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Almost since the first day after his election, County Judge Keith Self has tried to chart a new, more libertarian, populist course for the county commissioners court.
While the Collin County Observer has been generally critical of many of Judge Self's ideas, we have supported several of his initiatives, especially those relating to government transparency. From putting the county's checkbook online to broadcasting and recording county meetings, the Transparency Project has met its goal of making county government more accessible and accountable.
Self's efforts to rein in the cost of engineering contracts has also been supported by this blog. While we believe that it is not in the public interest to always go with the lowest bidder for road and bridge design, there has been too much of an 'insider' aspect to selecting engineering firms for large projects.
The scrutiny that resulted has reduced the cost of engineering service contracts to Collin County taxpayers.
However, far and away the most important issues facing the citizens of this county have to do with the growth of the county and the need for roads and more efficient transportation infrastructure. And on these issues, our County Judge is, well... nuttier than a Corsicana fruitcake
Collin County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Our highways are all too frequently gridlocked - limiting growth potential, costing taxpayers uncounted millions in lost productivity and adding tons of exhaust to our already filthy air.
Yet one of Self's first public stances after taking office was to oppose the 2007 County Bond Program.
Among local elected officials, he stood alone. All 4 commissioners campaigned in favor of the bonds, which were overwhelmingly approved (2 - 1) by the voters.
Self wanted the county to use "pass through financing" from TxDOT to finance large construction projects, leaving the cities to pay for their own smaller secondary road improvements. His plan was a bad idea then and was soon proven to be a very, very bad idea, when not long after the election, the state killed the whole "pass through" program.
The Dallas Morning News, in an editorial after the election wrote, "Rookie Collin County Judge Keith Self was selling nonsense with his campaign to defeat a ballot proposition for road building. Voters, to their credit, weren't buying."
Earlier this year, he took his libertarian anti-transportation message to Austin where he was roundly castigated by several Texas Senators, including some from his own party for misrepresenting the Local Option Transportation Tax bill. Fellow Republican Senator John Carona of Richardson told Self that, "it seems to me that you do a disservice to the community by sending out the missives you've sent out before you even knew or understood what the bill said.... It is especially tragic that in a progressive part of the state like Collin County that this [Self] would represent the future leadership of the county."
Once again, the Dallas Morning News editorialized on Self's performance, calling it the "Keith Self side show", the News wrote, "Collin County Judge Keith Self has opposed bond elections to build roads, accused regional leaders of socialism and made fighting a bill that would give people the right to vote on rail expansion his top legislative priority. This week, he took his mischaracterizations of a rail expansion plan directly to the source, testifying before a Senate panel."
Last week, Judge Self stunned commissioners and court watchers with 2 presentations - both carrying the message to STOP road planning and construction.
In the first presentation, which was at the County Toll Road Authority portion of the meeting, Judge Self, speaking of the proposed Outer Loop, told the court that they should not be in a hurry to proceed with a $563,000 engineering study for Segment 3 because, as he said, "there is no hurry". Commissioners Jaynes, Ward and Hoagland disagreed. Jaynes pointed out that delay would cost the taxpayers $90,000/day in increased costs on the entire $4 billion Outer Loop program.
After an hour long discussion of engineering contract costs, property values and traffic projections, the court over-ruled Self's objections, voting to approve the contract 3 - 2. Commissioner Matt Shaheen voted along with Keith Self not to approve.
Despite Keith Self's objections, the county will continue to try to expedite the construction of the Outer Loop.
Later, in a heated discussion over projects to be assigned to the county's new citizen's Efficiency Committee, Keith Self, again supported by Matt Shaheen, floated the idea to stop this year's rural road asphalting program at 50 miles.
In 2004, the county committed to paving all 763 miles of county-maintained dirt roads within 10 years. The year to year goal has been to asphalt at least 50 miles per year - and every year, the county has exceeded its goal. This year, the public works department is on track to complete 70 miles.
Judge Self wants the county to stop paving at 50 miles and to warehouse the inventory of asphalt aggregate for next year. His reasoning is that the county would save money next year, because it would not have to purchase as much road making aggregate next year, when budget crunches could be harder.
Once again, Judge Self wanted to stop road construction, saying "We want to be husbanding our assets for next year".
Jaynes retorted, "If stopped doing anything, we wouldn't spend anything!"
Shaheen went on to explain that the county had "excess" inventories of aggregate totaling about $1.5 to $2 million. If construction were to stop, these inventories would be carried over to next year, saving the need to purchase as much in FY 2010.
Jerry Hoagland pointed asked that if there were excess inventories, "why wouldn't we use it up now?".
