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Hall makes his announcement

Game on.

Ben Hall

Former Houston City Attorney Ben Hall formally launched his mayoral campaign against incumbent Annise Parker Wednesday night, decrying the burden of taxes and fees he said are driving city residents to the suburbs, and saying Houston’s mayor must have a grander vision.

Parker, also on Wednesday, accepted the endorsement of the Houston Police Officers Union and a $10,000 check from its political action committee, as Hall welcomed the endorsement of the African American Police Officers League.

Hall, who served as city attorney from 1992 to 1994, emphasized the need to incentivize business growth, particularly from international markets. He derided Parker’s focus on issues such as red light cameras and a proposal to allow food trucks downtown, saying, “This city is grander and bigger than those kind of trivial items.”

“A mayor must do more than simply balance a budget,” he said. “A mayor must do more than simply dream of ways to tax and penalize residents. We need more than just a manager, we need a leader. And we need more than just a leader, we need a leader with vision, someone who sees a way out of this morass. You can continue the strangulation hold on the taxpayers and residents, or we can choose a different way forward … by opening up the city to the international marketplace.”

My reaction to this is pretty much what it’s been all along, which is to say that so far there’s no real suggestion of what a Mayor Ben Hall would be like, and in what way he would be different than Mayor Annise Parker other than simply not being her. There’s precious little in this story to say what Hall’s vision is or how he would lead. That may of course be a function of limited story space in the Chronicle, but neither Hall’s campaign webpage nor his campaign Facebook page sheds any light on this; in particular, neither contains a copy of his prepared remarks or a video of what he said. The campaign agenda page is almost pitifully skimpy. It’s early days and I don’t expect detailed position papers just yet, but some basic statement of what Hall would do would be nice. Here’s what he says about transportation, for example:

Houston’s transportation issues can only be fully addressed through a combination of transit options. Automotive travel is here to stay, but we must promote shared transit ridership in as many ways as possible. High-occupancy vehicle lanes, bus travel and rail are but a few of the options. Shared transit ridership will not only cut down on traffic congestion, but also assist with improving air quality.

Did he favor or oppose the Metro referendum? Does he think Metro has been doing a good job? Will he pursue more funding sources to help boost shared transit ridership? You get the idea. What is his vision for transit? I don’t think I’m asking for too much here.

As for what Hall did say, I’m curious why he singled out “a proposal to allow food trucks downtown” as a trivial item. Does that mean he would oppose allowing food trucks downtown? There is a grassroots effort to make this happen, being led by small business owners who want the city to loosen or undo regulations that prevent them from expanding their businesses into downtown. It’s not something Mayor Parker picked out of the blue. There is a somewhat disingenuous case against allowing food trucks downtown, though of course we don’t know yet if Hall buys into that or if he has some other rationale. One hopes at least that terrorists and drugs don’t figure into his reasoning. Of all the things Hall could have chosen to criticize Parker about, this one just puzzles me. Among other things, it’s far from clear that being anti-downtown-food-truck is a winner. I mean, the MFU Houston Facebook page currently has more likes than Hall’s campaign webpage.

As for red light cameras, obviously this is fair game for criticism of the Mayor. It’s just that it feels dated. The red light camera referendum was in 2010. The cameras are all gone. The only question at this point is whether the city will be able to pay off the settlement with money collected from fines or if it will have to dip into general revenue. Again, there’s certainly fodder for criticism here, but isn’t having a vision about looking forward?

Finally, and maybe this is just my own personal axe to grind, Ben Hall himself is not a resident and taxpayer in the city of Houston. Yes, he is now registered to vote here, but everyone knows the “residence” one lists for voter registration purposes is just a polite fiction. The house Ben Hall has lived in for the past 20 or so years is in Piney Point. He doesn’t pay city of Houston property taxes. Maybe no one else cares about this, but it bugs me. You want to have a say in the governance of our city, you need to be an actual resident of our city. Sorry, but I’m not going to let this go any time soon.

Anyway. Other than the food truck thing, Hall hasn’t added much to his own Mayoral vision since his first announcement in January, which I discussed here. When he has more to say, I’ll have more to say about what he says. Campos, Greg, and Texpatriate have more.

UPDATE: PDiddie adds on.

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17 Comments

  1. Sweet Cynic says:

    This is the first time I understood that Hall doesn’t (or hasn’t) lived in City. Simply put, that’s a disqualifier for me. If you care so much about City of Houston, then live here and support it! Sorry ig being Mayor of Piney Point isn’t a match for your ambition but…

  2. Mainstream says:

    The voters were not kind to Rob Mosbacher even after he physically moved into the City of Houston from West U. Living in the community you want to lead really does matter.

    To be fair, several others share this problem and are serving or have served the City.

