Will voters again elect Chris Florance, who led building new County Courthouse without voter approval?
ROCKWALL – Will voters once again elect former Rockwall County Judge Chris Florance (above left) – the man primarily behind the building of the new County Courthouse where it stands today without voter approval – in the July 31 Republican Run-Off Election for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3?
He is running against third-term Rockwall City Council Member Mark Russo (above right), who received 579 votes (44%) in the May 29 Republican Primary Election, compared to 489 (37%) for Florance. Third candidate Joe Flory – who has since endorsed Russo – received 254 votes (19%).
That’s a question many County residents are asking after Florance seemingly ignored voters – who had twice voted down the building in its current location – and found a way without voter approval to finance the building of the controversial “Taj Mahal” where it stands today.
Florance explained to TheRockwallNews.com in 2009 why he did it. He said that because of his construction business background, he knew that costs were rising quickly and was certain that building it as soon as possible would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.
He added that, after investigating many other possible sites, there was just no other place to build it other than next to the County Library, where construction crews could still leave room for a car dealership or business on the prime, I-30 frontage road, just south of it.
He added that the County was also under extreme pressure by the State to vacate the overcrowded county government building at 1101 Ridge Rd. because there were so many code violations. The County had simply outgrown the facility.
Something had to be done and quickly, Florance said, so he researched it and discovered an answer – tax anticipation notes, which – this time – did not require voter approval.
After proposing the solution, former Commissioner Bruce Beatty and now retiring Commissioner Jerry Wimpee voted with him, while Commissioners Lori Grinnan and David Magnuson opposed it, and the motion passed 3-2.
Florance said, at the time, he realized his decision might not be the most politically correct but, in his heart, he truly believed he was making the right decision for Rockwall County residents – now and in the future. He said voters voted him in to make the right decisions in behalf of residents and that’s what he did, although many residents did not understand why he did so – then or now.
Since he was soundly defeated by current County Judge Jerry Hogan in 2010 – largely because of the courthouse issue – it appeared Florance was finished when it came to being elected to office again in Rockwall County. But in the initial May 29 Republican Primary Election, Florance received just 90 votes less than Russo, so he apparently still has plenty of supporters.
Russo must be wondering where all those angry voters went who were so bitter with Florance in 2010, when they elected Hogan.
So the question remains whether enough County voters are still angry enough at Florance to once again defeat him, for making his admittedly politically incorrect decision, or if they now believe that his tax anticipation notes solution without voter approval was truly in the best interests of the County.
They may also be upset with him for twice raising his salary during his four years in office, plus adding about $15,000 more to his annual income by taking on additional duties – all without voter approval.
We’ll find out soon, on Run-Off Election Day, July 31.
By J.J. Smith, Publisher