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Posts under ‘Local politics’

Houston officially gets in the SB4 litigation business

Well done. Houston City Council voted Wednesday to sue the state over its new “sanctuary cities” law, joining Texas’ three other largest cities in challenging the controversial measure. Council voted 10-6 to join San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, El Paso County and several other local governments and nonprofits in a consolidated case challenging the state. Councilman […]

Public testimony on SB4

It was heated, as you might expect. Scores of residents urged City Council on Tuesday to challenge the state’s “sanctuary cities” ban, speaking during more than five hours of public testimony on the eve of council’s vote on whether to join litigation. Council chambers overflowed with residents waiting to testify on Senate Bill 4, which […]

Council may vote on joining SB4 litigation tomorrow

It will happen, though perhaps not tomorrow. Houston City Council is poised to vote [this] Wednesday on whether to join litigation challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ new “sanctuary cities” law, days before the case’s preliminary hearing in San Antonio. The city attorney’s office has recommended Houston sue over the law known as Senate Bill 4, […]

We need better fire inspections

Not good. The Houston Fire Department division responsible for ensuring building safety keeps inadequate records, does not examine buildings on a regular schedule and inflated its inspection numbers, all while exceeding its overtime budget, according to an audit released by the city controller’s office Thursday. The audit for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 is the […]

Do we really have to have a pension bond vote?

So as we know, the Houston pension reform bill that passed contains a provision that requires a vote on the pension obligation bonds that Mayor Turner intends to float as a down payment. Pension obligation bonds have been floated in the past, by Mayor White, without a vote, but for whatever the reason some members […]

Council passes the 2017-18 budget

With a bit of drama along the way. City Council voted to boost funding for a controversial program that helps district council members tackle neighborhood projects Wednesday, even as it approved an annual budget from which one police cadet class and up to 75 employees’ jobs already had been trimmed. Mayor Sylvester Turner blasted the […]

When might Houston file a lawsuit over SB4?

Unclear at this time. Responding to calls for Houston to take a tougher stance on immigration legislation, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday he still is reviewing a controversial state law passed this month that allows police to ask people their immigration status if detained. The advocacy group FIEL Houston urged Turner earlier in the day […]

On to the revenue cap

With one major accomplishment (basically) finished, Mayor Turner moves on to the next major challenge facing him. “This is the most consequential campaign of the mayor’s career,” University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said. “These things are more complicated and more politically fraught than either his mayoral campaign or the lobbying to get the […]

Houston pension reform bill passes

It’s done. The Texas House on Wednesday approved the controversial Senate version of a bill that aims to overhaul Houston’s failing pension funds — over the passionate objections of current and former firefighters. Senate Bill 2190, which passed in a 103-43 vote, now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. But the months of rancor between […]

Bill King wants you to lower his property taxes

That’s not what he says in this op-ed, but it is the effect of what he’s arguing for, even if he’s not honest enough to come out and say it. Let’s start with the basic point that despite King’s disingenuous attempt to rebrand it, what the city has is indeed a revenue cap and not […]

Mayor Turner’s second budget

It’s about what you’d expect. With pension reform in sight, Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday proposed a combination of departmental cuts, one-time fixes, deferred payments and a dip into city reserves to close next year’s $123 million budget gap. Turner aims to erase the deficit with $51 million in spending cuts – largely from police […]

Revenue cap will be on the November ballot

Here it comes, assuming the pension reform bill doesn’t get mugged in a dark alley. Mayor Sylvester Turner plans to ask voters to lift Houston’s cap on property tax collections in November, a move that could loosen one of the city’s primary fiscal constraints as it confronts still-hefty pension and debt costs that leave little […]

Petitions submitted to force another pension vote

Oh, good grief. Voters soon could decide whether to close Houston’s traditional pension plans to new employees after political activists submitted a petition to City Hall to force a referendum this November. The petition further complicates Mayor Sylvester Turner’s efforts to pass a pension reform bill, which already had hit a hurdle in the state […]

Complete Communities

Mayor Turner makes an announcement about a new program for revitalizing some core neighborhoods. Mayor Sylvester Turner plans to focus Houston’s community development efforts on five low-income neighborhoods as part of his Complete Communities initiative announced Monday. The program comes without a price tag or implementation timeline, and the mayor has committed no additional money […]

The new panhandling ordinance

This happened last week; I didn’t have a chance to really look at it before now. Residents who impede the use of a Houston roadway, or block a sidewalk or building entrance could be charged with a misdemeanor under an ordinance passed Wednesday by City Council. The ordinance aimed at curbing panhandling was paired with […]

Commissioners get testy over bail practices lawsuit

Let’s hash it all out. Tensions flared at Harris County Commissioners Court Tuesday after new Commissioner Rodney Ellis filed legal papers supporting civil rights groups in their high-profile federal lawsuit against the county and its bail system. In a rare public argument before dozens of onlookers at the meeting Tuesday, Ellis’ colleagues — all Republicans […]

Millennials for office

I have four things to say about this. These days, Kylie Mugleston spends a lot of time on street corners, piquing drivers’ curiosity with a sign that says “Talk to Your Future Politician.” The 19-year-old is heading a political campaign in her hometown of Vidor, northeast of Beaumont. A young independent in a mostly conservative […]

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences officially opens

Excellent news. The greater Houston region now has a sophisticated asset to investigate and solve crimes with the official opening of the new Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (HCIFS). Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and other dignitaries, including Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new facility on Thursday […]

TOP responds to Chron story on Mayor Turner

Via the inbox, we come full circle: The following is a statement by Tarsha Jackson, Harris County director of the Texas Organizing Project, in reaction to the article “Progressives fret over Turner’s focus”: “Far from fretting over Mayor Sylvester Turner’s focus, I am energized that the mayor of the third-largest city in America is committed […]

Is there some fretting about Mayor Turner?

