Is County Commissioner Charlie Riley really “conservative”? (Part 1 of a 2-part series.)

Is County Commissioner Charlie Riley really “conservative”? (Part 1 of a 2-part series.)

Image: Former United States Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) and author of The Conscience of a Conservative.

ERIC YOLLICK, The Golden Hammer

Magnolia, May 3 – On May 1, 2017, Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley issued a press release entitled “Personnel Records Reflect Conservative Leadership from Commissioner Riley.” Riley claimed that he is “operating the most conservative personnel budget” of all of the Montgomery County Commissioners. Riley bragged that his personnel budget has shown the least growth of all four County Commissioners, including Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark.

Riley claimed in his press release that, “although Precinct 2 manages the second largest amount of county roads in Montgomery County, it employs less than a quarter of the 258 Commissioner Precinct employees.” He concluded his press release by stating that Riley “looks forward to continuing his conservative leadership…” Riley then quoted himself, “When I ran for the office of Commissioner, I promised voters I would manage Precinct 2 in a fiscally conservative way.”

MCAD Board member, self-proclaimed “conservative,” and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley (R-Magnolia).

Noack’s Retort

Later on May 1, Commissioner Noack published his retort to Riley’s press release and proclaimed, “If you look at the depth and breadth of services offered by Precinct 3, there is no doubt which precinct is managed by a true conservative.”

Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack (R-The Woodlands).

Noack noted that his Commissioner’s Precinct 3 actually has the smallest road and bridge staff of any Commissioner’s Precinct. Noack also argued that Precinct 3 has almost no area that includes incorporated cities, unlike Riley’s Commissioner’s Precinct 2. Noack also argued that “Precinct 3 operates a recycling facility, the Spring Creek Greenway & Nature Center, the Montgomery County Northstar Traffic System, the county’s only mosquito abatement program, and the South County Community Centers.” Noack explained that Precinct 3 also provides the signals for all of the Commissioner’s Precincts and told The Golden Hammer that he does not charge the other Commissioner’s Precincts for labor for the manufacture of those computerized signals.

There is no question that Noack’s signals operations, the efficiency of his road and bridge crews, and his management of the Northstar Traffic System are very impressive.


Setting aside the possible personality issues, Riley, in desperation mode to keep his office, has now tried to adopt the “conservative” mantle. Noack wants the public to know that he, James Noack, is more conservative.

Earlier this year, County Judge Craig Doyal proclaimed that he, Doyal, is a “fiscal conservative” because, yes, while, Doyal wants to grow the size of government, he wants to limit the growth to the rate of inflation plus the growth in population. In fact, setting such a ceiling on growth of the Montgomery County government’s spending was the exact direction of a referendum which 93% of Republican voters passed in 2010 in the 2010 Republican Primary Election. Sadly, since 2010, Doyal and his colleagues have grown spending $54 million past that ceiling to Montgomery County’s current $377 million budget. Since the County Budget is really just a numbers game, in actuality, spending exceeds $429 million, without including funds spend under road bonds.

So under his own definition, Doyal is not a “fiscal conservative.”

Thanks to the public discussion of Riley and Noack, The Golden Hammer has decided to explore the question:


To begin the discussion today let’s try to define the term. What is a “conservative”?

Definition of “Conservative”

Senator Barry Goldwater wrote his classic book, The Conscience of a Conservative, in 1960. It ignited the modern conservative movement in the United States, was a bestseller, and helped to inspire Ronald Reagan and many others to enter politics. Goldwater was a transformative figure and political thinker throughout his United States Senate career spanning from 1953 to 1987.

Goldwater wrote:

“…the Conservative’s first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?” (page 13).

Goldwater explained:

“Government does not have an unlimited claim on the earnings of individuals.” (page 42).

Even back in 1960, Senator Goldwater evaluated the worth of government with respect to the direct freedom it takes away from the individual:

“Here is an indication of how taxation infringes on our freedom. A family man earning $4500 a year works, on the average, 22 days a month.Taxes, visible and invisible, take approximately 32% of his earnings. This means that one-third, or seven whole days, of his monthly labor goes for taxes. The average American is therefore working one-third of the time for government: a third of what he produces is not available for his own use but is confiscated and used by others who have not earned it. Let us note that by this measure the United States is already one-third ‘socialized…’ The very imposition of heavy taxes is a limit on a man’s freedom.” (page 43).

Goldwater made clear that conservativism did not include those, like Charlie Riley and Craig Doyal, who try to justify more government spending as a spur for “economic growth.” That’s not conservative. That’s what we refer to as “LIBERAL” in the United States. The Senator wrote:

“The need for ‘economic growth’ that we hear so much about these days will be achieved, not by the government harnessing the nation’s economic forces, but by emancipating them. By reducing taxes and spending we will not only return to the individual the means with which he can assert his freedom and dignity, but also guarantee to the nation the economic strength that will always be its ultimate defense against foreign foes.

In other words, even 57 years ago, people like Riley and Doyal were around who tried to usurp “conservative” principles by claiming that advocacy for more government spending was somehow something other than the “socialism” which Goldwater, Reagan, and other conservative leaders recognized it to be.


Is Charlie Riley “conservative”? Or has Riley supported “socialism” as Goldwater described government usurpation of economic forces?

Part 2 of this series of articles, which The Golden Hammer will publish tomorrow, will discuss the specific policies of Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley. Nevertheless, Senator Barry Goldwater has given us the criteria with which to evaluate Riley:

  • Do Riley’s policy decisions maximize freedom?
  • Has Riley supported higher spending, which means greater taxation, which is an infringement on freedom?
  • Has Riley used the government to harness economic forces or has he used government to liberate his constituents from those forces?
  • Have Riley’s policy decisions reduced taxes or have they increased them? Remember that “taxes” in Goldwater’s analysis, include both direct and indirect taxes.

As a preview of the discussion, here’s Commissioner Noack’s opinion on Charlie Riley’s “conservatism” as Noack expressed in a comment on social media yesterday afternoon:

“I posted this due to some political posturing another Commissioner is doing for re-election. His information was false and misleading. I serve this community to deliver on expectations. I staff my office with the professionals necessary to make it happen. I have not created a job for my wife, voted for Tollroads, doomed a road bond due to a useless road and then threatened to build it anyhow (Woodlands Parkway). I didn’t vote against a homestead exemption then vote for it for political necessity; nor was I indicted for an alleged TOMA violation. I also did not vote to abdicate my responsibility to manage the county to the county judge.”

Please join us tomorrow for the answer. Meanwhile, The Golden Hammer would appreciate your input in comments below.




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