She dreamed of a purpose; they dreamed of a future

Physical Location map Haiti with departements,...

Physical Location map Haiti with departements, Equirectangular projection, N/S stretching 105 %. Geographic limits of the map: N: 20.2° N S: 17.9° N W: 74.6° E O: 71.5° E (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a God story. It’s a story of how a little girl from Borger, Texas, now a successful stockbroker and wealth manager in The Woodlands, came to find her purpose in life in middle age in a chance conversation with a stranger.

It’s also story of how the elders in an impoverished little village in Haiti – a poor village in one of the poorest countries in the world – decided back in 2006 that they would somehow, in a country where education isn’t free, and without any resources of their own, build a school and teach their children in their isolated village – and give them a life the adults had been denied.

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And it’s a story of how these two different worlds have been brought together to make those dreams a reality, assisted by a dedicated group of American business people.

The little girl was Cindy Tice. Born in Borger – one of the first oil boom-towns in the Panhandle, but still boasting only 13,000 residents in 2010 – the career choices for little girls back then were limited, she said in a recent interview.

“There were three occupational choices for girls when I was growing up,” Tice said. “Teacher, nurse, or housewife; so I became a teacher.”

She pursued that career and made it a success as a speech and hearing therapist, but longed to do something different. Eventually, she would train to become a stockbroker and wealth manager, and through hard work and determination turned that into a success as well, first with Paine Webber and then with Morgan Stanley, where she now is first vice president and wealth adviser in the national financial firm’s Woodlands Waterway office.

She’s long known that “to whom much is given, much is required,” and so Tice made sure to involve herself in charity in her community in The Woodlands Rotary Club and CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates.

But even then, her involvement often was simply limited to “just going to a black tie event, drinking too much wine and winning an auction trip and writing a check out.”

She wanted to do more. But what?

“I had always felt like God had a purpose for me,” she said, “but I just couldn’t find what it was.”

Then one day at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, she was listening to a sermon from Pastor Rob Renfroe.

“One day Rob Renfroe was giving a sermon about the epitaph people want to have when they die. I remember him asking the congregation, ‘Will it be – I just waited all of my life to find out what my purpose was?’

“I realized – Oh my gosh — I had done that my whole life.”

“And then he said ‘there are opportunities all around us all the time; you just need to stand up and start saying yes.’ “

Two weeks later, just before Christmas 2011, Tice found herself at P.F. Chang’s in The Woodlands after a day of shopping, taking a break to sip on a glass of wine at the bar and text with friends; she noticed a young man next to her doing the same and they struck up a conversation.

“Something just clicked, and we started talking about charities of our choice. I said mine was CASA. He said ‘mine was Haiti,’ and he told me about this group of people who go to Haiti twice a year. They had built a school for this little village, adding to the economy by hiring local people to do the work.

The young man was Jeff Hynes, Sr. Treasury Analyst (Financial Derivatives) at CB&I  in The Woodlands. “He later sent me a couple of emails and invited me over with his family — and served me a little too much wine,” she joked.

“He said, ‘I’m going in March – would you like to go?’ “

It was an opportunity – and she said yes. And that’s how Tice would find herself one day surrounded by poor villagers in Haiti, helping them to furnish their new school with textbooks and a kitchen in which to cook the children one meal a day – a meal that for some was the only real meal of the day.

The group she joined is called “Hands for Haiti” and it serves the tiny village of Tremesse. The group’s Web site paints a picture of utter poverty: “There is no village center, pathways lead off into the jungle at every angle. There is no pavement in Tremesse, no electricity, no plumbing, no stores and until recently no real school.”

Hands for Haiti actually started with the dream of those villagers in Tremesse to offer a better future for their children. In fact, desperate to give the children whatever education they could, the villagers had picked volunteers and opened a fledgling school – nothing more than a tarp suspended by four poles, with no textbooks or learning equipment to speak of.

They had the will – but no way to achieve their dreams.

