Things are getting mighty interesting down at City Hall.
Mayor Annise Parker has parted ways with two major conservatives on the Houston City Council, removing Councilman Mike Sullivan from his role overseeing redistricting and accepting the resignation of Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck as mayor pro tem.
The development, which stems, in part, from a recent spat over who would be appointed to serve as a Port of Houston Authority commission member, comes at a critical time for Parker, who is about to confront three issues that are expected to greatly test her ability to rally the council’s support.
Passing an extremely tight 2012 budget, a drainage fee mandated by popular vote and redrawing the lines of City Council boundaries could become far more difficult as her allies dwindle at City Hall.
The issue also apparently is tied to concern among Parker’s senior staff that Clutterbuck is gearing up to oppose her in 2011, the councilwoman said. She denied any interest in challenging the mayor.
Clutterbuck denied interest in Parker’s job.
“I find it unfortunate that questions like that are asked in her own office because they are a distraction from the real work that needs to get done,” she said.
Not the strongest denial I’ve ever heard, but never mind. A few people have told me in recent days that they’ve heard CM Clutterbuck is planning a challenge to Mayor Parker. What I know is that there are always more potential candidates for Mayor than there are actual candidates, and until someone designates a treasurer or takes some other formal step it’s all just rumor. Doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it, but it doesn’t mean much more until there’s something other than just talk to point to.
I should also note, by the way, that Clutterbuck isn’t the only current member of Council who is rumored to be running for Mayor next year. I know many people who believe that CM Bradford also has his eyes on the office. Again, it’s all just talk now, but in this case that talk has been around for awhile.
The port commission vote, in which the mayor’s preferred candidate was rejected by a majority of council, was “indicative of her inability to strongarm this council into doing what she wants done,” Sullivan said.
“It’s a precursor of more to come. We have very strong council members who have worked with another administration that was much more diplomatic and much more concerned about council issues than this mayor is. I think that is showing in the vote.”
Sullivan said the mayor told him Friday about her plans to run the redistricting process and was removing the issue from his committee out of retaliation for his vote to reappoint Janiece Longoria as port commissioner.
The councilman had given her repeated assurances he would vote for Parker candidate Dean Corgey last month but changed his mind after hearing from several influential Houston conservatives, he said.
Sullivan has been pretty openly critical of the Mayor recently, so the Longoria thing may just be the tipping point. His implicit comparison to Mayor Bill White is at least somewhat unfair, since Mayor White had the good fortune to take over during much better economic times; it’s a lot easier for everyone to get along when you’re not having to talk about furloughs and tax increases and so forth. One hopes Mayor Parker will get to experience some of that in her subsequent terms. Greg has more.
On a side note, I have an observation to make about the Port of Houston Commission, since that was apparently the catalyst for the falling out between Parker and Sullivan. The Port of Houston has seven appointed Commissioners:
The city of Houston and the Harris County Commissioners Court each appoint two commissioners. These two governmental entities jointly appoint the chairman of the Port Commission. The Harris County Mayors & Councils Association and the city of Pasadena each appoint one commissioner.
Ms. Longoria, who was re-appointed by Council against the Mayor’s preferences, is the sole Hispanic on the Commission. The other City of Houston appointee, Kase Lawal, is the sole African-American, and is the other City of Houston appointee. The other four, plus the Chair – four white guys and Elyse Lanier – were appointed by Commissioners Court, the Harris County Mayors & Councils Association, and the city of Pasadena. In other words, the City of Houston is 100% responsible for the diversity on this governing body. Call me crazy, but I don’t see why this should be the case. Perhaps the next time that Commissioners Court, the Harris County Mayors & Councils Association, or the city of Pasadena has to appoint or reappoint someone they might be persuaded to pick someone other than another white guy. Perhaps some of the people who expressed such a strong preference for Ms. Longoria could express that wish to Commissioners Court, the Harris County Mayors & Councils Association, and the city of Pasadena as well. Just a thought.