Monday, September 9, 2013

How Much Small Government Can Texas Stand

Everyone stand up who likes big government? I don't see very many hands. But there is a problem. Small government means leaving politicians at every level of government in charge acting at their own discretion with little transparency.

Is the a problem?

Too often, This leads to cushy little fiefdoms of power and privilege where these government officials have the power to defend the privileges they have created.  They don't have to act illegally to do this. They just exercise the privileges provided by small government and leave the citizens with few means to hold them accountable.

What example illustrates this problem really well? The Fort Worth Weekly's Jeff Prince tells a heart wrenching tale of a feisty 80 year old abused by the Probate system in Texas. This is such critical information, I will quote Jeff Prince

Texas, unlike most states, allows its judges to initiate guardianship cases. If a defendant in a civil lawsuit refuses to settle, a Texas probate judge can say, “I think you’re mentally incapacitated.” Then that same judge can remove the defendant’s right to hire an independent attorney and use court-appointed attorneys to settle the case in a closed hearing without the defendant’s input.

Dorothy Luck has, in effect, become trapped in a probate system where a pack of lawyers and trustees feed on her wealth ostensibly watching out for her interests.  It is a sordid story you  don't want to miss it, the article is called  Grabbing the Purse.

This situation is no single occurrence either. The Fort Worth Weekly has covered similar disturbing cases over the years. State representative Stephanie Klick, a Republican from Fort Worth,  introduced legislation to tighten up the laxness in the probate laws to protect citizens.

Ms. Klick said,
“The process for initiating guardianship needs to be tightened up,” she said. “Someone who files something with the court needs a more formal affidavit rather than an informational letter that’s not sworn.”

The process should also be sped up to prevent excessive legal fees from piling up, and the courts should put people under guardianship only as a last resort, Klick said.

“The law says they are supposed to use the least restrictive means in handling these matters, and I’m not sure that’s the approach that is always utilized,”

The law requests that the least restrictive means be used. Legislators once upon a time, were trying to keep the law simple- low regulation. Let competent people use their discretion. But the result is this gives space and allows powerful parties to act in their own interests. Maybe no malice is involved, but the results closely resemble outright theft and thuggery.

Representative Klick's reform legislation failed this session. Jeff Prince quotes a Michael Easton, a Houston-based advocate for reform, who attended a hearing on April 15 at the Texas capitol on Klick’s bill. Several judges testified against proposed reforms.
“Klick introduced a wonderful piece of legislation that would add transparency to the process,” he said. “[The judges] said it would clog up the system and cause more problems — all vague and ambiguous reasons — and that everything is wonderful the way it is.

“Do you think they want to repair the system? They are happy with the way it is,” Easton said. “Right now there is no oversight, and they can do whatever they want.”

Maybe, we need to think about and resolve the contradiction in terms between what we like as political ideas and appealing phraseology- and parse the impact of those words on laws and how they impact Texas citizens. More transparency in government is considered more regulation- but lack of transparency hinders the citizens ability to watch and understand what is in the interests of Texans.

We must reconcile the notion that adding protections for citizens  is called 'clogging up the system with needless over regulation" when in fact, we need more insight to protect citizens.

Well, can we think of any more examples of government being unresponsive, acting willfully from the interests of the citizens in a manner hostile to transparency?

Tell me a state that has more powerful  eminent domain powers or uses them more often against citizens of Texas. In the local North Texas area, we have seen home taken for commercial malls, homes raised to build a national league ball park in Arlington, and to build a new flood control system in Fort Worth.

Lets look closer at  the noisome example of the Tarrant Regional Water District. Citizens have been complaining about transparency problems for years.  The TRWD uses citizens money to litigate against having to comply with open meeting laws. There lack of accountability to the public- allowed them to foolishly waste millions of dollars to push around Oklahoma citizens over water rights. Any public entity attuned to public input could nor would have ever gone there. It was a closely held thing between politicians not held to account and their too close relationship with lawyers happy to take money for a fools errand.

The TRWD is a fiefdom all to themselves, and only recently with the election of Mary Kelleher has there been any real attempt to open the doors and air the place out.

The TRWD board have no sense of propriety. Nepotism runs rampant but there is no answering to the people. The path to fixing all this is arduous because the laws in place provide the space and "freedom" for local power brokers to build fiefdoms to the detriment of citizens and it is all built on the founding ideas of small government, and keeping government out of your business...

You probably know the key phrases used to manipulate the hearts of freedom loving hearts of Texans. We just have to figure out better with our head as to what the end result might be when we do that.

We probably need to be more discerning . maybe not reject so quickly ideas when they are smeared with the label- over regulation- big government- taking away freedom- maybe we need to look a little deeper- not automatically reject ideas when they are presented as burdensome big guv'ment.

Texans are smart and creative. If we can look beyond the power of words to numb our thinking we can come up with solutions that do not burden but provide protection. A useful synergism that works better all around.

Feel free to express yourself below.

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