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Teen Court clears records while teaching law

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 21 October 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 926
  • 0 Comments

Rayna Jacob, a Round Rock resident and Meridian student, started with Teen Court in 2019 as a freshman. Last summer, Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Judge Evelyn McLean received emails from the Future Leaders Scholarship program director telling her how impressed they were with Jacob’s work in the advanced law and trial internship Jacob served at Harden & Pinckney PPLC.

“All rise, Williamson County Court is now in session,” announces a lithe, youthful judge in the Precinct 3 justice of the peace courtroom in Georgetown.  A 16-year-old prosecutor presents the case against a 16-year-old youth charged with driving 11 to 20 mph above the speed limit. 

Also seated is a jury of peers, attentively listening to the judge who says, “By the oath you’ve taken, you have become officials of this court; participant’s duty is to listen, not to talk with anyone.”

The prosecutor approaches the bench and presents the details of the case against the young driver. The driver participates virtually. “Clear weather, no traffic on a county road north of Georgetown,” she responds to a question concerning conditions under which the alleged violation occurred. The student, who was alone in the car, also identified herself as a serious student, working 15 to 20 hours per week and active in extra-curricular programs.

The prosecutor is unswayed and declares the defendant to have “willfully chosen to speed and irresponsibly created a hazardous condition.” She clarifies that this is a Class 2 misdemeanor and suggests 20 to 30 hours of community service and one jury term.

The youth assigned as the defense attorney then rises and presents the defendant as a responsible person, demonstrated by her involvement in the community, working, maintaining high grades and actively participating in school activities. The attorney further states that her actions that day reflected an urgency to reach school on time and recommends only 20 hours of community service.

With the defense’s closure, the jury is released to convene on the case to a deliberation room near the courtroom.

I’m listening and viewing this activity virtually. Wow – this group of teens understood their responsibilities and were holding a real court hearing with consequences. How did this come to be?

Commissioner Cook Presents National Manufacturing Day Proclamation in Commissioners Court on Oct. 19, 2021

Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area promoted the recognition.

  • 19 October 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 759
  • 0 Comments

Pictured in front from Lf to Rt with Workforce Solutions are: Opal Berry, Business Solutions Consultant; Carol Braun, Business Services Manager; Diane Tacket, COO; Brian Hernandez, Chief Storyteller. In back Lf to Rt are Commissioners Cook and Long, Judge Gravell, Commissioners Covey and  Boles.

WHEREAS, National Manufacturing Day is held annually on the first Friday in October, as a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers and to educate the public at large on the importance of the role manufacturers play in our daily lives and the growing skill-shortage despite the high volume of job openings in the sector; and

WHEREAS, the local manufacturing sector comprised of more than 400 businesses consistently contributes the most significant portion of the gross domestic product in Williamson County, exceeding $6.3 billion in 2020; and

WHEREAS, Williamson County recognizes the importance of a thriving manufacturing sector and works to fuel economic growth and build a sustainable future for our citizens. The prosperity of our community depends on the education and vocational opportunities that align with our manufacturers' skilled labor needs, as well as continued development of advanced manufacturing capabilities and processes; and

WHEREAS, manufacturing jobs are critical to the economy of Williamson County, and the industry should be recognized for its high-tech, high-skilled, and well-paid career options — careers where average annual compensation and benefits are higher than the average across all sectors; and,

Texas’ wacky laws and everlasting myths

Commissioner Cook's Column

  • 19 August 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1117
  • 0 Comments

Oil painting of the Capitol in cubism abstract by Round Rock artist Anita de la Cruz. In 1882, the state offered  3 million acres of seemingly worthless Western plains to anyone who would finance the Capitol’s construction, and some Illinois investors took the bait plus  snared an extra 50,000 acres.

If you believe this last session of the Texas Legislature was full of unbelievably bad bills and resolutions, you may need to study Texas history. This is a state of tall tales, big lies and stellar memoirs. 

If you’ve not read the two-volume set “Texas” by James Michener, might be time to check out those tomes from the library. Weaving fiction, folklore and the truth, Michener sets the stage for modern-day Texas, its people, legislators and attitudes.

