San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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November 14th, 2008
Letter to the Editor: The Road Less Traveled

I voted AGAINST the road bond last year, but I voted FOR the road bond this year. Two words will tell you why – Judge Sumter.After the first road bond failed last year, there was a rush by some county and city elected officials to pressure the Commissioners Court to immediately move forward on the roads, even though the voters had said NO. The Court could have done that, but it would have meant that the Court was taking on debt without the approval of the voters. Despite the pressure, Judge Sumter, stood tall and firm in her decision AGAINST taking on debt without the approval of the people.

In the process, the Judge drew some loud and, at times, rather ugly criticism. For example, some people criticized the Judge’s leadership style, saying that a real leader would do whatever was necessary, even if it meant taking on substantial debt without citizen approval. In the face of criticism like that, Judge Sumter valued the voice of the voters. We had said NO and she stood by us. She took the road less traveled; she worked toward building consensus among citizens.

In some quarters, the criticism began to take on the character of a mythical war. Some critics tried to divide the county into eastern and western interests – calling residents in the western part of Hays county zealots and no growthers. Once again, Judge Sumter said no – that was not true. She told the citizens that she believed in a united county and the value of programs that benefit all areas of the county. She took the road less traveled; she stood up for us, even in the face of near constant criticism from her peers. Equally important, she set out upon a positive path.

Sumter urged the formation of a Transportation Advisory Committee so any future road bond package would be subject to the watchful eyes of citizen volunteers. When some of her peers criticized her for that, Sumter stood with the citizens on the Advisory Committee. Committee members drove roads, talked with their neighbors, attended endless meetings and ultimately made their recommendations to the Court. All of the recommendations were accepted and so it was that this year’s road bond package started to take shape. Finally, but still before the package went to the voters, a Bond Committee was formed. Judge Sumter selected a well-respected businessman from the corridor, Chuck Nash, as her appointee to chair the Committee. The Committee continued to talk with citizens about roads and safety issues. When the bond package finally went to a vote a few weeks ago, the results were clear. The road bond package passed with a strong margin.

In the end, Sumter was right. Her faith in citizens and the process of consensus building paid off. When some around her were in a panic about losing TxDOT’s money, she provided calm, knowledgeable leadership. She didn’t panic and she didn’t fold under the criticism. She simply stayed on course, working toward re-crafting the road bond package by listening to what citizens were saying. She believed that citizens from all over the county should be heard, and she persisted in opening government to everyone. She believed that building consensus among citizens would go a long way toward voter approval the second time around. On all counts, Judge Sumter was right.

by Venice Brown
San Marcos, TX

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0 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: The Road Less Traveled

  1. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER : Newstreamz San Marcos

  2. I agree with your comments re: Judge Liz Sumter. I believe her to be an intelligent, knowledgeable and fair leader for our county.

    But I still have to disagree with the apparent majority of county taxpayer and voters re: the real worth of the road bond package.

    I know that this proposition will come back to haunt taxpayers in the near future. Despite what TxDOT tells the county about repaying most of the tax dollars we have to outlay, most taxpayers will NOT see a dime of that “pay-back”.

    Even if some of those tax dollars are returned to Hays County it will take up to 20 years to recoup any of it.

    With the present economy so financially devastated and with an average of 100 home foreclosures every month in Hays County, the sum of $207 MILLION is a huge financial risk and debt now assumed by county taxpayers.

    I know a lot of people have found fault with my arguments against the road bond package; however, the battle cry of “road safety” for promoting the bonds became a fear tactic to assault taxpayers with an illogical and extravagant reason to vote for the bonds.

    There are many alternative and less costly options to make our roadways safer, but the focus always has been on the road bonds.

    First to leave the county, after homeowners assume more of this huge debt, will be elderly residents who no longer can afford to live here. Shortly thereafter, we will see that few younger first homeowners will be able to purchase homes here in this ailing market and costly property taxes.

    It is a shame that this will occur, but the majority or voters have spoken for the bonds and the special interest pro-bond entities finally got what they wanted.

    I wish everyone luck and good fortune in the long-term future. Most of us will need it.

  3. 2 more years of Liz Sumter… then we’ll be rid of her and her dogs at the county courthouse.

    Peter, last time I checked a contract with the State is still a contract. If TxDOT says it’s going to pay us a certain amount per year based on traffic numbers on the new and improved roads, we’ll get our money. It’ll take 20 years to recoup it, but it’ll also take us 20 YEARS to shell it out – depending on how long the bonds are sold for.

    And I would love to hear those “safer alternatives” in the case of RR 12, FM 1626, and SH 21. Everyone always says there are “safer alternatives” but never provides details.

  4. I recall a column Judge Sumter wrote in the Kyle Eagle in which she proposed her own version of a road bond – one that was far different from what even the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee recommended. She “stood with the citizens on the Advisory Committee?” And she worked to build consensus among citizens – she just forgot the citizens that lived in Kyle and had to be reminded of those folks there. The list goes on. How soon some of us forget….

    But hey – I really like your clever spin on the Judge and the election results. I’ll give you credit for that. But it is just that – spin. You must be a good friend of Liz’s to be willing to take the heat for her. Are you going to be her campaign manager in her re-election bid?

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