Sunday, April 19, 2009

From Fort Bend Sun: Golf course shows city has priorities out of order

Golf course shows city has priorities out of order

The White House's new stimulus package and efforts to turn around the economy have most of us very focused on those aspects of government policy.

Missouri City residents have probably overlooked the interesting aspects of their city's eminent domain action to take over ownership of the Quail Valley Golf Course.

The Constitution requires that property taken under this provision be for “public use,” and that “just compensation” should be provided to the property owner.

I personally feel that “public use” implies anticipated use by a vast majority of Missouri City residents. Statistics show that less than 15 percent of Americans play golf.

How can the city say that they are really catering to the entire Missouri City population by taking over the golf course? It’s very likely that the actual percentage of golfers is lower in Missouri City because we are a young community, many of us have Houston employment and our commutes give us less time for recreational activities.

The city has spent a large portion of the recent $17.5 million bond issue on the golf course. How do they justify that expenditure when the golf course will only service 10 to 15 percent of Missouri City residents? Golf proponents will probably contend that park repairs likewise cost substantial funds, and my response is that most city residents do make use of the parks.

Eminent domain proceedings such as the one that Missouri City is undertaking are an attack on the free enterprise system. Local governments should not be in direct competition with other golf course businesses due to tax breaks (the city pays no property taxes), public financing and other advantages.

Actually, the course is now also directly competing with local restaurants. The city is supposed to spur and stimulate economic growth, so important to Missouri City with its limited tax base, but the direct opposite is occurring. A good example of the city’s advantage in the marketplace is how it reports golf course income and expenses.

The city just forecast that the course would have a $570,000 operating loss but this figure does not include interest expense to be paid on the bond issue funds.

These reporting anomalies are an obvious advantage that the city has over private businesses, which have to include interest payments as a normal operating expense.

Is this important? Ask any cost conscious golf course or restaurant owner in the area if he/she wants to compete with the city and its resources and still make a profit. Investors and creditors are very interested in the profit that a business in generating. The city apparently has no such problem. One very important reason the course suffers losses is that there are there are already a large number of golf courses in the area. So, why is there a drastic need for the city to provide further golf recreation for its residents?

My most significant complaint about the whole eminent domain process is its cost. Legal fees, administrative costs and council time spent on this process will be substantial. The city will need to provide "just compensation" to the former golf course owner.

As a city, we clearly have more important priorities than golf. Missouri City has a limited budget and should be focusing its efforts on controlling crime, replacing worn infrastructure and accomplishing the other very important roles that most cities have. They may not be as glamorous and they may not win as many votes, but these priorities, especially public safety, are what make us a great city to live in.
MCC comment: This piece comes at a very opportune time given the projected 1.6 million dollar deficit in the MC budget and the 2.5 million reduction in the "fund balance" (surplus fund).




Question: Do you trust Allen Owen, mayor of Missouri City, TX, to represent you rather than his Houston corporate backers?




3%  participating said yes  (n20)


91%  participating said no  (n573)


6%  participating responded not sure  (n39)


(N) sample =  632


Stay tuned as more surveys for coming elections are posted!

Web Statistics
Alienware Computers

This site covers the Missouri City, Texas and local vicinity. Copyright (c) c.calvin 2005-2010 can contact the web-blog coordinator for MCC/CRD at