Today’s the day we find out what happens.
The city’s controversial HERO ordinance prohibits discrimination based on federally recognized groups such as race and age, but also extends those rights to sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents of the ordinance led a petition drive to bring the issue to a public vote. It now appears the city attorney will announce whether that petition drive is valid this Friday.
Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein is a longtime city hall observer. He says there are a few possibilities at Friday’s announcement.
“One, of course, is they have enough signatures that have been validated, I think about 17,000. Second option is they don’t have enough and if that’s in contention you might see those who petitioned the city go to court and have them checked,” Stein said.
A third option, Stein says, is that the city attorney could rule the petition inappropriate or ill-timed under ballot initiative law. The city previously used that rationale on the petition to overturn red light cameras but lost that battle in court. Stein says the most likely outcome is that the opponents do have enough signatures to put the ordinance on the November ballot.
Actually, that was the opposite of what happened in the red light camera lawsuit. That referendum was presented as a charter amendment, with the petitions presented well after the 30 day window for repeal. Council voted to put it on the ballot at the urging of Mayor Parker and over the objections of CM Anne Clutterbuck, who argued that it really was a repeal effort and thus invalid. That’s exactly what Judge Lynn Hughes ruled. Here there’s no question this is a repeal effort, and the petitions were submitted within the required time frame. This is not to say that there couldn’t be an issue with timing, or other issues we don’t yet know about. I have no idea what Feldman might pull out of his hat. But we’ll find out soon enough.
Having said that, I do agree that the single most likely outcome is that the number of valid signatures is found to be sufficient, at which point it goes to the ballot. (I’m assuming there’s no Council vote for that.) From there it’s a matter of campaigning and turning out voters. You can see the petitions and their signatures for yourself here, by the way. Note that there are claims about how the signatures were collected that may lead to legal action of some kind, so whatever Feldman has to say, it likely won’t be the final word.