Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

Business in Jefferson County

As I go through this process of running for office, I will continue to try to make my views on topics known. If there is something you want to know, then ask me.

Recently, Philip Klein of The Southeast Texas Political Review (note: This was the Sunday Nov 25 post. The link may not point to that article for long.) posted an article about the airport and the businesses of Southeast Texas, but more importantly, it was article about the culture of Southeast Texas.

First, my attitude toward business is much more laissez-faire than most politicians. Business, that is free enterprise, is one of the principles that made our country great. Any man, with some effort, can create a going concern that can net him anything from a good living to millions. Politicians should stay out of business.

That being said, there is a role for government in business. That is to make sure that businesses follow the rules. No price fixing, no monopolies, no oligopolies with their inherent collusion. Cheating is still cheating whether you are an individual or a multi-billion dollar corporation. As an example, I believe that Microsoft’s stranglehold on the operating system market for the last almost 30 years has truly stifled innovation and caused many of the problems with the internet (spyware, viruses, trojans, etc)

Notice, I said that government’s job is to make sure the businesses follow the rules. Ideally this is a job for the Judicial Branch of the US, where you and I can bring our problems with businesses to have them resolved. If a common problem crops up and continues (pollution, price-fixing, unfair labor practices), then the legislature MAY get involved.

Remember though (and this is one my central tenets) We rarely need more laws, we just have to enforce the ones we have!

Which brings me back to Philips article about the culture of Southeast Texas.

“Ask anyone – and we mean anyone – that has a business in Southeast Texas and they will tell you that the Government and those who run it are not “business friendly.”

Ask anyone – and we mean anyone – that has a business in Southeast Texas and they will tell you that there is a severe labor shortage – strike that – a severe educated labor shortage.

Ask anyone – and we mean anyone – that has a business in Southeast Texas and they will tell you that there their children are leaving Southeast Texas as fast as they can.”

Politicians can’t do anything about the last bit. That is the right of every US citizen. To go when and where they please. I’m sorry they are leaving in droves. I hope they find a place they can be happy. I hope that those of us who stay can fix this eventually.

When I say eventually, I say that because I refuse to lie to anyone to try and get elected. There will be no instant solution to our problems. There won’t even be any quick solutions. I dare say, moderately speedy is also out of the question. That’s what all the local bond issues are about. Throw money at the problem and it will go away. That doesn’t work. We’ve been throwing money at everything from education to feeding the hungry and it still hasn’t corrected the problem.

Unfortunately, government (in the form of city, county, or state government) has very little impact on education. The state has more impact than the others and they, like our county leaders, have lost sight of all reality. I hate to say it, but it’s true ask any teacher in Southeast Texas. Most of our schools are crap. It’s really not the teachers, or the administrations fault. They are so hamstrung with rules from school boards and the state that they literally can’t accomplish anything but getting students a passing grade on the TAKS, and that’s only if the kids are willing to try.

Sorry, education is a hot topic for me, but there is little that can be done without a lot of effort from a lot of people… most of whom don’t even realize there is a problem.

Back to Philip’s list. The one thing that the county government can do is make Southeast Texas a “business friendly” environment. In this case I am only slightly referring to the giants, Motiva, ATOFINA, Exxon, etc.). We should be trying to attract these businesses. Our area has a lot of experience with refineries. And every effort should be made to keep these businesses growing.

But we should also try to keep the local businesses and smaller chains in place. These businesses (Drago’s, Jason’s Deli, Market Basket) to name a few are the cornerstone of our economy. And they are the success stories of Southeast Texas.

In my opinion, anyone who doesn’t appreciate these businesses and try to help them is letting Jefferson County fall away.

How will I help these businesses? By doing the same thing for them that I will for you as a County Commissioner, voting against tax increases and actively trying to lower taxes and decrease government spending.

How can I help with the other problems mentioned in Philip’s article? In my opinion, we can do a lot of things, here are a few:

  1. Stop paying for things that don’t work. (Ford Park, it’s go or die time.)
  2. Actively seek business investors to handle things that the county shouldn’t be dealing with. It’s true that government can’t run a business effectively, let it go to people who can run it effectively. (Airport, Ford Park)
  3. Quit paying for bosses and start getting more people who actually work for a living.

