Council to Decide Monday Whether to Postpone City Election

By George Slaughter

The Katy City Council will vote Monday whether to postpone the municipal elections to November 3, in response to a COVID-19-related proclamation issued by Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday.

Under the law, elections are held on uniform dates, meaning that the city can hold its election on May 2 as originally scheduled, or November 3, which would coincide with the presidential election.

“I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November,” Abbott said in a statement. “Right now, the state’s focus is responding to COVID-19—including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort.”

Three council incumbents—Council Member-at-Large and Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harris, Ward A Council Member Janet Corte, and Ward B Council Member Durran Dowdle—are up for reelection. Corte is facing two challengers in her reelection bid. Dowdle is facing three challengers in his bid. Harris is unopposed.

Monday’s council meeting itself, while regularly scheduled, will be held under very different circumstances. Under one of Abbott’s executive orders, face-to-face meetings are restricted to 10 or fewer people in an effort to slow the coronavirus spread. Towards that end, only Mayor Bill Hastings, the five city council members, City Administrator Byron Hebert, City Attorney Art Pertile will actually be in the council chamber, with another city staffer there to record the meeting electronically.

Citizens, along with other city staff that normally attend the meetings, will be able to watch the meeting on video. Citizens who wish to address the council during the public comments portion of the meeting, or directors who must answer council questions, can do so by a teleconference line.

City Secretary Becky McGrew said Friday that the video and audio arrangements were being finalized and would be announced before the meeting.

“We want them to be able to hear and be heard,” McGrew said, adding that the city wants to encourage citizens to participate even with the coronavirus-related restrictions.

“It’s all about public safety,” McGrew said.

The council Monday is also expected to pass an ordinance declaring a public health emergency in Katy. On Thursday, Mayor Bill Hastings issued a statement saying that the city would follow the state’s declaration of a public health emergency in Texas and would comply with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control.