San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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January 24th, 2008
Faith-based arguments

COMMENTARY by BILL PETERSON

SAN MARCOS – It takes ingenuity to oppose a popular project, and Charles O’Dell took a crack at it Tuesday morning before the Hays County Commissioners Court.

O’Dell argued that county funding for infrastructure to activate youth football fields at the Village in San Marcos would set a dangerous precedent because the Christian Fellowship of Police Officers (CFPO), which runs the youth league, is a faith-based organization.

“We have no disagreement with them,” O’Dell told the court as president of HaysCAN, which bills itself as a government watchdog operation. “But you set a terrible precedent when you fund this sort of project.”

Read more at www.HaysHighway.com

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7 thoughts on “Faith-based arguments

  1. This road opens up access to football fields that are public property, within the Village of San Marcos. These facilities will be utilized by thousands of kids in our community under the direction of the Christian Fellowship of Police Officers. This organization leverages the scarce resources of our city and county by volunteering their time and efforts for the greater public good. In spite of Mr. O’Dell’s argument, this is not giving money to a faith-based organization, this is investing in our youth by giving better access to a public facility. You would think a government watchdog organization would appreciate a partnership with this noble organization that gives services for free to this segment of our community.

  2. When do we ask what is your religion? I don’t see the CFPO having any biased of who may use the facility. They may schedule games and arrange for maintenance as well as practices on their own time and with that they also schedule the fields to be used for other purposes such as soccer games etc. Who do the police officers work for?

  3. While the argument by Mr. O’Dell against the allocation of Hays County Parks Bond monies to provide the infrastucture (road, electric, water/wastewater) for the Village Complex (CFPO football) is interesting and may have some merit, it unfortunately misses the more important point. THIS IS NOT A PARKS AND OPENSPACE PROJECT. PERIOD. You can spin it any way you want, but the facts have always supported a denial of this request.

    The Village, a 501c3, needs this money to ‘jump start’ their admittedly worthy project. They don’t have the money to begin construction of the proposed complex that will house 5 different social services organizations including the Hays County Area Food Bank, Community Action, and the Hays-Caldwell Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse .
    Almost all of their funding to date has come from the City of San Marcos through CBDG(federal)funds, but very little matching money has been secured for this seven year old project.
    How will they come up with the many millions still needed
    for construction and completion? Nobody can say if or when funding will be secured.

    Anyone who is familiar with the site the on which the CFPO played on previosly knows there are no paved roads, no fancy concession stands or even bathrooms.
    Its an open field on McCarty Lane with a couple of old trailers and some fencing. They have not needed a fluffy paved road and all these amenities to play football to date. Would it be nice for the kids to have a nicer facility? Of course, but that’s not what this road project is really for.
    It’s for the Village of San Marcos.

    This is Hays County Parks Bond money being used to fund a social services complex. The CFPO football fields are a component of the project, but definately not the focus.

    The argument made by a vocal few that the CFPO/Village project “is for the children” and anyone who doesn’t support it is anti-recreation/kid is just so tired.
    I’m looking at the big picture, and I don’t think spending 1.7 million of the approved 30 million of parks bond monies for a road is in any way appropriate.

    {as my neighbor recently put it: “a precedent has been set, so can we improve (San Marocos’) McCarty Lane with parks bond funds so I can get my kid to the high school without having to kick it into 4-wheel drive?”}

    Acquiring and protecting open space in Hays County is ALL about the children. Yes, there is a balance to be achieved between conservation and recreation when it comes to allocating these funds. But this project and a couple of others in the pipeline have tipped the balance inappropriately in my opinion. And now there is undeniable concern stemming from the Village decision by the Court as to whether the residents of Hays will ever vote to pass another parks bond.
    I know I won’t, unless the bond proposal is tied to a specific project and purpose.

    As a current member of the County Parks Advisory Team(CPAT)I have no agenda or pet projects pending.
    My goal is to implement the Hays County Parks & Openspace Master Plan that I and many others worked so hard to see completed. The Village Project does absolutely nothing to meet this goal. It does not come close to satisfying the criteria adopted by CPAT (approved by Commissioner’s Court). In fact, CPAT kicked this project to the curb by a huge majority at our January 16. The Commissioner’s Court completely ignored the recommendation, as we knew they would.

    We have the tools we need to make these incredibly important decisions in our hands right now. They include the Parks Plan, at least 2 citizen surveys, and the language of the Prop 2 Bond itself.

    Actual language of the bond proposal that was overwhelmingly passed by the voters last May:
    “…$30,000,000 for the purpose of constructing, improving, renovating,equipping and acquiring land and buildings for park, natural areas, open space, preservation of water quality, aquifer recharge areas, and wildlife habitat, conservation easements, and recreational purposes;…”
    As I see it, this language suggests emphasis on land and resource conservation, with recreation being a component of the goal.

