Monthly Archives: February 2010

Not just Republicans voting in local GOP primary | Postcards


Now that you have voted, don’t forget to go to your precinct convention on election night at 8 pm.  From the precinct convention, you could get to go as a delegate/alternate delegate to the county convention; from there, you could get elected to go to the state convention.  All politics is local.  These conventions are where the party platform is voted on and if you want to have a say in your party platform, you need to participate in these conventions.

Not just Republicans voting in local GOP primary | Postcards.

More than one out of every four Travis County residents who voted in the Republican primary during the first week of early voting this year also voted in the 2008 Democratic primary, according to some very interesting figures from Jeff Smith of Opinion Analysts Inc.

Almost 28 percent of the votes cast in the first week of the GOP primary came from those who took part in the 2008 primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

We should remember that John McCain pretty much had the Republican nomination locked up at that point. So these aren’t necessarily Democrats. But if nothing else, they are Republican voters who have shown something of an independent streak. There may be a few Republican stalwarts who voted in the 2008 Democratic primary because they were trying to gum up the works, but numerous experts have said that happens pretty rarely.

Almost 22 percent of Travis County residents who voted in the 2006 gubernatorial primary voted in the 2008 presidential election. So that means that this year’s electorate, so far, is a little more independent than those who went to the polls in 2006, when there was no big-name primary contest near the top of the statewide ballot.

OK, so it’s pretty safe to say that independents, maybe even left-leaning independents, are playing more in this year’s Republican primary than usual. What about actual Democrats? They also appear to be more engaged, though most are sticking to the Democratic primary.

Of this year’s Republican primary turnout so far in Travis County, 7.5 percent of the voters cast a vote in the 2004 Democratic primary and 35.1 percent cast a vote in the 2004 Republican primary.

In 2006, just 3.3 percent of Republican primary voters had cast a vote in the 2004 Democratic primary and 60.6 percent had cast a vote in the 2004 Republican primary.

By the time the 2004 presidential primary came to Texas, we all know that George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee and John Kerry would be the Democratic nominee. So these weren’t voters who were just going where the fight was.

If this trend holds up statewide, it could be good news for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who does better with moderates than conservatives and has better statewide approval ratings than Gov. Rick Perry.

Here is a good sign for Perry: 54.4 percent of the votes cast in Travis County so far have been cast by men. In the 2006 primary, men cast 50.9 percent of the votes in Travis County. Perry leads Hutchison among men and women, according to a poll recently commissioned by the Statesman and other newspapers, but he does especially well among men.

If you’re a political pro and you have similar numbers for other counties, please send them to me at

Well Mr. Big Brother IRS man… take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

This is the manifesto that was left by Joseph Andrew Stack, the pilot that flew the plane into the building on Research Blvd.  Apparently, he set his house on fire and flew his airplane into the building that houses several offices including the IRS.

Well Mr. Big Brother IRS man… take my pound of flesh and sleep well..

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?”  The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time.  The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken.  Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it.  I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head.  Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy.  Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all.  We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers.  Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”.  I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood.  These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind.  Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?  Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies.  Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”.  It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system?  Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand.  Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand.  The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is.  If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here? 

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s.  Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English.  Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions.  In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy.  We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God).  We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living.  However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.  It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie.  It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father.  I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker.  Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement.  Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement.  All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time.  When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me).  I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread.  I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made.  I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report ( regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (


(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.


·      “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

·      “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

·      “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.


Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated.  The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d).  Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave.  Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time.  I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity.  This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”.  Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise.  The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists).  This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle.  If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks.  Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s.  Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that.  The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco.  However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall.  Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed.  Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare.  Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months.  This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive.  Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY!  After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change.  Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while.  So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done.  I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work.  The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA.  This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income.  I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need.  The sleazy government decided that they disagreed.  But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out.  Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present.  After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again.  But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle.  After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order.  I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting.  Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit.  By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented).  Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone.  The end result is… well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything.  Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”.  Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone.  The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.  Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough).  In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.  It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants.  I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after.  But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change.  I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less.  I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are.  Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.  The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different.  I am finally ready to stop this insanity.  Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.


The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.


Joe Stack (1956-2010)


Get out the Vote Rally with Governor Perry

Get Out The Vote Rally with Governor Perry
Saturday February 20th, 2010
1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Brick Oven Restaurant
Banquet Room
10710 Research Blvd, Suite 310
Austin, TX  78759
Come talk with Governor Perry and then go early vote across the street at the Randals!
Early Voting Location
At the Research and Brake Intersection
10900-D Research Boulevard
Austin, TX  78759

More Early Voting Locations in Travis County can be found at

The Hiawatha Light-Rail Disaster » The Antiplanner



Here is one example that supports the argument against Light rail in Austin Texas.  Some of the same arguments are playing out here.  They are planning on putting Light rail on the existing Austin streets.  Bad idea people!  Speak up against it while we have time to do so.

