Category Archives: Mayor Parker

Mayor Annise Parker Reports on Hire Houston First

Mayor Annise Parker reported the results of the City’s contracting efforts to ensure Houstonians are hired first. Back when Parker was first talking about it in 2009 as a candidate, DosCentavos really liked the idea. Here are the results, thus far:

As of September 30, 2012, more than $139 million of city business had been awarded to designated Hire Houston First firms, sustaining more than 6,000 jobs.  This encompassed 895 formal bid contracts for construction and purchasing contracts as well as informal non-contract purchase orders.  81 percent of the time, HHF companies won the formal bid contracts because they submitted the lowest bids.  The other 19 percent of the time the city utilized the local preference component of HHF to award the work to the local firm.  The majority of these formal bid contracts were for construction work.

“My goal was to encourage the use of local companies and workers on taxpayer-funded projects to maximize the economic impact of our governmental spending,” said Mayor Parker.  “I knew our local firms would be competitive.  Now we have the numbers to prove it.  As the program moves into its second year, I want to see more Houston area companies designated to benefit from the local preference when the bid competition warrants.  Our tax dollars need to stay here where they are supporting local businesses and the jobs they provide.”

HHF allows the city to consider a vendor’s principle place of business and to grant preference to local businesses in awarding certain city contracts.  For contracts under $100,000, the city may select the local firm’s price if it is within five percent of the lowest bid from an out-of-town company.  For contracts exceeding $100,000, there can be no more than a three percent difference between the out-of-town low bid and the next highest offer from a local vendor.

The total number of HHF designated firms is 617, an average of 51 new approvals each month.  322 of these companies have never been awarded contracts by the city.  The remaining 295 have had at least one city contract.  Out of 68 prime contracts awarded to HHF firms, 61 went to firms that had previously been awarded city contracts.  The remaining seven contracts went to HHF firms that have never worked for the city prior to their HHF designation.   Their contracts totaled $2.7 million.  532 of the 617 approved applications are in Harris County. The numbers are expected to grow as the city’s Office of Business Opportunity steps up outreach to get more companies registered in the second year of the program.

To qualify for designation, businesses must meet at least one of two requirements:

  • Be headquartered in the incorporated city limits or the eight local counties of Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller, or
  • Have 20 percent or more of the entity’s workforce and a substantial part of its operations regularly based within the city limits or the eight counties.

Sounds great, but I immediately wondered about how minority- and women-owned firms benefited, especially Latino and Latina-owned firms. Still, hiring locally is still quite important and a great source of local buying-power. 

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Houston Fights Crime Better Than Most Major Cities

Thanks to the Office of Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez for the heads-up. Click the image to enlarge. This info is quite encouraging.

Houston Crime

Catching Up on City Stuff

The Labor Guy

After all the pedo ruckus some of us made a while back, it looks like Mayor Annise Parker finally got a Labor dude on the Port Commission, Dean Corgey. Since everyone was talking about “firsts” after another appointment, is it safe to say that the working people got their first representative on the commission?

An Opponent for MAP?

Looks like a wealthy lawyer is once again making noise about running for Houston Mayor. We’ve all been wondering, from which direction will he run at Mayor Parker? The Chron talked to him.

In our conversation this morning, Hall stressed job creation, economic growth, international trade, and a more creative, compromise-seeking approach to the city’s pensions issues, and also emphasized that the city’s strength lies in its diversity. He said Parker’s 16-year tenure at City Hall as a council member, controller and now mayor, has produced “leadership fatigue.”

That’s a bold statement from someone who has walked those halls for a long time, too.

The 2013 Elections

It’s about that time to start thinking about the 2013 Elections. With all the activity at Houston Community College lately with what will end up being two appointments, I’ve had my ear talked off about another HCC race–District I. Yes, that one is up again. Unfortunately, my own HCC trustee has resigned, but he leaves after producing some good results:  Thank you, Richard Schechter!

