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Guest Editorial

Reflections on shortfalls and investments

Amidst the discussions about financial crises and budget shortfalls shared by many states across our nation, and Texas in particular, some basic questions about our priorities emerge.

Balancing fiscal conservatism with investing in our most precious resources, our children, becomes a very difficult choice. Yet it must reflect our belief in the mission that every child can and must learn…learn not only to read and write, but to succeed as productive, contributing citizens in a world economy.

The impending, unprecedented cuts that are expected to affect the public education system in Texas, in spite of the Governor’s commitment today to use a small portion of the Rainy Day fund to plug the hole from last year’s budget, promise to create a very different level of service, unlike anything we have seen or experienced before.

Local school districts will be forced to reduce workforce at all levels, slash programs, even those essential to meeting the state accountability standards, like dropout recovery and the Student Success Initiative and possibly assess fees for extracurricular program participation.

Five years ago, Fort Bend ISD made a commitment through its five-year district strategic plan to narrow the achievement gap, have no “Unacceptable “or PEG campuses as rated by the state accountability system and have all its campuses achieve Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by federal standards of No Child Left Behind. Fort Bend ISD also made a commitment to becoming a district of choice for attracting and retaining highly qualified staff, creating and institutionalizing transparent processes in all its operations and provide all round cutting edge learning opportunities for all its students.

The journey has been tenuous and difficult, but we stand proud today, being “Recognized” by the TEA, one of only two school district finalists in the nation as a “District of Character”, all campuses meeting AYP, 50 National Merit Scholars, and 5 of our high schools listed among the top 6 % of high schools in the nation to name just a few of our Points of Pride. The collective efforts of all our staff at every level were responsible for our success last year and we are cognizant and very appreciative of that.

As we launch into our own budget creating process, in the shadow of a statewide 27 billion dollar projected shortfall that translates into anywhere from a 30 to 74 million shortfall for Fort Bend ISD, based on a variety of scenarios that the state could adopt, our decisions will be those made between a rock and a really hard place.

Even as they will be based on as much objective data as possible, with due diligence and consideration, they will require courageous leadership to reduce workforce, add responsibilities, require sacrifices of time and call upon every level of commitment possible from the community.

We will continue to engage in dialogue and proactive outreach with our legislators to support public education during this session by certainly relaxing mandates, but also looking at other possible sources of revenue and creating structurally sound funding formulas.

We ask each and every one of our stakeholders to join us in supporting the education and future of our children, because eventually, our main focus is of course, our students, and ensuring their educational success. We cannot fail them. We must invest in our future.

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The Texas legislature is a bunch of idiots
and I dare you to prove otherwise

Texas was one of the first states to sue to get out of universal health care because it claimed that one could not be forced to buy health insurance.

But it seems that buying medical procedures, particularly before an abortion, is just fine and so important that the legislature must take it up before it deals with other heaving problems like a $25 BILLION budget shortfall.

FYI: Unlike the federal government, the Texas legislature is constitutionally mandated to present a balanced budget every two years.

So Governor Good Hair declared it an emergency and the question of sonograms before an abortion will be decided before any budgetary problems. Who will pay for these sonograms is something the ‘lege’ will have to decide. I don’t think our state budget will allow that the state pay for them, and I can’t see how we can require the woman seeking an abortion to pay for them either. That’s unconstitutional, according to Texas.

Other overweening emergencies, according to the good governor, is voter ID and sanctuary cities. These two questions are immensely more important and more of an emergency than our $25 BILLION budget shortfall. Sorry for writing that in all caps, but I just can’t help myself.

Now I’ve never seen someone voting illegally in Texas except a former assistant district attorney some years ago that claimed she lived in the Meadows and could vote for the Republican incumbent district attorney. I personally tracked her down and caught her, and even though this was brought to the DA’s attention, she was never prosecuted. The district attorney (rightfully) lost.

That’s the only illegal voter I’ve any knowledge of and a voter I.D. card would not have stopped that situation. I don’t think any members of the legislature know of any illegal voting either. Oh, wait. Anyone who didn’t vote for them, it was illegal.

The other emergency problem that the legislature must take up before the $25 BILLION budget shortfall is the sanctuary cities in Texas. Now I ask you, if Texas cracks down on swimming the Rio Grande, who will build Bob Perry’s houses, mow the courthouse lawn, or wash my clothes once a week? If restaurants have to pay their waiters regular wages, how much will meals cost? Who will wash our cars, cook our meals, keep our kids, or do all the other necessary jobs that none of us want to do?

I sometimes see what I assume are illegal immigrants walking home after work. They have their lunch kits, their hard hat, and sometimes their reflective vests still on. They left their families, traditions, and familiar surroundings to make a dangerous journey to a place where they didn’t speak the language or in many cases, even know anyone, so they and their families back home could eat. They are brave men and women who are not to be derided, but treated with friendliness, kindness and respect. After all, we may be in their positions in another time or in another life.

The Texas legislature doesn’t know how to deal with the $25 BILLION budget shortfall, so they practice avoidance by dealing with other little piddly things.

At this point, they are not even thinking about redistricting, something else they are also going to have to deal with in the next 140 days.

Yes, sonograms, voter I.D., and sanctuary cities are simply distractions so they don’t have to deal with the real problems facing Texas today.

Idiots!

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FBISD: Why, election after
election, much remains the same

Bear with me, for there is an interesting irony later in the story.

When I first filed as a candidate for the FBISD Board of Trustees, I asked if any other candidates had filed to run for position #7. I was advised that only the incumbent had filed for re-election at that point. Literally minutes after leaving the FBISD administration building, I received a call from a friend (who will remain anonymous) who said; “You’ll never guess who just met with me to discuss the possibility of me running for his seat on the FBISD Board of Trustees (BOT).” It was none other than the incumbent himself, who had already filed for re-election, attempting to recruit a candidate to run for the very position for which he signed up. This understandably grabbed my attention.

In an effort to ensure that our race was clean, friendly and productive, I had already planned on requesting a meeting with the incumbent, so I called him. He was very receptive to meeting and even introduced me to a favored local barbecue restaurant. We immediately hit it off as we found that we had a great deal in common. In fact, I liked him so much, I briefly placed a page on my campaign web site, praising his service to the community.

He even gave me advice on how to begin my campaign. Eventually I asked the inevitable question. Why recruit people to run for your seat if you have already filed to run for re-election? A summary of his reply follows:

Jim, I really don’t intend to run for re-election. I actually have other interests I am considering. But, let me tell you what happens when an incumbent announces he is not running for re-election. Every extremist, wacko and nut-case comes out of the woodwork to run. We (fellow board members) have worked hard to get this board to where we want it. It only takes one rogue person getting elected to the BOT, who begins stirring up things to set the BOT back to where it was (referring to past turmoil). I want to have some say as to who replaces me on the BOT. By keeping my hat in the race, I can have at least some say as to who my replacement might be.

He advised me that he had one more candidate to interview. He then offered his assurance that he would withdraw his name before the deadline to keep his name off the ballot.

Part of me can understand an incumbent wanting to protect all that he feels has been accomplished and fearing that his replacement might try to undo what has been done, taking the district in a different direction. However, what if the community does not approve of the direction the board or district is going? They should have an equal means of voting for a change in direction.

