Big Money and The Woodlands Incorporation
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Big Money has spent a jaw-dropping amount of money to defeat incorporation in The Woodlands. Preserve The Woodlands PAC and their partner, the Howard Hughes Corporation, have spent over $750,700 midway through Early Voting, with more to go before Election Day, Tuesday, November 2, 2021. Why is this massive expenditure necessary?
The Woodlands is a Township, a form of government that is mostly powerless (like an exalted Homeowners Association). Major decisions for The Woodlands have not been made by residents but by the county commissioners and by the latest in a string of developers. Both were and are motivated by The Woodlands’ ability to bring new revenue through new development. But now The Woodlands is largely built out, the community’s population is the size of a small city, and the County and Developer’s interests are no longer aligned with the residents. In order to continue getting future revenue, the County needs to move traffic through The Woodlands to newly developing areas, which means opening roads (or expanding current ones) to county thru-traffic. Similarly, the Developer (the Howard Hughes Corporation) can only do massive high-density projects, like apartment complexes and hotels that require clear-cutting and generate significant traffic, in order to meet their investors’ financial goals.
This election is about who decides the future of The Woodlands. Residents will choose to leave decisions with county officials and developers over whom they have no real control, or to incorporate and take the direction for The Woodlands into their own hands.
The Woodlands Township Board has been preparing for this incorporation decision for years. Major new expenditures were identified, and money set aside to prepare for them. The tax rate, which will be voter-approved, will remain the same and is restricted from growing too much by state law. Residents who are over 65 or disabled get a tax freeze – the amount they pay doesn’t change year to year, something the Township is not allowed to offer. The same wise fiscal practices that earned The Woodlands a bond rating of AA+ from Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings will be in effect for the city.
Sheriff Rand Henderson and Commissioner James Noack negotiated a law enforcement transition agreement on behalf of the county and were able to satisfy themselves that The Woodlands’ public safety services would remain intact and current law enforcement personnel would have ample time to be reaccommodated.
So, why the opposition to incorporation from community leaders?
In a word, power. No one likes to lose power and these community leaders will have less influence, and residents will have more, after incorporation. Commissioner James Noack has the most to lose when The Woodlands incorporates. Close to 40% of his district will need little to nothing from his office, making it impossible to justify the Commissioner’s high salary and large budget. Other county employees, such as Sheriff Rand Henderson, would see a reduction in their workload and in their budgets. The Howard Hughes Corporation terms this incorporation election as “rushed” because they have not completed all the projects they sought to do before selling to the next developer. Other community luminaries voicing opposition to The Woodlands incorporation fall into one or more of the following categories, all with longtime deep ties to the County and/or the developers: The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce and former members, Congressman Kevin Brady and wife Cathy, employees of the Howard Hughes Corporation or their close relatives, other real estate developers, commercial realtors, lawyers associated with any of these groups, Montgomery County employees, or contractors for Montgomery County.
Incorporation would not stop development; it would simply require that residents agree with the development. How is that risky?
County officials and developers on the anti-incorporation side are motivated by future revenue, not quality of life for current residents of The Woodlands. The anti-incorporation side is raising every possible doubt and fear to keep residents from asserting control over their own community’s future. The Woodlands is in superb fiscal shape with low taxes and healthy reserve accounts intended to provide for both the known upcoming expenses and the unexpected. Incorporation has been discussed, studied, and plans prepared for years. Howard Hughes Corp may not be ready, but The Woodlands is ready for incorporation.
This election is in your hands. Is it better for you to be in control of your government or to leave your future in the hands of those you either don’t or only marginally elect?
Your community is prepared for it, but you must turn out and vote to make it a reality.
Vote FOR Incorporation – For Prop A and Prop B.