There’s an urban myth that someone once said that democracies begin to fail when the people figure out that they can vote themselves money. Alexis de Tocqueville never actually said that. In fact, it’s pretty unclear who, if anyone, ever did.
On May 17, 2010, historian James Wood wrote an excellent article on de Tocqueville, which appeared in The New Yorker under the title, “Tocqueville in America.” In it, Wood wrote, de Tocqueville warned that “In such conditions, we might become so enamored with ‘a relaxed love of present enjoyments’ that we lose interest in the future of our descendants…and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one.” In other words, despotism takes root in modern democracies when a small group of people exercise a “pernicious influence” that is more dangerous that the dictatorial rule of Roman emperors, because they masquerade as leaders of the people.
Montgomery County in 2017
We see coming to fruition in modern day Montgomery County, Texas, a phenomenon very much like that which de Tocqueville feared.
Thanks to two men, Montgomery County has grown quite rapidly into the strong, conservative, and pro-family community that it’s become: George Mitchell and Bruce Belin. Mitchell developed The Woodlands. Belin developed April Sound and Bentwater as several other major suburban communities. Mitchell and Belin brought to the public’s attention the natural beauty of Montgomery County. They also knew how to make government work for them rather than as an unfriendly regulator that prevented real estate development. Both Mitchell and Belin were community-minded and benevolent individuals. Neither was a Republican, but both directly contributed to the strength of the Republican Party in Montgomery County.
As people moved into Montgomery County, they looked forward to the beautiful natural surroundings and seemingly pro-family culture. The County government was predominately Republican by the 1980s. By the end of the 1990s, the County government was entirely Republican.
When democrats (aka “the other party”) controlled Montgomery County, the County government was known for its corruption. There’s no question that Walter Wilkerson, Jr., M.D., hoped to grow the Republican Party to challenge the democrats and clean up the County government. For a while, he seemingly succeeded.
The problems really started around 1995 when Republicans became the hegemonic political force. Candidates for office didn’t have to do much to show that they actually could do the jobs to which they were elected. A candidate won the Republican Primary Election and usually didn’t face an opponent in the general election. There weren’t many democrats to challenge what Republicans did while in office. Thanks to the institutional structure of the Republican Party, it was most certainly déclassé for a Republican political activist to challenge the actions of a Republican officeholder.
As de Tocqueville warned, “in such conditions, we…[became] so enamored with a ‘relaxed love of present enjoyments'” that we didn’t worry about the manner in which the unanimous Republican Commissioners Court spent our tax dollars. They were Republicans. They made us feel good. When Craig Doyal speaks, you always feel so good afterwards. It’s really a nice feeling, one which is very similar to eating ice cream and cake right before bedtime.
Craig’s corruption and Tx-249
Doyal, however, is corrupt. Corruption doesn’t necessarily mean that he engages in criminal activity. What it does mean is that the County government is very much “for sale.” A small group of people behind the scenes of what used to be an open government exercise a pernicious influence. It’s pretty obvious who those people are: Bobby Adams, Marc Davenport, Jeff Cannon, Dave Hamilton, and a few others.
Montgomery County’s government is open “for business” in the sense that people who move their money in the direction of Doyal, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador can largely get what they want.
On his particular issues, Davenport clearly orders Doyal around. Doyal and his “chief of staff” jim fredricks jump 10 feet high when Davenport says “hop.”
The engineers behind the road projects seem to drive those road projects. The Tx-249 extension is a striking example. It’s a useless road. A small clique in the Magnolia area want the road, because they have financial interests directly tied to it. Someone recently said, “Tx-249 is the Renaissance Festival Road.” That’s precisely right, because the road won’t go anywhere else.
The only reason that Montgomery County wants “primacy” over the Texas Department of Transportation, which has made clear it would build the road without the County government’s involvement, is Doyal’s real constituents – Bobby Adams and Halff Associates engineers, Rob Maxwell of Jones & Carter engineers, San Antonio real estate magnate Rick Sheldon who has helped to fund Doyal’s legal defense – are people who don’t live in Montgomery County.
