AGAIN AT YOUR SERVICE
My wonderful wife and I have lived in this community since 1991. We made it our home and raised our fabulous daughter here. Realizing how great it is here, we have given back in various ways since day one. I have been blessed to serve the public as an elected official for 12 continuous years. This included time as a member of the Humble ISD Board of Trustees and Houston City Council and as the Harris County tax assessor-collector. I could not have done any of this without the support of the community. And for that, I am humbled, grateful and honored. The Lone Star College System (LSC) has transitioned from all at-large seats to all district seats. For the first time ever, there will be a “Kingwood seat,” called that because the LSC-Kingwood campus is the heart of District 8. The service area includes Kingwood, Atascocita, Walden, Summerwood, Porter, New Caney and other portions of Montgomery County. As a result of recent elections, I am the LSC District 8 trustee. I am honored to serve in this new role and want to thank the community for their overwhelming support. I was elected with 83 percent of the vote. Please know how much Kim, Paige and I appreciate this community and those who live here.
Lone Star College System, District 8 Trustee-Elect
GIVE ME A BRAKE
When I was in college in the 1960s, my car needed new brake shoes. I bought them, but I lacked the time to install them, so I took my car to mechanic X and told him to install the shoes. Instead of doing what I requested, he did a complete brake job. The bill was astronomical compared to what it should have been. I objected to no avail, so I wrote him a check for the amount he charged. Then I got in my car and drove straight to the bank and stopped payment on that check.
When mechanic X’s attorney called me about the matter, I said that I was willing to pay AA (the average amount that three other mechanics had quoted me to install my brake shoes). The attorney said he would convey my message to X. The next time he called, he said that X would accept AA. The attorney said, “Just send me your check in the amount of AA, and I will tear up your original check.” I replied, “No deal. I will come to your office, and we will swap checks.”
This case involves two important points: First, if I had not paid X when I went to get my car, he legally could have kept my car. Second, a canceled check must be renewed in writing every six months; otherwise, the check can be run through the bank and the bank legally can pay it. I learned those points in a business law course I took in college. The law may have changed since then, so don’t just rely on what I have said.
TURNER ATTEMPTS TO BLACKMAIL THE KINGWOOD TIRZ
Not all TIRZs are created equal, nor are they operated in the same manner. There are ones, like Uptown, that are totally controlled by the commercial real estate interests in the area, resulting in debacles like the Post Oak bus lanes project. But there are others that are mostly controlled by residents and small businesses in their areas and work hard to make improvements that will benefit a wide cross-section of their communities. The Kingwood TIRZ falls into the latter category.
There is one other significant difference in the TIRZs. Some, depending on how and when they were formed, must turn over a third of their revenue to the city for “affordable housing.” Others, including the Kingwood TIRZ, have no such requirement. But last week, [Mayor Sylvester] Turner demanded that the Kingwood TIRZ begin turning over a third of its revenue to the city for “affordable housing.” I attended the Kingwood TIRZ board meeting where Turner’s demand was considered.
While “affordable housing” sounds like something everyone should support, I will tell you that the Houston Housing Department is a cesspool of incompetence, endemic pay-to-play, and outright corruption; witness the $6.7 million contract to Turner’s former law partner to be paid from Harvey relief funds that the housing department recently recommended to council.
Several of the TIRZ board members asked Turner’s representative at the meeting if she could tell them how the money would be spent if they turned over a third of their revenue. She answered, “No.” Under further questioning, she finally admitted that some of the funds would likely be used to “reimburse” the city’s general fund for “administrative costs.” Surprise, surprise, said no one.
So, why wouldn’t the TIRZ board just tell Turner to shove off? Well, because they are between a rock and a hard place.
One of the priorities of the Kingwood TIRZ has been to reconstruct Northpark Drive and build an overpass over a state highway and adjacent railroad tracks. Northpark is the northern entrance to Kingwood. The only other one is Kingwood Drive. Northpark is badly in need of a renovation and expansion. When I went to the meeting, there was a traffic jam westbound on Northpark from U.S. 59, stretching back nearly three miles. I am told that it can take as long as 45 minutes to get to the freeway during rush hour. In the afternoons it is the same situation in the other direction. The Kingwood TIRZ has been planning to issue bonds to complete the Northpark project, which they expect to run about $67 million. But the rub is that the TIRZs have a fixed life and, to extend that life, the city must agree. The Kingwood TIRZ’s current term will expire at the end of 2027, and therefore it cannot issue any bonds that would mature beyond that date. So, to complete the Northpark project, the city must agree to a 20-year extension to the life of the TIRZ. Turner’s ransom to agree to the extension is for the TIRZ to turn over a third of its future revenue to the city.
What makes this ploy particularly galling to residents of Kingwood is that, according to Councilmember Dave Martin, the city has allocated no capital improvement (“CIP”) budget for Kingwood in over a decade. Considering that Kingwood residents pay millions to the city each year in property taxes, sales taxes and, of course, drainage fees, Turner’s attempt to take another pound of flesh by confiscating a third of the TIRZ’s revenue is truly an outrage.
Martin has proposed a compromise that would phase in Turner’s money grab and, perhaps, salvage enough revenue to complete the Northpark project. But that is hardly the only infrastructure improvement Kingwood needs, especially when you consider the severe flooding it suffered during Harvey. So, even if Turner accepts Martin’s compromise, the Kingwood TIRZ’s ability to deliver the infrastructure Kingwood needs in the future will be severely hamstrung.
DAN CRENSHAW’S GREAT IDEA
I think it can be said that now Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw had an awesome past couple weeks. It started a little roughly as on the Nov. 3 edition of Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast member Pete Davidson made an off joke based on appearance at Dan’s expense. Dan had a great response saying that he did not like the outraged society that so much of America has become and was not seeking an apology. Specifically, he wrote on Twitter “Vets don’t deserve to see their wounds used as punchlines for bad jokes.” (His Democratic opponent, Todd Litton, also chimed in that Dan’s military service was “to be admired and appreciated.”) SNL invited Dan on for the following week’s show that was also the night before Veterans Day. Dan gave back with very good timing and was able to give the SNL audience a bit of a civics lesson, too. Davidson, whose father was a hero, sadly killed in the line of duty with the New York Fire Department on 9/11, was a good sport about it and told Dan that he was a “good man.” It was a good moment and shows that we in the Second Congressional District chose well. I am absolutely not going to suggest we start singing Kumbaya, but it was good to see that the mainstream media, largely in bed with the Democratic Party, has given Dan such favorable treatment. Dan’s Nov. 13 Op Ed in the Washington Post (“SNL mocked my appearance. Here’s why I didn’t demand an apology.”) is very good, and everyone should read it. His key point is “ideas are fair game.” That is a great idea, something people on the left and right, Democrats and Republicans, should take on board.