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Judge Al sparks rollback flap

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RUSTY WELLER

Ellis County Press Managing Editor

WAXAHACHIE - Opposition is mounting against an Ellis County tax-rate rollback vote. Signature forms reportedly are disappearing, causing rollback proponents to take precautions as the Dec. 14 deadline approaches.

And supporters are redoubling their efforts after Ellis County Judge Al Cornelius and other rollback foes stopped signatures from being gathered in front of two Waxahachie businesses - Home Depot last Thursday and Eckerd's on Monday.

Several sheets of signatures reportedly have disappeared. Forms placed in the Ennis High teachers' lounge and a Midlothian café, for instance, are missing and feared taken by people opposing a rollback that would wipe out this coming year's drastic property-tax hike.

'Businesses making forms available are receiving threats,' Jimmy Simmons told the Ellis County Press. 'They've been warned allowing the petition to be signed in their place will mean loss of business.'

Simmons, who accused rollback foes of using scare tactics by threatening the loss of 40 county jobs, called for supporters to keep an eye on the forms and be wary of opposition tactics as next Thursday's deadline approaches.

'Cornelius overstepped his bounds as county judge,' Simmons said of Thursday's Home Depot incident. 'Being the bureaucrat he is, Cornelius knew how to prevent us from gathering signatures in front of the store.'

Cornelius admitted he called the corporate office after Simmons and John Tabor received permission from local manager Stewart Lazarus. The judge claimed he only called to ask if those against the rollback petition could have equal opportunity to present their views in front of the store. He said he called as a citizen, not a judge.

After Cornelius' call, though, the corporate office banned both sides from the sidewalk.

'A store official came out and told us to leave,' Simmons said. 'He said the corporate office had just got a complaint ‘from Judge Al Cornelius.''

The same approach reportedly was taken by rollback opponents to coax Eckerd's corporate office.

Simmons and Tabor called for supporters to gather the sheets and count the signatures. Approximately 6,000 signatures are needed to approve a rollback vote for early next year. Filled forms should be mailed to John G. Tabor, 840 Broadhead Road, Waxahachie, TX 75165.

The Home Depot incident sparked rollback supporters into setting up several tables in front of Waxahachie businesses this past weekend.

'We had told people we planned to be here (in front of Home Depot) through the weekend,' Simmons said. 'When told to leave, we just folded our table and said, ‘This is going to get some people excited.''

It did. Soon three tables were set up in the same area. A petition-signing table quickly was set up in front of Ace Hardware, and three tables were manned in the Northgate Plaza shopping center.

Simmons said there's no truth to a successful rollback vote costing county jobs. 'I don't hear ‘the sky is falling' from the two commissioners who were just elected,' Simmons said of Hallie Joe Robinson and Jackie Miller. 'In my opinion, the county's building program doesn't have to be completed.'

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