Everywhere I travel across this city, people are fed up with the pay-to-play and cronyism at City Hall. They are sick and tired of the fact that people who make large campaign contributions play by a different set of rules than everyone else. They have lost their patience with the city hiding how their tax money is spent.
It will obviously take new leadership to reform city hall. But just new leadership is not enough. If we are to truly end the corruption, we must overhaul our ethics rules and take steps to guarantee transparency in how the city conducts its business. After all, we all know that sunshine is the best disinfectant.
Here is my plan to help safeguard against corruption, save taxpayer dollars and improve access to public information.
Create an Independent Office of Inspector General & Public Release of Findings: Currently, the Office of Inspector General is supervised by the city attorney, who reports to the mayor. I will create a truly independent inspector general who will jointly report to the mayor, the city controller and one member of City Council, elected by Council in a vote in which the mayor will not be allowed to participate. This will increase accountability and eliminate the mayor’s unilateral control of investigations involving employee misconduct. Also, all final reports of the OIG will be released to the public unless the mayor, controller and Council representative determine the complaint was frivolous.
Reform Campaign Finance Rules: I fully support the limitations on campaign contributions included in the End Pay-to-Play PAC petition. If that petition drive fails for any reason, I will put the issue on City Council’s agenda when I am mayor and if council fails to adopt the limitations, I will seek a charter amendment to enact them. I will direct the city secretary to begin entering all campaign contributions into a searchable database and begin working backward to eventually include all available historical data on campaign contributions. Current contribution information is only available in individual PDF files, which are cumbersome and time-consuming to search.
Reform the City Bid Process: The city is currently evaluating bids using what is known as the “Best Value” method. This method allows subjective factors, like “community engagement,” to be weighted as much as, or even more than, the cost. The result is that projects cost taxpayers more money and fewer projects are completed. Several contractors have shown me awards made by the city to bidders that were nowhere near the lowest bids using this method.
When I am elected, contracts will be awarded based on the lowest responsive bid, no exceptions! This is the method the city used for decades before the Turner administration. It is more cost-effective and will eliminate the subjectivity that allows pay-to-play bidders to be rewarded for their campaign contributions. Once a contract is awarded, all documents related to the evaluation and award, except those which cannot be released by state law, will be posted on the city’s website for the public to review.
Restore Deleted Budget Information: The last budget submitted to City Council by Annise Parker contained 821 pages of information. In each of his budgets, Turner has eliminated more than 200 pages of details about how your tax money is spent that were included in Parker’s budget. I have attached the 2016 and 2020 Dedicated Drainage and Street Funds budgets so you can see the kind of information that Turner has deleted. When elected, I will restore this information to the budget.
Expand Fiscal Accountability: Every contract entered into by the city, regardless of amount, will be posted in a searchable database available on the city’s website. In addition, the Monthly Financial and Operations Report (MFOR) will include a listing of any contracts executed in the previous month that fell below the $50,000 threshold that triggers the requirement for council approval. The report in the MFOR will include a general description and link to an on-line copy of the contract.
I will also expand the existing searchable online database of city payments maintained by the city controller’s office to include access to the authorizing purchase order, contract or ordinance. Currently, this database allows for searches based only on date and recipient name.
Texas Public Information Requests: There are circumstances in which the city has discretion to release or withhold certain documents which are not deemed confidential under state law. In my administration, those discretionary documents will only be withheld upon joint agreement by the mayor, city controller and City Council representative.
Charter Amendment: I will seek an amendment of the city charter to incorporate these reforms so that they cannot be undone by future mayors and councils.
We need a mayor who works for the taxpayers not the special interests. If you want an end to corruption and believe that is best accomplished by openness and transparency, then join our campaign to clean up city hall and get us back to the basics of balancing the books, improving public safety, reducing flooding and fixing the streets.
Join our campaign at http://BillforHouston.com.