Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Precinct 1 Constable Henry Jackson is in trouble. Again.

Hey, old CCUSA readers!  I'm still trying to move this whole operation to my new blog.  To comment on this article, read it here:



Meet Smith County Precinct 1 Constable Henry Jackson:

He is a criminal with a badge.

Jackson was charged with seven felonies and three misdemeanors in 2008, including seven counts of tampering with official government documents and three counts of official oppression for alleged sexual harassment.  (LINK) Unfortunately, he was offered a plea deal (approved by Judge Randall  "Shotgun Wedding" Rogers) in which he was convicted of two misdemeanor charges, for which he was given deferred adjudication, paid a fine of $100, and $1,400 in restitution.  He also had his peace officer's license suspended for six months.  But get this:  JACKSON RAN FOR RE-ELECTION IN 2010, AND WON!  Oh, and, by the way, the "tampering with documents" charges were related to falsified employment records on employees of his private security company who allegedly were receiving pay from the county while they were working for Jackson's company.  Hmm...Sound familiar?  Just Google "Constable Dustin Rust."

Judge Randall Rogers  (Looks like a real genius, doesn't he?)

I know--I should have already inducted him into the club, but I had forgotten about his earlier escapades until I read about his most recent criminal behavior--tax evasion.  Apparently Jackson just, um...forgot to pay over $157,000 in federal income taxes from 2010 through 2013.

So, the Club is growing.  Here's the membership list:

Constable Henry Jackson:  Tampering With Government Records;  Official Oppression:  Tax Evasion

Commissioner JoAnn Hampton:  Felony Injury to an Elderly Person (Charges pending)

Former County Judge Joel Baker:  Open Meetings Act Violations

So my questions are...




I don't have any answers for you, sheeple of Smith County.  But stay tuned--election time is a-comin'.

And we are watching.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ah, it's budget time again...and Cary Nix wants to save money by hiring another administrator.

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Judge Moran's goals--admirable, but...

Yup, it's that time of year again, kids:  Time to cobble together the county budget!
So far, so good with this Nathaniel Moran guy.  But I think he's got it all wrong with the clownishioners in that he thinks they are going to intelligently respond to "leadership" when it comes to doing the right things for the county.  Here are his goals when it comes to putting together the county budget:
The first is to “provide the highest quality service to citizens at the lowest-possible cost, and be effective and efficient with every tax dollar.”  
The second is to “increase avenues of accountability and performance measurement.”  
The third is “enhance technology and automation.” 
The fourth is to “streamline series and operations of the county as an organization.”  
The fifth is to “engage in long-term strategic planning of operations, facility use, prioritization of staffing needs and organizational structure.”  
The sixth is to “continue cooperative efforts and relationship building with municipalities, other governmental agencies, businesses and other community partners to jointly serve citizens.”  
The final point is to “reduce long-term liabilities”
Good goals, in principle.  But with the clownishioners, you have to be a lot more concrete.  Think fourth-graders:  The "leadership" they need is more "direction" than general guidance or expressing principles.  A teacher doesn't appoint the smartest fourth-grader at the beginning of the year to "lead" the class then walk away assured that the kids are going to figure out how to do everything they need to do to get ready for the fifth grade.  So I'd be a little more specific with these people, and at this point I'd focus on the 2018 budget.  Here's what I'd suggest:
  •  We will not spend any additional money purchasing, renovating, or building new county facilities with the exception of facilities or parts of facilities that are absolutely needed to continue providing direct services to residents of Smith County.
  • Likewise we will not spend funds for capital improvements (including technology upgrades) unless those improvements or upgrades are absolutely necessary for the direct provision of necessary services to Smith County residents.
  • We will not spend any more money on legal services related to the Texas Open Meetings Act violations that were committed in 2014 by the county commissioners and former County Judge Joel Baker.  We will require that Joel Baker and the county commissioners reimburse the county in full for the legal services that were already funded by county taxpayers.
  • We will restore X miles of county roads to at least "good" condition.  Any available revenue and funds (including revenue increases over last fiscal year) that are not used for the county's other basic needs will be dedicated to repairing and maintaining the county's roads and bridges...
...And so on.

The answer wasteful spending?  Hire another administrator!

