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RONNA MCDANIEL, Chair of the Republican National Committee, and LT. COL. ALLEN WEST (retired), Chair of the Republican Party of Texas, spoke at the Georgetown Community Center last month Page 10

The Future of Growth in Georgetown

What They Didn’t Tell You About Liberty Hill’s Mayor

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Texas’ Abby Johnson: Conservative Values Take The National Stage Page 8


PUBLISHER’S CORNER

THE ADVOCATE ENDORSES JOSH SCHROEDER FOR GEORGETOWN MAYOR

INSIDE

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ome years it is difficult to determine who would make the best mayor for Georgetown. This year, however, the choice is clear. Never in our history of endorsement has there been an easier selection for who should lead the city. That person is Josh Schroeder, a man of unimpeachable integrity, proven character, and the necessary experience. Schroeder, an attorney by trade, possesses a skill set that is the epitome of what is needed to intelligently guide Georgetown through the growth that lies ahead. Not only has he served on numerous city boards and commissions, learning the ins and outs of how the city operates, Mr. Schroeder also has a stellar career with one of the premier law firms in Texas, practicing transactional and real estate law; a specialty that requires extraordinary intellect and communication skills. These bona fides are only second to Schroeder’s most compelling qualification: his dedication to and love of Georgetown as evidenced by his extensive record of community service. The Advocate endorses Josh Schroeder for Mayor, and believes he will be one of the best to ever serve the City of Georgetown.

Publisher Mike Payne Editor Cathy Payne Senior Writer Ann Marie Kennon Graphics & Design Zion Pistole Ann Marie Kennon

Address of Record: P.O. Box 213 Jarrell, Texas 76537 512-746-4545 info@fpgtx.com

AdvocateNewsTX.com

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Which “Future” for Growth in Georgetown

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Liberty Hill Mayor’s Record Stands Despite Online Smear Campaign

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Abby Johnson: Conservative Values on the National Stage Allen West and Ronna McDaniel: Messages from the Top

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Civics 101: The Electoral College

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What the Sheriff’s Dept Has Done for WilCo

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Williamson County’s Virtual Courts

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Conservative Ballot Guide

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Advo-Catie: Nov 6, 2028

a publication of Fidelis Publishing Group, LLC Copyright © 2020 Fidelis Publishing Group, LLC- All Rights Reserved

The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Advocate News TX, staff, administration or contributing writers. The views expressed in all Letters to the Editor and signed opinion articles are those of the authors. All letters to the editor must include a name, address and phone number for verification. Anonymous and unverified letters to the editor will not be printed. Advocate News TX reserves the right to edit letters for length and journalistic style, and has a recommended length of 300 words. Letters should be submitted electronically to: info@fpgtx.com "To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge, to find the will of God is the greatest discovery, and to do the will of God is the greatest achievement." ~Author Unknown

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Which “Future” for Growth in Georgetown? by Ann Marie Kennon

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andidate for Georgetown Mayor Josh Schroeder believes, when it comes to managing growth in Georgetown, it is important to recognize there are limited options. “The key is understanding that growth will happen in and around Georgetown. We only get to choose whether we manage the growth within our city limits and extra-territorial jurisdiction, or we can choose to allow it to continue unchecked right outside our city limits. I believe the best approach is to bring development under our control and manage it appropriately.” Schroeder explains, due to where the large tracts of undeveloped land are right now, most growth could legally occur outside city limits, so the city must decide either to incorporate it, or just let it happen right outside their doorstep and have no say in what it looks like. “When people talk about capping population growth, or a moratorium on building permits, they fail to understand that we legally can’t just do that in the state of Texas. And even if we could shut down growth, it would just result in giant subdivisions that would encircle the city, and they could do whatever they want without our say. We can either watch it happen or we can manage it.”

HOW DO WE MANAGE IT? Schroeder agrees that new growth can and should pay for itself, but there is a balance to be struck. “Developers pay for and build all of the infrastructure in their neighborhoods; parks, roads, water, sewer, internet, gas, and electric. When they complete the project, they turn all of it over to the city. In addition, the developers pay impact fees to the city. Those fees represent the cost to the city to operate, maintain, and replace 2

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all of the sewers and plants, roads and traffic changes, and parks, perpetually.” For example, developers are required to provide a study on the traffic impact of all new neighborhoods, and, based upon that study, the city requires the developer to pay an impact fee per residential lot, in addition to the roads that the developer must build to accommodate the new residences. One of the major changes to the development code that could occur in the near future is a significant increase in traffic impact fees, and be a set fee per lot. “What many people don’t realize, and a big part of the affordable housing debate, is that these impact fees are about having quality homes and neighborhoods, but there is nothing a city mandates for a developer that is not ultimately paid for by the homeowner. A good rule of thumb is this: for every $10,000 in city-mandated fees, the cost of the home goes up $40,000 because the developer paid that fee for dozens or hundreds of homes, took the risk, and carried the cost (and interest) with a bank. He passed that cost to the builder, who then carried the risk and interest until the home was purchased. The costs just multiply down the chain. We want people to be able to afford to live here, and having good streets and parks is what brings them here. We just have to ensure our regulatory requirements don’t price them out of the market. This is just one illustration of the difficulty in calibrating competing interests for every single project that comes before the city.”

