Houston Budget Fallout
by: Laurie Johnson, June 18, 2009 9:06:24 pm
It took nearly 12 hours and something like 87 amendments to pass the city's annual budget.
Even so, not everyone was happy about it. Councilmembers Pam Holm and Mike Sullivan voted against the $4 billion budget that stacked up to be the size of a large phone book.
"I'm discouraged, I'm disgusted, I'm distraught, I'm angry, I'm upset. This is not about Mike Sullivan getting his way, this is about serving my district."
Sullivan represents District E, a largely suburban district that includes Kingwood and Clear Lake.
"So as far as where would Mike Sullivan takes the marks-a-lot and X programs and projects, that's difficult to say at this point because the mayor controls the information that gets out to the councilmembers."
Reporter: "Is that frustrating?"
"Well of course it is, but you know I'm not the mayor. I'm a councilmember."
Sullivan says he's frustrated partly because he saved the city $19 million by eliminating an unnecessary bridge project in his district. But when he requested more frequent trash pick-up and more neighborhood protection patrols he was turned down.
But At-Large Councilmember Sue Lovell says she's proud of the budget they passed.
"You know I think that in the budget we're very prudent and not just looking at single-member districts, but looking at what's good for the whole of the city. I think the decisions that we make are good for all of the citizens and aren't particular to one district. So I'm sure the district councilmember, he was upset he didn't get more, but as an at-large councilmember, I feel very proud of the work we did for all of the city."
And Lovell says when you compare the financial situation of Houston to other major cities, this budget is a successful one.
"I'm extremely proud we didn't lay off one employee, we didn't have to close down one library or one park and we didn't have to cut back on city services. So I'm very proud of the work we did compared to what other cities are having to face."
Among the decisions they made, councilmembers took a small cut to their own office budgets.
They also supported the administration's plan to cut the number of police cadet classes, reduce heavy trash pick-up to once every other month and draw down cash reserves by close to 25 percent.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.