Commissioner Jeff Warr said he would like to look at increasing the county’s reserve and at reducing the number of county employees who use county vehicles as a perk.
Huh?  We're giving people CARS?!  As 'perks'?  Say it ain't so, Commissioner.  Roads are crumbling and we're letting people use county vehicles as a 'perk'?  If that's true, it's wasteful and shouldn't be happening.  So Nix was on the right track there.  But his solution?
Commissioner Cary Nix said he was curious to see if a fleet manager position could be worked into the budget... 
No.  Just no.  You don't need to hire a "fleet manager."  You need to demand that the department heads do the jobs they were hired to do.  All you need to do is to institute the following policy and communicate it to all of the county's department heads and elected officials:
Effective immediately, county-owned vehicles will only be used for official county business.  Only employees who are required to travel by vehicle as a primary job responsibility will be allowed to use such vehicles.
It will be the responsibility of each department head to make sure that his or her department is in compliance with this policy.  Unannounced audits of county vehicle use will be conducted, and administrators whose departments are not in compliance will be demoted or terminated.  Period.

Oh, and JoAnn Hampton is ready to fix the roads... 

...and Commissioner JoAnn Hampton wanted to see an emphasis on technology needs and roads.
Holy crap.  "Technology needs."  Everybody in local politics is expected to support "technology."   School board member?  Better support and fund "technology."  City council member?  Yup, better talk about "technology" in your speeches about "backing the blue," etc.  Of course we are going to support "technology," because that's what it takes for people to do their jobs these days.  Seems like every time we turn around, the courthouse and other county facilities is getting a "technology" upgrade.  Hell, every year the county gives away perfectly good computers to a charity.
And roads.  The stupid ***** said she wants emphasis on roads?  She's been in office since 2003, and now all of a sudden she is interested in roads?  Give me a break.  What's going on here is that Hampton's political career is on the rocks because she is under indictment for felony assault of an elderly woman.  So she's going to say whatever she needs to say to keep her very slim hope of getting re-elected alive.

Friday, May 5, 2017

A matter of priorities: Harvey Hall-Rose Garden upgrade price tag $17.63 million

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High school sports, festivals and faires, and cowboy stuff:  Pretty much all there is to Tyler, right?*

Why are they doing this?

So, after selling this plan to the public in their unveiling earlier this week,  they disclosed the price tag on this project:  $9.3 million to tear down and rebuild Harvey Hall and another $8.2 million to make the Rose Garden complex real purddy.  It's interesting to me that, from the public's perspective, this thing sort of came out of nowhere and, after about 9 months of scheming...Badda-bing, badda-boom!  We have ourselves a complete plan.  By contrast, the convention center project--which seemed like a sure thing in terms of paying for itself--is dead in the water?  What gives?

Oh there may be a number of reasons they are doing this.  After studying Smith County's dysfunctional government so closely for several years, I feel like I could write a scholarly article titled "Common Characteristics of Dysfunctional Local Governments."  Within the top five of those characteristics would be a tendency to favor showy, expensive civil construction projects over spending on mundane stuff like infrastructure maintenance and basic government services.  Sometimes that is driven by pure corruption--officials getting bribes and kickbacks.  But usually it has to do with prestige.  After all, no civic leader is going to get a bronze plaque on a wall somewhere or get invited to a ribbon cutting for making sure potholes got filled in or for putting a few more cops on patrol.  But support building a jail or a new civic center, and your name goes down in the Annals of Really Amazing Local Politicians forever!

It also bears mentioning that the Richardson-based firm the city hired to put together this plan--Halff Associates--is supporting Establishment candidate Bob Westbrook for a city council seat.  Nothing really surprising about that.  But it brings a tear to my eye when I mention that that little tidbit of information was reported by our very own Faith Harper at the Tyler Morning Telegraph!

Here's what I think happened:  As soon as they started talking about this convention center thing, the Rose Festival people and other members of the Old Guard started wringing their hands, asking what is going to happen to our beloved Harvey Hall, and shouldn't we spend some money to make sure the place where we have high school football and the Rose Festival looks really great?  So the bottom line is that this is going to happen because the Right People--like Mr. Eltife and the Rose Festival aristocrats--support it and it's a done deal.  So, I'm probably just wasting keystrokes here, but I need to say my peace.

Who's going to pay for this...and how?

By virtue of the fact that they're not saying, oh don't worry--it'll pay for itself with user fees and other increased revenue, or, hey we've already got a bunch of rich donors on their death beds lined up who've put us in their wills, I'm guessing the taxpayers are going to pick up much of the tab.  The financial plan for this is vague, and I don't like vague when it comes to government spending:

Funds will be allocated to the project at later dates, as pockets of money become available

Pockets of money?  Whose "pockets"?

