TAG’s Position on City of Houston Proposition B

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TAG seeks to inform and educate our members and our partners—all of whom share a commitment to sustain and improve regional mobility.

The boards of the Houston-Galveston Area Council and our Metropolitan Planning Organization are represented by individuals from multiple jurisdictions across the region. Proposition B on the November City of Houston ballot asks its voters to amend the City Charter regarding how representatives are proportioned with the intent to increase the city’s representation.

This paper states TAG’s position and is supported by background information, concerns, and questions.

TAG’s Position:

To align with our advocacy for regional transportation funding, TAG takes the following position:

  • We recommend a vote against Proposition B because its language raises more questions than it answers, creating significant uncertainties, leading—we believe—to unforeseen consequences, which would delay projects in our region, and therefore result in critical infrastructure dollars moving out of our region to other areas of the state.
  • A strong and unified H-GAC is vital for the sustainability of our region. In this regard, the City of Houston needs to remain a member of H-GAC and the MPO so we can continue to work together as a region to address the aging infrastructure and plan for regional growth.
  • We believe that solutions sought by Proposition B can be better and more rapidly achieved by regional compromise rather than expected intervention by the state.

BACKGROUND — To provide an understanding of the intricacies and challenges posed by Proposition B and to align with our advocacy for transportation funding within our region, TAG will address the passage of Proposition B with regard to the impacts on the MPO and its governing policy board, the Transportation Policy Council (TPC).

What is the H-GAC MPO?

From a regional transportation planning and funding perspective, the City of Houston is a member of the Houston Galveston Area Council Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), representing an 8 county area, the boundaries of which are determined by agreement between the MPO and the Texas Governor.  MPOs are federally mandated and have the authority and responsibility for regional transportation planning and federal and state funding allocations which total billions of dollars annually.

What is the H-GAC TPC?

The TPC has 28 members representing cities and counties, TxDOT, METRO, at-large members and the Gulf Coast Rail District. The City of Houston is the largest city within the MPO and holds three (3) seats on the TPC.

What is Proposition B

 The Proposition (Prop) B Charter Amendment states:

(a) The city may accept or maintain membership in a Council of Government or Metropolitan Planning Organization only if votes on the governing board are apportioned proportionally based on population notwithstanding statutory voting members.

(b) In the event that a Council of Government or Metropolitan Planning Organization does not comply with section (a) the City shall withdraw its membership from the body if the voting system is not corrected within 60 days of the effective date of adoption of this section.

Concerns and Questions

Aligning voting representation with population seems sensible, but roads and transportation systems don’t end at city and county boundaries. No one questions the City of Houston’s importance, but we are stronger together supporting economic success and equity for all in our region. We ask the following as no one knows for certain the transportation-related implications here if Prop B passes.

  1. Is it legal for Houston to withdraw from the MPO?
  2. What federal approvals are needed to change our MPO boundaries?
  3. Would the City of Houston lose transportation funding if they no longer have TPC board representation?
  4. Would the remaining TPC members vote to re-apportion membership to comply with Prop B? Reorganization has been studied twice in the recent past with no action taken.
  5. How does the TPC prevent hundreds of millions of dollars from leaving the region due to delays in project decisions while the MPO is in flux?
  6. What happens if the City of Houston desires to expand and incorporate areas outside of their current boundaries? Would this stifle Houston growth?
  7. Our region is already suffering from project delays due to a lapse in our air quality conformity plan. It takes a full year to get approval from the federal government on our annual plan. Approval of changes to infrastructure projects by the TPC during this review would be stalled, further delaying needed projects. Would a new air conformity plan have to be prepared?
  8. The Texas Governor must approve changes to MPO boundaries and governance. What if the Governor does not agree with changing the boundaries?
  9. How will a new City of Houston Mayor contribute to a solution since they will be in office for less than a week when Prop B action is required?
  10. Will our highways that feed into the Houston transportation network become even more congested due to delayed mobility improvements?
  11. How will our freight network be affected? 19% of the $2.4 trillion annual Texas GDP comes into and out of the Port Houston.
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