If there’s a lawsuit against the city over a matter of how money is raised or spent, you can be sure that Bruce Hotze and Paul Bettencourt are involved. Thankfully, they have a lousy record of getting what they want by these means.
An Austin appeals court on Friday upheld an earlier ruling that increased water rates passed by Houston City Council last year are valid, ruling that two activists who intervened in the suit had no standing to appeal.
Bruce Hotze and former Harris County tax assessor Paul Bettencourt had intervened in the suit, which the city initiated last year to seek validation of City Council’s April 21, 2010, vote to raise water and sewer rates by nearly 30 percent for the average residential user. The new water rates took effect last June.
Bettencourt said he and Hotze are weighing their next steps, calling it a “tough ruling” that presented “long odds.”
The pair claimed the rate increases violated a 2004 amendment to the city charter that limits rate increases to the combined rate of inflation and population growth in a given year.
See here, here, and here for some background. Mayor Parker put out a sharply worded statement after the ruling came down that criticized Hotze and Bettencourt for costing the city millions of dollars:
Bettencourt and Hotze attempted to challenge the new water and sewer rates approved a year ago by Houston City Council. Due to their intervention, the City has been unable to obtain approval to move forward with a $300 million bond sale needed to finance capital improvements for the City’s Combined Utility System. The delay has put the City at risk for an estimated $37.72 million in higher interest costs over the life of the bonds.
“This legal fight has cost Houston taxpayers dearly,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “Mr. Bettencourt and Mr. Hotze have now lost in the courts twice. It is time for them to end this needless and very expensive game that has prevented the City from following through on improvements to its water and sewer system.”
“This is a significant legal victory and should mark the end of the road in the challenge made by Bettencourt and Hotze,” said City Attorney David Feldman. “We knew from the start there was no legal basis for their challenge. It is unfortunate that they chose to take this on because they hurt taxpayers.”
Bettencourt whined that it was really all the city’s fault for not doing things the way he wanted them done. After going 0 for 2 in the courts, he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on for that. Hopefully this will be the end of the foolishness, and the city can get down to the business it needs to do.