Last Monday night, City Council was presented with four separate 4-B proposals. Now I think you know how this ends, because generally, what 4-B wants, 4-B gets. For those of you not familiar with the City's 4-B Board, these are the folks tasked with the transfer of your tax dollars to various favored businesses, such as The Scooter Store (bankrupt, raided by FBI), Silver State Helicopters (left town in the middle of the night owing gods know how much money to everybody), and some new, mostly boiler-room, high executive pay, low employee compensation firms, such as IBEX Global, Nexus Medical, and CBE Companies.
We've detailed 4-B's trail of extremely bad deals in past issues, and won't go into it here, but if you'd like to read up on their most current corporate welfare deal, check out the First Word column in the August 21 edition of the TX Citizen, which is available online at txcitizen.com under "Previous Editions". (It has an upload date of August 22 displayed, in case that helps y'all find it.)
ANYWAY, on to the proposals. I'm going to list them for you here as they appeared on the agenda. Two of these things are very much alike, but different in an important way. Note - The official name of the 4-B Board is The New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation:
(A) Approval of a resolution recommended by the New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation for a professional services contract with the National Development Council for $72,000 to assist with the development and operation of an economic development program and related objectives. (J. Jewell, Development Coordinator)
(B) Approval of a resolution recommended by the New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with Magellan Advisors; and declaring an effective date. (K. Aday, Assistant City Manager)
(C) Approval of a resolution recommended by the New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation for an expenditure of up to $21,875 for participation in a Feasibility Study for a Transportation Reinvestment Zone (J. Jewell, Development Coordinator)
(D) Approval of a resolution recommended by the New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation to approve an authorized project expenditure and to enter into a professional services agreement with the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, Inc. to assist with the development and operation of an economic development program. (J. Jewell, Development Coordinator)
All of these items appeared on the Consent Agenda, meaning that unless someone gets them taken off the consent agenda, they pass without discussion. So we had items A and D taken off the Consent Agenda so we could see how the City would justify them. I mean, they seemed awfully similar in that they contained nearly identical language:
A) "...to assist with the development and operation of an economic development program and related objectives. "
D) "to assist with the development and operation of an economic development program."
How much assistance does 4-B need to do the job that the members were handpicked by City Council do? From what we hear, these people are the cream of the crop. The bee's knees. The cat's pajamas, as it were. I mean really.
So the items were pulled, and Development Coordinator Jeff Jewell took the floor. His speech was heavy on corporate non-speak and marketing jargon, and while we could take a couple pages to print him verbatim, I'll point you to the City's website, nbtexas.org, and to the City Council tab, and then to the "Watch City Council meetings..." link near the bottom of the page, and you can listen to the explanations word for word - Jewell runs from about 18:30 to 26:33. Go. Do it. It's well worth eight minutes to see how these things are sold.
I guarantee several members of Council had no idea what Jewell was saying, and clearly didn't care anyway, because both A and D passed unanimously without much discussion or any follow up. But I get ahead of myself.
Meek Tags In
After he finished discussing Item D, and before the vote, Jewell called in Chamber of Commerce President and 4-B hammer Michael Meek, who explained the 4-B tax to Councilman Green. This is where the real fun started:
“I think your first question was 'Where does the money come from?' This is a, comes from the three-eighths of one cent economic development sales tax that voters approved in October of 1995. One-eighth cent goes toward property tax reduction, and the other three-eighths (actually two-eighths, Meek misspoke) cent goes to your City Council appointed New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation (4-B). Translation: This is all on you, City Council. And voters.
(It's important to note that when voters approved the tax, they thought they were getting the roads fixed with the money. And that was 19 years ago. - Editor)
"That three-eighths cent generates approximately 5.5 million dollars annually. 70 percent of that, those funds, since 2006 have gone into infrastructure expenditures, quality of life, parks, etcetera. Translation: We want you to think we spend most of our money on the public. Ignore the "etcetera". That's where we keep the corporate welfare. Don't ask about the roads.
“This particular proposal, Councilmember Green, about four percent of the total annual revenues will go into recruiting and marketing, pass-through funds, another two percent, plus or minus, goes into staff costs. So around six to seven cents of every dollar of the 4-B Board's budget, the next couple years, goes into this program. Hope that's helpful." Translation: Hardly any of the money goes into my pocket. Not directly.
Waaaaaaaaait a minute. You mean the same guy that runs 4-B is the same guy that runs the Chamber of Commerce? And that 4-B is paying the Chamber (which, by the way, is a private business club, not a government Institution.) That seems... well that just seems vulgar. I guess it isn't anymore of a conflict than when 4-B gave millions of dollars to The Scooter Store while Scooter Store employees were on the Board. Oh. I get it now.
"An act of omission is an act of intent."
Now that we've covered the two items that seem similar, we can move on to how they are different. Let's see here. Item A is going to cost us $72,000, payable to the NDC. Item D, with an identical description, but payable from 4-B, which Michael Meek runs, to the Chamber of Commerce, which Michael Meek also runs, is going to cost us... hold on... I don't seem to see a number here. That's odd. It's almost like they didn't want to bother anyone with figures and whatnot. Well, I'm sure it's close to what the other number is, probably around $72,000.
