Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a limited disannexation measure, House Bill 3053, that allows people unfairly captured by large cities during a particular time period to hold an election on the question of staying or leaving municipal control. The law was passed after concerns were raised that some cities had accelerated their involuntary annexation schemes in order to beat the clock, as a partial ban went into effect in August 2017.

Now, under the new law, some Texans will get “a chance to vote on the question of disannexation.” Specifically, residents living in cities that have: “a population of at least 500,000 that had annexed an area by ordinance between March 2, 2015, and December 1, 2017…[must] hold an election in the area on the question of disannexing from the municipality.” And it just so happens that one of those affected municipalities is the city of Austin.

For years, Austin city hall aggressively annexed property owners in the surrounding regions without their consent. The city’s property rights abuses effectively continued until the last possible moment. But now, at least a half-dozen of those aggrieved communities will have a chance to escape Austin’s clutches, if they so choose.

According to an ordinance adopted by the city council on Feb. 1, those Austin-area neighborhoods where a special election on disannexation will be held include:

  • Lost Creek
  • Mooreland Addition
  • Blue Goose Road
  • Lennar at Malone
  • Wildhorse/Webb Tract
  • River Place Outparcels

For anyone interested, maps of these locations can be found here.

Whether these communities decide to leave the city of Austin or not is anyone’s guess. But based on some recent commentary, it appears that at least a few residents are motivated to get out.

Appearing in the Austin Monitor on Thursday was Lost Creek resident Leslie Odom who: “complained that Lost Creek has suffered a significant increase in crime recently, which she blamed on lack of service from the Austin Police Department. She also said that her area is simply too far away for police to patrol and that they have been relying on firefighters from the Westlake Fire Department, also known as ESD No. 9.” If a significant number of voters share Odom’s sentiments, then there’s a strong possibility that Lost Creek leaves Austin.

In any event, the disannexation movement taking place in Austin raises an important question about the broader policy. That is, why shouldn’t the next Texas Legislature expand upon HB 3053 to allow others unfairly annexed outside of the March 2015 to December 2017 timeframe to also hold their own future elections on the disannexation question?

After all, it’s only right that every Texan be allowed to participate in the democratic process and choose his or her preferred form of government. And with the HB 3053 framework in place, we seem to have found a fair way to make it happen.