Council Member Clutterbuck resigns as Mayor Pro-Tem

December 7, 2010 4:58:52 PM PST
She's already trying to tackle a multi-million dollar budget gap, and now Houston Mayor Annise Parker has more problems to deal with as her Mayor Pro-Tem is stepping down. It's an important position to fill as city leaders begin to make some tough decisions in hopes of digging the city out of a financial hole.

Mayor Parker tried to play down the political shake up at City Hall after Council Member Anne Clutterbuck decided to step down from being Mayor Pro-Tem.

"I'm saddened I've tried to talk her out of it," said Mayor Parker.

Clutterbuck stepped aside Monday night, and it is the latest in a number of changes to hit Mayor Parker's administration. Largely a symbolic position, the Mayor Pro-Tem position is usually reserved for a council member who is closely aligned with the Mayor. However, over the past few months, Clutterbuck has differed from the Mayor on several key issues.

Clutterbuck admits her political differences with the mayor have become more obvious.

"Since some of the more public disagreement we've had, the mayor's staff has taken that as a sign of discontent on my part and it's become a distraction," said Clutterbuck.

Recently, Clutterbuck openly supported Janiece Longoria for Port Commissioner against Parker's choice of Dean Corgey. Longoria prevailed, but Parker insists it was not what soured the relationship.

"I have never asked my Mayor Pro-Tem to be a rollover vote for me. I chose a strong dynamic woman, and I expected her to be independent," said the mayor.

But that's not the mayor's only shake-up at City Hall; the City's Director of Finance is leaving. Michelle Mitchell admitted she and the mayor didn't see eye to eye on the budget.

"I have been frustrated by the pace of the cuts because it makes the job very difficult to get information needed and to make the determination and the projections, but wiser heads prevail over mine and I'm not going to venture to say if it's right or wrong," Mitchell said.

Mitchell leaves as the city tries to bridge a $50 to 80 million budget gap.

The mayor also took the redistricting issue away from Council Member Mike Sullivan, who said today he was surprised by the move that could have lasting repercussions.

"When we have a change like this - I consider it a major change - and one that I'm going to watch and others will be watching very closely as to what the root causes are," said Sullivan.

He has been very critical of the mayor and how she has handled the budget cuts over the last few weeks, so he's not surprised by being removed from the redistrictring issue.

The two changes will mean a behind-the-scenes shakeup at City Hall. It's a distraction neither the mayor nor council members could afford. And the city attorney warns, if the current cuts aren't enough to bridge the budget divide, it could get worse.

"You would go voluntary furlough, involuntary furlough, and layoffs; so it's a progression," said City Attorney Dave Feldman.

A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office sent us a statement saying:

    "The mayor did not ask Clutterbuck to step down. In fact, she values the council member's service and tried to talk her out of it. There is no process for selecting a new Mayor Pro Tem. Therefore, Vice Mayor Pro Tem Ed Gonzalez will be assuming the responsibilities normally handled by the Mayor Pro Tem. Mayor Parker looks forward to continuation of that relationship.

    "Council Member Clutterbuck will continue to serve as chair of City Council's Fiscal Affairs Committee, with some assistance from Council Member Stephen Costello, who has agreed to shoulder some of the workload as the committee's vice chairman. Mayor Parker believes the Clutterbuck/Costello team will be extremely helpful as her administration continues to work through the tough decisions needed to guide the city through these fiscal challenges."


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