With some hesitancy, I’m supporting Annise Parker for Mayor of Houston.
Ms. Parker, our current Houston City Controller, is the best bet to address issues of importance to Houston’s poor and working class. Ms. Parker is the candidate most likely to pursue anything approaching a liberal and progressive agenda that involves social, environmental and economic fair play.
Though all three serious candidates for Mayor of Houston are Democrats, each has run to the right so as to appeal to Republicans. It is not the fault of Democrats, and of people in Houston who could use help from government, that no credible Republican thought Houston important enough to run for Mayor.
Into this vacuum , Ms. Parker and the other leading candidates have talked at length about crime and so-called fiscal conservatism.
If you’re a Republican reading this please be clear—Annise Parker, Peter Brown and Gene Locke are Democrats.
Nobody wants to be a victim of crime and it is the poor who are most likely to be victims of crime. Yet it must be noted that crime rates have been going down in Houston.
It is one thing to address an issue that all people are concerned about. It is another thing to use that issue to obscure the facts and to deflect attention from the wide range of critical issues that have been ignored in this empty campaign.
On economic issues, Ms. Parker’s occasional embrace of the “fiscal conservative” label has been disheartening.
I was ready to write in support of Ms. Parker last week. However, I was given pause after the Parker campaign circulated a blog post written by my fellow blogger Martha Griffin. Ms. Parker’s campaign used Ms. Griffin’s post to appeal to so-called fiscal conservatives.
Ms. Griffin’s post discussed how Ms. Parker had saved the City of Houston taxpayer dollars in her capacity as City Controller.
That’s good. That is what Ms. Parker should be doing as Controller.
However, fiscal conservatism is a philosophy of governance. It is about far more than how one executes the duties of City Controller. To confuse the two is to confuse the voter. Ms. Griffin was saying that Ms. Parker has done a good job as Controller. Yet it is hard to think that this is what the Parker campaign was trying to convey in circulating the post.
Did Ms. Parker pitch herself as a fiscal conservative when she won the endorsements of the Houston Federation of Teachers, the Harris County AFL-CIO Council, HOPE Local 123 and the Service Employees International Union?
Is this what we have come to in our majority-Democrat City of Houston? If I want a fiscal conservative, I’ll vote for a Republican. The fact that no credible Republican is running suggests that voters in Houston are not as receptive to a Republican message as our 2009 Mayoral candidates seem to believe.
Still, the union endorsements and some aspects of Ms. Parker’s record provide hope that Ms. Parker offers more to the people of Houston than she’s been advertising in her campaign.
Ms. Parker has done great work in helping low income residents of Houston gain access to banks.
Ms. Parker has supported efforts by janitors in Houston to be better paid and to receive benefits.
Ms. Parker has a personal history of fighting for the political and social rights of people seeking a rightful place in society.
The Houston of 2009 is not of Ms. Parker’s making. We’re all trapped to some extent in a world we did not create. Ms. Parker must run a campaign that is mindful of Houston’s political climate.
That said, there is also a place for courage and for leadership. This is not a place Ms. Parker has yet realized in this campaign.
My hope is that Ms. Parker wins the chance to serve as our Mayor, and that her tenure is one dedicated to the aspirations and needs of all citizens of our city.
This post can also be found at the Houston Chronicle where I am a featured political reader-blogger.
(For those seeking a better understanding of the social, environmental and economic landscape of Houston, the book Energy Metropolis–An Environmental History of Houston and the Gulf Coast connects many of the dots.)