What Did They Know & When Did They Know It?

lpl_logoThese are treacherous times for Lubbock Power and Light, our city owned electric company. Treacherous because we do stupid things when we’re angry and drunk on the liquor of our own righteous indignation. And we have a right to be angry. 44,000 of us were under-billed in June. LP&L says the loss is approximately $3.2 million. But, to correct something that we reported earlier, no recapture, i.e., no reconciled billing of those customers who were under-billed, was made in July so the loss stands.

LP&L made a software change and several rate changes at once and in the process 10 of 22 June billing cycles had mistakes. So far so good. It proves that fallible people work at LP&L. Staff discovered the glitch by June 15 and corrected it for the remaining twelve June billing cycles. Stuff happens. If that were all we’d say, get over it Lubbock. But that’s not all.

A footnote here to emphasize the importance of timeline. We were trained by the best: a woman who held command over Presidents. She instilled in her political progeny the principles of good government and she was impossible to ignore. “It’s not the mistakes you make that will ruin you,” she’d tell us, “It’s always the cover-up that will bring you down.” And that’s where LP&L management made the error that demands changes.

The timeline matters. What did they know and when did they know it?

Friday’s mea culpa by LP&L management was about a month too late. Even if we allow that after staff corrected the mistake on June 15 it took a week, possibly two, to calculate the impact, by July 1 a decision was made to not recapture the loss and it wasn’t made by a software programmer nor the LP&L Board of Directors. It was the decision made by top management to mail July bills hoping that no one would notice the difference and question June’s $3 million gaffe. No apologies or explanations, just a brazen attempt to conceal the snafu by ignoring it. This was a deliberate deceit and it was wrong.

In Saturday’s Lubbock Avalanche-Journal LP&L CEO Gary Zheng is quoted as saying, “it is unlikely customers who were undercharged in the billing error will be asked to pay the difference any time this summer.” To our knowledge Zheng hasn’t the authority to say this on his own accord. The SANDSTORM SCHOLAR has learned that as long as two to three weeks ago more than one customer was told by LP&L customer service that the amounts they were under-billed would not be collected from them.

We have to wonder if that was an arbitrary (therefore unauthorized and illegitimate) decision on Zheng’s part or if he was given permission for that stratagem. If so, then by whom? It couldn’t have been the LP&L Board of Directors because they won’t meet until Monday (tomorrow) to discuss the matter.

Again, the question is the oldest in public scandal: what did they know and when did they know it?

If board members knew about the $3 million snafu and failed to call a meeting to address it then they are parties to a cover-up. When did LP&L Chairman and Vice-Chairman learn about this? Why didn’t they call a utility board meeting to address it? And if they knew, what City Council members, who appoint the utility board, also knew and how long did they hide the truth?

It’s the coverup that brings you down. Undoubtedly the CEO of LP&L must take the fall for this one. It’s not personal, but Gary Zheng must go. The whitewash is inexcusable. But Zheng is not alone. Every board member who was complicit and who did not call for an immediate meeting of the electric utility board ought also to resign their office because they have betrayed the public trust. We cannot tolerate the attempt to conceal a $3 million blunder.

We’ve no doubt that any number of buzzards are circling hoping that reckless statements and LP&L management’s bumbling can devalue it enough for cheap sale and a new privately owned monopoly of our power services. But so long as there is only one power company serving Lubbock citizens it is in our best interests that it be in control of the public, and public control demands that the citizens have answers, not cover-up.


How to Find a City Manager

As the City Council prepares to find a new city manager we have some advice for it: no high powered-headhunters.

Why is that? Budgetary considerations are one factor. The City Council has blown $50,000 in a purported investigation of the city manager and Councilman Victor Hernandez. “Purported,” because we suspect that no investigation of Councilman Hernandez was conducted. Councils don’t willingly investigate their own bad behavior. We’ll know for certain if it releases the report from outside counsel. The Sandstorm Scholar will request a copy.

In addition to that, the City Council has a $250,000+ liability in the form of a contractual severance agreement with the former city manager. It doesn’t matter what you think of severance agreements, that contract is a promise made by the City of Lubbock that it must keep. We expect that it will.

