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Posts under ‘Local politics’

Council unanimously passes Turner’s first budget

Good job. Mayor Sylvester Turner achieved his goal of securing unanimous passage of his first general fund budget Wednesday morning, a month ahead of the typical schedule and after an unusually brief and uncontentious discussion of council members’ proposed changes. The $2.3 billion general fund budget, which pays for most basic city services with revenues […]

Paxton sues over Obama directive on transgender bathroom access

A more transparent publicity stunt you would be hard-pressed to find. Texas, joined by 10 other states, filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop a federal directive instructing school districts to let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Wednesday. Calling the Obama administration guidelines “outside the […]

Trash subsidy will not be trashed

From the inbox: After weighing the budgetary impact and obtaining input from City Council, Mayor Sylvester Turner has decided not to pursue elimination of subsidies to homeowners associations that opt out of City trash collection services. Under the program, which began in the 1970s, the City pays a monthly $6 per household subsidy to homeowners […]

So far, so good for Mayor Turner

That’s the general consensus of his first four-plus months in office. Faced with a $160 million budget shortfall that would leave some wringing their hands until deadline day, Mayor Sylvester Turner presented his plan a month ahead of schedule. The proposal being reviewed by City Council includes a few one-off gimmicks, by Turner’s own admission, […]

RIP, Carl Whitmarsh

This was certainly a shock. Carl Whitmarsh used to joke that when he died, there would be as many people ready to dance on his grave as to cry over his death. A towering figure in Harris County Democratic politics, Whitmarsh rarely held his punches against those he disagreed with, but was a loyal friend […]

Mayor Turner delivers State of the City 2016

Here’s the press release. Flooding, pensions, City finances and public safety were front and center as Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered his first State of the City before the Greater Houston Partnership. In a major move designed to produce tangible results and instill confidence among residents, the mayor announced the selection of Stephen Costello to fill […]

Kill that trash subsidy

Works for me. Mayor Sylvester Turner, working to close a $160 million budget deficit, has proposed scrapping payments that scores of Houston neighborhoods served by private trash haulers receive to help offset the cost of their waste contracts. The idea when the program started in the 1970s was that residents should not have to pay […]

Turner announces his budget

From the inbox: Utilizing a shared sacrifice approach, Mayor Sylvester Turner today unveiled a proposed Fiscal Year 2017 General Fund budget that eliminates a projected $160 million shortfall that was the result of cost increases, voter imposed revenue limitations, a broken appraisal system and the economic downturn. The budget totals $2.3 billion, which is about […]

Fundraising for the next city election cycle has begun

Whether you realized it or not. Last year’s court ruling undoing Houston’s fundraising ban during non-election seasons means that the city’s contribution cycles reset immediately after last year’s general and runoff elections, according to the city, instead of in early spring. As a result, unless a candidate is retiring old campaign debt, money raised post-election […]

Have I mentioned lately that the revenue cap is stupid public policy?

Because it is. Sales taxes are Houston’s second-largest source of revenue for the general fund, which pays for most core services. Just as concerning for city officials, however, was more news about the city’s largest general fund revenue source: property taxes. Mayor Sylvester Turner, as he did in February, criticized what he said is an […]

Mayor Turner releases transition team report

From the inbox, a glimpse of what to expect in the near to medium future from Mayor Turner. Mayor Sylvester Turner has released a 17-page report that details the work of his transition team chaired by businessman and long-time civic advisor David Mincberg. More than 250 Houstonians from all walks of life participated. They have […]

Mayor Turner names new City Attorney

From the inbox: Mayor Sylvester Turner has announced his selection of Ronald C. Lewis as the new city attorney. Like the mayor, Lewis is Harvard educated and has run his own law firm. “I wanted a lawyer’s lawyer, someone highly respected who can relate well to me as well as City Council and the general […]

On vacant lots and city/county cooperation

I just have one question about this. Houston residents living in neighborhoods afflicted with blight could see twice as much money poured into boarding up abandoned houses and mowing overgrown yards under a partnership city and county leaders trumpeted Tuesday. Harris County Commissioner Gene Locke plans to invest $750,000 to $1 million in mowing lawns, […]

Doing more to get tax breaks

We’ll see about this. Companies seeking city tax breaks soon could get a boost if they commit to providing additional community benefits – such as workforce housing, paid internships for low-income students or jobs for those who previously were incarcerated – as part of a retooling of Houston’s tax abatement program before City Council on […]

Recycling officially re-upped

That new recycling agreement with Waste Management was on Council’s agenda yesterday. Here’s a reminder of what it was about. Originally, Houston was to ink a four-year deal with Waste Management, paying a $95-per-ton processing fee, a nearly 50 percent price hike. [Mayor] Turner, hoping the market would rebound quickly and strengthen the city’s negotiating […]

Prepping for the city budget

Mayor Turner gives a brief preview of what is to come. Mayor Sylvester Turner said Friday that he expects to lay off 40 city employees and eliminate 54 vacant positions as he seeks to close a budget shortfall of as much as $160 million, his first public estimate of the personnel reductions required to balance […]

