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Posts under ‘Local politics’

Council considers hoarding ordinance

I hadn’t realized Houston didn’t already have an ordinance to deal with hoarding. Apparently, we are not at all unique in this regard. A proposed ordinance would begin to expand the city’s options for resolving hoarding situations even when the hoarder owns the property. The measure, which would not apply to single-family homes, would create […]

Counting votes on the non-discrimination ordinance

From the Houston GLBT Political Caucus Facebook page: Members have asked for the responses on our questionnaires to the questions below. The President of the Caucus, Maverick Welsh, has asked me to post the information. As the chair of the Screening Committee, I have reviewed the questionnaires from 2013 and below is the result: Mayor–We […]

Pasadena lurches towards redistricting

It’s getting ugly. A Pasadena councilwoman was forcibly ejected by armed officers and the mayor was accused of packing a gun during recent meetings on a controversial redistricting plan. Councilwoman Pat Van Houte was removed from a meeting Tuesday on orders of Mayor Johnny Isbell after exceeding a three-minute speaking limit. And at a redistricting […]

Enforcing non-discrimination

In her annual State of the City address, Mayor Parker put a long-awaited item on the table. Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday said she would create a human rights commission to review violations of anti-discrimination laws, saying just talking about equality in the nation’s most diverse city is not enough. “We don’t care where you […]

Fearing the fire reform

This ought to be interesting. Rumblings of coming reforms in Houston Fire Department’s operations have union leaders and the department’s command staff wary, despite Mayor Annise Parker’s insistence that these concerns are unwarranted. HFD’s staffing shortage has driven up overtime costs, creating a budget crisis that has, on some days, seen ambulances and fire trucks […]

Last minute health insurance enrollment help

From the inbox: The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) will open four of its multi-service centers on Sunday and extend their business hours next Monday to help people sign up for a health insurance plan by the Affordable Care Act’s March 31 deadline. HDHHS will open Acres Homes, Denver Harbor, Northeast and Southwest […]

We have our first HFD rolling brownout

And nothing bad happened. Three Houston firetrucks were pulled from service Friday morning, the first “brownout” in the city’s fire fleet since the Houston Fire Department’s budget struggles came to light in early February. In keeping with a plan Fire Chief Terry Garrison announced last month that called for trucks in areas with lower call […]

Game room injunction lifted

The temporary reprieve that Harris County ganerooms got from the courts has been lifted. Houston and Harris County moved one step closer Friday in their quest to crack down on illegal game rooms after a judge threw out a restraining order which had blocked new regulations due to come into effect this month. Game room […]

Firefighters union ratifies no-brownout agreement

Good. Members of the Houston firefighters’ union have signed off on a deal with Mayor Annise Parker that would prevent pulling firetrucks from service to help balance the Fire Department’s budget. “We’re very pleased that the union membership ratified the agreement,” Houston City Attorney David M. Feldman said in a statement released Friday. Now that […]

County enforcement of game room regulations halted for now

Oops. A quest by the county and city to crack down on illegal game rooms has hit a legal roadblock after a civil court judge granted a temporary restraining order barring Harris County from enforcing strict, new regulations. The city had been poised to piggyback on the county’s rules under a new state law. Instead, […]

HFD union reaches a deal with the city to avoid “rolling brownouts”

From the Inbox: Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA) President Bryan Sky-Eagle joined Mayor Annise Parker this morning to announce a tentative agreement on an interim contract that will avoid the brown-outs of fire apparatus proposed earlier to solve an $8.5 million overtime shortfall at the Houston Fire Department. “I want to thank the union […]

State of the county 2014: Let’s keep working together

Time for Judge Emmett to tell us how things are going in Harris County. (Spoiler alert: They’re going fine, thanks for asking.) On the eve of what could be his final term as Harris County’s top elected official, County Judge Ed Emmett on Thursday called for the consolidation of various government entities and services, citing […]

Firefighters union sues city to block cutbacks

Not sure about this. Houston firefighters went to court Tuesday in an effort to block the city from removing personnel, trucks and ambulances from service. But a judge rejected their argument that the “rolling brownouts” plan violates the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the city. State District Judge Elaine Palmer turned down the request for […]

HFD’s budget problems

I’m sure you’ve heard of this by now. The safety of Houston’s citizens and its firefighters will be compromised over the next four months as the fire department limits the number of personnel on duty and removes trucks from service in an attempt to cut spending, Fire Chief Terry Garrison said Thursday. “People that are […]

More on the audit letters

The Chron asks some outside experts to go over those recently released audit letters. Houston leaders appeared to have ignored the significance of recurring accounting and management problems or did not have the resources to fix them, according to accounting experts who reviewed 11 years’ worth of audit letters released by the mayor’s office last […]

Harris County threatens to sue Harris County Appraisal District

That headline may sound dry, but this is a big deal. Worried about the erosion of the tax base, county officials said Wednesday that they may consider suing the Harris County Appraisal District over concerns it is undervaluing certain business properties at the expense of homeowners. Officials said HCAD’s Appraisal Review Board in recent years […]

Audit letters

There’s a thing called audit letters that I hadn’t known existed. We’ve got them for Houston, but we had not been making them public even though other cities do as a matter of course. Houston officials have blocked the release of letters detailing weaknesses in the city’s financial accounting even though other large Texas cities […]

The preservation ordinance is a work in progress

That’s the tl;dr version of this. In October 2010, an emotional Sue Lovell, then a city council­woman, lauded the passage of a strengthened historic preservation ordinance for Houston after a long, complex and divisive battle she and Mayor Annise Parker had led. In recent months, however, Lovell has appeared before the commissions tasked with implementing […]

City sues HFRRF again

From the inbox: In the face of growing concern about its ability to meet long-term retiree pension obligations, the City of Houston filed a lawsuit today against the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF), one of three pension systems covering City employees. The lawsuit seeks to enable the City to have the same input […]

Why not three?

Greg suggests a couple of tweaks to term limits. » Fix the JoJo exclusion. The statute, as written, is amazingly short and simple: Section 6a. – Limitation of terms. No person, who has already served two full terms, shall be eligible to file for that same office. The statute is also amazingly unequal in how […]

Mayor Parker gets married

Awesome. Houston Mayor Annise Parker and longtime partner Kathy Hubbard are now married – at least in the eyes of 18 states, including California, where the couple formally exchanged vows Thursday in a sunset ceremony in Palm Springs. “This is a very happy day for us,” Parker said in a news release issued from her […]

Council OKs ordinance to help bring grocery stores to food deserts

Good. Supermarkets now can sell beer and wine next to schools and churches, an exemption to city regulations Houston City Council granted unanimously Wednesday, hoping to encourage grocers to locate in neighborhoods that lack access to fresh, healthy food. These so-called “food deserts” are common in Houston, typically in poor areas such as Third Ward […]

City benefits for same sex spouses back on

For now, at least. A federal judge ruled Thursday that same-sex couples legally married in other states can keep health and life insurance benefits that were extended to spouses of city of Houston employees in November. [...] [Noel] Freeman’s husband’s benefits, and those of spouses of four other city employees, were temporarily halted in December […]

Time to talk term limits again

The subject keeps coming up, though it never seems to get anywhere. As the inauguration of Houston’s elected leaders begins Thursday morning, supporters and spectators gathered at the Wortham Center downtown will see six new City Council members walk across the stage. Observers at the ceremony two years ago saw seven new members sworn in, […]

From the “If at first you don’t succeed” files

Sometimes you have to try try again for 24 years to get what you want. It seems as if he never existed, but he certainly did. For 24 years, Charles Hixon attended nearly every Harris County Commissioners Court meeting to complain about a drainage problem at his property in Huffman, delivering a speech that evolved […]

HCC Trustee Carroll Robinson being investigated

Great. Houston Community College has hired a law firm to investigate an accusation that trustee Carroll Robinson tried to steer part of a multimillion dollar construction contract to a company owned by a close friend, according to HCC records and interviews. HCC, one of the largest community colleges in the nation, has been plagued in […]

More reactions to the city’s settlement with the strip clubs

Not everyone likes it. Bob Sanborn, CEO of the nonprofit organization Children at Risk, and other advocates against human trafficking said on Wednesday that they should have been consulted before a deal was struck. Mayor Annise Parker, who brokered the agreement, said it ended a lengthy lawsuit and gives the city more funds to fight […]

County to tighten regulations on game rooms

It’s sort of a crackdown, but within limits. And something that’s regulated is something that’s legal, so there’s that. The regulations, made possible by a state law passed earlier this year by the Legislature, requires an establishment housing six or more video poker machines known as “eight-liners” to obtain a permit and pay a $1,000 […]

Payday lending ordinance passes

In the end, it wasn’t close. The Houston City Council overwhelmingly passed restrictions on payday and auto title lenders Wednesday, avoiding rumored parliamentary maneuvers to delay the vote and calling on the state Legislature to follow suit. The vote was 15-2, with Councilwoman Helena Brown and Councilman James Rodriguez opposed. Rodriguez did not seek to […]

Enforcing a new payday loan ordinance

Mayor Parker’s proposed payday lending ordinance will be up before Council today, though it might wind up being delayed until the new Council is sworn in. It’s not clear yet how the vote might go, but in the meantime it’s worth pondering what the enforcement mechanism for this new law would be. Other cities that […]

Food deserts and booze bans

It’s complicated. A city ordinance intended to keep alcohol sales at a distance from schools and churches could be relaxed for grocery stores in an effort to alleviate some of the so-called “food deserts” that plague poorer neighborhoods across Houston. The City Council is expected to take up the proposed revisions this week in hopes […]

The Dome’s status is complicated

Is it a landmark or not? If so, what kind? Mayor Annise Parker this week called an effort by the city historical commission to designate the Harris County-owned Astrodome a city landmark “ill-advised,” and said she had no plans to put the item before City Council for approval. The Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission on […]

Evaluating the strip club settlement

Some interesting feedback on the city’s recent legal settlement with area strip clubs. South Texas College of Law professor Matthew Festa said the payments are not his central concern, noting cities often condition building permits on a business planting trees or building sidewalks. Festa said the deal presents a separation of powers issue, however, in […]

Council hears the Mayor’s payday lending ordinance

Reaction was mixed, though it appears likely there is enough support to pass. The proposed ordinance would limit payday loans to 20 percent of a borrower’s gross monthly income and auto title loans to 3 percent of the borrower’s gross annual income or 70 percent of the car’s value, whichever is less. Single-payment payday loans […]