August 2, 2007
I leave tomorrow to go to Boston for a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators. There will be members of legislatures from all over the country there. Texas’ own Senator Leticia Van de Putte from San Antonio is President of NCSL.This conference gives members an opportunity to hear what’s going on in other places and how people are addressing challenges we all share. I’ve been appointed to the standing committee on Transportation and will speak about some of the transportation challenges facing Texas. I’ll also speak about Prop. 15, the initiative that I hope you’ll all vote for on Nov. 6. It will allow Texas to spend $3 billion for research to find a cure for cancer. I was a co-author of the legislation allowing this opportunity.I’m also going to use the trip to look at colleges with my big boy, Preston, who turns 18 on August 25th and will come up to Boston mid-week. We’ve had fun doing this before. And both of us are learning about how we really feel when it comes to where he might end up going to school. Recently, when we were in Boulder, we toured the University of Colorado campus and later wound up on Pearl Street for dinner. This is a really great street. Part of it is open only to pedestrians, which really fills it with families, street music, and shops and restaurants. We were eating barbecue at an outside table and having a good time. Preston looked up at me and asked, “Where do you want me to go?” I told him there were only two things I really care about: he’s got to get a good education, and I really want him to have a great college experience. “I want you to look back when you’re my age and say you really enjoyed this time in your life,” I told him.But, now that we’ve seen a few places, I’ve come up with a third goal that focuses on one of my favorite subjects: me. I’ve told him that I’d kind of like him ending up in a neat, nice, fun place where Liz and I can really enjoy going to visit. I’m firmly convinced that’s not a big criterion for a kid looking to go off to school. But like I told him, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about hurting our feelings when we’re in town and he’s too busy “studying” to come see us.And I have to say, in this heat, Boulder’s looking better and better.
I had the chance to speak this week to the Rural Friends of Electric Cooperatives. This group helps make sure that farmers, ranchers, small-town residents, and others outside Texas’ big cities have reliable, affordable electricity. You can read the speech here. The title, as you’ll see, is “Balancing Texas’ Energy Future.”The balance is between the role that power companies must play in both fueling the state’s economy and making sure that Texas remains an attractive place for people to work and companies to locate. During this last legislative session, we saw just how complex that balance can be. Power companies started out pushing for a fast-tracked review of 17 coal plants built on almost obsolete technology that would have considerably worsened the already-dirty air around Texas. After a state-wide outcry, they came back with far more modest and less damaging (although, in some cases, still quite troubling) requests.As I say in the speech, we have to do a better job planning for the future and not reacting to seat-of-the-pants policy that just-so-happens to help a particular company’s bottom line. But we also have to acknowledge that the health of our economy is thoroughly intertwined with the health of our people, our air, and our water.
Another big deal was on Wednesday, when the Texas Education Agency issued its report cards for schools across the state. The biggest concerns in Travis County center on Johnston High School, which has now been rated unacceptable for four straight years. That rating could allow the state to close Johnston and send students to other schools. I and a number of others in Central Texas have worked hard to keep that from happening. As soon as I learned of the ratings, I started meeting with officials at the state and the Austin School District to make sure kids didn’t pay the price for the obvious problems at Johnston. I’m glad to say that we’re all working together on a plan that I think will create a new and much-improved high school for kids who deserve the chance to attend college and excel. I released a statement after the ratings were issued. You can read it here
Finally, don’t forget to mark your calendar for September 13th. That’s the night of the big fundraiser at Zilker Park.Now, I need to explain a glitch in scheduling. I’m very disappointed to say that this year’s event falls on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The campaign contracts with the company that organizes the ACL Music Festival, which occurs at Zilker Park the weekend after this event. The fundraiser is not associated with the festival, and neither Austin City Limits nor KLRU are involved with the fundraiser or endorse any campaign. The festival organizers are able to offer the venue for this particular event on just one night only – the Thursday before the festival starts – because the stages are set up and the bands who volunteer to play for the fundraiser are in town. It’s a privilege to work around this schedule (it’s not like we’re the Rolling Stones), but it unfortunately can lead to conflicts that are beyond our control. I hope folks understand, and that my friends who can’t be there have a wonderful Rosh Hashanah.