Monday, August 01, 2005
Strategic Reinvestment or Tragic Tax Assessment?
Put on your reading glasses and fire up your spreadsheet programs….the City of Austin has published its proposed budget for 2005-2006. All of us in the Austin blogosphere can now review the recommendations made by our city mothers and fathers. We will also get a chance to advise them on their budget priorities every Thursday until September 1.
Sadly, they did not start on a good note. The transmittal letter robotically recites various forms of the phrase “strategic reinvestment”, a euphemism for increased spending on all manner of city government initiatives. Thus, one bit of advice they desperately need to hear is that they ought not “strategically reinvest” in the shopworn and failed liberal policy initiatives extant in the budget. In reading the press reports of the budget just published, three red flags immediately emerge.
First, the $750K Midtown Live pay-off has been reincarnated as an “African American Quality of Life” initiative. As I blogged about last March, the public furor over the Midtown Live pay-off would only delay the City Council’s impulse to prostrate themselves under the NAACP hammer. This initiative is an incredibly patronizing attempt by the mainly white, liberal City leadership to infantilize the city’s black community. According to the budget’s transmittal letter, City Manager Toby Futrell said:
"Austin is a growing city, yet the African American share of the total population has declined and is now less than 10 percent. …”Maybe this reduction in the percentage of the population has something to do with the sharp increase of people from other states and countries? Or maybe it has something to do with many people in the black community moving to Pflugerville, Round Rock, and Cedar Park? Futrell further fulminates:
“This past year, I initiated a study to help determine whether the quality of life in Austin for African Americans is different from that of other Austinites, and to learn whether it differs markedly from the quality of life for African Americans in other cities. ...Survey data also suggested that Austin does not have viable social and cultural opportunities for working and middle class African American singles and couples.”
This is so disingenuous and demeaning. Everyone who’s been paying attention knows this “study” was a pretext for doling out more taxpayer goodies to the local, “civil rights” (I use that term loosely here) machine in exchange for not suing over the allegedly insensitive comments by Austin police during the Midtown Live fire. Furthermore, this idea that the black community cannot develop its own social institutions without the beneficient hand of the city government is cultural feudalism, making the black community the vassals in the city leaders’ aristocracy. I predict whatever “cultural opportunities” come out of this effort will be boring and mediocre at best because they will represent City Hall’s view of what African American culture should be. Will white liberals ever stop their preternatural condescension to minority communities?
The second disturbing item in the budget is the “preservation of green space and acquisition of parkland” in the upcoming bond election. While that sounds innocuous, it demands closer scrutiny given the Mayor’s and City Council’s recent genuflection at the global environmental altar, the UN’s Urban Environmental Accords.
These accords require signatories to “adopt urban planning principles and practices that advance higher density” and “adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walk able urban communities”. These saccharine platitudes are code words for highly regulated and communal residential development that would severely impact home and family life as we know it. It seems liberals never lose the collectivist impulse.
Third, the city recommends a tax increase. According to a recent News 8 report:
“Austin is proposing a 43.95-cent tax rate. That's lower than last year's rate, but it will generate more revenue because property values have increased over the past year. It comes out to $33.65 more on your property tax bill, for the average home value of $191,000.”More nickel and diming the local citizen to death. The school bond election raises property tax rates a little here, the hospital district raises a little there. Pretty soon, it adds up to full month's salary. Don't the state and feds already take enough? Why does the city need to take the circuitous, taxation-by-valuation approach? How does the value of a particular property increase the cost of city services consumed by the property owner? Why does the city need this extra revenue anyway? To whom is the city writing checks? How does Austin compare in local taxation and local government spending to comparably sized cities? What public administration best practices are these cities using that Austin could adopt?
Over the next several days, I will investigate these issues and others as I examine the over 1600 pages of documents accompanying the proposed city budget and attempt to answer the age old questions:
- Where is the money coming from?
- Where is the money going?
- What are we getting for it?
Also, I wouldn't attribute City Council parks acquisition plans to any UN conspiracy. LOCALS in Austin are definitely who is behind those proposals. They can be critiqued, certainly, but the UN angle is, IMO, a red herring.
Hope your summer's going well. BTW, I'm not sure if I ever gave you my brother's blog URL, but it's at: http://blogojohn.blogspot.com/
Thanks for reading VitW.
"Also, I wouldn't attribute City Council parks acquisition plans to any UN conspiracy. LOCALS in Austin are definitely who is behind those proposals. They can be critiqued, certainly, but the UN angle is, IMO, a red herring."
Other commenters have pointed out that the UN accords signed by Mayor Wynn do not have a hard sanction for non-compliance. Thus, it's true the local pols are driving the bus on this issue. But the UN gave them the roadmap. For more info., see http://austinvitw.blogspot.com/2005/06/its-not-easy-being-green.html
Checked out yer' bro's blog...very nice! Looks like he may be on his way to becoming the next Mark D. Roberts (see http://www.markdroberts.com)
Thanks for reading VitW.
"... most of the people who don't like ordinances like SoS say that if people want to protect land from development, they should just buy it. Well, the city heard you, and they're just buying it."
I'm not sure "protecting land from development" should be anyone's first priority in the Williamson/Travis/Hays county area. Instead, we should ask the question, "where are we going to house the rapidly growing population" and "how are they going to get from place to place?". I think SoS can help find these answers, but not using their current approach.
Read more at http://austinvitw.blogspot.com/2005/05/who-has-right-of-way.html
If you read my blog, you'll find that I support heavy densification of the urban core, unlike many of the people in SoS - I even have a category called "When Neighborhoods Go Bad". Check it out.
Interestingly, on LaShawn Barber's blog, government hiring reports were presented which showed that at the EEOC, itself, blacks are overrepresented relative to their numbers in the population over 600%. Am I in Kansas now, Toto? Blacks are overrepresented in education 475% relative to their numbers in the population. White males were woefully underrepresented in the Un-Equal Employment Opportunity Center to a degree that would be shocking, if only our society cared about civil rights anymore.
Incidentally, if I am ever overcome in a fire, I want a burly man whisking me out, not a 110 pound female who can empathize with my plight. Nuff said.
Links to this post: