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October 8th, 2012:

Interview with Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

It’s bonds and more bonds this week, as we discuss the remaining referenda on the ballot. First up is the city of Houston bond package, which by law will be broken out into five separate propositions for your approval. Proposition B, the one having to do with parks and recreation, is easily the highest profile issue among them, but all five are important and worth your time to consider. I had the opportunity to discuss these issues with Mayor Annise Parker, and you can hear the conversation below, but before I get to that, the Mayor references several web pages in her answers, which are as follows:

Mayor’s Fiscal Responsibility page
Capital Improvement Plan Web Application
Information on the City Bond Referendum and Proposed Charter Amendments
Assessment of Facility Needs

One more thing to note before we get to the main event: As the Mayor says in her opening answer, each referendum is just about granting approval to the city to borrow money. It doesn’t mean the city will necessarily wind up borrowing the full amount, especially for the Parks By You item, since the city is essentially providing matching funds for private capital. If the private fundraisers fall short of their $100 million goal, it’s that much less that the city will borrow. With that out of the way, here’s the interview:

Mayor Parker MP3

You can still find a list of all interviews I did for this primary cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page and my 2012 Texas Primary Elections page, which I now need to update to include fall candidate information. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Two for I

Yeah, we’re still two weeks out from the start of early voting for 2012. But that hasn’t stopped two people from announcing their candidacies for City Council District I next year.

Leticia Ablaza

Graciana ”Graci” Garces, chief of staff for District I Councilman James Rodriguez, is running to succeed him next year when he’s termed out.

If Garces wins, she would continue an intra-office line of succession. Rodriguez had been the chief of staff for his predecessor, Carol Alvarado, who is now a state representative.

Leticia Ablaza, who challenged Rodriguez last year, is also running, she confirmed. Ablaza served as chief of staff for District A Councilwoman Helena Brown for four months before resigning to work on the campaign of Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina. Ablaza, 39, lives in Glenbrook Valley and has lived in District I for 37 years.

Garces doesn’t live in District I yet, but she will next week, when she moves from Humble into a loft on the edge of Glenbrook Valley. That’s just in time to give her the year’s residency requirement to run for the seat.

Ablaza got less than 30% of the vote in her challenge to CM Rodriguez last year, but she was a first-time candidate and filed late. She certainly has room to grow, and I daresay she’ll be better funded this time around. Garces’ experience in the office and her connections to CMs Rodriguez and Alvarado is the sort of thing that’s usually a big asset, except in those times when the people are in a mood for a fresh face, in which case it’s not. We’ll see how it goes. Other open Council seats will be in At Large #3 and District D; District E would have been open, but CM Sullivan is resigning effective January 2, so his replacement will be elected this year. Finally, as we know, there is already chatter about a challenge in District A. Any other candidate scuttlebutt out there that you’re hearing? Leave a comment and let us know. Campos, who will be working with Garces, has more.

Why not a university?

Tory Gattis has an interesting suggestion for that 136 acre tract of land east of downtown.

This parcel of land could be the last opportunity for Houston to add a major college campus to the city.  We should consider something similar to what NYC just did with Roosevelt Island, where after a long evaluation process they awarded it to Cornell for a technology campus.  That is likely to eventually be a huge economic development boon for New York.  Of course the City of Houston doesn’t own the land, but it could be a facilitator (along with the GHP) to open discussions with the landowner and various universities to explore interest.

There are a lot of potential options.

He lays out a number of possibilities, which I encourage you to examine. I have no idea how feasible any of this is, but it’s worth thinking about. Tory’s right that there may not be another opportunity for a university campus to be built inside the city limits. Such a development would also be a good fit for a streetcar extension when and if one gets built. I still lean towards something mixed use, but I could be persuaded otherwise. What do you think?

Endorsement watch: Boring

The Chron expends more words on the history and function of Commissioners Court than it does endorsing the three incumbents running to stay on the Court.

Precinct 1: Veteran incumbent El Franco Lee is our choice over an energetic Republican challenger, Chuck Maricle, whom we encourage to continue his interest in seeking public office.

Precinct 3: Steve Radack, the 24-year incumbent, has our backing for another term as commissioner of this westside precinct.

Precinct 4: Since being unanimously appointed by Commissioners Court in 2011 to replace Jerry Eversole, veteran County Court at Law Judge R. Jack Cagle has shown himself to be a quick study in assessing both the needs and potential of his geographically diverse district, which covers much of the north side of the county and extends inside the 610 Loop.

Nothing to see here. Lee and Cagle, who’s on the ballot to finish out Jerry Eversole’s unexpired term, are in solid precincts. The only question about Lee is when he plans to retire – there’s a line of wannabe successors awaiting that announcement longer than any you’ll see at an Apple store on delivery day of a new iPhone. The election that mattered in Precinct 4 was the Democratic primary, where Sean Hammerle’s win over the homophobe Dave Wilson meant one fewer embarrassing candidate on the November ballot. As for Radack, we saw in 2008 that his precinct is slowly trending Democratic, but not enough yet to entice a potentially strong challenger to him. Maybe in 2016, I don’t know. Like El Franco Lee, Radack’s going to retire one of these days, and like El Franco Lee, when that happens there’s going to be a lot of people who will want to succeed him. So, as there’s not much to these elections, we’ll look forward to the forthcoming ruling in the redistricting lawsuit, and to see who steps up to challenge freshman Commissioner Jack Morman, elected in the hundred-year flood that was 2010, in 2014.