Candidates: Laura Fillault
                   Bruce Tough


Texas Patriots PAC recommends Laura Fillault


LAURA FILLAULT

Laura Fillault (“fee-yo”) is a community activist dedicated to the preservation of The Woodlands as a safe, quiet enclave where residents can live, work, and play in the “hometown” they invested in upon moving to the community. Recently, she garnered acclaim as one of the leading opponents of the May 2015 Montgomery County road bond and The Woodlands Parkway extension project. Laura worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of The Woodlands’ residents, organizing opposition and regularly attending the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to speak out against the extension project. Her efforts contributed to The Woodlands’ rejecting the road bond by 86.04% at the polls, and stopping funding of the extension. We are confident that Mrs. Fillault will bring this spirited advocacy to a Township board that too often puts the interests of the county and The Woodlands Development Company over the those of the residents. 

Mrs. Fillault considers the following items to be the biggest challenges facing The Woodlands:

  • The downturn in the oil and gas industry is directly affecting The Woodlands’ residents and businesses. Mrs. Fillault plans to fight for a fiscally conservative budget that addresses the needs of the community, sets aside funds to enable the Township to pay cash for additional expenses when possible, and sets aside reserve funds to cover incorporation costs without raising the tax rate. 
  • Mrs. Fillault says that rising overall property taxes, water, and other fees are pricing people out of their homes and creating a housing value crisis that can collapse. As a Township board member, she will attend Montgomery County Commissioners Court meetings to advocate for The Woodlands’ residents, especially during budget meetings, to ensure that they receive their fair share of county services, and work toward property tax reductions. She will also proactively communicate with residents about potential taxes and fees that will affect them and lead efforts to understand and mitigate the impacts. At the state level, she will work with our Representative and Senator to advocate for lower property appraisal percentage increases.
  • Mrs. Fillault says The Woodlands is losing the “hometown” vision residents were promised. The Woodlands began as a hometown where people lived in villages, shopped in their village centers and celebrated ordinary citizens who gave of their time and talent to improve their community. In the past five years, The Woodlands has seen a gas station opened next to a church and school, high-rise condos being built in Town Center, lake property being converted to residential and commercial areas, and clear-cutting being done to build a new shopping center and homes, among other things. Mrs. Fillault says that she will work to replace the board of the Development Standards Committee (of which four members are appointed by the Township, and three members are appointed by the development company) who continue to rubber stamp the decisions by the development company. She says that residents must be able to understand what is being decided and approved by the DSC and development company so that they can put pressure on those entities, as well as the Township board, to return to smart development that fits within the design, purpose, and feel of the Township.

Mrs. Fillault says that she is highly invested in The Woodlands, as she and her husband have chosen to settle down and raise a family in the community. To that end, she believes she is the best candidate for office because:

  • She has demonstrated the leadership and advocacy skills needed to effectively represent the residents of the community. Her history of political activism and commentary has given her an unmatched understanding of local, state, and federal politics, and the way those governing bodies interact. 
  • She has demonstrated a willingness to proactively take a public stand for The Woodlands against outside interests and can be counted on to tell the truth, make hard choices, and engage with residents as a servant of the public.
  • She has no conflicts of interest with any organization or company; she will be an independent, resident-centered voice on the board. 

Mrs. Fillault believes that overall, the Township has been successful in fulfilling its role as enabling, in the words of the Township, “a thriving business community and premier destination for visitors – a place where generations live, worship, work, learn and play.” Though this success, she says, is often in spite of the Township’s leadership. She says that a strong economic environment has softened the blow of many unwise choices, such as taking over the losing water taxi operation and, after seeking federal funds to help defray the costs, being required to provide free transportation services, including $60,000 annually to fund senior transport within a 5 mile radius of their home. The board has failed to proactively protect the interests of the residents, including not considering the realistic costs/benefits of incorporation, according to Mrs. Fillault. As a consequence, decisions continue to be made on behalf of the residents either by the county or development company, without the residents having the ability to consent or object. A community of approximately 120 thousand residents and a budget of $132 million, for all intents and purposes, is a city. Mrs. Fillault says that The Woodlands should begin understanding the steps and costs necessary to incorporate so that The Woodlands can be in charge of its own destiny and not be subject to the county or development company.  

