The Chron endorses freshman CM Jack Christie in At Large #5.
At-Large council members act as a sort of minister without portfolio. While district council members focus on constituent issues, at-large members can set their own agendas. The previous incumbent for At-Large Position 5, Jolanda Jones, said her goal was to serve as “the voice of the voiceless.” Not everyone liked what they heard. Her calls for scrutiny slowed down business as usual at City Hall – for better or worse. Several of Jones’ fellow council members, not to mention former Mayor Bill White, united behind Jack Christie to defeat Jones in 2011. He won in the runoff.
Despite his low-profile status at City Hall, one would be pressed to find an incumbent on Council who faces such animosity from challengers. Their criticisms have little to do with his overall performance and instead focus on a single point: Christie doesn’t support vaccinations.
Christie has served for three terms as a member of the State Board of Education and three terms on the Spring Branch Independent School District Board of Trustees, but he’s also a chiropractor, and as one he has as deep skepticism of modern medicine. This came to light during a vote to accept a federal grant that would fund flu shots for poor kids and the elderly. “You don’t die from the flu,” Christie remarked at council, casting the only no vote.
People do die from the flu – thousands in U.S. every year. Christie’s conspiracy theories have no place in public policy. These unfounded fears of vaccinations have led to the return of once-scarce illnesses. For example, a measles outbreak struck 25 people in Newark, Texas, this past August, centered around a church whose senior pastor had criticized vaccinations.
To his credit, Christie expressed his dangerous position, cast his protest vote and moved on.
I’ve interviewed CM Christie three times now – here is this year’s interview. I find him to be engaging and likable, and generally speaking I think he’s been a decent Council member. But the vaccination issue just gobsmacks me. I know people who share his views; I’m related to at least one of them. This belief that vaccines are harmful defies all logic and reason, is based on a fraud, and yet is unshakeable in its adherents. It’s also demonstrably dangerous, as the measles outbreak cited by the Chron made clear recently. It would be one thing if this belief were strictly a personal matter, but we’ve already seen that it directly intersects with Council matters. Christie’s opponents are right to hammer on it, and the Chron is wrong to dismiss them for it. It’s true that CM Christie’s irrational opposition to that grant amounted to little more than a meaningless “No” vote, and that unlike some other Texas politicians I could name, he didn’t do any further damage to the system or the process for the sake of defending his indefensible belief. But he doesn’t deserve a pass for it. If the Chron didn’t think that either James Horwitz or Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz were suitable for Council, then perhaps they should have taken a pass on this race. At the very least, they should have taken their own stated concerns more seriously.
Anyway. As noted, my interview with CM Christie is here, and my interview with James Horwitz is here. I did not interview Dr. Evans-Shabazz, but she did a Texpatriate Q&A; Horwitz also did Q&As from Texpatriate and Texas Leftist. The Chron ran two endorsements yesterday, but I decided to treat them as separate posts this time. I’ll blog about the other one tomorrow. Finally, Noah Horwitz, one of the Texpatriate bloggers and the son of James Horwitz, sent a letter to the editor of the Chron in response to their endorsement of CM Christie, which I have reproduced below. These are his words and not mine – I’ve said my piece above – but I agreed to print his letter in case the Chron didn’t.
To the editor:
I find great objection this paper’s editorial board’s recent conciliatory comments about Councilmember Christie (Editorial: Jack Christie for Houston City Council). The board casts off what itself calls a “dangerous position” of Councilmember Christie, his “skepticism of modern medicine,” as a venial offense. The Texas Medical Center is the largest employer in the City of Houston. To have a leader in the public profile espouse such “conspiracy theories” is deeply damaging to the entire City.
Further, I strongly disagree with the editorial board’s comment that Christie’s challengers, specifically James Horwitz, “failed to explain how they would do a better job.” Despite what the editorial board would imply, James Horwitz (as well as fellow challenger Carolyn Evans-Shabazz) has raised several other serious concerns about Councilmember Christie’s tenure in office.
Councilmember Christie supported a recent proposal to gut the City’s adherence to the revered Open Meetings Act, which would have allowed the City Council to conduct some of its proceedings in secret. He voted against a recent proposal to stop prosecuting starving Houstonians who scourge the garbage for sustenance. However, worst of all, Councilmember Christie espouses the same type of counterproductive Tea Party rhetoric this board ostensibly opposes (Editorial: Why we miss Kay Bailey Hutchison). Whether this has been constant bashing of Social Security/Medicare or opposition to same-sex marriage, Councilmember Christie is seriously out of touch with Houston.
—Noah M. Horwitz
Horwitz is the editor of “Texpatriate,” a local political blog.