Texas Politics
 
   
Texas Politics Speakers Series Transcripts

Jerry Patterson in "Politics, Partisanship, Perception & Public Policy" for the Texas Politics Speaker Series on October 16, 2008.

Dr. James Henson: I'm very pleased to welcome Jerry Patterson, the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, to the University of Texas at Austin, and the Texas Politics Speaker series. Commissioner Patterson was elected land commissioner in 2002, and re-elected by a wide margin in 2006. He graduated from Texas A and M University in College Station in 1969 with a degree in history. In 1972 he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. He was later designated a naval flight officer in Pensacola, and served in marine fighter squadrons until his retirement from the Marine Corp Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 1993. He served in the Texas senate for three sessions, before being elected land commissioner. And while in the senate he represented one of the storied seats in the senate, District Eleven in southeast Texas. And to get elected in 1992, he unseated the incumbent Chet Brooks. In his three legislative sessions in the state senate, his major successes included passage of the concealed handgun law in 1995, a constitutional amendment allowing home equity lending in 1998, the state coastal management plan, and the creation of the Texas state veterans home program. And in 2004, in terms of politics, Commissioner Patterson headed the Texas state campaign for the re-election of George W. Bush. As land commissioner he's been involved in a range of prominent issues, including energy, especially wind power, the use of state lands, most prominently the Christmas Mountains near Big Bend, and coastal land use and preservation, an issue that stretches back to his time in the senate, and an issue of pressing importance in the wake of Hurricane Ike. We appreciate the commissioner taking time to come talk to us. As I was telling him before we started, he's been recommended across a broad spectrum of people involved in Texas politics, people that are both colleagues and friends. So we're very happy to have him here, so please join me in welcoming Commissioner Jerry Patterson to the University of Texas at Austin.

(Applause.)

Mr. Patterson: Thank you.

