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Houston Council delays vote on controversial equal rights ordinance to May 28

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City Council members Pennington (left and Green) isten as Houston City Council debated numerous amendments to the Equal Rights Ordinance on May 14 2014
City Council members Pennington (left and Green) isten as Houston City Council debated numerous amendments to the Equal Rights Ordinance on May 14 2014Marc Pembroke
Council Member Michael Kubosh (left) proposes "Mulligan" amendment to HERO May 14 2014
Council Member Michael Kubosh (left) proposes "Mulligan" amendment to HERO May 14 2014photo by Marc Pembroke

On Wednesday May 14, Houston City Council voted on amendments to a controversial Equal Rights Ordinance, and postponed the matter to the next session. Several proposed amendments would remove language related to access of trans-gender and transsexual persons to bathrooms, grant a “Mulligan” or “one free bite” first offense exception, reduce the size of businesses subject to the law gradually from 50 to 15, and clarify references to federal law. Because of a previously scheduled break next week, the issue will come to a vote after the Memorial Day holiday on May 28. Because of the holiday, the public speakers session will be combined with the regular Wednesday morning meeting. See most recent draft of the proposed ordinance. Almost all of the remaining 52 items on the consent agenda were routine and passed by unanimous vote.

At her press conference later that morning, Mayor Parker explained that although she believed she had the votes to pass the ordinance that day, she deferred to those Council members and citizens who asserted that they had not yet been heard on the matter, and allowed more time for public discussion.

Another delay concerned a several related software purchase and consulting contracts costing a total of around $10 million that will allow all departments to in share data more efficiently. Council Member Laster chose to tag the item, imposing a 2-week delay, and limiting the ability of the city's IT staff time to complete the purchase with a proffered 20% savings from the vendor worth $ 1.5 million if the contract is finalized by May 31 and other savings on an annual maintenance fee of $300,000. The software is already in use by three of the largest departments in the city, and it is expected to function well according to IAT. In an effort to clarify any questions Mr. Laster had, IT director Charles Thompson was called to the Council Chamber. He explained the reasons for continuing the current contract and for not seeking bidders on other modules instead of continuing with the same vendor. Nevertheless, Mr. Laster insisted on tagging the issue. See Items 8 and 8a, 9 and 9a, 10 and 10a.