Tag Archives: city council

Early Voting Begins on Wednesday, December 4

Well, it’s that time again–Early Voting for the Run-Offs for City Council begins on Wednesday, December 4. You can vote at ANY early voting location (PDF of locations). The important thing is to VOTE!

And what are the DC nods, you ask? Well, here goes. I’ll start with those things on my actual ballot. I’ll probably make comments at a later date.

City of Houston At-Large 2:  David Robinson.

City of Houston At-Large 3:  LEAVE IT BLANK ~ With all due respect to my friends in the GLBT community, I cannot and will not vote for an anti-immigrant Hispanic.

HCC District V – Robert Glaser

The other races not on my ballot, but for whom I’m rooting.

District D – Dwight Boykins

District I – Robert Gallegos

HCC District I – Zeph Capo

HCC District III – Adriana Tamez

Mayor Parker Proposes Payday Lending Regulations

This is something I had been awaiting for a while. Here are the specifics.

With support from other major Texas cities and numerous advocacy groups, Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled proposed regulations for payday lending in Houston. The mayor’s plan establishes minimum business practices for payday lending institutions and mirrors ordinances previously adopted in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio and several smaller Texas cities.

“I had initially favored a Houston-specific measure, but decided that joining with other Texas cities in a united front on this issue is the best way to send a strong message to the Texas legislature,” said Mayor Parker.  “Lenders deserve to make a profit on their investments, but not by charging astronomical interest rates to desperate consumers who have nowhere else to turn for emergency financial assistance.  The statewide model I am recommending for approval by Houston City Council achieves this balance.”

Payday and auto title loans are high cost, small-dollar loans offered to individuals without credit checks and little consideration for their ability to repay. The initial term is typically two weeks to one month, with the term usually determined based on the borrower’s pay cycle. A borrower who fails to make a payment on an auto title loan could wind up losing his means to get to work and take his children to school.

Under existing Texas law, there is no limit to the fees that payday lenders and auto title businesses can charge and no limit on the number of times they can charge high-fees for essentially the same loan – often trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt where they are never able to pay down the loan.  For example, a fast cash payday advance of $500 that is rolled over five or more times could wind up costing $1200 or more.

Houston’s proposed ordinance would help alleviate this problem by:

  • Requiring payday loan and auto title loan businesses to register with the city annually
  • Limiting payday loans to 20 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income
  • Limiting auto title loans to three percent of the borrower’s gross annual income or 70 percent of the vehicle value, whichever is less
  • Limiting single payment loans to no more than three refinances or rollovers and installment loans to no more than four installments
  • Requiring each installment, refinance, or rollover payment to reduce the total principal owed by at least 25 percent
  • Defining a rollover or renewal as a loan within seven days of the previous loan
  • Requiring loan agreements to be written in easy-to-understand language
  • Requiring contact information for nonprofits offering financial literacy and cash assistance

This sounds OK to me. There’s no doubt that folks have a need for emergency loans–heck, I’ve been there as a college student awaiting the arrival of the student loan check with rent due a week before disbursement. And as a college student, there’s no doubt that there was an uneasy feeling that one may  lose a crappy, yet running, vehicle.

That said, there’s also some responsibility on the part of the borrower, but I think this proposal provides for a good shot at fairness for all.

Senator Sylvia Garcia had this to say:

I applaud Mayor Parker and the Houston City Council for presenting a package of payday lending regulations to protect our citizens from unscrupulous payday lenders. The proposed package is modeled after an ordinance that was passed by the City of San Antonio and other major urban cities. I look forward to supporting Mayor Parker and the city council’s efforts to pass a Houston ordinance as quickly as possible.

So, let’s hope this gets passed in December.

Big Money Lobbyists and Groups Line Up Against Wage Theft Ordinance

ABC-13 has the latest (video).

Apparently, members of a couple of local restaurant and contractors association are OK with companies stealing wages from hard-working Houstonians. These groups are threatening to weaken or just defeat a wage theft ordinance that would protect thousands of workers.

Much like they write checks to incumbents and candidates, it seems they are willing to put up some big money lobbyists to fight for them, too. I’m looking forward to finding out who these lobbyists are, or if they have PACs.

Here’s a note from Fe y Justicia Worker Center.