Well thank you for the introduction. And I guess I'll stand behind the podium, actually I'm going to do that because I'll rest my arm. I broke my wrist recently, and the good news about breaking your wrist is you don't have to wear a tie, you don't even have to button your buttons, and nobody cares. So my advice to you is when you turn sixty, I'm actually almost sixty two, don't do cartwheels. That's what I was doing, that's how I broke my wrist. I wanted to get it out there on the table now, and I don't want to talk about it any more. Is that okay with everybody? I'm the Texas Land Commissioner. And people go what does the land commissioner do? And kind of an overview at the outset, but let me be a little bit more specific. The General Land Office is the oldest agency in Texas government. We've had a land commissioner longer than we've had a governor. We had a land commissioner in 1837, we didn't have a governor until 1846. The mission of the land office has evolved today to be fairly diverse. But I would just, the first thing I'll tell you is that we're the only state agency, unless you include the lottery commission, that actually makes money. The comptroller will tell you that she makes money, but I will tell you know, I'll tell both Susan and Carol, her predecessor that you know, you don't make money, you take money. You're the tax lady, that's taking money. But the land office makes money. Our revenues are about a half a billion dollars a year, on a budget of about fifty million. No matter how you run that, that's pretty good return on investment. Our primary function is making money off of state lands and state mineral resources. State lands, if you consider that Texas is about a hundred and seventy three million acres, we really don't know, which is another interesting story, but a hundred and seventy three million acres in Texas is the size of the entire state as it exists today, not when the Panhandle went up into Wyoming. But in Texas about 94% of all surface acres is privately owned. So when it comes to surface acreage, we have about, depending on how you measure it, about four to five million acres surface, but we have a total acreage of thirteen million. And that balance is made up with places where we don't own the surface, but we own some or all of the minerals. And it also includes four and a half million acres that are called submerged lands, most of which is in the Gulf of Mexico. Texas is unique in that we are sovereign, that we own the land not three nautical miles offshore, like all other coastal states, but we have a sovereignty of nine nautical miles offshore, primarily because Sam Houston was a really good real estate guy, and insisted when we came in the union that our boundaries as a state be the same as they were as a republic, and as a republic we claim nine miles as the Republic of Mexico is nine miles, the kingdom of Spain it was nine miles. And so a long fight over that was finally settled about nineteen, oh and an interesting partisan story, but it's a good one I'll tell maybe. It was settled in 1954 with the election of President Eisenhower, a republican, who was endorsed by Governor Shivers here in Texas, a democrat, because Governor Shivers decided to put his state ahead of his party. The story, to be kind of brief on it, Texas had always claimed an offshore jurisdiction like that. Nobody cared. Who cares? Do you want to keep the muddy, sandy bottom in the Gulf of Mexico, set your hair on fire. But then when offshore production of oil and gas became a reality, all of a sudden, the federal government cared, and said no, you don't own those submerged acres. This was called The Tidelands Dispute, even though nine nautical miles out in the Gulf is hardly tidal. Well in 1948 we elected a governor named Buford H. Jester, you've heard of Jester Hall. Buford Jester was a, and a lieutenant governor named Allan Shivers. And Shivers had been involved as a member of the Texas senate in trying to recover the tidelands, this area that the federal government had taken away from us that we had claimed since eighteen, well since Spain was dominant. And Shivers had been very active in this. That was he'd become essentially a one note Johnny on recovery of the tidelands. Well are there any relatives of Buford Jester here? Okay, good. So Buford Jester was in his late forties, he lived in the governor's mansion, his family lived in Corsicana, and he was essentially a bachelor here in Austin. Well times were different in 1948. Governor Jester had a paramour, if you will, and these were during times when those things were not, they may have been widely known, but they were certainly not widely reported. Well in 1949, the governor and this lady were traveling on a train to Galveston, and you traveled by train back then, not plane. And apparently during an episode of intense physical activity the governor had a heart attack and passed. So you're wondering what this has got to do with the tidelands. Well, as a result of the governor's untimely demise, Allan Shivers becomes governor, elevated from lieutenant governor to governor. Allan Shivers is still a guy that wants to recover the tidelands. Shivers is elected in, re-elected in his own right in 1950, and he's up in fifty two. I gave you the wrong date on the presidential election. In the 1952 presidential election Shivers is up, and of course he's the senior democrat in Texas, and of course he was going to support, clearly, the democrat nominee, Adlai Stevenson. Well Shivers calls up Stevenson, I think Stevenson was a senator or governor from Illinois, I can't recall which. Anyway, calls up the democrat nominee for president and says, "Will you support Texas' claim to the tidelands?" And Stevenson says, "no, I will not." Then Shivers calls Eisenhower and said, "Will you support Texas' claim to the tidelands." And Eisenhower said, "Yes, I will." As a result of that, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, led by the governor Allan Shivers decided to endorse for president the nominee of the other party because of the tidelands issue. Dwight Eisenhower carried Texas, which was unusual at that time for the democrat party to carry over the republican party, became president, and in 1953 signed the bill re-establishing Texas sovereignty over the submerged lands in the Gulf of Mexico, all because of a little train ride that didn't go according to plan. Well, not exactly. All because of the guy who was governor, who decided that his state was more important than his party. Now this tidelands bill that was signed by President Eisenhower was still litigated up until 1961. But as a result of that restoration of sovereignty, we've generated probably two and a half to three billion dollars in additional royalty income, which goes to the permanent school fund, which helps fund public education in Texas. So I'd like to talk about that episode, because it shows a guy who decided that his party was not as important as the people he was elected to represent. And I think that's probably the most classic example in Texas politics. Now I was elected in a district in nineteen, I ran in 1990 for the senate, actually I ran for congress in 1984 unsuccessfully, came in second out of two, I didn't really lose. I ran in 1990 for the Texas senate against the incumbent, dean of the senate at that time, Senator Chet Brooks, came in second out of two. Ran again two years later, redistricting at you know, cut the terms from four to two years that first session.

And at the end of the day, actually about four o'clock in the morning I had 48.5% of the vote, all votes counted. But that was more than the other two guys, cause there was a libertarian in the race that had pulled some votes, so that was more than the other two guys. So I was elected to the senate in a district that was not supposed to be able to be won by someone of my party. Interesting, you know, how you use issues to cut across party lines. And essentially that's what I did. An issue at that time was the second amendment, of course it still is. You know, when your opponent is weak on an issue, that's the issue that you happen to be, try to be strong on. And of course you run at that time on a platform of, you know, at that time a silly, succinct platform, which is exactly the kind of thing that appeals to voters, I have to tell you. No matter what election it is, you want to boil it down to something simple, which is not always honest. My billboard said "Limit politicians' terms, not prisoners' terms." Cause at that time we had a controversy in Texas about what was called mandatory supervision, which was essentially the release of felons prior to the end of their sentence, based upon a formula which resulted in several very violent felons being released early, and one of them, I cannot recall his name, committed about five murders once he was early released, two of them of young ladies here in Austin. It was a class, I can't think, not important what the murder, pardon?

Male Voice: Ken McDuff?

Mr. Patterson: Kenneth McDuff, Kenneth McDuff. So there was a great anger about early release of violent felons. There was disgust with government, of course that hadn't changed, right, not at all. So limit politicians' terms not prisoners' terms. So I ran on a platform of term limits. And I have to tell you now, I don't believe in term limits. But having ran on that platform, I left the senate after six years and ran for land commissioner unsuccessfully, and then ran again four years later successfully. I love controversy. I sometimes generate controversy. Controversy is good. Public officials or candidates who will look you in the eye and tell you something you don't like to hear is the kind of person that I like to vote to, vote for, even if I don't agree with him. And I can maybe enumerate some of the controversies I've been involved in. How many here believe that the second amendment protects an enumerated right to keep and bear arms. Okay. How many don't? Cause there's a certain amount of people that just don't want to let a thing be, they don't want us to know they're packing I guess. Well of those who raised their hands, it was a preponderance, you know, the majority of, you know, most of you didn't raise your hands. For those who did, I think it was a clear advantage for those who believe the second amendment. That's kind of a new policy position that is widely accepted across Texas and the country. Of course the supreme court just recently ruled five four that it did protect an individual right. But that was an issue when I was in the legislature. There was a bill that, called the Concealed Handgun Law, and in 1993 I was a senate sponsor of that bill. And it passed, although it had been watered down to be nothing more than a referendum on whether or not we should have a law allowing certain citizens to carry a gun on their person concealed. It was watered down because the governor at that time, Ann Richards, had said she would veto the bill. So the legislature watered it down, hopefully that she wouldn't veto it, that she wouldn't veto a referendum on whether we should. But she vetoed the bill, and that was an issue in the ninety four gubernatorial race when George W. Bush defeated Governor Richards. And I'm kind of a fan of Governor Richards, not necessarily her policy, but her wit, her humor, and the fact that she really didn't care what anybody thought about her. I like that. So anyway, she vetoed it. 1995 I was the senate author of the concealed handgun law that passed and became law. And I have to tell you, having been in public life, six years in the senate, six years in the land office, at other times working for people, or helping people get elected or un-elected, I have learned to distrust the voracity of those who are in the print and the broadcast media. No offense to the young lady with the you know, the kind of funny pad there that you always tell they're a reporter cause that's that kind of pad. Because generally speaking, they have deadlines, which is always bad for getting anything factually correct, and they don't always tell the truth even though they sometimes think they are. And I'll tell you why I say that. In 1995 the bill was being debated. It was the most high profile issue in the Texas legislature. The detractors, which included every single editorial board in the state, and they almost all said the same thing. That if we pass this concealed handgun law it will be, and I'm quoting, wild wild west, blood in the streets, shootouts at every four way stop. Every single one of them. We passed the law, became effective in January first, 1996, and all the data, DPS was required by the legislature to keep data on felony arrests and convictions by those who have licenses, showed that those who have licenses are five times less likely to commit a violent offense than those who don't have licenses, when you compare the comparable populations of over age twenty one. You've got to be twenty one to get the license to carry. So if you compare everybody over the age twenty one, if you've got a concealed handgun license, those who don't have a handgun license commit five times the amount of violent felonies. That was pretty intuitive to me. Because you think through this, carrying unlawfully concealed in Texas is a class A misdemeanor. That's two years and two thousand dollars, or two years and four thousand dollars, I don't know what it is. It's a class A misdemeanor, unless you carry in a bar, or certain places. If you were to pull the gun out and actually drill somebody with it, in Texas that's punishable by death by injection. Now tell me how someone who is going to risk being executed, and think that's a viable risk, is going to be concerned about a misdemeanor conviction for unlawful carrying. The people who are concerned about a misdemeanor conviction for unlawful carrying are going to get a license. And if they're concerned about a misdemeanor conviction for unlawful carrying, they're certainly not going to be concerned, or they're certainly going to be concerned about death by injection. It makes no sense. Similar to the arguments we've had, there was a big debate when we were passing the bill about adding prohibited locations. Okay you can have a license, but you can't carry here, there, everywhere, whatever. So we put a bunch of privied locations in there to get votes we needed to pass the bill. We've repealed some of those since that time. But one of the most, I thought, ludicrous and self serving was the prohibited location that was going to be you can't carry in the Capital. And I'm thinking, now okay, we're going to pass this bill because we think it's good for Texas, and we think it's going to make Texas safer, not less safe, and then we're going to say, "oh but not here in the Capital, because we're members of the legislature, and we don't want somebody shooting at us." Well I defeated that amendment, but it was pretty tough to do so. Well we can't have people with guns in the Capital, I said wait a minute we're telling the citizens of Texas this is good policy, except for around us. And furthermore, think this one through. We were going to require signs posting that says you can't carry here. I said think this one through. Somebody out there in the public gets really mad at the legislature, and they decide that they're going to get their assault weapon, which by definition is a weapon that carries more than two, more than one bullet, frankly in the idea of what an assault weapon is. They're going to go park in the state parking garage, they're going to take that high capacity magazine, weapon, whatever, maybe it's just a revolver, they're going to walk over to the Capital. As they get to the Capital with the intent to commit serial capital murder by shooting members of the legislature from the gallery, there's a sign, it says no guns, and they go doggonit I can't do, I can't go in there. Aw, doggonit. The illogic, the just clueless gut reactions of people both in and out of the fifth estate, or fourth estate, whatever you call the media, you just have to stop and analyze it. Anyway, we passed that bill, Texas homicides by handgun have declined. Was it because of the concealed handgun law? You can't prove that. But you can certainly prove that all those who said wild wild west, shootouts at every four way stop, end of civilization as we know it, were clueless. And there's a greater element to that than just guns. And that element, or that fact, or whatever, the point is, is that government in my view, by its very nature tends to underestimate the ability of citizens to make good choices. We can't let people have a gun, they might make a bad decision, only the government can have guns. And I have to tell you, any government that doesn't trust its citizens with a firearm is a government that can't be trusted. And I told the prime minister of Australia that, John Howard, in a little meeting, and apparently I went to, I was over in Australia visiting and I had an opportunity to meet him. He's like the president, he's the prime minister. And he'd apparently done his homework on me on whatever, and he said oh you're the gun guy in Texas, and I said yes, sir. He said are you carrying now? I said no sir, because your country doesn't trust citizens with firearms, and therefore your country can't be trusted. He laughed, but I felt good telling him that. You know, I mentioned the home equity lending law, you may not know this. But at one time in Texas you could only use your home equity as collateral for a loan that was called home improvement.

