in Houston, Texas
hawes hill calderon
Special districts, special favors: An insider network of favors surrounds these proliferating governments in Texas
Monday, Oct 29, 2012, 09:13AM CST
By Steve Miller
money

For decades, Texans have relied on special districts for services that local municipalities can’t provide. Water to an isolated settlement. Crime prevention in a region that can’t afford full-service cops. Flood control in susceptible areas.

But the web of special districts is at times marked by self-dealing and relationships greased with campaign cash, which passes from the firms and developers who make a living off the districts to the lawmakers who authorize them.

These deals result in government that is not always for the people by the people, but instead is driven by special interests --- lawyers, lobbyists, and management firms --- that make huge profits on the backs of residents.

For example:

  • A consultancy for special districts, Municipal Accounts and Consulting, is owned by attorney Joe Schwartz, whose law firm Schwartz Page & Harding handles the elections and management of several special districts, which give their business to Municipal Accounts.

Schwartz’s office said he sold the limited partnership to Mark Burton, a certified public accountant who was the registered agent of the operation when it began in 2002. Texas Watchdog was unable to locate any state records confirming the sale. The company has an address of 1300 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 1600, in Houston. Schwartz’s law firm occupies the 14th floor.

In 2007, Huffines Communities landed the big fish in the form of Viridian Municipal Management District, which sold bonds for millions of dollars in roads and infrastructure and has broad taxing powers to build everything from playgrounds and amphitheaters to signs and monuments.

The legislation creating the district was sponsored by state Rep. Paula Hightower Pierson, D-Arlington, in April 2007. Eight months later, Hightower-Pierson received a campaign donation of $5,000 from Robert Kempel, president of Huffines, the first of three donations he would make to her through 2010. One fawning story pegs the total public “contribution” at $337 million, “if all goes as planned.”

  • In late 2006, state Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, received campaign donations of $500 each from Hawes Hill Calderon and Allen Boone Humphries Robinson. Four months later, in March 2007, Vo and state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, carried a bill creating the International Management District, which would become a client for both firms. Hawes Hill manages the district, and Allen Boone is a mega law and lobbying firm which handles legal affairs for districts across the state including International.

After the 2007 session, Vo received additional donations, $2,500 in August from Hawes Hill and $500 in September from Allen Boone.

Vo has since received one donation from Hawes Hill, $1,000 in May.

Perhaps even more cozy is the building on Bellaire in Houston that houses the offices of the International Management District; records show that it is owned by ERA Investment, a company registered in 1997 by Vo and his wife, Kathy.

David HawesDavid Hawes

David Hawes, of Hawes Hill Calderon, said the space for the district is donated by Vo, saving the district the $600 a month it was previously paying in rent.

The building was purchased in 2004 by Vo’s company although his financial disclosure for 2007 does not state his interest in the building at 11360 Bellaire. Vo did not return a call asking for a comment.

One of the largest district management firms in the state, Hawes Hill Calderon has been a major player in the explosion of special districts in the state. The Houston-based firm is an efficient and effective team of professionals, handling everything from security to graffiti removal for businesses often located in tough neighborhoods.

“Cities do what they can, but they can’t do everything,” Hawes said. “If I can provide security to drive into these district centers and help, it’s a service to the commercial community.”

Hawes said that in one district, they were able to cut burglaries of businesses by up to 70 percent in a given period.

For graffiti abatement, the city often cites a business if it does not clean up the spray paint in a given time period.

“As a business owner, if you have someone managing the removal, you avoid a fine.”

At the same time, Hawes Hill has contributed to the campaign funds of lawmakers and elected officials who authorize the districts.

“It’s become a cottage industry. There are people making their entire living off these special districts,” said Martha Wong, a former Republican state lawmaker from Houston.

She pointed to Hawes Hill, which wanted her to support a special district in the Montrose area to provide extra publicly-funded services such as police patrol and litter pickup.