LOCATION! Another important aspect of development, Schroeder says, is preserving commercial cor-


ridors in new developments. “As managers of growth, the city has to require that developers reserve some portion of their land for commercial use. Commercial development not only adds revenue to the city budget via property tax, but most commercial development also generates sales tax revenue for the city. In our city’s budget, sales tax revenue is almost double the revenue generated by property taxes. It is in our best interest as a city to make sure we build and keep sales tax revenue-generating properties.” He also points out that it is beneficial to spread those commercial properties throughout the city to maintain appropriate traffic flow and provide convenience to residents all over the city; i.e., nearby drycleaners and grocery stores. “We love our downtown Square and Wolf Ranch, but it is just good planning to distribute restaurants and retail centers throughout the city for better access and to promote small business success.”

HIGH STANDARDS The third leg of managing growth is to maintain high quality development standards. Details for minimum lot sizes, street widths, landscaping requirements, building design, and building material standards are what drive values up in our neighborhoods. “We don’t want homes that are poorly made, but we don’t want the cheapest house in town to be unaffordable either. We are having a vigorous debate in the community about affordable housing, and those who advocate for it need to recognize it is almost impossible to maintain high building standards and affordability at the same time. For everything we regulate, we raise the cost of housing. And if we over-regulate developers and builders, they will just build somewhere else, and that can also impact affordability.”

Properly managing growth is a benefit to homeowners, because the value of a home increases when it is well built in a quality neighborhood surrounded by other well built homes. “People are sitting on bigger assets than they realize, and taxpayers should not feel victimized by the fact that our town is not just growing, but growing in value. People should not want to live in a place where property values are decreasing. That only creates a spiral of lower tax revenues, no money to make the city a nice place to live, fewer people desire to live here, fewer home sales, and so on. Eventually, it creates a depressed and empty town.”

BOTTOM LINE Schroeder believes the city should constantly be reviewing its development code and individual development applications for what is in the best interest of the community as a whole. He explains that much of the growth we see today is thanks to the hard work of our city leaders over the past decades. “It was not long ago that our city leaders were working extremely hard to get development going in Georgetown. We need to respect the work that came before us, build nice neighborhoods that are compliant with our high standards, and continue to draw people here with good schools, a vibrant Square, and a reputation for outstanding public safety. Smart development will serve to ensure we have access to all the other things that make a community great, which will allow us to demand high quality, in a positive spiral of growth and prosperity.”

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Liberty Hill Mayor’s Record Stands I

by Ann Marie Kennon

t is every citizen’s right to make assertions about an organization or individual on social and local media when concerned about appropriate governance. Likewise, it is also the right of elected officials to ensure corresponding facts are made public when necessary. Even when untrue, damage to reputation is real, and it is, perhaps, the duty of officials and media to ensure the truth is as loud as the rhetoric.  In light of online and printed accusations against and denunciations of Liberty Hill Mayor Rick Hall, currently running for re-election, the Advocate acquired official documentation, witness affidavits, law enforcement reports, and investigative results to provide counterpoint on issues that may be of interest to Liberty Hill voters. 

THE GOOD Among his proudest accomplishments, Mayor Hall is pleased that property taxes for Liberty Hill residents have been reduced for the past two years, even while the city has improved and added new infrastructure projects city wide. The city’s growth has brought new property and sales tax revenue, which has allowed local leaders to raise the bar on city improvement projects. Among the most critical: new parking lots, new water and sewer lines, which the mayor says the city struggled with for years, are in process. There is also a shared public use path in the city for walking, biking, and fitness.  4

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Following that, Mayor Hall estimates 80 percent of downtown roads will be resurfaced within 18 months. He adds, “Even with this volume of work, thanks to careful planning and good stewardship, Council was still able to lower [property] taxes for 2019 and 2020.” Lowering property taxes is something most municipalities are unable to do, particularly when they are also building up infrastructure. Mayor Hall explains, “It is the county that determines property valuations, and if not for our city council, the bills would be even higher. We should be happy to know that our homes and businesses are increasing in value every year. No one wants to move to a city where property is depreciating.”


