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Some's Hot, Some's Not 

by B.K. Carter
This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time and phone number.

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 unconscionable.

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 importance.

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.

B. K. Carter is publisher of the Fort Bend Star. You can e-mail her at

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   Last Update:  September 17, 2003