This commentary originally appeared in the Seguin Gazette on March 8, 2015.
On February 27, the Guadalupe County Judge signed an order calling an election for the incorporation of Kingsbury, Texas. In doing so, the door was opened for Kingsbury to become the latest in a wave of “Liberty Cities” that are taking back local government by creating cities designed to protect their residents’ liberty.
For Kingsbury, the road to their own city has not been easy. But like all freedom-loving Texans, their resolve to protect their rights has remained undeterred.
I met with Kingsbury residents on a Friday evening last fall, in the steel building that serves as their volunteer fire department. Sitting at a table surrounded by well-worn fire equipment, resident after resident came in to spend time with a total stranger and share their love of community.
What struck me in meeting with Kingsbury residents was that they wanted no special favors for their town. Instead, they only wanted to preserve and protect their freedom and property rights so that their children and grandchildren could continue to enjoy the community they loved, whose very continued existence was threatened due to the expansion of the City of Seguin.
Seguin had annexed east on Interstate 10 to the point that much of historic Kingsbury fell into their extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). The ETJ, in Texas law, is like a second set of city limits within which a city can regulate, but the residents can’t vote. ETJ residents also lose the ability to incorporate.
This meant that much of Kingsbury would never be able to incorporate without permission to be released from the ETJ by Seguin, an unlikely scenario at best.
In spite of the uphill climb that lay before them, Kingsbury’s residents were upbeat. They knew that they had a right to their liberty as much as anyone else did, and that they could protect it by creating their own town whose purpose was to protect that freedom and avoid being absorbed into a higher-regulation, higher-tax city.
In other words, Kingsbury residents wanted to create a “Liberty City.” A Liberty City is a city that incorporates for the express purpose of protecting its citizens’ rights. These municipalities employ limited government policies such as low taxes and few regulations, while still providing basic city services for their residents.
The concept began when Von Ormy, a small town in Bexar County, incorporated in 2008 to avoid future annexation by San Antonio. Von Ormy pursued freedom-oriented policies and sought to protect, not infringe upon, the rights of its citizens. It cut taxes every year, and in 2014, eliminated its property tax entirely.
Last year, Sandy Oaks, a small city that also wanted to avoid annexation by San Antonio, incorporated. Sandy Oaks opted against adopting a property tax, and like Von Ormy, is pursuing limited government policies intended to preserve the freedom of its residents.
The concept has gained enough momentum that a bill has been filed in the Texas State Senate, SB 710, which would create a new type of city in addition to the Types A, B, and C that already exist. If the bill passes, new cities would have the option of becoming a type of general law city called a Liberty City, which would start out with limited government policies from the beginning.
Will Kingsbury become the next Liberty City? Only its residents can decide. But one thing is certain: Texans value their freedom, and more and more are reconsidering the role of local governments in protecting it.
In other words, the Liberty City concept is here to stay. And it’s just getting started.
The Hon. Jess Fields is the Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and a former College Station City Councilman. He may be reached at [email protected].