As many of you know, I have been running a transparent, positive campaign to make Houston better by focusing on the issues and will continue to do so. I wish I could say the same for some of my fellow candidates in this race, but instead of running "for something", and not "against someone", their focus seems not to be on uniting a conservative coalition around common sense solutions solving Houston's pressing challenges, but rather to expend their efforts towards division, discord and discrediting my character with "half-truths" and false accusations about my life. You see, this race has never been about me, but about bringing accountability, responsibility and community back to City Hall.
In case you missed it, another candidate posted a long blog that released a questionnaire I had filled out relating to issues of concern to the GLBT political caucus and claimed that I am a "Flip Flopper". I can understand how concerned citizens with a stake in our city's future could be misled to believe the misguided premise and be justifiably furious if it were so, but for those interested in learning the truth of my stance on H.E.R.O and my personal Christian beliefs and values, you can easily do your homework by simply reading three blog posts; the first related to my open-minded thought process analyzing the substance of this ordinance here, next, the failed implementation process of our city leadership here and finally my recommended approach to dealing with divisive social and political agendas here.
At the time, H.E.R.O. was still very much the law of the land, and as a Christian, I have always been very firm on obeying all laws of the land regardless of my consent or agreement with their justness or fairness. Of course, as I am for religious liberty, if I would ever feel that obedience to an unjust law would force me to break "God's Law", then under extreme circumstances, I would endeavor to either resist or appeal for a change, and would disobey with full acquiescence in suffering the legal consequences.
However, at the time I was asked whether I would continue to support the law as it stood as a sitting council member. I openly and honestly said "Yes" as the ordinance was still the law at that time, and my firm belief is that the ministerial duty of our representatives in government is to abide by, obey and enforce the laws. All things being equal, I was also sympathetic to the fact that many who supported the ordinance as it stood did so under their belief that the intent of its passage and result of its implementation would provide better protection under the law from discrimination, especially for classes some perceive as disproportionately unprotected under the previous legal framework.
Now, the future legal status of the ordinance is uncertain and still mired in controversy, yet regardless of the outcome, I hope to help lead the fight to better achieve equality, freedom and peace among everyone in our city - with policies based on conservative values, and laws held accountable to their aims. Sadly, in my own life, I have seen how well-intentioned laws of all types have failed to achieve their desired ends - some slowing progress towards their stated aims, and others altogether counterproductive to their goals.
As a Christian, I believe God's Laws are summed up in Matthew 7:12 to say, "...in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you." Mark 12:29-31 states, "You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second great commandment is this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.” There are no commandments more important than these."
With that being read, I have always believed that my responsibility as a Christian is to share God's love with everyone regardless of their sins, since none of us are perfect and because God is Love. I sin every day, and instead of focusing on publicly pointing out others' sin, I focus on the three fingers that would point back at me, ask God to help me identify my daily sins, repent, and ask Him and others to forgive my trespasses. I know I am not alone in my commitment to refrain from discriminating against others, not due to solely to our earthly laws, but because of God's law.
Like many others caught off guard on this issue, I had never considered Houston as a discriminatory city before H.E.R.O. stirred up the current controversy. In fact, we have a strong history of dealing with discrimination and segregation in a positive and uniting way. The freedom, justice and equality valued by our people is what has made our great city open and inviting to all, proven by the very election of Mayor Parker as an "openly gay" candidate.
However, somehow the mayor decided that discrimination was so bad, that she would stake all of her political capital on passing an ordinance that is now seen by some as the most divisive move ever made in the city of Houston. It continues to force Houstonians who had been friends in the past to take sides against one another, and as I had initially opposed this divisive spirit, I continue to oppose the envy, fear and intolerance that drives this movement. I did not then - and do not now - believe that a social policy ordinance, no matter how well written, could end discrimination, and heal relations across communities, especially if imposed from the top down, forced involuntarily upon our fellow citizens. I believe change in society comes best from the bottom up, and only a movement to get back to God's word will move us progressively towards hope, love and truth, away from inequality, injustice and an unfree society.
