Image: Identified at the end of this article.
ERIC YOLLICK, The Golden Hammer
The Good and the Bad of Charlie Riley
Magnolia, May 4 – In 1921, President Warren G. Harding pardoned a man and here’s what he said about him: “He is a man of much personal charm and impressive personality, which qualifications make him a dangerous man calculated to mislead the unthinking…”
Like that man, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley is a man of much personal charm. He’s got an impressive personality. Those attributes make Riley a dangerous man as well, because when he calls himself a “conservative” his supporters come to his defense with the following statements, “I trust him,” “he’s honest,” “he’s a good man,” and other statements that might actually be true but have nothing whatsoever to do with Riley’s political philosophy.
The man whom President Harding pardoned made the following statement about his political philosophy (with the name of his philosophy replaced with the word “Conservatism”):
“Voting for Conservatism is not Conservatism any more than a menu is a meal. Conservatism must be organized, drilled, equipped and the place to begin is in the industries where the workers are employed…Without such economic organization and the economic power with which it is clothed, and without the industrial co-operative training, discipline and efficiency which are its corollaries, the fruit of any political victories the workers may achieve will turn to ashes on their lips.”
The man out of whose mouth those words actually came was named Eugene V. Debs. He ran for President of the United States but never won. He ran under the Socialist Workers Party label. The actual political statement was:
“Voting for Socialism is not Socialism any more than a menu is a meal. Socialism must be organized, drilled, equipped and the place to begin is in the industries where the workers are employed…Without such economic organization and the economic power with which it is clothed, and without the industrial co-operative training, discipline and efficiency which are its corollaries, the fruit of any political victories the workers may achieve will turn to ashes on their lips.”
Isn’t it scary, however, that there really are people who support the doctrine that 96 years ago was called “socialism” and they run under the “conservative” label today? (Remember all of the people spouting “private-public partnerships,” including Riley himself. That’s what “socialism” is.)
Now that we understand what “socialism” is, let’s return back to “conservatism,” the subject of this article about Riley.
In yesterday’s analysis, we concluded Senator Barry Goldwater has given us the criteria with which to evaluate Riley as a conservative:
- 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.
Is Riley a “conservative”?
First, let’s remember that Riley’s score for fiscally-conservative votes in The Golden Hammer Commissioners Court rating system for the period from October 1, 2016, through the present is 342 points out of a possible 2,719 points. In other words, Riley votes “conservative” 12.6% of the time.
Riley has worked for the government most of his adult life. Before he became the Precinct 2 County Commissioner on January 1, 2015, Riley worked as the Precinct 2 Operations Manager for then-Commissioner Craig Doyal. Riley and his father, Buddy, both centered their lives about using government as a tool to improve living conditions, particularly in the Magnolia area.
Here’s what Riley is known for as a County Commissioner:
- He supports construction of a $73 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 toll road section also known as the “Decimation of Hope Highway” because it takes tax dollars away from those who need them most, the hardworking women and men who slave to pay taxes to give Riley and his wife their government paychecks and to allow Riley to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into the hands of mostly outside-of-Montgomery County engineers and road contractors who enjoy Montgomery County citizens’ money immensely, and transfer a hefty portion to Riley back as political contributions. Why would Riley support this crazy project that will constitute one of the most expensive highways ever constructed in American history if built? He says that it will be a money-maker for the County government. Of course, there’s a big risk that, like most other toll roads, they just don’t make much money at all. Remember, Riley has already voted to spend $12.1 million of County general funds for the Decimation of Hope Highway.
- Riley consistently votes to fund the Montgomery County Airport, which is far away from his Commissioners Precinct. The Airport is a sinkhole for County tax dollars that simply has never provided any economic justification other than as a monument to Riley’s pal Meador.
- Riley has consistently supported and voted for County spending Budgets that greatly exceed the rate of population growth and inflation. This year’s Budget is $54 million more than what it should be since 2010 when Republican Primary Election voters told County leaders to use that rate as a ceiling for spending. Riley and other County leaders ignored the demands of 93% of the Republican voters in that election.
- Riley is one of three criminal defendants who got the Texas Open Meetings Act declared unconstitutional, because, Riley argued, it violated his rights of free speech by requiring him to conduct his political business in the “open meetings” required under Texas law. Now, Riley can do his business dealing to spend government money behind closed doors.
