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Who Can Liberals & Progressives Support In 2011 City Of Houston Elections?—Who Is Running For Houston City Council?

It is time for our Houston municipal elections.

(Above–Houston City Hall.)

Early voting runs October 24-November 4. General Election Day is November 8.

Here is a link to help you find out where to vote.

Who can a liberal or progressive support in these elections?

As is so often the case in Houston, the pickings are slim.

Houston city elections are low-turnout affairs in which an electorate not representative of Houston’s demographics chooses from candidates who discuss a very narrow range of issues. Just how much is it that can we hear about red light cameras?

The credibility of the candidates on the ballot is often judged by how much money they have raised.

Here is my look at the Houston city ballot and, also, some additional links to help you figure out how you’d like to vote.

Houstonians merit liberal and progressive options at the ballot box.

Houston was a 61% Obama city in 2008. If we can’t muster up some decent candidates, then maybe we should use our political energies to support Occupy Houston.

While we should vote in every election, the energy and hope we are seeing from the Occupy Wall Street movement is more positive  and hopeful than anything occurring in our municipal elections.

Here are my endorsements—

Mayor-–I’m leaving my ballot blank for Mayor. I simply don’t believe Mayor Annise Parker has any consistent commitment to progressive values. Good people will disagree, but the Mayor has had two years to offer leadership on pressing issues of poverty and on the lack of broad political participation in Houston. She seems to have little interest in these subjects.

Mayor Parker is likely to win reelection in 2011. The absence of competent and credible opponents, and her campaign war chest of more than $2 million helps make this so. Yet despite her good electoral outlook for 2011, the Mayor is concerned with winning a strong majority of voters in 2011 so as to strengthen her hand with City Council, and to help her fend off challengers in 2013.

I’ve no desire in helping the Mayor accomplish these goals. No matter what percentage of votes cast in 2011 Annise Parker ends up  winning, it will be done with an overall turnout of somewhere between 10% and 15%. There is no way the Mayor will have a credible mandate from an involved public. Why should Mayor Parker be given the illusion of a mandate when she has never engaged in serious grassroots efforts to expand voter turnout in Houston, and when she does not pursue policies that are inclusive of Houstonians of every economic status?

(Update 10/31–Mayor Parker has received a grade of A- for fiscal conservatism from the Texas Conservative Review. I say again that Mayor Parker does not warrant the support of liberals and progressives.)

(Below–Recent picture of ongoing drought in Houston as seen in Memorial Park. The grassroots have dried up. Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino)

Council At-Large #1–Incumbent Stephen Costello plays all sides of the political aisle while Green Don Cook does not work hard in his campaigns. Mr. Costello’s Renew Houston plan addresses the serious issue of flooding in Houston, but is also regressive in how it is funded and makes little effort to include green solutions in the plan. I’m leaving my ballot blank in this race.

Council At Large #2–I’m supporting Jennifer Rene Pool in this 10 candidate race.  She will occasionally say liberal and progressive things. Maybe she means some of them.

Council At-Large #3–Incumbent Melissa Noriega is a thoughtful person and has my support.

Council At-Large #4–Green Amy Price is an energetic and upbeat. She works hard to learn the issues and will be a councilmember who seeks solutions and who listens. Incumbent Democrat C.O. Bradford has on his balance sheet his terrible administration of the crime lab when he was Houston’s police chief, and his calls for austerity-type budgeting for Houston.

Council At-Large #5–Only you know if you want to support Jolanda Jones for one last term. She is always involved in some type of fuss. Sometimes it seems to be her fault, while other times it is not her fault. In any case, you wish that Ms.Jones was a more disciplined and effective advocate for the poor and disenfranchised in Houston. Her story on Council seems in good part to be of an opportunity missed. After some thought, I’ve decided I’m going to vote for Ms. Jones.  Ms. Jones made a recent visit to Occupy Houston and I appreciate that fact. I’m not aware of any other incumbent city official who has done the same.

Council District C-–I live in this district. Karen Derr is a more progressive option than Ellen Cohen. I’m going to be voting Ms. Derr. Ms. Cohen is a fund-raising machine who in the recent past has accepted campaign funds from gay marriage opponent Bob Perry. I’d rather have a fresh voice in City Hall rather  than a candidate who seems to have the advantage in part due to her friendship with Mayor Parker, and in part due to her ability to raise a lot of money from big donors. Ms. Cohen gives the impression of being an incumbent even before she is elected.

Council District H–I don’t live in this district. However, incumbent Ed Gonzalez merits mention as a decent person and as someone open to hearing voices on all sides of a debate.

There are also 10 amendments to the Texas Constitution on the ballot. Here is my in-depth analysis of these propositions.

There are 2 resources that stand out when considering our city elections. These resources cover all the Houston district council seats up for election in 2011.

Houston blogger Charles Kuffner has a page at his blog Off The Kuff with his interviews of many of the candidates. This page also has links to the websites of the candidates and listings of selections by the various interest groups that endorse in city elections.

The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area offers a voter’s guide that profiles and asks questions of all the Houston candidates.

Fellow blogger Perry Dorrell at Brains And Eggs has made a series of excellent posts endorsing candidates in Houston for 2011.

