City of Houston, PROPOSITION NO. 1
CHARTER AMENDMENT PROPOSITION
Relating to the Creation of a Dedicated Funding Source to Enhance, Improve and Renew Drainage Systems and Streets. Shall the City Charter of the City of Houston be amended to provide for the enhancement, improvement and ongoing renewal of Houston’s drainage and streets by creating a Dedicated Pay-As-You-Go Fund for Drainage and Streets?
My recommendation: Against
This is the initiative by Renew Houston, led by Council Member Stephen Costello. This group would like to charge a monthly fee proportional to the amount of land you own (probably around $5/month for the average homeowner). This money will go into a dedicated fund for infrastructure projects and to pay down existing debts on issued bonds. They also want to charge a developer impact fee for all new developments in Houston. In theory it sounds like a good idea, and I think that CM Costello and Renew Houston had good intentions for this; however, I will vote against the initiate, and here is why:
1. We cannot raise taxes in Houston until we know (1) exactly where every cent of our current tax money is being spent and (2) if there are any items to cut first. The breakdown of out budget should include every project and every cent rather than just showing lump sums to various agencies as it currently does. Until we know what we spend, we won’t know where to cut.
2. The argument has been made by Renew Houston that we have so many groups and people advocating for funds for various services, but almost no one advocates for infrastructure, so many projects fall flat. What they do not realize is that our city council members should be the advocates for the main services our city government should provide: police, firefighters, and infrastructure.
3. This initiative does not solve the problem that we have with our infrastructure system in Houston. Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds are given to each district council member for projects in their area. This might be alright for smaller projects; however, we need to look at Houston’s infrastructure as a whole and prioritize the projects as a whole. The current patchwork of projects is not working. Members will still be given these CIP funds under the current plan.
4. Even if after all of these reasons you are still in favor of this proposed amendment, here is the reason to vote against it: the way it is written on the ballot gives City Council free range to change the Charter in more ways than you think. The ballot language just says that the Charter shall be amended, but it doesn’t specifically say anything about a fee or how much that fee might be. You might hear some city council members say that they will change the Charter to only increase your taxes by $5 a month. But what if after looking at the numbers, they decide it really needs to be $10 a month? What about the city council members you haven’t heard from? How much do they want to raise your taxes a month? What if they determine that cars driving on the road deter the conveyance of water and believe that charging a tax for each car would provide for the enhancement of Houston’s drainage and streets? After all, cars do damage streets. Ok, that might be farfetched, but you see from my example that the way it is written on the ballot gives City Council a lot more power than you might expect. You don’t know what you don’t know. I would vote against anything that increases City Council’s power to levy taxes.
So please make up your own mind when you go out to vote, but I recommend voting against Proposition 1.