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Chron overview of District A

It must be getting close to the start of Election Season, because the first of the Chronicle’s local race overviews has been published.

CM Helena Brown

CM Helena Brown

Since winning a seat on the Houston City Council two years ago, Helena Brown has become known for regularly voting “no” on what many would consider routine spending items.

The 36-year-old tea party- inspired political activist says her voting record is a direct product of constituent will in her conservative-leaning District A, home to Spring Branch.

After all, District A was the first to oust a sitting incumbent in the nearly 20 years since the city implemented term limits, in part because Brown’s predecessor, Brenda Stardig, had cast a vote to set up a controversial, voter-approved drainage fee.

And yet, the list of District A candidates on this November’s ballot will be the longest it has been in years.

In addition to Brown and Stardig, 51, who is attempting to win back the seat she lost two years ago, the field includes Amy Peck, 28, district director for state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston; 55-year-old Houston Police Department officer-turned-author and consultant Mike Knox; and 32-year-old Ronald “Ray” Hale, who helps run his family’s residential and commercial security business.

[…]

Speaking earlier this month at a well-attended candidate forum hosted by one of the district’s many civic clubs, Knox told attendees, “If your City Council person votes ‘no’ all alone, then your voice is not being heard at City Hall.”

Peck, whose platform includes tighter budget controls, accused Brown of political grandstanding and said her approach has “definitely affected the district because she’s not working with other council members in a way where other council members, in turn, want to help her district.”

Stardig agrees: “We miss out on opportunities because if you don’t work with the administration, you don’t get your projects on the agenda.”

Brown, though, said her approach of “breaking the rubber stamp” has been highly effective, resulting in mutual respect among her council colleagues rather than alienation and loss.

“Those who feel that that’s ineffective are detached from reality because the reality is, if you become a rubber stamp on City Council, why even be there?” she said, pointing out that she votes “no” on up to 20 percent of items on any given agenda. “You’re not there to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ or anything like that. You’re there to go and be that representative and that will of the people, and it’s a very blessed opportunity.”

First of all, the claim that Stardig was the first sitting incumbent to be ousted under term limits is incorrect. The late Jean Kelley, elected in 1997 to succeed her husband John, was defeated in 1999 by Mark Ellis Bert Keller after serving one term. As for this year, I interviewed all five candidates for District A – you can find the interviews here – and I think the voters have some good choices. Mike Knox and Amy Peck are thoughtful and well-informed. Stardig is Stardig, and for what it’s worth I always thought she was a decent Council member. She had issues staying connected to her constituents, but she was always knowledgeable on the issues and made good votes. As for CM Brown, she came across better in her interview than I expected. I admittedly didn’t have very high expectations, but then I also viewed her as more of a caricature than a real person. I don’t agree with her philosophy, and I think her habitual No votes – which she downplayed somewhat in the interview – are pointless and harmful to her own interests, but she clearly believes in what she’s doing, and she makes a better case for herself than I thought she could. A year ago at this time, I’d have bet money that she’d lose re-election. I still think there’s a decent chance she’ll be a one-term Council member, even a non-zero chance she’ll fail to make a runoff. But she has grown as a public official, and can hold her own among some well-qualified opponents. I expected this race to be more entertaining than anything else, but it’s much more serious than I thought it would be, and as such it’s a much more interesting race.

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5 Comments

  1. Burt Levine says:

    Bert Keller defeated Jean Kelly, not Mark Ellis, to then be defeated by Ronald Green for Controller.

  2. P. Owens says:

    Mr. Green defeated Pam Holm and MJ Kahn to become Controller in 2009.
    Mr Keller served on City Council from 2000 to 2004. Mr. Green first ran in 2002, and did not run for Controller until 5 years after Mr. Keller was no longer in office.

    Mr. Keller served as City Councilmen for Dist. G, Mr. Green was a member at-large.

  3. Burt Levine says:

    District G City Council Member Bert Keller ran for the then open At Large Pos. Four Seat in November 2003 along with Sue Lovell, Ronald Green and Thomas Zemeno.

    Please see http://www.harrisvotes.com/HISTORY/031206/final%20_official_cumulative.pdf

    In the December 6, 2003 run-off Green won 52.21 percent to Keller’s 47.79 percent.

  4. Burt Levine says:

    In November 2003 the city council race for at large 4 featured Sue Lovell, Ronald Green and Bert Keller. Keller won 39.69 percent, Green 30.66, Lovell 21.66 and a Thomas Zemeno won 7.99 percent.

  5. Cynthia says:

    Council Member Brown has been a great advocate for District A. She attends our local civic association meetings and is available to help us – the little people – the little people who are the voters.

    She has been much more active in the community than her predecessor.

    Even though it is election time, we have not even heard from any of her opponents including her predecessor. That is a real concern – if they aren’t trying to win our votes during election season then we definitely won’t see them if they win.

    For full disclosure, I didn’t vote for Council Member Brown last time but I definitely plan to vote her this year!