While we were disappointed the vote on the Wage Theft Ordinance was postponed until next week, that feeling is overcome by the warmth of the strong solidarity from each of you!

Apparently creating consequences for employers that intentionally steal their employees’ pay is such a threat to some unscrupulous businesses that they’ve hired high-paid lobbyists to work behind the scenes against it. You know what that means?

As Martin Mares, Fe y Justicia Worker Center’s Board Treasurer commented, “les pusimos el dedo en la llaga” – we’re hitting them where it hurts!

Give ’em a few bucks, so they can continue their work against the big money.

Will you join us for the final vote on Tuesday, Nov. 19th at 1:30pm at City Hall Council Chambers? Can you make one more call to your council members

Together we can win respect for the value of all Houstonians’ labor!

KUHF/KHOU Poll Has Mayor Annise Parker Leading Pack

KHOU and KUHF sponsored a poll conducted by Bob Stein and Stephanie Post at Rice University which finds Mayor Annise Parker leading the pack, but as the numbers currently stand, would lead to a run-off. Here are the results:

Houston Mayor

There are nine candidates for Houston Mayor. Voters were read their names and asked if the election were held today, whom would they vote for?

Frequency Valid Percent
Annise Parker 131 34.1
Keryl Douglas 2 .4
Eric Dick 8 2.0
Charyl Drab 1 .3
Derek Jenkins 3 .7
Victoria Lane 1 .2
Don Cook 1 .3
Mike Fitzsimmons 3 .7
Ben Hall 52 13.6
Don’t Know/Refused 183 47.8
Total 384 100.0

Voters were asked to rate the job performance of Houston City Mayor Annise Parker.

Frequency Valid Percent
Excellent 55 14.2
Good 164 42.8
Fair 119 31.1
Poor 34 8.9
Don’t know 11 2.8
Refused 1 .2
Total 384 100

When no candidate receives a majority of votes cast in an election, a run-off election is held between the two candidates with the largest number of votes. The City of Houston currently conducts its run-off elections for municipal offices such as mayor, controller and city council on Saturday. The city is considering conducting run-off elections on Tuesday. Voters were asked if they would support this change?

Frequency Valid Percent
Excellent 55 14.2
Good 164 42.8
Fair 119 31.1
Poor 34 8.9
Don’t know 11 2.8
Refused 1 .2
Total 384 100

Then voters were asked, if they would still feel this way if they knew the City of Houston would save money holding run-off elections on Tuesday?

Frequency Valid Percent
Yes 75 49.2
No 57 36.9
Don’t know 21 13.9
Total 153 100

That’s the first I hear about a Tuesday run-off possibility. I’ve never been a fan and I would suggest we keep Saturday.

Back to the poll, though, there’s so many ways to interpret that half of the voters polled are undecided and both sides can make a lot of hay out of it. Although Texpatriate seems to think that the 48% are undecided Republicans who can’t seem to choose between Hall and Dick, I tend to think that voters haven’t really gotten a dose of the hard-core stuff, yet, especially on TV. Sure, there was some initial sparring through the airwaves (and lately in the Chron), but once we get a daily dose of ads and more news coverage, voters will begin to give the election more attention.

The poll does drive home the fact that Ben Hall has yet to make a real impact with voters. When 57% of those polled think the Mayor is doing a good/excellent job, and another 31% find her fair (which means tolerable, I guess?), then Hall is being given the message that he needs to do more than just complain about the Mayor on a daily basis.

I’m hoping there will be more regarding City Council races. Laurie Johnson at KUHF reports that run-offs are expected in open seats, and that incumbents, like District A’s Helena Brown and At-Large 2’s Andrew Burks, could end up losing. What is this based on? Well, it doesn’t say, other than comments from local professors. So, yeah, I’m hoping there’s polling that’s about to be reported to back up these assertions.

PDiddie has more, as does Texpatriate.

Here’s the KUHF story.

Kuff Interviews District I Candidates

I’ve got to hand it to Kuff. He always comes through for the voters by interviewing the major candidates for races. The District I race has been one of the busiest, and it’s even been the topic of discussion in my and Rey’s first podcast. Here are the links to Kuff’s interviews of District I candidates that DosCentavos has been following.

Ben Mendez

Robert Gallegos

Graci Garces

There are a lot of substantive questions and enough variety in the answers for those voters who have yet to decide for whom to vote. If you want to know who supports the Mayor, or who does or doesn’t support Meet and Confer for the Firefighters Pension, or who has a better understanding of the district and its needs, you will find this information here. Give it a listen.

City Council Approves Group Home Rules; Favorable Toward Wage-Theft Rules

Well, a couple of items in which I’ve been interested saw some action this week at City Hall. City Council unanimously approved regulations for group homes which house 3 to 16 people.

According to Council Member Ed Gonzalez, these homes have not been regulated because they do not fall under the same guidelines as state-licensed care facilities. Usually, these group homes house individuals who have mental and physical disabilities or are elderly. And we have heard of recent hazardous situations recently which have endangered folks in these housing situations.

The ordinance enacted by City Council will create a basic registration process for Boarding Homes which will incorporate: access to the facilities by the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Division, background checks for staff and caregivers, annual fire inspections, a mandatory fire evacuation plan, mandatory record-keeping, and a requirement to report criminal activity and deaths.

Council Member Gonzalez, who serves as Chair of the City Council Public Safety Committee stated: “City Council took a major step forward in helping to protect those that are often, our most vulnerable citizens. I am proud of the work that went into crafting a fair and effective ordinance that tackles the issue of unregulated care facilities head-on. I thank Mayor Annise Parker and her Administration, my colleagues on Council, and the many stakeholders who came to the table for their support, feedback, and assistance throughout this process.”

And as I mentioned earlier this week, the Fe y Justicia Worker Center lobbied City Council to enact a wage-theft ordinance. The proposed ordinance was presented to City Council and discussed by various stakeholders at a Public Safety Committee hearing, receiving favorable comments.

“Obviously, we do have a large amount of buying power, purchasing power, a large number of contracts, and, obviously, we want to make sure the city of Houston says, ‘We’re not going to be doing business with somebody that’s found to be guilty of this type of activity,'” Councilman Ed Gonzalez said.


Of the council members present at the public safety committee meeting, most welcomed the proposal. Councilman Jack Christie said, “It’s obvious something has to be done.”

Councilman James Rodriguez added, “Anybody that is going to cheat workers should not be allowed to do business or have city contracts.”

Jeff Nielsen, of the Houston Contractors Association, said much of the effectiveness of the proposal likely would rest with the coordinator position. Nielsen said he is concerned about fraud – the possibility of laborers walking off the job and claiming they were unjustly stiffed – but said those qualms likely will not lead him to seek changes to the proposal.

Fast-food worker Olga Castro said she works 65 to 75 hours a week without overtime pay.

“I’m not here because of the wages my employer owes me,” she said. “I’m here because of the impunity and lack of consequences for employers like this. Many employers are committing violations of the law without receiving any penalties.”

Stan Marek, of the Marek Brothers Co. Inc., and a Greater Houston Partnership board member, said most Texas construction workers are paid in cash and get no worker’s compensation. He said the proposal should ask more of contractors.

“This is happening in my industry, and I’m ashamed of it,” Marek said.

Let’s hope it gets voted out of committee and placed on the Council’s agenda sooner and not later.

I did my part and sent a letter to my district member of City Council, Mike Laster, who was said to be iffy on the wage-theft ordinance. I hope the hearing provided him a basis on which to strongly support the ordinance.

You can send a letter to your council member, too–click here for info.

One thing is for sure, the workers who would benefit from this ordinance showed up to City Council for the hearing.

Workers who Support Down WIth Wage Theft Campaign


District J ~ Mike Laster is Up for Re-Election

I ran into my District J Houston City Councilman, Mike Laster, today and I must say that he’s really representing us well on the horseshoe. Mike Laster is running for a second term, and by the looks of it, he has earned it. According to a recent campaign e-mail:

Together we are making great progress in building better neighborhoods  in District J and making southwest Houston a better place to live, work and raise our families. Here’s just a few of the things we’ve accomplished:

• We completed an agreement with Houston Baptist University for $160M in economic development which will create jobs and revitalize the Fondren corridor;

• We worked with HPD to close adult nightclubs and demolish the abandoned Winfield I Condominiums;

• We worked to establish Friends of Parks organizations and are helping to create a skate park for Burnett-Bayland Park;

• We finally secured the return of the long requested left turn lanes at Gessner & Beechnut;

• We handled over 1,000 service calls from community members.

I want to continue making progress in bringing economic development and neighborhood revitalization to District J. I hope I can count on your support for my re-election as your City Council Member.

Since the Fondren corridor runs along my neighborhood, I must say that I like what is going on at HBU, especially the development of their Southland Conference football team and a new stadium which is being built. They open their development season at Sam Houston State. It might cause some added Saturday traffic, but if it helps our neighborhood economy–great!

The skate park at Burnett-Bayland caught my eye, as well, and reminded me of a story I did on the Tacos and Votes event held in 2012 in which I met a group of skateboarding kids who helped out a little. They brought up the fact there was no skate park in the area, so, I wrote a blurb in that post. Well, I don’t know if it caught anyone’s eyes, but hopefully, these kids were involved in bringing this up because it seems to be happening, now. Good deal!

And let me tell you, one might think that a left-turn lane at Gessner and Beechnut is no big deal, but let me tell you, it really is. It will make a huge difference when it comes to drive-time and traffic flow. Taking Beechnut back to Gessner (and taking a left on Gessner to hit Bellaire to head to my neighborhood) from the big HEB on the Beltway is definitely going to make things easier for me.

And I’ll add that the construction project outside my door on Harwin is coming along nicely–new pipes, new concrete, and two lanes, again. Something about watching progress happen that just puts me in a good mood.

Mike Laster has been a very responsive council member, and I’m looking forward to his second term.

Kuff Looks at COH Races

Thanks to Kuff for taking a look at City of Houston races that will be upon us before we know it. The Summer campaign season will hopefully arrive soon and we’ll all get to talk more on the back-and-forth between campaigns.  That said, I think Kuff’s take deserves some commentary on a per-race basis from my end, since he did all that work.


Other than seeing signs and signs of Facebook activity from Ben Hall and Eric Dick, not much else has caught my eye. There’s no doubt that Mayor Annise Parker has an edge provided by incumbency, so, the recent positive news items in the form of “Top” whatever lists and “best city” articles continually point to her mayoral tenure. Finally, there’s no doubt that we also look to our leaders for a sense of comfort and hope during tragedies, and Mayor Parker and her administration have provided this since the Southwest Inn tragedy, in my opinion.

At this point, any well-funded opponent should have already been on the airwaves (regular and virtual) introducing themselves to Houston. Simply relying on, as Kuff mentions, the pincer strategy, will not be enough to generate excitement for kicking out an incumbent. Finally, while Kuff mentions the parody Hall twitter, there’s also a parody Hall for Latinos twitter, whose tagline is:  “No se porque estoy corriendo para alcalde. Tambien, porque mis empleados no registraban esta cuenta?” or “I don’t know why I’m running for Mayor. Also, why my employees didn’t register this account.”

So, at least us Twitterers (Twitteritos in Spanish) will have fun with that one.


The only one I’ve given some attention is District I, and only because it has a few good candidates. Sure, there’s been controversy along the way, but for the most part, it’s all about the campaigns working away at fundraising and pressing the flesh. The biggest obstacle to winning, other than a possible run-off, will be lack of voter excitement.

I’m hoping District J is unopposed so I can keep Mike Laster without worries. As diverse as District J is, so are the issues that affect the various areas of the district. I’m glad that Harwin is finally getting the concrete and pipes it deserves, but I do hope more of my own neighborhood’s streets get some paving/flooding/ponding issues taken care of in the future (cough-Marinette-cough- Clarewood-cough-Bellerive).


More than likely, this will be the most interesting of the at-large races. There are at least three candidates  who have caught my eye:  Jenifer Rene Pool, Roland Chavez, and Rogene Gee Calvert. Others who have signed up are mostly bad, but these mentioned have some sort of base from which to begin; not to mention real campaigns. I supported Pool in her 2011 run for At-Large 2, and she showed up to the 2013 Kingwood Area Democrats’ brunch which I emceed, so, that’s points for her, thus far, in 2013.

