Image: State Representative Mark Keough is running for Montgomery County Judge against the incumbent in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.
Eric Yollick, The Golden Hammer
The Golden Hammer endorses State Representative Mark Keough for Montgomery County Judge in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election. Montgomery County voters should consider four major differences between Mark Keough and the incumbent against whom he’s running, because they’ll recognize Keough clearly stands as the vastly better candidate who will reform the corrupt Montgomery County government: tollroads, government spending, ethics, personal background.
Difference #1: Keough opposes tollroads, while his opponent has vigorously lied, cheated, and stolen to force the Tx-249 Tollway down our throats.
The incumbent has worked desperately hard to force the Tx-249 Tollway down the throats of Montgomery County taxpayers. Tolls are taxes, plain and simple. What the incumbent has done is actually a lot worse. Under the guise that “we’ll never get this road unless it’s a tollroad,” the incumbent has lobbied intensely for construction of a tollroad through vacant pasturelands in far west Montgomery County. The Tx-249 Tollway is a road to nowhere, with one major exception: the road cuts right through properties where land speculators Rick Sheldon and Varde Partners, who are major financial contributors to the incumbent’s criminal legal defense fund and political campaign fund, have bought property.
The Montgomery County portion of the Tx-249 Tollway is only 4.5 miles (also known as the “Decimation of Hope Highway”) from Spring Creek to Pinehurst but will cost a whopping $95 million! Meanwhile, Tx-DOT has made clear that it would build the road as a free road, if Montgomery County doesn’t build it as a tollway. Additionally, the incumbent went to Austin on June 29, 2017, and lied to the Texas Transportation Commission that Montgomery County is “unified in support” of Tx-249 as a tollroad when the truth is precisely the opposite.
Mark Keough is the person who discovered that the incumbent’s cost estimates that he has repeatedly told the citizens for the Decimation of Hope Highway were actually false and lower than the amounts he told Tx-DOT.
Keough met with Tx-DOT representatives to ask them directly if the Tx-249 extension would proceed if it were not a tollroad. They gave him the same straight answer that Tx-DOT Commissioner Victor Vandergriff told the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on December 12: Montgomery County would get a free road, rather than a tollway, if Montgomery County didn’t build the road and allowed Tx-DOT to do so.
On December 4, 2017, Keough was the first candidate for County Judge to sign The Pledge:
“I, Mark Keough, pledge that I will never support construction or funding of any toll road, unless the voters have approved the toll road by referendum.”
Keough’s opponent has declined to sign The Pledge. He’s too busy taking County general tax dollars to spend on the Tx-249 Tollway that supposedly isn’t costing the taxpayers anything (except for the $13 million we’ve already spent plus the $180 million or so in tolls plus interest we’ll have to pay).
Difference #2: Government spending
It’s no secret that government spending is a critical issue vexing Montgomery County voters, because, under Keough’s opponent, Montgomery County’s government has done nothing to control wasteful spending, which, of course, has resulted in massive tax increases through skyrocketing property tax appraisals, the engine behind tax increases.
Under Keough’s opponent, County spending rose 424% during the past seventeen years, while population has only grown 84% during the same time period. The following chart, which Montgomery County Clerk Mark Turnbull prepared in July, 2017, shows how far above population growth and inflation the spending has gone.
When the Citizens Budget Committee presented a 40-page report with proposed spending reductions for the Montgomery County government that would have substantially reduced spending without reducing services and that also proposed increasing law enforcement spending, Keough’s opponent first ignored the proposal and then did everything he could to exclude citizen participation in the “public hearings” during the County’s budget deliberations in July, August, and September. The result was that Doyal oversaw passage of a Fiscal Year 2018 Budget that included the highest governmental expenditures in the history of Montgomery County.
Cynically, Keough’s opponent claims he’s a budget-cutter and tax-reducer. The incumbent has never cut the budget at all but he’s mightily resisted any proposals which would do so. As for taxes, Keough’s opponent opposed the 20% homestead exemption in 2017 but he reluctantly voted for Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack’s 1 cent proposed tax rate reduction in 2016, since, with property tax appraisal increases, total tax collection and the amount the average homeowner actually paid in taxes rose substantially in 2016.
Clearly, only spending reductions will solve the problem of the high property taxes Montgomery County citizens must pay. Mark Keough has made clear that he supports spending reductions of $20 million. His opponent was to take in all the tax dollars he can get.
