In the Eigth installment of the 2015 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire we hear from Hon. Ellen Cohen, incumbent Houston City Council Member for District C. She is running for reelection.
TL: What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?
EC: Ellen Cohen
TL: Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?
EC: I am a two-term Council Member for District C and I have previously Represented HD 134 in Austin.
TL: As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?
EC: Government is important because it is where constituents can engage with their elected representatives to solve problems. We need more people to participate in government, especially considering the multitude of issues that the City of Houston currently faces.
TL: If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it.
EC: I am running in part because I have a proven record as a problem solver. I will be able to work effectively with the new mayor and I will bring institutional memory to help connect constituents to the appropriate branch of the city to help them solve problems. My top priority is to address the budget but to also address infrastructure problems and quality of life issues.
TL: After decades of deferred maintenance and neglect, Houston’s infrastructure is in a critical state of disrepair. Ask any driver, cyclist or pedestrian, and they can readily tell you that city streets and sidewalks are crumbling… some to the extent that they pose significant danger to those that would traverse them. The Parker Administration has attempted to address the problem by the voter-approved ReBuild Houston program. Knowing that the next Mayor has no choice but to invest in city infrastructure, do you support the continuation of ReBuild Houston? If yes, please explain why. If no, please explain how you would address our copious infrastructure needs differently.
EC: I support Rebuild Houston which improves our city’s drainage, roads, and infrastructure. Transparency and oversight is key to ensuring that the drainage fee and Rebuild Houston program remains dedicated to the intended projects. Taking an active role in the process and understanding the recommendations from the Public Works & Engineering Department is critical.
TL: At present the city of Houston has one of the strongest forms of “strong-Mayor governance” in the state of Texas, to the point that the Mayor alone decides what business comes before City Council. If elected, would you support an amendment to the City Charter that would allow any coalition of 6 Council Members to place items on the Council Agenda without prior approval from the Mayor? Whether yes or no, please explain your answer.
EC: I think having council be able to put something on the agenda is a good idea. But I don’t know if 6 is the right way to go. It needs to be studied.
TL: If elected, would you support and seek to continue the current administration’s Complete Streets policy, which establishes that any new or significant re-build of city streets will work to prioritize and incorporate safe access for all road users, including pedestrians, persons with disabilities and cyclists?
EC: I support the Complete Streets Policy. Complete Streets is a good policy for planning future infrastructure improvements because it will account for differences and needs in different roadways based on how it is used. Houston requires a multi-modal form of public transportation in order to grow into the world class city it’s becoming. I support measures to make Houston more inclusive of all road users.
TL: What makes you the best candidate for this office?
EC: My experience serving the public prepares me to help constituents navigate city government and I have a proven record of getting things done.
TL: When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?
EC: One of my favorite things about Houston is its green space. The work done in Buffalo Bayou park is magnificent and I enjoy biking and walking out there. Houston has an incredibly vibrant restaurant scene as well and I love showing out of town friends around this great city.
Thanks to Council Member Cohen for the responses.
Election Day 2015 is Tuesday November 3rd, and Early Voting runs from October 19th through October 30th. Check out this year’s Harris County Early Voting information for locations and times.