Budget season is starting! The city’s finance department is transitioning from an incremental budgeting approach to outcome-based budgeting in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 2023. The City of Houston Fiscal Year 2024 budget will be considered at city council on June 7, 2023. Outcome-based budgeting turns the budget on its head, starting with the results we demand and the price we are willing to pay rather than the programs we have and the costs they incur. I hope this means we will build the budget by deciding to fund only those programs that deliver the results we want and leave the rest behind. We need to cut down government to its most effective size and shape through strategic reviews, consolidation, and rightsizing. Outcome-based budgeting uses competition to squeeze more value out of every tax dollar and makes every program, organization, and employee accountable for results.

One of my favorite parts of the budget process has been reading the responses to the YOUR TWO CENTS public budget survey I sent out every spring over the past three years. The city’s finance department put out its own survey this year, so I put my YOUR TWO CENTS survey on the shelf and directed people to the administration’s survey. I am happy to see increased public input throughout the city.

The survey had more than 2,500 responses. Priorities were ranked from “not important” to “very important” with respondents selecting public safety (70%), service and infrastructure (63%), and sound financial management (44%) as the most important. The comprehensive survey results are available on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee page.

Budget workshops will begin on May 17 and are open to the public. These typically begin with a presentation on the department’s proposed budget followed by questions from council members and the public. Council members are also able to submit questions for departments through the city’s internal portal. The questions I submitted in previous years are available on my website’s budget page

I understand people interested in the budget process may find it difficult to attend budget workshops. If you have questions for specific departments, please submit them here. My team and I will work to get them answered. 

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner presented updated crime statistics at the May 3, 2023, city council meeting. Finner stated that the implementation of the $53 million One Safe Houston initiative has helped lower violent crime rates throughout Houston over the past year. Year-to-date non-violent crime has also come down over the same time period last year.

Illegally parked large vehicles, 18-wheelers, trailers, and commercial vehicles are a big problem and cause eyesores in many Houston neighborhoods. ParkHouston announced upcoming changes to large vehicle restrictions at this morning’s Transportation, Technology, and Infrastructure Committee meeting. These changes include:

  • Sec 26-2: Update definition of commercial vehicle to align with federal/state code for clarity and enforcement purposes. This update will include addressing the city’s current requirement that the logo/signage must be located on the outside of the vehicle’s front doors in order to be considered commercial.
  • Sec 26-94: Include large vehicles in the section that prohibits trailers from parking more than two hours on a city street.
  • Sec. 26-96: Include large vehicles in the on-street parking restriction for commercial vehicles between 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The definition of a large vehicle in the city’s code of ordinances is a “motor vehicle” or a “trailer” that is in excess of eight feet in height at the highest point on the vehicle or trailer or in excess of 22 feet in length. To the extent that any motor vehicle is coupled or otherwise attached to a trailer, then the motor vehicle and trailer shall together be deemed as constituting a single large vehicle if the combined length of the motor vehicle and trailer exceeds 30 feet.

We first began discussing these possible changes at the Regulatory and Neighborhood Affairs (RNA) Committee I hosted last July. On July 12, the RNA committee convened to review the city’s rules and processes associated with junk motor vehicles, commercial vehicles, vehicles parked on lawns, and 18-wheelers in residential neighborhoods. Presentations were made by HPD, Planning and Development, DON, and ARA. Council members and department staff discussed ways to better address these issues which really bring down the aesthetics and quality of life in several Houston neighborhoods. Vice Chair Amy Peck and I submitted a memo to the mayor summarizing several recommendations for solutions, including the code updates mentioned above. I am happy to report the administration also agreed to move forward with many of the other suggestions, including: 

  • As of October 1, 2022, fines relating to commercial vehicles, large vehicles, and trailers/semi-trailers were raised from $60 to $150.
  • ParkHouston has updated its  large vehicle website and respective literature/educational materials. Staff has met with members of the Texas Trucking Association and the Houston Council of Safety Professionals to educate them on the city’s rules and processes.  
  • To see a broader list of updates, click here.

Citywide Truck Route Plan
As a goal of Vision Zero, Planning has begun working with HPW, Legal, HPD, and HFD to designate a Citywide Truck Route Plan. The plan hopes to proactively manage freight movement throughout the city and to create objective criteria to designate certain roadways as “Through Truck Routes” that will allow trucks to move goods through the city. The goals of the study are to:

  • Increase safety for people walking, biking, and driving in Houston
  • Improve the quality of life by reducing noise and air quality impacts to the residential neighborhoods
  • Minimize roadway maintenance costs for roadways not designed for through-truck traffic

To ensure the success of the plan, we need broad public engagement. Planning has already begun discussions with other city departments and key stakeholders regarding the plan’s development and implementation. Our next step will be a neighborhood tour to assess areas most affected by heavy truck traffic. In late May and early June, we will host three public meetings to introduce the project to communities most impacted by this issue and gather their input. Your help in spreading the word and promoting public engagement in your districts on the Citywide Truck Route Plan would be greatly appreciated.

For more project details, visit Let’s Talk Houston.

Are you a strong swimmer looking for a summer job? The Houston Parks Department is looking for lifeguards! The role requires passing the lifeguard training program and committing to 30 to 40 hours a week.

To apply, call 832-395-7129 or email aquatics.applications@houstontx.gov.