Difference #3: Ethics
Keough’s opponent, the incumbent, has ethical challenges from A to Z. The incumbent:
- Has fought for nepotism to give his daughter as high paying a job as he can get her inside the County Treasurer’s Office;
- Voted for a $2 million engineering contract, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional contracts, for the engineering firm of Bobby Jack Adams, the incumbent’s business partner and best friend;
- Faces a criminal indictment for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act;
- Recorded campaign videos inside County government offices in violation of the Texas Election Code;
- Has strong-armed County Department heads to hide their operations and their government records from the public as much as possible;
- Developed a political “hit list” of Count employees he wanted to see terminated because they didn’t support him in the 2014 election;
- Violated Chapter 111 of the Texas Local Government Code by denying citizens a full public hearing on the proposed County budget;
- Has largely shut off citizen comments during Commissioners Court meetings by changing the procedure from one meeting to the next in order to disrupt citizen participation;
- Voted for nepotism for Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley’s wife to get a County government job and for Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador’s family members to get jobs;
- Finagled the property tax appraisal on his home so that it would only be $110,000 rather than the $600,000 (or more) his home is actually worth, until The Golden Hammer caught him with his hand “in the cookie jar”;
- Gave himself a 3% pay raise after the Commissioners Court-appointed Salary Study Committee recommended no pay raises and then hid the Committee’s report from the citizens;
- Refused to adopt an enforceable Code of Ethics for the County government after Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon urged the incumbent and the Commissioners Court to adopt an “aspirational” Code of Ethics with real enforcement power.
Meanwhile, Keough has entered into a “Contract with Montgomery County” in which he has assured Montgomery County citizens:
1. ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE. THEY DO NOT RULE, THEY SERVE.
a. I will promote throughout all levels of Montgomery County Government the essential principle that elected officials and their employees are servants of the people. Serving the citizens is a sacred trust granted to elected officials by those to whom they serve.
2. THE ACTIONS OF ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE TRANSPARENT AND BEYOND REPROACH.
a. I will work to create an environment of transparency that will eliminate the possibility of actual or perceived conflicts of interest.
b. I will end the practice of granting preferential treatment to elected officials and their employees that does not apply to the citizens of this county.
c. I will ensure current County ethics policies have a mechanism of enforcement that deters current and future ethics violations.
3. COUNTY GOVERNANCE WILL ALWAYS FUNCTION AS FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE TO THE CITIZENS OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY.
a. I will work to reduce the tax rate of the county to account for increases in total property values throughout the county. Appraisal goes up, rate should come down.
b. I will eliminate wasteful spending in our budget and ensure budget growth stays at or below population growth plus inflation.
c. I will return any funds that are non-contingency related or are not carried over for unfinished projects to the tax payers via reduction in tax rates.
d. I will ensure that the spending of public money will be related to the core functions of county government.
4. COUNTYWIDE MOBILITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE COORDINATION IS ESSENTIAL FOR FACILITATING THE GROWTH OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY
a. I will work openly with the county Commissioners and concerned citizens in workshop settings to develop a county wide mobility plan that does not duplicate efforts and is designed to meet the transportation needs of our growing community.
b. I will work to eliminate toll roads as a means of transportation infrastructure and will leverage federal, state and budgeted local taxpayer dollars to fulfill the transportation infrastructure needs of Montgomery County.
c. I will eliminate the use of “certificates of obligation” as a means to circumvent the will of the people of Montgomery County. All road bonds both referendum and revenue will be approved by the vote of the citizens of Montgomery County.
5. MONTGOMERY COUNTY IS FIRST
a. I will immediately end the influence that outside interests have upon the decision-making ability of those who govern and will replace this practice with what is the will of the people of Montgomery County.
Difference #4: Keough is a self-made successful businessman, while his opponent is a democrat-turned-RINO longtime government employee
The incumbent started a business right out of college and couldn’t make ends meet, so he ran for county commissioner in 1986 as a democrat, but lost to Malcolm Purvis. Purvis hired the incumbent who has worked as a government employee for 31 years. When Purvis switched to the Republican Party “so I can win,” the incumbent joined with Purvis. The incumbent’s only forays into private business have resulted from County vendors who wanted favorable treatment so they cut him in for a piece of the action. The incumbent succeeded to Purvis’ Commissioner seat when Purvis died.
Keough received his bachelor’s degree from Cedarville University and masters degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and Grace Theological Seminary. He was the owner of a successful major business which he sold and then became the general sales manager for another company. Keough was highly successful as a general sales manager and eventually retired to do other things. Keough is the Senior Pastor at Woodlands Bible Church, a rapidly growing church in The Woodlands that just purchased a larger campus.
Fundamentally, the difference between Keough and his opponent is that Keough is self-made and understands the challenges private citizens face when government tries to take too much away from them, while his opponent has enjoyed the public dole almost his entire adult life.
Mark Keough is the leader of reform of the Montgomery County government. He’s the clear choice for Montgomery County Judge.
Publisher’s Disclosure: The Publisher has contributed $10,020.18 to Keough’s campaign.