Been a bit since I’ve agreed 100% with Tio Pablo but his thoughts on the recently ordered bond election in Harris County is spot on. From the Inbox:
Are the “Dog Days of Summer” Setting in on Harris County Taxpayers?
Series of summer special property tax rate election events coming, but still time to move them to November!
HOUSTON – Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston) is speaking out on behalf of taxpayers following the announcement by more than one taxing jurisdictions that special elections to raise property tax rates will be occurring throughout the Summer and better public policy is to hold them on the November General Election date. This is occurring so quickly that the Klein ISD Trustees are voting on a TRE election Monday, May 14.
I am worried about voter fatigue as well taxpayer’s pocketbooks!” said Senator Bettencourt. “Rather than spend money on special elections these taxing jurisdictions still have the chance to do the right thing and schedule their proposed tax rate increase elections in November.”
Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas) granted permission for Harris County to hold an estimated $2.5 billion Harris County Flood Control Proposition on a non-uniform election date on August 25th, the date of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall. In his approval letter, Governor Abbott highlighted, “…billions of federal dollars either are currently available to Harris County or will be available to the county before it has the ability to issue the bonds requested…”
In their letter to Governor Abbott, Harris County Commissioners Court stated, “We must show the various federal agencies that matching funds are available now in order to apply for Harvey related grants that are already available.”
However, the Governor also stated in his letter, “Congress purposefully provided much of those matching dollars through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds so that local government would not need to match the federal grants.” This strongly suggests that waiting to hold the election in November will not stifle the flow of federal money nor change the facts that the CDBG funds do not need a local match.
At their quarterly Executive Committee meeting this week, the Harris County Republican Party nearly unanimously passed a resolution calling for “Harris County, City of Houston, and Klein ISD governments to schedule their respective bond and/or tax cap repeal elections as part of and on the November General Election date.” Resolution author Clint Moore stated, “Rather than disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, our elected officials should put these tax rate increase elections on the November ballot. I thought we were beyond choosing these sorts of obscure election dates, but I guess not.”
Voters throughout Harris County may return to the upcoming May 22 Primary runoff election, a probable 9 penny June tax rate ratification election in Klein ISD the weekend of the Republican State Convention, a county bond election in August, and potentially the Mayor’s announcement that he wishes to bust the voter approved property tax rate cap by November general election. “It is a fundamental truth that our Republic functions better when more people are able to cast their ballots in a Democracy,” concluded Senator Bettencourt.
I watched the Commissioner’s Court meeting when they made the decision to hold the election in August. You can watch it by clicking here and then clicking on Item V, (Part 1 of 2). It was a nightmare for anyone that cares a whit about fiscal policy, small government, transparency, open government or basic fairness to taxpayers. Strong statement since I am a huge fan of Judge Emmett and Commissioners Radack and Morman but that is exactly the way I saw it.
The decision basically boiled down to the best guess of the commissioners as to which date it was most likely to be approved by the voters. Commissioner Rodney Ellis was the only one that wanted it in November but it wasn’t for any of the reasons Bettencourt mentions above, he simply thinks that more of the po’ folks will turn out to approve it. He changed his vote at the urging of Commissioner Radack so that the court would be unanimous when it sent the letter requesting permission to hold the election to Gov. Abbott.
Because there has been NO groundwork laid, there was only an open ended conversation about which group of identity politics driven activists would get their fair share. It was disgusting. Speaker after speaker lined up extolling the virtues of their particular identity group wanting a share of the bond money, the bigger, the better. It was like watching a litter of kittens lining up in front of mama cat. This is what happens when government is driven by identity politics and activism instead of sound fiscal and engineering policy.
Maybe I’m being too hard on the Commissioners but I don’t think so. Disgusting.
Third, considering that an August election would result in a very low voter turnout, there is an issue of legitimacy. If this election results in a turnout of 50,000 voters voting in favor of the bond, while a mere 30,000 vote against, that means only a tiny percentage (like 2-3 percent) of the 2+ million voting electorate of Harris County ends up making the decision that everyone else has to live with. I’ve long gotten tired of this kind of stuff happening, which is why I’ve been pushing for several years now to require voter quorums for bond elections to pass.
Believe it or not, I might actually vote in favor of a bond proposal for flooding, but only after my concerns listed above are addressed. I would like to see a full vetting of the bond proposal, which means delaying the public vote until the November 2018 election. That would give the electorate another 2 1/2 months to analyze and debate the proposal. The November 2018 election will also result in a higher turnout, which will give the bond vote stronger legitimacy.
There is no need to hurry, so why not wait?
Neal is exactly right. Why not have a full vetting before voting on such a nebulous proposition? Note that he doesn’t sound like an angry voter, just a frustrated one that knows full well there will not be a full vetting and most of the bond is simply going to be guess work on the high side of the equation.
There is no need to have the bond election in August. The only reason to do so is a political calculation on the part of the Republicans on the court. Sad.