SAN ANTONIO—District 8 City Councilwoman Diane Cibrian is preparing to add herself to the ever-growing list of people who want to be Mayor of San Antonio. Falling in line behind former City Councilman Julian Castro, builder Gordon Hartman and telecom exec and former State Senator John Montford (a firm “maybe”), Cibrian wants to replace Phil Hardberger, who is term-limited.
AUSTIN—If you use a TxTag, an electronic toll tag, to drive any of Texas’ ever-growing list of toll roads, then the state is making money off of you. According to a report in the Austin American-Statesman, the Texas Department of Transportation collects and keeps interest on all TxTag funds. The interest reportedly generates about $400,000 for the state transportation agency which is then used for—what else—funding the state’s Keep Texas Moving PR campaign which, you guessed it: encourages Texans to support the construction of more toll roads. Cha-Ching.
HOUSTON—Dr. Diane Trautman, a university professor who unsuccessfully sought to oust State Rep. Joe Crabb (R-Kingwood) in the 2006 general election, has announced she will challenge Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt in 2006. Bettencourt, a Republican, is widely viewed among his party as a rising star and has been mentioned for a possible run for statewide office as early as 2010. Trautman, a Democrat, has made the Harris County race for an office that is infamous for handling vehicle registration the second Tax Collector position in an urban county statewide to draw a prominent challenger. Former State Rep. Glen Maxey, a Democrat, is challenging Nelda Wells Spears for the same position in Travis County—except in the Democratic Primary. Both Maxey and Trautman are expected to make election and voter registration issues key in their races, Tax Assessors in both Travis and Harris County handle voter registration. Trautman will likely have a significant amount of ammunition to use in her race, as Bettencourt is a darling of the statewide “Voter ID” movement.
AUSTIN—The ongoing battle between the NFL Network and major cable companies spilled over into the House Committee on Regulated Industries earlier this week as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tried to score a touchdown against Time Warner and Comcast. At issue is the desire of major cable companies to feature the NFL Network on a special sports and entertainment tier that would cost subscribers about $8 more per month. Jones and Goodell, who want the cable companies to keep the network’s games on expanded basic cable offerings, are trying to get the Texas Legislature to run interference, and asked the committee to force binding arbitration upon the cable companies. However, State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), the chair of Regulated Industries, doesn’t believe that the Legislature has a Hail Mary to run in this game, saying it’s a matter out of the jurisdiction of the state. That, of course, suits former State Rep. Todd Baxter (R-Austin), just fine, as he was the hired gun for Comcast speaking out at the hearings against making the majority of cable subscribers pay for the network even if they don’t watch football. (No word on if the Regulated Industries Committee did any arm twisting to change Goodell’s mind an NFL expansion franchise in the Alamo City).
COLLEGE STATION—The Board of Regents of Texas A&M University has appointed the first female to head that institution. Earlier this week, the board elevated Vice Chancellor for Agriculture Elsa Murano to the post of President of Texas A&M. She replaces Robert Gates, who left his post as head of the university to serve as Secretary of Defense for President Bush.
Vince Leibowitz stays on top of Texas politics on his blog, www.capitolannex.com.