Candidates: Ann Snyder
Texas Patriots PAC recommends Matthew Burton
Matthew Burton is a Director of Strategy and Business Development for United Rentals - a company that supplies equipment to the oil and gas industry, among other services. After graduating with a B.A. in Economics from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Columbia Business School, Mr. Burton moved to Nevada to work in the gold mining industry. A little over two years ago, the Burtons specifically chose to relocate to The Woodlands, Texas to live and raise their family.
Mr. Burton says that he and his family were attracted to the idea of living in a heavily forested community after living in the desert, but soon after settling in Creekside began to notice that tree preservation in newer developments was not being implemented with the same level of care as the original developments, resulting in the new developments not having the forested look which The Woodlands' developers promised. Earlier this year, The Woodlands Development Company completely clear-cut an entire new lot. Mr. Burton saw this as contrary to what the residents’ bought into, and decided to take action. He printed and distributed “Stop the Clear-Cutting” signs, began speaking at public meetings and community events, and organized a petition which quickly garnered about 2,400 signatures. Mr. Burton then took the petition to the Township board, and asked them to take action. Sadly, only three Township board members signed his petition to support his cause – Gordy Bunch, John McMullan, and Peggy Hausman. Mr. Burton was initially baffled by the lack of support from the rest of board, but soon realized that some of the Township board members are close friends with The Woodlands Development Company executives. Recognizing that these friendships would likely preclude the Township from taking any meaningful action on behalf of the residents, Mr. Burton decided to bypass the Township board and petitioned The Woodlands Development Company directly. By this time, the publicity that his actions and petition had generated shamed the development company into offering a satisfactory adjustment to their clear-cutting policy that will make it possible for the newer areas of The Woodlands to retain the community's forested ambience.
Mr. Burton's laudatory initiative in addressing this important issue is a tremendous example of what one determined individual can accomplish. It also demonstrates the importance of having resident advocates on the Township board. Finally, and importantly for this election, it reveals who on the board today put the residents' interests first. When Township director Peggy Hausman announced that she would not seek reelection, she asked Mr. Burton to run for her seat. It speaks volumes to Mr. Burton's values and strengths that Peggy Hausman would encourage him to run in this election to replace her. Peggy Hausman has long been an outstanding champion for the interests of The Woodlands residents and will be seriously missed by those of us who looked to her for support. She would have been the only remaining resident advocate on the board when Tom Campbell retired from the board in 2012, but fortunately another resident advocate, Gordy Bunch, was elected that year. And we were blessed with a third resident advocate, John McMullan, being elected to the board two years later. As a consequence, the current board has three directors whose primary objective is to represent the residents and four who have other primary drivers.
Mr. Burton lists the three main reasons he is running for office as:
- Putting the board in control of the residents by changing the status quo of the Township board being controlled by proxies of the development companies and Montgomery County.
- Advocate against clear-cutting and for keeping the tree preservation standards in line with the vision of the founder of The Woodlands, George Mitchell.
- Give residents of Creekside Park, which is located in Harris County, an active voice on the Township board. While Mr. Burton aims to represent all of The Woodlands, he says that Creekside Park’s lack of a presence on the board has led to neglect of this village and areas of The Woodlands experiencing similar problems. He believes his presence on the board will offer a unique perspective that will benefit all villages in The Woodlands.
Mr. Burton lists the three main reasons he is the best qualified candidate for this office as:
- He has a proven track record of advocating for residents and taking on entrenched interests. His successful petition against clear-cutting led to positive changes from the development company that will make Creekside Park a better place. Mr. Burton expresses that this was not about environmentalism or anti-development, but about enforcing a contract to give the residents what they paid for when they invested in their homes. Mr. Burton also points to helping Gordy Bunch use the same petition playbook to rally opposition to vote down the May 2015 Montgomery County Road Bond, which included The Woodlands Parkway extension. We note that Mr. Bunch, joined by Peggy Hausman and John McMullan, were the only Township board members to oppose the May road bond.
- He is business savvy. Mr. Burton negotiates business deals for a living, and he will bring this skill set and experience to bear in making sure the taxpayers get the best deal from their government.
- He has government experience. Mr. Burton had the unique opportunity early in his career of interning with the George W. Bush administration in Washington, D.C. He says that while there is plenty of dysfunction in D.C., it was valuable for him to learn how to get things done in the highest levels of government. He also observed how to fight political battles in an appropriate and effective way.
