San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 10th, 2010
Narvaiz, Porterfield, say lawsuit is 'pure politics'

091110care

San Marcos City Councilmember Kim Porterfield, left, and Mayor Susan Narvaiz, right, said a lawsuit attempting to enjoin them from using city resources to support Austin Community College annexation is a political ploy. Photos by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

Outgoing San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz and incumbent Councilmember Kim Porterfield fired back at a lawsuit against them seeking an injunction in district court, calling it frivolous and politically motivated.

In documents filed with the 274th District Court last Friday, Citizens Advocating Responsible Education (CARE SMCISD) are asking the court to prevent Narvaiz and Porterfield from using city resources to promote the Austin Community College (ACC) annexation that will be before San Marcos CISD voters in November.

“This is politics, pure and simple,” Porterfield said in a statement. “This is an attempt to influence the outcome of the ACC election. It won’t work. This lawsuit asks the Court to order us to stop doing something we never did. That makes no sense. This lawsuit is a reckless abuse of the judicial system.”

Said Narvaiz, “(The lawsuit) is a political move with no substance. It’s an action to try and influence the outcome of the ACC election.”

Porterfield serves as a co-chair of San Marcos ACCess, the steering committee tasked with realizing ACC’s annexation. The other co-chairs are Albert Sierra and Miguel Arredondo,

In March, the San Marcos City Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution in support of ACC’s annexation.

“The city council recognizes the importance of comprehensive community college programs and services for the residents of San Marcos and the role community colleges play in the State of Texas’ Closing the Gap Initiative and in promoting economic development,” the resolution stated. “Be it resolved by the city council of the city of San Marcos, Texas: that the city council of the city of San Marcos hereby supports annexation of the city of San Marcos into the Austin Community College District.”

Narvaiz emphasized that the resolution passed with unanimous support, adding that the council passes resolutions all the time,

“That’s our job,” Narvaiz said.

CARE said Porterfield and Narvaiz used city email to communicate with ACC personnel and that they’ve also used the San Marcos Public Library as a meeting room for the annexation effort, as a distribution point for the petition that placed the measure on the November ballot, and as locale to distribute brochures and showcase an ACC campus model proposed for San Marcos.

CARE further asserts that Porterfield and Narvaiz used the San Marcos Activity Center as a locale to show and distribute ACC annexation brochures and also used the San Marcos City Hall lobby to procure petition signatures for the annexation effort.

The suit further states that city staff was used to draft the city council resolution in support of ACC annexation, and that city council facilities were used to stage a presentation by ACC President Stephen Kinslow. CARE also said that the City Hall conference room was used for planning meetings between ACC personnel and annexation advocates.

San Marcos City Attorney Michael Cosentino said city staff, resources and time can be used in legislative matters, such as drafting resolutions on which the council is scheduled to vote. Cosentino said the city council is a governing body that handles legislative matters, and city staff is there to accommodate and cater to council in effort to legislate public policy.

Natalie Abelaja, an attorney with the Texas Ethics Commission, said the Texas Election Code doesn’t specifically address city passed resolutions, but did say that issues raised by CARE describe potential Election Code violations. Abelaja cautioned, however, that she could not speak to the specifics, since no complaints had been filed with the commission against Porterfield or Narvaiz.

The Texas Election code states it’s unlawful to use public funds for political advertising.

“An officer or employee of a political subdivision may not spend or authorize the spending of public funds for a communication describing a measure if the communication contains information that: the officer or employee knows is false; and is sufficiently substantial and important as to be reasonably likely to influence a voter to vote for or against the measure,” states Title 15, Section 255.003 of the Election Code.

The same section of the Election Code specifies that the prohibition “does not apply to a communication that factually describes the purposes of a measure if the communication does not advocate passage or defeat of the measure.”

An offense under Election Code Title 15, Section 255.003 constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.

CARE treasurer and legal counsel Andrew Gary said CARE didn’t seek criminal action against Porterfield or Narvaiz because “we weren’t out for blood … We’re not trying to crucify anybody on this thing.”

In a statement, Gary said, “After lengthy deliberation, CARE – SMCISD determined to pursue injunctive relief … in order to obtain accountability of public officials and employees for activities prohibited under Sec. 255.003 of the Texas Election Code and to generate public awareness as to such prohibited activities and the legal limitations on political advocacy by officials and/or employees of a political subdivision, which also applies to officers and/or employees of a school district, a university system or institution of higher education (Sec. 255.0031), as well as to a city.”

Cosentino said he didn’t think that the mere presence of the ACC annexation petition at city buildings constituted an Election Code violation. He said the petition was the measure itself and not political advertisement.

The Texas Election Code defines political advertising as, “a communication supporting or opposing a candidate for nomination or election to a public office or office of a political party, a political party, a public officer, or a measure that: in return for consideration, is published in a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical or is broadcast by radio or television; or appears: in a pamphlet, circular, flier, billboard or other sign, bumper sticker, or similar form of written communication;  or on an internet website.”

Cosentino also said councilmembers do not give up their First Amendment rights once being elected to office. He said councilmembers are allowed to advocate their causes outside of their elected office capacity, and they’re allowed to speak as citizens, as well.

Gary’s statement said other city officials and staff were not sought to enjoin because CARE didn’t obtain evidence pointing toward their unlawful use of city resources. The statement said that other councilmembers’ votes on the resolution was not a “sufficient” basis to include them in the suit.

In February, San Marcos ACCess kicked off its 2010 campaign to get ACC annexation on the November ballot at the San Marcos Public Library, with speakers advocating the proposal including Porterfield, Texas State University Provost Perry Moore, then-Texas State Associated Student Government (ASG) Vice President Tommy Luna, San Marcos Education Foundation Executive Director and mayoral candidate Daniel Guerrero, San Marcos Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Chair Denise Collazo, and San Marcos ACCess co-chairs Arredondo and Sierra.

In 2006, ACC pulled its effort to annex SMCISD into the ACC taxing district after the petition process was riddled with findings of signature fraud, though nobody was prosecuted.

CARE is an unincorporated, non-profit association, registered with the Texas Ethics Commission. CARE’s general-purpose committee campaign finance report shows it took in $900.20 in contributions and spent $244.20 in expenses for the Jan. 15 to June 30 reporting period. Gary provided $400 in in-kind donations, and Joe B. Millican donated $500.20 during the reporting period.

CARE expended $100 to WDS Corporation to set up a website domain and email address. CARE also spent $135 and $9.20 in open records requests with ACC and San Marcos, respectively. CARE remains with $256 in its campaign war chest against the San Marcos CISD annexation into the ACC taxing district.

If annexation is approved in November, San Marcos residents will receive the in-district tuition rate of $42 per credit hour, as opposed to the out-of-district $150 per credit hour. Tuition also includes general fees, student fees, and sustainability fees totaling $16 per credit hour.

ACC taxes at 9.46 cents per $100 property valuation, of which an even nine cents goes to maintenance and the rest goes for debt service.

(Editor’s note: The above has been clarified to report that Natalie Abelaja, the Texas Ethics Commission attorney, said issues raised by CARE describe potential Election Code violations.)

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56 thoughts on “Narvaiz, Porterfield, say lawsuit is 'pure politics'

  1. Austin CC chooses to maintain the highest out-of-district tuitions in the state, according to TACC:
    http://www .tacc.org/documents/Sp10tuition_000.pdf

    The Texas Bond Review Board says ACC holds $444 million in outstanding debt obligations. Austin CC is withholding salary increases and raising rates to offset declining property values. They can’t meet their annual budget unless they expend their tax jurisdiction. How is that different from a ponzi scheme?

    With a graduation rate of 5%, ACC is an underperforming school that used $35 million taxpayer dollars this year to speculate in land purchases before voters even have a chance to “invite” them into their communties.

    Elected officials have no business using any gov’t resources to “sell” taxpayers a bailout program for Austin CC.

  2. Graduation rate does not matter. Students use ACC as a second chance. I did not do too well at a major university in Austin. I went to ACC and repaired my GPA and transferred to SWT where I did very well. ACC’s role is to help students. What good would a 2 year degree have done me when I was working for a 4 year? None! ACC will give students at Texas State more chances and opportunities. Not to mentions getting into basic classes that might be full at Texas State due to the increasing student population.

  3. It is my understanding that this is a civil suit – not a criminal suit.

    Regardless, I think we should all stand firm on the basic premise of justice in our country – one is innocent until proven guilty.

  4. Dear Mr. Sevilla, I could hardly believe my eyes when I read this story. You attributed statements to the Texas Ethics Commission which “seemed” inconsistent with what I know to be the practice of the Commission. You see, I have dealt with the Texas Ethics Commission for many years, as a candidate, office holder, County Party Chair, General Counsel for the Texas Democratic Party and as Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. I know something about how that agency works. I am flabbergasted that you would attribute to the Texas Ethics Commission the statements that you printed. At first, I wondered why you would do such a thing and can only come to one logical conclusion—you are biased and your bias is more important that the story. I am an attorney in the case and obviously have strong feelings. I am a strong supporter of the community college concept. I am also a strong supporter of the press but the press must be responsible and truthful. Therefore, I must very publicly question the truthfulness of those statements that you made. I understand that you have received a letter from the Texas Ethics Commission correcting your inaccurate reporting. Do you intend to publish that letter or must we have it published by other media sources? I anxiously await word from other media. At the very least you owe the public the truth and Mayor Narvaiz and Ms. Porterfield an apology.

  5. Charles,

    I am assuming that this is the passage that you are objecting too:

    “Natalie Abelaja, an attorney with the Texas Ethics Commission, said the Texas Election Code doesn’t specifically address city passed resolutions, but did say that CARE poses a compelling argument in addressing potential Election Code violations. Abelaja cautioned, however, that she could not speak to the specifics, since no complaints had been filed with the commission against Porterfield or Narvaiz.”

    This seems to me to be a pretty innocuous statement made by a Commission employee in a casual conversation. Ms. Abelaja even said that she can not speak to specifics. Can you be a little more specific in your objection.

