By Kaitlyn Benacquisto
Blog Content Contributor
Ruben Becerra is a Democratic candidate running for Hays County judge. Here is the low-down on who he is, why he’s running, and his platform.
First, the question that no one wants to ask, but everyone is wondering: what does the county judge do?
County judges have no judicial authority, although they can enroll in courses once elected to satisfy the ability to become a judicial judge. For now, just get the image of a judge in court banging a gavel out of your head! Either way, the main role of the county judge is administrative. Ruben Becerra told us to think of the county judge as similar to the mayor of the county, with the commissioners court as the executive body of the county. The commissioners court is made up of four commissioners from the four precincts in Hays County and the county judge is the chair of the court. The commissioners court deals with roads, transportation, taxes, conservation, budgeting, record keeping, criminal justice system and emergency services. County judges are directly in charge during emergency events, such as catastrophic flooding. The county judge also initiates the budget process and sets up the first preliminary budget in the county.
Who is Ruben Becerra?
Becerra describes himself as “a person of the people” and a working class candidate. He is a local small business owner who has raised his children in San Marcos since they were in kindergarten. He doesn’t like to be referred to as a politician, and prefers “public servant” instead.
“I feel that very often politicians are placed in a space of doing special favors and backroom deals, and I’m there to squash politicians and that perception and that perspective and I want to bring our government back to the people,” Becerra said.
Why is he the person for the job?
Becerra has served as a planning and zoning commissioner along with several other committees and commissions, such as the Blue Ribbon Bond committee. He says his experience as a planning and zoning commissioner has given him experience in shaping future uses and long range planning for land. He is also a small business owner, which has helped him serve others, a focal point of his campaign. Becerra says that the hardship of being a small business owner has also prepared him for the budgetary aspect of being county judge.
“I’m the guy who slices a nickel down the middle and makes it spend like two dimes,” Becerra said.
What will he do for San Marcos, the fastest growing county as of 2016, as it continues to expand?
Becerra believes in intelligent growth for the county. In San Marcos, he says, this means protecting the recharge zone to prevent flooding throughout the county. Becerra says recharge zones, which are spaces where rainwater absorbs into the ground and is used to recharge springs, need to be approached cautiously and not be built over when possible. When recharge zones are covered, they cannot absorb rainwater, thus creating more flooding.
“We can’t push growth where our resources can’t sustain,” Becerra said.
What other issues are on the candidate’s agenda?
Criminal justice system: Becerra wants to encourage a culture in Hays County that encourages transparency between citizens and law enforcement. Although county judges have no direct effect over law enforcement, Becerra wants to encourage police departments in Hays County to cite and release (meaning, give tickets) instead of putting citizens in jail. Becerra says that Hays County is currently paying $14,000 daily to transport and house its residents in neighboring county jails because of the overpopulation of Hays County’s own jail.
“Right now, we have a population that has to fear every time they get pulled over,” Becerra said. “If they have a joint in their pocket, guess what? You can get thrown on the hood of a car and arrested and taken to our county jail. But a lot of people don’t realize that the cop could write them a ticket and send them on their way; it’s called a citable offense.”
Keeping it local: Becerra wants local money going back into the community. He spoke of the current system that’s “siphoning out our taxpayer dollars to big projects” that big names get rewarded for, while locals are left with the bill. He also says that the benefits of hiring local names for local needs include a sense of pride within the community, and the ability to be able to call whoever did the job back if something goes wrong.
Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering is the manipulation of the boundaries of an electoral constituency in favor of a specific party or class. Becerra wants to reset the boundaries for the precincts and the county when the 2020 census comes out. You can view the current precinct and county map here.
“When voters are supposed to pick their elected officials, gerrymandering helps to create the opposite, where elected officials are picking their voters,” Becerra said.
You can access more information about Ruben Becerra and his platform here. Early voting begins Oct. 22 and ends Nov. 2, and Election Day is Nov. 6.
Featured photo by Victoria Vasquez.