Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Demo Candidate For County Judge - Green, Green

Tax abatements for solar, wind energy projects, EPA Compliance

Dr. Ralph Cooper - you can call him doctor, he has a Ph.D. in social psychology - is an attorney with a systems analysis approach to his thinking and his work.

A general civil law practitioner with a large pro bono practice representing battered women who are trying to rebuild their lives and hold on to their kids after divorcing abusive husbands, he is the Democratic challenger
to County Judge Jim Lewis, a Republican and a four-term veteran of his McLennan County post.

He invited The Legendary to sit down with himself and his
wife Meg for a wide-ranging conversation about this race.

What was on his mind and first on his list?

"We have to start thinking in terms of this century, not the

Thinking in terms of what? Here's where the old boy gives it
to you both barrels. He rolls out the systems analysis band
wagon and goes to town. As the journalist Tom Wolfe kept
saying about Dr. Marshall McLuhan, author of "Understanding
Media" in his now-famous magazine article about the luminary
academic, "What if he's right?"

modeling to make long-range decisions that affect the commun-
ity. In fact, Dallas/Ft. Worth environmentalists, Dallas Mayor
LauraMiller chief among them, were able to delay EPA permits
for theRiesel electrical plant for long periods due to controversy
over the environmental impact statement.

Being right is Dr. Cooper's profession. Until a disastrous
auto collision laid him up in the mid-90's, he ran his own
consulting outfit. The specialty - consulting on EPA
regulations and hazardous materials - was to help
industrialists and service providers minimize the impact of
government regulation on their operations and to minimize
the effect of government strictures on the bottom line.

Here is where social psychology makes a big tie-in with sys-
tems analysis. It's the study of why people do what they do
as a society, based on what they think is right and why they
think it.

Dr. Cooper thought for a moment and said that 80 percent of
the state's population lives within a three-hour drive of
where mid-America's main street, I-35, crosses the Brazos at

In fact, it's the back door through which pass the thousands
of tractor-trailers haul America's jobs to Mexico and Canada
- every day.

He let that sink in for a minute, then he said, "Right now,
McLennan County is very marginal with regards to ozone."


Ozone is the chemical compound concentrated in the layers of
the stratosphere 6 to 30 miles above the Earth's surface.
It plays a vital part in absorbing ultraviolet rays that
make it impossible for human beings and other forms of life
to survive under the daily onslaught of the sun's radiation.

"Eventually, that could have an impact on our future
economy," he said.

Think about it. How much of the ozone depletion in McLennan
County's skies may be attributed to local manufacturing and
the carbon footprints of homes, schools, autos and trucks,
and how much of it can be laid at the doorstep of coal-fired
electrical generation plants like the one in Riesel?

The McLennan County Commissioners's Court gave the
developers of that plant a 10-year tax abatement, meaning
they don't pay any taxes on the property's improvements over
and above those before dirt was turned to erect the plant
during the period of the abatement.

For 10 years, the tax assessment is the same as if nothing
had been done to the rural property.

"Instead of out-dated coal plants, Waco and McLennan County
needs more high-tech, alternative energy sources, including
solar and wind. As a County, we should also be promoting
energy efficiency. Tax abatements for high-tech, energy-
efficient improvements will reduce our need for electricity
from coal, and will stimulate businesses that make and
install such equipment," said Dr. Cooper.

"As County Judge, I will seek Commissioners’ Court approval
for a program to grant a ten year tax abatement to farmers,
ranchers, and business and residential property owners,
including homeowners, who install on their property solar or
wind energy equipment. This program will support
environmentally sound energy choices without penalizing the
property owner to pay taxes on the value new technology adds
to their property."

Speaking to the issue of the $45 million jail "we do not
need," a project run by CEC, Inc., and ramrodded by County
Judge Jim Lewis and Commissioner Ray Meadows, Dr. Cooper
said his figures show that "at $45.00 per day (or even
$49.00 per day), the Jim Lewis jail loses money even if
operated at 100% occupancy.

"Experts I have consulted indicate that it is impossible to
operate a facility at 100% and difficult to operate a
facility at an average above 90%, due to the need to
separate various types of prisoners from others. For
example, members of different criminal gangs must be kept
separate from each other and from non-gang prisoners. Each
separate group results in empty spaces in the jail."
At the more likely occupancy of 90% or less, the Jim Lewis
jail loses over $132,000 per month, or over $1.58 million
per year, at the currently available rate ($45.50) to house

In each case, going down a laundry list of hot button issues
regarding expense to tax payers, the candidate has the facts
and figures to back up his position.

It comes to him naturally after a career as an expert
witness who has appeared before committees under a
fellowship granted by Congressional authority, a systems
analyst for a think tank named Battelle out of Columbus,
Ohio, and a lecturer at Loyola and Miami Ohio Universities.

When he married Meg, a native of Odessa with a Masters in
Divinity she earned at Truett Seminary. Baylor University,
he got to Texas a quickly as he could. That's about as
native Texan as it gets.

"I proposed and we were married a few months later," she
recalls. They met at Sunday school.

For a close look at the issues, check out his website.

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