OPINION: We The People – Vote wisely, this election matters

After conversations with friends seeking information about the upcoming elections, I was reminded that many people want to know who they should vote for. They need more information about the candidates – more than just their biographies and campaign slogans.

I will address two local races and Proposition 1 in this week’s column, and other offices next week.

wethepeopleDistrict Judge, 92nd District Court

Keep Judge Jaime Tijerina.

When electing judges and other officials, one of the most important criteria we should look at is their integrity and character. We’ve had enough corruption by local elected officials to know how important these traits are.

Judges have a great deal of power – to uphold the law and administer justice, or to abuse the system to do favors for friends or wealthy individuals who contribute to their campaign funds – or who line their pockets.

I have looked at the two candidates and the choice is very clear. Jaime Tijerina is a man of great integrity and strong character. He has my vote.

Luis Singleterry, on the other hand, has demonstrated questionable judgment. See related story: Singleterry once faced suspension in federal court

Hidalgo County Sheriff

Vote for Vince Ousley. He is running on the Libertarian ticket.

When I covered the very first forum for the sheriff candidates back in August at UTPA, there was one man who got my attention – Vince Ousley.

Vince is an outsider, not a part of the power base that controls the county. But I wanted to check him out and make sure before I decided he was the one I could support. Over the past two months, as more information has emerged about the sheriff candidates, it has become clear that my instinct was right.

Democrat Eddie Guerra is being controlled by powerful individuals in the county. He is where he is because the power brokers hand picked him. He owes them. We need a strong, independent sheriff who owes no political favors. He’s made several administrative decisions that lead me to believe he’s already in that mode. Most importantly, he didn’t do a thorough house cleaning after his predecessor was convicted.

Republican Al Perez is a very nice, amiable guy. After over 30 years in law enforcement with various agencies and departments he only rose to the rank of sergeant. A highly capable individual of the caliber we need to lead the Sheriff’s Department would have climbed the ranks to become a leader over the course of his career.

I asked Vince why he was not running as a Democrat or Republican. He did not want to owe the party or any individuals anything. He had two choices – run as an Independent or as a Libertarian. The Libertarian, limited government, platform spoke to his sensibilities the most, plus, Libertarians aren’t going to be in his ear making demands.

I have met with Vince, and he knows his responsibilities, rights and restrictions as a law enforcement officer. He doesn’t vacillate, and he calls a spade a spade – no holding back. I am convinced he will bring the department standards up to a professional level and enforce the law fairly – treating everyone the same – just as we would expect of a sheriff. No funny stuff on the side – and certainly no involvement with drug dealers.

Proposition 1

Proposition 1 would authorize the creation of the proposed Hidalgo County Hospital District, including the ability of this new taxing entity to impose an ad valorem tax rate of up to 75 cents per $100 valuation. That is $1500 per year additional tax on a $200,000 home. So, you’re just renting? Landlords will have to raise rents to cover their costs.

I strongly recommend voting “NO” to Prop. 1 as this creates a tremendous tax burden on all the citizens of the county that will never go away. Though county officials “promise” they will initially set the tax rate at 8 cents, everyone knows that will increase, and quickly – just as South Texas College taxes have increased (over 25% hike this year alone).

An 8-cent ad valorem tax for the proposed hospital district would generate an estimated $22.4 million in new tax revenues. Why is so much money needed when the county has been paying $6 million to $8 million per year for indigent health care and still has qualified for matching funds? And why are they planning to spend $2 million in administrative costs? These people are completely out of touch.

Authorization to create a hospital district was approved years ago with a tax rate cap of 10 cents. Why did Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa raise the tax rate cap to 75 cents? Why are officials telling us, “We won’t need to set the rate that high”?

We’re supposed to give a blank check for $215.6 million annually to county officials and “trust them”? (A 75-cent property tax would produce over $215.6 million in new taxes for county residents.)

The pitch by county officials is that this will provide indigent health care. We already have indigent care. State law requires the county to pay a percentage of the county’s annual budget for indigent care. I was told this week that the hospital district funding will not take the place of the county’s obligation under state law. In other words, we will be double taxed for indigent health care, if this is true.

County officials claim they need the hospital district tax to receive matching funds for local payments for indigent care. That matching money is also our tax dollars. So, we the taxpayers keep getting hit with the bill.

The hospitals are delighted with that scenario, however, as they are the beneficiaries of this funding. The money will be paid to the hospitals for indigent care services they provide. Of course, they are already providing indigent care and receiving only partial reimbursement, but that has just been part of the cost of doing business for the hospitals. I haven’t looked up the annual reports for the local hospitals, but you can be sure they are operating at healthy profits—otherwise, they would not be in business. If it was not a profitable venture for investors, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance would not be undertaking major expansion plans, nor would we see South Texas Health System expanding their footprint in the Valley. Their system locally includes Edinburg Children’s Hospital. Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Cornerstone Regional Hospital and McAllen Medical Center.

After many months of discussion at the commissioners court meetings, numerous questions remain unanswered. Approving a new taxing entity beforethose questions are answered is not a wise move.

Most people think the UT System is going to pick up the entire tab for the proposed medical school. Not so! The power brokers plan to use the hospital district to rake in millions of dollars — every year — to pay for the medical school’s costs. And you can bet the cost will be more — much, much more than they are telling us. And that explains the 75-cent tax cap.

You should also ask, “Who will benefit the most from increasing indigent health care funding?”

The answer is the hospitals. All of this money goes to the hospitals. Period. The taxpayer — the ones footing the bill — receive no benefits from this new taxing entity.

If we increase funding for “indigent health care” will there be any requirement for proof of residency for those seeking free medical treatment? The answer is no.

Additional money to pay for non-resident indigent medical care will only serve as a magnet to attract more people coming across the border to our hospital emergency rooms so Hidalgo County taxpayers can pick up the tab.

You can guarantee that as those costs rise, the hospitals will be going to the county and hospital district saying they need more money to pay the cost. Then up go the taxes – again.

Vote “NO” on Prop. 1.

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