ReNew Houston Campaign Meets Petition Drive Deadline

Houston is one step closer to a new way to pay for some badly-needed upgrades to its aging infrastructure. Organizers of a petition drive say they have turned in enough petition signatures to get a charter amendment on the fall ballot that, if approved, would set up a dedicated source of funding for streets and storm drains. David Pitman reports.
The ReNew Houston campaign says more than 60 percent of the city's street and drainage system has outlived its usefulness. And Mayor Annise Parker has said the city doesn't have the funds to upgrade the infrastructure inside the Loop. ReNew Houston says the solution is to create a dedicated funding source. Jeff Ross is a civil engineer who works with the ReNew Houston campaign. He says the funds would come from four different sources -- among them, a new monthly user fee.

"For a fairly-standard 5,000 square foot lot, with a house of about 2,500 square feet of total impervious cover would pay somewhere around 5 or 6 dollars a month."

Ross says the goal is for Houston to switch from selling bonds to rebuild infrastructure to a "pay-as-you-go" system.

"If you're gonna do the same-sized program year-in and year-out, it doesn't make sense to sell debt to do that. You end up paying more in interest and principal every year than you get in improvements."

On Thursday, ReNew Houston turned in about 35,000 petition signatures seeking voter approval for the creation of a dedicated funding source. The city has to verify the signatures and approve the ballot language. If voters say yes in November, the plan could raise as much as $8 billion dollars for streets and drainage over the next 20 years.
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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...