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On July 9, 2019, I stood in front of friends and family and announced my candidacy for the Midland City Council, District 4. From the beginning, I’ve been outspoken about my intentions to eliminate the Midland Development Corporation (MDC) and return the $13+ million in sales tax revenue they are receiving annually to the city. On my website, I said, “It is a petri dish for corruption and cronyism.” Those nine words would alter the course of my campaign.

On July 13, I received two emails from the chair of the MDC board, Brent Hilliard. The emails accused me of making numerous false and defamatory statements. Mr. Hilliard said, “[I] demand that you remove those immediately from all your written or oral public statements or be prepared to answer for all such statements in a court of law.” He added, “It is my belief that Kimberly Crisp has committed moral turpitude and if it continues I intend to report her actions to the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychology.”

On September 24, I stood before the Midland City Council and read a personal statement with direct quotations from the emails and provided the council with copies of the emails between Mr. Hilliard and my team. It was said that this was a civil matter, but I believe it was my duty to present this information to the seven people responsible for making appointments to various boards and committees, including the MDC. Although Mr. Hilliard’s term is set to expire in January 2020, it is not unprecedented for terms to be extended while a suitable replacement can be found, and the council has a right to know who is representing the city on their behalf. Prior to this meeting, I had never mentioned Brent Hilliard’s name.

I was only four days into my campaign, so I decided to remove those nine words to placate a multi-millionaire who was threatening to sue me and endanger my career. Three months in, I would stand by my statement. I wholeheartedly believe that the best option Midland has to solve several of our problems is to dissolve the MDC and reallocate that sales tax revenue directly to our roads and utilities. Additionally, we can liquidate the $55 million in assets held by the MDC and put that money towards one-time expenditures, like retention bonuses for city employees and a senior center. With the MDC money going towards roads, that frees up $12.3 million from the general fund to be used for other needs, like hiring city employees such as code inspectors to get more affordable houses on the market more quickly.

Words matter. My statement was that the MDC is a potential breeding ground for corruption and cronyism, not that it is corrupt or engaging in cronyism. I believe economic development corporations that put millions of taxpayer dollars in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats are set up for failure and waste. These organizations lend themselves to financing pet projects and personal agendas. They come with excessive overhead costs that take more taxpayer dollars away from solving problems. There is not enough oversight and transparency. The MDC funds projects taxpayers would never sign off on while the city asks for more money for a road bond. By putting that money back in the hands of the city, elected officials will have to answer to their constituents about how they are spending it. The budget will be available online, bringing more accountability and transparency.

The chair of a taxpayer-funded entity threatening a political candidate for speaking out and questioning their decisions is the type of action that causes people like me to not run for office. People who are not well connected and well-funded. People who have a genuine interesting in serving their community. People who are voters and taxpayers at heart, not politicians. People who will place priorities over politics.

After I read Mr. Hilliard’s emails, I forwarded them to my brother and said, “He threatened my job. I’m done. I’m not running.” I planned to withdraw from the race that afternoon at my townhall meeting. Instead, I decided to continue bringing what has been hidden into the light. To keep fighting for my neighbors in District 4, who deserve accountability by calling out wasteful spending and mismanagement of taxpayer funds. To challenge the status quo because someone needs to. Please support my mission to bring accountability and transparency to Midland on Election Day with your vote.

Election Day is November 5.

This is a commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected].