The Woodlands Township
Position No. 2
Candidates: Mike Bass
TPP recommends Brian Boniface
Incumbent member of the board Mike Bass is running for reelection against challenger Brian Boniface.
Montgomery County is growing, and the quality of life residents of The Woodlands invested in upon moving to this community is being lost. While change is inevitable, it is vital that we elect leaders who possess a long-term vision for our community that protects the atmosphere of the secure enclave we call home and doesn’t let it get eroded with irresponsible road and commercial development. Click here to read more about this and the setting for the Township election.
- Adamantly supported The Woodlands Parkway extension which was defeated by 83% of The Woodlands voters in May 2015.
- Regularly sides with the county and special interests over the interests of The Woodlands. On such issues as The Woodlands Parkway extension and Lone Star Executive Airport funding, he said that The Woodlands’ interests were “holding the county hostage.”
- Voted to eliminate the incorporation reserve fund, transferring the money to the capital contingency fund- a slush fund.
- Voted against tax decreases.
- Voted against fiscally responsible actions, such as renegotiating budgets and contracts.
- Sides with the false information being promoted that the residents’ advocates, including his opponent, wish to “incorporate now,” and that such action will result in a 70% tax increase.
Mike Bass declined to participate in our vetting process. However, being that Mr. Bass is an outspoken and opinionated member of the board and has participated in our vetting for his past two elections, we can speak knowledgeably about him and his record on the board.
Mike Bass is a retired businessman who moved to The Woodlands in 2008. Prior to this, he was a Senior Partner at Accenture, and served as an appointed and elected official for a small city government, Clear Lake Shores, TX (population 1,063) where he led their economic development, financial management, road rebuilding and planning and zoning programs. He was elected to The Woodlands Township Board of Directors in 2012, and currently serves on the Law Enforcement Advisory Committee, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, Investment Committee and Audit Committee. He previously served on the now-defunct Ad Hoc Transportation Committee. Other activity in the community includes serving on The Chamber of Commerce’s Mobility and Legislative Committees, and as a member of the board for The Woodlands Road Utility District.
Along with giving back to the community and keeping The Woodlands a great place to live, Mr. Bass says a main reason for which he is running for office is that he enjoys problem solving. Indeed, Mr. Bass is always studious and well-prepared, carrying files and ready to cite data and figures at Township meetings. He prides himself on approaching every issue “as a problem to be dealt with in a dispassionate, objective manner and achieve meaningful lasting results.”
While we have profound respect for his work ethic and command of details, a number of actions Mr. Bass has taken give cause for concern that such a dedication to numbers and figures have clouded his judgment toward the issues themselves. Our main points of contention are:
Mr. Bass’s propensity to cater to the interests of the county government.
Mr. Bass vocally favors status quo agreements and undermines negotiation tactics by not fighting for The Woodlands’ fair share of services that the county is responsible for providing. Examples of this include:
- His support to give $600,000 of The Woodlands taxpayer funds to build a customs facility at Lone Star Executive Airport northeast of Conroe. This airport is currently for domestic private flights catering to a very few private jet owners. In July of 2014, the airport and county came to The Woodlands Township seeking $600,000 to build a federal custom facility at the airport. Mr. Bass said he would only support such a deal if a Township board member was appointed onto the airport’s board so that they can monitor their investment and if the airport would consider changing its name. Other board members asked for economic justification and questioned the need, demand and why the Township would fund anything while the county consistently rejects the Township’s requests. Mr. Bass came to the county’s defense, saying, “we shouldn’t hold the county hostage or leverage them against other Township needs.”
A number of questions arise from this decision:
- Why would The Woodlands Township use money from its Economic Development Fund – money that is supposed to be designated for use specifically in The Woodlands – to economically develop an area 18 miles outside of The Woodlands? From The Woodlands’ perspective, there would be no proximity benefit as there is a more established FBO exactly the same distance at Bush Intercontinental.