Most important, we have in our community outstanding human resources. Not to be mistaken with Human Resources departments, the City of Lubbock has at its disposal enough qualified business people and former Council members to form a search committee and to make a recommendation to the City Council as to a satisfactory city manager.

Let the City Council appoint a search committee and give it the resources to look for and find a suitable city manager. Let it be someone who can work with a sharply divided Council, someone who wants to live in Lubbock and someone who is a person of excellence with a proven track record. We want no one with question marks hanging over their head from their last job.

Who better to help choose the next city manager than Lubbock citizens with experience in business and government? No New York search firm will produce a better candidate than our own.

At the Sandstorm Scholar we trust Lubbock.

—SANDSTORM SCHOLAR


Straining a Gnat

lubbock_city_limitsAttending Council meetings sends me back to my religious roots. “Straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” is the scripture that comes to mind. To listen to the City Council you would think that annexation of newly developed residential property is a difficult decision.

How difficult is it to decide to annex new developments that provide more in property taxes than they consume? These are subdivisions whose hard services (sewer/septic, water and stre…ets) are paid by the developer. They are people who, because they shop, work and drive in Lubbock indirectly consume considerable city resources today. And they’ve asked to be annexed; it’s voluntary.

If you don’t grow your city you can’t grow its revenues. Lubbock needs approximately 1000 new homes each year. The estimated impact of building just one hundred single family homes in a typical new subdivision is $21.1 million in local income. and $2.2 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments.

Small minds, private agendas and weakened leadership threaten Lubbock’s future. We are dangerously close, some would say we’re already there, to having an anti-growth City Council. One Council member makes it clear that if it isn’t a development in his district he’s against it. Another thinks planned development means that she plans it. A third, who ordinarily never saw a dollar he didn’t want to spend, is suddenly concerned with the cost but is apparently incapable of doing the math. It is absurd for people who have never met a payroll or developed a piece of property to presume to arbitrarily dictate the direction of city growth. To try to stymie that growth verges on malfeasance.

The one motive you can trust and understand is a profit motive. The market will determine where the city should grow. Homebuyers are the best judges of where they want to live and the major factor that drives those decisions is schools, not cities. But if the city does not annex these areas there is no zoning that protects property owners and controls development and there is no revenue benefit to Lubbock which provides indirect services already.

The role of the Council is to facilitate, not manipulate. The decision isn’t whether to offer services. Non-residents proximate to the city limits use Lubbock’s services every time they drive on its streets or play in its parks. The annexation decision is about whether to send them the (property tax) bill.

Annexation is easier if done prior to houses being built. In the past Lubbock City Councils have been aggressive in annexing undeveloped areas and building the basic infrastructure that supports development. This Council is increasingly showing signs of shortsightedness. It threatens our jobs and our tax base.

It does matter who you put on the City Council. A no-growth Council will ensure urban decay and a dying city. Remember this as elections in November and May draw nearer.


Drinking Too Much of His Own Whine

History has a way of auto-romanticizing. It strips itself of the bad smells, obnoxious personality traits and instinctive class distinctions that accompany real life. Today we revere figures like Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Sam Houston or Winston Churchill, to name but a few, however if we’d lived contemporaneously with them or many of their well-known peers we might have had second thoughts about them. Patrick Henry of “give me liberty or give me death” fame fought ratification of the Constitution because it gave the federal government too much power; Franklin was a womanizer who insisted on bringing up that pesky issue of slavery in the 1790’s when most wanted to leave well enough alone; Houston was a drunk who fought against Texas’ secession and lost the vote 171-6; Winston Churchill, often acceptably inebriated, spent more of his days as a back bencher and reject of the British people than he did its leader. All were highly criticized, themselves critical of others, rejected, fought lost causes, had ugly personality traits and one or most probably were the kind of people many readers would not long countenance in personal association.

Institutions and conventions of today exist only after having been forged by the fires of examination and debate. Great projects often were failures in their inception. The first attempt at the Panama Canal resulted in the era’s largest bankruptcy and its present day usefulness does not argue for the fraud and failure of its initial attempts.