Still the mayor has stood firm in mandating the status quo. She first disenfranchised our people from deciding the issue and imposed her will upon the council. She framed the debate with inflammatory rhetoric as a choice either "for equality" or "for discrimination". Upon passage, suppressed voices petitioned for a choice - the long held democratic right to self government as allowed by our city charter via the ballot box. Mayor Parker circumvented her limited powers of government and initiated a new policy to invalidate the petition. The city was subsequently sued, when she issued sermon subpoenas to pastors to make her defense. Even after the Texas Supreme Court mandamus to immediately repeal or let voters decide, Mayor Parker promoted misleading language to confuse voters as follows:
"Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Right Ordinance, Ord. No 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individuals's sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?"
How would even educated voters who know their stance on H.E.R.O. vote if this is read on the ballot?
Regardless, H.E.R.O. is bad for our city, bad for discrimination, and bad for business. When it was the law, our local leaders were required to support it out of respect for the law. Now that new facts are in and the law is suspended, candidates and current officeholders are able to argue for alternatives. As stated, I consider H.E.R.O. unjust and intend to appeal to voters to vote "YES" to repeal the ordinance in November. Of course another lawsuit has been filed and the courts may judge the language misleading, similar to the Rebuild Houston controversy.
I am convinced the mayor will continue trying to mislead our city's voters. She resorts to "half-truths" to make her case, instead of the whole truth that would hurt her cause, the same way some have done in this race for City Council. As a political outsider, I encourage everyone to verify what politicians say and ask yourself why they want you to believe them. Seeking the truth is the ACCOUNTABILITY part of our "Campaign Of Now" platform, calling on all citizens to become more active, encourage inquisitive and honest research, and call out candidates and elected officials when they mislead, misdirect or misrepresent the whole truth. Responsible, transparent and honest leaders should address issues clearly if they are to be accountable to our community.
Ultimately, I will be voting against the implementation of the equal rights ordinance as currently written. However, if given the chance to modify or amend the language, I would recommend the following revisions to address several substantial concerns:
Explicitly clarify that protections for religious liberty remain for anyone with religious beliefs or convictions, not just the certain categories of institutions and "religious organizations" (Sec. 17-2) currently listed in the ordinance, in accordance with our traditional constitutional principles, bill of rights and limited powers of government delegated by the people at each level.
Explicitly clarify that the definition of "discrimination" (Sec. 17-2) as described in the ordinance applies only to categorical situations, and does not apply on an individual, case by case basis. Our city government should protect against the institutionalization of discrimination, without discriminating against the property rights and freedom of conscience of property owners themselves.
Explicitly clarify that the intent and effect of the ordinance is the freedom from "discrimination" for individuals based on their innate individual "characteristics" (Sec. 17-2), but should not extend to their chosen "behaviors".
Include wording to specify the additional, new GLBT classifications to those already specified in the Civil Right Act of 1964, ADA, etc. For true equality under the law, all other as yet unlisted "protected characteristics" (Sec. 17-2) should be explicitly granted equal protection as those belonging to a so called "protected class," as specified in the ordinance, to preclude the social agenda of granting of special privileges to the politically connected - the aim of those pushing this "Trojan Horse".
Define the responsibilities of the "Office of Inspector General" (Sec. 17-2) clearly in regards to local enforcement and control of any ordinance and federal laws, with a specified revenue neutral budget paid for without raising taxes or debt to avoid another unfunded mandate.
Assure that the government that installed the ordinance does not "exclude" themselves from the enforcement of the ordinance (Sec. 17-54 ); the public sector should be held to the same standard as the private sector.
Ensure the wording of the ballot language is clear and not misleading - the vote should be "Yes" to add the classifications or "No" if voters are against it - they should decide and not the city council.
