News from July 2019
Mayor Sylvester Turner has been accused of vote stacking on the GLBT Caucus to gain an advantage at getting the endorsement from the member-driven political action committee. The GLBT Caucus, founded in 1975, is the oldest civil rights organization dedicated to the interest of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the south. Although it is a nonpartisan political committee, its endorsement is one of the most sought after, primarily by the Democratic Party members in Houston.
On Monday, Houston First, the city’s convention and tourism bureau, announced that they reached an agreement with Airbnb to begin collecting Hotel Occupancy Taxes from customers using the service beginning on July 1. “The 7 percent tax on Airbnb rentals will flow to Houston First, a government corporation that promotes and markets Houston’s travel, tourism and arts communities around the world and operates the city’s finest convention, arts and entertainment venues,” read the press release.
Last week, we wrote about the surprise vote in Harris County Commissioners Court to restructure how much of $33 million in Metro funding each precinct was going to get. That debate is still waging. In response to the move, which reduced funding in Commissioner Steve Radack’s (Precinct 3) and Commissioner Jack Cagle’s (Precinct 4) precincts, Cagle issued a call for residents to show up and speak out at the next Commissioners Court meeting.
Housing costs are increasing well above what most Americans can afford and while this crisis has been ongoing, policy proposals to address affordability are starting to catch up, but not from the government entities that matter the most. Recently, elected officials from the President all the way down to presidential hopefuls have released policies aimed at tackling the affordable housing crisis, and rightfully so.
We recently wrote about a surprise vote in Harris County Commissioners Court to restructure the distribution for funding coming from the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The vote effectively took $9 million of transportation funding from Precincts 3 and 4 and redirected it to Precincts 1 and 2.
This week, on recommendation from the Planning and Development department, Houston City Council will consider expanding the area in which properties are exempt from off-street parking requirements, or parking minimums. Currently, only the Central Business District (think Downtown) is exempt from parking minimums. The upcoming amendment would expand that to include the East End and parts of Midtown, including the location of the proposed Innovation District.
This week’s city council session brought a debate over fees the city is charging for the Wings Over Houston Airshow. The proposal is to increase the rental cost for the two-day community event from $30,000 to $100,000 this year. After that, the cost would gradually increase each year for the next four years, topping out at $112,000.
Today, Houston Police Officers’ Union PAC voted unanimously to endorse Mayor Sylvester Turner in his re-election campaign. “He is the first Mayor in a generation to tackle the staffing crisis that has plagued the Houston Police Department for far too long. He committed to the community and Houston Police Officers to grow our department by 100 police officers, over attrition, for the next 5 years."
The local debt crisis often centers around unfunded pension liabilities, and rightfully so. These are the debts owed to retiring public employees, and cities and states rack them up by deferring, or in some instances, altogether not making payments. But, the sleeping giant and next big budgetary issue for cities and states is retiree healthcare debt or Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB).
Though public details for the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s upcoming bond campaign are still scarce, the agency is gearing up for an all-out campaign to convince voters of the need for its passage. According to Metro’s records, the agency is anticipating spending, at least, $6.1 million on advertising for the upcoming countywide bond. They are prohibited from using tax dollars to explicility campaign for the bond, so the money will be spent on an “educational” campaign focused on Harris County voters.
With less than 100 days until Election Day (99 to be exact), Houston mayoral campaigns aren’t slowing down as typically expected during the dog days of summer. The race for Houston’s mayor is still fiery and showing no signs of relenting, so here’s a rundown of where the campaigns are, what the candidates are doing, and who they are getting support from.
In a time when young Americans seems to not just be embracing, but actively pushing, socialism, or some form of it, it’s refreshing to hear of the positive impact that capitalism and free market reforms have on those who need it the most. The United Nations Development Programme recently released its 2019 Multidimensional Poverty Index. If you’re like most people, you’ve never heard of it, but it’s a report that highlights the number of people around the world who experience poverty in all of its forms.