Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

What’s going to happen if I’m elected…

What’s going to happen if I’m elected to the commissioner’s court.  First, and for a while, not a whole lot.  I will be sitting down with my staff and determining who does what and how they do it.  I don’t know anyone in the office and they won’t know me, so we will need some time to get a good working relationship going.  There’s no way I would change anything, at least with out some serious time and discussion.

Then I’ll be travelling around the precinct checking out the roads and other county duties, seeing how the work crews do their jobs.  I’ll also meet with the City Council and the Mayor, including represntatives from Sabine Pass, Hampshire, Port Acres, and whoever else wants to come.  Again, this would be a get aquainted time.

Long about May, I’m going to start taking classes at LIT.  They have a homeland security / emergancy management program there.  I’ll take some of those.  I feel that one area the county government should shine is emergancy mangement.

I’ll start talking to various people about thigns we can do at Ford Park to improve the advertising, sports, and general operations there.

Spring will see me throwing some block parties.  I’ll get out with a bar-B-que pit and set-up in a neighborhood to just meet and greet everyone.  Answer and ask questions.

By June or so, I would like to have met with the Texas Department of Transportation on getting the highway 87 project started.

We’ll also have to start work on Keith Lake Park.  That doesn’t seem to be going anywhere right now.

During all this, I’m going to have a long sit down with the county budget and see where exactly all this money is going and what we can do to A) improve service for that budget or B) reduce the budget and keep services at the same level.

August 4, 2008 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Libertarian, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | Leave a comment

Campaign Plans

Those of you who are regular reads (I hope there are a few), the campaign is beginning.  Anyone who is interested in helping out, should contact me.  I need volunteers for everything from putting up doorhangers (once it gets cooler) to just finding a home for a yard sign.

I’d also like some people to host small get togethers in their homes.  Them, their family and friends, interested parties, and me… just to discuss issues, suggestions, and whatever else is on your mind.

Remember, I can’t beat Singeal without support and not just voting.  If that’s all you can manage I’ll accept it with gladness in my heart.  If you can help out more, that would be great.

Walkabouts and promotional campaign material will start going up in September and early October depending on my finances.  Meet and greets, I’m available almost anytime.  I will take a few days vaction in mid-August, but that’s about it.

July 19, 2008 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Libertarian, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | Leave a comment

General Comments and New Stuff

I’ve been busy.  Apologies for the delay in posting.

First up, a comment on this KJAC news article (http://setxhomepage.com/content/fulltext/?cid=8028).  I guess there’s nothing ethically wrong with working for the guy you would like to replace.  I mean, Alma Cantu ran for his seat.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to work there prior to being elected.  I have nothing against Mr. Hallmark or his staff.  I think that being an executive assistant to Mr. Hallmark before he leaves, would cause one to begin to think like him.  That may not be a bad thing, but I think it’s time for a different attitude about county affairs.

There is some question in my mind about how he got the job in the first place.  Did he apply and was he the best candidate for the job or was it ‘given’ to him because of his campaign and political affiliation?

Next up, my comments about the Veolia project (from this http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/veolia_wants_to_import_banned_chemical_06-30-2008_13_31_17.html).  I just want to reiterate that I think importing these chemicals to be destroyed in our local facility is a good thing.  It keeps people here working.  It keeps truck drivers working.  It keeps everyone they spend money on working.  The Southeast Texas economy is in better shape than most of the rest of the country.  Let’s keep it that way.

For the environmentalists who don’t want the chemicals here.  First let me remind you that I have a Bachelor of Science degree in actual science.  I’ve taught Chemistry and Biology.  I’m even qualified to teach Advanced Placement Environmental Science, so I know a little bit about how this works.

First PCBs are very dangerous, that’s true.  So it makes sense to me to allow the closest company to Mexico that is EPA certified to deal with PCBs the job of destroying them.  Transportation of toxic chemicals should be something we’re all used to.  Jefferson County is about to have the largest refinery in the US.  Let’s face it, we’re a chemical and hydrocarbon refinery area.  That’s what Port Arthur and Beaumont are built around.

Finally, I’m beginning to print materials for campaigning.  If anyone would like a yard sign or is willing to help me by distributing information in your neighborhood, please let me know.  That way I’ll have a good idea of how many to order.  If anyone is willing to give me a hand designing these things, that would be great too.

Thanks

References

http://www.epa.gov/pcb/pubs/stordisp.htm

http://www.ehso.com/pcbs.htm

http://www.epa.gov/pcbs/pubs/pcb.pdf

July 3, 2008 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Libertarian, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | Leave a comment

Kudos to Ted Poe

Republican Ted Poe has done something that I’ve never seen before, but I have been planning to do all along.