A final note: Our race eventually drew another candidate. Holding true to his stated intentions, the incumbent arranged a meeting with the new challenger, as well. I asked and was invited to attend the meeting, for the same reason I had reached out to the incumbent, to begin the race on positive terms. The incumbent eventually showed me a letter he had written, advising the BOT that he had met with both remaining candidates and basically approved us as acceptable candidates for the BOT and having no hidden agendas.

Finally, upon asking the incumbent what he felt was the most significant accomplishment of the BOT during his tenure, he responded with the following. “We proved that we could all work together and agree on issues.”

He went on to say that the public saw the BOT voting together and getting things done. This is perhaps how the Board’s reputation of being a “Rubber Stamp” board came into being.

I agree that the community needs to know that Board members are able to work together; however, the community also wants to see respectful debate, discussion and occasional dissenting votes.

As a presidential candidate once said, “If we both (all) agree on everything, then only one of us is doing the thinking.”

Basically, we can disagree and still be agreeable. The community needs to know that their School Board is acting as a system of “checks and balances” and that any superintendent is not just being given “carte blanche” to do whatever he or she wants.

Now for the irony I promised. Although I had already heard this from a third party, the same anonymous friend (mentioned earlier) advised me that he had been contacted by a prominent member of the current Board, who attempted to recruit or encourage him to consider becoming a candidate for the board.

This has fueled speculation that perhaps one of the current incumbents whose term is about to expire, may not seek reelection, thus resulting in an open seat. The call was received prior to the holidays. In any campaign, such advance notice provides a significant advantage to the forewarned candidate.

Such strategies are not unique to FBISD. During recent training, we learned of another Texas school district that had a retiring incumbent resign his seat in mid-term so that a preferred replacement could be selected, giving the appointee a tremendous advantage in the upcoming election.

It will be nice to see a day when such strategies are no longer employed and the average citizen had just as even a chance of winning as any other candidate.

OH! I’m supposed to remind everyone that I do not speak for the FBISD Board of Trustees.

Mr. Babb is a current member of the FBISD board.

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On November 24, 2010 Mr. Russell Jones, Sugar Land City Councilman, a member of the First Colony Community Services Association (FCCA) nominating committee, and an attorney representing the interests of various homeowners associations published an article full of inaccuracies and outright distortions that need to be addressed.

As many people are aware, there have been a number of controversies surrounding the current management and actions of the First Colony Community Services Association (FCCA) Board of Directors regarding improvements and capital expenditures by the FCCA. These controversies have been reported in local newspapers as well as the local television news media.

$11 million plan

Mr. Jones states that there has been an “all out war” regarding FCCA’s current spending plans. Nothing can be further from the truth as no one has declared “war” on the FCCA. As dues paying members of the FCCA, the members are entitled to question the actions and expenditures of their home owners associations and when necessary bring those controversies into the light of day, to which the FCCA has taken great umbrage.

Mr. Jones fails to mention that the spending plans (e.g. Master plan”) included the expenditure of $11,000,000 while we are in the middle of worst recession since the Great Depression, the planned destruction of five of 10 perfectly good and functional neighborhood swimming pools without replacements, the construction of a splash park in the Lakes of Edgewater which is redundant and virtually no one wants, and the irregularities surrounding the nominating process to members of the FCCA Board of Directors for which FCCA has been previously sued and lost.

Another example of the ridiculous spending proposed by the FCCA Board of Directors is that the city of Sugar Land has just been named the safest city in Texas and the 12th safest in the United States, yet FCCA also wants to spend money on license plate reader cameras in the interest of “crime prevention” and to monitor the comings and goings of their members.

What is FCCA hiding?

Despite our request for open meetings regarding the current nominating process we were told by Mrs. Sherri Knopfel that the FCCA is not subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act, nor the Texas Open Records Act. What does the FCCA have to hide?

Those who are currently seeking to be elected as directors of the FCCA have legitimate concerns with the way the FCCA is currently conducting their business. Candidates Eleanor Blaine, and write in candidates Myatt Hancock and Howard Paul are not now nor ever been involved in the litigation against the FCCA nominating process.

Proud of our neighborhood

Mr. Jones goes on to ask “Does First Colony look like its staff is “unresponsive” and needs to be replaced?”

As far as the current FCCA directors the answer is unequivocally yes !!!!!. No one I’ve spoken to seems to have a problem with the 32 or so staff members of the FCCA other than the Executive Director, Mrs. Knopfel. If the FCCA BoD and Mrs. Knopfel were responsive to their members, the ensuing news coverage to which Mr. Jones is so vehemently opposed would not be occurring.

While Mr. Jones states that Messer’s Blaine, Hancock and Paul are demanding change without explaining what their change may be, their positions are clearly stated at FCCAreform.org and consists of three simple proposals.

1. Conduct a top to bottom review in order to reduce expenses and shrink staff (currently 32 employees).

2. Hold all future assessment increases to the previous year’s inflation rate, and

3.Keep a minimum of reserves for future maintenance of infrastructure and amenities.

We are against the current board proposal to raid the reserves of $11 million to build water parks.

This is hardly tearing down or destroying the FCCA as we know it.

Controversy won’t go away

All members of the FCCA agree that a strong BoD at the FCCA benefits all members of this association. Strength is not measured in a BoD’s single-mindedness to take a path to which their own constituency is opposed. Strength is measured in the ability to listen to and reasonably adjust to the circumstances at hand, which in this case may include amending the FCCA BoD’s “master plan” to be more in harmony with the legitimate concerns of their members. The FCCA BoD has been tone deaf to their dues paying members and that is what has created the current controversy.

Apathy of the members is what will destroy FCCA or any other HOA faster than any army of lawyers. The current apathy of the FCCA BoD towards the concerns of their members is currently destroying what previously had been and hopefully will continue to be one of the best managed HOAs in Texas, if not the country.

In summary, before writing his editorial Mr. Jones should’ve done his homework to avoid his inflammatory and untrue rhetoric which only feeds the current controversies surrounding FCCA. This cannot be good for the community, FCCA, the City of Sugar Land, or the businesses in our community. He and the FCCA Board of Directors can rest assured that these issues will not go away until the FCCA Board of Directors starts listening to the people who pay their dues.

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Rail and the Economic
Prosperity of Fort Bend County

Fort Bend County is a good place for businesses thanks to freight rail and the changes brought about by the passage, 30 years ago this month, of the Staggers Rail Act. Prior to the passage of Staggers, more than 20 percent of the nation’s railroads were in bankruptcy and thousands of miles of rail lines were in sorry shape after decades of little to no maintenance or investment in new equipment.

Indeed, by 1976, more than 47,000 miles of track had to be operated at reduced speeds because trains risked derailment if they traveled at a normal pace. Standing derailments were also a common occurrence as stationary railcars simply fell off poorly maintained tracks.

Today, despite our national economic downturn, Fort Bend County continues to be a premier place to relocate, or open a new business, and rail is a major player. Kansas City Southern Railroad recently rehabbed track from Victoria-to-Rosenberg, a potentially vital link connecting other major rail carriers in North America to the Port of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico. It also built a $450 million intermodal facility in Rosenberg, TX, on 800 acres.

This intermodal center and logistics park will be the largest economic development project in Fort Bend County over the next 5-10 years. The Logistics Park will accommodate over 7 million square feet of industrial space, create 2,000 new jobs, and hundreds of millions of taxable value for the county and school district.