Now, the City elections will be interesting. At-Large 3 is open, as is District I–one of the Latino seats. Both will have a long list of candidates. Will any current Council members be targeted? Well, with the Mayor getting a well-financed challenge, it’s possible that some would want to try some sort of coattail riding–if coattails even form. So the DC will have the ojos open.

A Closer Look at Houston’s District J

My Council Member, Mike Laster, gave a State of the District report the other day and provided a snapshot of District J. Here’s his report as written in his Journal.

Demographics and Destiny…

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to present a “State of the District” message to those gathered at the Southwest 2000 Bi-Monthly Breakfast hosted by Houston Baptist University. In preparation for my presentation I consulted the “Council District J Profile” produced by the City’s Planning and Development Department. The “Profile” can be found for review as an icon attachment at the District J website.

The Profile information is compiled from the 2010 U.S. Census data. It gives us a snapshot of the communities in District J when it was created along with District K.

The Profile confirms much of what we know intuitively about our neighborhoods – simply because we live here. Just over 181,000 persons call this part of Houston home. The District is three times as densely populated than the rest of Houston, hosting 9,000 persons per square mile to the City’s 3,100 persons per square mile. We are profoundly ethnically diverse – both from a residential and commercial stand point. Sixty-Eight percent (68%) of our households speak a language other than English at home. I firmly believe that it is the international connections of our people that will help District J lead Houston in international economic development in the coming years.

We are not without our challenges though. While 66% of our population is between the ages of 18 and 64, 41% of the population does not have a high school diploma. The District is home to 75,240 total housing units (both apartments and single family residences), yet 79% of those are renter occupied. Most concerning is that the median household income for District J has fallen nearly $7,000.00 in the past decade to $30,269.

While these numbers help us accurately understand who we are as a community, they do not determine our destiny. They serve as a starting point. I profoundly believe that the decent, hard-working people of District J will come together to build a community filled with pride and optimism. With effort and good will, we will build a better southwest Houston.

Now that I’ve resided in District J for ten months and will more than likely remain for the long haul, I need to start getting more involved, particularly in the area in which I live, which is surrounded by Harwin, Fondren, Hillcroft, and Bellaire, which isn’t a part of the civic association, according to the SCA maps. This little area is described quite well by the demographic information–we have $300K townhomes, $60K condos, and lots of affordable apartments. Just like any other neighborhood, we want good streets and great services, so I’m looking forward to hearing about the various construction projects and improvements being made to the area.

Houston Will Vote on $410 Million in Bonds

Moran at the Chron reports the following:

Mayor Annise Parker emphasized that the measures do not call for a tax increase to pay the principal and interest on the bonds.  The actual language of the bond measures, however, authorizes a property tax increase if council later decides that it’s necessary.

Here’s how the money breaks down:

  1. Proposition A — Public safety: $144 million
  2. Proposition B — Parks: $166 million
  3. Proposition C — General government: $57 million
  4. Proposition D — Library: $28 million
  5. Proposition E — Housing: $15 million

What is general government, you ask? There’s no specific list of projects in the material put before council, but Proposition C calls for issuing bonds for “…the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, remediation and equipment of permanent improvements that support public health, sanitation and other essential general services of the City….”

Soon after the bonds were proposed, there was already a PAC pushing for their passage. As I mentioned recently, CM Melissa Noriega spoke at a brown-bag discussion about the bonds and whatever is being proposed is definitely needed. The parks proposal is particularly interesting with a majority of the bond going to the Bayou Greenways Project, which would benefit all of the City Council districts.

I’m sure we’ll be getting more information as the campaign rolls out. Thus far, I’m in favor of these bonds, especially since there would not be a tax increase and there would be new opportunities for our great city.

FYI:  The vote to place the bonds on the ballot was 12-3 with Sullivan, Pennington, and Helena Brown voting no. No surprise there.

