5 steps will solve infrastructure problems without new taxes
Other cities have solved tough growth problems, and we can too if we are determined. Many people believe the city currently collects plenty of taxes, but we must set different priorities to solve these big problems.
Job one is to streamline the city permitting and city engineering processes. That is where the log jam is right now. I know from personal experience that people can wait months for resolution of little issues of permitting and inspection. The domino effect of these long delays is that work is not begun, houses are not built, companies cannot hire. The city is currently a bottleneck. In three years, my goal would be to have permits approved in days, not months.
To solve this problem the city has authorized contract engineers to help get caught up. This is a good step but will not be enough. Our goal must be to put resources in place to allow builders to build.
Community land bank
At this moment, we have land, homes and buildings that stay vacant despite the housing shortage. How does this happen? Some taxpayers and businesses who have run into financial trouble have failed to pay taxes and now have liens outstanding. A city employee told me this past week that we have multiple hundreds, possibly thousands, of such properties with title entanglements and back taxes owed. They are rarely prosecuted unless a developer forces the hand of the taxing entities.
When one taxpayer does not pay their taxes, the tax burden is put on the rest of homeowners and businessowners. This drives all our taxes higher. We must work with the Central Appraisal District and the other taxing entities to pursue back taxes and liens. The result will be lower taxes for you and more houses to fill the housing shortage. A land bank would be the vehicle by which we sell or lease the properties to either be rehabbed/remodeled or built by nonprofits and developers and then sold.
Community land trust
A land trust would be a way for companies and individuals to donate land for use for affordable and entry level housing. This would work hand-in-hand with the community land bank.
Water tower in northeast Midland
Right now, we have neighborhoods that cannot be built because there is no water and sewer supply to the area. We need to put a high priority on building the $50 million water tower that will increase the number of water taps in Midland by almost 25 percent.
This tower will supply water to an area that is currently unsupplied and will allow development of up to 10,000 new taps in northeast Midland. This is already in the works but should be put on a fast track. Water projects pay for themselves with the water bill to the new customers. This will not raise taxes. And the huge number of new houses that can be built will solve the shortage and provide the city with tax dollars to continue to improve other problems. This must go to the top of the priority list.
Road repairs and construction
Every driver knows that Midland is not keeping up with road repairs and construction. It slows down travel and sometimes results in increased repairs for drivers. One new neighborhood has just a small road feeding into it. This cannot be allowed to continue. The city must prioritize solving these problems related to growth before other less critical issues are addressed.
As we bring Midland infrastructure up to date, we must keep in mind how our efforts can serve dual purposes in the future. One example is our existing system of drainage arroyos or draws, which run throughout Midland and are interconnected. These could be turned into intentional green space without disrupting their effectiveness for drainage and could provide a city-wide hike and bike trail to benefit all Midlanders. There is no reason to pay twice when one infrastructure upgrade can serve multiple purposes.
Conclusion: Infrastructure done right makes money
An unbuilt house, an unbuilt water tower, uncollected taxes and vacant houses and businesses have one thing in common: They cost millions in tax dollars, leaving a bigger tax bill for residents. My five suggestions above are designed to bring more income to residents and businesses, as well as the city itself (with no tax increase). If we solve these issues, Midland is in a better position to solve the next priorities on our list.