Tag Archives: General Land Office

Texas coast remains in dire peril

I want to give a shout out to my former neighbors along the Texas Gulf Coast.

They are working diligently to preserve one of the state’s most underappreciated resources: its beaches.

The Texas coast is in peril. It is disappearing before our eyes. It has been disappearing for, oh, many decades. I took an interest in the coast when I moved there in 1984 to take up my post writing editorials for the Beaumont Enterprise.

The Texas Tribune reports that Jefferson County officials are working with a consortium of industry officials, environmental activists, outdoorsmen and women and others to protect the coastal wetlands from drastic erosion.

According to the Tribune: Subsidence, sea level rise and storm surges have all contributed to significant land loss, averaging 4 feet per year along the state’s coastline, according to the Texas General Land Office. In some places, more than 30 feet of shoreline disappears underwater annually.

Todd Merendino, a manager at the conservation-focused group Ducks Unlimited, said sand dunes used to line the shore near the Salt Bayou marsh, forming a crucial buffer between the Gulf of Mexico and the millions of dollars’ worth of industrial infrastructure that lie inland. The dunes are “all gone now,” he said.

“One day, you wake up and you go, ‘Wow, we got a problem,'” Merendino said. “And it’s not just an isolated problem where one swing of the hammer is going to fix it.”

The problem has inspired a coalition of strange bedfellows in Jefferson County. Local leaders, environmental activists and industry representatives are working together to execute a variety of projects — some bankrolled by BP oil spill settlement funds — to rehabilitate the marsh and protect the area’s industrial complex.

The massive deep freeze that is paralyzing the Deep South and the Atlantic Seaboard notwithstanding, the worldwide climate change that produces rising sea levels is a major culprit.

Gulf Coast officials are seeking to build a berm along the coast at the McFaddin Wildlife Refuge. I’ve been there. It’s a jewel along the coast. It’s a haven for all manner of waterfowl. It is a gorgeous part of the coastal region.

It’s also vanishing.

Here is the Tribune story

The Texas General Land Office once placed coastal preservation near the top of its public policy agenda. I am unaware of where that issue stands today. The GLO has welcomed the likes of David Dewhurst, Jerry Patterson and now George P. Bush as land commissioner since Mauro left the office in the late 1990s. I trust they, too, are committed to saving the coastline for future generations of Texans to enjoy.

I am heartened to hear about the hard work being done along the coast. It’s good, though, to bear in mind that Mother Nature can take whatever she wants, whenever she wants.

At least the state is not going to give it away without a fight.

Patterson ‘remembers the Alamo’

It turns out that former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has a particular motive for seeking to get back into his former job.

He is angry at the way the current commissioner, George P. Bush, has handled the Alamo. Bush has taken the Alamo restoration efforts away from the General Land Office and put it in the hands of private concerns.

Patterson doesn’t like that. So he’s aiming to do battle with Bush with the idea of returning to the GLO the idea of caring for the Alamo.

As R.G. Ratcliffe writes in the Burka Blog: During Patterson’s tenure, the famous Texas battleground was transferred from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to the land office, but Bush has been widely criticized for handing off restoration plans to private foundations.

Ratcliffe reports that legislators are critical of the move because the foundations are too secretive and aren’t being held accountable for what they’re doing to restore the Alamo. Patterson contends, according to Ratcliffe, that Bush set up the privatization arrangement so that he could take credit for cutting the size of a government agency.

Read Ratcliffe’s blog here.

Patterson says he doesn’t want a job. He said he decided to run because he couldn’t find another Republican to challenge Bush. He told Ratcliffe that Bush is too enamored with being a “small-government Republican” intent on cutting the budget. Patterson is angry that Bush has dismantled the GLO’s hurricane response that Patterson created; as a result, there have been delays in getting aid to Hurricane Harvey victims along the Texas coast.

Patterson is having none of it.

He wants to challenge Bush, whose campaign team is touting as the “most conservative land commissioner” in Texas history.

This might shape up to be a most fascinating Republican Party primary. I get the appeal that Bush is seeking to parlay as a budget cutter and a small-government kind of politician.

