November 06, 2004
What to do with Prop 2

Backers of City Prop 2 are in the corner and looking for a way out.

Prop 2 was a charter amendment put on the ballot by citizen petition. It called for a cap on all city revenues, such as taxes, fees and airport revenues.

White put forth Proposition 1 as an alternative. It caps property-tax revenues and water/sewer rates but specifically leaves the rest alone. He said that was a better approach to addressing residents' concerns about rising property taxes, with less damage to the city's financial condition.

That measure carried Tuesday by 64 percent.

The city contends that although both measures passed, they are contradictory, so the one that got the most votes Proposition 1 will go into effect.

Since Houston first allowed citizen initiatives in 1913, its charter has said that if amendments that pass on the same ballot are "inconsistent" with one another, "the amendment receiving the highest number of votes shall prevail."

Prop 1 got 36,463 more affirmative votes than Prop 2.


At a casual glance, it would seem both could be enacted. Proposition 1 caps just property-tax revenues and water/sewer rates to inflation plus population growth. Proposition 2 caps all revenues to those restrictions.

But city attorneys wrote Proposition 1 specifically so it would conflict with Proposition 2. In one place, the full Proposition 1 ordinance says: "The City Council shall have full authority to assess and collect any and all revenues of the city without limitation, except as to ad valorem (property) taxes and water and sewer rates."

Proposition 2 would limit that council authority.

Proposition 1 also says: "If another proposition for a charter amendment relating to limitations on increases in city revenues is approved at the same election at which this proposition is also approved, and if this proposition receives the higher number of favorable votes, then this proposition shall prevail and the other shall not become effective."

This sort of language stating that one proposition trumps the other probably has never been tested in court, [attorney Bill] Helfand said. A court might react, for example, by nullifying parts of Proposition 1 and then declaring that the rest doesn't conflict with Proposition 2, he said.

Of course, one way or another Prop 2 backers would have to go to court to force the issue, which is something they've said they won't do and which would probably bring a popular opinion backlash against them. Time to know when to fold 'em, guys.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 06, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack