Transparency

Dear Rep. Capriglione, Your Promises Ring Hollow.

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OPEN LETTER TO REP. GIOVANNI CAPRIGLIONE

“Dear Representative Capriglione,

In your campaign for reelection announcement this week, you state, “If reelected, I promise to continue to fight for limited and efficient government while working tirelessly to ensure the voices of those living in House District 98 are heard.”   Furthermore, your campaign literature states, “As your State Representative, I am fighting to secure the border, reign in state spending, and provide more transparency and accountability of elected officials.

I am a constituent of District 98 and have attempted to have my voice heard and I’ve sought explanations for votes that you took in the Texas Legislature that don’t jive with your promise above.  However, you are doing your best to ensure that MY voice as a constituent is NOT heard. Like you claim in your campaign literature, I also value more transparency and accountability from my elected officials, yet you have demonstrated neither qualities to me, the person that you represent. Read More

Open Letter from Chris Putnam to GCISD Superintendent

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Open Letter from Christ Putnam to Dr. Ryan – GCISD Superintendent:

“Dr. Ryan,

Many of us that have been involved in politics locally have seen this disturbing dynamic creeping into the district for some time.  It started with the bond election when the district and trustees leveraged the well-known “gray area” to advocate and campaign for bond approval.  Now it seems clear the district is using taxpayer resources to organize gray area groups and campaigns to influence state and local elections.  As a proud GCISD parent and supporter of our public schools it’s very disappointing.  The recent trend of non-partisan government agencies at all levels of government being politicized to advanced their own agendas is frightening.  It is clearly occurring here at home now and needs to end immediately.  The district’s political agenda and tactics are completely obvious, and I would strongly encourage you to stand down and allow our voters/taxpayers to make their own decisions.

By way of personal background, my mother was a public school teacher for 40 years in the most challenging school in our district.  My wife was an elementary school teacher, counselor and was awarded the PTA Lifetime Member award several yeas ago.  My grandfather was a public educator as well.  You may know that I personally organized and led the effort to allow Colleyville and Grapevine children zoned in other districts to transfer to GCISD.   We believe in public education in our family, educate all of our children in our GCISD schools, and support our teachers, coaches and schools.  I have also been a personal public supporter of yourself and several other administrators that I know personally.

However, that doesn’t mean we abandon our right to ask tough questions or even challenge how the district and/or our trustees are managing the district financially.  And it is time for an honest – not district manipulated – public conversation about GCISD spending, taxation, debt and curriculum.  Instead I get propaganda mailers in my tax bill blaming high GCISD tax rates exclusively on Robin Hood and coordinated talking point campaigns from Trustees, the PTA and other district-affiliated organizations.  Anyone paying attention can see this coordination and the scripted talking points clearly on many of the local social media group pages.  People that question or challenge these talking points or disagree with Trustees or their surrogates are instantly labeled as “public school haters.”

Now the district and its leadership are brazenly creating enemies out of conservative republicans who are demanding property tax reform and warning about the level of indebtedness of our school districts – a staggering $1 billion dollars of debt in the case of GCISD.  We can agree that Robin Hood is absolutely heinous (as with all forms of socialism) and should be replaced immediately, but it has been the operating model since 1993 and the financial issue is far more complex than just recapture as you well know.  The advocacy from the district and its trustees is always strictly about increasing revenue and never about cost reduction strategies or efficiency innovations.  It’s time to have a different conversation because many of residents and taxpayers can no longer afford the ever-increasing tax burden.  Many GCISD families have literally had to sell their homes to downsize to remain in the district, and most of us will not be able to retire and keep our homes with the high tax burden.

There are also thousands of private school families in Grapevine and Colleyville, and the district and our trustees have assumed a very public political position against any form of school choice.  The district and its leadership should in no way politically advocate for or against this issue either.  And yet the district and its trustees have weaponized the PTA and other groups for full scale political warfare on this issue in this coming spring’s primary elections.  They are literally labeling these families and anyone who believes that some their personal tax dollars should be allowed to be used for the education they choose for their children as enemies of the district and our community.  These private school families also fund our district with their tax dollars and have a voice even if their children don’t attend GCISD schools.  It’s not the role of the district or our trustees to demonize these families simply because they have made a different educational choice.  Many of them are also struggling to afford both private school tuition and rising school property taxes.  It is arrogant, offensive and frankly frightening to demand that a government provided education is the ONLY choice our residents and taxpayers should be allowed to have, and then publicly attack anyone who disagrees or chooses a different path.

Please sir, get back to the otherwise excellent job you are doing educating our children and leave the politics out of administration affairs and leadership.  Provide us with transparent, objective, fact-based data on the district’s financial picture and performance.  In five years there will inevitably be another bond election.  Rather than sell new debt initiatives with fake parent steering groups that are led to desired outcomes, involve the entire community and not just hand-picked delegates.  Disclose the current amount of principal and interest obligation the district is already carrying on the ballot when asking taxpayers to assume more debt so they have all the facts.  Stop the public finger-pointing to deflect the blame for our high taxes and take responsibility for your own spending, debt and taxation decisions.  Neither Governor Abbott nor Lt. Governor Patrick increased our property taxes or were responsible for recapture.  The district and Board of Trustees are solely and exclusively responsible for our budgets and setting tax rates.  And as you continue to blame Robin Hood while assuming political advocacy positons and organizing to oust conservative republican legislators please remember that it was Democrat Ann Richards and a Democratic State Legislature who gave us Robin Hood in the first place.

Respectfully,

Chris Putnam.”

Just last month GCISD passed a resolution to “create a culture of voting at GCISD” intended specifically to use taxpayer resources to affect the outcome of the election.

Our friends at Empower Texans recently wrote about localities’ complaints of “unfunded mandates”  and how attempts to force all state taxpayers to pay for them amounts to double taxation. Read their article HERE.

Fort Worth ISD Board Ditches Ethics for Cash

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The Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) Board had an ethics policy with teeth, but it didn’t last long.  It appears board officials just couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to potentially cash in on the massive $750 Million school bond.

The school board adopted a strong ethics policy in April of this year, but abruptly ditched it a few months later in August. Conveniently for elected officials, this alarming change was made only six days before the board voted to put a $750 million bond package on the November ballot.

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In Kaufman – It Pays To Be A Crony

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Property taxes are the largest and most onerous taxes Texans pay. But in Kaufman County, it pays to be well-connected.

Donald Trump’s election victory has been broadly viewed as retaliation by hard-working Americans to frustration with today’s political establishment and its close companion—cronyism. The politically connected receive special treatment, while the average taxpayer foots the bill for both the taxes and special interest handouts.

While we often consider cronyism to be relegated to the federal level in Washington D.C., it’s not. Cronyism is alive and well in Texas, particularly at the local level. Kaufman County provides an egregious example with inequities found in the state property tax system.

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Kaufman’s Costly and Illegal Scandal- Part 3

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For Part 1, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.

Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood, along with District Attorney Erleigh Wiley, have gone unchecked for years and have cost the county dearly.  The ticketing scandal we’ve previously reported on is even worse than it appears on the surface.

In 2014, Kaufman County entered into a contract with American Traffic Solutions that caused the county to act outside its legal authority – issuing illegal traffic citations to its citizens – and imposed a significant cost to county taxpayers. The unlawful contract also resulted in illegal financial transactions and a lack of transparency.

By championing the ATS contract, Wood violated the public trust. By failing to blow the whistle on the entire scandal, or investigate any wrongdoing by those involved, Wiley is derelict in her duty to Kaufman taxpayers.

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