“They wanted to me introduce legislation for their management district, but I found out there was a big resistance to it,” Wong said. “My goal was to have 75 percent of the landowners approve it and to make sure every land owner in that area was notified.”

Martha WongMartha Wong

Wong refused to carry the bill because of the overwhelming opposition.

“When you work it out and the neighborhood agrees, I’ll carry it,” Wong recalled telling the district organizers.

The organizers got a more sympathetic hearing from Ellen Cohen, Wong’s successor in the House, who sponsored the bill creating the Montrose Management District in 2009.

Today, that district is being sued by landowners who claim they submitted a lawful petition to dissolve the district’s mayor-approved board, but the board denied the petition’s validity.

Wong said special districts are “good for specific projects, but that’s all they really need to be used for.”

Yet the districts continue to bill residents and business owners for web services, landscaping, advertising; it’s a potpourri of services that often border on questionable, like the branded jump ropes the folks in Brays Oaks Management District ponied up for last year.

Residents of Brays Oaks in June 2011 also paid $5,000 down on the  $20,000 lobbying bill for Allen Boone Humphries during the legislative session.

The number of lobbyists for special districts exploded in the early 2000s, jumping from 412 in 1999 to 2,271 in 2004. The number has since fallen, to 610 in 2012.

Trey Lary, uber-lobbyist to special districts and a lawyer with Allen Boone Humphries, received between $50,000 and $99,999.99 for his services to Hawes Hill Calderon in 2005, records show. Three other Allen Boone lawyers worked for Hawes Hill that year, including Joe Allen. All made in the $50,000 to $99,999.99 range.

That year the Legislature created the Greater Sharpstown Management District. The contract to manage it went to Hawes Hill.

Hawes, himself a lobbyist, in 2009 represented the Harris County Improvement District #10B and Harris County Improvement District #6 -- later known as the Five Corners and Montrose management districts -- as well as some investment groups.

Hawes also lobbied for INCAP Financial Group, which was in the final stages of creating the Dallas North Oak Cliff Municipal Management District in Dallas. Hawes Hill is the manager of that district.

Right now, there are lobbyists working on special district issues for the upcoming session, which begins in January.

Jody Richardson, a veteran lobbyist with Allen Boone Humphries, has helped create special districts since 1982. She has spent time every month this year since February lobbying for special districts, according to her filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.

special district webs of influence

She attributes the increase in special districts in Texas, up 25 percent in the last 30 years, to land development becoming more “sophisticated.”

“The consuming public wants stuff,” Richardson said. “They don’t just want a house. They want a house in a master planned community, with hike-and-bike trails and amenities. All of that costs the developers money. And they need to put them in place to attract homebuyers.”

As far as the campaign donations from district firms to lawmakers, Richardson said looking at it as trading favors is “simplistic.”

“The reason those lawmakers carry those bills is because that land is in their district,” she said. “If you think a senator or a representative is going to sell his soul for $500 or $1,000 or $2,000, then you must not respect your government very much.”

Richardson sees only a “network of specialists” that cater to the needs of a demanding district system, businesses that are filling a market demand.

Phillip Savoy, of Austin-based Murfee Engineering Co., said in a hearing regarding districts last year that his group has “built an entire engineering business on putting together the process to create these districts. We have found a mechanism to allow communities to expand their infrastructure. Without putting the tax burden on the whole community, it goes to the people who live in the [municipal utility district].”

* * *

Perhaps the granddaddy of special district largesse is state. Rep. Jim Murphy, who earns a six-figure salary to manage Westchase District in Houston. His deal as general manager calls for a monthly fee of $22,491 in addition to other payments for consultancy and an upfront payment of $7,711.

He was first elected to the statehouse in 2006, a Republican from the Houston area and the owner of District Management Services, a sort of one-stop company that manages the affairs of special districts much the same way as Hawes Hill.

But instead of relying on lobbyists to advocate for Westchase, Murphy, who was voted out in 2008, handled the job himself.

In April 2009, state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, carried a bill to give broader powers to Westchase, such as the ability to receive money from tax increment finance zones. It authorized the board of the district to change the number of voting directors, “provided the board determines that the change is in the best interest of the district.”

It also gave the district broader powers to tax for services, including infrastructure.

When it came time to hear testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, there was one witness to testify for the bill: Jim Murphy, who was now a registered lobbyist for special districts and authorities. The bill was signed by the governor in June 2009.

Murphy was re-elected in 2010. In April, as Murphy struggled to retain his seat in the primary against challenger Ann Witt, the district became an issue.

The Witt campaign unveiled a web site and sent out a mailer outlining the numerous Westchase contracts handed out to Murphy donors, including Rehak Creative Services, whose owner, Robert Rehak, has donated at least  $7,000 to Murphy’s campaigns since 2005.

Other contract-holding contributors include Phonoscope, BMS Management and Brown & Gay Engineers.

“Double Dipping. Skirting the Law. Bilking Taxpayers. Rewarding Cronies,” a banner at the bottom of one page of the mailer claimed in fairly standard attack ad format.

Murphy did not return a call for comment.

Rehak sued Witt for defamation, claiming Witt’s connecting of dots constituted an unlawful act. A district court judge in Harris County quickly dismissed the case, granting attorney’s fees to Witt. The decision is on appeal.

Witt’s daughter, Ellen Witt, was managing the campaign and felt she had found a wedge issue that would boost her mother’s chances of winning.

It didn’t work. Ann Witt lost 59 percent to 41 percent.

***

Ellen Witt, former deputy attorney general for legal counsel in the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, feels people aren’t aware of the power of special districts.

The districts often do a poor job of posting their public meetings, she said, and usually use a .com URL rather than the .gov that is used with other taxpayer-funded operations.

For example, for a district outside Denton, public meeting notices are posted to a fence post.

“People don’t understand that these are government entities,” Witt said. “For people to hold government accountable, they need to know that a group is a government entity to begin with. Many of these are operating under the radar. And they don’t seem to want the public to know they exist.”

Indeed, even though taxpayers in a municipal utility district in North Texas had paid off the district’s debt in 2010, the board continued to meet and tax residents. It took a court order and an election to undo the district, which, as far as some residents were concerned, had done nothing to let the public know of its existence.

“We had no idea there was a board that met every month,” said Mary Arceneaux, a resident of the district in Corinth, near Denton. “They had meetings, they were spending our money, they had elections, and we never did find out. That’s how they kept the same people in there on the board for 15 to 20 years.”

Most legislation creating districts names the initial board members. Those members sometimes remain in place for years due to a power structure that can leave little room for new voices.

In the Montrose Management District, two-thirds of the board members are donors or supporters of Mayor Annise Parker, who presides over the City Council, which in turn approves board members.

Once the districts are created, they’re hard to rein in.

Not even the governor could stop a move in 2007 to change the power structure of the Buffalo Bayou district in Houston. Democratic state reps. Garnet Coleman and Ellen Cohen co-authored legislation that reduced the number of board members from 31 to 9. The measure passed, but Gov. Perry vetoed it, pointing out that the amendment would not only decrease the number of board members but also name nine directors “without the approval of the local governing body.” Today, the board has nine members, anyway; three of those named in the vetoed legislation are among them. The other 22 spots are left vacant.

Over the years, lawmakers have reviewed internal, mostly academic reports on special districts that have confirmed their majority view that districts are a good thing. The most this 2002 Senate committee report could muster is that “there was not adequate oversight regarding certain activities by certain special districts … specifically, the ability to divide or convert to another type of district.”

critical, geeky analysis in 2007 from Fordham Law Review offered a candid look at the problems of districts.

This 2008 assessment by the Texas Senate Research Center offers a dry, academic look at districts, posing few questions but conceding they are an “invisible” layer of government.

A 2001 series in the Dallas Morning News, Government by Developer, exposed a number of questionable elements of the districts. Among them: The moving of money between developers and the lawmakers that author bills creating districts, the relationship between lawyers, lawmakers and developers and the practice of hiring voters to elect a board that suits the power structure of the district.

