Friday, September 18, 2009

The Third Ward's Thug

While this article is more than three years old, it demonstrates what happens when government moves beyond its legitimate function of protecting individual rights. Texas Rep. Garnet Coleman represents Houston's Third Ward, a predominantly poor, black area of the city. The area's proximity to downtown and the Medical Center has made it attractive to developers, who began building three-story town homes.

Coleman did not like this, and was quoted in the article:
“You can tell a neighborhood’s turning,” he says with dismay, “when you see them out at night walking their dogs.”

We must wonder about the values of a man who finds it disheartening when people are walking their dogs at night. I suppose that he would prefer that they be huddled in their homes, afraid to walk the streets for fear of being attacked.

Coleman, who is described as having "partial control" of the special tax district for the area, used his political power to begin buying land in the Third Ward. He then attached deed restrictions to the property mandating that it be used solely for rental housing. The taxing district, which was formed for the specific purpose of encouraging development, is now being used to discourage development.

Coleman, and Mayor Bill White, is opposed to the Third Ward changing its character. Neither liked the fact that developers began replacing run-down shotgun homes with modern town homes. White stated:
It’s good that there are people who want to live in city limits, but we don’t want to destroy the character of a neighborhood. Unless we do something aggressive...the market will build in concentric circles around [the downtown] employment center.

In other words, the voluntary choices of developers and potential home buyers is irrelevant. The fact that many Houstonians desire to live closer to work is to be dismissed, and the coercive power of government should be used to prohibit redevelopment of the area.

At the same time, Houstonians are being forced to financially support the construction of more light rail, which is intended to reduce traffic congestion. City government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. On one hand, we are to prohibit development that will increase housing inside The Loop, and thereby reduce traffic congestion; on the other hand, we are to seize homes and businesses so that we can build rail lines that will reduce traffic congestion. In these two instances, government is violating individual rights for the express purpose of achieving conflicting goals. This is the inevitable result when government moves beyond its legitimate purpose of protecting individual rights, including property rights.

Coleman's agenda extends beyond his current government positions. He wants to shape the city--or at least a portion of it--in his image, and anyone who stands in his way will soon discover who makes the rules. Coleman is determined to keep the Third Ward predominantly black. He is protecting his turf, and like any two-bit gangster, he isn't afraid to use coercion to achieve his ends. The fact that he is an elected government official does not change the nature of his actions. It only means that he is allowed to engage in legalized thuggery.

1 comment:

Lee Ann O'Neal said...

Rep. Coleman was interviewed in a story that aired last week on NPR on this very topic.