Seguin has been pretty excited for the past several months, watching the construction of the new Caterpillar plant, and waiting for the jobs that it promises for an ailing local economy. But before you get too excited about, and start looking forward to, that good-paying Caterpillar position, you might want to look back a few years at that criminal record that you forgot about, the one you thought no longer existed.

Earlier today, I ran into someone who works for Caterpillar, and who is well-acquainted with their hiring practices (for obvious reasons, I will not divulge a name or where we met). According to this person, there are a lot of things that can keep you from getting a job at Caterpillar, but here is one thing that will pretty much guarantee being turned down: an arrest for a drug charge, including misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana.

Even if the case is old, even if you completed deferred adjudication, even if the State dismissed the case and apologized to you in open court, that arrest for that joint in your car console so very long ago may be the final thing that stands between you and a job at Cat. Caterpillar runs complete background checks on its applicants (including for misdemeanors), and a drug arrest is a giant black mark. As I have said several times before on this blog, your misdemeanor drug case really isn't over until you have gone back and had the record of your arrest expunged, or the record of any deferred adjudication sealed from private parties. And your search for a good job, like the ones being offered at Caterpillar, hasn't really begun until you get your arrest record in order. If you work as hard at getting your criminal history cleaned up as you did getting your case dismissed in the first place, maybe you can start working hard at a place like Caterpillar.


The offensive in New Braunfels against the Great Rowdy Tuber Menace marches on this week. The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung recently reported that the City Council is on the verge of approving yet another ordinance that purports to protect public safety, but is really intended to disrupt tourism shortly before Spring Break. The ordinance would regulate the manner in which river outfitters can run shuttles for tubers.

The proposal would limit shuttles only to vehicles specifically designed for commercial shuttle service and would require outfitters to carry at least one million dollars in liability insurance. This proposed ordinance comes a year after the Council restricted parking areas in the vicinity of the Comal River, which forced outfitters to scramble in order to offer expanded shuttle service to tubers -- not just to get tubers to and from the rivers, but also to get tubers to and from the outfitters' businesses and the now-distant lots at which the tubers were forced to park. Now, no one really argues that tube shuttles shouldn't be operated safely.

However, the timing of the ordinance is designed to make it impossible for many outfitters to comply with the new regulations in time to shuttle Spring breakers. Had the regulations been suggested after the end of the last tourist season, outfitters would have had several months in which to get ready for the new rules. If the  ordinance is passed, some outfitters may face the prospect of being run out of business. The timing, of course, is not coincidental. This is the same council that, a few weeks ago, proposed a "roommates" ordinance that would have the effect of putting many local weekend house rental companies and bed and breakfasts out of business in the name of reducing noise from tourists on weekends. None of these ordinances are necessary.

There are plenty of laws and ordinances already on the books that protect riders in shuttles and that give law enforcement the ability to maintain peace and quiet in residential neighborhoods. The real intent of theses ordinances is to destroy the tourist industry in New Braunfels. In the long love/hate relationship that New Braunfels has had with river tourism, the hate faction now has the upper hand. Ironically, this attack on the most iconic sector of the New Braunfels economy comes at a time when this same city council announced that the city is expected to run a 3.3 million dollar budget deficit, in large part because of declining sale tax revenues. At a time when New Braunfels desperately needs tourist dollars, the council continues to cut off its proverbial nose to spite its proverbial face.


Here's how you know that the Guadalupe River tourist season in Comal County is just around the corner: the local powers-that-be are contemplating another series of inane (insane?) ordinances to combat those "rowdy tubers." First they took away your cooler. Then they took away your parking spot. Now they want to take away your toilet. Many summer tourists to New Braunfels like to rent vacation houses for the weekend.

Unfortunately, some of these folks vacation a little too loud for the homeowners residing nearby. But rather than simply calling the cops when the vacationers get too loud, or dealing with rental owners who allow their properties to become a nuisance, Comal County is considering flushing away the problem of loud vacation rentals by pulling the chain on their septic permits. Under one proposal being considered, homes used as vacation rentals would be required to have septic system capacity far in excess of what is usually required for a residence, even though there is absolutely no evidence that vacation rentals now have inadequate septic systems. Since expanding the size of the septic systems would be prohibitively expensive for many owners, they would no longer be able to afford to rent the houses to tourists.

Once again, instead of using statutes and ordinances that are already on the books, and that are specifically designed to solve the problem (such as the Disorderly Conduct statute, which prohibits unreasonable noise near a private residence), the County is now poised to go after perfectly innocent owners, whose rental houses aren't causing any problems, in the name of rooting out those "rowdy tubers" at the few houses that are. As expected, this proposal is not passing smoothly, being considered irregular by many. In fact, a spirited pissing match is expected at the next public hearing on the matter. Here's hoping that this bad idea becomes clogged as it tries to snake its way through the system. May the toilets in Comal County continue to flow as free as the rivers.