NORTHEAST HOUSTON – The Chamber luncheon was packed for a presentation of their qualifications by the four leading candidates for Mayor of Houston. The election will be held in November, but already the candidates have been to over 40 forums to garner support and votes. Last Friday’s luncheon was no exception, with over 100 chamber members and guests listening intently as the four hopefuls gave 15 minute presentations of their platforms and qualifications.
The program was held at the DoubleTree Hotel on JFK Boulevard, and was moderated by Attorney General candidate Barbara Radnofsky, and emceed by chamber president Reggie Gray.
Mayoral candidates included Peter Brown, Gene Locke, Roy Morales, and Annise Parker. Although billed as a debate, it really was more of a campaign speech by each of the candidates, with no formal challenges or rebuttals. This was partially due to time constraints, and followed the agreed upon format.
The candidates were asked to address three major questions: 1) What experience do you have to be mayor? and 2) Do you support the work of the current city administration? and 3) What do you propose to specifically help the North Houston Greenspoint area? Each speaker was to answer these points in a 15 minute period. There was not time for questions, rebuttal or additional discussion due to the lunch hour time.
The first speaker was Peter Brown. He emphasized his skills and experience as a small businessman, an architect and planner, for over 30 years. This has taught him how to hire and retain talent, he said. He also developed marketing skills that would be useful to the city. His architecture practice included the design of many urban environments, both city-wide and world-wide.
His next experience has been as a city councilman for two terms, working with the administration of Mayor White. Here he learned how important basic city services are, such as ditches and sidewalks, he said. Brown was in support of the current administration, but would put more emphasis on expanding police, and economic development. He also wanted to expand the transit system, and the light rail network. His vision for the future, or “Blueprint” as he named it, calls for tougher policing and better technology.
For North Houston, he wants to extend the North Light Rail line to the area, and reduce traffic congestion. He sees the area as Houston’s “Gateway” and thinks we should emphasize that. He noted that a new Public Safety Center is underway in the area, and thinks it should include a city hall annex, fire, and police.
Next to speak was Gene Locke. He emphasized his work as an attorney, and in government service with Mickey Leland and Mayor Bob Lanier, as city attorney. He currently serves as an attorney for the Harris County Sports Association, and the Port Authority.
His platform includes “4 Pillars” for a Bridge to the Future:
– Public Safety
– Economic Development
– Quality of Life
He cites his own hard work, and success in Houston, as an example for others to learn encouragement. He does not criticize the current administration, but says he will emphasize a hands-on approach, and more non-partisan participation. He feels that city hall could use a more business-like approach. Roy Morales was the next speaker. His experience includes 23 years as a team leader in the Air Force, coordinating a major project with NASA and the AF. He also is the chief technology officer for the Harris County Office of Emergency Management, he said.
Morales spoke of tax relief, better control of the city budget, and help to retain local businesses as a way to foster economic growth. He also saw a new soccer stadium as a catalyst for development on the east side of the city.
In his comments on the current administration, he said he wanted a cabinet level position representing education, and more work to keep students in school, and more emphasis on After School programs.
To help North Houston, he wants to extend the Light Rail to the Airports, make METRO more responsive and transparent, offer tax relief, and foster new business in the airport area. He wants to emphasize Houston as an Energy capital, not let places like Dubai claim this.
Annise Parker was the final speaker, and is the current controller for the city of Houston. Some polls place her in the lead of the four candidates. She joked about how many of these forums they have all attended, but got serious when she looked at the audience and asked, “Who do you trust to keep Houston moving forward?”
She said that her experience includes 18 years working for Mosbacher Energy, and as a small business owner for 10 years. She said that as controller she cut her office budget, by 2%, and helped the city cut their tax rate, at least by a small amount. As controller, she manages the money for the equivalent of a $4 billion corporation. Her plan for Houston economy is to emphasize “Hire Houston First.”
She will continue many of the policies of the current administration, but emphasize a collaborative leadership style.
In North Houston, she thinks public safety dollars could be better spent, using new technology. She thinks bad apartment complexes should be targeted for closure and tear down. She would expand transit, but start with buses and then light rail. When asked, “Why do you want to be mayor?”, she answered, “I want to make a difference.”
Only a few minutes were left at the end of the luncheon for one question about improving HPD, but most of the answers had already been covered in the presentations.
Next month’s luncheon will be a State of the County report by Judge Ed Emmett on Oct. 1.