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Tim O’Hare Speaks at Annual Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Tarrant County Judge Tim O'Hare speaks at the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce's 13th Annual State of the County luncheon | Image by Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce/Facebook
Tarrant County Judge Tim O'Hare speaks at the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce's 13th Annual State of the County luncheon | Image by Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce/Facebook

Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare was the keynote speaker at the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s 13th Annual State of the County luncheon on Wednesday.

His address highlighted three main issues: economic development, prison overcrowding, and mental health services, according to KERA News.

Several elected officials and county staff members attended the event, which took place in a packed banquet hall at the Sheraton Arlington Hotel.

O’Hare explained his plans to attract more businesses to Tarrant County, noting the potential of focusing on unincorporated areas.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired of reading that Frisco got this, and Plano got that, and Dallas got this, and Irving got this,” he said, per KERA.

O’Hare emphasized that bringing in more businesses would relieve the tax burden on homeowners. The county’s tax base is currently mostly residential.

Speaking about the growth in Tarrant County, O’Hare said, “We’ve just got good people here, and we’ve got a lot of neat things to share. I just don’t quite think the secret is out yet, but I think there’s a lot of us working on it.”

Last year, O’Hare and county commissioners adopted lower property tax rates, which included a cut to the property tax levied by John Peter Smith Hospital.

“For the first time in the history of Tarrant, the county adopted a no new revenue tax rate for both the county and JPS [Health Network],” O’Hare previously told DX.

As O’Hare mentioned during his address on Wednesday, taxpayer spending has also been dramatically reduced. Commissioners cut $8 million in expenditures last year.

O’Hare also discussed various issues related to the county’s jail system, including a proposal to build a new jail. Last summer, as a result of overcrowding, the county prison had to halt the acceptance of new prisoners, per KERA. The jail has also reportedly suffered from chronic understaffing.

“I’m not sure we know what it would cost to build a jail, but, I mean, it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It could reach a billion,” he said, per KERA.

Rather than constructing a new facility, O’Hare emphasized the need to reduce the prison population.

He also noted the “serious mental health challenges” facing prisoners. Sheriff Bill Waybourn recently informed county commissioners that roughly 60% of inmates receive mental health services from My Health My Resources of Tarrant County.

O’Hare said the county needs its own state psychiatric hospital to help deal with the issue. He has previously made the request of the Texas Legislature, but it was denied, per KERA. He said he would try again in the next legislative session.

Despite Waybourn coming under fire in the fallout of an inmate’s death in Tarrant County Jail custody, O’Hare has been a strong supporter of the sheriff and praised him during his address.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Bill Waybourn as our sheriff,” O’Hare said, per KERA.

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