Opinion: DNA-driven Human Nature

 Opinion: DNA-driven Human Nature

By George Smith

It is a part of basic, DNA-driven human nature for folks to resist admitting a mistake. It doesn’t really matter whether or not the mistake was an honest faux pas or an intentional violation of societal norms, saying “I was wrong!” is just difficult to enunciate. it is a mixture of a negative psychological response and personal muscle control.
There are citizens of Marshall and Longview who owe a former Harrison County resident an abject apology for their thoughts, statements and vitriol hurled in his direction. A vast majority will not apologize for their non-Christian judgment, content to just sit back and forget past thoughts and public statements.

Trey Wood is no angel; he will be the first to tell anyone that. He is a sober alcoholic, former drug addict, a convicted felon who spent two-plus years in prison for robbing a drug dealer. He, like everyone else, has lied in his life to obtain what he wanted at a particular point in the time, without regard for the welfare of others. 
 
I’ve known Trey since his teenage years. He was a certified “rounder”, a gifted athlete and communicator with more charisma than should be allowed. At times, he was an insufferable teenage jerk, but, to me, despite his swagger and jockesque bravado, he had a gentleness that belied his size and outward attitude; he hurt people’s feelings because of his lack of impulse control and his ADD, not out of pure, hard-hearted meanness.   Trey came out of prison with the goal of never going back; once, for Trey, was enough. What he didn’t count on was falling into his lifestyle bugaboo of being in the wrong situation at the wrong time and making bad decisions in an attempt to extricate himself. He started drinking and taking prescription drugs and making friends who were not “friends”. Some people, like Trey,  have a habit of repeating mistakes over and over. And overl. And then there is the Trey who is a talented, award-winning writer, a hard-working, creative  entrepreneur who started three small businesses during the pandemic, and the man-child I know as a loyal friend. He is not a family member…but is a member of MY family.
 
   All that to say this: Several years ago, out cold and partially paralyzed on drugs administered by Marshall physician Shaun Bobbi Kelehan, Trey was sexually assaulted by the doctor. After sobering up, Trey filed charges with the Marshall Police Department; the charges were investigated, video and audio tapes were made, and charges were filed.

That’s where the “fix” went in. Under the guidance of a special prosecutor in Longview, a grand jury declined to indict Kelehan, despite the fact the jurors were not afforded the opportunity to view the videos of Kelehan admitting administering  drugs and the sex act, plus another, earier non-consensual sex act a year earlier that Kelehan admitted that Trey did not remember. The jurors were told the doctor passed a lie detector test and that Trey did not take one, True. But, the doctor took one administered by an official of his choosing; Trey was not offered one. Trey was not called to testify.
 
In other words, the prosecutor gave the jurors what he wanted to give them to elicit a verdict he wanted. As a former foreman of a Harrison County Grand Jury, I watched this scenario play out in the secrecy of the proceedings.
Trey then hit rock-bottom. He started drinking heavily, was in and out of rehab and contemplated suicide. A friend’s concern and intervention by Austin police got him back in detox and he started looking forward to a positive, productive future again.

But he did not forget the abuse, the injustice of the situation or those that judged him rashly and wrongly.
He contacted the Texas Medical Board and provided them with his story, the video and audio tapes and after a months’-long investigation, Kelehan’s practice was severely curtailed. The board continued investigating and uncovered additional information detrimental to Kelehan’s practice.

In April, the board noted in a public document a second male patient had made a similar complaint against Kelehan. 
In the last few months, Kelehan sold his business and, in agreement with the board, elected to relinquish his license rather than continue with a final, formal hearing dealing with the results of the board’s almost year-long investigation.
Giving up his license does not protect Kelehan from further charges or from action in civil court.

Where does this leave Trey?

One word: Vindicated. To those who stood steadfast by the doctor, no one — not even Trey — ever said he wasn’t a good doctor and kind to a vast majority of his patients. But those who attacked Trey, from strangers who only took second-hand, pitifully inadequate information from Facebook posts, and especially from family members who disowned Trey because of his accusation…you owe him a profound and sincere apology.

No one, especially not Trey, expects anyone to take that giant leap; it just is such a hard step to do, you know, admit it when what you think, feel and do is just blatantly wrong-headed.

Still, for all he’s been through, for the injustice to which he was subjected, to the personal attacks and ridicule…a small ‘Sorry!” would be nice.

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Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary

Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary

In tribute to Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary, Marshall Depot Board of Directors announces year-long commemoration to honor Amtrak’s 50 years of connecting America

May 1, 2021 marks the 50th Anniversary of Amtrak. In honor of this important milestone for our nation, the Marshall Depot Board of Directors is announcing a year-long commemoration and celebration of Amtrak.

This commemoration will focus on providing information and events that highlight the important role that Amtrak has played and continues to play in providing an essential transportation option for the people of America and our community. It will also underscore benefits Amtrak provides to urban as well as rural communities, such as Marshall, in connecting cities throughout America through its vast National Network.

“On behalf of the volunteer Board of Directors of the Marshall Depot Inc., we ask people of our community and our region to join us in wishing Amtrak a happy 50th birthday.”  said Cathy Wright, current president of the Marshall Depot Board. “We appreciate all that Amtrak does for the people of Marshall and our community.”