    You also make the statement that:

    “I understand that you have received a letter from the Texas Ethics Commission correcting your inaccurate reporting”

    Can you enlighten me on how this letter came to be. Did you make a complaint about the statement (or non-statement) with the ethics committee? Being some what familiar and having dealt with the Ethics Commission myself, I have never know them to be in a hurry about anything. That they issued a letter regarding anything in less than 24 hours would mean that they have set some kind of speed record for their agency. Who does one need to talk to at the Ethics Commission to get this kind of speedy response? Who did you, if you did, talk to at the agency? Why would the Ethics Commission inform you of the content and nature of this letter? They are usually pretty private in their dealings with the public and elected officials.

    Charles Sims

  6. “Purely political?” I’m confused… which IS the purely political end–the start, involving Mr. Gilmore and the SMCISD cutting a deal and asking for help in a second round of petitioning for support from every quarter? The half-dozen virtually identical packages pushed all around Austin (except for Creedmore, San Leanna and Niederwald)? The gazillion dollars worth of media and other PR advertising? The selection of such a specialized group of local front persons? Or the Request for Injunction–which never takes issue with either side of the upcoming vote, but merely with the actions of the cheerleaders? Or the Council members going far beyond merely passing a resolution in support, to become fierce and vocal advocates–publicly, in public facilities, and by public means? As Officeholders and “community leaders,” I believe I have read, not as individuals?

    And HOW does one defeat an election referendum politically by focusing on malfeasance by members of a separate entity from the petitioners? Much easier just to reveal the great offer as a pig in a poke.

    Was it a good thing NOT to bust ’em for patent fraud the first time, then encourage a do-over?

    Anybody checked out the relative number of people who complete community college curricula to Certification, as opposed to the number who leave, give up or fail out? They ARE available. Anybody do the hypothetical math to calculate the total projected tuition reductions expected against the number of local students benefiting over time, compared to the taxation totals, even WITHOUT future certain increases? Will these students, like most, become enmired in Federal Student Loans of various kinds even as they get the bargain tuition? Are there really THAT many QUALIFIED college instructors roaming the streets of Manor, Pflugerville, Kyle, Cedar Park, etc. OR San Marcos?
    Where will the jobs and day-care, etc. come from to support all the new students who don’t have either middle class status or full time employment to help make the nut? CAN all those facilities be built, equipped, and staffed in roughly the same time frame? And for the same low tuition and fees (MEIN GOTT! No fees have even been mentioned!). (“THE SHADOW”– the Committee–knows, I am sure. Unless they forgot to ask the outgoing President of ACC.)

    Hate to sound like George Wallace, but he makes a good paraphrase: Misusing public resources and the public trust (not to mention making joined-at-the-hip clusters of leading interested parties) to turn an election IN SOMEBODY ELSES’ JURISDICTION AND INTEREST “was wrong then, is wrong now, and will be wrong “Fawh-evah!” This should be about the real merits of ACC, and should be done by them in response to demand, not by our leaders fanning with their binkies to make the fire grow. They could afford to rent a hall and pay for printing.

    I found the CA’s defense to be so thin and modest as to be almost sympathy-invoking: a non-response.

  7. I am also interested in Mr. Sims’s line of questioning? Does one have to be a “preferred customer” to get timely response from the State? Or maybe apply special knowledge or assumed political privilege? Wonder if the lady will decide she “mis-spoke?” Surely Mr. Soechting will not “assert himself” outside the proper forum of the Court?

    Word I hear is that the propaganda saturation has been long and thorough enough that the election may pass without real discussion, and that the Architects see no possibility of mischance. SaMMarcos may become the most highly-educated small town in America, any day now, and the flow of sustainable wages in here will be like the California Gold Rush. Nearly.

  8. Sorry Charlie and BGM, I went to bed earlier than you guys but here is your quick answer. If you deal with these issues often enough you know what the Commission does do and what it doesn’t do. What it doesn’t do is what statements like the article suggested “compelling argument”. The commission’s response speaks for itself. The method in which the commission conducts is business is non partisan. It is a like a baseball’s home plate umpire, calling balls and strikes. The color commentary is left to the announcer. Somehow the reporter apparently got those roles reversed. As to the suggestion that I must have been involved in the quick response , I did not contact, have anyone contact or know how the commission came to inform the paper of it’s position that anyone in politics knows. I would bet that someone called, it popped up on Google or whatever but let me see if I get this right. Are you bothered that a misstatement (that’s a nice way to call someone on a incorrect statement) is going to be corrected or that it was done quickly or what? Now, Do I know people at the commission?—You bet I do. I have filed dozens if not hundreds of reports over the decades and what I will tell you is it very approachable, very customer oriented but does not get involved. it’s reputation is that of an observer, not a participant in the process. Have a good day. I won’t be responding to anything because I have been out of town for a couple of days and I am in a catch up mode today. Thanks, CES

  9. It would be interesting to see where the phrase “compelling argument” came from. I would say that Mr. Soechting’s argument regarding his past TEC experience has the feel of a logical fallacy: to Quote: ((“You see, I have dealt with the Texas Ethics Commission for many years…I know something about how that agency works.”)). And, I would be hard pressed to believe that SMLN/Sevilla is going to somehow be more biased that Narvaiz/Porterfield’s defense attorney.

