Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — The Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program began and ended on April 7, with nearly 39,000 rebate reservations made before funding was used up.

State Comptroller Susan Combs called the response unprecedented. A staff of 550 answered an estimated 1,000 calls per minute from Texans who wanted a break on the cost of replacing certain functioning household appliances with more efficient Energy Star-rated appliances. The rebate Web site received 39 million hits at a rate of 2,400 per second.

“Regrettably, we were only given approximately $23 million to implement and administer the rebate program in a state of this size, and there were some people who were not able to get through in time to reserve a guaranteed rebate,” Combs said.

Meanwhile, Combs plans to investigate what appears to have been a Web attack that flooded the online reservation system early in the day, using nearly 75 percent of the available capacity.

Beware of Census-season scams

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on April 8 encouraged residents to participate in the 2010 U.S. Census, but said to watch out for identity theft scams that might be attempted by thieves posing as U.S. Census Bureau employees.

Census employees will be clearly identified with a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice, Abbott said, and one should always look for identification from Census takers before opening the door and agreeing to provide personal information.

Abbott said “con artists are using the program as an opportunity to swindle people out of their hard-earned money and even their identities.”

The Census does not request personal financial information such as bank or credit card numbers or Social Security numbers and no official census information will be collected via e-mail.

Anyone who thinks or knows they have been scammed should visit the AG’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011 for a copy of the Identity Theft Victim’s Kit.

Rep resigns to head

TSU System

State Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, was named chancellor of the Texas State University System in late March.

On April 2, McCall, 51, announced his resignation from the Texas House of Representatives. A special election to fill the House District 66 seat is scheduled for May 8. The winner will serve out the remainder of McCall’s unexpired term.

McCall served as a House member for 18 years. In the 2009 session of the state Legislature, House Speaker Joe Straus appointed him chair of Calendars, the committee that controls which bills move to the House floor for consideration and possible enactment.

McCall earned a bachelor of arts degree from Baylor University, a master of liberal arts from Southern Methodist University and a Ph.D. in Humanities, Aesthetics from the University of Texas-Dallas.

NTSB releases plane crash report

The National Transportation Safety Board on April 6 released a preliminary report on the Feb. 18 plane crash into a north Austin office building that killed two people and injured 13 others.

Andrew Joseph Stack III of Austin, identified as the pilot soon after the crash, intentionally flew his single-engine Piper aircraft into the Echelon I building. Stack was killed on impact. Vernon Hunter, 68, of Austin, an Internal Revenue Service employee who was working in the building at the time of the crash, also was killed.

Stack took off in his plane from Georgetown Municipal Airport, according to the report, and headed southbound.

“At 0954, the airplane was observed on radar descending out of 4,800 feet and making a turn toward the west. At 0957, the airplane was last observed on radar at an altitude of 1,000 feet on a southwesterly heading before the data ended. (At 0958) the airplane collided with the office building between the first and second floors and exploded on impact. … The airplane was destroyed by impact and the post-impact fire.”

“As this event was an intentional act, the FBI has assumed jurisdiction and control of the investigation,” the report stated.

Slow process draws


The Dallas Morning News recently published a series spurred by three pending allegations of abuse against elder veterans at two state veterans homes.

The allegations, made in 2007, have not been resolved. This news prompted a response from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a veteran himself.

Patterson criticized the slowness of the investigatory process and said, “Bureaucracy should never get in the way of caring for our veterans.”