Regular readers might have noticed a dearth of postings about the local elections this year. That’s partly because of the fact that your editor has been really busy with the day job, and other things, but partly because this year there is less at stake than in past years. I had actually planned to go through each of the major issues and compare the candidates, but early voting is upon us, and I'm not done with that. Since "done" is the enemy of "posted", I'm going to post my basic thoughts on the two races without going into the issues, but I strongly encourage our readers to spend a little time reading the candidates' responses to our issues questionnaires. As always, readers are encouraged to use the comments section to start a discussion about what you think is important in these races.
Place 4: Tierney vs. Gorena - The Re-match
In place 4, incumbent John Gorena is just a flat-out embarrassment to the city, with his idiotic, wing nut conspiracy theories, identity-based politics, and racist statements. At meetings, he is constantly proving that he is not capable of keeping up. He will often ask questions that show he fails to grasp concepts just discussed. On at least one occasion, he blurted out something that belonged in closed session. Often in workshops or retreats he will re-hash and repeat his opinions long past the patience of the other council members, frequently resulting in the mayor shutting him down. While it’s important that all voices are heard, and a proper debate is had, Gorena seems to spend much of his time waiting to say his piece (again) rather than listening. If the facts of the matter support the opposite of his view, he simply ignores them. Gorena has had it explained to him numerous times in numerous ways, for instance, that the city’s debt level is the amount of principal owed, yet since it suits his purposes better to over-state it to make his point about debt, he always cites the principal plus future interest, and lumps together different types of debt, not all of which is payable by the taxpayers of Lewisville.
But Gorena is marginalized. Quite often, he is the only dissenting vote on a given issue, but on occasion, for certain issues - most notably on gas drilling, Gorena and Place 5 Councilman Rudy Durham may vote together. But with gas drilling on hiatus, and the Mayor and three other councilmen supporting reasonable gas drilling regulations, his ability to affect policy is hampered.
Greg Tierney was a very effective councilman, and was mostly on the right side of the issues, as far as I was concerned. I was very disappointed two years ago when he resigned over a DWI. I think that for the most part, he is still on the right side of the issues, so I will vote for him. While he has managed to effectively raise campaign funding, it seems that his campaign has not yet been able to effectively connect. (Campaign signs are numerous, but not very legible, and we have not seen mailers*.) Still, Tierney has built a lot of good will in the community, and has a deep base of supporters. And, we're electing a City Councilman, not a role model.
Lewisville Texan Journal Group winners from left to right: Mr. and Mrs Terry Fuller, Tim Lane, Jennifer Lane, Seth Southwell (back), Alex Linde (front), Jennifer Linde, Councilman TJ Gilmore (back), Emma Linde (front), Brandon Cooper (back), Steve Southwell (front), Brent Daniels (back), Gwen Simpson,Todd Simpson, Cooper Daniels (back), Zak Simpson, Nathan McLain, and KLB ED Amy Wells. LTJ won for adult large group, picking up over 90 bags of trash from a local waterway that is a new addition to the Spring Clean Up area list. (Photo provided by KLB)
Keep Lewisville Beautiful celebrated its 27th annual citywide cleanup on Saturday April 20, 2013. This free event was held in conjunction with the Keep Texas Beautiful Trash Off and the Keep American Beautiful Great America Clean Up activities. Over 522 volunteers showed community spirit by working hard and picking up 5 tons of litter off of Lewisville streets, parks, historic cemeteries, and creeks. Volunteers contributed 2,350 volunteer hours valued at $53,040 in litter abatement services for the City of Lewisville. KLB Director Amy Wells says the 522 participants set a record for the Spring Cleanup, beating last year's record of 409 people, and picking up much more than the usual 2 - 3 tons of trash per event.
Lunch, T-shirts, goody bags, and door prizes were provided by KLB and event donors. A big thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who worked so hard to make Lewisville a better place to work, live, and play! Five teams were awarded trophies for their hard work: Youth group winners included Boy Scout Troop #162 who picked up 10 bags of trash and Independence Elementary who picked up 30 bags of trash around their LISD campus. For the adult groups, the Hlatky family won with 50+ bags of trash with just 3 volunteers on their team and the Lewisville Texan Journal team led by Steve Southwell won with over 90 bags of trash collected from a creek. EA Engineering won the trophy for the most unusual trash for bringing back a leather recliner, a baby carrier bike attachment, and a broken trampoline that were dumped in a field along Hwy 121.
