Executive Order 1-8 and Checks and Balances

In March, Mayor Parker issued an executive order to extend Houston’s anti-discrimination policy to include transgendered individuals.  The policy already protected people based on race, religion, gender and sexual preference.  Read the article here, and see the order here.  This protects transgendered individuals against discrimination in the use of city facilities and in restrooms.  So basically a city employee, who looks like man but feels like a woman, can now use a woman’s restroom, and no one can tell him that he needs to leave (and vice-versa).

Although this was issued in March, I want to shed more light on it because it has not received much press.  I’m sure mostly everyone reading this has their opinion about this order.  We could debate it all day and still a significant polarization on this issue; however, whether you agree with it or not, there is one concern that should make everyone stop and think:

This was not an ordinance passed by our body of elected officials.  This was an ORDER passed by one person.

Our City Charter (Article VI, Section 7a) gives the authority to the mayor to issue executive orders; however, I think that she should stay away from doing so as much as she can.  This goes for any future mayor as well.  While the mayor can control the agenda of city council, I want the final vote and decision left up to the group of elected officials.  This is how checks and balances are built into our system.  Although the mayor is elected too, I don’t want one person making significant decisions like these.  With so many of our “conservative” council members voting the way they have been lately, this might have passed if Mayor Parker put it on the agenda.

If a council member wanted to propose an ordinance that might challenge this order in any way, Mayor Parker could easily say no and not put it on the agenda because we have a strong mayoral form of government in Houston.  So whether or not you agree with the content of this order, I think this is a clear example of why we should allow council members to add items to the agenda if 2/3 of the members vote to do so.  Government is all about checks and balances, and I would like to see more of them in Houston.

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