Despite Online Smear Campaign Managing city growth is just part of the improvements Mayor Hall has effected. He has also committed and followed through to convert contract employees to salary, and hire only employees with expertise or certifications in their fields to bring the city to the next level. One example is Events Coordinator Katie Amsler. Mayor Hall says, “We had been contracting with an outside company to manage city events, as-needed. The contractor charged us $30,000-40,000 each year just for management, in addition to the costs of the events. Now our city’s events are no longer someone’s side-gig; they have Katie’s full focus and attention, and in her role, she provides other services to the city including media and communications support. This is a huge improvement and return on our citizens’ investment for what we are able to provide for the city.”  Mayor Hall also brought landscaping services under the city umbrella. Having reviewed the invoices, he determined the city had been paying a contract provider just over $300,000 annually for mowing and maintenance. “We hired three employees and purchased new equipment, which will now belong to the city, for about $160,000. We saved the city more than 40 percent just in the first year, and we will not have to re-purchase equipment moving forward.”  In terms of public safety, and amid inexplicable calls to the contrary around the nation, Liberty Hill is showing confidence in and appreciation for its police officers in the form of pay increases. Police Chief Royce Graeter recently made a presentation to City Council that focused on the need to further fund the police; “We included factors of recruitment and retention in an effort to secure appropriate funding from the city.”  Chief Graeter explained while the funding does not represent an across-the-board raise, the council vote does raise a starting officer’s annual salary by $6,000.

CO U N C I L’ S 2020 PAY S C A L E A D J U S T M E N T W I L L E N A B L E T H E P O L I C E D E PA R T M E N T TO R E C R U I T TO P N OTC H E M P LOY E E S , A N D S TAY O N PA R W I T H S A L A R I E S I N OT H E R C I T I E S

THE BAD Recently, local keyboard warriors have produced social media posts regarding the termination of certain employees, insinuating that these actions were somehow personal or wrongful on the part of the Mayor. In the case of the former director of the Economic Development Corporation, it is important to note that, while the EDC provides services as an entity of the city, they have their own finance officer and are overseen by a seven-member board. “The members of the EDC are not city employees,” Hall says. “The nature of our relationship with them, as an organization, is that they request confirmation from city council to move forward with projects within the city.”  The former EDC director had inquired with the Board regarding his preference to have an employment contract with that organization. The board responded in the negative, choosing instead to maintain the position as at-will employment. T H E E D C D I R E C TO R S U B M I T T E D A R E S I G N AT I O N L E T T E R , W H I C H I S O N F I L E AT T H E C I T Y 

The City Secretary, Barbara Zwernemann was terminated from her position for cause in May 2020 by a unanimous vote of the city  council. After noting irregular practices and O C TO B E R 2 0 2 0  A D V O C AT E N E W S

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conducting an audit of city records, according to the city council’s official statement, Zwernemann was terminated “for failure to maintain the city’s records consistently and accurately in the manner required by state law and city code.” “We turned the situation over to the Williamson County District Attorney to determine if the situation warranted further investigation.” Hall says. “While we do not believe her actions were for personal gain, or fraud, they represent a lack of due diligence in the execution of her duties, as well as compromising the veracity and confidence in our documents of record.”

Texas Representative District 20 Colonel Terry M. Wilson, US Army, Retired represents Williamson,Burnet & Milam Counties in the state legislature.

THE UGLY

Rep. Wilson shared his independent investigation regarding Chief Campbell’s allegations with the Advocate, which revealed the following:

The March 2020 termination of former Liberty Hill police chief Maverick Campbell has been controversial from the beginning. In light of the information contained in numerous documents obtained through open records requests, it is worth mentioning that, in his hand-written employment application, Campbell indicated he consumes “glass of wine or beer on special occasions” and, more than once, he sued a former employer for wrongful termination and racial discrimination. WORK HISTORY

In his application, Campbell asserted he was awarded settlements and the records sealed. However, 2011 court records show, in one case, he sued the City of Coronado Police Department in San Diego for wrongful termination and harassment based on ethnicity and intentional emotional distress. In 2012, that court granted a summary judgment for the defendant, which means the plaintiff (Campbell) did not establish a cause of action. Court documents state “to completely resolve the disputes... the City has agreed to waive any right to fees and costs in this matter.” CITY COUNCIL ACTION

Police reports obtained from the Atlantic City Police Department confirm then-Chief Campbell

 The racial complaint was not filed until three months after the incident.  The complaint was investigated and rendered inactive due to insufficient evidence.  Not a single person made a corroborating statement concerning Campbell’s complaint about events at Canyon of the Eagles.  Campbell admitted that he himself did not hear any comments, but, rather, heard it from his children. was evicted from a casino in February 2020 over an incident with his wife, after-hours, at a law enforcement conference. Campbell was representing the city at the conference, and witness affidavits include multiple, separate observations that he was “very inebriated” at the hotel. Statements from city employees who were at the casino not only confirmed Campbell’s after-hours actions, but also allege many days missed from work, late-night phone calls for non-emergent situations, fear of retaliation if they reported his actions to the Mayor, and other incidences of public intoxication.

R E D A C T E D ( H A N D W R I T T E N ) E M P LOY E E STAT E M E N T: “A N Y I N STA N C E S W H E R E YO U F E LT L I K E T H E C H I E F WA S I M PA I R E D A N D U N A B L E TO D O H I S J O B ? ” Y E S. M O S T C A L L S W E R E U N N E C E S S A RY. T RY I N G TO LO G H O U R S. R A R E LY AT WO R K . A LT C A L L S > C O U L D H E R E S P O N D TO A N A F T E R H O U R S C A L L N O —I N TOX I C AT E D E V E RY N I G H T M AJ O R D E C I S I O N S WO U L D B E C LO U D E D. S H A K I N G —F I D G E T Y—D E TOX S I G N S. 6

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I N A F E B R UA R Y 2 7, 2 0 2 0 E - M A I L TO T H E M AYO R , C A M P B E L L TO O K R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y F O R T H E C A S I N O I N C I D E N T A N D, I N FA C T, A P O LO G I Z E D F O R H I S B E H AV I O R .

According to official records, Chief Campbell was terminated for a violation of his employment contract, and Liberty Hill Code of Ordinances Section 9.04.002 allows the City Council to remove the Chief of Police at any time. Campbell’s termination was unanimously approved by the City Council; the Mayor did not vote. After his March 9, 2020 termination, Campbell told a reporter he was “fired without cause,” and retroactively accused the Mayor of racist comments at a city employee retreat that took place in Burnet County in January 2020. According to published news reports, Campbell claimed his children had made an outcry about the Mayor’s behavior, and he felt compelled to report it. Written witness statements obtained from the City of Liberty Hill make no reference to children being present outside after dinner, but one re-

counts: “It was very obvious the Chief was highly intoxicated & continued to drink...He stood up from his chair...at which time he fell over his chair and rolled down the little hill and laid on his back unable to get up. The following morning, the chief approached me... I just said okay & did not respond to what felt a bit threatening.” Another witness statement—a senior city employee—included: “unfit for duty and should be relieved of command for his actions... that have reflected poorly on our City.” 

BOTTOM LINE It is incumbent on office holders to rectify inaccuracies where possible. While even these facts do not represent the fullness of the pros and cons of this candidate, it is incumbent upon the media to ensure complete information gets out. *Court records, witness statements, affidavits, and other documents were obtained through open records requests from the City of Liberty Hill.

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Conservative Values on the National Stage by Ann Marie Kennon Photos courtesy Facebook/AbbyJohnson used with permission

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hile we are watching the Presidential debates this month, the Republican National Convention seems like old news. However, the recent Supreme Court nomination has brought one RNC speaker’s mission back to the forefront of our national conscience. The Advocate reached out to Abby Johnson (above), after she was invited to speak at the 2020 RNC about the anti-abortion platform. Johnson lives in Round Rock and has been celebrated for her memoir and the follow-on movie, “Unplanned”, about her time as a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic. Her conversion to a pro-life stance in 2009 made headlines and began her mission and ministry to promote justice for the unborn.

THE CONSERVATIVE MESSAGE Johnson says conservative values are not just part of her story; they are what she does. She says, “I feel like the most critical issue of our time is the issue of life. If we do not have the fundamental right to life, every other issue on the ballot doesn’t really matter. Sadly, in our country, we do not; our unborn brothers and sisters are not protected under the law.” Her message, particularly in this election year, has a great

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focus on voting for life first when we go to the polls. Beyond that, she encourages people of faith and conviction to go a step further and get involved with local pregnancy centers. “Something most conservatives and Christians do not know; we have three abortion facilities in the Austin area and they are killing babies, electively, up to the fifth month. These babies have no voice.”

CONSCIENCE VS. CONVICTION Although the abortion debate is rife with emotional and controversial words, Johnson speaks very matter-of-factly about the topic. “People worry so much about the big elections, but the bottom line is that abortion is not happening in the White House, or in the halls of Congress. They are happening in our communities. Wherever that injustice is happening, we need to be there to show that it is morally objectionable. We pray outside those facilities to show that we stand against it, but also stand for and be there to help women who need hope.” Her response to many who question her mission is that people should vote their convictions rather than their conscience. “When you vote, consider whether you want babies killed or not; whether you want the LGBTQ agenda shouted at you, or taught in our schools. My conscience does not want me to offend my neighbor, but my conviction asks if my neighbor is wrong. I am so ready for people to be more concerned about offending the heart of God. Our country, and our children, are suffering from that distinction and I will not be standing before my neighbor at the end of my life.”


SUPREME COURT

A week went by and she was in Walmart, just “doing Johnson is pleased mundane things” and with President Trump’s she got a call from recent Supreme Court the campaign and nominee. “This is why the official request to we voted for him, and speak. “I started slapwhat we were hopping my husband on ing for in the pro-life the arm while trying movement. It is my to speak calmly. I told hope that we will him of course I would finally see the overturn love to come, and of Roe v. Wade and Judge Barrett’s investiture ceremony 2018 • Wikimedia Commons he told me I would bring abortion back speak for five minto the states, where it utes. Immediately, I felt the burden to make belongs.” the most profoundly impactful pro-life speech She also believes the vitriol aimed at Judge to get some justice for the unborn lost to us Amy Barrett is misplaced. “The negative over the last 50 years.” reaction to her nomination by feminist groups She asked, and it was agreed, that her shows the hypocrisy of what they claim their speech could be somewhat graphic. She says mission to be. Every woman in the nation the writing came easily, and, after the speech should be cheering and excited about this was approved, she departed for Washington, mother of seven, university professor, and DC to record it. “I hardly ever use telepromptsuccessful judge. Activists vilify her because ers and there was a point in my speech where she is pro-life, which shows mainstream feminism is not about equal rights or the pay gap; I wrote about the smell of abortion. The only thing I said off-script was a spontaneous, and, for too many, it is singularly about the right I believe, Spirit-led question, ‘Did you know of a woman to kill an innocent child in her that abortion has a smell?’ That turned out to womb. If not for that, all those people would be the most talked about and controversial be applauding and marching for her.” comment. It was what the media chose to focus on afterward, and it wasn’t even supONCE IN A LIFETIME posed to be there.” Johnson says she got a call from the PresDespite the controversy, she says she and ident’s head speech writer while on a road her family were prepared for whatever backtrip, and was informed she was on the short lash might come as a result. “We knew there list to speak at the RNC. “Honestly, I thought would be attacks and spiritual warfare, but it was nice to be considered, but I never we prayed and were completely prepared. thought it would happen.” Johnson said it did Overall, it was received well and I would do it not escape her how unusual it would be to all over again.” have a former director of Planned Parenthood Visit CentralTexasCoalition.com to particon the Republican dais, particularly since this was the first election cycle in memory that the ipate in the current “40 Days for Life” campaign or get involved with the pro-life mission Democrat convention did not. in a local community.

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Guidance From the Top on Down-Ballot Voting O

n September 16, the Williamson County GOP held a rally in Georgetown to celebrate keynote speakers Ronna McDaniel, Chairman West (center) with local state and county elected officials and candidates National GOP Chair he ardently supports in his down-ballot message. and Texas Chair Williamson County. As he closed, he spoke emoAllen West. While advocating for the platform and President Trump, tionally about the vote itself. “There are Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen standing on they extolled the need to get out the vote, and ramparts 18-30 hours at a time for you. There are focus on down-ballot races. police officers wondering if someone will step up McDaniel shared personal stories about growto their patrol car and empty a mag in their head. ing up in a political family, and her daily remindThey are out there for each of you. The very least ers that living in the United States is a privilege you can do is stay in that line, and in that booth, and blessing that should not be taken for grantfor as long as it takes to vote—from the White ed. “Donald Trump did not have to take this job, and we are sick of bureaucrats not getting things House to the school house. If you don’t, I will find you.” done. Not just his appointments in the Federal courts, but he just brokered another Middle East peace deal, which affects every one of us.” She encouraged attendees to find five people and talk about the platform. In 2016, she worked in Michigan, and that five-person commitment helped them win the state by just 10,000 votes. “Just the people in this room can make that difference. This is what we wanted four years ago and our country—our future—is at stake.”

WHEN ALLEN WEST TALKS... Chairman West was very passionate about what each of the races means for Texas. “Austin no longer represents what Stephen F. Austin fought for, and it is sad we can only have 50 people in church, but local Walmarts and Home Depots have open doors. Texas is the battlefield.” He praised local candidates, and their commitment to stand in the gap for each person in 10

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His last remark was met with applause and laughter, and he later explained that when we seek those five people, we look outside our echo chambers; find those who do not already agree, and convert three of them. “Start by asking them, ‘Is this really what you want for your children?’” West’s take-home message: “You cannot go in and just hit that box that says, ‘All Republicans’. You must exercise the resolve and discipline to stay in the voting booth and vote for each position. This is not just about voting for President Trump, for Senator John Cornyn, or even your member of Congress, all very important races, indeed. However, it is crucial that Texans continue down the entire ballot. “The progressive Socialist left only needs nine seats to take the Texas House, so find out who your Texas Republican State House member is and support them.”


Civics 101: The Electoral College

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his time next month, the Electoral College may be all anyone can talk about. Whether you believe it is a brilliant, sensible, and prescient design by our Founding Fathers, or an outdated concept that has cheated the American people out of a popularly-elected President and Vice President, it is nearly time to debate this vastly misunderstood government system once again.

