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No charter amendments on the fall ballot

Just bonds, school board and HCC races, and the mostly boring constitutional amendments. Oh, and Heights Alcohol 2.0, if you live there.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Houston voters will face $1.5 billion in city bonds and nine community college or school board races this November, but will not be asked whether to give firefighters a pay raise or change the pension plans given to new city employees.

Monday was the last day on which candidates could file for the November ballot, and on which local governments could call an election. That means the clock ran out on the citizen-submitted petitions seeking the change in city pensions and backing the firefighters’ push for pay “parity” with police officers of corresponding rank.

There are exceptions to Monday’s deadline. Houston ISD trustee Manuel Rodriguez’s death in July means candidates looking to fill his seat have until Sept. 6 to file for office. Candidates who meet today’s filing deadline also can withdraw from the ballot as late as Aug. 28.

In broad terms, however, the fall election campaign is set.

[…]

State law sets no deadline by which petitions seeking changes to a city charter must be tallied.

“We’ve always done first one in, first one out,” City Secretary Anna Russell said late Friday. “We are still working on the 401(k) (petition) as we do our regular work.”

The petitions, if validated by Russell’s office, could be included on a May ballot.

And I think that’s fine, and will likely allow for a more focused discussion of that issue as there won’t be anything else for Houston voters to consider; the 401(k) item no longer has anyone advocating it, so the pay parity proposal would be all there is. Given the lack of city elections on this November’s ballot, it’s not clear that a May 2018 referendum would have much less turnout, especially if both sides spend money on it. I’m sure the firefighters wanted their issue to be voted on now, but having to wait till May is hardly an abomination.

I hope to have a finalized list of candidates for HISD and HCC soon. HISD has some candidate information here, but there’s not a similar page for HCC. I’ve got a query in to find out who’s running for what and will report back later. I’m starting on the interviews for 2017, and will have an Election 2017 page up in the next week or so.

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3 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    There must be more to the firefighters’ petition not making it onto the ballot. Mrs Russell is helpful and kind and would validate the signatures with alacrity. She wouldn’t give up without trying. Anyone who has gone to the City Hall Annex in the basement would see that it is not her alone. She has a staff with computers. I could verify about one hundred signatures per hour. This petition could have been validated in a week or two, and I doubt that other petitions were subject to such scrutiny. There are a few other clues that indicate a higher power may have been involved.

    Meanwhile Mayor Turner has yet to denounce the attempt to blow up the statue of Dick Dowling. This could have been calamitous, a major explosion in a park on a summer afternoon could have caused multiple casualties. Asking for a study about removing the statues was irresponsible and ignited a statue war, and, with no condemnation of this plan, the war will probably continue. It is a strange coincidence that some sources say that Dick Dowling donated money to start the Houston Fire Department. Further, Capt. Bill Dowling, who succumbed earlier this year to injuries from the 2013 Southwest Hotel fire, may have been related to him, for all we know. If I recall, Mayor Turner did have a statement when Captain Dowling died.

  2. Steve Houston says:

    I think the 401k petition was a scam, Isiah Carey showed video footage of one of the signature gatherers allowing people to sign for others, etc., but that doesn’t mean all of the over 35,000 signatures were fraudulent, nor does it necessarily change the opinion of those signing that were abandoned by the “leaders” (Paul, Bill, and Windi come to mind). Even though you can argue the petition can be legally challenged if it passes, that is not a call the City Secretary is supposed to make. So the folks wanting it dropped from being worked on in favor of the pay petition come across as disingenuous at best when trying to get theirs considered first.

    And Jason, while Ms. Russell might not be the lone counter of valid signatures, her staff is not exactly flush with extra capacity, the office whittled down to something like 9 FTE (full time equivalents) over the years to run a “tight, lean ship” that some have demanded, all of whom also have their daily and weekly duties to attend to on top of open ended projects like verifying signatures as valid. If you feel the GOP dominated legislature dropped the ball by leaving such counts open ended, maybe you should have spoken out at the time they established the rules.

    The offer by firefighters to help count AND verify signatures sounds noble to someone unfamiliar with the concept of allowing a fox to guard a hen house but falls short on the credibility scale given they have a vested interest in the outcome. The offers to pay for the overtime needed to verify signatures assume allowing the first petition to be set aside, but also that the staff wants to be forced to work all the required hours. The signatures will be counted and if they meet the criteria, a vote will be had. Even if Jason’s estimate is accurate, that amounts to over 500 hours of verifying on top of regular duties during a time when people are on scheduled vacations, May should be just fine and make more sense in case the matter passes it will be closer to the beginning of the next budget year.

    Let HFD take their 9.5% raise for now, if the bonds pass in the election, they can get some stations fixed up and new gear, and next year if the signatures pan out, let the vote move forward before all the legal challenges kick in. Is that such a bad move?

  3. David Fagan says:

    Like watering concrete and expecting flowers…

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