Friday, May 18, 2012

Lying Figures: Williamson County Debt

One of the astro-turfed issues that has come up in the campaigns for Williamson County Commissioner is that of the county's bond debt.  Occasional Republicans Lee Ann Seitsinger and Greg Windham have been basing their entire campaigns on the debt issue, but have been carefully twisting figures to support a narrative that is inaccurate. 

Seitsinger/Windham claim that Williamson County has one of the highest debts in the state, and if we use strategically selected data, it does appear that way.  However, unlike counties of similar population and growth patterns, Wilco does not include any large city governments that in other areas share the burden of infrastructure costs.  Wilco has a higher percentage of county infrastructure than comparison counties and therefore carries the bulk of related construction debt. 

If we include the debt carried in other counties by local cities and municipalities, Wilco's debt picture looks dramatically different.  For example, compared to rapid-growth counties Collin, Denton, and Fort Bend, with overall net debts of $5.6 million, $4.7 million, and $4.8 million respectively, Wilco's $3.2 million comes in last place.  While our per-capita overall net debt is mid-pack, we lead these counties in population growth and are among the fastest growing in the nation.

I am no fan of excessive government debt and I find the local government debt trends, especially in our school districts, highly disturbing.  However, when we compare apples to apples, it seems that Williamson County has been pretty responsible overall. 

Seitsinger is especially out of line in her criticisms here.  Of the two bond packages for which she blames Commissioner Birkman, one was passed in 2000, (Lisa Birkman did not take office until 2005,) and the second was in 2006.  Both were voter-approved, but Seitsinger did not even bother to vote in the 2006 election!  Maybe I could understand her lack of participation if the 2006 package had been one of those 'stealth' elections I so deplore, but no, this was on the ballot along with a highly contentious gubernatorial election.  Seitsinger has not been able to articulate what she would have done differently; when asked at a recent forum if she would have paid for road construction and maintenance with higher taxes rather than bonds, she became confused and did not answer the question. 

The winner of the 2006 gubernatorial race that Seitsinger didn't care about was Rick Perry of course.  One might note that although he now affiliates with the Republican Party, Greg Windham frequently airs his dislike of the Governor and took the opportunity to bash Perry at the Williamson County Republican Women's candidate forum.  And while he supported one Republican in 2010, Windham remained an ardent supporter of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White in 2010. 

Seitsinger and Windham are old buddies (with Seitsinger endorsing Windham in the newspapers when he ran as a Democrat in 2008.)  They are supported by a large number of Wilco Democrats and a handful of individuals who may be suffering from BDS.  (Birkman Derangement Syndrome- like Palin Derangement Syndrome, it afflicts those who cannot abide strong, outspoken, conservative women who refuse to kiss any rings.)  It appears that Seitsinger/Windham have colluded in massaging statistics to gain leverage in an election year, and neither appears to fully embrace conservative values.

The choice for Williamson County Republicans is clear:  Birkman and Covey all the way.

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