Houston voters will decide in November whether to give an ultimatum of sorts to the Houston Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Houston City Council voted Monday to place a charter amendment on the ballot that would require Houston to renegotiate with H-GAC for better representation or withdraw from the council.
Fair for Houston, a grassroot organization submitted a petition with over 20,000 signatures to have the charter considered, aims to create a more proportional voting system. HGAC covers 13 counties with more than 7 million people and distributes federal and state funds. Houston has the largest population, but only two representatives on the 37-member board of directors.
The organization said in a statement, "Fair for Houston believes that everyone deserves a fair say over how their federal tax dollars are spent, and our elected officials should be empowered to effectively advocate for their constituents. The current status quo is not working for Houston or the region, and the cost of not fixing it is too high."
If voters approve the charter, the city would have 60 days to negotiate with H-GAC, if not, Houston would be required to pull itself out of the council. But, Mayor Sylvester Turner said it wouldn't be an easy process to opt out of.
"Let’s just say if the items on the ballot and it passes, you just can't step away from H-GAC, it does require the Governors support and majority of the board in order today," he said. "There's some other things that have to take place, but it does express the sentiment or a vote expresses the sentiment of those who vote for it on how they feel about the governance of H-GAC."
According to Fair for Houston, the city does not need the Governor's approval to withdraw from an MPO or COG. Per the H-GAC bylaws, "A member of the Houston-Galveston Area Council may withdraw from membership by action of its governing body."
District I Councilman Robert Gallegos said he applauds Fair for Houston's efforts.
"Thank you for the hard work. I know it was very tough especially with the hot weather we've been having out here and for being on the street and getting those petitions and trying to explain to people what this is all about," he said. Y’all did trendmous work being out there in the community."
If voters oppose the measure, the Houston Galveston Area Council's board will remain the same. Election day is November 7.