Conroe and New Caney, September 7 – Jim Clark is lonely. The Precinct 4 Montgomery County Commissioner was the lone vote against the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. All four other members of the Commissioners Court – even Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack – voted for the budget which contains the largest “operational expenditures” budget in the history of Montgomery County.
The propaganda you’ll hear
You’ll hear a lot of propaganda about the budget. County Judge Craig Doyal is already bragging:
- He cut spending by 5.5%. In actuality, Noack and Clark cut spending by proposing 5% across-the-board cuts and proposing means by which to reduce the County’s debt service by $21 million. The total cuts were only $19 million, so Doyal actually increased spending over last year!.
- He gave the citizens a 20% homestead exemption. Doyal voted against the homestead exemption and argued vociferously against it as well. Only after Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley changed his vote so that it became apparent that the exemption would pass did Doyal swiftly switch to join the majority. In actuality, citizens Kelli Cook and Adrian Heath were the two primary authors of the 20% homestead exemption who then enlisted the help of Noack and Clark to get it passed.
- He created a “budget office.” Actually, the budget office is nothing but creation of a $300,000 bureaucracy. The office has no purpose or goals. The office will fall directly under Doyal, so he duped Noack into proposing it with him. The $300,000 is a spending increase.
- He lowered the tax rate by a penny last year. Actually, Noack and Clark sought to lower the tax rate by a penny. Doyal argued against it but then voted for it when he saw it would pass. The main point, however, is that with the massive property tax appraisal district increases, the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget actually was a tax and spending increase for all Montgomery County citizens.
- He funded 53 new law enforcement positions. In reality, increasing funding for law enforcement was the one proposal everyone agreed upon which originally emanated from a group of private citizens.
Doyal, Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador fought reduced spending every step of the way.
Doyal, Riley, Meador, and Noack:
- Prohibited citizens from speaking at the budget workshop during the last week in July, even though the Texas Local Government Code mandated that the Commissioners Court hold a “public hearing” with full citizen participation within 10 days after the County Auditor filed her “Proposed Budget” with the County Clerk. The Auditor filed her “Proposed Budget” on July 14, 2017, but the citizens never got a hearing.
- Hid the revised budget – after the workshop discussions – from the public until August 31, 2017, less than 5 days from the final budget hearing and in the middle of the Tropical Storm Harvey disaster.
- Refused to answer any of the concerns or questions citizens raised during the September 5 budget hearing. When citizens sought information, Riley and Doyal uttered profanities under their breath that were audible under the Court’s audio-visual system.
That wasn’t a budget “process.” It was a group of elitists who shoved their mandates down the citizens’ throats.
Only Clark argued against approving the budget. Clark noted on September 5 that there were problems with the “Proposed Budget.” He acknowledged that the budget had spending in certain account categories that exceeded the historical amounts of actual expenditures by more than $80,000 in several categories. In other words, the Commissioners Court taxed citizens for no reason in those amounts.
Clark acknowledged that the “budget office” expenditures of $300,000 were “double dipping” because the County Auditor already had budget functions within her departmental budget.
Every citizen who spoke during the budget hearing on September 5 complained about the timing of the hearing in the middle of the hurricane disaster, with only 5 days’ notice to review a 365 page budget, and immediately after a holiday weekend when the county was closed and unavailable for citizens to seek information and ask questions of the staff. Clark acknowledged that the “citizens have some legitimate concerns.”
Noack, along with his three pro-spending buddies, voted to pass a budget regardless of obvious overspending concerns. Noack voted against the citizens on September 5. But why?
This newspaper believes that Noack is basically a pretty good guy. He does an outstanding job managing the road and bridge operations in Precinct 3. But he’s also felt stung by criticism that his acid personality clashes with the smooth and fork-tongued Doyal too often.
Noack should always act with courtesy towards Doyal and even the profane Riley and the arrogant Meador.
Acting with courtesy towards his colleagues during Commissioners Court meetings, however, does not mean that Noack should allow his colleagues to treat citizens like dirt or that Noack should vote in favor of bigger government spending.
Take the example of Ted Cruz, the Junior United States Senator from Texas. Senator Cruz does not act with discourtesy towards any of his colleagues in the United States Senate nor should he. He does stand on principle, however, and has become a very effective advocate for conservative values.
There have been many instances where Cruz argued for amendments to legislation, convinced his Senate colleagues to amend the legislation to make it more palatable, and then voted against the entire bill anyway. There is no reason Noack could not take a similar approach.
Clark is not as smooth as Noack or Doyal, although Clark has become a much better listener during the past year and he’s also gained a lot of self-confidence in his ability to lead the community in a crisis.
This newspaper’s Publisher was very critical of Clark a year ago. Nevertheless, this newspaper doesn’t hold a grudge.
Clark has greatly improved and continues to move in the right direction.
Noack should treat the citizens with courtesy and remember that he’s just one of us, even if Doyal, Riley, and Meador think that they’re not. Noack can be a great listener, but during the budget workshop he did anything but that and he allowed Doyal to get away with excluding the citizens from participating in the process.
Although the Republican Party Platform stands for less government with lower government spending, the Republican Party also clearly stands for good government when government is necessary. One critical aspect of good government is citizen-inclusive government, not the elitism of Doyal, his boss Marc Davenport, or Tammany Hall.
Doyal shows nothing but scorn towards citizens who suggest ideas to him that would result in less government. His entire adult life (most of which was as a democrat) was working for the government. Riley only cares about serving a small group of County vendors and his core supporters (numbering around a dozen) in Magnolia. Meador is just a pro-spending maniac.
Clark needs help on the Court.
The citizens of Montgomery County need help. At this point, it does appear we need to help ourselves.