I spoke to someone last night who had attended the City’s townhall meeting in Kingwood on the propositions on the ballot. The person with whom I spoke left the meeting with the impression that the ballot provision represents a new and improved lockbox. This is absolutely not the case. The lockbox language we are voting on this year is exactly the same language that we voted on in 2010.
To briefly review the history of this sordid affair, the original proposition was narrowly passed by voters in 2010. Some taxpayers filed a lawsuit to set aside that election on the basis that the ballot language was misleading because it did not disclose that the program was financed by a new drainage fee. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed, calling the omission egregiously misleading, and ordered a new election on the proposition. That new election is what is on the ballot this year. It is the same proposition; only the ballot language has changed.
Back in the 2010 election, there was a great deal of debate about how effective the lockbox provisions in the proposed charter amendment would be. That debate is over, because we now have a seven-year history of how effective the lockbox was. And the answer is “not at all.”
Ted Oberg’s recent report (click here) documents that since Rebuild Houston was implemented, street and drainage spending has declined, notwithstanding that we are paying an extra $100 million per year in drainage fees. Also, the program has not paid down the City’s debt as promised (click here for discussion of debt repayment).
Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same and expect different results. When you have a lockbox that allows its funds to be used to hire a hike and bike coordinator, it would indeed be insane to reauthorize that program.
We need to vote down Proposition A and petition next year for the adoption of a real lockbox. I can assure you that a real lockbox is the last thing the folks down at City Hall want!