HCC District I

This will be an interesting one, too, given that there are two progressive candidates trying to unseat a long-time incumbent, Yolanda Navarro Flores. Community activist Kevin J. Hoffman returns for another try after coming close in 2007, as well as Teacher’s Union leader Zeph Capo. The difference this time around is that what was once a Latino opportunity district has become a lot more iffy for a Latino to win. During the recent redistricting of 2011, a good bunch of Latino-voter heavy precincts which had gone heavily for Navarro Flores in the past were switched out with a swath of precincts in Gulfton, which, although Latino-heavy, do not necessarily have much of a voter participation rate. While some of us were arguing over Commissioner’s seats and a lack of a Congressional seat, Latino voting strength in this district got a bit diluted. Oops.

Houston ISD District VII

And speaking of messed-up districts, I keep hearing of an opponent for incumbent Harvin Moore in my district, but nothing official. My district almost seems to be part of some “cracking” expedition because somehow it has a nice swath of minority-heavy SW Houston (my part of Sharpstown and Gulfton) stuck in a district which includes Memorial and River Oaks. Meanwhile, other minority-heavy parts of SW Houston (Bellaire and the southern part of Sharpstown) are placed in a couple other districts. Another, “oops,” I guess. Anyway, I hope there’s a viable and hard-working opponent that I can support.

Those are the ones that have the eyes of DosCentavos on them. By all means, check out Kuff’s post on the rest. I do agree with Kuff that we are looking forward to the first campaign finance reports to be published. They always give a better snapshot of things.

Rogene Gee Calvert Joins At-Large 3 Race

Recently, I met Rogene Gee Calvert at a lunch of bloggers and she announced she would be running for City Council At-Large 3. I’m glad to see that there are at least three good candidates in a race that could fill up with bad candidates if we’re not paying attention. I’m hoping to receive more information from her campaign to make sure folks stay informed of the good people (like Rogene) who are running and the others whom they should avoid (in my opinion). Rogene is kicking off her campaign and here’s the info (click to enlarge):


Early Voting Begins for Pasadena Elections

Today marked the start of early voting for May elections. Although there aren’t any within the Houston city limits, there is the  first post-redistricting City Council election in Pasadena.

In Pasadena, Hispanic voters now face a great opportunity to win more seats in new drawn districts after the Census showed remarkable Hispanic growth, thus, making the case for more Hispanic representation. Click here for a PDF of the Sample Ballots.

The long-time Mayor, Johnny Isbell, has an opponent by the name of Gilbert Pena, a retired refrigeration businessman.

Pena said for too long the city has neglected infrastructure in the northern part of the city where he lives, has wasted public money and more recently, deprived residents of a public transit option.

“The problem is only going to get worse,” he said of the infrastructure. “Then all of Pasadena is going to have to pay for it.”

Pena, 63, said it is unfair that the city spends millions of dollars on the upkeep of the golf course but was unwilling to spend far less to continue the contract for a public transit service, even though ridership was increasing.

In District A, incumbent Ornaldo Ybarra has an opponent. Ybarra has been the lone Hispanic on the Council and the most vocal during the redistricting process. Recently, he was a candidate for State Rep. District 144; however, came up short. Ybarra is an honorably discharged US Marine,  a UH grad, and a Pearland police officer. I’ve known Ornaldo and he has served his community well and deserves re-election.

In District B, Richard Serna is running against two opponents for the open seat. I met Richard recently and he’s an upstanding guy committed to his community. Serna had vied for the seat when Council filled the vacancy.

In District E, Cody Ray Wheeler is vying for the open seat. Wheeler is another UH grad, former US Marine, and comes from humble roots.


Administration clerk Richard Serna, 33, retiree Bruce Leamon, 64, and Barbara Legler, 53, an executive, are vying for district B.

Real estate broker Rick Guerrero, 51, and incumbent Don Harrison, 73, retired, are vying for district C.

Ronald Whitley, 65, an account coordinator, is challenging incumbent Pat Van Houte, 56, for district D.

Cody Ray Wheeler, 27, a tax compliance officer, and retiree Leroy Stanley, 76, are vying for district E.

Unchallenged are incumbents Phil Cayten, 68, an engineer, district F; Steve Cote, 42, who works in insurance, district G; and engineer Darrell Morrison, 52, district H.

In races like these, it’s all about turnout, turnout, turnout. Spread the word about the race to gain better representation on the Pasadena City Council.

Early Voting Locations (PDF)

Election Day Locations (PDF)