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The anti-Prop 1 factions gear up

The usual suspects have gotten the band back together to ensure that no action is taken to mitigate flooding in Houston.

Former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt has teamed up with anti-tax advocate Bruce Hotze and conservative activist Norman Adams, significant players in a previously successful effort to scuttle a drainage fee during the Lee Brown administration. They reformed the “No Rain Tax” PAC, Bettencourt said, and expect to raise enough money to run radio ads and phone banks against the measure.

Bettencourt said it was “preposterous” that the details about how the program would be implemented have yet to emerge with the vote only five weeks away.

“This is an open-ended blank check from the taxpayers,” he said.

I’ll stipulate that it’s taken a long time for all of the details of Prop 1 to be finalized. But let’s be clear, that’s just a convenient excuse for these guys. Had there been a fully realized plan six months ago, with every i dotted and t crossed, they’d claim some other reason to oppose this. That’s because they don’t want to pay any money to alleviate flooding problems in Houston. I don’t know if that’s because they don’t think there are flooding problems in Houston, or because they’re too cheap to pay the five bucks a month that Prop 1 would cost them, but I do know that in the nine years since the last time they defeated a proposal that was intended to tackle this problem, they haven’t offered any solutions of their own, or supported any candidates that offered a solution that they approved of. Thus, my conclusion that they’re not interested in being part of any solution.

I point that out to say once again that the choice here is not between Prop 1 and some alternate plan that you think would be cheaper or more effective or faster to implement or fairer or whatever. The choice is between Prop 1 and doing nothing for another decade or so, because I guarantee that if Prop 1 goes down, no further attempt will be made to tackle the problem until long after everyone has forgotten about this one. If you agree with Bettencourt, Hotze, and Adams that flooding isn’t a problem, then your choice is clear. If you’re voting against Prop 1 because you believe there’s a better way to solve the problem, then I look forward to seeing you work to get your preferred solution implemented, whatever it may be. As someone who does believe there is a problem, I’d hate to have to wait another ten years before we try to fix it.

As far as that faux concern about not knowing what the specifics will be, Mayor Parker has now set forth the details of the drainage fee. Council will not vote on it before the election, but there will probably be a resolution presented to Council so the principles of the Mayor’s plan can be approved. Yes, we should have had the details sooner than this. But I’ve believed from the beginning that the principle of needing to deal with this was sound, and that has been my motivation for supporting this effort.

One more thing:

Stan Merriman, a local Democratic activist who opposes the initiative and is working with [a different anti-Prop 1 PAC], said he could not support a fee structure that would require the same amount from an owner of a 5,000-square-foot-lot in Sunnyside and River Oaks.

“That’s fundamentally unfair,” he said.

Now that we have the Mayor’s plan for Prop 1 implementation, I hope it’s clear that Merriman’s assertion is factually wrong. Merriman has posted his bullet-point list of objections to Prop 1 in the comments to a couple of my posts as well as at Stace’s place. Among other things, he seems to be saying that there’s very little we can actually do about flooding, which was not something that he mentioned in his previous writing when he said that we should be “viewing such a project as one perfect for federal stimulus funds”. Be that as it may, I’ll say again that if Prop 1 does go down, I look forward to supporting the effort that Merriman and others like him plan to lead to do something about this. Because otherwise, if they don’t have one, they’re just agreeing with Bettencourt, Hotze, and Adams that there is no flooding problem in Houston.

UPDATE: Here’s the official link to the principles for Prop 1.

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  1. JJMB says:

    I agree with you re. Bettencourt et al.

    What is your analysis about the four council members who came out together against the plan? CMs Johnson, Adams, Jones and Bradford. Knowing that the Mayor was going to be laying out the details in a half hour, they had a press conference outside city hall Wednesday morning. (See Mary Benton’s blog for the only media report I have seen.)

  2. JJ – I think they were seeking to have specific concerns about how projects would be identified and prioritized, but I don’t know that for certain. If their intent is to kill Prop 1, it’s in a lot of trouble. But I think this is just standard politics, trying to get something for their constituents. Far as that goes, as long as they wind up on board, I’m okay with that.

  3. […] would have liked for them to respond more forcefully to the bogus arguments of the do nothing brigade, but I’ll take what I can get. I don’t really have anything else to add at this point. […]

  4. meme says:

    What do you think the Harris County Flood Control is for? This is being pushed to line the pockets of the multi-million dollar construction companies with huge contracts by and for people like Costello who just so happens to be on Houston City Council…..

  5. Z says:

    Harris County Flood Control does not have any jurisdiction outside of the bayous in the city. What about the thousands of miles of storm drains in the city that have long since outlived their design life? These are the responsibility of the City. These facilities have a much larger impact on controlling flooding from the very frequent smaller rainfalls that we get in Houston.

    Also, what about the most important (in my opinion) aspect of this proposition, the pay as you go language? This will allow the city the stop wasting a large portion of their annual budget to pay off interest, as they do now.

  6. FairTaxInHouston says:

    Merriman is factually ‘right’- In the mayor’s own words, she said that a tall, skinny townhome would pay less than a ‘sprawling’ ranch style home.
    Well, I grew up in this town and live in the inner city. I am surrounded by three and four story townhomes that sell for amounts in excess of $1 million. These structures have a smaller footprint than older, single-story homes in areas of town where a fair price for a home may be $100K or less. Under this plan, inner city rich folks will get to pay the same, or possibly less, in taxes than folks having property at 10% of the value. This ‘subsidy’ of the wealthy by the ‘working class’ could well be viewed as a ‘class tax’!
    I am offended by the accusation that because I did not come up with a plan that I do not support infrastructre improvement. We elect officials to come up with plans that are focused on the welfare of citizens and taxpayers, NOT the interests of engineering companies and their profits as PAYBACK for supporting a candidate in the last election!
    I say NO to a plan that is sponsored by engineers to the tune of over $1 million dollars- The same engineers that will profit on our tax dollars!
    Taxpayers deserve a BETTER DEAL- Vote NO on Prop 1!