End of Precinct Voting in Williamson County and more…

The September/October issue of Community Impact has, as usual, lots of depressing news for Libertarians.  Despite its conservative reputation, Williamson County and Round Rock governments continue business as usual with such initiatives as allowing sales tax dollars in Round Rock to be used for business welfare initiatives, the centralization of our voting institutions with the end of precinct voting, more high handed top-down water restrictions as a substitute for market forces, the raising of property taxes, and more economic planning in Georgetown’s downtown re-branding project.  And that’s just two months worth of work.

This November, Round Rock residence will vote on three initiatives.  The first is to raise the motel tax, a delightful way to tax out of town visitors who don’t get to vote on their increased bill.  The proceeds from this tax will go into the pockets of developers of an athletic facility.  The second initiative would remove the restrictions on what the city council can spend sales tax dollars on.  With their hands untied, the Round Rock city council can demonstrate that it’s knowledge of profitable business is superior to that of entrepreneurs and investors by subsidizing favored developers.  By subsidizing risk, such a measure would guarantee more long run business failures than would otherwise occur, since the cost of taking chances on iffy business propositions would be lower.  The last initiative is a series of mostly innocuous city charter changes, except for one, described only as “Clarify that referendum provisions do not apply to ordinances authorizing the issuance of bonds”.  Does this mean the city council can issue debt without passing it by the voters first?

Meanwhile the county commissioners are busy centralizing all voting institutions in the county by disbanding precinct voting in favor of dubious electronic voting machines in newly designated “voting centers”.  Such a move would make the reliability and transparency of the vote counting process, the location and availability of these “voting centers”, and the trustworthiness of our voting process becoming a matter of discretion.  Are particular neighborhoods prone to voting the wrong way on favored county or city initiatives?  No problem, just move the “voting center” a little further away, and the marginal number of votes cast by those residents will fall.

Rain, or the lack thereof, has also been keenly on the minds of Williamson County residents.  Reports are that the county is down some 17″ below its normal average rainfall YTD.   If this were a free market, increased scarcity would be met with rising prices, which encourages everyone involved to practice conservation for their own self and family interests.  Rising profits would also encourage other firms to find other sources of water and to more efficiently provide what is available, which both increase the supply to the community.  However, economics 101 is generally unknown to our local politicians, so we get heavy handed blanket restrictions on watering our lawns and washing our cars.  Higher prices would encourage residents to look to lower cost alternative means of achieving those goals.  A blanket restriction makes that impossible.   Most importantly, higher prices would impact business and agricultural water use behavior.  This is important since generally agriculture and business use of water far exceeds residential consumption.

Taking a “very fiscally conservative approach”, Round Rock City Manager Steve Norwood plans to raise property taxes so the city can maintain its preferred spending levels on those proposed business subsidies and sports facilities.  Very fiscally conservative, sir.

And finally, echoing similar projects in Austin and Round Rock, Georgetown is busily spending public moneys on its downtown rejuvenation project. Subsidizing museums and other frippery that no private investor would touch on their own because of how little value actual residents of the city place on such things.

Vote Libertarian folks.  It’s our only hope.