Magnolia, December 9 – All three candidates for Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner have now completed their official filings, as of this past Tuesday when the last of the three finally threw his hat into the electoral ring. The incumbent is embattled County Commissioner Charlie Riley. Riley has done a terrible job managing much-needed road projects in Commissioners Precinct 2 and has an ultra-liberal, pro-government-spending, anti-family voting record on the Commissioners Court that makes Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee look like a conservative.
Running against Riley are Brian Dawson, a local businessman and Republican activist, and former Comal County Commissioner and conservative author Gregory Parker. Dawson lives in Jacob’s Reserve. Parker lives in Woodhaven Estates. Riley lives in the Magnolia area, although he and his wife do not actually live in the home they own.
The Pledge on the tollroads issue
One issue that instantly sets Dawson and Parker apart from Riley is the tollroads issue. Almost every Republican governmental official in Texas has recognized that the vast majority of voters oppose the construction of new tollroads. On December 2, 2017, the State Republican Executive Committee voted almost unanimously to place Proposition 2 on the March 6, 2018, ballot which reads “No governmental entity should ever construct or fund construction of tollroads without voter approval.”
Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, dozens of Texas legislators, and hundreds of local government officials have pressured the Texas Department of Transportation to reconsider its pro-tollroad policy.
Proposition 2, however, only calls for voter approval for tollroads before any governmental entity constructs or funds them. Riley has consistently opposed citizen input into the construction of the Decimation of Hope Highway, the $73 million, 3.6 mile, Tx-249 Tollway boondoggle which Riley has used to funnel millions of general revenue tax dollars into the hands of his largest political contribution and criminal legal defense fund supporters.
As part of the campaign for Proposition 2, the supporters of the proposition have begun to ask candidates who will appear on the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election ballot to sign an instrument entitled “The Pledge,” which reads “I, name of candidate, pledge that I will never support construction or funding of any toll road, unless the voters have approved the toll road by referendum.”
Dawson was one of the first candidates to sign The Pledge. Parker has also signed The Pledge. Riley and his campaign manager have failed to respond to a request that Riley sign The Pledge, after supporters of Proposition 2 provided The Pledge to him.
The major issues in the Precinct 2 Commissioner campaign
The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, asked each of the three candidates what they consider are the most important issues in the Precinct 2 Commissioner campaign. The incumbent Riley and his beleaguered campaign manager failed to respond.
Local businessman and Republican activist Brian Dawson responded as follows:
“The major issues for Montgomery County and Precinct 2 are; hidden tax increases, mobility, out of control spending growth, and restoring the people’s trust in their local government.
“For too long Montgomery County Commissioners Court has hidden behind a stagnant or superficially lowered tax rate while the tax payers incur higher and higher property tax bills. For too long, the tax payers of Montgomery County have been told by officeholders and candidates alike they have lowered or will lower their tax rate, while those same tax payers are paying more and more each year. It is time for this to STOP! When an officeholder or candidate touts their lowering of a tax rate, it is because they either do not understand the relationship between the tax rate and appraised value or because they are trying to hide from what they are really doing…raising taxes. Neither of these are acceptable.
“Mobility has been a challenge for Montgomery County and Precinct 2 for some time. While significant effort was exhausted to pass a bond referendum, Commissioner Riley has spent the majority of his time working to ram a toll road down the throats of the people of Montgomery County. He is more interested in serving his own personal interests and the interests of his donors than he is in executing the will of the people he was elected to represent. If we are going to address the mobility challenges of Precinct 2, it must start with a precinct wide comprehensive mobility plan. This is an issue I led with on July 6, when I announced my run for Commissioner and one I intend to follow through with once I am elected. While others have tried to parrot this idea, I have led on it and will continue to do so, until Precinct 2 has the mobility plan they deserve to serve their interests and meet their needs.
