What were they thinking .... When two Fort
Bend County state district judges couldn't agree about whom to
hire as an associate judge, the board of judges bumped up the
salary of the associate judge by $10,000 in order to have an
excuse to repost the job and take other applications. What makes
this a shameful exercise in authority is that these guys (and one
female) are being paid to make decisions. That's their JOB. Yet
they can't seem to make a simple decision about this job that no
one is really sure is necessary (except the two judges).
It all started with the family law benches when
Judge Robert Kern and newly-elected good old boy Judge Ron Pope
were faced with a vacancy on their associate judge bench. The
former (14 years) associate judge, Lorraine Wilson, resigned,
perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall when she was defeated
in the Republican Primary by Judge Pope.
The associate judge position was first created
many years ago when the one family law judge was overwhelmed with
work. Over the years, that has changed as the legislature created
another much-needed bench, plus visiting judges now hear child
support cases, and another visiting judge hears Child Protective
Service cases. Therefore, the workload of the associate judge has
greatly diminished. My sources tell me the associate judge's
position has become a part-time job and many afternoons a casual
visitor to the old courthouse will find only one judge on the
bench, if any at all.
Be that as it may, the associate judge's
position was duly posted, resumes taken and candidates interview
by Pope and Kern who then couldn't agree about whom to hire. Pope
wanted another good old boy, while Kern wanted a lady lawyer from
Sugar Land. Meanwhile, the board of judges (all the judges in Fort
Bend) met and, since Pope and Kern couldn't agree, took up the
matter before the board. The fly in the buttermilk occurred when
Judge Susan Lowery moved to hire the associate judge under the
family law rules which require a unanimous decision.
Publicly, both Kern and then later, Pope,
agreed to vote with the majority of judges. My guess is this
"voting with the majority" would be in a straw vote taken in
closed session to which the public and nosy reporters are not
allowed to attend.
However, when the judges returned from their
closed session, it was obvious that they still couldn't agree
because they trumped up this $10,000 "raise" in order to have a
reason to repost the job and revote on the selection. At
$92,000-94,000 per year, I would imagine they won't have any
problem finding a bunch of starving lawyers willing to apply.
But not being able to make a decision and
costing the taxpayers another $10,000, plus keeping the other two
candidates on ice while they try to make a decision, is
Okay, the airport .... I believe that Fort
Bend County should buy the Arcola airport for several reasons
which I will discuss although not necessarily in order of
It's not going to cost the county any money. It
will be paid for by funds from the federal government and while WE
are the federal government, that money has already been taxed and
collected and if Fort Bend County doesn't get it, then Dallas, or
Memphis, or a myriad other cities or counties will.
The disparity between what the airport is
valued on the tax rolls and what it will be sold for is due to the
fact that the airport has a special use public exemption. It is
not unlike the exemption that county clubs get for their golf
courses or farmers for their four cows and a bull.
The homes in the area were built AFTER the
establishment of an airport. The buy out of the few homes which
will have to be moved will be generous and with relocation fees,
most likely more than the homeowners can get with any kind of
operating airport in the area.
The economic impact on Arcola, which needs it,
will be wonderful for that improvised area, which currently has
little tax base.
It will not affect the business at the Sugar
Land Airport because the Arcola airport will draw from Hobby and
places easily accessible to that part of town. The new toll road
will make it doubly feasible to several parts of town that
wouldn't come to Sugar Land anyway.
As more people and companies buy small planes
to avoid the hassle at the larger airports, more commuter airports
are needed. If Rosenberg wants an airport, they should start now
getting their ducks in a row.
The owner of the Arcola airport is a second
generation operator who has that airport in great shape for the a
buyout. Rosenberg can do the same and by that time, we'll probably
need another airport there.
As far as Sugar Land, I'm reminded of what I
told my good friend Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella many years
ago when he was muttering about the Economic Development Council
locating businesses in places other than Stafford. "Leonard," I
said, "You can't have it all." He looked at me with a shocked
expression on his face (as if he had never thought about that
before) and sheepishly replied, "I can try."
Fort Bend County has granted many dollars in
tax abatements to help Sugar Land whose residents also pay Fort
Bend County taxes. In other words, we're all in this together and
a new county airport will be a great boon.