Reeves County in West Texas is where I call home. I proudly serve as a precinct chair for our local Republican Party, working to bring our conservative values into practice in our booming little ranching and energy industry-dominated community. Fighting for conservative values as an activist is sometimes easier said than done, especially when local governments have more tax money and dispensable income than they know what to do with.
Earlier this year, the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District, which has a current student population of around 3,300 kids, proposed a bond on the May election ballot for a staggering $400 million. You read that correctly, $400 million in spending for 3,300 students, and supported by a taxpayer base of only around 20,000 people—a tremendous amount of debt distributed among a tiny tax base in a boom-and-bust economy.
Taxpayers rejected the proposed debt at the ballot box, but that didn’t stop PBTISD officials from immediately proposing another atrocious bond for the ensuing November election date—this time for $357 million.
The pro-bond proponents tried to sell the measure using guilt trips, fear tactics, and false information. They claimed that the oil industry would pick up the bulk of the tab, that the tax rates wouldn’t increase, and that you must hate children if you didn’t support the bond. It’s a story that conservative activists across the state are all too familiar with.
So, what did we do? Sit back and let them lie? Not a chance! I started a Facebook page and put out correct data on the bond’s impact, including the State Comptroller’s amortization rate. I posted true numbers and warnings to “think before you vote,” and fellow residents joined in and started posting away about their concerns with the bond proposal. This caught the attention of the rabid bond-pushers, and during the course of the election, I and others who didn’t support the bond sustained hateful scolding and attacks on every post on my page. Then my posts were turned in to Facebook, and my page was flagged. But these attacks were not going to silence the opposition that easily. We continued informing people at every opportunity. Our newspaper was full of articles from concerned residents who didn’t want this astronomical amount of bond debt; but the opposition wanted us silenced for distributing some flyers with factual information, so they set us up as if we were campaigning against them. Whatever happened to “freedom of speech”?
Proponents of the bond then went so far as to file a frivolous complaint against my friend and me with the Texas Ethics Commission, trying to have us punished for speaking our mind and for speaking truth to power as a concerned citizen.
I can’t tell you how worrisome and intimidating it is to be facing legal repercussions for standing up for what I believe in, but it goes to show that those seeking this bond money will go to any lengths to silence the opposition.
Fortunately, the ethics complaint against us was dismissed, and the boomerang bond proposal for $357 million was soundly rejected by the voters once again.
It isn’t impossible to defeat these unreasonable measures and make the truth known, but it isn’t always easy and can be quite intimidating at times. We can’t let them bully us, though, and we have to stand up for what is right. Never back down.
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