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  • Babin bill targets voter fraud (VIDEO)

    Babin ParadeCALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB File Photo - Rep. Brian Babin in the 2020 annual Tyler County Dogwood Festival Parade.

    By Chris Edwards

    WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville) introduced a bill during the first week of December to tackle voter fraud, specifically regarding ballots cast of deceased individuals.

    HR 8830 or the You Must Be Alive to Vote Act, was written by Babin and addresses allegations that have emerged in the wake of November’s general election that ballots were cast absentee from deceased voters. “The right to vote is one of the most vital pillars of our democracy,” Babin said in a news release. “The ease with which someone is able to steal the ballot of a deceased person and cast an illegitimate vote should disturb, alarm and outrage every American citizen, no matter what side of the aisle they sit on.”

    Babin summarized the bill and spoke to concerns with the issue during an interview with One America News network. He said it was “sad to say, but a necessary item we have to introduce [the bill.]”

    “We don’t have an open and transparent election process,” he said during the interview, and cited public distrust of the election process as part of the rationale for the bill, which now has eight co-sponsors in the House.

    If passed, the bill will prevent any states or counties that do not annually check their voter lists against the Social Security Administration’s most recent death records in order to purge them of deceased residents from receiving federal funds from the Department of Transportation or the Department of Education.

    In Tyler County, the office of the County Clerk regularly checks the obituaries in the Tyler County Booster to cancel voters on the rolls.

    County Clerk Donece Gregory said that every county in Texas has a different method, and in Tyler County, since she is also the voter registrar, whenever someone dies in the county, her office is sent an abstract of the death so there is documentation on file in order to cancel that voter. Gregory said the same thing happens in other counties, whenever a Tyler County resident dies outside the county.

    “If someone dies in the hospital in Beaumont, for example, on a monthly basis, Jefferson County will send an abstract of that death to us,” Gregory said.

    As far as any deceased persons’ ballots being cast in Tyler County, Gregory said it has never happened that she was aware of. There have been, however, voters who have died after their ballots were cast, and those ballots were counted, as the voters were alive when they voted.

    Ultimately, with deceased persons, Gregory said as long as her office has some type of documentation, they will be able to cancel them.

    If Babin’s bill becomes law, the penalized counties or states found to be in violation, would be barred from receiving funds from the aforementioned agencies, but Babin said they would not be stopped from law enforcement-related funding at the federal level.

    “All elected officials, from your local city council member to your U.S. President, have an obligation to obey the law and prevent fraud in our elections, and Congress should not be awarding taxpayer dollars to any counties or states that refuse to do the job they swore to do,” Babin said.

    Babin said during the OAN interview that there are claims of dead people being registered to vote in South Florida being investigated. Similar claims have emerged in other parts of the country since Election Day. The claim has been made in past presidential elections, as well.

    “We better get this right or the consequences to our free, democratic republic will be dire,” Babin said.

    Video of Rep. Babin Explaining HR 8830 on Fox News

  • Brady addresses ‘border crisis’ at town hall

    Brady at Moosehead1ALTON PORTER | HCC Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx 8) addresses a crowd of constituents at a Monday town hall held at the Moosehead Café in Crockett.

    By Alton Porter

    CROCKETT – US Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Tx 8) held a town hall with an audience in Crockett at the Moosehead Café on Monday highlighting his presentation with a talk about what he termed a “border crisis” on the southern border of the United States.

    “So, right now, I know President (Joe) Biden is in denial, but we’ve got a humanitarian crisis at the border,” Brady said.

    “We’ve got a security crisis at the border. The number of those illegal (immigrants)—whether they’re kids coming without their parents or single people coming across that border—has just surged since the election,” he continued.

    Brady also spoke about Biden’s halting of the border wall construction and the reinstatement of a release policy for undocumented border crossers.

    “You’ve got to shut the back door of illegal immigration so you can keep open the front door of legal immigration,” Brady said.

    Brady also spoke of issues with law enforcement surrounding the border issue. He said the number of home break-ins have surged in Uvalde, where police officers are engaged in 10 to 12 dangerous car chases each week and city officials are seeing property damage.

    “This president, President Biden, he incited this border surge. He needs to take responsibility for it,” he said.

    Before speaking about the border issue, Brady touched on several other issues, and he responded to comments and questions from attendees.

    One point he addressed is a bill that passed the House to nationalize state and local elections, which he said would effectively ban states from having voter ID laws, allow same-day voter registration and ballot harvesting.

    “Plus, when they take over our state and local elections, I guarantee you we’re going to have less integrity in our elections, not more. And we’ve got a problem right now where a lot of Americans just don’t trust election results,” he said.

    In answer to a question, asking what Senate Republicans are doing to stop this, Brady said, “They couldn’t do anything about that COVID bill because they (senators) did it with a simple majority (vote). As long as Democrats don’t get rid of the filibuster and Republicans hang tight, those bills don’t go farther. What our (Republicans) role is right now (is that) not a single Republican voted for Covid (stimulus) payoff. No one voted for the (elections) nationalization. No one voted to defund the police, which was the next bill. No Republican voted to ban state right to work laws,” he said.

    Brady also addressed “two more gun-control bills that will do nothing to keep us safer—do nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, just make it harder for law-abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves,” both of which passed the House two weeks ago.

    “We all … want these mass shootings to end,” he said. “Those two bills they passed, which I opposed, won’t do a single thing to stop a single mass shooting.”

  • Brady to retire from House

    Kevin BradyFILE PHOTO U.S. Representative Kevin Brady

    Special to the News-Times

    THE WOODLANDS — U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, announced he will end his tenure as a Congressman at the end of this term.

    Brady made the remarks during The Woodlands Economic Outlook Conference, held online on Wednesday.

    The 13-term Representative of the Eighth District, which includes Trinity and San Jacinto counties, told those attending the conference about his decision to retire.

    “I set out to give my constituents the representation you deserve, the effectiveness you want and the economic freedom you need,” he said. “I hope I delivered. It’s a remarkable privilege to work for you in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

    Brady said he was proud to have worked with the President and lawmakers from both parties to redesign America’s broken tax code, reform the IRS, pass the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, reform America’s retirement system, end the unfair ObamaCare individual mandate and its harmful taxes, and sign into law a historic national ban on surprise medical bills.

    “The Tax Cuts lifted millions of Americans out of poverty, and gave hope to so many the old tax code had left behind,” he said. “America recaptured the title as the most competitive economy in the world, bringing manufacturing jobs and investment back home to America from overseas.

    “And we preserved my first success as Chairman: negotiating for Speaker Paul Ryan an end to the 40-year ban on selling U.S. crude oil overseas,” Brady said.

    Brady said he works with some of the most dedicated people in the nation — people who are talented, hardworking and serious about their responsibilities — in both parties, and after 25 years in the nation’s capitol there hasn’t been a problem that can’t be solved.

    “I love this job, and thanks to incredible lawmakers I’ve worked with in Congress and the White House, I’ve been fortunate to do big things for our country, bigger than a small town boy from Rapid City, South Dakota whose father died when young, with all five of us children raised by a remarkable single mom, could ever dream of,” he said.

    Brady said his decision to retire does not have an ulterior motive.

    “Is this because I’ve lost faith in a partisan Congress and the political system? Absolutely not,” he said. “Given the times, I’m sure some will say, ‘It’s Trump’s fault.’ Nonsense.

    “As you may not know, because House Republicans limit committee leadership to six years, I won’t be able to Chair the Ways & Means Committee in the next session when Republicans win back the House majority,” Brady said. “Did that factor in? Honestly, some. But as I see it, our committee leader term limits ensure lawmakers who work hard and effectively have the opportunity to lead, to bring fresh ideas to our committee work. In my view, it’s a good thing. And the great news is that our Ways & Means Committee is incredibly talented. I’m confident about its future.”

    Brady said that in the end, he will leave Congress the way he entered it, with the absolute belief that we are a remarkable nation – the greatest in history.

    Despite what the media and social media bombards you with each day, we are not the hateful, racist, divided nation they peddle,” he said. “They are dead wrong. Turn off that noise and you’ll hear the true heartbeat of America. We remain the most charitable nation on the planet. We are a nation so valued that a million military men and women have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms and opportunity.

    “Look at yourself; look around at your friends and our community,” he said. “We come together every day voluntarily to feed the hungry, house the homeless, rescue our veterans, race to help our neighbors in a natural disaster, and more. We do this without a single thought about the color of our anyone’s skin, their religious beliefs, or the circumstances of their birth. We volunteer, we give from our pockets and our hearts, we care for each other. Because that is who America is.”

