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Archive for June 19th, 2013

The Harris County Sports Corporation will show us the proposals today and I don’t expect to be blown away by any suggestion.  To date not a single idea has persuaded me to support keeping the Dome.  It is not going to be a casino.  It is not going to be a super hotel.  It is not going to be a museum.  It is not going to be a movie production studio.  It is not going to be stripped down and made to look like a skeleton.  It is not going to be a water park.  It is not going to be an indoor ski slope.  It is not going to be s shopping mall.  It is not going to be a super food court.

It will either be a parking lot or green space. Stay tuned!

Name the two pitchers in 1969 who shared the AL Cy Young Award?

The H-Town City Council will vote on the budget today.  The meeting is off to a late start and I’m thinking there might be some lobbying going on behind the scenes on the property tax relief amendments that the Mayor does not support.  Check this from the hard copy of the Chron that is only available online to subscribers:

Some Houston City Council members are urging constituents to lobby their colleagues in support of property tax relief for seniors, setting up a Wednesday showdown with Mayor Annise Parker, whose administration has asked that those amendments to her proposed budget be pulled without a vote.

Complicating the situation is the November election looming for the mayor and 16 council members, and the political clout of seniors, who vote at higher rates than other demographic groups.

"We’ve paid our dues and I don’t think we should be under stress over if and how we’re going to be able to keep our homes," southwest Houston senior Minnie Taylor said Tuesday, one of several who addressed council on the topic. "I’m pleading with you to vote yes on the amendments."

By state law, residential property owners are eligible for a standard exemption on 20 percent of their home’s appraised value. Seniors aged 65 and older receive additional exemptions, which taxing entities – including cities, counties and school districts – can increase. About 95,000 properties in Houston receive the senior exemption, according to the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office.

Harris County’s exemption is $160,000. Some council members want to increase the city’s $70,862 exemption to match that.

Councilwoman Helena Brown sent 17,000 robo-calls to District A seniors, urging them to voice support for her proposal by calling the office of the mayor and some members of council. Councilman Andrew Burks sent a similar email blast to constituents and Super Neighborhood leaders. Brown and Burks’ ideas differ, but both would raise the city’s exemption incrementally to match Harris County’s.

"Property values are increasing, water rates are increasing, the drainage fee and all that – these folks are on fixed incomes and their exemption is not increasing," Brown said. "They’re feeling the impact, and I think it’s unjust. I think that argument will be heard. It’s just common sense."

In his proposed budget amendments, Councilman C.O. Bradford presented three options: freeze home values for properties valued between the city and county exemption levels, hike the city senior exemption to match the county’s, or raise the city’s senior exemption to $80,000.

In a document sent to council members Tuesday night, Parker stated her positions on the council members’ 60 budget amendments. She asks Brown and Burks to withdraw their items and asks Bradford to withdraw his proposal to freeze values because City Attorney David Feldman believes they violate state law; one council cannot mandate the actions of a future council, Feldman said.

Parker also asks Bradford to withdraw his other two proposals; one would cost $26.7 million and the other $3.8 million, City Finance Director Kelly Dowe estimates. Dowe estimates Brown’s proposal would cost at least $5.7 million in the first year and more than $102 million over time.

Parker last week said she was open to raising senior exemptions if offsetting spending cuts could be found. In the Tuesday night memo, however, the mayor states her support for amendments from council members Oliver Pennington and Dave Martin that would put all revenues above projected levels into the city’s reserves. Those items are scheduled to be voted on first; if either passes, Parker states she will not support amendments that cut revenue or raise expenses.

Bradford’s most modest proposal would save the average over-65 homeowner about $39 a year, Dowe said. Former county Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners, who has pushed the council to raise the exemption for two years, estimated the savings at $56; every bit helps those on fixed incomes, he said.

Pennington and Councilman Stephen Costello, who chairs the council’s budget committee, called for caution on raising the exemption, noting projections that show a potential $81 million deficit in the next budget cycle.

"Without a thorough examination of the impact of the exemptions, I certainly could not vote for them," Pennington said.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said raising exemptions is among the best ways local officials have to directly benefit voters, who can see precisely what they have gained.

"Not only is it a senior exemption, but it’s a senior homeowner exemption, and among seniors, homeowners vote more than non-homeowners," Jones said. "You’re taking the demographic that votes the most or has some of the highest participation rates, and you’re providing a direct benefit to them."

You have to wonder about the politics of this.  After all it is only four months or so from the election.  I’ll be watching City Council this morning.

In 1969 B’More’s Mike Cuellar and the Tigers’ Denny McLain won the AL Cy Young Award of course.

Last night was good baseball but too bad only 13,000 and change showed up.  Come on folks, err fans!  The team is playing better these days and you are missing out.  Get out to The Yard!

 

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