September 29, 2007
Our friendly, neighboring governor makes his mark:
This isn't a phenomenon isolated to Wednesday's debate, either. Always appearing nervous and unpolished, Richardson has consistently proven himself to be the least impressive man on stage, which is no easy task with Kucinich and Gravel standing beside you.
From a review of a Democratic Presidential Debate that about 5 people watched, happily including the author of this article.
While challenged with some tough questions by Russert, Hillary Clinton nonetheless steadfastly maintained her frontrunner position by expertly not answering the questions posed to her. If she is a master at anything, it is that.
It appears that there are the beginnings of a Presidential Campaign underway. Clinton/Obama vs. Guiliani/Thompson (Fred) anyone?
September 28, 2007
Why is our La Entrada Building A still empty after more than a year?
Well, it isn't because San Angelo stole anything from us to put in their industrial park.
"San Angelo's northeast industrial park - long a lightning rod that has attracted criticism from opponents of the half-cent sales tax, who point to it as an example of wasteful spending - received a ringing vote of no-confidence Thursday from the San Angelo City Council.
The council, in a goal-setting workshop designed to set a vision for the city, questioned the effectiveness of the park and appeared to coalesce around San Angelo Regional Airport as a better site to attract industry.
"I don't want to criticize the industrial park," said District 1 Councilman John David Fields, who owns airport-based Ranger Aviation and has long touted the area as a better-suited spot for industrial development, "But, shoot, if it's not working, let's try something different."
Unfortunately, giving the money back to the taxpayers never seems to be an option. Rather, a sitting city councilman who owns an airport-based business is advocating for tax subsidies to be spent in the same area where said councilman owns a business interest.
Sounds oddly familiar.....
"On top of the surprising council conversation, Planning Director Shawn Lewis revealed that the city's third-party planning consultants, in a report submitted in the past week, labeled the park - located at the juncture of U.S. Highways 67 and 277 and Loop 306 in Northeast San Angelo - an "outdated failure," even though it's less than 10 years old.
Only two businesses have ever located in the park, dubbed the San Angelo Business and Industrial Center, since its opening in 2002, and one of those enterprises has since closed."
"The discussion came as a surprise, said City of San Angelo Development Corp. second vice president Tommy Hiebert. The COSADC, which administers the city's half-cent sales tax, funded the rest of the park and heard from its engineer Wednesday about the progress of designs for the second phase of the project. [Emphasis sooooooo mine.]"
- Only two businesses have ever been located in the park and one is now gone.
- The city's own consultant labeled the 10 year-old industrial park an outdated failure.
- Plans are being made for Phase 2 of the development. [But, of course!]
Sure...why wouldn't it be surprising? The suspending of suspended disbelief accompanied by the employment of empirical evidence of a lack of performance is really kind of changing the rules when it comes to the evaluation of economic development programs isn't it?
They say location is everything. I would bet that location is everything to Reliant Holdings and $250,000 is just a nice little kicker to buy down their investment.
First, let's look at the location, near the intersection of FM 1788 and County Road 60.
- This tract of land is not currently within the City Limits, however it is adjacent to the La Entrada Route (AKA Hwy 349 Reliever) which will provide excellent access to major roads leading N, S, E & W. However, the City's master plan (pg 3-34) calls for the annexation of land along the La Entrada Route, but that will be years away.
- This tract of land is near the Kinder-Morgan CO2 Central Basin line which has a branch which cuts through the area near the common corner of Ector, Midland and Andrews Counties (to serve the Mabee Field). I would presume that there are CO2 pipelines that branch off this main line and are even closer to the site, but publicly available maps don't show these types of lines (September 11th Pipeline security measures).
This business can't just locate anywhere. They have to have access to major roadways and a source of CO2 (either from a plant or a pipeline).
Then there is this matter: Reliant Holdings has just recently opened a CO2 recovery and processing facility in Windsor, Colorado. I can't find any talk of any local incentives to build this plant. Granted, their partner, an ethanol plant, may have provided the kicker so they could reduce their emissions.
The $5 million facility will have 16 full-time employees, producing about 150 tons of CO2 per day in its initial production and twice that when it reaches full capacity, according to a press statement.
And what are they proposing here? $7 million in capital expenditures and 55 jobs? This doesn't seem to track, $5 Million = 16 and $7 Million = 55?.
I have absolutely nothing against Reliant Holdings. I think CO2 is a great industry to be in and there is always a need. I love the fact a company with such a reach across the Western United States finds West Texas home. However, given the above factors, without our $250,000, I think the worst that would have happened is that Reliant Holdings would have moved further up 1788 (maybe into Ector or Andrews County) to be closer to the CO2 infrastructure.
BTW: Newsroom Stew, has some intelligent questions about where the employees will come from and how contributing back to the City's tax base works with this site outside of the City Limits.
UPDATE: This isn't a done deal. The City of Midland's Council has to approve this agreement. Councilman Bill Dingus voted against BCCK's deal on similar grounds, and they were inside the City Limits.
It is the election season, after all. You can't swing a cat or tune your radio without hitting a candidate on a talk show.
So here is the question: Explain exactly why a $250,000 incentive paid for with public funds was necessary for Reliant Holdings, Ltd. to move forward with their expansion or why this expansion would not have moved forward without a tax subsidy.