    Brady said the country remains a work in progress, but it’s what makes America special.

    “Every parent, every generation, is determined to leave a nation for our children — and others — better than the one we inherited,” he said. “As a result, the American Dream is still alive and well for anyone willing to work for it. That is why I remain optimistic about our country, because I have faith in our people. I’ve seen up close how remarkable you are, and while I am leaving Congress, I am excited about our future.”

    Brady thanked his supporters for what he called many unbelievable opportunities to lead, including becoming only the third Texan in history to chair the House Ways & Means Committee, and saved his most heartfelt appreciation for his wife, Cathy.

    “She is a true angel (you have no idea), who made all this possible and is the best thing in my life … ever,” he said..

  • Brady: Congress not working for the people

    Kevin BradyFILE PHOTO Congressman Kevin Brady

    By Tony Farkas

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Kevin Brady said the federal government is not working in the best interests of the people, especially the people of East Texas.

    In a conference call on Wednesday, the Republican from Conroe, who represents the 8th District, also said that the recent ice storm has highlighted a need for better energy plans.

    “The toughest issue is for the Legislature to face is if Texas has the right balance of power in emergencies such as this,” he said. “Obviously, the answer is no. For my part, I and the Texas Delegation sent a letter to ERCOT to get answers. We want to make sure the state doesn’t go through similar situations.”

    Brady said he introduced a bill recently to expand oil and gas development, designed to unlock state’s energy potential by giving governors power to nominate land for development, and to give states more input into plans for development on the continental shelf.

    He said this is the opposite approach that President Biden has taken, since he launched two attacks on Texas energy and jobs by canceling the Keystone XL pipeline project and putting a moratorium on permits for drilling on federal land.

    “This will cost more than 1 million jobs, many here in Texas,” Brady said. “I’ve invited President Biden to come down to this region and meet face-to-face with the energy workers whose jobs he cut. He can explain to them why their families don’t matter. He can tell them where to apply for all these good-paying jobs, because they need help right now.”

    The stimulus package for the country coming to grips with the coronavirus, which passed the Senate last week and is heading to the House for more debate, neither a stimulus nor was not focused on defeating COVID, Brady said.

    “Less than a dime of every dollar goes toward COVID vaccines and defeating the virus, and that’s an insult, because that’s our top priority, and it does next to nothing to help Main Street businesses or get America back to work,” he said.

    Brady said the Democrats in Congress refuse to work with the GOP, and every amendment offered by Republicans has been voted down in favor of pork. He also said there has been absolutely no discussion about the $20-plus trillion debt and trillion-dollar deficits by the current Congress.

    “If (the stimulus bill) becomes law, Congress will have racked up 5 ½ trillion dollars in additional spending in a year, and new reports show that isn’t the full amount, because interest is rising,” he said. “We have created an unbelievable amount of debt, and … we tried to get in a bill a provision to require a balanced budget, but that was crushed pretty quickly. We need to recognize that none of this spending is free, and it will come back to bite us either in inflation, higher interest rates or higher taxes for our children and grandchildren.”

    Two other measures that the House is considering also work against the common good, Brady said: one that nationalizes state and local elections, and bans voter ID requirements and mandates ballot harvesting, among other things; and the other is one to defund the police.

    “Democrats are seeking to remove the immunity shield protecting officers from civil suits, which will drive good law enforcement officers out,” he said. “They’re seeking to nationalize the police, and I think that’s a dangerous approach.”

    Brady said the Democrats feel that no crisis should go to waste, and they see in the current discussions about police the need to expand federal control.

    Also, Brady said he was against recent Democratic pushing for a $15 minimum wage, or tying the minimum wage to the cost of living.

    “Artificially mandating the minimum wage is incredibly damaging to workers, especially young and non-skilled workers,” Brady said. “The Congressional Budget Office has said that raising it to $15 will cost as many as 2 million jobs, and will kill more jobs than it will lift people out of poverty.”

    In Texas, Brady said, a small business with 10 employees will pay an additional $150,000 in payroll a year, without any additional revenue or new customers.

    “Business won’t survive, and the ones that do will look to cut personnel or hours,” he said. “That’s not good for anybody.

    “I think we’re asking the wrong question here,” Brady said. “It shouldn’t be how high the minimum wage should be, but how do we get more workers off of it and into better paying jobs. Minimum wage is a training wage.”

  • CISD election results canvassed, trustees sworn in

    NEWS CISDTrusteesALTON PORTER | HCC Longtime CISD trustees Roy E. Johnson, center, and Karen Norman, right and newly elected trustee Gerald Colter, left, were sworn-in to begin their new terms on Monday.

    By Alton Porter

    CROCKETT – Two longtime members of the Crockett ISD board of trustees and one newly elected member began serving new terms on the school board at a special meeting Monday.

    The two trustees who were already on the board—Vice President Roy E. Johnson, who represents District 3, and Secretary Karen Norman, the representative of District 4—were unopposed in their bids to continue serving on the board.

    So, they did not have to run for reelection, and members of the board canceled the May 1 election to fill the District 4 position at a Feb. 22 meeting and canceled the election for the District 3 position at a March 29 meeting, therefore, Johnson and Norman were automatically re-seated on the board.

    Gerald Colter, a Crockett High School graduate, Texas Department of Transportation retiree and current parttime employee of the city of Crockett, is the newly elected trustee and he fills the Super District 7 position on the board, which was held by the late Lela Pearl Houston Wheeler, who served as board president until her death last November.

    Colter received 150 votes—98 in early voting and 52 on election day—in the May 1 election to fill the District 7 position, defeating Pastor Johnny Taylor, who has been employed 30-plus years as a school administrator, teacher and coach, and received 137 votes—89 in early voting and 48 on election day.

    The election results for the District 7 position were canvassed and approved at Monday’s meeting, the primary reason why the special meeting was called.

    After the canvass and approval of the results for the District 7 position election, the three trustees who are beginning new terms—Johnson, Norman and Colter—were administered the Crockett Independent School District Board of Trustees oath of office before they took their seats among the other board members and began serving the new terms.

    The oaths were administered by Rhonda Kendrick, CISD’s executive secretary and human resources director.

    In other business, the trustees voted to reelect officers who were already serving in board leadership positions giving them the opportunity to continue serving in those positions: District 5 Trustee Dr. John Garner, president; Johnson, vice president; and Norman, secretary.

    “I feel honored that the board has elected me to serve (as president) again,” Garner, who will soon begin his 11th year on the board, said in a statement to the Courier after the meeting was adjourned. “And I’ll do my best to lead in a way that will be similar or in a manner worthy of Mrs. Lela Wheeler, who preceded me.”

    “I appreciated her very much and I’m real excited about having a full complement of board members again. I appreciate Mr. Colter’s willingness to be able to serve on the board. I look forward to this time that we can serve the community and the district. I appreciate those that are willing to serve on the board,” he said.

  • Commissioners approve resolutions

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Polk County commissioners meet Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County commissioners approved a quartet of resolutions during the first commissioners court of March Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse.

    The resolutions pertain to the 87th Texas Legislative Session. The resolutions that commissioners approved were an opposition to prohibit county lobbying, an opposition to reduce the number of appellate courts, the support of county road grant funds and the support of increased funding for rural public transit.

    “Removing appellate courts would require our residents to travel further,” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “There’s not an appellate court close to us. If someone is going through the appeals process, they would have to drive a long distance and pay for a hotel, whereas people who live close to an appellate court can just drive, do their thing and come back. The expense to rural Texas will be higher if they consolidate these appellate courts. If you look at some of the transit in larger counties such as Angelina or Nacogdoches, they have regular routes. In Polk County, it would be beneficial to our residents if we had a regular route.”

    There are 14 appellate courts in Texas, and Polk County falls under the jurisdictions of the 9th Court of Appeals in Beaumont. The other Courts of Appeals are located in Houston (1st, 14th), Fort Worth (2nd), Austin (3rd), San Antonio (4th), Dallas (5th), Texarkana (6th), Amarillo (7th), El Paso (8th), Waco (10th), Eastland (11th), Tyler (12th) and Corpus Christi (13th).

    Commissioners also approved an action relating to Precinct 1 Constable Scott Evans participating in the US Department of Justice Equitable Sharing Program.

    “He has been participating all along in different investigations,” Murphy said. “It depends on which law enforcement agency is involved. We’ve already moved some of the offices there.”

