The Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Trustees today voted to approve a ballot proposal to continue METRO's General Mobility Program in November's election with all jurisdictions receiving 25 percent of sales tax revenues within their jurisdictions, with the exception of Katy, Humble and Missouri City, which would receive higher shares of revenues, and to hold a referendum again no later than 2021.
The final vote was 5-4, with Lisa Gonzales Castaneda, Gary Stobb, Cindy Spiegel and Burt Ballanfant voting instead to support a joint proposal they had brought forward.
Garcia had amended his own proposal prior to several rounds of voting that narrowed his proposal to the final selection, removing an option for voters to continue the program with fixed revenue levels after 2014.
Garcia further amended his proposal to continue the program with all jurisdictions receiving 25 percent of sales tax revenues within their jurisdictions, with the exception of Katy, Humble and Missouri City.
Garcia proposed that those three cities receive a “disproportional, uncapped higher share” of revenues. He also proposed that a referendum on the program be called again no later than 2020. Board members agreed to ask for an amendment to call for a referendum no later than 2021. Garcia said he would accept such an amendment.
He noted legal and education issues, as well as a lack of support, for changing his initial proposal, which he had called “a compromise”.
“Ultimately, I did not receive any support,” Garcia said. “I think that's a big challenge for this community going forward, because we have to do something to solve our transit needs, or it will solve itself for us, and we will not like that solution.”
Garcia called the new proposal an “up or down” vote.
The final vote fell along lines between members appointed by the City of Houston and those appointed by Harris County or by mayors of METRO's multi-cities. Castaneda, Siegel, Stobb and Ballanfant opted for a joint proposal made by the non-Houston members of the board to give an “up or down vote” to voters on whether to continue the program.
“Shall METRO continue to dedicate 25 percent of METRO sales and use tax revenues for street improvements and related projects as authorized by law and with no increase in the current rate of METRO sales and use tax,” Ballanfant said as potential ballot language for the proposal during the board's previous meeting on the mobility program.
The joint proposal was eliminated in early rounds at one point, but a re-vote was held that placed it back up for consideration.
Siegel said she disagreed with the process for selecting a proposal, saying it favored the City of Houston, which has five members on the board, and that it was not “a fair process”.
“We've got five City of Houston voters here, you're giving everyone multiple votes,” Siegel said to Garcia. “It seems like it should have come down to Burt's proposal and one of the City of Houston's. It's like the odds are stacked, just because you have five votes.”
Garcia's proposal will be drafted into final ballot language, which the board will consider on August 17.
No other action items were on the agenda. All members were present. Agenda
Houston Mayor Annise Parker has commented on the proposal adopted by the METRO board. More