Out of the approximately 20,000 cities in America, only about 525 cities are fortunate to have an Amtrak stop and Marshall, Texas is fortunate to be one of those cities.  Marshall, Texas is a stop on the Texas Eagle long-distance route. The Texas Eagle connects San Antonio to Chicago, with stops that include Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas, Little Rock and St. Louis, in addition to Marshall.

Christina Anderson, who serves as the chairman of the 2021 community fundraising campaign which is currently underway for the non-profit Marshall Depot, shared the following:

“We thought Amtrak’s 50th anniversary would also provide an excellent opportunity to continue to raise awareness in our community about the remarkable benefits that Amtrak and our historic Marshall Depot bring to our community with regard to transportation, tourism, economic development, quality of life, not to mention just a fun way to travel.”

Ms. Anderson also pointed out a benefit distinctive to Marshall that many community members might not be aware of which brings in tens of thousands of dollars of revenue to our local economy each year. That is, Marshall is one of only a few stops on the Texas Eagle route that is a crew change stop.

Ms. Anderson explained: “That means that not only do tourists and visitors spend dollars when they travel here by train, but six Amtrak crew members who stay in Marshall each night provide ‘heads on beds’ in a local hotel. This results in at least 2,190 hotel stays in Marshall each year, not counting any visitors or tourists who may travel here by Amtrak and may add additional hotel nights.”

She further explained that these six crew members also spend dollars at local restaurants, stores, and with a local van service. In fact, over the past 19 years of Marshall serving as a crew change stop, the total revenue to our local economy for Amtrak’s spending for these crews has been approximately $4.1 million.

“So, in addition to being a transportation hub which connects us to the National Network right in the heart of historic downtown Marshall,” Ms. Anderson shared, “the Marshall Depot and Amtrak are also very valuable assets with regard to generating revenue for our community.”

The Marshall Depot is one of only a few depots on the Texas Eagle route that is not maintained and operated by the city it serves. The Marshall Depot is instead maintained by a volunteer board of directors for the non-profit entity Marshall Depot Inc, which was established in 1990 to assist the City with the Depot. This volunteer board raises funds, through grants and donations, to maintain the funding needed each year for the operational costs, insurance, maintenance, and ongoing preservation of the Depot and the Texas & Pacific Railway Museum. In the past, the City had assisted with these annual costs.

For those wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the non-profit Marshall Depot Inc. in the 2021 fundraising campaign, which began in late March, please make a request to receive materials in the mail about this by calling or leaving a message at (903) 938-8373. Or you can make a tax-deductible donation by sending a check to:  Marshall Depot Inc., 800 North Washington Avenue, Suite 1, Marshall, Texas 75670.

Alan Loudermilk, who serves on the Marshall Depot Board and is owner of the popular Ginocchio Restaurant which is located adjacent to the Marshall Depot, has graciously offered to have a small display at the restaurant with information, donation cards, and envelopes so that customers who wish to make a donation to the Depot can pick up materials while they’re dining at the restaurant.

Cathy Wright also shared that the Marshall Depot Board is making plans and putting in place the necessary health-related precautions to re-open the T & P Railway Museum which is located at the Marshall Depot soon. The Museum has been closed during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, Amtrak recently announced that, on May 24, it would restore daily service to long-distance trains, including the Texas Eagle. In 2020, because of the pandemic, Amtrak reduced daily service to three days a week.

Christina Anderson concluded by saying: “Marshall, Texas is blessed to have a long and strong history as a ‘railroad town.’  The I-20 Corridor Council and the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization (TEMPO) join the members of the Marshall Depot Board in wishing all current and past members of the Amtrak family a happy, prosperous 50th Anniversary and a strong and prosperous 50 years to come. As one of the new Amtrak taglines says: “The Future Rides With Us.”

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Feedback – 2021

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14-year-old FOMA volunteer working to raise money for new Animal Adoption Center’s Medical Room

By Jessica Harker Jharker@marshallnewsmessenger.com

Alera Waite, 14, has had a love for foster animals as long as she can remember. As one of the Friends of Marshall Animals youngest foster volunteer, Waite took it upon herself to start a fundraiser to help fund Marshall’s new Animal Adoption Center which is under construction.

The fundraiser, which is available on gofundme.com at https://gofund.me/058c71c6 has a goal of $60,000, a price tag that Waite thoroughly researched.

Visiting and speaking with local veterinary specialists, Waite determined the price of all of the equipment that would be needed by the new medical room to offer spay and neutering services on site, along with vaccinations.

These items include:

$75 Blood Pressure Monitor

$350 LED Binocular Compound Microscope

$750 Medical Scale

$1,000 Examination Table

$1,500 Patient Monitor

$2,000 Hydraulic Surgical Table

$2,500 LED Surgical Lighting

$3,500 Anesthesia Machine

$4,000 Digital Ultrasound Machine

$5,000 Surgical Power Tools- Full Set

$30,000 X-Ray Machine

The goal of making sure that these items are equipped in the new shelter, according to Waite, is to help the shelter to achieve no kill status.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that there will be a lot more grants available to the shelter if we are able to achieve no kill status,” Waite said.

She explained that many organizations will not give money to shelters who are not signified as no kill, so the addition of these medical supplies will not only help current animals in need, but will affect the future of the shelter in a positive way.

