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Resident explains need for public defender

Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

 My approach to issues that affect the public’s health, safety, and welfare is to, first, identify and define the issue in clear and logical terms; second, explore and analyze options that are presented as solutions; and finally, implement the best solution. Nowhere in that process do I use labels, or I accept or reject options simply because of the source.

Therefore, I was sorely disappointed when the Hays County Commissioners Court did not approve going forward with an application for a grant to establish a Public Defender’s Office for Hays County. The large majority of people in Hays County are likewise disappointed, for it was undeniable that a Public Defender’s Office would provide justice and due process where it is presently missing and save thousands of taxpayer dollars at the same time.  Last week’s poll in San Marcos Daily Record revealed that 70% of respondents favored Hays County Commissioners Court’s pursuit of a Public Defender’s Office. But, despite a serious grant opportunity from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission offering to pay one-half of the costs of the office in its first five years, and even a supportive visit to the Court’s chambers by the TIDC’s executive director, Judge Becerra’s motion to proceed with the grant process did not so much as receive a second. Due to unsubstantiated rumors spread by the Commissioners who did not pursue the grant, attention was diverted from the fact that the vote to approve the grant application was but one of several steps to be completed — indeed a necessary step to accomplish — by last May 10 to officially stay eligible for a grant. Time was available after May 10 to collect judicial signatures, and a finalized plan for the office was not immediately due on May 10. The TIDC’s Executive Director stated these basic facts to the Commissioners at their meeting — yet the fake justifications for inaction persisted. The County had the opportunity (like other grant applicants) to complete the other steps after this application approval vote, or the County could have withdrawn the application if the judges did not agree in sufficient numbers or for any other valid reason. Moreover, the TIDC could have denied the County’s application. Nonetheless, pulling the plug on a cost-saving Public Defender’s Office at this early step was short-sighted policy-making.  And, the lopsided results of the newspaper’s poll show that an overwhelming bulk of respondents agree.

Jimmy Alan Hall

Wimberley, Texas

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666