It is time to move past the whole "Trust-Us, We're the Chamber", feelgood-ism that has been keeping afloat the public relations image of a program that directly taxes local citizens in order that money can be turned over to private companies for doing what private companies are supposed to do anyway. Based upon our slate of council candidates, this is what passes for red-state, free market economic conservatism these days.
With this latest deal the MDC/Chamber/City/Councilman Simpson will take credit for "55 jobs" created by the fact that the MDC will write a check to Reliant Holdings, Ltd. that represents only enough funding for 4.8 jobs for 1 year (based on Texas Average Weekly Wage of $786/wk) or 2.4 jobs for 2 years.
Truly, what number do you think will end up in the MDC's Monthly report?
55? Or 2.4?
And perhaps....just perhaps...it is time to start calling companies that seek and recieve these funds what they really are: tax-sucking welfare queens of the first order.
UPDATE: In defense of these companies, they actually do pay a lot of taxes. But in defense of welfare queens, they at least need the money they end up taking from the public.
Here is what fascinates me. In language, rationalization, certainly operationally, and (of course) with that certain air of moral superiority...have you noticed how exaclty the apparatus that justifies, collects, and then spends ED tax money mirrors the apparatus that does the same for the....er...more traditional welfare recipients in this country?
September 27, 2007
I remember hearing a political pundit once say that most young liberals are involved in their causes because the rallies and protests are generally followed by great parties with great opportunities for sex, drugs and/or drinking. Seems there is a grain of truth to that statement, at least for the supporters or Barack Obama.
Like-minded city singles are looking to tonight's Barack Obama rally as more than just a politically charged soiree: It'll be a raging pickup scene.
I really like the difference in expectations of the Female attendees:
.....Colleen Kluttz, a 29-year-old TV producer who's hitting the event tonight if work allows. "It will give you something to talk about. It gives you a reason to have conversations that aren't just about yourself." But what kind of guy are you going to find at an Obama rally?
"A socially conscious liberal - probably a well-dressed, well-groomed hipster," Kluttz says.
and the male attendees:
One ardent Obama supporter (who declined to give his name because he works in politics) says he'll attend both the rally and the after-party, and he doesn't expect to be going home alone.
He's confident for a reason.
"Let's face it: Leftie girls are easy," he says.
According to the MRT, the MDC has agreed to the terms of an incentive package of $250,000 for another local company.
Along the same vein as BCCK Engineering's Economic Development Package, Reliant Holdings, LTD., (AKA Flo-CO2), is a local company with deep roots in the Oil and Gas Industry and in the industrial CO2 and Dry Ice business.
Again the question has to be asked: In the current Oil and Gas Climate, would Reliant Holdings do this expansion in the absence of any incentive monies?
From a MyWestTexas.com story on the management district calling for better private property maintenance:
"...there comes a point in time that it is reasonable for government to play a role in encouraging people to take care of their property." - Midland mayor Mike Canon
Oh does there now? Hmm. Look, I'm certainly no fan of dilapidated property either, but where exactly does the government get off in telling me how high my grass can grow or what color my building should be painted? I realize this is a multi-faceted issue, especially in light of the recent vandalism outbreaks in the downtown sector. But the above comment speaks loudly as to the state of private property rights in America, and raises the question of whether or not they even exist at all.
The owners of buildings that are in need of maintenance or repairs would be notified and if no action is taken after a period of time, the city would pay for the maintenance or repairs to take place and bill the owner. Owners who did not pay the bill would have a lien placed on their property that would have to be paid before they could sell it.
Ah yes, the old place-a-lien-on-their-property trick. It's a common tool of many municipalities.
When it all comes down, the government has the ability to take virtually anything away from you. Though your property may be bought and paid for, the government continues to 'lease' it to you indefinitely via a yearly tax that -- if left unpaid -- will eventually result in Uncle Sam coming and taking it for himself. Property ownership is ultimately a myth, and we need to be heading in the other direction, not drafting more ordinances.
I, for one, am against the recommendation by the MMMD. I'd rather look out my office window and see the tall grass of liberty than the neatly groomed hedges of government control.
According to this mornings MRT the Hospital District is setting forth to spend $110 Million to add beds and revamp almost every single existing room in the hospital.
In the past several years when hasn't the hospital been constructing (or buying) facilities?
This may be a worthy endeavor for health care in Midland County, but $110 Million is a breathtaking figure.
September 26, 2007
Actually, they were always available...but hardly advertised. Upon viewing them you will begin to see why.
From the City to Ms. Sparkman to ospurt to Site Admin....here are the MDC Financials for the time period Fiscal Year 2002 to August 2007.
Thanks to Bob McNaughton at the city, Stephanie Sparkman and everyone else in the chain.
UPDATE: It just occurred to me that ospurt was the Wellhead that actually secured the info so I have gone and stolen some thunder by posting the document. I will refrain from commenting and give him first shot. It is his "get".
If you ever find your self perusing the Midland Development Corporation's website for any real information about their actvities you will be sadly disappointed.
A large portion the content there are stats and figures cut and pasted from other sources (Texas Workforce Commission, ACCRA, The Perryman Group, etc). Which is okay because the potentially subsidized will need this information when doing their research.
What is notably missing, however, is any information concerning the finances of the Development Corporation and any information of any detail concerning already in place incentive deals.
I can understand that the MDC needs to be secretive about any ongoing development deals so as not to tip off other communities that are also bludgeoning tax dollars out of their citizenry in order that they too may play on a level playing field. But why no information on any done deals?
