Thursday, March 11, 2010

Editorials, Endorsements, Egos - But Issues Remain

Senate Hopeful Answers Foes, Resolves to Continue Race

The Waco daily paper gave Waco home town favorite, the
lobbyist David Sibley, a glowing endorsement today.

The curious thing is, he has not yet made an announcement
that he is seeking election to the Senate. He said he is
looking forward to "continuing these conversations in the
coming days."

The editorial writer was very critical of Darren Yancy, a
Burleson real estate and insurance agent who sidelines as an
investment banker and venture capital specialist in
alternative energy markets, in an endorsement of Senator Kip
Averitt in the days just before the Republican Primary.

Mr. Yancy has no intention of dropping out of the race.

He is not in favor of giving up the fight when the home town
favorite has been called out of retirement to take over and
carry the ball for an ailing Senator Kip Averitt, a
candidate who filed for re-election to his party's
nomination, then one week later announced that health
concerns would keep him from serving.

Senator Averitt was elected, anyway, boosted by a huge
crossover vote in the Republican Primary from Democrats
freaked out over ObamaCare and its projected costs to their
economy, pocketbooks and places of business.

It's a bait and switch worthy of any car dealership,
furniture or appliance store. The campaign rhetoric sounds
like the kind of stuff you hear at any booster club luncheon
- anywhere.

There are dire threats about risking the well-being of the
old home town, its economy, the taxpayers.

"Senior lawmakers from outlying areas may have designs on
carving up a district like ours," the editorial thundered, a
place "so rich in population along the fast-growing
Interstate 35 corridor - especially when some other
districts are n decline."

For some reason, these towns and cities are always situated
along some kind of "corridor" in a "fast-growing" area.

Now what? Hopefuls aiming to fill out the 6 months
remaining in his unexpired term will have to pony up a
$1,250 filing fee or collect 500 certified signatures of
registered voters from the district.

Whoever wins these bragging rights will face the nominee of
the other party in a special General election to fill out
the coming term Mr. Averitt would have had unopposed if he
had not resigned.

Mr. Sibley served for 11 years as the Senator from District
22. He is now head of a lobbying firm named Sibley Group,
with headquarters in Austin.

In his time, he served as a ramrod in the effort to
deregulate electricity rates in Texas. As a result,
consumers can buy their kilowatt hours at the most favorable
rate from providers who obtain the electrical power off the
grid, then re-sell it to their customers.

He helped Lt. Governor Bobby Bullock whip State Senators in
line on a reform of Worker's Compensation Insurance
regulations. The story was that he and Mr. Bullock held them
hostage in the apartment situated behind the Senate
President's rostrum at the Capital Building. They told them
they were going nowhere until they had reached some kind of
agreement, that to leave would imperil their political
future and the future of their districts.

Over the course of several days holed up in those cramped,
smoky rooms, they made a deal. The tableau is now a part of
conservative Texas political mythology, to the grief of many
an ambulance-chasing counselor at law and the delight of a
lot of insurance brokers and carriers, petroleum drillers,
manufacturing employers and construction contractors.

A fiscal conservative, he is credited with helping toe the
line on deficit spending and budgeting.

But Darren Yancy is standing his ground, ready to join the
debate and point out to voters that the powers that be, when
on their soap boxes, don't always tell the whole story, not
by a long shot.

Mr. Sibley is the lobbyist for the Brazos River Authority.

It is a major purveyor of electrical power and a merchant of
precious water to towns and cities, agriculturists and
industrialists, along a river system that stretches from far
northwest Texas to the outfall at Freeport in Brazoria
County on the Gulf of Mexico. It's an area rich with
petrochemical plants, rice farms, fish and shrimp merchants,
timberlands, coastal bermuda farms, and beef cattle ranches.

The Brazos River Authority occupies handsome headquarters in
a native stone building with an innovative facade resembling
the sluice gates of a flood control - hydroelectric power
dam. It is located on Cobbs Drive next door to the McLennan
County Fair Grounds in Waco on the site of an old U.S. Army
Air Corps base, along with the National Guard, the Army and
Navy Reserve, the Rodeo Grounds, The Red Cross, Waco High
School and Lions Park, bounded by Bosque Ave., New Road and
Lake Air Drive. It was during the infancy of aviation, to
be sure, that the lot was an airport.