District A Is Starting to Get Crowded

We’re not even done with 2012, but it looks like there will be some excitement in the Houston City Council District A race. We’ve got some familiar faces at the ready to challenge incumbent Helena Brown.

It appears unlikely that former District A Councilwoman Brenda Stardig will get a one-on-one shot at a comeback from her 2011 loss to current Councilwoman Helena Brown.

“It is my plan to run for District A,” Amy Peck, district director state Sen. Dan Patrick, told me Monday.

Stardig has said it is “highly possible” that she will try to gain the seat back next year. Brown and At-Large Position 5 Councilman Jack Christie were the first challengers in 12 years to knock off incumbent Council members when they won run-off elections in December 2011.

I’m thinking it may get a little more crowded, since this could provide a good opportunity for a more progressive candidate to join in. It is also a District with a burgeoning Latino community that needs to get empowered and involved in their community. Whether any of the challengers or the incumbent even attempt to play nice with Latinos is still a question that has been left unanswered, thus far.

Let’s keep an eye on this one.

No Consensus on Closed Meetings; Proposal Dead

Well, I’m happy about this.

What a mayor’s spokeswoman called a “lack of consensus” was manifest in a committee meeting last week during which several council members criticized the idea as bad policy and bad timing.

But…

Mayor Annise Parker‘s agenda for Wednesday’s council meeting seeks approval to put the two charter housekeeping amendments and the five bond measures on the November ballot. The closed-session proposal was not on the agenda.

Mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans wrote in an email that Parker had no pre-conceived opinion on closed sessions.

“She is able to see all of the arguments both for and against. Given the lack of consensus on Council, she decided not to move forward,” Evans wrote.

Frankly, with five bond propositions and two housekeeping ones, along with METRO and HISD, I’m a bit worried about voter education on all of this stuff. And that’s on top of my worry over all of the candidates!

Anyway, here’s what will probably be placed on the November ballot for the City of Houston at Wednesday’s meeting:

  • Proposition A: $144 million bond measure for public safety
  • Proposition B: $166 million bond measure for parks
  • Proposition C: $57 million bond measure for general government
  • Proposition D: $28 million bond measure for libraries
  • Proposition E: $15 million bond measure for affordable housing
  • Proposition 1: Repeal outdated provisions from city charter, including those that give the city the power to set the price of bread and appoint Houston school board members
  • Proposition 2: Strike from the city charter references to the Democratic primary in city elections, which no longer exists in officially non-partisan races for city offices

 

Parklets? Parklets? What’s A Parklet?

I had given some mention to parklets previously during the City of Houston budget amendment fun-time a few weeks ago and thought they were a good idea from my friend CM Ed Gonzalez. The Chron seems to like the idea.

Well, what are they?

Under this plan, businesses can apply to adopt on-street parking spots and turn them into parks, outdoor seating or some other storefront extension. This means more greenspace and pedestrian friendly areas at no cost to the city. And if the parklets don’t work out, they can just be turned back into parking. The parklets can even be created on a temporary basis for times of high pedestrian traffic – imagine holiday-themed parklets during December.

Well, that  doesn’t sound bad. And the Chron has given them their seal of approval.

I’ve heard from friends who like the idea and others who really dislike it.

I wouldn’t mind seeing more green space down the street from my place; perhaps it could take up some of the superfluous parking from PlazAmericas (on the back end of it). A few trees, some benches and the families in the surrounding apartment complexes would be nicely served. It could be a nice public-private effort, even.

Just a thought. Anyway, the Chron continues:

Of course, one can question whether a small park is worth the lost on-street parking spot, especially given that the most walkable areas also appear to have the worst parking crunches – lower Westheimer, for example. But because the parklet process must be initiated with neighborhood approval, it seems unlikely that parklets will replace anything but superfluous parking.

For naysayers who think that parklets aren’t a worthwhile endeavor, we encourage patience. Gonzalez isn’t proposing any massive overhaul, nor forcing parklets where they aren’t wanted. This will be a trial run to see how a parklet policy could work.

