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Just an endorsement of the status quo - The Galveston County Daily News : Guest Columns

November 26, 2014

Just an endorsement of the status quo

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Posted: Saturday, May 3, 2014 12:00 am

I was disappointed by the Daily News’s endorsement of Jim Yarbrough for mayor.

The endorsement said he has a lengthy history in elected office and offers the best chance of creating a coalition of the city’s factions, but the endorsement was effectively of the status quo.

The reality is that Galveston already has a coalition of powerful factions, including big tourism, banks, TIRZ developers, public employee unions and beach front property owners.

As the paper’s former publisher Dolph Tillotson observed about the city’s factions in 2008, “The more customary approach here so long as folks get their little drop of community gravy is to let well enough alone.”

Is Yarbrough really an effective consensus builder, anyway?

Commissioner Wayne Johnson sued Yarbrough’s county government for giving away the golf course in Jack Brooks Park.

Commissioner Eddie Janek accused him of playing games with the budget overruns at the Justice Center, writing in the paper that it was “very wrong to tell the taxpaying citizens of Galveston County something that is not true.”

Commissioner Ken Clark condemned Yarbrough’s award of the county’s disaster housing title work to fellow commissioner and Yarbrough political ally, Pat Doyle.

Two of those dissatisfied commissioners were Yarbrough’s fellow Democrats.

As for Yarbrough’s history in elected office, city and county government are very different. It is service relevant to the city that really counts.

I have worked hard to master both the big picture and the details about city government during six years of service on council and eight city committees.

Having truly worked my way up, I know the issues and bring a wealth of institutional knowledge to the job.

The elephants in the room unacknowledged by the newspaper are the candidates’ commitments to fiscal responsibility and our independence from special interests.

Regarding fiscal responsibility, there has been only one property tax rate increase since I joined the council, and I fought against it. I am committed to reducing both property tax and water rates.

In contrast, Yarbrough dramatically increased the county tax rate, its debt and the Justice Center budget. It’s clear from his answers to the newspaper’s candidate questionnaire (question 16) that he is not committed to reducing the property tax rate.

Regarding independence from special interests, I have never received anything of value from my service to the city and don’t accept campaign contributions from city consultants or would-be consultants.

This campaign cycle, Yarbrough has accepted $20,000 from Dannenbaum Engineering alone, which frequently competes for city business.

As county judge, Yarbrough joined the board of Moody-owned American National Insurance Co., which has paid him $130,000 — $200,000 annually. Meanwhile, the county had millions of dollars on deposit with Moody Bank and gave tax benefits to ANICO.

After arranging for county title work and legal fees for Doyle, Yarbrough is now employed at Texas First Bank, a Doyle family business.

Yarbrough’s philosophy of government is clearly, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Excessive taxation and cronyism serve special interests at the expense of hardworking Galvestonians. But I am prepared and committed to serve Galveston’s most important interest group — its people.