In February, Forbes magazine ranked Fort Bend County number one, in its "Best Places to Get Ahead" list, based on counties that experienced the most income and job growth over the past few years. Fort Bend County is one of the highest income counties in Texas and its rail infrastructure has contributed and will continue to contribute greatly to this fact.

As we remember the signing of the Staggers Act in 1980, let us also remember the time before that when the federal government essentially ran the railroads due to a complex knot of regulations. As public funds are pumped into building and maintaining roads and highways, airports, waterways and ports, we must not take for granted that today’s railroads are self-sustaining, have put $460 billion back into their infrastructure the last 30 years, have weathered the recession and are emerging in good position to aid in America’s economic recovery.

Our legislators must preserve the policies that have and will continue to make it possible for railroads to sustain themselves through a customer-focused, market-based approach that greatly benefits not only the freight railroads bottom-line, but also their nearly 175,000 employees, U.S. businesses competing in the global marketplace, and our economy at large.

Richard Morrison is the Precinct 1 Commissioner in Fort Bend County.

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An Exposition of Craig Brady’s
Public Comments

As the Fort Bend County Precinct 4 Constable, I would like to respond to questions about Precinct 4 providing additional law enforcement services to the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority (the “FBCTRA”). I feel a public letter is fitting due to recent, public statements by Chief Deputy Craig Brady of the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office.

The FBCTRA, a local governmental entity created by the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court, is tasked with management of the two Fort Bend toll roads. The toll roads are public highways. The FBCTRA contracts with Fort Bend County to provide additional law enforcement services, and the authority to enter into such a contract lies with the Fort Bend Commissioners Court.

Up until three years ago, the Sheriff provided services under the law enforcement contract. During the summer of 2007, the FBCTRA initiated a review of such services and solicited proposals for providing law enforcement services from each of the four Constables and from the Sheriff. In August, after review and analysis of the five proposals, the FBCTRA selected my department as its preferred provider of the law enforcement services, and my office assumed responsibility for the contract starting October 1, 2007.

Over the past three years my office has provided high-quality, professional services to the FBCTRA. We worked the FBCTRA to optimize the timing of our patrol, we have incorporated FBCTRA equipment and procedures into our own, we have accepted new challenges and projects as requested, and we have opened lines of communication between the FBCTRA and our deputies. My deputies have received specialized training and have extensive experience in highway traffic related law enforcement.

At the August 18 meeting of the FBCTRA, in connection with the annual review for the law enforcement services contract, Commissioner Andy Meyers, along with Sheriff Milton Wright and Chief Deputy Craig Brady, presented several arguments for the movement of the toll road contract from my office to the sheriff’s office. My Chief Deputy, Chad Norvell, responded to each of those arguments, and we agreed to exchange further information.

One of Commissioner Meyers’ arguments related to whether the Commissioners Court could grant my requests for additional deputies to patrol the toll road. County Attorney Roy Cordes attended the August 18 meeting, and while he did not think the current contracts were improper, he stated that he would look into the matter. The next day, Chief Norvell sent Commissioner Meyers an e-mail with a courtesy link to a 2004 Attorney General Opinion which we felt was relevant to one of Mr. Meyer’s complaints.

Much to my irritation, on August 20 Commissioner Meyers sent an e-mail response to Chief Norvell, copied various FBCTRA members, Commissioner Richard Morrison, County Attorney Cordes, me, Sheriff Wright and Chief Brady, and proceeded to provide his legal analysis as to why he felt that the current toll road contract was improper.

Although I am not an attorney, I should point out that neither is Commissioner Meyers; and even if we both were attorneys, neither one of us is the legal representative for Fort Bend County. I responded to Commissioner Meyers, carefully explained why I felt that his interpretation of the Local Government Code was misguided, and setting forth the details for my analysis, concluded with the following: “I think what bothers me the most are the lack of proper thought and consideration of these matters and a rush to make a hasty decision. At the very least we should bring this matter up before the County Attorney, and to the extent our County Attorney considers the questions worthy of further attention or clarification, he may request an opinion from the Attorney General.”

Fortunately, the parties did allow County Attorney Cordes the time to make a considered legal decision, and he agreed that the current law enforcement contract was appropriate, a conclusion that I hear has been supported by other relevant attorneys.

Unfortunately, Chief Brady did not like Mr. Cordes’ conclusion, and Chief Brady publicly challenged my Office, the Commissioners Court, County Attorney Cordes, and the FBCTRA by questioning the legitimacy of my providing law enforcement services to the FBCTRA. He questioned the legality of the citations issued by my deputies and even commented in the Fort Bend Herald that my deputies were violating the law.

Why would a deputy in the sheriff’s office go to the press with public comments about his interpretation of a local government code section that does not pertain to him or his department? Why would he even read such an obscure section and purport to be an expert on it? I can only guess as to the answers, but I do know that this was a matter previously brought up by Commissioner Meyers, reviewed by County Attorney Roy Cordes, further considered by counsel for the FBCTRA and, I believe, covered by a reasoned reading of Texas Attorney General opinions.

In addition, we know that Chief Brady announced his campaign to run for sheriff in 2012, and he probably considers me to be among his potential competition. I am seriously considering running for sheriff, and I have an exploratory committee assisting me with evaluating the possibilities.

I am convinced this matter is fashioned by political motives, and I find any other pretext to be implausible.

Sincerely yours,
Troy E. Nehls
Constable Pct. 4

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An Exposition of Craig Brady’s
Public Comments

As the Fort Bend County Precinct 4 Constable, I would like to respond to questions about Precinct 4 providing additional law enforcement services to the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority (the “FBCTRA”). I feel a public letter is fitting due to recent, public statements by Chief Deputy Craig Brady of the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office.

The FBCTRA, a local governmental entity created by the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court, is tasked with management of the two Fort Bend toll roads. The toll roads are public highways. The FBCTRA contracts with Fort Bend County to provide additional law enforcement services, and the authority to enter into such a contract lies with the Fort Bend Commissioners Court.

Up until three years ago, the Sheriff provided services under the law enforcement contract. During the summer of 2007, the FBCTRA initiated a review of such services and solicited proposals for providing law enforcement services from each of the four Constables and from the Sheriff. In August, after review and analysis of the five proposals, the FBCTRA selected my department as its preferred provider of the law enforcement services, and my office assumed responsibility for the contract starting October 1, 2007.

Over the past three years my office has provided high-quality, professional services to the FBCTRA. We worked the FBCTRA to optimize the timing of our patrol, we have incorporated FBCTRA equipment and procedures into our own, we have accepted new challenges and projects as requested, and we have opened lines of communication between the FBCTRA and our deputies. My deputies have received specialized training and have extensive experience in highway traffic related law enforcement.

At the August 18 meeting of the FBCTRA, in connection with the annual review for the law enforcement services contract, Commissioner Andy Meyers, along with Sheriff Milton Wright and Chief Deputy Craig Brady, presented several arguments for the movement of the toll road contract from my office to the sheriff’s office. My Chief Deputy, Chad Norvell, responded to each of those arguments, and we agreed to exchange further information.

One of Commissioner Meyers’ arguments related to whether the Commissioners Court could grant my requests for additional deputies to patrol the toll road. County Attorney Roy Cordes attended the August 18 meeting, and while he did not think the current contracts were improper, he stated that he would look into the matter. The next day, Chief Norvell sent Commissioner Meyers an e-mail with a courtesy link to a 2004 Attorney General Opinion which we felt was relevant to one of Mr. Meyer’s complaints.

Much to my irritation, on August 20 Commissioner Meyers sent an e-mail response to Chief Norvell, copied various FBCTRA members, Commissioner Richard Morrison, County Attorney Cordes, me, Sheriff Wright and Chief Brady, and proceeded to provide his legal analysis as to why he felt that the current toll road contract was improper.

Although I am not an attorney, I should point out that neither is Commissioner Meyers; and even if we both were attorneys, neither one of us is the legal representative for Fort Bend County. I responded to Commissioner Meyers, carefully explained why I felt that his interpretation of the Local Government Code was misguided, and setting forth the details for my analysis, concluded with the following: “I think what bothers me the most are the lack of proper thought and consideration of these matters and a rush to make a hasty decision. At the very least we should bring this matter up before the County Attorney, and to the extent our County Attorney considers the questions worthy of further attention or clarification, he may request an opinion from the Attorney General.”

Fortunately, the parties did allow County Attorney Cordes the time to make a considered legal decision, and he agreed that the current law enforcement contract was appropriate, a conclusion that I hear has been supported by other relevant attorneys.

Unfortunately, Chief Brady did not like Mr. Cordes’ conclusion, and Chief Brady publicly challenged my Office, the Commissioners Court, County Attorney Cordes, and the FBCTRA by questioning the legitimacy of my providing law enforcement services to the FBCTRA. He questioned the legality of the citations issued by my deputies and even commented in the Fort Bend Herald that my deputies were violating the law.

Why would a deputy in the sheriff’s office go to the press with public comments about his interpretation of a local government code section that does not pertain to him or his department? Why would he even read such an obscure section and purport to be an expert on it? I can only guess as to the answers, but I do know that this was a matter previously brought up by Commissioner Meyers, reviewed by County Attorney Roy Cordes, further considered by counsel for the FBCTRA and, I believe, covered by a reasoned reading of Texas Attorney General opinions.

In addition, we know that Chief Brady announced his campaign to run for sheriff in 2012, and he probably considers me to be among his potential competition. I am seriously considering running for sheriff, and I have an exploratory committee assisting me with evaluating the possibilities.

I am convinced this matter is fashioned by political motives, and I find any other pretext to be implausible.

Sincerely yours,
Troy E. Nehls
Constable Pct. 4

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FCCA has more cents than sense!

When I first heard about the proposed Lakes of Edgewater invasive splash park at a local party, I thought someone was pulling my leg around the keg.

According to the plan I heard, several small pools would be shut down and a huge splash park would be opened in that quiet residential neighborhood.

Does First Colony Community Association have more money than they have sense?

As a resident of particular neighborhoods in First Colony, some of us pay a tidy sum (over $600 per year) into the community solicitation. Heretofore, I’ve always thought it was a bargain. Many neighborhood parks, pools, and other amenities are supported in addition to the beautiful plantings at the entrance to each subdivision. It always made me proud to live here.

But this plan to shut smaller pools, which I love for my grandsons who also live here, is ludicrous and the board seems to not be listening to any of the neighbors.

I know what they are doing. They are trying to compete with the water parks at New Territory and Sienna. These attractions were probably originally funded by the real estate developers and I say let the real estate developers fund the new splash park but somewhere not in a residential community.

I didn’t move to First Colony for a Schlitterbahn style water feature. I moved here for all the green space, walking and bicycling trails, and play parks.

I believe First Colony Community Association has more money than it has sense and since that is the case, they need to be replaced. We need smart people on the board.

Wait a minute. Maybe that is their ultimate plan. Screw up the neighborhood so much we’ll elect others, thereby letting them off the hook.

I’ve heard that I need to take a real hard look at the spending of the dues collected by the association. I’ve heard it will blow your mind.

If you want to call and make a protest about this almost million dollar expenditure, call 281-634-9500. Tell’em Bev said to call.

By the way, here are the leaders. You probably know one or more of them. Call them at home if you know them well enough to have their home numbers. Either tell them what you think or commensurate with them about this editorial.

Don Olson, President
Jim Dunford, Vice President
Hillary Goldstein, Secretary/Treasurer
Sherrie Knoepfel, Executive Director
Farha Ahmed, John Molloy, Vidya Verma, Joyce Walter

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All hat and no cattle

When a guy rolls in talking the talk and walking the walk, but doesn’t have a clue ...in Texas we say he’s all hat and no cattle.

“Conservative Leadership for Fort Bend families” is what the literature for District Attorney candidate Richard Raymond extols along with his “strong personal integrity” and his many years of business acumen. He’s a lawyer with a CPA as well as a loving husband and father of three daughters, says his literature.

This is Fort Bend County, and folks here are used to their politics being blood sport, but, honestly, what would possess anyone to run for public office if they had family issues like Senator John Edwards? What would possess a candidate to offer their family up for that kind of ridicule?

One has, right here in Fort Bend County. When he was asked about his transgressions, Richard Raymond was most distressed that this newspaper would bring up his personal life. We believe his behavior in his personal life goes to his character as well as his integrity - just ask John Edwards.

Speaking of integrity and family values, here are some of Raymond’s family values as delineated in Fort Bend County records: a petition of divorce was filed by Raymond’s wife in 1991 citing cruelty and adultery. In 1993 the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution. In March of that same year, 1993, a woman arrested for DWI in Stafford and represented by Raymond’s law partner. On her probation papers, she listed Richard Raymond as her boyfriend.

When did conservative leaders with family values and personal integrity have both a wife and a girlfriend at the same time? Can we say John Edwards?

There’s more. In 1997, the same woman, the one with the DWI, had a baby girl. In 2003, she filed a lawsuit against Richard Raymond in the name of the child. That case ended in December of that year with court ordered child support. One of the documents in the file is a hand-written court order signed by Judge Robert Kern stating, “finding that respondent (Raymond) is father.”

The case went on from June until the end of 2003. During that time Raymond was ordered repeatedly to provide his financial records. Eventually a child support agreement was reached and according to the documents, the child moved out of state with her mother. In 2005 Raymond went back to court with an agreed modification to the custody order whereby the child moved back to Texasto live with Raymond and his wife....the same woman who earlier accused him of adultry, the same woman he refers to in his political literature as his high school sweetheart and wife of 28+ years. Is that conservative? Does it show leadership? Family values? Personal integrity?

When questioned about these issues, Raymond said it was a long time ago and he had changed. He even said he had discussed this with his men’s bible study group. While it may seem callous to mention his family, Richard Raymond is the one who threw them under the bus by touting his “family values and strong personal integrity.”

He knows those documents were on file at the courthouse and he knows they are public record. It begs the question, what possessed him to get into this race in the first place? Arrogance? Ignorance? Or somebody with an agenda that was blowing smoke up his skirt? Whatever it was, it has got to be hard on his family. But once again, his choices are what put his family where they are today. Once again, it’s about his character.

Could it be that Richard Raymond has exemplified the same character traits as Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, or John Edwards? Where is his moral compass? Why would he expose his family to this? Why would he pick a conservative platform? What happened to his integrity back in 1991, 1993, 2003. Or for that matter in 2006 when he was a business partner in JMC Capital Holdings, Inc with Joey Sula, who ultimately bilked Karen Pearson out about one half million dollars. Those corporation papers are also public record, available at the Texas Secretary of State online.