That would come in the form of Hands for Haiti, launched by a retired successful businessman in North Carolina, Mark Creasser,  who discovered the villagers’ plight during his own work in Haiti to relieve hunger.

“My friends and I had been involved in shipping food containers to Haiti, and I had been going down there for six or seven years at that point,” Creasser said.

“There was a group of elders that were in Tremesse that had gone to a doctor friend of ours, Ray Ford, and had asked him if he could find someone who could help them. Ford and his staff had established a clinic and orphanage not too far from the village.

“Dr. Ford said ‘Why don’t just you just come out and see the situation and see what you can do?

“I went out there to the tent school, and they asked us what we could do for them, and I was honest. I didn’t know anything we could do, but I told them I’d look into it.

“Like so many things, the good Lord pushed us into this thing.”

Eventually, Creasser and a handful for other men, including Hynes, formed Hands for Haiti, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit incorporated in the State of New Hampshire.

The group, initially funded by the generosity of board members, and now supplemented in part by monthly sponsorships,  already has done much for the children of Tremesse. The school now has 235 students and 12 teachers and administrators. The classes are pre-school to Grade 5 and began October 3. In addition, the group has improved the lot of the villagers in a number of other ways, including setting up an operational satellite and WIFI network at the school, providing 25 XO laptops and 10 regular laptops loaded with educational software, building a new kitchen, providing a solar-powered water system with generator backup, meals, and annual physicals for the children.

And yet there is much more to be done – such as providing a vehicle to give villagers a way to transport children or adults to the nearby clinic for emergencies and other needs. The tragic death of one of the school’s students demonstrates the tremendous need for a vehicle, Tice said.

“At least a third of the kids are malnourished,” Tice said. One 7-year-old boy, Ronaldo, had contracted cholera as a result of chronic malnutrition, and began having seizures.

“One day, his parents had to just pick him up and start walking/running toward the clinic,” Tice said.

He died along the way in their arms.

Creasser said the long-term goal is to continue building the school, adding grades through high school, and to raise a new generation of educated Haitians.

“Our goal is not just to have a school, but we want to have a school where we can provide or at least have a way of looking for the future leaders of Haiti and have them be created,” Creasser said. They hope to work with some of the companies moving into Haiti to develop vocational programs to train students for better jobs in factories or other corporate facilities – or to teach them better farming methods to improve agriculture.

For Tice, the work has been life-changing. She remembers one day visiting the village and being approached by one little girl eager to see her; she wanted to show off her new, bright red shoe.

One shoe.

“She was so happy; they were the first shoes she had ever had; she wore one of the shoes – and her sister wore the other.”

“Seeing how happy they can be with what they have….and how unhappy American kids can be when we don’t go out and buy them the latest toy; it’s just such a lesson for me.

“It’s just enriched my life.”

To learn more about Hands for Haiti, or to make a donation, go to the group’s Web site


Montgomery County June home sales soaring; need a nice country retreat?

The Houston area housing market – including Montgomery County – continues to soar to new heights based on the latest figures for June 2012.

In the Houston region June marked the 13th straight month of positive home sales, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.

According to the latest monthly data prepared by the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR), single-family home sales rose 14.4 percent compared to June 2011. The month also saw local housing inventory hold to its lowest level in more than five years.

And Montgomery County specifically saw strong numbers for June – eclipsing the numbers for the Houston region overall. Here are some of the highlights for Montgomery County:

  • Closed single-family home sales rose 17.3 percent for June 2012, growing from 635 sales in June last year to 745;
  • Year-to-date numbers are strong as well; year-to-date sales in June rose 15.1 percent over last year, going from 2,775 in June 2011 to 3,195 this June;
  • The Woodlands and southwest Montgomery County remain, the most robust region for home sales, but each of the county’s four region posted strong gains in sales, as is indicated in the graphic below;
  • Total Days on Market actually  declined in southwest Montgomery County by 8.3 percent, dropping from 84 days to 77 days;
  • Median prices for all but one region posted strong gains, from 7.5 percent year over year in southwest Montgomery County and The Woodlands, to as much as 25.7 percent in southeast Montgomery County. See the graphic below.