 

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November 26, 2007 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Libertarian, Politics, Texas | Leave a comment

Texas County Information

The Texas Association of Counties have a nice website that details a lot of useful information about Texas counties.

This link is to the 2007 salary survey of county officials. (PDF file)

This link is to the job description of a county commissioner in Texas.  The ubiquitous ‘other duties as required’ is of course present, but I give you the list (from the TAC website):

Among other responsibilities, the commissioners court:

  • Sets the yearly property tax rate and approves the budget and employment level for the county;
  • Sets commissioners and justice of the peace precinct boundaries;
  • Calls, conducts and certifies elections, including bond elections;
  • Sets employment and benefit policy;
  • Establishes long-range thoroughfare, open space, land use, financial and law enforcement/jail needs plans;
  • Acquires property for rights-of-way or other uses determined to be in the public’s best interest;
  • Reviews and approve subdivision platting and wastewater treatment for rural areas;
  • Provides rural ambulance services and subsidizes rural fire protection;
  • Oversees the construction, maintenance and improvement of county roads and bridges;
  • Appoints non-elected department heads and standing committees;
  • Supervises and controls the county courthouse, county buildings and facilities;
  • Adopts a county budget;
  • Determines county tax rates;
  • Fills vacancies in elective and appointive positions; and
  • Has exclusive authority to authorize contracts in the name of the county.

 

November 21, 2007 Posted by | Jefferson County, Politics | Leave a comment

Taking a Stand

Is Jefferson County ungovernable?  Is it time to throw in the towel and give up?  Is it enough to say, we have insane taxes, and our ‘leaders’ are corrupt?  Is that all we will ever be?

My aim in this blog is not so much to wax eloquent on the problems of Jefferson County, but to show that, maybe, one person can make a difference.  If enough people will not only say, ‘this sucks’, but take a stand and say, ‘that’s enough’, then maybe we can start a change for the better.  Some people have been complaining about government here for years.  I’ve been complaining about it publicly for a few weeks.  I know the government in Jefferson County doesn’t care about the people.  I know they just want their kilo of flesh from us.  I know the only news we get out of them comes around election time.

I’ll try not to harp on it anymore.

Instead, I will try to tell you what I would do in their place.  How, I would attempt to make the Jefferson County government responsible to the people.

First, let me say this.  Anyone who tells you that all the problems will go away if you elect them is lying to you.  I know that I would be one voice out five on most things in the Commissioners Court.  But if the people see that one person is willing to stand up for them, instead of whining about it, then maybe the next election will bring some support for that one person.  One person can’t do it alone, but maybe one person can be the point for real change.

I’m not a reporter.  I’m not an investigator.  I am a scientist and a teacher and a father.  All I can do is look closely at the things I think are wrong and try to figure out if there is a way to fix it.  At this point, the only way to even try to fix this problems in Jefferson County government is to get in and start banging away on the inside (since they don’t listen to anyone on the outside).  I’m willing to try.  I don’t see a lot of others standing up and saying they’ll try.

As I said, I’m a scientist.  I spend all my time with reality.  Real things, facts, evidence.  I’m telling you now, I do not compromise well.  That’s probably a good thing.  I see that something is wrong, or incorrect, or stupid, or ridiculous… I’ll be perfectly happy telling everyone so.  And I’ll vote against whatever it is.

This blog is getting a lot of hits and I appreciate many of the sites that have linked back to me.  If I haven’t linked back to you, let me know. However, no one is talking to me.  What I need from the people of Jefferson County and especially those in Port Arthur, Sabine Pass, and environs, is what do you want fixed?  What are the problems that you see?  I’ve mentioned budget, deputies, and citizen access to the Commissioners.  Is their anything else?

Can I fix it if elected… probably not.  But I can start working the problem.  If the Commissioners aren’t willing to listen to the people of Jefferson County, I am.  I’ll listen to you.  I’ll happily discuss the issues and try to come up with some kind of solution.

November 16, 2007 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Libertarian, Politics | Leave a comment

A review of the Jefferson County Budget 2004-2007

The budget for Jefferson County can be found here. These comments are based on the 2006-2007 budget.  The 05-06 budget is also available, just replace the years.  I have not found other yearly budgets yet.

