The Woodlands, May 13 – If The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency (WJPA) gets involved in a political issue, there’s a good chance that something shady or underhanded will occur. WJPA is the central bureaucratic manager for the Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs) of The Woodlands.
Crass political manipulation has erupted openly at MUD No. 47 over a vacancy appointment.
The MUDs provide water and sewer service in The Woodlands. Each MUD covers a particular geographic area and has a citizen-elected Board. Nevertheless, low voter turnout and care by WJPA and The Woodlands “establishment” to keep voter interest low has permitted the developer of The Woodlands to control the MUDs since the beginning of The Woodlands.
A serious problem has arisen within MUD No. 47 which covers the central portion of The Woodlands, including a large area of the Village of Grogans Mill, the Village of Panther Creek, and a portion of the Village of Indian Springs. Carmen “Biff” Picone has served as a reliable pro-developer, anti-citizen vote on the MUD No. 47 Board since 1998. Picone currently is the President of MUD No. 47.
Picone and his wife have spent more and more time in Austin and now spend most of their time in the most liberal (and disgusting) city in Texas. Picone intends to resign as the MUD No. 47 Director this coming week.
In order to ensure that the political establishment, especially the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) which largely dictates WJPA’s actions and The Woodlands’ developer Howards Corporation, maintain control of MUD No. 47, WJPA President Jim Stinson, a former Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board member who is a reliable ally for SJRA’s efforts to create a surface water sale monopoly by over-regulating groundwater production.
With Picone leaving, Stinson faces the problem that pro-citizen MUD No. 47 Board members Laura Norton and Anthony Cardiel will be two out of four remaining votes on the Board. Therefore, Stinson found it necessary to manipulate the appointment of the new fifth MUD No 47 Director, so that this important MUD would continue to vote with Stinson, WJPA, and SJRA on water and taxation issues.
Stinson and SJRA clearly don’t want the public to become involved with the appointment of the new MUD Director. In fact, Stinson has already made clear that his choice for the vacancy is none other than Roland Ramirez, a Perry Homes real estate developer, who had previously served on MUD No. 47 until the voters refused to re-elect him.
Stinson has privately told several MUD Directors and at least two members of the Woodlands Township Board of Directors that Stinson’s choice for the vacancy is Ramirez. Ramirez, however, does not meet the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) regulatory requirements for individuals whom a MUD Board may appoint to fill vacancies, because the TCEQ regulations – Section 293.32 specifically prohibits an employee of a developer of property within the district. Since Ramirez lost re-election to the Board, one might expect that MUD No. 47 would seek some new blood.
There actually are some private citizens who have an interest in serving on the MUD No 47 Board of Directors. One is Bryan Alsdorf, an information technology engineer and successful participant in the 2015 IronMan Texas race.
At least one other individual has expressed an interest in serving on the MUD No. 47 Board of Directors.
In order to avoid citizen participation, however, Stinson manipulated the Notice for the MUD No. 47, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 6 p.m. meeting. Rather than having an open discussion to replace the vacancy on the MUD No. 47 Board, Stinson placed a cryptic item on the Board agenda instead:
“Recess to closed session to consult with the district’s attorney pursuant to 551.051 Texas Government Code or discuss personnel matters…”
Filling a vacancy on the Board of Directors is not a personnel matter, because the MUD Directors are not employees of the MUD. There likewise is no reason for the Board to meet with the MUD’s attorney for the purpose of filling the Director vacancy. Rather, Stinson has created a ruse to keep the vacancy appointment a secret from the public, so that Stinson may more likely succeed in the appointment of his choice Ramirez, for whom Stinson has already openly campaigned for the vacancy, as secret emails between Stinson and several community leaders have revealed.
Peggy Hausman, former Woodlands Township Board member and highly-respected community leader, said of Stinson’s political machinations, “All government boards should post open director appointments to the public. This opens up the opportunity for those qualified and interested to serve our Hometown.”
Apparently Stinson, WJPA, and SJRA hope to do the opposite.