If a budget is truly a statement of beliefs, then the City of Houston has just learned a lot about its new Chief Executive.
Delivering on a promise made just a months earlier, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has shepherded a 2016 municipal budget through City Council, and its been done in what appears to be record time. The goal was to send a strong message to citizens, the business community and credit agencies that Houston is ‘taking care of business’. After the difficulties of last year’s election with the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, this message is definitely needed.
Mayor Sylvester Turner achieved his goal of securing unanimous passage of his first general fund budget Wednesday morning, a month ahead of the typical schedule and after an unusually brief and uncontentious discussion of council members’ proposed changes.
The $2.3 billion general fund budget, which pays for most basic city services with revenues from taxes and fees, represents only the second budget cut for Houston in two decades. The first came after the 2008 nationwide financial crisis.
“It’s not my budget, it’s our budget,” Turner told City Council. “There are fewer than 20 amendments today, which I think speaks to the collaborative nature of the partnership we have. I want to thank you for the trust you’ve placed in me.”
Formerly a long and arduous process under previous administrations, the City Council’s annual budget meeting even ended in time for lunch. For comparison, last year’s budget meeting (fueled by in part election year politics) took about 14 hours.
But just because the work was fast doesn’t mean it was easy. If the budget is truly a set of beliefs, then it is clear Mayor Sylvester Turner believes in the principle of shared sacrifice. Every area of city services will experience fun reductions, including City Council offices and the Mayor’s administration. There are also approximately 40 planned layoffs, attrition and cuts to other positions. The resultant savings of all of this difficulty? An estimated $82 million.
Thankfully for Houstonians, these cuts are not the end of the story. As promised, Mayor Turner and city leaders have also been working overtime to find creative solutions for the city’s needs. Infrastructure investment will continue thanks to unused funds from METRO which will now be allocated for district street repairs. In the wake of devastating floods which could have easily derailed any budget plan, the Mayor created the Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund to help create resources for those affected. Turner has even went further than ever before to engage and connect the business community to Houston’s greatest resource through the Hire Houston Youth program. All this has been accomplished with less than 6 months in office for the new administration.
Let’s hope this spirit of cooperation and good governance can continue. If so, Houston will get through the lean times, and hopefully have great things ahead.
As Off The Kuff points out, this truly was “an easy budget” compared to next year. Turner’s next great task lies in trying to solve the city’s pension woes.
It may be a much shorter ballot and in the throes of Holiday Season, but the 2015 Election process will not be complete until December 12th— the date for the Houston Run-off Elections. As predicted, many important local races have gone to a runoff, and Houstonians will need to come back and vote. After all, this is where the city’s next Mayor will be selected.
Position 1— With several noteworthy candidates in this race, it is an admittedly tough decision to go with one over another. Jenifer Rene Pool‘s decades of experience in the construction industry would be of great benefit as a new Mayor and Council continue to tackle the city’s massive infrastructure needs. Lane Lewis is a proven public servant with a record of producing extraordinary results during his tenure as chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party. Either would be an excellent addition to the Council table. But the time in which Houstonians live points to yet another candidate… Tom McCasland. Recent years have seen a nearly inconceivable proliferation of area property values, the result of which has left Houston in an affordable housing crisis. Along with finding a path forward on the city’s pension obligations, affordable housing is sure to be one of the next challenges faced by the local government. His successful time as head of the Harris County Housing Authority would bring necessary expertise to the people of Houston. The pick for At-Large Position 1 is Tom McCasland.
Position 2— Incumbency is by no means an automatic ticket to reelection, as was seen two years ago, when David Robinson defeated then Council Member Andrew Burks. But if any incumbent in the At-Large races deserves another term, it is certainly Robinson. His wealth of knowledge and experience has helped to guide responsible solutions for the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Robinson also understands the importance of planning for the future of a rapidly-growing city, and has been a constant advocate for implementing the right solutions, not just those for “right now”. The pick for At-Large Position 2 is David Robinson.
Position 3— Even if one disagrees with Council Member Michael Kubosh, it’s tough not to like him on a personal level. He is a charismatic and kind-hearted individual, always entertaining and often engaged with people in the community. But among all of the Council Member’s many God-given political gifts, listening doesn’t seem to be one of them. Time and again, he has made irresponsible statements, and fluctuates on his positions from one audience to the next. This was apparent during the fight surrounding Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. Unlike Council Member Brenda Stardig, who opposed HERO while at least maintaining a respectful posture to both sides, Kubosh preached “respect” to the public, but then fell in line with those spreading unnecessary hate and lies when the cameras were off. Rather than continue the chain of divisiveness, voters should instead consider Doug Peterson for this race. With a strong record of community activism, Peterson understands that diversity and equality are necessary elements of Houston’s success. As a Clear Lake resident, he also pledges to work towards bringing better quality of life for residents outside of the inner loop. Another 1st-time candidate, John LaRuehas run a respectable campaign and would bring many positive attributes to the seat, but in this year Peterson is the better choice. The pick for At-Large Position 3 is Doug Peterson.
