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Charter review gets set

From Campos:

HoustonSeal

This Thursday, December 4 the City Council’s Ad Hoc Charter Review committee will meet and several members of Council want the following in BOLD discussed. I have added a few devil’s advocate observations. BTW: All members of City Council are on the committee. Here are proposed changes:

1. Authorize any item(s) acknowledged and advanced by at least six (6) Council Members to be placed on the Council Agenda for full Council consideration. I would like to be given an example of what items some Council members would want on the agenda. Why can’t they just ask the Mayor to put something on?

2. Authorize Executive Session meetings for City Council. This to me right off the bat doesn’t sound good. This doesn’t speak well of transparency in government. We have been doing OK without Executive Sessions. I don’t like the idea of trying to guess if deals were cut in closed session – if you know what I mean.

3. Change term limits to two four-year terms beginning with the 2015 City Election. I think if you want to change term limits, go get petitions and do it from the grass roots up. This is just pi__ing off some voters again and haven’t we done enough of that lately. Just go for broke and get signatures to do away with term limits – period.

4. Authorize the City to keep and invest excess revenue above the Rev Cap Spending Limits to be used exclusively to pay down the General Fund Debt. Now this one is going to need a lot of ‘splaining.

It is going to be interesting to see what the Mayoral candidates have to say about the proposals. Stay tuned!

Texpatriate was on this right before Thanksgiving. These ideas first came up last year, and I outlined my basic positions on them in October. I’d say Marc and Noah and I are broadly in agreement on the first three. The last one, as far as I can tell, is what I’d call “revenue cap lite”. The rationale for it is described in the comments to this post. What it means, more or less, is that if city revenue exceeds the stupid revenue cap for whatever the reason, then instead of forcing Council to pass a pointless tax cut, the revenue above the cap can be used to pay down debt. It’s superficially appealing in the same way that the revenue cap itself is superficially appealing, and if my only choices were this and the revenue cap as is, I’d choose this. The problem is that as with the cap itself, it substitutes slogans for discretion and imposes a priority (in this case, debt reduction) over everything else, in particular investment in infrastructure or other worthwhile possibilities. What if we wanted to spend the extra revenue we have this cycle on body cameras for HPD, as a for-instance? Sorry, no can do – it has to compete with everything else in the rest of the budget. Maybe debt reduction really is the best use for the bonus revenue we might have in a given year. If so, then let Council and/or the Mayor make the case for it, just like anything else. Last I checked, that was how representative democracy was supposed to work.

Anyway. Hard to know which if any of these proposals will have enough support to make it past the committee meeting stage, or if this will wind up being a lot of talk for no action. As Campos says, it will be interesting to see what the 87 and counting Mayoral candidates think about all of this. Texas Leftist has more.

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