Home » Analysis » Woodlands RUD Criminal Lawsuits Covered In Houston Press Story

Woodlands RUD Criminal Lawsuits Covered In Houston Press Story

Of personal interest is this well-written and detailed article from the Houston Press about the ongoing prosecutions for illegal voting in the 2010 Woodlands Road Utility District No. 1 bond and officer election. Kudos to Steve Miller for pulling together a fairly complicated topic.

Charles Kuffner (in his excellent Off the Kuff blog) had reposted the story on Valentines Day, and surprised me by writing that he didn’t know until now that road utility districts were a thing. This statement from a politically active, deeply informed, and publicly influential Houston-area resident and journalist is troubling, given that he lives in a part of the state that has an astonishingly high density of almost invisible special law political subdivisions, and given that politics is his passion.

Mr. Kuffner’s residence places him in nine different political taxing entities, some of which he certainly knows about (Harris County, City of Houston, Houston ISD, Houston Community College District), some of which he may be unaware of (Harris County Flood Control District, Port of Houston Authority, Harris County Department of Education, Harris County Hospital District), and one that I strongly suspect he is unaware of (Greater Northside Management District). Not all of these entities have elected boards – for instance, the flood control district board is selected by the county commissioners, and the management district board is selected by the Houston city council).

But all of the districts have the authority to call and conduct elections, set tax rates and collect property taxes, and enact other policies that have a direct impact on Mr. Kuffner and his neighbors. All of the entities have websites, are subject to the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Open Meetings Act, and conduct regular meetings that are open to the public. Admittedly, none of the districts are as peculiarly organized as the Woodlands RUD No. 1, as that is a political entity of a type more commonly encountered in the unincorporated territory of a county. But as Mr. Kuffner drives through the counties in and around the greater Houston area, he will cross the boundaries of hundreds of municipal utility districts, road districts, water control districts, emergency services districts, management districts, and other special law districts, all of which directly or indirectly affect the lives and welfare of his friends and colleagues.

The scope of his political “beat” has suddenly and perhaps unexpectedly become much broader.



  1. Hi, Joe. Thanks for the feedback. For the record, I was aware of all of the taxing entities you mentioned, though I confess I didn’t realize I lived in the Greater Northside Management District. I’m well acquainted with MUDs, but RUDs were new to me. Perhaps that’s an effect of living in an incorporated city. Anyway, I’m glad to find your blog and have added it to my Feedly subscriptions.

  2. I feel a bit sheepish about the whole taxing districts thing – I should have known that you knew about all these entities. I hope I didn’t come across as an abrasive know-it-all.

    One thing that I worry about is that the Woodlands RUD No. 1 story will demonize the policymakers and officers of special law districts. Special law districts are in some sense “stupid” (as legal abstractions that have to exist to promote economic growth), but that does not make them evil institutions.

    The Woodlands RUD No. 1 exists because Montgomery County can’t legally lend money to a developer. Montgomery County can’t legally lend money to a developer because the drafters of the most recent state constitution were tired of seeing government funds being ripped off by actual con artists. Personally, I blame James P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and all the Morgan and Vanderbilt wannabes who breezed into tiny Texas towns with promises of economic salvation after the Civil War.

    As instruments of development policy, special law districts are flawed, partly because they are so poorly understood and mysterious, and partly because they can start to develop bad management practices due to a lack of public oversight. If anyone is to blame, it’s us – the voters – for letting these things get out of hand.

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