Last night, Scott Turnbull bested his opponent in a race that saw the lowest voter turnout since 2010. Though he captured 67.8% of the vote, just 147 voters turned out, compared to last year when Wayne Orchard and me were elected in a landslide with more than three times the turnout for a municipal election in the city’s history! Scott was certainly fortunate that Adrienne Balkum & Jim Herren (both unopposed) campaigned with him! I’m especially grateful that 72 of those that turned out to vote are supporters of mine who let me know they were supporting Scott! THANK YOU!!!
The Central Appraisal District has done it again! Most properties in Rockwall County saw another marked increase to the assessed value, which means another big jump in property taxes hence, more revenue to the County, City and School District.
However, as Councilmen Wayne Orchard, Jim Herren and I have been emphasizing, our goal is not to grow our city government, but limit it’s size and scope. Government can’t grow when (1) funding is limited and (2) elected officials prevent deficit spending by staying on a budget.
Thanks to Councilmen Orchard & Herren, we successfully changed inspection service companies, which will not only save the city money, it will actually increase revenue to the city as new homes continue to be built!
For these reasons and more, I see no reason why we can’t lower our city’s tax rate. I will be challenging both the county and school district to follow our lead, because I am confident that our new city council will support lowering our city’s property tax rate too.
Additionally, I received the following email from Governor Greg Abbott. I signed the petition and I urge you to sign it too! Pass it on to your friends and neighbors who, like us, believe that property taxes have gotten out of control!
As an outspoken advocate for representative government, I generally support an appointment over either a special election or leaving a vacated seat empty. That’s because representative government means that those who are elected make decisions on behalf of the citizens that elected them, rather than a direct democracy, where the people vote on every issue that requires government action.
More importantly, I believe that those elected should truly act as representatives of the people whose actions reflect what they believe the majority of citizens would do if the opportunity to decide went before voters.
However, most elected officials act more as trustees, doing what they think is best, regardless what the majority opinion of the people who elected them think.
Exceptions to this Fundamental
I’ve been outspokenly unambiguous to highlight the exceptions to this fundamental principle, which includes when an elected body considers the following::
- raising taxes,
- taking on or growing debt, or
- taking away more of the personal liberties of property owners.
In these cases, citizens should first give their consent before elected office holders take any action.
For our city, consent of the governed can be accomplished either by a direct vote of the people in an election or via a citizen survey (the state actually prohibits citizens in “General Law, Type A cities” (like M-C) from voting on property tax-rate increases).
Appointing to Fill Vacancies Epitomizes Representative Government
So when it comes to filling the unexpired term of an elected official, when it is possible to do so, an elected body should appoint someone who they believe best represents the majority opinion of its citizens. Only when it is not possible to appoint with confidence, or in instances where there is significant division among an elected body, should the options of a special election or leaving the seat empty be entertained. Further, I don’t believe that the majority of taxpayers would support spending the approximately nine to ten thousand dollars that’s required for the city to hold a special election.
Despite arguments to the contrary, history proves that opposing an appointment by those elected to represent the majority opinion of the people in favor of a special election best serves those who make up the vocal minority of political activists who capitalize on the low voter turnout in these kinds of elections in hopes that they can bolster their supporters to show up at the polls and slide-in their candidate to an empty seat. Despite the fact that voters have twice rejected their plans to grow our government, amplified by the citizen’s survey, they care not for the opinions of the majority, only of themselves.
The vocal minority continues to use empty rhetoric deceitfully disguised as protecting the voice of the people in an attempt to undermine it.
This morning, as one of my first official actions as mayor, I attended Rockwall County’s annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, which coincides with the National Day of Prayer. One of my long-time political colleagues, Kelly Shackleford, who is the CEO of First Liberty Institute, which is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. He shared stories about the growing encroachment of local governments and schools that have been trying to restrict the religious liberty of citizens. The event is privately funded.
Recently I’ve received questions from concerned citizens who live both inside and outside of the Sonoma Verde [SV] development, much of which stems from fundamental misunderstandings regarding the development’s Public Improvement District [PID] and the annual tax bill SV homeowners receive from the Rockwall Central Appraisal District.
In an attempt to circumvent further misunderstandings, which have led to simmering disharmony between some, I’ve posted a Q&A under the “Answers” menu option (third, after “Home” & “About”) regarding the SV PID to ensure that the fundamental facts regarding it are not overlooked.
Tonight, by unanimous consent of the council, I was appointed to fulfill Nathan Hodges’ unexpired term as Mayor. I will immediately begin working to set an agenda that will propel our efforts to limit the size and scope of our city government, more about which I will be sharing details in the coming weeks and months.
I have already decided to run next May to keep the seat, because much of what needs to be accomplished will take more than a year.
