A ballot measure seeking to increase Houston and Harris County representation on regional councils is getting support from city controller candidates.
Chris Hollins, the former Harris County Clerk, expressed his support for the measure Wednesday. His opponent, City Councilmember Dave Martin, in backing the measure. A third candidate for the controller position, however, isn’t so sure.
Proposition B, brought about by the grassroots organization Fair for Houston, is an attempt to bring increased representation to governing bodies such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC), which siphons federal funds into 13 counties and 100 local governments. The group focuses on regional needs including disaster recovery and transportation. If it passes, the measure would require Houston representatives to exit regional organizations that do not apportion votes based on population. The group has 37 members, with just two Houston representatives, even though Houston makes up 30% of the region’s population.
“One person, one vote. That’s the basis of our democracy,” Hollins said in a news conference Wednesday. He said that right is being “denied to all Houstonians.”
“As your next City Controller, it will be my job to help solve the fiscal challenges our city faces, and that includes working with other elected leaders to make sure Houston gets every dollar we’re entitled to,” he wrote in an email Wednesday.
Martin agreed with Hollins, citing his vote to pass the measure.
“I’ve been dealing with this for since 2016, with every member of City Council, and we’re all fully in support of the ballot initiative,” Martin said Wednesday.
“We have 2.3 million people that live in the city of Houston and we have 637 square miles of infrastructure that should be treated according to those statistics, instead of one of 107 (cities) or one of 13 (counties),” Martin said. “What happens in Houston has a direct impact on all these other cities and all these other counties.”
After seven years of fighting for more dollars, Martin said the HGAC forced City Council’s hand to vote to add the ballot measure.
But not all candidates were quick to endorse. Sanchez, who is running a second time for city controller, said the issue is “a moot point” for the city controller, so he doesn’t plan on endorsing the proposition either way.
“I don’t see any scenario where the controller has any influence on the outcome, the reorganization of HGAC, any amendments to the State Government Code,” Sanchez said. “This is a political decision that’s going to have to be driven by the voters … I just don’t see a role for me, as a candidate for controller, to be involved in this debate.”
That stance certainly tracks with Orlando Sanchez’s overall body of work as an elected official. To be fair, he also expressed concern about what will happen in the event that Houston does exit HGAC, and that is a very reasonable concern, one I share with him. I’ll be asking about that when I interview someone with the Fair for Houston crew. The larger goal is unassailable, and it’s good to see Hollins and Martin on board with it. The fourth candidate, Shannan Nobles, did not provide a comment for the story.