These numbers paint a picture of a strong real estate market, which is good news for homebuyers and sellers. It’s a seller’s market for most of Montgomery County, but an improving real estate market can make a home purchase a good investment for buyers as well.

The strength of the real estate market in the Houston region is being, and will continue to be, driven by gains in jobs and an improving economy.

“We see the strength of the Houston housing market as a direct reflection of improving consumer confidence in the local economy as a whole,” Wayne A. Stroman, HAR chairman and CEO of Stroman Realty, said in a recent Houston Association of Realtors release.

“One of the principal factors in the demand for homes throughout greater Houston has been steady job gains that the Texas Workforce Commission reports have amounted to more than 90,000 hires over the past year. In its July economic outlook, the Greater Houston Partnership said ‘Houston is the strongest of all the major metro economies in the U.S., and if job growth continues at the current pace, this may be one of the best years on record for the region.'”

I attended a meeting earlier this year where the keynote speaker was Mike Inselmann, co-founder and President of Metrostudy, which studies the housing market.

At the close of his remarks and after reviewing all the job growth data for the Houston region, Inselmann made a similar point, and pointed to a great future for housing in the Houston region: “The next four to five years are going to be pretty good years for Houston.”

This could be a perfect time for you to consider buying or selling a home in Montgomery County. I’d be happy to help.

If you’re interested in buying or selling a home in Montgomery County, please contact me at You can also follow the link below to see my newest listing, a lovely log home on 3.5 acres with a pond, east of Conroe.

Jim Fredricks is a licensed Realtor with the Chevaux Group in The Woodlands.

See more detail here

18422 Possum Trot – Log home on 3.5 acres east of Conroe
MLS# 23125033 Listing Price:$280,000 Bedrooms:# 4 Baths:# 2 Sq.ft:# 2,953 Acres: 3.5Description:Peaceful, country living at its best on spacious 3.5   acres with pond. Great custom log home, soaring ceilings in living area and   master with wrap-around porch to enjoy the country views. Four bedrooms, game   room and study. 40X40 workshop/garage. Master Bedroom/Study is up with large   jacuzzi tub and huge walk-in shower. 19X6 balcony off master bedroom   overlooks gorgeous acreage. Includes big 8-person hot tub with 20X14 deck.

See more detail here

On Speight, and the choice in Precinct 3

It was a Tuesday night, when many families are busy with a host of other activities.

But that night, about 200 people had filled the seats at an elementary school in south Montgomery County, eager to hear a presentation on the Grand Parkway that had been put together by Kenny Speight, who is in a four-way GOP primary race for Commissioner Precinct 3 to help determine who will succeed outgoing longtime Commissioner Ed Chance.

By any measure, it was an important meeting for those residents of Imperial Oaks and surrounding areas; most stuck around until the very end of the meeting and after a round of questions. It’s a good example of how important the proposed project is for these residents.

It also was a good example why Kenny Speight could make a great commissioner.

Speight said he had put together the program in order to help meet the needs of south Montgomery County residents who wanted to know more about the project, which ultimately will create a third outer loop encircling Houston. A portion of it will pass through south Montgomery County. Relying on relationships forged over the years with people like Imperial Oaks developer Jim Holcomb – who helped coordinate and get the word out about the meeting – Speight helped create a productive meeting that provided useful information to hundreds of local residents.

Last fall, I had written a blog post questioning whether Speight, in his campaign, would go beyond biography and endorsements to spelling out a clear vision for the county and taking actions that would establish his leadership. Sure, he had the backing of a large number of county officials, including Commissioner Chance – and he clearly had the lead in raising funds for a campaign — but why should voters choose him?

That Tuesday night was a good demonstration why he would be a good pick; another was a few weeks ago, when Kenny accompanied me on some visits to south Montgomery County leaders on the issue of transportation.

I’m currently involved in helping promote transportation infrastructure funding for the Houston region. Kenny’s broad knowledge of the area and close relationships with scores of local leaders made him a natural fit for visiting with local leaders to secure support for our goal – which involves ensuring that Texas has the transportation infrastructure it needs to maintain its strong economic growth and combat congestion that already is becoming a crisis around the region.

As we visited with these leaders, it was clear Kenny was familiar with the transportation issues facing many of our smaller communities and the county as a whole. And his well-established relationships with local elected officials and government leaders made for an effective set of meetings.

I think this is an important quality – and is the flip side of the coin of being what many people perceive as the “establishment” candidate in the race.

Yes. After spending 25 years in a community – he moved his family here in 1987 – and being involved in leadership in various civic groups, by any definition you would become a part of the “establishment.”

But that also is the very reason Speight is the best person for the job – 25 years of building relationships and serving in community leadership have given Speight a familiarity with the issues and people relevant to voters in Precinct 3. He can make a seamless transition into the post, and can leverage that 25 years of effective involvement in the community to hit the ground running.

So yes – voters shouldn’t back Speight simply because he’s supported by established leaders in south Montgomery County. But from my perspective seeing him in action – and given his long involvement in the community, which you can read more of below – I think Kenny’s demonstrated his value to south Montgomery County voters. I wish him luck in the primary; early voting ends today, and Election Day is Tuesday, May 29.

Some of Kenny’s accomplishments:

  • Recipient of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District’s Small Business Man of the Year Award in 1994;
  • Volunteer of the Year by The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce in 1997;
  • Kenny Speight Agency was named Small Business of the Year in 1999 by the Commercial Real Estate Association of Montgomery County;
  • Honored as a Hometown Hero for The Woodlands in 2005’
  • Served as the Chairman of The Board of the South Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce from 2006-2007
  • Served as co-Chairman of the VOICE PAC to free The Woodlands Township from annexation;
  • Served as a Director of the Woodlands Community Association and Cochran’s Crossing Village Association boards;
  • Lifetime Committeeman Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo; member Board of Directors of Montgomery County Fair Association; founder of South County Buyer’s Group

The December jobs report: nice, but …

This morning’s December employment report was qualified good news, at best.

To be sure, any time the economy is adding jobs is a good thing, and with 200,000 non-farm payroll jobs created, pushing the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent, it would be foolish not to welcome some good news. Things are headed the right direction – but at a snail’s pace. Of course, since Houston and Texas know how to do things right, things are looking pretty good on the local level as well, as this piece by the Houston Business Journal indicates.

Still, at the national level, it’s like airplane struggling to gain altitude as a mountain approaches. Sure – that extra 1,000 feet of altitude pushing the plane to 3,000 feet is good,  – but how are we going to get over that 21,000-foot mountain range?

That’s the basic question that faces the federal government and struggling businesses as the economy fights to emerge from a crushing loss of jobs from the recession. As this Wall Street Journal piece points out, total nonfarm payrolls stood at 131.9 million last month – far short of regaining the 8.8 million jobs wiped out by the recession.

And even worse, with the government looking at raising the federal debt limit to an astounding $16 trillion, the ill-conceived attempts at stimulus apparently did little but ring up the nation’s credit card – laying a huge burden on the economy.

The problem, as expressed by U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, and voices such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief economist, is that government policy – wasteful spending, and crushing regulation – are inhibiting, not helping, this recovery.

And even with the jobs being added, a closer look at the positive spin by some on the numbers the masks a depressing point – the job growth is not as strong as one might think.

First, about 40,000 of those 200,000 new jobs were temporary courier and delivery jobs associated with the upswing in deliveries around the Christmas season. They will disappear by next month’s report.

Furthermore, because the government’s statistics don’t count those who have stopped looking for work, the real unemployment number looks more like a dispiriting 11.6 percent, as pointed out by Rep. Brady in a release today.

“As we enter the fourth year of the Obama presidency, job prospects remain so poor that many American workers have lost hope of finding work and have stopped looking,” Brady stated. “If the percentage of Americans employed or looking for work at the beginning of the recession in December 2007 not declined, the unemployment rate would have been 11.6  percent in today’s report instead of 8.5 percent.”

