A Place at the Table: On Samsung in Taylor

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Big news broke last week when Samsung announced it would invest $17 billion in an advanced semiconductor plant in Taylor, Texas. Attitudes about this news span the spectrum. There are many who lament the loss of prime agricultural land and the creeping urbanization of Williamson County. Others see this as the dawn of a new golden age for a little town that was once the “queen city” of our county.

Whatever your perspective, there is no question that this will be a major game-changer for Taylor and for Williamson County. We can also be fairly certain that it will not be an unalloyed blessing. Change is difficult. Growth can be painful. The story is yet to be written. But what I know about the people of Taylor and its leadership gives me confidence that they will be hospitable, adaptable, and passionate about preserving the character of Taylor into the next era of its history. I am rooting for success.

However, there can be no success in this endeavor, by any metric, unless ordinary families get a place at the table. In this respect, I do not have any confidence in the record or the priorities of the current leader of Williamson County government, Bill Gravell.

1. Gravell ran for office on a platform of cutting property taxes. Instead, for three years running, he has voted to raise them. Now, he is basing his re-election platform on a deal that grants huge tax breaks to a foreign corporation–one of the largest corporations in the world, worth around half a trillion dollars. We see Gravell’s priorities.

2. Gravell told a reporter that Gov. Abbott got ONCOR to sit down with Samsung “to assure the company that industrial users on Oncor’s network did not suffer outages during last winter’s massive Texas snow storm.” I think Texas families would like to have a sit down meeting with the governor and with energy companies and receive such assurances, but we don’t see Gravell fighting for that. We see Gravell’s priorities.

3. Gravell told reporters that Williamson County is now the “technology super highway of the world.” Yet earlier this year he refused even to listen to a plan from a fellow Commissioner to study broadband needs in rural areas of our county. We see Gravell’s priorities.

4. Gravell wants you to know that he’s the one who’s responsible for getting the internship program for Taylor ISD written into the agreement with Samsung: “I asked the chief of staff, if they would consider writing in the agreement six interns, and he said, ‘six interns that’s all that you want?’ And that’s where we began.” The final agreement was for 24 interns per year. It’s odd but telling, that by taking this little story to the media about his role in the internship program, he unwittingly revealed his upside-down approach to negotiations. In what other ways did Gravell let Samsung dictate the terms of the agreement? We see Gravell’s priorities.

Despite Gravell’s initial thoughts on the Samsung announcement: “Your never to little to WIN!” (he later fixed the two errors in that short sentence), time and time again his record has revealed his top priority is not the little guy. Whether it’s making promises he can’t keep, sucking up to rich and powerful people who can help him, spinning grandiose and exaggerated phrases, or grasping for undue credit, Gravell has proven that he’s about one guy: The man in the mirror.

Ordinary families in Williamson County need a place at the table. When I am Williamson County Judge, I will be your advocate. Rather than draw attention to myself, I will pay attention to you. Instead of serving my own self interest, I will serve the public. When I’m in office, you will help negotiate the terms of our future together, and we will not leave anyone behind.

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