There will be more than just the Mayor’s race going on in 2015.
Houston is guaranteed a frantic 2015 political season with an open mayor’s race on the ballot, but it could get busier still with growing talk of placing the city charter before voters for possible changes to term limits, the city revenue cap and other reforms.
Whether any of the proposed amendments goes to a vote next May or alongside the mayoral contest next November, the state constitution requires a two-year gap between charter changes, so all reforms would need to be voted on at once.
The question, given a difference of opinion between term-limited Mayor Annise Parker and some City Council members, is what will make the ballot.
Parker has warned of widespread layoffs with next summer’s budget unless the decade-old, voter-imposed revenue cap is altered or scrapped, but she may prefer a November vote to avoid the measure being torpedoed by the hard-core right in a low-turnout May election. Even at that, she has not guaranteed a vote on the issue.
The mayor also has pledged to let voters consider a change in term limits – likely from three two-year terms to two four-year terms – but support evaporated on City Council when that idea last was discussed in 2012.
Some council members, meanwhile, are pushing for broader reforms, including a proposal to let six members team up to place items on the council agenda for a vote; only the mayor can do so today, though three council members can call a special meeting.
Councilman C.O. Bradford, who long has argued for charter reform, is pushing that idea, which he says will enable council to better address small, neighborhood issues.
All that is in addition to the possibility of a referendum to repeal the Equal Rights Ordinance, depending on how things go in court. All forty-seven Mayoral candidates (or is it fifty-eight, I’ve lost count) will need to deal with these issues whether they want to or not.
I know, I’m still not ready to start talking about 2015 yet, so let me keep this brief.
1. I support any and all efforts to repeal the stupid revenue cap. I will not vote for any Mayoral candidate that is not on board with repealing the revenue cap.
2. My preference for term limits is to abolish them. Given that that isn’t going to happen, I would greatly prefer extending them to allow more two-year terms – six seems like a reasonable number to me – over any proposal that includes changing the length of the term in office to four years. To me, the ability to quickly correct a mistake like Helena Brown outweighs any purported downside of making people begin campaigning for re-election so soon. If the real complaint here is that nobody likes having to raise money for their campaigns – a complaint with which I sympathize – then let me propose a system of public financing for campaigns, which not only would alleviate the dialing-for-dollars drudgery, it would also address the original justification for term limits. I call that a win-win.
3. I currently have no opinion about CM Bradford’s proposal. I will be interested to hear what the seventy-three Mayoral candidates have to say about it.