Position 4— This race is yet another open seat with two very strong candidates… Laurie Robinson and Amanda Edwards. Either would serve the people of Houston with extraordinary commitment and common-sense pragmatism. But for this election cycle, Amanda Edwards proves to be the best choice. Though Robinson holds a wealth of experience in municipal government, Edwards’ time as a staff member for U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee shows that she understands the intricacies of constituent service. Her experience in municipal finance law is also timely in light of the city’s fiscal challenges. The pick for At-Large Position 4 is Amanda Edwards.
Position 5— Like Kubosh, there’s no denying that Council Member Jack Christie is personally a likeable guy. But once again, personality cannot make up for a host of irresponsible comments and questionable positions around the Council Table. This year, the clear choice is candidate Philippe Nassif. He may not have the advantage of incumbency, but Nassif’s impressive experience working for The White House, Mayor Annise Parker and one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations will ensure that he brings a needed global perspective to one of the world’s emerging global cities. In particular, his expansive work in helping to combat poverty and encourage affordable housing will prove necessary attributes to solve Houston’s upcoming challenges. The pick for At-Large Position 5 is Philippe Nassif.
As the nation’s 4th largest city (or is it the 3rd??), what happens in Houston does not just stay in Houston, but is serious business for the state of Texas and the United States. In the coming years as Americans chart a new future in energy production, medical care, societal diversity and creative endeavors, it is Houston that will be on the cutting edge of those national experiments.
For all of these reasons, the persons Houstonians choose to lead their municipal government have very important work ahead of them.
DISTRICT A— In 2013, Council Member Brenda Stardig made a triumphant return to the District A seat, defeating incumbent Helena Brown. Since coming back to Council she has generally been a voice for accountability, pragmatic leadership and thoughtful stewardship of the public’s resources.
However, the Council Member’s vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was a notable exception to these established character traits. Stardig’s initial assertions that HERO would do “nothing more than duplicate existing laws, add bureaucracy, and highlight the city’s endless overstepping of their jurisdiction”were proven categorically false. In the few months that HERO was in effect, the 135 complaints filed with the Office of Inspector General demonstrated the city’s undeniable need for local protections against discrimination. It’s also important to note that Stardig’s only opponent in the race, Iesheia Ayers-Wilson has publicly stated that discrimination should be allowed by Houston businesses… a position which should give all reasonable Houstonians pause. Texas Leftist sincerely hopes that Council Member Stardig continues to learn the facts about discrimination in the city she represents, and eventually reconsiders this misguided position. The pick for District A is Brenda Stardig.
DISTRICT B— For a true example of Public Service, Houstonians can continue to look to Council Member Jerry Davis. His work to improve the quality of life for his constituents can be evidenced through increasing infrastructure repairs, a constant commitment to clean up dilapidated properties and illegal dumping sites, and a fight to invest funding for after school employment and educational programs in an ever-tightening budget. Davis has also worked hard to put under-served residents into Houston’s massive economic pipeline. Announced at the beginning of this year, the Council Member helped to create an innovative new Job Training Partnership between local Community Colleges and the Houston Airport System, which will connect workers with vital skilled labor opportunities. It is yet another example of showing leadership in ways that build a better future for Houston. The pick for District B is Jerry Davis.
DISTRICT C— Focus on Houston’s future has also been an important goal for Council Member Ellen Cohen. Over her two terms in office, she has been a constant champion for the rights and protections of minorities and those in under-served populations. She’s made the lives of District C residents better through support for projects like Buffalo Bayou Park, and helped to guide the dizzying amount of development that’s been under her watch. With more Civic Clubs than any other District, Cohen has done her best to be responsive and attentive to her constituents’ many diverse interests. She has earned a final term in office. The pick for District C is Ellen Cohen.
DISTRICT D— Council Member Dwight Boykins is running unopposed.
DISTRICT E— Council Member Dave Martin is running unopposed.
DISTRICT F— Few local politicians can compare with the story of Council Member Richard Nguyen. After an unexpected win in 2013, Nguyen quickly emerged as a leader that is well-attuned to the needs of his diverse community. A strong supporter of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and a proven fighter for his constituents, Nguyen deserves a second term on Council. Don’t be fooled by “Anti-HERO” candidate Kendall Baker in this race. The pick for District F is Richard Nguyen.
DISTRICT G— Though fellow candidate Sandie Mullins Moger has the more established record of public service through her time on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, District G voters should consider the more measured style of Conservatism from candidate Greg Travis. His goals on Council are to be a watchdog for all Houstonians, and improve the plethora of infrastructure issues for his constituents. While Mr. Travis may share some different views than this blog’s author on many issues, the fact that he understands how critical infrastructure repairs are now if Houston is to succeed in the future. The pick for District G is Greg Travis.
District H— An open seat and one of this year’s most hotly-contested races, The residents of District H need a leader that can be ready to fill the shoes of current Council Member Ed Gonzalez on day one. The area is home to both poverty and opportunity, so the right leader will be someone that can relate to both issues and connect them for the betterment of all residents. Candidate Karla Cisneros comes highly recommended by the Houston Chronicle, but this blog believes that a wealth of public service experience and local government activism give Roland Chavez the edge in a very close contest. Chavez is both a lifelong resident of the District, former Firefigher and former President of the Houston Professional Firefighters’ Association. Given the challenges that the next Mayor and Council will face around pension obligations, Chavez has the ability to move this conversation forward in a positive direction. The pick for District H is Roland Chavez.
