Giving Up Power for Electricity Deal

On Wednesday Houston City Council voted 16-1 (CM Mike Sullivan was the only “no” vote) to give Mayor Annise Parker complete power to close a $550 million electricity deal.  I am ok with Mayor Parker being the one to negotiate the contract (as is the situation in most cases).  What I am not ok with is allowing her to sign the final contact with no approval from Council.  Usually city contracts are negotiated by the mayor but then must be ultimately approved by Houston City Council.  Council voted to usurp their power to make the final decision.
Council members generally said that these contracts move so quickly, so there is no time to bring it to a council vote and just asked to be “kept in the loop.”  They mentioned a few times that although there is still 18 months left on the current contract, they need to take advantage of a low rate if given the opportunity. 
I understand that contacts move quickly.  Electricity rates change all the time too, but I seriously doubt that any company would want to close the door on a huge, multi-million dollar contract so badly that they couldn’t wait a few days (at least 72 hours because of the Texas Open Meetings Act) for council to vote.  If they want to move quickly, instead of giving Mayor Parker so much power, they should have voted to take away tagging power for this item (when a council member tags an agenda item, it delays the vote for a week.  Members do this when they need more information to vote on an item or to want to get more feedback from constituents before voting).  This would have allowed for a much faster vote.  
I almost can’t fault Council Member Andrew Burks’ vote.  From the questions he asked, I don’t believe he fully understood what he was voting on (I’m not trying to be mean, but he just kept asking again and again if council members would be able to ultimately vote on the contact.  No, they can’t!  That’s the whole point of this vote!  Let’s move on.) 
Council Member Helena Brown is one of the 16 members who voted in favor of the item only to turn around and write a memo basically saying that she made a mistake.  I guess that is better than making a mistake and then just going along with it to not look bad.  Just like CM Burks, she is new, so I’ll give both of them the benefit of the doubt here and hope that they both make better decisions in the future.


One Response to Giving Up Power for Electricity Deal

  1. Alison says:

    That does seem like way too much power. I like your idea about the tagging. You should be running things!!!

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