    I also took a copy of the page (and comments) about 6:15, in case anything gets removed/edited.

  10. What I said, and I mean is that TEC does not provide commentary in political matters. It’s mission is to provide guidance and enforcement. Mr. Spell, I have represented many people over the years, even Republicans. The law is the law and it usually trumps politics. My angst is that if the TEC actually said what was reported, it was a first. I doubt that it was a first. Thanks for pointing out my potential “bias” but it just isn’t there. BTW, interaction with an agency is normal when you are involved in politics and the political reporting that is required. Have a good one. CES

  11. Are there really those out there who would deny that our council has turned cheerleader for ACC? Further, are there really those who would argue that such cheerleading may be less than appropriate? Well, I guess the attorney that represents council would but you have to expect that.

  12. Cheerleaders for ACC include the Mayor and City Council Members, Texas State University, our Chamber of Commerce, the San Marcos Education Foundation, and others. Pity us poor taxpayers who may be bamboozled in this vote to increase taxes cloaked in gobbledygook language.

  13. Every public initiative must have its cheerleaders. True believers are the most logical choice. A;lso helps to have “opinion leaders,” preferably widely representative of the populace. Even better if one can organize people in visible positions, like nominal heads of “entities” and groups. Better yet if one gets support from elected officials, whose opinions are believed to carry the weight of all who might have voted for them.

    That much is just strategic marketing. Sometimes evil, sometimes necessary, sometimes both.

    Sometimes the initiative in question passes the litmus test, sometimes not–either “gets legs,” as the political and media types say, or does not. Sort of like my rather vociferous crusade near 2000 to get SM to buy into America’s Promise to its youth (See Powell, Gen. Colin, or the website). The same cast of characters (institutional and social, not individual) signed on with great enthusiasm and mild fanfare. We got from AP a flag, which may have flown for a few days. We were eligible for all their grants and job programs, educational tools, etc. But when it was time to follow through, nobody did “jack.” Apparently, such a movement needs a paladin, a head cheerleader, a constant encourager. We did not have one. Maybe it was too early to know we were clutching a floundering and need kids to our bosom, too early to start converting them into resources rather than liabilities.

    Or maybe folks signed up out of some sense that it was a “good thing to do,” wary of the negative image of refusal, but feeling no compulsion to actually DO anything or COMMIT anything. The ACC deal is better, in this sense, since one only needs to shut up and pay the taxes, once the vote is done. The kids (or maybe THEIR kids) are still out there, and helping them is still a just cause. Buying a solution always sounds more attractive than having to get one’s hands dirty. So be it. Unless you are a taxpayer for whom there is only the vaguest wisp of a dream of a hope that your rendition will somehow benefit you or someone close to you.

    None of this affects in the least that a public official, funded by public funds, cannot lend public resources to affecting an election. It must be said, though it is already obvious to the most casual onlooker, that there are ways and WAYS to use the public agenda to aggrandize oneself, to prosper, and to advance oneself, either in the next election or down the road. We see that in practice daily. In San Marcos, recently, more than once a day. But the call for injunction is righteous, although far too late to make much difference. The misdemeanor is already done, quite likely to the satisfaction of everyone involved.

    We all need either to buy in to this way of doing business and shut up about it, or to INSIST on public officials who are 1) smart enough to know when something offers temptation to do ill; 2) ethical enough to refuse the “easy” way; 3) able to separate their publicly-owned Office from their private delusions and political commitments; 4) attuned to the good of the whole, not the few; and 5) less fixated on their self image as powerful crusaders and Masters of the Universe. Public Service means also public humility.

  14. The 13 ethics complaints just filed in Bastrop County, I am sure they are “just politics” also.
    http: // austin.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2010/09/06/daily56.html

  15. Regarding Bastrop, it appears it is also a “group” which refuses to disclose it’s membership. Same as in San Marcos CARE. A group that purports to be in favor of education files a last minute lawsuit against the ACC expansion vote. DITTO!, same as in San Marcos. Here is from free advice from a politician from the past, ” It would have been cheaper to buy an ad in the Statesman”. Now as to Andy’s purported clarification…..with one question only. Does rewriting in the new and correct language in the place of the offensive/incorrect language without referring to the offensive language and it’s placement in the story do a better job that just admitting “we screwed up” Have a good day. CES

  16. Hate to be the one to ask this, but is an attorney involved in a “pending legal matter” usually found engaging in “purely political,” but very public, arguments about the issues surrounding the case? I thought that at this point the issue went to somebody in a black dress.

  17. Hi folks! I want to applaud the efforts of the CARE group in San Marcos. Here in Bastrop a similar effort by a citizens group, the Bastrop County Taxpayers Association (BCTA), has led to the formation of an anti-ACC-tax PAC, named BEARPAC. Research conducted by several members of the community has resulted in a discovery of considerable corruption and a filing of 13 ethics complaints against the supporters of the Austin CC Tax Annexation effort. As far as the charge, leveled above, that we don’t disclose our membership, my name and the names of the BCTA officers are listed on our website. As you know a PAC must file reports disclosing contributions and expenses and BEARPAC will file these reports in accordance with requirements.

