Image: GOP activist Ginger Russell addressed the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, September 27, 2017.
Conroe, September 28 – Conservative Republican activist and GOP Precinct Chair Ginger Russell of Magnolia provided a citizen comment during the Tuesday, September 26, 2017, Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting about the proposed $73 million, 3.6 mile, Tx-249 Tollway and drew a bizarre response from Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley to whom Russell had primarily directed the comment.
Russell, who had attended a Republican Women’s club meeting in Magnolia the previous week, confronted Riley during the Commissioners Court meeting and asked him why he refused to let the taxpayers of Montgomery County vote up or down on a referendum concerning the proposed Tx-249 Tollway project.
Even though it is a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act for government officials to argue with citizens during citizen comments about items not on the meeting agenda, Riley angrily shouted at Russell,
“I just want to make it clear that’s not what I said. And it was recorded. She recorded it. We recorded it. That is not what it was said. What I said was if I’m going to ask the taxpayers to be responsible for it and if I was going to add debt to the county debt they should vote on it. I’m not doing either one of these with this tax, with this tollroad.”
At the end of his comment, Riley confused the proposed tollroad with a tax, although the vast majority of citizens consider taxes and tolls to be identical.
Riley’s comments, however, are completely false for another more important reason. Despite vast citizen opposition and the opposition of two County Commissioners, Precinct 3’s James Noack and Precinct 4’s Jim Clark, the other three members of the Commissioners Court – Riley, County Judge Craig Doyal, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador (who will vote for any spending proposal that crosses his path) – are pushing through the Tx-249 Tollway project regardless of the massive opposition. Their attorney, Rich Muller of Sugar Land, has acknowledged that the Tollway project would never survive a voter referendum.
Riley and Doyal are demanding the project, because (1) they’re funneling millions of dollars to engineering firms and other vendors who are gigantic political contributors and the primary supporters of their criminal legal defense funds, and (2) the two biggest real estate speculators who hope to benefit from the new road built in what seems to be the middle of nowhere are San Antonio’s Rick Sheldon and Minnesota’s Varde Partners both of whom are also major political supporters of Riley, Doyal, and their criminal legal defense.
Riley and Doyal intend to have the County government, through the phony auspices of the “Montgomery County Toll Road Authority,” which is really just the Commissioners Court, issue revenue bonds to pay for the 3.6 mile Tollway.
Meanwhile, however, Montgomery County taxpayers have already spent more than $13 million on (1) $2 million of project management paid to Halff Associates engineers, the firm of Bobby Jack Adams, Doyal’s best friend, and business partner, and also an organizer of Doyal’s criminal legal defense, (2) almost $1 million to Land Tech Surveyors, major political contributors to Doyal and Riley, (3) and more than $10 million to other engineering firms, for right-of-way acquisition and environmental studies. That money is coming out of the general revenue funds of the taxpayers (!!!), although Riley and Doyal are using the hokey excuse that the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority is “borrowing” the money from the taxpayers interest free!!!
Riley is telling Russell and other taxpayers in Montgomery County that a 3-year $13 million, interest free, loan from the taxpayers somehow does not constitute the taxpayers “being responsible for” this folly of a project, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway.
There’s another important point that Riley seems to forget. Riley continues to extoll the virtues of the Decimation of Hope Highway as a means by which the people of the Magnolia area may get to Houston locations faster. Therefore, Riley’s constituents will be the ones paying the tolls, which will undoubtedly be quite exorbitant. In other words, the people of Magnolia and surrounding vicinity within Riley’s Commissioners Precinct 2 will be the primary people forced to pay Riley’s Tollway tolls (while the citizens of Grimes County who use the Tx-249 Extension in their community will get to use the road for free as a result of their Commissioners Court’s and state legislator’s opposition to a tollroad on the Grimes County portion of the road).
That really does seem to be Riley’s problem. He truly views tax dollars and tolls (same thing) as “other people’s money.” But those “other people” happen to be THE TAXPAYERS OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY!