Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Confidante to One Tough Grandma

OK, so around 8:50 pm, I get a call from Carole Keeton Strayhorn, yeah, that one, the one running for governor. Yeah, she just wanted to talk politics with me. No biggie.


Actually, it rocked. I don't know how much to backtrack for those who are out of the loop of Texas politics but I'll summarize in brief. Tom DeLay (I'm sure you've heard of him) ramrodded redistricting through our state legislature two years ago. It left Austin Texas without a person in the US House of Representatives. Oh, I'm exagerating, my district 10 is a long skinny snakey thing that runs from my neighborhood (urban Austin) all the way over to Houston (3 hours east). There was no Democrat on the ballot for me to even vote for in 2004 because it was senseless for the party to waste money on such a gerrymandered mess. A dad from my kid's elementary school ran as a write in. He lost.

During this travesty of the democratic process, Rick Perry did Tom DeLay's dirty work. I towed my kids to hearings at the capitol and in the process got serious about speaking up.

I want Rick Perry out.

So anyway, about a year ago, I saw our State Comptroller, Mrs. Strayhorn at the grocery store on three successive Saturday mornings. Of course I had to say hi, because she's sort of famous. I told her I was a Lloyd Doggett Democrat (our beloved Liberal old representative before redistricting who beat the odds and now represents a snakey district stretching from South Austin to the Mexican border), told her if she ran against Rick Perry, this Democrat would vote for her and work for her campaign.

I mentioned my kids aspired to live in the Governor's Mansion someday. And I'll be damned if she didn't memorize my name, my story, my kids' names and then surprise us with letters to the kids, wishing them luck on becoming Governor, and t-shirts. We wrote her to say thanks, and she wrote again. And now we are on her guest list for parties. We even got a personal phone call from her staffer inviting us to her announcement rally when she declared her candidancy.

Anyway, I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper relating my grocery store story, and it got published last week. I ended my letter with "I'm going to call her office and volunteer today! Democrats for One Tough Grandma".

Tonght she called me at home to say thanks. I kicked back on the bed and chatted about her race, our mutual feelings for Rick Perry ("adios, Mofo") and how she has worked with Arnold Schwartzeneger's pollster to find that the primary will be her battle for Governor and she needs influential "D's" to come to her aid. Rick is set to run with the backing of the ultra Conservative "R's". She said she needed influential "D's" on her side. I told her to give me 15 years, and I'd be an influential D. I told her I want to be on the school board and maybe work my way up. She said "I could give you a boost", and told me that when her kids were little she ran for school board as her first election. She said it was a good move because the election campaign is short and you can always find sitter for the evening meetings when you win.

Anyway, we just chatted for about 10-15 minutes. I was strangely at ease, even using the "adios, Mofo" at one point. I joked about how my parents were probably getting some false hope with me considering working on a Republican's campaign, and that once the primary was over, she was on her own. She laughed at that. Lucky for her I have my sights set on Rick Perry as revenge for redistricting and she is the beneficiary of my malevolence.

So, just a normal old evening around here.


Mom said...

We'll put a "Genet for (Austin) School Board" sign in our yard. Won't that confuse the Fort Worth voters?

We expect you to land us some good Strayhorn for Governor items. Won't it be fun to be working for the same candidate - liberal daughter and her conservative parents. (All other pro-conservative comments have been deleted here.)

Trey said...

Great story! If Strayhorn wins the primary, which Dem will she likely be running against--someone you like? Good luck with that.

Are you running for school board this fall? I'll put a sign in my yard too!

My political career was supposed to start this spring with an appointment to the Planning Board, but I lost to the Selectman's campaign manager. Connections do help! [All anti-conservative comments have been deleted here]

Kathy said...

Our paper hasn't speculated too much about who will run as the Democratic nominee for Governor. Since Carole Strayhorn (and Rick Perry) both used to be Democrats, I might just have to imagine she still is!

Strayhorn is pro-school funding which is one of my main issues, and hasn't endlessly carped about cutting taxes (which are already lowest in the country, making us rank down with places like Louisiana and Arkansas for funding education.)

Jim said...

The only announced Democrat that I'm aware of is Chris Bell. He's a former Houston city councilman and one-term Congressman (DeLay's redistricting did him in, too). I've met him and I'm not terribly impressed.

Kathy said...

I tried to find the statistics about where we stood tax-wise compared to the other states. I remembered an article in the Statesman last year about us being pretty low down the list. However even though I said it a few posts up, I can't find evidence that we are the lowest taxed state and that we ranked down with Arkansas and Louisiana, however I do stake my claim that we are a LOW TAX / LOW SERVICE state.

I believe that Education is not a Service but an investment that might allow you, when funded, to require fewer SERVICES like prisons. I don't want to be in a state that just spouts the mantra of cutting taxes, when the things we need to fund are already cut to the bone.

Kathy said...

By the way, Jim, wasn't Chris Bell the one who called attention to a lot of Tom DeLay's schenanagins? Leading to the lawsuit against his associates (Texans for a Republican Majority TRMPAC) because of their meddling in recent elections? I think he's that guy.

Kathy said...

I'm not sure how to spell schenanigans.

Mom said...

I echo your observation that we seem to always strive to be a low tax state - and you get what you pay for. We HAVE to invest much more in our children and their teachers. And that should be the responsibility of every Texan.

I think the legislature should take a realistic look at several of the states which have achieved excellence in education, and see how they did it. Texans can be too independent-minded, thinking "our way is the right way, therefore it is the only way." In this case, the children suffer. The teachers are handed impossible tasks to educate children under more than difficult conditions. And the folks in Austin don't seem to care.

A great argument for term limits for every elected official, especially those in Austin.

Jim said...

Yes, it's the same Chris Bell. He filed the ethics complaints after it was clear that he didn't have a prayer of being re-elected.

The thing that's puzzled me about the school finance debate is the need to cut property taxes. They're not talking about cutting taxes overall (the money has to come from somewhere), just cutting property taxes and raising other taxes to compensate. I don't know why a property tax is inherently less efficient or more evil than some other tax.

Kathy said...

This was from the Daily Texan online (UT student newspaper)

Though it remains unpopular, the idea of an income tax is gaining credence; an April poll showed 55 percent support for an income tax used to fund education.

Lawmakers including Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, have said it is the most logical solution to the state's fiscal problems for several reasons.

In addition to being regressive, the current tax system has proven itself a shoddy way of providing school funding. It doesn't provide enough revenue as it relies on those who don't have as much money and depends on only two forms of revenue. Less money per student is spent than in more than 40 other states, leading to several unsightly statistics (50th in high-school graduation, 45th in SAT scores) as well as District Judge John Dietz's ruling that the method of funding education is unconstitutional.

A voter-approved income tax would provide enough revenue to bring education up to the national average and lower property taxes. The state constitution requires that two-thirds of any income tax be used to relieve property taxes and one-third be used to fund education. Thus, an average income tax system would produce $34.6 billion over 20 years and would slash the property tax rate by more than 90 percent, while the $5.6 billion needed to bring the school system up to par would be covered twice over. Furthermore, the majority of households would save money, changing the state's tax system from regressive to progressive.

While Robin Hood fails to yield us insight into the intricacies of Texas politics, we should nonetheless remember Victor Hugo's observation that "there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Indeed, when a long dormant idea helps solve two pressing policy problems and one political problem, its power might soon bring it rolling into the political landscape.

Kathy said...

I think property taxes are failing here in Austin, because we have hit our maximum allowable tax per $100 (1.50 per $100 assessed value.) and yet since we are a property rich district our outgoing keeps raising, and there is less and less to fund our local needs. Also, property taxes do not reflect an income that can afford to pay them. Lots of retirees in our neighborhood are paying so much that they sell and move. Our 2 bed, 1935 era house is taxed almost $10k/year. On one income... ouch!

Mary Kay said...

I'm a Strayhorn fan too - if you need any help, you count on me. Adios Rick.

Jim said...

There's a lawyer in the next block who's president of our tiny homeowners' association (I'm VP). He is the lead guy for Bracewell & Guiliani on school taxation. He's been in Austin almost nonstop for the last six months. He says if you look at taxes in Texas vs other states the big difference is business taxes. Other states have them, we don't. We have a franchise tax, but 85% of the businesses in Texas avoid it entirely.

It's an interesting bet on which is more likely in the current legislative climate - significant new business taxes or an income tax. To the current crowd, that's like comparing botulism and anthrax, I think.