In this antagonistic political culture of today, it can be frustrating when those in power - and those who seek power - expend their efforts and energy on dividing coalitions, destroying reputations and discrediting a process to promote practical solutions. Rather good leaders must endeavor to focus on conducting practical policy research, analyzing pragmatic solutions and meeting with those we disagree to create innovative ideas and workable solutions to prevent our city's issues from swelling to outright crises.
Our children depend on this generation to address our challenges now, and with a collaborative approach, I believe we can renew our focus on the core responsibilities of local government and succeed. Together we must seek to unite and heal divisions across our community, and confront divisive distractions to prevent unpopular agendas imposed from the top-down.
Our campaign has sought to unite a broad coalition in support of my candidacy for Houston City Council At Large #4. For those who believe in freedom, equality and justice, I value your unique diversity at our table - if you are not a part of the solution, you may be a part of the problem. Personally, I have chosen to love God and love my neighbor, and although we may not all agree on everything all the time, I believe everyone deserves the right to be respectfully heard since we all love this city together.
Throughout my life, I have made many tough decisions, and I have learned from my mistakes and openly sought to provide solutions based on the lessons I've learned. While others desperately attempt to discredit my record, values and ideas, I will continue to openly declare my stance on the important issues of our time. I know from my own trials where I have accomplished and overcome, that we can continue standing strong and fight to make Houston better together. One step at a time and depend on God to lead our path…
From the beginning, we have committed to run a positive campaign focused on unifying a broad coalition based on facts and issues and abstain from attacking the character of other candidates in the race. I am disappointed but not surprised that other candidates have chosen character defamation and resorted to warping words but as a Christian I will continue striving to turn the other cheek and unite our conservative coalition.
For decades many of us have allowed our politicians to state they are "perfect", and we have supported them as they attack their opponents. It was perceived as a winning campaign recipe, but these short-sighted tactics have hurt our society and further divided our community. We now have a low voter participation rate that has enabled the election of irresponsible, unaccountable politicians that do not have to live up to their ministerial duties.
As a candidate and potential city council member, I will always support the law, but when the facts change, and the law changes, I will reassess those facts as part of my ministerial duties. Before the speed limit changes from 55 mph to 60 mph, whether we agree or not, we must support and respect the law or accept the consequences. However, when new facts arise, we reevaluate our stance and reassess a new course of corrective action. Houstonians deserve no less from responsible, accountable leaders.
I appreciate your continued support of our "Campaign of Now" to make Houston better by focusing on Accountability, Responsibility and Community. In case you missed it you can can view details of my position on the equal rights ordinance and my latest call for good leadership.
The law is the law and must be enforced.
According to the recent ruling on Houston's equal rights ordinance, last week's Texas Supreme Court opinion states:
"…the City Council decided, of its own accord, not to act, disregarding the City Secretary’s certification that the petition had enough signatures. The Charter, however, gives the City Council no discretion to reevaluate the petition; instead, it requires “immediate” action by the City Council following the City Secretary’s certification."
When initially passed, HERO was the law - and should rightly have been enforced by our elected officials - but now that status has been firmly supplanted, and the final direction for our city on this issue is in an unhealthy state of uncertainty. Regardless of the final outcome, the process should be transparent, inclusive and civil with the intention to seek understanding, consensus and common ground.This impartial judgement from our state Supreme Court regarding the status of the Mayor's equal rights ordinance is binding on this municipality and must be enacted. As new facts emerge responsible leadership must respond.
Today I spoke at City Hall and publicly asked our Mayor why the Texas Supreme Court directive on HERO has not been carried out. The equal rights ordinance should be put on the agenda and placed before Houston City Council immediately as required. Every day our leadership delays on this issue, our city becomes more and more divided and imbalanced.
In the spirit of unity and justice, responsible City leadership must be accountable to the people - and to our charter and the rule of law - and the Mayor must allow the Council to act immediately and decide a course of action on this issue, as the ruling demands.
