Commissioners appoint themselves to the downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) board
One thing about following local government here is that it is entertaining in a way. It's like watching old cartoons in which the characters are so ridiculously predictable that you can usually predict their next moves even if you haven't seen that particular episode before. Our county commissioners have become silly caricatures who would be hilarious if they were not in control of $90 million of the taxpayers money every year.
What this is about is that the city of Tyler has created a new special taxation zone for downtown Tyler known as TIRZ #4. A "TIRZ" is an arrangement where a local government earmarks revenue derived from new development and increased property values within the zone and reinvests that money into special projects within that zone. I don't really like these TIRZ things for a couple of reasons: First, this arrangement diverts tax revenue that belongs to local governments to another entity governed by a board of officials who are appointed, not elected. Doesn't that skirt the boundaries of taxation without representation? Second, I don't like the practice of local governments earmarking revenue this way for special purposes. As we have seen here in Smith County, it is just a set-up that allows special interests to siphon money away from the general fund and dedicate it to their pet projects.
So, Smith County and Tyler Junior College have agreed to participate in this TIRZ. What that means is that Smith County gets seats at the table when it comes to deciding what to do with the money. On Tuesday , the commissioners court appointed Commissioners Jeff Warr and JoAnn Hampton and county administrator Lorenzo Brown to their three positions on the nine-member board. JoAnn Hampton nominated herself, and County Judge Nathaniel Moran remarked that she was already on his 'list'. Now, in some strange alternative universe where I was one of the other commissioners, I would have said something like, "Um, Judge Moran, you are aware that Commissioner Hampton is facing felony criminal charges, right?" In other words, I don't think JoAnn Hampton should be appointed to ANY governing board of ANYTHING at this point. I don't think Smith County should participate in this thing at all. Smith County has already spent enough of the county taxpayers' money in downtown Tyler. After all, it is the fault of the current county commissioners that the city's previous attempt to revitalize downtown Tyler failed. Remember? The previously TIRZ that was set up for downtown didn't generate any revenue in part because the county bought up property in the zone and held on to vacant properties they owned in the zone, crowding out new development and keeping those properties off of the tax rolls!
Commissioner Hampton's Mug Shot
(I've mentioned she has been charged with a felony, right?)
Commissioners are going to skimp on law enforcement (again)
Already enraged by Tuesday's budget deliberations, I opened up the Telegraph today and saw this: Sheriff's department denied request for new vehicles as work continues on Smith County's budget.
The sheriff wants nine vehicles to replace vehicles that have been driven over 200,000 miles. And he wants ten more deputies to staff our oversized jail. The commissioners' response? Well, those vehicles are in fine shape. And according to Commissioner Hampton, we can just have them refurbished by some local firm that nobody has heard about. As for the jailers, well, we can just keep paying overtime to the jailers we already have. Has it occurred to these buffoons that, in an intensive, dangerous work environment like a jail, employee fatigue often leads to inattentiveness and mistakes? And in a corrections facility, inattentiveness and mistakes lead to injuries and deaths!
What I see here is a return to the behavioral patterns we saw during the days of Joel Baker's reign. Judges want new computer stuff and software for the courthouse? Here's a million dollars. Commissioners want to add on to their Kremlin in downtown Tyler? Done! Want a couple of more administrators to add to the county bureaucracy? No problem. Sheriff requests enough deputies to staff the jail and patrol the county or decent vehicles for those deputies to do their jobs?