You couldn't use your home equity's collateral for a loan for any other purpose. In other words, you could use your home equity's collateral for a loan to put a patio hot tub out back, but if you wanted to use your home equity's collateral for a loan to send your kids to college or to start a business, or frankly for that matter to blow it in Vegas, the government was going to take care of you from making bad choices. Hot tub okay, college for kids not okay because by virtue of being a Texan, since in Texas we were the only state in the union that prohibited using your home equity's collateral for a loan other than home improvement. Texas, we're going to take care of our citizens, they're too stupid to understand how to manage their money. I reject the premise. So in 1993, my first session, I carried the home equity lending constitutional amendment, I was a pillory that was trying to overturn the homestead exemption. This has nothing to do with homestead exemption, which is a property tax issue. But in Texas there's this myth that you can't have your home foreclosed on, even if you don't make your payments, which is a myth. That it's somehow protected, and it is. But anyway, I carried it in ninety three, it never got out of the committee. Carried it in ninety five, it got out of the senate and died at the house. I carried it in 1997, it passed both houses by two thirds. Went to the voters and it was approved like about 62 to 38%. And all those, all the anti's, all the people that said you're overturning the homestead exemption, there's going to be terrible things happen. Now we put some pretty good consumer safeguards in there, 80% loan to value. In other words, if your house is worth two hundred thousand, you can only encumber a hundred and sixty with the home equity loan. But that was another example of how the perception of what's right and wrong, and real and not real, and what's good and bad is seldom what is presented, either by those in elective office, or those who comment on those elected office. You know there's other controversies. How many ride a motorcycle? Well if you do, you should stop, frankly. But anyway. That's a dangerous activity. I believe, I don't ride a motorcycle, I do dangerous activities, I do cartwheels, I fly little airplanes around, you know. But riding a motorcycle is a dangerous activity. At one time in Texas it was mandatory to wear a helmet. I repealed that law. And all the people, you know, we're going to have all this, they would argue two things. You know, the emergency room physicians at Texas Medical Association, now wait a minute, we can't do that, we're going to have all this high death rate, higher death rate, and we're going to have all this uncompensated care by people who are vegetative and you know, burdens on the state. Well I said those arguments are mutually exclusive. Dead people are not burdens. If you're dead, you're not in a nursing home somewhere. And furthermore, if it becomes the government's business to regulate my involvement in dangerous activity, then we shouldn't have any skydiving, any cave diving or cave exploring. I mean there's a whole list of activities that the government should say you can't do that because we're going to protect you. And that was controversial, but it passed. And there's really no good data, because how do you know if somebody had a motorcycle accident they died because they didn't have a helmet. Maybe they just broke their neck, and maybe frankly, if they died because they didn't have a helmet, they otherwise would have lived with a broken neck, and you know, an inability to use their limbs. So the argument is not as it appears to be. One of the issues, I filibustered and killed a bill my last session in the legislature that had to do with, it was a gambling bill. It was an anti-gambling bill. Now I was a republican, and I'm telling you, there's certain things as a republican you don't want to be on the wrong side of, gambling is one of them. This bill was a bill to outlaw what are called eight liners. An eight liner is something you'll see in a convenience store, it looks like a slot machine, it's really not. And under Texas law, if the eight liner, you know, if you put your quarter in there and it lines up the cherries, you're supposed to get a coupon that's redeemable at some place, like Wal-Mart or some you know, some store. You can trade those coupons for merchandise. Well the problem is many of those operators just pay you cash. That's gambling, that's against the law. Well this bill to outlaw eight liners, this anti-gambling bill that was at that time Governor Bush's bill, it was one of his top legislative priorities in the conservative republican groups. And I say I'm okay with it if you treat everybody fairly. Now I'm a retired marine, and I was the chairman of the senate veterans