We’ve only lived in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, for a couple of weeks, but I’ve still yet to convince anyone that there is no middle class here – or at least one I’ve seen. There are million dollar homes; a large, exclusive resort; mobile homes and small houses; and almost no restaurants or services that stay open past 2000 hours. But I think a recent article in the local papers clearly demonstrates my argument.
I was certain when I read the headline, “Social issues highlight HSB mayoral forum,” I’d find that somehow abortion, gay rights or some other “wedge” issue had made its way into this small resort town’s mayoral election. I didn’t think it would be even worse. The headline would have been more accurate had it stated that “class issues” were the main focus of the forum.
As the full story isn’t posted online (the candidates for mayor should be thankful for that if they intend to run for higher office), I’ve uploaded a picture of the story and will heavily quote from it as published in the Oct. 11-14, 2013, weekend edition of The Highlander in Marble Falls, Texas. (Note that all grammar, usage and punctuation errors are from the original. The story was also published in the Llano paper.)
Let’s start at the beginning of the story.
On the question of whether or not department heads should be required to live inside the city limits, candidate and councilmember Steve Jordan said it was a good idea for some but not all but that he wouldn’t push it as policy if elected. Jordan’s opponent, candidate and councilmember Tom Schmersahl, said,
I’ve seen communities try to force their leadership to live in the community . . . I don’t think that’s the right direction to go. I think if we have the right leaders, they don’t have to live here with their people. It’s an economic issue for many of our employees . . . If you’re going to force them to live here, how much are you going to have to pay them?
Wow. Just, wow. So, to start, the city’s mayoral candidates (and current councilmembers) aren’t even willing to consider paying city staff – those who keep the city humming, like the nice gentlemen who came out to fix our grinder Friday afternoon – enough to even live in the city they support. How can city leadership say to their staff, “Hey, great job keeping my city running, but we don’t want you to live here unless you’re independently wealthy like the rest of us.” What a slap in the face.
Of course, even if they were to act decently toward city staff, they’d probably only pay them enough to live in the “affordable housing” (read: mobile and small homes) part of Horseshoe Bay, which they call Horseshoe Bay South. We live in my grandfather’s house in HSB South. I don’t think the city is big enough to have directionally named segments, but I suppose city politics has necessitated the creation of one.
From the article:
Another question related to affordable living arrangements was where each candidate stood on affordable and low-cost housing.
“Our city has a district for mobile homes as well as an area where you can build a home as small as 1,200 square feet. I support that,” Jordan said, “however, my focus will be on preserving the lifestyle we all chose to come here to . . . Unlike my opponent, I am not for expanding that process or encouraging more development in this low-cost area, nor do I expect this community not to remain a retirement or semi-retirement community.”
Schmersahl had a different view on housing in the city.
“The Hurds put together a pretty good road map for development in this community. I went to speak to Mrs. Hurd and ask her what was their intention for Horseshoe Bay South . . . they intended it for workers as a place they could afford to live,” Schmersahl said. “The idea of a master planning process would allow the community to have input to what we want to become in the future. Yes, I had said that I support low-cost housing and I support it in those areas that are designated, and that is Horseshoe Bay South.”
The bolded part is obviously mine. Read it a few times. They intended it as a place for the resort’s workers to live. A bit better than textile mill barracks, I suppose. They intentionally ghetto-ized a geographical and social piece of the city on and in which to dump all problems and workers. The story goes on to talk about crime in Horseshoe Bay South. So far, I’ve seen none. I constantly see cops (I believe one lives down the street – surprise, surprise). My grandfather’s house sat empty for five years and was never burglarized. I suppose the “crime” is probably drunk driving and lining the roads with empty beer bottles. We’ve seen the latter.
Given the city leadership intentionally created and maintains its own little ghetto, it can only be seen as malicious. It’s sickening, really. Maybe it takes moving out away from the larger metro area of Austin to find politicians willing to publicly disrespect and support policies that hurt a substantial segment of the city population and staff.
Class warfare comes from both sides. After reading the above story, it’s impossible for Republicans to legitimately hammer Democrats over the head for instigating class warfare. Neither side is innocent of promoting real-life policies that harm and/or restrain the “workers” and other lower-class working folks for whom they are supposed to be leading and caring. Unfortunately, these same folks will continue electing these same politicians by their masochistic and sad and irrational aspirational voting.
As noted in a recent piece in The New York Times, inequality is a political choice – not an inevitable macroeconomic result.
Asymmetric globalization has also exerted its toll around the globe. Mobile capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions. The result is a race to the bottom. Wages and working conditions are being threatened. Pioneering firms like Apple, whose work relies on enormous advances in science and technology, many of them financed by government, have also shown great dexterity in avoiding taxes. They are willing to take, but not to give back.
Inequality and poverty among children are a special moral disgrace. They flout right-wing suggestions that poverty is a result of laziness and poor choices; children can’t choose their parents. In America, nearly one in four children lives in poverty; in Spain and Greece, about one in six; in Australia, Britain and Canada, more than one in 10. None of this is inevitable. Some countries have made the choice to create more equitable economies: South Korea, where a half-century ago just one in 10 people attained a college degree, today has one of the world’s highest university completion rates.
For these reasons, I see us entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok. In these divided societies, the rich will hunker in gated communities, almost completely separated from the poor, whose lives will be almost unfathomable to them, and vice versa. I’ve visited societies that seem to have chosen this path. They are not places in which most of us would want to live, whether in their cloistered enclaves or their desperate shantytowns.
Horseshoe Bay isn’t its own country, but its leadership is sadly not even considering making a ripple in the ocean by integrating its residents. To the contrary, it fits the gated community versus shantytown description above decidedly well.