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More on the Whitmire Astrodome bill

I still don’t care for this.

All this and antiquities landmark status too

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett voiced concern Tuesday that a bill filed by a veteran state senator jeopardizes the county’s plan to revitalize the Astrodome, adding that county representatives would continue to try to persuade legislators to support the $105 million project.

Emmett said state Sen. John Whitmire’s bill, the Harris County Taxpayer Protection Act, was misleading and that Whitmire’s statements that some Astrodome renovation funds could be spent on Minute Maid Park or the Toyota Center were “demonstrably incorrect.”

“This bill is an example of state government making it more difficult for local government to do its job,” Emmett said.

[…]

At a press conference Tuesday in Austin, Whitmire and other state senators from the Houston area gathered to express their support of legislation that would effectively block – or at least delay – Emmett’s plan.

Whitmire noted that voters four years ago defeated a $217 million bond package that would have renovated the Astrodome and transformed it into a street-level convention hall and exhibit space,

“With the dire problems we have with home flooding, too few deputies, roads still in disrepair … I have to represent my constituents and say, ‘Go back and get voter approval,'” Whitmire said. “This puts in a very good safeguard that the public vote be honored.”

Whitmire was joined Tuesday by Democratic Sens. Borris Miles and Sylvia Garcia and Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt, whose districts include parts of Harris County.

“This is a vote that the public expects to take,” Bettencourt said. “They’ve taken it in the past.”

Garcia took issue with the county’s plans to spend $105 million to create new parking before deciding how the Astrodome would be re-purposed. Voters need to hear the entire plan before any construction starts, Garcia said.

“I’ve always loved the Astrodome. I would assist the county commissioners court and anybody who wants to keep it alive,” Garcia said. “However, I don’t think this is the right way to get there.”

See here for the background. I guess I’m in a minority here, but I still disagree with this. When the time comes to spend money on NRG Stadium improvements, as some people want us to do, will we vote on that? (To be fair, not everyone is hot for Harris County to spend money on NRG Stadium.) If bonds are floated, sure. That’s what we do. (*) If not, we won’t. I don’t see why it’s different for the Astrodome. And however well-intentioned this may be, I’m still feeling twitchy about the Lege nosing in on local matters. I can also already see the lawsuit someone is going to file over the language of the putative referendum, however it may turn out. So I ask again, is this trip really necessary? I’m just not seeing it.

(*) Campos notes that we did not vote on Mayor White’s pension obligation bonds, as apparently there’s a state law that doesn’t require it. I’m sure there’s a story that requires at least two drinks to tell behind that. My assumption that we always vote on borrowing authority may be wrong, but my point that we don’t usually vote on general revenue spending still stands.

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6 Comments

  1. voter_worker says:

    In my opinion this has nothing to do with the Dome, NRG or saving taxpayer money and everything to do with pandering to the substantial anti-Dome crowd as just another building block in these politicians’ voter base. I guess in Trump world that works for Ds as well as it does for Rs.

  2. General Grant says:

    I think the Astrodome should be turn down, but Whitmire is proposing to abuse the process and unreasonably impinge on county control, so I cannot support his bill.

    Also, this sets a dangerous precedent. Next session, will somebody file a bill demanding a vote on renovation of a pocket park? There is really no difference between that and the Astrodome.

  3. C. L. says:

    I bet if Ed Emmett had $150M in his bank account the last thing he’d look to do with the money is invest it in the Astrodome… yet he has no problem asking the ‘ordinary’ citizens do it. If some outside third party thought investing money into the Astrodome was a winning bet, sure as sh** they would have done it years ago. If NRG or HCSA or the NFL want to bulldoze it down to make room for more parking, let them buy it from the City/County for market value and they can do whatever they want with it.

    Emmett’s had a hard on for this structure going back almost 20 years now. Me, not so much. It was a poor venue [line of sight, distance of spectator to field, etc., sucks] for just about every sport played under its roof, and as a musical venue [and I’ve seen multiple shows there – Texas Jam shows in the late 70s, Rolling Stones with ZZ Top in the early 80s, etc.], due to it’s cavernous nature, it’s horrific.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    @C.L.:

    You are absolutely right about this. All of it.

    @voter:

    You are most probably right as well,and even if it is pandering, at least it’s pandering to the fiscally conservative among us, for a change.

    @General:

    Good point.

  5. joshua ben bullard says:

    general grant: “no different than a pocket park” sir, are you high? pocket park is 50,000$ maybe,ed is telling you “we only draw money from 2 sources a=property tax b= hotel occupancy tax=if ed is moving around the back offices of the old county buildings screaming ” we got 100 million collected from tax payers and I want to spend it all on the Dome,and sen john whitmire and paul and Sylvia say “wait a minute lets get a vote on this one from the people you received the 100 million dollars from, I would think its damn near criminal not to get the vote first . for 100 million dollars ,you better take that back to the ballot box,i can think of a lot of things the county needs to do with an extra 100 million dollars .my vote is a solid HELL NO.

  6. General Grant says:

    Okay, so the next question is what dollar amount spent by the county requires voter approval? That is not the law, so make it a generally applicable law if you think that right, rather than makeca specific exception.

    If you oppose the project, the best solution is to oppose Ed Emmett, not for John Whitmire to throw a temper tantrum.

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