Anyway, I like the idea, too.

Mayor Parker Calls For Renewed Negotiations With Janitors.

During this somber Friday, it felt pretty good to read Mayor Annise Parker’s statement in support of renewed negotiations between Houston Janitors and the companies which have refused to give them a much needed raise.

“I am calling on the contracting companies to go back to the negotiating table.  Their unwillingness to talk has left the union with no other choice but civil disobedience.  That is not good for the City of Houston or our economy and it is not how we do business in Houston.  We work hard, we work together and we treat each other fairly.  The union has made good-faith offers.  Now it’s time for the janitorial contractors to sit back down at the table to work out an agreement that is fair and just.”

After the Mayor’s appearance on the Colbert show this week, under the bit of excitement of her selling Houston and its stronger-than-most-other-cities-economy, I still felt that Houston could do much better in so many ways. The Mayor’s support for renewed negotiations gave that feeling a bit of a boost.

The Houston Janitors responded favorably despite the fact that it was Houston PD who arrested fifteen (15) activists who engaged in civil disobedience in support of the Janitors.

Learn more about the Houston Janitors by watching this video, and then give them your support.

 

$410 Million Bond Proposed for Houston

Mayor Annise Parker, today, proposed a $410 million bond package that, if supported by Council, will be on the November ballot. Voters may get to vote on five different measures:

The bond package also includes:

$144 million for public safety needs, including:

  • Improvements at neighborhood police stations citywide
  • Expansion of Fire Station 55, City Council District D
  • New fire station to serve Pine Brook area, City Council District E
  • Expansion of Fire Station 22, City Council District I
  • Fire station maintenance/improvements citywide
  • Facility security improvements

$63 million for health, sanitation/recycling, and general government improvements at city facilities not included in the other categories:

  • Renovation of the Westpark recycling facility, City Council District J
  • Renovation of the Central Depository, City Council District I
  • Possible repair of Sunnywide Multi-Service Center, City Council District D
  • Repairs to City Hall and City Hall Annex
  • Environmental Remediation

$15 million for affordable housing.

  • These dollars will be used for demolition of blighted properties to make way for new affordable housing.

$28 million for libraries, including:

  • Renovation of the Montrose Library, City Council District D
  • Replacement of the Moody Library, City Council District H
  • Replacement of the Meyer Library, City Council District K
  • Renovation of Robinson-Westchase Library, City Council District F

$160 million for parks, including the Bayou Greenways Project and:

  • Improvements at Haden, Busby Park, Judson Robinson Sr., Jaycee, Wright, Bembry,
  • Hermann, Alief, Nieto, Squatty Lyons, Gragg, Braeburn, Glen and Wildheather parks
  • Pavilion replacements
  • Swimming pool upgrades and replacements
  • Ball field lighting upgrades
  • Trail replacement and overlays
  • Bayou Greenways Project

According to the Mayor, this is one of the smallest bond packages proposed and will not require a tax increase. Let’s keep an eye on this as things develop.

Update:  According to a report from Chris Moran of the Chron, $116 million of the bond is not yet earmarked and is up from grabs from the various Council districts. Council must vote on what measures appear on the November ballot by August 20.

Update:  Looks like the campaign to pass the City bond has begun.

The Vote for Houston’s Future Committee is co-chaired by Philamena Baird, Pam Gardner, Melinda B. Hildebrand, City Councilmember Melissa Noriega and Barron and Lisa Wallace. Finance chairs are Robert Collie, Jr., Jason Few and Neil Thomas. Dean Corgey is the campaign treasurer and Billy Briscoe is the campaign manager.

Houston ISD is in the process of debating a bond package which may also appear on the November ballot. HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche will be speaking on Thursday, July 12 at 7PM at the Tejano Democrats meeting at the Harris County Democratic Party HQ (1445 North Loop West).