“It is no secret; Montgomery County’s budget has exploded in the last few years. Commissioner Riley has been a part of some of the largest increases in spending in recent history, while also exploding the county’s debt load, and cramming toll roads (new taxes) on to the people of Montgomery County. It is time we bring private sector experience to our budget process, so we have an opportunity to curb and cut our bloated budget process. We will not accomplish this through trading one tax and spend “experienced” officeholder for another. I believe we need a new approach to how we conduct the business of the county, not the next guy in line or another bureaucrat/former lobbyist.
“It is beyond time for the people of Montgomery County to again have faith in their local elected officials. Week after week the people of Precinct 2 are faced with headlines of another investigation or scandal from their current Commissioner. The people of Precinct 2 deserve better. The people of Precinct 2 deserve better than someone with a tainted ethical record and a history of Attorney General investigations. The people of Precinct 2 deserve better than someone who will abuse the power of their office. The people of Precinct 2 deserve better than someone who will defraud the people of Texas for their own personal advancement. The people of Precinct 2 deserve someone who is committed to the community and prepared to put in the hard work necessary to regain their trust in local government.
“While these challenges may seem mountainous, they are not insurmountable. With the right person, and the right plan, we can quickly reduce the tax burden on the people of Montgomery County, curb out of control spending, set a path for meeting our mobility needs, and restore the faith of the people in local government. There is a better way, and I look forward to the opportunity to show Montgomery County and Precinct 2 how we can make the most of the opportunities we have been provided.”
Former Comal County Commissioner Gregory Parker responded as follows:
“Mobility Planning & Toll Roads
Montgomery County Precinct Two, at best, has a makeshift plan to handle Precinct roads. There is little or no long-range planning. The County is spending millions of dollars on roads with no plan or future strategy. I have a proven track record of fighting toll roads as a former County Commissioner, to the point Terri Hall, national anti-toll road activist stated, ‘For opposing the toll road, a big attaboy to him. He [Greg] was a great county commissioner for us, you should welcome him with open arms.’ In addition, I believe we need a county-wide mobility plan. This county-wide plan, i.e., strategy for the future of our roads and bridges, will allow for better coordination between the precincts, better priority in road maintenance and better capital budgeting.
“Reducing Taxes and Cut Spending
Our County spending has grown from $89 million to $377 million annual, or a 424% increase, since 2000. Let’s not forget tax appraisals on the rise as well. They are increasing so much so that citizens are being taxed out of their homes. As a former County Commissioner, I have a proven track record of reducing taxes, controlling tax increases and reducing spending. We reduced our tax rate twice and the rate was lower when I left office then when I started.
“Conflicts of Interest
Montgomery County is known statewide as a corrupt county. Our county elected officials in recent years have come under fire for nepotism, as several immediate relatives work under the county umbrella, as well as several conflicts of interest allocations with business entities and friends of commissioners’ court collecting millions of tax dollars. While Comal County Commissioner, I took on a corrupt government agency director, and won! I also understand the need to act with independence and objectivity from friends and relatives. While City Manager, it is documented in the press, I refused to commit nepotism or favoritism for city leaders. Even if that meant the loss of my job, I did not succumb to the temptation of the ‘go-a-long’ to ‘get-a-long’ mindset.
I believe we can improve transparency and access to financial information, by implementing what I call ‘Agenda reform.’ These reforms include but are not limited to, 1) creating a solid meeting procedures document, 2) limiting consent agenda items to routine payroll, certificates and proclamations, 3) move to weekly meetings rather than bi-weekly meetings, 4) Use hand votes instead of voice votes, 5) no item is placed on the agenda without backup, 6) move agenda prep to county clerk’s office and away from the County Judge’s office, 7) no pre-meeting to set agenda, 8) electronic submission of agenda items and backup, with said documents can be released on the website. Further, continuing to move the county further with the Comptroller of Public Accounts Leadership Circle program. Set a goal to be a recognize by the Comptroller as a local government across that set of criteria is striving to meet a high standard for financial transparency online.”