    Murphy also commented on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to open businesses to full capacity and lift the mask mandate. Those went into effect Wednesday.

    “We have given all of our staff members the option of wearing a mask,” Murphy said. “We’re not asking anyone to mask, and we’re not asking anyone to unmask. We’re also asking people to be cautious and smart. Don’t go around hugging strangers. Let’s be logical about this. We have a strong vaccination program going on and we need maintain that for people who want to receive the vaccine. The majority of business owners that I’ve talked to are planning to open to full capacity. It’s at their discretion.”

  • Commissioners receive judge’s disaster declaration

    IMG 7549ALTON PORTER | HCC Houston County Judge Jim Lovell issued a Declaration of Local Disaster for the county in response to the recent severe winter storms that wreaked havoc on the county and the county’s commissioners voted to receive the declaration as information at a meeting held in person and via the Zoom video communications app Thursday morning.

    By Alton Porter

    Houston County was declared a disaster area by the county judge as a result of the major winter storms that wreaked havoc throughout the county a couple of weeks ago and the declaration was received by county commissioners.

    Saturday, Feb. 20, Judge Jim Lovell issued a seven-day Declaration of Local Disaster for the county. And five days later, at a meeting of the commissioners court, following explanations by Lovell and county Emergency Management Coordinator Heath Murff, the commissioners voted to pass a motion to receive as information the declaration.

    The declaration stated that “the County of Houston, on the 14 day of February, AD 2021 suffered widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life, with massive amounts of debris creating a public health threat (or there is imminent threat of same), resulting from the arrival of a major winter storm that has impacted Houston County and caused freezing temperatures, snow and ice accumulations.”

    It continued, the storm “essentially prevented access and safe passage on many roadways and caused long term electrical power and utility outages and major infrastructure and property damage thus creating a public safety hazard.”

    Because the county judge determined that extraordinary measures must be taken to alleviate the suffering of people and to protect or rehabilitate property, he declared the state of disaster.

    The declaration noted that the county’s emergency management plan was implemented, and “Whereas Section 418.108 of the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, as amended, Vernon’s Texas Codes Annotated, Government Code Chapter 418, provides that the state of disaster shall continue for a period of not more than seven days of the date hereof, unless the same is continued by consent of the Commissioner’s Court of the County of Houston, Texas.”

    In other business, the commissioners scheduled a public hearing for April 13, “regarding the Tax Abatement Agreement with Houston County and Lincoln Lumber Crockett, LLC, to modify or terminate the agreement and to consider entering a Tax Abatement Agreement with the City of Crockett and Lincoln Lumber Crockett, LLC.”

    The commissioners and Crockett city councilmembers approved a tax abatement agreement with Lincoln Lumber several weeks ago, and the Crockett officials later approved a related agreement that had been amended. County officials are now considering whether to terminate their original agreement and approve the amended one that was adopted by the city.

    “What happened is Houston County and Lincoln Lumber have a tax abatement agreement…,” said County Attorney Daphne Session. “That was approved in November of 2020 based on the application for a tax abatement.

    “The city entered or approved a tax abatement agreement in November of 2020 also with Lincoln Lumber. Then, Lincoln Lumber made some acquisitions and made some new purchases of land in the area.”

    The city did a new tax abatement agreement—modified the old one based on the acquisitions and new purchases—and approved it in January, Session said. “And the city would like the county to be included in their tax abatement because their tax abatement they approved is for the city of Crockett, for Houston County and Lincoln Lumber, which was not done here. We have our own agreement with Lincoln Lumber. They would like for the county to join their tax abatement agreement and have just one tax abatement agreement for all three.”

    The public hearing had to be set to modify or terminate the county’s current tax abatement agreement with Lincoln Lumber, Session said, adding, the city’s agreement and county’s agreement are very similar, with the exception of the addition of the acquisition of the new land by Lincoln Lumber on the city’s agreement.

    Lincoln Lumber is building a high-tech sawmill in the 200 block of West Austin Street and on two adjoining properties.

    In another action, the commissioners approved a new contract with Piney Woods Sanitation for solid waste collection service in unincorporated areas of the county.

    They voted to approve motions appointing commissioners Jimmy Henderson, Gene Stokes and Willie Kitchen to negotiate for right of way and construction/temporary easements in their precincts as necessary for the Texas Department of Transportation bridge improvement project.

    Henderson is to negotiate for easements on County Roads (CR) 1060 and 1050 for the Hickory Creek tributary, Stokes for easements on CR 3585 for the Wright Creek tributary and Kitchen for easements plus relocation of utilities on CR 2215, CR 2230 and CR 2120 for Little Elkhart Creek and Big Elkhart Creek tributaries.

    The commissioners received as information racial profiling reports from county law enforcement agencies and an audit report for the fiscal year ending 2020 for county Emergency Services District No. 2.

    They approved an order declaring an exemption from bidding necessary to preserve and protect the public health and safety of county residents as authorized under Local Government Code 262.024(a)(2).

    The commissioners voted to approve acceptance of a $2,000 donation from the city of Kennard for Precinct 4 and to authorize the making of necessary budget amendments.

    And the commissioners heard annual summary interpretation presentations of 2020 AgriLife Extension Service education programs given by Jo Smith and Tasha Brent, extension agents of the county’s Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Corey J. Hicks, of the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program.

    During her presentation, Smith noted that the Houston County Fair and Youth Livestock Show is still one for late March and early April.

  • Congressman diagnosed with COVID

    Kevin BradyFILE PHOTO Congressman Kevin Brady

    TCNS staff

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Conroe, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

    According the congressman’s Twitter account, Brady said on Jan. 5 that the Office of House Physician informed him that he tested positive for COVID-19 and is under quarantine.

    Brady said that as had been recommended, he received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 18. He said he tested negative for the virus as recently as New Year’s Day.

    He began treatment on Jan. 6

    According to a statement from his office, Brady had been practicing all guidelines laid out by the Center for Disease Control and House physicians, including social distancing and wearing a mask, and received a test as soon as he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

    He also received the second dose of the vaccine last week.

    The Pfizer vaccine is authorized by the FDA as a two-dose regimen with a 21-day interval between shots. Per the FDA, the effectiveness of the vaccine after a single dose is inconclusive.

    Brady was confident in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and is incredibly proud of the historic success of Operation Warp Speed, according to the statement.

    It also said that Brady is receiving outpatient treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center.

  • Congressman Kevin Brady looks to the next step in Washington

    Kevin BradyKevin Brady file photo - official portrait

    By Tony Farkas

    CONROEKevin Brady’s win in the election on Nov. 3 is like an energy drink — re-energizing the congressman to face the challenges ahead.

    “I’m really thrilled to be re-elected to Congressional District 8 of the Republic of Texas,” he said. “It’s an honor, always has been. However, despite the historic economic recovery after COVID, and a vaccine deployment arriving at a record pace, there’s still more work to be done.”

    Brady said his goal as Republican leader of the House Ways and Means Committee is to help defeat the coronavirus, create 10 million new jobs and create an economy even stronger than the one prior to the crash caused by the virus.

    “I’ve introduced legislation that would lock in the tax relief to benefit workers and businesses; to make America medically independent from China, and we hope to leapfrog America into the No. 1 innovation nation in the world and using our tax code to do that,” he said. “That will create millions of new tax-paying jobs, and spur manufacturing and research in America.”

    He also said he helped introduce new retirement legislation that will help more families, and more low-income workers, save for the future.

    On a separate matter, Brady said he was proud to report that the Democratic “blue wave” crashed and burned in Texas, despite record voter turnout during a COVID crisis.

    “I was proud that President Donald Trump won 230 of 254 counties in the state,” he said.
    “The Texas Republican delegation faced long odds this year, with six retirements and a total of 10 races targeted by national Democrats.”

    Brady said that despite Democrats predicting they would get the majority of the seats up for election, they got nothing, and it was especially embarrassing in the 23rd Congressional district, where a Texas Democrat promised a flip but did not deliver.

    Brady said he felt the Democrats failed to gain any ground in Texas is because conservative legislators reflect Texas values, and that there was no way to fund the crazy ideas that Democrats put for, such as defunding police.

    He also said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to stall any legislation designed to assist families dealing with the COVID crisis was a factor.

    “I’m proud that Republicans held the Texas House of representatives with no losses,” he said.

