It is time for our Houston municipal elections.
(Above--Houston City Hall.)
Early voting runs October 24-November 4. General Election Day is November 8.
Who can a liberal or progressive support in these elections?
As is so often the case in Houston, the pickings are slim.
Houston city elections are low-turnout affairs in which an electorate not representative of Houston's demographics chooses from candidates who discuss a very narrow range of issues. Just how much is it that can we hear about red light cameras?
The credibility of the candidates on the ballot is often judged by how much money they have raised.
Here is my look at at the Houston city ballot and, also, some additional links to help you figure out how you'd like to vote.
Houstonians merit liberal and progressive options at the ballot box.
While we should vote in every election, the energy and hope we are seeing from the Occupy Wall Street movement is more positive and hopeful than anything occuring in our municipal elections.
Here are my endorsements---
Mayor---I'm leaving my ballot blank for Mayor. I simply don't believe Mayor Annise Parker has any consistent commitment to progressive values. Good people will disagree, but the Mayor has had two years to offer leadership on pressing issues of poverty and on the lack of broad political participation in Houston. She seems to have little interest in these subjects.
Mayor Parker is likely to win reelection in 2011. The absence of competent and credible opponents, and her campaign war chest of more than $2 million helps make this so. Yet despite her good electoral outlook for 2011, the Mayor is concerned with winning a strong majority of voters in 2011 so as to strengthen her hand with City Council, and to help her fend off challengers in 2013.
I've no desire in helping the Mayor accomplish these goals. No matter what percentage of votes cast in 2011 Annise Parker ends up winning, it will be done with an overall turnout of somewhere between 10% and 15%. There is no way the Mayor will have a credible mandate from an involved public. Why should Mayor Parker be given the illusion of a mandate when she has never engaged in serious grassroots efforts to expand voter turnout in Houston, and when she does not pursue policies that are inclusive of Houstonians of every economic status?
(Below--Recent picture of ongoing drought in Houston as seen in Memorial Park. The grassroots have dried up. Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino)
Council At-Large #1--Incumbent Stephen Costello plays all sides of the political aisle while Green Don Cook does not work hard in his campaigns. Mr. Costello's Renew Houston plan addresses the serious issue of flooding in Houston, but is also regressive in how it is funded and makes little effort to include green solutions in the plan. I'm leaving my ballot blank in this race.
Council At Large #2--I'm supporting Jennifer Rene Pool in this 10 candidate race. She will occasionally say liberal and progressive things. Maybe she means some of them.
Council At-Large #3--Incumbent Melissa Noriega is a thoughtful person and has my support.
Council At-Large #4--Green Amy Price is an energetic and upbeat. She works hard to learn the issues and will be a coucilmember who seeks solutions and who listens. Incumbent Democrat C.O. Bradford has on his balance sheet his terrible adminstration of the crime lab when he was Houston's police chief, and his calls for austerity-type budgeting for Houston.
Council At-Large #5--Only you know if you want to support Jolanda Jones for one last term. She is always involved in some type of fuss. Sometimes it seems to be her fault, while other times it is not her fault. In any case, you wish that Ms.Jones was a more disciplined and effective advocate for the poor and disenfranchised in Houston. Her story on Council seems in good part to be of an opportunity missed. After some thought, I've decided I'm going to vote for Ms. Jones. Ms. Jones made a recent visit to Occupy Houston and I appreciate that fact. I'm not aware of any other incumbent city official who has done the same.
Council District C---I live in this district. Karen Derr is a more progressive option than Ellen Cohen. I'm going to be voting Ms. Derr. Ms. Cohen is a fund-raising machine who in the recent past has accepted campaign funds from gay marriage opponent Bob Perry. I'd rather have a fresh voice in City Hall rather than a candidate who seems to have the advantage in part due to her friendship with Mayor Parker, and in part due to her abilty to raise a lot of money from big donors. Ms. Cohen gives the impression of being an incumbent even before she is elected.
Council District H--I don't live in this district. However, incumbent Ed Gonzalez merits mention as a decent person and as someone open to hearing voices on all sides of a debate.
There are also 10 amendments to the Texas Constitution on the ballot. Here is my in-depth anyalsis of these propositions.
There are 2 resources that stand out when considering our city elections. These resources cover all the Houston district council seats up for election in 2011.
Houston blogger Charles Kuffner has a page at his blog Off The Kuff with his interviews of many of the candidates. This page also has links to the websites of the candidates and listings of selections by the various interest groups that endorse in city elections.
Houston city elections often seem to be a taxpayer-financed subsidy for a political class of consultants, city contract seekers, and all-purpose opportunists who all have little do with everyday life in Houston.
That said, you should still go and vote. I don't have the heart to tell you otherwise.
The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.
Vote in Houston in 2011 and then commit yourselves to making our local democracy better.