Apparently, we have been living in Helena Brown’s world all this time.
District A Councilwoman Helena Brown has voted against spending money on the renovation of a women’s shelter, a street’s reconstruction, the purchase of a police boat, payment to caregivers for the chronically ill, a study on people at risk for HIV infection, gas cards and the cleaning of public pools.
That was just last week. In almost every case, she was the lone dissenter. Between tags – which delay consideration of items for a week – and no votes, Brown opposed or delayed more than a third of Wednesday’s council business.
The rookie council member declined to be interviewed, but she did respond to written questions in an email.
“I have voted no on items which contradict the conservative ideologies and beliefs that I promised my constituents I would uphold. I have voted no on items which will worsen and not stem the pending financial disaster,” Brown wrote.
Publicly, council members and others say Brown must do what she believes her constituents sent her to do. Privately, she has been called “Dr. No” and “the Jolanda Jones of the right,” in reference to the outspoken councilwoman who so alienated herself from colleagues that several often would leave the dais when it was her turn to speak.
In response to a Houston Chronicle inquiry for a previous story, Brown released a statement that said in part, “By voting me into office this past election, the voters were mandating that the city have a serious dialogue on its spending habits. … My expectations are simple. Balance the budget and end irresponsible spending.”
Even her supporters acknowledged that Brown currently is delivering a monologue.
I realize I’m contributing to the problem as much as anyone, but I confess I’m a little perplexed by the amount of attention being paid to a freshman Council member who isn’t trying to get anything done. I understand the novelty factor here, but really, are our memories that short? She’s Addie Wiseman, the tag-happy no-voting former District E Council member, all over again. (Stace saw that before everyone else did.) The fact that nobody else, not even her current Council colleagues, thought to make that comparison is suggestive of what Wiseman’s legacy was, and what Brown’s is likely to be. I’m sure her anti-spending zeal will have its share of fans, but until she or they advocate for spending less on police, fire, and emergency services, it’s all just meaningless posturing. And sooner or later the next shiny object will come along to distract us.
By the way, if you want a reminder of what exactly is in the city’s budget, here’s that budget-balancing tool that Mayor Parker put out last year. Note that it does not include things like debt service, pension obligations, and health insurance for current employees, none of which can be reduced by fiat. Which of these things would Helena Brown cut or eliminate, and why? I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell from the articles that have been written about her, or the substance-free press statements she puts out instead of answering questions. Being the sole “no” vote based on abstract principles is easy, especially when there’s no consequence to your vote. Having a vision, and convincing other people that vision is the right one, especially when it comes to defining what is “responsible” and “necessary” spending and what is not, that’s hard. Let me know when CM Brown gets around to doing that. Campos has more.