“We need a new shelter, and I think this is a good opportunity to fix these problems as well,” Waite said.

Waite has been volunteering with FOMA since she was 10-years-old, and is one of the youngest volunteers in the organization.

“I have always had a love for foster animals,” Waite said. “I feel like you can connect with them so much more than other animals that already have a good home. You can’t do as much for them, but foster animals they need you.”

Waite is the sole caretakers of the foster animals in her care, taking the time to care for, clean up after and purchase any and all supplies needed for the animals on her own.

Not only does she foster dogs and cats through the FOMA, but Waite also fosters horses and other farm animals, even boarding other community members horses to raise the money needed to care for the animals in her care.

Since her house is currently at maximum capacity for foster animals, Waite said that she has volunteered with the group’s events committee to assist in funding for the organization.

Waite also participates in 4H, formerly holding the title of president of her local chapter, and is an active member of the Girl Scouts, hoping to turn her ongoing funding project for the medical room into her Silver Award project.

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United States on the Verge of Losing Its Technological Superiority

By Ron Munden — 3/10/2021

The United States quality of life is due in no small part to the technological superiority that it has possessed since WWII.  I have written on my concerns about the US losing that superiority  for the last 15 years.

Recently I have also written about the Country’s second civil war which is underway in this country today.

On Sunday I heard a program that was consistent with my concerns about losing our superiority but they projected the United States could lose its technology lead in a much shorter time.

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, was interviewed  by Fareed Zakaria.  Mr. Schmidt is the chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.  This blue ribbon committee, composed of 15 people, was tasked to do an assessment of the role of AI in the future and the United States position in the field.

The commission was established two years ago.  It provided its report to the White House and Congress last week.The commission concluded that AI will be sprinkled throughout the entire world economy in the future. It will be the basis of everything we deal with over the next 5 to 10 years.  The three examples he mentioned were information technology, medical care, and automobiles.

AI is becoming an essential part of the world economy;particularly in developed countries like the United States.

Mr. Schmidt said that today the United States is ahead of China in AI technology but is at high risk of losing that lead fairly quickly.  China has decided to focus on taking the leadership role in AI by 2030.  It is committed to doing whatever is required to take the leadership role away from the US.  

The Commission believes that this problem is a national emergency and unless the country gets its act together quickly China will take the lead very soon.  They feel the race for AI development must become a focus of the federal government.  Even though most of the commission’s members were from the private sector, they feel that the federal government  must take the lead.  We are in a race and our competitor is China.  China has committed to spending the resources required to win the race.

The United States continues to have the best innovators today but Chain already has the lead in facial recognition and electronic commerce.  China has a significant lead in 5G communication technology and is committed to taking the lead in synthetic bio technology.

Today China is our global competitor.  Three advantages China has today are:  Large data sets, which are important to AI.  A larger and more educated workforce than is available in the US today. Today China has twice as many  supercomputers than the US. The worlds fastest computer was built in China using Chinese designed parts. Finally, China has lots of money that it has committed to winning the race.

America could still win the race but it is not organized to win the race today.  To win it would need to commit to a very significant increase in R&D funding and a massive increase in training.  

Today, China  has much more money and very smart people committed to their goal.  China has global ambitions.   Today, the United States is not prepared to compete.

What does the United States have to lose?  Alot!

The market winner is looking at $55 trillion in business over the next 20 years.

The AI winner has not yet determined but the United States needs to act now if it hopes to stay in the game.  The report submitted to the White House and Congress  recommends doubling the country’s R&D funding each year until it is up to $30 billion a year.  That sounds like a lot of money until you realize that there is a $55 trillion market at stake.

If we don’t make this  investment the next great technology companies will come from China.  20% of the US stock market is in technology.  Soon this sector of the stock market may be technology companies owned by another country – not the USA. Also our national security is based on us being the leaders in technology.

Mr. Schmidt listed additional markets that the US could lose — energy, robotics and adaptive manufacturing.

That concluded Mr. Schmidt’s remarks.

After the program I thought — A divided nation cannot stand and there will also be another nation ready to take its place.

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Non-profit Housing Finance Corporation Achieves Critical First Step

Non-profit Housing Finance Corporation Achieves Critical First Step in proposed Marshall Lofts Project           

The non-profit Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation (HCHFC) announced today that the first critical step, which needed to be accomplished in connection with the proposed Marshall Lofts Project, was successfully achieved last week. The Marshall Lofts Project envisions the conversion of the historic Marshall High School building, located on West Houston Street in the historic New Town district of Marshall, Texas, into low-and-moderate income apartments. The HCHFC’s application for a reservation of allocation for authority to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance the conversion of the historic building was approved by the Texas Bond Review Board in Austin on February 26, 2021.

The application was filed by former State Senator and former Harrison County Judge Richard Anderson who serves as general counsel for the HCHFC.   The application was filed on behalf of the developer, STC Marshall Lofts, L.L.C., a Texas corporation. The application authorizes the issuance of some $20 million in tax-exempt bonds during calendar year 2021.

The bond proceeds, together with additional dollars generated by the sale of Federal and State historic tax credits and housing tax credits, will be used to develop up to 130 apartment units on the property. The financing package assembled by the developer, Mr. Jim Sari, will include these funds, as well as other funding from private investors. These funds will be used to construct the apartments as well as amenities on the ten-acre tract, which was formerly known as the old Marshall High School and, more recently, as the old Marshall Junior High School, prior to being sold by the Marshall Independent School District in 2018.