THE FUNDAMENTALS When you cast your vote for the President of the United States, you’re really not directly putting him or her into office. The Founding Fathers established a process that created a compromise between the popular vote and a vote by Congress. You help choose your state’s electors when you vote for President because when you vote for your candidate you are actually voting for your candidate’s electors. There are 538 electors, one for each of the 100 Senators and 438 Representatives. Each state has one vote for each of its members in Congress, which is determined by census population. That is why places like California (55), Texas (38), New York (29), and Florida (29) are so popular with on the campaign trail; winning those four states gets a candidate more than half way to the minimum 270 votes needed to win it all.

Electors to vote for the party nominee or be subject to fines or disqualifications if they do not, but it is rare that an elector does not vote as pledged. In December of an election year, and after the popular vote has been certified, the Electors meet to cast their votes. If the popular vote in a state went to the Republican candidate, the Electors for that party cast their votes for the national election. Ditto for the Democratic state winners. All but two states have a “winner-take-all” system that awards all of the Electors to the winner. Maine and Nebraska allow for a proportional representation; i.e., if 60 percent of the popular vote goes to one candidate, that candidate gets 60 percent of the Electors. Electoral votes are counted during a joint session of Congress on January 6th. The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and officially declares the winner. The President-elect is than sworn in on January 20th. Incidentally, coloring states red and blue has been standard practice only in this century, thanks to major news network use of the colors to identify state winners. If an independent or third-party candidate were to win a state, most networks agree to color that state yellow.

Each candidate has a specific group of electors in each state, chosen by the party at their conventions, or by a vote of the party’s central committee. They may be state elected officials, party leaders, or some who have affiliations with the Presidential candidate. There is no Constitutional mandate or law that compels Electors to vote according to the popular results of their states, although some states do require it. The party may request a pledge from its Information in this article sourced from the National Archives and Records O C TO B E R 2 0 2 0  A D V O C AT E N E W S

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What the Sheriff’s Office Has Done for WilCo Day 1: Taking the Oath on January 1, 2017

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heriff Robert Chody understands law enforcement is about more than arrests. Since his election in 2016, he has created and affected many changes to make Williamson a safer and more connected county. He spoke with the Advocate to talk about his “top five” and other programs that have had the greatest impact for residents, deputies, and corrections.

2. COLD CASE UNIT

The Cold Case Unit has full-time staff and many expert volunteers working daily to solve more than a dozen cases spanning several decades. “While we haven’t solved any of the murders,” the Sheriff explains, “in just 2-1/2 years we have identified two victims who had been unknown since 1979 and 1989. That is a huge accomplishment for our team and provides some measure of closure for their families. But, most importantly, my detectives now have a new starting point to look for persons of interest and suspects.”

1. REDUCTION IN RESPONSE TIMES

When the Sheriff began his tenure, average response time in the County was 21-28 minutes. By 2019, he says, that time was reduced to just over 11 minutes. “This is a big accomplishment. We made it a priority to hire more deputies, and now require minimum staffing for all shifts. With budget and COVID considerations, this has been challenging, but I plan to continue adding personnel and reducing that response time further.” In addition to personnel, the Sheriff adjusted the department’s Nature Codes to reflect, more accurately, the priority response for each. He explains, “We had a ‘cow’ code that was considered a priority response. But a cow loose in a person’s backyard no longer warrants the same response as a cow in the middle of Route 29, which is a dangerous situation. Deputies should have not have to decide between a loose cow or an assault in progress, based solely on a code. With these changes, we are able to direct our deputies to the most appropriate place.” As such, the department responds first to life endangerment, active burglary and assault, and CPR. 12

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3. SELF DEFENSE ACADEMY

This free service to the community (photo above) helps educate citizens on self-defense, and the highly-trained instructors also provide inhouse training for officers to hone their ground fighting skills. “This kind of training is another tool in the toolbox for officers and the general


public who want to be able to protect themselves better against anyone or anything they encounter as a threat.” 4. DRONE PROGRAM INTRODUCED

Since instituting the program in 2016, the Sheriff’s Office has purchased more than 20 drones, some of which are equipped with night vision. Sheriff Chody says, “The ultimate goal is for every deputy to have a drone on-call for all types of calls; armed suspect pursuit, silver alerts, or locating autistic individuals, particularly in the rural areas of Williamson County.” Inspired by personal experience and citizen feedback, the Sheriff is pleased with the results and the impact of this program across the county. “Having the ability to deploy a drone to locate a missing person, particularly in the Texas heat, is a tremendous asset to us, and a great service to the community. I am also proud that we have been able to assist nearby agencies with these valuable tools, and it was all developed at no cost to the taxpayer; we purchased the drones with seized funds.” 5. C.A.L.E.A. ACCREDITATION

The Sheriff’s Office is in the process of being approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Fewer than five Texas Sheriff’s departments have attained this level of certification, which is based on compliance and consistency for best practices and procedures. “We expect our approval by November,” Sheriff Chody says. “I am looking forward to sharing with the public that we have been proven to meet this national standard. Measures include use of force, pursuit policies, and many other things that are part of the national conversation today. While we are proud to have already met these standards, we have every intention to improve beyond those.” BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

There is also a Mobile Field Force Team, created within and to train Corrections personnel to protect officers and inmates when it becomes necessary to remove or use force on inmates. “Officers have better training and proper equipment, which results in reduced need for force, and fewer injuries.”

