Houston City Council's Proposition A Committee held an inaugural meeting April 23 to discuss the structure and rules of the newly formed group.

The setup

The committee's name comes from a ballot proposition passed by Houston voters during last November's election with 83% approval. The proposition gives Houston City Council members the power to place items on the weekly agenda if three or more members back the item.

The change moved council away from the existing system where only the mayor could set agenda items.

However, after Mayor John Whitmire took office in January, he created the Proposition A Committee to oversee agenda items proposed by council members.

Several council members voiced their concern at the time, both with the creation of the committee and the lack of clarity on what role it will play in how they place items on the agenda.

What happened

The committee—made up of the same 16 members who make up Houston City Council—held its inaugural meeting April 23 inside council chambers to address the structure and rules of the body before moving forward with agenda items.

However, members voted unanimously to postpone further consideration of the rules until the next time the committee meets.

The vote came after a nearly two-hour discussion where several committee members expressed interest in amending the rules and structure of the committee.

Council member Amy Peck voiced her concern about a rule requiring the committee to have a full quorum of at least nine voting members to convene a meeting and vote on an item. Having a full quorum isn’t always feasible, she said.

“We would never get anything to move forward,” she said. “So, that raises some concerns for me. Everything is going to be stuck in a loop.”

Peck made a motion to amend the proposed rule to add that, if no quorum is present for a vote, the item automatically goes to City Council within two weeks.

Other suggestions included changing the rules related to timeline expectations, lawfulness reviews and language.

What they are saying

Council member Edward Pollard spoke against the creation of the Proposition A Committee during an April 10 Houston City Council meeting after his agenda item on extending metered parking hours was referred to the committee.

Pollard was absent from the April 23 meeting but sent a member of his staff to speak in his place.

“Council member Pollard is not here today because this was not the intent of the voters,” Pollard's prepared statement said. “We worked well with the mayor’s office. We got an item vetted, but it came back to council to refer back to a committee. For what? More vetting? We already did that. This is concerning because, if we can’t bring an item to the agenda because it gets stuck, because we don’t have quorum or we don’t have a vote, what happens to our item?”

Council member Martha Castex-Tatum said she wants to make sure the intent of Prop A isn't lost through the function of the committee.

“When Proposition A went to the voters, this was supposed to be a tool when you are not getting any discussion or any traction with the administration,” she said.

The bottom line

Since the committee voted to postpone approving the rules, no action was taken on agenda items.

The items would have addressed two ordinances related to parking meter regulations and the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program. Both ordinances will be potentially voted on at the next meeting May 28, upon the approval of the rules.

The Prop A Committee will meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m. in council chambers.