Houston Debt Can Be Aided By Private Partners

Gregory Robinson ’18

Did you know that Houston ranks third in Texas for debt per-capita? Texas is nearly $40.5 billion in debt and even more alarming is the $192.7 billion in debt held by local governments in the state of Texas. This is a recipe for disaster because in order for Houston to pay off its debt each citizen would have to pitch in around $6,264. This debt is a result of the city paying for major improvements. But how far can this go? When does the borrowing stop and the debt go down?

Mayor Annise Parker has cut 5% of the budget in the police and fire departments and a proposed 27% in other departments . There has also been a number of cuts all across the fire and police department. This “solution” could cause several problems. The less money the departments have, the less they have to pay for firefighters and police to be ready to respond in case of emergency. This will cut the number of on duty firefighters by 10%. These budget cuts obviously hurt overall public safety. So are these budget cuts the right or wrong thing?

I think that the city spends way too much money on unnecessary things. The budget for 2015 for the City of Houston is $5.2 billion. I think that the city should spend more on things that are saving lives such as: The police department, the fire department, and the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC). Each year Barc receives nearly 25,000 animals. Barc is required to take in every animal that they come across no matter the condition or circumstance. This leads to the overcrowding of the shelter which leads to the euthanizing of many of them. Recently the city has been trying to turn this around with the help of Rescued Pets Movement (RPM) an all volunteer and private organization trying to save these animals lives. RPM has been very successful saving 3,864 animals lives so far. RPM transports these animals to Colorado where they are placed in loving homes. Barc has made drastic changes the past few years to try and save as many animals as they can. They recently reached the highest live release rate in Barc’s history in January and February of 2014 which was 72%. Barc is one thing that will see a funding increase this year from the City of Houston.

I believe that the city should partner with private organizations like RPM more. An example of this is what happened with the Houston Zoo. The zoo used to be entirely publicly owned and operated but it was transitioned in 2002 into a nonprofit organization not operated by the city. Since the transition the zoo has completely changed and is much better run now and it raises a lot more money. This is one solution I have to help better run the city and deal with the debt.

So the question is, should we transition as many things as possible to private organizations?