In their first endorsement for an elected office on the ballot this November, the Chronicle endorsed Council Member Ronald Green for Controller.
A practicing attorney with a master’s in business administration from the University of Houston, Green chaired the Council Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee, and says the biggest challenge for the next controller will be saving money by finding efficiencies and ways to close a widening budget gap.
“Over the past six years we’ve enjoyed some good times, but now we’re going to have to make some tougher decisions,” says Green. “I’m proud of the fact that we built up our cash reserves, but unfortunately it’s raining, and we’re having to dip into our rainy-day funds.”
During his council tenure Green says he worked hard to improve the operations of the city municipal courts system, making it more customer-friendly while replacing a failed computer system. A winnowing process of evaluating judges and a court outreach effort to the neighborhoods has made it more responsive and efficient.
He cites as a success his trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby Federal Emergency Management officials to approve reimbursements for expenditures to aid Hurricane Katrina evacuees who had previously been denied.
If elected controller, Green says he will scrutinize the city’s existing long-term contracts to make sure Houston is getting the best possible deals. He points to the successful renegotiation of a solid-waste disposal pact with Republic Waste that will save more than $150 million over the next decade.
He would press the city to include clauses in contracts with technology vendors to provide training for city employees.
“We spend a lot of money on outside contractors, and what we don’t get is a knowledge-transfer piece of the contract,” says Green. “So we’re always having to feed the monster … on the hook forever with consultants to come in and work the system.”
On the complicated issue of unfunded liabilities in the city’s three pension funds, Green says he would work with employee representatives to begin shifting to a system that realistically balances contributions and benefits for incoming workers.
Green promises to be a full-time city controller, and to forgo his private law practice if elected. That will be essential in effectively filling the evolving, expanding role of the office.
In his council tenure Green has proven he can work closely with the mayor while maintaining independence and advocacy for his constituents. His track record indicates he will be able to do the same as city controller.
This should be a nice boost for a campaign that isn’t spending a lot of money. CM Green is my choice in this election, and as such I’m glad to see him get the endorsement, but I continue to be concerned about the low profile of his campaign, especially given the quality of his opponents and the resources they have to get their message out. You can listen to my interview with CM Green here, and you can compare what he had to say with Council Member Pam Holm here and Council Member MJ Khan here.
Today was an endorsement twofer, as the Chron also gave a thumbs-up to Proposition 9, the Constitutional amendment that would essentially add the Open Beaches Act to the state constitution.
Supporters of this amendment to the Texas constitution say strengthening the open beaches act is needed to keep public access free, clear and open in the wake of storms, such as Hurricanes Rita and Ike, that can radically shift the tidal and vegetation lines on Texas beaches. These shifts can put privately owned beach houses on public property, causing confusion about legal access.
Amendment opponents say entrenching the open beaches act in the Texas constitution would give the state excessive powers that would infringe upon the rights of beach-property owners to use and enjoy their homes.
We believe strengthening and clarifying the laws relating to public access, as Proposition 9 would do, is both proper and necessary. As Texas Gulf Coast residents know all too well, Mother Nature can change the landscape of beaches abruptly. That is one of the acknowledged risks of building a vacation home on the sand. Granting a permanent public easement onto our beaches seems likely to avoid confrontation and confusion while ensuring the broadest possible access. In short, it is in the spirit of opening beaches that has been built in Texas over half a century.
Prop 9 is probably the next highest profile amendment after Prop 4, which appears set to cruise towards ratification. I’m still not sure how I’m going to vote on a lot of these amendments. If you’re seeking guidance, I recommend State Rep. Scott Hochberg, and for a view from the right, Blue Dot Blues.