The current sales tax rate in McLendon-Chisholm is 7.75% (6.25% goes to the State and 1.5% goes to the City of McLendon-Chisholm). The survey results showed overwhelming support for the city to increase the sales tax-rate, which is why the City Council voted unanimously to call a Special Election to propose a ½ cent increase that would make the City’s sales tax rate 2.0%. If the proposition is approved, the sales tax rate in McLendon-Chisholm will be 8.25%, the same rate charged by all other cities in Rockwall County.
This fulfills my campaign promise that any increase in taxes should only come with the expressed consent of the people.
That’s representative government!
Immediately following last night’s public hearing where there was no opposition to my proposed change to the city ordinance, which will free homeowners who successfully complete a TCEQ class, from the unnecessary burden of paying for an annual contract with a septic company to “maintain” their system, passed unanimously. In my March 27 post, Let Homeowners “Maintain Their Own Septic System, I explain why the only impact that this ordinance will have is on the pocketbooks of citizens who take advantage of the exception, as they will no longer be saddled with the obligation of paying for something that they can easily do themselves. I wish to express my sincere thanks to citizen Herb Harker, for bringing this issue to me and for the considerable amount of time he invested to research this issue and provide me with facts that I could bring before the city council to review. Despite considerable opposition by bureaucrats who made attempts to thwart this effort, I also wish to thank my fellow council members, Lovell, Herren, Orchard, and Short for their enthusiastic support of this measure!
Before the approved amendments to the ordinance can be ratified, the state must grant approval, which we believe will come before July.
It’s an incontrovertible fact that Sonoma Verde is a beautiful planned development in McLendon-Chisholm. I have supported the efforts to make the development the best that it can be and the fact that I think it should never have been built in our city doesn’t change that.
Recently, however, three of my key supporters who live in Sonoma Verde made me aware that my ongoing fight against those city leaders that approved the development, among their other actions, can come across as animosity towards those who live there, which for me is a most regrettable consequence that is not a true reflection of my heart.
My frustration was, and has always been focused on those current and former city leaders who, even after their attempts to mislead and deceive citizens failed to stop last year’s landslide vote that rolled back the outrageous tax rate increase and catapulted me into office, they continue to fight for and justify their actions that betrayed the public trust.
One act of betrayal was their approval of two high-density developments, approved within weeks of one another in 2005. The first was the Triple Creek Development, which planned to put 1,876 homes on just 409 build able acres, followed by Sonoma Verde, which actually proposed far less density than the former. The problem was that both proposed developments violated a long-standing city ordinance that’s still in effect today, that requires a minimum of 1.5 acre per homesite, which was established to protect the wide-open spaces and more rural lifestyle that citizen’s desired. So rather than changing the city’s regulations or mailing citizens any notice about either of the two proposed developments, these city leaders approved them both.
Of course, Sonoma Verde has moved forward and Triple Creek has not (the developer died), which is why Sonoma Verde, and not Triple Creek, has become political short-hand for a “high-density development that violates the standards that most in our city want protected.”
The fact is, I love Sonoma Verde and have been thrilled by those who are drawn to McLendon-Chisholm because of it, especially those who embrace the more rural lifestyle of the community and the city’s wide-open spaces. Of course, rhetoric can be hollow, which is why I hope that citizens will judge me by my actions, including the following facts:
- I recruited Adrienne Balkum, a long-time Sonoma Verde resident (she and her husband were actually the third resident to move into the new development) and vocal advocate for homeowners, as well as being a long-time supporter of mine, to run for city council (she’s running unopposed and will be seated in May).
- Last month, I fought to try and have her appointed to fill the vacancy left by the untimely death of Councilman Jerry Klutts.
- I handed over the reigns of the citizens group that I started, Citizens for Representative Government of McLendon-Chisholm, to Dr. Joe McCormic who is another Sonoma Verde Resident.
- I have already announced that am supporting and endorsing him to take my City Council seat in the May 2018 election.
- Close friends of ours have chosen to build their home in Sonoma Verde, which should be completed sometime in May. I would never encourage friends to move somewhere that I did not feel was a good fit for them, and I know that they will love living there. We can’t wait until they move in!
Though one of the key reasons that I was elected was to help keep future high-density developments like it out of our city, Sonoma Verde is here to stay and I am committed to seeing that those who live there are as much a part of the community as everyone else. In that light, I will also be more thoughtful in my tone and vernacular when making reference to it because I don’t want to leave the impression that my attitude towards this part of our community is anything but supportive.
Finally, for those who live there it is important to remember that if I am successful in keeping others out, the value of the homes inside the Sonoma Verde development (the only development with homes on less than 1 acre lots in the city) are sure to increase and should become one of the more desirable developments in Rockwall County!
Before the close of Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Mayor Nathan Hodges, who was elected last May, announced his resignation as Mayor of Mclendon-Chisholm, effective April 4. The announcement came as a surprise to both the citizens present and the City Council. Reading from a prepared statement, Hodges cited the expanding workload at his dental practice as the factor that prompted this decision. I know that I am not alone in extending my gratitude to Mayor Hodges for his service to the city of McLendon-Chisholm over this past year.