Well, I’ve said any number of times (though mostly not here) that the drainage fee was coming back. Sure enough, it has.. There were several things I thought were very interesting in today’s uncritical article.
- The assumption that some of the metro sales tax (aka. “general mobility”) funds would be used for drainage and “infrastructure” improvements. In the first place, that assumes that the changing of the Metro guard means a resumption of those payments to COH. Second place, they’re talking about other than drainage if they’re using mobility funds. Third place, I hope they have that much left after paying for lawsuit settlements for breaking the law about open records. Just as Tom Bazan has hounded them about for years.
- User fee is bullshit, it’s a property tax. Council Member Costello: “It’s a user fee!” Funny, I thought my property tax was a user fee. If I don’t pay it, I’m not going to have use of my land for very long.
- Note the article’s reference to developer fees where such development “affects density.” In other words, they’re going to make it more expensive to develop inside the city– not only that, but they’ll penalize and discourage the very density growth that they claim to be encouraging (and needing) for MetroRail.
- Who are these faceless “engineers” of whom the Chronicle speaks? The only one identified by name is the President of this relatively unheard-of “Renew Houston” That’s Edwin Friedrichs of Walter P. Moore, whose online bio reads:
He devises engineering solutions to help build better communities. Some of his signature projects include the Uptown Houston Transportation Master Plan and Streetscape Improvements Program, numerous roadways and facilities at the Texas Medical Center, Sam Houston Tollway Section VII-A, Minute Maid Park, Lake Texana State Park, BMC Software Headquarters, and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Mr. Friedrichs works to find consensus, both in his professional work and his civic activities, with groups such as South Main Alliance, Rice Design Alliance, Greater Houston Partnership, Houston Achievement Place, and various City of Houston committees.
Well, I’d not expect an un-influential person to be heading this project.. Can you say “Front man”? I knew that you could.
Some other notes:
The $8 billion to improve drainage would come primarily from three sources. First, the “Stormwater User Fee” that is expected to amount to about $5 per month for an average homeowner and $90 a month for an average commercial property owner with 14 units per acre.
In other words, a property tax, by another name.
Second, a “Development Impact Fee” would set up a program by which developers have to pay for the degree to which their projects impact density.
Which will discourage it, as noted above.
Third, a “pay-as-you-go” plan that would take the estimated one-sixth of total city property tax revenues used now to pay for interest costs on debt that has financed infrastructure and drainage projects and apply it directly to new projects. In other words, the city would not incur additional debt to pay for infrastructure as part of the plan and as old debts are paid off, money used to make those payments would be put to drainage and infrastructure projects.
How about we use the money for Police and Fire protection, huh?
But that’s not all, not by a long shot. Other funding:
The city also would continue to use other sources of funds to pay for road and drainage improvements, such as “mobility funds,” or sales taxes, collected by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and redistributed to the city.
So Metro’s going to cough up the money at last? Wonder how that will affect their already documented inability to pay for their current plans?
The proposed referendum includes a provision that would continue the program for another 20 years after 2032 unless City Council votes to modify or cancel it.
Keep that gravy train rolling, baby, hundreds of millions a year in public spending. Construction and engineering companies are lining up!
Parker said she preferred that the referendum focus exclusively on drainage rather than “general infrastructure,” and she also is uncomfortable that the charter amendment would prohibit future mayors from leveraging the revenues to issue debt if such a course were needed.
What, she wants to pile on MORE DEBT? Well, she let Bill White pile on all he wanted while ignoring the warning signs. Personally, I’m also worried about the referendum being used as an end-run around Prop 1 and Prop 2, if not to just “accidentally” repeal them entirely. “Oh, we didn’t realize it said that, but since it does…”
Houston’s voters need to wake up and smell the arsenic. The “non-partisan” nature of city elections means that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties feel any need to score points off the other by, Heaven forbid, actually doing what the voters want, instead of treating them as particularly stupid sheep to be sheared.