Houston City Council Weighs In On Budget

Houston councilmembers have 107 suggested changes to the city's fiscal year 2013 budget. The budget amendments range from senior citizen programs to a recommendation to default on the city's pensions.

Among the ideas turned in around the table are calls to cut pay for city council and the mayor by five percent, to bring a charter amendment forward to change term limits and to require Houston first responders to live within city limits.

Some of the most extreme ideas came from Councilmember Helena Brown, who suggests outsourcing HPD's support and
investigative services to Harris County, defaulting on the city's pension obligations and delegating some of the mayor's authority to a separate city manager.

"In reality, the city is currently run by public sector unions supported by a mayor, who has all authority and dictates the agenda, which is then voted on by the city council, who is bullied into loyalty or criticized and/or ostracized."

The administration will review all of the amendments and their budgetary impact over the coming week.

Mayor Annise Parker says she is open to reconsidering term limits and has her own ideas about pension reform, but will not support a default on pensions.  

As to the accusation that the mayor uses her position to bully councilmembers, she had this to say:

"This is a councilmember who does not meet with me without the presence of her lawyer. So you know, I don't understand where she's getting that comment, because there have been multiple people present every time we've met, including representatives of her office and her personal representatives. But it would require a charter change."

Councilmembers will vote on the amendments and passage of a final budget next Wednesday.

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...