Houston Tomorrow’s Vision

On its website, Houston Tomorrow (HT) states that its vision is for Houston to “be home to the healthiest, happiest, most prosperous people in the United States” on the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding in 2036. To achieve this, the organization lists six needs:

  • We need to create safe, walkable neighborhoods.
  • We need to enhance and protect our communities.
  • We need clean air and water.
  • We need a dependable food supply.
  • We need greenspace and parks near our homes.
  • We need better transportation choices.

The list is interesting in two ways: what it includes and what it doesn’t include.

The first two items are simply a part of the current collectivist focus on neighborhoods and communities. Houston has already seen numerous ordinances intended to protect neighborhoods, and it will likely see more in the future. As I have previously written, this a movement that seeks to subordinate the individual to the values of his neighbors.

The second two items imply that we do not have clean air, clean water, or a dependable food supply. Unless I’ve missed something, clean water is as close as the nearest faucet. And Houston has an abundance of grocery stores whose shelves always seem to be stocked when I venture inside. I will leave it to you to speculate as to why these items were included.

The last two items are a part of the “New Urbanism” model. New Urbanism is one of the newest trends in land-use planning. It is a rejection of the government mandated land-use strategies that dominated the twentieth century.

Together, the items on this list are nothing more than a call for more land-use regulations. HT and their cronies don’t like how the city has developed and they want to see the government exercise more control over future development. They believe that is the only way for Houston to “be home to the healthiest, happiest, most prosperous people in the United States.”

Consider the language in the list cited above. Each item begins with “We need.” “We” is a plural pronoun, and in this context refers to the collective. The collective needs something, and therefore the collective is justified in taking whatever actions it deems necessary.

The most obvious omission is the absence of any statement regarding economic policies. HT wants us to be the nation’s most prosperous region, but says nothing about the means. While HT’s vision has lots to say about land use, it has nothing to say about economics.

To an extent, this makes sense. Land-use regulations (or the lack thereof) are a big influence on economic performance. Land-use regulations contribute significantly to the cost of housing and the cost of doing business. Land-use regulations can be used to determine what is built and where, what types of businesses can operate in particular locations, and virtually every other aspect of property use. In short, land-use regulations can be used to control economic activity.

The list makes no mention of individuals or their rights. Indeed, the list implies that individual rights are to be cast aside in deference to the needs of the collective. This isn’t surprising given the policies and programs advocated on the HT website.

HT has a vision for Houstonians to enjoy the highest “quality of life” in the nation. And they want to jamb that vision down our throats whether we agree or not.

2 comments to Houston Tomorrow’s Vision

  • James

    I recently learned of a law in New York–and one proposed in Las Angeles–which ban adults unaccompanied by minors from certain parks. Men in New York have been fined and arrested for such activities as playing chess in a public park, eating a sandwich in a park, and sitting on a bench in a park. Given the trend of the USA to increasing paranoia when it comes to children, I’m curious as to how #5 is envisioned.

    #3 is pure paranoia. The EPA recently revised its guidelines (read, mandates) on drinking water standards, and a lot of areas haven’t been able to afford the cost of revamping their entire water treatment infrastructure. So we’re seeing a bunch of exceedances in municipal water supplies. While this sounds horrible to those unfamiliar with water regulations, the reality is that outside of a few VERY rare cases these “exceedances” are artifacts of regulatory intrusion, not actual threats to anyone. The cynic in me (and after working on hazardous waste clean-up off and on for 8 years, that part is very substantial) wants to say that this is so the EPA and its ilk can grab more power. If people knew how truly safe our water was, they might think that the EPA had done its job and start reducing its authority, and we can’t be having that!!

    • Brian Phillips

      One thing they propose is to turn the area around bayous into parks, as has been done along Buffalo Bayou just west of downtown. But I’m very doubtful that they will be satisfied with that. Most likely, they will want more neighborhood parks and push for land-use regulations mandating a certain amount of greenspace in new developments or when a property is redeveloped.