  • Corrigan approves $375,000 grant

                                   CASEY SIZEMORE Corrigan City Council Member Irene Thomson (right) presents City Secretary Paloma Carbajal (center) and Mayor Johnna Lowe Gibson with a donation check from Alvin Freeman to be applied toward the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department.

    By Casey Sizemore

    CORRIGAN – During its regular scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Corrigan City Council approved beginning the procurement procedures to accept the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development block grant for 2021-22.

    City Manager Darrian Hudman said the $375,000 grant, which is more than previous years, could be applied toward water and sewer projects. The council did not discuss what projects the grant would be applied to.

    Mayor Johnna Lowe Gibson said the city is in talks with Corrigan OSB “to see if they can help” with some of the water or sewer projects.

    The council also approved three appointments to a committee to seek who is most qualified to complete some of the jobs. Mayor Gibson described the committee as a “formality.”

    The council also approved a declination toward “Entergy’s backup generation product.” Hudman said Entergy intends to install a generator for the city to use during power outages. He said Energy requested the council decline the initial submission so they could resubmit under a multi-city or municipality project.

    The board also approved the general city election for May 1, 2021.

    After a lengthy discussion, the council tabled a motion to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph on Martin Luther King, Jr. Street until the council members have an opportunity to hear pros and cons from the citizens.

    Chief Gerald Gibson requested the council take up the matter out of concern for children playing in the area.

    “My only concern is the children, that’s all I care about,” he said.

    Chief Gibson said children walk along the street, play basketball in and near the street and play in the park, so he is concerned an accident is going to occur.

    Hudman recommended the council consider an ordinance stating all residential streets in the city limits be reduced to 20 mph. He also recommended the city mail out information to citizens and make callouts.

    During the council forum portion of the meeting, the council members discussed a recent article in the Enterprise concerning Georgia Pacific donating funds toward constructing a new fire department building for the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department.

    “The Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department could use donations for that building,” Mayor Gibson said.

    Chief Gibson said CFVD is also in need of volunteer firefighters.

    Council member Irene Thomson presented the city with a donation check toward the fire department on behalf of Alvin Freeman.

  • County offices relocating during courthouse construction

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Matt March of Texas AgriLife discusses surface lease agreements with Polk County commissioners Tuesday morning.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County employees who have offices in the courthouse will have to relocate for two years soon.

    That’s because the courthouse will undergo a renovation project after the county received a $3 million grant from the Texas Historical Commission earlier this month. During the projected two-year project, courthouse offices will be relocated to the vacant building of the former Regional Health Center and to the Polk County Annex building.

    “We’re scheduled to complete in mid-2023,” Polk County grants and contracts administrator Jessica Hutchins said. “But with construction, that could always change. The project is expected to begin within six months of our contract. We don’t receive contract until March, so we should be going out for bids within six months of that agreement. It’s roughly a two-year project.”

    The relocation measure was approved during commissioners court Tuesday morning. During the two-year period, commissioners court will take place in the former Regional Health Center building.

    “When we originally applied for the grant, we didn’t qualify,” Hutchins said. “But when THC had an additional $3 million left over, they awarded that to us. We’re not receiving the official award until THC meets on Feb. 3. Then we’ll know more and have an accurate date on contracts and construction.”

    Speaking of grants, the county is working on finding a project for the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development Block Grant. Once an administrator and engineer have been selected, the project selection can begin.

    “TDA every year opens up grants for their CDBG program,” Hutchins said. “It’s basically to improve water districts, sewage and basic necessities for the community. Last year we received $250,000 for Dallardsville-Segno Water Corporation. Now we’re opening up a new grant period. We’re getting an administrator and an engineer to select a project in the county.”

    A similar process will take place for the Hurricane Harvey Regional Mitigation Program. Hutchins elaborated on that as well.

    “For Hurricane Harvey, there’s a mitigation program and that’s set where any flooding for Harvey was done we want to mitigate that for the future so those same areas are not flooded,” she said. “There are certain zip codes within the county that flooded so they are eligible to apply for the program. There’s two rounds of mitigation. The first round is competitive. We already applied and submitted that application. There’s allocated mitigation funding that’s given to each of the counties that DETCOG is receiving in allocated amounts that are set for us and they help the general land office come up with a way to disburse it among our community. The general land office will be allocating set funds to each of the counties that DETCOG services. Each county that was impacted by Harvey will be receiving funds that are not competitive that we are set to receive.”

    Matt March of Texas AgriLife discussed surface lease agreements. The lease agreements, which are set to expire June 30, are for land in Baylor and Throckmorton counties that Polk County has designated for its six school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska.

    “A long time ago, the legislature set up some land in West Texas and designated it as property for the school districts in our county to be managed by the court,” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “The lease money gets split up with the schools in the county and the county benefits as well. The majority of counties sold their land a long time ago. Polk County is one of the few that did not. We are responsible for managing it and maintaining the quality of the property, and making sure the money is going where it’s supposed to go.”

    The next commissioners court takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

  • Election time

    groveton elec 4MARLENA STUBBLEFIELD | TCNS Dwayne Alsbrook and Autumn Dial attend the drawing ceremony for ballot placement on Monday at Groveton City Hall. The two have filed for candidacy for the two council positions up for election on Groveton City Council. The election will be held May 1, 2021.

    Trinity County cities and schools to hold elections 

    By Tony Farkas

    As the county creeps out from under a blanket of snow, business resumes, and that includes the business of the respective governments in the area.

    For this year, that means city and school board elections, all scheduled for May 1.

    In Groveton, Superintendent Don Hamilton said that three people have filed for election to the Groveton School Board: incumbent members Benny Abshier and Board President Mark Folds, and newcomer Sam Shanafelt.

    Early voting will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. April 19-23 and April 26-27 at the School Administration Building, 207 N. Main St., in Groveton.

    At the City of Groveton, two incumbents — Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett and Council Member Tommy Walton — have filed for the mayor position, which came open due to the passing of Mayor Byron Richards.

    For the two remaining council positions up for election, six residents have filed: Chris McFarland, Philip Schmitten, Autumn Dial, Dwayne Alsbrook, Mark Taylor and incumbent Council Member Robert Smith.

    Early voting will take place from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 19-27, with April 20-21 set aside for voting from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Ballots can be cast at Groveton City Hall, 115 W. Front St.

    groveton elec 2MARLENA STUBBLEFIELD | TCNS Council Member Tommy Walton (right) and Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett will face off in a spring election for the position of Mayor of Groveton. Early voting for the May 1 election is scheduled for April 19 at City Hall.

    In the City of Trinity, both the city and school district will not have to hold elections, as only incumbent members of their respective boards have filed for candidacy.

    For the city, Mayor Pro Tem Billy Goodin and Council Member Phillip Morrison are unopposed, and will resume their positions for the next term.

    For the Trinity ISD School Board, incumbent members Judy Bishop and Elizabeth King also are unchallenged and will retain their posts.

    School districts in Apple Springs and Centerville do not have elections scheduled.

  • ESD2 members elect new, continuing leaders

    IMG 7735ALTON PORTER | HCC Above, members of Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2, which supports and provides assistance to fire departments throughout the county, attended a monthly meeting in Crockett Thursday, Feb. 25, at which they elected officers to lead the district and its board of commissioners and at which they addressed other matters.

    By Alton Porter

    Members of Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD2) have elected new and continuing leaders for the district’s board of commissioners following the reappointment and appointment last month of two ESD2 commissioners by members of the county’s commissioners court.

    The ESD2 members elected the board’s officers at a meeting Thursday, Feb. 25.

    Promoted to the position of ESD2 president is William Money, who had been serving as an ESD2 commissioner and who replaces former president George Crowson Jr., who was not reappointed to the ESD2 board by the commissioners court members last month.

    Elected to serve as ESD2 vice president is Steve Hawkins, who was appointed by the members of the commissioners court last month to replace Crowson as a commissioner on the ESD2 board. Hawkins was welcomed aboard ESD2 by the district’s members who were present. As vice president, he replaces former VP Bobby Hutcherson, who was reappointed by the members of the county commissioners court last month to continue serving on the ESD2 board but who stepped down from the VP position at the Feb. 25 meeting.

    Peggy Patrick, who had been serving as secretary-treasurer was reelected as treasurer only upon her request, and board member Roy Langford was elected to replace her as secretary.

    During public comments, Crowson, the ESD2 previous president, addressed the emergency services district members who were present.