I happen to be more of a “good government” fellow, who hopes that Patterson — one of my favorite Texas politicians — can mount a serious challenge to the fellow who succeeded him.

‘The Gun Guy’ is getting back into the game

Well, I’ll be hornswoggled.

Jerry Patterson wants his old job back. What is that? He is the former Texas land commissioner who four years ago decided against seeking a third term.

His successor is George P. Bush, the grandson and nephew of two former presidents of the United States. Patterson doesn’t think Bush has done well at the Land Office. He considers him to be too much of a politician with his eyes seemingly on grander political prizes.

So the former Texas state senator who once was known primarily for authoring the state’s concealed handgun carry legislation in 1995 is wanting to get back into the political game.

I welcome Patterson back. The former “gun guy” is going to liven the Republican Party primary if he actually takes the plunge.

I remember meeting him years ago during his time as land commissioner. I found him to be self-deprecating yet smart at the same time. I recall him mentioning how he finished “in the top 75 percent of my class at Texas A&M.” He was acutely aware that his primary legislative accomplishment — enactment of the concealed carry bill — would brand him with the “gun guy” moniker.

Those two matters endeared him immediately as someone who did not take himself as seriously as he takes his public service responsibility.

I’ve never met George P. Bush, although I do remember him speaking on behalf of “Poppy” Bush during the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston. The youngster stood at the Astrodome podium as a 16-year-old and declared “Viva Boosh!” in an appeal to Latino voters, given that his mother is an immigrant from Mexico. He brought the house down.

The next time I would see his name would be during the 2014 campaign for Texas land commissioner.

Patterson seems to be primed for a tough battle against the incumbent, according to the Texas Tribune: “Patterson has been a regular critic, recently sending an editorial contrasting the land office’s response to Hurricane Ike, when he was in charge, with his response to Harvey this year. “Harvey victims still living in tents along the coast are, at least in part, victims of a politician’s desire to look good for the next election by being a ‘small government Republican,'” Patterson wrote in what looks like a preview of his political campaign.

This could be a fascinating campaign to watch.

Go for it, Mr. Gun Guy!

Protecting the Texas coast? What a novel concept!

wozniak-whooping-cranes-texas-gulf-coast-c-jeff-wozniak_h10_6206

Well, ruffle my hair and call me Frankie!

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush has made a commitment to a portion of the state that has been, well, seemingly kind of put on the back burner for too long.

Bush has pledged to make coastal protection a top priority of his during the 2017 Texas Legislature.

The last land commissioner to make such a pledge — and then follow through with it — was a Democrat. You might remember him. His name is Garry Mauro who, in 1998, had the misfortune of running for Texas governor against an incumbent named George W. Bush. Gov. Bush mauled Mauro by more than 30 percentage points while cruising to re-election.

It was a shame that Mauro didn’t do better against George P.’s Uncle W. He had held statewide office for well more than a decade and had done a creditable job as land commissioner.

I got to know him while working along that coast, in Beaumont. I was editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise and witnessed a lot of Mauro’s commitment to protecting the coast.

He started coastal cleanup operations; he sought to protect wetlands from further erosion. He was a coastal region champion.

That emphasis went by the wayside at the General Land Office during the administrations of David Dewhurst and Jerry Patterson.

Now we have another Republican, a first-time officeholder at that, committing publicly to protecting the coastline.

Bush already has taken steps to make good on his pledge, according to the Texas Tribune. As the Trib reports: “The office has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a long-term plan to address problems in the Houston Ship Channel and the Corpus Christi area in order to ‘ensure that Texans receive fair treatment following tropical storms and hurricanes.”‘

My wife and I moved from the coast to the High Plains of Texas more than two decades ago, but my own interest in coastal matters has remained high … even though I haven’t written much about them on this blog.

I am heartened to hear the land commissioner make a public commitment to strengthening the coast, which faces hazards every year during our hurricane season.

The coast ought to matter to the entire state.

I’ll offer George P. Bush one suggestion: Get on the phone and call Garry Mauro and ask him for some advice on how to proceed with ensuring greater coastal protection.

Hey, you can do it private, P. No one has to know.

