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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

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 phone number.


Hopkins’ last ditch effort

District Clerk Glory Hopkins is making one last ditch effort to get on the primary ballot by appealing to the Texas Supreme Court.

While I cannot blame Hopkins for trying to keep her job, some of the information coming out of these appeals is interesting.

For instance, GOP Chairman Eric Thode said that Hopkins does not have personal e-mail and has a designated employee to read and send her e-mails from the office. Thode thinks Hopkins must be technologically challenged.

What is interesting is that I absolutely remember that Hopkins professed to any and all who would listen that the ASC or Banner court software was the next best thing to Christmas turkey. Interesting enough was the recollection that Hopkins called all the judges and the county clerk and everyone else who dared question the usefulness of the $3 million investment of taxpayer’s dollars---in so many words—dummies?

How ironic that this public official who destroyed a forest of trees writing diatribes in defense of this software and against those who opposed it, reportedly doesn’t know how to operate an e-mail program and depends on her staff, both at work and in her campaign, to look at her e-mail. Court documents submitted with the various appeals have pretty much substantiated this.

Something to really brighten your day

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the site of the Extreme Home Makeover location where a 4200 square foot home was being built in days rather than months for a most deserving family with twins who have been battling Leukemia. It was absolutely amazing—actually just like on TV. What you see on TV doesn’t do justice to the feeling you get witnessing the overwhelming warmth and zealousness of the thousands of volunteers who make this happen.

One of the public relations people for Royce Homes, the sponsor and builder, said the biggest problem they are having is being forced to turn away volunteers and getting the contractors, subcontractors and all the volunteers to take breaks and eat. Those women and men are out there working 24/7 and many just don’t want to give up their shift time. And, residents of East Bernard are showing up to help and bring every imaginable type of dessert. It is like a church social— cake, pies, cookies—all homemade.

Fort Bend County citizens and businesses are actively supporting this project by volunteering. And, it was supposed to be a big secret but by the time this is printed the TV crew will be out of here, so I am going to share one of the on-scene rumors. Ty Pennington, the vivacious star of the show, and others from the design team were reportedly staying in Sugar Land at the Marriott. Of course the hotel has to protect the identity of their guests, so they weren’t talking and the Royce Homes people certainly wouldn’t divulge the information, but there were folks talking out there, so I believe it was true.

Hundreds (actually thousands) of spectators came by to watch this awesome scene and the cutest thing I saw was the group of young-at-heart ladies and gentlemen from the Greatwood Senior Citizens group. The volunteers, all dressed in Extreme Home Makeover shirts, brought them cold drinks and made them feel welcome and they seemed to be having quite a time witnessing this once in a lifetime event.

The youngsters were so cute, they chanted “we want Ty” and hoped the star and his well known design team would show up while they were there. I hope the Kubena’s luck has turned and that both of the twins have a long and healthy life and the entire family is blessed with the happiness of knowing what a community of love can do.

I can’t wait to see it on television. I’ll let you know when they decide what day it will be aired. That was still being discussed and had not been formalized at press time. I’m going back out today, Tuesday, so I can witness the famous “Move that bus” chant and the look on the Kubena’s faces when they see their new and luxurious home and furnishings. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Sure was a wonderful change from politics.

Back to politics—deputy reports alleged crime to newspaper

Just when I thought I had seen it all, something happens to remind me that every day is a new adventure in the news business. Last week was no exception when I read that a Fort Bend County Deputy, unnamed of course, was alleging that he had seen Assistant District Attorney Mike Elliott’s pickup truck, bearing farm license plates, parked at the courthouse. This grave violation of the law was reported on the front page of a newspaper.

My first thought upon seeing this front page revelation was, what ever happened to writing tickets? It seems quite simple, if you ask me. If you are a law enforcement officer and you see a violation of the law, you pull out the old ticket book and begin writing or the handcuffs and begin cuffing. Not in this case. The deputy apparently rushed right over to the newspaper and reported this dastardly crime, whereupon the newspaper did a great big front page story.

OK...so we have snitches that contact us and many of them are police officers making allegations or griping about problems within the department for which they work. If their allegations can be substantiated, we do a story. If not, we jot it down and wait for that wonderful day when we find substantiation and can run the piece without “burning” the fearful snitch. But how on earth could something as stupid as a farm plate being displayed on a truck that is not on a farm (this is a violation of the law) create shivers of fear so strong that the deputy couldn’t just write a big old ticket, seize the plate and then report the deed to whoever he or she wanted to? After all, then there would be substantiation—re: a ticket and an illegal plate, right there for the whole wide world to see.

Elliott happens to be married to Annie Rebecca Elliott, Republican candidate for Fort Bend County District Clerk. Ironically, and I am sure this is coincidence, District Clerk Glory Hopkins (the one who is now trying to get back on the ballot), is the mother-in-law of one of the publishing newspaper’s top dogs.

Elliott seemed to think that made a difference. I hope not because I’ve always liked and respected this newspaper person. It does seem odd though that Hopkins’ opponent has said she will provide Internet access to court records, like County Clerk Dianne Wilson, if elected. Low and behold out comes not one story, but a series of stories from the same newspaper on how allowing the public to access public records was going to be the downfall of almost anyone who had records on file at the clerk’s office. Coincidence?

To show how she is supporting the public’s right to privacy, Hopkins is reportedly getting her staff to redact social security numbers and driver’s license numbers from the official court documents. This is causing a stir among judges and attorneys who now are questioning the legality of an official arbitrarily removing this information without a court order. I’m sure we will hear a lot about this in the near future as officials are awaiting an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s Office on what the District and County Clerk can legally remove from public documents. The judges are concerned because people needing a certified copy of the original court document are getting documents with blacked out information---hardly fitting the bill of what a certified copy is all about. Wilson says she doesn’t plan to remove anything until she is sure the action is legal.

I’ve got a feeling that Hopkins will do anything she can to prevent her office from utilizing the Internet. After all, she is the one who has her staff read her e-mail because she apparently hasn’t mastered the challenge yet.

By the way, Elliott claims he didn’t drive his truck with farm tags to work and that he had the tags changed from farm status to regular in Dec.

Some people in the community, who apparently don’t have high esteem for Elliott, think the deputy was hesitant to write a ticket because Elliott is considered one of the community “untouchables” because many years ago he was accused (not charged) of wrongdoing with no legal repercussions following the incident.

Elliott supporters believe the newspaper article is just a political ploy with Hopkins firmly behind it.


Contact skinnerc1@ev1.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006