By Mary Huls [Mary Huls is the President of the Clear Lake Tea Party. She lives in Friendswood, Harris County.]
It seems that Mr. Jerry Smith of Citizens for CCISD political action committee (PAC) has asked the Clear Lake Tea Party (CLTP) to adhere to values of transparency, honesty, and accountability. Okay, let me answer that challenge.
The Clear Lake Tea Party has been working for traditional conservative values since 2009 by championing fiscal responsibility, limited government, personal accountability, and free market solutions for the many challenges of our time. We have held numerous rallies, town halls, trainings, and citizen lobbyist activities. All our activities have been publicized and open to the public. To suggest that the CLTP is less than honest, not accountable, and not transparent is ridiculous and is no more than an ad hominem attack on our organization’s integrity.
Unlike the very recently formed Citizens for CCISD PAC, the CLTP is a non-profit corporation that pays its taxes and has no paid employees. We operate mainly on donations and the sale of small items such as t-shirts and jewelry. We do not receive huge contributions of $20,000 from construction firms in whose best interest is to pass the CCISD bond issue. Indeed, PBK and Joiner Partnership “won” noncompetitive bids for projects being funded by the bond
Secondly, Mr. Smith seemingly suggests CCISD cannot “put out incorrect information, twist the truth, or strong-arm people to vote a certain way.” He further elaborates CLTP is accusing the CCISD of “practicing cronyism, election fraud and lying to the public.” Let me be perfectly clear, the CLTP is not attacking or disputing the reputation of the CCISD School Board. We are opposed to a $367M bond issue and nothing more. We have let the facts that we have gleaned mostly from the CCISD’s own website make our case. Individuals may draw their own conclusions. Mr. Smith says that they can’t shade the information to their own benefit. So how does publicizing that the CCISD School Board identified over $600M in needed spending but are only asking for $367M is a bargain for the District? Why were all spending issues that required new borrowing placed in a single omnibus CCISD Bond issue? Why weren’t the new construction and maintenance spending ($182,000,000), the spending for new technology that wasn’t even invented 5 years ago and will be obsolete in months ($45,000,000), and a new Football Stadium/Sportsplex & Eastside Agriculture facility ($49,000,000) split into three votes on the ballot?
Why wasn’t the CCISD taxpayer given a chance to vote separately on these issues and let the voters set the district’s spending priorities? Why? Because it is a tactic and strategy to strong arm a “yes” vote. If you disagree then you are against the children. It is a tactic to close down discussion. Over the last 13 years, CCISD voters have approved 3 bonds. If this bond is passed, CCISD will have borrowed approximately a BILLION dollars (including a Capital Plan) in little more than a decade. Is this sustainable? Are we living beyond our means? We see these same games in Washington, DC. As mad as we are at our leaders in the Federal government, why would we agree to this in our own backyard?
No, the school board is not lying or twisting the truth. But I do believe that CCISD does not provide both sides of the arguments for the bond. How could they? They have already voted for it themselves in order to put it on the ballot in the first place. And speaking of ballots, no one is accusing CCISD of out and out voter fraud. But we do note that it is CCISD that will run the election apart from all the other municipal elections in the area. CCISD controls who the election judges and clerks are. CCISD controls the mail-in balloting process. CCISD controls the voting locations and times. And CCISD counts the votes. Yes, CCISD cannot “strong-arm” people as to how to vote, but the deck sure seems stacked in favor of the school board. This means that people will have to go to 2 different locations to vote in the CCISD and the local municipal elections.
Consequently, it is up to the people to decide for themselves who is right and who is wrong. Who will support the bond, and who will not. We have taken a position to not support the bond this time. Should it be defeated, we will make sure that we are engaged and work with the CCISD in order to present fair choices regarding fiscal matters.
While we oppose this bond, the CLTP has never attacked anyone personally. It was never our intention to smear the Citizens for CCISD PAC by implying that Jerry Smith was the father of CCISD Superintendent Greg Smith. We only reported the fact that Jerry Smith introduced Greg Smith, in a public forum, as his son. We now have learned that this was an inside joke. We obviously are not on the inside. Our only mistake was to take Mr. Smith at his word. The manufactured outrage does not deter from the fact that Mr. Smith himself made this statement, nor the fact there are bigger issues in this election.
CCISD has made allegations of fraud against two of our members…private citizens who wanted to make it easy to vote in this election. These two ladies did nothing wrong. What was wrong was the lack of security procedures placed by Harris County and CCISD to protect the integrity of the election by handing out “Ballots” when these citizens made a request for “Application for Mail-In Ballot”. CCISD has actually filed charges against one of these individuals even though Stan Stanart has made a statement to the Harris County DA that there was no intent of fraud by either of these citizens. Can you imagine a country where you can be charged with a crime even with proof of no wrong-doing?
I hope that I have answered the charges and insinuations that Mr. Smith provided in his previous commentary. If any one wishes to discuss this further, please contact the Clear Lake Tea Party at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will personally address any questions.