Mrs. Fillault says that in the long-run she would like to see a property tax rate of zero for the Township, but that given the Township’s debt, the struggling economy, and the pressing need for incorporation that the current rate is acceptable. She credits the leadership of director Gordy Bunch which resulted in an aggressively lower tax rate and spending cuts over the past term. 

Mrs. Fillault holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University. After working as a Business Process Systems Consultant and Manager for Perot Systems and Accenture, she married and moved to France. Upon seeing the destructive effect that big government is having upon French society, she convinced her husband to move the family back to Texas, and ultimately chose to settle down in The Woodlands. Ever since, she has been active as a political commentator and blogger for various conservative website publications and organizations.

Laura Fillault is an advocate by nature. Her commitment to limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets is unquestioned, and she has been a champion in this area through her nation-wide advocacy efforts. Her commitment to The Woodlands is equally unquestioned, and we believe it is time that The Woodlands’ residents had a representative on the Township board that would stand up for their interests and fight for the quality of life they enjoy. For too long residents have been trying to get the Township board to listen to their concerns. Mrs. Fillault is already listening, and promises to put the people above politics once elected.

For the above reasons we recommend voting for Laura Fillault for Township director, position 7. 

 

BRUCE TOUGH

Bruce Tough declined to take part in our vetting process for this election. However, we have vetted him twice before in different races, have been observing his actions on the Township board, and are comfortable discussing his qualifications in depth.

Mr. Tough has held different elected offices in The Woodlands and Montgomery County for over 20 years. He is part of the county’s political establishment and positioned to know what is going on and how it impacts the residents of The Woodlands better than almost anyone else. He was elected to the Township Board to represent the residents of The Woodlands. Yet, he consistently shows a willingness to accept (and sometimes actively assist) whatever the development company and/or the county want to do, irrespective of whether it is in the best interests of the people he was elected to represent. Here are some examples of this pattern of behavior:

A good example of Mr. Tough's attitude toward the residents he is elected to represent is the May 2015 Montgomery County road bond election, which included a project to extend The Woodlands Parkway west to the SH 249 toll road. The Woodlands Parkway extension (WPX) would have effectively turned the parkway into a major county thoroughfare, splitting The Woodlands in half. Studies showed that the extension would have flooded The Woodlands with traffic, and possibly required the elimination of the medians to make more room for additional lanes, thereby destroying the natural sound barrier and ruining the aesthetics we all expect. 

The Woodlands residents overwhelmingly rejected the parkway extension at the polls, voting 86.04% against the bond.  As a consequence of this overwhelming opposition, the May bond failed and the county is now asking for approval on the November ballot of a pared-down bond that excludes funding of the WPX. 

Where was Bruce Tough?

Mr. Tough was an spokesman in favor of the May bond, and served on the board of the special interest PAC promoting the bond that was funded by groups that would benefit financially from the bond. Incredibly, Mr. Tough now opposes the fairer November road bond based on the presumption that the WPX will be built and the November bond provides no funding to expand the existing Woodlands Parkway to accomodate the increased traffic that the WPX will create. Leaving aside the question of how Mr. Tough could so actively support the May bond that funded the WPX without providing funding the expand the existing Woodlands Parkway, our real concern is Mr. Tough's failure to listen to the voters he represents. The Township has significant resources to fight against the WPX. Instead of using those resources to contest the WPX, Mr. Tough accepts it as inevitable and is now fighting to accommodate it! The Woodlands deserves directors who will proactively seek to achieve the best results for the residents they represent.
 

Clear-cutting

The Woodlands Development Company has changed hands a number of times since George Mitchell sold out. Each new owner must find creative ways to make their investment profitable. The current owner, the Hughes Corporation, has engaged in the practice of clear-cutting, a practice that is inconsistent with the community’s name and the residents’ interests and expectations. This practice is most notable in the newest residential village of Creekside. Wouldn’t you expect the Township board to proactively oppose this desecration of one of the principle tenets that makes our community distinctive – the preservation of as many trees as possible? The Woodlands residents payed a premium to live in this community, and the Township board should be the residents’ strongest advocate for our quality of life. 