    Keep up the good fight. As Benjamin Franklin said in 1776, “Either we hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.”

    Bob Parmelee
    BCTA Chairman

  18. .
    With ACC.s sudden financial difficulties, the real names everyone should see are the ones pushing this five school district annexation-alooza.
    With,the 5% loss in state funding FY10 & 11,then 10% FY12-13, $2 million dollars extra towards bond debt Fy11. They rolled the first year Lease Payments into the note, for Round Rock.,now its time to pay the fiddler. They got rid of the tax-break for historical homes this year to increase revenue, and for the first time in 30 years they can not give employees a raise. Time to line up more suckers. The only way this could pass is if a lot of the voters have no idea there is a new tax, and more debt involved. Oh by the way. it will not say anything about a tax,or debt on the ballot.
    Below is the Ballot Language for the Austin Community College annexation.

    “Annexation of the following territory for junior college purposes: All of the territory in Hays Consolidated Independent School District”

    Thats the language for HaysCISD,Just put SMCISD where it says HaysCISD
    Why is this considered legal? Why would or should anyone assume ACC”s $444 million dollar debt obligation?
    Especially when it won’t even mention it on the ballot..
    Why isn’t all of Travis county in ACC district?
    Here is next years budget., It will help you figure out why they are here,
    http: //www. austincc.edu/busdept/budget/OperBdgtBooks/FY11Boardapprovedbudgetagenda.pdf

  19. Our Mayor and all of the present City Council Members voted yes for the ordinance to support ACC earlier this year. I wonder if some of them, now that they know more about the ACC proposal, would some of them have voted differently. This is an important vote (permanently increasing our taxation with the millions of dollars being shipped to Austin every year).

    As for the ballot language, word on the street is that because ACC has become so powerful, they were able to dictate the language that must be used on every one of their new taxation initiatives.

    If some of our City Council members now understand what a bad deal this is for the SMCISD taxpayers, then it seems proper for them to bring this up anew for a fresh vote. Otherwise, their silence means they continue to support this new and permanent ACC taxation, and that would be a real shame.

  20. Steve, I believe they still do support it. They have ALL drunk the Koolaid, far as I know, and at least three are very heavily invested in it–it’s become part of their “street cred” and their campaigns, their Victory banners. At least one other is a pure “company man,” and would never admit to having succumbed to the “Look, guys, it’s about educational opportunity” appeal, which is much easier to embrace than the fiscal or educational facts. Hallucenogenic or not, that stuff goes down smoooth. Just like much of the “more jobs,” “more housing,” “more of everything for everybody” stuff. And the total disregard for our water future. Lord knows, you have been ignored and shrugged off enough at the podium. It takes a sizable group, willing to have the exchange and turn up the heat, to sweat out an admission of even the baldest truth.

  21. Who made the petition for San Marcos? Hays? It seems like according to the ethics complaints filed in Bastrop County, that ACC drew them up. I thought this was citizens doing this that ACC could have nothing to do with it?

  22. If some of our City Council members now understand what a bad deal this is for the SMCISD taxpayers, then they need to bring this up anew for a fresh vote. Otherwise, their lack of action, in the context of their voting “For” ACC earlier this year, means they continue to support this new and permanent ACC taxation.

    If I were on the Council and running for office in the upcoming elections, I would take this very seriously. After all, if enough citizens realize this is a permanent new tax where we are sending all the money to Austin, then there could be some negative association with those candidates in the election booth.

    In the midst of our current economic slump, I’d think the sitting members of the council too, would understand that they should not be supporting a new permanent tax on the citizens.

  23. Dream Team –

    Why do you feel Paso Robles is relevant in this thread? Last I checked, this was a discussion of ACC.

  24. Besides amounting to a Madoff style ponzi scheme on the part of ACC to cover the payments and interest on their $444,000,000 million dollar existing debt, for which they must continually absorb new victims (in this case the taxpayers of San Marcos),….

    and the fraud constituted by the deceptive methods that were used to present ACC to the people,….

    as well as the misleading language to the voters on the November ballot,…..

    This ACC proposal amounts to taxation without representation.

    It is remotely administrated and is irrevocable,….

    and basically puts us, the taxpaying people of San Marcos as unwilling participants, into a permanent position of indentured servitude to ACC,….

    Forever.

    This is not only a bad idea for San Marcos, that will financially benefit a only few organizers at the top,….

    and will provide at best a weak return on investment, as far as educational benefits per dollar spent,….

    despite the fact that we already have a fine university here in San Marcos,….

    and considering the current availability of ACC classes here already, in San Marcos,….

    as well as the proposed construction of an ACC campus right down the highway in Kyle (a short drive),…..

    this ACC dictate is a one sided decree, that will be disastrous to our already overburdened economy, right in the middle of a severe economic recession.