If elected, what would happen if Raymond suffered another shift in his moral compass? The court documents that provide snapshots into Richard Raymond’s behavior are glimpses into his character.

On March 2, 2010, the next District Attorney of Fort Bend County will be elected in the Republican primary as there is no Democrat in November. When you step into the voting booth, remember a vote for Richard Raymond is a vote for a man who put personal desires before his family. Don‘t give him a chance to do that to the citizens of Fort Bend County or the laws of the State of Texas.

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By Beverly Carter

We received complaints from people last week about the “Dumb Criminal” column whereby a Sugar Land police officer shot a dog which approached him in what he felt was a menancing and agrgessive manner.

It is dumb and criminal to let your pets run loose.

As unreasonable as this all seems to dog lovers, cities have leash laws for this exact reason. One never knows just how their beloved pet might respond to ANYONE entering their territory; neighbor child, neighbor dog or a stranger with a gun - even though they are there to help. What if that officer had been a child? The animal doesn’t know what is really happening and the leash laws give the owner control over the pet thus reducing the number and severity of these kinds of incidents. Once again, it’s all about personal responsibility -- this time, the pet owner’s.

While this may seem unreasonable to the folks that know the animal, it is a reality; thus leash laws have been instituted nationwide. It protects us all, whether we think we need it or not.

Dogs usually bite people on the hands as they are trying to protect themselves. If a cop gets bitten in the hand, they can’t work. So, hospital bill, drugs, stitches, then light duty at best, or time off with pay, till they heal - either way the taxpayer loses.

Cops get bit all the time and it’s a worker’s comp claim, and at the very least, a quarantine for the animal, if not termination.

The story was based on police activity - not neighborhood consensus. If the cop felt in danger, he had every right to shoot. That may not be popular but it is the law.

This may be too narrow minded for many pet owners. However, I owned and loved a doberman like a child for over 13 years but would NOT let her run loose. And now, the king of my house - a cat - does not run loose either. It is all about their protection and my responsibility as a pet owner.

One dog out of the two in the yard was shot in the shoulder; the other not hurt at all. Neither died. By the way, this same area of Sugar Land has had dog issues over the last several years. Most of those ended in termination either by police or neighbors trying to get the dogs off people.

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Been there; done that--for far, far, too long

By B.K. Carter

The watch word this year seems to be “change.” That’s understandable because of the Bush Dynasty and the attempt to create a Clinton dynasty. The “change” theme can be applied right here in Fort Bend County as we have some elected officials who have been around too long and their familiarity is quickly edging up on contempt.

Republicans

On the Republican side, I’m talking about Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright and State Representative Charlie Howard.Fortunately, both positions have very smart and able challengers running for the jobs, unlike in previous years when we didn’t have a choice. Billy Frank Teague would make an excellent sheriff just as Paula Stansell would be an outstanding state representative.In previous weeks, I’ve written about their peccadilloes and major faults. We won’t go into them again here. You can access my previous articles on-line at www.FortBendStar.com. Suffice it to say that both men have been around too long and they have lost their effectiveness. Teague and Stansell will serve us better.

For U.S. congressman, I am voting for Pete Olson. Shelley Sekula Gibbs made us the laughing stock in the short weeks she was tin Washington before. I’m not supporting Dean Hrbacek because I know how he acted as mayor and what he has done to the local Republican party. I don’t know any of those other people running so I can’t support them. I know Dean Hrbacek so I can’t support him. Pete Olson is our best best to beat Nick Lampson even though I’m not sure that can be done, or even needs to be.

Also in the Republican primary, Greg Ordeneaux has our vote for Pct. 1 county commissioner. Additionally, still in the Republican primary, Gary Janssen is by far the superior candidate in the Pct. 1 Justice of Peace race.In the face of my contention that some officeholders have simply been around too long, incumbent constables A.J. Dorr and Rob Cook have far better credentials than their opponents, and I mean FAR better. In this case, Dorr and Cook’s longevity can’t count against them.

Democrats

In the Democratic primary, only the State Representative Dist 27 and the Pct. 1 county commissioner race are important locally. We won’t even go into the presidential primary. I’m only really interested in races that affect us right here in Fort Bend county. For State Representative Dist. 27, Dora Olivo has been around too long, much like the boys in the Republican primary. It’s time for Dora to retire and make room for a more energetic and committed officeholder. In this case, Ron Reynolds fills that bill.In the Pct. 1 County commissioner, Richard Morrison, Sharon K. Wallingford, Marty Rocha, Rodrigo Carreon, and Gerald Anderson are all running. I love Sharon Wallingford, but I think Richmond Morrison would be the superior office holder, provided he made it his full time job.

In any event, vote early, If you don’t, you’ll be sorry. Remember that I told you so.

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Fort Bend DA John Healey
lets assistant DAs run amok

In regard to Bev Carter’s of October 24 column calling for a cadre of “court watchers” to monitor judges, I encourage her to cast her net further to include the district attorney’s office, where John Healey lets his assistant district attorneys run amok.Ask criminal defense attorneys practicing in Fort Bend about excesses within the district attorney’s office and their frustration at Healey’s lack of oversight of his prosecutors. Also, ask the attorneys (or if you can find them, former defendants) about prosecutors’ delaying tactics in bringing criminal cases to trial.

A divorce case languishing in civil court for four years is an anomaly, but a criminal case languishing in district courts for years is commonplace.The local rules of Fort Bend County’s district courts state that, under 1. TIME STANDARDS, district judges are to, “as far as is reasonably possible, ensure that all cases are brought to trial or final disposition in conformity with the following standards: 1.1 Criminal Cases: within 12 months of arrest or indictment whichever is earlier.” In this county, final disposition of a criminal case within a year means that the defendant has accepted a plea bargain.The mission statement of the district attorney’s office reads in part: “It is the primary duty of the district attorney and his assistants, not to convict, but to see that justice is done.”

That statement is part of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, from which Healey quoted when defending his office’s practices in the 2006 Republican primary election.The actions of the district attorney’s office repudiate that statement. The Fort Bend prosecutorial system is designed to get a conviction at all cost and to make the judicial process so oppressive that a defendant will take a plea.Defendants who do not take a plea can expect to wait for years to go to trial as prosecutors ask for and get repeated continuances, usually at two-to-three month intervals.

If questioned about the delays, prosecutors offer noble-sounding explanations, such as they are still gathering evidence that could clear the defendant. If you believe that, then you believe that O.J. is actively trying to find the murderers of Nicole and Ron.The explanation is legalese for “we’re screwed”. We have indicted some poor snook on flimsy charges.

Our only hope now is that, if we drag this is out long enough, he/she will get tired of waiting and take a plea, drop dead, or, in a moment of insanity, go on a crime spree, so we can really nail him or her.”Fort Bend prosecutors are notorious for stonewalling in turning over evidence, even that which is damaging to the defense.

Judges must compel prosecutors to turn over court-ordered evidence in the state’s possession, and then prosecutors often only partially comply. Chances of them discovering and then voluntarily divulging any evidence exculpatory to the defense are slim to none.The cases against Fulshear Mayor Jamie Roberts and the Holden Roofing defendants are blatant examples of another standard prosecutorial intimidation tactic-adding more charges.