Get back into the game, Jerry Patterson

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The Texas Railroad Commission is a misnamed panel that does important work for the state.

It no longer regulates railroads. It does regulate the Texas energy industry.

So it is with some anticipation that I read today that Railroad Commissioner David Porter won’t seek re-election next year to the three-member panel.

Patterson may run for RRC.

His decision is spurring some activity among Texas Republicans. One of them happens to be someone I happen to respect and admire very much.

He is Jerry “The Gun Guy” Patterson, the former Texas land commissioner and a one-time state senator from the Houston area.

Patterson is a proud Marine and Vietnam War veteran. He also has delightful self-deprecating sense of humor; he once told me he graduated in the “top 75 percent of my class at Texas A&M.”

Patterson also was the author during the 1995 Texas Legislature of the state’s concealed-handgun-carry law. I opposed the law at the time, but my view on it has “evolved” over time. I am not an active supporter of the concealed-carry law; I just don’t oppose it.

Patterson did a great job running the General Land Office. He helped he GLO provide low-interest home loans for Texas military veterans.

I cannot speak to any expertise he might have on oil and gas issues. I do, though, respect him greatly as a dedicated public servant — and I hope he decides to get back in the game.

 

Farewell, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst

David Dewhurst has bid the Texas Senate farewell after serving 12 years as lieutenant governor and presiding officer of the 31-member legislative chamber.

It was an emotional good bye.

https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/12395410/600043124/

I’m glad the Senate approved the resolution honoring him for his service. Dewhurst did serve the state well.

That is until he got outflanked on his right by Ted Cruz in their campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Then the lieutenant governor became someone that many of us no longer recognized. He got outflanked once more this past year as he lost the Republican primary to Dan Patrick.

The cause of good government has lost a one-time champion.

***

I recall when Dewhurst splashed onto the state political scene in 1998 when he ran for land commissioner. I’d never heard of this wealthy guy from Houston. He’d been a political insider downstate and was well-connected.

But he became land commissioner and did a great job expanding veterans home loan benefits, which is one of the office’s key duties.

Dewhurst was an occasional visitor to the Panhandle while serving in that office and later as lieutenant governor. He always seemed quite appreciative of the time we spent visiting about the issues of the day. And I think we forged a nice professional relationship over the years.

Dewhurst could talk forever about the tiniest details of legislation, which he did often either on the phone or in person. Indeed, I often heard from my sources in Austin that Dewhurst might have been the hardest-working state official in Texas.

He was elected lieutenant governor in 2002, succeeding Bill Ratliff who was appointed by the Senate to fill the term vacated when Rick Perry became governor — after George W. Bush was elected president.

Dewhurst ran the Senate the way most of his predecessors did, with a flair for bipartisan cooperation. He was unafraid to appoint Democratic senator as committee chairs, sharing the power with senators from the other party.

I always appreciated his adherence to Senate tradition.

Then came his failed bid to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Ted Cruz battered him for being too moderate. Dewhurst fought back — uncomfortably, it appeared to me — by saying in effect, “I’m no moderate. I’m as conservative as you are, Mr. Cruz.”

He didn’t wear the TEA party label well. Cruz beat him in the 2012 GOP primary.

Then came Patrick in 2014 to do the same thing to Dewhurst: painting him as some sort of squishy moderate Republican In Name Only. There’s nothing worse in the Texas GOP than to be called a RINO.

They fought through the primary. Patrick defeated Dewhurst in the runoff.

Now the new guy is set to take over. The Senate won’t be the same. Dewhurst has said farewell.

I am glad to have gotten to know Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. I wish him well in whatever future awaits him.

 

I'll miss Patterson most of all

I’ve given some thought to the Texas statewide officeholders who are leaving public life at the end of the year.

Who will I miss the most?

It’s a close call. Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs can be an interesting and delightful interview subject. She’s full of one-liners and has put me in stitches on more than one occasion in the years I’ve known her, first when she was elected agriculture commissioner and then as comptroller.

Combs finishes second, though, to Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Patterson burst onto the state’s public attention by being known as the “gun guy,” a state senator who authored the state’s concealed-carry bill in the mid-1990s. He wanted the state to make it legal for Texans to pack heat under their jacket, provided they pass a test that demonstrates they know how to handle a firearm.