    “In my recollection, as far as I can recall, this is my 224 meeting with the ESD of a 14-year period,” Crowson said. “To the fire departments, I want to tell you it’s been a pleasure, a privilege and an honor to serve on your behalf. What you guys do—not only what you do, but the passion with which you do it—it leaves me in awe. It truly, truly does.”

    Crowson noted that county Precinct 3 Commissioner Gene Stokes, of the commissioners court, was present at the meeting and that “out of those 224 meetings which we spoke of, this is only the second time that we’ve had a commissioner at one of our meetings in 14 years. And I think I can speak for the whole organization and say, ‘Thank you for being here’.”

    Stokes responded to Crowson saying, “We appreciate your service.”

    The former ESD2 president continued, “I’m assuming I’m not on the board. No one has shown me the courtesy to tell me that I was not, but I kind of picked it up on the airwaves there.

    “To the board, what I want to remind you of, and I hope you will think about this in every decision you make, is you are an independent political subdivision of the state of Texas. You cannot be beholden or subservient to any individual, any special interest group, any group of people of any kind, including the commissioners court. If you are, all taxing democracies will fail.”

    Crowson added, “The only people you are beholden to are the people that pay this ESD tax. It has served me well. If you will remind yourself of that in every decision that you make, I think you will continue to be successful.

    “This ESD is tremendously successful, at least in my opinion—not because of me, but because of the involvement of people and the (county’s fire) departments themselves. I know it is financially in good shape. And I know that through Mr. Stokes and all you other board members, it will continue to do that.

    IMG 7725ALTON PORTER | HCC Former President George Crowson Jr., of the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD2) Board of Commissioners, who was not reappointed to the ESD2 board earlier last month, addressed ESD2 members as he departed from the entity during a meeting in Crockett Thursday, Feb. 25.

    “It has been an honor and a privilege; I served at the pleasure of the commissioners court and it was no longer their pleasure. That’s perfectly fine; it is their option to do whichever they want to do.

    “I’ve enjoyed almost every moment of it. It’s been some moments that haven’t been so enjoyable, but that comes with the territory. But anyway, thank each of you for what you do.”

    After Crowson left the meeting, Money, the new ESD2 president, said, “He’s not here, but in my opinion from being on the other side of the table—he was on this side of the table—George has guided this board efficiently and diligently through a lot of stuff over the years, from helping get it started to getting it where it’s at.

    “And in my opinion, our directive change is none. We’re here to serve two priorities: the firefighters (of Houston County) and the taxpayers. And that is it. I may be the next one that goes after George, but that is how I look at it. … I will do my best to continue the direction of this board and keep it solid.”

    Among items requiring action, the ESD2 members voted to receive a $100 bid from Brijesh Patel, a member of the Kennard Independent School District Board of Trustees, to buy and remove, within 30 days, a building on the site on which they’re planning to have a fire station built in Ratcliff.

    The board members also had advertised via the Courier for bids for the laying of a six-inch-thick concrete slab for $16,000 for the planned fire station building, but none had been received. So, the ESD2 members decided to seek out a construction company to perform this project.

    In other business, they tabled action regarding a contract between ESD2 and the city of Crockett. “The city of Crockett wanted to redo their contract with the ESD…,” Patrick said.

    Money explained, “When we formed ESD2, Crockett opted out of the vote. Kennard voted to not be in the ESD because they didn’t want (to pay) the extra tax. So, we’ve got Crockett and Kennard that are not members of the ESD….

    “Crockett has basically the biggest fire department in the county—covers the most area, covers everybody else’s back. We call it the gray area. So, we contract with Crockett. We pay them $70,000 a year to cover that area. We provide some trucks for Crockett and provide them service and help.

    “So, Crockett covers the gray area and that works to try to keep the ISO, which is the insurance rate, in those areas down. So, we contract with Crockett to cover that area. Crockett FD’s budget is $500,000-plus a year and we add them an additional $70,000 plus trucks or whatever we can afford to help them with to cover that area. We upped the rate and renegotiated with them. And so, we’re getting a new contract set up with them.”

    Chief Jason Frizzell, of the Crockett Fire Department, said he had emailed the city’s attorney, who is reviewing and possibly making adjustments to the contract, and he was waiting to hear back from the lawyer.

  • Fisher declared re-elected as mayor

    2 Mayor Fisher 031621ALTON PORTER | HCC Crockett’s re-elected mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher presides over Monday’s council meeting.

    By Alton Porter

    CROCKETT – Dr. Ianthia Fisher has been declared re-elected as Crockett’s mayor in a city council resolution. She was unopposed in her bid to continue serving as the city’s elected leader, a position to which she was initially elected in 2019.

    Fisher is one of two candidates who originally filed to run for mayor in the city’s Saturday, May 1, election. However, the other candidate, James Jellum, withdrew from the race before ballots were printed, according to City Secretary Mitzi Thompson. Therefore, members of the city council voted to approve a document of certification of Fisher as an unopposed candidate for mayor, an at-large position, at a meeting on Monday, March 15.

    After approving the city certification of unopposed candidate for mayor, the councilmembers, in a related action, voted to approve a resolution authorizing cancelling the election of mayor in the scheduled May 1 election.

    The resolution also states that only one eligible candidate, Fisher, had filed to run for mayor and had not withdrawn by the Feb. 12 deadline “and hereby declares the unopposed candidate (Fisher) elected to office and shall be issued Certificate of Election following the time the election will be canvassed.”

    In another election-related matter, the councilmembers voted to approve a resolution, appointing election officials for the regular general election, setting the rate of pay for the election officials and the maximum number of election clerks for the polling places, and designating the early voting ballot board.

    Also, in preparation for the municipal election, the councilmembers approved designation of two deputy early voting clerks, who are “authorized to perform any duties which are assigned by me in the performance of conducting early voting,” wrote Thompson, who also is the early voting clerk, in the designation document.

    Council seats up for election in the May 1 election are those for City Precincts 1 and 2. Candidates for the Precinct 1 position are incumbent Butch Calvert, Gene Caldwell and Samantha Wiley. Precinct 2 seat candidates are incumbent Darrell Jones, Charles Clawson and Vicki Cox.

    On election day, polls for the councilmember elections will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Election day polling places are: Precinct 1, All Saints Episcopal Church Annex, 1301 E. Houston Ave.; and Precinct 2, Crockett Fire Station, 201 N. 6th St.

    Early voting by in-person appearance will be conducted at Crockett City Hall, 200 N. 5th St., April 19-23, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and April 26-27, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

    Applications for ballots by mail should be mailed to Mitzi Thompson, City Secretary, 200 N. 5th St., Crockett, Texas, 75835, and must be received in the secretary’s office no later than by the close of business Tuesday, April 20.

    In other business, the councilmembers voted to approve an ordinance, temporarily reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph for motor vehicles being driven in either direction on State Loop 304 between State Highway 19 and SH 7, while much of that section of the loop is under construction.

    The councilmembers also discussed city facility operations and current COVID-19 measures. “Basically, what the city is doing is there are certain facilities that we do have control over,” said Fisher.

    “And as far as the city facilities, they’re going to remain pretty much stable, recognizing the CDC guidelines that they already have,” she added.

    There’s no limit on the size of gatherings “unless we run into a problem and they (users of city facilities) can’t ensure their safety,” Fisher said. “If it presents a problem where people were saying it was so congested, then we will have to readdress it and set a cap on it.

    “But right now, everyone that has basically used the facility—even for concerts—have been so mindful of being able to respect the safety of others. So, we haven’t had that problem; we don’t anticipate having that problem. But in case we do, we will be able to readdress it and be willing to put a cap (on gatherings at the facilities) if it has to be.”

    The mayor added, “But we are asking that you (users of the facilities) maintain the safety guidelines. Whatever your percentage should be, it should be in accordance with what you can do—staying within the guidelines.

    “And then the other part of it (the mayor and councilmembers approach) is that we did ask the city (staffers) to take into consideration the CDC guidelines. And even though the (former) mask mandate isn’t in effect anymore it is important that we still continue to protect ourselves to the best of our ability. And that’s a simple way with the basic guidelines: washing our hands, wearing masks, social distancing and those kinds of things.”

    Summer Fun Day planned

    During Police Chief Clayton Smith’s regular report, he said the police department is planning a Summer Fun Day event to be held Saturday, June 5, if allowed by COVID protocols and depending on what is going on at that time. “We haven’t been able to have a community event in a while because of Covid and everything going on,” said Smith.

