March 20, 2020

Telephonic Special Session of City Council, Monday at 6:00 p.m.

There have been a lot of firsts brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Add to that list our first telephonic City Council meeting.  This past Monday (but announced after my last post discussing our upcoming Council meeting schedule) Governor Abbott temporarily suspended certain provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act in order to allow governmental bodies to meet telephonically or by videoconference in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that bring together large groups of people.  All such meetings will still be open to the public.

This coming Monday’s Special Session, which will be conducted telephonically, has been called for two purposes:  to ask the City Council to (1) extend beyond seven days our local public health disaster declaration, and (2) postpone the sidewalks charter election from May to November.

Local Public Health Disaster Declaration

As have other mayors all across the state in recent days, today I’ve issued a local public health disaster declaration.  Such declarations are valid for up to seven days, unless continued or renewed by the City Council.  Please keep in mind it’s about preparedness, not panic.  Local disaster declarations are the key to unlocking several beneficial provisions of state law we may need to utilize as the situation progresses, concerning procurement of necessary resources, eligibility for state and federal aid, and other emergency management and law enforcement tools.  I’ve gone ahead and issued our local declaration, and am asking the City Council to extend it on Monday, so that we’ll have it in place if needed before Council meets again.

Election Postponement

In addition to the Open Meetings Act, this week the Governor also suspended provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow local governments to postpone their May 2 elections to the next uniform election date, November 3.  As the postponement is not automatic, it will require formal action by the City Council.  If there’s a silver lining for us, it’s that we’ll now be able to contract with Harris County to handle this election as we normally do, and split the costs with other participating entities.

The agenda packet, including the toll-free number to dial in to and participate in Monday’s Special Session, is available for download on the City website, here.  The meeting will be broadcast live—online and on cable (Comcast channel 16, U-verse 99)—and recorded for playback, as usual.