Trace Engines is owned by a lot of area investors and has been here for a while now and I was looking to see if the MDC had come up with that company's incentive subsidy yet....perhaps a nice package for the second anniversary of their arrival here.
Literally, there is zero information on anything that the MDC has done in the last four years.
The Monthly Report is just a re-hash of labor statistics (augmented with pretty graphs!). No finances. No information on the cost of running the MDC. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
The News area of the website is made up of articles cut and pasted from MyWestTexas.com. And even those articles are cherry-picked. Conspicuously missing are the articles that mention the failure of deals like TMP, W Power & Light, and most recently Countrywide Mortgage.
So I begin to feel Ms. Sparkman's pain when she says:
"This is one of the great mysteries of how things work in city government. I've tried for 3 1/2 years to get specific information from the economic development group with the chamber to find out exactly what they've been paid in the way of administration costs."
The good news? There is a chance to perhaps get hold of at least some of that information.
7. Consider a resolution appropriating funds from the Midland Development Corporation's fiscal year 2006-2007 budget to be used for promotional purposes, as authorized by Section 4A of Article 5190.6, Texas Revised Civil Statutes.
10. Receive and discuss the monthly expenses and financial report from the Midland Chamber of Commerce.
Perhaps she should attend the meeting and ask for a copy of these two reports. She will either get them on the spot or her request will be turned down in front of God and everyone. Either outcome will provide valuable information.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that the MDC website is actually an award-winning one at that and has earned a star for providing....wait for it...."development information".
UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Sometimes I just love Google. Search Term: "It's a major award!"
September 24, 2007
I think that it is a wonderful and healthy break-through that the City/Chamber/MDC Troika is finally starting to lose control of the narrative on local economic development.
The narrative used to be that without wisened elders armed with a war chest made up of our tax dollars in order that they may "level the playing field" we were, as a city, simply doomed.
It was bound to happen. Sooner or later us great unwashed would begin to notice that not much was happening development-wise that was touched by the magic economic development money...and that a great deal of development was happening that was not blessed at all with it.
The situation has gotten to the point that every candidate for city council this time around is either uncomfortable with how the whole economic development apparatus has performed...or at the very least knows to appear uncomfortable with it because they sense the public has become so.
Unfortunately, with the exception of Place 4 candidate Jerry Knudsen who believes it is time to do away with the economic development tax, all of the other candidates will continue to maintain their white-knuckle grip on your money even if it means dispensing with some serious word salad on how it could be utilized differently.
The "True Believer" award has to go to Councilman Berry Simpson for faithfully citing the "2,000 jobs created by the MDC" with a straight face but also for this jewel:
"Simpson said supporters of the economic development program 'fought too hard and too long to get that tax' to suspend it now."
A clearer example of that certain abstraction layer that elected officials get that turns your money into their money would be hard to find. It needs to be said here that the taxpayers fought harder and longer to earn that money in the first place. To be fair, I am sure that some additional context that did not find its way into the article would soften Mr. Simpson's statement somewhat.
Nonetheless, that same mindset is shown by all of the other candidates when they advocate unhappiness with the progress or suggest big changes in the operational philosphy of the ED apparatus.....but refuse to entertain any idea that maybe the taxpaying public in this case ought to be able to keep its money.
Why, that would be irresponsible, don't you see?
It looks as though the upgrade to Movable Type 4 has been successful. The upgrade will not be too apparent to the readers...at least for a while. All of us contributors will certainly get a new interface to look at when in the process of delivering our b.s. to the world.
What finally drove the upgrade was the need for more tools to fight the comment spam I was spending 20 minutes per day deleting.
If you notice any odd behavior (on the part of the site, not the contributors) be sure and let us know.
September 23, 2007
There is enough here for ten posts...and we will get to them.
But let me just say right now that I have a huge man-crush on Colin Guy right now.
September 22, 2007
Why doesn't the MDC talk that much about the only resident of their prized Entrada Enterprise Park, Atmos Energy?
Lets go back to July of 2005:
The 40,000-square-foot, $1.3 million "Building A" that Midland Development Corp. is constructing in Entrada Enterprise Park is a one-story structure with towering concrete walls to be completed by late September as a shell. It will have a foundation, walls and ceiling but no interior furnishings, leaving it to the new business tenants to decide what they want inside the structure west of Midland International Airport. Funded by the city's three-year-old economic development tax, MDC spent $520,000 for Entrada Enterprise Park's 25 acres, $1.3 million for Building A construction, $685,000 for utilities and $383,185 for landscaping and signage there and elsewhere in the area.
The Midland Development sold 5.530 Acres (of the 25 Acres of previously City of Midland land) to the property management firm that is managing the property for Atmos Energy, and though I don't have the sales price available (hmm... MDC minutes anyone, anyone, Bueller) it shouldn't have gone for less than the appraised value of $240,890. If it did, I'm not quite sure that covers the value of the land, and the share of the utilities, landscaping and signage.
Does this mean Atmos needs to be on the list of companies receiving incentives? How many new jobs are they providing for that incentive.
For what it is worth, since the lot was the City's and it was in the City Limits, the City of Midland could have pulled this deal off (including utilities) without the MDC as middleman.
Get ready for a possible announcement of new incentives from the MDC at their September 27th meeting. According to their posted agenda:
Consider a resolution authorizing the execution of an economic development agreement regarding real property described as a 78.154 acre tract of land out of Section 30, Block 40, T-1-S, T&P RR Co. Survey, Midland County, Texas.
For those of you without a sectional map, this is generally in the area of FM 1788 and County Road 60. Near the Chevron office and where the new cemetery is going to be built.
Now, if there isn't a company name attached to this deal, maybe the MDC read Walsingham's post, and my reply, and are looking for property on the "right side" of FM 1788.
Either way, this agenda item confirms my suspicion that the MDC keeps tabs on the Well:
Receive and discuss a report from officials with Midland Memorial Hospital regarding healthcare issues facing the City of Midland.
NOTE: The link to the posted agenda will cease to reference the one where these quotes have been plucked from when the next agenda is posted. The MDC, unlike the City of Midland, and pretty much every other governmental entity, does not archive agendas and they do not post minutes, though they (we) are paying a nice sum for their internet presence.
September 21, 2007
Midland Development Corp. directors opened their new Building A in Entrada Business Park near Midland International Airport, saying they are considering two prospective tenants who want to lease the 44-foot-tall, 40,000-square-foot structure for either light manufacturing or distribution enterprises."
Oh, wait. That article is dated May 27, 2006.
There is no such thing as an economic development surplus, you see.
The MDC can't catch a break. The Texas Workforce Commission is out with the August numbers (.pdf) and Midland's unemployment has dropped from 3.2 percent in July to 2.8 percent in August.
Looks like the rate improved because we lost 800 employable people. I guess all those semi-employed college kids went back to school.
No other City in Texas has a rate below 3.0 percent. Amarillo and Odessa are next in line at 3.3 percent.
We need people (and housing), I hear Russia has this interesting program for that.....
Sensing the growing public perception that it is underperforming, the Midland Development Corporation gets a retort in with this piece from CBS-7's Bill Warren.
The subject of the piece is the current "Economic Development surplus". An Economic Development surplus being, in this case, the roughly $10 million dollars taken out of the economy that taxpayers were not going to spend correctly in the first place and that is currently sitting in the Midland Development Corporation's bank account.
In other words, the MDC can't have too much of the taxpayer's money regardless of what the taxpayer was going to do with it or what the MDC plans to do with it.
The High Priests of Economic Development inform us that there is no such thing as an Economic Development Surplus. Such talk is blasphemy!
But of course.
The segment then reverts to the usual hot off the press release reporting of stats from the MDC:
$ Expended $7.7 million New Jobs 1,375 Payroll $35.7 million New Buildings $18 million
The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that according to the State of Texas the actual incentives paid out by the MDC over the past four years is only $1.2 million. In contrast, the MDC/Chamber has paid itself $1.8 million in salaries over the same period so it looks like they have some pretty large...er...incentives themselves in this whole scheme.
Now, we are all aware of the MDC's practice of taking credit for every single job "created" by these companies regardless of the level of the amount and likely effectiveness of the subsidy delivered, i.e. the BCCK deal that the MDC is helping to fund.
Imagine! A local oil industry service company expanding in current market conditions in order to meet demand. Sounds just crazy enough to work, right? In steps the MDC to help fund a fraction of the expansion. The net effect is that the expansion goes ahead as it would have anyway and the MDC gets to claim credit for ALL of the jobs created in the expansion and not just the few that the level of MDC funding would pay for.
Here is what I would like to see investigated and reported on. What is the marginal difference made by the expending of tax dollars by the MDC? Which deals would not have happened at all? And which deals, say BCCK, and Trace, and TMP trailers*, would have proceeded at some level anyway and what fraction of the jobs created can be properly credited to the MDC for its providing just a fraction of the costs of the expansion?
(* It should be noted that the owner of TMP Trailers was actually quoted in the newspaper at the time as saying that his company would have expanded without MDC money but that they were glad to get it nonetheless. I'll bet.)
The report goes on to say that "it is important to note that local retail is not eligible for local ED money" and that HEB did not get any help from ED funds because their arrival did not change the amount of money available for groceries.
I think it is more important to note that HEB came without any help from the MDC. As did Best Buy. And Kohl's. Nor did the hotels that are springing up every thirty yards on the loop find it necessary to be "incented" by the local ED gurus.
Every local government official either running for office or not, and every unelected quasi-bureacratic-governmental official spending ED money will continue to point to the $7 million ($1.2 million in actual incentives) that they have spent and maintain that this has contributed to Midland's economic boom in major fashion.
Which is crap.
Seventy-five dollar oil is what has done most of it, but if there is one single expansion project that the City/Chamber/MDC Troika of Stolen Credit can actually take credit for it is the development of the whole area around the Interstate 20 Rankin Highway intersection.
Their critical involvement there: Not saying "No" to the Super Wal-Mart.
That is true economic development. A company that sees the market, sees the advantages offered by a particular location or city and then makes a go/no go decision based upon those findings. A real company moving here for real market-based reasons.
UPDATE: Regarding the marginal effectiveness of any MDC incentive package having a causal effect on anything, remember this quote from this post a while back?
"Mike Hatley, the Chamber's economic development vice president, told the Reporter-Telegram after the meeting that when considering an application economic development staff do not focus on whether a company is likely to expand with or without an incentive, but rather on the benefits that a company's expansion could offer to the community."
Just let that soak in.
(I think I read that the current owner of CBS-7, Mr. John Bushman, is part owner of Trace Engines which the MDC is paying money to. If this is true, shouldn't Mr. Warren have disclosed that in his report?)
September 20, 2007
This post by Mark Steyn at NRO's Corner, gifted me with a hearty laugh this morning. Apparently I needed one pretty badly.
"Armless Man Blames Wild Sex For Car Crash"
"Dan Rather Awakens During Autopsy"
Actually, Dan Rather improves almost any headline ("Dan Rather Causes 'Mystery Illness' In Peru", etc).
Read the whole thing. h/t Instapundit. Who else?
Gotta love the Dan Rather "news." What was that frequency?
September 19, 2007
the-eurasian has stung me, claiming that democracy and the constitution are dead at JW. I do not know how Nat feels about this, but I've been to ER for treatment of my eyes, engorged from lacrimation. After research into the Federalist, I find that a proposed amendment to the First Amendment provides as follows:
All bloggers have the right to comment off-post any time they want and authors and site administrators who moderate the boards are committing a felony incurring the penalty of listening to Streisand singing "Memories" five times in a row.
Even though it was not made part of the Constitution, I will take the Rather defense and say it's true because I want it to be. Oh. No I don't. I will take the Neo Rather Defense and say it's true because I don't want it to be and I'm showing what a kind, generous, just and progressive person I am.
So to enter into the Progressive World of Next Tuesday(tm), I give you...roll of drums...immoderately unmoderated...caution to the winds...heedless of Nat's storage bills...
A good recap of the mayoral debate from Colin Guy can be found here.
September 18, 2007
Who else saw the ad in today's MRT for the Job Fair on Thursday?
And Other Job Seekers
Job Fair Thursday September 20, 2007 9 am to 1 pm
Midland Center 105 N. Main
FREE for both Employers AND Job Seekers
Real Employers with Real Opportunities
Educational Opportunities may be available
Opportunity to file for unemployment benefits through the Texas Workforce
Followed by some contact information and the all important sponsors:
Midland Development Corporation, the Permian Basin Workforce Development Board and the Midland Texas Chamber of Commerce
So now we know where some of the ED money is going: renting the Midland Center. This is simply amazing...
And it will be unlike all of those other job fairs that have had fake employers offering fake opportunities, how?
Hint to council and mayoral candidates: a proposal to wipe out the ED tax (and whatever taxation that feeds the MDDD) will give you a windfall of voters that are sick of this nonsense. A refund will make you a shoo-in.
Debate number one is a wrap and the "Candidate Differentiation Quotient" is exactly zero. Strip the word "epicenter" from the answers and you would not be able to tell from which candidate the answer came from.
Save one topic: Menchacagate! (Sorry, that is sooo lame.) Ms. Sparkman did land a couple of blows regarding the back and forth, in and out, flip and flop that was the Menchaca departure. Mr. Perry had to sit there and take it because he was part of the council at the time even if he was not in control of the public pronouncements regarding same.
But while Ms. Sparkman was correct in calling the process of the removal of the city manager confusing and mis-handled her solution doesn't seem workable to me. Keep the taxpayers informed and clued in every step of the way when there is a problem...with a personnel issue? The council's problem wasn't that they talked too little, it was that they talked too much during the whole thing.
One thing Ms. Sparkman said did resonate. I will state it more strongly than did Ms. Sparkman because I do agree with her here. It was the idea that if you spent any time at all around city government and were not aware of the myriad of problems that stemmed from Mr. Menchaca's...er....autocratic management style then you were either clueless or willfully ignorant.
Actually, there is a third alternative: That you admired and heartily endorsed his management style and therefore would not see a problem.
So I go to lunch with what few friends I can muster thinking that when I get back I can watch the mayoral debate on the web and catch up on all of the vodka shots I have coming.
Lo and behold, I can't find the webcast. I do find this page that says "I am talking with Councilman Bill Dingus" except that I am not nor am I supposed to be.
So have I missed it? Or is there an archived video file on the MRT site somewhere that I am not looking?
Even though it said I was talking with Bill Dingus, I could still see questions that were obviously meant for the mayoral candidates wherever on the internet they are.
Get this one:
[From] Justin: How active has each candidate been in securing energy initiatives for the city and the permian basin?
You mean like...let me think of a random energy initiative that might need securing like....uh...say....er....I know....FutureGen?
I think they call that a "plant". Which is okay. Everyone does it. Half of the endorsement letters you see in the paper for any given candidate are written by the campaign to be signed by whatever solid citizens they can line up.
So where can I go to catch the video feed? It may be time for some tape-delayed drunk-blogging later.
UPDATE: Found it on the CBS-7 website! And would all of you rubes stop watching it for a while so my streaming feed won't be so jerky?
The first installment of the mayoral debates hits the airwaves and the internet tubes simultaneously today at noon on both CBS-7 and MyWestTexas.com.
The city faces challenges in the years ahead and the choice Midland makes in the upcoming Mayoral election will direct for some years to come the direction the city will take.
It would be hard to overstate the importance of it all.
Nevertheless, I propose a drinking game. Participants are to take a shot of vodka (or whatever your drink of choice is) every time you hear any of the following phrases or words:
- A [fill in the blank] that Midland can be proud of
- Outside the box
- Quality of life
- Lindsay Lohan
Okay. I'll admit that last one is kind of a wildcard. But you should have no problem being totally snockered by 12:15.
Feel free to add to the list using the comments.