Between 2004 and 2007 and out of 55 departments in the General fund. The following had ANY budget decrease:

  • Budget Office 2004 – $147,000 2007 – zero
  • Jury $1000 lower in 2005-2006 and $1.3 million higher in 2006-2007 ?!?!?!?!?
  • Community Supervision $200 drop from 04-05 to 05-06
  • County Morgue $25,000 drop from 05-06 to 06-07
  • Library lost $2000 in 05-06
  • Health Unit 2 lost $30k in 05-06
  • Child Welfare lost $17k in 05-06
  • Mosquito Control lost $110k in 06-07 !??!?!?!?

So out of 55 departments, 7 have had a budget reduction in 3 years and only 3 have had a budget reduction for 06-07 and one of those is (arguably) the most important department in Jefferson County… mosquito control.

Ford Park gets $1,788,371 for 06-07 and $1,500,000 for 05-06 out of the contingency fund. It might as well be made a budget item.

Without more detail about what some of this money is going for, I can’t really say what can be cut where, but something can be cut. Most importantly, the contingency fund is being used too much.

Contingency from the Yahoo American Heritage Dictionary :

1) a) An event that may occur but that is not likely or intended; a possibility.

b) A possibility that must be prepared for; a future emergency.

Let’s face it, the way Ford Park is, it is not unlikely or an emergency. It should be a budget item… actually, it should not be in the budget at all. It’s time for Ford Park to fly or crash on its own.

November 16, 2007 Posted by | Jefferson County, Politics | Leave a comment

The Aftermath of Proposition 15

So the people of Texas think that it is a good thing. That’s OK, that’s what a democracy is about.

My problem is that now that it’s been approved, all those people that voted for it will forget all about it. We will probably never hear another word about the Cancer Research Department. We will never hear who’s in charge, who’s been nominated for control of 3 billion dollars. We will never be told where that money goes…. and no one will ask.

My guess is that the entire budget will go to a pharmaceutical company that has ties to Perry.  After all, he made promises to get campaign contributions… he couldn’t live up to those promises with the required cervical cancer immunization, so he has this project now.

Good luck with that.

November 12, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Libertarian Time has Come?

After the elections, has anything really changed? Not in Jefferson County. Will next year be different?

The current US Congress has an abysmal 27% approval rate. What’s interesting is what could happen with just a few Libertarians in congress. There’s a bare 2 person Democrat advantage in the Senate.  This means that only 30 Libertarian’s need to get elected to control the entire congress.

Wes Benedict, Executive Director for the Texas Llibertarian Party, told us this.  “We elect one group into power (Republican or Democrat) into power until we get sick of them, then elect the other group into power until we get sick of them.”  Ad infinitum…

Maybe we should try something different.  Try something that isn’t going to automatically tick us all off in just a few years.  Maybe try the Libertarians and see what they do.

November 8, 2007 Posted by | Campaign, Libertarian, Politics | Leave a comment

Port Arthur ISD Bond

The Port Arthur School District wants another 190 million dollars to finish what it couldn’t do with the last bond election.  Now, I won’t say much about the BISD bond, I don’t live in Beaumont.  I do live in Port Arthur and I do feel both qualified and obligated to comment about PAISD.  I worked there for three years, in the high school, as a teacher.  I’ve been in the trenches and gnawed a few ankles.

My three years at Memorial High School were spent in a portable building.  After Rita, we didn’t have insulation or even ceiling tiles.  That winter, the temperature in the classroom was about 45 degrees when I got there.  By the end of the day, it was almost 60 sometimes.  When March rolled around, it hit 100 in the classroom during 7th period.  I asked for heaters, it was suggested that I buy one (which I did).  I asked for an air conditioner (the portables had their central units destroyed long before I got into them).  I was given an air conditioner, a 1500 BTU window unit.  That lowered the temp about 3 degrees.

With those experiences, you would think that I am in favor of the bond issue.  Heck NO!  Port Arthur ISD doesn’t have a clue about how to manage money or take care of facilities.  They are more concerned with appearances and athletics than anything else.  Admittedly, that applies to any Texas school district.