Mr. Burton says that currently, the Township board is not effectively fulfilling its role. He says that the Township could be if it had a “residents first majority” on the board, but that thus far, the board has always been controlled by at least four members loyal to the development company. He says this is evidenced by so many 4 – 3 votes on the board.
Mr. Burton says that although Texas’ tax rates are a breath of fresh air after having lived in other states with oppressive tax burdens, there is always room for improvement, and property taxes cannot be allowed to become slush funds for wasteful government spending. Mr. Burton claims to have a passion for economics, as well as formal training in the subject, and a particular affinity for Milton Friedman’s ideas regarding the proper role of government:
“Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government – in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the costs comes in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”
Mr. Burton mentioned that he would add public goods such as infrastructure to the appropriate role of government as well at the local level.
Mr. Burton lists the three main challenges facing the Township as:
- Incorporation. Mr. Burton says that we need to look at incorporation sooner rather than later. He says that The Woodlands is consistently rated as the #1 city in Texas without even being a city. He says that there is a lot of fear-mongering on the part of the development company and their elected allies about incorporation because they don’t want to have their plans inconvenienced by city-controlled zoning and ordinances. Some cost concerns with incorporation are valid, he says, but with careful business planning these costs can be mitigated or even neutralized. Mr. Burton believes he can bring his experience to bear in carefully analyzing these costs and helping plan for incorporation. He says that any zoning ordinances should be enacted to maintain The Woodlands’ covenant standards that residents’ signed up for upon moving to the community, but should not seek to change them or pose other restrictions on property rights.
- Mobility. Mr. Burton says that the new bonds from Harris and Montgomery County will help get the good projects completed that residents need, such as the Kuykendahl and Gosling bridges, and SH 242 and Lake Woodlands enhancements.
- Tree preservation standards. Mr. Burton says that as a board member he will continue to put pressure on the developers to the extent that he can to preserve the community's forested ambience. He agrees that the current legal powers of the Township provide the board with no oversight over development, but believes the board, as a representative of the community, has an obligation to protect the residents' investments in The Woodlands by ensuring the Township's ambience and brand is not degraded by developers' actions.
Mr. Burton is the only candidate for this position that has a proven record of fighting for the interests of the residents of The Woodlands, a solid grounding in his philosophy on the role of government and spending, a dedication to our core values of constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets, and the popular support that gives him a pathway to victory. In addition, he importantly has the support of Peggy Hausman.
Mr. Burton comes into this race with an established list of supporters earned from his prior campaigns against clear-cutting and the road bond. Although one of the other candidates in the races is a long-time resident with significant deserved name recognition, we believe Mr. Burton's resident advocacy efforts offset that advantage and that he has a credible path to victory in this race.
For these reasons, we recommend voting for Matthew Burton for Township director, Position 6.
Ann Snyder is the President and CEO of Interfaith of The Woodlands and Interfaith Community Clinic. Prior to this she was a professor at the University of Houston College of Education. Dr. Snyder has been very active in the community, having previously served on the Conroe ISD school board for fifteen years as chairman. During her time on the school board, Dr. Snyder was known as a decisive leader, who was instrumental in hiring Dr. Don Stockton as Superintendent. Her service on the school board was rewarded in 2013 after the school district decided to name a new school – the Ann K. Snyder Elementary School – in her honor. She has also been involved in The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, The Woodlands Area Republican Women, and The Woodlands Rotary Club.
Dr. Snyder says that the three main reasons she is running for office are:
- Throughout her 26 years in this community, she has gained a unique perspective by listening to the voices of the residents – children, seniors, families, and business owners. She says this has allowed her to be an advocate for protecting what people love most about The Woodlands. She says she would like to continue to be a voice for the residents on the Township board.
- There is too much traffic, and The Woodlands needs solutions that preserve our quality of life.
- Security is a high priority. She says that the Township must dedicate all resources to keeping the neighborhoods safe while keeping our taxes low.
Similarly, Dr. Snyder stated that the biggest issues facing The Woodlands are security and traffic.
When asked about whether the Township board is effectively fulfilling its role, Dr. Snyder says the Township should have a partnership with other regional entities, such as Montgomery County. When asked about whether current tax rates were appropriate, Dr. Snyder says that the balance between hotel, sales, and property taxes should be continually reexamined.
Dr. Snyder says that she is the best candidate for office because she has helped to run a large non-profit organization for 12 years, she helped govern a very large school district for 15 years, and she has worked with spiritual, corporate, and civic groups for decades.
