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Posts under ‘Local politics’

Harris Health wants more people to enroll in Obamacare

Who can blame them? Harris County’s public health care agency, responding to a budget crisis, will eliminate more than 19,000 people next year from eligibility for free or nearly free services, hoping most of these patients will obtain coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The board of the agency, Harris Health, voted Thursday to reduce […]

Getting back into the marriage game

It was too good to stay away. Two Harris County justices of the peace have resumed officiating weddings this week after a brief hiatus in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on marriage equality. Judges Russ Ridgway and Jeff Williams stopped marrying couples after the high court on June 26 legalized same-sex […]

Packing heat at the zoo

Yeah, this won’t cause any controversy. Houston Zoo officials have been forced to remove long-standing “no guns” signage from the city-owned property after a prominent gun rights attorney filed a complaint, marking the first visible local example of a new state law that targets government entities illegally restricting concealed carry. Though the Houston Zoo is […]

Yet another report on pensions

Yippie. Some city leaders have spent years standing in the town square, hollering themselves hoarse that Houston’s financial footing is unstable, that huge pension costs threaten the city’s future ability to police the streets, pick up trash and maintain parks. In recent weeks, they’ve been joined by two others with bullhorns: The Greater Houston Partnership […]

Students against Dave Wilson

OUT SA, the website for out students and allies at Houston Community College, reviews a litany of Dave Wilson’s recent activities and discusses what can be done about them. Mr. Wilson has created a hostile environment for LGBT students, staff, and faculty of Houston Community College by these actions. In addition, with his last action, […]

Change to term limits may be on the November ballot as well

Here we go again. Mayor Annise Parker’s proposal would wait until 2020 to lengthen City Council members, the mayor and and controller’s terms; while Councilman Jerry Davis is proposing a staggered roll-out starting in 2016. Supporters say the 2020 plan would be the easiest sell to voters, with no current elected officials standing to benefit. […]

BP settlement cash

Nice. The city of Houston, Harris County and Metro netted $23 million in compensation from BP for revenue they could not collect in the wake of the company’s 2010 Gulf oil spill, officials announced Thursday. Houston will pocket about $12.2 million from the costliest environmental lawsuit in U.S. history to cover hotel and sales tax […]

Auditing HCDE

We’ll see about this. Later this summer, state auditors are expected to release their final report on the Harris County Department of Education. They’ve been examining the agency since last December. Superintendent James Colbert told lawmakers about it at a hearing in April. “We should have absolutely nothing to hide as far as I’m concerned […]

Parker wants a vote on lifting the revenue cap

So do I. Mayor Annise Parker plans to press City Council this month to reconsider loosening a decade-old revenue cap for public safety spending as talk of a looming budget deficit and possible service cuts grows more ominous around the dais. The cap limits the growth in city revenues to the combined rates of inflation […]

Dave Wilson will never go away

What’s that definition of insanity again? Opponents of Houston’s equal rights ordinance have once again submitted petitions calling for a voter referendum to put a gender identity issue on the ballot in November, but the mayor says it’s not going to happen. Anti-gay activist Dave Wilson showed up at Houston City Hall Thursday with boxes […]

TOP calls for changes in construction incentives

From Prime Property: Members of the Texas Organizing Project stood with signs across from a 40-story building under construction at Preston and Milam just off the park on downtown’s north side. The group was hoping to draw attention to the Downtown Living Initiative, a program that offers $15,000 per unit in tax rebates to developers […]

Circling back to city finances

I have three things to say about this. This time, [City Finance Director Kelly] Dowe insists, the $126 million deficit he projects for the budget year that starts next summer is not going to disappear, as past projected shortfalls have. There are no more payments to defer, he says, no more valuable city-owned land to […]

Sales tax revenues take a dip

Don’t freak out just yet, but do be a little worried. Houston’s 53-month consecutive span of year-over-year sales tax revenue gains has come to an end, five months into an energy slump analysts said could dent the city’s economic numbers for the rest of the year. The city’s $50.1 million sales tax revenues for April, […]

What now for road projects?

What do we do with road projects that were going to use ReBuild Houston funds now that the Supreme Court has ruled the 2010 referendum to have been illegal? A necklace of neighborhood streets encircling Hudnell’s home is among the ReBuild projects, deemed beyond “economical repair” and originally scheduled for work late next fiscal year, […]

No more LGBT liaison at the Sheriff’s office

So according to the Houston Press, it would seem our new Sheriff is not exactly comfortable with gay people. First, he told to his surprise at a Republican club meeting that the HCSO website has a small rainbow flag tucked into a corner: Needless to say, that rainbow flag is now gone. What’s more worrisome […]

On regulating city lobbyists

Still a work in progress, it would seem. Four years after Mayor Annise Parker’s administration tightened Houston’s lobbying rules and pledged to enforce them, not a single person or firm has been cited despite records showing that many lobbyists have failed to abide by the regulations. A Houston Chronicle review of city records and interviews […]

Questioning the new Sheriff’s staff

That didn’t take long. Among Ron Hickman’s initial moves as sheriff was filling each of his first eight command posts with white males, a choice critics said shows a lack of vision in a jurisdiction as diverse as Harris County. These employees range from a major in charge of criminal investigations to an assistant chief […]

