Scott Haag vs. Michael Zimmerman (2018)

Excerpt published in October 28 New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (subscription required)

Comal County commissioners continue to fail to support Comal County citizens when it comes to problems created by quarries and other aggregate plants.

Despite hundreds of calls, emails, and letters from concerned constituents over the past year, Precinct 2 Commissioner Scott Haag has taken no meaningful action. During the public comment period earlier this year, Mr. Haag replied to numerous citizens: “I am against passing a resolution against the proposed Vulcan quarry” and “we’ve already sent individual letters [to TCEQ]; that should be enough.”

Even when presented with actionable tools such as making a contested case hearing request, quoted chapter and verse from Texas law granting relevant authority to the County, and shown that other counties, school districts, and cities have led the way, Mr. Haag refused to come to the aid of the constituents he represents—instead minimizing the hazards of the proposed 1500-acre Vulcan quarry by comparing it to “nuisance billboards on Highway 46.”

Furthermore, Mr. Haag recently stated he opposes any preservation of natural areas and watersheds funded by the County and opposes even a limited increase in county authority to protect citizens and our property.

On the other hand, write-in candidate Michael Zimmerman recognizes the dangers that insufficiently regulated quarries and concrete plants pose to our health. He advocates the need for some common-sense local authority when it comes to protecting our water, air, and other natural resources. Mr. Zimmerman has three decades of senior management experience with the U.S. Air Force, including in areas of finance, budgeting, and contracting. Importantly, a primary theme of his campaign has been listening to “we the people,” especially those living in unincorporated areas of Comal County.

The differences between these two candidates are significant. Incumbent Scott Haag should be replaced by someone who is solution-driven, willing to think outside the box, and responsive to the citizens of Precinct 2. Michael Zimmerman would bring a much-needed breath of fresh air to Commissioners Court and has our full support.

Michael Zimmerman is a write-in candidate whose name is not shown on the initial ballot screen. Here’s how to vote for Michael Zimmerman: Under the County Commissioner, Precinct 2 race, select Write-In. Then use the wheel to “type” in his name: Michael Zimmerman. (For convenience, a paper list of all write-in candidates should be attached to the inside of your voting booth.) Make sure your ballot summary screen is correct. Don’t hesitate to ask an election official for assistance if you need help while voting.

Candidates for Comal County Commissioner, Precinct 2: Scott Haag (L) and Michael Zimmerman (R)
Candidates for Comal County Commissioner, Precinct 2: Scott Haag (left) and Michael Zimmerman (right)

Candidate Questionnaire

Preserve Our Hill Country Environment sent a candidate questionnaire to both candidates in late August, then followed up with each candidate multiple times by email and phone. Responses from each candidate are shown below verbatim. As per instructions, responses have not been edited for spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. “No response received” is shown for any candidate who did not reply by the October 15 deadline.

Question 1. Applicants for TCEQ air quality permits often face opposition from a community when the proposed facility, such as a rock crusher/quarry or cement plant, will significantly impact area residents. In such cases, Texas law allows counties to directly request a contested case hearing and participate with the county itself as an “affected person” (Texas Administrative Code, Title 30, Subchapter F). Texas counties such as Kendall, Kerr, and Burnet, have supported their citizens by requesting contested case hearings. Did you (for challengers, would you) directly request a contested case hearing on TCEQ permit application number 147392L001 (Vulcan Construction Materials) with Comal County as an affected person?

Haag: No response received.

Zimmerman: YES. This proposed quarry poses a very real threat to the entire area. Air, human health, and the environment will be affected if this quarry goes operational. Water is the MOST threatening of all. This quarry will sit directly over the Edwards and Trinity aquifer systems. The substructure is full of caves. Once the blasting begins, it’s then a matter of when, not if, the sub-structure collapses and endangers all of our water supply.

Question 2. Texas counties have a number of tools available when it comes to protecting the health and safety of their citizens against the well-documented risks of increased particulate matter air pollution from quarries. In addition to contested case hearings, some of these tools include the ability to issue a county-wide moratorium, form a commission to require TCEQ coordination with local authorities, and create a comprehensive county development plan. Which of these tools have you used (for challengers, would you use) to support your constituents who oppose the proposed Vulcan Materials quarry in Comal County? (Selection options: Moratorium, Commission, Development Plan, Other.)

Haag: No response received.

Zimmerman: MORATORIUM, COMMISSION, DEVELOPMENT PLAN, OTHER. These are tools available TODAY for our elected officials to employ, but they choose to dig in their heels, and won’t. Implementation of the 1st three items is tantamount of initially introducing local control.   The other is enjoining other counties to implement a mutli-county commission, as prescribe by state law, to enforce and protect our health, resources and the environment.

Question 3. Westward Environmental provides consulting services to aggregate companies such as Vulcan. Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association (TACA) is a lobbying group representing Vulcan Construction Materials and other aggregate companies. Did you communicate with or have contact with any representatives of Vulcan, Westward, TACA, or their subsidiaries prior to public notice of permit application number 147392L001 in July 2017?

Haag: No response received.

Zimmerman: NO. Never heard of Westward prior to the notice of the proposed quarry, and absolutely had no reason to contact any of the others.

Question 4. Comal County is experiencing rapid growth, much of which is occurring in unincorporated areas. County commissioners have claimed they have insufficient authority when it comes to regulating incompatible land use or protecting citizens against threats to their health and property. What specific actions have you taken (for challengers, would you take) to rectify this lack of authority and foster a reasonable and predictable approach to development that protects all property owners?

Haag: No response received.

Zimmerman: Today, we do have the power to begin the process locally and that is with the formation of a 391 Commission. 391 refers to the chapter in the Local Government Code which allows the formation of a commission to improve the health, safety, and general welfare of their residents, and, plan for the future development of communities, areas, and regions, etc. There has to be a county development plan which will proactively assist with growth and, at the same time, balance the use of water and other resources.

Comal County Precinct Map
Comal County precinct map. Click map for more details and voting precinct information.

Other Key Races

Preserve Our Hill Country Environment is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization formed to preserve, protect, and restore the land, water, air, wildlife, unique features, and quality of life in the Texas Hill Country from the aggressive and insufficiently regulated expansion of the aggregate industry.