Image: The County GOP Executive Committee voting overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to require voter referendums before governments build toll roads. Paul Gebolys, Woodlands Precinct Chairman and the heroic leader of the fight, is the tall gentleman who stood in a beige shirt with dark suspenders. (Photo courtesy of anonymous precinct chair).
Conroe, August 16 – In a stunning turn of developments, the County Executive Committee of the Montgomery County Republican Party voted overwhelmingly – 34 to 1 – to call for placement on the ballot of a proposition that would urge that “no governmental entity should ever construct or fund the construction of toll roads, unless its voters have approved each road by referendum.” The County Party “establishment” fiercely resisted permitting the vote, but the conservative reformers on the Executive Committee overcame their opposition with brilliant parliamentary tactics.
Woodlands GOP Precinct Chairman and Area Chairman Paul Gebolys, known for his quiet and thoughtful demeanor, authored the resolution and presented the motions in the most gentle of manners. Meanwhile, Walter Wilkerson, Jr., the County GOP Chairman, fiercely fought against even permitting a vote on the motion.
Gebolys’ Proposed Language for Ballot Proposition: “No governmental entity should ever construct or fund the construction of toll roads, unless its voters have approved each road by referendum.”
As the Committee was about to end around 9:30 p.m., Gebolys stood up and moved to suspend the rules of the County Party to permit consideration of his resolution calling for the ballot referendum. Wilkerson ruled that the motion was out of order and would not even permit consideration of putting something on the ballot.
At that point, Willis Precinct Chair Reagan Reed, an up and coming young star in the Republican Party, made a motion to overrule the ruling of Wilkerson as Chairman of the meeting. Wilkerson at that point attempted to adjourn the entire meeting, but his Parliamentarian Chuck Meyer and Party Sergeant at Arms Clint McClaren noted that Reed had already stood up to move to overrule Wilkerson’s decision. Meyer and McClaren informed Wilkerson that he needed to permit Reed to proceed with his motion to overrule Wilkerson.
Precinct Chairman John Wertz stood up and challenged Wilkerson, “You should point out where it says that we can’t put a ballot referendum on the ballot.” Wertz then seconded Reed’s motion to overrule Wilkerson.
The Precinct Chairs voted 25 to 18 to overrule Wilkerson and permit consideration of Gebolys’ motion to suspend the rules. After some additional debate, Gebolys’ motion to suspend the rules passed 33 to 11.
At that point, the meeting could consider Gebolys’ motion for which he accepted an amendment to have the County Executive Committee make a formal request to the State Republican Executive Committee to place the referendum on the ballot for the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.
Gebolys then made a brilliant speech in favor of letting voters decide whether to build toll roads:
“Unless we pause and consider what is about to happen, we may needlessly pile another 70 to 100 million $ of debt on ourselves and our children in the hope that over the next 20 years enough drivers scooting 3.6 miles across the South Western tip of the county will be eager to pay a toll.
“In this position I stand with our Governor Greg Abbott who promised when he came to us for our votes ‘I have a plan that will add more than $4 billion to roads in this state without raising a single penny in taxes, fees or tolls….. Not interested in adding toll roads.’
“I stand with the most recent Republican Party Platform which in planks #210, 211, 212, and 213, strongly opposed toll roads.
“I stand with voters across Texas who replaced many pro-toll legislators and state wide office holders with those who opposed toll roads.
“I believe that the taxpayers of Montgomery County deserve the same respect as those of Harris and Grimes County. The Harris County Toll Road Authority was voted on by the citizens before it was begun. They got their toll road. The citizens of Grimes county looked at this Hwy 249 project and insisted that TXDOT abandon the proposed tolling of the parts that cross thru their county.
“I respect the voters of Montgomery County enough to believe that when they have had the time, and facts to consider, that they can make a wise choice.
“As community leaders I believe that we have an obligation to give them that opportunity to voice their decisions in a non-binding referendum on the March 6th ballot.
“I respect voters of MoCo enough that they can make a wise choice – we have an obligation to give them that opportunity on the March 6 ballot.”
Gebolys finished his remarks, “By passing this resolution you give the taxpayers the chance to have their say.”
Although Gebolys delivered the speech in his typical quiet manner, he did so with such dignity and forceful ethics that there was hardly a dry eye in the house when he concluded to thunderous applause.
Additional debate questioned how the Tx-249 Tollway project, that will cost at least $73 million for only 3.6 miles of road at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County, will benefit anyone other than the Renaissance Festival (in Grimes County), out-of-county developers, and haulers of toxic waste.
Wertz noted that the Tx-249 tollroad should only cost about one-fourth of the price which County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley have projected to pay their favored political contributors who are the primary vendors on the project – Halff Associates, Jones & Carter, and others.
Only one “establishment” and anti-reform precinct chair voted against Gebolys’ proposal, Jim Schulze.
Gebolys’ heroic motion passed 34 to 1, or with 97% of the County GOP Executive Committee votes!