Former Houston City Attorney Benjamin L. Hall III announced his candidacy for mayor Wednesday, choosing a slogan of “Hall for All!” and emphasizing his ability to unite people.
Hall said he filed a form designating a campaign treasurer late Tuesday, the first formal step in his bid to unseat Annise Parker this fall. The Rev. Bill Lawson, pastor emeritus at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, is listed as treasurer on the form, but a Hall campaign press release said former State District Judge Alvin Zimmerman also will serve as co-treasurer.
“By selecting these two pillars of our community,” Hall said in the release, “I intend to signal an aggressive intention to applaud our diversity and differences as strengths in our city and not weaknesses. United we are stronger! Our diversity is a great asset.”
In our conversation this morning, Hall stressed job creation, economic growth, international trade, and a more creative, compromise-seeking approach to the city’s pensions issues, and also emphasized that the city’s strength lies in its diversity. He said Parker’s 16-year tenure at City Hall as a council member, controller and now mayor, has produced “leadership fatigue.”
Hall said he plans announcements on international trade (“I figure a person shouldn’t just be promising things, they should try to get ahead of it, and say, ‘Well, this is what we’ve done.’”), pensions, Metro/rail and drainage in the coming months.
“This is really a world-class city, and we’re treating it as kind of nothing more than the fourth-largest city,” he said. “This city is in communication and dynamic relationships with the entire world, but we need a vision coming out of the mayor’s office that actually promotes that as a priority, as opposed to a tertiary or corollary idea.”
On pensions, Hall said Parker didn’t push aggressively for reform as controller and only recently turned her focus to the issue as mayor. He said creativity and good working relationships — which he said he had — with key legislators and local officials can solve the current disputes.
He said the city must think bigger and work on issues of greater import than how and where the hungry can be fed.
“If you ask the question, ‘In 16 years what policy has been advanced by this administration that has aggressively grown this economy?’ I think you’ll have to scratch your head a long time,” Hall said. “I’m not intent on driving a negative campaign. I just simply want to say we’re at a place of leadership fatigue, and I think that we need a fresh new look at a way forward for this city.”
We’ll see what those later announcements have to say, but for now it’s a bit unclear what Hall has in mind to do as Mayor. The thing about promising vision and fresh ideas and whatnot is that you have to actually come up with something fresh and visionary, and that’s harder than it looks. The main thing I’ll be watching for is what he has to say about pensions. Hall shouldn’t have any trouble picking up support from the firefighters, who endorsed Fernando Herrera in 2011 and who have no love at all for Mayor Parker, but given what Todd Clark and Chris Gonzales said in my interview with them, if what he’s getting at here is that he thinks he can do a better job negotiating concessions from the HFRRF than the Mayor can, well let’s just say I have my doubts. But I don’t know if he’s saying that because I don’t know yet what he is saying, so we’ll have to wait.
One more thing:
Hall initially entered the 2009 mayor’s race, but soon withdrew and threw his support behind Gene Locke (also a former City Attorney), who eventually lost to Parker in a runoff. Hall also toyed with the idea of facing Parker in 2011, but did not enter the race.
Hall may have thought about entering those two Mayoral races, but what he didn’t do in either of them was vote. In fact, he hasn’t voted in a city of Houston election since 2001. This is because he resided in Piney Point, and was registered to vote there during that time. If you’re going to complain about a lack of leadership in the city, it seems to me you should have been doing something about it, and voting is the very least you could have done.