All three strategies are still rampant. For the third, one need only look as recently as 2010, when a 30-something entrepreneur, Alan John Lesselyong, moved into a FEMA trailer to elect officers and approve $400 million in bonds for a Denton County district.

Lesselyong was the sole voter in the district. He was de facto election judge, from the polling place set up behind the trailer.

Legislators have vowed to look into possible problems with the system of special districts, but so far, done nothing.

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, claimed in 2010 that the voter residency laws were “something that needs to be looked at.” Addressing residency laws could make it more difficult for some districts to be assembled.

But when pressed last month about it, Bonnen said he was going to be busy with other things in the upcoming session.

State Sen. Jane Nelson in 2011 tried to convince her colleagues to address the hiring of voters for special districts, giving a half-hearted plea in a hearing.

In 2001, though, Nelson, R-Flower Mound, had co-authored a bill creating the Frisco Square Management District in what has become one of the ritziest of north Dallas suburbs.

Nelson declined to speak to Texas Watchdog.

Susan CombsSusan Combs

State Comptroller Susan Combs, eyeing a higher office bid and with great fanfare, recently announcednew web site that allows residents to track the taxing entities in and around their area, including districts. The site was applauded by the conservative Americans For Prosperity group.

Combs considered in March lobbying for a moratorium on the creation of special districts, although she has little jurisdiction in that regard. Nonetheless, she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last month that she now favors a more political - albeit likely results-free - path of talking with lawmakers.

Combs declined to talk with Texas Watchdog.

Wong, the former state legislator from Houston, said the whole special district process needs to be addressed in the legislature. “People have tweaked the rules” over the last few years, making it easier to create districts.

Austin is the only place that can change the situation that some feel has gotten out of hand, making taxpayers pony up millions that used to be part of the risk taken by an entrepreneur, a developer, even a lawyer.

“Legislators need to do a better job of letting people know that these are government entities,” added Ellen Witt, the former AG’s office lawyer. “I don’t know why more people haven’t raised this issue with their representatives. “

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Lawsuit seeks to overturn Montrose Management District
Monday, Apr 23, 2012, 02:22PM CST
By Steve Miller
gavel

Emboldened by the secession success of some business owners in one Houston improvement district, another group of small business operators has filed a suit against the Montrose Management District, seeking to dissolve the district.

The district levies a tax of 12.5 cents per $100 valuation on business owners and is created legislatively rather than via vote.  It’s an increasingly used practice that in recent years has raised the ire of many of those taxed.

The suit was filed by 1620 Hawthorne Ltd., which records show is registered to Robert Rose, part of an effort called Stop the District. The group previously petitioned unsuccessfully to dissolve the entity.

The suit is filled with sensational terms – check “course of collusive and illegal actions,”  “sham investigation” and “unlawful and illegitimate attempt to avoid dissolution” – and alleges that the petition for dissolution in September was legal and sufficient.

The suit also alleges that the board charged with judging the legal merits of the petition is the board of the district itself, a self-interest that precludes the impartial decision required.

The district has hired the law firm Blank Rome to defend the case.

Business owners in the Five Corners Management District sued that district last year, which resulted in the exclusion of several plaintiff properties. Blank Rome also handled that case for the district.

Both Five Corners and Montrose are managed by Hawes Hill Calderon, a Houston firm that manages at least 10 such districts in the region. The districts are small governments, providing services such as graffiti cleanup and extra policing with taxes collected from the property owners.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

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Like this story? Then steal it. This report by Texas Watchdog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. That means bloggers, citizen-journalists, and journalists may republish the story on their sites with attribution and a link to Texas Watchdog. If you do re-use the story, e-mail news@texaswatchdog.org.

Property owners fail to win seats on Houston management district board, say process set up to keep dissenters out
Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012, 09:09AM CST
By Steve Miller
5 Corners district map

Several applicants for the board of a local improvement district say their hopes to serve their community have been dashed by a power structure that refuses to allow dissenting voices.