Once again, I've fallen behind in updates. My brain has been mostly engaged my my paid employment, and I've been too beat down to spend as much time as I normally like to.
Saturday, LTJ's cleanup team participated in the Keep Lewisville Beautiful Spring Cleanup. We are told that our team collected 90 bags of trash. The area we cleaned up was probably the worst litter area I have ever seen, and it was in and along Timber Creek and its tributary streams. Once again, I am thankful for our 15 volunteers who turned out and not only put a way bigger dent in this area's litter problem than I thought we would, but also brought home our team's 5th trophy for large group. Thanks to the Lanes, the Simpsons, the Lindes, then Daniels, Cooper, Stephens, and Gilmore. We'll have to schedule another one for that location at some point to get the rest. Whenever we get the final stats from KLB, we'll post an article.
I only have a few links today:
Behind many major screw-ups these days is an Excel spreadsheet. It’s great software when you use it right, but if you set the formulas wrong, it’s easy to convince yourself of the wrong thing. In this case, pundits and politicians were quick to use a flawed study to justify their ideology of austerity, when the actual mathematical results (had they been calculated correctly) would have shown the opposite.
Here are my thoughts on the disaster in West: It indicates a huge failure in regulation at all levels. We don't just have regulations in place for the hell of it. Regulations are meant to save lives and protect property. What we had here was a private company with private profits, but socialized risk. We have 15 dead now, and scores injured, and many have lost their homes because materials were stored improperly.
Unlike terrorism, where there is malicious intent, and the evil will always find ways to circumvent our best efforts, these types of disasters are almost 100% preventable. You can regulate the amounts being stored together, you can regulate locations, and you can regulate safety practices and fire prevention. You can require that ammonium nitrate only be stored in areas with adequate fire protection from sprinklers.
I also have to say that this disaster should illustrate with crystal clarity WHY we have zoning laws, and why modern cities do not allow certain industrial uses within residential areas. This is why we didn't lose our heads and allow gas drilling right next to houses in Lewisville. We know the risk exists, because we have seen the outcome from other cases. The Texas City disaster should have been all the proof needed for West Fertilizer, the Town of West, and the State of Texas to put reasonable limits on that. The fact that it had happened, and did happen indicates that it was a concrete risk to be mitigated.
Those who ignorantly blather on about "we need to get rid of regulations" almost never can name any that they want to get rid of. They complain about bloated government and wrongly assert that it is "killing jobs", but then wonder why - after cutting regulatory staffing - we can't seem to get these types of places inspected, and ensure that they comply with what little regulation we have. This kind of failure is the direct and predictable result of the naive Laissez faire ideology that assumes "the market" will do the right thing. Ask yourself whether the victims in this tragedy were part of "the market" for West Fertilizer.
As of this writing, we know the fertilizer explosion in West, Texas killed at least 14 residents and injured 200 others with many still missing. "Your heart weeps for their suffering," said Sen. Ted Cruz, who toured the disaster area on Friday with Sen. John Cornyn. It feels wrong to talk politics when they're still looking for bodies, but a respectful silence would only reward Cruz and Cornyn for their putrid hypocrisy.
Sometimes the truth overrides good manners, even in a nice place like West, which has a special place in the heart of anyone who's made the otherwise dreary drive on IH-35 between Austin and Dallas and pulled off at exit 253 to get a sweet, chewy kolache at the Czech Stop, perhaps the best-reviewed convenience store in Texas on Yelp. When news filtered in about the explosion late Wednesday night, every one I know had the same question: Is the Czech Stop still standing?
It was, and it stayed open all night and ever since to serve food for the first responders, and we love them for it. So when Cruz wears his weeping heart on his sleeve or Cornyn worries about the 60 people unaccounted for, even Texas liberals grant them the sincerity of their emotions because we're right there with them.
But it was what Cruz said yesterday in Washington before he decided to visit West that deserves condemnation: "It's truly horrific and we are working to ensure that all available resources are marshaled to deal with the horrific loss of life and suffering that we've seen," he said.
The Ted Cruz who promised to get federal help for West is the same guy who voted three times against federal Sandy aid and blamed it all on pork, though Politifact called that a lie.