Friday, March 26, 2004

"We are getting a lot of double speak from the state on the project and that is destroying the level of trust people have in the project."

Two square off in state Representative District 17 GOP runoff


Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2004

Two candidates will be on the ballot for the state Representative District 17 Republican Party's nomination in the April 13 runoff election.

Jean Killgore, 57, a Burleson County rancher, will face Jay Yates, 32, an engineer and investor from Bastrop. The pair advanced out of a pool of four candidates with Cynthia A. Thornton and Herman W. Brune who were eliminated during the primary election.

Killgore received 39 percent of the vote, while Yates, a native Texan, received 22 percent.

Early voting will be April 5-9.

The winner will face Democratic incumbent Representative Robbie Cook. Cook, 42, of Eagle Lake, received 65 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary to advance against two opponents, Erik McCowan and Richard Moore.

Killgore and Yates said they are concerned about education finance reform but did not necessarily rule out making alterations to the current Robin Hood system.

"I would be for school finance reform," Killgore said. "But the devil is in the details. I'm very interested in what has been proposed by the governor's office. What I have is more concerns on how any plan will impact how property appraisals are manipulated to raise revenues."

Referring to his research, Yates pointed out that 43 percent of the money spent on education does not go to the classrooms or to pay for materials used to educate children.

"There is a lot of money out there we can find other things to do with in education," he said. "We are spending a lot on education but are not spending it in the right places. The bottom line is that the financing formula favors the metropolitan areas like Houston and Dallas and does not prioritize between the different needs or rural communities versus urban ones. Should we replace Robin Hood? Well, there is enough money to do that if we come up with viable options in changing the funding."

In discussing the proposed Trans Texas Corridor, Yates sees two problems with the project. First is the fact that he thinks the Texas Department of Transportation is manipulating the facts of the project.

"We need honesty about the corridor," he said. "I attended a public meeting in La Grange and was glad people left the pitchforks and torches at home or it would have produced a riot. We are getting a lot of double speak from the state on the project and that is destroying the level of trust people have in the project."

He also said having officials focus attention on the corridor allows them to skip over existing needs.

"The challenge with the corridor is that work will start 40 years from now when the state has a hard time planning for 10 years in the future. The corridor is a long way away and so it is difficult to have an understanding as to what is really being committed to and what will be neglected. Those questions need to be answered honestly in a public forum."

Starting by admitting she is intrigued by the idea, Killgore said the amount of productive farmland that will be taken by the corridor is a concern.

"I like the concept, but I do have concerns about property rights," she said. "It could have an amazing economic impact on rural communities that needs to be considered and we need to study. It could be a better future for our children and grandchildren."

However, she added the potential benefits have to be weighed against other factors.

"Taking someone's land is a very emotional process," she said. "And there can be a negative economic impact. If businesses don't develop along it, you will have taking a lot of land off the tax rolls without replacing that income for those counties and communities. So there are a number of concerns as well as benefit. I do know that TxDot is taking those problems into consideration. I've been to two briefings on the corridor and they are trying to address those issues during the meetings."

Both candidates said having Web sites where voters can learn more about them has helped their campaigns.

"I think it played a real part," Killgore said. "I had a number of people contact me and I e-mailed back and forth with several of them. As a representative, communication is a key. It was very helpful in learning more about the district. Bastrop is a dynamic county with a lot of growth. It was interesting to visit with residents of the area on line and learn about their specific concerns. And yes, I did incorporate some of their concerns into how I approached the campaign."

Yates said allowing potential voters to look over his campaign positions was a big benefit in earning the trust of the people.

"The big thing is that it provides them with an avenue to get information about me and my positions," he said. "It offered them some accountability and verification of what I was telling them. If it was on the Web site, they feel they can believe and I'm not telling people in one part of the district something and people in another part something else just to get elected."

Barry Halvorson is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-798-3888 or hvilladv@tx

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