Instead, they contend, the nominating board of the Five Corners Improvement District sat for months on their applications while a number of positions sat vacant.

Today, the Houston City Council is scheduled to vote on a slate of board appointments rubber stamped by Mayor Annise Parker. Six of the nine positions are reappointments, and four of those six have been on the board since its creation in 2009.

Not on the list are three applicants who say they were never contacted by the district because they were not touting its party line: They had in the past publicly renounced the district, which taxes business owners in exchange for services such as extra policing and graffiti abatement, and hoped it would never be created.

In fact, they said the resistance to their views was so great that the board left some positions vacant for a year rather than accept a board member with differing views. At various times in the past three years, up to five board spots have been vacant.

"They didn’t want people on the board that might want to abolish the district," said Wayne Earl Derrick, who submitted his application in April.

"They thought I'd take an adversarial position on the board, and if they get too many of that kind of opinion, they are afraid of dissolution," added Frank Sturman, also an April applicant.

But board chairman Homer Clark said anyone who submits an application is interviewed.

“If someone submits an application, we get them in and interview them,” said Clark, who was originally appointed to the board by the legislation that created the district. “We don’t just arbitrarily decide who is on the board."

Clark said there are only nine board spots and 1,400 business owners being taxed at 10 cents per $100 valuation. For a business property valued at $500,000, that amounts to a tax of $500.

“And when you do anything, you are going to get opposition,” Clark said. Appointments to management district boards have been politically disputed over the years. State law governs the appointment process, and in August, Parker issued her own revised guidelines for appointments.

At the time Derrick and Sturman submitted their applications, two positions were vacant. Another six were set to expire in June, according to the district's April 1 meeting minutes, and the board voted to submit all sitting board members for reappointment to new terms.

Those positions have remained unfilled until now, leading Sturman, Derrick and a number of others who are being taxed for the property they own in the district to believe the process is operated by a chosen few and blessed by city hall.

One of those others is Ronny Hecht, a lawyer with property in the district. He applied for the board in April but didn’t get a call. At the time he filed, he was leading a cabal of rogue residents who requested the district be dissolved.

They attended a hearing early last year when the organizers of the district presented at a public meeting the required approval from 25 companies or people who owned property in the district to begin taxing property owners.

After a protracted squabble, Hecht became part of a lawsuit against the district, alleging the district was taxing property owners violation of state law.

Along with other business interests, he challenged the validity of the 27 petitions submitted for the creation of the district for technical reasons.

“A couple of the people didn’t even own property in the district by the time these were presented,” Hecht said. “A couple of the petitions were from joint property owners, and only one party had signed.”

One of those petitioners was Lewis Waddell, who owns a grocery store in the district. When the district was being formed, someone called him, urging him to help.

“There was a lady that kept calling me,” said Waddell, who also unsuccessfully applied for the district’s board. “I was told I should support it because they’re going to have the district anyway. They kind of dangled it in front of you.”

The suit also contested the fact that the presiding authority at the meeting – at which numerous objections to the formation of the district were presented – was board member Clark.

“He was not an impartial party, which they needed to run that meeting,” Hecht said.

But Hecht found out that for all the arguments, petitions and efforts to join the board rather than beat it, the lawsuit accomplished the most satisfying end result. The district came to the plaintiffs, he said, and said they were no longer subject to the district assessment.

“They said if we dropped the suit, we would not be taxed by the district,” said Hecht, who is an officer with the Spectrum Management District, a 1,000-acre taxing authority in Pearland. “They came to our lawyer and said, ‘We’ll let you out of the district if you drop the lawsuit.’ I think the districts have a lot of authority, and if they want exclude properties, they can.”

David Hawes, whose company Hawes Hill Calderon manages Five Corners and eight other management and improvement districts in the Houston area, said that the lawsuit did not have any bearing on the exclusion of the plaintiffs from the district tax.