There is no question that Dr. Snyder has dedicated decades of volunteer service to The Woodlands and Montgomery County, and her service is appreciated. She is a lovely and accomplished woman deserving of the respect of the community. However, in evaluating the 3 candidates for Position 6 who participated in our vetting process, we found that volunteerism on behalf of the community was a trait shared by all three. While Dr. Snyder's volunteerism is more vast than her opponents in its scope, volunteerism in itself does not determine which candidate we support. Rather, we look at a number of factors, including the candidate's grounding in their political views. What we found difficult with Dr. Snyder was ascertaining her underlying political philosophy which would guide her decision making on the Township board. She chose not to provide answers to basic questions concerning her political views, while answers to questions concerning issues related to the Township and the Township’s future remained vague. When told we were having difficulty determining her political views, she did little to clarify.
When asked about whether she would support installing bike lanes in The Woodlands, Dr. Snyder replied that although it was difficult to imagine the possibility that bike lanes could be installed, it is currently a challenge for cyclists to use the established bike paths. While we agree that it is hard to imagine the feasibility of installing bike lanes in The Woodlands due to the enormous cost and lack of space, there is a serious conversation being had by special interest bike groups and board members, such as Bruce Tough and Mike Bass, who do not seem to care about the cost or what it would do to traffic and safety in The Woodlands, with car lanes being narrowed and shoulders and/or medians being eliminated. Dr. Snyder’s inclusion of a concern for the cyclists using the bike paths indicates to us that she would be open to the possibility of accommodating the cyclists if there was an alternative presented. We would hope that she would treat the issue as one being supported by a special interest recreational group (who can rightfully petition the Township to provide recreational space for their hobby in an area not alongside roadways), rather than one that concerns the mobility infrastructure of the community. Unfortunately, her position was unclear.
Dr. Snyder says that she agreed with the residents’ decision to vote down a proposed bus route system in The Woodlands a few years ago. However, when asked about the proposed Town Center bus system, Dr. Snyder expressed that while she have a formulated stance on the project, it is something she believes should be looked into.
Dr. Snyder agreed that incorporation would give The Woodlands more power to control its own destiny, but she stipulated that it has to be what the residents truly want. While we totally agree that incorporation should ultimately be decided by the voters, this does not mean that elected officials and other residents of The Woodlands should not communicate the benefits of incorporation to the community, and actively seek ways to eliminate any potential negative side effects that becoming a city might include. Board members should recognize that the Township’s current legal status limits our ability to defend ourselves against actions from the county or the development company that threaten our quality of life. Our Township board members should determine the options available for solving our problems, and proactively educate the community about these options and fiscally responsible ways to achieve them. While Dr. Snyder seemed to objectively recognize the fact that incorporation would give The Woodlands more control over its destiny, she did not appear to recognize the need for achieving this control as a priority issue for the Township.
When asked about her vision for the future of The Woodlands, Dr. Snyder replied that she would like to see everyone unite and work together for good things to happen, with specific mention to governing bodies and interests outside of The Woodlands. This is certainly a noble vision, and attests to Dr. Snyder’s decades of operating by consensus. But to us, a vision for the future is more than how the board operates. It is about how the community looks, which largely depends on how current and future issues affecting the character of the community are resolved. Dr. Snyder touted her ability to build relationships with various people and entities as one of her skills that would be an asset to the board. And while we view this skill as a positive attribute – these skills tremendously benefited her non-profit service to the community over the years – what we believe The Woodlands needs more at this time is leaders whose primary concern is protecting the interests of the community, even if it has to come at the expense of some relationships. Too often, the political establishment in The Woodlands has been on the giving end of our community’s relationship with other entities such as the county and development company to the detriment of the residents. So while Dr. Snyder’s vision for unity is laudable, putting in place a means of protecting The Woodlands is critical and must be pursued immediately. The fact that Dr. Snyder doesn't share this priority is troubling.
The Woodlands Parkway extension
Dr. Snyder says that she supported the May 2015 Road Bond, despite the fact that the bond would have funded The Woodlands Parkway extension to the SH 249 toll road, resulting in a significant increase in traffic on the parkway and throughout the community. She says that she opposed the extension project, but supported the bond overall because she thought it was best for the county. This is another example where Dr. Snyder put unity with the goals of others above what was best for her community.
Chuck Meyer is an engineer and lawyer. His law practice is concentrated at the intersection of corporate, commercial transactional, data protection and information privacy law, compliance, M&A, intellectual property and joint venture law. Through his law practice he has an extensive resume of assisting businesses at all levels of their development. He is also the Former Chief Legal Officer for BlackBerry, a former law professor, a former partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, and holds a patent for a mobile communication device.
Mr. Meyer has an extensive education, earning a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia, an M.S. in Operations Research from The George Washington University, a law degree from the American University Washington College of Law, a language certificate in German from the Goethe Institut, and a Bachelor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford in England. Following college, he worked as an electronic engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense at the Pentagon, designing systems to alert senior-decision makers of a nuclear attack.
Mr. Meyer has been very active in the community: he is the Founding President of the Lone Star Republicans, and currently serves as Past President; he is Vice President of the Panther Creek Village Association; he is an ambassador for the Lumberton Chamber of Commerce; he participated in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Citizens’ Academy 2015.2 class; he served on the Federal Relations Committee for the Greater Houston Partnership; he serves as the Press Relations Chair and Paul Harris Fellow at the Rotary Club of The Woodlands; and is a member of the Knights of Columbus. He also twice ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Congress for Texas’ 36th Congressional District.
Mr. Meyer states that the three main reasons he is running for the Township board are:
- To instill budget discipline and an ethos of getting the biggest bang per buck with regard to those expenditures for those that are necessary to retain the unique nature of The Woodlands.
- To ensure that expenditures by the Township do not benefit solely the privileged class.
- To contribute back to the community some of the benefits that he has obtained through his professional life by applying his expertise in business, engineering, and law to the issues in need of resolution.
Mr. Meyer states that the reasons he would be the best candidate for office are:
- He would be the only member of the board who would be an officer of a publicly-traded company.
- He has a long history as a resident of The Woodlands, having first moved to the community in 1995. He has inserted himself into a disciplined program of study of all things relevant to the governance of The Woodlands, especially the budget process as well as through his work on the board of the Panther Creek Village Association. Mr. Meyer states that we desperately need to run The Woodlands more like a business, and less like a legislatively created kluge of a unique governmental entity called a “Township.”
- He also claims to be the only candidate in the race who is all of a capitalist, a believer in limited government, and a professional who thinks before he acts. He says he seeks solutions to problems that minimize the need for government intervention.
- He says he is the only candidate taking an engineer’s approach to analyzing the issues before the board.
Mr. Meyer says that currently the Township is not completely fulfilling its role. He says that the members of the board, for the most part, do not have the desire to think about what they are doing and whether or not their actions best represent the interests of The Woodlands residents rather than their own special interests or the interests of their supporters. He says that too often decisions are made emotionally without analysis or thought, with members forgetting that they need to understand the views of their constituents. Mr. Meyer says that current tax levels appear to be based upon expenditures that have support from a bare majority of the board. He questions whether each expenditure has been appropriately minimized by tough negotiation by the Township General Manager or his staff. He says that he is in favor of a cost/benefit analysis of every expenditure that comes before the board, and setting tax rates that reflect completely vetted expenditures that are necessary for maintaining The Woodlands as a “hometown” where residents can live, work, pray, play and raise their children. He says he will not support any expenditure that represents crony capitalism, nor will he support an increase in taxes to pay for such an expenditure.
Mr. Meyer says that there is one overarching challenge facing The Woodlands: providing residents of The Woodlands with a thoughtful, analytical, wise, and fiscally conservative government that is responsive to the views of the voters. He says that all other challenges are subsidiary to this meta challenge. Mr. Meyer says he seeks to be the voice of reason, an advocate for good governance, and proponent of using rational thought rather than emotional reactions in deciding issues as a representative of the people.
Mr. Meyer also expressed that The Woodlands has to be continually vigilant to protect against annexation by Houston. He supports exploring incorporation, as well as conducting another study on the issue, as he claims that the previous study’s assumptions were faulty in their relation to The Woodlands having similar attributes to Sugar Land.
For full disclosure, we note that Mr. Meyer has been a friend to Texas Patriots PAC for a number of years and shares our philosophy and values. He is a very intelligent and thoughtful man who is dedicated to the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. He would unquestionably be an excellent watchdog and problem solver on the board, or in any capacity as an elected official. It is a welcome surprise to have so many well-qualified candidates running for this position.
We are not recommending Mr. Meyer because he does not have a credible path to victory in this race. But we look forward to other opportunities to support him should he seek to run in a race where he has such a path.
After many attempts to contact Mr. Brown to participate in our vetting process, Mr. Brown did not respond and therefore does not qualify for consideration of our support.