Location: United States

Monday, January 30, 2006

Strayhorn: A Year Late and Fourteen Million Dollars Late

The Houston Chronicle is amazed that Carole Many Names has started reading their back issues.

When Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn issued a report last week criticizing the Texas Residential Construction Commission as a shield for politically-connected homebuilders, she could have been reading from a column the Chronicle's Clay Robison wrote last March.

Yeah, well, I'm sure it's been working well in the meantime, right?

Headlined "No place like home for this cuddly Austin lapdog," Robison's piece characterized the creation of the TRCC as a boon for homebuilders who had contributed millions of dollars to state lawmakers. In return, the law creating the commission required aggrieved homeowners to go through a costly, time-consuming arbitration before they could take legal action against contractors. It also limited damages that plaintiffs could receive.


According to Strayhorn, a survey of homeowners who brought complaints to the TRCC revealed that in 86 percent of the cases homebuilders failed to repair construction defects, despite the fact the problems were verified by mediators. "If our standard is giving all Texans a fair shake, then this agency falls far short of that goal," Strayhorn declared. Although the rationale for creating the TRCC was to eliminate costly and lengthy litigation, the comptroller blamed the commission's lack of enforcement power for forcing homeowners to do just that.

Strayhorn's recommendations parallel those of the consumer group Texas Watch: give the TRCC enforcement teeth, appoint unbiased public commissioners and stop imposing mediation fees on complainants instead of builders. The comptroller's report indicates that by 2008, the TRCC will have spent $12 million on operations while returning $14 million to the state general fund, all leveraged from homeowners rather than builders.

Oh. So, in other words, while Strayhorn was busy shining Rick Perry's boots for the last four years, homeowners were taking it in the backside to the tune of around $3.4 million a year.

Since one party controls all statewide offices, officials in recent elections have been loath to criticize each other and point out deficiencies so glaringly apparent to media and citizens. No matter how Strayhorn's gubernatorial charge turns out, it is already producing a healthy airing of issues long ignored by the lobby-dominated state political leadership.

Yeah. Except that Strayhorn has had FOUR YEARS to show some leadership. That tells me that she is interested in nothing beyond simply winning this election and then selling out every promise she's made.

Actions speak louder than words. Or, in this case IN-action screams inadequacy.


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