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Posts under ‘Local politics’

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 […]

At an impasse

Doesn’t look like there will be any new collective bargaining agreement between the city and the firefighters this year. Houston’s firefighters union declared an impasse with the city over a new labor contract, which a union negotiator called a “slap in the face” on Thursday. The deadlock comes less than a month after Mayor Annise […]

Repealing the revenue cap is only part of the answer

Repealing the dumb revenue cap charter amendment from 2004 won’t solve the impending fiscal problems by itself. It’s still a good idea to repeal it. With an estimated $144 million budget shortfall looming next summer, the city’s finance director delivered a harsh message Tuesday: even lifting a voter-imposed revenue cap will not save the day. […]

City smoking ban extended to parks and libraries

Who knew they weren’t already, right? Houston public parks, golf courses and pools will be smoke-free zones come September, marking one of the most sweeping tobacco bans at city facilities. Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Turner announced the new policy at a City Council Quality of Life Committee meeting Wednesday, following an announcement by […]

It’s past time for a garbage fee

Yes, this. For years, Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department Director Harry Hayes has suggested the city implement a garbage fee to expand curbside recycling and pay for other initiatives. And for years, Mayor Annise Parker has demurred. Now, with a looming budget deficit that could force widespread layoffs and cuts to services, the idea may […]

Harris County settles with HCAD

Not sure about this. Less than two months after formally challenging the way the local appraisal district calculates the value of vacant commercial land, Harris County has backed down. Commissioners Court on Tuesday OK’d the withdrawal of a petition filed in early June by the county attorney challenging the Harris County Appraisal District after the […]

Council votes to sue over bad pension projections

Game on. Houston City Council on Wednesday paved the way for city attorneys to sue an actuarial firm the city claims gave inaccurate pension estimates that spurred costly changes to firefighters’ retirement benefits in 2001. [...] Houston’s contribution rate to the fire pension skyrocketed soon after the changes were approved, despite an actuarial report from […]

Diverting ReBuild Houston funds

I don’t know about this. Expressing impatience with the pace of street repairs under the Rebuild Houston program, City Council on Wednesday voted to siphon off some of the drainage-fee supported funds to speed up projects and help resolve smaller neighborhood problems sought by their constituents. In an amendment to the city’s five-year $7.8 billion […]

Another pension-related lawsuit coming?

Here’s a little blast from the past. The city of Houston may sue a company whose advice it relied upon in making changes to firefighters’ retirement benefits in 2001, saying the firm’s inaccurate predictions left the city on the hook for pensions it cannot afford. Houston’s contribution rate to the firefighters pension skyrocketed soon after […]

Houston’s payday lending ordinance is now in place

Part of me hopes that there’s a lot of complaints, and part of me hopes there’s very few. Houston’s stringent new rules on payday and auto title lenders took effect Tuesday, reviving industry complaints that it would drive companies out of business, or at least out of the city, but giving borrowers a clearer path […]

Back to the drawing board for the city and the firefighters’ union

Don’t expect much at this point. Negotiators for the city of Houston and its firefighters union will return to the bargaining table to discuss a new labor contract weeks after union members soundly defeated the last proposed deal, Mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday. The mayor and Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 president Bryan […]

City exploring new pension for new firefighters?

Maybe. Long concerned about the cost of Houston’s pensions and stymied in her attempts at reform, Mayor Annise Parker is considering a dramatic step to place new firefighters into a separate, less generous pension plan, sources with knowledge of the discussions said. Officials acknowledge the existing Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund likely would sue […]

Council adopts its budget for next year

Might be the last easy budget for a couple of years. The Houston City Council agreed to boost funding for after-school programs, add cameras to catch illegal dumpers and give $1 million to each district council office to spend on projects for their constituents during a marathon session Wednesday to approve Mayor Annise Parker’s $5.2 […]

Dave Wilson reminds us again why elections matter

Because now when he does crap like this, it’s as an elected official and not just a yahoo crank of long standing. Dave Wilson, an anti-gay activist who won a contested race for a seat on the Houston Community College board last November, wants HCC to cancel its plans to sponsor a float in this […]

Firefighters union rejects contract deal

Oops. The contract rejected Tuesday by 93 percent of the roughly 2,900 firefighters voting would have taken a similar approach, granting a pay raise in exchange for concessions on members’ ability to take leave. With the no vote, as of July 1 members of Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 enter an “evergreen” period […]

More talk about bathrooms

The HOUEquality webpage returns to a familiar topic. 1.) Over 180 cities and municipalities across the country have implemented nondiscrimination ordinances, some have been in place for decades. There are no reports of incidents of sexual assault or rape causally related or attributed to the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or […]

On cops and the revenue cap

Mayor Parker again calls attention to the city’s stupid revenue cap and the things it will prevent the city from doing if it is left in place. If Houston voters do not want police pulled from the streets next year, Mayor Annise Parker says, they better think twice about a cap on city revenues they […]

City reaches contract agreement with firefighters

Give a little, get a little. Houston firefighters would give up some of their ability to schedule time off in return for a pay hike under a tentative new labor contract that city officials hope will enable them to rein in overtime costs that threatened to bust the fire department’s budget this year. The City […]

Competition is good, except when it isn’t

I honestly don’t get this. As the Houston City Council prepares to vote Wednesday on whether to make its longtime back-tax collector share the lucrative work with a rival, city officials are getting ample pushback from the man responsible for collecting the taxes. Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan is not the only one opposed […]

County to challenge vacant lot appraisals

It’s a start. Harris County is challenging the local appraisal district’s valuation of vacant commercial land after a study it commissioned concluded the agency had undervalued those properties by more than 80 percent this year. The finding was based on a random sampling of two dozen vacant commercial properties across the county with a collectively […]