By CRISTIN REECE
Longview area resident David Watts has tossed his hat into the state’s Land Commissioner ring.
Watts visited with members of the Anderson County-Palestine Tea Party/Citizens for the Constitution Tuesday evening and told the crowd a bit about himself and what he’d do if elected Texas’ Land Commissioner.
“My background is in business — I’m not a politician, or a lawyer, so perhaps that’ll put me ahead in some peoples’ minds,” Watts joked.
He said he grew up in the Humble-Deer Park area, near Houston, and moved to the East Texas area in 1999 with his wife and children. He said he wants to bring “truly conservative principles” to the office of Land Commissioner.
“I think what most any bureaucratic agency has proven to the public time and time and time again is they seem to always expand beyond their original design,” he said. “They want to be in the business of controlling more and more of an individual’s life, while at the same time retreating from any type of accountability to the public. They want to tell you what crops you can grow, what kind of toilet you can install —but you can’t go to Washington and knock on the door and influence those policies at all.
“I want to make sure that attitude never gets to the Land Commissioner’s seat.”
Watts listed the areas the Texas General Land Office governs — stewardship of the state’s public lands and the state’s coastlines; veterans benefits; and Texas history preservation. He shared some of his plans with Palestine constituents, if elected.
“We have 13 million acres of public land,” he said. “The General Land Office’s job is to be good stewards of our public lands and make them make money to fund our education system. Oil and gas leases, among other things, through public lands makes money and all that money goes directly into the permanent education fund.
“We need to make sure we establish and maintain a low regulatory system so those businesses want to continue to come to Texas to do business. California has a lot of resources, but their system is so unstable and bloated, nobody wants to risk their business doing business there — but they want to do business with Texas. We’ve got the big four, well, five since we’ve got coal production here, too — oil, natural gas, wind and solar. We need to do anything within reason to keep our public lands making money for our schools.”
He also cited a 1982 lawsuit involving the Tyler Independent School District, in which the Supreme Court ruled Texas must provide free education to the children of illegal immigrants.
“That was a bad decision,” he said simply. “Are we sympathetic to these children’s’ plight? Of course. What I’d attempt to do is work with our legislature, twist arms, brow-beat them into changing our focus back to the children of lawful residents of Texas. Take the suit back to the Supreme Court for another look. It was a 5-4 decision in 1982 and we can show the real impact this has had. We can show it costs us a billion dollars a year to educate these children — times 30 years.”
On the office’s veterans benefits work, Watts said he’d work at reducing the red tape by consolidating the Veterans Land Board, which is under the umbrella of the GLO, with the Texas Veterans Commission. He said both agencies do the same work for veterans.
“Why do we need two agencies anyway,” he asked. “There are five members on the Veterans Commission. Does anyone know any of them? Have we even heard their names before? If we combine these agencies, it helps reduce a slow bureaucracy, reduces red tape and puts it in the control on one guy who has to come before the voters every four years.”
Watts also said he’d like to work toward allowing the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to resume custodianship of the Alamo.
“For 105 years, the Daughters worked to preserve our Alamo,” he said. “Recently, some problems came to light concerning some of the leaders of the organization and now the Daughters are pretty much allowed to run the gift shop. And isn’t that just like big government? An honest citizen trying to do some good makes a mistake and their first reaction is to simply crush them. I just don’t think that’s right. I’d like to form a true partnership with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and give it back to them. Sure, it’s the Land Office’s job to preserve our history, but without these ladies we wouldn’t have it to begin with.”
Watts concluded by saying, “I need your help. My opponent is George P. Bush, son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush. I believe the Bush family is fond of big government. He raised a million dollars for his campaign, before he even had an opponent. He’s not really running to be Land Commissioner — he’s got his eye on something else, in my opinion.
“I don’t have a trust fund. I haven’t raised that kind of money. I don’t have that name. So I need your help.”
Visit Watts’ website at www.wattsfortexas.org.