It’s Texas constitutional amendment election time and there has been much talk about all but the most objectionable amendment: Proposition 1, which reads:
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the financing, including through tax increment financing, of the acquisition by municipalities and counties of buffer areas or open spaces adjacent to a military installation for the prevention of encroachment or for the construction of roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure to protect or promote the mission of the military installation.”
The idea that local governments should be further empowered to buy land and remove it from the productive private sector, all for the speculative idea that at some point, in the future, a military base might want to expand, is silly. The Federal government has the money and power of imminent domain to take any land, at any point, that it needs for the mission of a military base. Burdening local taxpayers with debt and removing land from productive use all for something that may or may not ever be an issue is irresponsible.
It was a founding principal of the Republican Party that government should own as little land as possible and Republicans fielded their first presidential candidate on a platform of free land in the West to those who would settle it. There was, rightfully so, a great dislike and distrust of government ownership of the nation’s Western Lands. A strong commitment to the philosophy that land is better used in the hands of private owners existed. Unfortunately what we’d now call Liberal Republicans such as Teddy Roosevelt stamped out this well accepted principal. Not until Goldwater and Reagan did the GOP again talk openly about the superior nature of property being in private hands.
Proposition 1 further empowers local government to take and hold land, not needed for a demonstrable and immediate public use, from the benefits of private sector development and puts taxpayers on the hook to pay for such speculation.
If this had passed before 1995, I can guarantee that Lubbock’s civic cheerleaders would have rang the alarm bells and pushed citizens to buy up section after section around Reece Air Force Base “just in case”, all in the name of economic development. That would have left an even bigger mess, with a lot of public debt too, when the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) shut the base down anyway.
To those who have been involved in past closures and realignments it is quite clear that available land, cost of operations, and even base performance records play a distant second-fiddle to internal Pentagon politics. If the BRAC wants to close a base they’ll do so no matter how cooperative the locals and available the land. If they want to expand a base, they’ll do it because they wish it so. Since when has money been an obstacle for the Federal Department of Defense?
Vote no on proposition 1 and keep land productive, public debt lessened, and leave it to the DOD to select and buy the land they need for their missions and our protection.
Robert Pratt is host of the top rated Pratt on Texas radio program which can be heard at www.PrattonTexas.com.