On Saturday Montgomery County voters overwhelmingly rejected the $350 million road bond presented by the county commissioners. Opposing residents warned for months leading up to the election that if the county did not listen to the residents and remove unwanted projects from the 77-project proposal, they would reject the all-or-nothing proposition.

If county officials were sincere in their desire to meet the needs of their employers, they would have presented large-scale projects in separate propositions for voters to consider. Past legislative efforts to require this of local governments has largely been ignored by a near super-majority of Republicans in both chambers.

Tensions flared leading up to Election Day. County Judge Craig Doyal repeatedly claimed that because of his elected position he couldn’t “advocate for either side,” but then said that if Woodlands residents killed the ominous proposal, “the commissioners were not likely to give Precinct 3 as much money next time.”

Woodlands Township board member, and former bond steering committee member Gordy Bunch, said that he was threatened by Doyal because of his opposition to the bond. “Because of the opposition, I drew threats…I was directly threatened by Judge Doyal that he was going to come after me for my opposition…and then he threatened this community.”

Bond proponents and representatives of Keep Montgomery County Moving PAC, which was mostly funded by developers, went as far as to call bond opponents “Satan’s users,” saying that God supports the road bond and they should too. Nelda Luce Blair who is the chairwoman of the bond steering committee, head of the pro bond PAC, and close personal friend to Judge Doyal threatened a crowd at a public forum that Montgomery county would be at the bottom of the mobility list for Texas if the bond failed.

Residents allege the county biased the location of polling locations to target bond supporters and discourage the opposition from voting. County election officials reduced the number of polling locations to 32 from the original 89. By reducing the number of locations opponents say some would-be voters were discouraged because of the additional travel required and by the long wait at the consolidated locations. This publication has previously emphasized the need for greater standardization in polling locations to make voting easier, not harder, for voters.

Following the defeat of the bond, Judge Doyal has said they will revisit another bond proposal. Also hostile to the concerns of residents, Commissioner Charlie Riley of Precinct 2 said he’s determined to keep the Woodlands Extension on any proposal he agrees to saying, “Nothing would be different.” Alternatively, Commissioner James Noack of Precinct 3 said, ”It is time to put the interests and concerns of our residents first.”

The threats, misinformation, and alarming claims bring into question the motivations of county officials who tirelessly pushed for this bond and refused to compromise. As “public servants” of the community, the concern of residents, instead of their own special interests, should have been the leading factor in determining which projects should be included in any ballot proposal.

Though no concrete plans have been announced, there is discussion of the opposition leaders calling for a new road bond in November, one that contains projects that county residents actually support.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.