Friday, February 20, 2009

My Virtual Platform: City Services

(This post is a part of my platform for my virtual campaign for the Mayor of Houston. You can read my announcement here and my statement of principles here.)

The purpose of government is the protection of individual rights, not providing water, sanitation services, or picking up trash. These are not legitimate functions of government, and should be privatized. My administration will seek to return government to its proper functions. In the process, Houstonians will gain more freedom of choice in obtaining the services they need and desire.

Many neighborhoods in Houston currently use private services for removing trash. We will extend this with the intention of ending all city trash collection within a period of four years. During the transition phase, those areas that are using private services will receive a rebate that will reflect the cost savings to the city. At the end of the transition, the city will remove itself from the process and the parties will contract privately.

We will begin to privatize water and waste water services. Our privatization plan for water will involve the sale of the city's water rights, the city's water treatment plants, the city's groundwater pumping stations, and the associated pipeline distribution systems. The waste water system will be privatized by selling the waste water treatment plants and the associated pipelines.

As we privatize we will we be guided by two principles: 1. No Houstonian will be deprived of these services during our transition phase; 2. We will take all reasonable measures to insure multiple service providers for each service.

We will make certain requirements of service providers that must be honored for a period of two years. During that time they will be required to offer service to all households and businesses currently served by the facilities being purchased. This will be a contractual agreement between the city and the service provider, and a condition of sale for the assets they will be purchasing. Our purpose for these requirements is to insure uninterrupted service for all Houstonians during a period of transition from reliance on government to the private sector for the provision of these services.

As we privatize the water and sanitation systems we will develop and codify property rights to the assets that deliver these services, particularly those that are located underground. Repair, maintenance, and upgrades to those assets will require periodic excavation on both public and private property. The rights of all parties--the service providers and the property owners--must be addressed.

During the first year of my administration, we will freeze the budget for Health and Human Services at its current level. In each subsequent year, we will reduce that budget by 10%. This will provide all Houstonians with ample time to prepare to take responsibility for their own health care.

Health care is not a right. Rights pertain to freedom of action, not the results of action. You have a right to seek a doctor's services. You do not have a right to demand that he treat you for free, or that others pay for your service. To demand such is to declare that your needs and desires are a claim on the property and lives of others. You have no such claim. If you cannot afford health care, you will be dependent upon the voluntary charity of others, not the compulsory "charity" of government programs.

My goal is not to provide for those in need, but to provide freedom. There is in fact, no greater human need than freedom. Freedom allows individuals to pursue their own values. Freedom provides opportunities. Freedom allows individuals to be charitable--when they choose. But this is a decision for individuals to make, not their government.

Monday: "Quality of Life"


Rob said...

I'm glad to see that you are taking the privatizing of city services to the next level and actually opening them up to competition and a genuine free market.

I am of the opinion that the impact of last year's icestorm might not have been so severe if the affected area had been served by multiple providers, particularly of electricity.

It will be interesting to see what your proposals are regarding rights of ways between competing companies on other people's property and transitioning from one infrastructure with one set of rules to competing companies negotiating their own rules with individual property owners.

Brian Phillips said...

Coming up with concrete proposals is a challenge. I have to keep in mind what is practical--that is, what can actually be implemented without throwing the city into chaos while moving towards greater freedom.

For example, if we cut off all city services at one time, the city would fall apart. Too much and too many depend on the government, and to just yank the rug out would create turmoil--there would be nobody to fill the void.

And as you mention, identifying and protecting the rights of all parties is going to be interesting.