I got an email from his office asking me to give my opinion about something.  Apparently, the house is considering dropping Federal Taxes on gasoline for the summer months.  It would mean a $0.328 instant drop in gas prices.  On the other hand, $0.184 of that money (per gallon of gas) goes directly into the Federal Highway System.  You know, all that construction on I-10.

Here’s the link to the ballot.

Regardless of your opinion of Poe or his politics, this sets a fantastic precedent for Congressman Poe and other leaders.  In simple terms: Get the opinion of your constituents.

I plan on doing much the same thing as Jefferson County Commissioner.

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Jefferson County, Politics, Texas | 2 Comments

This Years Property Valuations and Taxes

Seems a lot of people are ‘concerned’ about their property valuations this year. I know I am. I’ve basically done nothing to my property (OK, I finally replaced my deck and a wooden fence from Rita damage), but still.

According to the County Assessor, the property valuations are based on the local market. Someone explain to me why, if our property is worth more because of the market, then how come I can see two ‘for sale’ signs out my front window? They’ve been up for weeks. A brief drive around the neighborhood shows me several for sale signs that have been up for months.

So here are some really basic figures that I’ve done. Please keep in mind that these are estimates.

2007 County Budget: $135,000,000 (135 million dollars)

Tax Rate (per $100): $0.39

Approximate Total Property Valuation for Jefferson County: $34,000,000,000 (34 billion)

2008

Approximate Total Property Valuation for Jefferson County (average increase about 15%): $40,000,000,000 (40 billion) NOTE: per KFDM story

2008 County Budget (same as last year): $135,000,000

Tax Rate needed to achieve budget goal: $0.33 (per $100)

Alternative County Budget (my preferred estimate): $110,000,000

Tax Rate needed to achieve budget goal: $0.27 (per $100)

These are rough rounded figures.

Tax Discussion

First, How much do you want to bet that they will lower the tax rate to 37 cents per $100 and tell everyone how they are lowering taxes?  Yet the actual paid taxes increased for everyone and it netted the county the most income ever.  I explained the issue in a fairly long e-mail that I sent to all the media.  Only Tom Wright of KFDM even replied to me and it took some time before he believed me.

I’m not on the commissioners court yet, so I’m not privy to the detail budget and accounting figures.  I really want to know how much of that $25,000,000 ‘Emergency Fund’ is left.  There have been no events that, in my mind, would qualify for using the fund, so there had better be twenty five million left in it.  I’m concerned that the current court is using the fund for things that are not really emergencies (like Ford Park).

So assuming that the slush fund is intact, then that money can be removed from the budget; dropping it from $135,000,000 to $110,000,000.

That’s assuming that no county departments get a budget cut or increase.  I don’t really see the need for an increase.  Every business in the world is tightening their belts and doing more with less.  Only the government is steadily increasing their budgets.  The very least that they could do is maintain the current budget level.  I really suspect that some departments could survive with small cuts.

That would be my proposal.  A Jefferson County budget of $110 million dollars (or slightly less) and a tax rate of 27 cents per $100.  That would actually be a tax cut for citizens of Jefferson County, not a fake cut where you still end up paying more.

Information Sources

KFDM News Report

Jefferson County Appraisal District Website

Jefferson County Taxing Entities and Rates

April 23, 2008 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | | Leave a comment

Rebuilding Highway 87… revisited

Don’t let it be said that I don’t listen.  I’ve said several times that I disagree with rebuilding Highway 87… but the people of South Jefferson County want hwy87 between Sabine Pass and the Bolivar Peninsula rebuilt, so if I’m elected, then I will get the thing built for you.

After doing some research, if I’m elected then I will propose a few things that would make the highway more palatable for the environmental groups and improve the highway lifespan from 30 years to at least 60 or more years.

My plan would be to build it as a bridge… think about the Atchafalaya Swamp Freeway.  It’s 18.2 miles, slightly more than the part of hwy 87 that needs to be rebuilt.  It’s built entirely on piers for that entire distance and has withstood floods and hurricanes.

The advantages:

  • Less environmental impact.  Water and creatures can travel freely underneath the highway, leaving the wetlands pretty much as is, plus no alligators to hit while driving at night (a friend of mine hit an alligator just outside of Sabine Pass one night).
  • The highway will be more tolerant of storms and storm surge.  Say the highway is built 6-8 feet above sea level, there would have to be quite a storm to flood the highway and it would avoid damage from the constant pounding and shifting from weather
  • It could probably be built faster than if we had to stabilize every inch of roadbed.  Modern technology allows the prebuilding of lengths of road that are then moved out over the piers and placed into position.  Steel connections between sections would allow for shifting from weather, settling, and differential heating.

