If you have a sign and wish for me to pick it up, please let me know either by sending an email to IndianSpringsGuy@sbcglobal.net or calling 281-292-2925.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Special Tribute to special people

I would like to thank my core campaign team for their efforts in this past election. I am proud to have had an excellent team at my side. I hope they are around to help if I run again in the future. I had full confidence in their sincerity as demonstrated by their participation and support. I want to especially thank Lorna Acuña for her unswerving and exceptional dedication to seek what is right and good for this community. She fought to the end with her winning spirit. Hats off to great people like her who understand the issues and want The Woodlands to be an excellent place to live. Our core team as well as our core supporters knew we were the underdogs and needed support from the masses, but the masses did not show up. All of us tried to get them to the polls. Despite the overwhelming odds, my team managed to run a quality, positive and focused campaign on a relatively low budget. I believe we had the best quality and innovative ideas deployed of all campaigns in this election.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Special thanks to my supporters

Over the last twelve years, I have gained many friends through volunteering, networking and just pure friendship. With your support, I managed to garner only 10% of the vote, but that did not truly reflect what I was hearing from you throughout the campaign. The people wanted change in the neighborhoods that I canvassed. Those who voted were primarily voting on loyalty, not issue. My campaign was for the ordinary citizen, like myself, who worries about high taxes, who struggles with budgets, who simply wants someone to represent them in government and make life better for them, while they live their lives  without hassle. I could have done that. I know the system and know the people running it.

Our community remains at risk, so I will not lay down my arms. The risk is from those who continue to prioritize their own agendas over those of the public.

My apology to those who voted for and were hoping for change. I will try to make impact wherever I have the opportunity.  We know that George Mitchell does not live here, so I would never call him for an endorsement. He does not pay your taxes,  put up with loud traffic or worry about the crime happening around him. I understand the political machine and will work into it more as time goes on. You were not consulted in the past on many decisions made on your behalf. That is why I need to be there.

Many thanks to those who listened, even if you did not make it to the polls.

Please understand that likely I cannot help you in my current position. I had to be voted into office to have direct influence and leverage your will. However, I am here and available and will continue to do what I can to help you. You are The Woodlands, not the concrete and steel. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The $1.5 million dollar question

Alpha and Omega (the beginning and the end), the name of the mounted courtesy company that you know by the red uniformed guards on horses in Town Center. Each hour for one mounted horse costs the tax payers $39.10. When you go pet a horse and talk to a trooper, you can now appreciate its cost. When you pay your taxes, you can say, thank you Township Board of Directors for the opportunity to pet a horse. One day, I went to Walmart and thought, wow! Walmart is upgrading their services to mounted police. Not so! Not police even. The Township is paying for it - part of Zone 9. In certain areas, like Green Park or along the waterway, this is a nice amenity for families, visiting or residents,  but we need to ask ourselves, how much money do these mounted help service people draw?  How useful are they? Your will get rhetoric. Yes, they count the number of times they talk to people. That is because they are there.

I believe in spending money judiciously. That money could buy a number of policemen patrolling our streets. It might be used to replace a few trees that were torn down during the development of our new communities. It could also be returned to the taxpayers. Normally commercial interests would pay for such patrol amenities, not residents. Commercial interests deal with security. Taxpayers are not responsible for mall or large commercial enterprise security. This seems way over done to me, doesn't it to you also? I would be cutting back on this service and using it only for a novelty in select locations for tourism. For a start, how about a $200,000 budget instead of a $1.5 million one? 