    He noted, June 5 is during “the first weekend that the kids are out of school,” and added, plans are to have the event in Davy Crockett Memorial Park with waterslides, possibly around the splash pad, and event planners are “just trying to get all the kids out to have fun.”

  • Hanging it up (VIDEO)

    122420 bell 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS Joe Warner Bell talks about his tenure as County Attorney for Trinity County. His last day in office is Dec. 31.

    Trinity County attorney retiring after 43 years

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — When Joe Warner Bell first took office as Trinity County Attorney, cases were entered on typewriters, and the only places to buy liquor in the area was Houston, Huntsville and even Groveton.

    The “mostly” Trinity County native has been County attorney 43 years, 3 months 16 days and 2 hours, give or take. He got into the position because he was appointed; Bell was in private practice in Trinity for six years prior to taking the county job.

    “I was in general practice, which means I did anything that came my way, which is pretty much what I do now,” he said.

    When the 258th Judicial District was created, they needed to fill three positions — district attorney, district judge and county attorney, and Bell got the nod.

    He kept with it, though, for the simplest of reasons — it was a steady paycheck.

    “It didn’t have a lot of benefits at the time, but I felt I could do more here than I could (in private practice),” he said.

    Was appointed to the position first, then had been running for reelection since then.

    In addition to the changes in liquor sales and technology, the courthouse has changed, including his office location, which was moved six or seven times over the course of his career.

    Bell said the population of the county has doubled, and the jail, which has room for seven people and was almost never full, is full now almost all the time, with up to 40 inmates at a time.

    The most contentious commissioners’ court Bell said he has advised was the first one he served with, since it had two commissioners who were related and on opposite sides of the political spectrum, another development that is mirrored in politics today.

    Video interview with Joe Bell

    “There was one commissioner that I had prosecuted three times for DWI,” Bell said. “In fact, on the filing day for election, he was sitting in jail.”

    The things his office has had to deal with over the years has been varied, but one set of cases in particular stands out, and echoes some of the issues of today: election fraud.

    “We had some guys that … liked to play the edge,” Bell said. “At that time you had to have an excuse to vote absentee — either you were elderly or were going to be out of town. (Apparently) there were many people who had never left Trinity County in their lives were going to be out of town on election day.”

    Bell said there were ballots with forged signatures on them, and even a few of them were marked for people who were in nursing homes. Several elderly women voted twice; they had voted early, but were hauled to the polls on election day and were made to vote again.

    “I didn’t grasp the depth of the problem until I got into office,” he said. “People have said that there’s nothing wrong with mail-in voting; I voted mail-in one time and it got lost. My mother, who was over 65, voted, and her vote was tossed out because they said she was a crazy old woman. What it was, the person she voted for, they didn’t want that vote counted.”

    The more heartbreaking cases Bell said he has dealt with involves child abuse, especially when, as it happened in one case, involves the parents and stepparents. However, he said that the most rewarding part of the job was finding homes for neglected and abused children, and getting women away from abusive partners.

    Also, when Bell took office, there was a civil suit against the county over county districts, which were said to have disenfranchised African American voters; Bell got the suit delayed until new district lines could be drawn, which led to the suit being dropped.

    Bell said his position is to act as the attorney for the county, but there’s a difference between his office and district attorneys: the DA prosecutes felonies, and everything else falls under the purview of the county, except child support which goes to the attorney general.

    122420 bell 2COURTESY PHOTO Trinity County Attorney Joe Warner Bell is presented with a plaque of appreciation by representatives of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments on Thursday. Bell has been a member of the DETCOG board for 42 ½ years, since July 1, 1978, which DETCOG Executive Director Lonnie Hunt described as “some kind of record.

    “Also, we’re in charge of eminent domain, when the government comes to you and tells you they’re going to take your land,” he said. “We’ve only done that a couple of times; most landowners don’t mind giving up a little strip of land to make roads better or fix the bridges.”

    Bell said his office represents the state in child protective services cases, as well as adult protective services cases.

    “We’ve had a lot of fun,” Bell said. “I’m going to rest a bit, but I still have some work to do for the county. They’ve contracted me to do any redistricting (because of the 2020 Census).”

    Bell said that the bulk of his job has been answering questions, then, after a long chuckle, Bell said of his successor, Colton Hay: “Be ready for it, it’s coming.”

  • Houston County commissioners oppose being silenced

    IMG 7952ALTON PORTER | HCC Houston County Judge Jim Lovell and county commissioners court members met in person and remotely via Zoom Tuesday, March 23. Above, from left to right, are Gary Lovell, Willie Kitchen, Judge Lovell, Gene Stokes and Jimmy Henderson.

    By Alton Porter

    Houston County’s commissioners, like other local government officials across the state, have taken a stand opposing being silenced by state officials.

    The county officials adopted a resolution in opposition to Texas Senate Bills 10 and 234 and Texas House Bill 749, which they say introduce efforts to silence county officials. They took the action at a Houston County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday morning, March 23.

    “SB 10 is a bill that’s being introduced (in the Texas Senate),” said County Judge Jim Lovell in presenting the resolution to the commissioners—as are SB 234 and HB 749. “They (state lawmakers) word it as taxpayer-funded lobbying.

    “But what it really is is we can’t join an association, such as Texas Association of Counties or County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, if they hire on their staff a lobbyist.”

    Judge Lovell added, “Not only that. We can’t go to Austin as commissioners court or sheriff or any other elected official to (voice our positions) if a bill comes up that concerns county government and we want to go and testify before a committee or talk to our legislator and the county pay for it.

    “So, this resolution is just a resolution saying that we oppose that bill.”

    County Auditor Melissa Jeter pointed out that SB 234 and HB 749 are Senate and House bills related to SB 10.

    The bills would “take your voice away from any unfunded mandates…,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Gene Stokes said.

    “They forgot about the First Amendment, didn’t they,” added Sheriff Randy Hargrove.

    Jeter noted, the Senate’s Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, is to hold a hearing on SB 10 Thursday morning, March 25. Persons who want to comment on the bill should contact the committee before the hearing.

    It is “a community censorship bill that would prohibit a city or county from spending public funds to influence the outcome of legislation,” according to an interpretation released by the Texas Municipal League (TML).

    “At the most basic level, S.B. 10 would prevent a city from hiring staff, contracting with lobbyists or other professional advocates, or joining associations like TML that engage in advocacy at the state capitol.

    “Specifically, the bill would provide: ‘The governing body of a county or municipality may not spend public money or provide compensation in any manner to directly or indirectly influence or attempt to influence the outcome of any legislation pending before the legislature.’”

    HB 749, also dubbed community censorship legislation by TML, “would: (1) prohibit a political subdivision from spending public funds to: (a) hire an individual required to register as a lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying a member of the Texas legislature; or (b) pay a nonprofit state association or organization that: (i) primarily represents political subdivisions; and (ii) hires or contracts with an individual required to register as a lobbyist.”

    In addition, TML representatives note, HB 749 would: “(2) provide that if a political subdivision engages in activity prohibited by (1), above, a taxpayer or resident of the political subdivision is entitled to injunctive relief to prevent any further prohibited activity or any further payments of public funds; and (3) provide that a taxpayer or resident who prevails in an action under (2), above, is entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from the political subdivision.”

    SB 234 is a companion bill to HB 749.

    In other business, the commissioners voted to accept as information the resignation of Bobby Hutcherson from the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 Board of Commissioners and to appoint Greg Brooks, of Belott, to replace Hutcherson on the ESD2 board. Hutcherson had served as vice president on the board.

    In another action, the commissioners approved the holding of a county event and display permit for a Houston County Welfare Board and Kalin’s Center program and the adoption of a proclamation designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Houston County.

    The program, promoting awareness of child abuse, will be held on the county courthouse steps April 9, beginning at 11 a.m., and the annual display of pinwheels and related items, intended to focus attention on such abuse, will remain on the courthouse grounds throughout the month.

    The commissioners approved participation in a right-of-way/utility project on State Highway 7 at the Trinity River with the Texas department of highways, by passing a motion authorizing the signing of an affidavit, an agreement to contribute right-of-way funds and a resolution authorizing Judge Lovell to execute an agreement to contribute funds to the state for proper development and construction of the state highway system.

    They voted to pass a motion on a request to approve a $1,000 donation from an anonymous donor to the Sheriff’s Office for Drug Awareness Resistance Education (DARE) expenses.

    The commissioners approved acceptance of a donation of $9,284 in road materials from an anonymous donor for Precinct 2.