The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce President recently published to the local newspaper a rant that surely must have been written while drinking too much his own whine. We suspect that after he sobered from his self-pitying, back-patting stupor he was sorry he wrote it. It was a drawer-letter if ever we’ve read one. He should have written it, put it in a drawer, and left it there having gratified his need to howl at the moon without the indecency of having committed publicus of equus asinus.

The gist of the Chamber leader’s letter, found below, seems to be resentment that the Chamber’s fantasies are questioned. It seems inconceivable to him that there are good citizens who together imagine Lubbock a place of low taxes that is relatively free from the strings attached to federal funds. At the Sandstorm Scholar we’re impressed with some of the Imagine Lubbock Together plans we’ve been shown, even if we could have written most of the conclusions before they went through the theatrics of an 18 month pep rally. So long as they keep their promises to fund their performing arts center privately and to provide an endowment for its operating expenses, we like the idea. No one has discovered “666” marked on the underside of any smart meter and we had to Google “Delphi Method” to recognize the techniques used in almost every professed consensus building exercise we’ve been involved in.

But neither our impressions nor the tender feelings of the Chamber leader negate the validity of the critics or their right to be heard. A bank doesn’t ask a non-equity employee to sign the promissory note for his employer’s loan. Nor do we ask the guarantee of a hireling that “these folks are looking out for Lubbock’s best interests.” He’s signing notes he hasn’t the credit to back when he presupposes to know what are the best interests of Lubbock or the motives of his employers. Give us the pure capitalism of selfish financial motives any day. Those we can understand and trust. When someone’s business prospers others find opportunity in spinoff commerce and competition.

We’re not suspicious of the Chamber. It’s doing what chambers of commerce and their bureaucrats do. It isn’t necessary to demonize the Chamber to debate its proposals nor should our elected officials be neutered of opinions or banned from participation. But when we become so enamored with the idea that we have ideas, or so attached to our ILTs, that our feelings are hurt when we are challenged then it is probably time to regroup and do an attitude check. Conversely, labeling something as being “Agenda 21” is its own tactic of tainting the opponent rather than arguing the merits. If local government approval or public funding are sought for these imaginary projects then debate outside of the strictures of the Chamber ought to be encouraged.

No whining allowed.


The Values of the District Attorney’s Office

Last week we listened to Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney’s Leadership presentation.

It is less a lesson in leadership, although valuable in its own right, than it is a glimpse into the values of the District Attorney’s office. If your organization needs a speaker it will do well to ask Matt to make his presentation. It can easily fit into a month of Sunday school lessons.

At the Sandstorm Scholar we are highly critical of all law enforcement agencies. Only a fool blindly trusts government, but we respect and appreciate what Matt Powell has managed. His faith appears to reign in the temptation to exceed the authority of his office.

His constitutional charge is to do justice. We laud that. And we demand nothing less.

Please, keep up the good work, Matt.


The Llano Estacado

“The term llano estacado is usually translated as “staked plain.” But that is not what Coronado meant when he named it. He meant “palisaded plain,” meaning a plain that begins (or ends) in a steep cliff.”

Excerpt From: S. C. Gwynne. “Empire of the Summer Moon.” Scribner. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.


Chamber President’s Arrogance Threatens LEPAA

CHAMBER PRESIDENT’S ARROGANCE THREATENS TO DERAIL LEPAA

We believe that the $85 million performing arts center as proposed by the Lubbock Entertainment & Performing Arts Association (or LEPAA) is worthy of support. It is a grand plan and will stand out as a symbol of private sector philanthropy and determination independent of government control. We support the efforts of Tim Collins and other citizens involved in this private project.

What taxpayers are put off by is the presumptuousness demonstrated by the hireling behind the movement. It is unseemly and inappropriate. If the City Council determines to donate prime real estate and to also pay to demolish the existing structure we will support the decision however $200,000+ is a significant sum of money and ought not be spent indifferently.

The Chamber President is an employee who will be long gone while Lubbock is still paying the costs of the projects he proposes. For that reason his disdain of Council caution ought not mean very much. His arrogance threatens to turn public sentiment against a worthwhile project.

From Thursday’s lead article by Adam Young in the Lubbock AJ comes this excerpt:

“Eddie McBride, president of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce — which spearheaded the performing arts center project — called the council’s delay an unnecessary ‘last-minute’ decision in a process that’s been ongoing for more than a year.

“’I was surprised the city didn’t already have the estimated cost,” he said. “No one asked anyone to sign a blank check. I think that was a little over the top.’”

We think his comments are over the top. The Chamber President’s employers ought seat him in the back row and take away his letter writing and interview privileges.

—SANDSTORM SCHOLAR


Abortion as Race Control

While people can occasionally manipulate events to achieve desired long-term results more often than not the Law of Unintended Consequences plays a greater hand in things. The Texas Senate’s raucous debate in on stricter abortion laws is no exception. While Republicans lost the day their loss may result in their preservation long term.

Tuesday night the Texas Senate failed to pass a bill that would have created stricter abortion laws. We favor that. It is our opinion that abortion as birth control is murder. One has a right to decide to not create a life however one does not have a right to destroy that life four months in the womb or four months out of it. The recent trial and conviction of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell revealed the true obscenity of the procedure: living babies drowned or killed by snipping their spinal cord with scissors.

When we take that obscenity from the microcosm of Gosnell’s clinic to the macrocosm of U.S. abortion statistics we find that abortion has effectively been a race exterminator. According to the U.S. Census Bureau blacks have consistently had three times the abortion rate of whites: 48.2 per thousand black women vs. 13.8 per thousand white women in 2007. In races listed as other the rate was 21.6 per thousand for the same year. Those numbers are down from a high in 1990 of 63.9 per thousand for black women and 21.5 for white women with other races ranked at 25.1 for that same year.

Margaret-Sanger-and-The-Negro-Project~~element74Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was a devout racist. She wrote of her Negro Project, “we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” Black feminist Angela Davis referred to this statement as evidence of Sanger’s desire to exterminate the African-American people. While some revisionist historians have attempted to refute that claim Sanger’s word still ring loudly and are consistent with her convictions.

What we have is a liberal epidemic of race control. The results are unarguable. And if we assume that for the foreseeable future blacks will continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic then Texas Democrats may have prolonged their minority status with the sanctioned killing of black babies at three times the rate of white babies.

Too morbid for words? We agree.


Drunk on His Own Whine

DRINKING TOO MUCH OF HIS OWN WHINE

History has a way of auto-romanticizing. It strips itself of the bad smells, obnoxious personality traits and instinctive class distinctions that accompany real life. Today we revere figures like Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Sam Houston or Winston Churchill, to name but a few, however if we’d lived contemporaneously with them or many of their well-known peers we might have had second thoughts about them. Patrick Henry of “give me liberty or give me death” fame fought ratification of the Constitution because it gave the federal government too much power; Franklin was a womanizer who insisted on bringing up that pesky issue of slavery in the 1790’s when most wanted to leave well enough alone; Houston was a drunk who fought against Texas’ secession and lost the vote 171-6; Winston Churchill, often acceptably inebriated, spent more of his days as a back bencher and reject of the British people than he did its leader. All were highly criticized, themselves critical of others, rejected, fought lost causes, had ugly personality traits and one or most probably were the kind of people many readers would not long countenance in personal association.

Institutions and conventions of today exist only after having been forged by the fires of examination and debate. Great projects often were failures in their inception. The first attempt at the Panama Canal resulted in the era’s largest bankruptcy and its present day usefulness does not argue for the fraud and failure of its initial attempts.

The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce President recently published to the local newspaper a rant that surely must have been written while drinking too much his own whine. We suspect that after he sobered from his self-pitying, back-patting stupor he was sorry he wrote it. It was a drawer-letter if ever we’ve read one. He should have written it, put it in a drawer, and left it there having gratified his need to howl at the moon without the indecency of having committed publicus of equus asinus.

The gist of the Chamber leader’s letter, found below, seems to be resentment that the Chamber’s fantasies are questioned. It seems inconceivable to him that there are good citizens who together imagine Lubbock a place of low taxes that is relatively free from the strings attached to federal funds. At the Sandstorm Scholar we’re impressed with some of the Imagine Lubbock Together plans we’ve been shown, even if we could have written most of the conclusions before they went through the theatrics of an 18 month pep rally. So long as they keep their promises to fund their performing arts center privately and to provide an endowment for its operating expenses, we like the idea. No one has discovered “666” marked on the underside of any smart meter and we had to Google “Delphi Method” to recognize the techniques used in almost every professed consensus building exercise we’ve been involved in.

