Tag Archives: Houston Mayor’s Race 2013

Parker’s Response to Hall: Just ONE Debate

Six debates?? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!!

I kid, I kid!! But in all seriousness…

I wrote previously about Ben Hall seeking 6 mayoral debates for the 2013 election. And now we have a response. From Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Morris, here’s what the Parker campaign actually thinks of Hall’s 6 debate challenge…

Parker has agreed to just one debate, said campaign spokeswoman Sue Davis, to include all mayoral candidates and all media. The event would be scheduled after the Aug. 26 candidate filing deadline, Davis said.

“All year long, Mayor Parker speaks daily about city issues to civic clubs, neighborhood groups and other organizations, holds tele-town halls and online chats and is available to the media,” Davis said.’

Ah, yes… the joys of incumbency. And to a point, it’s the truth. Once you’re elected to a high profile office like Mayor of Houston, you have a great advantage to actually set the agenda of which you want to discuss. Particularly in a time when most Houstonians have a favorable view of city government and they feel good about city’s immediate future, Parker has little reason to grant Mr. Hall’s or any other candidate’s request. Heck, Governor Rick Perry managed to weasel out of debating Bill White entirely in 2010, depriving Texans of a general election gubernatorial debate for the first time since 1990.

Sure, agreeing to one debate is better than Perry, but why strive to simply best the lowest of standards? I agree somewhat with fellow blogger Horwitz at Texpatriate on this issue… there should certainly be more than one mayoral debate. However, I’m optimistic that the response is just an “initial offer” like Hall made, and the campaigns will eventually meet in the middle.

The other point that should be made here? Holding just one debate would ultimately be a bad move for Annise Parker. Of course she hasn’t shared any future political aspirations, and wants to run “through the tape” in Houston’s highest office. But Parker is smart enough to know that if she decides to run for Senator, Governor or any other state-wide position, she’ll be the one vying for attention in the challenger’s seat. The record she assembles in Houston, no matter how impressive, won’t be enough to run on for the 25 million Texans outside Houston’s city limits, especially when facing the long-arm of entrenched Republican party infrastructure. I sincerely hope the Mayor would want a healthy, reasonable number of election debates, as that is what Houstonians expect and deserve from their local government. But I also hope that she recognizes the benefit of keeping her skills in tact for any future endeavors.

A Different Vision: Ben Hall

There’s a substantive difference between gaining a first impression of someone on camera or in print, versus a face-to-face interaction. I think most would agree that the latter is always preferred. Even if it’s a brief contact, you’re just able to gather a world of information from someone when you see them with your eyes, and hear them with your ears. I was reminded of this last week in meeting Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall. As a relatively new Houstonian (especially from a political standpoint) I don’t know much Mr. Hall’s time as City Attorney. But in one meeting with him, it’s clear that he is vastly knowledgeable about Houston. He understands the city’s struggles, needs, and perhaps most importantly, its aspirations.

Hosted by the Harris County Democratic Party (though important to note that all municipal races are non-partisan), Hall was introduced by chairman Lane Lewis, and then gave a broad-ranging speech about why he is challenging the present incumbent. Throughout the talk, Mayor Annise Parker’s name was never actually mentioned… Hall was able to focus the audience on his ideas and on what he called “a different vision” for the city of Houston. He started off by answering the question that was on everyone’s minds… why run for mayor now, in 2013?

“We decided long ago in America that we would not have dynasties. We chose to elect our leaders, as opposed to anointing people for some term. We are offering the voters an option to decide which is the better way forward for the city of Houston. That’s the privilege and right of voting in a Democratic society, and I welcome and embrace it. That’s why I have chosen to run this year.”

He went on to speak of bold and aggressive plans to create a dynamic downtown, and bring real private investment back to the city of Houston. He commented about several investors that have already approached his campaign and are interested in bringing upwards of 2 billion dollars in for downtown and East End retail. He also doesn’t agree with the present incumbent’s fee and tax system…

“We cannot continue to proceed under the present revenue scheme of this administration, and I offer a different way forward. As opposed to penalizing the domestic population with excessive fees, we should bring more businesses into Houston that can generate revenue, and not only cover the cost of city services, but help all of us rebound into a glorious and prosperous future. For the sixty percent of city properties that are under-performing in terms of revenue, wouldn’t it be better to negotiate a tax advantage, tax incentive, tax rebate, or even consider enterprise zones? That’s a win-win for the city of Houston, as opposed to losing money on these properties like we are right now. The task of a mayor must be more than simply balancing a budget. It must be to look for sustainable ways for the city’s continued growth.”

Of course many of the things Mr. Hall mentioned are being enacted by the current administration… most notably a recent (and hotly-contested) Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone established to help improve Memorial Park.

He did acknowledge that Houston has seen impressive growth and economic prosperity over the past few years, but chose to view this fact in comparison to other Texas cities, citing state-wide growth as the reason for this.

One thing is for sure, Ben Hall proved that he knows and loves the city of Houston. Though his talk was certainly enjoyable, he still lacks specifics of how he would go about achieving several of his ambitious goals. How would downtown and the East End generate the funds for these massive retail centers? Are we going to get rid of the voter-approved drainage fee for citizens, and let somehow encourage private businesses pay the tab? It was very open-ended as to how he wants to pursue such grand ideas. He did however promise to reveal more details as the campaign progresses. As the good news keeps on coming for the Parker administration, he will need a strong, deliberate, and detailed platform to run on. I for one will be watching closely.