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On Council and charters

Council continues considering charter changes. (Go ahead, say that five times fast.)

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The Charter Review Committee’s proposal would allow for six council members to add an item to the agenda for consideration by the full City Council. Under the current city charter, the mayor decides what gets to be discussed during the weekly council meetings.

At-large Council member Michael Kubosh said the only way for him and his colleagues to place an item on the agenda is if the mayor agrees.

“Yeah, we have to get the mayor to put it on the agenda,” Kubosh said. “We need to be able to do that even if the mayor is in opposition of it.”

He said that makes Houston unique among most governmental bodies.

“It doesn’t work that way in the state legislature and most other cities,” Kubosh said. “The council controls much of the agenda and brings forth the legislation and ordinances and laws.”

[…]

But Mayor Annise Parker said, at this point, she isn’t considering putting the proposed change up for a vote. That’s because she believes council members are not allowed to meet and discuss city business privately.

I continue to be agnostic on this question, though I wonder if the cities CM Kubosh has in mind are also strong Mayor cities like Houston; if they are city manager cities, like San Antonio, then I’d say he’s comparing basketballs and hockey pucks. Be that as it may, and at the risk of beating a dead horse before we’re even at the first post, perhaps this is something that interested parties should be working to get Mayoral candidates to weigh in on. Do they agree with the Mayor’s interpretation of our Open Meeting laws? Would they support or oppose this amendment? It would affect whoever comes after Mayor Parker much more than it would affect her, after all. I’m just saying.

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One Comment

  1. Jules says:

    I agree that Council Members aren’t permitted to discuss City business privately.

    But I also think some of Mayor Parker’s practices may be violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act such as sending around the City Attorney to privately discuss land deals etc. with each Council Member separately (I think that is what’s called a “walking quorum”) and the polling of Council Members before placing something on the Agenda.

    One of the complaints in the Committee discussion on modifying the Charter to allow Closed Meetings (it was voted down, btw) was that it took so much time for the City Attorney to talk to each Council Member privately. The solution is to cut it out and follow the law. Time issue solved!

    However, Council Members could have an open committee meeting and discuss putting items on the Agenda.