Sylvester Turner’s 15-2 Defeat

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On Wednesday, City Controller Chris Brown told Houstonians that Mayor Turner is not who you may think he is. And Houston City Council’s 15-2 vote on Wednesday was not what you may think it was. Here is the real story.

After Harvey, Mayor Turner alarmed Houstonians by announcing his desire to RAISE taxes on the victims of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. A few weeks ago, Governor Greg Abbott came to the rescue when he handed Mayor Turner a $50 million check. In exchange for these funds, Turner promised to NOT invoke the emergency disaster declaration provision of  Bruce Hotze’s Proposition 1. This emergency disaster declaration provision is a one time invocation for emergency purposes only. Turner saw Harvey as a good excuse to raise your taxes and bust the revenue cap. Abbott saved Houstonians from this financial disaster with his $50 million bribe.

Charles Blain from Empower Texans put the following video together, which captures the essence of the confrontation at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Turner was trying to pull a Sly one – all puns intended. The mayor tried to argue he was keeping the rate the same as last year, a specious argument at best. Keeping the rate the same would exceed the revenue cap because of increased property valuations. City Controller Chris Brown, responsible for certifying the tax rate, recognized Turner’s scheme and wanted it clear that Turner was invoking the disaster declaration provision. Certifying the rate without the declaration would have been problematic with litigation sure to follow.

Both Turner and Brown came for a fight. According to Brown, he tried to meet with the mayor to discuss the rate certification; but, (our of town) Turner was unavailable and stated that he all communications would be in public. WOW.

Thankfully, Houston City Council (finally) smelled a rat – well, except for Ellen Cohen. District C residents must take note. Cohen’s vote with the mayor was a vote to lift the revenue cap and spend, spend, spend. Cohen’s district includes a large portion of our Jewish community, which is working hard to recover from Harvey.

At this point, Brown’s true intentions are unclear. It is clear that many council members were concerned about Turner’s fib and the potential for backlash against the upcoming bond campaign and  the election on November 7th. One council member expressed fear that Turner’s stunt would jeopardize the bond vote and a “no” vote to Turner’s rate hike would save the bond election. Council members wish to continue spending money, just not on pensions. They need your property to secure this debt, which is what a yes vote does on Proposition A. Vote NO. Whatever their motivation, Houston City Council voted against Turner’s attempt to raise taxes on flood victims – a good decision.

The debt service payments on the billion dollar pension bonds are not scheduled to take effect until the current council members are out of office. The City of Houston will not make hundreds of millions dollars in pension payments this year and every year Turner will be in office. The goal of current elected officials is to kick the can down the road.

Wednesday’s defeat was a tremendous victory for Houston taxpayers. This debate and slap down was reminiscent of the historical, public fights of yesteryear – think George Greanias v. Bob Lanier. The mayor’s representative equated tax relief to the cost of a fancy coffee – the identical argument that Costello, et al. used to support the rain tax. Same argument, same answer – vote NO!

Early voting starts Monday for the bond election. Before you vote on allowing our city leaders to borrow more money, drive around midtown and Wheeler Avenue and ask yourself if you think that our city leaders are fiscally responsible and doing their best to keep us safe and sound.

 

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