Greg Wythe at Greg’s Opinion has also made some well thought-out endorsements.

Houston city elections often seem to be a taxpayer-financed subsidy for a political class of consultants, city contract seekers, and all-purpose opportunists who all have little do with everyday life in Houston.

That said, you should still go and vote. I don’t have the heart to tell you otherwise.

The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.

Vote in Houston in 2011 and then commit yourselves to making our local democracy better.

(Below–Houston skyline in 1971. Photo by YixilTesiphon. Here is a link to a history of Houston.) 

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fundraiser For Houston Councilmember Melissa Noriega—A Temporary Reply To The Brevity Of Life

Houston City Councilmember Melissa Noriega is having a fundraiser on Thursday, February 18.

This event will be held between 5:30 PM and 7:00 PM on that day in the Cambridge Room of the House of Blues at 1204 Caroline.

Here is the Facebook page for this event.

I’ll not be able to attend this event because  I will be in Ohio that day. I will though send a donation.

Above you see a picture I took of Councilmember Noriega at a recent Martin Luther King parade in Houston.

There she is greeting the people.

I’m often reluctant to be friends in any meaningful way with politicians or with people connected to politics.

As a political blogger with some audience in a city where few take part in politics, there is a path a person could take to knowing people in local politics.

I did that once in life in another city, and I’m not sure I want to do it again. Relationships founded in politics are somewhat transactional in my view.

Life is brief and I want longstanding friendships that place loyalty at the top of the virtues that the friends involved value in one another.

Longtime friendships in a world where life is brief and brutal offer at least a temporary reply to the brevity of life.

Despite these things, I have struck up a measure of friendship with politician Melissa Noriega. I feel she is someone you can support with the confidence that the people of Houston are being well-served with thoughtful and compassionate leadership.

Here is Ms. Noriega’s City of Houston web home.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

I Voted Yes On Houston School Levy So Kids Can Take More Civics Classes And Question Legtimacy Of Political Structure Unable To Address Global Economy And Climate Change

I voted this morning in our Houston city elections. I voted just a few minutes ago. I did not get the sense of high turnout.

High turnout would require voters that care, a Republican Party that thought Houston was worth fighting for, and a Democratic Party that had the competence and imagination to make at least some effort to generate turnout of Democratic voters.

We don’t have any of those things in Houston.

For Mayor of Houston I voted for Amanda Ulman. I posted about this last week. Bill White did not need my vote and voters deserve options.

Can you imagine that not one Republican in Houston cared enough about his or her city to run and offer competing ideas in contrast to Mayor White to our citizens? 

I voted forJolanda Jones for Houston At-Large Position 5. Hopefully she’ll make it to a run-off and the sneaky Zaf Tahir will not. Please click here to read about Mr. Tahir and the things he has been up to as a candidate.

I voted for Melissa Noriega and Peter Brown in other at-large Council races. I’m looking forward to Mr. Brown’s possible candidacy against Annise Parker for Houston Mayor in 2009. I think Mr. Brown will offer a hopeful vision for Houston in sharp contrast to the deadening business-as-usual pragmatism that characterizes Ms. Parker’s type of politics.     

In addition to the city candidates, there were a number of important school levies, county bond issues and Texas statewide matters on the ballot.

I voted yes on the Houston school levy because we need to prepare these kids to have the civic awareness to realize that both major parties are selling them down the river on the global economy and climate change.

I think that with a few more social studies, civics and history classes, kids might begin to ask questions about the basic legitimacy of a system that either cannot or will not address the most important issues of the future.     

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics, Ways We Hate Children | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I Met Houston Councilmember Melissa Noriega This Evening

I met Houston City Councilmember Melissa Noriega this evening. I attended a fundraiser for her downtown.

Ms. Noriega’s first became aware of me, as far as I know, when I endorsed the Green Party candidate on the my blog in her special election race earlier this year.

Blogger Greg Wythe suggested I call her and talk to her and maybe my view would change.

I called Ms. Noriega. We talked for about 25 minutes and had a great conversation. I then wrote a post saying  Ms. Noriega was a good person and I was still going to vote for the Green candidate. 

I voted for Ms. Noriega in the runoff election after she failed to secure a majority in the first round.

Ms. Noriega and I have exchanged a few e-mails since. A few days ago she e-mailed me about the event tonight.

I did not talk to Ms. Noriega very much this evening . We were sitting at a table, but every 30 seconds somebody came over to talk to her as she attempted to eat some appetizers on a styrofoam plate.

I did however talk to her parents for about half-an-hour. Both Ms. Noriega’s mom and dad were very smart and courteous.         

In my brief conversation with Ms. Noriega, I felt she had acquired these same virtues from her folks.

A test of leadership and maturity is to move past initial disagreements. Some of the best relationships I’ve had  have been with people I at first did not get along with.

Another test of leadership is to express an interest in understanding the motives and reasons behind someone who at first appears to be an opponent.

Ms. Noriega has shown these leadership qualities.      

Hopefully I will have a further chance to talk with Ms. Noriega.     

October 12, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | , , | Leave a comment