Now that the budget and the tax rates have been approved by the City Commission, one of the biggest struggles of every year is behind us. With a balanced budget for next year, and a Capital budget that will provide for additional infrastructure development, I can again say that things are going well with the city and it looks like they will continue to be improving. The City Commission did pass a new fee and rate schedule that will increase some of the utility rates beginning November 1, but that was necessary to keep up with the many increases in the costs of continuing to provide the quality of services we all expect from our municipal government. One of the particular issues that was discussed at length was the city swimming pool and the improvements that are needed. It was decided that a special committee will be appointed to examine the problems and try to help the city staff solve them during the next few months before the pool is open again next summer, and if you would like to serve on that committee and try to make this part of the city program work better, please let me know and I will be glad to have your help and assistance.
When I was recently visiting with Linda Williams, the director of our Mason EMS, she mentioned a very disturbing problem that had been increasing lately. She has noticed a number of street signs and stop signs that have been removed or covered with graffiti recently, and this will cause a problem for not only the everyday driver but possibly for emergency responders in the future. I brought this problem up to our Municipal Court Judge, Ms. Jill Williams, and she provided me a good bit of information that I feel I need to share. Most of us, no matter what our age, remember some stories about teenagers or others removing street signs or spray painting graffiti somewhere around town. It was generally considered just a youthful prank, but recently around Mason the problem has become much more prevalent than a mere prank. It seems that at least once a week I hear of another place where graffiti has popped up. In fact, today if a “person intentionally or knowingly make markings including inscriptions, slogans, drawings or paintings on the tangible property of another with aerosol paint, and indelible marker or an etching or engraving device” it can be considered ranging from a Class B misdemeanor up to a first degree felony! This comes directly from the Texas Penal Code Section 28.08 and an offense might result in paying restitution to the victim and possibly state jail time up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000 depending on the degree of damages. It seems to that it would be wise to think twice, or maybe much more, before spray painting that cute slogan on the nearest surface! Even more concerning, the unauthorized removal or destruction of stop signs or other traffic warning signs creates a risk of serious injury or even death if an innocent driver does not know to stop when others are expecting him to. It could be argued that the person stealing or removing a stop sign was actually aware of this risk, yet consciously disregarded it, and in Texas that could be classified as manslaughter carrying with it up to 20 years in prison! It may seem a silly teenage prank to steal traffic signs, but the results and penalties are sever because of the consequences, and that is nothing to laugh about.
As I was considering all of this over the past couple of weeks, one mother told me that she knew her teenager had street signs and a stop sign in his/her bedroom and what should she do? Also, the owner of one of the local storage facilities called me to say that several traffic signs were left in a storage unit that had been “emptied” and what should be done with those signs? I told both of these people to just drop the signs by the city office (even by the back door at night if you are afraid to admit you have had them) and we will see that they are put back in place or used again in the future. We are not trying to get anyone in trouble for what they considered a prank, but we do need to correct the problems that have grown, before they cause big trouble for someone we know and love. Parents, it might be time for you to have a serious talk with your teenager, and perhaps make sure they read the previous paragraph; and remind them that when we live in a community it is only as safe and good as we all make it by respecting and helping each other. Mason is a wonderful hometown for each of us, let’s work together to keep it that way and help our neighbors and friends to stay safe and out of trouble. It takes a “village to raise a child” and it takes all of us together to build a safe and friendly hometown community.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley