Conroe, June 16 – The “citizens” whom Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley rounded up to speak in favor of their beloved $73 million 3.6-mile 249 tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, all had special interests and ties to the so-called “249 Partnership,” a lobbying group established to support funneling tax dollars to favored engineering and road contractor firms closely connected to the political and legal fortunes of Doyal and Riley. On May 31, 2017, Doyal and Riley met with the 249 Partnership at the Magnolia City Council meeting room where they pled for “citizen” support for the Decimation of Hope Highway project. They staged the comments before Commissioners Court at that meeting.
The Decimation of Hope Highway project is a total highway boondoggle. Doyal and Riley want to build the tiny 3.6 miles of road, possibly the most expensive highway in American history at over $20 million per mile (!), using Montgomery County government funds and credit. They’ve already spent just over $13 million on the project taken directly out of general revenue funds.
After the Tuesday, June 13, Commissioners Court meeting at which eight 249 Partnership lobbyists spoke in favor of the Decimation of Hope Highway, Doyal issued a press release with the heading, “Judge Doyal: citizens press county to support 249 project, keep local control.”
Doyal’s press release was incorrect in at least two respects. First, of the eight (8) people who spoke, it would be a stretch to call them regular “citizens.” Second, none of them argued for “local control” but instead merely spoke in favor of the construction of the road, which no one seems to oppose. The real issue is: why should Montgomery County fund the construction of a road which the Texas Department of Transportation has already funded and would build at its expense?
Who were those eight so-called “citizens”?
Of the eight people whom Doyal and Riley rounded up to speak in favor of the Decimation of Hope Highway, only four (4) were Montgomery County residents at all. All of those four are government employees with lengthy careers in government.
Of the eight people, six out of the eight work in public sector jobs, while only two work in the private sector. The two private sector individuals who appeared before the Commissioners Court on Tuesday were employees of Grimes County’s Texas Renaissance Festival, which would be the primary financial beneficiary of the 15 mile Tx-249 extension. (The Decimation of Hope Highway is only the 3.6 miles of road from Spring Creek to Pinehurst and will cost over $73 million! The remaining 11.4 miles of the road will be a Tx-DOT project that will end close to the location of the Renaissance Festival in Todd Mission, Grimes County, Texas.)
The eight so-called “citizens” were:
- John Bramlett, a 34-year veteran of the Magnolia City Council and close political ally of Riley and Doyal
- Brenda Hoppe, a schoolteacher and member of the Magnolia City Council, also a political ally of Riley and Doyal
- Todd Stephens, the Magnolia ISD Superintendent, who works closely with Riley on many political projects
- Marlisa Briggs, Executive Director of the North Houston Association, a special interest organization which engineering firms and government contractors dominate. NHA is based in the City of Houston.
- Travis Bryant, the Director of Marketing of the Texas Renaissance Festival of Grimes County
- Paul Mendes, the City Adminstrator of Magnolia and one of the leaders of the 249 Partnership along with Doyal and Riley
- Bruce Hillegeist, President and full-time staff member of the Tomball Chamber of Commerce (Tomball is in Harris County, a fact which Craig Doyal seems to need to learn)
- someone named Terry who is an employee of the Texas Renaissance Festival of Grimes County.
In summary, none of the pro-Decimation of Hope Highway speakers were regular “citizens.” All of them had strong special interest ties to the 249 Partnership. All of them had financial ties to the 249 Partnership and its members.
As presiding officer of the Commissioners Court, Doyal permitted all of the special interest lobbyists to speak at length in favor of the Decimation of Hope Highway, while he carefully interrupted and cut off the comments of the genuine citizens of Montgomery County who appeared before the Commissioners Court to speak against the project.