Monday, June 8, 2009

Making Galveston a Southern Belle

A story in Saturday's Chronicle reports that Galveston officials will consider a proposal to halt development on the island's west end and spend $1.1 billion to build 2,000 homes and repair another 17,000 homes. The proposal was submitted by a panel assembled by the Urban Land Institute.

The proposal calls for, among other things, creating "pedestrian friendly, self-contained neighborhoods" behind the seawall. One of the panel members said that Galveston could return to being the "Southern belle" of the United States if it adopted the plan.

While city officials consider this plan, residents on the west end of the island face the possibility of having their property seized by the state with no compensation. Adding insult to their injury, the city is now considering using their tax dollars to build homes for other citizens.

The city government should be defending the property rights of its citizens, including those on the west end. It should not be dictating where residents may build, nor should it be using tax money to build or repair homes. It should be protecting the moral right of each citizen to act according to his own judgment. While the prohibition on rebuilding on the west end of the island is a consequence of a state law--the Texas Open Beaches Act--a proper city government would be protesting this law.

Galveston suffered significant and serious damage during Hurricane Ike. Combined with the recession, the island is suffering. However, the solution to these ills is not restrictions on the actions of individuals. The solution is not massive government spending. The solution is more freedom--fewer controls, restrictions, and regulations.

The city wants to create jobs--remove restrictions on starting a business or expanding an existing business. The city wants more affordable housing--remove controls and regulations relating to building. The city wants to attract tourists--allow your citizens to be free, and they will find ways to use the city's resources to draw tourists. If Galveston wants to be the "Southern belle" it would be well-advised to begin by allowing its belles and beaux the freedom to act on their own judgment.

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