The Chron endorses Mayor Parker for a third term.
During Annise Parker’s first term, Houston was stuck in a drought. The global economy was in an economic downturn. And City Hall had to prune a budget suffering from wilting revenues. At the end of her second term, the grass is green again. Houston’s supercharged energy economy has us growing to new heights. Risk-averse, competent and scandal-free, Parker is using the good times to transform Houston from a city where people want to work into a place where people want to live. Voters should give her a third and final term as mayor to conclude her 16-year marathon run of public service.
The once-hostile relationship between Houston and Harris County has turned into, as one City Council member put it, “a rapid group hug.” And her successful public-private partnerships set a model for unifying Houstonians behind a worthy cause. B-Cycle stations have sprouted up across the Inner Loop. The bayous are being transformed into a citywide system of parks and paths, funded with matching private dollars. Her newly announced Complete Streets plan will help ensure that roads aren’t just for cars, but pedestrians, bikes and businesses.
This is an admirable agenda – we’ve supported it. And yet it lacks a sense of cohesion. If you step back and squint, these individual policies can come together like pixels on a screen. Despite her efforts, there is still too much white space between the policy dots. Our most vulnerable residents are falling through those gaps.
Affordable housing inside city limits is increasingly scarce, and changes that allow denser housing construction only seem to encourage expensive townhouses. Our burglary rate isn’t the worst, but it merits a higher ranking on Parker’s priorities. Human trafficking runs rampant in several parts the city. It isn’t just massage parlors. Kitchens, fields and factories are essentially filled with modern-day serfs. The same trade that has brought our city untold wealth has also made us the crossroads for trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. Parker’s Human Trafficking Task Force is a step in the right direction, but it may not be enough to combat such a pervasive evil.
Memories of Hurricane Ike, which barely missed Houston Ship Channel, should have led our county and coastal cities to implement a storm protection plan years ago. They’ve dallied for too long, and it will fall on the mayor of Houston to set the agenda if no one else will. Too much of our national energy economy relies on Texas’ refineries for another hurricane season to pass by without a plan in place.
Parker has tried to set a comprehensive agenda, and she can secure this ambitious goal for future mayors by overseeing city charter reform that will extend term limits.
Houston is in full bloom. We’re diverse, cool (so they tell us) and an economic powerhouse – the Energy Capital, in more ways than one. We’ve survived the booms and busts, though these days it feels like our city truly follows the ethos engraved at Main Street Square: As we build our city, let us think that we are building forever. Mayor Annise Parker deserves a final term in office.
The endorsement comes with a certain amount of sideshow drama, as Ben Hall refused to participate in the screening because it wasn’t open to the public. You can read his press release here, and a copy of the email exchange between Hall and the Chron is at that first link. Texpatriate notes that this is how the Chron has always done things, and indeed the closed nature of their endorsement screenings has always been one of the many grievances certain partisan interests have had against them. I don’t see the point of this other than to feed into that narrative and hope it gets a few votes from the people that already hold those views, but I suppose if one thinks the process is rigged against them for whatever the reason, one does what one thinks one must. It did generate discussion, so there’s that.
As for the substance of the endorsement, I’m not quite sure what the Chron is getting at about the Mayor’s vision. Does anyone recall what Bill White’s vision was for the city? I’m not being snarky, I just don’t remember it being a big part of his tenure. The only Mayoral candidates I can recall in recent years who had a clearly defined vision was Peter Brown, and the Chron didn’t much care for it. There’s something to be said for having a vision, if it’s a good one, but even more to be said for getting stuff done. I’m also not sure what to make of the Chron’s call for charter review, for which they wrote a separate editorial. I’m happy to have the conversation, but I hardly think Mayor Parker’s third term depends on it to be successful. I can think of plenty of other things I’d like to see her get done ahead of that. PDiddie has more.