Magnolia, March 12 – What has become clear during the campaign for the Precinct 2 County Commissioner position since the summer of last year is that the worst person to look out for the interests of Magnolia is incumbent Charlie Riley. Riley has been a failure through and through in three main respects, beating democrats in elections, mobility, and government spending. Parker, not Riley, better represents the interests and philosophy of the people of Magnolia and surrounding areas. Neither Parker nor Riley live in The Woodlands.
Beating democrats in elections
Riley and his closest supporters have attempted to make the argument that Riley has the credentials to beat a democrat in the November General Election while Parker doesn’t. Actually, the Riley camp has the argument turned upside down.
Riley has never run against a democrat, probably because Riley is a democrat running as a Republican. Remember, Riley came to the County government as Craig Doyal’s operations manager in 2003. Doyal had worked for Malcolm Purvis. When Doyal and Purvis announced that they were switching from the democrat party to the Republican Party in 1999, they made clear they were doing that because “I want to win.” Neither Doyal nor Purvis mentioned any sort of ideological reason for the Party switch in their appearance before the Montgomery County Republican Party Candidates Committee.
Riley ran for Commissioner in 2014 and beat a more conservative opponent in the Republican Runoff Election. There was no democrat in the 2014 General Election.
Parker’s history of running against democrat opponents is quite different. Parker was a two-term County Commissioner in Comal County whose county seat is New Braunfels, a left-leaning city south of Austin. Parker won election as the Precinct 3 Comal County Commissioner twice in 2004 and 2008. Parker ran as a Republican in the toughest Precinct for a Republican to win, because his Precinct included the city of New Braunfels and its liberal democrat population. Nevertheless, Parker managed to win twice in the. 2004 and 2008 November General Elections, precisely because Parker does know how to win when running against a democrat. In 2004, Parker won the General Election with 55.60% of the vote against the popular Cristina Zamora. In 2008, Parker won re-election in the General Election with 51.15% of the vote against a Hispanic candidate who was even more popular than Zamora in the local democrat party.
The democrat who Parker or Riley will face in the November General Election for Precinct 2 County Commissioner is running as a fiscal conservative who has argued for reduced government spending. That poses a serious challenge for someone like Riley whose history as a Precinct 2 Commissioner and as a County government employee has always been for greater government spending and the careless expenditure of tax dollars. Riley also served as a Board of Directors member of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District where he set the reappraisal policies that led to substantially higher property tax appraisal on people’s homes.
Parker has outstanding conservative credentials. Not only do conservatives support Parker in this election but also he is the author of two conservative books. No democrat – even one running as a fiscal conservative – would be more appealing than Parker to the conservative voters who will vote in Precinct 2 in the General Election.
Of course, Riley’s support for transgender adoptions may make him popular with the LGTBQ voters but it’ll make it difficult for Riley to bring out the Republican base to support him in a General Election. Riley’s strong support for nepotism – and the hiring of two of his family members (wife, nephew) – may make him popular with those two people but it’ll make it difficult for Riley to bring out the Republican base to support him in a General Election.
A supporter of Riley’s recently tried to make the argument that Precinct 2 Commissioner candidate Gregory Parker will work for The Woodlands rather than Magnolia or the entire Commissioners Precinct 2. In reality, there is a stark difference between Riley and Parker in that respect.
Riley has been a complete failure in his representation of the Magnolia area as a County Commissioner. Riley has only succeeded in two respects as a County Commissioner. He built himself a fancy office complex in the Unity Park area and he spent almost all of his time and energy defending the criminal indictment against him for official misconduct by alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
In the past six months, however, while trying to win re-election, Riley has deployed most of his Office’s resources into road projects in The Woodlands area while largely ignoring Magnolia altogether. Riley has taken Magnolia for granted since he believes he has the political support of Magnolia.
Meanwhile, Parker has focused his study and his policy concerns about failed mobility projects in the Magnolia area and the Fish Creek corridor. Clearly, Riley has ignored Magnolia’s mobility needs, while Parker has made it clear that he intends to address them.
After the November, 2015, road bond referendum passed that made available to the Magnolia area almost $90 million to complete road projects, Riley instead spent his time defending himself in the criminal case against him. The only road project Riley began in earnest during 2016 or the first half of 2017 was the Keenan Cutoff project on which Riley overspent bond road funds in order to accommodate the school district while angering most of the residential property owners in that area. Meanwhile, the FM 149 overpass has proceeded at a snail’s pace, FM 1774 is a complete mess, Riley failed to get FM 2978 widened as he assured Magnolia area voters he would by the end of 2018, and, worst of all, Riley completely failed to widen FM 1488 from the Waller County line to Mostyn Manor. While citizens sit in a massive traffic jam in the mornings and late in the afternoon on FM 1488, they should remember that Riley spent $13 million on a 3 mile tollroad project instead of taking those funds an using them on the single greatest mobility need in all of Montgomery County.
The FM 249 Tollway project, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, has already harmed and will harm the Magnolia area more than any other area, because:
- Riley diverted $13 million to that project, which hasn’t even broken ground, rather than spending those funds on FM 1488’s widening;
- The Texas Department of Transportation already has funds available to build those three miles as a free road, but Riley chose to pander to certain out-of-county engineering firms and real estate developers rather than focusing on the mobility and funding needs of the people of Magnolia;
- The 3 mile road on which Riley spent all of that money is approximately 5 miles south of the Magnolia area. It might eventually be a nice road for College Station access, but it does nothing for the people of Magnolia.
- The people of Magnolia voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 2 on March 6, which holds that “no governmental entity should ever construct or fund the construction of a tollroad without voter approval.” Riley never sought voter approval from anyone before he diverted the $13 million, plus massive time and energy, to the TX 249 Tollway.
- Tollroads actually harm economic development. If you don’t believe that, look at the George H.W. Bush Tollroad north of Dallas. Since people avoid using tollroads as much as possible, that tollroad destroyed any prospects for economic development in an area north of Dallas that ought to be one of the most highly-developed areas economically in the United States. It looks like a ghost town instead.
- Tollroads create congestion by taking up the space where free roads could be. The National Transportation Safety Board has conducted several studies which concluded that tollroads cause congestion, because (i) drivers try to avoid them and cause congestion on the free frontage roads around them, and (ii) they take up a lot of space for largely unused roads. United States Public Interest Research Group has called TX 249 Tollway one of the twelve worst “highway boondoggles” in the United States.
- Riley has argued that the TX 249 Tollway is important to bring people to the Renaissance Festival. The Renaissance Festival is not in Magnolia; it’s in Grimes County. What Riley’s Tollway will bring is traffic congestion six weekends a month when people are moving through Magnolia to spend their money somewhere else.
The fact that a fiscally-conservative sounding democrat is running at all reveals Riley’s vulnerability on the issue of County government spending. There’s simply no way that Riley can claim he’s a conservative when he’s supported higher government spending, massive waste within the County government, and the exclusion of conservative activists from the budget process who have offered construction suggestions for how the County can save tax dollars.
Riley has voted to increase his own salary and made clear that he refuses to consider any reduction in County Commissioner salaries, even though Montgomery County Commissioners receive the third highest salaries of any in the State of Texas, including counties which have much larger populations.
Riley has voted for every spending proposal that has come before the Commissioners Court. He is tied with Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador for the second worst rating of any County Commissioner: 85 out of 1,868 points. Riley gets a low F when comparing his votes with the Republican Party Platform.