Transparency

Update: The Residency Game

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Direct Action Texas (DAT) has now filed an official election complaint with the Texas Secretary of State (SoS) concerning Jay Harris of Denton County. DAT recently reported on his problematic application for Precinct Chair of precinct 4006. On his application Harris lists his address as 900 Bluebonnet, but Harris actually lives in precinct 1015, at 2221 Hollyhill.

Not only are the two precincts on opposites sides of the city, they also have different representation. For instance, while Harris should be voting in Senate District 12, he will be voting in Senate District 30, potentially illegally. The people he currently represents are not his neighbors. He doesn’t live in their community. He has to drive almost 20 minutes to get there from his actual residence.

He could run against the current precinct chair in 1015, but that would unseat his daughter, Jennifer Harris, who lives with her parents. Jay Harris’s wife and daughter are both registered to vote at 2221 Hollyhill. His driver license even says he lives at 2221 Hollyhill. Are the voters to believe he lives separately from his family and just hasn’t had time to update his license? Doubtful.

As of today, it is up to the SoS to decide if they will refer the case to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for investigation. DAT has alleged two violations: Penal Code 37.10, tampering with a governmental record, and Election Code 64.012, illegal voting.

Even if the SoS and OAG fail to act, the voters of precinct 4006 should. Find someone to run for Precinct Chair in 2020. Find someone that truly represents your neighborhood, not someone misrepresenting himself to gain a title.

 

READ FULL COPY OF THE COMPLAINT HERE.

You Had One Job Tarrant County GOP

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The results of the race for Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 could be determined by the failures of a County Chair and his staff. A judge will now decide which of the candidates in this race will remain on the ballot.

Precinct 3 incumbent, Justice of the Peace Russell Casey, filed suit against Tarrant County Republican Chairman Tim O’Hare, claiming O’Hare violated Election Law when he denied Casey’s petition to have his challengers removed from the ballot. According to Casey, the Tarrant County GOP (TCGOP) did not properly complete William “Bill” Brandt’s and Leonard “Lenny” Lopez’s petition signature paperwork for ballot access.

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What is the Fort Worth ISD School Board Hiding?

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Direct Action Texas (DAT) called out the Fort Worth ISD School Board for ditching their ethics policy just before voting on a $750 million bond package. We opined that certain Board Trustees made the decision because they may be unable to adhere to the new policy and cash in on the massive bond. So, they buried its repeal in a long, vaguely worded consent agenda.

Other Trustees were outraged when they discovered the subterfuge, feeling tricked into voting out the merely three-month-old policy. Even the liberal Fort Worth Star Telegram weighed in against the removal of the policy with a serious of articles including this scathing rebuke from the Editorial Board. As outlined in another FWST piece, the Board is still in turmoil over what “ethics” means in Fort Worth.

Ethics and transparency aren’t just an issue for the Fort Worth ISD Board. The trouble extends to district staff, struggling with even the most basic of open records requests. DAT filed a request with Fort Worth ISD for Campaign Finance Reports (CFRs) filed by Political Action Committees (PACs). Now, almost 3 months later, the PACs’ reports have still not been produced.

DAT has followed the rules. We sent our request in writing. We received confirmation. We waited the full 10 business days, as required by law. We took the only next step and sent a violation letter to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG then sent Fort Worth ISD a demand letter telling them to produce the information. Yet still we wait. Why? What are they hiding? Is the Fort Worth ISD trying to hide information or are they simply inept?

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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.

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