To the editor:
As a Hays County resident active in politics for many years, I thought I might convey to my fellow citizens of District 45 why I have become so disenchanted with our sitting State Rep and am supporting Andrew Backus in his bid to become our next State Representative.
The reason is quite simple. Patrick Rose has long ago stopped behaving as our representative in favor of the concerns of large financial donors from Austin, Houston, Uvalde and even Texarkana who have so generously filled his coffers. Mr. Rose is voting with his pocketbook and this is leading him to make decisions that actually hurt the people, the land and the water in his own district. Patrick isn’t doing the job we elected him to do and it is up to us to let him go.
Patrick has essentially become a lobbyist. He is bought and paid for and the work he does in the legislature clearly shows this. Rather than support legislation to protect and manage the aquifer we in western Hays County so vitally depend upon for our drinking, agricultural and recreational water supplies, Patrick does the bidding of the real estate industry and other development interests that want to promise unlimited water resources to potential customers.
I have heard people point to Patrick’s contributions to the Wimberley and Dripping Springs school districts when they were being forced to pay money out of their budgets they did not feel they could afford due to the way Texas has chosen to fund public education. Well, for years, Patrick ignored these concerns and it was not until it reached a crisis level this past year, when the Wimberley schools threatened to not pay into the state fund at all, that Patrick decided to come in at the last minute like some kind of Lone Ranger saving the day.
He has recently pulled the same kind of stunt with the groundwater issue. After years of ignoring citizen and groundwater district requests for better ways to keep track of water and to conserve it for future generations, suddenly there’s Patrick-come-lately to save the day again and propose that he and Texas State’s Andy Sansom let a hand-picked group comprised largely of developers, realtors and water privateers decide what happens to our water. Not only is this not a representative group of stakeholders, but if Patrick and his buddy Andy were so concerned all along about the water here in Hays County, why did he use whatever influence he could muster acquiring a substantial grant for Sansom’s River Systems Institute, but refuse repeatedly to sponsor effective funding legislation for the Hays Trinity GCD? Mr. Sansom has stated that he wrote his own million dollar grant, so why is Rose always taking the credit?
This is the same tactic he has used with the proposed PEC-related legislation which would, if it were ever passed, give members more rights and require more transparency as regards how our electric utility is operated. Other people had been working hard for a long time on this issue: citizens groups, other legislators, individuals, but here comes the Lone Ranger riding in at the very last minute and taking credit for the work of others. Even so, we still don’t have a bill that gives the citizens what they need. Lots of talk, but no walk.
Patrick introduced a bill to turn free highways into toll roads, he supports allowing students to carry guns on campus and he infamously tried to prohibit single people from being foster parents in spite of there being a great need for more people willing to fill this important role in the lives of Texas children. This was widely viewed as anti-gay legislation and was not passed, but with many gay and lesbian constituents in his district, he lost quite a few friends on that vote. He authors or co-sponsors a lot of bills, but few of them every make it through to become laws. Admittedly, this might just be because he is a Democrat and that party does not have a lot of clout in the Texas House these days, but if you pour over the legislation he proposes or supports, there is not much substance to it, unless you are working hard to get a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, the medical supply and hospital lobby, pro-gambling interests, manufacturing or the beer and wine distributors. We really don’t have many of those industries in District 45, but you wouldn’t know it from his donor list. I know, I am not naïve, this is how a lot of government works, but we had higher hopes for Patrick once upon a time. Not anymore.
Rather than pay attention to what is needed here in his home district to improve the lives of the people who live here now, most egregiously regarding water resource protection against overpumping, Patrick is doing the bidding of outside money interests, amassing a “war chest” of more than a million dollars to retain a legislative seat that officially pays him only $7,200 a year. Why does he need all this money, who has paid him so much and what are they paying him to do for them? Very little of this money has come from District 45.
What’s the old saying? “Follow the money”.
