The Inside Scoop
NOVEMBER 2-8, 2018
How much is your vote worth? Twenty million dollars, $30 thousand, maybe $50 dollars, or is it priceless? I ask because I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that San Benito was sold out for little more than a song and dance, or maybe a little more accurately, closer to $11,000 (thus far) because that’s what it has cost, for entities outside of the San Benito, and as far as Dallas and Austin, to manipulate your vote in favor of the San Benito School District’s $40 million bond initiative.
Yes, all those lovely signs we’ve seen sprawled throughout our thoroughfares, the mailers, and all other marketing have pretty much been paid through political donations made to an otherwise mysterious S-PAC or Specific-Purpose Action Committee (SPAC) seemingly established specifically for our little ol’ school district’s bond election. As of this week’s filing deadline, the SPAC has raised $10,922.75 in political contributions from the likes of firms, contractors, engineers, and lawyers and all but one listing an address outside the Resaca City as their place of residence or origin. Remember, there’s at least one other filing deadline, so there’s likely more money the SPAC — listed as, “Investing In Our Children’s Education,” has yet to report.
As per the rules, individuals behind the SPAC are not obligated to reveal themselves, all but one, at least, namely the SPAC’s treasurer, whom, in this case, happens to be Gilbert Weaver, former district employee, past San Benito City Commissioner and current spouse of school board trustee Sonia Weaver. Gilbert Weaver was also a member of the initial bond exploratory committee. Aside from that, we don’t know who else is involved in the SPAC – it could be other board members, administration, your average citizens, or other outside forces, groups or entities. In other words, for all we know, these outside entities could have been behind this initiative all along, pulling the strings for the bond election from the get-go.
Obviously, Gilbert Weaver should have been able to provide us with some clarity, so we gave him a call at the number listed on the SPAC’s filing report, but a message went through to an Amanda Saldana. This must have been an honest oversight on the filer’s part because I have to imagine that purposely falsifying a government report, especially when it comes to issues such as these, is frowned upon by the State of Texas.
As per the contributors, some of the highlights include Hellas Construction, Inc., out of Austin, and Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc., (WJHW), an acoustics design company specializing in school venues such as auditoriums and stadiums. WJHW stems from Carrollton, TX, which is in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area. Then there’s a business named, Brand Boosters out of Hidalgo County, which produced $2,922.75 worth of signage for the SPAC, in-kind — as in, sans pay, pro bono — for some reason. For the remaining contributors, only two others stem from within Cameron County and, as previously mentioned, only one contributor is rooted in San Benito, and that individual has ties to a construction company. The entire campaign finance report will be uploaded to our website, sbnewspaper.com, for your viewing pleasure.
This just goes to show what this community is up against. As I wrote in my initial column weeks ago when we first began to look into the bond initiative, fighting against a bond in this community has historically been a losing battle and I hold fast to that statement, especially when you’re up against this level of organization and the money behind it. Before I go, let’s just pause and appreciate the following statement for a second: Outside money is actively working to shape the future, and the destiny of this community, not to mention determining our tax rate, and if that doesn’t make you angry or at least makes you wonder what this entire initiative is all about, I’m not sure what will. At least ask yourself, in past bond elections, was this much effort, suffisiticated organization and outside money used to pass a bond?
Then recall that, in the past, the district looked into paying for an aquatic center through a bond and was told by the State that it wouldn’t qualify for supplemental monetary assistance because an aquatic center wasn’t deemed as educational. Yet, we’re looking at building three facilities that can be deemed non-essential. What’s changed?
So, for those who have yet to vote, I ask again, how much is your vote worth? Get out there on Nov. 6th.