Regardless whether we stand with those who want to repeal this ordinance outright, or if we believe the people deserve a choice and have a right to vote, our city government is responsible for following the directives from our state's justice system and must be held accountable by implementing their ministerial duties.
Leadership is obligated to pursue this course of action, not only to the people for a proper balance of power, but also to our other branches of government at the state and local level - for effective checks and balances on the exercise of government power.
Our strong mayor form of government deems our mayor responsible for executing our city's core functions - and that includes following the law. And we as citizens across our many diverse communities are responsible for holding our elected officials equally accountable. Houstonians deserve responsible leadership accountable to our communities, with unifying goals and an inclusive approach to policymaking.
Today I am proud to stand with my fellow citizens and call for our democratic processes to be put in effect. This is what my "Campaign of Now" is all about - we don't have to wait to be elected to make a difference in Houston. I call on our city council to join in demanding the placement of this item on this week's agenda. The mayor had adequate time and should proceed to do so immediately. Our democratic values demand no less, and for justice to prevail in our city, I call for complete transparency on this matter in full light of public discourse immediately.
Proponents on both sides of the ordinance have been well intentioned, and should at least be able to agree on the principle of the protection of equal rights. How best to achieve those ends has yet to be determined, but should be decided soon. First, however, the mayor must allow the council to debate and vote whether to repeal the ordinance outright or let the voters choose. Either way, Houston must unite and move forward to address our pressing fiscal crisis together.
As most of you may know (if you have been keeping up with the news today), the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Houston City Council must repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (H.E.R.O) or place it on the November ballot for the voters to decide within 30 days of today’s ruling.
This is just another blow to the legacy of Mayor Parker who has had two of her major platform issues (Rebuild Houston & H.E.R.O.) being reversed in the Texas Supreme Court because it was trying to mislead or suppress our liberty as Houstonians to vote with a full understanding of the issues.
When I announced my candidacy earlier this year, H.E.R.O. was still very fresh on many peoples' minds and several would ask me what my stance was on the issue. As a political outsider, I would say that I respected the judicial system, and felt that it was beyond my control as a candidate or even elected official until we knew the decision of the court. Regardless of the decision, I would uphold the law as it is written and fight to make sure that civil and religious liberties would never be compromised. I also wanted to take the time to do my due diligence during the exploratory phase of my campaign to understand the ordinance and history of its implementation before providing an opinion. For a very limited, but loud, few; that meant that I was in support of the ordinance - which was a complete fabrication of my stance on the issue and my support for equal rights.
I have now realized why people were asking me that question. They wanted to know what values I stand on. I have been consistent about what my values are: God, Family, and Community. As a Christian, I feel that we will all be equally judged by God for our life on earth, and as stated in the Bible, I am to love God, and love my neighbor. I am to run away from my own sin and other sin, but I am always supposed to share love to the sinner, since God is love. These values form the core principles of my campaign – to unite and strengthen our communities, build coalitions from the bottom up, and be responsible and accountable to the will of the people.
H.E.R.O. was a personal agenda pushed by a mayor that was abusing the legislative power of our strong mayor form of government and neglecting the major responsibilities of providing for the basic needs of Houstonians, like a sustainable budget, fixing the streets, infrastructure and addressing crime.
Because her focus was so far away from practical issues pertaining to the core role of government, we now have been put in a place where we have unsustainable pensions that take all the money from other departments to balance the budget. This has left us with horrible infrastructure that required an outside source of income (Rebuild Houston) to remedy a solution, but as we know that was later ruled by the Texas Supreme Court to have misled the voters.
Mayor Parker made H.E.R.O. her own little “Trojan Horse” by saying that it was eliminating discrimination and providing equal rights for all Houstonians, but in reality, she was trying to provide special rights for a select group of the GLBT community. She would fight for that by any means necessary, and proved that when she would not uphold the validated petition to place the ordinance on the ballot and tried to violate religious liberty by demanding, with a subpoena, pastors to turn over their sermons.