    Please see this ACC scam for what it is, and strike it down in the November 2nd election.

    We simply cannot afford to let this pass, folks,….

    not now,….

    and not ever.

  25. I’ve got a question. I’m sure the city has provisions for providing for the legal defense of our representatives. I have no idea what the guidelines are, or what process is outlined for identifying an applicable case. Mr. Jones talked about this and I am comfortable taking him at his word. So, I don’t want to get into a whole big thing about that.

    I’m just curious about the Mayor and Councilwoman Porterfield voting on this matter. I thought they were supposed to abstain from voting, when the outcome of the vote would affect them. It seems like a decision about who would pay a $15,000 legal bill would fall into that bucket.

    A minor technicality, but one that stuck in my head, nonetheless. Anyone with any expertise, not caught up in the middle of this, care to clarify?

  26. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER - San Marcos Local News

  27. The local power elite is trying to get our poor people to subsidize Texas State students so they can go get cheaper credit hours from ACC to transfer back to Texas State. Rather than impose a permanent new tax that does not directly benefit the people who would be paying the tax each year, how about we keep our local tax dollars local, where they can help local people and we have local control?

    We need to increase the (High School) graduation rate of SMCISD students, and improve the readiness of those students to enter college (or directly enter the workforce). If we’re going to spend more local tax money on education, it should directly go to and benefit our local students in SMCISD. Spending more time, attention, and resources on grades K-4 will improve our High School graduation rate and the quality and preparedness of our children to work and live a productive life.

    It is really upsetting the ballot language says NOTHING about the fact that voting “yes” for ACC means voting “yes” for new taxes that must be paid each year forever with very little influence on what happens to all that money we’d be shipping to the AUSTIN Community College.

  28. I agree 100% Mr. Harvey. I wonder if we borrowed the money and built the campus for ACC, what would the payments be and how long would it take to pay it off? There would probably be enough left over to subsidize every kid in the district who wanted to go to ACC to the same level as the lower tuition rate.

    Vote No.

  29. Mr. Harvey,

    Once again I feel that your good intentions and willingness to improve our community have been clouded by your anger at the current city council and administration. However powerful and influential you believe the Mayor and the council to be, I believe that their true colors have come out during this election. Anyone can take the easy way out and support what others support, but they are sticking to their beliefs and truly believe that ACC is what’s “right” for this community. (Which it is when you consider the following)

    SMCISD currently has a contantly increasing teen pregnancy rate, SMHS has a constantly increasing dropout rate/low graduate rate, and The Phoenix Academy currently has a constantly increasing enrollment rate…

    So, with all things considered I too believe this is the only solution for San Marcos, and the reason being that I doubt SMCISD and the current Board of Trustees will ever acknowledge these sad but true facts. If SMCISD would pull its own weight in the community I don’t believe ACC would even be an issue.

    But because of these things, we do have a high poverty rate, low literacy rate, and large number of people who require federal, state, and local assistance.

    If SMCISD had the results to prove they were making progress I’d be willing to pay slightly higher taxes to increase their success, but, at this current time I will not support giving SMCISD another dime.

  30. Michael, thank you for the on-going dialog, and I agree there is a lot of room for improvement in what happens in SMCISD, indeed. We may differ on some aspects of the potential solutions, but it is good to get this dialog “out there” where people can look at all aspects. I hope every SMCISD voter makes an informed decision, which includes knowing about the fact that it is a permanent new tax to a new entity (versus more attention, scrutiny, resources, assistance to the SMCISD activities).

  31. Mr. Potter;

    I believe that you have it exactly backwards.

    “However powerful and influential you believe the Mayor and the council to be, I believe that their true colors have come out during this election. Anyone can take the easy way out and support what others support, but they are sticking to their beliefs and truly believe that ACC is what’s “right” for this community.”

    While I do believe that the “true colors” of the Mayor and City Council have come out during this election, and that they are indeed “sticking to their beliefs”…..

    I and many other (perhaps naive) voters and citizens are, and have been under the long held impression that our trusted officials are indeed elected to represent the interests and desires of their constituency,….

    rather than consistently elevating their own self-determined preferences and self-serving interests into policy and law,…..

    above those valid issues and concerns, voiced by the majority constituency.

    “However powerful and influential you believe the Mayor and the council to be” is a curious statement,….

    considering that the balance of the City Council and the boards and commissions have been progressively stacked to lean in favor of the Mayor and her handful of beneficiaries, for some years now.

    However,….I and many other voters and citizens in San Marcos here and now, observe with a significant degree of relief, the welcome sunset on this decade of business-as-usual at San Marcos City Hall.

    And I assure you, that if elected to the council,….

    that I will not take the flagrant, arrogant attitude…..

    to make my decisions based upon what I suppose or determine to be the best for YOU,….

    but rather will listen to YOU and the input of those special members of the community that placed their trust in me, enough to elect me to office,….

    and I will base my decisions while serving on San Marcos City Council,….

    upon those findings.

    Thanks for listening,….Mr. Potter.