    In another action related to the Sheriff’s Office, the commissioners approved a budget amendment request from the office for a vehicle replacement not to exceed $17,000.

    They voted to approve selecting which vehicles or departments are to be included to determine costs for a possible lease program with Enterprise Fleet Management.

    A motion to grant Piney Woods Fine Arts Association $1,000 from the county’s Hotel Occupancy Tax fund to help cover expenses for a Texas Tenors Concert scheduled Saturday, April 16, at the Crockett Civic Center carried on a vote taken by the commissioners.

    A proclamation, designating April as County Government Month in Houston County and setting April 29 as the date for a county employees picnic was adopted by the commissioners.

    Similarly, the commissioners adopted a proclamation designating April as Fair Housing Month.

    A motion declaring a 2005 Precinct 2 pickup truck as surplus and authorizing advertising for the sale of the vehicle passed on a vote by the commissioners.

    They approved District Clerk Carolyn Rains’ request for $100 for a change fund.

    The county’s former office of courthouse security was designated by the commissioners as additional space for Precinct 2 Constable Kenneth “Red” Smith, and they authorized the making of necessary budget amendments related to the matter.

    A motion to approve a contract with a company to haul and deliver road materials for Precincts 1 and 3 carried on a vote of the commissioners.

    They discussed a completed renovation project at the Precinct 2 road and bridge office building, located at 601 Cedar St., half of it which is being offered by Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen to be used for other county purposes. The commissioners voted to reimburse the Precinct 2 road and bridge budget with $24,210 from the county’s general fund for expenses incurred by the renovation project so that they can be used to fund road and bridge projects. The commissioners approved making necessary budget amendments for this matter.

    They received as information a preservation/environmental testing report on the county courthouse presented by County Clerk Terri Meadows from G&H Environmental Consulting, LLC, and approved authorizing Judge Lovell to act on presented recommendations to make repairs to the courthouse.

    The commissioners voted to authorize Judge Lovell to negotiate a possible real estate purchase.

    And renewal of an insurance policy with Texas Association of Counties for property and mobile equipment was approved by the commissioners.

  • Kennard ISD election results canvassed, accepted

    NEWS KISD TrusteesALTON PORTER | HCC Kennard ISD trustees being sworn-in at Thursday’s meeting, pictured from left-to-right, are continuing Board President Rebecca Parker, Jo Smith and Kenneth Dowdy.

    By Alton Porter

    KENNARD – Members of the Kennard ISD board of trustees canvassed the district’s May 1 election results and approved and accepted them at a regular meeting of the board Thursday, May 6.

    After the canvass was completed, the board’s reelected and newly elected trustees were administered the oath of office and the six trustees present elected officers to lead the board during the next 12 months. Trustee Brijesh Patel was absent.

    Board President Rebecca Parker, who received 67 votes, was reelected to continue serving on the board, and Kenneth Dowdy, who received 66 votes, and Jo Smith, who received 58 votes, were newly elected. All three were administered the oath by Carolyn Harrison, administrative assistant to Kennard Independent School District Superintendent Malinda Lindsey.

    Harrison also administered the district’s statement of office to the electees and passed out certificates of election to them.

    The two unsuccessful candidates in the election were Austin Gladden, who received 56 votes, and Tracy Sowell, who received 15 votes.

    “There were 102 people that came up to the school and casted votes,” Board Vice President Keith Cole said.

    Kennard ISD trustees serve in at-large positions on the board.

    The trustees reelected Parker to continue serving as board president, Cole to continue serving as board vice president and Brittani Womack to continue serving as board secretary.

    During the recognition part of the meeting, Lindsey congratulated and welcomed new trustees Dowdy and Smith to the board and commended the district’s softball and baseball teams’ coaches and student athletes who “are doing very well,” she said.

    “We had all-district honors for softball,” winning offensive player of the year; defensive player of the year, pitcher of the year, coach of the year, and first and second team awards.

    All-district baseball awards won by district athletes were most valuable player, offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, first and second team honors, and coach of the year, Lindsey said. “So, we were well represented in softball and baseball.”

    On an agenda item requiring other action, the trustees approved an ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) III funds and plan proposal. Concerning ESSER III, Lindsey said, “Last week, the governor finally released that $11.8 million from the federal government to the school districts. There’s two phases. Right now, we’ll get two-thirds of our money. Our allocation is $1.2 million.”

    “This plan will utilize $835,000 of it, which is what our two-thirds is. There are specific program guidelines. The purpose of it is really to overcome the money loss of our kids from Covid. So, our plan here is to hire two interventionists—math and reading interventionists—for grades K (kindergarten) through five to support those kids with evidence-based and research interventions to help close those gaps.

    Under the ESSER Fund, established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, state educational agencies will award subgrants to local educational agencies to address the impact that the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation, according to the US Department of Education’s Office of Elementary & Secondary Education website.

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, the CARES Act, which passed March 27, 2020, provided $13.5 billion to the ESSER Fund. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), which passed Dec. 27, 2020, provided $54.3 billion in supplemental ESSER funding, known as the ESSER II fund.

    The American Rescue Plan Act, which passed March 11 this year, provided $122.7 billion in supplemental ESSER funding, which is known as the ESSER III fund.

    State educational agencies are required to reserve their allocations to carry out activities: 5% to address learning loss, 1% for afterschool activities, and 1% for summer learning programs. Local educational agencies must reserve at least 20% of the funding they receive to address learning loss. Two-thirds of ESSER funds are immediately available to states, while remaining funds will be made available after states submit ESSER implementation plans.

    Concerning communications received by district officials, Parker said, “Some of the boys (in the district’s schools) provided a request” in a letter sent to the officials. “They would like to have a policy change, stating (in the letter), ‘We believe that boys should be allowed to wear earrings. Why should girls be able to and boys not? There should be no difference. Please consider this policy change (request).’”

    No item was on the agenda to address the matter at the meeting, so it will be placed on an agenda and considered at a future meeting, the board president said.

    In a discussion about district facilities, Lindsey and Parker noted that a house the district owns and is located on its property is dilapidated and needs to be gotten rid of.

    “Last month, we discussed several facility items,” Lindsey said. “One of the things we did talk about was the state of the house on our property.” Lindsey said officials requested that a potential contractor “come and give us a quote on demolition of the house and the tree; so, we’re just bringing that to you. The cost to demo the house and clean up and haul off would be $16,800. If we include all the … trees south of the power lines—this would not include the trees between the power lines and the highway—that would be an additional $4,200,” Lindsey said.

    “It’s just not really serving us any purpose, but we don’t want to lose the property because we don’t have a lot of land to work with,” Parker said. “We’ve discussed the possibility of just tearing it down and opening that up to have more space for something for the future or more parking … or whatever.”

    The trustees deferred taking action on the matter and will address it at a future meeting.

    Among other items requiring that action be taken, the trustees appointed Parker to be the district’s delegate and board member Terry Pilkington to be its alternate delegate at the Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards 2021 convention which will be held in Dallas Sept. 24-26.

    In other business, the trustees approved the district’s students’ insurance policy with Health Special Risk, Inc. for the 2021-2022 school year and its 2021-2022 Allotment and TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) certification form. TEKS are the state standards for what students should know and be able to do in each subject and grade level.

    In another action, the trustees approved an amendment to the District of Innovation program. “We are a District of Innovation; and currently, the only thing we use District of Innovation for is to start school earlier than the fourth Monday in August that the law requires,” said Lindsey.

    “However, it’s time for us to redo our depository contract. This provides us because we only have a depository here and we need to do it every two years. By gaining this exemption, we’d be able to choose our existing bank here as our contract and we don’t have to … use it for six or more years instead of having to come to you every year.

    “One of the reasons also is because it is very costly to the district. If we go out every two years, we have to do an RFP—request for proposal—put it in the newspaper, and our current commercial bank gives us the best rates. Our people would have to go somewhere else. If we chose something in Crockett, they’d have to go to Crockett every day or every other day to deposit our money. So, we feel like this amendment is in the best fiscal responsibility to our district.”

  • San Jacinto County turns out the vote

    SanJacelectionCOURTESY PHOTO Most of San Jacinto County voted “Red” or Republican in the 2020 election.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    SAN JACINTO COUNTY - San Jacinto County saw a little more than 65% of registered voters turn out for a mix of Election Day and absentee voting with an overwhelming majority participating in early voting at one of the 10 polling places within the county. 