Notably, the bonds will not constitute an obligation of the City of Marshall, Harrison County, or the State of Texas, but will be payable solely from apartment rentals and associated income from the developer.

Judge Anderson stated, “We are very pleased to have assisted with this critical first phase needed for the proposed Marshall Lofts Project. It’s a general consensus that there’s a need for low- to moderate-income housing in our community and, if successful, the Marshall Lofts Project will help to address this need, in addition to repurposing an historic local building for a beneficial use in our community.”

 HCHFC President Anne Yappen, a local realtor, shared: “In addition to assisting with these important housing needs, our Board of Directors felt that this project could also help to ensure that this ten-acre tract in the west end of the Marshall central business district does not fall into a blighted condition in the future.”

The other members of the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation Board of Directors are Mr. John LaFoy, a Hallsville-area builder, Mr. Barry Lovely, a Marshall businessman, Dr. David Nelson, the owner of Texas State Optical, and Mr. Jack Redmon, former interim Marshall City Manager and long-time director of Public Services for the City of Marshall.

Judge Anderson explained that, in late October of 2020, County officials, including County Judge Chad Sims, City officials, including Mayor Terri Brown and City Manager Mark Rohr, as well as Tom McClurg of Marshall Housing Authority, and other community leaders met to consider the proposal for the Marshall Lofts. All were in fundamental agreement that this represented both a challenge and an opportunity to rehabilitate this property which had been dormant for more than two years. A consensus emerged that the project move forward with the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation heading up the application process for the project.

Judge Anderson explained that it’s now up to the developer to pursue additional funding through the applicable tax credits and private financing, following HCHFC’s successful reservation of allocation for authority to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance the conversion.

Anderson said, “We’re familiar with this rather complex structure as we have utilized historic tax credits to create the Courthouse Endowment in 2009 to assist Harrison County, and have utilized housing tax credits to promote multi-family housing projects in Smith County in the past. Again, we’re glad to have been able to have done our part to afford the developer this opportunity and we wish great success for this project.”

Hilltop Securities of Dallas, Texas will serve as financial adviser of the Marshall Lofts Project. Mr. Tim Nelson, a principal with Hilltop, noted that Mr. Sari is in the process of completing the conversion of the historic Hotel Grim in Texarkana into apartments, with the opening of this project in Texarkana scheduled for the spring of this year.  Robert Dransfield of Norton Rose Fulbright law firm will serve as bond counsel.

#

Background on the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation

The Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation is a Texas corporation chartered by the State of Texas in 1979. It was formed in Judge Richard Anderson’s initial term as County Judge, and was designed to address the crisis in housing mortgages that existed at that time. The establishment of the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation was the first county housing finance corporation in the State of Texas, using the state’s recently-enacted statute.

With present mortgage rates of less than 3.5%, it is difficult to imagine the crisis which existed in the 1980’s. However, during 1980, fixed rates for thirty-year mortgages had reached some 14.5%. As a result, some young families were simply not able to afford to purchase a home. Realizing this problem and working with a recently enacted statute, the HCHFC worked with local lenders, and sold tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds for some $23.8 million in the public markets, and produced a mortgage rate of some 9.45%. These funds were then made available to local lenders to loan to families in the County in order to address this problem.

The program made a tremendous difference in affordability since the monthly payment for a $60,000 home in 1980 was the difference between a payment of $735 per month and $505 per month, a savings of some 30%. When compounded over a thirty-year period, this represented tens of thousands of dollars in mortgage payments saved on the $60,000 mortgage.

Through this public-private partnership, the HCHFC worked with local financial institutions to make the benefits of home ownership available to over 430 families in Harrison County, saving millions of dollars in interest over the thirty-year life of their loans for young home-owners.

The HCHFC was also instrumental in the construction of West End Park on West Houston Street in the historic New Town district of Marshall in 1995.

A proposal had been made to utilize this site for a solid waste collection site, as it had long-since been vacant following the location of Maverick Stadium to the new high school on Pinecrest Street. This property had devolved into a blighted 18-acre site, which had been the location of the old Stephen F. Austin School and football field. Judge Anderson proposed instead and structured a plan to convert this property into a public park to serve the community in an underserved area of Marshall. The structure for the plan to build the park was to bring local, county, state, and federal resources together to provide the funding and services needed to construct the park.   

Long-serving MISD Superintendent Pat Smith-Gasperson, facilitated the approval of the donation by MISD of this 18-acre property to assist this HCHFC-driven project to transform the acreage into an urban park. The structure for the park plan included a grant obtained from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, contributions of labor and equipment from Harrison County, and federal assistance provided from the AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps is a federal program which was established in 1993 to provide labor and resources to help address critical infrastructure and other needs in local communities in America, plus educational grant funding opportunities for the students and other citizens who serve in the AmeriCorps program to help strengthen these communities.

West End Park represented the first park constructed in the underserved west end community in many years. The park now consists of two basketball courts, a covered pavilion, a soccer field and children’s playground equipment. More recently, lights and a concession stand were added to the facility through the efforts of SWEPCO and Mr. Jack Redmon. The HCHFC continues to maintain this park for the benefit of the residents of the city’s west end. The HCHFC is also currently in the process of planning upgrades for West End Park.

