Today in a 16-1 vote, city council approved the city’s $5.1 billion Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget. When the budget was released on May 11, my team and I got straight to work reading and analyzing the data, asking departments over 100 questions about proposed spending. I am heartened by increased public participation in the budget process this year and appreciate the many thoughtful questions residents asked over the past month. 

This year I submitted 13 amendments to the city’s proposed FY 2022 budget:
  1. My first amendment, co-authored with Council Member Plummer, asks the administration to present recommendations within the next six months for addressing the city’s more than $2 billion unfunded liability for Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB), which includes the city’s retiree health care costs. Recommendations will include design changes, OPEB reforms, and the establishment of an OPEB trust to reduce the city’s unfunded liability.  Passed!
  2. Deferred maintenance of city facilities has plagued the city for years - failing elevators, non-functional park restrooms, building system failures.  My second amendment requests up-to $4.5 million be set aside for operating maintenance in order to comply with the city’s financial policies. Passed!
  3. Last year’s budget amendment creating a shared services working group was derailed by the pandemic. I again offered this amendment. The shared services working group will explore ways for the city and Harris County to jointly provide services, reduce overlap, and save money. Focus areas for Fiscal Year 2022 include BARC, Houston Parks, Houston Information and Technology, Houston Health Department, and HPD. Passed!
  4. I’ve heard from developers and residents alike about the issues they face at the Houston Permitting Center (HPC). My fourth amendment requests $75,000 for a process improvement consultant to make recommendations for improving customer service and communication, streamlining processes, and reducing the overall time it takes to issue permits. Co-authored by CMs Peck, Robinson, & Gallegos. Passed!
  5. My fifth amendment also serves to speed up permitting processes. This amendment will amend current ordinances to include the Office of the City Engineer in the existing customer-paid overtime ordinance. It will also allow for customer-paid fees to fund third-party contractors to augment staff at HPC. Co-authored by CMs Peck, Robinson, & Gallegos. Passed!
  6. This amendment funds staff within the Houston Public Works Department to work full time and under the supervision of the Office of the Building Official and consider additional staff for the Office of the City Engineer for Traffic and Storm Permitting review. This would have served the dual purpose of relieving pressure on the Planning and Development Department staff of day-to-day responsibilities at HPC  while creating a line of direct oversight and responsibility for staff assigned to permitting matters. Co-authored by CMs Peck, Robinson, & Gallegos. Withdrawn pending results of consultant’s report.
  7. This amendment creates a cost-neutral neighborhood composting pilot program in up-to-three neighborhoods for a six-to-eight week period. This effort is consistent with the Climate Action Plan, Resiliency Plan, and Long-Range Solid Waste Plan. Passed!
  8. This amendment calls for updating Chapter 6 of the Code of Ordinances dealing with animal welfare and mandate microchipping in Houston pets. Withdrawn pending further review by the Regulatory and Neighborhood Affairs Committee.
  9. Co-authored with Council Member Travis, this amendment allocates $300,0000 to fund an additional four animal control officer positions for BARC.  Passed. 
  10. Co-authored with Council Member Peck and Council Member Castex-Tatum, this amendment would have the Department of Neighborhoods partner with Harris County on a bandit sign removal class for civilians. This was first proposed by Council Member Peck at a February RNA meeting. Passed.
  11. My favorite part of the YOUR TWO CENTS survey was reading all the comments people had for improving the city. This amendment, co-authored with Council Member Peck, will add a link to the city website for citizens and city staff to submit ideas for cost savings or innovation. We want your input! Passed!
  12. Last year's budget amendment from Council Member Kamin created a tax abatement for developments that include green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). This amendment would create an awards program to highlight developers who make a point to use GSIs in their projects. Withdrawn as development of an awards program is already in progress.
  13. My final amendment allocates an additional $500,000 to BARC for spay/neuter services in Fiscal Year 2022 and to expand the Healthy Pets/Healthy Streets program. The funding will also support up-to-three large-scale spay/neuter events to occur in Fiscal Year 2022 for a total of up to 3,000 additional no-cost spay/neuter surgeries in Fiscal Year 2022. Passed!
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department is currently implementing phased reopenings of parks facilities. Outside sports courts, as well as youth and meal programs, are open to the public. Beginning earlier this week, multiple inside recreation spaces reopened with restrictions in place. This includes weight and fitness rooms, dining halls, and senior activity centers. Along with these indoor and outdoor spaces, various programs including the Summer Enrichment Program and the Summer Food Service Program plan to restart operations on June 14th at several community centers. Starting in July, assorted outdoor spaces will increase capacity to 100%. Full details may be found here

Houston Public Libraries (HPL) plans on expanding its services and hours to eleven Neighborhood Libraries at limited capacity. HPL continues to offer Technology Access, interview rooms, and to-go curbside service by appointment only. After requesting an appointment for these services, pandemic precautions are still taken upon arrival. Safety and social distancing measures, as well as temperature screening and a visit to the hand sanitizer stations, are required when entering an HPL location.    

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