September 16, 2007
Companies in trouble cut jobs rapidly, and even close divisions in what seems like a hurry. However, something is bugging me about the departure of Countrywide.
From the beginning Countrywide has reassured Midland that they would stay and build a presence. On the eve of the announcement of the deal, Countrywide was looking to layoff 5,000 employees, but they are quoted in the MRT at the time:
Countrywide spokesman Rick Simon of West Lake Village, Calif., on Thursday said the 5,000 layoffs the company projected among its 55,000 employees last month might slow the Midland expansion but will not stop it.Then just a few days after the current lay-offs are announced it is the MDC, =NOT= Countrywide that tries to reassure Midland with this quote in the MRT:
Midland Chamber of Commerce President John Breier told the Reporter-Telegram that he has been in discussions with representatives from the company over the past week and that they have indicated they do not expect to have any difficulty fulfilling the terms of the agreement in spite of turmoil in the sub prime mortgage market.Then, not two weeks later the other shoe drops and Countrywide is gone. Not only that, before the editions of the MRT which contained the story make it to the recycle bin, we have a check for $700,000.
Now, by most estimates there were about 100 employees in Midland making a minimum of $30,000. $700,000 grand works out to close to $7,000 per employee in subsidy. Then there is the matter of the Texas Enterprise Fund's $750,000. Where did that money come from? Was it part of the $20 Million in the original package to Richardson, or is it new? Was it paid back? Either way, toss another $7,500 into the kitty and you have $14,500 in subsidies for the jobs in Midland.
Seems like you could float the operation through this sub-prime 'crisis' with the locals picking up a fair amount of the payroll tab, a promise of more money in the future and cheaper rent than Richardson. All indications are the MDC would have even let them trim down to say 50 employees for a while.
Yes, Countrywide was forced by the market to cut sub-prime, but why not convert Midland to something else and keep the money? Something just isn't right. You don't cut a 50% hedged operation unless you were already not happy with the deal. The way the money came back it looks like Countrywide was 'running' from Midland in the classic "here, keep your money, I'm out of here" kind of scene you see in movies.
Either Countrywide is in really big trouble as a company and may not survive, or there are skeletons in the Midland division closet.
Ohh, and for those who worry about us being fast and loose at the Well, did CountryWide receive $700,000 or $750,000 in original incentives? We got a check for $700,000 back this week. The MDC doesn't exactly post their audits on the internet, so we work with the information we have at hand.
UPDATE: When I looked at this post again, something struck me. Countrywide was said to have 55,000 employees when the deal was announced and let's say they did those cuts and trimmed down to 50,000 in October 2006. Now, according to a CNBC report a couple of days ago:
Any job cuts would reverse the trend from January to July, when Countrywide added nearly 7,000 employees as weaker rivals fell away. It said it ended July with 61,586 employees.So, they go from 50,000 to 61,586 (or plus 11,586 jobs) since we got the deal, and now they are cutting 12,000 jobs. Hmm those numbers look oddly similar. How was Midland going to be a place they would grow when they were only at 50,000 and reducing and now all they have done is just cut the 12,000 they hired in the last 11 months and Midland is gone. I tell you something isn't right.
September 15, 2007
There is a certain ambulance chaser whom I'll call James Sucksalot. He's trawling for every grievance that he can find, and whipping up people who might otherwise be happy. What a prince of a fellow--to make people feel traduced and unhappy. But then he'll get them money. And he gets some too. So that's all right then.
But I may actually have something nice to say about him for he's now advertising that he wants people who have lost lots of money while being advised by the various stock brokerages. And here it is, straight from the shyster's mouth:
If you bought certain stocks from Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney or other brokerage firms and lost a substantial amount of money, you may be entitled to recover.
It's often difficult for the average investor to determine if he or she has been a victim of fraud or negligence. If you experienced large losses in your account, you should request a complete explanation from your broker. If the broker's explanation is not clear and you have doubts or questions about what’s happened, you may need an experienced attorney to assist you.
Three major brokerage firms have been investigated recently for double dealing and unscrupulous behavior: Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney and Credit Suisse First Boston.
In addition, some dishonest brokers have taken advantage of recent "bad reports" about the downturn in the stock market to practice fraud -- fraud which results in losses that may not be carefully scrutinized by the client. Some of these practices may include Churning, Unauthorized Trades, Unsuitable Investments, Failure to Place an Order, High Pressure Sales, Over Concentration, and other dishonest practices.
Brokers are entrusted with large amounts of client funds and must be above reproach to retain client trust. It is shocking to hear of their misconduct and fraud.
The commercial includes Salomon, Smith Barney, now branded with its Citi ownership.
The world, as I know it, is ending. I agree with everything this man says, although in the other parts of his website I felt my wallet inching toward the screen.
And I also this week made a tradesman who makes a living doing geometry do it.
Next: faster-than-light travel, and after that, Truth from Hillary.
September 13, 2007
1. Check with Trace Engines, BCCK and anyone else who hasn't defaulted to see when that's going to happen. (No need for surprises).
2. Start sacrificing goats in the Spec Building to appease the Economic Development god.
3. Start wording election referendum on local 4A Economic Development Taxing Entity.
September 12, 2007
The MDC has taken another gigantic hit today. CBS7 news is reporting that Countrywide is going to close the Midland Office.
Seems the biggest feather in their cap has caved in their head.