HCDE happenings

The Chron paints an unflattering portrait of the Harris County Department of Education. HCDE has operated in relative obscurity for decades, fighting off lawmakers’ occasional efforts to eliminate it by bankrolling lobbyists and political consultants. Advocates for the agency say it provides indispensable support services to the 25 independent school districts in Harris County. But […]

New Precinct 4 Constable chosen

Now that Ron Hickman is Sheriff, that left a vacancy in his old job as Precinct 4 Constable. Commissioners Court has now filled that vacancy. At a special meeting Tuesday morning Harris County Commissioners Court selected Mark Herman, assistant chief deputy in Precinct 4, to fill the spot vacated when Constable Ron Hickman was tapped […]

More on Sheriff Hickman

A profile of appointed Sheriff Ron Hickman that’s long on biography but short on policy. Hickman is 63 and has spent his entire career doing police work. No step on his path has been sudden or unanticipated. Hickman expressed interest in the sheriff’s job when there were hints of a vacancy, before Garcia had announced […]

Mayor Parker’s last budget

Here it is. Despite sounding the alarm for months that a multimillion dollar deficit could force service cuts, new fees and employee layoffs, Mayor Annise Parker rolled out a $5.1 billion city budget on Tuesday that largely preserves spending levels by drawing on one-time funding sources and higher-than-expected revenues to plug the gap. Parker warned […]

Who you calling lame duck?

“Not me”, says Mayor Parker. City Council has voted down or delayed several items put forward by Mayor Annise Parker in recent weeks, events that some City Hall observers interpret as a sign of the term-limited mayor being afflicted with lame-duck syndrome as the race to succeed her heats up. Parker and her allies dismiss […]

Gay acceptance in Harris County

Not too shabby. Harris County, once known as reliably conservative, has become increasingly progressive on social issues such as same-sex marriage and the death penalty, according to a new poll by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. The shifting cultural consensus reflects changes in public attitudes across the country but stands apart from Republican-led […]

Uber satisfies Mayor Parker’s demands

OK then. Tensions eased Friday in a dispute between Mayor Annise Parker and Uber, which partners with local drivers to coordinate paid rides via smartphone, after the company outlined plans to help drivers obey Houston’s for-hire vehicle rules. Responding to Parker’s demand, Uber’s Texas-based general manager, Chris Nakutis, outlined steps the company is taking to […]

Mayor Parker pressures Uber

Good. After two weeks of rising tensions between the city and the ride-sharing service Uber, Mayor Annise Parker on Wednesday warned the company it risks losing the right to operate in Houston unless it submits a plan to bring its drivers into compliance with city regulations. Parker’s message, conveyed in a letter she distributed to […]

Who will pay for Super Bowl stadium improvements?

Gotta say, I’m with Steve Radack on this one. If the NFL has its way, luxury boxes and club seats at NRG Stadium will undergo major upgrades at the expense of Harris County or its tenants before Super Bowl LI arrives in Houston in 2017. But if the decision is up to Harris County Commissioner […]

Wilson completes his latest troll job

He totally half-assed it, too. Houston Community College trustee and longtime anti-gay activist Dave Wilson has submitted a city charter amendment petition seeking a November vote to bar men “who perceive or express themselves as women” from entering women’s restrooms, but it appears he misread state law and submitted about 300 fewer signatures than he […]

Dave Wilson goes trolling again

It’s what he does. The battle over Mayor Parker’s efforts to protect gay and transgender Houstonians is roaring back to life. A petition is making the rounds saying, sign if you agree gender is assigned at birth. The man behind it says he has enough signatures to take it to a city-wide vote. “Whatever you’re […]

Let Indiana be our guide

Chron business columnist Chris Tomlinson has a warning for us. Watching Indiana Gov. Mike Pence call for a revision to a week-old religious freedom law this morning should be required viewing for every Houston politician and business person. After refusing to denounce discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals for days out of fear […]

Council approves Memorial Park plan

Done deal. The plan, which could see up to $300 million invested, also would restore the park’s ecosystem, which was greatly harmed in the 2011 drought, through ambitious plans to add fire suppression and irrigation systems and improve drainage to end serious erosion problems in parts of the park. The plan was developed through months […]

Still unclear where One Bin For All stands

Your guess is as good as mine. The fate of the city’s cutting-edge “one bin” waste system that would feature a privately built, $100 million sorting facility is becoming increasingly uncertain, as sources familiar with the company proposals say there remain significant operational and financial concerns. It’s no secret that the One Bin review has […]

WaPo profiles Mayor Parker

Nothing we didn’t already know, but a nice story nonetheless. Annise Parker keeps a leather-bound journal on the desk in her wood-paneled office in City Hall. If it had a title, she says, it would be: “Would This Have Happened to Another Mayor?” Its pages are filled with her cursive script of the stories she […]

The Memphis pension cutting experience

In discussions about Houston’s pension liabilities, the city of Detroit is often trotted out as an analogy and cautionary tale. There’s another city that may be a more accurate comparison, and it’s offering an illustration right now of what might happen if things proceed as many candidates for local office and the Houston Chronicle would […]

Police officers’ pension fund speaks up

The firefighters’ pension fund is the one that gets all the attention, but it’s not the only one the city is responsible for. The Houston Police Officers Pension System (HPOPS) has sent a letter to the city reminding it that they have a deal that restricts what the city can request from the Legislature. Police […]