Councilmembers at Odds Over New Committee

An effort to form an oversight committee for the City of Houston's drainage fund stalled after councilmembers couldn't reach consensus on how to proceed. As Laurie Johnson reports — the argument centers on the methods councilmembers use behind the scenes to lobby one another.

It should have been an innocuous item on the agenda to submit citizens as nominees for the Rebuild Houston Oversight Committee.

Instead, it turned into an hour-long argument over how those nominations are made and whether the process is fair and respectful.

Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck first raised the issue, saying there should be consensus among councilmembers before bringing the nominations forward.

“In the past, even when we have created new boards and commissions — because I’ve been present for that — the agenda director has facilitated the discussion so that we do not subject citizens to a No vote or to having to have their resume withdrawn. I’d just like to lodge my objection to the process.”

The oversight committee will be composed of nine members, four of them appointed by the mayor and five appointed by council.

Councilmembers usually operate under an unspoken set of rules, rallying together to select nominees.

But this time, it was more of an each man for himself process — with several councilmembers putting forward multiple nominations.

And that ruffled some feathers. This is Councilmember Jolanda Jones.

“I think that this process reeks. And there’s only five positions that council can nominate. I mean, the notion that somebody — one of my colleagues, respectfully, and I love them all — could want to nominate four out of the five? How many nominations do you have, Mayor, four? I mean, I don’t even understand.”

But Councilmember C.O. Bradford says too much happens behind closed doors.

“Because we are talking about public business. And public business, in my view, should be done in the public light.”

In the end, the council delayed nominations for a week to give them time to build more consensus. The five council nominees will help oversee the city’s $130 million drainage fund.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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