Houston City Council met for a combined session of public speakers and non-controversial but necessary deliberations on several items on January 2 2012, with Council members Cohen and Huang absent. Only 2 of the 6 speakers who had signed up were present.
Newly-elected Council member Dave Martin (District E - Kingwood)) was sworn in, joined by his wife and 3 children. He then introduced them from his new seat in the horseshoe and received encouraging greetings from council members. Martin will fill the unexpired term of Mike Sullivan, who was elected Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector in November. Sullivan resigned as planned on December 31, and was sworn in with other Harris County Officials on January 1.
Mayor Parker also appointed or re-appointed (and the council confirmed) 4 and members of Reinvestment Zone 9.
City Attorney Dave Feldman gave the Mayor's Report, an update on filings seeking a rate reduction from Centerpoint Energy. Feldman explained how the City and Centerpoint are making progress on resolving disputed issues and developing a more “user-friendly” and less adversarial method for the utility and the City to share needed information without the time and expense of litigation. Mr. Feldman recommended postponing Council action for 2 weeks, and the council acted accordingly on agenda item 22 with a unanimous vote.
The council also approved a measure (item 8) amending the Section 110 of the City of Houston Construction Code known as the City of Houston Residential Energy Conservation Code increasing standards, containing findings, and providing an effective date. While there was no discussion of the measure at council, Mayor Parker explained in her news conference that the changes will apply only to future construction projects. She stated that in most cases, there is no major additional cost associated with higher energy conservation standards, and the more efficient energy consumption of buildings results in future savings for the owner. The legislation passed today is the second phase of a planned three-year change of building standards. The first phase was implemented with a similar ordinance last year.
All items on the agenda were approved or tagged without serious debate. The longest discussion was less than 8 minutes including the approval of a $3.5 million contract with Dean's Nutritional Food Service, Inc. to supply the Parks and Recreation Departments after-school program meals in 49 community centers. Council member Christie and several others expressed concern for the quality of the food provided including the nutritional value of snacks. Others noted that 16 vendors downloaded the request for proposals, but Only Dean's submitted a bid. Several recommended exploration of a way to subdivide the contract so that more vendors could qualify offering more competition in the future.