He said a provision of state law at the time allowed a party to be excluded upon request within 30 days of the formal announcement of the levy. In addition to the litigants, several others who requested to be excluded from the district were able to opt out.

“Some of these were people that were party to the lawsuit, and some weren’t,” Hawes said. “But it had nothing to do with the lawsuit.”

The provision for exclusion has since been narrowed and now requires 50 percent of property owners in a given district to request to be excluded.

Like Clark, Hawes said there is bound to be resistance to most anything. A look at the Montrose Management District proves that. And despite his vocation, Hawes also questioned the law that creates these districts. For Five Corners, 25 of the more than 1,400 business property owners had to agree to the district and its tax. But for the district to be dissolved, the agreement of those holding 75 percent of the acreage in the district or 75 percent of the overall property valuation is required.

“That’s a pretty high threshold,” Hawes said.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Two-thirds of controversial Montrose Management District board have ties to Houston Mayor Annise Parker
Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011, 07:13AM CST
By Steve Miller
City Hall

The cadre of business owners itching to dissolve the Montrose Management District are fighting more than a legislatively-created taxing entity.

They’re fighting city hall.

The Montrose Management District is led by a board of 15 appointees, two-thirds of whom have financial or domestic ties to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, records show. Together with employees of the district they've given her nearly $50,000 in political donations since 2007.
 
Eight of them have donated at one time to the political endeavors of the mayor, and one, Kathy Hubbard, is Parker’s domestic partner. Another board member shares an address with a donor of the same last name.
 
In addition, David Hawes, who heads Hawes Hill Calderon, the management firm handling the district, has contributed $9,500 to Parker since 2007, when the mayor was running for city controller. And the lawyer for the district, Clark Lord, is also a Parker donor.

“When you vote someone into political office, the power isn’t just in the money they earn,” said Andrew Leva, who is part of an effort to repeal the district calling itself Stop the District. “They get to exert influence. No one who is opposed to this tax will ever be elected to that board.”

Asked for comment, Parker issued an e-mailed statement: “I have been active in the Montrose business community dating back to before I was an elected official. In addition, these are my neighbors with whom I have had relationships for decades. It is not surprising they would be on my donor list. However, I have nothing to do with their appointment to this organization as all board members were appointed by the state.”

The board in turn elects subsequent directors as terms expire. The mayor and the city council have the power to approve new members, although they have not exercised it in recent years, according to City Council minutes.

Still, the donations point to a board that has great fealty to the mayor.

Montrose district-Parker ties
Annise ParkerAnnise Parker

Here are the players and their donations to Parker totaling $47,150.

  • David Hawes, executive director of MMD and a partner in Hawes Hill Calderon, which receives $6,000 a month for managing the district – $9,500
  • Board Position 1: Claude Wynn, Chairman – none
  • Position 7: Dennis Murland – none
  • Position 8: Robert Jara – none
  • Position 11: Tom Fricke – none
  • Position 12: Brad Nagar, shared address with Joseph Nagar, who has donated $5,750
  • Position 14: David Robinson – none
  • Clark Lord, attorney at Vinson & Elkins, counsel for the district – $1,250
NOTE: Texas Watchdog arrived at the totals based on an analysis of campaign finance records available here. The linked documents are examples of the donations and may not equal the total.

The Montrose Management District was hatched via 2009 legislation carried by City Council member-elect Ellen Cohen, a state legislator at the time. Cohen did not return a call.

Her bill allowed the creation of a West Montrose Management District, which quickly merged with the established East Montrose Management District, as had been planned for years.

Records show that a group calling itself Montrose Management District paid two lobbyists from Vinson & Elkins, which also handles legal matters for the district, to work for it last session. The two were paid under $10,000, one of the broad ranges used in reporting lobbying activity.

Hubbard was a main figure in the original district, nominating Nagar and Ellis in 2006, and motioning to put Grover on the board.

Under the bill creating the West Montrose district in 2009, 10 board members were named, unlike the 2005 legislation creating its east-side counterpart. Eight of the 10 are now on the consolidated management district board.