Maybe? I don’t know. I guess it depends on how you define “fretting”. The resignation of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s top deputy – a social justice advocate and one of the mayor’s few confidants in a sea of senior staff appointed by the previous mayor – is fueling worry among aides and allies about the administration’s […]

No one ever said pension reform was going to be easy

The firefighters’ pension fund isn’t happy with the way things are going. The plan to reform the City of Houston’s pension system is running into opposition from the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF). In a recent letter sent to its members, the HFRRF criticized Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner for ending the negotiations on […]

Some dude opposes pension reform

Presenting this in a slightly redacted form. [Some dude] has joined friend and ally Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, in rallying opposition to [Mayor Sylvester] Turner’s [pension reform] proposal among conservatives. He has attended at least three dozen forums on the topic, by his count, and has been running social media ads touting his views on […]

January 2017 campaign finance reports: Houston officeholders

Normally, at this time I would be scanning through Houston candidate campaign finance reports, to see where incumbents stand at the start of the season. Of course, barring near-term court action there is no season for Houston municipal officeholders this year, and unlike past years they have been able to raise money during what had […]

Interview with Bill Kelly

You may have heard that the city of Houston has some legislative business to take care of this session. Most notably, the city wants to get a bill passed to implement its pension reform plans, which may or may not have been complicated by the news that a vote could be required for the city […]

We may be voting on pension obligation bonds

Oh, boy. A state lawmaker carrying Houston’s pension reform bill says her version of the proposal will require a public referendum on a $1 billion cash infusion central to the negotiations, an idea Mayor Sylvester Turner called a “poison pill” that could derail the reforms and force “massive” layoffs. The requirement that voters have a […]

More on the Whitmire Astrodome bill

I still don’t care for this. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett voiced concern Tuesday that a bill filed by a veteran state senator jeopardizes the county’s plan to revitalize the Astrodome, adding that county representatives would continue to try to persuade legislators to support the $105 million project. Emmett said state Sen. John Whitmire’s bill, […]

We don’t need another vote on the Astrodome

Not for this we don’t, anyway. Less than five months ago, the future of the Astrodome seemed to be more secure than it has been in the decades since it hosted its last Astros game, with Harris County commissioners moving forward on a massive renovation project they said would usher in festivals, conferences and commercial […]

Time to pay attention to the HCDE again

Some highlights from the HCDE meeting agenda for this Thursday at 1 PM, as emailed to me: 1. Changing board meeting dates. 2. Michael Wolfe wants to name our Post Oak facility for his deceased mother. 3. Create a Home School Division. 4. Create a School Choice Division. 5. Create a board services division that […]

More MUD muddles

Who needs collateral? When Houston businessman David Lucyk decided to develop land in northeast Harris County, he lined up a bank loan to pay for water pipes, sewers, roads and a stormwater detention pond. He offered the bank three items as collateral: land his company owned, an ownership stake in a business, and the promise […]

Year Two for Mayor Turner

Year One was busy, but a lot of what was done this year depends on what happens next year. Tasked last year with distinguishing himself from a crowded field of mayoral candidates, Sylvester Turner styled himself as a progressive with expansive policy goals. He pledged to boost wages, improve educational opportunities and implement a new […]

Astrodome architects chosen

For the first phase. Harris County commissioners on Tuesday chose Kirksey Architecture to design a project to retrofit the Astrodome by raising its floor and installing parking spaces underneath. Commissioners designated the Houston-based firm as their top pick to conduct the architecture and engineering on the $105 million renovation of the Dome, a sweeping project […]

Commissioner Locke’s last day

He served well, and did a lot in his short time in office. Gene Locke, who was appointed Harris County commissioner nearly a year ago after the death of longtime Commissioner El Franco Lee, was praised for his effectiveness during a meeting Tuesday at which he cast his final vote. The former city attorney and […]

On welcoming immigrants

Mayor Turner puts out the welcome mat for a key part of Houston’s community. A press conference Monday morning to announce the unveiling of Houston’s Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities evolved into a denunciation by city officials of President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric toward immigrants and refugees. With portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin […]

Acevedo and Pena confirmed by Council

They’re officially official now. City Council unanimously confirmed Art Acevedo and Samuel Peña as Houston’s new police and fire chiefs Wednesday, clearing the way for the mayoral appointees to take office. Acevedo, Austin’s former police chief, is poised to take the helm of the city’s police department Thursday, while El Paso Fire Chief Samuel Peña […]