Scroll to the bottom to read about Councilmember Rodriguez’s blowup on Twitter against three Chronicle writers, Texpatriate and Noah M. Horwitz
The Houston Chronicle reports that the Payday Lending ordinance, which has been kicked around at the City Council for a few weeks now, has been passed by the City Council in a lopsided vote of 15-2. The strong majority support placated fears that the ordinance would be delayed into next year’s session, complete with a City Council riddled with new (and sometimes unpredictable) individuals.
The ordinance requires payday lenders to register with the City, provide contracts in easy-to-read and straightforward language, limits the amount of a loan and places strict restrictions on the number of times a loan may be refinanced. While a cap on interest is omitted, the ordinance has some real teeth and is noticeably stronger than that initially proposed by the Mayor. It is worth saying that the Mayor has received some pretty generous contributions from Payday Lending PACs over the years, so the new hefty ordinance is a nice precedent to set that you must not always be a slave to who has given you money.
Among some of the ordinance’s detractors were those who believed it was overkill –though still acknowledged something needed to be done. They were led by Councilmember Jack Christie, who proposed an amendment that would have largely gutted the provisions of the act. The amendment garnered six votes, including Andrew Burks, C.O. Bradford and Dave Martin. While all of these individuals gave long pontifications against the regulations earlier, they all ultimately voted in favor. Helena Brown –the dependable ‘no’ vote– and James Rodriguez were the only dissenting voices in the final tally.
Councilmember James Rodriguez, who also receives donations from these industries, is a staunch opponent of the ordinance and was rumored to have been planning on “tagging” (a unilateral move by a Councilmember to delay a proposal for one meeting) it, thus delaying consideration into next year. Considering that a tag may be overruled by a 2/3 vote, Rodriguez decided not to go through with the tag.
A lot of people have been giving the Councilmember a hard time recently, most notably Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle, who wrote a scathing column against him. I thoroughly recommend giving it a read, irrespective of your position on the topic. Additionally, not long after the passage of the ordinance, Mike Morris at the Chronicle notes that lenders may file suit against the ordinance, though declined to offer specifics of their course of action.
Though the strangest story of the evening may have been the odd and unbecoming behavior transmitted by Councilmember Rodriguez following his last City Council meeting (he is term limited). Responding to both Falkenberg and another writer of the Chronicle, Rodriguez went on a Twitter temper tantrum of sorts, lashing at against them quite strongly.
First, Rodriguez belittles both Falkenberg and Parker, before evidently misspelling “roll” and referencing the entire thing as very bush-league (for the younger readers, that term does not refer to the former President, it’s a baseball term).
At this point, Ortiz, a Chronicle sportswriter, responds by summing up the whole statement. Given that bush-league is a baseball term, I find there to be an additional level of irony.
Rodriguez then responds by taking a cheap shot at the writer.
To which, Ortiz explains his attack is inaccurate.
And Rodriguez enacts one last cheap shot. The “sorry bro” comment is a little much for me. Make no mistake, this is conduct that is not professional, proper or classy for a public servant.
It is quite tragic, really. Councilmember Rodriguez served his community honorably for six years, and has been an amiable member of the City Council. He got along with others and was always open to new solutions. Unfortunately, it appears that this good reputation has begun to be sullied by not only his inane opposition to the ordinance, but his mean-spirited and rude commentary on that matter. Houston deserves better.
Shooting the messenger for good measure, I suppose. For the record, we gained no followers.