That “Prop A committee”

I mentioned the establishment of a Proposition A committee yesterday, so let’s take a closer look at it.

CM Ed Pollard

Tensions flared at Houston City Council on Wednesday, as Mayor John Whitmire and council members clashed over the application of a new charter amendment that allows members to add items to council meeting agendas.

Last November, Houston voters passed Proposition A, an amendment that allows any three council members to come together and add an item to a council agenda, marking a sharp shift from the “strong mayor” system that dominated Houston politics for years.


Since Whitmire has taken office, his administration has created a Proposition A Committee that serves as a platform to review proposals that members want to bring forward.

The city charter does not require a council member to go through the committee in order to add an item to the agenda, but a lack of council feedback on a Wednesday agenda item sparked a heated debate at City Hall about Proposition A and Whitmire’s committee structure.

Council Member Edward Pollard presented an ordinance change that would make it easier for council members to add speed bumps in their neighborhoods. The agenda item was cosigned by Council Members Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, Fred Flickinger, Tarsha Jackson and Tiffany D. Thomas.

Whitmire told council at the start of the discussion that while he supported Proposition A, he thought Pollard could have approached the issue in a way that encouraged feedback from other council members, the public and first responders.

He stressed that he thought the item should go through the Proposition A Committee, and said that council members needed to consider the “unintended consequences” of the items they tried to add.

“I just think it would be better if you allowed a public hearing and let your colleagues that are not familiar with the process that you’re trying to correct play a role,” Whitmire said.

Pollard argued that his approach was in line with what voters approved in November and running proposals through committee was not a necessary step.

“That charter change was not meant for committee hearings,” Pollard said. “It was meant for council members to bring any item that is lawful to the agenda at any designated date. That is what it says.”

A city attorney told the council that while items did not need to be heard by the committee before being placed on the agenda, they were subject to the same rules as other agenda items once they were added. Whitmire argued that was the precise reason he believed the committee was necessary.

Since the speed bump item had not been discussed in committee, Whitmire said it required his office and the city’s legal department to rewrite it so that it was legally compliant.

As noted, this was in yesterday’s post, with a link to a Houston Landing story that covered a lot of this ground. As you know, I was very much a skeptic of this proposition when it was first announced – I thought three was too few Council members to trigger the agenda item, better to have more like six to make it harder to pull shenanigans with it – but over time I came to accept it as a worthwhile idea.

I was also a little skeptical when I first saw that the speed hump proposition had been referred to this committee, which I thought could be its own kind of speed hump, designed to at least slow down these proposed ordinances, if not deter them outright. On further reflection, I thought that was an overreaction – this isn’t the Legislature, I don’t think there are a plethora of ways to bottle up bills in the committee process. That said, it could certainly be a way of altering the initial proposals, perhaps to a form the Council members who brought it forward would find objectionable.

I take the Mayor’s point that the City Attorney should have some ability to review proposed ordinances to ensure they’re legally kosher, and there’s value in taking some time to vet and discuss them before a final vote. Where this will get contentious is if an ordinance put forward via the Prop A mechanism gets truly slow-walked or derailed; it’s not hard to imagine a lawsuit resulting from that. We’ll see how this plays out in practice, but for now I’ll take the Mayor at his word. I’m OK with the existence and use of this committee. And I await the outcome of that speed hump proposal.

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6 Responses to That “Prop A committee”

  1. Meme says:

    Whitmire is no better than Abbott, Paxton, or Patrick; he does not seem to allow anyone to question him. “If I tell you a goat can pull a train, then hook the train to the goat.”

    The goat is a quote from Whitmire from this week’s council session.

    If he intended to raise taxes or increase fees, then Whitmire should have told us when he ran.

    As to the “Settlement’ with the firefighters, it seems that the public can not know all the details as that is part of the settlement. Trust him, he says.

    As to the garbage fee, that is or should be a non-starter. See Bill King’s latest post, link below.

    My opinion is that Whitmire is as compromised with the firefighters as Trump is to Russia.

  2. C.L. says:

    And so it begins…

  3. Seal says:

    And so it begins…

  4. Jonathan Freeman says:

    Meme, Bill King ran for mayor several times and voters rejected him and his often slanted proposals. Large cities offer garbage service and charge for it. Houston is unique because it offers the service and doesn’t directly charge. Whitmire wasn’t my first choice for mayor but here we are. Nobody else in the race offered much guidance regarding how they would handle the dispute or city finances except in the most generic of ways, I give credit to Whitmire for coming out swinging.

    Any funds coming in will assist with amounts needed to keep the city running, the programmed deficits coming to a head on top of the firefighter settlement. With state law changing to force the city to finally address that compensation issue, it couldn’t be put off much longer even if the voters wanted to, and they didn’t. Since repeatedly losing when running for mayor, King has opted to be the curmudgeon best known for finger pointing over real, workable solutions people would accept so lets leave him in the past where he belongs.

  5. Meme says:

    JF, Bill King ran, and he lost so the public does not want his ideas, nonsense. Bill King’s problem is that he tends to tell the truth. Unfortunately, too many people want to believe in the tooth fairy. They want something for nothing.

    Bill King is not Republican enough for the Republicans and too much of a Republican for the Democrats, which is likely why he did not win.

    I was doing the math and will be proposing to our HOA that if the city does add a garbage fee, we opt out and go to private collection. It will be cheaper to do so.

    Whitmire’s settlement that he claims the public cannot know all the details. Trust me, Whitmire says, I don’t think so.

    We seem to be “Broke”, so the solution is to let us spend more money.

    City employees, but for the firefighters, lost the right to join DROP in 2004. Firefighters lost that in 2017.

    How will the settlement affect the other employees?

    Last time we voted to increase taxes, we would add more police, but that didn’t work out very well.

    The easiest solution is to privatize the EMS.

  6. Pingback: Parking meter extension proposal sent to Prop A committee | Off the Kuff

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