What’s striking about public reaction so far is that it’s been nearly unanimous in opposing any use of Montgomery County money or resources to build the Tx-249 tollway. The County has already spent over $13 million on the project. The budget for the project currently is $73 million. The road bypasses Magnolia and dead-ends at State Highway 105 north of Todd Mission in Grimes County. The road doesn’t even connect to State Highway 6, so it’s truly a road to nowhere.
Doyal’s treachery against Montgomery County reached a new height when he told the Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday, June 29, that there is a “unified voice” in Montgomery County in support of Montgomery County’s massive investment in the 3.6 mile $73 million tollway. He didn’t mention that just a few weeks ago funding for the road failed in Commissioners Court on a 2-2 vote, that most of the comments in favor of the tollway came from people outside of Montgomery County, that the people opposing the tollway were unanimously from Montgomery County, and that the resolution supporting the tollway passed on the slimmest of margins in a 3 to 2 vote after Doyal improperly broke a tie.
Now, understand, please that Adams, Maxwell, and Sheldon are very wealthy individuals. They have the financial ability to build the crazy 3.6 miles of road privately. They don’t want to take the financial risk, however. They’ve roped Doyal into standing up for them, and getting the people of Montgomery County to do the financing for them.
Make no mistake about it: on this issue, it’s Craig Doyal versus the taxpayers of Montgomery County.
Exceptionalism is real!
There’s been a debate about whether there truly is American exceptionalism. As we approach our Independence Day, it seems very appropriate for us to consider that question seriously. Since America is a really big place, it’s pretty easy to point to some very exceptional things we have done as a nation: (1) we crafted the Declaration of Independence, (2) we wrote and amended the United States Constitution, (3) we developed the primary extraction methods for fossil fuels, (4) we brought mass production to automobiles, (5) we began the railroad and steel industries, (6) we developed the most robust economic marketplace in the history of the world, (7) and we defeated the Germans twice in two world wars where our freedom faced risk. We’ve accomplished all of those things while welcoming immigrants from all over the world to join each other in the “melting pot” that became our society.
Montgomery County, Texas, is not nearly as diverse as all of America. Nevertheless, thanks to Mitchell, Belin, and a few others, it’s a pretty special place. Our citizens are educated. The people are friendly. Our policemen and policewomen represent our community well, because they’re some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. There’s fun stuff to do here. It’s a great place to raise your family, although the quality of life is declining in two major respects.
First, property taxes in Montgomery County are so high that it’s cause people to sell their homes and it’s beginning to impact real estate sales negatively. Second, we have a road problem. The problem is not the roads that bring people here or carry them away. We’ve got plenty of those. The road problem is that our neighborhoods and commercial areas have become immensely congested. Our County leaders didn’t have the foresight to plan for the traffic congestion. Remember, that Craig Doyal – as an operations manager for Commissioner Malcolm Purvis, as a County Commissioner, and as County Judge – has been responsible for road planning for a quarter of a century in this community.
Nevertheless, the citizens of Montgomery County have a fighting chance. Look at some of the brilliant people this community has attracted:
- Julie Turner, a Ph.D. psychologist-turned national-level Tea Party leader;
- Kelli Cook, rancher-wife-entrepreneur, who is a highly-influential spokesperson on many political issues;
- Bill O’Sullivan, Marine Corps Captain and risk industry executive who is involved in all sorts of community activities from animal rights to road planning;
- Reagan Reed, a young man from the Willis area who is one of the best and the brightest future political leaders;
- Dewey Jones, the controversial fireworks entrepreneur who always has an opinion and good reasons to back his opinion up;
- Tammy McRae, a tax collector who seems eager to help the real people;
- Chris Grice, a solid banker and community leader who is always pleasant and always engaging;
- and each of you.
This place is great, because we’ve got amazing people within it. They’re exceptional.
This community will stand up to fend off the “foreign” interests of Halff, Davenport, Maxwell, Sheldon, and their ilk.
We’ll show them as well as the nation that Montgomery County’s government is not “for sale,” because, as citizens, we won’t tolerate the politicians and corrupt “supporters” who have put it there.