Tag Archives: Houston City Council

Final Ballot Language Approved for Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

After months of uncertainty, the ballot language for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.  In a move ordered by the Texas Supreme Court, Houston City Council retooled the measure by a vote of 17 to 0.

Here’s more from Houston Unites

The ballot language is final: On the November ballot, Houstonians will vote “Yes” on Proposition 1 to uphold Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. 

It’s hard to believe, but in just 68 days, Houston voters will go to the polls to determine the fate of our city’s equal rights ordinance that ensures no one faces discrimination, regardless of race, religion, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether or not we win will come down to how many Houstonians turn out to vote—which is why starting now, we have to send the message far and wide that a “Yes” vote on Proposition 1 is a vote to treat everyone fairly under the law.

As discussed previously, the new language is exactly what HERO opponents wanted.  The coalition has already gotten started spreading hate and lies.  But even despite that fact, Houston Unites and supporters of Equality are ready for the fight.

So remember in November…

Vote YES



And before then, be sure to check out Houston Chronicle journalist Lisa Falkenberg’s epic take down of the Anti-HERO campaign.



Texas Supreme Court Sides with HERO Opponents on Ballot Language

As election day fast approaches, the situation surrounding the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance continues to be complex.  Showing no concern for perception, the State Supreme Court has jumped at the chance to heighten the drama.  As Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle reports, the fact that City Council placed HERO on the ballot is not sufficient…

The Texas Supreme Court has again overruled Mayor Annise Parker’s administration in connection with the legal fight over her signature nondiscrimination ordinance, ruling Wednesday that the mayor and City Council erred in choosing the language that will appear on the November ballot when the ordinance faces possible repeal.

The justices, writing in “yet another mandamus proceeding concerning the City of Houston’s equal rights ordinance,” said the city charter is clear in requiring that voters be asked to vote for or against the ordinance. Parker had instead argued it was proper to vote for or against repealing the measure, and the council approved language with that approach Aug. 5.

“Though the ordinance is controversial, the law governing the City Council’s duties is clear. Our decision rests not on our views on the ordinance — a political issue the citizens of Houston must decide — but on the clear dictates of the City Charter,” the justices wrote. “The City Council must comply with its own laws regarding the handling of a referendum petition and any resulting election.”

Plaintiff and conservative activist Jared Woodfill said the original ballot language was “all about deception and trickery.” Woodfill noted that opponents have now sought and won two opinions on the ordinance at the state Supreme Court — the first essentially forcing a repeal or vote on the ordinance and now one on the actual ballot language.

“Deception and trickery” are an interesting choice of words from Mr. Woodfill.  Given the ridiculous amount of time that he, the Houston Area Pastor Council and HERO opponents spend promoting  the myth of predatory males lurking in a women’s restrooms, he’d seem to be an expert at both.  They have lied about the non-discrimination ordinance every step of the way, and two Supreme Court rulings in their favor cannot change that as fact.

But unfortunately, what this latest ruling can do is force City Council to call a special meeting and review the ballot language before the August 24th deadline.  As discussed previously, the ballot language is hugely important to HERO opponents because it allows them to deploy campaign tactics which have been successful in previous situations.  It also means that all of the propaganda and information they’ve already produced against HERO does not have to be changed.

If there is any positive to be had, it’s that Houston Unites— the campaign launched to protect the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, has now launched and is off to a great head start.  Check back later this week for more information on the Houston Unites group.

Texas Leftist will have more as it develops.


(Photo credit:  RMI Limited)

Texas Supreme Court Says HERO Must Be Placed On November Ballot

The Conservative-leaning Supreme Court of Texas has sided with anti-Equality plaintiffs in a Friday morning ruling.  Here’s the story from Rebecca Elliott of the Houston Chronicle

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that Houston City Council must repeal the city’s equal rights ordinance or place it on the November ballot.

The ruling comes three months after a state district judge ruled that opponents of Houston’s contentious non-discrimination ordinance passed last year  failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a repeal referendum.

“We agree with the Relators that the City Secretary certified their petition and thereby invoked
the City Council’s ministerial duty to reconsider and repeal the ordinance or submit it to popular
vote,” the Texas Supreme Court wrote in a per curiam opinion. “The legislative power reserved to the people of Houston is not being honored.”

The city’s equal right ordinance bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

Houston City Council has 30 days to repeal the ordinance or place it on the November ballot.

The ruling overturns a lower court decision of the district court.  It also seems to ignore copious evidence submitted by the city that proved the petitions were wrought with fallacies, including not listing the resident county of the signee, some pages that may have been forged, and other issues.

petition p1

A sample page from the original petition to place HERO on the ballot reveals that plantiffs did not comply with Texas Election Code which governs how petitions must be submitted.  

Oddly enough in the full text of the Texas Supreme Court opinion, the author even makes explicit mention of the rules governing how citizens must submit petitions.  One has to wonder if the court actually saw the document before issuing their decision.

During the 30 day decision period, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has been suspended, effective immediately per the ruling.

This is breaking news, so check back later for more.

Amid Political Barbs, Houston City Council Passes Budget

With this year’s municipal elections looming large in the background, the Houston City Council did its annual duty, passing a $5.1 Billion Dollar budget.

Here’s more on the process from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle

Houston City Council, in passing a budget amendment on Wednesday, made the mayor and some union leaders nervous by dipping into funds set aside for uncertainties including dollars for possible employee raises, to keep a program that gives each of the 11 district council members $1 million to spend in their areas.

That amendment to Mayor Annise Parker’s budget, approved by an 11-4 margin, came despite the city facing a projected $126 million gap next summer between revenues and expenses in its $2.4 billion general fund, which is fed mainly by property and sales taxes and funds basic services. That estimated deficit far exceeds the one the city closed during the recession several years ago, when 776 workers were laid off.

Houston’s coming budget challenges are driven mainly by soaring pension and debt costs and the impact of a decade-old, voter-imposed cap on what the city can collect from property taxes, the main source of general fund revenue.


The budget itself was approved shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday after a solid 12 hours of debate, by an 11-4 margin, with Councilmen Jerry Davis, Dave Martin, Michael Kubosh and C.O. Bradford opposed. Few substantive amendments passed.

The highest-profile item approved was a proposal by Davis and Councilman Mike Laster to keep $11 million in the so-called council district service funds. That program, launched last year, is intended to help council members more quickly solve local problems such as mowing overgrown lots, fixing sidewalks or razing dangerous buildings.

The District Council member appropriation may have been one of the most high profile amendments that passed, but there was plenty of political theater over amendments that failed.  One of the day’s biggest debates was over a proposal to make across-the-board cuts to the city budget. Brought forth by Council Member Dave Martin, one amendment would have required every city department (except for the elected officials around the table) to make a 2 percent cut to their spending for city “savings” of $40 million.  The standoff sparked the usual debate of whether to save money via draconian cuts or invest in the city’s future.  Members like Martin and Jack Christie would prioritize these cuts above all else, but others acknowledge that the city has an actual job to do.

“The fact of the matter is we have costs and needs that need to be paid for now.” said Council Member Mike Laster.

“I am confident that there’s a lot of $ to cut in the budget, but it must be specific and start with the extras, not core services.”  tweeted Council Member Brenda Stardig.

In the end, more measured opinions like Stardig won out.  Martin’s amendment, even after being reduced from a $40 million dollar impact cut down to $20 million, was defeated 10 to 5.  Council Member Stephen Costello was one of the 5 in favor… a move likely made in hopes of shoring up support among his Conservative base for the Mayoral campaign.  Though votes like this could just as easily come back to haunt him if he were to be elected.

After a very long day, Mayor Annise Parker’s 6th and final budget was approved by Council.  Yet without intervention from the state, City leaders can do little to address growing pension obligations, which cause the greatest amount of uncertainty for how the city can move forward.  Nor can they anticipate what lies ahead for one of Parker’s signature initiatives– ReBuild Houston, which is currently tied up in litigation over apportionment of the drainage fee.  But with only months left for the current administration, these issues will be for the next Mayor to tackle.

City Council Sculpture


Houston Artists Discuss City Cultural Plan

In it’s 70-plus year history, the El Dorado Ballroom in Houston’s Third Ward has seen and heard some of the world’s most compelling artistry. In it’s heyday the venue played host to Musical greats like Arnett Cobb, Etta James and Ray Charles.

But last weekend, the historic ballroom was also the scene for an important meeting on Houston’s artistic future, as artists and administrators from across the region gathered there to discuss the City’s expansive new Cultural Plan.

Named the Houston Artist Town Hall, the gathering was organized and moderated by the Fresh Arts Coalition, whose Executive Director Jenni Rebecca Stephenson moderated the discussion.  The Town Hall was not an official city event, but Minette Boesel from the Houston Cultural Affairs Office was on hand to hear the discussions.

Though the artists in attendance formed an immensely diverse crowd, they all shared at least two things in common– a dedication to the area’s arts scene and intimate knowledge of what could be improved.  As Stephenson noted in her opening comments, the meeting was arranged so artists themselves would have a chance to provide input on the city’s Cultural Plan.

Among the group of almost 200 artists, some common themes seemed to emerge…

— Houston needs a more comprehensive jobs and funding database for arts projects. 

Better access equity for the many diverse arts groups, and artists living outside of a select few neighborhoods. 

More transparency, less bureaucracy from municipal funding sources. 

— Stronger professional connections between the artists community and corporate entities.

— City Council Members should form Artist advisory boards by district for more direct, consistent input. 

Perennial issues like artist compensation and a lack of affordable housing were big players in the discussion as well.

On the whole, the event was quite productive, and gave voice to important issues that should be part of any Cultural Plan for the city.  But whatever moves forward under the Parker administration at this point is far from a guarantee. Any goals that Mayor Parker sets for Houston’s artistic community will be honored, improved upon or destroyed by Houston’s next Mayor, City Controller and City Council.  Which means that 2015 is an important time for Houston’s creative community to become engaged with this year’s elections.  If citizens want the arts to be strong in Houston, they need to show those preferences with their voices and their votes this year. 


Artists gather at the Houston Artist Town Hall, held May 2nd in the El Dorado Ballroom. 

Houston Public Media’s Amy Bishop also covered the event.

On the Road Again: Turner Enters Houston Mayor’s Race

Most people are guided by an old idiom… “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Implied within is the assumption that even the most challenging tasks are worth at least three attempts.

That saying has now proven to be the case for State Representative Sylvester Turner, whom finally revealed Houston’s worst kept political secret this week.  Via campaign press release, he’s running for Mayor and bringing some big ideas with him…

State Representative Sylvester Turner announced his candidacy for Mayor of Houston this morning – and immediately proposed a new “Road to the Future” initiative to teach young Houstonians a combination of vocational and life skills they need to become employable while providing on-the-job training repairing Houston’s streets and roads.

“We all need smoother streets,” said Turner. “But we also need to build better roads to the future for so many of our young people who are being left behind. I know we can do both.”


As part of the Road to the Future initiative, Turner will bring together community colleges, businesses, labor unions and non-profit organizations to create a combination of classroom instruction and structured summer jobs, after-school jobs, after-high-school jobs and bridge jobs – real jobs with real skills that will help make the promise of Houston real for every Houstonian.

Turner said his priorities as mayor will include a top-to-bottom performance review of the city’s Department of Public Works and implementation of a quick-fix program for potholes; stepping up community policing efforts and improving relationships between HPD and communities of color; and addressing economic inequality through increased support for schools and better aligning community college-based workforce training with actual private sector job needs.

A veteran of Texas politics, this latest declaration follows a 12 year gap between his last run for Mayor in 2003, and a 1991 run 12 years before that.

Turner is entering the race with some important advantages, certainly not the least of which is the bold new jobs proposal discussed above, and in his first campaign video.  It may be no coincidence that the candidate’s Road to the Future proposal holds some similarities with a recent partnership formed by the city (via the Houston Airport System) and local community colleges.  The process Turner has put on the table is taking much of what Mayor Parker and CM Jerry Davis outlined, but applying it to other areas of city infrastructure.  But the major attribute of Turner’s plan is that it could occur all across the city, instead of having to transport participants to one training site like IAH.  Even if it doesn’t end up happening, it’s smart politics to start off the race with big ideas that are going to get noticed.