The Hiawatha Light-Rail Disaster » The Antiplanner.

One of the arguments for light rail is that it is supposed to have lower operating costs than buses. But Minneapolis’ Hiawatha light rail is losing so much money that Hennepin County wants a region-wide sales tax to cover the costs of what Minnesota Governor Pawlenty calls “these very expensive transit projects.” The feds were subsidizing it with a $10 million grant, but that ended last year.

This one 11.6-mile light-rail line costs more than $20 million a year to operate. Farebox revenues cover only about a third of that. Half the rest is paid by the state of Minnesota and most of the other half comes from Hennepin County property taxes.

The light-rail line does not go outside of Hennepin County, so clearly most riders are residents of that county. But some commuters from Dakota and other nearby counties drive to park-and-ride stations and use the rail line. “There is no rational basis why the property taxpayers in Hennepin County ought to be paying for people from Dakota County to use the LRT line,” says one official.

But are they? Half the operating costs are paid by state taxpayers, including taxpayers from Dakota County. All of the construction costs were paid by federal and state taxpayers, including taxpayers from Dakota County. Considering the subsidies Hennepin County transit riders have received, they should pay Dakota County riders to take the train.


The Hiawatha light-rail line has received positive reviews, mainly because ridership exceeded the anemic projections made for it. Transit agencies have learned that politicians and editorial writers are basically innumerate, so instead of making unrealistically high projections of future ridership, they lowball the numbers.

The Hiawatha line was projected to carry only 9,000 riders a day who weren’t previously taking transit. Since Twin Cities daily auto travel grows by 9,000 trips about every two weeks, 9,000 riders a day (not all of whom would otherwise have driven a car) hardly justified the $480 million the line was projected to cost. Yet Ted Mondale (son of the former vice president and then-executive director of the Twin Cities’ regional government) touted the line as the solution to congestion.

Minnesota residents, who had to pay most of the construction costs, were in for a series of shocks after the legislature approved the project following rancorous debate. First, construction costs quickly escalated: the project ended up costing $715 million. Transit officials claimed these weren’t cost overruns and that they could have built the line for close to the original budget. But the local congressional delegation happened to “find” extra money for the project, so they spent it on things like station-area art. Even if true, it raises the question of why the transit agency so willingly spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on things they claim they didn’t need.

$200 million worth of station art? Photo by Stephan Louis.

When the rail line opened in 2004, auto drivers who expected congestion relief were stunned to find that light-rail significantly increased congestion. The line parallels Hiawatha Avenue, AKA state highway 55, and crosses many of the streets that cross Hiawatha. While signals on Hiawatha had previously been coordinated to allow smooth progression of traffic, the new arrangement gave the light-rail line signal priority over autos. This disrupted the signals on Hiawatha, adding 20 to 40 minutes to people’s commutes.

“This is not a sinister plot to make traffic as miserable as possible and move everybody onto the train,” a Minnesota Department of Transportation official told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He was soon proven wrong. Documents uncovered by state Representative (and rail critic) Phil Krinkie soon proved him wrong. In 1999, the documents revealed, a consultant warned that giving light-rail signal priority would severely disrupt traffic. Yet the state decided to give the trains priority because, said a state planner, “transit had to have an advantage” over autos. After studying the problem for months, the state finally concluded that the traffic would have to stay disrupted because they did not want to interfere with their precious light-rail schedules.

Light rail opened for business on June 26, 2004. First fatal accident on September 26, 2004. Photo from Minnesota Daily

The Hiawatha light rail was involved in its first fatal accident just a few months after it opened. Transit officials blamed the late auto driver. The accident certainly was not the fault of planners who put 200,000-pound rail vehicles in the same grades and intersection as 2,000- to 3,000-pound automobiles.

The next shock came to transit riders who believed that light-rail would improve the entire regional transit system. Instead, the transit agency began cutting bus lines throughout the region. The agency claimed that these economy measures were unrelated to the cost of light rail. But if they did not have to spend $20 million on one transit route, they could have spent that money improving bus service elsewhere.

