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No Astrodome vote this fall

This is a bit of a surprise.

All this and antiquities landmark status too

[Sen. John] Whitmire filed a bill that would force the county to get voter approval before spending any money on the Dome.

“It’s a dream and you shouldn’t spend taxpayer dollars on a dream,” Whitmire said.

Whitmire’s bill sailed through the Senate, but hit a brick wall in the House.

After passing the Senate, the bill was sent to the House County Affairs committee.

State Representative Garnet Coleman is the chair of that committee.

“The Astrodome is a symbol of our ‘can-do’ spirit,” Coleman said. “I want it left as a symbol of what my city is and has been.”

The bill never made it out of Coleman’s committee, so it died. Coleman wouldn’t say whether he agreed or disagreed with the Commissioner’s plans.

“I don’t have to agree or disagree because I don’t want it torn down,” Coleman said.

See here, here, and here for the background. I confess I’m surprised, I had expected this bill to zip through based on its easy adoption in the Senate, but like the AirBnB bill, one must never assume that a bill will make it to the finish line. I didn’t care for the Whitmire bill, so this outcome is fine by me.

With the demise this bill, what could have been a very busy November has been scaled back quite a bit. With no Astrodome vote and no Metro vote (this year), what we are left with are the pension obligation bonds and the revenue cap; it remains to be seen if there will be a vote on forcing city employees onto a defined-contribution retirement plan, as the petitions have not yet been verified and the instigator behind the drive says she’s not interested in it any more. Things can still change, and there will be some number of low-profile constitutional amendments on the ballot, but all in all expect there to be fewer campaigns this November than there could have been. Link via Swamplot.

UPDATE: In case you’re wondering what this means from the county’s perspective.

The end of the session on Monday means the county can move forward with a revitalization project that officials say could be the key to the stadium’s long-term preservation, as well as resume a broader study of the maintenance of the NRG park that was set aside as lawmakers considered Whitmire’s bill.

“I don’t see any potential road blocks,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, on the revitalization project.

Emmett said 2020 would be a rough, early estimate of when the project could be completed.

Architects and engineers are working on the first phase of the project. That first phase began in September, and was seen as one of the most concrete steps toward securing the Dome’s future. It has been vacant for years, and hosted its last Astros game in 2000.

Commissioners Court will have to give another green light for the actual construction to begin.

County Engineer John Blount said the architects and engineers are examining the stadium as part of the design process, verifying that the county’s blueprints match how the stadium actually looks. Blount said, for example, that modifications to the stadium’s drainage system made in the 1960s after it was built were not reflected in its original blueprints.

“We might find things that take some time to go investigate,” Blount said.

[…]

“There’s no reason why the House couldn’t have taken a vote on this,” said Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who supported Whitmire’s bill.

Bettencourt said the 2013 referendum and general fund money being used by the county to fund the project – estimated to be about one-third of the total cost – necessitates a referendum.

“As long as that’s in there, in my mind they’re going to have to bring this to a vote,” he said.

I take Bettencourt’s words to mean that the fight is not over yet. Don’t be surprised if someone sues to stop things once the county begins spending money on this, and don’t be surprised if another bill like SB884 is introduced in 2019.

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4 Comments

  1. C. L. says:

    Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is trying to shove an Astrodome rehab cost like Nathan’s tries to shove hot dogs down the throat of Joey Chestnut – difference is, Joey freely relaxes his esophagus muscles while the Harris County taxpayers have no such freedom of choice, apparently, and the rehab bill is, instead, aimed at our ‘back door’. Haven’t we repeatedly voted against spending taxpayer money on Ed’s pet project ?

    In 17 years, no one has come up with a way to make it’s continued use financially viable. Guess we’re going to keep going round and round on this until someone strikes gold under home plate.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Someone should notify the Muslim terrorists that the Astrodome is our most treasured and revered structure here in the US. Maybe we can get them to blow it up on their dime.

    When Harris County went in on supporting Reliant Stadium, that was the end of the Dome. It died the day the new stadium (that we did not need, by the way) was approved. Just tear the Astrodome down already.

    @C.L.: Perfect analogy! Spot on.

  3. C. L. says:

    Somewhere, somehow, Ed Emmett has confused the Astrodome with Hagia Sophia.

    It’s just a metal dome, Ed, that in it’s day, was horrific for watching any sporting event and even worse for the occasional ‘Texas Jam’.

  4. C. L. says:

    Somehow, some way, Ed Emmett has confused the Astrodome with Hagia Sophia.

    It’s just a metal dome, Ed, that in it’s day, was horrific for watching any sporting event and even worse for the occasional ‘Texas Jam’.

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