  32. I also enjoy the dialogue with you two this evening. But please forgive me but a comment Mr. Newman made has peaked my interests. Like I said before, I truly believe that the supporters of ACC feel that this is the best solution for San Marcos and I truly believe that the people who against ACC believe that it isn’t the best solution. I doubt anyone is for or against annexation for reasons beyond education or I would at least hope everyone is looking is looking at the benefits and negatives of annexation are their deciding factors.

    My question for Mr. Newman however is (Mr. Harvey, you are also invited to jump in at anytime) what exactly do either Mayor Narvaiz or Kim Porterfield “get” from annexation. Both of these individuals seem more than capable of sending their kids off to community college, trade school, Gary job Corp, UT Austin, Baylor, or our very own Texas State University. Neither of them face the burden of low literacy rates, poor education, bad or inadequate housing, or any of the other things that a LARGE majority of this community faces. So what benefit is it to them…that they too also get to pay more taxes? If they were senior citizens, okay, that smells bad…because they would see a large exemption, but they are going to be in the same boat as everyone else. I truly don’t see another outcome for them if SMCISD is annexed. So Mr. Newman, please explain yourself…

    Thank you.

  33. “what exactly do either Mayor Narvaiz or Kim Porterfield “get” from annexation?” I’m going to interrupt your civil discussion and give you my sincere but smart -alecky remark- “a plaque on the wall w/their name on it.” Just like the conference center.

    Like the University , the perks look great for our town to build an ACC campus, but financially , these institution only bring more low wage jobs, apartments and tax exempt properties that force residents to pick up the slack.

    Politically, it’s a smart idea to promote because it’s a ‘feel good’ gesture. So those who oppose it look petty, selfish, and short-sighted.

  34. SamD. maybe a community college WOULD provide you with better facts….ie, your statement “…apartment and tax exempt properties that force residents to pick up the slack.” Are you serious? You believe that apartments don’t pay taxes just like houses? WHAT?? Apartment complex’s DO pay property taxes just like homeowners, and considering that their property is more valuable per acre than a house they pay more. And to dispell another stupid myth that many like to toss around—- apartment residents DO pay property tax, they just pay it as part of their rent each month. Are you really so naive (or stupid?) as to believe that the apartment owners “pay it out of the goodness of their heart” and don’t pass the tax along to the residents just like any other business does in our society? Yes, that is how business works. Just like we all pay the property tax for all commercial businesses thru our purchases from them. Be for or against ACC, that’s fine… but don’t make dumb statements that are inaccurate.

  35. The people who would be paying this new tax every year are not the primary beneficiaries. The majority of people who would be paying this new tax every year can’t afford this proposed new tax burden. Almost 2/3 of our SMCISD students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, based on low family income levels. Why should we take more money away from those people who don’t have enough to begin with?

  36. A plaque on the wall to show that they were the pioneers of progressing San Marcos out of these “dark days” of the past as a podunk impoverished stop along I-35. What I often wonder, what do these people mean when they say that they love San Marcos while plotting to dramatically alter what and who San Marcos is? It’s kinda like loving a WOMAN purely out of her potential to be molded into one’s fantasy, rather than loving her warts and all.

    Regarding ACC only bringing low paying jobs, I have to disagree. One can make a very good living teaching at a community college, while avoiding the politics of a state college. As a young person committed to San Marcos who’s working on a higher level degree, I have to admit if ACC was in town I’d probably want to teach there. It would provide more professional jobs. With that said, I’ll be voting NO, because I do love her….warts and all.

  37. Interesting theory, although I am not sure if I buy it. I could see how someone might be looking for “plaques on the wall,” particularly when comparing one’s legacy to the massive expansion on the hill, led by President Trauth. Hopefully that’s not really what is driving some of these decisions.

  38. Could our Mayor be looking for a job in education or with a developer after she leaves office, or am I the only one out there wondering why she is giving away our town on a silver platter?

  39. If a plaque on the wall is all anyone was wanting, I’m sure they could have gotten that with the new fire station, the airport control tower, or any of the new buildings that have been dedicated this year. I hope that whether you are for or against annexation, we can stick to the merits of ACC, and not let our petty difference or our dislikes for certain individuals cloud this argument. Mr. Harvey, while supporting annexation, I have thought about your statement many times. Once again we come back to argument, what comes first, jobs or education. At this rate, San Marcos may never know, which is very sad.

    David Castillo and Jessie Ponce are up for reelection this year and the two at-large trustee terms end in 2010, if ACC annexation does not occur, will individuals rise up and start demanding more from our school district. Mr. Merchut, you have been offering startling statistics since these two men filed for office, has anything changed? I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if SMCISD (I do believe we’ve made SOME progress) was pulling it’s own weight this wouldn’t be an issue… (We also need to get some type of “trade” educational institution in San Marcos)

  40. There has been some progress with our schools, but nothing earth-shattering. To me, the issue is that our students aren’t even thinking about college. I don’t think an ACC campus, or cheaper tuition will change this. I think we need a community-wide push for better results from our schools, which would include outreach to the parents, to help them to see the options for their kids (remember, many of these parents have no experience with the college process), as well as involvement with Texas State, perhaps a push from city officials and major employers, for dropouts to get their diplomas/GEDs, and for HS graduates to continue to college.

