Local city politics can be confusing with all the different entities in charge. Add to that the jurisdiction of counties and state legislative bodies, and it can seem difficult to unravel.
Use this guide to digest the bodies that shape our city and to empower you to make changes that benefit your community.
City of Houston
The most traditional way to think about local politics is to talk about the leader of the City of Houston. That would be the Mayor of Houston, and this elected position lasts 4 years with a 2 term maximum.
City Council. The Mayor could not possibly address all issues facing the city alone. City Council adds a layer to help represent all constitutents. There are __ Councilmembers representing: __ City Council Districts, with __ at-large positions.
Superneighborhoods. Even with individual City Council districts, each council member would be way above themselves to reach all constituents. Therefore, the next layer of representation are Superneighborhoods. To understand what role Superneighborhoods play, let’s introduce the concept of civic associations or civic clubs. Civic Clubs are best known as neighborhoods, so Superneighborhoods are a collection of civic associations.
City Departments. The City of Houston has __ Departments that help administer local city politics. The head of each of these departments reports directly to the Mayor. Some examples of city departments include Public Works, Planning, Parks & Recreation, etc.
Commissioners Court. County commissioners have surprisingly more autonomy than the Mayor himself because each commissioner doesn’t have a body such as City Council. Therefore, commissioners essentially control their own budgets (__ 2021). Commissioners are elected every __ years and are not term-limited. There are 4 county precincts in Harris County. Commissioners are well known for making public safety improvements and reinvestment in their community via capital construction projects such as roads, bridges, parks, etc.
County Judge. The leader of Harris County is the County Judge. This position is elected every __ years and has a __ limit. The County Judge is able to bring forward propositions to the court, but ultimately the county measures must be majority passed. A 3/5 vote is sufficient in the court.
Flood Control District.
TIRZ – Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone
It helps to talk about the city revenue cap to introduce TIRZ. In 2004, Houston imposed a revenue cap and TIRZ is just one way to circumvent the financial constraints of the measure. TIRZ helps reinvest those funds in infrastructure and public improvements in that same district. Funding diverted to TIRZs does not count against the city’s revenue cap.
As of 20202, Dallas’s property tax rate was 77 cents per $100, while Houston’s is approximately 57 cents per $100 (35% lower)
Management Districts are the entity that pays for the recognizable elements such as the chrome posts and circular street signs of Uptown, or the shiny neighborhood marker signs in Montrose.
Houston-Galveston Area Council
Let’s dial this back a bit. On the federal level, in order to represent the various cities and settlements around the country, the term Metropolitan Planning Organization came about. Initially, their role was smaller but as transportation budgets continued to grow, MPO’s now hold much more power and basically get to decide which infrastructure projects get funded.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is made up of 13 Counties and 107 Cities.
Texas Department of Transportation
97% of available funding is restricted to “surface transportation, the remaining 3% can be used for transit
Section 49-g(c), Article III of the Texas Constitution
Proposition 1. Misleading by omission: On November 4, 2014 voters approved the following: by not including public transportation, bicycle paths or public sidewalks. Misleading by omission
Ballot language: The constitutional amendment providing for the use and dedication of certain money transferred to the state highway fund to assist in the completion of transportation construction, maintenance and rehabilitation projects, not to include toll roads.
Texas State Legislature
State Senators and State Representatives
Senators and U.S. Representatives