You are not a fish. I am not a fish. We are not fish.

And yet, our local governments sure do want to treat us like fish to be caught, either on a hook or with a net. Once caught, we stay caught.

Right now, in Texas, there is no reasonable way for a group of residents to leave a city’s control for reasons of neglect, strife, or simple dissatisfaction. What few opportunities do exist are engineered in a way that overwhelming favors city governments. That’s not the way that Texas government ought to work—because we’re not fish to be caught and kept.

Before 2017, cities could simply expand their borders and gobble up adjacent rural areas, neighborhoods, and even smaller jurisdictions—this would be catching fish (or, taxpayers) with a net. The Texas Legislature partially ended forced annexation in 2017 and then fully brought the practice to a halt in 2019, requiring cities to get a majority vote in favor of annexation from the residents of the areas they were trying to annex. Cities then had to woo the areas they wanted to annex with promises of public services or other benefits—this would be catching fish with bait and a hook.

Right now, once the city has got you, there’s little recourse. For the most part, you’re stuck—paying taxes, following code, and paying fees and fines for using your property.

City limits weren’t meant to permanent (consider that they’re always expanding), and Texans shouldn’t have to uproot their entire life—family, positions, job—if they no longer feel well-served by their city governors. The next Texas Legislature should take this opportunity to pass disannexation reform that allows neighborhoods and communities to more easily disannex if they meet certain criteria. We need to bring balance back to the system.

We shouldn’t be stuck in a city and forced to either move or pay taxes. It’s not the American way.