    Overall, residents casted roughly 80% of votes for the current president Donald Trump with just under 20% for former vice-president, Joe Biden. Other elections followed similar voting trends, including the closely-watched race for senator between republican incumbent John Cornyn and democratic hopeful MJ Hegar, as well as State Representatives, Railroad Commissioner, judges positions and most other races that ran both democratic and republican candidates.

    For the City of Shepherd, Mayor Charles D. Minton will serve his second term along Lee “P.K.” Wesley Jr., who will act as a City Alderman. Yvonne Ryba Cones also earned a spot on the Shepherd City Council.

    Coldspring also voted to re-elect Pat Eversole as mayor, with 58% of the vote being cast in her favor.

    For a full list of election results for the county, please visit http://www.co.san-jacinto.tx.us/page/sanjacinto.Elections. Please note that as of press time, results are unofficial and are subject to change as provisional ballots are counted.

  • Save our Stages, yes; trash brisket, NO

    John Cornyn brisket screen grabSen. John Cornyn’s tweet that’ll live in Texan infamy.

    By Chris Edwards

    I was going to open this with some variation of the old adage about a broken clock, but, nah, it’s a new year and new beginnings and whatnot.

    Reelected Senator John Cornyn’s piece of legislation from last year, the Save Our Stages Act, is already helping many live music and entertainment venues across the country.It’s especially noteworthy in Texas where live music is a giant part of our history, lifestyle and economy and many historic venues and the artists/bands who play them were hit especially hard from the pandemic.

    It’s definitely worthy of a big kudos to Cornyn, who co-wrote the bill with fellow senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) The bill gathered an armada of co-sponsors before its passage and is a good example of bipartisan collaboration in this ridiculously divided time.

    But there is another recent development with Cornyn that must be addressed and is certainly not representative of this great state. You see, folks, the senator posted a photograph to social media on Christmas Eve that might just rank among the most un-Texan of things that many people will ever see.
    It was heinous and it was disgusting. The photo featured a Pyrex casserole dish full of what looked like either raw pork ribs covered in ketchup, or maybe meatloaf under a blanket of something red.

    The accompanying text proclaimed it to be a “brisket family tradition.” The next day, he tweeted that the brisket was the best that he’d ever had and cited his wife for the recipe, which, get this: has a cook time of three hours in the OVEN.

    Now before you jump to conclusions and start in with assumptions like “that mean old Chris Edwards is just a barbecue snob,” one thing Cornyn did not do is use the sacred and holy name of Barbecue in vain.

    I know, also, that there are more ways to cook a brisket than bathing it for hours and hours in post oak smoke in an offset smoker, but here’s the rub: John Cornyn is a representative of Texas, which is not just the greatest state in the union but has the greatest barbecue in the world and smoking long and slow with woodsmoke is the only way to cook brisket around here.

    The art of barbecue was perfected in the Lone Star State. Credit it to the influx of German, Czechs and Hispanics, all of whom contributed to the greatest culinary artform the world has ever seen and will ever know. Texans do barbecue the right way (like everything else we set out to do) and Texas barbecue will set anyone’s life on the correct path. The crème de la crème of this artform is smoked brisket.

    No less an authority than the great Guy Clark, who was a true representative of this great state, made mention of barbecue first in his classic song “Texas Cookin’,” which celebrates all of the great delicacies one can find between the Red and Rio Grande.

    Nevertheless, Cornyn was just elected to a fourth term to represent Texas in Congress’s upper chamber, and his Lone Star bona-fides are such: he was born in Houston and grew up in San Antonio. The emphasis, with regard to brisket knowledge, should be placed on that latter aspect. As part of the central Texas region, San Antone is home to some of the world’s greatest brisket, and unless he grew up under a rock, there’s no way he couldn’t have tasted great brisket.

    So, here’s an offer to Sen. Cornyn: I will gladly give you a demonstration on how to prepare and cook a brisket the proper and true Texas way if you will offer your much-needed support to another important cause: Rep. Brian Babin’s H.R. 759, which would help our neighbors, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and, ultimately, the regional economy here in East Texas.

    If Dr. Babin’s bill gets through the Senate (it already gathered a huge swell of bipartisan support in the other chamber and passed) it would put the AC tribe on equal footing with other tribes across this great land.

    Save our Stages is a great thing to help out entertainment venues all over the country, so why not help out with a big entertainment option here in Texas? I get that gambling isn’t everyone’s bag, but everything is a gamble when it comes down to it, right?

  • Six file for two council seats

    N1411P33001CFILE PHOTO

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The candidates seeking a position on the Groveton City Council each feel there is much more that can be done to make the city a better place.

    On May 1, Groveton residents will go to the polls to pick a mayor and two council members; early voting began Monday.

    One candidate, however, Mark Taylor, is withdrawing from the race for family reasons, and if elected, will not be able to serve, saying he would not be able to devote the proper amount of time.

    For the remaining candidates, infrastructure is key.

    Autumn Dial

    Community involvement is a major component of Autumn Dial’s candidacy, that and a belief that the town has seen better days, and can once again.

    “My family was on City Council in the ‘90s, and I have a little buzz for politics and want to give something back to the community,” she said. “It’s time for the next generation to get involved.”

    Dial said she has worked for the Nacogdoches Housing Authority for six years, worked in low-income housing and as a police dispatcher, and her dealings with people in all walks of life makes it easier to relate.

    “I’d like to see new businesses come to town, and more people get involved cleaning up of the local areas,” she said. “I remember riding the back roads with my grandparents and all the properties were pretty. We don’t have that now. The homes have gone to pot, and I want to see that come back. I’m proud of where I’ve come from.”

    Dial said other areas of concern include better pay for city workers, especially those in law enforcement.

    Philip Schmitten

    The former Air Force recruit Phillip Schmitten said that although he is not a Groveton native, he got here as quick as I could.

    Schmitten has lived in town seven years, and finds it to be a wonderful retirement community.

    “I love the people that live here, and I think there are some things that need addressing to make better,” he said. “We need things for the kids to do, so I would like to focus on creating a city park. The roads need some serious attention, as well as our water system.”

    Schmitten said he spent 21 years in the Air Force as combat photojournalist, and ran squads of men in battle conditions, which gave him leadership experience. Additionally, he learned about caring for other people while working as a special education teacher, as well as serving as president of the Groveton Lions Club. He also served two years as vice president of the Trinity County Chamber of Commerce.

    Robert Smith

    As one of the few incumbents running for re-election, Robert Smith said he wants to focus on continued improvement on all standards — neatness, the city’s water system and its streets.

    “I’m running because I’m interested in the city, and I want to continue improving the city,” he said. “I’ve been on the council three years. I look to serve.”

    The 1967 Groveton High School graduate said he brings experience, integrity and honesty to the table. That, combined with 26 years of work at the Lufkin Abitibi paper mill, and 16 years at the Diboll correctional facility, gives him the knowledge to serve the city well.

    “I’ve learned so much, such as we work on a budget,” he said. “People want this and that, but we have to follow that budget.”

    Chris McFarland

    Chris McFarland said he has a lifetime of experience in Groveton, which gives him a leg up on what needs the city has.

    “I have 52 years of living experience in Groveton, and I know everything there is to know about the town,” he said. “I’m tired of the way things are — not happy with the status quo. The dirt streets are a problem, and I think no one is getting adequate representation for the tax money they pay.

    “It’s ridiculous we don’t have a better place to live,” he said. “We should have decent roads and adequate law enforcement. This is messed up. Our city has been run into the ground for the last 50 years.”

    McFarland said he worked for TxDOT for 12 years and know how roads should be built, so he said he wants to focus on streets, along with the water system, emergency preparedness and “get the employees situation straightened out so they can do their work without having their hands tied.”

    “I’ve been met with huge opposition because I want to build streets out of concrete; it would be easy to do, and we can make our own cement and use our own materials,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s too expensive, but it’s not.”

    Dwane Alsbrooks

    “We’ve got a lot of problems with city streets and our water, and possibly I can bring some knowledge to the table and help the situation out,” said candidate Dwane Alsbrooks.

    Alsbrooks said he wants to focus on streets and the water and sewer system — all city infrastructure.

    He said that his 30 years of road-building experience, and having been in business for 30-plus years, gives him the background to not waste the tax dollars the city has, and fix the maintenance that’s been done on the streets, which he said has been done wrong.

    •Early voting began Monday, April 19, at Groveton City Hall, 115 W. Front St., and will end Tuesday, April 27. Polls on May 1 will open at 7 a.m.