The 2009 bill also provided a method for directors to avoid abstaining from voting on issues that might favorably affect their own interests.

Under the provisions of the bill, a director files an affidavit acknowledging the conflict of interest. The member may then participate in the vote provided “the majority of directors have a similar interest in the same entity” and “all other similar businesses ... in the district will receive a similar pecuniary benefit.”

After meeting jointly for over a year, the districts merged by approval of the two separate boards in February, becoming the Montrose Management District. The vote was unanimous, and there were no public comments.

Lord, the lawyer with Vinson & Elkins, was there to ensure the consolidation went in accordance with the law. Five directors were announced at that meeting, but between then and the March meeting, the number of directors grew to its present 15.
 
Hawes, the director, said that the board appointments have always been made legislatively, and changes to the board are subject to approval by the mayor and city council. He added that Parker has never made an appointment but that former Mayor Bill White had rejected some appointments.

Hawes was not aware of the favor of the sitting board toward Parker.

"I can tell you that I'm not surprised that a large portion are Annise Parker supporters because a good portion of my board is gay and they're from Montrose, and she happens to be from Montrose," he said.

Hawes added that because board members serve rotating terms, several positions are due to be vacated soon, and there is talk of getting "some new blood in there."

As things stand today, though, some district members feel left out.
 
“This is the antithesis of democracy,” said David Johnson, another business owner seeking to dissolve the Montrose Management District. “They are ruthless and have no pride. This is tax money.”

The folks at Stop the District have made plenty of noise about their effort in recent weeks, gathering the signatures of business owners and presenting them to the head of the district. The law requires a petition signed by the owners of at least 75 percent of the assessed property.

The district board has decided to fight the opposition, despite the fact that a significant portion of business owners wants out from under the district tax of 12.5 cents per $100 valuation.

After presenting a petition they say had been signed by 78 percent of the commercial property owners, the group was told that it would have to do better. The district says the 75 percent threshold applies to all property owners, including the residential properties not subject to the tax.
 
***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Creative Commons License
Like this story? Then steal it. This report by Texas Watchdog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. That means bloggers, citizen-journalists, and journalists may republish the story on their sites with attribution and a link to Texas Watchdog. If you do re-use the story, e-mail news@texaswatchdog.org.

Photo of Houston City Hall by flickr user J Jackson Photography, used via a Creative Commons license.
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Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
Key of “Key & Peele” to host NFL Honors Feb. 4 at Wortham Theater Annual Awards Show to Take Place at Wortham Theater Center in Houston on Eve of Super Bowl LI Keegan-Michael KeyPhoto Credit: Matt...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
KHOU 11 is first Houston TV station to use drone Drone 11 debuted on KHOU during this week's Houston flood coverage In today's world orange is the new black, energy drinks are the new...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
KTRK abc13 dominated January 2017 flood coverage CLICK TO ENLARGE The overnight results (provided to me by KTRK) from the January 18, 2017 flood event show abc13 winning the Live Same Day...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
CBS Radio Houston throws free concert with Jake Owen, The Last Bandoleros and more CBS RADIO Houston and BBVA Compass have teamed up to host “Live Bright Bash,” a free stadium party for city ambassadors and volunteers...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
Rucks Russell leaves KHOU 11 After a decade plus, KHOU 11 reporter Rucks Russell leaves TV for new chapter Reporter Rucks Russell has worked at KHOU 11 so long, that...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
New KPRC building moves channel 2 into 21st century MIKEMCGUFF.COM EXCLUSIVE: As the first new TV station to be built in Houston since the 1990s, KPRC is building for the future of TV and...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
PICS: FOX 26 KRIV debuts new set 2017 It's a new set for 2017 for FOX 26 KRIV. As I wrote last month, FOX 26 started construction at the end of 2016 and temporarily moved its...
Update:3 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 11 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 11 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 11 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 11 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 11 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 4 years 11 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 11 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 11 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
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