Where was Bruce Tough when the development company was cutting down trees in a place called The Woodlands? When Creekside resident Matthew Burton (who is now running for Township board position 6) created a petition to stop the clear-cutting, only Township members Gordy Bunch, John McMullan, and Peggy Hausman joined the fight by signing. Bruce Tough, on the other hand, publicly expressed that “there has to be some flexibility with commercial development.Mr. Tough now claims that he had a role in getting the Hughes Corporation to change its clear-cutting policy, but that's news to Mr. Burton and the other Township directors who supported him.  

Montgomery County taxes

The Woodlands makes up about 20% of the county’s population yet contribute between 34% and 40% of the county’s real estate tax revenues. The percentage of The Woodlands residents who vote is higher than almost anywhere else in the county, so this community has some clout at the ballot box. The Woodlands and surrounding areas (like Rayford Road) are the county’s most urbanized area, with the greatest mobility problems. Yet the county makes no prioritization on a county-wide basis of mobility needs and, instead, routinely borrows money and distributes it equally between the four precincts irrespective of need. This suits the interests of the three precincts outside of The Woodlands area, but is counter to the interests of residents in The Woodlands and surrounding areas (Precinct 3). It leads to building grossly underutilized roads in other precincts (like the Mike Meador Parkway in Precinct 1, named after the sitting commissioner) and leaves no money to deal with serious congestion in Precinct 3.

Mr. Tough is aware of this situation, but has never done anything about it. We believe it is reasonable to expect our elected officials to do everything they can to achieve the best possible results for their constituents. In this case, we would have expected Mr. Tough to demand that the county prioritize mobility needs and fund projects on that basis. If the county refused, we would have expected him to educate his constituents and lead a fight at the ballot box challenging the election of the county judge. This is what a true leader would have done. If Mr. Tough had taken this approach in 1999 when he was first elected, we suspect the county would have started prioritizing projects long ago. 

Mobility

The gateway for access to federal funds for mobility projects is the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC). Montgomery County has not attracted any significant federal road funding during the period Mr. Tough has been on various boards in The Woodlands largely because the county never developed the prerequisite county-wide mobility plan that prioritized the county’s mobility needs. And Mr. Tough did nothing about this. In 2013, newly elected Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, who was elected in 2012 with our support, funded a South County Mobility Study with support from members of the Township board excluding Bruce Tough.

Stewardship

Mr. Tough demonstrated a lack of stewardship when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. Mr. Tough’s tenure as a political leader in The Woodlands has been blessed by the steady growth in the community’s tax base and an even faster growth in the appraised value of the real estate. Therefore, the boards Mr. Tough has been on have had the luxury of ever-increasing tax revenues. A fiscally responsible, conservative politician would not allow this ever-increasing revenue base to affect spending levels. Spending levels instead would be determined by what was needed to provide the essential services to the community. We don’t believe that is what has happened under Mr. Tough’s leadership. For example:

  • General Spending. If you are a conservative, you recognize that one of the central problems facing governments at all levels in the United States is spending. During Mr. Tough’s tenure as chairman, the Township’s consolidated budget expenses increased from $78 million in 2010 (the year the Township was created) to $132 million in 2015 – a 69.23% increase, most of which was during a recession. 
    • Residents of The Woodlands expected a merger premium in terms of reduced administration costs when the two community associations merged into the Township, which had to create at least some redundancy. We’ve never seen it. 
    • We wonder how much “business as usual” savings could be achieved if all of the Township’s service providers were seriously challenged the way Gordy Bunch (who we supported in his election to the Township board in 2012) approached the insurance issue, saving the Township $700 thousand per year and restructuring the policy so that it actually covered the Township’s risks. We have seen no initiative by Mr. Tough to limit or reduce the size of government or to reduce spending during his tenure on the various boards in The Woodlands. In fact, we have seen the opposite, like refusal to (i) challenge the Township's over-rich 401k match (200% match up to 7% of salary with 5 year vesting); (ii) replace the outside general counsel, Mike Page of Schwartz, Page & Harding, which receives in excess of $500 thousand annually in fees from the Township, with an inside general counsel; and (iii) consider replacing Mike Page as the Township's general counsel due to his apparent obvious conflict of interests! (He also represents the San Jacinto River Authority, The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, each of the individual MUDs in The Woodlands, The Woodlands Road Utility District No. 1, and Montgomery County, among others, and regularly serves as the Township's bond counsel as well as general counsel.) 
       