    I think ACC might add value, but that just doesn’t strike me as the most glaring need, nor the best bang for our buck, to improve the schools.

    We pay a VERY competitive salary for our superintendent. Now that the position is open, it would be great to see an effort to recruit someone who has a proven track record in a similar district. There are some exemplary ones out there, which I have cited elsewhere. When that super is in place, it would be good to have the money to support his/her efforts.

  41. Hopefully this isn’t asking a lot, but could you please site them one more time. I know there is a community workshop to come talk about what they want to see in a superintendent and it be nice to have an idea of what we need in SMCISD and be able to offer some examples.

  42. “I hope that whether you are for or against annexation, we can stick to the merits of ACC, and not let our petty difference or our dislikes for certain individuals cloud this argument.”

    Mr. Potter;

    My objection to the whole ACC issue is not a petty difference, or a dislike for any certain individual.

    My objection, and the concern of most folks who oppose ACC, here in San Marcos,….

    is not necessarily the question of the benefit or perceived need for a community college here in San Marcos,….

    but rather the one sided, perpetual, irrevocable “contract” that we, as taxpayers beholden to the ACC Taxing District here in San Marcos will be

    FOREVER BOUND TO WITH NO REPRESENTATION, NO RECOURSE AND NO ESCAPE CLAUSE.

    That is pretty much the show stopper, right there.

    I have a suggestion that was passed on to me from another voter, concerned about our education situation here in San Marcos, as you seem to be,….

    and hopefully with the fortitude and energy to actually do something about it.

    If we do so need a community college here in San Marcos, in addition to what is already offered here presently in the way of currently available classes by ACC and Texas State University,…

    Then why don’t you start an initiative to develop our defunct Springtown Mall into a San Marcos Community College Campus, whereby we can direct our expenditures

    into those exact areas that will be of the greatest benefit to OUR children and OUR community without that being decided for us, by a remotely based administration board, that may or may not be sensitive to the particular needs of our children and of our specific community.

    I am not proposing this, mind you,….

    but it would be a much more productive approach, by someone such as yourself, who does indeed support the establishment of a community college here in San Marcos, and we would be able to keep OUR revenues here in San Marcos where they belong.

  43. Eden ISD graduates 89% of their Hispanic students and 83% of their economically disadvantaged students.

    Navarro ISD graduate 82% of Hispanic and 83% of economically disadvantaged students.

    Bangs ISD graduates 92% of their Hispanic students and 78% of their economically disadvantaged students.

    Los Fresnos ISD graduates 81% of their Hispanic students and 82% of their economically disadvantaged students.

  44. Ted- Schools can creatively manipulate the numbers to come out ahead. A drop out or student in juvie system can be documented as moved away etc. Remember a couple of years ago the big expose on Houston schools.

    I think a better measure of school district would be to follow up on their students’ college/tech/craft school graduation rates. That would reflect school districts ultimate success at prepping kids for adult education and career goals.

  45. Newman – interesting thought on San Marcos Community College. But I would NOT support it if it was managed under our current SMCISD administration.
    SMCISD department superintendents need to go. Big pretty high school building (another plaque on the wall) but no substance.

  46. Hugh, you are correct, but this is the best measure that I have access to. By any standard, we are pretty far behind. I’m guessing that we’d see a significant improvement in the prospects for our students, if we took some pointers from districts like those that I listed.

    Personally, I am thrilled to be having any debate about the best way to fix our schools, rather than the old debate about how to fix the “perception problem” with our schools.

  47. Entering the search string “increasing high school graduation rates” yields about 1,710,000 results (thanks, Google), which tells me there are a lot of people across the USA working on this problem.

    For example, there is a 66 page report done in 2008 entitled, “Dropout Prevention: strategies for improving high school graduation rates” at the following link:

    familyimpactseminars.org/s_ncfis04report.pdf

    I wonder if some of the faculty and students at Texas State would be interested in doing a similar study and report focusing on SMCISD students?

    If we are going to break the cycle and help our local students rise to greater levels of achievement and contribution, we need to concentrate on improving the SMCISD. I believe that is where SMCISD taxpayers would like to see attention and resources deployed. We can afford that (versus the proposed new annual tax we would send to ACC), and our local SMCISD students will directly benefit.

  48. Hi Andrew! I forgot to put a comma between “apartments” and “and”. The issue I had about apartments was not that they don’t pay taxes (although my understanding is that the 4 large Student Housing Apt complexes are exempt), but that more apartments would be built in our apartment-saturated town. The next issue was tax-exempt properties owned by state institutions. I’ve watched the university buy up the heart of San Marcos, removing a lot of properties off the tax roll.

    So both of those are my argument against another institution in our town. The taxpayers burden the cost of infrastructure upkeep w/increases in property taxes and apartment housing for more transient population usually does not add to the value of neighborhoods in which they are built.

    So yes, stupid me! I remember now why it’s important to add the comma w/ the conjunction when listing 3 or more items in a sentence. Sorry I got you so riled up!

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