With the participation in the Marshall Loft project, the HCHFC continues its mission to assist with making sanitary, safe, and affordable housing available for the benefit of the Harrison County community.  #

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And it only gets better for Texas

Editor’s note:  This information was provided by one of our readers.

Remember the cost of emergency electricity last week cost more than $50 billion and who do you think is going to pay this — yes, the customers and now we find out we have been paying higher rates along!

(Good news for Harrison County, TX is we are one of the few countries NOT part of this State rip off.)

Wall Street Journal

Texas Electric Bills Were $28 Billion Higher Under Deregulation 

Competition in the electricity-supply business promised reliable power at a more affordable cost

Texas’s deregulated electricity market, which was supposed to provide reliable power at a lower price, left millions in the dark last week. For two decades, its customers have paid more for electricity than state residents who are served by traditional utilities, a Wall Street Journal analysis has found.

Nearly 20 years ago, Texas shifted from using full-service regulated utilities to generate power and deliver it to consumers. The state deregulated power generation, creating the system that failed last week. And it required nearly 60% of consumers to buy their electricity from one of many retail power companies, rather than a local utility.

Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities, according to the Journal’s analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

The crisis last week was driven by the power producers. Now that power has largely been restored, attention has turned to retail electric companies, a few of which are hitting consumers with steep bills. Power prices surged to the market price cap of $9,000 a megawatt hour for several days during the crisis, a feature of the state’s system designed to incentivize power plants to supply more juice. Some consumers who chose variable rate power plans from retail power companies are seeing the big bills.

None of this was supposed to happen under deregulation. Backers of competition in the electricity-supply business promised it would lower prices for consumers who could shop around for the best deals, just as they do for cellphone service. The system would be an improvement over monopoly utilities, which have little incentive to innovate and provide better service to customers, supporters of deregulation said.

“If all consumers don’t benefit from this, we will have wasted our time and failed our constituency,” then-state Sen. David Sibley, a key author of the bill to deregulate the market, said when the switch was first unveiled in 1999. “Competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates,” then-Gov. George W. Bush said later that year.

The EIA data shows how much electricity each utility or retail provider sold to residents in a given year and how much customers paid for it. The Journal calculated separate annual statewide rates for utilities and retailers by adding up all of the revenue each type of provider received and dividing it by the kilowatt-hours of electricity it sold.

From 2004 through 2019, the annual rate for electricity from Texas’s traditional utilities was 8% lower, on average, than the nationwide average rate, while the rates of retail providers averaged 13% higher than the nationwide rate, according to the Journal’s analysis.

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a group that buys electricity for local government use, produced similar findings in a study of the state’s power markets and concluded that high statewide prices relative to the national average “must be attributed to the deregulated sector of Texas.”

In other states that allow retail competition for electricity, customers have the option of getting their power from a regulated utility. The absence of an incumbent utility in parts of Texas that allow retail competition makes it difficult for consumers to know if they are paying too much for power, critics say.

The push to deregulate the electricity-supply market in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. began in the 1990s amid similar efforts in airlines, natural gas and phone services. Leading the charge was Enron, the Houston energy company and champion of free markets that went bankrupt in 2001 amid revelations of widespread fraud.

For power generators, the laissez-faire market design rewarded companies that could sell electricity inexpensively and still recover their capital costs. But it provided little incentive for companies to spend cash on infrastructure that could protect power plants during sporadic severe cold snaps.

Catherine Webking, general counsel for the Texas Energy Association for Marketers, an industry trade group, said retail providers give customers access to more choices than many standard utilities, such as renewable-energy products. Customers also typically have the option to switch plans, she said. If customers “don’t feel it’s the best thing for them they can find a different provider,” she said. 

On the retail power side, dozens of competitors emerged after deregulation. But recently, competition in Texas has been declining amid a wave or mergers in the industry.

Texas is home to the two of the nation’s largest retail-energy providers, VistraCorp. VST +2.07% and NRG Energy Inc. NRG +0.52%Marketers now owned by the two companies accounted for three quarters of the retail electricity sold in Texas in 2019.

In January, NRG completed its $3.6 billion purchase of retail-energy provider Direct Energy, which doubled the number of NRG’s retail customers to six million and boosted its workforce from about 4,500 to 7,500. About half of its retail customers are in Texas.

Vistra’s largest Texas retail subsidiary, TXU Energy, and NRG have said their customers wouldn’t be hit by spiking prices due to the blackouts because their electricity plans aren’t tied to short-term price swings in the wholesale electricity market.

Tim Morstad, associate state director of AARP Texas and a critic of retail-energy suppliers, said he expects many retail customers to suffer increases in their rates in the near future as the companies price in sky-high power rates seen during the winter blast. Most vulnerable, he said, would be customers of retail energy providers who have signed up for variable-rate plans that rise and fall every month amid fluctuations in market rates.

“The prices are definitely going to increase,” he said. “For those on variable contracts, they’ll feel the pinch sooner.”

Some retail-energy providers enter long-term contracts for the electricity they sell to consumers, potentially shielding them from the dramatic surge in the wholesale market seen last week, said Kenneth Rose, an independent consultant at Michigan State University who has studied the retail-energy industry.