Recycling agreement reached

From the Mayor’s office: Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that he has reached agreement with Waste Management (WM) on a proposed new contract that will allow the city to continue offering recycling services without any disruption. The proposal, expected to be presented to City Council for approval in two weeks, is a two-year contract with a […]

Recycling contract impasse

Uh, oh. The city of Houston’s curbside recycling program could be put on hold after negotiations between Waste Management and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office reached an apparent impasse over a new contract Tuesday. Though Turner said he remains committed to recycling and his office said he will be “pursuing any and all available options” before […]

Steve Radack supports Medicaid expansion

I have three things to say about this. When Harris County commissioners were asked this week by a member of the public to lower the property tax burden, Steve Radack had a response prepared: tell Austin to let millions of Medicaid dollars flow to the county – then the commissioners might be able to lower […]

RIP, One Bin For All

It had a good run, but at the very least the timing was all wrong. The One Bin For All program would let Houstonians throw all trash in the same bin, to be separated for recycling later. The hope was to push up Houston’s low recycling rate. But now the city could end up with […]

Questioning CM Le’s residency

This sort of thing is practically a tradition in District F. Houston City Councilman Steve Le last month became the fourth man to represent District F in the last seven years, and the third to face questions over whether he actually lives in the Alief-area district. Houston’s city charter requires district council members to have […]

Layoffs are coming

It’s gonna suck, though hopefully not as hard as last time. Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday that a still undetermined number of city employees will be laid off in the coming months, making his first formal acknowledgment that Houston’s projected $126 million budget gap can’t be closed by July without personnel reductions. Though Turner did […]

Term limits lawsuit against city could be dismissed

This was unexpected. Last November, Houston voters approved an amendment to the City Charter that changed the length and maximum number of terms elected officials can serve. The lawsuit by Phillip Paul Bryant alleges the language on the ballot tricked voters into thinking they were voting for limiting terms, when they actually extended them. But […]

Things are tough all over

HISD faces a big deficit: Houston ISD leaders are bracing for a projected $107 million budget shortfall that, in a worst-case scenario, could prompt the district to slash jobs. During the school board meeting Thursday, however, officials pledged to try keep cuts away from schools. “We get it,” Ken Huewitt, the district’s deputy superintendent and […]

The Mayor’s education czar

Former HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche has joined the Turner administration. Mayor Sylvester Turner has named former Houston ISD board president Juliet Stipeche to a newly created Director of Education role in his administration, seeking greater collaboration between the city and area schools, community colleges and universities. Many council members and education advocates praised the move, […]

State of the county 2016

This year’s theme is cooperation and meeting challenges. In his ongoing effort to revive the Astrodome, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Tuesday proposed using the aging landmark for an outdoor light show when Houston hosts the Super Bowl next February. Emmett discussed the future of the Ddome and touched on the challenges the county […]

Resign to run has kicked in for Council members

Another change that our new term limits law has wrought. Houston elected officials who become a candidate for another elected office are now automatically required to resign their current seat, uncharted territory for city officeholders who previously had not been subject to the so-called “resign-to-run” provision of the Texas Constitution. The requirement that has long […]

So what happened to One Bin for All?

KUHF asks the question. It has been almost three years since the city won a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies for the One Bin For All concept, which would let Houstonians throw all their waste in one bin, to be separated for recycling later. Former Mayor Annise Parker tried to start the project, but […]

Emmett preps to name interim Lee successor

We will know who it is soon. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Monday announced he expects to appoint a successor by Friday to complete El Franco Lee’s term on the county’s governing body. Emmett wants the new Precinct 1 commissioner to be in place for the court’s yearly budget meeting the following Tuesday, Jan. […]

Selecting a successor for El Franco Lee: What I’m looking for

Building on what we discussed last time, what am I, as one of maybe 100 people who has the privilege of selecting a Democratic nominee to take El Franco Lee’s place on the November ballot – and most likely, on Commissioners Court for the foreseeable future – looking for? What qualities do I want that […]

Selecting a successor for El Franco Lee: Process and questions

From the inbox, sent by Carroll Robinson. The Issue During the past few days, there has been a great deal of speculation about the legal process for selecting someone to replace the late Commissioner El Franco Lee on the November 2016 General Election ballot. (Texas Election Code, Subchapter C. Sections 172.057, 172.058 and 172.054 (1).) […]

Lee’s campaign finances

Among other things, Commissioner El Franco Lee leaves behind a lot of money in his campaign finance account. When Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee died unexpectedly Sunday, he left friends and allies in mourning, political hopefuls jockeying for his job and an uncommonly large campaign war chest of nearly $4 million. What happens to […]

On succeeding El Franco Lee

Don’t rush anyone. Within hours of longtime Commissioner El Franco Lee’s sudden death Sunday, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett received calls from three people vying for his seat. Emmett, who alone must appoint a temporary successor, said he will not consider these three or five others who by day’s end expressed their interest. “There’s such […]

RIP, El Franco Lee

The longest-serving and first African-American Harris County Commissioner passed away suddenly on Sunday. El Franco Lee, Harris County’s first African-American commissioner and a popular mainstay in the political community, died Sunday morning of a heart attack. He was 66. The Houston native served more than three decades as commissioner in Harris County’s Precinct 1, and […]