There has been plenty to talk about since my last epistle about bond election reform, and I did promise that I would write about the November 2020 elections. However, I’ve decided to put that off for a while, and instead focus on the news that a wave of major employers are once again deciding to relocate to the Houston area and to Texas. Toyota, which moved its North American headquarters from California to Plano Texas several years ago, has been joined by in recent weeks by HPE deciding to move its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Houston. More news arrived that real estate giant Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) decided to move their headquarters to Dallas. Then more news came that tech giant Oracle decided to move from Silicon Valley to Austin. And finally, the big kahuna himself, Elon Musk, has also decided to move to the Austin area.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is all fantastic news! As a nearly lifelong Texan, I welcome all of you with open arms. Now, it’s time we talk a little bidness. I want to sit down and have a word with you about a big reason why y’all likely decided to come here. It has to do with land use and the ability to afford a place to live. Don’t believe me? Then why don’t you read those words right out of the mouths of your fellow economic refugees from Toyota?
Or, for that matter, let’s listen to what HPE CEO Antonio Neri had to say about why HPE decided to move their headquarters to Houston, besides the fact that HPE merged with a certain Houston company called Compaq a long while back:
I feel that this is a place not only to attract and retain talent, but for young incoming talent to build their families and give them the chance to not only meet their professional aspirations, but also their personal aspirations.
Yep, I hear ya, Mr. Neri. And some of those personal aspirations of your ordinary, everyday employees that you want to keep happy include being able to afford a small piece of property and a house that won’t leave them destitute, the way they do out just about anywhere along the West Coast or in New England. The twenty- or thirty-something couples can still afford a starter home here, begin to salt away some money for the kids for trade school or college, and afford a vacation every once in a while. I understand all of that, which is exactly why you need to read this post.
The modern day Democratic Party is a Party of the Cities – and that’s it
You see, when it comes down to the politics of this kind of stuff – and believe me, there is politics! – there are important and influential elements of the modern day Democratic Party coalition who really don’t like aspirations like those your everyday employees might still have. They’ll never come out and say it outright, but if you watch their actions you’ll begin to see it. One way you can see it is through looking at any one of those county level political maps of the modern United States, where you will see vast seas of Red territory where Rs hold sway but only dots and small areas of Blue territory where the Ds hold sway.
What you’ll see folks – mostly Democrats – who live in the cities who are preoccupied with land use and transportation do is advocate for laws and policies that create the very conditions that people finally could not put up with anymore, and ultimately decided to come seek refuge here in Texas in order to start all over. They include:
- Statewide land use laws, such as what they have in Oregon, and yes California.
- Zoning laws and regulations so numerous that they are thicker than old fashioned phone books. These laws are why it takes forever for anything to get built.
- Urban growth boundaries, which inhibit the building of new housing and subdivisions where all of your employees hope to buy their shiny new houses. Don’t be fooled! The Wikipedia entry says that cities in Texas have extra-territorial jurisdictions (ETJs), and hence cities in Texas have urban growth boundaries. Yes, cities in Texas do have ETJs, but they are there to cut off one city’s authority from colliding with others. Also, Texans can always move beyond them if they wish.
- Vision Zero plans, which are billed as mandatory to prevent the deaths of the 1 out of every 9,000 Americans who perish in automobile accidents every year. These plans include narrowing streets by taking road lanes away, so called road dieting schemes, and the push to reduce vehicle driving speeds with the aim that they are so slow that you eventually give up driving a car around. Now yes, the City of Houston recently adopted such a plan, but the good news is that there’s a big difference between passing laws and enforcing them and giving them teeth. I don’t expect Houstonians to put up with driving around town at 25 miles per hour any time soon. Besides, narrowing lanes can have catastrophic consequences, and Vision Zero plans often don’t work.
In effect, the Ds who are into this stuff want you living five or six floors up in a small apartment, and they either want you walking around or taking transit that is so slow that it will take you forever to get anywhere. They don’t want you owning a house with a nice front and back yard, and driving a vehicle to get around. The hard reality is that there are a few souls that might like living like this, but most Americans have bigger and better aspirations than that. And, in order to accommodate those aspirations, we need to keep building and widening roads (did you hear that Mr. Musk?), getting new water supplies, building new power plants using fossil fuels to avoid blackouts for a growing population, and we need to continue building new housing and businesses. And yes, we’ll need to develop more land to accommodate all of you who are coming here.
Now, yes, you do have some political rights, but what we really believe in is property rights. You get to have a say about your house, your street, and your neighborhood. What you do not get to have is the ability to tell others who live several miles away from you what they can or cannot build on their property, much less tell other Texans in other cities what they can and cannot do with their land through statewide land use plans. This is how we have accommodated an additional 12 million newcomers over the past 30 years while keeping a lid on housing prices and rents. And since we extended this courtesy to you, we ask that you extend the same courtesy to the 9-10 million future Texans who are likely to show up over the next 20 years after you. We don’t want the rent to get too damned high, and one of the first things you’ll notice when you settle down here is that local governments in Texas are heavily funded by… property taxes!
If you are not so verbally minded, but perhaps visually minded, you may want to visit this YouTube video by John Stossel. In particular, you’ll want to pay attention to the last two or so minutes of Mr. Stossel’s video, especially where Mr. Stossel asks a young attractive San Francisco woman, “Where will people live?” She replies that she doesn’t know, but God forbid she doesn’t want anyone building anything near her pristine back yard.
As for the answer as to where they are going to live? They are coming to Texas.
But…but…but…but…those Republicans are racist! (aren’t they?)
Yes, the Ds are going to tell you that Rs are racist 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Yet while the Ds are telling you that, they have enacted all the things I’ve outlined above here, which are some of the most racist things you can still legally get away with doing in modern day America. The poor, mostly Blacks and Hispanics, are driven away from cities which have adopted property rights destroying land-use laws, and hence can’t afford to live in the cities dominated politically by the very people who claim to care about them. Indeed cities like Portland and Seattle are some of the whitest cities in modern day America. Throw in that the Ds have become very soft on crime, try to shut down (sometimes unsuccessfully) innovators like Uber and Lyft, and have a habit of passing job-destroying legislation like the expansion of licensure and $15 per hour minimum wage laws, and you need to start asking yourself who are the real racists and who are the real defenders of the poor? One of the first things you’re going to find out about Texas – and in particular Houston – is that you have just moved into one of the most ethnically and racially mixed regions in the entire United States, and that if you don’t like racism, then this is the place to be.
Now got it? Please vote Republican, and once again welcome to Texas!