Experts break down how Houston's mayoral job comes with unique amount of power

Chaz Miller Image
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Houston's mayoral job comes with unique amount of power, here's how
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner holds greater power than any mayoral position in the United States by controlling what city council votes on each week.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Did you know Houston's mayoral position comes with more power than most of his or her contemporaries?

The reason why is that the mayor of Houston has control over what the city council votes on each week.

"There is no other city in the country, and probably in the universe, that empowers this mayor (like Houston)," Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein said. "He controls what comes before the city council."

The agenda presented to the city council each week includes a variety of ordinances, law changes, contracts, and more that directly impact the way the city operates.

Those agenda items have to be voted on by the city council, but the mayor ultimately decides whether or not the items even get to that point.

It's been that way for decades thanks to the city's charter.

"In other major cities, council members can put items on the agenda to be heard," Houston City Council Member Amy Peck said.

Items not on the agenda aren't discussed, much less voted on.

Peck said that comes with challenges.

"My constituents come to me with issues, with concerns, and, unfortunately, the response sometimes has to be 'go talk to the mayor's office' because I can't put it on the agenda," she said. "I don't like saying that to people."

There have been efforts to change that in the past, and Peck said there could be something on November's ballot that would allow three of the city's 16 council members to set items in the future.

Eyewitness News is awaiting an answer after asking Mayor Sylvester Turner's office for a statement about how he feels about criticisms regarding this balance of power.

The mayor's office said they were working on getting a statement to ABC13 at the time this article was published.

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