  3. Pete Wilsheare says:

    Historically, the residence issue has not made a huge difference but under the right conditions, it might now. The attack ads by Hall’s supporters are going to come back to haunt him though so he might just become a spoiler candidate ala Sylvester Turner circa 1991 should an ambitious GOP candidate decide to chance a run. Such a candidate would not likely survive a runoff but it could work to help either Hall or Parker in the race.

    On a related note, how much did anyone make of Council candidate Mike Kubosh, well known for living outside the city limits, renting a temporary place downtown in order to run for his proposed seat? Both he and his brother are now registered to live there, the likelihood that either spend much time there pretty slim. If possible, maybe Kuff could provide a list of current politician residences, redacting the exact address if need be, compared to where they list for their residency requirements. I’m surprised no one in the mainstream media ever cares enough to do so even if it has not impacted races much.

  4. Ross says:

    It’s time for the law to change, and provide that a homestead exemption is the strongest evidence of where someone lives, regardless of their voter registration. in fact, I would go as far as to require that your voter registration match your homestead exemption. For Hall, that would cost him about $11,000 in additional property taxes.

    I will say now that I will not vote for any politician who lies about where they actually live on their voter registration, regardless of their ability or qualifications. Mr. Hall, if you want to run for office, do it in Piney Point, where you live, or run for a County office.

  5. Paul kubosh says:

    The house I went to was not in piney point. Very big and nice house. I think he moved. I haven’t read the deed though. Municipal court needs changing. Citizens are being abusesd. They are all poor peoole and she just doesnt care. For that and so many other reasons yall already know. I am anybody but Parker

  6. Ross says:

    Paul, care to describe the abuses?

    And, how about that, the Halls actually do own property in the City of Houston. Since February 2012. A real long time resident. The homestead is still in Piney Point though.

    However, since there are very few lawyers I trust, especially plaintiff lawyers, I’ll still be looking for another candidate.

  7. Mainstream says:

    It appears from voter registrar records that Mr. Hall is registered to vote twice at the new home inside the city limits, while his wife is still registered in Piney Point and will be unable to vote for him.

  8. Paul Kubosh says:

    Ross, I will gladly give you a tour of the municipal court anytime. The abuses are rampant. Lets start with the Defendant having to show up at the municipal court @ 8:00 a.m. and the officers don’t have to be there until 10:00. They can sign in by computer and we don’t really know if the state has their witness or not. The other day I was in court with a citizen and we hadn’t seen his officer all day. It was 2:30 p.m. and I was throwing a fit. Then the Judge said he was just going to reset it because the officer was in trial in some other court on a case not as old as ours. My people work to and they do not deserve to be abused by the Mayor and her minions at the municipal court. Just more wasted time. I can’t tell you how many times I have to play the role of the prosecutor, Judge, and defense attorney just to try and get my cases resolved. I am starting to rant. As far as not trusting lawyers I agree with you completly. There is a reason they have a bad reputation. The people who have screwed me the most have been other lawyers.

  9. Steven says:

    PK, let’s be honest that the main reason that officers are ordered to come in later is to save taxpayer money. Further, the number one gambit of the defense attorneys working the numbers in municipal court is to bet on officers not showing up which has traditionally led to a ticket dismissal. The two hour time frame could very well be extended to the afternoon in most cases since few trials start before 1 PM, the morning usually reserved for moving the herds of people through the process where they can speak with the prosecutor, take DDC, get a deferment, or show their various documents to get a case dismissed.

    Rather than gum up the works by playing the system against itself, I would think such a strong social advocate/activist like yourself would applaud the city for more wisely using resources and man hours of fairly expensive policemen to streamline the process. Perhaps if the city were to give you what you want, a quick trial for the first of your clients to announce ready, followed by one after another in a jury setting starring recently reappointed Judge Kirkland, at 8:15 AM, concurrent trials in nearby courtrooms by other judges of similar merit, would suit you better? :)

    The current system is not perfect but it is open to suggestions by those involved, just not to suggestions that don’t make sense to the rest of the universe. As far as which trials go to juries first, those tend to be accidents or other cases with outside civilian witnesses and/or those that do not rely on a court having to track down a defense attorney holding a hundred or more cases he is not legitimately ready to try all at once any more than the city is. The state announces ready much earlier than most defense attorneys do in most cases so it’s not like most of the gamesmanship comes from that side of the aisle.

  10. Paul Kubosh says:

    Steven, beautiful canned response. As to your first paragraph. The City already tried the 1:00 p.m. thing for a year. It didn’t work. They were down Millions. Not my numbers but the numbers they report. Citizens who request a Jury trial (their right) will not bow to the bidding of the prosecutor without seeing the cop. It just doesn’t happen.

    As to your second paragraph, thanks for the compliment. :). Also Kirkland is gone. Lastly the Courts do not have the ability to start trial that early and run concurrent trials. It just can’t happen. It would be like the Titantic turning on an iceberg.

