Newsmakers for March 5: Astrodome bill; city pension progress

HOUSTON – What to do about the Astrodome? That question has been ever present since the Eighth Wonder of the World officially closed in 2008.

The current plan approved by the Harris County Commissioners Court calls for the floor of the dome to be raised to create event space with 14-hundred parking spaces underneath.

"The voters said we don’t want you to borrow any money," Harris County Judge Ed  Emmett said on this week’s Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall. “OK. Commissioners court listened, unanimously came back with a plan that the auto show, the boat show, OTC have all said this is great because it creates eight to nine acres of open space under cover." 

The cost of such a plan is $105 million, paid for, said Emmett, from three existing sources of revenue. The problem is a bill proposed by Houston area State Senator John Whitmire that calls for Harris County voters to approve the project.

"That bill is unprecedented," said Emmett. "No time in Texas history has a local government been told that they have to have a referendum on how to spend their money unless they’re asking for a bond."

See which side you take after this week’s Houston Newsmakers.


The City of Houston Pension proposal is facing a challenge from Austin as well and will also ask for voter approval before bonds can be sold.

"This could potentially de-rail this plan," City of Houston Controller Chris Brown said. "As you mentioned Khambrel that I have been calling for action and sounding the alarm, every day. Every day that we fail to get this plan enacted it costs the taxpayers over $1 million a day." 

Former Houston mayoral candidate Bill King said the voters should have a say, but that the present proposal will always be inefficient without a defined contribution plan.

"Ninety-six percent of private sector employees are in defined contribution plans today," said King. "We know that this works. This corridor mechanism, this cap they’re talking about. Nobody’s ever tried it."

A lively exchange of ideas about the Houston pension proposal on this week’s Houston Newsmakers.

Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall, every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. right after Meet the Press on KPRC Channel 2.

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