Sunday, February 10, 2019

Michael Hicks: Local newspapers are key in reporting corruption

Michael Hicks: Local newspapers are key in reporting corruption: The past few weeks have contained more reports of newspaper downsizing at metro daily newspapers in Indiana. This news involved some of our state’s largest daily print publications, but it is a familiar story affecting papers large and small in the age of the internet.Last week, Muncie saw the first sentencing in a broad federal

Some favor eminent domain over customary use

Some favor eminent domain over customary use

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Compensation provided by the State of Texas for Property Taken Through Eminent Domain

Compensation provided by the State of Texas for Property Taken Through Eminent Domain

Over the past several legislative sessions there have be several attempts to rectify the broken Texas eminent domain laws. These changes were approved through legislation with a Constitutional Amendment in 2009 and SB18 in 2011. Those who have and utilize the power of eminent domain make claims that the system is fixed and is now fair and just for the property owner.

The Texas Attorney General's (AG) office provides legal support for state agencies utilizing the governmental power of eminent domain. The primary agency that uses this power is the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which primarily uses this authority to obtain property for right of ways for road construction and expansion across the state.

Through public information requests, the last 23 condemnation cases from across the State of Texas that were processed through the Texas AG's office show that previous attempts to provide adequate compensation for victims of eminent domain have failed. The initial offer of each of these condemnation cases was compared against the final settlement. (See chart below.) In several of these cases, there appeared to be a settlement where the victim accepted the State's offer for the property, thus avoiding a hearing. (In these instances the final settlement mirrored the initial offer, which would be extremely unlikely if a hearing before the commissioners' court had actually been held.) Even including the cases that settled, the initial offer averaged only 61% of the final offer, well below what those who use this power suggest is common.

A more realistic number is found by using those eminent domain cases that were clearly disputed and went to commissioners' court for a hearing to determine value. If you factor out the cases where the initial offers were accepted, the initial offer was 40% of the final settlement.  Clearly those entities utilizing the power of eminent domain must give a fair offer to the victim for the property being taken and that is not currently happening in most instances. Note: This study only addresses land taken by the State of Texas for roadway construction; the numbers for private entities that utilize the power of eminent domain are not publicly available. It is suspected that figures for those offers would be much lower than those of the public entities.

Presently victims of eminent domain in Texas must pay their own legal expenses and any other fees associated with attempting to get fair market value for their property. To dispute the offer of a condemning entity can easily amount to thousands of dollars. Texas Senate Bill 740 and House Bill 2684 proposes that if the condemner's final offer is 20% greater or more than the amount of the initial offer, the condemning entity must pay certain expenses, including the victim’s legal fees.

Texas eminent domain laws have obviously not gone far enough to protect private property rights. Additional measures must be completed to bring Texas up to the standards that Texans expect and deserve.  If you believe in protecting private property rights, you must support Texas Senate Bill 740 mentioned above as well as 741 and 742.  Passing them would be a good start for protecting the property of hard-working Texans.

Following is a document outlining the 23 cases including initial offer the victim received from the state and the final payment. All of this information was received from the Texas Attorney General's Office, and therefore should be considered accurate.
Contact information –
Calvin Tillman – 940.453.3640
Larry Beard – 512.461.9666

Initial Offers and Final Settlements for Takings by the State of Texas for Roadways
Initial Offer
Final Offer/Settlement
Percentage Initial Offer is of Final Settlement
Difference Between Initial and Final
Percent Final/Initial
Bouhoutos Brown
FBC Oak Cliff
Strata Holding
Art Environmental
Lubbock National Bank
Downstream 973
Downstream 973
Branch Banking
JP Morgan Chase
Bank of America
Jarmillo Revis
Metro Joint Venture


Sunday, February 19, 2017

My decision to not seek reelection-

January 18, 2016 was the observed holiday to celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 2016.  On this date, we as a family generally make our annual trip to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. My kids have grown accustomed and look forward to this trip. Even my young daughter Evie knows that this is the day we make this trip. We attend a rodeo, and the kids ride the rides and eat fair food, it has been a great event in my life enjoying this day with my family.

On this date in 2016, however, I had several meetings scheduled related to my elected position on Aubrey city council. As anyone who knows me is clearly aware, I have always maintained a professional career, and so days like this provide a good opportunity for meetings during the day, which I can normally not attend due to my career. So this date was scheduled with back to back meetings pertaining to city business.