That means the economy will remain the key focus of this presidential election. And as Brady and the chamber both point out – this administration continues to be wrong on economic policy.

According to a statement by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Dr. Martin Regalia, released today:  “The focus this year has to continue to be on improving the underlying growth in the economy because that is what will create jobs.

“Leaders in Washington must work together to remove impediments to growth and job creation by investing in infrastructure to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, increasing domestic energy, speeding up the permitting process so projects can get underway more quickly and remove other regulatory barriers that are weighing down the economy, approving the Keystone Pipeline permit, passing the intellectual property bills to protect jobs, and making American business more globally competitive by acting on comprehensive tax reform.”

So enjoy the good news – and steel yourself for the bad news: there is a mountain range ahead, and we’ve going to have to dump a lot of cargo – a.k.a. bad policy and wasteful, or at least non-essential, federal spending – if we want to clear it.


The payroll tax cut: a good argument — a failed strategy

If you’re in a showdown, you don’t want to be the guy who blinks. Unfortunately, that is precisely what House Republicans, led by John Boehner, did yesterday.

And that’s too bad, because even if their tactics ultimately failed, their underlying policy argument – a refusal to sign onto a sham, politically expedient, two-month extension of the payroll tax cut – was correct and principled.

These are serious times. Federal spending and the deficit have ballooned to dangerous levels. The economy is still weak and threatens to tip back into a recession depending on events overseas and at home. Polling shows that the American people understand our precarious position.

And yet when faced with a real issue – the expiration of a payroll tax cut at the end of December that will impact millions of AmericansSenate Democrats and their enablers in the GOP Senate minority created a political fig leaf designed to give them just enough cover to claim they did something before leaving for Christmas. It was profoundly unserious, another example of congressional dysfunction.

A two-month extension is unworkable and meaningless. It will have no impact on the economy because it is not long enough to give either consumers or business owners the clarity they need to make any plans on spending. Even worse, it could create huge problems for small businesses, causing “substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees,” according to the National Payroll Reporting Consortium, a trade association representing tax-service providers.

The right thing was to create a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut, and then to pay for it by spending reductions or some means other than a tax hike so as not to place another burden on job creators.

The key problem was that Senate Democrats wanted to pay for it with a tax hike. Meanwhile, the House Republican plan would not have increased the deficit and would have forced an administration decision on the blocked Keystone XL pipeline – a sticking point for some Democrats, as were other elements in the House plan. But that’s what a conference committee and negotiations are for.

“We think Senate Democrats shortchanged the American public with a measly two-month extension,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, in one of numerous interviews prior to Thursday’s capitulation by Speaker John Boehner.

Brady went on to frame the issue very clearly, I thought: with a weakened economy, a dangerous deficit, and out-of-control spending – isn’t it finally time for Congress to stop pretending to get the job done, and actually do it?

“I think Americans are tired of the business-as-usual, let-them-eat-cake and we’ll get around to it sometime next year approach. We were voted in to actually change business as usual and solve these problems.” For more of Brady’s argument, you can check out a blog he authored here.

Unfortunately, Boehner’s capitulation drains that argument of its power and puts Senate Democrats in a stronger position as they prepare to negotiate an ultimate year-long extension of the payroll tax cut. Having chosen in essence, a showdown, the only choice was to see it through and go all in, betting that the argument ultimately would carry the day, despite mounting criticism in the media and even from GOP strategists.

In retrospect, clearly it was wrong to choose a showdown without calculating the costs of carrying it through. House Republicans had the policy right; unfortunately, their tactics failed them.


