News from Houston & Harris County
Houston City Council meets weekly at 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays for public comment and 9 a.m. Wednesdays for regular business at 901 Bagby St., Houston. Meetings are streamed at www.houstontx.gov/htv. Harris County Commissioners Court will next meet at 10 a.m. Nov. 10. MEETINGSWE COVER include requiring preregistration, capping in-person services at 25% capacity, taking temperatures of congregants and requiring masks. Oct. 5: The Houston Health Department began oering a free COVID-19 training course for food service industry managers. Restaurants that successfully complete the training will receive a decal to display, according to the health department. NUMBERS TOKNOW 29% of registered voters cast a ballot in the rst week of voting in 2020 compared to 25% of registered voters in the rst week of 2016. 721,711 Number of votes cast in the rst week of early voting in Harris County CITY HIGHLIGHTS Oct. 21: Houston ocially adopted its Climate Action Plan, which includes the creation of a new Oce of Sustainability to oversee its implementation. Oct. 16: Members of Houston’s Health Equity Task Force, formed in April, developed a series of guidelines for Houston’s places of worship, some of which began reopening Oct. 18. Recommendations
City Council approves lower tax rate amid calls for further reductions
BY EMMA WHALEN
“I am concerned about the people who are struggling now and want to do anything we can to help ease that burden on them,” said Council Member Amy Peck, who rst raised the issue in a letter to constituents Oct. 13. State Senate Bill 2, passed in 2019, requires cities to obtain voter approval if total revenue fromproperty taxes is more than 3.5% higher than the previous year. An exception to that, however, allows cities to set a tax rate that results in up to 8%more revenue if a state of emergency is declared. The city is also subject to its own voter-approved revenue cap, which limits the tax increase to raise nomore
than 4.5%more revenue year over year, or a percentage based on ination and population growth, whichever is lower. City Controller Chris Brown con- rmed the adopted tax rate complies with both the state and local revenue caps. Mayor Sylvester Turner said a lower rate would result in a reduction in tax revenue that would lead to cuts to the police and re departments, which account for 60% of the general fund, according to budget documents. “What I amhearing on a daily basis is we want more support for police and re,” Turner said.
HOUSTON Property owners will see a slightly lower rate applied to their taxes this year, but some Houston City Council members pushed to limit it further. The council Oct. 21 passed a tax rate of $0.56184 per $100 valuation for scal year 2020-21, a 1.07% reduction from the previous tax rate. Based on the city’s tax rate calcu- lation, some taxpayers may still see increases, as the average value for homestead properties rose about 4% this year to $250,355. Properties at that valuation can expect to contribute about $1,407 in city taxes.
$100ne in place to protect bike lanes
April 4: 52,468
Harris County unemployment insurance claims per week
60K 40K 0 20K
SOURCE: TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSION COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER Claims have dropped, but thousands are still out of work.
Oct. 3: 7,831
BY EMMA WHALEN
HOUSTON A new city ordinance will levy a ne of up to $200 for parking in bike lanes. City Council approved the mea- sure Oct. 14 after delaying the vote to work out details of the rule’s enforcement. First-time oenders will receive a warning, and anyone who violates the ordinance more than once will face a citation and up to a $100 ne. Drivers who have never received a citation can opt to take a bicy- cle-friendly driving course to avoid a penalty. While municipal judges have the ability to set nes of up to $200 for the violation, the Houston Admin- istration and Regulatory Aairs Department recommended they set a $100 ne for this specic oense. Cars parked in bike lanes can only be towed if the area has a no-parking sign, according to the department. The adjustments to the ordinance’s enforcement came primarily from Council Member Letitia Plummer, who sought to ensure the rule was strict enough to deter residents from parking in bike lanes but forgiving enough to not place too high of a nancial burden on rst-time oenders. “Our goal is to educate and also look at enforcement in a dierent manner,” Plummer said during an Oct. 7 discussion.
Harris County partnerswith Lone Star College to oer freeworkforce training
BY DANICA LLOYD
federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Participants must be residents of Harris County who have been furloughed, unem- ployed or underemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ocials said. Tuition is free, and funding for books and other costs are available as well. Training must be completed by Dec. 31.
HARRIS COUNTY More than 600,000 unemployment insurance claims have been led in Harris County since March, and a new joint program from the county and Lone Star College is providing free train- ing for in-demand careers including accounting, construction, teaching and logistics. The initiative is funded by the
Live video is available at www.harriscountytx.gov.
Coalition of political groups call for end to ‘strongmayor’ system
BY EMMA WHALEN
City Council members to be placed on the agenda for a vote by the City Council and the mayor. Under Houston’s current “strong mayor” form of government, only the mayor is permitted to place items on the council agenda. Charles Blain, one of the coali- tion’s organizers, said the eort has been forming for two years. “I wouldn’t say it was spear- headed by one person or organiza- tion, but everybody is focusing on this one issue because for far too
long we’ve heard council members say they don’t have any power to do anything with the agenda,” said Blain, who founded the conserva- tive policy blog Urban Reform. The coalition needs 20,000 sig- natures to get a proposition placed on a ballot, according to Texas local government code. The group also includes representatives from the Houston Justice Coalition, the Alief Super Neighborhood and the Houston Professional Fireghters Association.
HOUSTON Representatives from Houston’s chapter of the Demo- cratic Socialists of America joined the Houston Young Republicans and other groups across the political spectrum Oct. 26 to announce a campaign to alter the power structure at City Hall. Using the name The Houston Charter Amendment Petition Coali- tion, the group is pursuing a charter amendment that would allow any agenda item backed by at least three
HEIGHTS RIVER OAKS MONTROSE EDITION • NOVEMBER 2020
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