Nuts. On second thought, I'm going to have to look this up - after all, you count on us for specific details, not vague estimates. Let's see, it's somewhere in the 652 page, 100+ MB Agenda Packet here... oh. Here it is. That wasn't easy at all. Took forever just to download. I wonder if the Councilmembers read all 652 pages before the meeting. I wonder.
Aha! There we go. $847,212 payable to Michael Meek's Chamber of Commerce. Funny that after all that discussion, nobody brought that up at the meeting, and that it was left off the agenda too. Oh well. It's only three-quarters of a million dollars off from the prominently displayed NDC number. Business as usual in Texas' Most Corrupt City™.
But I'm sure that's nothing to be concerned about.
As David Goad awaits his lawsuit against City Attorney Robert Camareno to move forward, the City of New Braunfels filed for a citation against Goad over an incident during a City Council meeting on August 5.
During the Council meeting, there was an altercation between Goad and Thor Thornhill while the two were in an overflow room at City Hall to watch the proceedings on television.
Goad said Thornhill was being loud and when he asked Thornhill to "keep it down," the latter "became enraged." Goad said he then went to summon officers but was blocked by Thornhill who then shoved Goad with a shoulder. Goad said responded with a light punch to Thornhill's chest.
According to the New Braunfels Police Department, the altercation began when Goad was standing over a sitting Thornhill. When Thornhill stood up, the two men "brushed up against one another," causing Goad to give a light jab to Thornhill's chest.
After the incident, Camareno sent a Criminal Trespassing Notice to Goad on August 8, which stated that Goad was "immediately prohibited from coming onto any portion of any and all municipal buildings, offices, appurtenant facilities, and adjacent parking lots located anywhere throughout the city, including but not limited to: City Hall, City Council Chambers, Honors Hall, any public common areas such as the front lobby at City Hall and sidewalks that border municipal buildings."
Goad followed the notice with a lawsuit against Camareno, arguing that banning him from all public property (except the parks) violated his constitutional rights. Goad filed the suit in the Justice of the Peace, Precinct Three's court.
On August 20, the City filed the citation case against Goad, charging him with Assault by Physical Contact. Along with the notice, the City attached a signed affidavit from Thornhill who claimed Goad had struck him. The City is asking that Goad be fined for $571.
Thornhill is president and CEO of HMT Engineering. HMT has received almost $1 million since 2008 for contracts with New Braunfels Utilities. HMT also figured large in attempts to pass a massive bond for Comal Independent School District. HMT stood to make millions from contracts had the bond passed.
Goad's suit against Camaerno has yet to be scheduled because, according to Goad, the court will not allow him discovery, which includes depositions and other forms of evidence. He is asking for an award of $10,000.
Can Ban Appeal Response Yet to be Filed
The various river-oriented businesses have yet to file their response to Third Court of Appeals in the City's appeal in the disposable container and cooler ordinance case. Jim Ewbank, who represents the operators, has until September 29 to file his response to the City's appeal motion.
New Braunfels filed the appeal after Judge Don Burgess ruled that the ordinances were unconstitutional and unenforceable. He also ordered the City not to enforce the ordinance during the appeal process.
In its appeal, the City argued that Burgess was wrong in his ruling because the City has the right to police the rivers and protect the waterways as a home-rule area. The City also stated that the ordinances were valid because "reasonable people" could argue whether the ordinances were proper. The City also noted that Burgess erred in ordering the City to pay the plaintiff's fees because the judge should have ruled in favor of the City.
Appeals to Hear Scientology Lawsuit: Round II
The Third Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on September 24 in the Church of Scientology International's appeal to Monique Rathbun's harassment lawsuit against the organization.
The Church filed an Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP) motion in the suit filed in Comal County. In the motion, the Church argued that Rathbun's suit violates the Church's First Amendment rights to speech and assembly. District Judge Dib Waldrip ruled against CSI, saying the lawsuit was not in any way related to the Church's First Amendment Rights. CSI appealed the ruling, at one point accusing Waldrip of being "hostile" to Scientology.
Each side will have 20 minutes to present their cases before a panel of three judges from the Third Court of Appeals. During those presentations, each side will likely be questioned by the judges.
In April, the Church won an appeal against Waldrip's order that Church leader David Miscavige be deposed to answer questions concerning jurisdiction.
Nick Rogers covers courts and crime for the TX Citizen.
One of the greatest contentions between me and my liberal friends is the idea that the media is somehow biased in favor of liberalism. Most scoff at the idea, spewing talking points that they heard from their favorite liberal outlet. "This is just a Republican delusion", "Fantasy doesn't deserve the same attention as reality", or "Reality has a liberal bias", they say. Some take it even further, pointing out that major corporations own the media, and what could be more conservative than that? All of this predicated on their belief that the Overton Window should logically have Che Guevara smiling out of it with Mao visibly setting the table for tea in the background. No amount of reasoned discourse is likely to make them think otherwise.
