Mccaslin, Houston, Craig Cohen discussed on Houston Matters

Houston Matters
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This is houston matters. i'm craig cohen houston mayor sylvester turner tuesday fired city housing director. Tom mccaslin the move came. Just hours after mccaslin told houston city council members. He thought the mayor was steering. Some fifteen million dollars in federal hurricane harvey relief funds to a preferred developer discuss that and other developments in politics. We're joined now in. Today's political roundup by the university of houston's rene cross and rice university's mark jones rene mark. Good morning komo morning craig. Happy i nail fall. Happy fall down. Let me start with just a little more background. What what would down yesterday. and then i'll seek out your reactions to it. So mccaslin made the comments during a city council housing committee meeting. He was questioning. The city selections for to affordable housing developments receiving a combined twenty five million of hud funding designed to replace damaged. Housing lost during harvey mccaslin said what looked like a competitive process to award. Funding had a predetermined outcome and that the huntington at bay area development receiving fifteen million was not the city's best option as it would provide about a fourth of the number of affordable units. Another proposed development would mccaslin said quote. I'm being forced to participate in a charade that this was a competitive process. When i know it was not as news at sevens been reporting. Stay documents show. A company named harbor venture group is attached to that project and it is run by the mayor's former law partner and another partner at the firm were turner worked before he became mayor. Turner in a statement announcing mccaslin was fired. Denied doing anything wrong. Said there is no charade and called mccaslin comments puzzling inflated and wrong mark jones thoughts well i think we know what happened here The process was wired by mere. Turn his staff to take send housing contract for fifteen million dollars to his former law partner. Who put this group together in order to get this money. The housing department Time mccaslin recommended what would have given them four times. The number of affordable housing units for approximately the same price mccaslin clearly was not a a well respected professionals. Doing this for a while. This is probably a bridge too. Far from release strategy broke the camel's back that he wasn't willing to go along with the mayor's centrally severity in the process to Help help his former law partner maybe benefit himself in the future when he leaves office in perhaps returns to that law firm rene is at your read of it as well. I agree with mark E- even if the process was legal it not necessarily ethical In furthermore i'd like to know why we would spend fifteen million dollars for eighty eight units. That's it eight. Units for fifteen million when another bid was at three hundred sixty two units at fifteen million. So there's a lot about this whole case. that doesn't quite pass the smell test yet mark. The math doesn't necessarily scream affordable. Housing doesn't know and neither did. The housing department has a set of criteria uses. The the mayor's law partner finished very low but the mayor overruled. And that i mean i want. It is important that under houston's rules and laws american do is it's not illegal is just unethical in the c. Underbelly that we all don't like to see but we know exists but we tend to only see it. When you have courageous whistle blowers like tom. Mccaslin come forward and shine light on something that otherwise would have passed unnoticed. That said renee mccaslin set himself There have been other instances where his department has recommended that the city go way and the city ends up going another way on on a contract like this. So what set this particular one apart. I think more than likely it's just the number one the number the the amount of the money and the fact that mayor turner's former law partner. Barry barnes is so involved with this particular grape mark. The texas general land office which oversees distribution of harvey recovery funds says it is looking into the city's use of the funds but there's already been friction between the texas gio and the city of houston over harvey recovery. Money right right and what this does is it opens up a week fight for the mayor and allows the general land commission To our jill. Jalen office to go in and actually look at something where the mayor has done. Something that if not illegal is at least unethical and we have to remember george. Bush has to run in a republican primary for attorney general in march. So i think all the political hey that he can make at going after a democratic mayor who is engaged in suspect practices. I think we're gonna see the general and office and perhaps even the attorney general get involved in this case and again just as a reminder the background of all of this or at least part of this background is that the general end office failed to award any harvey relief money to the city of houston or harris county Initially out of a pile of funds only delayed a reverse course and promise seven hundred fifty million that would though to the county not to the city. rene mccaslin said. He was speaking in part. Because this case underscored what he called a culture of do it because i said so within the turner administration have we seen other examples that that backup that assertion i. I'm sure there are a number of council members that could give you all sorts of evidence of do it or else From mayor turner. But it's also been said about Other houston mayors. I do think that this could help a light far under those that are trying to Promote the idea of taking away some power of the strong mayor position in houston government. You know an issue that we will be on an upcoming Ballot markelle mccaslin also stressed to council members that houston quote That it's strong. Mayoral form of government. Quote should not mean that. The strong mayor is free from public or city council. Scrutiny or that he is quote free rein to make decisions without providing legitimate. Justifications for those decisions is that how you read how the city of houston is run today. Well yes we have a very rene mentor of very strong mayor system where there is really no check on the mayor other than public. Scrutiny and sunshine Absent that There's really no way to control. The mayor in this particular is rather thin skinned intends to use that power in access. I would. i'd say that was also the case with a bill white. Not so much with these parker. I think manage these.

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