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How One Texas Neighborhood Seceded From The Democrat-Run City Hall Ruining Their Lives

The Lost Creek neighborhood in Austin, Texas, is charting a way for communities to band together and break up with abusive city governments.


It’s not often that a low-key municipal election makes international news, but one recent contest in an affluent Austin suburb has people excited about its result — and its potential implications for the rest of Texas and beyond.

On May 4, Austin’s Lost Creek neighborhood voted 91 percent in favor of seceding from the city and regaining some measure of self-determination, prompting in-depth coverage by the U.K.’s Daily Mail. What allowed Lost Creek to chart its own course was a new state law (House Bill 3053) that made some small but important changes to Texas’ disannexation process.

Disannexation broadly refers to a practice wherein “residents of a particular area [may] disassociate themselves from a municipal government’s control and jurisdiction.” In normal speak, it’s the way a community can break up with an abusive city government.

While disannexed areas may lose access to certain city services — like no longer being able to call the Austin Police Department, which is already stretched thin and understaffed by 500 — they also gain the opportunity to seek out better services elsewhere, either through an existing provider, like the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, or through some new source, like the private sector. In the same way, residents have a good chance of getting more and paying less for all other expiring city services, such as trash pick-up and emergency medical services.

To that very point, the Daily Mail quoted Austin public safety activist Cleo Petricek as saying, “I’m really jealous that they will have better management and would rather do it on their own than have anything to do with the city.”

Of course, the hunt for better services and lower costs only partially explains why Lost Creek residents voted so heavily in favor of city secession. Another major reason why was the total lack of political representation at city hall.

Austin has long been known as a weird place. Its hometown motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” after all. But over the last decade or so, city hall has increasingly catered to a fringe few on the far left, so much so that it’s experimented with “reimagining” public safety, toyed with giving black residents reparations, and even created its own guaranteed income program. Needless to say, these radical ideas have prompted many apolitical Austinites to wonder what’s being done in their name and why. Worse, they’ve also served as a stark reminder that the average person’s interests aren’t well represented.

As a result, communities have begun to either break away or at least consider it.

The Road to Capture

Lost Creek’s disannexation election was the culmination of a long train of abuses, the first of which began when the city of Austin forcibly annexed the area in 2015 without the consent of its residents. What enabled this undemocratic land grab was a hotly contested practice known as involuntary annexation.

Historically, Texas cities were allowed to annex surrounding areas without anyone’s permission. This practice, often driven by a desire for tax revenue, led to scenarios in which entire neighborhoods found themselves subject to city ordinances, taxes, and regulations without any input or voting rights. Such annexations imposed a form of taxation without representation, undermining the foundational principles of democratic governance and self-determination.

In 2017, the Texas Legislature finally responded to the mounting public outcry and partially ended the practice with the passage of Senate Bill 6, which granted voting rights to residents in more populous areas. The move toward a more democratic system and the eventual elimination of involuntary annexation was later fully realized in 2019 when House Bill 347 was passed.

But something unfortunate happened as SB 6 and HB 347 were moving through the legislative process, on their way to the governor’s desk to become law. Cities understood that their time was short, and they began to accelerate their annexation plans dramatically. This meant that neighborhoods like Lost Creek were up a creek, so to speak. Until the 2023 legislative session, that is.

Let My People Go

By 2023, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3053 and Senate Bill 2038. The new laws seek to right old wrongs and give people a chance to participate in the democratic process.

Although limited, HB 3053 allows some neighborhoods in Texas’ biggest cities to vote on whether to disannex if they meet certain conditions, such as being annexed between March 3, 2015, and Dec. 1, 2017. This is the law that allowed Lost Creek to seek its freedom.

For its part, SB 2038 targets a municipality’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) and allows residents in those parts to use a petition and election process to break away from a city’s orbit.

Both laws not only champion the principle of self-determination but also rectify long-standing grievances involving the old, defunct practice of involuntary annexation. These are signature wins for the liberty movement, and they set the stage for so much more in the future.

James Quintero, policy director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Taxpayer Protection Project, believes these measures will serve as the building blocks for future legislation that reinvigorates good government at the local level (or people will leave!) and empowers individuals to be the masters of their destiny.

“Every Texan has a right to self-determination and consensual governance. And when those rights are trampled, they ought to have the tools to terminate the relationship,” said Quintero.

To that end, Quintero suggests that the 2025 legislature consider expanding the framework established by HB 3053 to allow all Texans forcibly annexed within a particular period to hold an election in their area.

Quintero notes, “Texans need further legislation to fully protect their right to self-determination, including universal disannexation rights, streamlined procedures to qualify for disannexation, and the abolishing of ETJs which allow cities to exert control without providing adequate services or representation.”

Texas’ recent annexation reforms are a significant step forward in the effort to protect the principle of representation.

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