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City wins Renew/Rebuild Houston lawsuit appeal

Our story so far: After the Renew Houston proposition was passed in 2010, the usual suspects led by Paul Bettencourt filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the result on the grounds that they believed the voters were too stupid to know what they had just voted for. That lawsuit was dismissed on summary judgment in May. After Mayor Parker’s announcement last June that the city had underestimated what the fee would need to be for many households, the plaintiffs tried again, claiming that this admission vindicated their claims. The judge didn’t buy it, so the plaintiffs tried their luck with the 14th Court of Appeals, arguing that the trial court was wrong to grant summary judgment against them and wrong to deny their motion for a new trial. Once again they lost, as announced by the city on Tuesday. I quote from the conclusion of the court’s ruling:

The City has the duty and the discretion to select the proposition language used in the ballot to submit to the voters the question of whether they are for or against a particular measure. Here, that measure was the amendment of the City’s charter to add specific language addressing a single subject. The City had no duty to include in the proposition language that would quantify the measure’s impact on a typical homeowner or predict the way in which the measure would be interpreted or implemented if passed. Having notified voters of the measure’s complete text by publishing it, the City needed only to refer in the proposition to the measure’s character and purpose—its “chief features”—in a way that allowed voters to identify it and distinguish the proposition submitting it from the other propositions on the ballot. Because the City fulfilled that obligation by using plain language drawn from the measure itself, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

I haven’t seen a story on this yet, so I don’t know if the plaintiffs will try their luck with the Supreme Court. Doesn’t seem like they’d be successful given their track record so far and the court’s opinion, but one never knows. For now at least, the election result has been preserved.

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2 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    Hey Charles, didn’t Andy Taylor make the oral argument in the Court of Appeals?

  2. Paul – I don’t know. I know he argued the motion for a new trial. I’ve not seen any reporting on this, so all I know is what’s in the city’s press release and the court’s opinion.

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