Mayor Parker lays out the case for Prop 1, the ballot referendum to establish a dedicated revenue source for street and drainage improvements.
Is it necessary? Absolutely! Approximately 65 percent of our streets and drainage systems are beyond their useful life – and at current funding levels it would take 100 years to replace them. Our police officers say that flooding and bad road conditions can keep police, fire or emergency medical personnel from responding quickly to emergencies. Likewise, a hard rain can prevent parents from picking up their kids from school or returning home after work. Just a few inches of rain can leave motorists stranded and bring this city’s commerce to a halt.
Is it the best option? Yes, and it will save millions of dollars for taxpayers! Instead of borrowing money and spending millions on interest payments, Proposition 1 mandates a responsible pay-as-you-go plan. For the first time in Houston’s history there would be a dedicated income stream – a lock box – that can only be spent for street and drainage improvements. Your vote would prohibit us from diverting these dollars for any other projects – with no exceptions. And your vote would mean the city could repair, replace or upgrade every street in Houston that is past its useful life.
Is it fair? On every level, yes. Everyone has a responsibility for helping to solve our drainage problems, and each of us will be asked to pay our fair share, but no more. This includes developers who will be assessed based on the impact their projects have on the drainage system. Commercial and residential property owners will pay a user fee based on their “impervious cover,” the amount of hard surface on their property – like buildings and driveways – that cannot absorb water. That fee is about $5 per month for a typical homeowner with 1,900 square feet of these hard surfaces. Property owners can estimate their own fee by following instructions on the city’s website.
It’s great to see Mayor Parker fully engaged on this, but there’s an awful lot of opposition to Prop 1 out there now. The Harris County GOP took the pro-flooding position last week. They’re joined by a non-trivial number of Democrats who claim they have a better plan than what has been proposed, not that they’ll do anything about it if they succeed in dunking Prop 1. The Metropolitan Organization, which should be foursquare behind Prop 1, is remaining neutral, at least for now, due to questions about the funding mechanism that have not been answered to their satisfaction. Four City Council members, CMs Jones, Adams, Johnson, and Bradford, have come out against Prop 1 with an op-ed of their own calling on the city to “start over” and come up with a different plan. (On the flip side, late in the day yesterday, I got a press release from State Rep. Garnet Coleman announcing his support of Prop 1.) And finally, as Rick Casey notes, various churches have lined up in opposition because they don’t want to have to pay for it. Prop 1 has its share of supporters, but that’s a lot of people against it. You know that I’m voting for Prop 1, but I’d be leery about betting on it.