For four months we’ve watched those opposed to the Ranger College Election get bolder and meaner in their comments, not just about the election, but about Ranger College, its administrators, graduates, and students. At one point they even referred to a senior citizen “dying soon” as they criticized him for explaining he would be voting YES on the Ranger College issue because his granddaughter goes to Ranger and voting for this will only cost him $52 a year.
These actions troubled me, so I authorized a radio commercial repeating the advice from our grandmothers, “If you can’t say something nice…don’t say anything at all.”
But last week we had seen enough. The Treasurer of the Erath County opposition group, Carla Stacy Trussell, posted on Facebook, “Some landlords have sent letters to their tenants explaining the tax and informing their tenants that if the tax passes their rent will go up by $50 a month. I encourage anyone in our group . . . to send out a similar letter to your tenants encouraging them to vote against!”
What this letter calls for is price gouging, profiteering off the backs of working people and depending on what else is in the letter, could be a threat and retaliation for voting a certain way in this election.
No matter how many times the opponents mention the $.43 tax rate, the fact is this is the rate charged to the citizens in Ranger ISD, who for longer than 10 years have paid a consistent rate of $.22 for operations of Ranger College (including monies spent in Erath, Brown and Comanche Counties) and added another $.21 after voters approved a $10 million construction bond for the Main Campus in Ranger. (which will be one of the largest construction projects in Ranger in 20 years). Even though the Ranger Board of Regents have been declaring since May, and reauthorized in September should any county vote to join the Ranger system, the one rate will become $.11. But state law won’t let them put that on the ballot and the law should be changed so they can.
But the opposition has known this the whole time and still repeats the lie about $.43 instead of talking about the truth of $.11—something they even admitted back on Oct. 1. And why is that important?
Because that means these landlord letters to working families, college students, elderly people on fixed incomes who don’t own their home but rent, is a lie. Charging these folks $50 a month, or $600 a year means the landlord will take $100 to pay the actual tax (about $8 a month), and then pocket the other $500 as pure profit—and blame Ranger College as the culprit. For the rent to go up $600 to cover the tax, the house would have to be worth more than $550,000. How many rent houses in Erath, Comanche or Brown County do you know cost that much?
We think that is wrong, unethical and according to attorneys who served as Legal Counsel for the Texas Secretary of State and Ethics Commission, who believe the letters may rise to a crime. So, we sent a letter, along with the copies of what the opposition said, in their own words, to State and local law enforcement authorities. We asked them to investigate if these letters do in fact comply with state law. One local District Attorney stated publicly he had not received his letter on Monday. But by Tuesday, he had received our letter and we have the utmost respect he will do his due diligence to enforce the law.
So far, this week, all the discussion has been about the letter and the press conference. Sadly, what no one has talked about is should these letters have been sent at all.
The opposition group can choose to stand with these price gouging landlords who stand to make a 500% profit off working parents, the elderly, college students and single parents trying to raise their kids. They can stand with the landlords, I choose to stand for the working people.
And on Nov. 7, I’ll be voting YES for Ranger College.
Willie De Jong is a statewide leader in the dairy Industry. He and his wife live in Erath County. He serves on the Erath Center Ranger College Advisory Board.