While the District was trapped in an historic drought in 2008-2009, Patrick steadfastly refused to back bills that would alleviate some of the problems that were causing the water shortage, but worked hard, apparently to enable the Salt Lick owner Scott Roberts to convert his BBQ joint into what amounts to a town. This special legislation, where Scott Roberts himself was the sole qualified voter in the qualifying election, allowed that new development to charge its own sales, ad valorum and hotel taxes. He did that while claiming that he could not support an election where the citizens could decide for themselves if they wanted to levy a tax for the groundwater district’s budgetary needs. This Salt Lick/”Driftwood” inside job also includes provisions for an expanded vineyard that will use groundwater, while adding a high-dollar subdivision, a lodge and a spa along Onion Creek. Scott Roberts and his wife contributed almost $50K to the Rose war chest for that favor.
As a resident of Driftwood, no one asked me or my neighbors if we supported what amounts to a virtual municipality, vineyard, retail center, BBQ empire, lodge and massage parlor in our midst. There are a lot of people who live in what is considered “Driftwood,” but the Salt Lick folks have decided to claim that title for their development. You would think those other few thousand of us living in Driftwood should have been given a chance to chime in on that decision.
The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District has no money (it subsists on grants, money from the county and a $300/well fee for new wells dug into the aquifer), so it was in no position to donate to Rose’s war chest. The water district’s concerns (and ours) were treated quite differently, although it represents thousands of local citizens and is tasked with mapping, managing and planning our water future. Although he paid lip service to bills for expanded county authority to control density and thereby limit groundwater use, this bill went nowhere. It seems that Patrick can get things done when he wants to, but cries “helpless in the face of Republican opposition” or “the voters in my district do not support that” when that suits his desired outcome.
To make matters worse, when Patrick does do something that might help his hometown folks, it is often plagiarized from the hard work of others. He rides in to rescue the District in Distress when some modest, timely and prudent actions when the problem was small would have been all that was needed. But that wouldn’t make headlines would it? He comes into situations after other people have done all the heavy lifting and claims the prize as his own. Just look at his “work” on the cancer issue, the PEC issue, his recent verbal flip-flops on the groundwater issue and his work with Texas State and the local school districts.
Surely there is more to this whole game than meets the eye, and we need to put a stop to this charade before Young Mr. Rose uses his tenure in the Statehouse as a rung on a ladder to statewide office in the future. Patrick is trying to maintain that he is a good legislator when he is wheeling and dealing on the House floor at the expense of, not on behalf of, the people who put him there.
It is up to us, the people who know Patrick’s work best, to give this young man a chance to make an honest man of himself. Let’s allow Patrick to simply register in Austin as the lobbyist he has become. This way, he can legally pocket all that money he raises and we will all know for sure who pays his bills.
Andrew Backus offers us not only a candidate who understands how government, business and natural systems work collaboratively, how sound policy can enable water and energy security into the future and how people living and working on the land in our district can be benefited by appropriate legislation. Mr. Backus has an established career and will not be beholden to money interests, inside or outside this district. Andrew Backus has a master’s degree from the University of Texas in energy and mineral resources, a field that deals with the management of natural resources, and got his undergraduate degree in geology. Rather than a professional politician, Andrew Backus would be a citizen-legislator like the Texas Constitution intended. Mr. Backus was elected to the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District’s Board of Directors and has served in that position for six years, also as its President.
State Representative positions are not full-time jobs (the lege only meets once every two years) and were never intended to provide the bulk of your income or use up all of your time. When you use your elected office to alter laws to fit the needs of those who can pay for your services, you are no longer a representative, you are a hired gun. Patrick has become just such a politician, selling himself out to keep the money coming in and to lay the foundations for that next taxpayer-funded job in the future that will pay more and provide him access to even more power and control over our lives … and our money.
Let’s give ourselves another chance to have real representation in Austin and let’s send Patrick home to Drippin’.