City propositions on the ballot for November
There will be three city propositions on the ballot this November, two of which are intended to restrict how much the city can spend in a given year.
[Mayor Bill] White's proposed charter amendment, Proposition 1, would limit annual increases in property tax revenue and water and sewer rates to the combined increases of population and inflation for Houston or 4.5 percent, whichever is lower.
Proposition 2 would cap annual increases on all city revenues to the combined increases of population and inflation for Houston. Even if council members had not agreed Wednesday to place this on the ballot, the city would have been required to do so because the group Let the People Vote collected more than 20,000 signatures for the initiative.
Under both proposals, exceptions to the caps can be made with voter approval. If both propositions get more than 50 percent approval from voters, the one with the most votes will become law because they propose conflicting policies.
White proposed his amendment Aug. 11 as an alternative to Proposition 2, saying the grass-roots initiative could force the city to cut basic services such as police and fire protection. White said Proposition 2 does not distinguish between general revenue funds and enterprise funds.
Enterprise funds — such as aviation, water and sewer, and hotel and rental car taxes — must by law be used in their respective areas. White maintains that under a revenue cap, any significant increases in enterprise funds would force the city to cut general revenue and thereby reduce basic services.
I plan on voting against both of these propositions, but if polling shows that they're both going to pass, I'll vote for Prop 1 since I think it's not as bad as Prop 2. Prop 3 has to do with allowing the city comptroller to audit various city departments, offices, and programs, which seems innocuous enough on its face. I don't know anything more about it at this time.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 26, 2004 to Local politics
Don't be fooled by Prop. 3's innocuity(?). It sounds like a bureaucratic power struggle, but it could lead to more accountability at City Hall.
Simply put, it would allow the city controller to conduct performance audits of city departments.
Former Mayor Lee Brown fought council and controller Sylvia Garcia on this for six years, arguing that as chief executive the mayor had the sole authority to review his departments and employees. The result was that when Garcia tried to conduct such audits, department heads and their minions simply refused to cooperate with the auditors office. So, how did you enjoy the henhouse, Mr. Fox?
Obviously, the controller's office has been used for political gain in the past. But if it helps uncover poor management practices that cost the taxpayers millions -- see the public works department review of a few years ago -- who cares?
Finally, it is ironic that the city attorney who backed Brown on his stance against the controller doing performance reviews was Anthony Hall, who is now Bill White's chief administrative officer. Somehow, I have a feeling White will find a way to oppose this proposition.