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What we have here is failure to communicate

I’ve been pondering this Rick Casey column about the issues of communications and Council relations in Mayor Parker’s office. I don’t have much to add to it at this time. I’ve had some conversations with people in recent days that have helped me get some perspective on this. I think it’s fair to say that whatever is going on – and it’s nothing new – it’s broader and more complex than just the one person Casey singles out. I don’t know if the recent staff changes – campaign manager Adam Harris returning to that job, William-Paul Thomas coming on board – will fix things, but I do know this much:

Parker describes herself and Chan as “two very task-oriented, introverted policy wonks.”

I appreciate Mayor Parker’s wonkiness. I like that in staffers as well. But there needs to be some extroverts, too, and their role is at least as important. I hope they get this all figured out, because the stakes are too high not to.

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7 Comments

  1. JJMB says:

    You don’t have to be an extrovert to talk 1-on-1 with CMs Lovell, Noreiga, Clutterbuck, Gonzalez and Sullivan, and take their advice (rather than Chan’s and Harris’s) or otherwise work things out with them 75% of the time rather than the 10% that has been the norm in 2010.

    And you hear a lot about the Mayor’s wonkiness, but do you actually see much of it?
    It reminds me of the people who always have to mention to others that they belong to Mensa. Have you ever thought someone who said that was really smart? Have you ever known someone who you KNOW is really smart actually be a member of Mensa?

  2. John says:

    I love the “policy wonk” label with zero support for it, I might start calling myself Mr. Awesome with no support for my label. Last I checked people who work for the City one just hopes they understand finances, fix roads, and just make sure the city runs well. It seems like the Mayor has focused her attention on issues which are not pressing

    1) the Heights Walmart
    2) Historic designation
    3) getting rid of her enemies that ran the various departments under White

    now for my money I think she should have focused on

    1) Entitlements (pensions etc) for Fire, Police and Employees- so far she has done NOTHING on this issue
    2) actually passing a budget that does not include over $30mm of cost reductions which have yet (nor will they) to be identified
    3) try to bring new businesses/industries to Houston

    Kuff, since I know you don’t have the ability to ever criticize anything the Mayor does I would love to know your top 3 priorities that she should focus on in the coming year. So far she has been a huge disappointment as Mayor, feels like we are reverting back to the Lee Brown days

  3. John, when you say Mayor Parker should “try to bring new businesses/industries to Houston””, do you have a preferred method for her to use? Please specify if so.

    What I’d like to see the Mayor focus on is some of the policing reforms she spoke about during the campaign. She could start with ordering a change to their overtime policy that is costing the city millions in unpaid fines, not to mention just being a lousy thing to do to people who have a municipal court date. (By the way, does that not count as me being critical of something she has done, or in this case something she has tolerated that was done by one of her appointees?)

    She spoke about getting the various policing agencies that operate in Houston to cooperate and share expenses more. I’ve not seen any evidence of that happening, and Lord knows all of them could use some innovative cost-cutting measures. Let’s see some progress on that, even if it’s just creating a blue-ribbon committee.

    If HPD is really concerned about overtime, they could take advantage of legislation passed in (I believe) 2007 that allows officers to issue citations for certain misdemeanors like drug possession. Citing such offenders instead of arresting them means the officers don’t have to spend time hauling them to jail and then booking them – they get to stay on the street where they can do their job. I’d like to see the Mayor push for this; who knows, maybe by doing so Sheriff Garcia will join in and allow deputies to do the same. That would help decrease the number of inmates in the jail, too.

    And finally, something I have talked about repeatedly: It’s high time to talk about rolling back some of the recent property tax rate cuts. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can cut our way out of the current and future shortfalls.

  4. John says:

    on the new businesses, I am sure the policy wonks downtown have better ideas than me. But I am not as well versed, but I assume someone could figure out which cities brought new businesses to their town and what they needed to do in terms of incentives etc to make it happen.

    The HPD is scary because that budget just balloned under White while adding essentially no new officers. So I think all of your ideas are right on.

    So does the budget passed with cost reductions that were not identified or the impending doom of our unfunded pensions not bother you? Do you just assume the people that manage it will create above market returns and that entitlements will stay in place and not be reduced?

    I agree on tax hikes, but come on every politician wants to be re-elected and if you raise taxes in this environment you won’t be able to do so. And the Mayor just cares about 4 more yrs starting in Nov 2011. So i think tax hikes are totally off the table, she absolutely will not do it. I would love to hear you interview her and get a definitive yes or no on that. Not a “well we will have to study the issue” but something firm

  5. Usually, the “incentives” given to get businesses to relocate are massive tax giveaways. Sometimes, they’re dependent on an easily-ignored employment target. It’s a scam and a race to the bottom, and not something I want to see.

    Yes, I want to see those savings from the budget identified, and yes, the pension problem is scary. I thought you were asking me to name my own priorities, so that’s what I did.

    I intend to interview everyone again next year, and I assure you they will all be asked about property tax rates.

  6. JJMB says:

    I don’t know how you can say business incentives are “mostly” scams. The most recent one was run by CM Rodriguez on the east side. His judgment was that Oak Farms was prepared to move its sizable distribution center to Dallas, so he took lead on a package to get them to stay. He and people in the Administration negotiated, evaluated, etc. He has been inside City Hall for quite a few years, and I would have thought he would have noticed if prior deals have not panned out.

  7. JJ, I’ll admit I’m being somewhat hyperbolic, and I don’t know the specifics of the deal you cite. However, from what I have seen over the years, I believe that a lot of the tax incentive deals used to lure businesses from one city to another – or, as in this case, used to keep a business from being lured to another city – are bad deals for the public. If you know of some data to challenge this belief, I’ll be happy to read it and reconsider.