An Invisible, Unelected Government Might be Ruling Your Community

April 3, 2019

It’s time to make an invisible part of Texas government visible. You may not have heard of them, but “Municipal Management Districts,” also known as “Improvement Districts,” are government entities across Texas that take taxes (“assessments”) and make decisions about your community, all while being unelected by the taxpayers. Since citizens don’t have a good way to hold them accountable, these government entities are always ripe for corruption and cronyism. 

What exactly are Management or Improvement Districts? They each have their own mission statement that says something along the lines of, “Created to promote, develop, encourage, and maintain employment, commerce, transportation, housing, tourism, recreation, arts, entertainment, economic development, safety and the public welfare…” 

For some Management Districts, they attempt to accomplish that mission by “branding” the area with a cool website and signs. Some Districts do more practical things, such as getting rid of graffiti and planting trees. Some try to improve streets and sidewalks, but doing tasks like that walk a fine line. Management Districts, by law, are supposed to supplement County or City services, not replace them. You already pay local property taxes to the City, and the City should be fixing streets with those tax dollars. But if a Management District takes over the City’s responsibilities, you’re paying extra taxes to Management Districts to do the same job you’re already paying the City to do! 

Maybe you appreciate some of the things Management Districts do. The problem is not necessarily what they’re spending the money on. The problem is they can spend your money however they choose, without being subject to the accountability of the ballot box. You cannot vote them in or out of office. 

Say what? Yes, it’s true. Go ahead and wave democracy goodbye when it comes to Management Districts. You don’t get to elect the people who are taking your money and making decisions in your community. A Board of Directors oversees each District, and generally, new Board members are recommended by current Board members and appointed by the Mayor and/or members of the City Council.  

The possibilities for corruption are endless in that situation. The Mayor and City Council members can just appoint the people who make campaign contributions to them! 

You might argue, however, that there’s no possibility of corruption because there’s no personal benefit the Board members receive—they don’t even get paid. But wait. Before you think they are all being oh-so altruistic, think about how much power and opportunity they gain from being on the Board.  They can make all sorts of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” types of deals. 

Here’s how: competitive bidding for contracts can be waived under certain conditions, and some Districts proclaim competitive bidding is not required for contracts under $50,000. That means Board members can just choose their family members (nepotism anybody?) or friends for contracts. If Board members choose their friend for a $49,000 contract to make signs, for example, you can bet that friend owes the Board members a huge favor. There’s nothing that incentivizes the Board members to use your tax money wisely, and everything that incentivizes them to just use your money to earn personal favors. 

All that can go on behind the scenes since a lot of people don’t even realize Management Districts exist. We think it’s time for Management Districts to be transparent and accountable. 

A bill before the Texas Capitol this session—HB 4273, authored by Representative Bill Zedler—can help. HB 4273 will change how the Board members are chosen. The proposed bill declares that instead of being appointed by the Mayor and City Council, Board members must be elected by the people. 

The bill also puts procedures into place for a recall election. That means there will now be a way to remove Board members from office. 

If Board members are up for election, that means Management Districts will come into the view of the public—the Districts will no longer remain invisible. 

We need your help to make an invisible government visible! Will you please take a minute to call your representative and tell them to support HB 4273 relating to Municipal Management Districts? If you’re not sure who represents you, you can find out here. 

Also, since Management Districts can be pretty sneaky, it’s likely you don’t know whether you live and work in the borders of a Management District. So, feel free to email us with your home or business address, and we can let you know.

In Service,

Texas Citizens Coalition

Gary Gates started the non-profit Texas Citizens Coalition because he has a passion for individual liberty and preserving the Constitution, and it’s a fight he’s engaged in with every facet of his life. He believes a coalition is needed because it takes all of us being actively involved to move our state and country forward. We as citizens must stay informed because We the People are in charge and must hold government accountable. Gary desires to provide Texas citizens a free resource to get useful information about state government from a conservative perspective.

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