Travis County Commissioners Court
Austin Won Apple Without Competition
‘The Arizona Republic’ Reported
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
The Arizona Republic, that state’s largest newspaper, yesterday reported that Phoenix was never in the running to attract the Apple Inc. facility for which Texas has committed tax incentives, and both Austin and Travis County are considering doing likewise.
Governor Rick Perry is offering Apple $21 million in incentives over 10 years and the City of Austin is considering sweetening the deal with $8.6 million, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Travis County is also considering incentives.
Those incentives were based on the premise that Apple was considering Phoenix and Austin.
However, The Arizona Republic’s story published yesterday reported Phoenix “never had a chance” because the proposed site was on state land and “state trust land did not excite them” (Apple), so there was no Phoenix site reasonably in contention.”
Open Record Requests for E-mails
In Sharp Contrast to Resistance
by the City of Austin, Capital Metro
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2011
The clear leader in local government transparency at the moment is the Travis County Commissioners Court, whose members have unanimously said they would provide e-mails involving public business requested by the Austin American-Statesman and other news organizations—including those sent or received on personal e-mail accounts.
Not so with the City of Austin and Capital Metro. These agencies are using the public treasury to commit to spending as much as $250,000 for the purpose of getting advice about how to deal with violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act and resisting disclosure of records that should be available upon request under the Texas Public Information Act.
On March 1, The Austin Bulldog sued the mayor, each council member and the city over the refusal to turn over e-mails concerning city business that were generated on personal computers or cell phones, as requested under the Texas Public Information Act. That lawsuit, which also seeks a permanent injunction to require all communications involving city business be retained and made available upon request under the Texas Public Information Act, is pending. The city has until April 4 to file a response.
Capital Metro is following the city’s example by announcing last Friday it would release some of the e-mails requested by the Austin American-Statesman and other media, and not saying whether it would release board members’ e-mails about Capital Metro that were created or received on private accounts.
Commissioners proactive responses
Face Token, Underfunded Opposition
Research Provides Detailed Background
Information on All Eight Candidates
Investigative Research by Jacob Cottingham
© The Austin Bulldog 2010
Editor’s Introduction: As we did with our investigative research for Hays County candidates published October 19, The Austin Bulldog is again stepping off the beaten path of how to cover an election. We point you to some of the stories written by other publications, but we also provide detailed information that journalists seldom take the time to dig up and assemble.
Rather than selectively quote from our background research, our approach is to use an extensive, organized plan to find, copy, and publish source documents that you can explore to form your own conclusions about people seeking elective office.
We’ve dug into the public records and published what was found, to include voter registration and voter history; personal financial statements, campaign finance reports, business records, property records, service on boards, key staff, spouses, web pages, and links to news stories. For some candidates we also found track records for previous bids for public office, State Bar profiles for attorneys, and real estate broker and mortgage broker licenses.
Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, who has held this position since 1999, is being challenged by Republican Mike McNamara, who has raised a single $100 contribution and spent a total of $1,308 on his campaign. Most of that, $1,250, was to pay his filing fee. Libertarian Mark Tippetts, also running for county judge, has raised nothing and spent nothing.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who won her post in 2006, is opposed by Libertarian Matthew Finkel, who has neither raised nor spent any money on his campaign. Also running against Eckhardt is Republican David A. Buttross II, who vowed to raise no more than $500.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez has held this office since 1995. She staved off a strong challenge from former Austin City Council Member Raul Alvarez to win this year’s Democratic Primary. Since then, she has missed months of meetings due to open heart surgery and hasn’t attended a full meeting since April, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman. In the general election, she faces only Libertarian David Dreesen, who hasn’t raised or spent any money.
Most rich folks who vie for public office spend sizeable chunks of their own money doing so. Farouk Shami, a Palestine-born Houston businessman, pledged to spend $10 million of his own money in the 2010 Democratic Primary. Tony Sanchez, the West Texas businessman, paid out-of-pocket a reported $60 million for his doomed 2002 Democratic gubernatorial bid, in which he got 40 percent of the vote in losing to Rick Perry.
Buttross is wealthy, too. How wealthy is questionable, but one of his websites claims he owns a $50 million real estate portfolio, with $20 million in real estate notes and $30 million in real estate consisting of office buildings, apartment complexes, residential properties, grocery stories, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, and churches.
Our research connected him and his family to 19 separate businesses and 33 properties, most in Travis County, but also in Bastrop, Bexar and Williamson counties, with a total market valuation of $17.4 million, according to appraisal district records.
His home in West Austin, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District, is valued at nearly $1.9 million.
Yet Buttross does not risk his personal funds to further his political ambitions, or even bother to raise much.