  • Reckless spending in the recent budget. When board members John McMullan, Gordy Bunch, and Peggy Hausman removed 3 controversial and expensive transportation initiatives, Mr. Tough was the only board member to vote against approving the budget on the premise that it did not fund these projects. The excluded projects included:
    • A multi-million dollar parking garage that would simultaneously serve as a transit hub for a Town Center bus system. Although parking needs to be alleviated in Town Center, The Woodlands Mall plans to build two more of their own. On top of this, the Convention Center parking garage is under-utilized. The Township should not be spending money on projects that the private beneficiaries can more than afford to do themselves. 
    • The creation of a Town Center bus system. This system would disproportionately benefit residents and businesses located in Town Center at the expense of those who live in the villages. It also does not make sense financially, because it assumes that people would change their behavior in a way that costs them time.
    • Traffic signal projects. Montgomery County is responsible for funding and maintaining roads in The Woodlands, which includes traffic lights. Township funding of this would constitute double taxation, and Bruce Tough supported including in the budget nearly $1 million for intersection improvements which the county should fund with the taxes residents of The Woodlands pay to them. 
       
  •  The Sheriff’s Contract. Mr. Tough negotiated the contract Mr. Tough with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office for supplemental law enforcement in The Woodlands. No one is questioning the desirability of supplemental law enforcement in The Woodlands, and the residents are willing to pay for it. But an analysis of the Sheriff's contract by director Gordy Bunch revealed that under the current contract the Sheriff provides at county expense only 6 of the 86.5 officers servicing the community. When Mr. Bunch made the case that the Township should only be paying for the number of deputies in excess of the number the county would be providing if the Township were not paying for supplemental service, Mr. Tough refused to support his initiative to renegotiate the contract with the Sheriff. Mr. Bunch calculates that the Township is paying almost $3 million each year more than it should for law enforcement provided by the Sheriff. This cavalier treatment of other people's money is astounding.
     
  • The Fire Fighter’s Union. In 1999, the year Mr. Tough joined the WCA board, the board authorized The Woodlands Professional Fire Fighters Association as the sole representative for our fire fighters, thus giving a union collective bargaining rights for the community’s firemen. We are in favor of firefighters being appropriately paid, but we are not in favor of public employees being unionized because there are no real economic restraints to contracts negotiated where there is no profit requirement. Even the liberal icon, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was opposed to the unionization of public workers. This is the reason payroll benefits and pensions of unionized public employees are bankrupting cities around the country and it is inexplicable why a supposed conservative politician would ever agree to a union for The Woodlands. But he did. Fortunately, the merger that created the Township required that The Woodlands’ voters agree to the firefighters’ union and the residents wisely voted it down. 
     
  • Funding the Lone Star Executive Airport. Mr. Tough was an ardent supporter of the Township giving $600,000 to the Lone Star Executive Airport in North Conroe to help pay for a federal customs facility. This would mean that The Woodlands taxpayers would be funding a customs facility for private jet owners located an equal distance from The Woodlands as Bush Intercontinental. The argument in support of this funding was that businesses would be attracted to this and relocate to The Woodlands. However, when board member Gordy Bunch asked for input from the community, he couldn’t find a single Woodlands resident who supported the funding, especially after making the case that the benefit to The Woodlands is unknown, being that The Woodlands is mostly built out and the airport is unlikely to be an economic driver. The funding was eventually rescinded, to the chagrin of Mr. Tough, who said that The Woodlands should look to “participate in county projects as a partner.” Mr. Tough also lamented the fact that The Woodlands residents’ were so vocal in their opposition, saying that if the business community were equally as vocal, the funding would’ve remained.
     
  • Bike lanes. Mr. Tough is in support of constructing dedicated bike lanes in The Woodlands. He says that bike lanes would be a “natural fit” in the community, and that “it just seems to make sense as we move forward.
    • Politicians like to dress up the institution of bike lanes as a “mobility issue,” whereas it is really a special interest recreational issue. The notion that bike lanes will remove a noticeable number of vehicles from the road is a red herring built on “progressive” premises. The real reason the special interest biking lobby in The Woodlands wants bike lanes is to fund their recreational hobby. When asked for hard data, they present the “Field of Dreams” defense: “build it and they will come.” However, the data shows otherwise:
      • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, bike ridership in the 50 largest U.S. cities is 1%.
      • The highest bike commuting rate is 6.8% in Portland, OR which has a climate much friendlier to commuting to work on a bike than The Woodlands, TX.
      • According to City-Data for Montgomery County, Texas, there are 124,981 car commuters in the county, and 204 bike commuters.
      • The short term cost of the South County mobility plan for car transportation is $207 million. Dividing this number by the number of cars equals $1,617 per car.
      • The short term cost in the South County mobility plan for bike lane projects is $31 million. Dividing this number by the number of bike commuters in the county equals $151,960 per bike. Divide this number by national average of 1% of the population, and you still get $2,877 per bike. 
      • If the bike special interest group wishes to ask the Township for a facility to pursue their hobby, they should do so honestly and put forward a separate request, not dress it up as a mobility need, and not insist on bike lanes adjacent to our roads which would increase safety problems. Ever try to make a right turn across a bike lane that has the right-of-way?
    • Bike lanes would be enormously expensive to benefit a very small group of people.
    • Bike lanes would place bikes closer to cars, therefore making the community more dangerous.
    • To accommodate bike lanes, the roads would have to be reorganized such that: shoulders would be eliminated, thereby eliminating a critical path for emergency vehicles such as ambulances; medians would be eliminated, which would eliminate the natural sound barrier and unique aesthetic quality of the community; car lanes would be narrowed, making driving more dangerous. 

Temperament

Mr. Tough recently demonstrated unacceptable behavior on the board by attempting to silence residents during public comment period. On September 23, 2015 Mr. Tough interrupted resident Steve Toth during his public comments, after Mr. Toth began to speak about a campaign email Mr. Tough had sent out in which he slandered Mr. Toth, Mr. Bunch, and others who were against the WPX. Mr. Tough cut Mr. Toth off, saying “I’m not going to listen to you… I’m not going to sit here and listen to him trash me… go take your comments somewhere else… I’m not going to allow it.” After several board members called point of order on Mr. Tough, including board member John McMullan reminding Mr. Tough that “This is a government building. This is not your building. You’re out of line, chairman,” – to which Mr. Tough replied “No I’m not.” -  the board’s legal counsel stepped in to reiterate the rules of the public comment period, saying that there should be no dialogue with the speaker at the podium. Mr. Toth resumed his statements, trying to speak above the noise of an angry Mr. Tough huffing and puffing into the microphone. When Mr. Toth was done with his comments, Mr. Tough tried to publicly disparage Mr. McMullan and Mr. Bunch, and laughed when Mr. Bunch again called point of order on Mr. Tough’s behavior. When Mr. Tough declared that the public comment period was over, a member of the audience could be heard saying to himself “unbelievable.” Mr. Tough immediately spoke out, asking “Who is saying that?” He singled the audience member out and sought to intimidate him by asking, “What is your name? Right now, you’re disrupting a public meeting. So, I wish you would just maintain some courtesy for the board. What’s your name?” We believe this behavior is unbecoming of a public servant, and demonstrates that Mr. Tough is more concerned with his public image and power than governing responsibly. For an extended video of this incident, click here. (Starts around 10:10) 

Mr. Tough is an attorney in private practice specializing in corporate law and civil litigation. He moved to The Woodlands in 1996 and quickly became involved in politics. In 1999, he was elected to The Woodlands Community Association (WCA), where he served – several times as president – until it was consolidated into The Woodlands Township in 2010. While on the WCA board, he was elected to also serve on the Conroe ISD Board of Trustees from 2003 – 2009. When The Woodlands Township was organized, Mr. Tough was elected to its board in 2008, and continues to serve there as chairman. Mr. Tough has held a number of appointed positions on other boards, both in The Woodlands and in other areas.

The Woodlands needs a Township board that puts the interests of the residents first. Unfortunately, Bruce Tough’s vision for our community is pushing The Woodlands toward being a more “progressive,” high-density, sales-based area where the residents’ interests are secondary. Mr. Tough does not deserve re-election.