Houston Councilmembers Consider Changing Their Terms

Two of the November ballot propositions are a bit touchy. They deal with the number of councilmembers around the table and how long those councilmembers can stay. Houston Mayor Annise Parker says the city will be required to add two new council districts next year because new census numbers show Houston's population has grown.

"Redistricting will really not begin until after the first of the year. We had a preliminary briefing for council to lay out the timeline because we thought it was important for them to know when things were going to happen."

Anyone running for council must live in their district for one year. But council approved a proposed charter amendment, that will let voters consider a temporary reduction in the residency requirement to just six months. The idea is since it's uncertain when and where new district lines will be drawn, a shorter residency requirement gives more people the chance to become candidates in newly drawn districts.

But the amendment with the most oomph was the one dealing with term limits. A commission appointed by former Mayor Bill White, recommends changing the city's term limits to two four-year terms instead of the current three two-year terms.

"This is the report of the term limits commission and as a courtesy to the commission, they did a great deal of hard work, and to the previous mayor, I put their recommendation before city council. If we begin to amend it, then it's our charter amendment."

And amend it is almost certainly what council will do. Councilmember C.O. Bradford is one of three people who tagged the proposition, delaying a vote on it for another week.

"I want to explore that further between now and next week, whether we are commited to submit optional plans in addition to what the commission has submitted."

For her part, Mayor Parker says she'd prefer to do away with term limits altogether, but that option won't be on the ballot.

"I think the reason that the term limits commission went to the four year terms without staggering, so we only have an election every fourth year, is to save money. That'll save $2 million a year for the citizens of Houston."

Councilmembers will offer their suggested amendments to the term limits proposal next week.

Laurie Johnson, KUHF News.
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