Archive for the ‘Travis County’ Category

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#22 in a series)

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

For those who were wondering when I was going to put up Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, here you go. Not even paywalled, as of this writing.

(I probably should have put this up yesterday, but the workday was frantically busy, and I came home and collapsed after dinner. Sorry.)

According to the indictments, Paxton failed to tell stock buyers — including state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and Florida businessman Joel Hochberg, who each purchased more than $100,000 in Servergy stock and were listed as complainants on the fraud charges — that he had been compensated with 100,000 shares of Servergy. Paxton also said he was an investor in Servergy when he had not invested his own money in the company, the charges indicated.

Of course, these are just charges, he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, yadda yadda yadda.

Your city council, ladies and gentlemen.

Friday, January 16th, 2015

I just finished updating the “Contact information for the Austin City Council” page with the latest information. Please let me know if you find any errors or omissions.

The pages on the city website appear to have eliminated actual email addresses (relying instead on contact forms): if you happen to have a real address for your council member, you might share it. Fax numbers are also not present, but that may be an artifact: it looks like they’ve reorganized the phone system to make things a little more logical.

It hasn’t been that long since the council was sworn in, and I’m sure it will take some time for the council members to get their individual pages set up the way they’d like. I’ll try to keep an eye out for changes, but, again, I’d appreciate help from my readers on that.

I still need to get the Travis County Commissioner’s Court page updated, but with a little bit of luck I’ll be able to do that on my lunch hour.

Edited to add: The Commissioner’s Court page is now updated.

Administrative and other notes: November 5, 2014.

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Happy Guy Fawkes Day. While you’re out and about, please remember poor Guido, the last man to enter the Houses of Parliament with honorable intentions.

It seems kind of fitting that that the holiday falls today. Beyond that, I don’t have much to say about the elections for reasons of time and inclination. Battleswarm is a good place to go if you’re looking for that.

I will be updating the contact pages on this site, but I’m going to wait until after the runoffs are over, everyone is sworn in, and they actually have pages to link to. If this does get past me for some reason, please yell at me until it gets done.

I’m going to avoid my usual “what China needs” snark here, because this is a little scary: Brittney Griner attacked in China by a man with a knife.

Griner sustained a small cut when she was attacked by a man while boarding a bus after practice Monday in Shenyang. The man, who followed the players onto the bus, also stabbed one of Griner’s teammates. She was wearing two jackets and wasn’t injured because the knife didn’t go through.

How did Peter Siebold (the other Virgin Galactic pilot) survive a bailout from 50,000 feet without a pressure suit? Bonus: quotes from Bob Hoover. The Bill Weaver story is also touched on briefly: a fuller account can be found here.

Things may be slow from Thursday until Monday. We will see.

Lord of the I Told You So Dance.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The Saxet gun shows in the Austin area are on again.

Note my careful phrasing there. Saxet did not make a deal with the Travis County commissioners. Instead, the gun show is now in Hays County; specifically, in Dripping Springs.

Travis County has lost over 100 thousand dollars with the shift of Saxet’s contract.

The next show is March 29th and 30th; Saxet does not currently have any shows listed other than that one, so we’ll see how things play out.

(And Dripping Springs is a little less convenient for me than the Travis County Expo center. But I used to drive out to Dripping on a regular basis, so it isn’t a deal breaker.)

Quick gun show update.

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Only have a limited amount of time before lunch is over and I have to return to the helium mines of Ceti Alpha V, but I wanted to get this up before it disappears behind the Statesman paywall:

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to allow the Saxet Gun Show to continue at the county-run Exposition Center, only if all gun sales undergo a background check.
With Commissioners Ron Davis and Bruce Todd absent from Tuesday’s meeting, the rest of the county commissioners approved the contract, which now goes to Saxet officials to consider.

So three out of five voted? I guess that’s a quorum. (And I just noticed I missed updating the list of commissioners for Bruce Todd. Fixing that now.)

However, Saxet still has to agree to the contract, and the Statesman represents them as consistently stating they will not agree to a contract that requires background checks. Williamson County is looking better and better all the time.

(I’ll have to see if I can find a breakdown of some of the previous votes for y’all.)

Second verse, same as the first!

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

My mother sent the kids an email this morning:

No more gun shows, big Velvetta shortage. Makes me want to get a gun and the big box of Velvetta.

And I said, “Whaaaaaaaaaat?” I wasn’t aware there was a gun show issue. As a matter of fact, I’d checked the Saxet Shows schedule just the other night (while dining with Lawrence) and they have shows scheduled through December 2014. So I figured we were done with the bolshie bushwa. Right?


Travis County leaders voted Tuesday not to extend a lease allowing Saxet Gun Shows to hold the event at the county-owned Exposition Center in Austin.

Here’s a report from yesterday. Basically, the county commissioners couldn’t agree on what to do:

After concerns with citizens last year, the county added a provision in the contract that Saxet require it’s private gun vendors to conduct background checks for shows at the Travis County Expo Center. Judge Sam Biscoe proposed the county halt attempts to negotiate with Saxet until they agree to the background check provision of the contract. That proposal failed. Precinct Three Commissioner Gerald Daugherty then proposed to continue the original contract without the background check provision, which also failed.

Oh, look. By way of KLBJ, here’s a non-paywalled Statesman link.

“If you use a public facility to sell guns, we really oughta have background checks done. Or don’t use the facility,” County Judge Sam Biscoe, the chairman of the commissioners, told reporters after the meeting.

And since licensed dealers at gun shows are already required to do background checks, that will accomplish…nothing. Except drive Saxet out of Austin and into someplace like Round Rock or Cedar Park, and reduce Expo Center revenue. Private sales between individuals are still going to take place, gun show or no show.

Perhaps some of my readers might wish to give Judge Biscoe and the other members of the Commissioner’s Court who aren’t Gerald Daugherty a call. I’d recommend being polite and professional. Judge Biscoe has nothing to lose, since he’s retiring this year. So perhaps you should also make a note on your calender for election time…


Friday, October 18th, 2013

Shon Washington is going to do four years in state prison. You may remember Mr. Washington as the man who looted the Christmas Bureau. (Previously.)

While searching for a good link on the Washington story, I ran across this:

The receipts from Twin Liquor stores all over town show [Travis County DA Rosemary] Lehmberg purchased 72 bottles – or 23 gallons – of vodka on her credit card over a 16 month period.

72 bottles over 16 months is 4.5 bottles per month, or a little over a bottle per week. Or, if you want to look at it another way, 23 gallons over 16 months is 1.4375 gallons, 184 ounces, or 5441.53 ml per month. Assuming a 30 day month, that’s a little over 6 ounces of vodka a day. Or somewhere between two and three stiff drinks.

He says he released the booze receipts in an effort to prevent Lehmberg and her supporters from pretending a problem doesn’t exist.

If you drive drunk with an open bottle in your car, you have a problem. If you have two stiff drinks a day, do you have a problem? I’m not so sure. (One of the current comments on this story calls out the hidden assumption that she drank it all herself, rather than having parties, having friends over, another family member drinking some of it, etc.) And it bothers me a little that the attorney was able to get records of her purchases from Twin Liquor. I buy from Twin Liquor; is some lawyer going to be able to subpoena records of my purchases? Should I start paying in cash?

(Another hidden assumption: she only bought from Twin Liquor, and not from Spec’s, or any of the dozens of other liquor stores around town.)

(Am I the only person who sees Debs Liquor and thinks to myself, “Well, good for him. I’m glad he found more honest work than running for president.”)

Today’s Austin quasi-gun show update.

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

I have written previously about the activities of the Austin Public Safety Commission, an appointed “advisory body to the city council on all budgetary and policy matters concerning public safety, including matters related to the Austin Police Department, the Austin Fire Department, and the Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services Department.”

The Public Safety Commission, it should be noted, is different from the Greater Austin Crime Commission, which has engaged in gun buybacks in the past.

I call that point out because the Public Safety Commission issued a series of “recommendations” to the city council yesterday. As reported in the Statesman, APSC recommends:

  1. “banning the leasing of government-owned facilities to gun shows”.
  2. “vendors at such shows to conduct background screenings”. This doesn’t make a lot of sense: we’re going to ban gun shows on public property, but we’re going to require vendors to conduct background screenings at the gun shows we’ve banned? I don’t believe the city can require vendors to conduct background checks at gun shows on private property; I think this is superseded by state preemption law.
  3. “…enforcing a state law prohibiting the carrying of firearms — except by those with concealed hand gun permits — in public parks, public meetings of government bodies, non-firearm related events at schools, colleges or professional events and political rallies, parades and meetings.” Wow, that’s a daring recommendation, guys. Enforce existing law.
  4. Instruct the “Austin City Council, Travis County Commissioner’s Court and Austin Community College and Austin Independent School District boards of trustees” to “divest ownership in any companies that manufacture and sell assault weapons or high capacity magazines to the public”.
  5. “Direct the Austin Police Department and Travis County Sheriff’s Office to study gun buy-back programs and come back with recommendations.” Oh, boy, I hope they do. As you may have noted at the link above, the last gun buy-back turned into a gun show. If they have another buy-back, I’d love to take a shot at picking up some more nice older Smiths.
  6. “Collect data on guns used in crimes”. I’m not sure from the context of the Statesman article what this means. I was listening to KLBJ-AM briefly last night, and caught part of a story on the commission recommendations; apparently, what they’re looking for is information about where crime guns come from. Are they stolen, legally purchased, bought at gun shows, etc.?

It is perhaps also worth noting that former mayor Will Wynn and current mayor Lee Leffingwell are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and that Wynn is one of the members of that group who has been convicted of a criminal offense.

The more I hear out of these people, the better a recall election sounds.

Hot off the presses!

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

There were long lines and crowds at the gun show, according to the Statesman.

(Before today, I’ve never had to wait in line to get into a gun show, except maybe the one time I went with Borepatch and we had to wait for the doors to open. It took me about 40 minutes in line to get into the show; I got there around 10:30 AM. Two friends of mine got there later and reported the wait was much the same, even at 1 PM.)

Edited to add: Lawrence was there as well; here’s his report.

Not all the news is bad.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Travis County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to reverse course on a proposal that would have banned gun shows from county facilities.

The county is going to honor the existing contract, which is for nine more shows at the Travis County Exposition and Heritage Center.

“I take very seriously the idea of abiding by the law. State law prevents this court from doing much of anything on this issue,” Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt said.

“I take very seriously the idea of abiding by the law.” That’s a quote for you. But:

…she would like to see gun shows require background checks for all purchases.

That’s nice, Commissioner Eckhardt. I’d like a freaking pony.

Federal law exempts private transactions from having a background check, something licensed sellers are required to do.

That’s the closest the Statesman has come to getting it right in their reporting on this subject.

The county will also meet with the gun show operator, Saxet Gun Shows, about the matter.

So probably if Saxet comes back for a contract renewal, the commissioners will pressure them to agree on a “no sales except through a FFL” provision.

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said county staffers would bring any other proposed events at the Expo Center with “unusually high safety risks” for commissioners’ approval. Previously, county staffers would not need to seek commissioners’ approval for events at the Expo Center.

Awesome! Since the county staffers are going to bring “any other proposed events at the Expo Center with ‘unusually high safety risks’ for commissioners’ approval”, I suggest they start with the Republic of Texas biker rally. I mean no offense to Jay G. or any of my other motorcycle riding friends out there: I don’t ride myself right now, but I love you guys. But if we’re talking about “unusually high safety risks”, there were at least three deaths during last year’s ROT rally, and another three the year before. I’d think that qualifies.

Anyway, we’ve won the battle, but the war isn’t over yet. You need to be contacting your Congressperson. I’ve added pages with contact information for the Texas Senate and House delegations. The lovely and talented Erin Palette has pointed out Ruger’s automated letter generator, so you can even do it with a couple of clicks of the bunny. If you have time, though, I recommend you hand compose and either fax or email your rep; most of the sites I visited while I was pulling that list together warned that physical mail is delayed up to two weeks. Anthrax, don’t you know?

If you live outside of Texas, or don’t know who your people are: find your House member here. Find your senators here.

Gun show update.

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

The Statesman is reporting that the Travis County Commissioners could vote on a gun show ban as early as Tuesday.

However, the paper is also reporting that at least two of the commissioners are “backing away” from supporting the measure:

County Judge Sam Biscoe has said he asked the commissioners court to consider a ban of gun shows at county facilities after receiving emails from 200 people asking for one.
But after Tuesday’s legal briefing from county attorneys, he said the prospect of a ban was “not good.”
Commissioners Sarah Eckhardt and Gerald Daugherty told the Statesman they didn’t think the county had the power to enact a gun show ban. Daugherty, the lone Republican on the five-member court, said he wouldn’t support a ban even if he thought it were legal.

Before we give props to Eckhart and Daugherty, they are also quoted as supporting “background checks for anyone buying a gun at a gun show”. Oddly enough, so is Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. I suspect that Daugherty and Patterson are just misinformed, not malicious; I’m not sure about Eckhardt.

In any case, now is not the time to back off. Keep those cards, letters, and faxes coming in, people. Contact information for all of the commissioners is right here.

Gun show update.

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Austin Rifle Club sent out an email late last night stating that the Travis County Commissioners Court was considering the gun show ban today. I didn’t see that email until this morning, otherwise I would have considered going down to report.

According to the Statesman, the commissioners “discussed” the proposal, and heard testimony from residents, but did not take a vote. So you still have time to contact them.

A ban would not apply to an upcoming show on Jan. 26 and 27 and County Judge Sam Biscoe said that if a ban is approved, he would want it to apply three or four months down the line.

So Judge Biscoe thinks gun shows are a threat to public safety, but not one that we need to act on immediately? One that can wait “three or four months”? Option two is that Judge Biscoe is a political hack who wants to be seen as “doing something” when he’s really doing nothing. But that can’t be true: political hackery on the commissioners court? Why, that’s unheard of! (Option three is that Judge Biscoe figures things will blow over in “three or four months”, we can return to the current status quo, and voters will forget his actions. My message to Judge Biscoe: “He’d seen how ‘civilized’ men behaved. He never forgot and he never forgave.”)

…so-called “gun show loophole,” where private citizens selling firearms at gun shows can do so without requiring background checks, something licensed dealers are required to do.

And, again, I’ll make the points that:

  • Any dealer with an Federal Firearms License who sells guns at a gun show has to do a check, just as if they were selling guns in a physical store.
  • Any person who regularly sells guns at a gun show, or any place else, is required to get a FFL. Not getting one is a Federal crime, if you engage in the business of selling guns. If a relative dies and you engage in a private sale of a few of his guns, that’s not a crime. But if you sell guns regularly at the gun show without a license, the BATFE will come after you, and you may do time.
  • Those same private sales will take place in supermarket parking lots, subdivision driveways, and other places even if the county restricts gun shows. There’s nothing the county can do to stop that.

The Statesman does not give a breakdown of how many people spoke at the meeting, nor does it give any indication how many supported or opposed the measure.

Travis County does not have authority to regulate firearms sales, but Biscoe believes it can ban a gun show from being held at county facilities.

And, once again, I’ll mention that Judge Biscoe is wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong! Here’s some legal precedent from the 5th Circuit for you, Judge Biscoe. The tl;dr version: the city of Houston tried something similar and ended up paying $50,000+ in legal fees to a gun show operator.

The commissioners were discussing the possible ban after Biscoe received messages from about 200 people asking for a ban of gun shows at the Expo Center following a similar request at a commissioners court meeting by Ed Scruggs, an Austin Democratic activist.

Keep that in mind. The opposition managed to get 200 people to support their illegal proposal. I think we can do much better.

Edited to add: Forgot something else I was going to mention: I updated the .CSV files of the county commissioners and the city council members with fax numbers, just in case anyone finds that useful. Someone yesterday (and I forget who it was) made the comment that they can ignore emails, but they have to answer the phone and they have to put paper in the fax machine. I am slightly dubious about the latter, what with modern technology and all, but the fax numbers are there if you can use them.

Edited to add 2: Updated story from the Statesman:

Travis County commissioners delayed a vote Tuesday on banning gun shows on county property, as county lawyers appeared to cast doubt on the legality of such a move.

You don’t say?

After emerging from a private meeting with attorneys, County Judge Sam Biscoe said the prospect for a ban was “not good.”
Biscoe added that county lawyers will need to research further whether the county can legally ban gun shows ahead of an expected vote next week. A county gun show prohibition would shut down a regular, well-attended gun show at the county-run Exposition Center. Biscoe declined to comment further on the discussions from the closed session.

The Statesman reports eight people spoke in opposition, and two in favor.

And edited to add again: by way of Lawrence over at Battleswarm, ““If Austin or Travis Co. try to ban gun shows they better be ready for a double-barreled lawsuit.” Click through to find out who said that. Hint: it wasn’t someone who runs gun shows. Hint 2: it was someone who can unleash hell on the city and county.