Tuesday, January 10, 2017

HCDE...New Year...Old Challenges

While so much of Harris County turned “blue” last November, the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) – the only school board in Texas elected by political party – added two new Republicans. Republicans who ran on conservative platforms.

So, I attended their first “special” board meeting on 1/9/17 with hopes the taxpayers might begin to see some positive change.

For those who could not attend, I made a video of the meeting with my cell phone. You can view it  below. I apologize for the poor sound quality. It seems that HCDE, who markets itself as a leader in technology support, couldn’t get their own microphones to work, so they passed around portable mics – sometimes.

The highlights include some good news and some bad news.

I will start with the good.

#1 . In his first board meeting, George Moore, the Republican representing Precinct 2, proved to be a taxpayer advocate. He made use of his career experience in project management to question such things as HCDE’s 15-20% contingencies in their building costs and cast his votes to end all tax-funded lobbying.

#2. The Board approved two conservatives to the board of their Public Facilities Corporation – the “separate” corporation controlled by HCDE EMPLOYEES which HCDE uses to issue taxpayer backed bond debt WITHOUT ELECTIONS.

#3. The Board terminated ONE 
       tax-funded lobbyist contract - 
       Pat Strong.

#4. After much he-said-she-said bickering, the board approved requiring full plans, including BUDGETS, for both new schools BEFORE spending any more funds. That is a given in most places, but it is a HUGE step forward for HCDE. 

Maybe with enough pressure, HCDE will even let the taxpayers review the full plans and budgets online BEFORE the Board votes to spend the bond debt they got us into without an election…but that will have to be another story.

Now, for the not so good news.

#1 - In his FIRST EVER Board meeting, Eric Dick, the Republican representing Precinct 4, used the Joe Straus method to get himself elected Vice President. The two Democrats quickly motioned to nominate and second the unelected RINO* for President and the newbie Dick for VP. After a 2 ½ minute delay, the Board’s attorney ruled that no substitute motion could be made, and Dick proceeded to vote with Sheila Jackson Lee’s daughter to keep the conservatives from the top 2 Board positions.
*appointed by the previous board to fill Kay Smith’s position after she resigned to run for State Rep

#2 – Later, Dick voted with the Democrats again to keep in place their $10,000 per moth tax-funded lobbying contract with Hill Co.


Even though this first meeting was disappointing for conservatives, it still was the MOST PRODUCTIVE HCDE meeting EVER for the conservative cause!

#1 – We got rid of ONE totally wasteful lobbying contract saving taxpayers $82,000 per year. May not seem like much considering the $21+ million HCDE collects in property taxes per year, but it is a start.

#2 – For the first time EVER, two conservatives have a voice in PFC - the ”shell” corporation run by HCDE employees which HCDE uses to issue taxpayer backed bond debt WITHOUT ELECTIONS.

#3 – For the first time, taxpayers may have an opportunity to view FULL plans and budgets for HCDE’s building projects without having to file requests for public information. Maybe even online BEFORE a meeting so the public can comment BEFORE the board votes.

#4 – The taxpayers have a new fiscally responsible advocate on the board in Trustee Moore. One who can use his professional experience in project management to rein in  spending lacking adequate planning and detail.

#5 – In this first meeting, Trustee Dick did vote WITH the conservatives MORE times than he voted with the Democrats.

Action Plan

Normally I suggest you contact the two new Trustees with your own comments. 

However, two months after the election, HCDE's website is still showing the names and contact information for their old Trustees. 

 I guess they have been too busy working on their microphones.

Colleen Vera


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