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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Amid growing frustration from students, Commissioner Court canceled

Photo by Meredith Seaver
MSC 12th Man Hall

Just seven weeks from Election Day, students gathered to speak at the Sept. 13 Brazos Valley Commissioners Court meeting, but they were unable to have their voices heard. 

Due to the absence of Precinct 1 Commissioner Steve Aldrich and Precinct 2 Commissioner Russ Ford, the Court was unable to meet quorum, which requires three physically present commissioners. Students from the Texas A&M chapter of Mobilize, Organize, Vote and Empower, or MOVE, were listed on the agenda to speak about the Memorial Student Center, or MSC, not being selected as an early voting location. 

Biology senior and MOVE President Kristina Samuel said the students were left feeling frustrated after they were unable to testify. 

“People who have jobs and have classes and responsibilities, still made time to show up, but the commissioners who are elected to do this in the first place didn’t,” Samuel said. “That was just extremely disappointing, and I know it wasn’t necessarily regarding our issue, but it was still disheartening to see.”

In an interview with The Battalion, Ford said he chose not to attend the meeting due to an ongoing issue with the proposed tax rate in Brazos County — a proposal he could only guarantee wouldn’t be passed if he was absent.  

“I think we’re doing the wrong thing, raising taxes,” Ford said. “I asked [the other commissioners,] ‘Is there a chance that we can negotiate, that we could sit down and talk about this situation?’ …  I feel like I have been manipulated and forced into this decision.”

The next commissioners court meeting will be held on Sept. 19 but Ford said he will not attend unless his fellow commissioners are willing to negotiate the tax rate issue. 

“If they will take the tax rates off the agenda, then I will be there to take care of the business,” Ford said. “If they continue to leave the tax rate on the agenda, then no — we’re going to settle on the no new revenue rates on the 29th, unless they’re willing to negotiate.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Nancy Berry said the canceled meeting created issues that extend beyond the early voting decision. 

“By not showing up, the county couldn’t do business,” Berry said. “The jail can’t order food for inmates — they may run out of food for the inmates. We sent four new hires home because we couldn’t approve their hiring. Grants weren’t able to be submitted. We couldn’t do business. We couldn’t pay bills.”

At the July 5 commissioners court meeting, Berry voted against an early voting location in the MSC. After speaking with her, psychology junior and MOVE Civics Engagement Director Sabrina Wren said Berry may go back on her initial vote. 

“She was saying that she would vote to reinstate the MSC as an early voting location and was planning on it,” Wren said. “However, her colleagues did not show up, so she wasn’t allowed to. But next meeting, which is next [Tuesday], she is planning on voting to reinstate it.”

Unlike Berry, Wren said Precinct 4 Commissioner Irma Cauley was devoted to her initial decision about the MSC location. 

“We asked if we could count on her support at the next meeting and, she said no, because it wasn’t fair to the real residents of Bryan-College Station, which we feel is unfair because A&M students are real residents of Bryan-College Station,” Wren said. 

Given there are at least three commissioners present, the court plans to meet again on Sept. 20. Samuel said herself and several other students from MOVE plan to attend. 

“Just proving not only that, it’s important for us, but also that it’s extremely doable,” Samuel said.  “On every single argument they were telling us about it not being so, is pretty much incorrect.”

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