I would like to extend my personal thanks to everyone at the Anheuser-Busch Companies for their sponsorship and support of the Guarding Texas Highways: 2008 DWI Summit. The plans for a statewide DWI training program broadcast through the formidable Busch Satellite Network hatched a year and a half ago at a meeting hosted by John Nau, owner of Silver Eagle Distributing in Houston, and John Kaestner and Francine Katz from the AB corporate offices. We were pretty proud of our DWI training efforts up to that point, but we asked for support through the Texas District and County Attorneys Foundation to spread that training to more people. John Nau talked about using the satellite network to broadcast our live training, and the folks from St. Louis were intrigued by the idea.
Those of you who attended the training at your local Budweiser distributorship on March 7 can appreciate just how much time and effort everyone put into the program. The numbers were impressive: We had over 1,000 attendees statewide and even had to cut off registrations a couple of weeks before the program because we had exceeded our capacity. The summit was our first peek into live television training, and we came away awfully impressed with the energy and skill that AB Governmental Affairs Director Steve Mastorakos, producer Bill Conerly, BSN Director Dave Waldman, on-air host Sandy Miller, and their entire team put into this effort.
Another great aspect of this training was the work of our local hosts. Many of you volunteered to be faculty for the program at the 32 broadcast locations, and this training would not have worked if you hadn’t risen to the challenge.
We also need to thank the folks at the Texas Department of Transportation for their enthusiastic support of our training efforts and the John L. and Maurine Cox Foundation, which so graciously contributed to the TDCAF when we ran out of funding for the course materials (due to the vast number of registrations). We couldn’t have done it without all of this help and support; thank you so much!
And thanks to the A-Team
We were pretty impressed with the professionalism of the people at Anheuser-Busch. But I think I am safe to say that they were impressed with the trainers we brought to the show. Thanks to Maureen McCormick, ADA in Mineola, New York; Warren Diepraam, ADA in Houston; Richard Alpert, ACDA in Fort Worth; and our own Clay Abbott, DWI Resource Prosecutor in Austin. These four are experts in their field, and we were privileged that they shared their knowledge and experience with us.
If you missed the program, it included some must-see highlights: Maureen’s riveting account of a New York case where an intoxicated driver slammed into a limousine, whose in-car camera caught the whole thing on tape; Clay’s colorful descriptions of how to prepare your officers to testify well at trial; Warren’s easy-to-reproduce courtroom demonstration of eye nystagmus; and Richard’s A-to-Z demonstration of proper blood evidence collection. Thanks to you all!
Hello to our new Board members
Bill Turner, the Brazos County DA and this year’s President, has made two new appointments to the association and foundation boards. Welcome to Jaime Tijerina, Kenedy County Attorney, who was appointed to the County Attorney at-Large position. Welcome also to Lee Hon, Polk County CDA, who takes the Region 5 Director post. Jaime fills a spot left vacant when Scott Brumley, Potter County Attorney, was elevated to the Secretary/Treasurer spot, and Lee was appointed when Chuck Rosenthal, Harris County DA, resigned from office.
Looking for funding?
Don’t come to Austin.
There’s an old saw around the Capitol that the worst place to go for help with a problem is the Texas Legislature. That’s probably in recognition that most of your problems—and their solutions—are local, and anyway, the legislature meets only once every two years.
A recent report in the Houston Chronicle newspaper supports that truism. It turns out that Texas state government spending per capita is the lowest in the country. That is viewed as good news by most, and Texas actually gets a B+ grade for the quality of governance by the Pew Center on the States. But this should be a good reminder to those of you who are responsible for your office budgets. In the long term, you probably can’t expect the state government to suddenly become a significant contributor to your bottom line. The state contributes about $35 million a year to prosecution, most of which is for elected DA prosecutor salaries, elected county attorney salary supplements, and a modest office supply fund for DAs. That figure is easily eclipsed by the Harris County DA’s budget alone. It is unrealistic to think that the state would ever be in a position to dedicate significant additional funding to prosecution offices around Texas. We need to continue to rely on the variety of state, local, and discretionary funds that keep the wheels turning.
Extra-special SAFP beds?
In March I received a letter from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice about the expansion of the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment (SAFP) program. I’ve never gotten such a letter before, so I figure these are pretty special beds that you need to know about. That may sound a little sarcastic, but indeed SAFP beds have been sought-after for awhile now, so this is good news.
Here are the numbers. Before 2007 we had 3,250 SAFP beds and a waiting list of over 800 offenders. By December 2007 that wait list was down to just above 300 offenders. In April 2008 we will see an additional 588 SAFP beds in East Texas, bringing capacity to around 3,800, and another 912 contract beds are pending. All of these additional beds should be up and running by September 2008. So, if you do the math, the addition of these SAFP beds may indeed be something to write home about!
And I have been warned that these may be more numbers than you can stand, but here goes: The 500-bed contract DWI treatment facility is now operational, and one TYC facility with 606 beds has now been transferred to TDCJ.
A former TDCAA law clerk in triple Jeopardy!
Many of you have talked with Jason Dizon, one of our able former law clerks, when you called looking for some legal assistance several years ago. Jason is now an assistant DA in New York, and he is looking to come back to a Texas prosecutors’ office soon. But you may have seen him last month on the popular TV game show, “Jeopardy!” Jason had a three-day run and totaled $49,900 in winnings before being knocked out.
Jason is in fact not the only former TDCAA employee to attain game show stardom. A few years back you may have seen our former research attorney, Markus Kypreos, on “Shop Till You Drop!,” a show that required him to run around a grocery store and throw items into a shopping cart. He and his game show partner came away big winners, scoring many fabulous prizes, including a home carpet cleaning system and cruise to Hawaii.
Joe Brown appointed to the TYC Advisory Board
Congratulations to Joe Brown, CDA in Sherman, for his recent appointment by Speaker of the House Tom Craddick to the Texas Youth Commission Advisory Board. We have all watched as TYC has struggled to regain its footing in the wake of scandals and management issues, and an advisory committee made up of victim advocates, mental health experts, and criminal justice professionals has been appointed to assist in that effort. Joe has served for six years on the board of the Grayson County Child Advocacy Center and has been active in his juvenile justice community. Congratulations, Joe, and please keep us informed on the advisory board’s activities.
Welcome to two of our newest district attorneys. Kenneth Magidson, a current Assistant United States Attorney and former Harris County ADA, was appointed as the Harris County DA in March. In addition, welcome to Luke Inman, who was appointed as the 100th Judicial District Attorney out of Wellington after Stuart Messer was appointed to the bench.