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March 12, 2005

I Think I Like This Bill...

By Vince Leibowitz

I can't say that I've read all of the more than 5,000 bills filed in the Texas Legislature as of Friday's deadline for filing (and who can?), but I have checked out some bills proposed by my State Senator, Dr. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville).

To be honest, I checked out his filings today because, while in Austin this week, I heard through the grapevine that he was going to file a last-minute bill on parental notification/judicial bypass. Well, I didn't find one, unless I missed it.

I did, however, run across Senate Joint Resolution 44 which would amend the Texas Constitution to allow counties to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped,
or blighted area within the county.

Previously, only municipalities had the option to do this.

While I do believe there are drawbacks to SJR 44 because it could potentially be abused for "economic development," ie, corporate welfare by making "blighted" areas suitable for specific businesses without them having to pay a dime, I believe that this type of financing could help underdeveloped communities across the state in a number of ways.

In our county, we have two wonderful communities which could be considered "blighted." It is my hope that this legislation will allow counties to utilized bonds or certificates of obligation to help such communities--which aren't incorporated municipalities--through things like road improvement and extensive community clean-up.

Both of the communities I'm talking about in our county (and I'm sure you have similar ones in your coounty) are full of wonderful people who have to drive on some of the worst roads in the county and live in some of the worst conditions in the county because the county has no money to make their situation any better.

One community, Rolling Oaks, is in such bad shape because, when it was founded as a subdivision years ago, the subdivision regs were written in such a way that they are totally useless, and most of the roads in the subdivision were never deeded to the county as they should have been back when they were driveable. Now, they're in terrible shape and are "private roads." And, the county can't take them in without either (a) buying the rights of way and roads or (b) some private party paying the money to fix the roads to county specifications and then have the county take them in.

It is my hope that SJR 44 would allow the county to pay for improvements in communities like Rolling Oaks (which has become, in part, a haven for drug dealers, who live in dilapidated manufactured homes and trailers amid the nicer homes and manufactured homes).

Another community, Wynne Community, faces similar problems but doesn't include many manufactured homes. It is an African American settlement totally surrounded by the city of Canton's borders and First Monday Trade Days. Because of subdivision regulations in portions of the community built in the 1960s and 1970s, it faces the same problems relating to bad roads. It also has a public park that needs repair, and has several pieces of property the county could go in and clean up if it had (a) a nuisance ordinance and (b) money to do it.

My hope is that SJR 44 will be able to help counties transform blighted communities into better communities, and not be abused for "corporate welfare."

If it is for the former and not the latter, then I think I like this bill.

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at March 12, 2005 03:58 PM | TrackBack

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