Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RENEW Houston and Flooding

Over the past week I have received 2 recorded messages and an oversized postcard/ petition from a group called RENEW Houston. According to their web site:
RENEW Houston is a charter amendment campaign to create a dedicated pay-as-you-go funding source to repair our drainage and streets.

Houston is an aging city. Over 60 % of all drainage and streets are past their useful life; 80% will be past their useful life in the next 20 years. When a street is assigned for re-construction, it takes the city 12 years before the work will commence due to lack of funding.
Not surprisingly, RENEW Houston presents its proposal as a complete panacea:
JOBS: Creates jobs for Houstonians. QUALITY OF LIFE: Rebuild the foundation of our communities with new storm sewers and streets, and maintenance of existing storm sewers, drainage ditches, and streets. PUBLIC SAFETY: Allow emergency vehicles easy and fast access to our neighborhoods and businesses. ECONOMY: Houston cannot be economically competitive with the rest of the nation without having good drainage and streets. 
If I had a dime for every group, politician, or special interest that made similar claims, I would be a very wealthy man. And if I had only a penny for every fallacy and evasion put forth by those making these claims, I would be equally wealthy. Let's look at a few of these in brief.

Jobs: Certainly, rebuilding infrastructure will create jobs. And it will destroy jobs too. The money to pay for that infrastructure must be taken from taxpayers and businesses--private citizens. They will have less money to spend at the grocer, or the movie theater, or the auto dealer. Reduced private spending means fewer jobs, a fact that RENEW Houston and its ilk conveniently evade.

Quality of Life: RENEW Houston does not explain why their vision of "quality of life" should be forced upon the entire city. I am no more a fan of flooded streets and homes than anyone else. But I also took responsibility to buy a home in an area that is not prone to flooding. My quality of life--along with many others--will be negatively impacted if my money is taken without my consent for purposes I do not agree with.

Economy: For nearly a century, Houstonians have heard threats that our city will never be economically competitive if we do not cede more power and money to government. We have heard it during the three failed attempts to implement zoning, we have heard it in support of various land-use restrictions, it was trotted out in support of more stringent controls on billboards. Given the actual facts, an honest person would look at the history of Houston's economy and be embarrassed to make such a claim. Yet, here comes RENEW Houston making the same false and disproved claims.

It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Groups like RENEW Houston simply want us to forget history, along with economics, morality, and property rights. They have a vision for the city, and like all of their intellectual brethren, they are determined to force it upon us, come hell or high water.


GusF said...

I cannot take issue with your general thoughts on government, its promises, and the notion that often times others do try to Impose their vision. And you do have an opportunity to vote no.

But as a city, we have an opportunity to make a choice regarding our infrastructure as it relates to drainage. Houston is flatter than most cities. It is subject to substantially more intense rainfalls. But unlike most cities, it does not have a dedicated funding source for drainage.

Yes, we have the Harris County Flood Control District, but they are limited to the streams and bayous. They do not address regular drainage of streets and neighborhoods. And when you say "avoid living in flood prone areas" you are really talking (I think) about floodplains from steams and bayous. The "other" flood prone areas would be any neighborhood older than about 30 years, as their drainage infrastructure is substantially undersized and is often in disrepair.

I'm a small government conservative, but this problem is not going to fix itself, and their is no incentive for the private sector to provide a solution.

Many may choose to acccept the current situation. And again that is their right. But I fear that many will oppose this initiative and then be the first to complain when their neighborhood does not drain.

Mr. Moderate said...

Most of the homes that flooded during Allison were not in flood zones and had never flooded before. Buying a home in a "non-flood prone" area is no guarantee you won't flood due to the uncontrolled development upstream of your property. Your home may also flood due to problems with the storm sewers in your neighborhood - the water that runs off your driveway has to go somewhere, and the City of Houston provides the means to get the water safely to a bayou or retention pond. I suppose you would think the City has no business building such infrastructure, but I'm willing to pay for it to keep the runoff from my property flowing safely and without impacting others.

As for Renew, I don't know enough yet to determine whether their proposals are something I'm willing to pay for. More review is necessary.