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Posts under ‘Local politics’

The games our tax system plays

I find this just fascinating. It’s been described as bribery, taxation without representation and a shady political maneuver. Others have called it an innovative way to deal with budgetary problems and get things done. Ever since Texas lawmakers made it more difficult for cities to absorb suburbs into their boundaries 15 years ago, Houston has […]

Don’t look for a meet-and-confer bill in the Lege this year

Buried in this story about the city and the county preparing to play defense during the legislative session is this update on the state of relations between the city and the firefighters. In her first two sessions, Houston Mayor Annise Parker failed to gain traction with legislation that would grant the city meet-and-confer powers that […]

By the way, Dave Wilson also hates transgender people

I mean, no surprise, right? What’s more, he puts his money where his mouth is. Now, anti-LGBT activist Dave Wilson is circulating another petition that would place a charter amendment on the ballot to repeal trans protections in both HERO and Mayor Annise Parker’s 2012 executive order covering city employees. Wilson, of Houstonians For Family […]

Feldman’s parting memo

Outgoing City Attorney David Feldman shares his thoughts on the state of the city’s campaign finance rules as he makes his exit. City Hall began its attempt to use a federal court ruling declaring its own election rule unconstitutional to its advantage it in a second, unrelated suit in a letter this week. In the […]

Still no consensus on how to deal with the criminal justice complex

And it’s back to the Mayor. Pushed by Mayor Annise Parker to decide whether Houston’s aging police and courts buildings should get patchwork repairs or be fully replaced, with both options carrying staggering price tags, City Council members instead opted for indecision. By a 12-4 vote, the body sidestepped both options – one of which […]

Donna Edmunson

From the inbox: Mayor Annise Parker has selected Donna Edmundson to be the new city attorney. Upon confirmation by City Council, Edmundson will become the first woman to hold the position. She has nearly 30 years of experience with the City Legal Department. “With just a year left in my term and a wealth of […]

The next generation of leaders

The future looks good. A new generation of black activist leadership in Houston has emerged from the protests over the officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. At one point during a town hall last month, the clergyman-moderator acknowledged a fresh face in the audience wearing a T-shirt […]

Don’t forget about Pasadena

There’s still a lawsuit in the works regarding their 2013 redistricting referendum that switched their Council from an eight-member all-district makeup to six districts and two At large seats, all at the behest of Mayor Johnny Isbell. Pasadena is preparing to change the makeup of its city council in a way that city fathers hope […]

Three signs of possible trouble ahead

#1 – Watch out for falling oil prices. The bedrock supporting Houston’s economy will shift in 2015, and while these tremors will not bring disaster, they will bring changes that some will find painful. The collapse of oil prices in 2014 has made it very difficult for economists, both public and private, who until recently […]

It pays to go green

It’s a simple enough formula – reduce energy usage, save money. As Houston leaders push the counter-intuitive notion that the world’s energy capital can go green, and pledge ever-lower emissions goals for municipal operations, installing energy-efficient lighting and low-flow toilets can seem like hopelessly small measures. City data show a seven-year effort to retrofit municipal […]

RIP, Bob Lanier

Houston’s iconic Mayor of the 1990s has passed away. Bob Lanier, a 6-foot-4 cowboy boot-wearing, sports-crazy political sharpshooter who rose from modest beginnings in blue-collar Baytown to become one of Houston’s biggest developers and most influential mayors, died Saturday. He was 89. In January 1992, Lanier began a six-year tenure as mayor that, in its […]

Feldman resigns

Mayor Parker loses a key member of her team going into her final year as Mayor. City Attorney David Feldman on Friday announced that he plans to resign next month, citing, among other reasons, that he could better defend the city’s embattled equal rights ordinance as a key witness than as a lawyer in an […]

Valero’s special deal

I’m sorry, I just can’t get behind this. Companies routinely relocate to the city or state that lures them with the best tax break, but Valero wants Houston City Council to give its eastside refinery the same treatment without having to pack its bags. Valero wants most of its Manchester facility, the only refinery inside […]

Repair or replace?

Consider this an object lesson in the cost of deferring maintenance. A new Houston police headquarters and courthouse complex, discussed for decades, could reach a key turning point this week as Mayor Annise Parker seeks to force City Council members to choose between repairing the city’s existing facilities or tackling an enormous project to construct […]

City deficit not as big as feared

This is a nice surprise. A huge budget deficit looming at City Hall – which has spurred talk of layoffs, service cuts, new fees and higher taxes – has been cut in half, relieving some pressure to scramble together a budget patch but doing little for Houston’s long-term financial health. The unexpected boost of good […]

Searching the couch cushions for loose change

That’s basically what this is. To say the city of Houston is working to cut a looming $120 million budget deficit one color copy at a time would not be accurate. It’s more like millions of color copies. Cellphones no one is using, old cars no one is driving, a 50-step process for approving fire […]

Charter review gets set

From Campos: This Thursday, December 4 the City Council’s Ad Hoc Charter Review committee will meet and several members of Council want the following in BOLD discussed. I have added a few devil’s advocate observations. BTW: All members of City Council are on the committee. Here are proposed changes: 1. Authorize any item(s) acknowledged and […]