Sgt. Wright – no regrets

Does our nation deserve people like Sgt. Eddie Wright, or Capt. Brent Morell, or any of the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women who have served this country or been wounded or killed in action?
I still say yes, in principal. But we could do more to honor their sacrifice. A lot more.
Sgt. Eddie Wright, a retired Marine and Conroe resident who lost his two arms in combat in Iraq, spoke to a standing-room-only Veteran’s celebration of The Woodlands Rotary Club on Thursday.
Although he paid a steep price to keep his commitment to serve this country, Sgt. Wright exhibited no regret for his service, and clearly didn’t want anyone’s pity. He hopes rather to inspire others to serve a country he loved enough to pay the price of the loss of his forearms.

Being a Marine was a lifelong dream for Sgt. Wright; it was a dream he nourished from an early age.

Sgt. Eddie Wright speaking to The Woodlands Rotary Club Thursday

“It was always my dream to be a Marine,” he told club members. “Ultimately l was able to make that dream a reality.
“I remember when we were on patrol one night;  My unit was inserted into the suburbs around Fallujah. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe I was doing what I had always imagined.”
It was Fallujah – the scene of some of the fiercest door-to-door fighting of the entire war – where Sgt. Wright’s dream eventually took a brutal detour.
“It was 2004. We got into a big firefight and we were ambushed.
“I was in the lead vehicle and I was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.”
The blast ripped off both hands. While he lay there stunned, he could hear and see a steady barrage of bullets snapping through the thin walls of his unarmored Humvee. He thought to himself:  “If I get hit again, that’s it.”
Wright would lose both forearms and later be awarded a bronze star medal with combat distinguishing device for heroic achievement.
But he readily acknowledged he was alive only because of someone else’s supreme sacrifice: Capt. Brent Morell.
It was Morrell’s heroic charge straight into the ambush that saved Sgt. Wright’s life and the lives of numerous other Marines.
Here is the citation for Morell’s Navy Cross – awarded posthumously:
“The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Captain Brent Lee Morel, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as Platoon Commander, Second Platoon, Company B, First Reconnaissance Battalion, FIRST Marine Division, First Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 7 April 2004. Captain Morel’s platoon escorted a convoy into the Al Anbar Province when 40 to 60 insurgents in well-fortified and concealed positions initiated an ambush. Witnessing a rocket-propelled grenade crippling his lead vehicle and while mortar and machine gun fire erupted, he ordered his remaining two vehicles to secure a flanking position. Captain Morel left his vehicle and led a determined assault across an open field and up a 10-foot berm, in order to maneuver into firing positions. The boldness of this first assault eliminated several insurgents at close range forcing their retreat. Observing his Marines pinned down from enemy fire, Captain Morel left the safety of his position and continued the assault, eliminating the enemy’s attack. During this valiant act, he fell mortally wounded by a withering burst of enemy automatic weapons fire. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Captain Morel reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
“If it wasn’t for his actions, I wouldn’t be here today,” Sgt. Wright said. “It’s people like that who are the real heroes; I was just trying to fight my way out of the situation.”
Sgt. Wright has paid an enormous price to serve his country. But he thinks little of it today. After a year of physical and occupational therapy where he learned to use the claws that now substitute for the forearms he lost in Iraq, Sgt. Wright still sees a bright future for himself, his wife and baby daughter.
And the community has done what it could to help. Sgt. Wright was the 20th serviceman to receive the keys to a new furnished home from the organization
“I wouldn’t trade anything. I was fortunate to be able to live out my dream; and I’m still young enough to pursue my new dreams, with my wife and my baby daughter,” he said.
And he hopes he and other veterans, armed with the lessons they’ve learned in their service, can put those lessons to use for their country.
“I believe this is the greatest nation in the world; we hope to keep that dream alive.”


It’s Election Day today folks. Are you ready to vote?

Voters will be going to the polls around the state today to
cast ballots on the state constitutional amendments; they’ll also be casting
ballots on numerous local issues, including a $200 million Montgomery County
road bond referendum.

The Courier has a nice breakdown of the issues and its
editorial stances here.

I’m headed to the polls, and here’s how I’m going to vote:

County road bond
election – YES

There is no doubt the county needs to fund road improvements
to keep up with its continued growth. Typically, the county has done this
through road bond elections, with the last being 2005. On average, the county
has a road bond election about every three to four years.