Although she was only three at the time, my daughter Evie knew that we were supposed to attend the stock show. I was in my office preparing for my meetings and she comes running in with a sense of excitement telling me to get dressed so that we can leave for the stock show. I told her that daddy had meetings and that mommy was taking her to the stock show this year. Her smile immediately turned to a frown and she started crying uncontrollably and ran out of the room. This was completely out of character for her, as she is normally even keeled. At this moment I knew I would not seek reelection, although I still had well over a year on my current term.

So on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday 2016, I decided that I would not seek reelection or run for another elected office, at least not now. I also decided that I was going to try and get some things accomplished, and I knew I would have to be pretty aggressive to get things some things done. Therefore, I fully expected that I would ruffle a few feathers to make some of the needed changes in this city. During the 2016 election, I was so disgusted with the actions of some in our community that I frankly considered resigning in protest. Unfortunately, once you know, you can't not know, and deeper you get involved in things you see in local government, you see the pattern of mistakes and intentional disregard for the community. So I had pretty much reached my limit on local politics, but I won with a sizable portion of the vote and still had a lot of support in the community, they elected me to do a job, so I did not want to quit on them.

I send out periodic newsletters trying to keep the citizens informed of what's going on in city hall. On my last newsletter, I received overwhelmingly positive support and feedback. The citizens of this community are a whole lot smarter than our mayor and city staff give them credit for. They may not have time to show up at city hall for a meeting, but they do know what is going on and for the most part are sick and tired of it.

Over the past year, it has been more enjoyable to serve and I feel like a lot of progress has been made. There's more work to be done, but I feel good about the accomplishments we've made. Although, there was a contingency trying to get me to run for office this year, even by some who I consider enemies, I really never gave running for office again a second thought. I appreciate the support from the community, but I won't miss another trip to the stock show with my family.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Phelim McAleer the Perpetual Victim

For some odd reason my old nemesis Phelim McAleer has put me on his mass email list. Therefore, all of the propaganda sent out by McAleer and his gang comes directly to me. This is a small price to pay for giving him a Texas butt whippin in a debate a couple of years ago. He actually stalked me for a while, however, for the most part he has avoided and doesn't respond to me in any way since the debate. I saw something recently out of Phelim that humored me. He was claiming to have been under assault and held against his will at the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota. He goes on and on about how he feared for his life and how brave his film crew was. However, the actual video he used as an example shows nothing of the sort. He was asked to leave, but was never threatened or assaulted.  Playing the victim is nothing new for Phelim, he has that role down. Here's a link to the video where he "feared for his life", you can make up your own mind as to how much risk he was in-

The folks from Standing Rock responded to his allegations here-

Keep in mind that those in the camp have been shot at with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and concussion grenades – poor Phelim.

Although, he put me in his film Fracknation, he did this without ever speaking to me, this of course was intentional. Therefore, the first time we actually met was in New York for the premier of Gasland 2. Well, met may be a little bit of a stretch. I did actually introduce myself to him, but he did not want to talk to me, our main interactions was when him and his hideous wife were screaming obscenities and me and my family while we getting our photos taken on the red carpet. He made such an ass of himself that didn't even make into see the premier. After the premier we had to be escorted by security to keep him and his henchmen from attacking us. Finally, after another Gasland 2 showing, he was chasing us down and pushing and shoving several of the people with us until someone asked us him to leave, he bumped into us again and then called the cops on himself. Hmmm, that sounds like what happened at Standing Rock.

I wrote about some of my interactions with Phelim here-

I spoke on video about some of my interactions with Phelim here-

What happened at Standing Rock was nothing new for Phelim, he has and always will be looking for an angle to play the victim.  Personally I think he has some undiagnosed mental issues, and probably needs medication or therapy.  However, his ego is way too big to admit that he’s nuts.  I was surprised to learn that he is only a few years older than me.  When you see him in person, he looks like death warmed over.  They threw a little makeup on him for the debate and frankly it looked like the work of a mortician. 

Just remember the next time that Phelim is feeling victimized for his great work, that he’s nuts and needs help, but in no way is he a victim.  

Michael Hicks: Local newspapers are key in reporting corruption

Michael Hicks: Local newspapers are key in reporting corruption : The past few weeks have contained more reports of newspaper downsizing at ...