A Crossroads of San Antonio
Historical profile of a city within a city
Residents of suburban Balcones Heights (an enclave of San Antonio, Texas) were incorporated in 1948 to gain zoning protection, only to find themselves relying heavily on revenue from traffic fines to run the city. A few decades later, two interstate highways intersected at Balcones Heights, drawing a regional shopping mall yielding sales tax revenues that could suddenly fund new municipal services. Its isolated, hardscrabble days over, Balcones Heights has become among the most densely populated town in Texas and deals with a host of urban issues.
More than the historical profile of a city, this illustrated book documents the successful struggle of a new suburb through a bitter incorporation war with the adjacent metropolis. Also analyzed is Balcones Heights's growth and the sales tax revenue bonanza, which brought not only municipal affluence but also challenges faced by cities many times its size.
“Call it a suburban rags-to-riches story. The miniscule municipality of Balcones Heights was once in such desperate straits that it initiated a draft for street repairs. It was the fall of 1949, six months after incorporation, and there was less than $500 in the treasury. With most of the streets unpaved, and the paved ones crumbling, the town council passed an ordinance requiring all males aged 21 to 45 among the town's 400 inhabitants, except active ministers of the gospel, to spend five days each year working on the public streets. You could buy your way out for $1 a day, but failure to do so was a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $100 per day. That's just one of the nuggets in Lewis Fisher's Balcones Heights: A Crossroads of San Antonio . . . a history that would have made the Chamber of Commerce choke.”
— San Antonio Express-News