Coalition for a Greater Houston Rejects Mayors’ Exemption Proposal
March 28, 2011

As Mayor Annise Parker prepares to meet in a special called meeting with members of  city council Monday afternoon to explain her proposed changes to Proposition 1, Rebuild Houston, a coalition of church, school, business and community leaders is rejecting the compromise plan.

The group says it will not support Mayor Annise Parker’s proposal on church and school exemptions.

“Unfortunately the mayor still has not responded to the fundamental concerns of the community by this very limited exemption plan.” They plan to express these concerns at today’s Drainage and Flooding Committee meeting in “full force,” stated coalition spokesman Paul Bettencourt.

(news release)

Bettencourt explained that the basis for her exemptions is the revelation that the proposed initial fee raised more revenues than the minimum $125 million and the exemptions were still in fact paid for by the rest of the taxpayers. “We have said from the first day that churches, schools and charities should be exempted from this de facto property tax, however it must be done so the amount of the exemption is not placed on the backs of the homeowners and businesses,” Bettencourt said. “Her exemptions are based on overcharging the rest of the taxpayers rather than doing it right.”

Pastor Steve Riggle, speaking on behalf of the churches in the coalition asserted that there are two other “fatal flaws” in the mayor’s proposal. “Her proposed exemptions are not granted to churches and schools built after this ordinance takes effect, which is patently unacceptable,” Riggle asserted.  “In addition, she should simply support and wait on passage of SB 714 and HB 1022 in the legislature so private schools, hospitals and charities such as Salvation Army can be exempted as they are from existing property taxes.”

Both Bettencourt and Riggle affirmed the coalition’s complete opposition to any implementation of an ordinance at this time. “There is an election challenge lawsuit in the courts over the deceptively vague ballot language and the city council should not act until it is decided.” Bettencourt stated. “In addition we would expect Councilman Costello to abide by Article 7, Section 4 of the City of Houston Charter and avoid the obvious conflict of interest provisions by not voting on the proposed drainage fee ordinance,” he concluded.

Riggle concurred and said that Mayor Parker and the city council should act to restore the trust lost in city government by “putting on the brakes.” “If the mayor and city council truly want to govern with integrity it is time to just stop this ill conceived scheme by not implementing the ordinance until this dark cloud of moral, ethical and legal questions are resolved.”

City Leaders Speak Against Prop. 1
September 29, 2010

Several members of  Houston city council stood in solidarity on the steps of city hall Wednesday morning to say they could not support Prop. 1, the  plan to collect a monthly fee to fix the city’s flooding and drainage problems.

Council members Wanda Adams, Jolanda “Jo” Jones, C.O. “Brad” Bradford and Jarvis Johnson say they have critical concerns which must be addressed in an implementation ordinance.

“As public officials, we have a responsibility to let our constituents know what they are voting on. To date, we cannot answer those questions because the information has not been provided,” said Adams.

Mayor Annise Parker is expected to outline the potential implementation of  Proposition No. 1 at this mornings city council meeting.

“We want to ensure that the oldest and  most-in need neighborhoods’  street and drainage projects are completed first; that all Houston businesses have equal opportunity to participate in contracting opportunities, and that Houstonians get hired first,” said Adams.  “Likewise if the drainage fee is collected on citizen’s water bills, then renters are held responsible for the legal obligation of a property owner yet are excluded from much-needed infrastructure work. Churches, colleges and other organizations need to know how much they have to pay.”