Friday, May 15, 2009

One Park Place

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Texas Watchdog recently received nearly 100 pages of correspondence between Mayor White and Finger Properties relating to One Park Place, a downtown high rise apartment building.

I have only briefly looked through the documents--I actually have better things to do. But others however, have done some digging, and what they have found illustrates a point I have made several times.

One Park Place is located near Discovery Green, the downtown monument to environmentalism. Mayor White, in his never ending quest to leave a legacy, offered to help the Finger Companies market their project, and ultimately wrote a letter on city stationary. This is the cause of the interest in the project.

According to Swamplot:

[T]he mayor had apparently rejected a tax abatement request from Finger Properties — and... the letter he sent out promoting the Downtown residential development was offered in part as consolation for that refusal.

The mayor has been using tax rebates to entice developers to proceed with projects he favors. While the mayor obviously supports One Park Place, apparently Finger Properties doesn't have enough political pull to "qualify" for such financial support. White could however, throw some pretty hefty crumbs to the developer in the form of a promotional letter.

That a sitting mayor would promote a specific private project on city stationary is an abuse of power. The mayor is supposed to be protecting our rights, not playing spokesman for political favorites. And while he is busy blessing One Park Place, Regency Square, and other projects, he continues to condemn the Ashby High Rise.

Some may consider this "business as usual". Many critics cynically dismiss such political pandering as an application of the Golden Rule--those with the gold rule. And then they call for greater government oversight, new ethics rules, further regulations, and more government controls. They accept government intervention in the market as a metaphysical fact, and the only issue to be debated is how that power will be wielded.

Without clearly defined principles, politicians can only deal with issues on a case-by-case basis. Each particular situation is regarded as isolated and unrelated to any other situation. The resulting policies are often contradictory as the politicians act on political expediency and appease the noisiest gang, those with political pull, or both.

Houston needs leaders who embrace, advocate, and consistently apply rational principles. Specifically, Houston needs leaders who recognize that government's only proper function is the protection of individual rights, including property rights. And we will not get such leaders until the citizenry demands and accepts nothing less.

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