Christine Hortick, president of the Children’s Court Attorneys Association (CCAA) in San Antonio, stands outside of the Bexar County Courthouse.
Christine Hortick is a candidate for County Commissioner Precinct 3. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Ask anyone to name a local elected official and you are likely to hear mayor, city councilperson, or maybe sheriff, but probably not commissioner. A good portion of local residents aren’t quite sure who the commissioners are or what they do. The Commissioners Court’s primary role is to decide where our tax dollars should be spent. This includes anywhere from roadways and bridges to specialty courts, to providing grant money to local nonprofits and small businesses. Educating voters about the Commissioners Court has been a necessary part of my campaign messaging.

The pandemic has affected everyone and everything, including the priorities of our community. It is a vastly different landscape from when primaries were decided in early March. Now more than ever local government must be responsive and receptive to the needs of residents. The full financial impact on the County’s revenue won’t be known most likely until next spring. By that time the tax assessor will be able to determine what percentage of property taxes have been paid and tax appraisal information will be available so that we can more accurately estimate revenue for the following year. This uncertainty makes it very important that discretionary spending be reduced as much as possible. It also emphasizes the need to review current operations to ensure that redundancy is eliminated and processes are run as efficiently as possible.

While out campaigning, residents have been most vocal about investing in infrastructure, supporting local economic development, and reforming our property appraisal system. With Bexar County growing by an estimated one million people in the next 20 years, we need to be forward-thinking and do our best to anticipate what our needs will be. We also need to guarantee that resources are going to be adequately reserved and that they are distributed to create new infrastructure that alleviates traffic and drainage issues.

Economic development is going to take a more multifaceted approach. It is crucial that we support our local businesses while at the same time working to strengthen and diversify our local workforce. I believe we can do this by expanding and developing programs that encourage residents to better themselves. That can range from programs that ease the burden of college tuition through AlamoPROMISE so more people are able to take advantage of a higher education, to expanding existing employment training programs like TX FAME. We need to ensure that we are doing everything to prepare our residents to compete for jobs today and in the future.

When it comes to tax appraisal reform, that’s something that we will need to work with our state representatives in Austin. People need to understand that the rules that govern the tax appraisal office and how and what they do is governed by state statute. It’s not something that the commissioners can do on their own. I guarantee that if they could change it they would already have done that. Providing the public with information as to why their tax bills are so high I think lays the groundwork for really developing a plan to reduce our tax burden. Alleviating the heavy burden of property taxes and ensuring that seniors are able to remain in their homes and not be driven out by the escalating tax bills is imperative.

I also believe it is necessary to address the growing need to improve access and treatment for those of our neighbors who struggle with their mental health. Bexar County, like so many other places, is facing the growing challenge of how to effectively address mental health in a meaningful, long-term manner. Without good health, we can’t reasonably expect people to be productive at home or in their communities.

It is crucial that a hard look is given to campaign finance reform and term limits. Bexar County is still very much a pay to play system. There is no room for that in local government or anywhere else. It perpetuates the negative cycle of establishment candidates. Greater transparency is necessary and will lead to improved working relationships between elected officials and those they represent. This race is not about partisan politics. It is about electing the person who will do the best job at representing the interests of Precinct 3, not just special interests. Residents deserve nothing less than to be represented by a commissioner that will serve full-time and that will be accessible and put the needs of Precinct 3 above their own.

Read opponent Trish DeBerry’s commentary here.

Christine Hortick, democratic candidate for County Commissioner Precinct 3, is a former staffer for U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy and practicing attorney for almost fifteen years. She is a long-time resident...