Disadvatages

  • It would probably be slightly more expensive, but this would have to be looked at.  I find it difficult to believe that building a bridge would cost more than having to stabilize some 93,000 feet of swamp.
  • Traffic issues: broken down cars, beach access, bird watching, emergency access, etc (more below)

For those traffic issues, I would propose two things to help out.  The first would be a great boon for Sabine Pass and High Island.  That is convince the cell phone companies to put towers in Sabine and High Island.  As far as I can tell there is only one company with excellent connections in Sabine.  The others are spotty to non-existent.  If I get stranded, I may not be able to get a call out depending on where I am.

The second affects the road/bridge itself.  I would propose to add four or five ‘wide points’ where the road extends to 4 lanes and there are under bridge turnarounds.  I would place beach access off of these points as well as making provisions for bird watchers and some additional access to the wetlands (boat ramps may not be out of the question).

This would add to the cost of the project, but hopefully turn it from just 17.5 miles of road to something that actually enhances Southeast Texas.

Comments from Civil Engineers and citizens of SE Texas welcome.

April 20, 2008 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | Leave a comment

Arts in Southeast Texas

Once again an organization ignores locals to bring in outsiders for business.  KFDM reports a woman called in from out of the area to paint murals from a children’s book on the walls of a church.

The one thing that really struck me was her blatant use of the word ‘copy’ when describing her work.  It makes me wonder if she (or the church) has permission to use the images and copy them onto the walls.

Once again though, local groups are going outside the area to have work done that could be done be local people.  ( see this blog entry for a list).

It has also come to my attention that local artists and organizations could get grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, SETAC, and the Stark Foundation.  So it wouldn’t cost the City of PA or the church anything to have the work done.

Please note, I would be mad about anything that could be done locally that wasn’t.  It’s just that I know about the arts because of my wife (who happens to be a professional artist and have work in the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, but no one does a news show on her!).

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Jefferson County, Texas | Leave a comment

Thurman Bartie’s Position and Kevin McCarthy’s Responses

I just can’t help myself.  I have to comment on this from Bartie’s website.  My comments in red… and yes, I’m being kind of snippy here, deal with it.

1.  Roads & Bridges
Bartie will maintain the roads and bridges of Precinct 3 and appropriate wisely the statutory fund dedicated to this cause.
 It’s good to know that you would do the job that is expected of you.
2. Public Works
Bartie will properly maintain ditches and waterways within precinct 3. Will approach the need of services in rural areas according to availability.
It’s good to know that you will maintain ditches, though I really don’t ever expect to see you with a shovel.  Rural areas are a part of the county.  If you don’t do jobs in the rural areas at the same priority as jobs within PA City Limits, then you are putting the needs of one area above the needs of another area and that’s not right.
3. Tax Rate
Bartie will maintain the tax rate and strengthen the economic growth and development.
This one ticks me off.  Don’t maintain the tax rate… LOWER IT.  Here’s what I want to accomplish if I’m elected.  One, reduce all department budgets by 5%.  Two remove the $25 million emergency fund portion of the taxes.  We haven’t used it right?  No emergencies right?  With those two things, the tax PAYMENTS should be lower.  If the county raises property values again, then the tax RATE should be waaaay lower.
4. Park System
Bartie will maintain  the park system within the precinct (Umphrey State Park, Keith Lake Park, work to reopen Sea Rim State Park).
Do you know what “State Park” means.  That means that the state is responsible for it.  Quit trying to make us pay for other things.  BTW: You can scratch Sea Rim off the list.  Texas has the money to fix it now.
5. Coastal Erosion
Bartie will further study coastal erosion and seek a cost effective method for eradication.
Coastal erosion is a fact of life along the Texas coast.  You can’t stop it.  You can do some short-sighted things to limit erosion in one area, but it always causes more problems in other areas and more long-term problems.  Don’t ask an environmental company, ask a couple of scientists at Lamar or A&M Galveston whose life is studying the Texas coast.  They’ll tell you the same thing.
6. Employment
Bartie will work closely with industry and the Texas Workforce Commission to assist South and Southwest County residents with gainful employment.
There are lots and lots of available jobs right now.  OK, the jobs aren’t making $20/hr at a refinery, but they are jobs.
7. Public Health & Welfare
Bartie will further support the County Health Care system; Indigent Care and  Veteran Benefits
Aren’t Veterans Federal?
8. Intergovernmental Relations
Bartie will work with all governmental agencies from Sabine Pass, Fannett, to Port Arthur for a better quality of life for all citizens.
Something I can agree with.
Bartie will work with both the U.S. Congressional and Texas Legislative Representatives to rebuild Hwy 87.
 WHY!?!?  Highway 87 is dead, just let it go people.  Please.  (See Coastal Erosion)  I would rather see some efforts spent towards the HWY 69/ 365 area to improve that (I know it’s in progress) and 365 between 69 and West Port Arthur Road improved.  The intersection there needs some work too.  