- The county has already given $1.2 million to the project, of which 38 percent has come from county taxes paid by residents of The Woodlands. Why would The Woodlands be giving an additional $600,000 to the county for use on this customs facility, if the money the county is using for the same project has already been taken from The Woodlands’ residents via county taxes?
- Why would the county be building a customs facility in the first place, if customs facilities are under federal jurisdiction? Why are the taxes we paid to the federal government not being used for this?
If there is additional economic development as a result of this airport expense, it would inure to the county, the City of Conroe, and Black Forest Ventures – the parent company of Galaxy FBO, who provides aeronautical services at the airport. (Which smacks of the crony capitalism we oppose on principle.) Little or nothing in economic benefit would come to The Woodlands though they are expected to put forth the most investment. Somehow, major international corporations like Exxon and Anadarko who use private jets for international travel have found their way to The Woodlands without a customs facility in Conroe. It seems like the county and county’s leaders are simply using The Woodlands as a cash cow for their own interests.
- Siding with the county government over The Woodlands on the issue of public safety. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s office provides law enforcement protection to areas of the county that are not incorporated, including The Woodlands.
The Woodlands was previously a part of MCSO District 2, which includes all of South Montgomery County, but as The Woodlands grew in population, it became necessary to create an entirely new district – District 6. The Woodlands, being the most populous region in the county, should be the most covered by the Sheriff’s Office.
However, MCSO currently only allots about 6 deputies to the area, which amounts to 1 deputy for every 17,000 residents. For the other unincorporated parts of the county, there is 1 deputy for every 2,700 residents. If The Woodlands received the same coverage as the rest of the county, there would be about 36 deputies allotted to District 6. Taking land area into account, there could understandably be a lower deputy per resident ratio in The Woodlands than in the rest of the county, considering The Woodlands is less spread out and therefore easier to cover than the rural areas. But the number would still be closer to 36 than 6.
The Woodlands Township currently contracts with MCSO to provide additional deputies to give The Woodlands a total coverage of about 86 deputies. This means that on top of being taxed by the county, residents of The Woodlands also pay taxes to The Woodlands Township so that the Township can pay for approximately 80 more deputies. If The Woodlands were receiving its fair share of deputies, this number would be 44. Residents of The Woodlands are therefore currently double taxed for 36 deputies, or almost 40% of their law enforcement.
Mr. Bass has stated that he thinks The Woodlands receives its fair share of deputies, and opposes asking the county to allot more for District 6 to ease the tax burden on The Woodlands residents. In fact, he even uses the county’s argument against The Woodlands, saying that since District 2 and District 6 combined totals 30 deputies, that is enough coverage. But there is a very valid reason District 6 was created as a separate district from District 2, and District 6 needs to be treated as such.
His dedication to the idea that maximizing commercial development will not be a detriment to the quality of life for residents of The Woodlands.
Mr. Bass believes that the tax revenues from Town Center will subsidize the taxes for residents of The Woodlands. Therefore he supports the model of accelerated and unabated expansion of business in the area, contributing to the current skyline in the district, whereas The Woodlands was originally meant to have no buildings higher than the trees. The benefits of this model are based on the assumption that tax revenue from these businesses will exceed the cost of accommodating the businesses. But the cost of any benefit to this model is that the community’s residents are now faced with increased traffic at the primary points of entry to The Woodlands off the I-45 corridor and parking and crowding problems in the Town Center itself. Many residents feel they are losing the small hometown atmosphere that attracted them to The Woodlands and increasingly feel alienated from the Town Center.
His apparent acquiescence to the mobility study that will cut The Woodlands into North, South, East, and West corridors.
- What makes The Woodlands unique is that it is a peaceful, secluded enclave. It provides 11 villages worth of the community feeling most people receive only in their small neighborhood or on their street.
