It could come to that, but it’s not clear to me that it has to.
The funding scheme for ReBuild Houston, the city’s street and drainage repair initiative, remains in limbo after a state appeals court agreed Thursday that the 2010 charter referendum creating the program is void.
The Texas 14th Court of Appeals ruling affirms an October 2015 trial court decision ordering the city to call a new election on creating a dedicated pay-as-you-go fund for street and drainage projects.
The case does not appear to affect the city’s ability to continue charging a drainage fee, however, since City Council authorized collection of the monthly fee in a separate ordinance in April 2011.
Instead, voiding the 2010 charter election, essentially, removes the restrictions placed on how the city uses the drainage money it takes in, such as the ban on using those dollars to issue new road bonds or other debt. The court rulings have not led the city to alter how it uses the fee.
Andy Taylor, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said he believes Thursday’s ruling could lead to another vote on what he and many conservatives call the “rain tax” as early as November.
“The request to amend the city charter and seeking voter approval to impose a rain tax,” he said, “is going back on the ballot.”
Houston is considering whether to ask the appellate court to reconsider, or appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, among other options, mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans said in a statement.
See here and here for the background, and here for Mayor Turner’s statement. I say there will not be another vote this November, for the simple reason that there’s nothing to compel Mayor Turner to put another referendum on the ballot, and the city can continue with the legal proceedings for now. I’d also agree with Prof. Richard Murray, quoted in this KUHF story on the ruling, in that if there were another vote, a reworded Renew Houston proposition would almost certainly win again, because who at this point is going to vote against money for drainage and flood mitigation? (Also, as Prof. Murray noted, black voters were modestly against Renew Houston in 2010. I strongly suspect they’d be much more in favor of a similar proposal put forward by Mayor Turner.) But as the story notes, City Council voted to implement Renew Houston in 2011, and this lawsuit has nothing to do with that. There’s nothing to stop Mayor Turner from having Council affirm the program, or to just state that the matter was decided by Council and we’re all just arguing over semantics at this point. Honestly, what we’re really fighting about at this point is whether Andy Taylor gets to decide the wording on all our city referenda or not. That’s a fight I’m happy to keep having, but let’s be clear on what the stakes are. Campos has more.