Government and Politics

Government and Politics Government and Politics

The city of Houston has a strong mayoral form of municipal government. Houston is a home rule city and all municipal elections in the state of Texas are nonpartisan. The City’s elected officials are the mayor, city controller and 16 members of the city council. The current mayor of Houston is Annise Parker, a Democrat elected on a nonpartisan ballot whose second term in office will expire at the end of 2013. Houston’s mayor serves as the city’s chief administrator, executive officer, and official representative, and is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced.

The original city council line-up of 14 members (nine district-based and five at-large positions) was based on a U.S. Justice Department mandate which took effect in 1979. At-large council members represent the entire city. Under the city charter, once the population in the city limits exceeded 2.1 million residents, two additional districts were to be added. The City of Houston’s official 2010 census count was 600 shy of the required number; however, as the city was expected to grow beyond 2.1 million shortly thereafter, the two additional districts were added and the positions filled during the August 2011 elections. The districts are labeled A through K while the at-large positions are numbered 1 through 5.

The city controller is elected independently of the mayor and council. The controller’s duties are to certify available funds prior to committing such funds and processing disbursements. The city’s fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. Ronald Green is the city controller, serving his first term as of January 2010.

As the result of a 1991 referendum in Houston, a mayor is elected for a two-year term, and can be elected to as many as three consecutive terms. The term limits were spearheaded by conservative political activist Clymer Wright. The city controller and city council members are also subject to the same two-year, three-term limitations.

Houston is considered to be a politically divided city whose balance of power often sways between Republicans and Democrats. Much of the city’s wealthier areas vote Republican, while the city’s middle class, working class, and minority areas vote Democratic. According to the 2005 Houston Area Survey, 68 percent of non-Hispanic whites in Harris County are declared or favor Republicans while 89 percent of non-Hispanic blacks in the area are declared or favor Democrats. About 62 percent Hispanics (of any race) in the area are declared or favor Democrats. The city has often been known to be the most politically diverse city in Texas, a state known for being generally conservative. As a result the city is often a contested area in statewide elections. In 2010, Houston became the first US city with a population over 1 million to elect a gay mayor, by appointing Annise Parker.