- Recently, a mobility study was rolled out for South Montgomery County that showed further expansions of The Woodlands Parkway, Lake Woodlands, Kuykendahl andGosling. In fact, County Judge Craig Doyal, who then was the County Commissioner of Precinct 2 (located to the west of The Woodlands) had been quietly buying right-of-ways to extend The Woodlands Parkway to State Highway 249 in the western part of the county. (This plan was realized when the May 2015 Montgomery County Road Bond included this extension, and was soundly defeated.) And the plans for Gosling are to eventually extend it to Conroe. Politicians who have no interest in preserving the quality of life of The Woodlands are planning changes which will turn a number of our key roads into transit corridors and essentially dissect our community into sections by attracting significant transient traffic. This change will increase traffic and noise, expose the community to greater security risk as transient access improves, detract from the quality of life and negatively affect real estate values as our community becomes a criss-cross of thoroughfare corridors. While some of these road improvements are necessary (expanding Kuyendahl to ease traffic in Creekside, for instance), growth has to be responsible, maintain the essence of the community, and have a Woodlands-centric mindset as opposed to using Woodlands roads as through traffic for other communities.
- Perhaps it is his dispassionate and objective problem-solving approach, but Mr. Bass does not seem bothered by this. The only project he indicated he did not support was an expansion of Grogan’s Mill Road. But even without this, The Woodlands would begin to look less like The Woodlands and more like Kingwood or Champion Forest. The expansion of Grogan’s Mill road was vetoed by the City of Shenandoah, who, as a municipality, has the power to veto the project. Curiously enough, Mr. Bass has rejected the idea that The Woodlands should start preparing to become a city so that we, too, can veto such projects to protect our community.
Additional bothersome facts about Mr. Bass:
- He voted against lowering taxes. At the beginning of the first budget workshop, the Township board unanimously agreed to an 11% tax decrease. After the workshop, when it was realized that they could afford to raise that tax decrease to 15%, Mike Bass fought against doing so and ultimately voted against it. He believed the money could be dumped into our reserve funds, which are already more than adequate. He has subsequently voted for lowering taxes while still pursuing increasing the reserve accounts. He believes these reserve funds can be used for functions for which The Woodlands’ residents already pay taxes to the county, such as road construction, the Lone Star Executive Airport customs facility, or the possibility of installing expensive, reckless and ultimately useless bike lanes on The Woodlands’ roads. (Which would also affect resident’s commute to work.) It should also be noted that the reserve fund The Woodlands should be preparing the most, the reserve fund to prepare for incorporation, Mr. Bass voted to eliminate.
- He maintains the status quo at the taxpayers’ expense. Mr. Bass supported the continuation of a contract with an incumbent legal firm that charges $550 per hour, which is almost 300 percent higher than the second placed bidder, whom the Township also uses, which offered $190 per hour. Keeping our current counsel perpetuates dependency on this individual, which is bad governance. No man or firm should be so systemically important to a local government that it would justify a 300 percent premium.
- He wants the board to overstep its bounds. Mr. Bass advocated that the Township board issue a proclamation supporting Proposition 1 on the November 2014 ballot, which was blocked by Gordy Bunch. This again shows an alignment with the interests of the county elite, and not The Woodlands. There is an ongoing campaign to endorse this proposal, which the county has already done. While many including Texas Patriots PAC support Proposition 1, it is not the Township board’s position to tell residents of The Woodlands how to vote on amendments or any election. This produces a slippery slope that would empower the board to promote agendas.
- His behavior over the proposed amending of the Earth Day proclamation was an outrage. In 2014, the board discussed the content of a proposed Earth Day proclamation. Board member John McMullan brought issue with the term “sustainable” being used, as it is a vague term that is sometimes used in a manner that is hostile to the energy industry. Mr. McMullan’s reasoning for this was to avoid a debate about “sustainability,” which he said had become a politically-charged word with different meanings to different people. The motion to remove the term failed, but when an alternative term was proposed that “was not hostile to fossil fuels,” the revised proclamation passed. Mr. Bass then insisted that in doing this, the board would be caving into “these ultraconservative groups,” and that the word “sustainable” had been “hijacked by the Tea Party.” After the motion passed, with Messrs. Bass and Tough voting against it, Mr. Bass refused to let the issue go. He continued to attempt to bring the issue back for another vote, and went as far as to mobilize opposition by claiming that those who wanted the word “sustainable” removed wanted The Woodlands to become an unsustainable community, alluding to trees being cut down, buildings developed, and basically everything that Mr. Bass seems to want Town Center to look like.