affairs committee, and the VFW, veterans of foreign wars, who had eight liners in their VFW post, and who operate them legally, and say you'll get a coupon and you can go elsewhere and redeem it for merchandise. They said you know, we make a lot of money doing that, you know, it's really profitable for our VFW posts. I said okay, my pledge to you is you'll be treated fairly. Well the bill that came out and was on the senate floor on the last day it could pass outlawed eight liners, unless prizes were awarded on premise. So in other words, if you had an eight liner and you could give that person a prize, not cash, on the premises of the eight liners, that was okay, that was not gambling. But if you had an eight liner at the VFW hall, and you got a coupon redeemable at Wal-Mart, that was illegal, that was gambling. I said I'm going to kill your bill. No you won't do this, this is the governor's bill. Certainly you won't kill the governor's bill. I said watch me. And so I talked till midnight, not a very long filibuster, it was about eight hours. And people said you're killing the governor's bill, I said I don't care. You're going to make everybody, either you're going to outlaw them all, or you're not going to outlaw any of them. You're going to be fair or you're not going to be fair. And so that was 1997. In 1998 I'm running for, I left the senate, and I'm running for land commissioner. And that became an issue, Jerry Patterson is pro-gambling. And once the spin and the buzz starts, it's kind of hard to head it off. I lost that election in the primary. I'm not sure, I don't think it had anything to do with that. I was out spin in the primary by a ten to one margin, and my opponent won with 51.2% of the votes. So we did incredibly well, but still it was second place. And that you know, shouldn't be good enough. But that's an example of partisanship and how you have to be too often lock stepped with the tenets of your party. I bet you if you got in a very candid conversation with anyone of any party, and said do you believe, and 100% support everything in the platform that your state or national party has, you're not going to find anyone of either party who does. Parties are driven by those who are most, I don't know what the term is. And then there are those who are public servants, who recognize there's a time when you put partisanship on the shelf, and you do something else. And those people are found in both parties, and particularly in Texas, particularly in our legislature. Although it's got more partisan over there. You know, the time I served I was pretty proud to be in an organization that you know, I find myself aligned with a member of the other party against or for something that over here there's members of my party and the other party against. It was more issue than it was partisanship. Probably the only issue that is blatantly partisan, will always be blatantly partisan, there's no way around it being blatantly partisan is redistricting, by definition. And until we do something different, other than what we're doing now, it will be blatantly partisan. And sometimes it doesn't turn out, no matter how you think it is to be as you expect it. Probably the most controversial issue I've been involved in since the concealed handgun law is the controversy, and I'm probably getting into something that you all have had some knowledge of, because it's been in the press quite a bit in the last year and a half, two years. There's a place called the Christmas Mountains. Has anybody ever been there? Cause if you were there, you would have been trespassing in order to get there. This is a classic example of how the buzz starts early, and then all the lazy members of the media go to the first person that wrote the story, and write, that becomes their source. And then that's another, and then it just repeats, repeats, repeats, repeats. Christmas Mountains is about ninety three hundred acres south of Alpine, north of the Big Bend National Park, and it has got nineteen perimeter miles. Eighteen of those nineteen miles abut private property, in which there are no public roads. There is one mile that's contiguous with Big Bend National Park, and to get from the dismount point in Big Bend National Park and to that contiguous boundary is an eight mile, four hour hike, I've done it three times. And once you get there, further travel is essentially impossible because of the terrain. I offered this to the national park twice, I offered it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife twice. They both declined. They said we don't need it, we don't want it, you can't get there, the public can't enjoy it. So I decided to put it up for auction to a private party, and then you know, with the conservation [inaudible]. The easements on the property mean it can never be developed.

