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Archive for July 11th, 2014

ReReBuild Houston

The Chron E-Board went after the H-Town City Council today for getting into the ReBuild Houston fund. The headline reads “Busting Rebuild”. First of all, City Council can do whatever they want to do and if the Mayor can’t stop them then so be it. Commentary worked on the ReBuild Houston campaign back in 2010 – it was called RENEW HOUSTON – so I can only speak to what the campaign put out. This was the main theme of the 2010 campaign:

Proposition 1 establishes a pay-as-you-go system that ends wasteful borrowing and finally puts our streets and drainage programs on the path to fiscal responsibility. Proposition 1 creates a dedicated fund that can’t be used for any other purpose – and it will create thousands of jobs to strengthen our local economy.

The campaign also put out:

The money is used to fix the worst problems first, no matter what part of town they are in.

Commentary thinks it is way too early to say what Council is doing is a bad idea or to say City Council is violating the spirit of the campaign. Plus the Mayor is saying she is going to make sure the funds are spent according to ReBuild Houston guidelines. Still, it doesn’t help that folks including the E-Board are calling this a “slush fund”. Check out the E-Board take here:

The ReBuild Houston plan was supposed to be a dry and logical prioritization of infrastructure projects that befitted our city engineers. Then City Council got control of the funds. Now that voter-established drainage fee, which is supposed to create a pay-as-you-go fund for street and drainage repairs and pay down previous infrastructure debt, is going to be diverted to pay for council members’ pet projects.

This is all the result of a poorly conceived plan to allocate $1 million to each district council member to spend on his or her own agenda. However, council did not raise additional revenue to fill these slush funds, and will likely have to siphon the dollars from ReBuild Houston. This move threatens to undermine a rational worst-first plan of street and drainage repairs that kept politics out of the question. Now City Hall is slipping back toward a system of loudest first, where council members can put political aims over good governance. It is the exact sort of short-term thinking that all too often seems to drive our municipal government.

There still isn’t even a guarantee that this process will speed things up. These funds will have to go through the usual procurement process, and dollars diverted from ReBuild Houston will still come with charter-prescribed spending restrictions attached. With these rules in place, the funding change just seems to open the door to political influence, all while allowing council members to take credit for projects that would likely happen anyway.

There is also a sense that this fight over funds may be more about personality than policy. Tensions between City Council and the mayor feel like they’ve reached a fever pitch, especially after last month’s fight over contracts for tax collection vendors that included a rare council override of a mayoral ruling. It can make folks wonder whether council has simply lost faith in City Hall’s established practices – if they can’t trust the Department of Public Works and Engineering to fix the city streets, then gosh darn it, they’ll do it themselves.

But if there really is an issue with business as usual, then council should be tackling the big problem and try to make the system work better. Instead, they’ve created a workaround that threatens to drain the ReBuild Houston fund.

Texans have condemned these budgetary sleights of hand at the state level, and they’re all too common in Washington D.C. No one should want to see these tricks down at City Hall, either.

Look, Council is impatient with the bureaucracy. I get that. Let’s wait and see how this plays out. Let’s see how the citizens react. The opinion makers are not the only ones that count.

The Red sox are in town this weekend for three. The ‘Stros have three players with dingers in double digits – SpringerDinger – 19, Chris Carter – 17, and Matt Dominguez – 11. The Red Sox only have two – name the two?

The Rodeo and Texans came out with a $66 mil proposal to tear down the Dome and replace with green space sprinkled with a few commemorative plaques. Because it is a Rodeo-Texans driven plan it isn’t being immediately trashed by the key folks over at the County. Check this from the Chron:

“I think this is definitely a potentially viable option that definitely needs to be looked at,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman, who was openly opposed the $217 million events center plan, primarily because it would have led to an increase in the county property tax rate.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said the proposal “could be a way to do something without taxpayers paying the majority of the tab,” depending on how much the organizations are willing to contribute.

“It’ll be interesting to see what the total package is,” he said.

Even Commissioner El Franco Lee, whose Precinct 1 is home to the Astrodome, said, “It’s another plan that we should review and determine if it has merit. … We always want to listen to our tenants.”

Lee previously has opposed tearing it down. Spokesman David Ellison said Thursday that the commissioner still “wants to avoid demolition.”

Only Harris County Judge Ed Emmett expressed open opposition to the plan. His spokesman Joe Stinebaker tweeted Thursday that the county’s top elected official “has been – and remains – opposed to any plans to demolish the Astrodome. Period.”

Of course Hunker Down doesn’t have anything on the table except nostalgia. If they are going to go the plaque route don’t forget the two Ali fights, the Mike Scott no-no, and the last Selena concert!

Somebody needs to do a better job of briefing Sen. Wendy Davis. Yesterday she called on The President to visit the border. Duh! The President said a couple of days ago that he is not into theater.

Big Papi has 19 dingers and Mike Napoli has 10 of course. That kind of helps ‘splain why the Red Sox are in last place in the AL East.

Still it is the defending World Serious Champs at The Yard for three and for the second straight morning we are not in last place in the AL West.

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