It’s Better to...

Bill Neinast

Mark Twain observed, “It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”

This wisdom applies to written communications as well as verbal.  That fact was well illustrated in a political ad in this paper last week.

This was a free ad, as it was disguised as a letter to the editor.  The author tried to appear to be merely a critic of Luther Hueske’s performance as a County Commissioner.  Oddly, although the incident that was the subject of complaint happened sometime ago, the letter was submitted just two weeks before the election in which Hueske had an opponent.

In his supposed criticism, the writer showed how far out of touch with reality he is.  

Older residents of the county remember when the County Commissioners were called Road Commissioners.  That was a long time ago.  During that time, road and bridge construction and maintenance was divided among the four commissioners.  Separate road crews and equipment were under the control of each commissioner and budgets for the road work were calculated on the number of miles of road in each precinct. 

Back in the 70s, however, the county got smart and efficient with its road system and adopted the Unit System. There is now one budget for the road and bridge department, and the head of that department is responsible for determining which roads throughout rhe county get attention and priority. The head of that department is now Don Werth, a registered engineer.  

If the writer of the political ad in question attended the weekly commissioner ‘ s court meetings, which are open to the public, and had been at any of the meetings when a road and bridge item was on the agenda, he may have noticed that Judge Brieden always asks for Werth’s comments and recommendations before action is taken on that item.

So regardless of what the writer’s experience may have been in his former home of Broward County, Florida, Commissioner Hueske’s response that the problem of which he was complaining was the province of the County Engineer was 100% correct.

Had the writer stopped there, he would have ended up with just a little egg on his face.  Unfortunately, he went further in his thinly disguised support of Hueske’s opponent in the upcoming election.  This is the candidate who asks you to vote for the candidate, not the party.

The ad writer then lauds the practice of his county back in Florida where he was responsible for saving a lot of money.  Unfortunately for him, again, he did not follow the advice of Mark Twain, but kept writing.

His glowing account of how Brossard County spent its money and hints that this is the way Hueske’s opponent would manage Washington County affairs if elected, established clearly that he is a tax and spend liberal.  Could his candidate of choice be of the same philosophy and that is why she advocates not voting for a party?

In Washington County, Texas, if the year ends with a “saving” or surplus, the first question is not whether there is something else to buy, but whether taxes should be reduced.  After all, this is the taxpayers’ money, not the court’s.  The prevailing philosophy is that if we have more money  than is needed, let’s return it to the taxpayers.

Returning money to taxpayers, however, is anathema to tax and spenders.

So the ad writer’s old home county of Brossard looked for something on which to spend those “savings.”  Voila!, they found something.  According to the ad, “They also funded a senior center in each precinct of the county at no cost to the citizens.”

An objective analysis of that statement, however, results in a conclusion exactly opposite of the statement “at no cost to the citizens.”  Money coming into a county’s treasury becomes public money to be used within an approved budget.  If the “new” money is not used to reduce the citizens’ taxes but is spent on some new project, the new project IS at a cost to the citizens. 

There is no legitimate objection to senior citizen centers.  They might be built with taxpayers’ money as they were in the ad writer’s old home, or they might be built with private money contributions, as is being done here in Washington County, a conservative community.

Maybe that political ad, Oh! pardon me, the letter to the editor, lambasting Commissioner Hueske for giving an honest answer on how road and bridge matters are handled in Washington County and giving a thumbs up to Hueske’s opponent who does not want you to vote for her tax and spend party back fired.

So here’s the perspective.

The ad writer’s face may have remained clear of egg if he had followed a modern day version of Mark Twain’s advice that,  “It's better to keep your mouth shut [and your pencil unsharpened] and appear stupid than open it [or write an ad] and remove all doubt.”


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