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Council postpones vote on Uber/Lyft, HAHC appeal, Gilette St sale

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Mayor Parker's press conference following Houston City Council July 30 2014Rick  Lowe and Philamena Baird named co-chairs of Cultual Plan
Mayor Parker's press conference following Houston City Council July 30 2014Rick Lowe and Philamena Baird named co-chairs of Cultual PlanMarc Pembroke
Mayor Parker and Vice Mayor Gonzalez at Houston City Council July 30 2014
Mayor Parker and Vice Mayor Gonzalez at Houston City Council July 30 2014photo by Marc Pembroke

On Wednesday, July 30, Houston City Council delayed votes on three complex issues: Amendments to Chapter 46 on Vehicles for Hire will allow Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft to operate if they meet certain conditions including registration, insurance, and driver background checks. Items 25 and 25a. An appeal on the record of the Archaeological and Historical Commission was tagged by Council Member Cohen. ( Item 24) An ordinance approving a contract for the sale of Gillette Street was tagged by Council Member Bradford. John Beeson, one of the four final bidders, alleged on Tuesday that his bid was improperly rejected, and that the “best and final offer” process was flawed. ( Item 15)

The proposed regulation on TNCs remains controversial. It was on the docket on June 11, and the council voted to allow for more hearings. A final administration version has been on the website since July 22. On Monday, July 28, the Transportation, Technology, and Infrastructure Committee held a 4-hour hearing, mostly attended by lobbyists for the largest taxicab companies and representatives of Uber and Lyft, with supporting testimony from drivers and passengers of each service. On Tuesday, many of the same speakers returned to address the full Council. The TTI Committee finalized a its substitute ordinance, and Council Members prepared additional amendments. Consequently, at the Wednesday meeting, the Council voted to substitute the Committee version for the original submitted on June 11, accept the proposed amendments, and postpone the vote until next week when all amendments, then the ordinance, will be voted up or down.

The Council approved release of $10 million for the City of Houston's contributing to the construction of an overpass on Harrisburg Street for Metro light rail trains, including 2 lanes of motor vehicles and a pedestrian walkway. (Item 27). In other matters, the Council heard the monthly financial reports from the City Comptroller and Finance Director. Although the budget is balanced for the current fiscal year, an expected cap on property taxes and increase in pension payments portends a large budget gap next year of as much as $146 million. The Council also held a public hearing on a resolution of no objection for a proposed project by New Hope Housing at 2620 Reed Road. New Hope Housing will be partnering with nearby Star of Hope family shelter to create a veritable campus for readjustment for homeless families including needed job training, social and medical services, and affordable housing for those who have completed the program. One speaker raised objections, but Council Member Boykins, who represents District D where the project will be located, disputed the arguments raised against the plan.