San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 11th, 2009
Brad Rollins’ Blog: Barton brings home the bacon and brickbats

COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS

It’s hardly a secret that Jeff Barton wants to be county judge and might already have the job had he not talked himself out of running against Jim Powers in 2006.

Instead, Barton successfully ran against Pct. 2 Commissioner Susie Carter winning back a seat he lost to her in 1998. On the same ticket, dark horse Elizabeth Sumter, a Wimberley resident with a history of voting in the Republican Party primary, managed a small-scale political earthquake with her upset of Powers in an election that transformed the court overnight from four Republicans and one Democrat to one Republican and four Democrats.

Now Barton is widely assumed to be preparing a primary challenge to Sumter and this week unofficially kicked off campaign season by taking part of the credit for $9 million in federal money flowing this way for transportation projects.

Barton’s office issued a press release this week heralding Hays County’s haul of a disproportionate share of $29.1 million being dispensed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization in mobility money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly called the stimulus package. Barton and company brought home $7,250,000 for the Cement Plant Road interstate overpass in Buda; $1.7 million will go toward shoulders, left turn lanes and a deceleration lane on Ranch Road 12, between Pioneer Trail and San Marcos Academy; and the city of Kyle got $60,000 to restripe bike lanes on Spring Branch.

Hays County, Barton noted, has about 10 percent of the population of Hays, Travis and Williamson counties but is getting nearly a third of the money.

“This doesn’t happen by accident. A lot of people deserve credit,” Barton said, chalking the appropriation up to “a little old-fashioned hard work and persuasion on our part.”

By Barton’s telling, it is clear who does not deserve credit: Sumter, who skipped an afternoon workshop when the CAMPO board was winnowing funding priorities and then arrived an hour late for the regular meeting “before leaving town for a conference on South Padre,” a reference to the South Texas Judges and Commissioners Association attended by several court members.

“Board members had a number of questions about the county’s projects, its matching funds and why Hays should receive such a significant share of the funding. Barton was present to answer questions,” the press release said, also noting that Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzalez and San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz, who both sit on the CAMPO board, also made all the meetings. (None of San Marcos’ priorities, including moving an interstate off-ramp at River Ridge Parkway, made the cut).

Barton and his one-person staff have been neck-deep in stimulus funding since President Obama first started talking about the massive spending program before taking office. “We burned the candle and the phone lines late through the weekend. This is why you build regional relationships. It’s why you do your homework well in advance,” Barton said.

When Barton and Sumter were sworn to their offices in January 2007, one of the court’s first tasks was choosing who would represent Hays County on the CAMPO board. Both Barton and Sumter wanted the high-profile position and at the time it was seen as the first test of their public relationship.

Ultimately, in the name of unity, Barton nominated Sumter, saying, “As we fall into the habits that will govern us over the next two years as we work together, it’s important that we make choices that are going to work well for the county. I think it’s wonderful that we’ve got a judge that’s interested in serving on CAMPO and coming up to speed on those regional and transportation issues.”

Sumter didn’t accept the olive branch, nor has she been able to play at the level her job requires. The county has suffered as a result. So it seems appropriate from where I sit that Barton should stake his claim to the judgeship with a reminder of the opportunities Sumter couldn’t see or didn’t have the sense to seize.

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14 thoughts on “Brad Rollins’ Blog: Barton brings home the bacon and brickbats

  1. It is all well and good that Commissioner Barton and others have been effective in bringing significant “mobility money” from the American Rapid Recovery Act to Hays County. Congratulations to all that were part of this achievement.

    That said, for those of us who live in Hays County but commute to Austin often for busines and pleasure, the incomplete interchange at I35 and Ben White/290/71 is the road project that really irritates.

    Every time, I return from Austin and have to enter I35 from Ben White boulevard (or visa-versa), I get totally steamed when I have to sit in stop and go traffic for signinificant periods of time before I can even get onto I35 South.

    This is an incredibly important interchange for Hays County residents, and its completion should receive the highest priority. It is far more important than the road projects that teh Commissioner and CAMPO have approved for Hays County.

