If you live in the city of Houston, this election matters. Houston is a growing city that will face many challenges over the coming decades. It is the next Mayor and City Council which will decide how we handle them. Get informed, and V-O-T-E!!
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Over the weekend, the winds of change blew through the halls of Houston and HCC municipal governance. In Saturday’s runoff election, turnout was expected to be light and that certainly proved to be true. With a meekly 4 percent of overall voter turnout, some of the most contested races of the year were decided. Given that such a small number of voters lent their voice to the runoff, it’s hard to garner any real indications of how this reflects the city’s political trend map. But one thing is for sure… people who vote in runoff elections are the most determined voters you will find anywhere.
There is no better evidence for this fact than in Houston’s District A. In 2011 Tea Party Challenger Helena Brown, armed with a bevy of anti-government, anti-establishment voters, defeated then- Incumbent Council Member Brenda Stardig by 605 votes. In the year and a half that followed, district residents got to know Council Member Brown as being true to her word. After racking up an extraordinary record rejecting even the most mundane city business, District A citizens (at least those precious few that voted in the December 14th runoff) decided that they have had enough, rejecting Brown’s extremism and reinstating Stardig to her former seat. Interesting what honesty in politics gets you these days.
Though At Large 2 Council Member Andrew Burks is far from a ‘right-wing extremist’, he is known for some measures of extremism just the same. In his first term, he had several instances of berating constituent speakers that disagreed with him, and perceived hostility toward some of his elected colleagues. These very public shows of difficulty certainly didn’t do him any favors during the 2013 election, but finally on Saturday, they may have proven to be his downfall, as Burks was defeated by challenger David W. Robinson. Once again, extremism lost out.
Perhaps the most fiery race of this years election season was in District I. Prior to the November elections, four candidates fought hard to encourage turnout in the low-performing district, and each candidate ended up with close to equal shares of the votes. So much so in fact that only 25 votes separated second-place finisher Robert Gallegos from 3rd place Ben Mendez. But a second-place finish turned out to be the right prescription, as Robert Gallegos defeated Graci Garces in the runoff election, and will now represent the citizens of District I.
There were some less exciting race results as well. In District D, frontrunner Dwight Boykins went on to handily defeat Georgia Provost. Adriana Tamez, who was the top vote-getter in the General Election, went on to oust incumbent Herlinda Garcia for HCC District 3. Zeph Capo won the HCC seat for District 1 by defeating incumbent Yolanda Navarro- Flores, and Robert Glaser retained his top position and went to win against Phil Kunetka in HCC District 5. Even with the defeat of 2 incumbents, these races at least gave an indication of what may occur from the General Election totals.
But to have a runoff election that results all 4 incumbents beaten? To say the least, it’s an anomaly. Or perhaps (particularly in the case of City Council), the anomaly was actually 2011, and 2013 was simply a course correction back to less of the extreme. Texpatriate, Off the Kuff and Brains and Eggs have much more.
Only time will tell. But for now… so long Helena Brown.
Though he’s drawn one challenger in perennial candidate Mike “Griff” Griffin, Council Member Stephen Costello is looking strong for reelection in At Large Position 1. Costello is a Republican, but his style of politics is far-removed from the grand-standing hyper-partisanship of Washington. As head of the Budget Committee, Costello has become an important ally to the Parker administration and helped to garner much consensus among his council colleagues (no government shutdown in H-Town). He has chosen to go after some of the city’s biggest issues, including the municipal pension fund, the continuing struggle with food deserts and Rebuild Houston. To the latter, Costello has been a leading voice for not only the passage of Rebuild Houston, but also worked hard to monitor its implementation and see that tax dollars are spent wisely. For all these reasons, Council Member Costello deserves a final term. The pick for At Large 1 is Stephen Costello.
Though only in his first term, At Large 2 Council Member Andrew C. Burks has already left a dramatic impression on Houston municipal politics. In many instances, he has been an important voice to issues that previously had little focus in government, especially those relating to the city’s minority communities. He has continued to remind council of the vast poverty and inequality we see in our underserved neighborhoods, and at times has even lodged political power to ensure that these issues are addressed. For Texas Leftist, fighting for Houston’s most vulnerable citizens is something to be admired. This is Burks at his best. But for all of these moments, Council Member Burks has also publicly berated constituents appearing at City Hall, openly threatened his opponents, and done other things that are counter to the mission of good governance. For all of these reasons, it is time for a change in At Large 2, and that change David W. Robinson. As an architect, President of the Super-Neighborhood Alliance and committed civic leader, Robinson will lend a wealth of experience to some of the next great challenges. He was an important leader of the passage of Chapter 42, and like Council Member Costello, I suspect Robinson would be just as committed to seeing the new density requirements implemented successfully. The pick for At Large 2 is David W. Robinson.
In At Large 3 Texas Leftist will not be issuing an endorsements a I am already supporting candidate Jenifer Rene Pool’s campaign as a volunteer. But I highly recommend that readers consult other endorsements in this race, all of which are conveniently compiled on Off the Kuff’s 2013 elections page.
At Large 4 Council Member C.O. Bradford is not without his dramatic moments, but on the whole he has done a good job of representing the views of a diverse constituency. For all of the vocal opposition he gives to the Parker Administration, ultimately Council Member Bradford works to find good compromise and keep the city moving forward. As a former Police Chief, his tireless advocacy for our public servants is a voice that needs to be heard in local government. The pick for At Large 4 is C.O. Bradford.
Eccentricity is a word that comes to mind with At Large 5 Council Member Jack Christie. As the Chronicle endorsement points out, Christie’s sensationalist remarks are still mostly rhetoric, and have not caused any genuine harm around the Council table. When it comes time to vote, Christie has shown much willingness to work with his colleagues and get the business of the city accomplished. Texas Leftist is grateful for that, but the whole purpose of having elections is to find the BEST persons for the job. Why can’t Houstonians have both a good role model on City Council and someone that espouses more sound judgments in his public views? It’s what we deserve. Amongst two strong opposing candidates, the standout in this race is James S. Horwitz. The Houston attorney has a strong record of community service, and Progressive views that would be a great asset to council. As the city continues to grow with bold new initiatives like Rebuild Houston, Chapter 42, rail line expansion and complete streets, Houstonians need stability within our municipal leadership. Unlike the Chronicle staff writers, Texas Leftist does not believe that Christie’s behavior should just be ignored. The pick for At Large 5 is James S. Horwitz.