Saturday, December 20, 2014

Year-end Houston council developments

-- Let's get the crap out of the way first.

A divided Houston City Council approved a tax break for Valero's eastside refinery on Wednesday that officials say will help the facility expand, despite concerns from some community leaders that residents had many unanswered questions about the agreement.

The deal means Valero's Manchester facility, the only refinery inside Houston city limits, will be considered outside the city boundaries for tax purposes. The rare move will let the energy giant pay lower fees than if it remained in the city and paid property taxes and, officials say, will ensure an $800 million expansion and the 25 permanent jobs that accompany it will happen here and not in Louisiana.

Manchester is the most polluted neighborhood in the city of Houston.  Allowing Valero to excuse themselves from the tax base for $17 million in exchange for 25 jobs is nothing short of an unconscionable act.

"There's absolutely no reason to jam this decision through the week before Christmas," said TOP executive director Ginny Goldman. "People deserve to have input, public dialogue and, more importantly, critical questions answered about a 15-year contract. Telling a community they should trust Valero, they should trust some lobbyist, they should trust political operatives at City Hall, doesn't fly for us."

Asked about community concerns, Mayor Annise Parker quickly noted that Valero informed Gallegos of the deal months ago.


Gallegos said after the meeting that he was "disappointed" in the mayor's comments, noting (city economic development czar Andy) Icken's staff had been negotiating the deal for a year and a half, long before he joined the council last January. Gallegos said he did not organize community meetings because Valero officials assured him they had cleared their plans with neighbors.


"I asked had they gone out to the community and notified the community, and they said yes," Gallegos said. "That's what brought my concern, is that according to the individuals that came to public session yesterday, they said they were not aware of this."

Houston attorney Beto Cardenas, who represented Valero in the talks, said the company began public outreach efforts related to its expansion plans many months ago but did not begin negotiating with city officials until June.

Looks like somebody's lying, don't it?  TOP had the best response.

Some of those are running for mayor, aren't they?  Many are certainly running for re-election.  Let's make sure this bad choice on their part does not go overlooked.

-- Speaking of city council elections, and as Charles and Noah and Stace and Wayne have all previously noted, Democratic county chair Lane Lewis is in for an at-large city council seat.  Lewis is a hard worker and a consensus-builder.  He's the fellow who put me on the Harris County Early Voting Ballot Board, a not-so-subtle move to keep me inside the tent pissing out instead of the other way around.  I have a lot of respect for everything he's done as county chair, particularly as an early doubter after he took over for Gerry Birnberg.

Jenifer Rene Pool and whomever else who has jumped early into AL1 are going to have to rethink those plans.

To answer a question that my fellow blogmeisters don't seem to know the answer to: the reason that all those folks started scrambling for AL1 is because it's an open seat held -- since 1998 -- by a Caucasian.  Look it up.  AL4 (Bradford, term-limited like AL1's Costello) is very quietly considered the black seat.  Since 1984, those holding the position include Anthony Hall, Sheila Jackson Lee, John W. Peavy Jr., Ronald Green, and Bradford.  And while it is accurate that Chris Bell and Michael Berry both held AL4 between 1997 and 2003, that should tell all you need to know about the African American community's lingering animosity toward both men.

It helps to have black friends who are willing to speak candidly and off the record to a pinkish-pale middle-aged white guy.

No comments: