Mayor White tables decision on Texas Municipal League
The Chronicle's Matt Stiles reported today that Mayor White tabled a controversial proposal for the city to pay $68,000 in dues to the Texas Municipal League:
In another example of Mayor Bill White's desire for City Council harmony, his administration worked Wednesday to avoid a potentially fractious vote on using taxpayer money for a lobbying group that has fought property tax appraisal caps.
At issue was whether to pay $68,000 in dues to the Texas Municipal League, which represents the collective concerns of cities such as Houston before the Legislature and Congress.
The issue, which has sparked recent consternation among conservatives, likely would have been decided with a narrow victory for White — or perhaps even a defeat.
So the mayor, who acknowledged some reservations about using taxpayer money, pledged instead to raise the dues from private sources.
"If you build a consensus, you'll be more effective," he said after Wednesday's meeting, "as opposed to fighting over 68,000 bucks."
This reporting is a little unusual for Stiles, in that he usually reports facts in a fairly straightforward manner, and avoids the sorts of editorial assessments of Mayor White's desires that we see in the first paragraph.
As for the second bolded paragraph, Harris County Republican Chairman Jared Woodfill indicates that eight councilmembers (Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, Ron Green, Michael Berry, Toni Lawrence, Anne Clutterbuck, Addie Wiseman, M.J. Khan, and Pam Holm) indicated they were prepared to vote against the measure. Woodfill is not a disinterested party (he pushed hard for a no vote), so make of that what you will.
Substantively, Greg Wythe raised the following good questions:
It sure seems like there's a bit more to this story that the Chron left on the cutting room floor. The mayor has made something of a habit of finding private funds for things he can't quite get through council with bipartisan support. So what's the difference there? Doesn't that private funding for public services put things at the whim of the mayor just a bit too much? And if it's deemed that there's nothing improper about this funding mechanism, then where's the fundraising group for putting more cops on the street? ... something the mayor says is his overriding passion these days.
It seems to me that the Mayor tabled this proposal for a couple of reasons: 1) There was a real chance he could lose the vote -- remember when the MediaSource loss left him stammering and asking M.J. Kahn if he really understood how he was voting? -- and Mayor White doesn't like losing; and 2) Avoiding the vote and the controversy lets Mayor White sidestep an issue that could potentially come back to dog him if he decides to run for higher office and wants the support of the broader Harris County area.
UPDATE (01-20-2006): The Chronicle's Kristen Mack reports that Councilmember Green says he would have voted with the mayor.