City Says Yes to Drainage Fee

Houston City Council said yes to a drainage fee for the city with exemptions for churches and schools. The controversial 'ReBuild Houston' initiative passed after literally months of negotiations. Laurie Johnson reports.

ReBuild Houston has been Mayor Annise Parker's most hotly contested initiative. It has generated a lawsuit, pending state legislation, ad campaigns and not a few arguments in council chambers. And it passed, with amendments, in a 12-3 vote.

Parker called it one of the most important things this council will do, along with redistricting.

"We passed the new drainage ordinance for the city today, which will probably have more — will do more to impact the face of Houston and the future of Houston than anything else that we could do while we are down here."

Under the ordinance, churches, schools and local government properties such as Harris County buildings
are exempt. However, any church or school buildings developed in the future will not fall under the exemption.

Councilmember Jarvis Johnson was one of the three who voted against the fee, saying there's too much ambiguity in the ordinance.

"We all believe that there is the desperate need to provide better infrastructure in our city. I don't believe that we gave the level of transparency that needed to be there. I still don't know what we're building, I still don't know where we're building it, we still don't have a timeframe for when we're going to build it — all of that is still speculatory [sic]. And so at this time I think it's important that we go back and make sure that it is done properly."

The fee will go into effect July 1st. Council also created an oversight board to make recommendations regarding how the money in the fund should be spent on drainage projects.

The dedicated fund is expected to generate at least $125 million a year.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...