    Another tool I refer to often is the Scripps Howard Poll taken in 2000 entitled Hays County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Survey. This survey had a 47% response rate, which is huge by all standards.
    Results of the survey are crystal clear:
    The people of Hays County want water quality protection. 78% say it’s ‘extremely important’ to ‘very important’ to acquire land to protect aquifer recharge areas.
    Public access to rivers and creeks(68% say it’s extremely to very important) and protection of the ‘rural character’ of our county (55% say it’s extremely to very important)are also a high priority for Hays County residents.
    Less important is the acquisition of parkland to be developed with athletic fields(31% say it’s extremely to very important).
    Residents think this is a primary duty of municipalities- only 34% of residents think it’s extremely or very important for the county to acquire parks in existing cities.

    Now, the folks who don’t like the results of the survey because it doesn’t support their agenda are saying “that survey is over 7 years old. it isn’t pertinent…”.

    Okay, we have the more recent Hays County survey by Opinion Analysts, Inc., 2007, that revealed an overwhelming majority of Hays residents(91%!)regarded preserving our supply of drinking water and water quality as the most important reasons for preserving land by the County!

    Maybe we should do another survey to ‘check the pulse’ of the people? Whatever.
    I know this: it’s very hard to hit a moving target.
    We have to start saying “no” to these passionate pleadings for parks bond money from those who say
    “but it’s for the children!” and “we support the kids!” and remember what this is really about. Everyone who applies for funds will meet this ‘for the children’ threshold. But what else does their project offer to the people of Hays? How much ‘bang for the buck’ are the taxpayers getting?

    As a result of the Village controversy, CPAT is scheduled to have a workshop with Commissioner’s Court on March 5th at the Activity Center.
    The purpose of the meeting is to discuss(again)the process and criteria for hearing, scoring and recommending projects to the Court for funding.
    Should be interesting.

  4. I’m a bit confused by Ms. North’s emphasis on open space after reading the text she provided from the bond election. The way I read it, it allows for the acquisition of land and buildings – as well as for improvements, construction, renovations, and equipment thereon – for the purposes of:
    parks
    natural areas
    open spaces
    preservation of water quality
    wildlife habitat
    conservation easements
    recreational purposes

    While several items on the long list address open space, there is no real priority or hierachy given within the bond language. And recreational purposes, both the construction and improvement, is provided for.

    That said, I do agree with Ms. North that open spaces should be a priority – but only because it is MY priority and main concern. It takes a lot of bucks to acquire open space and preserve it.

    But Ms. North is just one of a committee of 23 individuals appointed by Commissioners Court to make recommendations on what projects to fund. And the decision is ultimately that of Commissioners Court. We did NOT elect the members of CPAT. They are merely an advisory board. But we did elect the members of Commissioners Court. They should be the ones who make the final decisions to spend taxpayers money. And if these advisory committees have a problem with it, then they should be willing to also take the political heat as well. And it can get really hot in that kitchen.

    Ms. North implies that CPAT is fulfilling the goals of the citizens as indicated by surveys, master plans, etc. But if this is so, then why did the Dahlstrom Tract Conservation Easement (referred to in the bond language) NOT make the minimum score needed to get it out of that committee? This project would have preserved over 2,000 acres in Hays County.

    After 9 months of CPAT meetings, I believe that only 3 projects have been funded. Is that correct?

    Just what does it take to get a project out of CPAT anyway?

  5. Not sure why Ms. Knight is confused. Which part did she not understand? Was it the part about the County Parks Master Plan sets the ‘hierarchy’ for funding projects?

    On the Dalstrom Project- the score (97 with 105 needed to proceed to the Court) and the concerns associated with it are well documented. Questions of public access, lack of partners and funding were the concerns named by CPAT. But the committee “encouraged the Court to proceed with a letter of interest to the family so that due diligence with regard to and further clarification of the family’s proposal can be undertaken, following which the proposal could be resubmitted to the CPAT for futher consideration.”- 12/5/07. Any more questions?

    And thanks for the lecture on ‘taking heat’. I wouldn’t know anything about taking a controversial public stand during my 12 years of serving on local boards and commissions…

  6. Ms. North, I was merely arguing with your interpretation of the bond language to which you referred in your argument for why there should be an emphasis on open space. And as I said, I do agree with you on this. So no need to get testy about it.

    I was surprised to learn from reading the minutes of CPAT just how much support this project received from members of that committee. “Donna Brasher expressed her opinion that as long as the road provides access to a park then it should be all right to use bond funds for that purpose. Some members thought it was a great idea and it would jump start the Village of San Marcos in the process. Some members stated that although sports fields were not a high priority in the master plan this project was worthy because it would affect a large number of youth.”

    Yet if all you read about this project was in the local newspapers, you would have thought that every member of CPAT was against the project as they “kicked it to the curb.”

    I guess it is a good thing that the scoring criteria for these parks projects is undergoing an overhaul.

  7. Ms. Knight, this forum is obviously not getting either of our concerns or questions across in a meaningful way.
    I am not understanding your positions exactly.
    Perhaps you (or anyone else) would like to meet me for coffee or lunch so we can have a real discussion of the issues? I’m feeling frustrated by my apparent inability to
    concisely answer questions of process in general and the problems with the Village Project specifically.

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