The Texas Public Utility Commission said it has “strongly urged” retail electric providers to delay billing residential and small commercial customers.

Remember the cost of emergency electricity last week cost more than $50 billion and who do you think is going to pay this — yes, the customers and now we find out we have been paying higher rates along!

(Good news for Harrison County, TX is we are one of the few counties NOT part of this State rip off.)

Wall Street Jounal

Texas Electric Bills Were $28 Billion Higher Under Deregulation 

Competition in the electricity-supply business promised reliable power at a more affordable cost

Texas’s deregulated electricity market, which was supposed to provide reliable power at a lower price, left millions in the dark last week. For two decades, its customers have paid more for electricity than state residents who are served by traditional utilities, a Wall Street Journal analysis has found.

Nearly 20 years ago, Texas shifted from using full-service regulated utilities to generate power and deliver it to consumers. The state deregulated power generation, creating the system that failed last week. And it required nearly 60% of consumers to buy their electricity from one of many retail power companies, rather than a local utility.

Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities, according to the Journal’s analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

The crisis last week was driven by the power producers. Now that power has largely been restored, attention has turned to retail electric companies, a few of which are hitting consumers with steep bills. Power prices surged to the market price cap of $9,000 a megawatt hourfor several days during the crisis, a feature of the state’s system designed to incentivize power plants to supply more juice. Some consumers who chose variable rate power plans from retail power companies are seeing the big bills.

None of this was supposed to happen under deregulation. Backers of competition in the electricity-supply business promised it would lower prices for consumers who could shop around for the best deals, just as they do for cellphone service. The system would be an improvement over monopoly utilities, which have little incentive to innovate and provide better service to customers, supporters of deregulation said.

“If all consumers don’t benefit from this, we will have wasted our time and failed our constituency,” then-state Sen. David Sibley, a key author of the bill to deregulate the market, said when the switch was first unveiled in 1999. “Competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates,” then-Gov. George W. Bush said later that year.

The EIA data shows how much electricity each utility or retail provider sold to residents in a given year and how much customers paid for it. The Journal calculated separate annual statewide rates for utilities and retailers by adding up all of the revenue each type of provider received and dividing it by the kilowatt-hours of electricity it sold.

From 2004 through 2019, the annual rate for electricity from Texas’s traditional utilities was 8% lower, on average, than the nationwide average rate, while the rates of retail providers averaged 13% higher than the nationwide rate, according to the Journal’s analysis.

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a group that buys electricity for local government use, produced similar findings in a study of the state’s power markets and concluded that high statewide prices relative to the national average “must be attributed to the deregulated sector of Texas.”

In other states that allow retail competition for electricity, customers have the option of getting their power from a regulated utility. The absence of an incumbent utility in parts of Texas that allow retail competition makes it difficult for consumers to know if they are paying too much for power, critics say.

The push to deregulate the electricity-supply market in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. began in the 1990s amid similar efforts in airlines, natural gas and phone services. Leading the charge was Enron, the Houston energy company and champion of free markets that went bankrupt in 2001 amid revelations of widespread fraud.

For power generators, the laissez-faire market design rewarded companies that could sell electricity inexpensively and still recover their capital costs. But it provided little incentive for companies to spend cash on infrastructure that could protect power plants during sporadic severe cold snaps.

Catherine Webking, general counsel for the Texas Energy Association for Marketers, an industry trade group, said retail providers give customers access to more choices than many standard utilities, such as renewable-energy products. Customers also typically have the option to switch plans, she said. If customers “don’t feel it’s the best thing for them they can find a different provider,” she said. 

On the retail power side, dozens of competitors emerged after deregulation. But recently, competition in Texas has been declining amid a wave or mergers in the industry.

Texas is home to the two of the nation’s largest retail-energy providers, VistraCorp. VST +2.07% and NRG Energy Inc. NRG +0.52%Marketers now owned by the two companies accounted for three quarters of the retail electricity sold in Texas in 2019.

In January, NRG completed its $3.6 billion purchase of retail-energy provider Direct Energy, which doubled the number of NRG’s retail customers to six million and boosted its workforce from about 4,500 to 7,500. About half of its retail customers are in Texas.

Vistra’s largest Texas retail subsidiary, TXU Energy, and NRG have said their customers wouldn’t be hit by spiking prices due to the blackouts because their electricity plans aren’t tied to short-term price swings in the wholesale electricity market.

Tim Morstad, associate state director of AARP Texas and a critic of retail-energy suppliers, said he expects many retail customers to suffer increases in their rates in the near future as the companies price in sky-high power rates seen during the winter blast. Most vulnerable, he said, would be customers of retail energy providers who have signed up for variable-rate plans that rise and fall every month amid fluctuations in market rates.

“The prices are definitely going to increase,” he said. “For those on variable contracts, they’ll feel the pinch sooner.”

Some retail-energy providers enter long-term contracts for the electricity they sell to consumers, potentially shielding them from the dramatic surge in the wholesale market seen last week, said Kenneth Rose, an independent consultant at Michigan State University who has studied the retail-energy industry.

The Texas Public Utility Commission said it has “strongly urged” retail electric providers to delay billing residential and small commercial customers.

Remember the cost of emergency electricity last week cost more than $50 billion and who do you think is going to pay this — yes, the customers and now we find out we have been paying higher rates along!