In 2000, before light-rail construction began, Twin Cities transit carried 73.5 million transit trips. In 2005, the first full year of light-rail operation, transit carried 69.7 million trips. Light-rail’s legacy is a 3.8-million trip decline in annual ridership.

Of course, none of these things bother rail advocates, who claim the Hiawatha line is a success story. Success for who? The pork-barrelling interests who built it? The transit officials who want a rail empire? It is certainly not a success for taxpayers, commuters, or transit riders.

There are currently 6 responses to “The Hiawatha Light-Rail Disaster”

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  1. 1 On January 5th, 2007, Urb. Pl. Overlord said:

    Three questions (or sets of questions) for the anti-planner:

    1. As traffic congestion continues to grwo and becomes even more intolerable, do you think there is any benefit to providing a transit alternative? In other words, given the current Minneapolis road system, do you think traffic will continue to grow by 9,000 trips per day? Or isntead will more and more of those new trips be diverted to mass transit, such as the Hiawatha Line, if it is available to them? And have you done any cost analysis of what the equivalent amount of new roadway construction for those new automobile trips would cost vs. what the Hiawatha and other mass transit costs? I am assuming that, as a good libertarian, you would require any new roadway capacity to be tolled instead of “free.”

    2. Have you done any research on the new mass transit exclusive bus line recently opened in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, or, for that matter, the exclusive bus routes in Curitiba, Brazil? It seems to me that such alternatives to fixed rail provide a lot more flexibility for buses to enter and exit city streets to and from the exclusive bus route. One of the primary problems with bus transit is that buses are captive to the same traffic jams plaguing automobile drivers (as an aside, I would note that the Portland Stretcar was quite stupidly mixed with auto traffic, thus negating an advantage light rail has over buses)

    3. Do you have any thoughts on the claim that light rail provides incentives to new development along its route and adjacent to its stations, thus paying for itself through increased property tax revenues (assuming the local government hasn’t given them all away through abatement schemes)?

  2. 2 On January 5th, 2007, pdxf said:

    “One of the arguments for light rail is that it is supposed to have lower operating costs than buses. But Minneapolis’ Hiawatha light rail is losing so much money…This one 11.6-mile light-rail line costs more than $20 million a year to operate.”

    What are the operating costs for buses in that serve the same amount of people in the same area. You state the thesis that light rail is more expensive to operate, yet you only include data for light rail.

    “There is no rational basis why the property taxpayers in Hennepin County ought to be paying for people from Dakota County to use the LRT line,” says one official.”…Considering the subsidies Hennepin County transit riders have received, they should pay Dakota County riders to take the train.”

    Not sure I understand all of this…Let me know if I get this with another example: should I not expect to pay for Washington resident’s use of state funded roads in Oregon? …Since some state roads in Oregon receive federal funding, should the state of Oregon pay Washingtonians to use our roads? I don’t quite get it.

    “The Hiawatha line was projected to carry only 9,000 riders a day who weren’t previously taking transit. Since Twin Cities daily auto travel grows by 9,000 trips about every two weeks”

    “The Hiawatha light rail was involved in its first fatal accident just a few months after it opened. Transit officials blamed the late auto driver. The accident certainly was not the fault of planners who put 200,000-pound rail vehicles in the same grades and intersection as 2,000- to 3,000-pound automobiles.”

    I agree, it would be nice to have total separation of light rail and autos, perhaps we should separate semi trucks as well. A loaded semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is still drastically higher than the weight of automobiles, do you think that they should be separated from cars as well?

    Just to add some more info on the accident, the driver, 87, drove through the safety arms that drop when a train approaches an intersection. (

    “In 2000, before light-rail construction began, Twin Cities transit carried 73.5 million transit trips. In 2005, the first full year of light-rail operation, transit carried 69.7 million trips. Light-rail’s legacy is a 3.8-million trip decline in annual ridership.”

    Had transit ridership been dropping prior to 2000? How is transit ridership this year so far? Is one year enough to make a conclusion that it is a failure?

City to vote on more protection for big trees

City to vote on more protection for big trees.


// <![CDATA[

Oak Hill resident Alan Watts remembers feeling anger and sadness when he drove by a construction site in Southwest Austin and saw what had been a grove of large oak trees lying in piles. A subcontractor on an apartment construction project had cut down about 150 trees.

“It’s easy for people to think they can get away with something like this without any consequences,” Watts said of that June 2008 day.

The City Council on Thursday will hold a public hearing and vote on new rules that would strengthen tree protections. The rules would require property owners or developers to seek special approval to fell Austin’s oldest, grandest trees – those that are a native or highly adapted species and are at least 24 inches in diameter.

Environmental advocates say the rules, which have been in the works for two years, are a good start but need to be tougher. An incident last week in which the owner of a South Austin scrap yard felled 100 trees without a permit has renewed calls for stricter rules.

Saving trees is about more than protecting nature, said Shannon Halley , vice chairwoman of the city’s urban forestry board. Trees offer shade and cut energy use, filter storm water and absorb carbon from the air – benefits the city and residents would otherwise have to pay to provide, she said.

“Trees are a public good in the same way that water is a public good. They contribute to the well-being of our entire community,” she said.

Currently, landowners who want to fell trees with trunks at least 19 inches wide must get a permit from the city arborist and plant new trees or pay into a tree-planting fund.

Those rules would still apply under the new plan. But landowners who want to remove “heritage trees” – at least 24 inches wide and one of 20 species, mostly oaks – would need a variance. That is a higher bar because it requires landowners to show there is no other way to save such trees, which at that size are often more than a century old, said city environmental officer Pat Murphy .

Trees that pose safety risks could still be cut down, and Austin Energy and the Austin Water Utility would still have leeway to trim trees after storms or if they disrupt utility service.

In 2007 , the most recent year for which data are available, 650 trees on Austin development applications were at least 24 inches wide. The city granted permission to cut down 157 .

Most tree removal requests would continue to be decided by the city arborist without a public hearing. But for trees at least 30 inches wide that are on the list of 20 species, there would be a public hearing and a final vote by a city land use board. The landowner could appeal only decisions by the arborist; other interested parties, such as neighbors, could not appeal. John Paul Moore , tree preservation chairman of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association , said the city should notify neighbors of tree removal applications and allow them to appeal.

But Michael Wilt , government relations director for the Real Estate Council of Austin , said such a public process could “delay projects, which will increase costs that will be passed on to the customer,” he said. “We aren’t confident that there can be a rational discussion about the fate of a tree. It will be an opportunity for people to oppose the project itself.”

Under the proposal, the city could allow a tree to be felled if its presence prevents “a reasonable use” of land. Environmental advocates say that standard is too loose; they want the city to toughen the wording to “all reasonable use,” but Murphy said that might violate property rights.

Environmental activists also oppose a provision they call “twigs for trees” – letting landowners cut down a big tree for development if they can show that it is a better option than felling many small trees elsewhere on the property. That is not an even trade because big trees have a greater capacity to absorb carbon and provide other environmental benefits, said Tom Hayes of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance , which represents 48 environmental groups.

Currently, landowners who cut down a big tree must plant new trees whose diameters equal the large tree’s width – four 6-inch-wide trees to replace a 24-inch tree, for example. If they have no extra space on their land, owners can pay $75 per inch of diameter into a city tree fund. The proposed changes would require planting trees whose diameters total three times the large tree’s width or paying $150 per inch. Those rates should be higher – tied to either inflation or the tree’s appraised value – to discourage tree removal, environmental groups say.

In 2009 , city inspectors issued 26 citations and violation notices to people who illegally cut down big trees. City officials did not know the outcome of those cases Tuesday . A year ago , a jury found the subcontractor in the Oak Hill incident, Gillingwater Excavation , not guilty. But the city is requiring the construction company, Cadence McShane , to plant 440 replacement trees on the site this year, city arborist Michael Embesi said. Inspectors are still assessing the South Austin scrap yard, but about 20 trees were big enough to require a removal permit, he said.

Illegally removing a tree can be a Class C misdemeanor and carry a fine of $2,000 per tree. The fine is the maximum allowed by state law, and because it is low, the city rarely imposes it and instead focuses on getting the landowner to plant more trees, Murphy said. But attorney Brad Rockwell , who specializes in environmental law, said the city could and should assess a $2,000 fine for every day the developer fails to devise a tree replacement plan. The city should also shutter the construction site until the owner plants trees or carries out other mitigation measures, he said.

“It’s a deterrence issue,” said Andrew Hawkins , an attorney at the Save Our Springs Alliance . “You want people to look at the ordinance and see that there are clear consequences for violating it.”; 912-2939

Thursday’s vote

The Austin City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on new tree protection rules 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 301 W. Second St. More information is available under item No. 38 of Thursday’s council meeting agenda, posted at

New rules for property owners and developers who want to cut down large trees include:

• 24- to 30-inch-diameter trees: A variance would be required from the city arborist if the tree is on a list of 20 native or highly adapted species. No public hearing.

