Eric Yollick, The Golden Hammer
First-class Reggae star Jimmy Cliff’s song, “World Turned Upside Down,” seems to describe the perils Montgomery County citizens now face with respect to the enormous prices everyone is paying for water and the odd behavior of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) and its sister agency, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA).
A very odd turn of events occurred in the world of water regulation in Montgomery County. While the recently-elected Board of LSGCD, who swept into office on a platform of reform, reducing government spending, and deregulating groundwater, has turned to secrecy in their meetings and in their regulatory deliberations, the oddest person has come forward voluntarily to provide as much information as anyone seeks.
Yes, SJRA General Manager Jace Houston has volunteered information about SJRA’s operations, water pricing methodology, and scientific studies. He sat down with the Publisher of this newspaper on Tuesday for a lengthy interview, which he supplemented with hundreds of pages of scientific data, explanatory details and analysis, and multiple emails concerning various issues critical to the Montgomery County community. Houston answered every question The Golden Hammer asked him and then some. He didn’t hesitate. In fact, he seems ready to share more information, even though he’s certainly well aware of the fact that this newspaper has written critically of him and of SJRA.
This newspaper will report at least two stories based upon the Jace Houston interview over the coming days.
Strangely, the reformers on the LSGCD Board now seem like they’re trying to hide. It’s very unclear why, because, of course, they don’t want to talk about it. They hold lengthy executive sessions with their secretive Austin attorney, even though LSGCD has no pending litigation. In fact, those secret attorney meetings last longer than their perfunctory open meetings which contain minimal discussion of vital water issues.
On a bizarre four to two vote, with Mr. Bouche and Mr. Prykryl vociferously objecting and dissenting, LSGCD voted to require all consultants to the district to enter into non-disclosure agreements, so that all of their discussions, opinions, and shared information would be secret from the citizens and the rest of the outside world. Not even the corrupt Montgomery County government enters into such secretive agreements with County government vendors.
What is so sad about the “world turned upside down” is that there are important policy and scientific issues which require robust and open discussion: subsidence, flooding, groundwater recharge, water prices, private property rights, and many more. Houston and SJRA are starting to win that public discussion, because LSGCD’s secretive new Board is hiding behind non-disclosure agreements, a paid public relations consultant, and a district “media policy” which urges Board members to clear their public statements with the LSGCD staff before they speak.
It’s time for the citizens of Montgomery County to help Mr. Cliff “turn the world right side up.” We elected the LSGCD Board for specific reasons. They’re just seven regular citizens. They don’t know anything more than we do, even if some of them think they’re an elite. Perhaps, is that why they’re hiding information? So they’ll feel as though they know more!
It’s time for citizens to let Webb Melder, Harry Hardman, Jim Spigener, and Larry Rogers know that, in the world turned right side up, the best government is “open government.