Monday, April 18, 2011

State Redistricting 2011 – Strike One

Well the first set of redistricting maps came out for the Texas House of Representatives last week and I have to say I for one was not very exciting. It’s proposed that Milam County move from House District 20 to a new House District 149. This all sounds non-threatening until you read a little more and find out that it takes Milam County out of the District served by Rep. Charles Schwertner (whom we elected) and includes us in an open district with a sprinkling of Williamson County and all of Burnet County – Yes, Burnet County.

This new district has been called many things including “Dumbo Ears with a Chinstrap.” What it has not been called by anyone in Milam County was logical, smart, pragmatic, nor has it been referred to as desirable. My first phone calls to our elected officials suggested that this is not a very realistic plan and I asked for some sort of explanation, no one wanted to take credit for it.

So Sunday afternoon, Judge Dave Barkemeyer accompanied by a concerned citizen headed to Austin to speak at the open forum for this committee. His testimony was favorably received and in speaking with one state legislature this morning I was told that the House redistricting map is about 85% complete, which is down some from the 95% complete I was quoted last week. I was also told that we should expect to be in the 15% to be changed as even the House Committee is perplexed and does not think this map in its current form will stand the scrutiny of Department of Justice approval. But they had to start somewhere.

Just like with the budget plans and other legislation, these initial maps are far from the final version; however, unlike in other aspects of American politics, this committee seems to be addressing the redistricting fairly and is working together to improve this map and avoid a repeat of the House Democrat Exodus to Oklahoma of 2003.

As the Chair of the Milam County Republican Party I would like to see Milam County remain in as close to the same District 20 as we can manage; however, if not then I would prefer to see Milam County move to a more rural district such as District 17 currently represented by Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Lexington).

This redistricting plan is far from complete I would recommend you contact your State Representative with your thoughts. With the legislature in session, if you feel strong enough, head to Austin in person and let them know your feelings.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Website is Up!!

During the 2010 Election, transparency in county government was an issue we in the Milam County GOP took very serious. Our former County Judge said a county website was too expensive and would take too much time to maintain. Due to those expenses we could not justify setting up a new website for the County. Cost figures from $20,000 to $40,000 were thrown out when questions on this subject arose. Guess what; it didn’t cost much after all!

Maybe it wasn’t the cost of the website but the cost of making access to information too easy, but I digress.

In the end, the web service the county uses to host their emails was used to host the website for no additional cost to the county. So thanks to the hard work and dedication of Mike Brown and others, Milam County now has a website that is both user friendly and user helpful.

All the county departments are listed and you can find contact information for them all. Forms that have required a visit to the county offices in the past are now available online. You want a copy of the County Budget, click on it and print it on your printer. That’s right; no longer must you make a trip to the County Clerk’s office at a cost of $1.00 a page (costing as much as $75.00 for the whole budget).

Want to see where the money is spent and what bills are paid by the county – it’s on there. You want access to the County Appraisal District Database – it’s on there. You want to see the agenda or minutes from a Commissioner’s Court Meeting – it’s on there. Lots of the information that many people have wanted access to is also on there, just like in most other counties in Texas.

Some information is not there yet, but it’s on the way. Soon there will be maps for the county, court docket lists, a user feedback section to tell the county what you want to see as well as other parcels of information many people have wanted to see for some time now.

Another nice function of this website and its professional appearance is that people and businesses looking to do commerce here now have a central county website that they can look at. That way they can find the information they desire about the county as well as links to county departments and other websites in the county such as chambers of commerce and municipal websites.

Having been to many conferences on economic development, many business people tell me a strong county website is invaluable in attracting business. Being in an oilfield service business I can tell you that a solid county website make a huge difference when I am making plans for the future of my business.

So take a few seconds and go to and check out the new county website. I think you’ll be quite impressed by the quality and quantity of the information.

Thanks for all the hard work,