Now the question has come back to my campaign about my stance on H.E.R.O. now that we have a court ruling, and after having the due diligence to review both sides of the issue, I am willing to make the following statement:
I will fight for religious and civil liberties for all Houstonians, as well as property rights. I will hold government accountable to the same standards it imposes upon the people and the private sector. The current language of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance does not provide those protections, so if given the opportunity to vote as a citizen of Houston, I will be voting “NO”.
Today’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court is a victory for our democratic processes, helps maintain a proper balance of power and reinstates local control by restoring the freedom to our voters to decide what is right. Our traditional conservative values of limited government and liberty were upheld, but this fight is not over.
We will see a strong coalition of those that favor the ordinance that will start lobbying and marketing for your vote. I encourage voters to unite behind a team of candidates who will fight for our values now, and not kick the can down the road. Today I stand as a leader with my conservative friends and other candidates to defeat the ordinance as it is written and will uphold our freedom every time…So Help Me God!
I have omitted the following sentence from my statement: "I am against pedophiles having the opportunity to go into bathrooms with the intention of violating the innocence of our young sons and daughters. " This sentence was taken by some that I am saying that the transgender community are pedophiles, which is a complete fabrication of the truth. That assumption will continue to divide our great city, so in the spirit of unity, I decided it should be deleted.
I am against anything that would violate my son's innocence, and we all can agree that pedophiles do. Ultimately, I looked at H.E.R.O. as it was written and gave it the benefit of the doubt. Had my research determined that it provided equal rights for all I would have supported the ordinance, but it did not. This decision was not taken lightly. It was covered in prayer and consultation of my trusted friends and advisers.
Ultimately, this social issue has divided up our city and taken the focus off of what the fiscal problems are in our city. I think it is time for the citizen's to decide for themselves on the ballot if they want the ordinance instead of allowing a mayor and city council to get in the way of our right to vote. The Texas Supreme Court put our municipal government on the clock, and they need to act swiftly. I hope you will stand with me to make this happen.
As you know, my team and I have been running a positive campaign to unite our communities based on traditional conservative values - and we are gaining steam!
This week I am honored and privileged to announce the endorsement of the Kingwood Tea Party!
Since 2009, the Kingwood Tea Party Inc. has had a mission to promote constitutionally limited government, capitalism and freedom, and our traditional values that engender American creativity, productivity and prosperity, strengthening communities through better representation and empowering the people to unite at the ballot box.
Robin Lennon, President of the Kingwood Tea Party said, "Houston needs a new generation of leadership: honest, responsible and not a captive of the special interests running City Hall. Matt Murphy will represent hard-working taxpayers that have been abused by City government for too long. Vote for Matt Murphy, Houston City Council, At Large – Position 4 and help us work to put Houston back on a strong financial footing."
I am grateful for conservative grassroots activists and leaders like the Kingwood Tea Party who take the time and carefully consider my candidacy. As a political outsider, I am greatly humbled by this amazing honor, and I promise to faithfully continue living up to strong conservative endorsements like this by bringing back Accountability, Responsibility, and Community to city hall.
Will you take the time to review my bio and position on the issues?
As a military man, family man, business and community leader, I have a strong record of achievement with the right experience Houston needs.
With help from fellow conservatives like you, I believe we can unite and take back our city together - that's why I'm building a broad coalition of conservative support, to make Houston better today!
Please consider joining our "Campaign of Now" by endorsing our campaign, signing up to volunteer or contributing with your financial support.
For conservatives to have a chance in this race, we need your support to win - with you we cannot lose!
Today, the Supreme Court of United States has ruled that a state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional based on the 14th Amendment citing:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
When Americans are equal, we are more free; yet we must stand on our principles to ensure the freedom to marry does not violate the freedom of conscience, or the separation of church and state. As a Christian, I believe in religious liberty, and I try to lead my life as explained in Ephesians 5:
- I watch how God loves, and try to replicate it.