You can never make it in, you can never sub-divide. It's just, essentially it's going to stay in its own natural state. And there are people out there with lots of money who like to do those kinds of things, who could buy access through an adjacent property owner. You would have thought the end of the world was coming. Anyway. We've you know, we're not selling it right now, we may sell it later. Right now we're just going to sit on it. We're trying to find a way to get people there. We granted an easement through the Big Bend National Park, or for those who want to hike the eight miles and four hours, they can actually hike to it so they can say they did that. But that's probably an issue that you're more familiar with than any of the others. Anyway, I enjoy what I do. I've got really good folks that work for me, they make even me look good. For an Aggie that crammed a normal four year course into only five years, and finished in the top 75% of his class at Texas A and M, that's pretty good. So if you all have any questions, I'd be happy. Open discussion, questions, whatever. Yes sir.

Male Voice: I have a question.

Dr. James Henson: Hang on. You want to wait for the -

Mr. Patterson: Oh we got to do the mic thing. I'm going to step out here.

Male Voice: My question regards T. Boone Pickens' recent four hundred thousand acre acquisition, land acquisition above the Ogallala Aquifer. And there's been speculation that he plans on selling water out of that Aquifer to nearby cities such as Dallas, which are water stricken. I'm wondering if he would be legally able to do that, considering it's a shared resource of Texas.

Mr. Patterson: I think, well first of all I think T. Boone Pickens has not acquired the land. I think he's acquired, he's purchased the water development rights from the surface owners. So the surface owners have either sold their rights to him, or given him first option on that water. And his plan was, as you described I think, to market that to places in Texas that need more water. DFW is a logical place to go. Now the last I heard is T. Boone has decided that water is not his game any more, and that wind and natural gas are. And so I'm pretty sure that that may not occur. But there's a lot of interesting things about that. The land that he purchased, he's competing with another water authority called the Canadian River Municipal CRMWA, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority. All of those water authorities, all of those folks up there have the ability to deplete the aquifer to a certain level. You know, maybe it's 50%. CRMWA has the ability to deplete the aquifer, and these numbers may be wrong, to 50%. Boone's rights allow him only to deplete I think to 40%. So, but the bottom line is you're absolutely correct. Ogallala Aquifer is a depleting resource, it is not recharging. We have recharging aquifers in Texas, the Carrizo Wilcox is a very fast recharge, Edwards is a fast recharge. Ogallala is not a recharge. And that's another controversy we were involved in out in west Texas. But did I answer your question?

Male Voice: Yeah.

Mr. Patterson: Okay.

I mean, yeah.

None of the stories, none of these things are as simple as they appear to be. It's you know, it's hard to get the facts, really.

Dr. James Henson: Yeah, I wanted to ask you if you could give, tell us a little bit about how things are going in Galveston, in the area.

Mr. Patterson: The question about Galveston is whether it will ever recover as a city. You know, if you know the history, when the 1900 storm came across Galveston, and this was when the population of Texas was probably three million maybe, I don't know, somebody may recall. And six thousand people were killed on the island, and another two thousand on the mainland. You know, and Galveston was thought to be gone forever. It was going to be you know, the Moody family said well we'll just hunt here. This is equal in impact to the 1900 storm, maybe greater, except for the loss of life. I don't know what the final tally is, but it's less than fifty. And the problem that Galveston has is whether it will ever come back as a viable economic entity. UTMB, University of Texas Medical Branch, there's discussion you know, that they may be laying off four thousand people, there's even discussion that it may be moved. That's the largest employer on the island, and that's the greatest fear for Galveston Island viability, is the continued presence of UTMB. If you go down there and you look at those beachfront property, you know, they're, over on Bolivar it's even worse, Bolivar Peninsula. Galveston Island's not as bad. Which is part of the thing that I'm involved in right now, that I'm sure is going to anger a lot of people, having to do with where you can build, and where you can't build, what the setbacks should be. And you know, we have a law in Texas called the rolling easement. If the beach in front of your beach house grows naturally, you gain title to that additional property. If the beach erodes you lose title. And if your structure, or your beach house on stilts ends up on the beach, too far on the beach, you don't own it any more. And I'm the guy who's got to come down there and tell you, you don't own it any more. It's a really good campaign platform. I'm here from the state, and I'm here to take your land. But I didn't take it, Mother Nature took it. You know, so that's, Galveston is in really sad shape right now. And Bolivar is even worse, but Bolivar was not the employment center and economy that, I mean it's like a, it's like a combat zone. It's like several B-52 arc light strikes have gone through with daisy cutters. Pretty bad. Okay. Yes, sir.

Male Voice: I was going to ask a question. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the Texas Commissions for Environmental Quality, and maybe some things it's been involved in recently. One of my bosses from my internship was telling me recently that there's a proposition to pump semi-radioactive waste into a supposedly dry well somewhere in Texas.

Yeah.

But that well ended up being flooded with water, and that there hasn't been very good oversight with the TCEQ.

Mr. Patterson: Yeah, the TCEQ, Texas Commission of the Environmental Quality replaced the Texas National Resources Conservation Committee, TNRCC, which was an acronym that was all too often referred to as train wreck, which had replaced the Texas Department of Water Resources, and the Texas Air Control Board. What we have today is TCEQ. TCEQ issued a permit in the county, I can't think of the county, it's out there around, Andrews County, for long-term nuclear waste storage facility. It's very controversial, but it's essentially very controversial among a small number of people. And candidly I'm not all that familiar with it. I know the environmental folks say that this is not going to work. I know that the local people want it. They are very aggressively pursuing the Andrews nuclear waste site, and frankly I can't tell you where I would fall on this, cause I really don't know. But everything that I've read, and I have to be you know, I suspect having had personal experience with what are called environmental groups, that I know the experience that I have that I'm very, very firsthand knowledgeable on, which they did not tell the truth. Then so therefore I suspect on any other issue, and one of those examples was Padre Island National Seashore. When they started drilling there, when I first became commissioner for natural gas, and the Sierra Club said George W. Bush is opening up Padre Island to drilling, when the drilling had been going on since 1948, and the only reason it stopped was cause the price of natural gas was two dollars on NMBTU [assumed spelling], and now they went back up, they started drilling again. See it's things like that, when you have firsthand personal, very detailed knowledge, that make you wonder about the things you don't have firsthand detailed personal knowledge of. And I don't know who the detractors are on that, but there's been a lot of controversy over that. And I couldn't tell you who's right, I'm not, I don't have the information. Yes, sir.

Male Voice: I just wanted to go back on rolling easement. Where do you stand on rolling easement, and -

Mr. Patterson: Where do I stand?

Male Voice: Yeah.

Mr. Patterson: It's the law, you know, it's the law, and it's the right law. There are certain risks inherent on building the water, particularly the Gulf of Mexico, or the east coast or west coast. And the public has a common law and statutory right to access the beach. And if there was no rolling easement, there would be beach houses all the way to the water's edge, and people would be calling it their private beach. So it's the right thing to do, it is the law, and we enforce it. And it works both ways. If you gain land by accretion, you gain title to it. If you lose land by erosion, you lose title to it. I say it works both ways, it works both ways in law. Lately in fact it's only been working one way, cause there's been a whole lot more erosion than there has been accretion. Yeah.

Dr. James Henson: Other questions? All right, I want to thank you one more time for coming.

Mr. Patterson: Great.

Dr. James Henson: Thank you very much, that was great.

Mr. Patterson: Appreciate it.

(End of presentation.)

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
[Home | About | People | Speaker Series]