The Houston City Council had a rather busy meeting today, unanimously passing two major ordinances. Additionally, conversations were sparked on two other major issues. Specifically, the previously-noted hoarding ordinance passed, as well as a provision to expand subsidies for downtown living. Meanwhile, the discussion over both One Bin for All (recycling programs) and the Wage Theft ordinance’s implications continued.
First up, the Council unanimously passed the hoarding ordinance. Jayme Fraser at the Houston Chronicle has a somewhat fuller story on the topic. Among the provisions in the ordinance are fines (up to $550/day) for rampant hoarders who disturb the peace of their neighbors and clarifications on when the police could step in without a warrant. Councilmembers such as Richard Nguyen have previously voiced concern on the prospect of criminalizing a mental illness. However, following a reassurance from the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, these fears were largely placated.
Next, the Council unanimously approved additional subsidies for living downtown. Mike Morris, also at the Houston Chronicle, first reported this on Twitter. Morris wrote a lengthier analysis in the paper on this issue last month; the issue at play, essentially, is that the City will continue offering subsidies of up to $15,000 per unit to the downtown developers.
Third, the conversation has officially started over the “One Bin for All” program. Simply put, the program would eliminate most all of the recycling bins and cartons used, and allow for all trash and recycling to go into one bin –as the name suggests– that would thereafter be sorted out at a separate facility.
“One Bin for All will revolutionize the way we handle trash, achieving high-volume recycling and waste diversion, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, new jobs and lower operating costs,” Mayor Annise Parker has said on the matter. “We have reached another key milestone in this process and are eager to move forward as this technology has the potential to improve health and quality of life, not only in Houston, but around the world.”
Opponents of the measure, however, such as the Texas Campaign for the Environment, have accused the program of being a “boondoggle” and suggested it will not be nearly as successful as promised. Proponents hope to double the amount of waste diverted from landfills in the short term, and triple it in the long term. Once again, Morris has an entire feature on this topic. I highly suggest checking it out.
Last, but certainly not least, the Chronicle notes that workers have filed their first complaints under a new Wage Theft law enacted last year. 13 workers brought a complaint against Bradley Demolition, a private firm contracted by the City for public works projects. Under the law, unanimously passed last November, workers may bring suit against their employer for wage theft –defined as refusal to pay any obligatory salary or overtime payments– and cause said employer to be blackballed from future public projects.
If the complaints are upheld, the company would be prohibited from receiving any City permits or contracts for five years, effectively a death penalty of sorts for government contractors.