Regional Government Reform on the Ballot in Houston

If Proposition B passes, Houston and other populous areas could gain more voting power in the region’s metropolitan planning organization.

2 minute read

October 31, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of green Memorial Park lawns and trees with downtown Houston skyline in background

Joseph Sohm / Memorial Park, Houston

The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is facing calls for reform as a local ballot proposition seeks to change its voting structure, reports Megan Kimble in Bloomberg CityLab.

According to Kimble, “since January, H-GAC has been the focus of a reform effort launched by Fair For Houston, the grassroots group behind Proposition B. The ballot initiative would force the board that governs the council to adopt population-proportional voting — and correct a persistent power imbalance that’s shortchanging urban residents, advocates say.”

Critics say the current ‘one government, one board seat’ voting structure disadvantages areas with the densest populations. While Houston and Harris County hold 11 percent of the votes on the council, their residents make up over 57 percent of the region’s population. In some cases, Houston officials say they were shut out of federal funding. When H-GAC distributed $488 million in assistance after Hurricane Harvey devastated the region, Houston, which was hit hardest, received just 2 percent of that funding.

Kimble explains the origin of metropolitan planning organizations, which grew out of a need for coordinated regional efforts during the interstate highway boom and are often tasked with distributing federal infrastructure funding. “But as cities have sprawled into increasingly constellated metropolitan megaregions, this structure of governance increasingly favors less populous areas over more dense — and diverse — urban cores.” A 2006 Brooking Institution study found that H-GAC had one of the least balanced boards of 50 MPOs they analyzed.

“If Prop B passes, H-GAC members will have 60 days to negotiate a new board structure that is proportional to population. If no agreement has been reached, Houston will withdraw from both H-GAC and the transportation policy council, the region’s metropolitan planning organization.”

Thursday, October 26, 2023 in Bloomberg CityLab

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of suburban sprawl with large single-family homes near Dallas, Texas.

The Changing Shape of American Suburbs

Housing costs and availability are pushing more American households, including young families, to suburbs and exurbs — and they’re demanding changes.

February 13, 2024 - Business Insider

Freeway toll booth with "Stop" and "Pay Toll" signs

Clearer Thinking About Transportation Pricing

It’s time to reform transportation pricing to reduce traffic congestion, crashes, and pollution, and improve non-auto travel options. Raise my prices, please!

February 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Close-up of old, rusted water pipe leaking at joint.

White House Announces $5.8 Billion in Water Infrastructure Funding

The new funds add to the effort to replace aging infrastructure and lead pipes.

February 21 - ABC News

White and blue double-decker bus in Seattle, Washington.

Seattle to Introduce Electric Buses With Wireless Charging

In-ground induction chargers will reduce the cost of the charging network.

February 21 - Smart Cities Dive

Row of parked cars along curb.

Video: How Much Should Parking Cost?

Variable parking pricing can offer some of the same benefits as congestion pricing.

February 21 - Next City

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The Walkable City

Harvard GSD Executive Education

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.