Image: What will happen to the Tea Party movement in the Woodlands incorporation election?
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
The Woodlands, August 23 – Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch and Vice Chairman Bruce Reiser have engaged the two so-called “Tea Party” organizations in Montgomery County to seek their endorsements for incorporation of The Woodlands as a city, the referendum issue on the November 2, 2021, ballot. Any so-called “Tea Party” organization that endorses incorporation is no Tea Party at all. In fact, such an endorsement will signal the literal and symbolic end to the organization.
The modern “Tea Party ” movement began in 2009, in response to President Barack Obama’s election. Tea Party organizations throughout the United States opposed universal healthcare and called for lower taxes, reduced government spending, and smaller government.
Montgomery County has two so-called “Tea Party” organizations left. The Texas Patriots PAC barely gasps for its last breath. Its website isn’t functional, The organization hasn’t held a meeting in two years. When the organization had a website, it announced as its goals to support “free markets” and “smaller government.” At this point, the Texas Patriots PAC seems to have one purpose left: incorporation of The Woodlands as a city in order to bolster its control and power in The Woodlands. The organization has broken relations with Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack, one of its more prominent conservative elected officeholders. Noack opposes incorporation. The organization has continued to support County Judge Mark Keough, despite his DWI conviction, drug problems, and terrible record in his elected position.
The Montgomery County Tea Party PAC (MCTP) remains active. The group holds two meetings every month and has continued to fight for its principles, although it has not grown in numbers in several years. Its “mission statement” includes six principles three of which are “uphold the Free Markets”, “uphold Limited Government”, and “uphold “Fiscal Responsibility.” MCTP says on its website “government is best…which governs the least.”
If either one of the two “Tea Party” groups backs incorporation of The Woodlands as a city, they will do so merely as a short-term power play. In the case of the Patriots PAC, they’ll believe their elected Township Board members – Bunch, Reiser, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, Bob Milner, and Jason Nelson – will continue to act as the political “establishment” of The Woodlands and would enjoy the greater political power they’ll have as leader of a city government. MCTP would follow the same belief.
In other words, the two organizations will betray their supporters who have stood with them for free markets, smaller government, and lower taxes.
Four fundamental facts stand starkly in from of residents of The Woodlands as they vote up or down on incorporation as a city government:
- Incorporation of The Woodlands will bring bigger government and a lot more of it. Even Bunch, Reiser, and the Township staff have admitted they’ll have city ordinances they’ll have to enforce through tickets, citations, fees, and fine. In order to enforce all of the new laws they create against the citizens of The Woodlands Township, they’ll have to create a new Police Department, because the outstanding law enforcement services The Woodlands receives from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and from the Precinct 3 Constable’s Office will cease. The Woodlands will need to build a municipal courts and law enforcement complex, which will cost at least $30 million within the second year after incorporation. The tax rate in the first year is very deceptive, because the second year is when that financial hit will occur. Furthermore, two huge expenses will fall on the shoulders of residents of The Woodlands with incorporation, neither of which the Township has disclosed in its presentation to taxpayers in its August 13, 2021, eblast to residents: (1) approximately $4 million extra for law enforcement, at a minimum, and (2) approximately $4.6 million for roads and bridges, which is magically $7 million less than what the County government currently pays across portions of two Commissioner Precincts 2 and 3.
- Incorporation of The Woodlands will mean substantially higher taxes. Even in the deceptive and optimistic financial modeling of Bunch, Reiser, and the Township staff, The Woodlands will charge new and higher taxes: (1) $7.6 million in franchise fees to local businesses, which will, of course, pass those fees on to consumers, (2) a $1.01 million mixed beverage tax, (3) $931,000 in fines and forfeitures against Woodlands residents, (4) $150,000 in new permit fees against residents and businesses, and (5) likely increases in property taxes after the first year in order to carry the massive capital debt, higher law enforcement costs, higher road and bridge costs, increase in city staff over the Township staff, city pensions, and ordinance enforcement costs.
- Incorporation will cause a power shift from Woodlands citizens to the city government. Governments look out for themselves. Citizens look out for each other. In the Township, problems with restrictive covenant violations must find resolution with informal requests, letters, conciliation, and rarely civil lawsuits. In a city government, such violations will go immediately to citations, tickets, fines, and criminal proceedings to supporting an always-hungry governmental entity whose staff wants higher salaries, better benefits, and power. When Bunch and Reiser use the phrase, “we want to control our own destiny,” a chill should run up your back. What they’re really saying is “We want more centralized power.” Citizens now have the power. They’ve defeated road projects they don’t want, developer proposals they dislike, and citizen behavior they disdain. City governments look out for…city governments, rather than the will of the citizens.
- Incorporation will cause a leftward political shift in the politics of The Woodlands. When cities form, the body politic tends to shift leftwards in dramatic fashion. Why is that? First, cities and city councils look out for themselves rather than citizens. They’ll vote to spend money on themselves. As they grow in employees, issue lucrative city contracts to outsiders, and increase salaries and benefits, they shift vast economic and political power to those individuals who have an investment in the city as an institution upon which they rely for money. Second, strong political forces exist to push cities leftward. In Texas, the Texas Municipal League is one of the most powerful political groups. They effectively control the Texas House of Representatives. They indoctrinate city officials in their training and political programs. They know how to “spread” the money and teach their constituent cities to do the same. Government unions also tend to go into cities, even in Texas. In the City of Houston, unions have enormous political clout in city politics. They delivered Sylvester Turner his victory as Mayor over Bill King. They boost pro-spending, anti-citizen policies. City governments tend to shift leftward rapidly.
- The Woodlands is already prone to such a leftward shift due to its proximity to Harris County. Incorporation will likely result in control of The Woodlands by a left-leaning city council rapidly. In reality, in the “planning” for incorporation, Bunch, Reiser, and the Township Board have already shifted strongly to the left. They’ve overtaxed The Woodlands during the past six (6) years in order to build a “reserve” fund, so that the initial property tax rate in the incorporation referendum will appear to be substantially lower than tax rates after the first year. They’ve overtaxed Woodlands residents and businesses in order to sock away funds to spend on the capital investments and higher government spending that will overcome The Woodlands after incorporation. In the current budget deliberations, Bunch, Reiser, and their liberal allies on the Township Board voted to increase taxes by passing a tax rate above the no new revenue tax rate, resulting in a tax increase for Woodlands residents just around 3%. Yes, they lowered the tax rate, but they raised taxes by not lowering the tax rate to make up for increases in property tax appraisals imposed by their ally, the Montgomery Central Appraisal District.
Will the two Tea Party groups pass the test? The Texas Patriots PAC will likely support incorporation, because more government in that particular form has become its singular purpose for existing. The Montgomery County Tea Party PAC will be interesting to watch: will they stand for their principles or for their desire for acceptance?