What if I told you that it was all a big nothing?
Gov. Greg Abbott named Colony Ridge a top state priority when he placed it on the third special legislative session agenda — heeding calls by right-wing media to crack down on the fast-growing Liberty County subdivision that had become a haven for organized crime and illegal immigrants from Latin America.
Abbott vowed to take action on “any issue that needs to be enforced, in terms of a new law in the state of Texas, to make sure we’re not going to have colonies like this in our state,” he said in a Sept. 25 interview.
But nearly two weeks into the special session, no major bills to address Colony Ridge have been filed or debated. And on Thursday, the House State Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss the subdivision without considering any specific legislation.
“Why are we even here doing this?” Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, wondered aloud.
Lawmakers heard testimony by local officials and the CEO of the housing development that told a different story than the one peddled by some conservatives in recent weeks — one of a small county exploding in population in its unincorporated areas that would likely benefit from more funding for law enforcement and infrastructure, as well as stronger regulatory authority for county officials.
Local officials refuted claims made by right-wing media and Republican elected officials including Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton that Colony Ridge had become too dangerous for law enforcement to effectively police and had overwhelmed local government resources.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Abbott’s public concerns that the subdivision was a “no-go zone” for law enforcement were unfounded.
“There’s no such thing as a no-go zone in Texas,” McCraw said. “We obviously talked to the sheriff… and he assured us that was not the case. Certainly, our sergeant didn’t think so. Our troopers can go anywhere.”
See here for the previous update. I mean, I guess Steve McCraw could be part of the conspiracy, but he is one of Greg Abbott’s top minions, and it was Abbott who took all that wingnut chatter seriously enough to put something on the special session agenda, so either this goes Even Deeper Than You Thought or Abbott was played by and/or caved to the wingnut noise machine and as usual there was nothing there. You tell me which is more likely.
There is of course an impeachment revenge angle, because there will always be an impeachment revenge angle as long as Ken Paxton exists.
Paxton sent a letter Thursday to Abbott, Patrick, Phelan and Republican Texans in Congress that revealed the results of an Attorney General’s Office investigation into Colony Ridge. Paxton said that the subdivision “appears to be attracting and enabling illegal alien settlement” and “has drawn far too many people and enabled far too much chaos for the current arrangement to be tolerated by the state.”
“The scale of the Colony Ridge development has proved unmanageable for effective law enforcement and other key standards of acceptable governance,” Paxton wrote. “Violent crime, drug trafficking, environmental deterioration, public disturbances, infrastructure overuse, and other problems have plagued the area and nearby towns.”
He singled out two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville and Rep. Ernest Bailes of Shepherd, for sponsoring a bill in 2017 that enabled Colony Ridge to establish a municipal management district. Notably, Nichols and Bailes also supported this year’s unsuccessful effort to impeach Paxton and remove him from office.
Those who testified Thursday pushed back against the claims made by Paxton and others.
Liberty County Judge Jay Knight said it is inaccurate to describe Colony Ridge as a colonia, like the substandard settlements on private land populated largely by immigrants and found in Texas counties near Mexico.
“This has water, sewer, ditches and roads, yes,” Knight said. “The water is regulated by TCEQ and it’s a private company that owns it… the roads become property of the county. It’s ours to take care of.”
And this is how we do development in Texas, especially in the lesser-populated parts of the state. Always has been, and almost certainly always will be. You want to address that, I’m sure the builders’ lobby will have some thoughts on the matter.