In a letter to Smith County Assistant District Attorney Stan Springerley, who advises the Commissioners Court on actions taken by the court, the attorney general's office threw out Springerley's argument that "executive session will be necessary to 'ensure that there are adequate security features for the new facility'" and ruled that the requested information "must be released."I can't believe the commissioners court is fighting them on this: Newspaper articles about secrecy three weeks before election day do nothing but harm to the jail builders' cause.
Just before last year's Smith County jail bond vote (this will be the third), County Judge Joel Baker literally shot himself in the foot - as in, with a firearm. For whatever reason, Judge Baker and his colleagues seem hell bent on shooting themselves in the foot politically over a third jail vote, despite two other jail bond proposals going down overwhelmingly in flames in each of the last two years.
To review just a smattering of the Smith County Commissioners Court's strategic and tactical errors:
Despite overwhelming public opposition in two elections running, jail plans were developed in secret then the commissioners court engaged in a public fight to keep from revealing them. The obvious question that springs to voters' minds: "What do you have to hide?"
Perhaps most critically, it was folly to schedule the plebiscite during a Presidential election when they'll assuredly see maximum turnout - the jail did better with voters (though still poorly) when it was on an isolated ballot the first time around instead of on the same ballot with candidates. What's more, the Obama factor will play against them. Predominantly black neighborhoods in North Tyler, one imagines, will turn out for Obama in record numbers, and those precincts strongly opposed the last two jail bond votes.
Meanwhile the Tyler Independent School District placed more than $100 million in bonds before the voters on the same ballot. Which do you think voters will choose: Schools or jails?
Finally, the economic panic on Wall Street will surely doom the vote if it had the remotest prayer before. For that matter, rising interest rates mean the project (and all debt-backed construction) will be a lot more expensive than voters were previously told.
My pre-election guess on the Smith County jail vote outcome: The over-under is about 68 percent against. In other words, I think there's an equal chance the number against will be higher or lower. I'll be amazed if fewer than 60 percent of Smith County voters oppose the jail, and I can't imagine it passing.