PAISD wants 24 million to finish a high school that hasn’t even been started yet from the bond election before Rita.  Tens of millions of dollars have been wasting away while political infighting prevents a school from being built.  Even after the bond, there were arguments about where it would be built.  Now they want 24 million to build science labs, an auditorium and career technology classrooms (CATE).  What about the athletic complex?  I bet that’s already approved with the current bond money so they can get the new one approved because science labs are critical to TAKS.  What about CATE?  That’s career training (you remember; shop, welding, (surprisingly) art).  Doesn’t Stillwell tech center take care of that?

Speaking of which, the bond wants 120 million for ‘campus renovations’ and to turn Stillwell into a ‘full service Educational Center’.  What exactly is a full service education center.  The brochure fails to specify.  Does it mean classes will be held there?  Because they already are.  Does it mean things like English and Math will be taught there instead of at the high school… then we can convert those classrooms to science labs.  What campus renovations?  I know they want a big chunk of change to rebuild Woodrow Wilson.  Please believe me when I say that school should be torn down.  It is in miserable shape.  I know teachers that were there after Rita and the conditions that they had to work in were beyond frightening.

Finally, they want 45 million to replace Franklin and Washington.  Which brings us back to a major issue that was discussed even before the last bond issue… “What will they do with Franklin?”  It’s not like they can sell it to anyone.  Who wants an ancient and run down school building?  So that building will still be on the roles and still have to be taken care of.

I understand the need for quality education, but believe me, there is very little of that in PAISD.  My favorite example comes from a senior who asked me, “When I divide, do I put the big number in the calculator first or the little number?”

I’ll be the first to admit that the school board seems to be turning around, but it will be years before the schools are turned around.  A friend at Memorial says that this is the worst year ever.

Until everyone, including the students, the teachers, and the staff of the schools are back in-line, any money spent is just wasted.  For me, I’m voting NO to all three.  I will reconsider when I find out what the current status of all the athletic projects are in the ISD.  If those are going full blast, then forget it.  Athletics are EXTRAcurricular.  Use that money to pay for science labs, and refurbishing the elementary schools.  Don’t waste my money on sports when your TAKS scores are in the toilet.  Don’t waste my money when 1/3 of the senior class doesn’t pass TAKS.

New schools won’t change that.

November 4, 2007 Posted by | Jefferson County, Politics | 1 Comment

Proposition 15 – Texas Ballot

Texans! We have a unique opportunity to show our government that we want less of their interference in our lives.

Proposition 15 is an attempt to set up a state bureaucracy to organize cancer research funds. Note that this isn’t a state supported research program, but a state program to organize the research and send the money to the people who are doing the research. Why?

My take, one of Perry’s friends needs a good job, so he’s going to start this $3 billion dollar department.  Heh, my wife reminded me of something else too.  Now that the requirement for all high school girls to get a vaccine that might prevent cervical cancer has failed, this could be Perry’s attempt to make good for a big campaign contributer.

Remember folks, big campaign donations mean big campaign promises… means we get screwed by big money and bigger government.  I’m voting for Libertarians, failing that, I’m voting for the person with the lowest campaign finances.

November 4, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | Leave a comment

County Agenda

Wow, I just read the latest county agenda, I can’t believe some of the things that are going on here.  This is a link to the October 22, 2007 minutes.  I won’t repost it here because I am not sure of the legality, but it’s easy to bring up if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The really good stuff is near the bottom.  Also, all the ‘see attached pages’ are not attached to the on-line document.  We ought to fix that.  A few items of interest:

  1. There is a budget line item for ‘Extra Help’
  2. Bullet Proof vests are listed under ‘Capital – Power Tools and Appliances ‘
  3. A Budget transfer for or to “County Judge – mental master”
  4. Approval for travel for a judge to attend the “Medicoleagal Investigation of Death Conference”… in Las Vegas

I’ll admit to not knowing the ins-and-outs of government budgets (that’s a mark in my favor if you ask me), but I’m sure that I could come up with a better place to put bullet proof vests that Power Tools.  And just who is the ‘mental master’?

And this is only one agenda… sigh.

One thing I will do if elected is to create a blog, like this one, and write up each days events so that the people can understand what is going on in our government.

November 1, 2007 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Politics | Leave a comment