The Hays County Commissioners Court reappointed members of the Hays County Historical Commission, discussed the local distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and proclaimed Jan. 18 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day during its Jan. 5 meeting.
The Indigenous Cultures Institute and the Tejano Committee of the Hays County Historical Commission asked for reappointments to be postponed due to not having its applications reviewed or by having applications denied, even though the organizations believe their applications fit the requirements.
Dr. Mario Garza, the principal founder of the Indigenous Cultures Institute and the Board of Elder’s Chair, did not attend the meeting but County Clerk Elaine Cárdenas read his statement, verifying his reasons for wanting to delay reappointment.
“On Dec. 22, we submitted an open records request for information about the nomination and selection process which includes criteria for selection and copies of the application submitted to the Hays County Historical Commission," Cárdenas read from Garza's statement. "To date, we have not received a reply and we'll need this information to move forward with a more broad concern about this commission and its proposed membership."
Garza's statement also pointed out a lack of Hispanic people being reappointed to the commission, suggesting it could be a punishment of some kind.
“We are concerned because two current Hispanic commissioners were not recommended for reappointment. We believe it was an act of retaliation which can be proven once we review the approved applications," Cárdenas read from Garza's statement. "Comparing applications will allow us to show qualifications and we are also prepared to list and present documents, demonstrating criticism of the Hispanic commissioners for their support of under-told stories of minority populations.”
The statement read by Cárdenas specified actions of not reappointing qualified minorities are suspect and that the Indigenous Cultures Institute has proof of discrimination.
“We can provide documentation of how Indigenous people were disrespectfully treated and dismissed at a recent commission meeting supporting the discrimination that is demonstrated by failing to appoint a well qualified Indigenous person," Cárdenas read from Garza's statement.
The motion to reappoint the Hays County Historical Commission passed 3-2.
The commissioners also discussed the possible distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine among county residents once first responders are vaccinated. Commissioner Walt Smith suggested first responders who deny vaccination could have their vaccination given to someone else who is at high risk if any doses are leftover.
“We have those health care providers, we have those first responders and we need a good idea about how many of those folks are not going to want the vaccine,” Smith said. “If we're saying, at the end of the day, as a county we need, I don't know, a number of 500 doses for our first responders and 20% of them are saying, 'I'm not going to take the vaccine', then that's 100 doses that we have that we can use.”
Before closing for its private executive session, the commissioners proclaimed Jan. 18 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The commissioners cautioned those who plan to celebrate to do so safely with the Dunbar Heritage Association who will observe the holiday through a private, by invitation only wreath-laying ceremony and a day of virtual celebration via its Facebook page.
The Hays County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. For more information visit its website.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Commissioners Court extended reappointments for the Hays County Historical Commission. Additionally, Dr. Mario Garza's statement was read by County Clerk Elaine Cárdenas not Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe. We deeply apologize for these errors.