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Land grab

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Having been through a forced annexation several years ago I have a lot of empathy for what those citizens in the bull’s-eye of the City of Lancaster are going through. It’s not a pleasant or satisfying experience to have your future in the hands of a city council that has already made up its mind and will sit in the mandatory meetings, pick their noses, twiddle their thumbs and ignore the pleas of those who don’t want to be annexed. I’ve seen it first hand.

I think forced or unilateral annexation is wrong on many levels in spite of what the Texas Municipal League - (TML) one of the most noxious anti-taxpayer organizations around Texas in my opinion – has to say about it. 

Naturally they defend this obscene process and will fight any legislation tooth-and-nail to protect citizens’ rights when it comes to fending off avaricious, revenue-hungry municipalities. What’s worse is our gutless legislature lets TML get away with it.

One of the biggest reasons the TML gives is city taxpayers pay for many services that benefit those “freeloaders” who don’t live in the city proper. I disagree with that statement. Yes, there are some services folks living outside the city limits can’t help but use, however, if one takes the time to analyze the city budget or annual financial statement they will discover the city tax rate is based on a number of things which do not benefit those living in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). When I analyzed Midlothian’s city tax rate I found less than one-third of it could apply with any reasonable degree to those of us living in the ETJ.

One of TML’s most outlandish statements says the Texas economy “would crumble without city investments in the basic infrastructure upon which business and industry rely.” Hogwash! While ETJ residents do use city streets to get to local businesses, they also trade at local businesses who employee folks, help them make a profit, and pay city sales taxes with each purchase. Most of the city’s infrastructure inures to the sole benefit of city residents. Residents outside the city usually are assessed fees for their use, but guess who sets those fees so if they are inadequate, whose fault is it?

Another whine TML has is by denying annexation authority to cities Texas would become the only state in the nation that denies both state financial assistance and annexation authority to its cities. 

It appears cities would like to be on the dole just like people who are on some form of public assistance rather than getting a job.

To back up their claims, TML points to the Perryman report verifying the financial disaster that would befall cities should they allow citizens to be given the opportunity to say “yea or nay” to annexation. I have read several Perryman reports on various topics including annexation and in my opinion they validate the points desired by those who hire them. Perryman opines about annexation that limiting it would stymie future growth, cost 1.2 million jobs and a loss of 2.3 million in population. I’m at a loss to figure how they arrived at those numbers and what assumptions they used as a base point.

One of the most disturbing aspects of unilateral annexation is that if you asked any member of a city council if they believed in the “democratic process” they would almost unanimously answer “yes”. Yet denying citizens the right to determine the fate of their families and their properties is as bad as the misapplication of imminent domain.

Think about this: When cities annex property in an ETJ that decision is made by people the citizens in the ETJ had no part in electing. Also, that decision saddled the subject property with perhaps millions of dollars in bonds and other debt on which those citizens had no opportunity to accept or turn down, and I think that’s just wrong.

My biggest disappointment with our annexation was that there was enough population in the areas to have a real impact on city elections. Officials were told not to worry because the people would get mad but wouldn’t get out and vote. And they were right. Sadly, people just bitched but wouldn’t get off their backsides and go to the polls and make a change. We still have most of the nimrods we had then. How sad.

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