Annise Parker Knows The Stone The Builders Rejected Will Be The Cornerstone—How Will She Lead Houston?
The Houston Chronicle recently ran an excellent profile on Houston Mayor-elect Annise Parker.
From the Chronicle story—
“She loved sports and tagged along with her father when he refereed boxing matches and high-school football games around Houston. She also loved her grandparents’ 100-acre farm in Spring Branch, where she learned how to ride horses, milk cows and fix tractors….School was more problematic. She much preferred walking the rows of her grandparents’ organic farm picking bugs off tomato vines than trudging, head cast down, through the hallways of Spring Branch Elementary. She enjoyed learning, but school was a nightmare for the frightened little girl…It got even scarier in 1968, when her father bought a fishing camp on the back bay of Biloxi, Miss., and 12-year-old Annise was forced to adapt to new surroundings. A year after the Parkers moved to Mississippi, a runaway barge knocked down the only bridge connecting the fishing camp to the mainland. Cut off from its customers, the camp went bust…Les Parker eventually found a job with the American Red Cross, and his position required frequent moves. Annise attended three junior high schools and three high schools, including a high school in Mannheim, Germany. As a teenager, she was prey to anxiety attacks and in a constant state of stress…Coming to terms with her sexual orientation also was stressful. From an early age, she said, she felt different. At 15, while living in Mannheim, she fell hopelessly in love; many a night she found herself playing Romeo beneath the upstairs window of her winsome Juliet. Her parents realized the nature of the relationship and did everything they could to keep the two girls separated...As a senior at R.B. Stall High School in Charleston, S.C., she was a high jumper and long jumper on the women’s track team and a member of the school’s Ecology Club, National Honor Society and Christian Youth Fellowship. She graduated in 1974, won a coveted National Merit Scholarship and enrolled at Rice University, the only college she had ever wanted to attend.”
Texas Liberal readers know I’m not a policy wonk. I’m more concerned with abstraction and analogy than the specifics of day-to-day policy. I do a lot of reading about many subjects because you can’t draw analogies or the grasp the symbolism of an act without an understanding of the world. However, for the purposes of communicating, I see all things as connected rather than as standing alone. Every word and deed is representative of some other word and deed.
As Sojourner Truth said–I sell the shadow to support the substance.
Annise Parker is a policy-wonk. I bet she knows Houston city government up-and-down. She has been clear as an elected official that she is a pragmatic leader. Her focus seems always on what she feels she can accomplish as a practical matter.
The thing is that politics is at core about imagination. Something that needs to be accomplished is imagined, and a plan or strategy is worked out to reach the objective. Often, the concern is minor. Yet at other times, broad social and economic change is the issue.
From my own experiences, and from my reading, I’ve found there is little greater spur to imagination than a feeling of being on the outside of the so-called mainstream of society. As it says in the Bible—The stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone.
Houston has a lot of poverty and lot of people on the outside looking for inclusion. Mayor-elect Parker knows this is the case. She knows many folks will turn their backs without second thought on people who want to be fully included in society.
Ms. Parker can let her past be her guide and address these issues of full-inclusion in Houston. She knows that full-inclusion is about economic progress as well as the social progress of Houston electing an openly gay Mayor. Ms. Parker has the opportunity to imagine a Houston where all people matter.
Or, as she did in her campaign , Ms. Parker can continue to ignore issues of poverty, homelessness, and the under- representation of Latinos in Houston’s political process.
All progress is connected. Freedom for one group of people is directly connected to the freedom and progress of all people.
Ms. Parker has a decision to make about how she will govern our city. Let us hope that she follows her best impulses and does not hide behind the excuse of pragmatism at the expense of people in Houston who need a city government that is on their side.