Citizen Advisory Board

Alert

Redistrict Now, Not Later

Government is often reactive, rather than proactive. It tries to fix problems after they occur, rather than preventing problems from occurring in the first place. Today in Galveston County, we have a chance to be proactive and nip a potential problem in the bud, if only we have the political will to act.

In 1992, after a contentious redistricting melee, Federal Judge Sam Kent ordered the creation of nine Justice of the Peace/Constable precincts to encourage the election of minority candidates. Each of these precincts elects one Justice of the Peace and one Constable. Texas law requires that Galveston County be divided into between four and eight such precincts, but Judge Kent’s ruling temporarily superseded state law on that issue. Now, however, a federal census is on the horizon, and Galveston County will have to draw new district lines for the 2002 General Election, reducing the total number of J.P./Constable precincts in the county.

We should act now rather than later. The announced retirements of Constable Sam Popovich and Justice of the Peace Phillip Hosey provide the perfect opportunity to consolidate precincts. Combining Galveston Island J.P./Constable precincts 1 and 2, which serve approximately 53,000 and 11,000 constituents, respectively, would bring Galveston County into compliance with state mandates. Consolidation would save taxpayers over $160,000, and it would avert a contentious battle of personalities for the Island JP/Constable precincts in the year 2002.

If we do not combine these precincts now, Galveston County will elect constables for each precinct in the 2000 General Election to serve four-year terms. In 2001, the county will be forced to redraw all county precinct lines based on the 2000 census; this will undoubtedly force the consolidation of the two precincts. If that happens, Galveston County will have elected two constables to serve one J.P. precinct until the year 2004 (which would violate State law). Which constable would be the rightful heir to the new precinct? Which one would continue to hold office until 2004? Either way, because of a specific provision in the Texas Constitution, the county would have to pay both of them through the end of their terms.

If, on the other hand, district lines are redrawn now, voters will elect one constable in the 2000 General Election to serve both Justice of the Peace precincts until the year 2002. With Constable Popovich retiring, Constable Pettiway could run in the newly combined precinct in the year 2000. That would save tax dollars and avoid a political battle between incumbent constables. In 2002, Justice of the Peace Phillip Hosey will retire, allowing easy transition of the Justice of the Peace offices in the consolidated precinct.

Because Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 was established by Judge Kent’s order, it may not be modified without his consent, and the U.S. Department of Justice must approve any changes in precinct lines. With these time-consuming obstacles to overcome, it is imperative that Commissioners’ Court acts upon this issue quickly. We have a chance to save taxpayers’ hard earned dollars and improve government efficiency. We should not miss this opportunity.

There has been talk of a 2.5-cent Tax increase to fund indigent health care, the new district court and many capital projects. I am working to find areas to cut spending that will not adversely affect services to eliminate the need for a tax increase.

During this week we have 33 budget workshops. We will complete this process the 2nd week of September. If you would like a calendar or more info on the budget process please contact me.

Did you know? Every penny the County levys in taxes represents a million dollars in property taxes.

In coming issues we will cover such topics as the new district court, Y2K, redistricting, road bond issue, Highlights of the budget and what services the county provides you for tax dollars. Please call if I can be of service.

Final thought; it is my intention to provide interesting and informative alerts, every 3 to 4 weeks. Please call if you are aware of a fact or issue that should be included in NEWS ALERT.

Phone: 281.316.8745 - fax: 281-3.316-2000

E-mail clarkk@co.galveston.tx.us

174 Calder Rd., League City, TX 77573