Over the weekend, hundreds of residents gathered in the rain to protest a neighboring municipality’s aggressive annexation program which has targeted their homes as a source of revenue to bolster city coffers.
On Saturday afternoon, upset citizens gathered at the Leon Springs Baptist Church just north of San Antonio to organize and protest against the aggressive forced annexation program the City of San Antonio has been pushing. The city is planning on annexing approximately 1.9 sq. miles along Highway 281 north of the city into its jurisdiction.
These citizens were protesting the city’s intent to annex their homes into the city’s jurisdiction and tax-base without their approval.
Currently, municipalities in Texas are not required to seek consent from the citizens they wish to annex. In past legislative sessions, lawmakers have attempted to get this practice changed to require voter approval – a reform the City of San Antonio has spent tax dollars opposing in the state legislature. These citizens are currently just outside of San Antonio’s jurisdiction – but with little say in the matter, it looks as though they’ll soon be paying much higher property taxes.
If history is any indicator, they’ll be seeing very little in return for their coerced investment.
In one of the recently annexed regions nearby, EMS and fire services are inordinately strained compared to the rest of the city – which, as Texas Scorecard has reported previously, is saying something. This is in violation of the Texas Constitution, which requires municipalities to provide equitable public services to newly annexed areas.
Where they should have built a new fire station to equitably serve the newly annexed area, they merely contracted out to ESD #2, a volunteer fire department – reducing manpower per vehicle unit by half for both the area previously served and what the new area is supposed to have.
Additionally, according to a source with San Antonio Professional Firefighter’s Association, their radios can’t even reach the new area effectively.
This kind of apathetic oversight is precisely why the police and firefighters unions, distinctively, have opposed the annexation program since City Manager Sheryll Sculley first pushed it forward. It is unlikely that a government department would be opposed to an opportunity to expand – unless there was a compelling reason.
“Do you think that in a rush to annex ahead of possible state law changes that perhaps the city neglected the safety of the citizens they are supposed to serve and just grabbed as much land as they could?” said Chris Steele, President of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association. “Radio communication is vitally important, as is proper manpower on apparatus for citizen safety. In this case it appears that wasn’t a factor to the mayor and city manager.”
Shockingly, Texas is one of only five states in the nation allowing municipalities to annex property without voter consent – including Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, and Nebraska. Several legislators addressed the crowd Saturday, including State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) and State Sen. Donna Campbell (R- San Antonio), who have filed HB 299 and SB 715, respectively, to end this practice.
“All we want is a say in where we live and who governs us. The City of San Antonio has proposed to annex us and currently does not have to get our permission. We didn’t vote for any of the City’s elected officials or the monstrous debt the City has incurred,” said Mike Stewart, President of Homeowners Against Annexation. “This taking of our liberty and private property rights just seems UnAmerican and down right UnTexan!”
It’s not the first time reforms have been introduced to eliminate this practice. Unfortunately, they’ve all died thanks to the lower chamber’s liberal leadership coalition and tax-funded lobbying efforts by cities such as San Antonio and the Texas Municipal League.
Those who wish to get involved with Mike and his group can do so here.