Guest writers

         Melissa Skipworth

By guest writer Melissa Skipworth

Recently, I spoke at a candidate forum about the need for greater transparency from College Of The Mainland’s board of trustees. My opponent Roney McCrary also spoke and referred to COM’s need to pass a bond, saying: “Aging facilities are something that we do need to address. When the time is right, we need to do something about it …”
Why isn’t that time now, Mr McCrary? We know the answer. The board members have failed to focus on the good of the institution and shirked their responsibility to listen to the community. Controversial moves, such as the decision to end former president Beth Lewis’ contract, were deliberated in closed session with little justification for the actions provided to the public.
The Lewis decision was made with the full understanding that non-renewal was overwhelmingly opposed by the public and that proceeding would cost the college the community support necessary to pursue a desperately needed bond election.
The board’s actions put COM in the same place it was in six years ago – waiting for the right time.
The board has presided over four presidential administrations in the past six years and has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance pay. The college now has one of the best qualified presidents in the state in Warren Nichols. It’s said that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Will there be a “controversy” over Nichols’ leadership in the coming years?
Do you want a community college for our mainland that is successful in spite of its leadership or do you want a college whose success is enhanced by that leadership?
I prefer the latter. I possess the skills needed to serve the community as trustee. I have a bachelor’s degree in business from University Of Houston and 15 years of human-resources experience. More importantly, I bring a set of fresh eyes and the will that’s needed to break through the college’s stagnation.
On May 6, hundreds of students will graduate from COM, having earned an associate’s degree or workforce certificate, while others will transfer to a three-year-course full university.
Many of you watch or act alongside students in COM’s theater productions, learn new skills in COM’s continuing-education programs or create memories with your families while feeding the ducks at Lake Eckhart. COM is an invaluable community resource and great things happen there every day.
With your support, we can enhance these successes and ensure that College Of The Mainland serves the community for the next 50 years and beyond.
Melissa Skipworth is a candidate for position 5 on College Of The Mainland’s board of trustees, running against Roney McCrary and Sharon Mitchiner in the May 6 election.
Editor’s note: The Post neither endorses nor opposes any candidate in any of the May 6 elections. All candidates are free to submit articles for publication and they will be considered on a first-come-first-served basis without any guarantee that they will be published before voters go to the polls.

 

                  Bob Jackson

By guest writer Bob Jackson

After a couple of weeks back in their districts for spring recess, members of the US congress return to Capitol Hill tomorrow, Monday, and you will soon start hearing again about shenanigans involving a very dangerous healthcare bill that many Americans had left for dead.
Just before leaving Washington, congressional leaders held closed-door meetings in an attempt to resurrect the legislation, called the American Health Care act. The problem is that, if they get their way, it would make
a bad bill even worse.
The current version would allow insurance companies to charge older people five times what they charge others for the same coverage. Compounding that problem, it would reduce the tax credit that lower- and middle-income Americans use to be able to afford coverage.
Charging older adults five times more than others and changing the tax credit produces an “age tax” that could total up to $13,000 a year more for older people, according to the congressional budget office.
In an effort to round up more support, AHCA proponents are now putting forward another awful idea – allowing insurance companies to deny coverage or dramatically increase costs for people with pre-existing health conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Under current law, insurers are prevented from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. This protection is critically important to millions of Americans and their families. Without it, they face the fear of great financial distress or ruin on top of dealing with a serious health problem.
People between ages 50 and 64 are especially at risk from
a plan that would end or erode protection for those with a pre-existing health condition. According to AARP’s public policy institute, 40 per cent of Americans in that age group – a total of 25 million people – have a pre-existing health condition. In Texas, approximately two million people between ages 50 and 64 have a pre-existing health condition.
To make matters worse, the bill would also weaken Medicare’s finances, opening the door for a voucher system. The 57 million Americans and the workers paying into the program could face increased costs and risks they can’t afford.
The bill also does nothing to lower prescription-drug prices while giving drug and insurance companies $200 billion in tax breaks.
From lifesaving cancer treatments to EpiPen allergy medicine, above, drug companies’ skyrocketing prices are pushing critical medications out of reach for those who need them.
Last year alone, prescription-drug costs increased by thousands of dollars. There
is no reason Americans should be paying the highest prices in the world.
Instead of the old saying, “First, do no harm”, the AHCA bill takes a radically different approach – keep doing harm and hope people aren’t paying attention.
Let’s make sure our representatives understand that
we will not accept this legislation because it punishes older Americans and rewards special interests. We won’t just stand by as they cut backroom deals that cut down on our health care.
We won’t forget who supports this bill in congress – and who stands against it.
Bob Jackson is director of AARP Texas, which advocates for people age 50-plus and has 2.3 million members throughout the state.

