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

March 21st, 2011
Commentary: Take back Hays County


If no one in your family drives, or walks in parks, if you have your own private source of drinking water as well, then stop reading this now. This doesn’t concern you.

But if you care about traffic, air pollution, protecting our groundwater, business viability, fire truck response time, safe school bus routes or the dangers of gravel trucks on narrow, crowded roads; if you think we need ballparks and places to see wildlife and stars as we grow – then it’s time to hitch up your britches, get good and mad, and sing out.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday in commissioners court in San Marcos, the issue will probably, for all practical purposes, be decided. Commissioners court will sponsor a full-blown review and public workshop on major projects and capital expenditures, including FM 1626, Interstate 35 improvements, park and water-quality funding, and pending building projects.

The question is whether to keep moving on plans that are mostly voter approved initiatives or to cancel all manner of projects in mid-stream, saving money in the short run, costing us incalculably over the long haul.

The “Turn back the clock Tories” are mostly the same old faces – often newcomers settled in rural areas, without regular jobs or children in school – invigorated by reading the wrong lessons from last November’s elections. They are fond of quoting shallowly from founding fathers and – like the Tories of the Revolutionary era – they cloak themselves in shabby patriotism but are really less stalwarts for any cause than they are just cranky people terrified by change.

A distinguishing trait of these “Tories” is that, just as the Tories of old who sided with the king in the name of “traditional values,” they don’t really trust democracy. Drawn from far-far left and farther-farthest right, most have never met a conspiracy theory they don’t both embrace and embellish.

The latest claim is that our local debt is recklessly out of control, especially at the county level, so that we have become slaves to mysterious bankers and special interests who have tricked us into thinking we want better roads and decent parks.

To save ourselves from certain doom we must kill road projects, cancel parks, cut down tall trees of community consensus and voter-approved bonds. To hear the “Tories” tell it, it’s amazing the courthouse even stands from all that debt piled on top of it. You hear it from Sam Brannon, a Libertarian whose candidacy for congress never made it out of the primaries, and from former commissioner Susie Carter who led opposition to the original propositions. And then you hear it from Wimberley-Driftwood organizers Charles O’Dell and Susan Cook, self appointed “watchdogs” who – having moved here fairly recently – bark against all newcomers, most change and anything that would address growth around the communities of Buda, Kyle and San Marcos.

Everybody’s in on it – local auditors, local politicians of every stripe, PTO presidents and small business shops – they’re all out to get you: as if local cities, counties and school boards were somehow out of “our” reach.

Sure, there are real reasons to be concerned about debt, national and local. But these “Tories” think they can smear overwhelmingly approved local projects with the uneasiness about state and national debt and financial policies.

They denounce those who disagree as traitors to king and country. They believe that in the wake of last year’s topsy-turvy elections and the current political environment they can intimidate the county’s elected leaders into following their flag.

Truth is, our county taxes and debt are in line with responsible norms, our bond rating improving. Truth is most of these projects were approved by margins of two-to-one – and even higher in this part of the county – by voters in the largest turn-out election (November 2008) in the county’s history.

And truth is the projects are mostly 1) under budget and 2) the type of long-term improvements that will benefit the county for generations, create jobs and attract a tax base while addressing growth needs – desperately needed parks and roads in one of the nation’s fastest growing counties.

These aren’t boondoggles. This isn’t borrowing debt to pay debt. It’s the same kind of smart long-term investment that most homeowners and business owners make at one time or another.

But there is great pressure just now to show a decrease in taxes even if it is penny-wise and pound-foolish, even if it would mean playing make-believe with the county’s future.

It will take citizen participation from the fast-growing parts of the corridor, from average folks to ensure that doesn’t happen. Citizens from this area have helped save these projects before. It would be a shame to lose them as they move toward fruition, especially since canceling would not only be short-sighted but costly – disrupting contracts and crews already mobilized.

These projects have enjoyed bipartisan support from veteran commissioners Will Conley and Debbie Ingalsbe, and from our newly elected commissioner, Mark Jones, who campaigned in support of many of the projects.

But it won’t be easy for these officials to stand up and do what’s right, without knowing they have support. They also need to rest assured that more than just the busy-bodies with too much time are paying attention. Go if you can. If you can’t, here’s where to email:,,, and

This editorial is reprinted from the Hays Free Press.

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6 thoughts on “Commentary: Take back Hays County

  1. Well said! You are standing up for the good people of the county who want progress, instead of the vocal, very minority who havn’t made a name for themselves but want to by taking advantage of the public forum that they are allowed to have!

  2. Without regard to the merits of this piece, I find it poor form to personally attack private citizens in an unsigned editorial. Maybe it was written by the staff of Hays County Free Press generally, but that is not all clear from this reprint.

  3. Talk about hysteria and fear mongering…

    The purpose of the Hays Citizens’ Budget Project could not be more misrepresented. We believe that in the wake of this growing debt load in a down economy tough questions should be asked, with an expectation of direct answers. That’s reasonable, not radical.

    I’m suspicious of anyone who thinks these topics are unsuitable for public discussion. For the Hays Free Press to publish this fear-mongering editorial – complete with personal attacks – without a name attached to it tells us something about its intentions.

    Just so readers know… This is what happens when politicians – former State Representative Bob Barton, and his son, former County Commissioner and failed candidate for County Judge Jeff Barton – own news outlets… anonymous attack editorials with anonymous attack comments, and partial truths and complete misrepresentations in reporting.

    The Hays Free Press / San Marcos Mercury does a good job on local sports and community activities in my opinion. Readers would be smart to highly discount any editorials and articles related to public policy and political affairs until the Free Press / Mercury establishes its legitimacy in these areas.

  4. Didn’t you post this same comments on another website? LOL.

    Come on Sam – you received over an hour to present “your” views at the Commissioners Court on Tuesday. All other citizens only get 3 minutes. I think you received a more than adequate public discussion.

    And you will get another shot – just like every other citizens of Hays County – at all the public workshops that the County always holds on the budget. Really, what makes you so special that you should get your own special series of budget workshops? Doesn’t that just cost the taxpayers more money?

    Maybe the problem is – you just don’t want to hear the views of the dissenting side yourself.

    Tell your friends at the Hays County RoundUp that you need more editorial space. I’m sure they will be more than glad to provide it to you.

    And by the way – have you ever seen “signed” editorials in the Austin American Statesman or even the New York Times? It is always assumed it is the editorial “staff” that does them. It’s journalism 101. Guest editorials and columnists are signed articles. But hey, it gives you yet another reason to complain… so, go for it!

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