Special Districts are types of local governments that have a limited, sole purpose. They are separate from local governments, however, because they are governmental units that have a “special” purpose and are independent in the things that they accomplish. Each of them are designed to achieve tasks, such as water conservation and improvement, fire protection, healthcare, sanitation, utility services and many more. They come together and are put into place to execute one obligation in general. Are the special districts’ executions and use of taxpayers’ money useful or inefficient and wasteful? That is something that has been brought into the spotlight over the years and has often been overlooked in general.
These special districts have continued to grow as time goes on and there is much controversy over whether or not these special districts are all that helpful to our communities. While they often do a plethora of good for our communities, there are many that are set up with a “lack of oversight” and “lack of supervision” according to John Oliver of Last Week Tonight. Not only do they spend a substantial amount of money, many do not have the supervision of higher officials needed to run an efficient, governmental district. Considering that much of the public population does not know exactly where there money is going to, it is hard to accept that all of these special districts are doing good for the public. Many turn into “ghost governments” and are sometimes “created seamlessly out of thin air (Oliver). In other areas, a variety of special districts are absolutely improving certain communities in the United States, such as California Special Districts. They have pure intentions and help bring hope to communities in California, such as land conservation. Districts Make the Difference discuss how most of their special districts are “directly accountable to their voters and ratepayers,” meaning nothing is going on behind one’s back and they are efficient and looking to improve their communities in many ways (DMTD). According to DMTD, the districts have “kept our lights on, kept the water flowing, and… enhanced our communities.” It is clear that the special districts of California have helped them in a multitude of ways. However, there are cons to special districts in other places as some use tax dollars with extremely little to none accountability and states do not even necessarily know how much these districts are spending and what they are spending the money on, such as the “Mosquito Control District,” spending a useless amount of money on this supposed-control to later find out that there were only two members of the district and the mayor was later found to have the West Nile Virus. How were these districts spending so much money yet things like this were happening? This was brought to the attention by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. That is just one example of the corruption in certain special districts. Overall, there are certainly pros and cons to special districts and much of it comes down to the supervision and oversight of them and the difficulty to get rid of them once they are already put into place.
In Harris County, there is a special district called Bauer Landing Water Control and Improvement, established to “purchase, construct, operate and maintain all works, improvements, facilities and plants necessary for the supply and distribution of water, the collection, transportation, and treatment of household waste” (WCID). It is bounded by the Cypresswood Subdivision in Houston and it’s residents tax rate is $0.77 as of 2017 for a total levy of $493,051 in the same year (CIP Online Database). While this seems like a weighty amount of money, it is fairly reasonable compared to other special districts in the Harris County of Houston, Texas in 2017. I favor the continuation of this district, because it seems to be necessary to keep our community running and preserve our environment, as well as the “irrigability of land” here and more. The district was put into place through a petition and many other obstacles to be able to start running. I think it is beneficial to our community, unlike some others that have been overlooked.
A broad matter of Texas Legislature for many years has been the toss up of local versus state control of certain issues that arise in our state. Certain rules are most definitely local-specific or state-specific, depending on the situation. There is always two sides to an argument and further, the argument to which level of government should decisions be made, which is something worth exploring.
Many say that individuals misunderstand local rule and all that applies to it. As the Hill says, “Local control is a useful tool, not a rule.” This side of the argument exemplifies that local control, of course, can be an advantage and of good-use, but when things such as paid-leave laws are fought for, it becomes seen as a right. When seen as a right, this can result in conflict for all, as they have “resulted in fewer jobs, fewer hours for those who have jobs, and higher prices for consumers” (Henneke). For example, the Austin City Council tried to create an ordinance that “requires all companies doing business in the city to give their employees paid sick leave” (Henneke). This was an “attempt to supercede state law,” which rose in the thought that economic freedom was being tested and that was not going to be right, no matter what level of government tested that freedom. Some critics say “citizen legislature has caused chaos” (Dallas News). On the other hand, many argue that red state lawmakers target blue cities, but that is argued as well. It is a matter of the issue at hand and what level that decision should be made. There are some situations, such as short-term rental policies, that led to many issues of the fight between state and local control. There is the “question of who should regulate [the properties],” which is why there is such an argument of such policies and who it is benefitting in the end (Platoff). There is often this argument of liberty and who is trying to take power away from who.
I adhere to believe that there are certain issues and decisions that are better controlled at different levels, whether that be at the state level or at the national level. However, I think that there is an extent to which this can go to local governments heads and that state and national laws should always be encompassed and at interest when local control comes into decisions. Some issues, such as Uber and Lyft, are truly dependent on the local areas and should be handled by their governments. So to say, however, there are definitely other issues that should be handled at the state level and both should always have a consistency with the constitution and federal government. For example, I believe state control should be granted when issues such as pay are involved, especially with businesses that know what they are getting into and should always stick to the Constitution and federal government in all fairness. It really depends on certain issues that are brought up to whether or not they are dealt at a state or local level, according to issues that I have seen recently. It truly is a back-and-forth subject and sometimes difficult for me to understand what is right and I hope to continue to learn and research on this topic even more.