Houston, Texas

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Houston, Texas
Seal of Houston.jpg
General information
Annise Parker.jpg
Mayor:Annise Parker
Last mayoral election:2013
Next mayoral election:2015
Last city council election:2013
Next city council election:2015
City council seats:16
2014 FY Budget:$4.9 billion
City website
Composition data
Population in 2013:2.1 million
Gender:49.8% Female
Race:White 50.5%
White Not-Hispanic 25.6%
African American 23.7%
Asian 6.0%
Native American 0.7%
Pacific Islander 0.1%
Two or More 3.3%
Ethnicity:Hispanic 43.8%
Unemployment:6.2%
Median household income:$44,648
High school graduation rate:74.8%
College graduation rate:28.7%
Related Houston offices
Texas Congressional DelegationTexas State LegislatureTexas state executive offices
Houston is a city in Texas and the county seat of Harris County. Houston is the economic center of the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. As of 2013, its population was 2.1 million, making Houston the fourth-largest city in the United States.[1]

City government

The city of Houston utilizes a "strong mayor" and city council system. In this form of municipal government, the city council serves as the city's primary legislative body while the mayor serves as the city's chief executive.[2]

Mayor

The mayor serves as the city's chief executive and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors and overseeing the city's day-to-day operations. The mayor also represents the city on the state, national and international levels. Annise Parker is the current Mayor of Houston.[2][3]

City council

The Houston City Council is the city's primary legislative body. It is responsible for adopting the city budget, approving mayoral appointees, levying taxes and making or amending city laws, policies and ordinances.[2][4]

Membership

The Houston City Council is made up of sixteen members. Eleven members are elected by district, while the other five are elected at-large.[4]

A current list of council members can be found here.

Council Committees

The Houston City Council features seven standing committees, which focus on individual policy and legislative issues. Generally, the drafting of city legislation begins with the committees.[5]

A current list of Houston City Council committees can be found here.

Boards and commissions

A series of advisory boards and commissions that are made up of non-elected citizens, whom city council members have appointed and approved, advises the Houston City Council. The roles of these boards and commissions are to review, debate and comment upon city policies and legislation and to make recommendations to the city council.[6]

For a full list of Houston city boards and commissions, see here.

Elections

2015

See also: Houston, Texas municipal elections, 2015

The city of Houston, Texas will hold elections for mayor and city council in 2015. Information on election dates will be posted once they are made available. All 16 city council seats are up for election.

Budget

The approved budget for fiscal year 2014 totals $4.9 billion, and includes a new public safety radio project, a separate fund for an independent crime lab, $2.5 million for infrastructure maintenance and $600,000 for additional financial controls and auditing. "I believe this budget proposal builds upon the progress of the last 3.5 years. We've cut waste, made city departments more efficient and balanced every budget without raising taxes. We have gone from necessary budget cutbacks and staff layoffs to sustainable economic growth," Parker said.[7]

The city's budget process operates by Fiscal Years running from July 1 to June 30 of the next year. Fiscal Years are named by the year in which they end, not when they begin. The budgeting process begins with city departments submitting their individual budgets to the Finance Department. The Finance Department then meets with the departments to discuss what items get incorporated to the Mayor's budget. After approval by the Mayor, the City Council reviews the budget and holds public hearings. Once accepted by the City Council, the budget is officially adopted.[8]

Contact information

Office of the City Secretary
900 Bagby, Public Level
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: 832-393-1100
Email: citysecretary@houstontx.gov

Office of the Mayor
901 Bagby
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: 713-837-0311
Email: mayor@houstontx.gov

Lobbying

See also: Texas Municipal League members list

Houston pays membership dues to the Texas Municipal League, a government sector lobbying association.

The City of Houston paid for $280,000 in federal lobbying in 2013. The city filed for four issues relating to Aviation, Airlines & Airports, three relating to Federal Budget & Appropriations, two relating to Law Enforcement & Crime and once each relating to Science & Technology, Transportation, Energy & Nuclear Power and Consumer Product Safety.[9]

The city has paid Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger $1.3 million over the past decade to lobby for the city's airport system. This is part of the total $4 million the city has spent on lobbying since 2000, according to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2010, the city decided to hire one lobbyist to represent both the airport system and city.[10]

Ballot measures

See also: Harris County, Texas ballot measures

The city of Houston is in Harris County. A list of ballot measures in Harris County is available here.

Initiative process

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in Texas

Population as of the July 2011 census update: 2,145,146.[11] Houston is a charter city. Signature requirement is 15% of the total vote cast at the Democratic Primary for the nomination of Mayor and Commissioners, next preceding the filing of said petition. File petitions with the city secretary. The council shall either pass such ordinance or resolution without alteration, or submit it to the popular vote at a special election, which must be held within 30 days after the date of the ordering thereof; provided, however, that if any other municipal election is to be held within 60 days after the filing of the petition said proposed ordinance or resolution shall be submitted without alteration to be voted upon at such election. (note: On 11/6/2012 Houston will vote on a charter amendment that could change/clarify the initiative process)

DocumentIcon.jpg Houston Charter, Art. VII(b)

Website evaluation

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Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning
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Audits
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Contracts
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Lobbying N
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Public Records Y
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Local Taxes
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Transparency grading process

The good

  • Elected officials
    • The website for Houston Texas includes the names and contact information of all city council members.[4]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting information, including calendars, agendas and minutes are posted.[12]
    • Meeting information is archived to 2004.
  • Administration
    • Administrative officials are listed with their contact information.[13]
  • Budget
    • The current budget is published.[14]
    • Budgets are archived to 2004.
  • Audits
    • Audit reports are posted.[15]
    • Audits are archived to 2002.
  • Permits and zoning
    • Building permits are available. Houston does not have zoning.[16][17]
  • Contracts
    • Information on contracts is available.[18]
    • Open bids are posted.[19]
    • Awarded bids are posted.[20]
  • Public records
  • Taxes
    • Property tax rates are available.[22]

The bad

  • Lobbying
    • Information on taxpayer funded lobbying is not available.

See also

External links

BP-Initials-UPDATED.png
Suggest a link

References

  1. United States Census Bureau, "American Fact Finder," accessed April 29, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 City of Houston, "About City Government," accessed on October 29, 2014
  3. City of Houston, "Office of the Mayor," accessed on October 29, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 City of Houston, "City Council," accessed on October 29, 2014
  5. City of Houston, "Committees," accessed on October 29, 2014
  6. City of Houston, "Boards and Commissions," accessed on October 29, 2014
  7. yourhoustonnews.com, "Mayor: Proposed 2014 city of Houston budget focuses on the future," May 17, 2013
  8. City of Houston, "Operating Budget Process," accessed April 29, 2014
  9. Open Secrets, "City of Houston, TX," accessed April 29, 2014
  10. Texas Watchdog, "City of Houston shopping for federal lobbyist, looks to trim overall lobbying costs," October 20, 2010
  11. US Census, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Texas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011
  12. City of Houston, "Meetings," accessed August 6, 2014
  13. City of Houston, "Administration," accessed August 6, 2014
  14. City of Houston, "Budget," accessed August 6, 2014
  15. City of Houston, "Audits," accessed August 6, 2014
  16. City of Houston, "Permits," accessed August 6, 2014
  17. City of Houston, "Zoning," accessed August 6, 2014
  18. City of Houston, "Bids and Contracts," accessed August 6, 2014
  19. City of Houston, "Bids," accessed August 6, 2014
  20. City of Houston, "Awarded Bids," accessed August 6, 2014
  21. City of Houston, "Records request," accessed August 6, 2014
  22. City of Houston, "Property Tax Rate," accessed August 6, 2014