Friday, October 6, 2017

#atxcouncil: #TROXROX TPPF!!!

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatains 6:9

In a wide-ranging address to the Texas Public Policy Foundation this afternoon, council member Ellen Troxclair explained the role that local elected officials can play in protecting individual liberty.  While national politics receives significant attention, local jurisdictions are often forgotten.  That's a mistake, because on issues ranging from predatory property taxes, to absurd permitting regimes, to zoning restrictions that artificially suppress the supply of housing, many of the worst assaults on individual liberty occur at the local level.

Troxclair called local government the "first frontier" in defending liberty.  That's because local officials love to devise mandates and taxes that favor the politically privileged at the expense of average citizens.  Of course, enforcing those mandates and taxes requires a large municipal workforce, which is why the city of Austin employs over 13,000 bureaucrats.

All of this costs money, which is why Austin has the largest municipal budget in the state.  This despite the fact that several other cities have larger populations.  While apologists for the status quo will use Austin's municipal utilities as an excuse, Troxclair pointed out that San Antonio's budget is a fraction of Austin's despite also owning municipal utilities and having a larger population.

Speaking of Austin Energy and Austin Water, Troxclair correctly noted the money laundering nature of those entities.  Austin's municipal utilities rip us off on our electric and water bills, then provide "fund transfers" that allow the city to lie to us about the tax rates.  Austin's municipal utilities are indirect taxation designed to hide the true cost of government.

On housing, Troxclair explained that we're never going to be able to subsidize our way out of the current mess.  It's economically impossible to generate the amount of money it would take to meet the demand.  The only alternative is to eliminate supply restrictions to allow market rate prices to fall.  As it relates specifically to Code Next, she expressed support for any tangible steps to reduce supply restrictions, while remaining justifiably concerned that the current draft falls woefully short of that goal.  She also expressed sympathy with this author's longstanding frustration that all to often the people who are upset about housing costs and the people who are upset about property taxes so often seem to be talking past each other.

As it relates to the relationship between the state of Texas and its cities, Troxclair made a point we hadn't previously considered: there's a difference between the state mandating a policy on its political subdivisions vs. the legislature explicitly prohibiting a bad behavior (eg. The City of Austin regulating Uber out of commercial viability).  She also plugged a new national organization with which she's recently become involved called the American County/City Exchange that enables pro-liberty local officials to network and share ideas.  In an environment when pro-big government officials have numerous organizations, it's important for pro-liberty officials to build competing organizations.

Bottom Line: #TROXROX

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