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Mayoral candidate forum season gets underway

Gentlemen, start your oratorical engines for these upcoming Mayoral candidate forums.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The events, which will focus on arts and culture, economic development, and labor and community concerns, kick off a months-long cycle in which the candidates will appear before various interest groups, speaking to their specific concerns.

Wednesday’s arts forum at the Asia Society comes two days after the conclusion of this year’s legislative session in Austin and is expected to be the first time the candidates appear together since former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia entered the race.

The forum hosted by Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Museum District, Theater District Houston and Miller Outdoor Theatre begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be moderated by KTRK reporter Miya Shay.

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Thursday’s forum hosted by SPARC Growth Houston, a coalition of economic development groups, will focus on the city budget and economic development. It begins at 6 p.m. at the University of Houston.

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Then, on Saturday, the candidates are set to appear before area labor and community organizations for a 9 a.m. forum at Talento Bilingue.

I realize that these particular forums are tightly focused, subject-wise. Nonetheless, as a public service, I offer to the moderators of these forums and any and all future forums, the following questions that I think these candidates should be asked.

1. What is your opinion of the plan TxDOT has put forward to remake I-45 from Beltway 8 into downtown? Have you taken the opportunity to submit feedback to them via their website? The deadline for such feedback is today/was May 31.

2. During the legislative session there was a bill by Rep. Chris Paddie that would have provided a regulatory framework for “rideshare” services like Uber and Lyft to operate anywhere in Texas. In the bill’s initial form, these regulations would have superseded local rideshare ordinances, though after pushback from cities Rep. Paddie agreed to make some changes. What was your opinion of Rep. Paddie’s rideshare bill? Should the state of Texas be the one to regulate these services? Did you contact Rep. Paddie and/or your own Representative to express your opinion on this bill?

3. Texas Central Railway is currently going through the federal environmental review process to get clearance to build a privately-funded high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas. One of the things they are trying to decide is where to put the Houston terminal for this line. Their original plan was for it to be downtown, but they have encountered strong resistance from the neighborhoods that it might have to pass through (there are two possible routes), who object to elevated trains so close to their homes. An alternative now being discussed is for the station to be located at the Northwest Transit Center, though downtown and some other possibilities are still on the table. Where do you believe the Houston terminal for this high speed rail line, for which construction may begin as soon as 2017, should be? Have you gone to any of TCR’s public meetings, or provided feedback to them in any form?

4. As you know, the city received several proposals in response to its RFP for a “one bin for all” solution for solid waste management. These proposals, which are still being evaluated by the city, would require new technology and a substantial investment by a private company. The city has said that if the idea turns out to be infeasible, it will not pursue it. Mayor Parker has said that one way or another, this will be a task for the next Mayor to finish. What is your opinion of the “one bin for all” idea? Would your preference be for the city to pursue it or drop it?

I really really look forward to hearing some answers to these questions, whether next week or sometime soon thereafter.

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2 Comments

  1. Terrance says:

    I would like to hear answers to questions regarding our police/community relationship, mainly getting a citizen review board with real power, and stripping away the ability for the police union to override firing of a cop.

  2. Steven Houston says:

    Terrance, I have plenty of questions regarding community relations and city workers from ALL departments too but as far as the premise of your comment, you are way off base. Unions do not override firing of employees, never have and never will locally. What unions do is provide lawyers to force the city to prove the basis of a firing or discipline. The city typically fails so often in firing or disciplining a suspected bad employee because it either arbitrarily does so with little proof or it routinely assigns one level of discipline to a certain kind of policy violation and then goes way overboard when a particular incident is deemed newsworthy.

    Consider this, a few years ago, some racist messages were found on a computer in an ambulance. The city couldn’t prove who wrote them as none of the employees assigned to the vehicle were logged on. Some genius decides to give all three employees the chance to confess or fire them all, making it clear that whoever confessed would be fired (it had hit the news). Aside from the possibility that while the crew was tending business, someone walking by could have typed in the message or comparing it to those of far higher rank that have been verbally counseled for doing something similar, the city pushed forward on the three veteran employees. Is that the kind of treatment you believe the city should engage in with employees?

    In a different setting, a veteran police officer was accused of a minor policy violation by his brand new supervisor, the officer denying it. It came down to a he said/she said situation where neither side had an independent witness nor proof. In its infinite wisdom, someone high up the food chain decided to make an example of the officer and threaten to fire him for lying if he did not accept an unpaid suspension lasting three months. Keeping in mind that this would prevent the officer from working any of his extra assignments, overtime, or other income bearing activities used and needed to support his family, he fought it and won; never to return to being nearly as great an asset to the community. Later, the supervisor admitted to “remembering it wrong” yet nothing was done to her.

    The suggestion that a civilian review board with greater power than the current one would somehow arrive at better decisions or would serve as yet another chance to hand out discipline to police (or FD) also ignores that about 80% of all cases of misconduct come from other police (the percentage is lower with FD). There is no “blue line of silence” and most cops I know would be the first to look for a rope and tree to take care of those who are caught selling drugs, working with gang members, or raping people. The belief that unions get employees a free ride has been promoted for decades now but the truth is, management wants a scapegoat for those times it drops the ball. As it is, I’m told PD loses 40 to 50 officers a year due to misconduct, FD’s numbers are somewhat lower but proportional. In the “serious” cases you get to see in the newspaper, the city looks into them, the county gets a shot, grand juries review events, and yes, even the feds step in (almost every major police department in the country has been held under federal review at some point in time, all of the big departments other than Houston having to comply with overseers).

    But just like body cameras, some activists try to sell a civilian review board with as broad a net as possible, the details be damned. Who thinks having board members elected makes sense? Appointed? Should it be able to override state law and court procedures? Should members be paid? Work for free? Each facet opens up a whole new can of worms just as moving FD to be under the OIG totally messed their reviews up.