Also in Corrections, he created a Gang Intelligence Unit that interviews inmates and identifies gang members who are in the county jail. “It is critical to know exactly who is in our jail and identify those who might present a threat based on rivalries. There is not much gang activity in our county, but many members wind up in our jail. Those interviews have solved burglaries and provided street intel for state and federal agencies to locate other persons of interest.” The Department has also created active shooter protocols that include social media outreach for concerned parents, and providing a law enforcement presence in a school when an investigation is initiated. They have also added new teams to the K-9 unit to provide nearly 24-hour coverage for appropriate needs. “I am glad our department is current, and on the cutting edge in terms of citizen and junior programs, and we will continue to introduce and adapt national programs that engage, educate, and protect the people of Williamson County.”

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Williamson County’s Virtual Courts

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he Williamson County Justice Center houses nine courts and two prosecutors’ offices. It is where most official public records are filed and kept, including death records, marriage licenses, and probate and property records. In short, it is always busy. Prior to the pandemic, a typical day in the Williamson County Courthouse might mean as many as 1,000 people coming and going to attend court hearings, serve on juries, access public records, file legal documents, and more. Last March, when the order came to shut down businesses and public offices, the Williamson County Judiciary, the County Judge, and the County Health Director created an operations plan to keep the Courthouse doors open. With the tremendous support of the Information and Technology Department, each of the four County Courts at Law and five District Courts began working virtually. While the courts labored under restrictions preventing in-person proceedings, except in limited circumstances, virtual platforms were developed to allow the courts, attorneys, and litigants to conduct business.

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THE NEW NORMAL Keeping cases moving, especially criminal and family cases, was a top priority in the early days of the transition to the virtual docket. As Spring turned into Summer, and the virus was not yet mitigated, Judges adopted additional procedures to expand the platforms to conduct hearings, conferences with attorneys and parties, and even try cases efficiently. Restrictions on convening in person meant traditional jury impaneling could not happen, because a large number of people could not gather. However, 26th District Court Judge Donna King found a workaround for the large jury “cattle call” through technology. Judge King impaneled a grand jury in June without convening a large number of potential jurors, putting into practice a novel concept for Williamson County—electronic qualification and exemption.

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Judge King worked with the “superstars” of the County’s IT department and the District Clerk’s Office to create a webbased platform and questionnaire process through which potential jurors could complete the process and opt out of service from the comfort of their homes. This is the same process one goes through when arriving at the jury call room at the justice center, along with 300 new best friends. Once the Judge reviewed the qualified jurors’ questionnaires online, she scheduled appointments for potential jurors to appear in groups of five for final stages of impaneling. With the help of Courthouse staff, the process was socially distanced and contact-free—jurors were in and out of the building in under 30 minutes, and the grand jury impaneled before lunchtime. Participants in the process were given an opportunity to


opt out of participation due to the pandemic, but Judge King says she was pleased at the level of participation; “Many jurors expressed they felt a duty to participate despite the virus and appreciated our careful construction of a safe alternative to the normal impaneling process.”

WHAT’S NEXT? The courts continue to conduct business mostly virtually, but are developing a transition plan to move, gradually, into in-person proceedings under the advisement of Dr. Palazzo, the County’s Medical Director and in compliance with the directives of the Office of Court

Administration and the Texas Supreme Court. Judge King adds, “All nine judges are committed to keeping the business of the courts moving as efficiently as possible during this unprecedented time, but always putting the health and safety of employees, participant and the public first.”

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CONSERVATIVE BALLOT GUIDE With the removal of straight-ticket voting, many are emphasizing the importance of voting to the bottom of the ballot. It is also critical to be aware of the need to vote for values, particularly if you do not have a deep understanding of every office or candidate. As Republican Chairman Allen West says, “An empty box is a vote for the other party.” With regard to down-ballot offices, even if you do not recognize the name on the ballot, it is important to elect those who will not create resistance to those you do know. Simply put, if you want things to get done, helping to elect a majority will allow everyone to get to work. Below are the Advocate’s recommendations for Federal, State, and Local offices. * indicates incumbent.