But along with big ideas, Sylvester Turner has also proven he can bring the big bucks.  As the Houston Chronicle‘s Theodore Schleifer reports, Turner has a huge fundraising advantage over other mayoral candidates right out of the gate.

On Friday, Turner is expected to name David Mincberg as his campaign treasurer of his mayoral account and inform the Texas Ethics Commission that his legislative account is effectively closed. He will begin the mayoral race with $900,000 of that $1 million to spend, according to his campaign, a head start that motivated a still-alive challenge by one of Turner’s opponents, Chris Bell, who argues that Turner is violating city campaign laws.

Who’s to say if fellow candidate Chris Bell’s complaints will gain any traction.  And of course anything can happen in the next 9 months.  But for today, the road ahead of Sylvester Turner appears quite promising in his run for City Hall.  We’ll all have to wait to find out if the 3rd time truly is the charm.

Candidates Gravitate To Houston At Large 1 Race

Though we are still a long way out from the high campaign season, Houston City Council races are already starting to get complicated… especially for Progressive, Pro-Equality voters. As John Wright reports via Project Q Houston, two of the city’s most notable political forces are now in a crowded field for City Council…


After narrowly missing a runoff for Houston City Council in 2013, Jenifer Rene Pool hoped 2015 would be her year.

Pool, who’s vying to make history as Texas’ first transgender elected official, decided in early 2014 to run for the At-Large Position 1 seat, which will be open in November because incumbent Stephen Costello is term-limited.

Pool, who ran for the At Large Position 3 seat in 2013, changed her website and Facebook page to reflect the new campaign, in addition to printing business cards and voter pushcards.

“Anybody who knew me knew that I was running for At-large Position 1,” Pool said. “I’d always hoped that this year the community would rally behind my campaign – to win this time.”

But those hopes were dampened during a holiday party for Houston Democratic clubs in December, Pool said. That’s when Lane Lewis, a gay man who serves as chair of the county party, announced he’ll also seek the At-Large Position 1 seat.


Wright’s post goes on to state that Pool was not pleased with Lewis’ decision to run for the seat.  Lewis had no comment.

On the one hand, Houston’s Progressive, Pro-Equality community should be glad to have a strong slate of candidates for the 2015 election.  Even with Mayor Parker’s time in office coming to a close, it’s great to see other LGBT leaders, allies courageous enough to join the cause.

On the other hand, it is perplexing that everyone insists on running for one very popular seat when others are available. Strong candidates like Pool, Lewis and newcomer Philippe Nassif have continued to pile into the At Large Position 1 race, while another seat for At Large Position 4 remains noticeably thin on challengers… save for the well-qualified Laurie Robinson. Those unfamiliar with Houston politics may wonder why so many candidates are filing for one seat over another.  Both are At Large, meaning any Houston resident can run for the seat, regardless of where they live.

The short answer?  Many assume that because Council Member C.O. Bradford is African-American, there has to be another African-American take over his seat.  But the assumption is inaccurate.  With 11 district seats and 5 At Large, the Council has plenty of opportunities for anyone and everyone that would like to run.  Saving At Large 4 for candidates that haven’t even filed yet is not logical.

Which brings us to the original post topic. “Opportunity” is also a key term in this equation, because each candidate has a unique set of opportunities that they can leverage in the 2015 elections.  But they don’t all rest in At Large 1.  For example, if Pool were to switch to At Large 3, she would likely have a much larger support base in a head-to-head match up with CM Kubosh than she could attain having to split the “Democrat” vote and donor/endorsement base with Lewis. Given the unique history surrounding Pool, Kubosh and their opposing roles in the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, this seems the most logical match up for a 2015 contest.  At Large 4 is also an option for anyone wishing to pursue it, but would seem a much better fit at this point for Nassif.

With months to go before the filing deadlines, we can all expect to see much political jockeying.  When all the dust settles, let’s hope that those changes don’t leave the city’s healthy community of Progressive voters with some tough choices to make.  Unlike past election cycles, 2015 is a year where there seems to be room enough for all.