Mr. Bass’s attitude on the court is not that of a team player. For this, and the reasons listed above, we cannot support Mike Bass for reelection.
Brian Boniface and his wife have been residents of The Woodlands since 2005. Mr. Boniface is currently an IMU nurse at the Kingwood Medical Center and a Psychiatric Nurse at the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility. Prior to this, he served in the Texas Army National Guard as an infantry platoon leader of a heavy weapons unit and also as an Executive Officer, where he was responsible for maintaining, managing, and coordinating personnel and equipment.
Mr. Boniface states that his three main reasons for running for office are:
- Fighting to make sure our local roads don’t become major thoroughfares through our community.
- Making sure that the board remains fiscally conservative with the taxpayers’ money.
- Working toward responsible incorporation and not kicking the can down the road.
Like many residents of The Woodlands, Mr. Boniface and his wife are parents to young children. He believes this experience relates him to parents in The Woodlands who deeply care about the future of their community they want they children to grow up in and inherit. For this reason, he says that voters can count on his personal integrity and commitment to be a true representative of the people as reasons for which he is the best candidate in the race. Other qualities he lists are:
- Experience: During his time as an Executive Officer in the Texas Army National Guard, he was responsible for leading over 60 soldiers and maintaining equipment valued at over $2.4 million. As an S-3 Operations Officer, he was responsible for future training, operations planning, and logistics on a battalion level. These experiences he believes qualify him to intelligently discuss and plan for the future of the Township.
- Character: Alongside experience, Mr. Boniface values humility in elected officials. He says he will never view himself as smarter than those he is elected to represent. Otherwise, he says, he is not their representative.
- Service: Mr. Boniface says he has always had a desire to help and serve his community. He says he has strived to live up to the example of his parents in their dedication to protection our nation and helping young children. He says that he is driven by serving people, from his younger days as an Eagle Scout, to his years of service in the Texas Army National Guard, to his current profession as a local registered nurse.
Mr. Boniface says that the Township is not currently fulfilling its role effectively. He claims that some of the representatives on the board vote and make decisions that go against the will of the people they represent.
He ranks the three biggest challenges facing the Township as:
- Incorporation: Mr. Boniface says that incorporation is an inevitability. He says he would like to work toward a strategic plan for incorporation, making sure that the Township is planning and saving accordingly to offset the costs.
- Mobility: Mr. Boniface would like to advocate for greater protection of the ambiance of our community by making sure our roadways are not used by the county as thoroughfares, such as The Woodlands Parkway extension project and the proposed extensions of Branch Crossing and Gosling.
- Outreach: Mr. Boniface says he would like to encourage more outreach, education, and participation by the public in local politics.
We are supporting Mr. Boniface for the following reasons:
- Values: Mr. Boniface shares our values of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets, and was an early supporter of the tea party movement. He grew up in a conservative family who taught him to value constitutional principles.
- Vision: Mr. Boniface has the vision The Woodlands needs to ensure our community remains peaceful and secure. He recognizes the inevitability of incorporation, and unlike Mr. Bass, wants to make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible when the need to incorporate arises. He recognizes that the development company and county have visions for The Woodlands based on squeezing as much profit out of our community as possible with over-commercialization, clearcutting trees, and making thoroughfares out of our streets. He also understands the disadvantage The Woodlands has in the state legislature, where every session The Woodlands has to defend itself against the possibility of the elimination of our current deadline of 2057, at which point we either incorporate or are annexed.
- Courage: Mr. Boniface says that the May 2015 Montgomery County Road Bond and the issue of The Woodlands Parkway extension lit a fire in him to run for the Township board. He says he has a particular distaste for corruption and cronyism in politics, and has a strong desire to bring focus back to the residents. For this reason, he specifically chose to challenge Mr. Bass, rather than seek one of the two open seats, despite the fact that challenging an incumbent is inherently a much harder task.