FEDERAL

TEXAS

WILLIAMSON COUNTY

GEORGETOWN

LIBERTY HILL

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President & Vice President

Donald Trump / Mike Pence*

U.S. Senator

John Cornyn*

U.S. Representative, District 31

John Carter*

Railroad Commissioner

James Wright

Supreme Court, Chief Justice

Nathan Hecht*

Supreme Court Justice Place 6

Jane Bland*

Supreme Court Justice Place 7

Jeffrey S. Boyd*

Supreme Court Justice Place 8

Brett Busby*

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 3

Bert Richardson*

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 4

Kevin Patrick Yeary*

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 9

David Newell*

State Board of Education District 10

Tom Maynard*

State Representative, District 20

Terry Wilson*

State Representative, District 52

Lucio Valdez

Chief Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals

Jeff Rose*

Judge 26th District Court

Donna King*

Judge 395th District Court

Ryan Larson*

Judge 425th District Court

Betsy Lambeth*

County Attorney

Doyle “Dee” Hobbs*

26th District Attorney

Shawn Dick*

Sheriff

Robert Chody*

Tax Assessor-Collector

Larry Gaddes*

Commissioner, Precinct 3

Valerie Covey*

Mayor

Joshua Schroeder

City Council District 2

Shawn F. Hood

City Council District 4

Michael Walton

ISD Trustee Place 4

David Phillips

ISD Trustee Place 5

Melanie Dunham*

Mayor

Rick Hall*

Alderman Place 2

Kathy Canady*

Alderman Place 4

Tony DeYoung*

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Nov 6, 2028 My Dearest Son, As you prepare to go to the polls for the first time tomorrow, I want you to keep in mind the power of your vote. Back in 2020, our election went off the rails and people kinda lost their minds over things no one could have foreseen even a year before. Sadly, the whole conversation was about the faces and personalities on the ticket, and not enough about the philosophy of those of us who had to vote for them. Yes, it is important that leaders have integrity and character. But the most important thing about leaders is that they lead, right? Can Person A inspire people to do things? Will things be better, in your opinion, if Person B is in charge? Still… if your person doesn’t seem to have a moral compass, or lies, cheats and steals, and—yet—is still in charge, what do you do? You don’t take it personally. Voting for a person does not make you that person. Just like the people who say “We won the Super Bowl!” —no, you didn’t. The 11 people on the field did. Similarly, I’m glad Mr. Trump won; but I knew no Trump-day prize would show up in my mailbox. While Trump demonstrated some distasteful personal behavior and Biden didn’t do much of anything that directly contradict what he said or did earlier in his career, I never felt like voting for either made me a clone. I simply voted for the person who represented values I found to be 20

important; protecting borders and Americans, supporting the military, and boosting domestic businesses. I wasn’t voting for father of the year. I voted for your future. I never considered voting for Joe just because he put a woman on the ticket. I think we were way past the point, even back then, where a woman in or near the White House would have been shocking. Women had certainly broken through the ceiling to a great degree already. It is not required that your choice for President be a universal role model for you, or the kind of person you aspire to be. I would prefer that you emulate a person you do know, and might possibly mentor you personally someday. Fortunately, we have plenty of decent and wonderful leaders here at home whom I would be delighted for you to choose as a role model. There’s a Judge right here in our county whom I have never known to commission a study or convene a committee when there is real work to be done. He just sees a problem and fixes it without argument or fanfare. That is a man you might actually shake hands with, and I hope you would look to him for advice. You can talk to him face to face rather than seeing what people on Facebook think.

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Still, the person sitting in the Oval Office has a whole different job to do, so if he or she is not a combination of the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Jefferson, it’s still okay to support that person. Do you prefer the country spends its money on tanks instead of social programs? Or if you someday think we should share our money and our trade in a different way, you can vote for some progressive people. It’s your call. That’s my biggest hope son; if you’re going to vote, decide what matters to you and vote for that result, not that person. But when you do, make sure to know why you are doing it. Read and listen and find out what you need to know, so when you’ve cast that vote, you can defend it and stand up for it. Many a time I made a statement and wanted to take it right back because no one wants to hear “because I think it’s better.” With a few facts, you can say “It’s better this way because…” This country continues to be a great experiment and we likely wouldn’t be where we are if the balance of power had not shifted a dozen or more times in the last 252 years. Even you can be President someday, if you want. Whether it’s the PTA or the United States, I hope you’ll ignore the bellwether yammering of what everyone thinks you should do, and you’ll choose for yourself whom you would like to emulate. No one will ever feel like they had to settle for you.

Much love, Mom


ECRWSS POSTAL PATRON

The Experience Needed to Lead Georgetown I have spent over a decade serving this community in both the nonprofit sector and our city’s boards and commissions. I am committed to maintaining Georgetown’s small-town charm even as we grow in population. I am committed to public safety. We will support our law enforcement and emergency personnel. I will address our transportation needs and demand only high quality commercial and residential growth. I will be transparent in my decision-making and seek out others in our community with the t expertise to help guide our city through these next critical years. Thank you for your vote! JoshForGeorgetown@Gmail.com I JoshForGeorgetown.com I

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@joshforgeorget1

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Advocate News TX • October 2020