Joe Jaynes reacted to Self's idea with shock and indignation exclaiming that, "To say that you're at 50 [miles] and you have to stop is just government control at its worst. We have 300 days of reserves. The sky is not falling. It's going to be tougher next year, quite probably in appraised value but its not like we're some county in West Texas. And to tell these guys to cap it at 50 [miles], when we can go further is just like some of this short-sightedness we are seeing in some of these other things. We're worried about today, and not looking at the future."
"Now is the time to be doing this", said Jaynes, "not stopping."
Later in the week, Jaynes sent an email to his supporters:
Battle lines are being drawn.
Hoagland and Jaynes believe strongly that the future development of the county requires continued investment in the transportation infrastructure. So far Ward has voted with Jaynes and Hoagland.
Self, with some support from Matt Shaheen, has tried to slow or stop virtually every mobility project in the works.
As a leader of a county that desperately needs tens of billions of dollars for transportation investment, he seems nuttier than a Corsicana fruitcake.
People of Collin County, you have got exactly what you deserve. So live with it.
By the way I had to read Mr.Jaynes letter here on this blog. As a constituent of his I did not receive one.
Did you see California and Oregon's unemployment is now 12.2%? Michigan's is 15.2%.
President Obama said that if we passed a $780 billion dollar spending bill (more than what we have spent on NASA since it's creation) written by labor unions and ACORN, our unemployment would not go above 8%. It's at 9.7%, Chuck. Where is all the JOB CREATION? We are still losing jobs, Chuck.
The CBO says our national deficit is going to be $900 billion every year for the next 10 years. The Democrats want to add to that!
How big was the Texas deficit? Oh, that's right, we didn't have one, even though we don't have a state income tax, which Democrats desperately want.
How big was California's deficit? $26 BILLION? Even though they have a 4% state income tax for incomes $16k-$26k, 6% state income tax for income between $26k - $36k, 8% for income between $36k-$46K, and 9.3% above $46k?
Yeah, what we need in Collin County, and in Texas, is more Democratic control. Ha!
Honestly, I really wish you two would go live under the policies you advocate for. I have. It stinks!
This name-calling from Bill is unnecessary. Instead of quoting other people who don't like Self and name-calling, why don't you just list what policies he's for/against and then lay out why you disagree.
Bill, be honest. You need tax increases to pay for the rail vision you want in North Texas. That's what you want.
You want more money spent on healthcare even though it's over 30% of the state budget and 23% of the national budget.
Janie, you might try going to breakfast with the mayors and Joe Jaynes to get your road. It seems to work for them.
As it stands, there are usually anywhere from 4 to 7 patrol deputies per shift covering over 700 square miles of Collin County! In 2007, the county had a population of 724,900, about 145,000 citizens to 1 deputy. That, is scary. The remaining 200 square miles are covered by the cities.
The census in 2010 should show an increase in that number but no additional deputies are being added.
Self & Co. have cut the sheriff to the bone when it comes to his ability to protect the public. They refuse to provide enough patrol cars which may run 24/7. If a deputy is on a late call, or taking someone to the jail, his car share partner has to wait at the office until his car becomes available.
The sheriff's department has to borrow the city of McKinney's firing range for firearms training. Natural or manmade disaster response? Forget about it. The last tornado that came ripping through the county, deputies were forced to respond in their own vehicles.
The Collin County website states: "And today Collin County is the sixth most populous, and still the fastest growing, county in Texas. But even with all this change, and with more and more people and businesses moving into the county from other parts of Texas and the nation, we still maintain our ties with our roots..."
They got that right. Their law enforcement ties are still rooted in the 60's. I pay tons of money in property taxes and I am pro law enforcement. I am outraged that Self & Co. won't adequately fund the sheriff's department! I will support ANYONE who vows to fix what they are royally screwing up.
"How big was the Texas deficit? Oh, that's right, we didn't have one, even though we don't have a state income tax, which Democrats desperately want.
How big was California's deficit? $26 BILLION? Even though they have a . . . state income tax . . .?
Yeah, what we need in Collin County, and in Texas, is more Democratic control. Ha!"
Just last week there was an article that the "balanced budget" in Texas state government that Gov. Perry bragged about earlier this year was only balanced because federal stimulus money was used to balance the budget? Did you not get that critical fact from the news, or do you only get your "news" - more accurately talking points - from Faux News?
