Thanks to Ellis County Right to Know for this article.
I am working on getting the audio files to upload. If you would like to hear the files, click the link below. The transcripts provided here.
The following are audio clips and transcripts from Precinct Three Ellis County Commissioner Heath Sims during the Ellis County Republican Candidate Forum hosted by the Ellis County Republican Women on February 13, 2012.
Mr. Sims spoke immediately after Alex Schindler and two other candidates for Precinct Three Ellis County Commissioner raised transparency issues with the current County Commissioners’ Court, including the lack of transparency when changing a deed restriction for the old Superconducting Super Collider property, making it possible for Magnablend to operate a chemical plant that handles hazardous and possibly toxic chemicals on that property.
Audio Clip: KEBC Moderator
Audio Clip: Paul Perry
Audio Clip: Boyce Whatley
Audio Clip: Alex Schindler
Audio Clip: Heath Sims
We have added our commentary below many of Mr. Sims’ statements.
“In seven years that I’ve been in office, we have slowly moved toward more transparency. And we’ve used that technology that it’s come on; we’ve created the websites that we have now in the county where all of our agendas are posted.”
Slowly is correct. The Ellis County Commissioners’ Court only posts the agenda and minutes from the meetings. The verbiage on some topics is vague to where the average person does not know what is up for discussion or a vote. For example, the language used request was being voted on for changing a deed restriction for the old Superconducting Super Collider property. The property was described in a way where the average person had no clue what property was involved.
The City of Mildothian provides more information in their agendas and also makes the complete Commissioners’ Court packet available online. Midlothian also publishes this information well in advance of the 72-hour requirement. Ellis County often does not post their agenda until just before the 72-hour requirement, which then leaves residents with attempting to gather more information on Friday afternoon or Monday morning. In addition, if agendas are vague, residents have no clue whether something will affect them that they should request more information for. This is NOT transparency.
“We have also been awarded the Gold Star Award from the Comptroller’s Office from having transparency in our government and our financial standings in our government.”
This is only partly true. Ellis County did receive the Gold Star Award for providing financial transparency. The award does not evaluate the content of agendas or what language is used to provide transparency. The award is limited to financial transparency. In addition, we have found it to be cumbersome to make public information requests and receive the information we requested. Ellis County received no points from the State Comptroller for providing instructions on how to submit a public information request. Why? Because this information and instructions are not provided on the county’s website.
“One thing about open government, I think it’s hard to understand sometimes how much information is out there and how much needs to be out there.”
One thing about open government is that all information should be available to the public, county business should be described clearly rather than in vague terms, and the public should be able to easily obtain more information on topics that interest them. The public should have clear knowledge of being afforded the ability to understand what is being done so they know what additional information they may want to request. As it stands now, the general public has no clue about what half of the items in the agenda mean or what all they involve. This is NOT open government. This is the County Commissioners’ Court providing only what they THINK the public should be informed about.
“One of the most important things that I think we need to stand for is the protection of our rights, but the protection of our constitution and the protection of the rights of individuals to be able to buy and sell land and the protection of those people to utilize their land as they see fit.”
We agree about a person’s right to buy and sell land, but restrictions exist on various properties to protect the surrounding community. A person can utilize their land as they see fit if that use complies with regulations. However, changing deed restrictions and/or other restrictions for the sake of one person at the detriment to the surrounding community without public knowledge or input is an abuse of power.
“We’ve had people coming into the court that’ve asked questions about platting process and why are we platting this land, why this land needs to be notified, so the neighbors may be able to object to this person selling his land.”
Resident at Jan. 23
Commissioners’ Court meeting
If Mr. Sims is referring to Jan. 23 when a resident asked for clarification on where a property was located due to the obscure wording in the agenda, then Mr. Sims is telling an outright lie. The resident filled out a comment form and did not circle ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in support or opposition to the replatting of the property in question. The resident wanted clarification about the description of the property to prove a point to the Commissioners’ Court that the way the agenda describes property in some situations is vague and does not provide the public with enough information on what may affect them and what business the Commissioners’ Court is conducting. Mr. Sims specifically asked the resident if he was objecting to the replatting of the property and the resident said no and clarified what his reasoning was. The topic of selling property was never raised and was never a part of this discussion.
“In this country, you don’t object to a person that has the right to sell their own land and we have to make sure that we protect that, because if we lose that right, then we’ve lost our freedom altogether.”
We are wondering where Mr. Sims is getting the idea that residents want to prevent a person from selling their land. Many residents are outraged that Mr. Sims voted to change a deed restriction on the old Superconducting Super Collider property that previously protected residents from being subjected to a chemical company that handles hazardous and possibly toxic chemicals as a neighbor, but this outrage is because the Commissioners’ Court changed a deed restriction that offered the community protection, not because the land was being sold. Mr. Sims is distorting the facts, which is a slap in the face to residents of Ellis County and shows total disregard for the truth. If Mr. Sims believes that deed restrictions should not apply to property, then maybe every resident of Ellis County should request the Commissioners’ Court to remove all deed restrictions, including setback requirements, easements, etc. Deed restrictions are in place for specific reasons and when changing one can impact the surrounding community, then the community has a right to know. It is NOT up to the Commissioners’ Court to decide what the public should or should not know.
“And I think this county continues to move forward, it continues to grow, it continues to look to the future, and work together and all of it as all human beings, we can all make things, we make mistakes, but we learn, we take suggestions, and we do the right thing for the public as a whole.”
Mr. Sims will see if he has done the right thing for the public as a whole come Election Day. If he is re-elected, then he can claim he has done the right things for the public as a whole. If he is not re-elected, then residents will have sent a clear message that the residents of Ellis County have suffered as a result of his arrogance, misinformation, lack of transparency, and decisions.
Because Magnablend and transparency became a topic Monday evening, we feel it is our responsibility to provide this final piece of information and commentary.
Mr. Sims, a manager of a chemical plant for five years that later had a chemical fire in Bryan Texas and resulted in the evacuation of nearly the entire town of Bryan Texas (nearly 70,000 evacuated), has shown residents who he aligns himself with. His attempts at justifying his action show that allegiance to Magnablend rather than the residents of Ellis County.
- Created on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 09:02
- Category: Election 2012