You know, I'm thinking that, since the Rose Festival is obviously the Greatest Show on Earth and apparently brings in more than the GDP's of some small countries (I'm being sarcastic)...maybe that's a good place to look.  After all, some of the families involved don't bat an eye at plunking down tens of thousands of dollars a pop for ridiculous-looking dresses and other stuff.  Would it be too much to ask them to get together and pitch in a couple of mil' over the next 20 years to defray a little of the cost?

It's a matter of priorities

What about the rest of the city?  The city--or somebody--is already spending money on this, as evidenced by the fact that they have hired a consulting firm to come up with this plan.  But I thought Tylerites were being told that because of sagging sales tax revenues they were going to have to hunker down and deal with city hiring freezes and reduced services.  For example...

What about the parks where the poor kids go to play?  Maybe I'm some kind of latent, closeted liberal or something.  But hey, even some of park facilities used by middle class families are lookin' pretty shabby.  So here's something to think about next time you go to see your kids or grandkids play soccer or baseball and the grass isn't mowed or they haven't cleaned up the sh-- surprise someone left in the restroom because the city can't afford it:  Why is there not a master plan for all of the city's park facilities?

A sports memorabilia museum? The previous article about this plan mentioned this, but I thought it was just one of those things that some crackpot member of the steering committed wanted and the left it in to shut him up, knowing that it would never end up in the final plan.

Plans also include space for a proposed Tyler sports museum between Harvey and the Mayfair.

Yeah, just something else to ponder as you sit at a traffic light on the loop a little too long, wasting time and fuel because the city had to cut the budget for traffic engineers:  They want to build a "Tyler Sports Museum."  Over by the Rose Garden.  Please tell me that whoever dreamt that up knows some private donor who is willing to pay for that!

I'm worried--Is Tyler going to be the next Smith County?
*The use of the Rose Complex Master Plan logo in the post is for educational, entertainment, and research purposes only, and should not be construed as an endorsement of any commercial service or product.

Bob Westbook vs. Alan Lizarraga for Tyler City Council


What's wrong with me?  I grew up as a conservative and I have religiously supported Republican candidates (except for the ones who were idiots or corrupt) ever since I got my first voter's registration card.  Then I start poking around in local government and start doubting my faith.

If you live in Tyler City Council District 5, please pull your head out of the sand and pay attention.  Some young, starry-eyed guy--obviously a liberal--is challenging the Establishment and running against the Good Ol' Boy favorite, Bob Westbrook.  And I find myself favoring the liberal, Alan Lizarraga.  Not so much because I think we need to build more sidewalks or sit around fretting about how "diverse" every local institution is--but because I have just come to oppose so much of what the local establishment stands for.

What really causes me heartburn is looking at a list of some of Westbrook's supporters--the same damn people you've seen supporting such paragons of virtue as Matt Bingham and Joel Baker.  I've already talked about that.  But in yesterday's Telegraph something caught my eye:  One of Westbrook's supporters is this consulting firm that stands to gain from this proposed  $17.6 million plan  to tear down and rebuild Harvey Hall and give the Rose Garden a major makeover.  (I'll rant about that in my next post.)

As an aside here, it's interesting to think about the fact that the police union is behind Westbrook.  I mean, liberals are not really known for wanting to skimp on public safety spending.  Now don't get me wrong when I say what I'm about to say.  I love the police and I back the blue and such.  But, typically my conservative brethren have not really had a stellar record when it comes to demanding accountability when it comes to misconduct by law enforcement officers.  To our shame, it's often local Democrats and liberals who scream bloody murder when there is a questionable police shooting or other evidence of brutality.  Then again, maybe it's not that at all.  Maybe it's just the knee-jerk we're gonna support the conservative candidate who makes a big show about being "tough on crime," etcetera.

Okay, but back to this campaign.  Does this Lizarraga guy have a chance? My initial thought was no.  As expected, Westbrook has raised more money than his opponent, much of it from the deep-pockets crowd.  Lizarraga is working on a shoestring budget and depending on small donations from individuals.  But what is interesting is that Westbrook hasn't spent much money in the past month.  He's spent some on signs, but his biggest expenditure was for a ad in...B-Scene Magazine?  What the hell?  How many votes is he going to get from that?  The kind of people who read that crap were going to vote for him anyway.  In contrast, this Lizarraga guy is using social media pretty well and pounding the pavement--even doing the old urban Democrat thing by getting people together and taking them all down to the polls to vote.  So, if you understand that these kinds of elections often hinge on a few hundred--or sometimes even less--votes, it gets interesting.

We'll see.