Fair for Houston is on the ballot
Houston voters will decide if the city can push for major changes to our local metropolitan planning organization.
Driving the news: City Council voted Monday to place the Fair for Houston charter amendment on the November ballot.
Catch up quick: Houston is one of 37 local governments represented on the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) board of directors and one of 28 governments on its transportation policy council.
- The organization makes myriad policy decisions for the entire 13-county region, from doling out federal flood mitigation funding to approving transportation projects like the North Houston Highway Improvement Project.
Why it matters: In some cases, the council gives Houston the short end of the stick on federal funding for critical infrastructure projects.
- That's because smaller, more rural governments have a disproportionately large say in the region's planning efforts.
- For example, the council voted in 2022 to give Houston just 2% of the $488 million granted to the region for flood mitigation following Hurricane Harvey, despite the city receiving the brunt of the damage.
What happened: In comes the Fair for Houston initiative, a grassroots movement seeking better representation on the council's many bodies of government.
- Houston and unincorporated Harris County account for 57% of the region's population — but get only 11% of the vote on the H-GAC board of directors, per January Advisors, a Houston-based data science consulting firm.
- The amendment calls for H-GAC to negotiate with the city for more representation. If that didn't happen within 60 days of voter approval, Houston would leave the council.
Yes, but: The process to leave H-GAC, if it eventually comes to that step, appears muddled.
What they're saying: "You just can't step away from H-GAC," Mayor Sylvester Turner said before voting to put the measure on the ballot Monday. "It does require the governor's support and a majority of the board in order to do that. There are some other things that have to take place."
- Axios reached out to the mayor's office and the Federal Highway Administration for further comment on the process but has not heard back.
The other side: Fair for Houston representatives say the process is simple enough, pointing to H-GAC's bylaws on membership, which state "membership in the Houston-Galveston Area Council shall be voluntary" and "a member of the Houston-Galveston Area Council may withdraw from membership by action of its governing body."
What we're watching: Voters will decide on the charter amendment — listed as Proposition B — on Nov. 7.
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