    I happen to live on Pioneer Trail and could care less about the RR12 road improve that will happen at that interchange. It is important for ourt leaders to focus on road improvements that will positively affect the most people regardleass of county lines.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  2. What proof do you have that Sumter voted Republican? You were flacky for Conley last year and I guess you’re determined to be a flacky for Barton this time.

  3. What an unmitigated propaganda piece for Jeff Barton!

    There are many of us who view Judge Sumter as just the kind of county leader we have waited for for years, nothing like the self-aggrandizing antics of Barton.

    Goodness, have you ever had to sit through one of his long-winded oratories peppered with pithless platitudes? I feel for anyone who has ever attended one of those fundraisers where he attempts to spellbind the crowd with those awful speeches that seems to go on and on and on. What a self-important blowhard that man is.

    Jeff Barton and his ilk have overseen the conversion of quaint Buda/Kyle into a bloated development nightmare, a sea of hastily-built houses and strip centers lining I-35. I don’t call this progress and neither do most of the citizens of Hays County. We call it greed, we call it short-sighted and we would like to call it off.

    Having never met a development, a road bond or a developer’s campaign contribution he didn’t like, Jeff Barton has lost all pretense of public service in his quest to be something or somebody and the citizens of Hays County will be ill-served if he is allowed to continue on this path.

    We need less Jeff Barton in our lives, not more.

    Jeff is a son trying to live up to a charismatic father and maybe he thinks that turning Buda and Kyle into Round Rock is the way to go. I cannot imagine that the residents of these formerly delightful small towns is very happy watching Jeff’s vision of their future unfold.

    Try another line of work, Jeff, maybe you can find something to do that doesn’t tempt you to reach beyond your capabilities and hoodwink the citizens while you pave your road to paternal acceptance.

  4. Django – You need Civics 101. The Cities of Buda and Kyle actually determine how their cities look – NOT the County. Municipalities pass their own ordinances, develop their own economic development programs, and pretty much make all the land-use decisions that have led to the current “quaintness” of these 2 cities. The County has had virtually no say in these decisions. There happens to be a major federal interstate running through these 2 towns (and San Marcos). Doesn’t it make sense that the heaviest development be confined along this corridor – rather than in the Hill Country? Or would you prefer it the other way around?

    I don’t know where you live, but has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the majority of people in Buda and Kyle are satisfied with the progress of their towns?

    As for self-aggrandizing – try this on for size: first female county judge in Hays County. (I believe it may have initially started out as just “first female county judge,” and then was edited for accuracy).

  5. I have had the pleasure of knowing Jeff Barton since he was a high school student and I worked for his dad and am proud of the fact that as a consultant To Congressman Pickle, I recommended Jeff for his staff where he was a quick learner in the practicalities of bipartisanship and civil discourse. He is no “blowhard” but he is a serious policy wonk who wants citizens to understand that problems are not solved by sound bites but understanding of complexities of issues such as rapid growth, transportation, water etc. As a native Hays Countian, he certainly has never said he wants any part of it to be another Round Rock and understands that maintaining our way of life require more than simple rhetoric. The Austin Ostrich plan for growth has proved to be a disaster in urban planning and Jeff understands that managing growth requires reasoned dialogue between preservationists and developers, Democrats and Republicans, oldtimers and newcomers. I don’t know if he is planning to run for County Judge but would certainly have the necessary temperament, intelligence and understand to guide Hays County through challenging times.

  6. If Mr Barton wants to send out press released bragging about Hays County getting 1/3 of the money and having 1/10 of the population maybe he’d like to explain how San Marcos with more than 1/4 of Hays County’s population got less than 1/5 the money. Is this an indication of his priorities if he’s judge?

  7. Money Bags – it would seem to me that your figures are pretty much right on the mark in terms of fairness. Keep in mind, that the populations of the towns of Kyle and Buda combined are now exceeding that of San Marcos. And San Marcos has depended upon a transient student population to pump up its population statistics.

