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Chron profiles the Mayor

The Sunday Chron has an expansive profile of Mayor Parker.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

In a system where term limits cap elected officials at six years, City Hall veterans joke that new council members spend their first year finding the bathrooms and their sixth getting ignored by bureaucrats happy to wait them out.

Parker, however, spent six years on the City Council, then six as city controller, Houston’s elected financial watchdog. After nearly four years as mayor, she is Houston’s longest-tenured elected official since voters approved term limits in 1991. She is seeking a final two-year term on Nov. 5.

Institutional knowledge is particularly useful for someone with Parker’s technocratic leanings. The introverted former bookstore owner acknowledges she is excited by tweaks to internal city operations no citizen will ever see.

“I just love the minutiae of running the city. There are hundreds of things that we could do better, and I’m just popping them off one after another as soon as we can find them,” she said. “For the first time, in this year’s budget, we created a line item for maintenance, renewal and replacement of our facilities. You can’t say that’s a legacy item, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now, it’s going to be impossible, I think, for a future mayor to say, ‘We’re not going to line-item this again.’ And, hopefully, we won’t be in the condition that I was when I came in and we had all these facilities that you had years of deferred maintenance, falling apart. Those are the kind of things – that’s why I came to government.”

Her top challenger, former City Attorney Ben Hall, criticizes that approach, calling Parker a manager, not a leader. Parker spends too much time tinkering with pet projects, he said, while failing to plan for looming financial problems or to craft visionary policies to ensure the city’s continued growth.

Even if Hall’s criticism is true, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said, Parker’s results at the ballot box speak for themselves. “It’s a credit to her that she has been able to have such success while clearly positioning herself much more as a technocrat than as a charismatic leader,” Jones said.

They will have a similar story about Ben Hall this Sunday, which ought to be interesting given the drama of the endorsement screening. Overall, I thought this was a fair article about Mayor Parker. She is a technocrat, she has gotten a lot done in an environment that hasn’t always been friendly or in her control, she has pushed for things that needed to be done even if they weren’t popular, and she has the city and county working together in ways we haven’t seen in many years. She also appointed a Metro board that rescued it from catastrophe with the FTA and has gotten it back on sound footing and in better graces with the public, which wasn’t mentioned in the story. Frankly, I think that’s one of her best accomplishments, and it’s largely gone unremarked on. On the flip side, she is not awash in charisma, she does sometimes come across as someone who thinks she’s smarter than everyone around her – speaking as someone who also attended Rice, as a grad student in my case, this is a not-terribly-uncommon affliction among its alumni – and she has been very loyal to some longtime staffers that haven’t always been up to challenges of the office. Rebuild Houston is a great idea and a needed program that continues to be a work in progress. As for the vision thing, like I’ve said before I care more about results, and the results look pretty good overall. In any event, if you were new to the city or the state and didn’t know much about Mayor Parker, I thought this story would give you a reasonable first look. I look forward to the upcoming profile of Ben Hall.

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5 Comments

  1. Bayard Rustin says:

    “(S)he has been very loyal to some longtime staffers” I don’t know if either one of them fall in this category but Daniel Krueger and Joe Turner are overbearing, high-handed and arrogant. The top-down style that the Mayor prefers for running the city maybe just the ticket for a corporation. I question its usefulness for a municipality when it results in city officials feeling they’re in charge rather than those that were elected.

  2. Brad M. says:

    BR,

    I don’t understand your comments. In Houston, the mayoral position is a strong executive level office, i.e. top down. I personally want a city official in charge so I know who I can pin the blame on or credit to. Parker has been tireless and responsive city advocate for 16 years in 3 city-wide elected positions. She wouldn’t be in this place, i.e. “elected”, if not for her results.

  3. Bayard Rustin says:

    Daniel Krueger and Joe Turner still are “power trips” even if the Mayor is doing a overall good job. And that is a reflection of her leadership as well as her (obvious) achievements.

  4. Bill Kelly says:

    Joe Turner was a Bill White appointee . . . for the record. I’m voting for Annise.

  5. joshua ben bullard says:

    the truth is parker has taken some hits,she still hasnt been saubjected to the voting blocks since she turned the red light cameras back on in lieu of the voters=she will take a hit in the vote tally for that=and you know shes secretly ticked in taking a hit for her downtown bussiness friends with the passage of “let the starving starve with no food to eat ordinance she wrote and passed”=that cost her what little of the religoius comminuty vote she had,=that one there was pretty bad,she would most likely do a takeback on that one.Her unperformance in the tv debate combined with the terrible streets mixed in with a two other opponents eric dick and ben hall along with a few million dollars results in an unavoidable run off=heres the kicker,if mike kubosh goes to run off and helena brown in district a=then the mayors run off challenger has a 50 50 chance to defeat her in the run off=either or,parker sees run off nomatter what rice u says and when that happens its an entire new mayors race from scratch=and if anyone was wondering,i feel that parker needs to be in a run off if you are a parker supporter then you should show her some tough love by only going to the polls for her in a run off,let her make it threw the general on her own two feet.

    joshua ben bullard

    ps-you spell check it for me

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