It took a little longer than I might have thought it would take, but as the sun rises in the east, the kind of person who gets outraged when the government does something other than lower taxes is outraged about the city’s water rate hike.
Republican activist Paul Bettencourt plans to challenge the city of Houston’s drastic water rate increases in court on Monday, saying Mayor Annise Parker has taken an “abominable” step in passing increases that go far beyond the limits outlined in a 2004 voter referendum.
Bettencourt, former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector, said he is so outraged by Parker’s decision that he is considering setting up a political action committee to fight the increases, which in the coming years will raise water and sewer rates on an average residential homeowner by nearly 30 percent. City Council passed the increases last month in an 11-3 vote.
“If you’re going to make a contract with the public and get them to vote on it and get them to pass the vote, then by God you better honor that contract,” Bettencourt said of Proposition 1, a charter amendment passed in 2004 with the backing of then-Mayor Bill White and City Council. “I saw the campaign. I know what the public approved, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that the public vote is followed … This is outrageous behavior by government.”
Bettencourt said he will be joined Monday by Bruce Hotze, one of the driving forces behind a competing 2004 amendment limiting the city’s ability to increase the revenues it receives from taxpayers that was also approved by voters. The city has argued that it can ignore Hotze’s proposition because Proposition 1 obtained more votes. The question remains mired in litigation.
Bettencourt further criticized the city’s decision to seek judicial approval of its rate increases in Travis County, rather than in Harris County, where ratepayers could more easily contest the decision.
Whatever. As I said, this is why I opposed those propositions back in 2004. It’s a stupid way to run a government. But let me propose a compromise: The city goes ahead with its plans, and Bettencourt and Hotze disconnect their houses from the city’s water system. I mean, why should the government be foisting socialist water on them when they can get all their water needs met by the free market? That way, they can avoid the rate increase, and the rest of us can start to deal with the serious issue of ensuring the safety and adequacy of the water supply. It’s a win-win all around.