Henry Martinez named as interim Constable

Congratulations. A 23-year veteran of the Houston Community College police department will succeed the disgraced Victor Trevino as constable in Precinct Six, county officials announced Monday, elevating a Latino officer who promises to have no aspirations to become a Latino politician. Harris County Commissioners Court formally appointed Henry Martinez Jr., who currently leads police operations […]

Red light cameras: The final insult

Awesome. In settling the lawsuit with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions, whose contract was supposed to run through 2014, the city agreed to pay the Arizona-based company $4.8 million. The city had $2.3 million in red-light ticket revenue on hand at the time of the settlement, and officials said they expected to be able to […]

Parker orders withdrawal of pastor subpoenas

They got what they wanted. With local pastors standing with her, Mayor Annise Parker has told the City Legal Department to withdraw the subpoenas filed against five local pastors who have identified themselves as the leaders of the petition drive to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). “This is an issue that has weighed […]

Lies are worse than missteps

But you know what we’re going to hear more about. Conservative outrage over the Parker administration’s admittedly bungled subpoena of five pastors’ sermons last week marked just the latest episode in a messy political saga surrounding the city’s equal rights ordinance, with both critics and supporters making significant blunders. For example, a recently leaked deposition […]

Council approves meaningless tax cut

Such awful policy. The Houston City Council unanimously passed a nominal property tax cut Tuesday afternoon, the first rate reduction in five years, as the city for the first time runs into a revenue cap imposed by voters a decade ago. The modest rollback equates to $12.27 a year for the owner of a $200,000 […]

Gary Elkins thumbs his nose at local payday lending ordinances

Such a fine example he sets. As a member of the Texas House of Representatives, Houston Republican Gary Elkins helps make laws. As a businessman, he is an owner of a chain of payday lending stores accused of breaking them. Elkins opposed payday lending regulations during the 2011 and 2013 legislative sessions, arguing members should […]

RIP, J. Kent Adams

J. Kent Adams, one of Harris County’s Justices of the Peace, passed away over the weekend. Judge J. Kent Adams, who presided over one of the Houston area’s busiest justice of the peace courts for 13 years, died Saturday morning at his home on Lake Livingston. He was 74 and had been ill with cancer, […]

The outrage machine is fully engaged

We’ll see how long they can keep it up. A legal battle between the city of Houston and religious leaders has erupted into a national debate this week about religious liberty and freedom of speech, even as Mayor Annise Parker argued the controversy was based on a misunderstanding. Conservative lawmakers and activists expressed outrage upon […]

Subpoenaing sermons

Not sure about this. Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists who have sued the city. Opponents of the equal rights ordinance are […]

Smoking ban extended to pedestrian plazas

I’m okay with this. Main Street Square is now a smoke-free zone following the City Council’s decision Wednesday to expand Houston’s smoking ban to pedestrian plazas, marking the latest effort from the Parker administration to curb lighting up in public places. The changes to the smoking ordinance are twofold: it expands the ban to Houston’s […]

Mayors against climate change

From the Think Globally, Act Locally department. Mayor Annise Parker briefly took center stage Monday in the campaign against climate change by pledging to make America’s energy capital a laboratory for experimentation and action. Frustrated with the congressional response to global warming, Parker and the mayors of Los Angeles and Philadelphia vowed to set more […]

Firefighter pension board makes an offer to the city

This was unexpected. The trustees of Houston’s firefighter pension, who for years have fought the mere mention of changes to benefits as Houston’s enormous pension burden has continued to grow, now are shopping a compromise proposal. Fire pension leaders say they simply are trying to save the city money as it approaches several years of […]

Empower Texans to spread its virus to Houston

Try not to get infected. Empower Texans said Sunday it will open a political outpost in Houston, a signal that the conservative political action committee may emerge as a player in upcoming municipal elections. […] On Friday, Empower’s fiscal policy analyst Christopher Paxton criticized Houston’s elected officials for complaining about having to rein in government […]

The revenue cap has already hit

Lovely. Houstonians will see their first property tax rate cut in five years as the city runs up against a revenue cap imposed by voters a decade ago. The modest rollback works out to $12.27 a year for the owner of a $200,000 house with a standard homestead exemption. […] The city’s current property tax […]

Greg Enos drops another bombshell

Greg Enos, the chief catalyst in getting Judge Denise Pratt ousted from the 311th Family Court, now documents bad behavior by Pratt’s successor on that bench, Alicia Franklin. I truly like Alicia Franklin personally and I do not want to embarrass her or cause her problems. I have even come to actually like her fiance, […]

Parker proposes new firefighter pension plan

We’ll see about this. With the city of Houston facing huge and rising pension costs, Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday unveiled a proposal to put new firefighters in a separate, less generous plan that would do away with expensive automatic cost-of-living adjustments. The move would not affect current firefighters covered by the Houston Firefighters Relief […]

Houston municipal employees may see health insurance costs get hiked again

It’s one of many possible proposals for closing the upcoming budget shortfall. A key option, [Mayor annise] Parker has said, is to increase the share of health care costs employees pay. The city now pays three-fourths, and employees pay one-fourth. “We have a very generous health benefits plan, even with the changes,” Parker said, referring […]