- I focus on maintaining a pure marriage with my wife.
- As a child of light, I will not be persuaded through fear or ignorance.
- I believe that a marriage is between one man, one woman and God.
- I love my wife, because it helps me love God better and fulfill His will.
For as long as I live, I will love God, and love my neighbor - will all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I will fight to protect our civil rights and defend the liberties of others in this nation. Now this can be as a wedge that divides us, or a thread that mends us as Houstonians, Texans and Americans – and it is our choice how we respond. I believe God is on our side, and my faith is stronger in Him than in government. Today, marriage is both an institution of government and religion, and with His help, I pray we put leaders in place that protect our liberty in America.
Now is the time to unify together on principle and for the greater good of our nation. The hallmark of our democracy is the strength of our debates, and this is a continued call for dialogue with respect across our society. This is a call for apathetic citizens to use their voice and register to vote, get involved in our communities, and unite and rally around candidates that share our core values. As a political outsider with a strong record of achievement, I can assure you that we are out there.
Our struggle against the status quo will be an uphill battle against special interests, insider money and career politicians. Good leaders should not use fear or hatred to persuade through ignorance, and we must lead in a way that brings people together. We must unite and overcome if we are to achieve liberty for all.
With this ruling, the law is the law, and we must respect it, but must understand the response of our local leaders to ensure local control and a proper balance of power. I believe our constitution and bill of rights grant powers to government to protect our liberties. I will defend religious liberty, traditional marriage, equality under the law, and freedom of conscience; and I will defend our civil rights for a long as I live...So Help Me God!
Candidate for Houston City Council
At Large Position 4
A new poll came out today concerning the Houston Mayor’s race. According to the results, not only is there no clear front runner in the race, most voters haven’t even looked at the candidates in our municipal elections just yet.
As a political outsider, these polls indicate where our grassroots campaign needs to invest our time, money and efforts. At this point in the race, name recognition seems to matter most - so commercials, ads, and yard signs won’t matter as much as getting out in the community and engaging voters in the process.
This is our time to shine. We should organize now and get behind a conservative coalition of candidates to ensure the "liberal agenda" is a thing of the past.
Let me be clear - we have a trinity of blessings to be able to live in our great city, our great state, and our great country. Our fellow Houstonians are fortunate to have the potential to live our lives on our own terms and achieve opportunity, freedom and equality for all.
Now our way of life doesn’t come easy - we have to work for it. We know that with liberty comes responsibility, and for our constitutional republic to work the way our Founders intended, our fellow citizens must proactively engage in our democratic processes.
That’s why I am running a “Campaign of Now,” where we don’t have to wait to get elected to make Houston better today. Our core values are responsibility, accountability and community - and I’ve learned from my own mistakes that we need to be the change we want to see in this world.
As concerned citizens, we have a responsibility to engage and develop relationships with our neighbors - and we need more of our family, friends and colleagues to join us. We have a duty to promote strong grassroots leaders to unite and strengthen our communities. We must stand on our principles, fight for our values, engage beyond our base and reach out to others to improve our electoral process.
Strategically, if we are to take our city back, advance conservative policies and implement a pragmatic plan to overcome our critical issues (e.g. budget, pensions, streets etc), we must back a conservative coalition of candidates and work together. We must unite in each race so we don't divide our vote. Political outsiders need grassroots activists to endorse, volunteer and donate to overcome career politicians’ attacks and special interest money.
Now, voters deserve a choice, and have a right to know our candidates, but we must choose early and support our team. We should use this season to determine which candidates align with our values, have a strong record of success and achievement, and back those with a handle on the issues.
In my view, strong candidates should have a pathway to victory and a history of building coalitions and achieving challenging goals. Good leaders must run positive campaigns and unite diverse communities to make a difference from the bottom up - win or lose. And we must discern why candidates are running - to serve others, or to serve themselves. I believe actions speak louder than words, and will lead by example today.