We have a three-year agreement with Alpha and Omega. Our government chose them as a supplier using a point system to evaluate their services and company. The high bidder won out; there was about a $150,000 difference between the bids. Provisions in the three-year contract allow it to be canceled or renegotiated.  A board member stated once, "You sir would just let contracts to the low bidder." I certainly would if I thought the company could do the job to my satisfaction. It does not have to be the best in class. I would be spending but saving taxpayer money. In decades of working for a corporation, I sometimes chose the low bid and sometimes a higher one. A methodology could determine the winner, but often I found the systematic selection criteria fairly trite and unreliable, but went along with them anyway.
Is the1.5 million dollar question part of what Dr Robb was referring to when he said in his letter to the editor on April 14th, 2010? -  
"Some of the results I’m most proud of include:
6. Bringing Market Street and Waterway Square from an idea to reality"

The development company brought the idea to reality, but the amenities came from TCID, now The Woodlands Township.  Not all board members voted YES for this contract, but Dr Robb did by being absent! This was one of the motions he relegated to the others in his 37% absenteeism. I would have voted NO to this amount and to the extent of service proposed. Does he know that he is spending your money? Where is the return on the investment? I grant you, it is a novelty for visitors, providing a better experience and some million dollar photo opportunities.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I am most proud of lowering taxes to 32.8 cents

The incumbent in position 4 is Ed Robb. Are you as dumbfounded as I am on his claims to have lowered taxes to 32.8 cents per $100?   There is a huge problem in this claim, as I see it. It cannot be related to the return on sales taxes, but must be related to his specific accomplishments. Let's see if we can find them.

On Aug 29th, 2007, in a presentation on the feasibility of annexing The Woodlands into the TCID tax district, a forecast of 29.7 cents was presented to the residents of The Woodlands. This became the expectation behind the ad valorem proposition for the expanded tax district, to be called The Woodlands Township. Voters went to the polls with that tax rate expectation. Some say there was an assumption that the reserves collected by WCA would be transferred to the Township and instead, the WCA gave it back to the residents before formation of the Township and thus the higher tax rate. Even if this is the truth, it still makes no difference to the accomplishment claim of Dr Robb. He should be held accountable for the mistake, since he was on the board of TCID and adopted this rate based on sound analysis. Generally the incumbents have not yet all faced up to the fact that they are held accountable for mistakes as well as bad decisions. 

Now let's take a look at how our current tax rate came to be. Budget workshops of the directors had been conducted to determine the proposed budget for consideration before the final budget meeting. Going into the last budget meeting, there were several pending issues including financial reserves and what could be removed from the budget.

The final budget meeting was conducted just last year as part of  the Township Board meeting of August 26th 2009 when our tax rate was also established.  To establish a tax rate,  the Township Directors first had to set the budget.  The proposed 2010 budget was presented and a motion to adopt it opened up discussion. An amendment was made to raise spending on outside (Shenandoah and Oak Ridge) police enforcement in The Woodlands by $92,000, but no vote was required. That became part of a previously approved amendment. Then a motion for funding the Indian Springs Fire Station was discussed and approved.  

An amendment motion was put on the floor to remove certain items from the budget to enable a lower tax rate. Dr Robb voted against that, choosing to join the same group he always seems to vote with, against a lowered budget. As a result, the budget was approved with the additional funding of the outside police contracts. That satisfied the requirements for funding the budget through taxation.

The stage was set for a motion and discussion on the tax rate. A motion for a 32-cent rate was put on the floor for discussion.  Dr Robb voted against this motion  that failed. Next, a motion for 32.8 cents was put on the floor. Director Sutton (Development Co) amended the motion to be 33.8 cents, because the Tax Assessor recommended 33.5 cents. Dr Robb voted for this higher tax rate. That also failed. Then Directors Richmond and Tough were the swing votes, not Dr Robb, to establish the lower tax rate of 32.8 cents. If other budget items would have been cut, the tax rate probably would have been even lower.  

Now I compare this to the article in The Villager where Dr Robb says -

" During my service on The Woodlands Township Board, I’ve worked for real results for residents. Some of the results I’m most proud of include:
1. ...
2. ...
3. ... 
4. Lowering property taxes to 32.8 cents per $100 valuation"

If he was responsible for lowering taxes, why did others have to vote against him to lower the tax rate?

