Took a look at the Grassroots-WTP website last night and saw that they posted a notice indicating that they succeeded in getting a court order for the release of recordings of three illegal commissioners court meetings that occurred in 2014. It was in those meetings that an illegal, unconstitutional deal with an out-of-state company was hammered out that would have allowed that company to issue "civil penalties" to drivers twho were allegedly caught speeding in school zones by automated camera devices. It may seem that the Grassroots people and I are beating a dead horse here, but...
Election time is coming up.
Hopefully a few brave souls (not Skip Ogle) will step up and challenge incumbent commissioners Cary Nix and JoAnn Hampton. If so, voters need to know why commissioners Cary Nix, JoAnn Hampton, and Jeff Warr supported this cockamamie plan when they should have known from the get-go it would be hated by their constituents. I don't expect any earth-shattering surprises here. After all, we know that Nix, Hampton, and Warr participated in three illegal closed "executive sessions" in which this deal was concocted. We know that Joel Baker was indicted for three counts of Texas Open Meetings Act violations for the three meetings and that he was convicted on one count after he agreed to a plea deal that spared him and the commissioners the embarrassment of a full trial. As a result, documents and recordings from those meetings were not made public via criminal proceedings. But those dad-gum people at Grassroots just wouldn't let go of it, so here we are. Yeah, maybe the sheeple of Smith County will forget about this by the time the primaries roll around. (Not if I have anything to do with it.) But it will at least raise the "sphincter pucker factor" down at the Annex for a while!
|The Joel Baker mugshot, again.|
(Just because I can't resist doing this any time this topic comes up.)
True democracy depends on transparency in government and the free-flow of accurate, pertinent information to voters. And I think in that regard we have been seeing a trend in the right direction in Smith County over the past two years. It started with those pesky bloggers who published things about incumbent politicians that the local news outlets wouldn't have dared publish at the time. Then the newspaper and later the TV stations figured out that people might be more interested in reading and watching the news if they put out some "news you can use" from time to time. This has two effects: One is that incumbent politicians who are doing stupid or unethical stuff get voted out of office. But even if they can't get voted out of office right away, they tend to change their behavior because they are afraid of getting voted out of office. The cup is at least half-full.
So, that's what has apparently happened with the Smith County clownishioners. They've pretty much been on their best behavior since we made a big public example of Joel Baker and ran him out of town on a rail. So they've stopped building on to the Smith County Kremlin in downtown Tyler and--for goodness sake--they've actually paved a few roads this year! And, hell, they apparently picked a decent guy to replace Baker. You could say, well, even a broken clock is right twice a day. But maybe they had just enough sense to know that if they picked another Establishment person, there would be hell to pay.
But the cup is half empty, too. An analogy to what has happened with the clownishioners is this: You can train your dog not to crap in the house by scolding him and whacking him with a newspaper whenever he does. But that doesn't necessarily make him into a seeing-eye dog of a hunting dog. So all that has happened with the clownishioners is that they have learned by operant conditioning that if they do something they know their constituents will hate, it will be all over the news (and blogs) and there will be hell to pay. So they've stopped doing some of the stupid stuff they were doing, but that does not make them good leaders.
Good leaders have a plan. Our county commissioners do not. Oh, the last big "plan" they supported was Jeff Warr's $35 million jail expansion. But that one was half-baked, because when construction was nearing completion, they acted confused when the sheriff pointed out that they were actually going to have to pay to staff the jail! You know, like hiring jailers to make sure inmates don't kill each other or escape--stuff like that. And there's never been a long-term, comprehensive plan for dealing with the county's deteriorating infrastructure--roads and bridges. Yeah, they've thrown a little money that way this year. But we are apparently somewhere in the ballpark of about $80-100 million behind on this, and some difficult decisions are going to have to be made in order to get things back on track. That's especially important because the county's population is growing and traffic is just going to increase, especially near populated areas. And as cities annex more territory, taxpayers in those cities will have to foot the bill to rebuild horrible roads. So, taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for this, one way or another.
I've been patient with Judge Nathaniel Moran, because I'm sure that since he took over, he's spent much of his time putting out fires and cleaning up the toxic waste dumps that were left by his predecessor. But I'm hoping that in the next year or so, he will get on the stick and try to guide the clownishioners in the right direction, if the same ones stay in office. I'll forgive him for this little gimmicky "Connecting Communities" public relations program, because the county really did need to improve relations with the local municipal governments. But it's time to get on the ball.