The Woodlands, September 23 – Woodlands Township Board of Directors incumbent Laura Fillault and Carol Stromatt, her challenger for the seat, faced off in a lively candidate forum at the Woodlands Chamber of Commerce on Friday, September 22, 2017, before a small crowd since the Chamber held the event at the beginning of the business day from 8 a.m. until around 9:30 a.m.
Fillault, a Texas A&M University degreed process engineer who defeated “establishment” Board Chairman Bruce Tough in the November, 2015, election and her electoral opponent for the Township Position 7, Stromatt, who works for the Memorial Hermann Hospital System and is a Precinct Chair for the Montgomery County democrat party, generally agreed on most issues, but Fillault, the incumbent, clearly had a much greater command of the facts and the circumstances facing The Woodlands community.
Both candidates emphasized their willingness to listen to community concerns.
Stromatt said, “I believe in community first, God and community first. I will be your listening ears and your communicator.” Stromatt explained that she has worked as an officer of the Indian Springs Village Association for many years and has also been a member of its Residential Design Review Committee. “We have a diverse community and I want to be sure we will maintain that,” the challenger said.
Stromatt’s emphasis during her opening statement was her concern for flood victims, her desire to work with other Woodlands Township board members, and her commitment to be “a good steward of the taxes.”
Fillault, who lives in the Village of Alden Bridge, said that she is the director of operations for a corporate branding company and is trying to start a small business to teach personal finance to young adults. Fillault has two children, one attending McCullough Junior High School and one attending Mitchell Intermediate School.
Fillault said that her priorities for her next term on the Township Board would be to focus on a regional water mitigation plan, because “the concrete we’re pouring needs to direct water where it’s supposed to go.” Fillault also wants to focus on incorporation, the Township’s budget, and public safety.
Harmony and Woodlands residents
The Chamber moderator asked both candidates about their feelings about harmony among residents of The Woodlands, particularly in light of recent comments by Fillault and Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch. Not surprisingly, the moderator is a representative of a liberal media blog that attempts to compete with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, and which such blog has pressed its political correctness agenda quite vigorously against Fillault and Bunch.
Fillault responded, “I apologize for some of the things I said on Twitter that were not so nice…I’ve been properly rebuked.” Fillault reminded the audience that “we have a really diverse community here in The Woodlands…I want to keep this home town like it is.” The incumbent Director said she supports a “Diversity Day” in The Woodlands.
(Sounds like the liberal “establishment” is doing a job on poor Mrs. Fillault.)
Stromatt responded by explaining, “I was part of the movement that created the Woodlands Equality Coalition. Your nationality, what [language] you speak has nothing to do with who you are.” Stromatt vigorously added, “I will continue to work with all residents no matter who they are and to have forums within our community so we can all talk about what’s going on in our community.”
After those raging euphemisms fell, the liberal moderator rubbed his glazed eyes and moved on to the next topic.
20% homestead exemption which Woodlands Township voted down
Stromatt clearly didn’t understand the question on whether the Woodlands Township should adopt a 20% homestead exemption for property tax collections. Instead, she answered, “What does it take to continue the life we live? I don’t think we need a 20% tax increase. That’s the county’s decision.”
Fillault was a bit defensive on the issue but at least understood the question.
“We already do a 65-plus and disabled exemption. If we do a 20% homestead exemption, then we lose money over time.” (Mrs. Fillault, if “we” do a 20% homestead exemption, then the PEOPLE GAIN money over time, and it’s their own money to boot!) Fillault added, “We’re going to be challenged in our budget. We’re going to make 23 cents on a $100 valuation, but the homestead exemption takes us down the red much faster.” (And taxes don’t take the people down the red faster?)
Events such as the IronMan competition which block Woodlands traffic
Fillault made clear she supports the IronMan Texas triathlon and CB&I triathlon events coming to The Woodlands, because “we like the sales tax receipts, but we also like to be able to roam around our area.” She said she is “just having to keep trying to find a good balance” between tourism from those events and the detriment they are to local traffic during the weekends when they’re in The Woodlands.
Stromatt generally followed Fillault’s lead: “I support the events, because the sales tax keeps taxes down on homeowners. Each year we need to get better on the events to allow people to get out of our homes.”
Stromatt added, “We have traffic control. We’re working in the right direction on that. We don’t want to do away with the sales tax.”
Listening to Stromatt felt like listening to someone riding a giant tidal wave over which they had no control.