Epipen photo: MGN

By guest writer Cheryl Johnson

For several months, the Galveston central appraisal district and county tax office have been working together to ensure a smooth transition for property owners resulting from a software conversion at the CAD.
With the conversion nearing completion, property owners will soon see changes on the tax-office side of the project, including a short period of website and payment interruptions due to account-number changes. Last Thursday, April 13, the management team in all tax-office branch offices began hand-receipting property-tax-related payments, including those for real and personal property accounts, special inventory and permitting for the Texas alcoholic beverage commission.
Hand receipted funds are being deposited for security purposes and will be applied to accounts upon completion of the conversion and their receipts mailed.
Extra precautions have been taken to ensure errors are not made during this process. The tax office’s accounting team is working closely with staff in the county auditor’s office to ensure proper balancing and handling of all funds.
The expected date for processing and normal operations to resume is next Tuesday, April 25.  We are locking down online payment processing from today, Wednesday, until next Monday, April 24, and an alert is being posted on our website.
Property owners will notice account-number changes immediately if receiving
an appraisal notice. The tax-office website will allow for three different account-number search options including searches by account number (eg R12345), property ID (eg 12345) and account (long geo number previously utilized).
All other account search options remain the same, including searches by owner name and property address.
Ownership and value changes will not occur and refunds will not be processed until completion
of the conversion.
Post readers with questions or concerns should either call the county’s property tax department directly at 409-766-2481 or toll free at 1-877-766-2284 or e-mail galcotax@co.galveston.tx.us.
Cheryl Johnson is tax assessor and collector for Galveston County.

                 Kevin Price

By guest writer Kevin Price

In a recent article in another local newspaper, a man who has been a historical cancer to La Marque for some time wrote that school-board candidate Nakisha Paul is not the trustee that Texas City independent school district needs.
The writer, Walter Manuel, has twisted the facts revolving around the work of the now defunct La Marque independent school district while sitting at his home in Abilene, about 400 miles away. He is trying to shift the focus from the tangible issues affecting the city’s schools.
Both Paul, who is running for TCISD’s district 3, which covers West Texas City, and Lois Jones, who is running for district 2 in La Marque, are exactly what the school board needs. The schools in La Marque have been lacking solid representation since their annexation by Texas City at the end of last school year.
These ladies’ opponents, David Rac in district 3 and Mable Pratt in district 2, are missing the backbone necessary to speak out about issues in the La Marque schools.
Pratt has proven that in the time since she was appointed to the position by former Texas education commissioner Michael Williams. In that time, the schools have had issues with everything from transcripts to utilities and the hiring of almost all new faculty and staff, and the list goes on.
But Pratt has neglected to do anything about it and would rather take the easy road of going along with what everyone else in the district and state want her to. That is not what the district needs. What we need is someone who has the fortitude to ask hard questions and address the issues that others might not want to address.
I strongly feel that both Jones and Paul will be that much-needed voice. While I don’t dislike their opponents on a personal level, I simply feel that they are not cut out for this position. At such a critical time of transition, the district needs resilient representation.
Manuel, on the other hand, needs to learn to keep his nose out of where it doesn’t belong. I have talked to many parents, students, teachers and administrators in the La Marque schools and the vast majority is deeply concerned with the way the schools are being managed.
Manuel is only operating on hearsay and not aware of what is happening on the front line. How could he know, living hundreds of miles away?
After TCISD did not rehire many of the former La Marque teachers for this school year, it proceeded to hire new and under-experienced educators and staff. Now the school district is regretting its decision because it can’t retain its new employees.
Meanwhile, the students are afraid to turn in scholarship applications to their counselors because they don’t feel they will make it where they need to. There continues to be untimely furnishing of transcripts. Apparently, these are all “improvements” in Manuel’s eyes.
The bottom line is that La Marque deserves fair representation on the school board and that has proven not to be the case under Mable Pratt and will not happen with David Rac.
So I ask you to please ignore the naysayers and be sure to turn out to vote for two remarkable candidates, Nakisha Paul and Lois Jones.
La Marque resident and proud Cougar Kevin Price is a former US Army staff sergeant who served overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

By guest writer Cheryl Johnson

Fast approaching are some very important dates that will have a significant impact on the lives of the residents of Galveston County.
This coming Thursday, April 6, is the last day to register to vote or update address information for the May 6 local elections. Voter registration applications are available at all county tax-office locations or online at galcotax.com.
Citizens wishing to register can contact the county’s voter registration department toll free at 1-888-976-2280 and ask for an application to be e-mailed or mailed to them.
Property owners need to be aware that, with today’s robust real-estate market, they should be prepared to see a notice of appraised value appear in their mail in late April.
How can you prepare to protest the appraised value of your home if you disagree with it? First, understand that values are determined by the property’s condition on January 1 each year, so take photos on that date and obtain estimates of the cost of any needed repairs.
Next, if you have recently bought the property and paid less than the appraisal-notice value, or if personal property was included with the purchase price, gather together all the documented details.
Whatever the reason for your protest, contact the county’s central appraisal district at 409-935-1980 to start the process. You must schedule an appointment with a CAD appraiser no later than May 31.
Totally puzzled about the Texas property-tax protest process? Learn how it works and how to be effective when protesting your property value by attending my award-winning Effectively Protest Your Appraised Value class on one of the dates shown in the table below. You’ll learn techniques – not tricks.
Please note that, because the CAD is currently performing a software conversion, we will not be able to post complete class materials to the tax-office website until late April, but will do so before the first scheduled class. All classes begin at 6:00pm and last approximately two hours.
After April 25, go online to galcotax.com, select its Press Releases And Important Information link and download our preliminary 2017 handbook and protest spreadsheet.
Cheryl Johnson is tax assessor and collector for Galveston County.

Property-valuation protest classes

Date             Location
April 27        League City council chambers, 200
West Walker, League City

May 4           Jury assembly room, county justice
center, 600 59th Street, Galveston
May 11         Learning resource center, room L-131,
College Of The Mainland,
1200 Amburn Road, Texas City
May 23        Friendswood public library, 416 South
Friendswood Drive, Friendswood