A state district judge could decide this week whether to hold a trial on the validity of November’s election in which voters approved a new pay-as-you-go program for improving Houston’s drainage.
Opponents say voters were misled about Proposition 1, that they did not know how it would hit them in the wallet. The city attorney said that information was available in newspaper advertisements, media coverage, campaign mailers and on the city’s website.
The opponents also released a poll they say shows Houstonians would have rejected the drainage fee proposition had they known more about it.
“What has now been implemented by the city is not what the voters voted on,” former county tax assessor and drainage fee opponent Paul Bettencourt said. “If the public had known any word about a dollar sign in the referendum, it wouldn’t have passed.”
Opponents of the fee financed the poll of 502 people who voted in the November election.
Asked if they would have voted for Proposition 1 had they known the City Council would grant exemptions to certain institutions, leaving others to pay the entire assessment, 65 percent of respondents said no, according to the poll results.
“If the ballot language had some real meat in it like (top) rate and everything else, this issue would have gone down long before we had to split hairs on exemptions,” Bettencourt said.
The irony of this, of course, is that Bettencourt has been at the forefront of arguing that the churches should be made exempt from the drainage fee, but even after getting what they wanted he and his fellow sore winners are still working to undermine a valid election result by any means possible. Hey, if you want to make this an argument that Council should reconsider exempting the churches, which is something I never wanted them to do in the first place, go for it. As someone who was a respondent to this push poll and who seriously thought about answering No to that question even though I knew what the pollsters were doing with it, I don’t see how this advances their argument. It’s just more disinformation from people who just aren’t interested in dealing with Houston’s flooding issues. Hair Balls has more.
Oh, and by the way, Bettencourt’s lawsuit against the city was dismissed on a motion for summary judgment, meaning that it was such a meritless suit it wasn’t worth wasting anyone’s time on it. Good thing for Bettencourt this happened before the new loser pays law kicks in. Here’s a statement from Mayor Parker about the ruling:
“This is yet another frivolous lawsuit that has cost taxpayers money at a time when the City can least afford it.
Last fall’s ballot language clearly indicated that Prop 1 was an initiative aimed at fixing Houston’s drainage problem. I hope this ruling answers any lingering questions raised about the voters’ decision to implement this solution.”
Sensible people, yes. Losers like Paul Bettencourt, no.
UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story about the suit being dismissed. Expect an appeal to be filed shortly.