Aug 23, 2023 - News

Fair for Houston is on the ballot

A person walks a small dog in front of a mural that says "VOTE"

Election day is Nov. 7. Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

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.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Houston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more