Government shutdown begins; Senate rejects latest House proposal – The Washington Post

The U.S. government on Tuesday began to shut down for the first time in 17 years, after a Congress bitterly divided over President Obama’s signature health-care initiative failed to reach agreement to fund federal agencies.

Thousands of government workers arrived at federal office buildings to clean off their desks, set out-of-office e-mail messages and make whatever arrangements were necessary to stay off the job indefinitely. Others, including Border Patrol officers, prison guards and air traffic controllers, were required to work but were told they may not be paid.

Read the full story here.


Sculptor Eddie Dixon may replace McDonald on EUB

This has rumor status only but we hear that Lubbock sculptor Eddie Dixon may be appointed to replace Dwight McDonald on the LP&L Electric Utility Board.

Dixon is a Texas Tech graduate with degrees in chemistry and zoology and graduate work in entomology. Before attending Texas Tech her served with the 101st Airborne from 1968 – 1970. He has earned international fame as a sculptor. He is also an aficionado of fine hats.

The Sandstorm Scholar has promoted Mr. Dixon with certain Council members as a candidate for the EUB for almost six months. We had hoped to see him serve with Dwight McDonald, not replace him.

Like Dwight McDonald, Eddie Dixon belongs to no one. If appointed he will be a surprisingly fine choice from this Council.

Learn more about Dixon at his website.


McDonald attacks city leaders for hypocrisy in LP&L board removal Government blog | Lubbock Online Mobile Edition

Former Electric Utility Board member Dwight McDonald fired back at city leaders after what he calls “hypocrisy” in the City Council’s decision last week to remove him from the board citing his dual role as a city magistrate.

McDonald attacks city leaders for hypocrisy in LP&L board removal Government blog | Lubbock Online Mobile Edition.


Gail Kring, bless his heart…

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Electric Utility Board Chairman Gail Kring is a fine man and we infer from his position of leadership of a large agriculture cooperative that he’s competant at his chosen profession.

But, bless his heart, he’s out of his league in his position as Chairman of the EUB. If he doesn’t have the good grace to resign his position the City Council ought not reappoint him to LP&L’s Electric Utility Board.

“Bless his heart” is the West Texas rubric required to speak truthfully but negatively about someone.

Well intentioned but politically inept is Kring. His is the most politically charged position in town. Lubbock cannot afford to have a person leading LP&L who can’t handle both the business and the politics of the appointment. It is irresponsible to let this continue.

Now, before all of the fans of Chairman Kring assail us for picking on such a nice guy we refer them back to the first two sentences of this article. We’ve stipulated to his essential value to someone and we said, “bless his heart.”

“Bless his heart” is the West Texas rubric required to speak truthfully but negatively about someone. For the record, in the past we’ve given Kring a pass for his injudicious statements. Why? Because he’s a nice guy.

But, bless his heart, Kring isn’t up to the job and here’s why.

Chairman Kring asked the new General Counsel for the EUB to opine on who ought to be in the Closed Sessions of the LP&L Board and then emailed the memo to every Board member. “For discussion purposes only,” said Kring.

Kring didn’t throw Kimbrough under the bus; he jumped on the bus, put it in reverse and backed over the new General Counsel himself.

It appears that there may be other issues more pressing for the General Counsel but, for the moment, let’s assume this is the top priority.

Kring should have come equipped with a warning klaxon because once asked to account for what he did, he backed right over his General Counsel trying to run away from the consequences of his request. Mind you, Kring didn’t throw Kimbrough under the bus; he jumped on the bus, put it in reverse and backed over the new General Counsel himself.

EUB member Clayton Isom described it correctly, Kring offered up the General Counsel as a political sacrifice. It was a weak, wrong and witless move on the part of Kring, who is supposed to be leading Lubbock’s citizen owned electric utility into the largest capital investment our city has ever made to ensure power from 2019 forward.

Absence of leadership is what plagues the EUB and Gail Kring made it easy for us to identify him as one source of the problem.

“A passive attendee in a Closed Session, by definition, cannot be necessary to the Board’s consideration of any agenda item.” –Todd Kimrbrough, General Counsel for LP&L

We’ve read and reread Todd Kimbrough’s memorandum. It appears sound in its premise and well-argued. “A passive attendee in a Closed Session, by definition,” writes Kimbrough, “cannot be necessary to the Board’s consideration of any agenda item.” That sentence speaks volumes regarding city employee and Council attendance.

Ousting city of Lubbock employees will, to begin with, eliminate some of the questionable transfers made to the Council budget out of the LP&L bank account.

For example, it is difficult to understand what contribution the City Secretary makes at an EUB meeting, much less her ever present Assistant City Secretary. He is usually skulking somewhere behind her skirts. Neither are necessary to 2019 and the $106,000 annually, that ratepayers are exhorted into paying because the inseparable duo happens to attend EUB meetings, can be used to lower electric rates.

We agree with EUB member Marc McDougal when he says the City Council must be present in some meetings. But as Kimbrough writes, only when they are contributors and “this is likely to be infrequent.”

Why does city ordinance make the Mayor an ex officio member of the LP&L Board unless it was for the purpose of being the voice of the Council on the EUB?

Why does city ordinance make the Mayor an ex officio member of the LP&L Board unless it was for the purpose of being the voice of the Council on the EUB? If the intent of the Charter was to have all seven members present at every meeting wouldn’t it have been written that way?

