Friday, April 13, 2012

True and false

Yesterday, Mayor Annise Parker gave her State of the City address and attempted to put lipstick on a pig take credit for the majority of the job growth in the Houston area.

Chris Moran of the Chronicle reports:

Parker touts improving economy in 'State of the City". Chris Moran,
Saying Houston has "rounded the corner" on the recession, Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday credited City Hall with providing incentives that businesses used to create or retain 13,000 jobs and invest $1 billion locally during the tough economic times of her first term.
Tough prose aside, what the Mayor essentially said was that her corporate tax breaks, assistance and government work-arounds fueled Houston out of the current recession.

This is patently false. Later in the article:
University of Houston economics professor Steven Craig said he was skeptical of city claims of job creation.

"It's a question of relocation of jobs or new jobs," Craig said. "It's very hard for a city government to create jobs."
In reality, it's the strength of the oil and gas industry that's driving much of Houston's economic rebound. Not "progressive" fiscal policy that's more worried about regulating car repair shops, feeding the homeless, expanding service to HOU or settling lawsuits with hi-rise developers that were designed to move development to places where the new urbanists wanted development to be (That this lawsuit shouldn't have been necessary in the first place is another issue entirely). People are not moving to Houston because they have a nice downtown park. They're moving here because the energy and medical sectors are hiring in droves. There's cheap land in the suburbs, and a glut of apartments and townhomes inside the Loop for DINK's who are so inclined to live in them. While other cities have, in many cases, priced themselves out of the market, scruffy, unzoned Houston continues to be a place where people want to live and work.

Yes, our traffic is bad. And if Parker and her fellow new urban travellers get their way it's going to be even worse as time progresses. But while Parker and Co. are taking their eyes off of things people really want, Harris County is keeping its eye on the ball at least. That's the difference between trinket governance and good solid public works governance that gets things done. This is not to say that the County is perfect in this matter. There are many County projects that need to go find a good hole to crawl in. On the balance however the County is doing a much better job than the City in keeping the trains running on time.

According to the ChronBlog article the next big issue down the electoral pipeline for the City will be a new bond election. Given all of the recent, highly publicized, issues with debt service (as well as the public's general wariness of debt spending, it will be interesting to see if this bond issue can pass during a high turnout election.

Rest assured, we're going to be inundated with the usual advocacy pieces news stories from ChronBlog assuring us that there will be no effect to the average taxpayer if these bonds are passed. We might even be fed the line that they will "pay for themselves". My prediction is that the opposition to them will be too scattershot and unorganized to make a dent against the combined marketing of City Hall, the GHP and the Harris County Democratic Party (who seemingly have never met a government expenditure they didn't like). Unless Parker oversteps and decides the time is ripe to push through a huge bond issue that addresses a new urbanist laundry list of issues. Then the opposition might stand a chance.

In other words, keep David Crossley and his acolytes* from Houston Tomorrow far away from the planning of the issue and you stand a better than average chance of seeing it passed. Provided it has enough give-aways to the appropriate communities of course. Mustn't omit anyone from the free money gravy train.

*Thanks to Kevin Whited for the preceding phrase

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