Detroit, Houston and the Future

In the wake of the city of Detroit filing for bankruptcy last week, over the weekend a blog post made its way around the internet. Michael Snyder wrote 25 Facts About The Fall Of Detroit That Will Leave You Shaking Your Head, and he stuns and dazzles with 25 facts that each give the reader a clearer understanding of the predicament Detroit faces as it nears collapse.

After the facts were all listed, Snyder speculated a bit, including this warning:

Detroit is only just the beginning.  When the next major financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a wave of municipal bankruptcies unlike anything we have ever seen before.

And of course the biggest debt problem of all in this country is the U.S. government.  We are going to pay a great price for piling up nearly 17 trillion dollars of debt and over 200 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities.

All over the nation, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, debt levels are exploding and poverty is spreading.  We are consuming far more wealth than we are producing, and our share of global GDP has been declining dramatically.

We have been living way above our means for so long that we think it is “normal”, but an extremely painful “adjustment” is coming and most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.

So don’t laugh at Detroit.  The economic pain that Detroit is experiencing will be coming to your area of the country soon enough.

Then on Monday afternoon, Peggy Venable of Americans for Prosperity, Texas – tweeted the following:

Every one of these numbers is something we need to take seriously and begin to address.

Spending at the city level is out of control. Local government has taken on too many endeavors and they have over-committed the city finances. Pensions are going to come due, as Bill King has been alerting us for years, and the city is going to be unable to cover its commitments.

The immediate reaction from our opponents is something like “no way, you can’t cut city services!” Well, that is not always what we mean when we talk about greater fiscal accountability. Before we cut any services, we should first find out if there are services that are being performed that are no longer needed. Next, we should look for less expensive answers to the tasks that the city currently performs. If tasks can be privatized and outsourced, we should look seriously at doing that.

The failure of Detroit should be a wakeup call to every city. We are in Houston, and this should come as a wakeup call to us. While Snyder addressed where we are as a country, this is our chance to take care of things at home. We must begin now. We must stop kicking the can down the road and assuming that a later generation will handle the responsibility for us at a later date. It might be too late at that point.

A Distraction is a Distraction is a Distraction

They are at it again. The Mayor has declared that she wants Houston to be the first major city to ban Texting while Driving.  Mayor Parker has declared that if the State fails to pass legislation, then she will take it into her own hands, and that of City Council.  Now before I rant about why this is just plain wrong, I want to make sure that the seriousness of the issue doesn’t get lost or that what I say doesn’t come across as insensitive.  As the recent Houston Chronicle article noted, 13% of 3,000 traffic fatalities could be blamed on texting while driving. That is roughly about 390 traffic fatalities that were preventable, but what about the other eighty-seven percent?

The strong and long arm of our city government again wants to turn an issue into a muscle match to dictate what and how you live your life.  If you remember last year, I was one of the biggest opponents of the feeding ordinance that made it illegal to feed more than 5 homeless people at a time on public property without first getting the  Mayor’s permission.  Many were confused why anyone would be opposed to the “coordination of feeding efforts,” but that was not the main source of the opposition.  It is about the local government going too far.  It is simple to say you should get permission from the City to feed people on Public property, but when will the “needing permission” stop?  If there were a rash of children getting hurt on public playgrounds, would the City then start requiring that prior to you playing on the Public playground you must first sign a waiver of liability and proof of insurance and file it with the Mayor’s Office?  Requiring individuals to get permission to use public property for feeding sets us up for this type of nonsense going forward all in the name of “Public Safety.”

Now the Mayor wants to use the same Public Safety cloak to again be everyone’s parent because you cannot care for yourself and you need her to save you. Making it illegal to text while driving is a bad idea for numerous reasons and City Council should not vote to support such a proposition.

The first reason is because making it illegal will not solve the problem of texting while driving, it will only increase revenue to the city for violators much like speeding does.  Getting a ticket is not a deterrent for individuals that speed, it only becomes a thought when an officer is within your purview.  The same will apply to the new proposed texting ban.  Second, under the color of law, all law must be applied equally and all protections applied equally.  So if it is illegal for an electronic apparatus to be used while driving, then that would mean that HPD could no longer search their in-car computers while driving as well. I don’t think the City or HPD is ready to make that move, so the texting ban must stand down as well.

The last, and most important reason, this proposed ban must fail is because like the feeding ordinance, once we let Big Sister regulate what we do while we are driving, then there  is no limit to where she will stop.  Texting while driving is a distraction, but so is eating a Whataburger with bacon, jalapeños and cheese while drinking a 44 oz. Dr. Pepper. If we make it illegal to perform one distraction, shouldn’t we ban all distractions, including changing the radio station, which in one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents or arguing with a co-rider, which is also in the top causes of motor vehicle accidents?

It is absurd to think that the local government can ban these types of things while we are driving, but if we allow the Mayor and City Council to pass an ordinance making it illegal to text while driving, then we are opening the door to allow them to ban anything that can distract us while driving.  A distraction is a distraction regardless of what it is, and we need to take ownership of our own actions and behaviors while we operate a motor vehicle. There are already laws on the books that allow for a citation for the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle as well as reckless driving. If a peace officer feels so inclined to pull someone over for erratic driving because of a distraction in their vehicle, then let them do so, but we do not need additional laws enacted as a money grab cloaked in public safety.

As technology advances, so will cars and mobile carriers to sync with each other to allow the safe operation of both. Let’s encourage these two industries to find a solution quicker rather than later to address the root cause and solve a problem, not profit from a sensitive subject.  When families get involved in the process and have an impact on business development that provides for true public safety, then that is when the community really thrives, and in my eyes . . . COMMUNITY COMES FIRST!