Proposition 1 — a referendum on whether to keep or strike down Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO — is one of the most controversial measures on this November’s ballot. The latest News 88.7/KHOU 11 News poll shows the contest is nearly a dead heat. A coalition of social conservatives and religious leaders oppose Prop 1.
The supporters include several of Houston’s leading business organizations, including the Greater Houston Partnership. Bob Harvey is the Partnership’s president and CEO, and he joins Andrew Schneider on the Bauer Business Focus.
Why is the Greater Houston Partnership supporting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance?
“We’re supporting it for two reasons. One is, we think it accurately reflects the climate of Houston as a city that is very diverse, very welcoming, and very inclusive…But second, and perhaps more specific to the Partnership, we think it’s good for business. We think an ordinance like this is important because it protects all of our citizens from discrimination.”
How does the way the ordinance is framed directly affect business?
“Once [the business community] indicated its general philosophical support for the ordinance, then the concern was, ‘Well, is the ordinance drafted in a way that would be fair to business?’… In months of negotiations with the city, we achieved what I thought were some immeasurable improvements to the ordinance. One was to limit the time frame that someone has to raise a complaint and then how long the city had to investigate the complaint. We didn’t want these complaints to hang over a business for years and years…We [also] took action to limit the fines in connection with an event.”
What are the potential consequences for Houston businesses if Prop 1 is defeated and HERO is struck down permanently.
“We think it will send a very bad signal and have very direct consequences on companies’ willingness to move to Houston. When a similar issue came up in the state of Indiana a year ago, you saw a very immediate reaction … conventions that had already planned to come to Indianapolis made it clear that they would pull out … a million room nights … if the state didn’t reverse itself on the path they seemed to be on. That was equivalent to $1.5 billion of economic impact.”