Houstonians are fortunate to face a difficult choice for mayor this year between two exceptional candidates, public law attorney Gene Locke and City Controller Annise Parker. It's likely one or both will be in a runoff after the first round of voting winds up on Nov. 3.That's right, in their endorsement, the CCTT punted. Choosing to co-endorse both Parker and Locke, falling back on the "exceptional candidate" cliche and leaving unsaid what most causal observers have been thinking all along: "Is this the best Houston can do?"
After all this time the best Houston, America's fourth largest city, has to offer everyone is a fourth-class newspaper and four candidates that would have trouble being elected dog-catcher in other municipalities. How bad have things gotten? Consider this: The Chief of Police under one of the most incompetent Mayor's ever, a man who was in charge of the HPD Crime Lab during the bulk (although, to be fair, not the entirety) of its problems, who was chief during a high-profile botched K-mart raid, and who has done little to explain his role in these events, received the endorsement for, and is expected to be elected to, City Council At-large #4. That's right, C.O. Bradford is going to be on City Council casting votes unless something odd happens.
All of this brings us to the current crop of Mayoral candidates, a slate that's enough to make one question the political direction of the Bayou City....
Roy Morales: If ever a candidate screamed "token Conservative" Morales is that guy. Not that the Almanac has anything wrong with conservatives, but we prefer them to at least have a deeper motivation for their conservatism than attaining public office. A committed conservative candidate would have talked about re-making Metro, about reducing its expenditures through BRT and increased bus service and putting an end to light rail. A true conservative would do more than just beat the illegal immigrant band-wagon to death and offer up a new, business/housing, friendly version of Houston for the 21st century. Morales has done none of this. "Cut taxes" and "eliminate waste"....pass.
Peter Brown: Give Peter Brown this: he's been able to put together three fairly strong television ads that have created a nominal amount of buzz around the InterLeft. Outside of that? His platform involves the creation of new levels of Government to "study" issues and "create" plans, usually to create new levels of government to implement long-term plans. Though he denies it, he's a huge proponent of zoning (re-branded as 'form based codes') and he's had little in the way of endorsements, save his own, sizable, checking account.
Gene Locke: The insider's insider. Involved in most of the major civic projects in Houston over the last 20 years. At least, most of the civic projects with iffy financing. Locke is connected, and has received money from many of the people who have used the City budget to fund pet projects over the years. As mainstay's of his campaign, he's promised to push to build even more projects, one guesses using the same dodgy financing he promoted for the others.
Annise Parker: Ms. Parker is NOT the establishment candidate. As a matter of fact, she's got the smallest bank account of any of the majors. Parker's problem is that it's hard to find accomplishments. As a matter of fact, her main claim to fame (in the media) to date is that she's the gay candidate who's not running as a gay candidate. Oh, and she's "ready to lead" whatever that means.
Given this not-yet-ready-for-prime-time roster of candidates I could understand why an organization such as CCTT would have issues picking a favorite. However, instead of admitting the flaws, they punted and gushed over just how great they all were. In short: They blew it. Their chance to editorialize in the public interest and they blew it, again.
The easy choice would be to suggest a vote for "none of the above" but that would just lead to someone winning that you really didn't want to. Democracy is toughest however when there are no clearly superior choices from which to make a selection. In those cases you have to decide which candidate would do less harm while serving six years in the Mayoral office.
In this race, the Almanac believes the clear choice is Annise Parker. Yes, she's unproven in an administrative capacity, and doesn't seem to have many great plans for Houston beyond platitudes and sound-bytes, on the bright side however she's also not proposing Houston spend Billions of dollars remaking itself into some world class monstrosity designed to attract a creative class who, on the whole, would much rather live in Austin or Seattle. In retrospect that might be the quality Houston desperately needs while the economy is in recession.
Hell, somebody has to make an endorsement right?