Thoughts On Municipal Elections In Houston—To What Extent Should We Care?
I sometimes find it difficult to take seriously the subjects of Houston City Council, and, also, municipal elections here in Houston. I find it hard to do so for the following reasons–
1. Few Houstonians vote in city elections and given my limited resources of time, I can’t always muster much effort on something people don’t care about and that does not seem to make a big difference in the lives of people of Houston.
2. The six year term limits mean that councilmembers come and go and you really have no idea who they are. They dance around and wait for an empty seat to run for. Just like this game of musical chairs you see below. ( No..I don’t know who those people are.)
3. Despite the fact that so-called Democrats have a majority on the Council, they don’t appear to do anything in a cohesive fashion. Does the caucus have meetings? Have they offered a vision of what they would like to see from the ongoing Texas Legislative session? Or from the Obama stimulus package? Is there any agenda all except the separate agendas of individuals?
At least one Council Democrat, James Rodriguez, will possibly be supporting a Republican for citywide office. What is his agenda? Can we trust Mr. Rodriguez to serve our city well? The verdict is still out.
4. I’ve been voting for Democrats at the municipal level since I was first eligible to vote in 1985. I feel that often they take the votes and offer in little in return in terms of imagination and concern for people who need the most help from government. (Though I’m glad to see that Barack Obama of Chicago is saying he has a focus on urban issues. Maybe that focus will trickle down and offer some new energy to local urban policy makers.)
What got me thinking about the topic of the Houston City Council was a post by Houston blogger Charles Kuffner. Mr. Kuffner’s post dealt with possible candidates for municipal offices in Houston in 2009. ( 50,000 page views this month Charles. I’m getting there.) Mr. Kuffner, who is one of the best sources for these things in Houston, reports various people running for the various offices.
How does the process work? Here’s what I’m seeing—Some political insider, or some person who feels they might be able to access sufficient funds to run a campaign, waits for the right moment and the right opportunity and decides to give it a whirl.
For the average person it is all very nebulous. (Below—A nebula. Click here for information about nebulas.) Where do these folks come from? For what reason are people donating to their campaigns? What political party and beliefs do candidates represent as they hide behind the lie of the so-called “non-partisan” municipal ballot?
What are the candidates and councilmembers themselves thinking?
Maybe they wonder why people don’t care who represents them at City Hall. They could be thinking that if the public does not trust them to serve more than six years, why then should they trust the public?
It might be that council candidates and councilmembers are thinking that with low turnout and term limits the public has, in effect, ceded control of city government to special interests and the personal ambitions of office holders.
In 2009, I’m going to make some effort to listen to what our Houston municipal candidates are saying. I’ll offer my views as we go along. I’ll be looking for a specific agenda, and for some connection between Houston and the big changes and new resources we are seeing in Washington. It won’t be nearly enough that a candidate claims that he or she is a Democrat. That is a road I have been down often before. (Below—An old road not used as much as it once was.)