Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 Election Issue

It is important for residents to understand some of the history behind the current election and the political tactics being used by some candidates for being elected. For one, there is usually an advantage of some sort for a politician in The Woodlands to run for office. Yes, they are all for "representing" the people. You know the way they make
it seem OK, "for the people, by the people". The "by the people" here has traditionally been at the election centers, not in the Board Room. The "for the people" seems to be traditionally "because I like it this way". That is, a politician typically has a motive for running for office and represents himself. The Commentary has, on occasion, asked candidates to submit their reasons for running, I received their generic rhetorical answers to try to convince the public of their motives. There are no plans to do that this year. It is too obvious.

Originally, several influential people were put on a Town Center Board. When the Township was founded by transferring and consolidating all local HOA's into one entity, the "Township", several of those on the Board came along free as new government directors. They became incumbents in the election. Their motives were in local business and political power. That is not in itself a problem. The problem in some folks view is that one (or all) of them had ties to contractors and/or properties involved in development or related contracts. They performed their new government jobs in an open and direct way (kudos), following the law. In the background, they were preparing for development and business opportunities (criticism/conflict of interest). In Montgomery County, this has been a longstanding tradition. Someone has to do the job and after all, like the lady once said, the pay is not the greatest in the world (Directors are not paid anything for their work). Now, four of those people have stepped down and others have filed to run for office. Two positions are being filled with new candidates in this election and two are being challenged. 

To make it more clear, one of them was voted out of his position and two moved on to other related business activities. Our lady volunteered to work on the road issues, the Methodist Pastor decided to let go (it was said that he wanted to be mayor), and like our lady, the lawyer also went on a "road" trip. (pardon the pun). Now we see a pattern. So then, as a consequence, the road issue became a huge concern for many residents. Our county's plan has been in place for quite some time, but it was not ever presented to the residents as an option. It was just a fact. No one should get in the way. That, in my own opinion, gave residents a false impression, eventually leading to a complete revolt in the community, when confronted with a road bond election.  Now that The Woodlands has awakened to the threat of the parkway becoming a freeway for through traffic, other roads in the master plan of the county have also been brought to the attention of the residents. Trees? I see the removal of trees on the parkway and Gosling in the future unless we do something about this. I can hear the increased traffic noise as horns are honked, brakes screech, exhausts boom. Maybe this is what some want, the lowering of property values along the resident corridors of these roads. Can you imagine how wide these two roads will have to be and how busy they will be in 10 or 20 years? We have an added nearby Toll Road now. I was looking for that to take much of the traffic to and from the outside. Alternatives to the master plan should be completed by the county now!  We must have our say at the regional and county planning tables. Residents of The Woodlands MUST be able to manage their own streets. Also the bicycle and pedestrian traffic must be considered in the plan. We got here by being a master planned community. Let's keep it that way!      

But wait! We are not incorporated, so we have no say-so in the matter at all. We are only spectators. Unless we are a city, we cannot actively participate in regional planning nor have a vote in what happens with our roads. Shenandoah, Oakridge and Conroe has a say, not us! The county owns and is in control of our roads - maintenance and planned widening or other modifications. Now our roads are for the county to plan and benefit, not for The Woodlands benefit. What has been seen as a benefit now is seen as a detriment to quality living here. That my friend, should tell you the situation in a nutshell. Yet there are other issues bothering some residents besides the roads. Those who say the Township is just fine as a government don't realize what we are missing in subsidies and that we are not prepared to ward off other issues that face us with 125,000+ inhabitants.  

Just recently, ads have surfaced on Facebook and will soon also appear in the newspaper that local taxes will increase 70% if we incorporate. That was a worse case scenario, plain vanilla thinking, influenced by certain Board members at the time.  The truth is that the same people that recently helped plan the road expansions are likely behind these ads. Why? They want the county to have control of the roads because they are tied to development investments outside of The Woodlands. Business and residential properties bought earlier are threatened by us taking control of our own roads. Roads are expensive to build. We just rejected a bond proposal to pay for the extension of The Woodlands Parkway (good for us). Properties and development projects are at risk for those politicians connected to the road issue (bad for them). So the county will use heightened property value taxes to fund some of the costs of expanding roads such as the Woodlands Parkway (good for them). Yes, we end up paying anyway (bad for us). We need the help of the state to force the reduction of taxation of properties when property values rise. Support the efforts to protect property owners from rising taxes in the Texas legislature, a top priority for Dan Patrick! 

Finally, in this coming election, I would say at the start if the campaigns, if the candidate is stating the 70% rise in taxes as a reason to vote for them, it is a flag NOT to vote for them in my view and this is the reason. They are playing to the residents' emotions. I don't want a raise in taxes and you likely don't either. But we are not voting in this election on incorporation nor the budget. We are voting on those willing to help us out of this situation and bring us to our own future determination. The previous flawed study on incorporation was performed 5+ years ago. It was influenced by the same people as are now trying to load The Woodlands up with the burden of being traffic channels for the county. Since that study, our property values have risen drastically; income has increased dramatically and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. We need clear open minds to find the right solution for us. Those elected should represent us, not special interests. If new studies indicate the trendy incorporation approach, then we will vote on its merits. If another timely solution is found, then we can vote on that. But enablement for us to participate in decisions is an absolute MUST! Voting for directors who oppose incorporation without current data will simply block efforts to keep The Woodlands an outstanding place to live. Vote "by the people" in this election.