favorite might be the the blurb below, as you know, the Trinity River Vision was touted as a "flood control" project, to secure federal funds. WHERE do you see the words flood control in this statement?

In the Trinity River Vision's website we get to read what I think must be the Trinity River Vision Mission Statement:

The Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA) is the organization responsible for the implementation of the Trinity River Vision (TRV) - a master plan for the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas. It is underway now - connecting every neighborhood in the city to the Trinity River corridor with new recreational amenities, improved infrastructure, environmental enhancements and event programming. The TRV will create Trinity Uptown, a vibrant urban waterfront neighborhood, expand Gateway Park into one of the largest urban-programmed parks in the nation and enhance the river corridor with over 90 user-requested projects along the Trinity Trails.


Worried about fracking?  Worried about the impacts gas drilling has on your kids and their health?

Your chance to do something about it is Monday.  Don't miss it.

Get the scoop in the Fort Worth Weekly.  We couldn't find any mention of it in the Barnett Shale spewing Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  (We couldn't find any mention of the Fort Worth Ethics fiasco in there either...)

The Texas Railroad Commission, a supposed regulatory agency that does more shilling than the industry’s own paid lobbyists, is undergoing its sunset review this month at the capitol in Austin.
But before legislators decide what, if any, reforms to bring to the agency during this crepuscular review, which occurs once every seven years, a couple of them will stop in Arlington on Monday to listen to any concerns residents might have about fracking, leaky pipelines, disposal wells that cause earthquakes, and a drilling industry that contributes mightily to local air pollution –– you know, nitpicky stuff.

Anyone who’d like to see the sun set on unregulated pollution of Texas air and water should show up in Arlington on Monday and, if possible, in Austin on Dec. 19. Otherwise, says Tom Smith of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, expect little to change.

“Politics is a contact sport. We’ve all been a little too nice, thinking that the government is going to help us instead of the companies lining their pockets,” Smith said. “People can complain about fracking all day, but until they actually go down and complain about it, it will continue.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Snowball Express

Snowball Express will be bringing children of our fallen military hero's to the Fort Worth Stockyards, Sunday December 2nd at 10:30 a.m.
Come out and give them a Texas welcome.  Show your appreciation for their sacrifice.
Bring your flag, bring your family.