My family has called the same house home since 1928. My grandmother had the house built after she was widowed and my mother grew up here – and even had her wedding reception here – I grew up here, my sons grew up here and my grand children have played here often. My surmise had always been that like the generations before me this would be my last address but that may be about to change.
The city of Houston has become progressively less livable. We are now three blocks from a freeway that was not there when I was born and where there was a truck farm just west of us has been a failed shopping center soon to be torn down for a midrise apartment project to help hold the daily influx of people who are certainly not Texans and often not even Americans and have no more appreciation for the values involved in being either than a dog has of algebra.
The problem of lacking these values is that these people are the natural fodder of politicians and unfortunately the political model of the large city is one of unceasing greed for tax dollars to be allocated, in small measure to reward the political faithful and, in large measure to burnish the image of the politicians eager for higher office. Thus the tax dollars paid to maintain the streets and sewers, the police and fire departments and to retire the debts of previous elected felons are diverted.
A portion – large enough to buy the next election – is wasted on giving jobs to sidewalk inspectors with no obvious qualifications while the larger portions build jogging trails on bayous whose only natural inhabitants seem to be the giant mosquito and the seasonal wino – or anything else than can memorialize an otherwise inconsequential office holder. Meantime the streets are torn up and already stretched to the limit services are treated like red-headed step children while the developers try to sidestep the permitting process in the building of their next collapsible architectural monstrosity and the citizens find their tax bills raised to exorbitant levels that bear no relationship to the market value of the asset being taxed.
In paying property taxes – and the dozen or more hidden taxes – the citizen finds himself supporting a vast network of politicians and governmental employees who don’t do any useful work, who don’t desire to ever do any useful work and who treat the very notion that they should do any useful work with the disdain of a head waiter asked to clear a table. The proximate result is a city that is rapidly collapsing on itself, a school system that produces functional illiterates, a hospital district that is more likely to kill you than cure you and a police and fire department that have become so politicized that you better have your own gun and hose if you would protect or save your home. The ultimate result is that before my grandchildren come of age Houston will be what Detroit is and so will every other major metropolitan urban area.
The most damnable aspect for me is that while I could not ask for a better group of people to live among than my immediate neighbors within a block we have an apartment project that specializes in felons recently released from the state prison. We have so many junk food restaurants that a former neighbor counted 43 rats in a single week that her cats brought her as offerings. In spite of the endless admonitions not to drink and drive we have everything from plastic pubs meant to be reminiscent of ye olde England to after hours bars for those of dubious gender that have had late night shootings to murderous effect – and many of their patrons proceed down our supposedly residential street at all hours of the night. Being conveniently located sometimes is a mixed blessing that leaves you too close to a good many things the city turns a blind eye to because they are cash cows for tax revenue.
While all of the virtues of a city are within easy reach so are all of the vices and the combination of the latter, the unwillingness of the city to do anything about them and a level of taxation entirely out of proportion to the services provided by the city the only choice left is to vote with our feet. One of the few benefits is that within a few miles we can escape Sodom on the Bayou. We can cross a county line to the south and buy our little patch of refuge down a state highway and two county roads on a dead-end road where our nearest neighbors are two llamas that belong to the people whose house is a few acres removed from ours. While they do not speak they seem to possess a reflective dignity and regal bearing that may make them the perfect neighbors.
Jeanne will have her one storey house. I will have a separate atelier as I have been told that books are banned in our new home. There will be no more one car driveway for two people who share four cars and those who find us at our hideaway may find me out on my riding mower or talking to the llamas. Whatever I do I will keep a weather eye towards the north since I know that nothing good ever comes from the north.
Brazoria County will have all the problems Harris County has – eventually – probably too soon. The problems will come first to the communities closest to Houston and they will come with a vengeance to subdivisions where the majority of residents received 100% financing on tract built homes with all of their closing costs – including points and a broker’s fee – wrapped into their very subprime mortgages. The HOA’s and MUD’s will go broke and the banks will add thousands of foreclosures to their inventories precipitating another crisis and taxpayer bailout. This is the price of equality in a democracy that started by demanding that there should be no taxation without representation and is ending in an age of entitlement by giving representation without taxation.