Image: A “bell curve.”
Conroe, July 21 – Now that the 2017 Fiscal Year is three-fourths complete, Montgomery County citizens should ask how the Commissioners Court make the grade? The Golden Hammer has compiled a rating system for every Commissioners Court meeting and every vote in those meetings since October 1, 2016, the beginning of the current Fiscal Year. If a Commissioner or the County Judge were absent from a vote, they didn’t get points. If they voted the wrong way, they didn’t get points. Only if a member of the Court voted the correct way did they score.
What does it mean to vote the “correct” way?
It wouldn’t be fair to evaluate votes and produce a subjective rating. Therefore, this newspaper has evaluated all of the votes in terms of whether they follow the 2016 Republican Party of Texas Platform, which is available online at the website of the Republican Party of Texas. It’s a detailed document which provides extraordinary guidance. The Golden Hammer did not include votes on law enforcement issues, unless they were major issues that would affect County spending. Furthermore, this newspaper applied the ratings under the fundamental guiding principle of “conservatism,” as the great Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) defined the term: spending less money on government to minimize taxation and maximize freedom from taxation and government interference.
Using the Republican Platform and the true definition of “conservative” (Goldwater should provide the definition, because, as President Ronald Reagan noted, “Barry Goldwater was the Father of Modern Conservatism”), this newspaper rated the Commissioners Court votes. The current ratings through the July 11, 2017, meeting stand as follows:
Doyal = 296/3,509.
Meador = 335/3,509.
Riley = 355/3,509.
Noack = 1,610/3,509.
Clark = 1,145/3,509.
On raw points, those scores are troubling. It hearkens back to a story from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983 where a crystallography laboratory examination occurred. The highest score on the very difficult test was 48 points out of 100. Should the entire class flunk in that instance? Fortunately, the laboratory instructor had some mercy in his heart and applied a “bell curve” to rate the grades in comparison to each other, especially since there clearly were some outstanding students in the class. It was just a difficult test. (Can you imagine trying to relate M.C. Escher prints to crystallographic structures?!)
Therefore, in all fairness to the five Commissioners Court members – the “students” – a bell curve is appropriate here. One problem with such a curve, however, is how the students actually scored. One notices that Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack and and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark scored at least three times the score of the highest other rating, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley. The laggard is clearly County Judge Craig Doyal.
A bell curve for these “grades” or ratings would probably look like the following:
Noack A: he doesn’t get an A+, because his raw score suggests otherwise.
Doyal D: he shouldn’t get an F, because his score is not that far from Riley’s C-. (Let’s do a bit of “grade inflation” to help him out.)
The other way to look at what the Commissioners Court members do
The Commissioners Court meetings are major events among the job responsibilities of the five members of the Court. That’s where they should set County policy. One of the reasons their raw ratings scores are so low is because they don’t examine, deliberate on, investigate, or discuss huge swaths of County policy matters under the so-called “consent” agenda. (A better name for the “consent” agenda would be the “sound asleep” agenda.)
Nevertheless, County Commissioners have substantial duties outside of the Commissioners Court. Their major constitutional function is to act as the project manager for road and bridge construction and maintenance in their respective Precincts. The County Judge doesn’t have many constitutional duties other than to preside over Commissioners Court meetings. Since January 15, 2015, however, the Commissioners Court has established the County Judge, Craig Doyal, as the operations manager of the County government, particularly over County Departments which do not have an elected official directing them (such as the County Clerk, Justices of the Peace, or Sheriff.)
Therefore, a review of how well the Court members fulfill their constitutional job functions seems a fair item with which to take an average score along with the Commissioners Court vote rating.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack
Noack works in his office an average of six days per week. He’s often working when his Precinct 3 employees are enjoying the weekend or holidays with their families. Noack closely manages the road and bridge operations in Precinct 3 (south Montgomery County) both as to the actual work underway and the cost management.
He has established a traffic monitoring operation which is slowly expanding countywide, and Noack has developed a system to construct highly advanced signals inside his Precinct barn. Commissioners Riley and Clark have utilized the signals services of Noack’s amazing technologically-advanced operation. When one tours the back areas of Noack’s facility, it’s pretty apparent that he manages his Precinct operations closely, because he seems familiar with every detail.
The road maintenance service in Precinct 3 is swift and hands-on. Noack’s excellent staff should get a lot of the credit, but it’s clear that he manages them actively.
Noack’s Job Performance Score is an A.