The main reason the State of Texas always has a balanced budget, is because a balanced budget is required under the Texas Constitution. State Representatives and State Senators in Austin balance the budget anyway they can without raising any taxes, because they don't have the courage to raise the revenues this state needs to climb up from the embarrassing bottom ranking on many categories, such as for the rate of health insurance coverage for U.S. citizens in Texas. Inadequate state revenues is also why Texas has to do joint ventures with foreign companies such as Spanish company Cintra in order to be able to do the bigger road projects it needs, such as the upgrade to the LBJ Freeway portion of 635 (and doing multi-decade "leasing" of many of the public property rights to the private companies in the process).
Yeah, I know Perry used stimulus funds for mostly Medicaid, which is a huge chunk of change. That doesn't change the fact that Texas is in much better shape than California. Texas didn't even use it's $9 billion dollar rainy day fund. California has tens of billions in deficits on a regular basis.
We should add several more million people to the government healthcare rolls, right? Because Medicare and Medicaid have $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities, we should add more to that. That's what Democrats want to do. Both Medicaid and Medicare have failed, because they are broke, but we should duplicate that failure on a larger scale.
"State Representatives and State Senators in Austin balance the budget anyway they can without raising any taxes, because they don't have the courage to raise the revenues this state needs to climb up from the embarrassing bottom ranking on many categories"
That's a laugh. Look at the Texas budget and compare it to the California budget.
Texas spends more!
Texas spends $52.966 billion on health and human services. California spends $37.965 million.
Texas spends $74.53 billion on education. California spends $53.7 billion.
To a Democrat, you can't possibly have greater revenue without a state income tax. That's what Democrats never ever learn. Cutting taxes generates more revenue because the economy grows faster. Texas is stealing business away from California because of this.
Texas has been #1 in job growth and attracts businesses because it doesn't have the ridiculous expenses that states like California have.
"such as for the rate of health insurance coverage for U.S. citizens in Texas"
Yeah, 27% of Texas' uninsured are illegal immigrants. It's no wonder Texas, California, Florida, New Mexico and Arizona top the list for uninsured.
But, of course, spending more money on any issue will not solve the problem. Texas already spends $52 billion on health and human services, 32% of its budget!
Your policies are already failing in other states.
"Inadequate state revenues is also why Texas has to do joint ventures with foreign companies such as Spanish company Cintra in order to be able to do the bigger road projects it needs, "
Give TxDOT 100% of the gas tax instead of 59% and give them 100% of the car registration versus 100% to the general fund.
I guess when 32% of your budget goes to health and human services totaling $52.966 billion, you have less for roads.
At least Texas builds them! California doesn't even pick the weeds on the side of their expressways right now (I was there recently), let alone build new ones. The condition of their roads is awful even though their gas tax is over 67 cents per gallon compared with our 48 cents.
But I can now drive to DFW Airport in 25 minutes because of 121. I can get to Arlington in 30 minutes because of George Bush. We are building expressways here in Texas.
It took California 11 years to reopen the part of the Nimitz freeway in Oakland that collapsed during the 1989 earthquake. It's a joke.
Democrats feel that if we only give the government more money, everything will run smoothly and we'd have no deficits and lots of jobs and wonderful services.
California says otherwise. Texas is nirvana compared with California, because we are more conservative and they are more liberal.
Just look at the urban areas controlled by Democrats for decades and see how they are doing. Not so well.
Scott, cool it.
I need to remind you again that this is a blog about Collin County - it is not a forum for you to spout long monologues on your peculiar philosophies.
I laid out one on law enforcement. Respond to that instead of posting stats you pulled off the internet. This is a discussion about local issue. Do you think maybe you could try and keep it that way?
Mr. Walker, and his other pseudonyms, ignore Bill's paramaters over and over again. Don't give LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOong rants taken from the Glen Beck show about a variety of topics not pertaining to the issue at hand, such as California, Acorn, NASA, Rick Perry, Obama's church, illegal immigrants in 4 different states, and your commutes to DFW airport.
Save these pearls of wisdom for your own blog - where you get to define the topic. Let your readers/fans/adversaries use YOUR blog for that. If you don't have enough blog traffic, that is not Bill's problem. And you will probably be kicked off here soon again - to cool off.
Bill has a successful and well researched and reported blog - based on, (gasp!) facts - old school gum shoe reporting. His blog is often cited by the Dallas Morning News. This is neither the Jerry Springer Show nor a forum for the Glen Beckistan Manifesto.
Carry on - gotta go to work
Thanks for the comment. I really am pleased when people say they often don't agree with what I write, yet they read the Observer because it is a source for info on county affairs.
I'm not trying to preach here; I am more than satisfied if I've informed you about something you didn't know about, or given you a reason to think about an issue from a different perspective.
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