Townhall offers insight on candidates

Published 1:28 am Saturday, February 10, 2018

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


In trying to decide who is the best option for ones vote is not an easy task.

Orange County Republican Party helped voters gets answers to their questions with a Town Hall forum on Tuesday at the Vidor Elementary School.

Dean Crooks faced incumbent Orange County Judge Brint Carlton in a debate before Vidor Mayor Robert Viator debated with incumbent Commissioner Pct. 4 Jody Crump.

In the debate between the two remaining Orange County Judge candidates, Dean Crooks and Brint Carlton, they were each asked the same four questions. Kenneth Luce has since dropped from the race by his own choice but his name will be on the ballot in the Primary Election March 6, 2018. Since three names will be on the ballot, one candidate must have 51 percent of the votes or face a Run Off Election prior to the General Election in November.

David Covey, currently serving as Interim Orange County Republican Chair, served as moderator.

Covey: Why do you believe you are more qualified to be County Judge than your opponent?

Dean Crooks: With my experiences as a police officer, I have worked in Emergency Management. We have had emergency after emergency. We need someone who understands how the EOC works.

We need to get back to the trust that we had. We have to have the trust of these people, the Sheriff, the clerks and the deputies. I am not assigning blame. We can get the trust back faster with someone who has not violated that trust. I can bring morale back.

Brint Carlton: I have the experience, education and skill set. I have worked on budgets, emergency management, leadership, followership, and building teams. Having been a County Judge, in the job is not as black and white as it appears on the outside. It is not always the decisions retirees or employees like. What we were doing was well outside the norm. The funds come from the taxpayers and would keep going up.

The trust was gone long before I got here. We have to make the tough decisions for the taxpayers.

It has not all been about taking away. We have been able to buy more equipment and the first raise in several years for the employees.

C: What are you going to do to decrease the burden of property tax?

BC: Getting expenditures under control. Where were we spending, wasting money? We discovered we were insuring property, which we no longer owned, paying benefits for someone who was deceased, and another incarcerated. When I took office, I found out we did not have insurance for a situation such as the Montano case. If not for Harvey, there would have been a larger decrease.

We did not have to raise taxes and we should not have to raise taxes this year. Harvey was the worse catastrophe in recorded history and unlikely to ever happen again. We are working on getting housing and to continue to lower the tax rate. We had to build the fund balance first.


DC: It sounds a lot like when my father would tell me ‘Boy you are spending a dollar to save a dime.’

You have to work with a budget and treat people right. The people are the biggest assets. They hire us to watch the budget.

Wayside Services was paid to make the county more energy efficient. We need the money to stay here. Hire a couple of people here, train them, provide the tools they need.

What I hear the most is people don’t mind paying taxes if they know what they are getting. What I keep hearing is “I don’t see anything for it.”

We need to pay attention to those voices especially when they are that loud.


C: What will you do about drainage in Orange County as judge?


DC: Runoff, drain off position, choke points, I have learned more terms concerning drainage since talking to others about drainage. The answer is multi facetted. We need to work with the property owners and the District to come to an agreement to widen these areas. Investors will not be interested in coming here without drainage. We need to work with TxDOT as well. We need to get in one room to find a solution. It was not just Harvey, the east side flooded in 2016 and there was Ike before that. You don’t wait until the storm is brewing in the Gulf to fix this. You fix this on a nice sunny day. It is called preparation.


BC: Drainage is complicated. It involves the Corps of Engineers, the cities, the county, the Drainage District. We need a levee system for a catastrophic event. The federal government wants $7 million for a levee. If we did that, we would have to double everyone’s taxes for next 50 years.

Cleaning the ditches requires people and equipment. We have purchased $300k Road and Bridge equipment. It takes time. The other option is to raise taxes. No one wanted to do that so we did without. Commissioner Gothia is working on the drainage without breaking your wallet in the process.


C: What are your economic developments plans?


BC: The only way is to grow. Raising taxes makes it harder. Taxes are cheaper in Jefferson County. The EDC we had prior was not as effective and we are refocusing what we want to get, broaden our scope. We got a new director, which is doing a fantastic job. She has provided new information and membership. It has taken time and made changes. You get a better service and quality of life. Once the Interstate 10 project is completed, you will see more results with a broad spectrum of businesses to Orange County.


DC: Taxes have gone down two tenths of a percent. The county needs to work with the cities to build the county. The cities are a crucial ally. We need to be proactive and ask investors and businesses, “What can I do to make Orange County your new home?”


Correction: In the Weekend Feb. 10-11, 2018 edition of The Orange Leader, in the article titled Townhall offers insight on candidates, Dean Crooks was incorrectly quoted as saying: Taxes have gone down two tenths of a percent.

Crooks said, “The county budget adopted on Sept. 19, 2017 (after Harvey) raised $2,479,953 more than the previous year with only $199,625 of that revenue from new properties. This means that $2,280,328 of higher taxes due to increased appraisal on properties for citizens that lived Orange County through that disaster imposed. The Judge would have you believe that he has no control over that and further that he lowered your taxes, false and false.”

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.