Low turnout, high stakes for Houston in Election 2017

There are several important issues on the ballot that could affect your tax dollars.

Even though local voters may not be picking a president, Congressional member, or mayor in Tuesday’s election, some political experts say it could be the most important one for Houston in years, if not decades.

Traffic was steady along West Gray Street Tuesday afternoon, but many drivers weren’t on their way to exercise their constitutional right.

“You really can’t complain if you don’t vote,” said Dr. Jules Bohnn, said money issues after Harvey drove him to vote Tuesday afternoon at Metropolitan Multi-Services Center. “I’m still thinking about it. I’m not positive how I’m gonna pull the lever.”

Dr. Bohnn was among the slow but steady trickle of people at the polling location Tuesday, after early voting numbers showed less than three percent turnout across Harris County.

“I came out today because I know that my vote counts more in election cycles like this where there are fewer people showing up to the polls,” said voter Doug Smith.

Even though it’s an off-year election, experts say it’s not the year Houstonians should take off from voting.

“I’ll go so far as to say that I’ve only covered elections for 40 years in this city,” said Bob Stein, KHOU 11 Political Analyst. “I cannot think of a more important election.”

Exhibit A, says Bob Stein? Houston’s Proposition A.

ELECTION: Click here for the latest polling results after 7 p.m.

“Failure to adopt this pension bond I think can do real, real harm to the city,” said Stein. “We’re back to where we were, square one, two years ago.”

The $1 billion bond would pay back money already owed to city workers and is the final step of the plan state lawmakers approved in May, after intense opposition from Houston’s firefighters, to erase Houston’s $8.2 billion in pension debt.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says passing the proposition would not result in any new pension debt or new taxes.

“For the first time in 17 years, we now are on the verge of coming up completely with a pension solution,” said Mayor Turner on November 1 during his weekly press conference. “The only thing left now is for the voters to give their approval on Proposition A.”

Turner says if Prop A fails, 2,200 police officers, firefighters, and other city workers could lose their jobs, and clinics, community centers, and libraries could be closed.

“A lot of Republican officials do support it,” said Paul Simpson, Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party. “Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Senator Joan Huffman, Senator Paul Bettencourt.”

Therefore, Simpson says the local GOP does not oppose Proposition A. However, he says the party is against the city’s other four bond propositions totaling nearly $500 million. 

Propositions B through E would issue general obligation bonds to upgrade public safety stations and equipment, as well as renovate and build new parks, libraries, and community centers.

“That’s not the way you finance the city’s operations,” said Simpson. “There’s probably a lot of other ways to address these. It’s not with this 30-year note mortgage approach to fixing ongoing needs.”

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart says five cities, 14 school districts, and ten utility districts within the county also have contests on the ballot.  Voters statewide will weigh in on seven amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Polls stay open until 7 p.m. Tuesday. Harris County voters must vote at their registered precinct. For more information, click here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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