Early voting for the November election begins Monday. In addition to candidates, and more than a dozen proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, voters will be asked to consider three local propositions.
Two deal strictly with the city of Houston, while the third involves a bond election for all of Harris County.
Here is what voters will be asked to consider.
Harris Health Bond Election, Proposition A
Harris Health System, which operates the county’s safety net hospital district, is asking voters to approve $2.5 billion in bonds to rebuild and upgrade several hospitals and clinics.
The proposed bond package would fund an expansion of the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, including the addition of a new Level 1-capable trauma center slated to open in 2028. The bond also would be used to upgrade the existing LBJ and Ben Taub hospitals, as well as add and renovate Harris Health clinics across the county.
Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, president and CEO of Harris Health System, has called the addition of a level I-capable trauma center a “matter of life and death.”
The American College of Surgeons recommends one high-level trauma center for every 1 million people. In Harris County, there are two adult Level I trauma centers – at Memorial Hermann Hospital and Ben Taub, both located in the Texas Medical Center. The centers serve a population of almost 4.8 million.
Harris Health System’s capital improvement plans are projected to cost $2.9 billion, but it plans to fund a portion through philanthropic donations and internal cost cutting measures. Harris Health, formerly known as the Harris County Hospital District, operates two hospitals and 20 clinics, health centers and specialty clinics.
If approved, the bond issue would cost the owner of a home valued at $300,000 less than $6 a month, according to county projections. In about a decade, when the entire $2.5 billion has been borrowed, the cost to taxpayers will amount to about 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, according to Harris Health.
According to a University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs survey released Oct. 12, 59 percent of likely Harris County voters intend to vote for the hospital bond; 25 percent said they would vote against it, while 16 percent were undecided.
City of Houston, Proposition A
Houston has a strong-mayor form of government. In fact, it is one of the strongest strong-mayor formats in the country. Prop A takes aim at that.
Under Houston’s charter, the mayor sets the council agenda.
Currently, if a City Council member wants to add an item to the agenda, at least three members have to call a special meeting. If that meeting has a quorum of council in attendance, members may vote to place an item on an upcoming agenda. That method has been used only three times since 1990.
The proposed charter amendment would make it easier, by only requiring three council members to request in writing that an item be added to the agenda.
If the amendment passes, City Council members could have a greater say in what is considered at meetings.
Several mayoral candidates support the amendment and say they want to work in partnership with council members.
According to the Hobby survey, 57 percent of likely voters intend to vote in favor of the proposition, while 12 percent said they would oppose it; 31 percent were undecided.
City of Houston, Proposition B
On Aug. 21, City Council voted to add a proposition to the November ballot that asks Houstonians to vote to potentially increase Houston’s representation on the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the board that distributes millions of dollars in federal funding for transportation and other projects across the 13-county region.
The proposed charter amendment is the brainchild of a group of local residents who want Houston to have more proportional representation on H-GAC’s board. The “Fair for Houston” campaign collected more than 20,000 signatures to get the proposition on the ballot.
Under its existing structure, H-GAC’s board has 37 members representing 13 counties, 107 cities and 11 independent school districts.
Though Houston and Harris County account for 57 percent of the region’s population, each has only two seats on the board.
According to an August H-GAC report on services to the region, Houston is eligible to appoint 38 members to various board advisory committees, including those focused on criminal justice, regional air quality, flood management and solid waste.
The proposed charter amendment would require the city to participate in regional planning organizations only if its voting privileges are proportional to its population. It also would require the city to withdraw from such bodies if it is unable to renegotiate its voting power within 60 days after the passage of the amendment.
Though he voted to place the proposed charter amendment on the ballot, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner cautioned, “You just can’t step away from H-GAC. It does require the governor’s support and a majority of the board in order to do that. There are some other things that have to take place.”
Other ballot items
In addition to the local propositions, voters in various locations are being asked to cast ballots on school board positions and more than $3 billion in school district bonds.
Early voting begins Monday and runs through Nov. 3.
To find early voting locations and see a sample ballot for Harris County, go to harrisvotes.com
Voters in Fort Bend County can find voting locations and sample ballots here.
Galveston County voters can find sample ballots and voting locations at galvestonvotes.org.
For voting locations and sample ballots in Montgomery County click here.