Enhancement of charges is a ploy to overwhelm defendants financially and emotionally so that they capitulate and take a plea.Unless it is politically expedient to do otherwise, the prosecutors do not stop the charade until the district judge says “Enough!” and forces them into trial. Prosecutors must then try the case or dismiss it. Still hoping that the defendant might break at the last minute and take a plea, prosecutors will usually wait until the morning the trial is to start to dismiss.Defendants are not safe even then.

They must fight prosecutors in court to have their criminal record expunged and, in the case of dismissed without prejudice, could face new indictments on the same case.Why might Healey allow his prosecutors to be so heavy-handed? Money and prestige are two reasons that come to mind. Heavy case loads and high conviction rates translate into more federal and state funding and larger staffs.

Financially, everyone benefits but the defendant and, in the case of indigent defendants, the county.Being perceived as tough on crime helps Healey maintain his elected position. Prosecutors also parlay the same perception into juggernaut reputations against defense attorneys, departmental promotions, judicial appointments, and/or runs for county-wide office.

Maybe court watchers would motivate Healey and his prosecutors to keep their oaths to advocate justice and would help ensure that true justice becomes a reality in Fort Bend County.

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Fort Bend Economic Development
Council supports school bonds

The Board of Directors of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council passed a resolution today expressing their unanimous support for the Fort Bend ISD Bond Election that has been called for November 6, 2007. As one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, Fort Bend County is now home to over 500,000 residents. The Fort Bend ISD currently serves approximately 69,000 students, and enrollment is projected to grow to 75,000 over the next three years.

The proposed bond is a positive step towards meeting the challenges posed by such fast growth.The $428 million bond referendum, if approved, will be used to renovate and improve existing schools and facilities, improve technology, build much needed new campuses, secure land for future school sites, purchase more buses, and enhance the security of schools across the district.

Economic excellence is a guiding principle for the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council who works closely with companies who are considering relocating to Fort Bend County.

Excellent public schools are a critical part of the decision-making process for these companies. “Schools are like magnets, good schools attract and bad schools repel”, commented Herb Appel, CEO of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council.

Appel, along with four other members of the Council, served on the Bond Steering Committee which was comprised of community members and Fort Bend ISD staff. They performed an extensive review and evaluation of the capital needs of Fort Bend ISD.

Upon completion of that work, a positive recommendation was made to the Board of Directors that the Council and its members support the passage of the bond referendum.

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Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

By John Whitmore

We have an extremely important election coming up early in November. Most of the issues involve amendments to the State Constitution. These amendments read like a convention of constitutional lawyers talking “in tongues” to other constitutional lawyers. Dive in and study them on your own. The STAR has nothing to add to the understanding of this convoluted verbiage. BUT, the next to the last issue on the ballot is important to all of us. It seeks approval to issue $428 million in bonds for our schools.We support this if for the simple reason that our kids, our community, and we need it.

Anyway you cut it; our schools are the engine of our community’s growth. “What kind of schools do you have?” is one of the first questions asked by large corporations and people moving into our area. Just look at the statistics and you understand the importance of our good schools.Fort Bend Independent School District is, and has been for many years, one of the fastest growing districts in the state. In 1992, FBISD was the 40th largest district in the state.

Today it is ranked as being the 7th largest with a 2008 enrollment of 69,000 expected. Conservative estimates of the district’s growth in student population to 75,500 for 2010 and 88,000 students by 2015.Numbers alone don’t tell the story of quality and excellence. For the current school year, FBISD had 72 National Merit Semi-finalists. Just for comparison, look at some of the big Houston area school districts: Cypress-Fairbanks ISD—43, Spring Branch ISD –29, Clear Creek ISD—43 and Conroe (including The Wo0odlands) ISD-35, Katy ISD-41.. FBISD 2007 graduates received more than $25 million in academic and athletic college scholarships.

The current growth rate of some 2,300 students per year puts an enormous strain on the district’s schools AND demands new schools be built. The Bond referendum calls for the construction of eight new campuses in the district—that includes four new elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school plus an alternative learning center and to purchase land for future schools.

These new campuses will account for some $252.7 million.Renovations for existing campuses, new safety and security for campus safety, new technology equipment and upgrades comes to some $164.1 million. Transportation, including new buses to accommodate our growth and replacement of old equipment will cost another $11.2 million. Our kids need what the bonds will buy, and for our property owners it means value.

Don’t forget to vote FOR the FBISD bond referendum on Nov. 6, 2007.

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Wounded Warriors Report

By Congressman Nick Lampson

On Wednesday, the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors delivered its report containing six recommendations to fundamentally alter our nation’s military health care system and benefits management systems for our returning troops. I applaud the Commission’s recommendation to strengthen support for military families, recruit more focused and talented medical professionals, improve prevention and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Treatment of mental trauma has been shamefully ignored, and I am proud that this Congress has already recognized the problem and taken the initiative to address it by passing bills providing record funding for PTSD and TBI.

Our nation’s servicemen and women deserve only the best. I welcome these recommendations, but I regret that they are only coming now, nearly six years into our war on terror, and only after the Washington Post exposÈ on the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Even now, the White House chose not to take immediate action to implement the recommendations.

This Administration has often been wont to convene a bi-partisan Commission, praise their efforts and then promptly ignore their recommendations. If this report is ignored as well, it will be apparent that the Administration’s priorities do not lie with our nation’s brave soldiers.The 109th Congress has also abdicated its responsibility to provide oversight and ensure that our servicemen and women receive proper treatment.

The 110th Congress however, has already taken swift action. I am proud that our new majority has restored focus where it belongs – on care and coverage for our nation’s servicemen and women and their families. The House passed the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007, which improves the management of medical care and quality of life for troops receiving outpatient care.

I am also proud to have voted for increased funding for veterans in need, and an unprecedented $6.7 billion dollar increase for the Veteran’s Administration (VA). We were voted into office to replace a do-nothing Congress and oversee an apathetic administration, and we will not sit idly by while our veterans are treated as second class citizens.

As the nation with the greatest military in the history of the world, it is embarrassing that veterans and their families wait for months or even years for their benefits, and then have to wage yet another fight to keep them. There is no excuse for neglecting our brave men and women. Our troops show extraordinary dedication by risking their lives to defend our freedoms. Their government owes them nothing less when they return.

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Publisher endorses several local candidates

By B.K. Carter, owner publisher-The Fort Bend Star

Although we are not going to make endorsement in all races, we feel there are some primary races which will be decisive in the general election, either by virtue of the candidates we chose to run against the other political parties, or that will be decided in the primary with no general election opponent. County Clerk Dianne Wilson--is an excellent elected official and a staunch defender of the public’s right to know. She almost single-handedly brought Fort Bend County record keeping into the 21st century and has been a statewide leader in her field. The county has benefitted from her involvement in the state associations as Wilson has kept up with technology and brought those ideas home to Fort Bend.

Her opponent, on the other hand, has lived in Fort Bend for 17 months, has never been involved in local activities, either political or charitable, and has little on her resume to recommend her for this job. Her original message has been to keep records off the internet, a platform she has since recanted, but which shows she has little knowledge of the job. Her other message has been one of attacks on Wilson.

We recommend Dianne Wilson for Fort Bend County Clerk.

Gary Gillen--is an outstanding Republican advocate and has spent much of his time and his own money to help Republican candidates, some even from other states. He is organized and a small business man. He is an inclusive candidate without a narrow ideological agenda who will continue the “big tent” concept that has dominated Eric Thode’s tenure.

I have worked with both of his opponents who are disorganized and ineffectual. They are beholden to small interest groups who will advance a religious ideological agenda that has no place in politics.

We recommend Gary Gillen as Republican County Chairman.

Tony Dale--One position on the ballot receives very little notice and usually doesn’t engender much controversy or campaign contributions which allow a lot of advertising. That may be why is has such a low profile. However, the State Board of Education consists of 15 elected members, and they oversee the public education system of Texas. Fort Bend County is in District 10 and a local woman is in the race. But this local woman has accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from the wife of James Leininger, a conservative activist and school voucher proponent.Tony Dale has children in Texas public schools while his opponent home-schools her children, although Dale believes in letting home schoolers continue their success. We agree with Tony Dale when he says, “If you want to serve in public policy for four million Texans in public schools, it probably helps to have your kids in public schools.”

His opponent believes in teaching intelligent design, while Tony Dale believes until the law is changed that should be taught at home and at church.

We recommend Tony Dale for State Board of Education, District 10.

Tom Campbell-Although I like Pat Baig and am more philosophically aligned with her moderate agenda, I believe that unless we elect Tom Campbell as our U.S. Congressman, then Congressional District 22 will fall to Democrat Nick Lampson in November. Tom Campbell is a conservative Republican who previously served in the administration of George Bush (41). He is an honest man and husband (28 years), and father (six plus two foster children). He’s never run for office before but felt compelled after seeing what Tom DeLay did as a congressman from his district. A college graduate with a law degree, he is committed to conservative values, including limited, transparent and honest government.Tom DeLay is the poster boy for lobbying stranglehold on the laws of our land. His actions are being used to oust Republican office holders all across the country and a total shake-up in contribution rules. He has been admonished by the Republican-controlled House ethics committee an unprecedented four times, and has changed his story several times about his relationship with disgraced lobbyists Jack Abramoff. Reelecting him would make Fort Bend County the laughing stock of the United States.

The ethical lapses of Tom DeLay are too numerous to mention in this space but they include siccing the IRS on a nonprofit group that questioned him, changing the Republican rules about the majority leader having to step down if indicted, and even using the Homeland Security to track some fleeing Democrats.

We recommend Tom Campbell for U.S. Congress District 22.

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Politicians should not be
allowed to accept PAC money

Why are politicians allowed to accept PAC, lobbyist or any special interest money?Those bozo’s (no offense to clowns) in congress passed that stupid campaign finance reform law - McCain-Feingold - (supposedly President Bush only signed it because he and other Republicans just knew it would be ruled unconstitutional) when all they had to do was outlaw any PAC or lobbyist campaign contributions. The only money they should be allowed to accept is from individuals from their district (congressmen) or state (senators) or the entire US (president). No businesses, lobbyist, PAC, unions or any special interests of any kind should be allowed to pad politicians campaign coffers.

Why should this company or that company or this political action committee or that one be allowed to give them money? They (a PAC) can’t vote for them so there is no logical reason to allow it. Lobbyists and PACs would NOT be outlawed. They could still exist and even raise money and they can even lobby all they want - they just couldn’t give that money to any candidate - period (or employ any politician’s relative or family member????).

If they want to push their special interest - let them. If they want to run ads - I of course have no problem with that (I run a newspaper and like selling ads). They could run ads in districts and maybe the constituents would tell their representative to take this action or that. If local PAC ads don’t influence constituents to “take up the PAC’s cause” then it must not be important to the constituents.This would stop the power of incumbency in its tracks. But, those bozos will never pass this since there is obviously an incestuous relationship between lobbyists and any politician as long as voters don’t demand them to do so. I would like you to give me one good reason why voters shouldn’t demand this ( Michael@FortBendStar.com ). It is time for we the people to take back our government. If we have to elect some single issue candidates, so be it. The Congressmen that we have been electing appear only to be interested in getting re-elected.By the way, I think this would be fine for state and local law as well (precincts, county, city council districts, etc). And if they don’t know for sure that a campaign contribution came from someone in their “contribution universe,” they had better not take the contribution. I think there would be a lot of returned contribution checks in this scenario.Michael Fredrickson

Fort Bend Star General Manager

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Campaign finance reform and Tom DeLay

By Michael Fredrickson

Tom DeLay has been attacked by leftist Democrats for years, and he has always come out smelling like a rose. Now, a partisan district attorney has convinced a grand jury to indict DeLay on a charge that apparently was not even a law at the time it was alleged. This partisan district attorney has an extensive record of political prosecution of Republicans and Democrats alike, but only those that are adversaries of his political friends.

By the way, I don’t think I have voted for DeLay in the general election in the past 10 years (but never for the Democrat either) but always voted for his opponent in the Republican primary (see term limits below).When I hear an indictment of “conspiracy” my first reaction is..."oh my gosh, that’s horrible," but when these allegations are explained in media reports I think, "so what is the big deal?" I hate to be cynical and say "every politician does it" but every allegation/accusation seems politically motivated... asked the FFA to find some airplane... took a $70,000 trip to England... played golf at St. Andrews in Scotland paid for by ???? The reason I know it is a partisan witch hunt is that the very same Democrats that are alleging illegalities are the same Dems that defended Tom Foley, Jim Wright, Tip O’Neal and Dan (I’m not a crook) Rostenkowski.

Don’t forget, only after the Republicans finally took control of the House of Representative did they make some of these shenanigans illegal/unethical, etc. When the Democrat Party ran the show, it was no holds barred.I am sick and tired of this and so is “middle” America (apathy, low voter turnout, etc.) and I have a solution.

First, repeal any and all campaign contribution laws except one - every contribution must be made with a check and each check is photocopied onto the disclosure form and posted within 24 hours on a single federal government web site listing every federal politician (state politicians on state government site, county, city, etc). This check must be traceable to an individual with a full address, union, corporation, etc. No other laws are needed except full and immediate disclosure.

This will stop the Democrat Party and the Republican Party from these partisan witch hunts and then politicians can get back to defeating each other at the ballot box. By the way, an election every two or six years is NOT term limits and in some cases not even a fair election.

Along with the suggestion above we must have term limits for every politician. If it is good enough for the President of the United States and Sugar Land City Council, it is good enough for all the rest of us. Or we could just get rid of pensions for any and all elected officeholders.

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Juror number 9

This Friday, September 16, 200 citizens of Fort Bend County will appear in my courtroom as a result of a jury summons. The sad fact however, is that none of them will be chosen as jurors Friday. You see, everyone of these men and women could have been selected as jurors, but each one of them, for one reason or another, failed to appear on August 30, the day they were needed.

Over the past two weeks, the Fort Bend County District Clerk and I have been coordinating a Contempt of Court Docket, scheduled so that each of the 200 who failed to timely show up for jury duty in August will be personally served with notice by the Fort Bend County Sheriff to show up on Friday.

Each of them face a potential fine from $100 to $1,000. Why should all this extra time and energy have to be used to get good people to do what most of them already know they are supposed to do? Maybe some of them, not many I hope, feel like one man who appeared on one of the first juries I impaneled as a brand new judge in 1981. “I don’t want to be here, because my time is just going to be wasted.”

True, not every trial is started and finished in 60 minutes with four commercial breaks and a sneak peek at next week’s episode. But that is the way our system works. The truth is most district court cases are finished within one week from the day they start. Jurors can rest assured that if they are called to serve as jurors in my court for a case like a Scott Peterson or a Michael Jackson, it won’t be a secret. The good news is that cases like those are very few and far between (and, of course, neither of those guys live in Fort Bend County).

Or maybe some feel, “I can’t afford to take time away from my job.” I wonder if that is the same person who would read the business section of the local newspaper and complain about - pick one: the high jury verdict of the week, the “guilty” person who walked away free, or the last big corporation which snookered its own shareholders? I would say to any of those complaints, “Don’t grumble about the meal unless you are willing to do some of the cooking.”Which brings me to “Juror Number 9”.

On that same August 30, when 337 citizens of this county chose to ignore their Jury Summons, I did empanel a jury to hear a civil lawsuit. In the overall scheme of things, it was not a major case. It probably should have even been tried in a lower court. To the people on both sides of the lawsuit, however, it mattered a lot.

One of the 12 jurors who sat through the two days of trial was Juror Number 9. What made her remarkable to me was not that she had some great philosophical background or that she brought some extraordinary insight into the claims of the lawsuit. Those are admirable traits to be sure, but are not usually necessary to transform an ordinary citizen into a remarkable juror.

What made Juror Number 9 remarkable to me was the fact that she did not even have to be there. You see, while there is an unqualified exemption for any person with a child under the age of 10 years, my experience over the last 24 years as a presiding judge has taught me that most attorneys are generally willing to let a young housewife with two pre-teen children leave the jury panel. Particularly so when the judge makes it known the trial will last each evening well past the dinner hour. Juror Number 9 did not make that request and she took her place along with 11 others, each willing to spend whatever time was necessary to see that justice was done.

Did she, and all the others, believe jury duty is important? You bet they did. The case was resolved in court after several years of unsuccessful mediation because these jurors, including Juror Number 9, were willing to participate in the process. None of them were there for the $30 per day we pay our jurors in Fort Bend County (soon to go to $40.00 per day). None came for the free lunches, because we don’t buy them lunch. And I guarantee that none came because of the excitement of that particular trial.

They came because it was the right thing to do.This Friday, I hope I find a roomful of people who really do understand the importance of jury service. I hope that each of them understands that today thousands of our young men and women are placing their own lives in harm’s way to bring the freedoms we too often take for granted to people on the other side of the world. I believe that most of those who appear before me on Friday will recognize the mistake they made on August 30 and will welcome a chance to correct it.

For those few who do not want to be bothered with the time it takes to serve when called for jury service, or who think of a Jury Summons as just another piece of junk mail to be thrown in the trash, I have just one thing to say, “Bring your checkbook.”Thomas R. Culver, IIIJudge, 240th Judicial District Court

Fort Bend County, Texas

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Congratulations are in order. Sugar Land planners, politicians and city managers have turned Sugar Land into a sales tax cash cow. Now, it is time for the city of Sugar Land to eliminate city property taxes. Stafford did this years ago and they manage to pay for their city services with sales taxes and user fees.

Since we cannot get relief from the lobbyist-controlled Texas Legislature, it is time for us to draw the line with our city politicians (especially those professing to be fiscal conservatives) and tell them to budget without property taxes - NOT a cap or freeze - complete elimination.If Stafford can do it then why can’t Sugar Land do it also? According to the state of Texas website and the city of Sugar Land, the city collected $29.3 million in the last fiscal year.

If Sugar Land would not waste our hard-earned dollars on ridiculous luxuries like those street lights running down the middle of Hwy 90-A, I’m sure there will be plenty of money to budget from sales taxes and user fees. By the way, how much did the city have to pay TxDOT for those Crown Royal logos on our freeway bridges?I am a resident of and love Sugar Land and I think Sugar Land is a great place to live.

I just want the people we elect to city office to be as frugal with my tax money as I am in my household budget.Sugar Land overtaxed taxpayer

Michael Fredrickson

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Old FBISD trustees whine...
(should have been last week's headline)

After reading Barbara Fulenwider’s article last week about the new board members delay in getting sworn-in and so many of the remaining board members whining about not being able to thank outgoing members, I thought to myself they could very easily put that on the agenda for a future meeting.

Then, after reading quote after quote from remaining board members about how great these former board members were, I realized the board won’t have to do that.

They have already done it in the pages of this newspaper. Board members should not have to be thanked for serving on the board for 10 and 12 years BECAUSE NO BOARD MEMBER SHOULD BE SERVING 10 OR 12 YEARS! Do we need term limits for these boards? Are there no qualified parents out there to serve the community and try to improve FBISD’s low state rating? Why don’t we make (via the ballot box, nonbinding resolutions, etc.) every county/city official that seeks ANY office serve at least two terms on the school board? Heck, if they can’t get elected to the school board then maybe they’re not qualified for any other political office.

We could hold them accountable for improving that system first before we let them “advance” to a higher office. My mom, Beverly Carter, goes to the swearing-in ceremony at the Fort Bend County Courthouse on January 1 after the general election. She goes to take pictures for this newspaper.

At that ceremony I don’t think they kiss-up to any of the outgoing officeholders. I wonder under what circumstances they would delay that ceremony?Random House Webster’s College Dictionary’s first definition of patron is... a person who is a customer, client, guest, esp. a regular one of a store, hotel or the like. Where do all these board members, etc. get off to referring to me as a patron? I’m not a customer, volunteer supporter or a patron, I am a taxpayer and the school board better not forget that.

FBISD overtaxed taxpayer and Dulles Middle
School student
parent Michael Fredrickson

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Tell your officials to stop the con game

Has anybody had their property taxes increase in the past 24 months? If you have, I have a test for you. Call your city council representative, the mayor of your city, your county commissioner and your school board member and ask them why they have increased your taxes.Chances are every one of these politicians will reply that they have not increased your taxes, and in fact they have probably bragged that they did NOT increase your tax rate.

All of these mostly Republican politicians are not being honest with you, the taxpayer. Some might even call it lying. You see, they have sat back and not decreased the tax rate therefore they ARE increasing your taxes because they KNOW the Central Appraisal District is going to increase your property valuation. For them to say they have not increased taxes, then they would have to decrease the property tax rate, which would keep your tax burden from increasing.The Texas Governor has a solution to this con game.

As members of CLOUT (Citizens for Lowering Our Unfair Taxes) and regular listeners of 700 KSEV know, Governor Perry is behind a property appraisal cap. Currently, we have a cap of 10%.

This is ridiculously too high for a “cap.”If your appraisals come in right at the 10%, your property tax burden will double in 7.2 years if you apply “the rule of 72” (divide any percentage increase into 72 and that is how long it takes to double). I don’t know about you, but neither my budget, my salary nor my advertising rates have ever increased at 10% per year. Apply this rule to the 3% cap and as long as your tax rate does not change, your taxes will not double for 24 years.

I can tolerate this cap, and if the tax rate does change, it will be from an ACCOUNTABLE politician.The reason I am giving you this rundown is because some of these same politicians are actually lobbying against this cap. So call your local politician and ask them a simple question “Are you for the governor’s 3% appraisal cap, yes or no.” If they answer “no,” that is their right and it is your right to vote for or against them in the next election.I urge you to join CLOUT by going to www.CloutTexas.com. Finally we have a lobbying organization for us - the taxpayer.

Michael Fredrickson

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