    As to your thrid paragraph, “open to suggestions” Please, nothing about that place is open to suggestions. We havn’t had a smooth running courthouse since slyia was running it. “rely on a court having to track down a defense attorney”, right. I don’t know who you are talking about but all regular defense attorney’s are always in the building not like the State’s witnesses. Finally, the state’s annoucement of ready is bogus and you know it. They annoucne ready by computer without ever speaking to their witness.

    All a sham.

    This thread was about Ben Hall. He may or may not win. The reason I support him is the sorry way I have been treated by the Mayor. It all started at the Municipal Court and when I sent letters and made calls I got no response. I was forced to go down their and speak to her at City Council because I couldn’t talk to her any other way. If she would have treated my clients as somthing other than a money stream then she might still have her beloved cameras. So as long as she keeps an unfair system down at the Municipal Court I will oppose her. She is even trying to get rid of court reporters and go to recording devices. That would require Judges to make sure we had a clean record. How fair of a trial could my clients get in front of Judge Kirkland if he was in control.

  11. John says:

    http://www.hcad.org/records/details.asp?crypt=%94%9A%B0%94%BFg%84%94%81zni%8El%87tXu%5BW%9E%99%A2%D3%89%95%C2e%7CU%8A%7E%86%C0%AB%A8%AD%86%5E&bld=1&tab=

    looks like he bought in Feb 2012. So know I guess you can use the # of years living in Houston or the homestead exemption as defining who can run

  12. Steven Houston says:

    PK, the transition to a later court time did not work initially but apparently it worked well enough that even you are fussing about officers coming in later, such as 10 AM, than previously at 8 AM. The dynamic works the same, those defendants are not wanting to plead based on the facts, they are wanting to plead on the instant availability of the cop in the courtroom; something the later arrival times were designed to discourage. Did they commit the crime or not, in most cases, it sure seems like they did the crime and are now looking to weasel out of it based on an inconvenience issue.

    On Kirkland coming back: http://www.guidrynews.com/story.aspx?id=1000049024 “The city council voted unanimously to confirm Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Josefina M. Rendón, Elaine Jefferson and Steven E. Kirkland as municipal court associate judges.” This was circa January 2013 after he lost his district court election. Your support of his opponents is well known just as your stress levels from dealing with him in the past are well known, hence the comment.

    Suggestions: No, those who run the courts have always been open to suggestions that made sense. That they have found your own suggestions wanting is not a function of their being closed to such, only being closed to suggestions based solely on benefiting yourself, your brother, and like minded types. Sure inconveniencing defendants has a net effect of getting those who want to skate out of their responsibility to weigh the value of their time against the cost of their fines; this equation was established well before Texas was a state and in other countries too. As a taxpayer who is known for abiding by the laws of the land, I just don’t find this problematic. If the city just wanted revenue, it would not hire certain judges or maintain certain practices though clearly there is a component of that going on as the court manages over a million cases a year and gets to recoup some of the costs. They announce ready based on the charge made by the officer which (hopefully) contains all the elements of the crime alleged just as you try to finagle defendants out of a finding of guilt initially on technicalities in almost all cases.

    As far as Hall or other candidates are concerned, there is still plenty of time for others to join the race, his specific qualifications for the job as announced seeming mighty thin, as reported by Kuff and others. People want to know what he plans for the city and what direction he will lead it. In Parker’s defense, she inherited something of a mess and has tried to steer the city back towards a more sustainable future. How this rubs some the wrong way is indicative of her focal points, some of which I totally agree with you on but others, sure to be better selling points than someone whose major strength at this point in the race being the color of his skin.

    Hall might have had a better chance against her two years ago but she has shored up her problem areas considerably since then. Kuff points out voting numbers as working against him but frankly, Hall needs a major crisis to take her down, the GOP already working hard to find a candidate to split the vote. Part of this is due to Parker’s recent successes, they sure do not want her running against them in statewide races in the future, and part is just the usual party politics, such as Orlando Sanchez being immediately excluded as a possibility to run against her.

  13. Mainstream says:

    I see a couple of prominent hard right political operatives signing on with Hall already, so I am not convinced a GOP candidate will join in the mayor’s contest this cycle. Why Republicans think they would be better off with Hall for 6 years than dealing with 2 more years of Parker, and then an open contest in 2015 is beyond me. The short answer is that many of these self-styled “Christian conservatives” view Parker as unGodly and unfit for leadership, a bad example for children, etc. simply because of her sexual orientation.

  14. Paul kubosh says:

    Mainstream, maybe kuff can verify but wasn’t it the republicans who put parker in. You kniw the Barbara bush types?

  15. Paul – See http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=24448. Parker won the GOP Council districts, but also won big in Districts C and H. It’s fair to say she needed the “Barbara Bush vote” as you put it, but she did have more than that.

  16. […] it, a main point of his campaign. That’s certainly a valid line of attack, but as I’ve said before, Hall’s own vision isn’t apparent. Rottinghaus makes a good point as well, in that […]

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