Stromatt emphasized, “I’m a big advocate for the residents.” Fillault told the audience, “I’m happy to meet with people and help people call for help.” The audience nodded with thunderous vigor to their euphemistic and meaningless remarks.
The Township and incorporation
Fillault argued that the Township is not a “glorified homeowners association.” “We’re a special purpose tax district,” she explained. Fillault said an important function of the Woodlands Township Board was to open the lines of communication so that MUDs, the County, and the Sheriff’s Office could maintain good relationships. “We need to help the Creekside folks get the FEMA help they need, so I worked to bring the County’s Office of Emergency Management in.”
Stromatt responded, “We must make sure residents are heard and informed. We need to keep them in the loop. We need to take tangible actions. I want to address the need to negotiate with the powers that be about Spring Creek. We don’t have a flood control district but we can get that done.”
As for incorporation, Stromatt and Fillault both refused to take any particular position, but they both supported spending a lot of money to study the question. “I’m not going to make a definite decision until I get results from various studies…I will keep residents and our community informed and in the loop and I will collaborate with current Board members…George Mitchell had a wonderful vision for our community,” Stromatt averred.
Stromatt obviously has spent a long time memorizing the marketing messages of The Woodlands Development Company.
Fillault said that “we have no control over our roads and points around The Woodlands.” She said she’s opposed to the extension of Branch Crossing Drive to FM 1488, an extremely important point.
“If we incorporate, we’d have a seat at the table with the Houston Galveston Area Council…HGAC still deals with flood mitigation plans…FEMA money doesn’t come to us because we’re not a city but instead goes to the County,” Fillault said.
Fillault made clear that the Township Board is nowhere close to a final decision on incorporation.
The incumbent Board member made an interesting point that she doesn’t want The Woodlands to be a pass-thru city but a place where people come. For that reason, Fillault said, “I wanted a history museum at the old home finder center. Now, we’re looking at a cultural performing arts center for the huge demand for an indoor stage and a natural science museum like Sugar Land.” She added, “If the community wants it, let’s figure it out. We should pursue grants, private donations, partnerships with universities. I’d even consider bonding.”
Stromatt also spoke in favor of centralized government planning and tax dollar spending for a cultural arts center and science museum.
Stromatt took a very controversial position: “I’m all for art.” She later added, “I’d like to see a science center for the kids. How they’re financed that is the question. The Board and residents have to decide together.” (Uh-huh. Right. Don’t you perceive the elitist society of 2017?)
Neither Fillault nor Stromatt could identify any areas where they would suggest reducing Township spending and couldn’t identify any spending inefficiency. Both Fillault and Stromatt named several programs for which they wanted to spend more tax dollars. Fillault mentioned spending more money for Woodlands Fire Department requests that she felt bad about turning down during the recent budget cycle. “We had to turn down two of their requests. I’d like to provide that funding,” Fillault said. Stromatt said she’s in favor of trimming trees more and also wants to “keep money to determine if we want to be a city.”
The moderator asked what was the most important part of the political party platform for each of the parties to which Stromatt and Fillault, also known as the democrats and Republicans, respectively. Stromatt didn’t name any platform planks of the democrat party, “This is a nonpartisan race. You are my residents.” (The concept of ownership of the citizens would seem quite consistent with the platform of the democrat party.)
Fillault was far more concise and to the point. “I tend to be conservative. I’m a believer in fiscal conservatism. In our community, one of the most important things is that, because one of the things we work on are budgets.”
Both Stromatt and Fillault are happy with law enforcement in The Woodlands.
Stromatt announced the entirely new concept, “I’m a big proponent of our businesses. We need to work together with the development company. They pay a large amount of our taxes and keep our taxes lower. We need to go to them and negotiate. In the past, the developer has always been a good partner to us.”
Fillault emphasized that she want to be “fiscally responsible and open to meeting and helping residents.”
Stromatt said, “I’m for the needs of our community first.” (Perhaps, there should be an entire candidate forum on whether the candidates are for the needs of our community first, as this issue is so obviously controversial that it required endless repetition. Will the Courier blog support the candidate who argues in that forum, “I’m for the needs of our community last!”)
Stromatt added, “We must be sure we’re never annexed by Houston Texas. I came here to get away from the concrete and asphalt.”
Fillault concluded, “I’ll work for a regional water plan that doesn’t exist right now. We need a transit plan…We need to keep working towards incorporation.”
Fillault mentioned that the 2019 budget will be a challenge, because the Township will be responsible for streetscape maintenance that the developer currently handles.