Therefore, averaging his Voting Score of A with his Job Performance Score, also an A, receives:
NOACK TOTAL PERFORMANCE SCORE = A.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark
Clark’s performance as a County Commissioner began to improve drastically on December 12, 2016, the day he left the Animal Shelter operations behind him. Clark’s management of Precinct 4 is on a steep upward curve since that time. He’s also greatly improved his voting in the Commissioners Court, as it’s apparent that he spends a lot more time preparing for the meetings.
Precinct 4 has many road maintenance issues. Clark, his internal engineer Bill Smith, and his management team of Billy Bob Lee, Tracy Willett, and Marie Moore have started to address serious needs in East Montgomery County. Quite frankly, Clark has become a much better project manager than he was seven months ago, because he has become a far more “hands-on” Commissioner.
Clark’s Job Performance Score (which includes two-and-a-half months prior to December 12) is a B-.
Therefore, averaging his Voting Score of B with his Job Performance Score, B-, Clark receives:
CLARK TOTAL PERFORMANCE SCORE = B.
Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley
Riley should have been a natural as a project manager as County Commissioner due to his prior service, before his election, as then-Commissioner Craig Doyal’s Operations Manager in Precinct 2. Riley certainly has the skills to be a great project manager. He’s also very good with people, so he knows how to motivate employees to want to do their jobs well.
Sadly, Riley has suffered two major distractions in his project management work. First, he has permitted County vendors, primarily engineers who contributed massive amounts of money to his political campaign and legal defense fund, to convince him to allow them to take over project management. That has cost Montgomery County taxpayers a fortune in project management which should have fallen under Riley’s salary as a County Commissioner instead. Second, Riley’s indictment in June, 2016, under the Texas Open Meetings Act and the open warfare between Riley and a large portion of his constituency over the controversial Woodlands Parkway Extension have distracted an otherwise capable and hardworking man to the point that he seems distant and divorced from the precise Precinct 2 operations over which he should preside.
Riley’s Job Performance Score is a D+.
Therefore, averaging his Voting Score of C- with his Job Performance Score, D+, Riley receives:
RILEY TOTAL PERFORMANCE SCORE = C-.
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador
Meador was a general contractor before he became a County Commissioner. Therefore, he should have been a natural for the project management job in Precinct 1, the Montgomery and Willis areas primarily. 20 years ago, Meador was a hands-on project manager and deserved a lot of credit for doing his job well, even though his voting record on the Commissioners Court always followed democrat party principles far more closely than those of the Republican Party.
In Fiscal Year 2017, it’s very apparent that Meador is no longer a manager of his precinct operations. Precinct 1 just doesn’t get the job done. Road maintenance is lagging. Many road projects are far behind. Meador’s reliance on engineer John Holzwarth to act as a project manager is completely inappropriate and costing the County hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
Meador’s Job Performance Score is a D-.
Therefore, averaging his Voting Score of D+ with his Job Performance Score, D+, Meador receives:
MEADOR TOTAL PERFORMANCE SCORE = D.
County Judge Craig Doyal
Of the five members of the Commissioners Court, Doyal’s performance is the most tragic. As he showed during his 2014 campaign for County Judge, Doyal understood that County spending was a major issue confronting the County government. He produced a campaign video in which he made clear that he didn’t want Montgomery County to follow the terrible spending policies of the federal government.
Sadly, Montgomery County is worse than the federal government. County spending since 2010 has grown 77%, more than three times the spending growth of the federal budget. As the Commissioners Court leader during the past two years, Doyal has failed to get spending under control.
Part of controlling spending is managing County Departments carefully. That requires hands-on “management by wandering around.” Since the Commissioners Court gave Doyal those management duties, he should have fulfilled them. Instead, Doyal is rarely at his office or anywhere near the operations of the County government. Doyal has the personality and the intellect to get the job done. He doesn’t do the job.
Presiding over the Commissioners Court constitutes a tiny aspect of Doyal’s duties. Even that part of his job, however, has been a total failure for Doyal. The secretive meeting agendas, the Open Meetings Act problem, and the secrecy efforts of the County government fall upon Doyal’s shoulders.
Doyal’s Job Performance is an F.
Therefore, averaging his Voting Score of D with his Job Performance Score, F, Doyal receives:
DOYAL TOTAL PERFORMANCE SCORE = D-.
The grades of the Commissioners Court follow, as of July 11, 2017, the last Commissioners Court meeting.
Clark deserves the “Most Improved” award at this time in the Fiscal Year.