The other shoe dropped for Countrywide Financial employees Wednesday. Even as seven people were laid off last week, word was getting out of more cuts for this week. Still, it was a surprise that the whole Midland division is now shut down. Over 100 people got the news about eleven o'clock in the morning.
How the Chamber and MDC can put a positive spin on this one I don't know...this attempt was pretty anemic:
"Uh, whenever I talk to bankers," said Chamber of Commerce President John Breier, "they're always looking for employees with the robust economy right now."
I guess the MDC's kitty is getting bigger, with $700,000 coming back, and now the remainder of the $2.5 million pledge defaulted on, that means MDC has about $14 Million in the bank.
Since we seem, in less than 24 hours, to have exhausted our audience's desire to focus on the anniversary of 9/11, we will move on (so to speak).
This story, while telling about a vile and surely criminal act, does elicit a bit of humor, at least in a mind such as mine. Sadly, most of the comments I can come up with are a little out of the realm of a family-oriented blog such as Jessica's Well.
To some University of Oklahoma football fans, there are things that just aren't done in the heart of Sooner Nation, and one of them is to walk into a bar wearing a Texas Longhorns T-shirt. That's exactly what touched off a bloody skirmish that left a University of Texas fan nearly castrated and an Oklahoma fan facing aggravated assault charges that could put him in prison for up to five years.
a. The guy didn't have Any and was trying to steal Some?
b. The ou fan was really interested in the UT fan's burnt orange boxers?
c. As he grabbed the UT fan, the ou fan shouted "I know none of us has ever seen any of these, but this is what they look like!"
d. The ou fan was trying to pick the UT fan's pocket and missed?
e. "Judge, my client was just trying to give the UT fan a thermonuclear wedgie as punishment for coming into the bar in his shirt."
I gotta say the UT fan had to have a pretty serious set to intentionally get into this situation. If he just wandered in unawares, that'd be a little different, but most folks would notice that they were in a hostile environment and bolt. He didn't. Bolt that is.
I know the Red River Rumble or whatever it's called is in just a few weeks. I just want to be in the West End of downtown Dallas, outside of Dick's, selling burnt orange t-shirts that that have a longhorn on the front and say "Got B*lls?" on the back.
September 11, 2007
It has been 6 long years since the last time 11 September fell on a Tuesday. Who would have thought that we would have escaped another major attack in that time? Do you remember filling your car up waiting in a long line that Tuesday afternoon, because you just knew the terrorists were going to strike again, soon? Do you remember the outrage nearly all of us felt that day? Do you remember logging onto the internet and checking each morning to see what had been blown up, or who had been killed, overnight? We have had few of those instances due to the successful tactics of our military and their allies. And due to the unseen work of the CIA and FBI to track down Mohammed Atta wannabes. And due to the success of housing the enemy combatants at Guantanamo. We are successfully fighting World War IV.
Here is Mark Steyn from 6 years ago:
Tuesday was a rebuke to those fatuities: the first charge of any government is the defence of its borders - and, without that, it makes no difference how much you spend on prescription drug plans for seniors. From the moment Colin Powell advised against marching on Baghdad and ended the Gulf War, the world's only superpower has been on a ten-year long weekend off. It loaded up the SUV, went to the mall, enjoyed the good times and deluded itself that in the new world politics could be confined to feelgood initiatives - big government disguised as lots and lots of teensy-weensy bits of small government.
We have moved back to where we were, back on the "weekend off" from history. More government. More entitlements. More ED money siphoned off from our pocketbooks. More taxes. And a constant drumbeat from the left to defund the war effort. The latest effort is to paint the current counter insurgency troop surge as unsuccessful when just the opposite is true.
September 10, 2007
Vaughn's comment about the teen who waited in a car for a week before he bestirred himself enough to get out of the car and climb to safety greatly amused me, and it's not the sort of amusement that I get from Wodehouse. This teen-aged waste of space, who might just be contributing to Global Warming, and I say that in the most loving manner, is merely one more example of the passivity that is being bred into people by the caring-and-compassion folk. That repository of bad cultural ideas no doubt drove the car off the road himself, unless it can be shown that he went into a seizure thinking of the felonies of George W. Bush, and thereby it's Bush's fault, but regardless of the reason, it is up to him to remedy it himself or make the best effort he can.
This is only the most recent manifestation of people being trained not to take responsibility for themselves. In some schools teachers are told not to correct papers with red pens for red is seen as threatening. Which is, I should think, entirely the point. They advise a friendlier color, never thinking that if purple, one of their recommended colors, is the new red, then soon purple will have the cachet of red and then the hunt will be on for another color less threatening, but then perhaps that's the point after all: think of all the job security that would entail, the endless memoranda and symposia over which color is going to be the new not-red.
Recall also that an F, which said resoundingly that you weren't doing your work, has been replaced in some schools which are failing their students but not in a good way with LIP--Learning in Progress. Even the name of it is a con, indicating that the child might be trying to learn when most children resist it, as children do. Children are entitled to feel good, no matter their effort. The scam of self-esteem and entitlement. (Notice they are largely antithetical to achievement.)
The opening line of a spam e-mail that came this morning:
"Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Media-Company distributes the new edition of the "Eurasian Business Directory" CD...."
Okay. Maybe you had to be there.
I want to. But I just have to get that time window to open up that will let me.
A Maryland teen who got tired of waiting for rescuers to find him (as he sat upside down in his car at the bottom of a ravine), finally decided to get out of the car himself and climb to safety.