That's why I'm asking you to learn more about my proven record and my conservative values and practical policy solutions. I’m asking you to decide that my candidacy has the strongest chance to promote our conservative cause and win this election. I have a record of speaking to all sides, bringing people together and collaborating transparently on pragmatic solutions.
I’m running a “Campaign of Now,” where we don’t have to wait to get elected to make Houston better today. Will you stand with me and support our campaign today?
Overnight we have seen the disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico become Tropical Storm Bill. As we know in the past, we have to watch the tropical storms closely not only for high winds, but torrential rains and the possibility of flooding. According to Judge Ed Emmett, we are placed on "HIGH Readiness" because of dangerous conditions exists and or imminent, so the county is prepared and added staff.
According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Chyna Glenn, "Rainfall will result in significant flooding across central and eastern Texas through Wednesday, including the cities of Houston, Dallas and Austin."
Currently it is "Business As Usual" as people head to work, but we suggest that you keep a close eye on the weather as Tropical Storm Bill as we all head home after work. You may consider leaving early if your employer allows to help limit the amount of traffic on possible flooded roads. Once the tropical storm reaches land somewhere near Matagorda Bay, typically the northeast side of a storm has the highest winds, so please make sure all outdoor furniture and children's lawn toys are secured.
Here is some more information that may help you:Read more
This past week, the Texas Supreme Court declared Houston’s controversial “rain tax” unconstitutional. As you might recall, the “ReBuild Houston” initiative was brought to city voters as “Proposition 1” during the 2010 election. The city of Houston’s official website explains the implementation of the tax in this way:
“A 10‐year planning cycle will identify new projects based on need, prioritizing the worst needs first. ReBuild Houston will help: reduce street flooding, improve mobility, and reduce structural flooding. Ultimately, it means better streets, better drainage.”
This is interesting, because it doesn’t seem as if any Houstonian today would argue that our drainage systems have improved in recent years.
Concerned citizens who knew these promises lacked substance and felt that Houston voters were given inadequate information when this proposal was brought before the voters filed suit against the tax shortly after it passed into law. They claimed that the language was unclear and citizens were being misled about the nature of the drainage fees. Five years later, the Texas Supreme Court agreed with their assessment.
As the Texas Supreme Court concluded:
“The city did not adequately describe the chief features — the character and purpose — of the charter amendment on the ballot. By omitting the drainage charges, it failed to substantially submit the measure with such definiteness and certainty that voters would not be misled."
What does this mean for Houstonians moving forward? It would appear the city may owe residents that paid this unconstitutional and misleading tax a full refund. The question now is not just whether citizens deserve their money back, but also how precisely this will be executed. As this case moves to trial court, my campaign will be following the issue and keeping you updated.
While we watch this matter progress, it’s important to keep the entire issue in perspective. One of the fundamental problems this situation brings to light is just how fiscally irresponsible the city has been when it comes to allocating newly acquired funds. When we break it down, there are several red flags.
First, as was touched upon above, the rain tax was originally proposed for the purpose of improving drainage in our flood prone city. Sadly, we were reminded very recently just how devastating a flood can be to the city of Houston. Assessing the damage, which so many of our neighbors have not yet recovered from, one cannot reasonably conclude that the city’s drainage system has improved over the past five years. This begs the question: Where has the money gone?
Rather than utilizing the new revenue stream for its stated purpose, city officials used much of the revenue to make up some of the balance in the budget deficit when they should have made responsible cuts. They also spent rain tax revenue, which they promised would be allocated to drainage, on other projects. As Don Hooper, who ran the “Problem with Prop 1” campaign against the rain tax recently explained:
“One of the big issues and fears is that, once the tax was passed, the city of Houston (COH) would simply reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic. The money would be used for things other than the stated purpose, flood control and street improvements. Of course, like all things financial with the COH salaries, benefits, and overtime are the true diversion. The COH has now moved over 500 public employees from public works to the Renew Houston Enterprise Fund. So the money you once paid for streets and drainage is now being used to pay for salaries, pensions, and overtime, just as we predicted. Very few if any flood improvements have been done at all with Prop1 funds and it is hard to tell for sure because the COH refuses to release hard data. The whole thing is a joke and now is the time to hold the bad actors responsible.”