So, if you're one of those people who thinks believing in a liberal media bias is akin to believing in Santa Claus, then this column is probably not for you.
On the other hand, if you have felt the irritation of liberal media bias like a burning hemorrhoid before, or if you have a brain cell or two that haven't been lulled into a comatose state by exposure to said media, you might enjoy what's to come.
I feel that the most glaring example of liberal media bias has always been the media's handling of gun control. Not only is gun control a liberal sacred cow, it also provides everything that's wanted in good television: violence, perceived social relevance, and the opportunity to shove a camera and microphone in the face of some bereaved family member.
Now, it's not surprising that there should be news coverage when there is a school shooting or when overt gunrunning is taking place at our border (though there seems to be a good deal more interest in the former than the latter, at least when the government is involved), but it would be nice if that coverage included actual facts. Never is it mentioned that such shootings are incredibly rare. Never is it mentioned that, beside the mass murder, any number of other laws and ordinances were broken by the perpetrator, something that might lead you to suspect that they wouldn't much care about some new gun measure. Never is a person placed in front of the camera who has any idea of the difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic weapon or a working understanding of what an assault weapon is.
What I find truly irritating, though, is the propensity of the liberal media to run with stories that include circumstances so absurd as to belong in a bad pulp novel. Certainly, some credit can be offered to the "man bites dog" aspect to such stories, but more often than not they are treated as a platform for discrediting gun rights and not as the metaphoric freak show they really are. Two recent stories carried in the news spring immediately to mind.
The first is the story of a nine-year-old girl who accidentally shot her shooting instructor with an Uzi. There is no question that such a thing is tragic for both the girl and the instructor, but is there any reason to blame this on the availability of guns or the gun itself?
The gun operated exactly as it was designed to by all appearances. The little girl is certainly not to blame. She was at a firearms range, with her parents, receiving lessons from a trained instructor. That leaves only the instructor himself to take the blame for the accident, and that's who deserves it.
Assuming that we put aside the prudence of giving a nine-year-old an automatic weapon in the first place (it's not something that I wouldn't do), I can see at least two ways in which the instructor was negligent. First, he should not have been unprepared for the girl to be surprised by or overcome by the recoil. I am told that Uzis have a notoriously light recoil, but even if that is the case, an instructor should always assume the worst. Second, the instructor should never have placed himself in a position where he could be in the line of the muzzle of a loaded weapon held by a novice. To do so goes against every idea of firearms safety I have ever heard of. It seems obvious to me that the instructor made a mistake. One he paid for dearly.
What does this tell us about gun control? Nothing but "Use both hands" really. The push seems to be to keep young children away from guns, but this accident could have happened to someone of any age. This was more about inexperience than age. Making guns more alien to children would only serve to make things worse.
The second story involves a shooting incident with an Idaho State professor. The school had recently opened up the campus to teachers carrying weapons, so the media has jumped on the idea that this is somehow inherently dangerous. They ignore the number of times that private citizens packing heat have successfully protected themselves and others in favor of creating a furor over an accident where the only injury was to the nincompoop now nicknamed "Limpy".
Limpy should probably be given a break here. After all, a lot of men have problems with prematurely going off. But, if the accident occurs while you're standing in front of a class of young women and men excitedly fingering something hard in your pocket, well, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Once again, we have a case of inexperience or foolishness leading to a tragedy (at least for Limpy's toe). Should all teachers be kept from carrying firearms because of this accident? Of course not, but it might be a good idea to get this particular professor a gun safety class for Christmas. (Editor's Note: A few years back, a New Braunfels Police Officer accidentally shot himself in the hand while at Police Headquarters. It happens. Still funny.)
As for the idea of allowing teachers to carry in the classroom, I suspect it will not make much difference in the long run. Campus shootings are sufficiently rare that any chance at self-defense will likely be a statistical anomaly. The end result will not make people any more or less safe overall. Because of this, there is no particular reason why people shouldn't be able to carry on campus. Having rules preventing people from being armed hasn't protected anybody either. Maybe we should avoid having useless laws as a matter of policy.
Most of this is a tempest in a teapot. The media's outlook with regard to guns is unlikely to change. As much as I would like to see some logic and balance in reporting, it's not going to happen any time soon. The best we can do is be aware of media bias and laugh it off.
Propaganda is almost always ridiculous. It tries to play on human weakness and fear to accomplish political goals. If we point it out when we see it, its effectiveness is eliminated for us and diminished for others. As angry as it makes me that this propaganda is foisted on us by a supposedly unbiased media, there is little that can or should be done. Some people will never accept that they are being manipulated. They can't be helped. The rest of us are probably mostly immune by now. Until the world changes in a major way, I expect to see this sort of drivel, and I expect I will continue to throw my shoes at the television set.
You can read more from Kelly Colby at yourfirstshrug.blogspot.com.