This referendum contains numerous projects for all parts of
the county, such as improving and widening Walden Road near Lake Conroe,
widening Honea-Egypt Road and McCaleb Road, widening Budde Road and Nursery
Road in south Montgomery County, and extending League Line road to the Lone
Star Executive Airport.


Proposition 1 authorizes the Texas Legislature to provide an
exemption from property taxation of all or part of the market value of the
residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally
disabled veteran. The burden of defending this country falls on a small number
of military personnel and their families who endure great hardship in the call
of duty. They earned this exemption.


Proposition 2 provides for the issuance of additional
general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board up to $6 billion
at any time without having to go before voters for approval. The state would be
able to continue issuing new bonds to fund water projects as previous bonds are
retired without having to go back to voters. Water is a critical issue for the
state, especially in the midst of a severe drought; the bonds would fund a wide
variety of projects, including water resource development, water quality and
flood control. The state is protected because the debt is paid back by the
local entity that receives the loan.


Proposition 3 would provide for the issuance of general
obligation bonds of the State of Texas to finance educational loans to
students. It would authorize The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to
issue and sell more general obligation bonds as needed to pay for more
financial loans to students. Unlike Proposition 2 – where at least voters at
the local level can question the use of state loans for water infrastructure,
Proposition 3 gives a blank check to the coordinating board. In addition, I
believe the easy availability of student loans has contributed to soaring
enrollments and tuition inflation. This is a power that should be reserved to


This proposition would give the legislature the power to
permit a county to “issue bonds or notes to finance the development or
redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to
pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes
imposed by the county on property in the area.” In short, the state proposes
giving counties the same power that cities have. However, counties already have
economic development tools, such as tax abatements, that should suffice. Also,
groups such as Texans for Fiscal Responsibility fear that this proposition
could open the door for “Kelo”-style property seizures for the purposes of
economic development. Certainly, we don’t need to encourage any movement toward
such policies.


Proposition 5 would allow cities and counties to enter into interlocal
contracts with other cities or counties without the imposition of a tax or the
provision of a sinking fund. In short, this would make it easier for cities and
counties to consolidate projects or services and reduce duplication, which
would save tax dollars. Cutting a little red tape to encourage greater
efficiency is a worthwhile move.


Proposition 6 would allow the General Land Office to
distribute revenue from permanent school fund land or other properties to the
available school fund to provide additional funding for public education, and
providing for an increase in the market value of the permanent school fund for
the purpose of allowing increased distributions from the available school fund.

This is a bad idea; it opens the door to eroding the
principal of the permanent school fund. The state needs to find other ways to
fund public education rather than weakening a permanent source of funding.


The constitutional amendment would allow for the creation of
more taxing districts in West Texas. It would authorize the Legislature to
permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County; those
districts would levy property taxes to issue bonds to fund development and
maintenance of parks and recreational facilities. These responsibilities
already fall under county government and should be supported by existing county
property taxes; it is up to counties to manage their budgets wisely to
accommodate these needs.


Proposition 8 would allow land currently used for farming,
ranching, wildlife management or logging to be developed for water conservation
without changing its tax status. The exemption would not apply to land that is
not already eligible under existing uses. Water conservation is an appropriate
state policy goal; it makes sense to permit exemptions to encourage it.


This constitutional amendment would authorize the governor
to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred
adjudication community supervision and against whom charges are then dropped.
Currently, the governor can extend pardons only to those who have been found
guilty of a crime; the amendment would extend the power to pardon to cover deferred
adjudications.  It is a reasonable
extension of the governor’s pardon power.


This constitutional amendment would change the length of the
unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain elected county
or district officeholders. Currently they must resign if they announce their
intention to run for another post with more than a year left in their current
term. The amendment would permit them to remain in their post if they announce
with less than one year and 30 days remaining in their term. It is designed to
adjust for new federal filing dates enacted to permit more time for the
delivery of ballots to the military and others overseas.