It is flatly irresponsible to divert funds vaguely sold to Houstonians as allocated for drainage improvement under questionable pretenses to begin with.The entire point of the “fee” was to prevent this kind of corruption! It is now clear that Prop 1’s language was not only misleading, unaccountable politicians raided its revenue stream for surface-level projects while ignoring not only the drainage issues the money should have gone to, but our unfunded pension liabilities, and crumbling infrastructure.
As a political outsider and community leader, I look at issues such as this and am reminded of exactly why I’m running for city council. For too long, career politicians have gotten away with proposing new ways to raid Houston’s hardworking taxpayers, all while refusing to tighten their own belts.
There is so little accountability in city politics, and there is only one way to change that: community engagement. It’s why I’m committed to my “Know your Neighbor” initiative. It’s incumbent upon those who are informed about these issues to educate our fellow Houstonians and unite for change.
While we don’t know how the lower trial court will rule, we do know that Houstonians who were made to pay this misleading fee deserve recompense. With enough grassroots pressure, council will be forced to do the right thing in a responsible fashion.
Those who represent us in City Hall will have ample time to formulate a fiscally responsible plan that pays back the people owed, and sets a path to fiscal solvency. Councilors and the Mayor have gotten away with diverting $375 million away from its intended purpose in just five years, and this is just one example of similar systemic behavior. This is ridiculous, and it’s encouraging that the courts have put a brake on this behavior. The next step is coming to a resolution that is fair and equitable for all Houstonians. I look forward to being a part of that solution.
This past week, our campaign continued to suspend volunteer block walking activities to assist local volunteer organizations with Houston flood relief activities. These efforts have been inspiring, but there is still more to do. This is why my team worked diligently with several key community leaders this week to brainstorm ideas for a volunteer neighborhood watch as well as an informational forum that was tentatively scheduled to be held this weekend.
However, after input from our exhausted friends and neighbors, we realized that producing a video featuring thirty-year disaster recovery expert Stan Miller would be more helpful than another public meeting at this current time.
In response, the initial idea for a forum at Westbury United Methodist Church this Sunday has been revised to producing an online video answering FAQ’s from the community. The video is currently in production, and will offer additional information that has not yet been provided to assist flood victims in the recovery process.
To the city of Houston’s credit, two days of meetings with leaders of local organizations were organized this past week to help volunteers and victims communicate, coordinate and act. What we have learned is that the city has advised citizens affected by the flood to find relevant information online at www.houstonrecovers.org; Harris County officials also recommend www.harrisrecovery.org.
Officials also encourage citizens to report non-emergency needs by dialing 311; 211 is another non-governmental resource providing information on all the services available. Additionally, volunteer organizations collaborating with the city are promoting a website for individual volunteers to sign up at www.volunteerhouston.org. Volunteer organizations are also encouraged to register at www.crisiscleanup.org to assist in recovery activities.
These resources have all been helpful, but for many, unanswered questions still loom. This is why we are excited about the information Stan Miller will be providing to the community, and look forward to releasing the video soon.
From day one, this campaign has focused efforts on meeting the needs of the community by leveraging our resources in partnership with other groups and volunteer leaders. During this challenging time, our community deserves unity, help and healing. Of course, our neighbors also deserve access to as much information as possible.
As such, our campaign will continue to fulfill unmet needs within the community. We ask our volunteers to continue to help where they can, and sincerely appreciate all of your support toward the goal of uniting and healing our community.