Bartie will  work in harmony  with all City Officials, County Officials and Regional Officials for a more effective government. I’m not so sure about this one.  Can you work in harmony, Bartie?  It seems to me you’ve had issues with working with people in the past.

Bartie doesn’t mention one of the 3 fundamental jobs of a county commissioner and it’s one that he should be well aware of… that is maintaining the county courthouse and courts.

I really think that Bartie will get the Democrat nomination.  But he has the same problem that a lot (all?) of the other candidates have, except me.  He wants to push for more government doing more things at a huge cost.

I’m the only candidate who WILL NOT agree to a budget increase.  In fact, the proposal I outlined above for the next county budget cycle is the minimum that I will vote to accept.  Will I win, probably not, but I will fight for it.  If I fight for it this year, then the other precincts can elect others who will fight for lower taxes as well.

P.S. I will allow one exception on the department cuts.  Mosquito control gets one year without a cut, since they have had budget cuts recently.

P.P.S. I think I did pretty good and didn’t bring up any of the major problems with Bartie at all.  This is all (well, almost all) based on his position.

March 9, 2008 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Libertarian, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | Leave a comment

Jefferson County Primary Results

So, for precinct 3 it’s a runoff between Mike Sinegal and Thurman Bartie.  Are you kidding me?

I can understand Mike, he seems to be popular in Port Arthur.  But Bartie??!??!?!?!

I would like to run against Sinegal.  I think we would have a good competition.  I would really like to run against Bartie, a defrocked judge with anger management issues.  If he somehow gets the spot, then I’m leaving.  I will now that Jefferson County can’t be saved and it’s merely a playground for those who want power and money and I’m gone.

Let’s go for the runoff.

March 5, 2008 Posted by | Campaign, Jefferson County, Libertarian, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | Leave a comment

Jefferson County Good and Bad

You know, we have an amazing dichotomy here in Southeast Texas. It’s truly awesome when you think about it, however, it is NOT good for us. Let me explain.

This Port Arthur News article about the Valero expansion project is great news.  Port Arthur will be one of the largest refining and petrochemical centers in the US. There’s going to be another 2.2 billion dollars spent on a refinery here. That’s great!!! Until reality sets in.

We now have three major plant expansion projects underway and the LNG terminal is almost finished. We have a huge number of people working in construction right now. What happens when all the projects are completed (approximately two years from now)? That Valero project with up to 2000 construction workers, will be a permanent job for 30 people. That’s less than 1 in 10 for most of our area high schools’ graduating classes.

I ‘m so pleased that our area citizens will have jobs… wait, what’s this, most of the workforce will be hired from out of town and will be staying in the 300 new hotels we have built in the last few years?  I heard one news source talking about a company creating a ghetto (used in the classical sense of the word, not the derogatory version)** for the huge number of Indian welders coming over here to work on a project. So SE Texans won’t be getting as many jobs as we suspected.

I can’t believe (heh) that Judge Walker is quoted as saying the expansion project is “unbelievable”. Let me explain how economics works… listen close, I might have to do this again if I’m elected. Gasoline is $3 a gallon with it estimated to hit $4 a gallon this summer. At this point, major oil companies are making more profits than they ever have before. Since gas will probably never go down to $2 a gallon again, it’s time to make some money by increasing production.  It’s unbelievable to me that anyone would not see this coming.

PA City Manager Fitzgibbons is another one with a seemingly questionable grip on reality.  “It means more jobs”… man, have you seen the signs?  Almost every business in SE Texas is begging for people to come work.  Lowe’s is hiring, Walmart is always hiring, we’re getting new restaurants in, dozens of banks and hotels have been built.  There are tons of jobs out there.  OK, these jobs might not be making $25 an hour with overtime pay, but it’s a job with benefits.

Many of the people, especially the high school and college students, here in SE Texas seem to think that minimum wage is beneath them.  Most of my students expect to be making 6 figures by the time they are 24.  We don’t have high unemployment because there aren’t any jobs.  We have high unemployment because the people don’t want to work.

Ms. Reid of the PA Chamber of Commerce understands what I’m talking about.  She’s already considering what’s going to happen 6 months to 2 years from now.  That’s a leader.  We have to keep moving forward.
The stuff now is done, the rank and file can take care of that business.  A leader needs to be figuring out what comes next and where the next 2.2 billion dollar project is coming from and how to make sure we get it here instead of somewhere else.

I have some ideas for major projects that will continue our construction programs, help our economy, and our environment.  Let me try.

BTW: Don’t get me wrong, these projects are still pretty good for our area.  It could be better, but it could be a lot worse too.

** The word ghetto [any segregated mode of living or working that results from bias or stereotyping] originally applied to the areas of European towns where Jews lived. It has been associted with slums or poor, densely populated areas mainly because the Jews of the time (middle ages) couldn’t get decent jobs and afford to keep their area nice.

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Jefferson County, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas | Leave a comment