If there are any political animals out there looking for a good pre-2014 brawl, we’ve got one for you down in Houston. The Bayou City’s Mayoral race just heated up. After challenger Ben Hall introduced himself to voters with a huge tv ad last week, people in the city have been wanting to know more about him. And apparently, Houston Mayor Annise Parker wants to help with that task. Here’s her first big tv ad of the season…
“Ben Hall wants to be mayor of Houston, but he hasn’t bothered to vote in a city election in 11 years. In fact, Hall didn’t even live in Houston. Just last year he bought a house inside the city so he could run for mayor. When Houston was hurting in the recession, Hall offered no vision, no ideas and no leadership. Now that things are good, he’s back. Ben Hall really wants to be mayor. He just didn’t want to live here.”
The ad claims that Ben Hall hasn’t lived in Houston for eleven years, and cites two Houston Chronicle articles… one of which is located here. It’s mostly good-ole American oppo slandering, but done in an admittedly effective way. Though Of course Mr. Hall’s response is likely to be that he’s been a Houston property owner the whole time, regardless of where he actually resided. But the point about taxes, especially given Hall’s well-known trouble with paying what tax he owes very late, is one that will likely have some resonance. The fact that Hall has paid to another city means revenue lost to Houston. I stumbled upon this 2011 Houston Chronicle article from Rick Casey talking about then-prospective candidate Hall…
Two years ago , attorney Benjamin Hall announced that he was going to announce for mayor but then un-announced his pre-announcement.
One potential impediment was that he didn’t actually live in Houston. He lived in an 8,000-square-foot house in suburban Piney Point Village with a tax appraisal of $2.9 million.
With Piney Point’s tax rate at a third of the city of Houston’s, had Hall’s house been in Houston last year our deficit would have been about $12,000 less.
Hall has yet to announce this year, but he did change his address for voter registration purposes to his law office on Lovett Street in Montrose.
I’m honestly surprised to see such a heavy-hitter in August, especially given how small of an ad buy the Parker campaign used… $25,000 compared to a massive $500,000 for Hall’s venture. Maybe more Houstonians will find it from friends or on YouTube, but for those who only get their election information via TV, it can’t be effective until its actually seen.
My thoughts on this… To put it simply, investment in a city matters. Whether that investment is through money like property and sales taxes, or through engaging in that city’s political process with a vote, both are important. For affluent citizens like Mr. Hall, where you live is most definitely a choice, and he chose to live and invest in the citizens of Piney Point Village. Of the property he did own in Houston, Hall was very late paying his taxes to support citizens of the city he now wants to run. It’s kind of unsettling to think that Hall was perfectly content as a Piney Point Village resident, and basically didn’t vote for Houston’s leadership during the time. It also plays into the issue Mr. Hall seems to be have with revealing specific things that he would do differently from Mayor Parker that would make the city better. If he hasn’t been a city constituent for 12 years, does he have a true grasp of all the issues, or how Houston was able to weather the economic recession? Does he realize that at a time when every tax dollar counted in a fight to save Houston jobs, protect Houston neighborhoods and educate Houston school children, his contribution to that effort was decidedly and noticeably absent? Yet another factor to weigh as we approach this November’s elections.