But neither our impressions nor the tender feelings of the Chamber leader negate the validity of the critics or their right to be heard. A bank doesn’t ask a non-equity employee to sign the promissory note for his employer’s loan. Nor do we ask the guarantee of a hireling that “these folks are looking out for Lubbock’s best interests.” He’s signing notes he hasn’t the credit to back when he presupposes to know what are the best interests of Lubbock or the motives of his employers. Give us the pure capitalism of selfish financial motives any day. Those we can understand and trust. When someone’s business prospers others find opportunity in spinoff commerce and competition.

We’re not suspicious of the Chamber. It’s doing what chambers of commerce and their bureaucrats do. It isn’t necessary to demonize the Chamber to debate its proposals nor should our elected officials be neutered of opinions or banned from participation. But when we become so enamored with the idea that we have ideas, or so attached to our ILTs, that our feelings are hurt when we are challenged then it is probably time to regroup and do an attitude check. Conversely, labeling something as being “Agenda 21” is its own tactic of tainting the opponent rather than arguing the merits. If local government approval or public funding are sought for these imaginary projects then debate outside of the strictures of the Chamber ought to be encouraged.

No whining allowed.

—SANDSTORM SCHOLAR

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal / June 4, 2013

The Imagine Lubbock Together effort during the past 20 months delivered an opportunity for community development our city has not experienced since May 1970 and the tornado that devastated a portion of Lubbock.

The current visioning and planning provides Lubbock citizens the most inclusive planning event in which the community has ever had the chance to participate. Yet there are still those few dissatisfied and disgruntled citizens who see it best to find fault with the process and don’t trust private business leaders who facilitated this planning to help improve Lubbock’s future.

Among the accusations are: UN Agenda 21 sustainable development planning, smart meters, ICLEI, huge tax increases, eminent domain, Delphi techniques, federal funding and only 3,000 Lubbock citizens actually participated — to name but a few.

Using that same openness, I express my thanks to the Imagine Lubbock Together steering committee, volunteers who many have given significant time and money back to this community over the years and are all known as people of integrity who would never intentionally do anything to harm the community.

I guarantee these folks are looking out for Lubbock’s best interests and actively working to do something positive as opposed to those claims.

So, on behalf of those of us who see the positive nature of Imagine Lubbock Together and future growth of our community from this process, thank you to the leaders who are helping make Lubbock a better place to live.

EDDIE MCBRIDE, President/CEO,
Lubbock Chamber of Commerce
Lubbock


RANDY APPROVES NSA SPYING ON CITIZENS

randy_neugebauerWisconsin has Paul Ryan. Kentucky has Rand Paul. West Texas has Randy “Baby Killer” Neugebauer. Is it any wonder we’re disappointed?

Yesterday (June 10) “Randy’s Round-Up” contained this statement on Neugebauer’s position regarding NSA monitoring of American citizens phone use.

“I want to know more about how this data is being collected and used. I also want to be certain our intelligence agencies are confident that they have effective controls in place to ensure data collection on U.S. citizens is not abused and respects Americans’ right to privacy. This is a complex issue, and I think it’s important that we proceed carefully as we learn more. I’ll keep you posted on how this develops, and what comes next.”

What did he say? He licked his finger and stuck it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing; that’s what he did. His position sounds a lot like President Obama’s. And, incidentally, we are told that behind the scenes the Congressman is testing the waters on universal background checks for firearms purchases while he considers crossing over to the dark side on that issue too.

Randy’s problem is that the only stand he cares to make is for principal…not principle. Was that too subtle? Allow us to restate it. We favor the accumulation of wealth; we recommend it highly. We think it’s even better for someone to get rich and then to run for Congress. However, there is something fundamentally wrong with someone running for Congress then enriching himself in office. That’s the bottom line of the Neugebauer legacy.

Yesterday, when we looked to him for assurance that our elected Representative would stand up for our civil liberties Congressman Randy Neugebauer chose to sit.

Randy can’t do any better, but West Texas can and it’s time we did.