(Good news for Harrison County, TX is we are one of the few countries NOT part of this State rip off.)

Wall Street Jounal

Texas Electric Bills Were $28 Billion Higher Under Deregulation 

Competition in the electricity-supply business promised reliable power at a more affordable cost

Texas’s deregulated electricity market, which was supposed to provide reliable power at a lower price, left millions in the dark last week. For two decades, its customers have paid more for electricity than state residents who are served by traditional utilities, a Wall Street Journal analysis has found.

Nearly 20 years ago, Texas shifted from using full-service regulated utilities to generate power and deliver it to consumers. The state deregulated power generation, creating the system that failed last week. And it required nearly 60% of consumers to buy their electricity from one of many retail power companies, rather than a local utility.

Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities, according to the Journal’s analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

The crisis last week was driven by the power producers. Now that power has largely been restored, attention has turned to retail electric companies, a few of which are hitting consumers with steep bills. Power prices surged to the market price cap of $9,000 a megawatt hourfor several days during the crisis, a feature of the state’s system designed to incentivize power plants to supply more juice. Some consumers who chose variable rate power plans from retail power companies are seeing the big bills.

None of this was supposed to happen under deregulation. Backers of competition in the electricity-supply business promised it would lower prices for consumers who could shop around for the best deals, just as they do for cellphone service. The system would be an improvement over monopoly utilities, which have little incentive to innovate and provide better service to customers, supporters of deregulation said.

“If all consumers don’t benefit from this, we will have wasted our time and failed our constituency,” then-state Sen. David Sibley, a key author of the bill to deregulate the market, said when the switch was first unveiled in 1999. “Competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates,” then-Gov. George W. Bush said later that year.

The EIA data shows how much electricity each utility or retail provider sold to residents in a given year and how much customers paid for it. The Journal calculated separate annual statewide rates for utilities and retailers by adding up all of the revenue each type of provider received and dividing it by the kilowatt-hours of electricity it sold.

From 2004 through 2019, the annual rate for electricity from Texas’s traditional utilities was 8% lower, on average, than the nationwide average rate, while the rates of retail providers averaged 13% higher than the nationwide rate, according to the Journal’s analysis.

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a group that buys electricity for local government use, produced similar findings in a study of the state’s power markets and concluded that high statewide prices relative to the national average “must be attributed to the deregulated sector of Texas.”

In other states that allow retail competition for electricity, customers have the option of getting their power from a regulated utility. The absence of an incumbent utility in parts of Texas that allow retail competition makes it difficult for consumers to know if they are paying too much for power, critics say.

The push to deregulate the electricity-supply market in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. began in the 1990s amid similar efforts in airlines, natural gas and phone services. Leading the charge was Enron, the Houston energy company and champion of free markets that went bankrupt in 2001 amid revelations of widespread fraud.

For power generators, the laissez-faire market design rewarded companies that could sell electricity inexpensively and still recover their capital costs. But it provided little incentive for companies to spend cash on infrastructure that could protect power plants during sporadic severe cold snaps.

Catherine Webking, general counsel for the Texas Energy Association for Marketers, an industry trade group, said retail providers give customers access to more choices than many standard utilities, such as renewable-energy products. Customers also typically have the option to switch plans, she said. If customers “don’t feel it’s the best thing for them they can find a different provider,” she said. 

On the retail power side, dozens of competitors emerged after deregulation. But recently, competition in Texas has been declining amid a wave or mergers in the industry.

Texas is home to the two of the nation’s largest retail-energy providers, VistraCorp. VST +2.07% and NRG Energy Inc. NRG +0.52%Marketers now owned by the two companies accounted for three quarters of the retail electricity sold in Texas in 2019.

In January, NRG completed its $3.6 billion purchase of retail-energy provider Direct Energy, which doubled the number of NRG’s retail customers to six million and boosted its workforce from about 4,500 to 7,500. About half of its retail customers are in Texas.

Vistra’s largest Texas retail subsidiary, TXU Energy, and NRG have said their customers wouldn’t be hit by spiking prices due to the blackouts because their electricity plans aren’t tied to short-term price swings in the wholesale electricity market.

Tim Morstad, associate state director of AARP Texas and a critic of retail-energy suppliers, said he expects many retail customers to suffer increases in their rates in the near future as the companies price in sky-high power rates seen during the winter blast. Most vulnerable, he said, would be customers of retail energy providers who have signed up for variable-rate plans that rise and fall every month amid fluctuations in market rates.

“The prices are definitely going to increase,” he said. “For those on variable contracts, they’ll feel the pinch sooner.”

Some retail-energy providers enter long-term contracts for the electricity they sell to consumers, potentially shielding them from the dramatic surge in the wholesale market seen last week, said Kenneth Rose, an independent consultant at Michigan State University who has studied the retail-energy industry.

The Texas Public Utility Commission said it has “strongly urged” retail electric providers to delay billing residential and small commercial customers.

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2020 Has Demonstrated One Thing

2020 Has Demonstrated One Thing

By Ron Munden — 01/04/2021

COVID-19 has demonstrated one thing — the United States cannot win a war against an adversary — be it a nation or a virus.

This country’s response Covid has been a complete failure.  We have more cases and deaths even though other countries have bigger populations and less resources.