We have no issue with Kimbrough’s opinion. That’s for others to debate. What we do take issue with is Kring’s retreat from what he asked the General Counsel to do.

After the memorandum was written Kring said, “I told him we have to figure out how they can be included.” Who is the attorney here, Kring or Kimbrough? Expect to see treadmarks on Kimbrough when you see him next.

As The Whirlwind put it, the genie is out of the bottle and Kring ought to have stood up for his General Counsel and his interpretation of the law. From this point forward City Council needs “a specific and narrowly tailored invitation and request from the Board” to attend EUB Closed Sessions.

From this point forward City Council needs “a specific and narrowly tailored invitation and request from the Board” to attend EUB Closed Sessions.

If Kring doesn’t have the backbone to enforce this and to support his General Counsel then let the EUB elect a leader who will follow the law and be accountable for his actions or else fire the General Counsel and buy a new legal opinion.

Bless his heart, we suspect he’s not up to the task.


Area Opinions: Free tickets have no place in Legislature | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

It appears that the Foolish Five and Irving City Manager Tommy Gonzalez are not the only ones having problems knowing how to handle freebies.

Free tickets have no place in Legislature

Since 2005, lobbyists have dished out nearly $200,000 in free tickets to state lawmakers, and that’s just what’s been reported.

As the San Antonio Express-News has reported, no one knows how many free tickets find their way into lawmakers’ hands. Lobbyists have figured out how to skirt disclosure requirements.

Read the entire article: Area Opinions: Free tickets have no place in Legislature | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.


N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens – NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

Read the full article here – N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens – NYTimes.com.


IRS Documents Reveal Agency Flagged Groups for ‘Anti-Obama Rhetoric,’ Big Three Refuse to Report – WSJ.com

ABC, CBS and NBC have so far refused to report the latest bombshell in the IRS scandal – a newly released list from the agency that showed it flagged political groups for “anti-Obama rhetoric.” On September 18 USA Today, in a front page story, reported the following: “Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about ‘anti-Obama rhetoric,’ inflammatory language and ’emotional’ statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.”

Read the entire article here: IRS Documents Reveal Agency Flagged Groups for 'Anti-Obama Rhetoric,' Big Three Refuse to Report – WSJ.com.


Lubbock City Council Meeting a Tragic Comedy

Thursday night’s Lubbock City Council meeting was a tragic comedy. Here are the highlights:                     .

Since there are no highlights from Thursday night’s meeting what follows are a couple of the lowest points.

Obscenity of hypocrisy
As noted elsewhere, the Council voted 7-0 to remove Dwight McDonald from the Electric Utility Board.

Dwight McDonald addresses Council.

McDonald offered a defense of himself that was an admirable demonstration of humble strength in the face unfairness and overwhelming power. McDonald appealed to the Council to be treated like anyone else on the EUB. He mentioned EUB members Carroll McDonald and Marc McDougal as possibly having conflicts also.

McDonald gave voice to fears that, because he had challenged the Mayor’s position on LP&L, he would be retaliated against in his position as city magistrate. Councilman Hernandez, master of retaliation, assured him that would not happen.

We’re certain that Victor’s assurance was a comfort to all. Maybe he’ll write McDonald a letter. After all, the Councilman knows his way around the city mailroom.

Every Council member praised McDonald and each, including all of the Foolish Five, voted to remove him. We wonder if any felt pangs of guilt applying the same section of the city charter to McDonald that five of the seven refuse to apply to themselves.

Councilman Gerlt apologetically explained that McDonald’s apparent conflict was discovered by chance when looking at the impact of Obamacare on city employees. Ironically, it didn’t matter how they spun it, one way or another a black guy was sure to be blamed for this one.

Which is not to suggest that the the motives were race-based; we don’t believe that of any on the Council. What it is, is selective enforcement. The rules apply to everyone but the City Council. All in all, the McDonald episode is an obscenity of hypocrisy.

The honeymoon is over
If any wondered how cozy is the relationship between the Acting City Manager James Loomis and City Council, Thursday night game some indication when Loomis excoriated his bosses over putting him on the spot in public over his title and salary:

This is a little embarrassing to me, frankly…This is an executive session issue; it’s a personnel issue. And I don’t know why we’re doing this in public because it is embarrassing to me. I will do the best job I know how to do no matter what it is or what you call me. But I don’t need to be embarrassed publicly like this. That’s all I have to say.

The Council did discuss the matter in executive session earlier. This is exactly what executive session was intended for. The discussion in open session that found Council representatives Hernandez and Klein tacitly accusing Loomis of wanting to renegotiate a previous agreement was uncomfortable and inappropriate. Loomis wasn’t responsible for placing the item on the agenda; the mayor was. It should have been thoroughly discussed in executive session.

Council voted 6-1 to change Loomis’ title to City Manager but not until we saw that our new City Manager is unafraid to take Council to the woodshed when necessary. We anticipate lots of woodshedding but would guess that Loomis has more class, and more good sense, than to do it in public unless necessary.

The background for this is that several on the Council want to bring in former city of Lubbock employee Tommy Gonzalez whose tenure as the city manager of Irving ends this month. Council loses its urgency argument when it has a City Manager instead of an Acting City Manager. This was a chess game and the Mayor managed to protect his rook from the other side’s queen.

Soon the Council will replace McDonald on the EUB and it will have a chance to reappoint three existing members. Both opportunities will be tests of Council courage.

What do you think will happen?