• 30-inch-diameter or greater: A variance would be required if the tree is on the list of 20 species. The city arborist and the urban forestry board or environmental board would make a recommendation, then a land-use board, likely the Planning Commission, would make a final decision. Public hearings would be held before those votes.

Newsmax – Obama Surrendering Internet to Foreign Powers

Newsmax – Obama Surrendering Internet to Foreign Powers.

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By: Bradley A. Blakeman

Without the ingenuity of America’s brightest minds and the investment of
U.S. Taxpayer dollars, there would be no Internet, as we now know it today.

Now, the Obama administration has quietly moved to cede control of the web from the United States to foreign powers.

Some background. The Internet came into being thanks to the genius work ofAmerican’s, Dr.Robert E. Kahn and Dr. Vinton G. Cerf. These men while employed by the Department of Defense in the DARPA office, (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), in the early 1970’s, went to work conceiving, designingand implementing the idea of ‘open-architecture networking’. This breakthrough in connectivity and networking was the birth of the Internet.

These two gentlemen had the vision and the brainpower to create a worldwide computer Internet communications network that forever changed the world and how we communicate in it.

They discovered that by providing a person with a unique identifier,
(TCP/IP), which was able to be recognized and interact through a network of servers, all users then could communicate amongst themselves and with
others. The servers would recognize the identifier and connect networks-to-networks, (utilizing a series of giant servers), that would pass on information from computer to computer in a seamless real-time exchange of information. This new process of communication became know as the
‘information super highway’, a.k.a., the Internet.

Now for the bad news – in an effort to show the World how ‘inclusive’,
‘sharing’, ‘cooperative’ and ‘international’ America can be, the Obama administration set off on a plan to surrender control and key management of
the Internet by the U.S. Department of Commerce and their agents.

The key to control America has over the Internet is through the management
of the Domain Name System and the giant servers that service the Internet.
Domain names are managed through an entity named IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. The IANA operates on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The IANA is responsible for the global coordination of the DNS, IP addressing and other Internet protocol resources. In short, without an IP Address or other essential Internet protocols, a person or entity would not have access to the Internet.

For years the International Community has been pressuring the United States
to surrender its control and management of the Internet. They want an International body such as the United Nations or even the International
Telecommunications Union, (an entity that coordinates international telephone communications), to manage all aspects of the Internet in behalf of all nations.

The argument advanced for those seeking International control of the Internet is that the Internet has become such a ‘powerful’, ‘pervasive’, and a ‘dependent’ form of international communications, that it would be dangerous and inequitable for any one nation to control and manage it.

Just this past spring within months of Obama taking office, his administration, through the Department of Commerce, agreed to relinquish some control over IANA and their governance. The Obama Administration has agreed to give greater representation to foreign companies and countries on IANA.

This amounts to one small step for Internationalism and one giant leap for surrendering America¹s control over an invention we have every right and responsibility to control and manage. It is in America¹s economic and national security interests NOT to relinquish any control we currently are responsible for regarding the control, operation and functionality of one of
the modern world’s greatest inventions and most powerful communications

What better country to protect the Internet than the United States? We
invented it, and we paid for the research and implementation that made it
possible. We are the freest most tolerant nation on earth, we believe in the
fundamental right of free speech, and practice a free market of commerce and ideas. America has always been against censorship and has shared its
invention with the world without fee or unreasonable or arbitrary restriction. The user fee to operate on the Internet is not one paid to the U.S. Government; a consumer pays it to private Internet companies, who provide access to the Internet through servers for their subscribers.

Look no further than the recent move by China against Google to censor the
Internet and you can envision what can happen when other nations less free
than the U.S. seek to control the Internet beyond even their own borders.

America needs to wake-up. If we lose control over the management of the
Internet, we have given away one of our Nations greatest assets with nothing
in return to show for it. The Obama Administration¹s current actions will
set in motion a slow and complete take-over of the Internet by the U.N. or
some other equally U.S. hostile and unfriendly international body. And, once
it is gone, it will be gone forever.

The surrender of the Internet will spell disaster for our nation, financially, as well as for a safety, security and our standing as a great power that values freedom and the free exchange of ideas and information.

As far as I am concerned, America is still the last best hope for a more
peaceful and prosperous world and our president should be not looking for
ways to weaken us, his job is to work to strengthen us and protect our
nations greatest asset our people’s creativity and ingenuity.

Bradley A. Blakeman was a Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-20004 and currently teaches Public Policy & Politics & International Affairs at Georgetown University.
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President’s ineptness quite clear after a year –

President’s ineptness quite clear after a year –