I Suck as a Citizen

If you haven't grown up in Beaumont and you pay your taxes and fees and you want to be involved in how our city moves forward, you suck as a citizen. Just pay your taxes, keep quiet, do as your told and you will be welcomed by the old guard of Beaumont... Or so I have been told. Read on.

What happens if the city council extends the city’s obligation to CFD debt beyond the 20 year homeowner are obligation to pay CFD fees? 

If the city refinances the bond debt and extends the term of the new debt beyond the time homeowners are obligated to pay on the refinanced debt, are we, homeowners, obligated to payments on the new debt, bond issues that extend past our original term? Someone tell me if I am wrong, I don’t believe we are. How will the city pay their debt obligation when homeowners are no longer contributing to the payments? Are Beaumont City Council Members thinking about this when they authorize the City Manager to mortgage our kids’ futures?

My 20 year obligation (more than $2,000 annually) will be completed in about 13 years. My son will be 20 years old and a couple years after that I hope to retire. We will no longer need a large house and my wife and I hope to sell. Thirteen years may seem like a long time but with relatively stagnant housing prices in Beaumont, while real estate markets in other parts of the state are recovering, homeowners in Beaumont need to convince our city council to be proactive and start making tough responsible decisions to bring back a healthy real estate market now. 

I believe there are problems with the decisions our city leaders have made and the direction they are taking us. I feel their strategy has been to finance the growth and development of our community on the backs of new homeowners moving to Beaumont. When this strategy was first employed, most citizens living here never expected they would be paying CFDs or Mello Roos or any of the fees that come with buying a new home because they already owned homes free of any development fees. Building Beaumont’s future on development fees was an easy strategy for the city council to promote because the target of these fees had yet to move here, the growth and development of the city could be financed by “outsiders”. Even if the real estate market hadn’t crashed, this was never going to be a sustainable strategy.

Our current City Council and City Manager appear to have failed to acknowledge this and no one is considering a change in direction. In the last election, none of the candidates were talking about any plans to improve our home values, all we heard from the two who were elected, or reelected, was how well Beaumont was doing and how we need to keep employing the “winning” strategy. If we don’t adopt a new direction, none of us who now are paying these fees will realize any gains from our investment in Beaumont, the gains we hoped for when it came time to sell our homes. We didn’t buy homes here planning to break even.

I’ve noticed on the Patch a lot of energy directed towards the financial problems of the city. I think interest in the city’s finance and accounting procedures is important. If corruption exists in Beaumont, the state and county investigative agencies won’t be motivated to take action if citizens aren’t speaking out. We should all continue to focus on the actions and behavior of our elected officials and the city’s administration but I am going to try and direct some of my energy, and the energy of other concerned citizens, to designing and implementing a new strategy for future city councils. If we can begin a serious discussion now about how we should move forward and we design a strategy to get Beaumont back on track to become what most of us envisioned when we moved our families here, we can begin looking for the right candidates for next year’s election to move Beaumont in a new direction. Three out of five council members and three out of five school board members are up for reelection. Next year’s election will be critical in determining what kind of Beaumont we leave for our children and grandchildren. 

I believe we need to focus on reviving our real estate market and increasing home values. Home values are driven up by demand from people wanting to move here. Anyone who has taken an economics class, knows demand is a product of supply. As I see it, we have two immediate problems. First, because there are so many foreclosures, short sales and homeowners trying to sell their upside down homes, there is too much supply.Second, the school bonds, developer fees and debt refinancing by the city are increasing the costs associated with purchasing a home in Beaumont. High long term annual costs resulting from school bonds, CFDs, and finance restructuring discourage prospective home buyers. We need a strategy to focus on lowering long term home ownership costs while at the same time reduce thesupply of the discounted foreclosures and bank owned properties.

So here are some of my thoughts:

First, we need to stop all new home development. Believe it or not, the city is still issuing new building permits. We have plenty of vacant homes; just take a walk around Tournament Hills or Sundance. If there are any developers that already have obligations from our city council, they should be required to begin development soon or be required to pay up-front the “developer” fees they would normally pass on the buyer. Don’t misunderstand me; I am in favor of responsible growth and I think we still need to encourage business to mave here but making decisions that suppress our home values hurts more of us than it helps. We need responsible business growth to attract new homeowners and businesses not more inventory of homes for sale.

Also, I’d like to see city legislation to offer home buyers,at the time of purchase, the option of paying existing CFD obligations up-front at a prorated discount, based on the time value of money. This would make it more profitable for buyers making long term commitments to our community to pay a prorated amount based on the time value of money and finance this at the time of their purchase. Then when the new homeowner sells the home the next owner would have no CFD obligation. This could generate money for the city now but it would require a more fiscally responsible city council.

For all bank owned property sales - foreclosures and short sales – we should require the seller (the bank) to satisfy all future CFD obligation (prorated as previously mentioned). This would help raise property values of homes owned by those able to honor their commitments. If home values rise, many of us who have no equity in our homes now, would be able to refinance our homes at lower interest rates and there would be fewer foreclosures. 

Finally, we declare Beaumont a CDF free zone. We return to charging developers directly for the community developments that they will pass on the cost to their buyers. If they have the waiting lists as long as they have convinced our city council members they do, then a higher up-front commitment shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The new home buyers would be able to finance all the costs and not have to pay so much in annual fees. The lower annual taxes and fees would enable buyers to qualify for larger loans, No CFD fees would motivate more to move here and all our home values would increase. 

I know making the kind of changes we are going to need isn’t going to be easy, especially considering the mind frame of our leadership. I recently had a discussion with a prominent, influential, long time resident of the pass area who told me “you might be a good computer programmer but you suck as a Beaumont citizen.” This person’s argument was that I haven’t lived here long enough to propose changes. I asked him to consider the 30,000 people who have moved to Beaumont in the last ten years and I asked if he would say the same about ¾ of the city’s population if they asked for a new direction. He said he would. So, even though I have committed my family to live here for at least 20 years, if I don’t keep quiet and accept the status quo, I suck as a citizen. I think this viewed is shared by many of our city’s leaders but not by all life long residents. We will have our work cut out for us. 

I’d like to use the blog/commenting platform to share ideas. I’ve started with a few of my own but if more minds are working on a solution, there's better chance we have of finding a workable, successfulsolution. My ideas may seem “really out there” but I think in the early stage of a meaningful dialog nothing should be considered too crazy to discuss. Some of what I have proposed will require new city legislation and possibly some new state legislation; we need to make our elected officials work for us.

I think the Patch is a good platform for a community conversation on our future but I realize there are some who may try to drag down the conversation with name calling and negative comments. If we are unable to be productive on the Patch, I can move the discussion to my personal website/blog,OurFocusOurKids.com, where I have the ability to employ a Bozo filter and block offensive comments. I’m not trying to anger or attack anyone, I just want everyone to think about where we are headed and work together plot our best course.