Urinating in public is probably prohibited everywhere in the United States, but if you do it on the Alamo, it becomes a state jail felony defined in the Texas Penal Code as criminal mischief of a public monument. There are restrooms there.

In Austin, evidently it is illegal to loiter anywhere in the city limits with the intention of flirting. Those heading out to Sixth Street on a Saturday night might want to take heed.

On that note, don’t go leaning on the bar when drinking beer. Apparently there was a law declaring it illegal to take three sips of beer while standing up. Perhaps that’s the reason there’s so many bar stools.

Marriage ceremonies when one or both people are serving in the military out of the country can occur with properly documented proxies. Virtual is not a new concept here – more like an out-of-body experience.

Regarding marriage, there’s more. Texas does allow for “informal” marriages. A couple can agree to live together and refer to each other as spouses without a marriage license. No state law would recognize them as married after a certain period of time. However, there is no common law divorce so should you part, division of property is not approved by the courts. One or both of the parties would need to file suit to establish the existence of a “marriage” for legal support of a divorce.

Wilco in Red Phase of COVID-19 Transmission - Commissioner Cook Urges Residents To Be Cautious & Wear Masks

Information from Wilco's Public Information Office and the Williamson County and Cities Health District

  • 21 July 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1375
  • 0 Comments

White outline image of a male wearing a mask with red background - Carnegie Mellon UniversityThe criteria set by the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) for Williamson County to increase to COVID-19 Red Phase was reached on July 17. 

The incidence for July 19 is at 14.54 per 100k people, which has more than doubled in the past week, and has increased 6.5 times since the end of June.

The TSA Region O hospitalization has also increased daily in the past week, which is the second criteria for moving up a phase. Hospitalization rate remains fairly low at 4.65% but has more than doubled in the past fourteen days.

Age ranges with the most cases are those 18-30 years, followed by those 31-50 years.

The color-based Phase Guidelines are not changes to local rules or regulations for businesses; they are guidelines for individual actions and behaviors based on levels of risk of exposure in the community. 

It is important to note that everyone should continue to follow any additional requirements of local businesses, venues, and schools regardless of vaccination status or stage.

With the rapid increase of new cases, the following is recommended for all regardless of vaccination status:
• Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.
• Stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you.
• Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.

Emphasis on improving outcomes for those with mental illness

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 15 July 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1287
  • 0 Comments

Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook, bottom right, visits with Assistant Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Kathleen Pokluda, bottom left, along with, from left in back, deputy Fernando Ortiz and corrections officers Terry Hargrove and Brandon McBay at the Williamson County sheriff’s office in Georgetown. I have written about the work of our Mobile Outreach Team assisting those in mental crisis situations who now works in concert with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services for 24/7 coverage throughout the county.

I’ve written about the mental health work in our courts, balancing the law with an individualized approach to best suit the accused suffering from mental illness.

Soon, coming to us all will be the response “911, do you need police, fire, EMS or mental health services?” I’ll write about this later this year.

Six months in, how has our sheriff’s office evolved to appropriately work with those suffering from mental health challenges?

Individuals with mental illness are inordinately represented in arrests and incarcerations in our country’s jails.

Mike Gleason campaigned in 2016 to be our sheriff as the candidate with a demonstrated background of compassionate mental health work both inside and outside law enforcement. Has that translated into a kinder workforce in Williamson County’s patrols and jail?

Below is a letter from an inmate with mental illness to his mom that she shared with Sheriff Gleason and allowed me to share here:

ok mama heres my letter, now just sayin, idk the sheriffs name but here we go,

to the sheriff of williamson county, ... i am an inmate of the county jail and at the time of this letter i will have been here 37 days, i must give praise where it is due sir/ ma'am, this is my 2nd stay in your facility however i am extremely surprised that it has changed so much since my 1st visit. during my st stay, which was 88 days, i witnessed 18 people get tazed, not that im able to say they deserved it or not but this time im glad to say that not 1 individual has been tazed, your CO's and deputeys have more compassion 

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