We can say that this is because of poor leadership by President Trump.  While Trump contributed to the failure, he is not the big reason for the failure.

We have met the enemy and it is us — the American people. 

Thank God – World War II was fought by America’s greatest generation.  If my generations and the following generations had been responsible for winning WWII, we would be speaking German today.

COVID demonstrated that today the American people can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. 

While the US military is still the best military in the world, that is less than 10% of the country’s population.  Health care workers have done their job  but that is less than 20% of the population.  The rest of us, the majority of the country, have demonstrated we are unfit for duty.

Our COVID failure points out our county’s critical weaknesses:

Lack of Leadership – Trump said he was a war-time president but he did not manage the COVID problem like you would manage a war.  The old saying goes: Lead, follow or get out of the way.  Trump just layed down across the road and went to sleep.

While this was a problem.  A much bigger problem is the attitude of the American people.

To win a war you must be united.  During WWII Americans were united.  Our parents demonstrated character and discipline. There was a spirit of shared sacrifice.  

Today the United States is at war with itself.  Both political parties put party above country. Both parties would rather fight to the death against each other party rather than do something good for the country.

Today rural America is in a war with metropolitan America. 

The hatred of Americans for Americans has never been more intense since the Civil War.

Sadly the pandemic has shown the United States is a nation in decline.  The US is on a trajectory to take it from the World Superpower to the newest banana republic. 

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It Was A Very Strange Year

It Was A Very Strange Year

By Ron Munden — 01/01/2021

Normally during the last week of each year I post “Year In Review” articles on the website.  This year I did not do that because in some ways 2020 did not happen.  To be more precise the last 3-months of 2020 did not happen.

2020 did start off like years always do.  In January and February I shot events on my normal shoot list.  In late February we left for Florida as we have done for the last 5 years.  When I returned in mid-March the world had changed.

By the time I returned to Marshall, all of the events I normally shoot in the Spring had been cancelled.  Cancellations continue through the rest of the year.  My photography year was over.  Normally I shoot between 30,000 and 40,000 images a year.  This year the number was less than 5,000.

In the past I tried to write an article every week or two.  I don’t recall writing any articles in 2020.  I am sure that some of you are now thinking — well at least one good thing happened in 2020.

It was a very bad year for EastTexasExposed.  In a regular year at least 60 percent of the content for the site is driven by event photography.  That went to zero.  I quit writing about the city when they move to virtual meetings.  One thing have we learned for sure is content drives readership.

In early March the site had 3000 to 5000 unique visitors per day.  By September the number had dropped to 500 to 1000 visitors.  While the numbers have improved some in the fourth quarter, the number of visits is still below 2000 visits each day.

So EastTexasExposed.com has a hole to dig out of in 2021.

We have used our time over the last few months to enhance the site:

  • During the last quarter of 2020 we completely rewrote the “php” code for EastTexasExposed.  The code was over 5-year old and badly in need of attention.
  • We have worked to change the graphic mix of the site from 100 percent photos to a mix of photos and videos.  Since surveys show that more people now prefer video, we will continue to increase the video percentage.
  • We have integrated the website with social media including facebook, instagram, youtube, twitter and a WordPress blog.  We feel this will increase our  potential audience.
  • Finally, Dr. Jim Harris allows us to publish his COVID-19 Update daily.  This is a valuable document that should be read by all of us.

In summary, like most people and organizations, 2020 was not a good year for EastTexasExposed.  We recognized that things don’t change overnight.  There is very little difference between December 31, 2020 and January  1, 2021.  All the problems we faced yesterday are in large part still there today.  But there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.  Six to nine months from now we will reach the “new norm.”

Happy New Years 2021!

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Stray thoughts as we start a new year

Stray thoughts as we start a new year

By George Smith — 01/01/2021

Stray thoughts as we start a new year:

— Yo! 2021. What took you so long? 

— At 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, for the first time ever, everything was truly hindsight 2020.

— Buckle your seatbelts. 2021 won’t be 2020 but then, no other year has been either. One thing is sure: “Different” has been a way of life for almost a year. Everybody is ready, I believe, for a different “different” than the “different” experienced last year.

— if you are a member of the Republican Party, after January 20, you have a decision to make: Are you going to be a traditional “Republican” or join whatever party Trump will form? Either way, your influence in national politics will be severely curtailed.  

If you stay a loyal member of the GOP, you must figure out how to expand your base in order to be relevant; if you are a die-hard MAGAist, you are a cohort of racists, neo-Nazis, crazed evangelists and QAnon conspiracists.

— Remember: There is a difference between a socialist and a democratic socialist. America is a democratic socialist republic. It is. Seriously. Look it up. Go on! Google it!

— If you are tired of old rich men and women like McConnell, Schumer, Pelosi, Collins, Gohmert, et al, gumming up the works of the federal government…we are on the same page.

— Ditto if you believe it is wrong for one person to have the power to prevent a bill, any bill, from coming to a vote so our elected officials have to record a vote.

— Ditto again if you believe that politicians who lie, lie about lying and refuse to own up and label themselves a liar should not only be summarily dismissed from the public position they hold but also should be publicly flogged with a graphite fly rod.

May 2021 be the Year of the Do Right Revolutions, a movement where folks pledge to “do right” in their personal and professional lives.

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