Annexation as a solution to metropolitan problems : A study of Houston, Texas



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Over seventy percent of the population of the United States now resides in urban areas. Most of these people reside in areas referred to as Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSA). These SMSA account for only ten percent of the land area of the country. Over sixty percent of our people reside on only ten percent of the land. This accumulation of large numbers of people into huge "super cities" has resulted in many problems. This urbanization of the nation has taken place over a relatively short period of time. In most instances our local governmental structure has not adapted to changing conditions. One instance of this is the failure of local government to adjust its political and legal boundaries to coincide with the expanded metropolitan area. This failure to provide a government of general competence for the entire area tends to magnify the problems which face the area. This lack of a government of general competence at the metropolitan level is considered by most students of urban government to be a basic problem facing local government. The solution of this problem would make it easier to tackle other metropolitan area problems. Annexation is often proposed as one method of obtaining this area wide government. Instead of creating a new metropolitan government, annexation allows the major city in the area to expand to provide city government to the entire area. The purpose of this paper is to measure the effectiveness of this approach in one city-Houston. The State of Texas has had a liberal annexation policy. The City of Houston has relied on this policy to undertake extensive annexations. In this paper we look at the legal setting of annexation in Texas and at what has been the practice of annexing cities in Texas. We lock at the City of Houston; at the many problems which beset the area and at the history of annexation in Houston. We then try to assess the effect annexation has had in solving the many problems which face the Houston metropolitan area. We come to the conclusion that annexation has advantages over the more drastic proposals for creating metropolitan government. However, annexation is subject to many specific abuses, and by its very nature is limited to extending city government only to unincorporated areas. Annexation has certainly mitigated the problems facing the Houston metropolitan area. Annexation, however, does not accomplish much needed reform of local government. Some of these reforms must be accomplished by the state legislature. Annexation merely extends the boundaries of a city government to take in unincorporated territory. The problems facing the Houston metropolitan area are on a grand scale and some of them seem to be reaching huge proportions. Governmental reform more extensive than annexation seems to be in order.



Houston, Texas