Image: First page of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
Conroe, June 30 – Sitting in the Thursday, June 28, 2018, meeting of the Conroe City Council, after attending dozens of meetings of the Montgomery County government felt as though one were in the Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which famously begins:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Conroe Mayor Toby Powell quietly introduced an agenda item which was a “budget amendment” to the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget of the City of Conroe. What almost caused the entire audience of real people, who numbered only about three as opposed to government employees, almost to fall out of their seats was one little word before the “budget amendment” on the agenda: “Fourth.” The June 28 agenda, two-thirds of the way through Fiscal Year 2018 (which began October 1, 2017) somehow reflected that the City of Conroe had only passed three budget amendments prior to that one! How could that possibly be?!
In contrast, the Montgomery County government passes dozens of budget amendments every meeting of the crazed Commissioners Court.
City of Conroe: best of times, age of wisdom, epoch of belief, season of Light, spring of hope, everything before us, going direct to Heaven
Not believing that the City of Conroe could only have passed its fourth budget amendment during the entire Fiscal Year 2018, The Golden Hammer checked with the City of Conroe to confirm. The amendment occurred, because the City bore unexpected expenses and received unexpected funds related to the Tropical Storm Harvey disaster during the last week of August and first week of September in 2017.
Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham gave an exclusive interview to The Golden Hammer and confirmed that the so-called “Fourth Amendment” was, indeed, only the fourth budget amendment the City of Conroe had passed during the entire Fiscal Year since the year began on October 1, 2018. “The City of Conroe runs a tight ship when we deal with budget matters,” Councilman Ham explained. “Mayor [Toby] Powell does a great job in his quiet, yet firm, manner in leading the people.”
Ham explained that the Council holds a budget workshop that is open to the public each year. “The Mayor and Council members are always well-prepared to discuss every detail in the proposed budget. We rely on some great people to help us through the process, but we also work very hard ourselves to make sure we’re prepared.”
As a result, Ham explained, the City has not needed the extensive budget amendments that the Montgomery County government exhibits at every Commissioners Court meeting.
Montgomery County government: worst of times, age of foolishness, epoch of incredulity, season of Darkness, winter of despair, nothing before us, all going direct the other way
The Montgomery County Commissioners Court passed a $328 million budget for Fiscal Year 2018, on a 4 to 1 vote, in the middle of the Tropical Storm Harvey disaster, without meaningful review and without a fair chance for the public to participate in a public hearing with the proposed budget before them. Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark took the heroic step of voting against the County Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.
The September 5, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting exhibited a strenuous effort by four of the five Commissioners Court members to exclude the public from participation in the budget process. Worse yet, since County Auditor Phyllis Martin had only filed the “Proposed Budget” on August 31, 2017, less than two business days prior to the meeting, it was apparent that the Commissioners Court members had little understanding of the content of the 365-page document on which they voted.
The Citizens Budget Committee brought to the attention of the Commissioners Court more than two dozen flaws, contradictions, and omissions in the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, but the Commissioners Court would hear none of the complaints during the September 5 budget hearing. As the profanity of Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and the arrogance of County Judge Craig Doyal overwhelmed the budget consideration, the Commissioners Court moved to swift passage of an annual budget that made little sense, failed to address millions of dollars of operational issues, and contained approximately $100 million of complete waste.
The result of the poor budget handling by Doyal and the Commissioners Court is apparent at every single meeting of the Court. At every meeting during Fiscal Year 2018, there have been at least a dozen so-called “budget amendments” which the Commissioners Court has passed on an “emergency” basis as a “grave public necessity” without any discussion or deliberation. Once again, the Commissioners Court has strenuously sought to avoid any public discussion of its wrongdoing by refusing to hold public hearings about the budget amendments and, instead, passing them on an “emergency” basis.
At the last Commissioners Court meeting, on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, the freespenders passed nineteen (19) budget amendments comprising millions of dollars alone. Unlike the City of Conroe, which discussed its fourth budget amendment for approximately six (6) minutes in an open discussion in the open City Council meeting, the Commissioners Court failed to discuss the budget amendments at all, failed to deliberate, failed to read the amendments, and failed to show any understanding whatsoever regarding the matter on which they voted (unanimously).
The failure of the Commissioners Court to undertake careful consideration of the Montgomery County government’s annual budget reflects negatively in many ways, although the dozens of budget amendments are an important symptom of the abject failure of Doyal, Riley, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador to perform their basic job functions.
Most importantly, the massive waste of more than $100 million in the Montgomery County Budget totaling more than $328 million is the primary result of the gross negligence and recklessness of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.