From where I sit, the Republican primary race for Harris County Tax Assessor Collector (Sullivan vs Sumners) is one sided in that most of the activity I’ve seen comes from Don Sumners. I suppose that Mike Sullivan is relying upon buying the slate endorsements and running on his record while in office. At any rate, here is Sumners’ latest:
Precinct Chair post, 1-24
To all Precinct Chairs:
Before I begin today’s message, I want to apologize to Paul Simpson for stating in my last post to you that he had invited John Cornyn to speak at the Lincoln/Reagan Dinner. Paul has told me my statement is not true and in making this error I have to admit I violated my own rule to verify anything I put in a message or presentation.
Those of you who live within the City of Houston are becoming well aware of the overwhelming financial problems (obsessive pension costs, escalating debt repayment obligations, lack of tax revenue), facing the city. These problems are seriously challenging the city’s ability to provide essential services. With the continuation of low oil prices being predicted to last into 2017, the City of Houston now faces the prospect of continued lower sales tax collections, brought on by job losses and less business and consumer spending, adding to its budget crisis. Sales tax collections have been down from 2014 for the last four months. December sales tax figures will not be available until February.
Those of you who live outside the City of Houston will be somewhat insulated from the negative effects of the City of Houston’s financial crisis, but remember half of the Harris County’s population lies within Houston so the city’s problems will necessarily affect the economy of the whole county. And, many of the job losses have to be of county residents living outside Houston’s city limits. Area home sales are also down. If home sales remain in decline, sales prices will also begin to decline. Realtor’s are already saying the multiple offers on houses put up for sale are disappearing and the situation is shifting to a buyer’s market for the first time in years.
I don’t know if the price of oil will remain below the cost of production for long enough for the area’s economic situation to reach anywhere near the disastrous level of the 1980s. Let’s hope not. But, the downturn in the area’s economy will continue to worsen the longer the oil price remains low.
Why am I as candidate for Tax Assessor-Collector telling you this? As those of you have been involved in Harris County politics for some time know, I have acted as a taxpayer watchdog since 1995 when I began serving as County Treasurer. I continued through my years in the Tax Office ending in 2012. Since then I have continued to write about governmental proposals and actions having nine op-eds published in the Chronicle. The last two in September and October 2015 concerned the large percentage tax increases being made by area governments. The Harris County Commissioners have passed a tax increase of over 10% for the last two years.
During 2012 I went to Houston City Council to ask for an increase in the city’s over-65 tax exemption which at $74,000 was far less than that of the county’s $160,000. With the help of conservative council members the city raised the exemption to $80,000. Even Mayor Parker relented in the end and voted for the increase.
Also in 2012, I went before the Board of the Harris County Department of Education to show them that the property tax rate they were proposing would raise more revenue than the budget required. After much back and forth, the board passed a lower tax rate than that proposed.
When Mayor Parker was pushing through the ‘drainage fee’ based on the impervious square feet of each property, I worked with the Appraisal District to determine a more accurate measurement of the impervious square footage of land in the city. My calculation, which I presented to city council showed that the mayor’s proposed per square foot fee rate would bring in fee collections in excess of the targeted revenue amount and significantly in excess of the publicized average of $5 per home. This finding resulted in the mayor granting a 1,000 sq. ft. exemption to each home.
This year I, as a former tax assessor-collector, was one of only two governmental officials opposing the county’s 10.5% overall increase in property taxes. The other was a representative of Senator Bettencourt.
Why should this be important to you? First, my opponent Mike Sullivan has publically stated in this campaign that he considers the role of the tax assessor-collector to be only that of an administrator. He emphasized he considers being a taxpayer advocate to be inappropriate. l think that besides being a good administrator the tax assessor-collector is in a unique position to speak out on tax and other public policy matters affecting the area’s economy. In addition, I think the office holder should act to encourage accountability and transparency in government, something sorely lacking today
That’s why I am running for re-election as tax assessor-collector. You don’t have to worry about me doing what I say; I have the record to prove it. Big Jolly in a 1-11-16 blog post said “There is no doubt, no question, no anything that says Don Sumners isn’t a taxpayer advocate because he is. Period.” As a bonus you get the benefit of my many years as a CPA and real estate and business experience, plus my thirteen years at the Tax Office. I ask for your support.
See you Monday night. Don
Paid for by the Don Sumners for tax assessor-collector campaign 1726 Creek Dr. Houston, TX 77055 713-973-7808
It’s interesting that Sumners left out the next sentence in my post, The only question is, should the office of the Harris County Tax Assessor Collector be used for that platform?
It’s also interesting that he “apologized” for saying that Cornyn was invited to speak during the dinner. Here is what I received from HCRP Chair Paul Simpson on January 15th:
Our state’s senior United States Senator, John Cornyn, the Senate Majority Whip, has confirmed that he will join us at the dinner. We look forward to hearing from him about Republican efforts to grow our majority in Congress as well as to reclaim the White House.
Huh. Sure sounds like Cornyn was invited to speak at the event.
Thus far Sumners’ campaign seems to be solely focused on being a taxpayer watchdog (good) while never mentioning the activities of the office he is running for. As best as I can tell, he doesn’t even have a website where we can find out what exactly is wrong with the Harris County Tax Assessor Collector’s office that he can fix.
But like I said, I haven’t seen much activity from Sullivan’s campaign either. I’ve gotten a few emails from Sullivan’s consultant, Allen Blakemore’s firm, about endorsements (the HPOU is endorsing him) but other than that nothing. In reviewing Sullivan’s campaign finance report, I think there are a few things worth discussing and will do so in an upcoming post. Such as, why are towing companies and car dealers financing his campaign?
But still, the question remains: what do you want in a tax assessor collector? Someone who runs the office efficiently or someone who focuses on issues unrelated to the job?
You’ll have to answer that question before you vote. There is a clear choice between these two candidates.
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