In the Eighteenth installment of the 2015 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire we hear from Hon. Bill King, former Mayor of the city of Kenah, Texas and candidate for Mayor of Houston.
Please note: Responses are directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but may be considered during the endorsement process.
TL: What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?
BK: Bill King
TL: Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?
BK: I served two terms on the Kemah City Council and two terms as Mayor of Kemah.
TL: As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?
BK: I believe that municipal government is constituted to provide certain basic services—like streets, sewers, police, and fire protection—and to provide them well.
TL: If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it.
BK: Addressing Houston’s financial problems is a necessary predicate to any other objectives one may have for the city. I will implement zero-based budgets and independent audits of departments, stop relying on overtime work from city employees that costs the City more than it spends on parks, convert heavy city vehicles to natural gas, and other necessary steps to bring spending under control without compromising essential city services.
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.
BK: I have consistently opposed ReBuild Houston. The pay-as-you-go scheme costs taxpayers more money than traditional infrastructure bonds, and it also means that citizens have to wait years for critical projects and lose the value of having roads and culverts completed when they are needed. Also, it is very un-democratic to have city bureaucrats and engineers making the decisions on which projects get priority. Infrastructure bonds give the voters a say.
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.
BK: I support a mechanism for Council Members to set agenda items without the Mayor’s approval. In a more general sense, I think that Houston needs to work on de-centralizing some authority. The super-neighborhood system, for instance, has been deteriorating in many areas of town, depriving the mayor of valuable input on the needs of specific neighborhoods.
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?
BK: I am all for providing safe, dedicated infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians. But the Complete Streets policy is not what we need right now: Complete Streets can costs as much as 3 times what a regular street costs, and Houston is full of disadvantaged, largely minority neighborhoods where streets are impassible and sidewalks are nonexistent. We can’t get economic opportunity to the areas of town that need it most if we keep spending down our budget on amenities that always seem to find their way to wealthier neighborhoods first.
TL: What makes you the best candidate for this office?
BK: Running the City of Houston is a bit like being the CEO of a $5 billion corporation. Taxpayers have not been getting their money’s worth from municipal government, and I want to use my 40 years of experience in business and public service to deliver what the voters expect from City Hall.
TL: When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?
BK: I enjoy dining out in Houston and spending time with my grandchildren.
Thanks to Mr. King 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.