It only took him a week to work up the motivation -- not bad for a 21st-century 18-year old.
"The prayers that everyone sent up...are truly answered," James McCormick told The Associated Press after being reunited with his son at the scene.
What, like the one his mother probably prays every night before she goes to sleep?
"Please Lord, let that little dumbass take some kind of initiative without me having to nag him to death."
Congrats, mom -- looks like your prayers were finally answered!
The Darwin Awards were unavailable for comment.
September 7, 2007
According to CBS7 News, Countrywide in Midland is Laying off employees.
And now Midland is laying people off. Seven this week, with more expected next week.
Now the story goes on that they will meet the terms of their ED contract because they have to have 200 people on the payroll by the end of the two year contract period.
Isn't the whole idea to be adding employees from day one until you reach 200?
"We'll gladly take your ED money for layoffs today and 200 employees on Tuesday."
So much for creating permanent jobs, seems like Countrywide is taking advantage of the terms of the ED contract. Maybe we should have had a no lay-off clause in there somewhere?
September 2, 2007
I'm here in Dallas, having come here to get granite for the remodeling of Vita Nova, the house that I bought in Culo del Pecos. It was built in 1975 and was where all the burnt orange and avocado went to die, and I gave the sage-colored curtains to a dog I don't like to lie on: it's quite sick now. It must have been young enough to be able to see.
Day before yesterday was, of course, the tenth anniversary of the death of Diana Spencer. Ten years ago then I was sitting in an El Paso hotel room and turned on the goggle box to find it playing "God Save the Queen"--that song written by another English queen, Sir Arthur Sullivan--and showing was only a picture of Lady Diana. "Oh God," I sank into despair. "It's going to be as bad as Elvis." Well, it wasn't but it set off looking like it.
Throughout the day the television was commandeered by hysterical grief-junkies, each trying to be more flamboyant than the last in his prostrate devotion to the Woman Who Batted Her Eyes. Baba Wawa was trotted on hourly, or more probably asserted her claim as the leading faux-genteel patronizing mumbling chat-show host of the media and lowered her head and charged on, bellowing, in her frozen-lipped way, to relate hourly everything that had ever happened between her and Diana, as though it were of consuming interest to Life, the Universe and Everything, implying that she, the Divine Baba, had played a role, no the role, in forming Diana, giving the benefit of her media experience, allowing her to survive, and this may explain a great deal, to the credit of neither.
September 1, 2007
The MRT is going to have a story in Saturday's paper about what the MDC's consultant's recommended they do to foster economic development in the Community.
First off, I'm a little put out that we paid something like $60,000 to find out this piece of information:
Members of the consulting firm TIPS Strategies, Inc. noted that cheap land and economic incentives are no longer the primary factor companies consider when scouting locations. Rather, most companies are more concerned with availability of labor, consultant John Roberts said.
Well hell's bells, I learned that by reading a Cato Institute piece on a USA Today story, and since I found the story online, it didn't cost me anything.
Second, I think the consultants and the MDC 4A board need to read the State Comptroller's guide to Economic Sales Taxes before they provide this "development idea:"
While economic development corporations are not permitted to directly invest in residential projects Roberts said it would likely be permissible for the MDC to contribute funds toward the remodeling of a building that would be used to house offices for a corporation as well as for condominiums. These incentives could make the development of downtown living spaces more affordable and more feasible for developers, he said.
Good luck finding a downtown tenant for the required office space, but beyond that it is possible for the 4A MDC to call an election and transfer all or part of its funds and tax to the 4B corporation. Yes, the 4B corporation, the one that built the sports complex. According to the Comptroller's guide, 4B corporations CAN undertake quality of life projects that include housing and all kinds of other stuff:
- To promote the construction of new facilities a 4B corporation may provide funds to:
- professional and amateur sports (including children's sports) and athletic facilities, tourism and entertainment facilities, and convention and public park purposes and events (including stadiums, ballparks, auditoriums, amphitheaters, concert halls, parks and open space improvements, museums and exhibition facilities);
- related store, restaurant, concession, parking and transportation facilities;
- related street, water and sewer facilities;
- affordable housing.
- public safety facilities;
- recycling facilities;
- streets and roads;
- drainage and related improvements;
- demolition of existing structures;
- general municipally owned improvements;
- maintenance and operating costs associated with projects;
- any other project that the board deter-mines will contribute to the promotion or development of new or expanded business enterprises that create or retain primary jobs.
To promote and develop new and expanded business enterprises that create or retain primary jobs, a city may provide:
Seems like all a 4A corporation can do is offer incentives, and incentives are now worthless, or so say USA Today and our highly paid consultants.
I have always believed that quality of life, infrastructure, low to moderate local taxation, a skilled, willing and ready workforce, and sufficient energy and natural resources are the true measure of a communinty's saleability. That and its schools.
Maybe the progressive path is to close up shop over at the MDC, transfer their banked funds to the 4B corporation, and transfer the 4A tax to the 4B account. Now, we may even take this opportunity to lower the combined 4A/4B sales tax rate by an 1/8 of a cent or so.
How's that for thinking outside the box.
BTW: This little fund transfer could also help our "Stormwater Fee" debate that will start raging, since you can use 4B funds on drainage. Retention ponds and stormwater drainage are a really big part of creating and maintaining our current primary employers.