He is proud of his Marine Corps service and the tour of duty he served in Vietnam. He campaigned actively on that service. Indeed, his job as land commissioner put him in charge of the state’s veterans home loan program, which he administered with great pride.

Patterson also has a tremendous self-deprecating streak. The first time I met him, he introduced himself to me as a guy who finished in the “top 75 percent of my class at Texas A&M University,” where he said he “managed to cram four years of college into six years.”

Texas doesn’t have quite the colorful cast of characters inhabiting public offices that it used to have. Too many of them have taken themselves more seriously than they take their responsibilities. Gov. Rick Perry is Exhibit A. I won’t miss Perry in the least.

Jerry Patterson, though, reminds me a bit of the old-school Texas pol who is unafraid to poke a little fun at himself. We need more — not fewer — like him in public life.

 

'P' to use land office as springboard

One of the least surprising results of next week’s statewide election will be who wins the race for Texas land commissioner.

Ladies and gents: Welcome George Prescott Bush to the roster of constitutional elected officials.

You know this young man, yes? We’ll call him “P,” which is what his family and close friends call him. His uncle George W., after all, has been called Dubya since, oh, he became president of the United States back in 2001.

http://www.texastribune.org/2014/10/28/once-obscure-agency-rises-prominence/

The Texas Tribune has put together an interesting analysis about “P” and how his new office is going to gain considerable attention once he takes the oath of office.

George P. is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and is the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush. I’ve already mentioned Uncle Dubya, which puts “P” in line to be the first of the next generation of men named Bush to ascend to public office.

Grandpa Bush famously referred to “P” as one of the “little brown ones,” given that the young man’s mother is Hispanic.

Does “P” bring a lot of practical experience to the job of land commissioner? Only a little. He’s a lawyer and his name is Bush. That’s it, plus his work as an oil and gas consultant.

He will oversee the management of public lands in Texas and the royalties it earns from oil and gas revenue for public education, and will manage the state’s veteran home loan program. It’s the latter duty that likely will comprise the bulk of his time and attention, given that so little land in Texas is in public hands.

The fact someone with the Bush name will be running the General Land Office gives the office needed visibility. It’s an important office that does important work on behalf of public school students and veterans.

I won’t go too far out on a limb here to suggest that “P” is using the GLO job as a stepping stone to something flashier. George P. is just in his 30s and he’ll have a whole host of options available to him in the future.

For now, though, he’s going to get his feet wet at the General Land Office. Hey, he’s aimed high and is using his still-potent family name — it still carries some weight in Texas, at least — to hit his target.

 

 

Don’t mess with this Texas slogan

Texas tries to get serious about littering … so much so that it has adopted a slogan that to many millions of Americans, and even some Texans, has taken on an entirely new meaning.

“Don’t Mess With Texas” has been around since the mid-1980s. The state’s General Land Office launched the anti-littering campaign with the slogan that has, shall we say, become as popular as a Friday night football tailgate party.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/us/not-to-be-um-trifled-with-texas-guards-its-slogans.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

The New York Times story linked here discusses how Texas is trying to protect the integrity of its slogan. I have an idea: How about using it exclusively for its intended purpose, which was to tell people they shouldn’t litter the state’s vast and varied landscape.

Texas officials say they’re trying to preserve the slogan’s original meaning. Some leading politicians, though, aren’t following suit. As the Times article noted, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush used the phrase in a political context when he accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2000. Other pols have thrown the slogan around to tout some people’s view of Texas machismo.

As the Times reported: “The phrase is known around the world, and it is important for everyone to recognize that ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ means ‘Don’t litter,’ ” Veronica Beyer, a (Texas) Transportation Department spokeswoman, said in a statement. “When an alleged infringement is discovered, the department quickly seeks the appropriate legal remedy, which is usually a cease-and-desist demand of the unauthorized use and all future uses thereof. In the majority of such cases, our request for the violator to cease and desist has been all the action required.”

I couldn’t agree more with that view. The problem for the state, though, is how to reel in those who keep abusing the slogan.