Archive for the 'Government' Category



To grow or not to grow

I need to grow. On several fronts. My employers have invested in a new office that I run. They expect it to grow. My family needs me to grow in leadership and provision.

By nature, humans grow. Throughout history, humankind moves forward with innovative technologies and sophistications that cure ills and improve standards of living. As a result, the world population has continuously increased.

Economies are also destined and designed for growth. Our expectation of the Gross Domestic Product, the stock market and other investments is that they will grow. Historically, they have. The trends, over time, are up and to the right.

Growth is the norm, not the exception. However, growth is not always a given. Just ask the fired employee. Just ask any number of rural, West Texas towns.

So, when people say, in effect, “Shut the gates behind me!” my eyebrows furl at their naivete. “Shutting the gates” is either a death knell or an exercise in futility. It is not an effective governing strategy.

Kendall County, Texas, made national news in March when U.S. Census data identified it the 5th fastest growing county in the country.

Of the four counties ahead of Kendall, 3 are in the oil patch and one is a master-planned retirement community in Florida. So, if you take out the counties associated with gas production- the roughnecks and the old farts- Kendall is the fastest growing county in America.

Kendall County and its seat, Boerne, located in the Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin, have long wrestled with growth issues. Scenic landscapes, interstate accessibility, exceptional schools, proximity to shopping and services; all these drive attraction.

People want to live here; therefore, developers want to develop here.

With the uptick in the housing market, developers have dusted off subdivision plans. Five thousand residential lots are in the works in or near the Boerne City Limits. But let’s have some intellectual honesty about the development.

According to the City of Boerne Planning Department, only a few hundred lots will even be available to build on in the next twelve months. After that, lots will come online in units and phases over time.

It will take years before all the proposed lots, houses and people come to fruition. And who knows what might change between now and then?

In 2007, developer-bedevilling doomsdayers predicted the passing of Boerne as we knew it. The reports of Boerne’s death were greatly exaggerated, as Twain might say.

I know personally several of the developers who either have built or are now building local subdivision projects. None are the rape and pillage type. They themselves live here, after all. They see no good in biting the hand that feeds them.

Plus, the development process in Boerne is arduous. The margin for error is slight and not conducive to fly by nights.

In the short run, will some traffic spots get worse before they get better? Sure. Will growing pains plague us from time to time? Of course. But given the alternative of economic stagnation and the flight of our youth, I’ll take a sore joint or two.

So, when you hear smeone say “Boerne: No Vacancy,” think to yourself, “Brain: No Occupancy.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

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Doomsday draws near

It’s that time of year again. When 18-year-olds don caps and gowns. Not to walk across a stage, but to walk up and down a sidewalk.

Their robes are aqua green. Their caps, also aqua green, have no tassels; they have points and are made of foam rubber. Star-shaped headpieces of the kind you might (over)pay $15 for if your 3-year-old daughter bats her eyes in just the right way at the county fair.

I refer to the slightly disheveled Statues of Liberty that attempt to draw attention to your neighborhood tax preparation service. The dancing nannies of freedom with iPods playing Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of The Star-spangled Banner, no doubt.

Despite the subtle sacrilege that surely prompts a forty foot tear in the eye of Bartholdi’s masterpiece in the Hudson River, the sidewalk prophets do remind us that doomsday draws near. April 15th is a week away.

I have not always returned my taxes well before the arbitrary mid-April deadline.

Before I felt comfortable depositing checks into ATMs and paying utility bills online, I sat in Tax Night traffic jams at the airport post office, trying to get a postmark by 11:59 p.m. Martial law governed the scene.

In those moments, IRS intersected Postal Service. You talk about two federal agencies that couldn’t care less if my package made it. One got $1.46 in postage if it did. The other got $146 in interest and penalties if it didn’t. Such is life in the land of the free.

These days I file my taxes more promptly. I’m more aware of the interest-free loan I’m giving Uncle Sam when I overpay throughout the year and delay recouping.

It’s really quite a public relations coup. Hide the taxes you take all year; take more than you are due; then, heroically refund enough to fund a summer vacation. Clark Kent could have been an IRS agent.

The IRS does seem to be working on its image, notwithstanding the hassling of conservative political groups during the 2012 federal election cycle. The agency actually has a “Strategic Plan” that includes this initiative:

“Make the IRS the best place to work in government.”

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Bring in the ping pong tables! Where’s the coffee bar??

There must be a federal agency that ranks all the other agencies in employee satisfaction. I can’t imagine IRS ever surpassing the National Park Service but points for trying. Maybe Yosemite just isn’t what it used to be.

Or maybe the IRS could take some cues from the Postal Service.

At a post office last week, I stood in line with seven other patrons waiting for the things we wait for at the post office: stamps, packages, competence.

The group of us watched while the postal workers behind the counter carried on. Inside jokes flew. Laughter ensued. It was as if we taxpayers weren’t even there. Like a curtain had drawn across the front of the counter.

After several minutes of hilarity, workers leisurely resumed entertaining customer requests.

I’m all for enjoying the work we’re given. But I couldn’t imagine a private sector manager tolerating such employee banter while waiting customers looked on.

At least I won’t have to wait in line for a postmark next Tuesday. Online tax prep software and E-filing to the rescue!

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

An attorney we should hire

Dan Branch

It’s not every year that you get to vote for someone you know well in a statewide election. In the interest of making the most of a rare opportunity, I want to tell you about my good friend Dan Branch.

Some people really love politics and some people really love governing. Few people love both politics and governing. The politicians who end up doing something stupid in office? They’re usually those who love the challenge of getting elected but who get bored with the minutia of governing.

Dan Branch loves good politics but not at the expense of good governance. Good politics made him representative of one of the most influential parts of Texas (Downtown and Park Cities Dallas). Good governance has kept him there for more than a decade.

Good politics made him a state budget writer in his very first term in the Legislature. Good governance made him push to reform the state’s public school finance system – changes that provided relief to Robin Hood districts.

Good politics made him chairman of the Higher Education Committee in the Texas House of Representatives. Good governance led him to institute a matching grant program in order to spark more Tier One research institutions in Texas.

Branch’s politics and governing stem from his legal training and sharp business mind. After finishing SMU Law School, he worked a few years for a big law firm in New York City before returning to Texas to start his own small firm.

He has represented large and small businesses alike and has negotiated many complex real estate transactions. He arguably has a more extensive and well-rounded legal background then either of his two Republican primary opponents. But that’s not the main reason I’m voting for him.

I am voting for him because I have seen behind-the-scenes the caliber of the man he is. The way he treats his his wife and their five children, the way he treats a random constituent on a street.

If you schedule a meeting with him he may very well be a few minutes late because he has given his undivided attention to whomever has just crossed his path.

Branch is as conservative as you or I, though he may not show up on the far right propaganda. This is probably because votes are easily misconstrued in the Legislature.

Branch is a pragmatist who understands that when the people hand a political party the reins of government, they expect results not finger-pointing.

Results are why he will show up in the endorsements of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, the Texas Municipal Police Association, the Texas Association of Business and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, among others.

I know him well because I served on his staff during his early days in the Legislature. Though I worked for him, he routinely outworked me, often staying up late to absorb more information that would later lead to better decisions.

So my calculus is fairly simple: Sharp mind plus high integrity plus strong work ethic equals a really solid candidate for Texas Attorney General in the March 4th Republican primary. Early voting started today. Read more on Dan at http://www.danbranch.com.

Follow Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.


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