- Riley called Commissioner Jim Clark and rebuked him on the telephone after the first Commissioners Court meeting where Clark dared to vote against the Decimation of Hope Highway.
- Riley gave himself a huge pay raise in this Fiscal Year, even though the Salary Study Committee, which he helped to appoint, recommended against any pay raises, because Riley’s salary was already much higher than almost every other county commissioner in Texas.
- Riley made a motion to create a new position in the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office, after it became apparent his wife Deanne was not going to be working for the Sheriff’s Department after Sheriff Rand Henderson came into office. The following month, Riley placed on the agenda to give his wife the new position he created, also famously known as “the Riley 2-Step.”
- Riley has consistently condoned County Judge Craig Doyal’s concentration of his political power by taking management of the County government away from the Commissioners Court and giving it to Doyal.
- Riley first voted against the 20% homestead exemption from property taxes. Then 4 weeks later, sensing the direction of the political wind, he voted for it. Riley had the same information for both votes, because Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae had provided the information projecting tax collections before the first vote.
- Riley tried to put two of his best friends on the County Ethics Committee. Only by the courage of County Attorney J.D. Lambright did doing the right thing prevail.
- On February 14, 2017, Riley tried to scare people into believing that County government spending cuts would require cuts in the law enforcement budget, when, in fact, the Citizens Budget Committee and the County GOP Executive Committee have both called for a $100 million spending reduction in non-law enforcement departments with a $40 million spending increase to put more “boots on the ground” for law enforcement and to build a capital fund for the County.
- If you’re upset about the Montgomery Central Appraisal District’s reappraisal of your home, then look to Riley, who is a Board member of the MCAD and who is responsible for setting their reappraisal policy under the provisions of the Texas Tax Code.
- Riley has consistently rejected the concept of “zero-based budgeting” and supported the concept of starting with current spending levels as a base for future budgets.
- Riley was at the epicenter of the Goetz-Gate scandal.
- Riley has voted for more than 99.9999% of all spending proposals put before the County government. That’s not an exaggeration. Have spending proposal? You’ve got Charlie’s vote.
The aforementioned list is hardly a beginning.
So now let’s answer Senator Goldwater’s questions:
- Do Riley’s policy decisions maximize freedom? NO. CHARLIE RILEY CONSISTENTLY VOTES TO TAKE MONEY AWAY FROM TAXPAYERS AT ALMOST EVERY CHANCE HE CAN GET.
- Has Riley supported higher spending, which means greater taxation, which is an infringement on freedom? YES, 99.9999% OF THE TIME.
- Has Riley used the government to harness economic forces or has he used government to liberate his constituents from those forces? CHARLIE RILEY HAS USED HIS ENTIRE TIME ON THE JOB AS A COUNTY COMMISSIONER TO FUNNEL MONEY OUT OF THE HANDS OF TAXPAYERS AND INTO THE HANDS OF THE ENGINEERING FIRMS AND CONTRACTING FIRMS THAT PROVIDE HIM WITH CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS, FISHING TRIPS, BEER PARTIES, SPORTS EVENT TICKETS, AND THE LIKE.
- 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. RILEY HAS INCREASED TAXES EVERY YEAR. REMEMBER, HE’S EVEN ON THE APPRAISAL DISTRICT BOARD TO SET THE POLICIES TO RAISE YOUR TAXES SO THE COUNTY GOVERNMENT HAS MORE OF YOUR MONEY TO SPEND.
Notice at every turn, Riley supports government taking over economic organizations. He wants government to run airports, he urges toll roads as allegedly profitable enterprises, and he fights for higher taxation and spending to shift economic power to his centralized control. Although the outside-the-county engineering firms and contracting firms are not government per se, they are quasi-governmental in nature. They obtain the vast amounts of their revenue from your tax dollars and they channel large portions back to Riley and his government colleagues.
Riley looks to government as the solution to most problems. He seeks to infringe upon private earnings to support his government pursuits. He’s worked hard to engender and foster a system in which certain private companies become quasi-governmental entities who participate in a system of taxation, spending, and regeneration of those astride the taxpayers’ throats.
Sorry, Charlie. You ain’t a “conservative.” You’re a Eugene V. Debs Socialist.
Image: Eugene V. Debs, around 1921 when he was pardoned and released from prison. Look! Charlie Riley’s even got the hat! Debs is missing Charlie’s mustache.