City of Houston faces lawsuit over Proposition 1

December 16, 2010 3:34:51 PM PST
First it was red light cameras, now the drainage fee. Voters had their say last month, but the controversy continues in court.

Opponents of Proposition 1 lost the battle at the voting booth, but now they're taking their fight to a judge in hopes of invalidating those election results.

The decision to file the lawsuit didn't come so easily. In fact, a number of local churches and the school board members as well as the plaintiffs all met at Second Baptist Church on Wednesday to try to come to the decision of whether they should take the issue to court - and they decided to do so.

"I wouldn't want anybody -- my worst enemy -- to have to deal with this," Houston resident Alicia Enge said.

Enge is frustrated. Every time it rains, sewage backs up in her mother's home, so they're hoping a new drainage fee can fix some of their problems.

"For my experiences, and the problems that I've been having at my house, to pay a little extra a month it might be OK, but I still want to see some service," said Enge's mother, Louise Enge.

But opponents of Proposition 1 have filed suit, saying the entire drainage fee ballot initiative was illegal and should be thrown out.

"It's not so much overturning the will of the voters as letting the voters know they were deceived at the ballot box," plaintiff Elizabeth Perez said.

Perez says the Houston City Council and Mayor Annise Parker never held a public meeting and never specified the drainage cost to voters and property owners.

"She never answered any questions in regards to the details of this drainage fee. It's a hidden property tax," Perez said.

But Mayor Parker says Proposition 1 was brought up by Houstonians, and council members will start working next week on a rate plan that, for now, provides no exemptions.

"It's a simple fairness issue," Mayor Parker said. "If you contribute to the drainage problems, you should pay your fair share -- no exemptions, no excuses; it's all about fairness."

KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy says it doesn't matter whether Proposition 1 passed or failed. A lawsuit was the only certainty of this election.

"It's a litigious city. We have a lot of lawyers willing to take on causes for a lot of people that complain about a lot of things that are going on," he said.

Androphy says while it's not impossible, it's going to be an uphill battle to get the election overturned in the courts.

City leaders say drainage fee rate plans should be in place by the summer. When the drainage fee does go into effect, the amount you pay will depend on the footprint of your home or building. That includes the size of your home plus the concrete pavement. The fee on a 1,900-square-foot home on a curb and gutter street would be around $5 a month.

Click here to see how you can calculate your own drainage fee.


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