    San Marcos did a great job of getting their fair share of stimulus money. And they deserve credit for that. But when you are talking about transportation funds for major roads that can help everyone who is trying to get around Hays County – even the people of San Marcos, well, that’s what county government is for – planning at a level beyond the municipality. It would be great, however, if our cities could get together and start planning on a regional basis.

  8. One can “plan” all they want, but without ironclad rules regarding development, plans will be made by developers, not by county of city governments.

    Developers control politicians with campaign contributions and this is all-too-often what passes for planning. A developer buys a piece of property and magically roads get built accessing that property and rules get bent to fit the proposed development concepts into existing regulations.

    Hays County seems to be headed toward a fate similar to Williamson County. Populations that cannot afford to live in Austin seek housing elsewhere nearby and drive into the big city to work. The only new businesses tend to be service-oriented franchises whose profits quickly wing their way elsewhere, too.

    If Hays County is to avoid becoming another sea of cookie-cutter houses and convenience stores, true planning is necessary. Working together with Travis County to talk about how gentrification in East Austin is directly tied to low-income housing growth in Hays County would be a start. Designing public transportation systems for commuters that would reduce the need for new roadways between home and workplace would benefit everyone, but there is little hope of this happening except for talk of a very expensive commuter rail project between Austin and San Antonio that would only help out people living very close to I-35.

    I don’t see real planning going on, I see money looking for a place to grow and the “planning” following that money. Roads to nowhere that become somewhere soon enough, but are these the places that growth should be happening? Is there enough water? Are you paving over valuable farmland? Do these developments foster social progress or just more sprawl that requires massive infrastructure costs and will self-destruct in just a few short years?

  9. Brad, You’re a hack — plain and simple — nothing more to it. I got Jeff Barton’s mailers that quote your rag in his defense, as if it’s a legitimate news source. I don’t know anyone who has ever liked you but some of us used to respect you as a journalist a long time ago.

  10. guess you don’t know me then, Nsider. But if your such an insider – why aren’t you giving your name. Hmmm. Maybe it’s because you’re such a hack.

  11. Brad Rollins left Newstreamz (we don’t know if voluntary or not) and was hired by the mysterious financial backers of this site (Mercury). A year after this Barton propaganda piece was posted, Lila is still defending Barton who—surprise, surprise—is actually doing what Rollins predicted a year ago, running for county judge.

    Now where do you suppose Rollins got the insight that Barton would be running for county judge a year later?

    Is it a surprise to anyone that Rollins is also a reporter for the Barton’s Hays Free Press propaganda paper?

    There’s a lot of “stuff” going on behind the scene in Hays County to get votes for the Barton/Conley team.

  12. Lots of innuendos in your posting Charlie. Why am I not surprised?

    Try this on for size – O’Dell backed Sumter and even claimed to be the genius behind getting Karen Ford elected.
    Why did he do this?
    Why does he need county commissioners in his back pocket?
    Why is he now promoting Backus for State Rep?
    What exactly is Charlie’s agenda?
    Who is funding Charlie’s so-called non-profit organization?
    Why does the Kyle Eagle/Wimberly paper carry his vitriol?
    Are they funding poor Charlie? What’s in it for them? Advertising $$$?
    Is he paid to be the “executive director” of Hays Can’t?
    Why did he feel a need to organize “branches” of his organization across the county? And what happened to them?
    Kyle CAN, Buda CAN.
    Do they still exist?
    Or did people wise up and say – no thanks. Or maybe they just failed…

    Who is paying to support his “advocacy” work?
    Maybe Charlie needs a supplement to his retirement package.
    Does anyone really belong to Hays CAN besides Charlie and a few front men on the board?

    And for you journalists out there – why the hell haven’t you investigated this sham organization? It does nothing but promote a political agenda – yet hides behind a non-profit, TAX-exempt facade. That is illegal. It’s lobbying. Pure and simple. Why are you letting Charlie get away with it? Shame.

    If Brad Rollins has done anything wrong – it was to leave you alone for too long. High time to investigate… just who the hell Charlie is – and why he is doing it?

    Just follow the money…

    Afterall – Charlie does have a swimming pool. Sweet.

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