In a truly despicable move, Fort Bend County, in Southeast Texas, is trying to drive minorities off of their land by raising their taxes to ridiculous heights. The reason why is so not-shocking: they want to build more subdivisions. But this is not cool and the county officials should be cast out!
Twenty-eight minority land owners filed a lawsuit in Fort Bend County Court against Fort Bend County’s judge, its chief appraiser, its tax assessor-collector, the Lamar Independent School District, and two law firms. They allege that their taxes have gone up much faster than the taxes for white owners of equivalent property. The plaintiffs are all African-Americans and/or Hispanics.
Fort Bend is one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties and the growth has been outstripping available land. Between July 1, 2007 and July 1, 2008, when the taxes began to rise, the county’s population grew by almost 5%. And all of those new people need their McMansions, of course. So why not drive out the minorities and take their land?
The plaintiffs all have low to moderate incomes and their families have been on the land for generations, on property ranging from small lots to 100 acre spreads. They have managed, despite their low incomes, to pay their taxes and keep the land in their families. Now, the taxes have gone so high that they can longer make the payments. The families have observed the following:
“… that before the growth came to the Fulshear area, sometime before the year 2006 and prior, land owned by minorities valued by Fort Bend County Appraisal District was at $4,000-$4,500 per acre, while land owned by whites was around $20,000 per acre; growth hit and the value of minority’s property jumped to $41,000 an acre while whites $22,000-$23,000 per acre.” [Source]
They investigated and, lo and behold, similar properties owned by whites were not being evaluated and assessed equally. It didn’t take much more to figure out that, with housing developments gaining in the area, their property taxes were grossly unfair. Tax collection actions had also been gaining in frequency and intensity.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Diogu Kalu Diogu II, is convinced that the developers want the minorities’ land and, to that end, the county has raised their taxes without notifying them. In one case, the land owners were refused a hearing when the county said that they were not the legal holders, even though they were the heirs of a deceased relative. Appraisals have been sloppily handled and not properly provided. Payment plans have been reneged upon.
The group seeks a restraining order to halt foreclosures and damages for violation of their civil rights and due process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy and violations of the Texas Tax Code. A judge has set the matter for hearing on April 30th, at which time a formal injunction will be argued. I, for one, hope that justice is done in this case. When we start allowing institutionalized racism (again!) we are in ethical danger as a nation.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…