The following is a release by the Tyler Tea Party.
The Tyler Tea Party, Inc. has reviewed the latest jail plan released by the Smith County Commissioners Court and after reviewing the documentation the Tyler Tea Party believes that the voters should vote AGAINST in the election to be held on May 14, 2011.
The Tyler Tea Party, Inc. opposes the bond election for several reasons including a lack of transparency, timing and issues regarding the arguments used to support the plan.
On the issue of transparency, this plan fails on all fronts. This is the fifth jail proposal developed by the Smith County Commissioners Court. The court has released the least amount of supporting documentation for this plan. On the County's website, the Commissioners have released a power point presentation that is long on promise but short on details. The lack of supporting documentation, weighs against supporting the plan.
On the issue of timing, the most recent jail plan could not come at a worse time. The economy right now is terrible. The Tyler Independent School District just had a school bond election fail and talking about laying off employees. Tyler Junior College is discussing how to fund its expected short fall. Now the County is asking the voters to support a new jail even though the voters just voted against more schools. The timing of the bond election also weighs against supporting it. Additionally, in January of this year, the county was shipping only 41 defendants to other counties. This was one of the lowest numbers in years. Additionally, at this time there is a bill pending before the Texas Legislature that would allow Counties to have tent jails. These issues related to timing also weigh against supporting the plan.
Finally, the arguments being used to support the bond package are contradictory and rely heavily on assumptions that require the Commissioners Court to realize savings which they have never been able to realize in the past. The primary argument made by the Commissioners to support the bond proposal is that the County has already spent 16 million dollars in housing inmates in other counties. The Commissioners seem to be hinting that these funds could have been spent on constructing a new jail. However, this is not true. By voting no in the last 4 or 5 jail bond elections, the County has actually SAVED money by voting no. Additionally, by voting no to this bond election the County will save money. Further, the County has acknowledged spending $41.00 a day in housing inmates in other counties is less than would be spent in Smith County if a bond election passed and a new jail built. Therefore, Smith County will actually be spending
more money to house inmates here than other counties and on top of that the County would have to pay for the cost of construction. This is not a conservative approach in tough economic times. Further, some of the arguments currently made do not ring true. When this plan was first announced, the Commissioners Court stated that the plan would not address all of the County's needs and some inmates might still have to be shipped. However, more recently, the County has announced that it will be able to make substantial income from renting beds to other counties. Both of these statements cannot be true. Further, the history in Smith County is that every jail built was full the day it opened. Four years ago, the County said that it had to have a minimum of 1200 new beds. Two years ago, the County said that it had to have a minimum of around 600 new beds. Now the County says it needs around 300 new beds and can make substantial money renting them out to other counties. These inconsistencies also weigh against supporting the jail plan.
After reviewing the proposal and discussing it among the members of the Tyler Tea Party, Inc. we recommend that the voters of Smith County vote AGAINST the jail bond proposal. Early voting begins May 2, 2010. The election will be held on May 14, 2011.