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Your vote on the Metro referendum may not matter

Unless of course you vote the way the developers want you to vote, in which case it’s all good.

All your votes are belong to us

In an interview prior to Monday’s meeting, Joshua Sanders, the acting executive director of Houstonians for Responsible Growth, said the group would resist [capping Metro's General Mobility Payments].

“We’re ready to run a campaign against the cap and go to the Legislature if we have to,” Sanders said.

[...]

Sanders said Houston needs the general mobility payments not just for road work but to help finance Rebuild Houston, an initiative to improve local infrastructure.

Loss of mobility funds might require a property tax increase, Sanders said.

If voters approve a referendum that caps general mobility payments, Houstonians for Responsible Growth will lobby state lawmakers to get the city of Houston’s money back, Sander said. The organization also might ask for a greater share of the 1-cent sales revenues, he said.

So vote to give the developers what they want, or they’ll go to the Lege and work to overturn the election. Because they respect the will of the people, naturally. I’d like to say I’m shocked by this, but I’m not nearly that naive. This has become pretty much standard operating procedure of late, as we saw with the various (thankfully unsuccessful) attempts to legislatively overturn the Renew Houston referendum last year. The odds are pretty decent that any such effort next year to nullify what the voters decide would fail as well, but it really shouldn’t come to that. Make your case before the election and take it like a grownup if you lose. Sheesh.

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4 Comments

  1. Joshua Sanders says:

    Charles,

    I would like to clarify our position on the METRO referendum and why we would possibly oppose the outcome of the election.

    As you very well know, the ballot language that is put forth on an issue has the ability to control the dynamics and positions of groups or people on the issue. What is contained in the ballot language gives the voters options on what they can support or choose to oppose. We have a concern that the ballot language that will be proposed by METRO will only limit it to either voting the referendum down or up, without giving the public the ability to choose whether or not they support an alternate perspective.

    If METRO were to only put forward a vote on capping the General Mobility Payment and you either had to vote yes or no, either way the vote goes it gives more money to METRO. If it passes, they keep the increment off the cap. If it fails, they keep the whole 1-cent sales tax. Neither option gives the voters the ability to make a choice on whether or not they want the GMP to extend in its current form.

    Our concern is whether the ballot language will make it clear to voters that a termination or reduction of the general mobility payment will lead directly to a tax increase. Houston, Harris County and the other member entities will have to find additional income to offset the loss of the general mobility payments or they will have to allow their infrastructure to fall into disrepair. This new Metro administration has made transparency a priority. In keeping with that, we believe they must be transparent with the voters about the fiscal realities that would result from the termination or reduction of the general mobility payments

    We are advocating for extending the GMP in its current form until we have the ability to analyze the 3 light rail lines that are currently under construction. This way the public will have the ability to review facts and data on true capital costs, operating costs, and ridership numbers. Until we get an opportunity to weigh the real costs of such a plan we would oppose METRO receiving any more funding, especially at the expense of money used locally to support mobility projects and infrastructure investment.

    By giving the voters only the option to give more money to METRO by either capping the GMP or returning the entire full funding to them, we believe the public has not been given the opportunity to vote for the position of extending the agreement in its current form.

    We look forward to continuing the discussion on this issue and definitely appreciate your input to that discussion.

  2. JJ says:

    Very impressive, polite response Mr. Sanders. You didn’t accuse anyone with an opposing view of being a child and you didn’t say “sheesh” to them. I sometimes lack that self control when posting (I typed “BS” just tonight; sigh), so I admire it in you. Best of luck keeping a somewhat complicated discussion civil.

  3. Yes, thank you for the clarification, Joshua. Your meaning was not at all clear from the story. Let me suggest you post that on your own website as well – I looked to see if there was further information about this before I posted, but there was nothing to be found. I agree that the voters should have a clear idea on what they’re voting on, and that Metro should not put itself in a “heads I win, tails you lose” position. Which I don’t think they’ll do, given the strong opinion of Harris County and the smaller cities, but we agree nonetheless.

    I am not sorry for being upset at the prospect of a valid election being overturned by legislative lobbying. (I’m not the only one who read this story that way – see http://camposcommunications.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/the-politics-of-bbwa/ as well.) As I said, we have seen those shenanigans before, and it’s insulting. I’m glad to hear that’s not what you had in mind, and I appreciate you laying out your position in such detail. I look forward to continuing the discussion as well, and I thank you for taking the time to bring it here.

  4. [...] place as any to note that Joshua Sanders of Houstonians for Responsible Growth left a comment on my recent post about the upcoming Metro referendum in which he clarified and gave more details about his [...]

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