So it's a home town thing, this old one-two between the city
dads, the Republican Party gray beards and the huge state
corporation that is the Brazos River Authority.

Who engineered the "Keep Kip" movement?

Attorney Chris DeCluitt, presiding officer of the board of
the BRA.

Mr. DeCluitt was the principle operative in the effort,
something that took the entire herd of McLennan County
elephants and every available mahout, water boy, cook,
skinner, wagon driver and gypsy fortune teller in town.

As recently as last Friday, March 5, Mr. DeCluitt issued a
statement via the BRA website, accusing detractors such as
Mr. Yancy of spreading "misinformation" about his
organization's policies.

For instance, regarding deregulation, he blamed the Texas
Public Utility Commission's sudden loss of rate adjustment
regulatory power in the year 2000 for "accumulated write-
offs of $4.2 million in operating deficits related to
operation of the hydroelectric facility" at Possum Kingdom

Due to the "age and antiquated nature" of the Morris
Sheppard Dam, "it was no longer prudent for the Authority to
operate" the hydroelectric component of the old WPA Project,
which was begun and 1938 and brought on-line in 1942. It is
widely known that the project was designed to keep a
constant flow of water moving through the dam's sluice gates
in order to keep the lake's bottom clean and to discourage
the growth of excess algae.

As a result of this policy change, lakefront property owners
at Lake Granbury, located downstream in Hood County, decry
the move. They find that their property is nowhere near as
desirable when the shoreline declines anywhere from four to
five feet. It's a very shallow lake with a gentle slope to
its bottom, unlike the deep canyons of the Possum Kingdom

The decision to close the gates and stop generating
hydroelectric power took 24 megawatts off the power grid.
In a contract dispute with the electrical company that
contracted to buy that electrical power, Brazos Electrical
Power Co-Op, a multi-million dollar lawsuit is pending over
an alleged breach of contract at the rate of $475,000 per
year owed for electricity that has not been generated.

And yet, the records of the Federal Electrical Regulatory
Commission at Washington, D.C., show that the facility has
never failed an inspection, that its operating permit is
still in effect.

Said Mr. Yancy, "The fact that they got a $4.2 million
write-off is proof of mismanagement...I don't see where the
PUC has restricted them in any fashion."

He mentioned the $3,800,000 in bond issues held in
abeyance for maintenance of the hydroelectric power
generating equipment at the Possum Kingdom dam.

The editorial writers have pointed to a perceived propensity
on Mr. Yancy's part for filing "frivolous" lawsuits.

His answer:

"When you're in business for yourself, you have a few vendor
suits. Last time I checked, it was still OK to defend your
business. My guess is that the Trib has had a few lawsuits
as well.

"The suit they homed in on was the suit where my son had his
leg broke after a ball game in the hand shake ceremony. I
have attached the x-rays for your review...

"What is disturbing is that if the Trib editors read the
petition, they would have seen that it involved an assault
on my son. So either they did not read the petition, which
is sad, or they are not concerned about assaults on
children. That is even worse."

Mr. Yancy's real estate license was suspended for three
months in 2009 over a complaint lodged against him in 2006.

He found a qualified buyer for a client who was looking to
sell a day care center. But when the seller learned the
proposed buyer was a "Mexican," he pulled out of the deal.

Mr. Yancy says he "refused to be part of the blatantly wrong
and unjust discriminatory act...My choice was to disobey the
seller, or violate my moral and ethical beliefs by
discriminating against the buyer and violate state and
federal law. I did what I knew was right."

It was not until 2009 that state regulators reassigned a new
investigator to the case and held a hearing. After
suspending the license for 3 months, according to Mr. Yancy,
commission staffers warned him he would probably lose his
privileges for 12 months if he chose to appeal the decision.

As to his supposed inexperience and status as a neophyte, he
responded this way.

"My finance degree enabled me to pivot the insurance aspect
of our business into business brokerage and venture capital.
I know how to read through and pick apart financials (helps
in budgeting) and where to go to find money for deals. Last
time I checked, these are fairly worthwhile skills in the
real world."

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