Now I suppose you know where I stand on excessive budgeting, spending and taxing! In a corporate environment, we would have assumed there was fluff in the budget. Departments tend to add fluff and hide it in specific projects. When you come from a background that does not emphasize fiscal responsibility to stockholders, then there is excess budgeting and waste. From what is visible to us, the stockholders, we have budget excess, and therefore we have higher taxes than required, but Dr Robb is not the person pushing those buttons, at least not from anything visible. If invisible ... well, we would have an even bigger problem.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Crime in The Woodlands

My position has always been to determine spending based on metrics. For crime, I feel no different. This subject is not simple and takes considerable analysis and thought to optimize the use of  resources and manage our taxes realistically.  My position is to staff according to our needs based on the right metrics and to communicate crime and safety issues accordingly. Our police force will soon be staffed according to the plan for 2010. We likely will need to add additional staff next year. Staffing and communication are independent but of course related. One is real crime; the other is mostly psychology. For staffing, we need to determine what we want to be and how much we want to pay for it. I advocate several metrics to govern our budget and practices.

For communication, we need to follow best practices. Our current notification system is good, but we can also automate availability of information through a GIS system. Every city I know of uses a GIS system for residents to understand where and what crimes are being committed in their area. I have been working on this issue for two years. We can also deploy a GIS system. We have the technology, but we have never taken the steps to deploy it as public information.

With permission from the data source, below you will find comparisons which indicate that we are not the best in mitigating crime in our neighborhoods, but not near what is considered a problem. These numbers are risk factors, based on crime incidents, criminal opportunities, and several other criteria. Everything is relative. A 100 is the national average. 100 is considered quite low. As you can see, our crime risk is generally half of the national average and less than 1/4 that of Houston. Contrast that to Sugarland which is considered a competitor by the developer here. People moving to the Houston area often compare Sugarland and The Woodlands as potential locations to live.  Again, these numbers are
not incidents but risk, a way to compare the effect of crime on life in various areas.   

Houston vs The Woodlands

The Woodlands   Houston    United States
Total Crime Risk  46 219 100
Personal Crime Risk  46 216 100
Murder Risk  51 229 100
Rape Risk  70 127 100
Robbery Risk  22 327 100
Assault Risk  31 205 100
Property Crime Risk  41 204 100
Burglary Risk   21 186 100
Larceny Risk  69 152 100
Motor Vehicle Theft Risk  30 238 100 

The Woodlands vs Sugarland

The Woodlands   Sugarland  United States
Personal Crime Risk  46 22 100
Murder Risk  51 21 100
Rape Risk  70 33 100
Robbery Risk  22 16 100
Assault Risk  31 17 100
Property Crime Risk  41 33 100
Burglary Risk  21 42 100
Larceny Risk  69 39 100
Motor Vehicle Theft Risk  30 13 100
Total Crime Risk  46 29 100

Data courtesy of CLRSearch.com

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Early Voting - responsibility to the public

How important is it to understand the residents in the community for which you volunteer to serve? I have always advocated that real residents should occupy seats in our government. Can a real resident be a part of the governing body and make a difference? What do I mean by a "real" resident? I mean one who lives among his neighbors, talks with them regularly and reaches out into the community to listen. Over the past few days, most of the candidates or their volunteers have been at the community center trying to be the last voice heard before entering the voting booth. That effort is the name recognition game of politicians. When I go vote, I do my homework in advance and abhor being approached by people waving signs and approaching me. That is just me. You may like it, but I could tell when I was there, that most people do not. It is a circus.

I have been canvassing people at their homes, seeking to get them to the polls and exchanging ideas and thoughts. I will continue doing that until election day. Representation entails knowledge first and action second. One resident stated "I will vote for you just because no one else knocked on my door." I am not seeking such endorsements and that sounds rather trite, but the statement came from a person who just learned that there is an election, and there are real residents offering their skills and value system to the public.

Yes, we are not as slick in our approach to the voters. I do not represent the financial and Montgomery county elite, but I do certainly represent the normal resident. This is an unpaid position, but there are apparent trails of money and power involved behind this, when you look into it closely. If you voted in the last election, you likely know what I mean. I just seek responsible spending for the majority of residents. The campaign finances of the incumbent tells much of his story. Look even beyond that and more will be revealed. The middle class economics of The Woodlands is under stress. Don't you think those elected to the board should be sensitive to that?