District I— As a longtime resident and activist for improvement, Council Member Robert Gallegos knows well the needs of his constituents in District I. But even more important than knowing what needs to be done in the present, Gallegos is also preparing the area for a bright and prosperous future. Filled with a rich and diverse history and with amenities like an International Airport and rail line, this District needs a leader that can guide new development while respecting and improving neighborhoods for current residents. In his first two years on Council, Gallegos has proven that he is the right person for the job, and deserves a second term. The pick for District I is Robert Gallegos.
District J— Faced with the unique challenges of both an under-served multifamily communities and a plethora of prominent single family neighborhoods, the residents of District J needs a forward thinker that can at times have a bifurcated approach to constituent service. Council Member Mike Laster has done a good job listening to both groups in his District and worked very hard to meet the diverse needs of both. He understands that success of Houston depends on the many issues that can be resolved in his District. Infrastructure improvement and creating economic opportunities have been central and recurring themes for Laster, and they are exactly why he deserves another term on Council. The pick for District J is Mike Laster.
DISTRICT K— Council Member Larry Green is running unopposed.
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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In the Thirteenth installment of the 2015 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire we hear from Sharon Moses, candidate for Houston City Council, At-Large Position 5.
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?*
SM: Sharon Moses
TL: Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?
TL: As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?*
SM: Government is important because it is the glue of our society. It unites the people in a way that no other entity can. Albeit there are differing opinions – opposing sides – varying points of view, it is still the center of the community. Decisions are made in government that affect us all. And fortunately we live in a democracy so in our government our voice matters and can make a difference in how we govern.
TL: If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it.
SM: My top priority is to reach out to the constituents and serve the community. I would hold neighborhood meetings and get to know those that elected me and those that didn’t. My primary goal would be to hear their voices and their concerns. As I prepare to take my place at the horseshoe, I would begin where their voices lead me.
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.
SM: I am not opposed to Rebuild Houston however, I am opposed to how it was presented to the public. Houston needs funding, Houston needs street repair and infrastructure improvement. However we cannot mislead the people in order to obtain the necessary repairs. We must be transparent with our policies, propositions and proposals to the citizens. Going forward we have to allow the
citizens to make honest choices with well-informed options. I propose we revisit the matter with a well devised plan of how and where the funding will be spent. Rebuild Houston in my opinion is not a bad idea, it just wasn’t implemented correctly.
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.
SM: Yes, I would support an amendment to the City Charter and here’s why. Once again we need to provide the public the opportunity to make informed choices. I believe that if 6 of the 16 elected City Officials deem the matter important enough to bring before Council, than that item should be on the Council Agenda, as it may be a matter that is of public concern and should be addressed. That is the purpose of City Council to be the voice of the people.
TL: If elected, would you support and seek to continue the current administration’s Complete Streetspolicy, 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?
SM: Yes, I would work to continue the “Complete the Streets” policy. I have a Masters in Transportation Planning and Management and as a student, my thesis topic was, “The Cost and Impacts of Transit Oriented Development (TOD)”. One of the things that TOD planning does is it creates multi-modal options and allows for easily accessible green space, mostly via transit modalities however the plan design is inclusive of other modes of transportation as well. This would include increasing walkability and cycling within the community. The Complete Streets policy to me supports that type of planning, as it is inclusive of pedestrians, cyclist and people with disabilities. To that end, I would consider this one of my priorities as an elected official and it would provide me with an opportunity to continue what I began while in pursuit of my Masters Degree.
TL: What makes you the best candidate for this office?
SM: I am the only lawyer in the race for Houston City Council At-Large, Position 5. I am the only candidate with a Masters in Transportation Planning and Management. I am the only candidate that has worked for the City of Houston for 9 years. One of those years was spent under the leadership of former City Council Member Ada Edwards, in District D. The other eight years, I worked in the Solid Waste Management Department as a Senior Community Liaison in the area of Recycling and Sustainability. As a liaison I have had the fortunate opportunity to reach out to the community and hear their concerns. Armed with their issues I have been able to relate that information to the Solid Waste Management Department and get things done. I have been able to make a difference in the community because of my position and concern for the people. Utilizing those community involvement skills, my training, education and background and the passion that I have for people has uniquely qualified me for such a position. It is time for the people of this City to raise their voices and be heard at the horseshoe by a representative that has integrity and knows how to put it in motion to keep Houston-Strong!
TL: When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?
SM: I love green space and water. One of my favorite pass times is feeding the ducks at the park and walking the trails. I also enjoy theatre I have somewhat of a musical background and I greatly enjoy stage productions and live music. I am family oriented and enjoy spending quality time with my husband, family and Camille my pet Chihuahua.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau should be ashamed of herself for inviting death threats and hate on the TV station that broadcast video of her deputies shooting a man. Now we’re supposed to trust her investigation of the incident?