Note: This assessment is structured weakest to strongest candidates.
The Sharpstown Civic Association was kind enough to select me to moderate their candidate forum for City Council position J at their August meeting. The forum can be seen by going to Facebook and searching for Sharpstown Civic Association, and then scrolling down to August 22nd. The format was where they provided the first two questions which every candidate answered, and then I provided an individually tailored question as question three for each candidate. The first two questions were supplied to the candidates beforehand, and my question was not provided and more pointed in order to provide a contrast as well as see how the candidates reacted to a more pointed question discussing a perceived weakness in their candidacy. The forum, and this analysis, only had six participants as one candidate only filed the week of the forum and elected not to participate.
After doing background research and listening to the candidate’s answers Edward Pollard is the best choice for position J.
Laster has been a good councilman, and the City needs someone like him in spot J
Mike Laster currently holds position J. He had a difficult path to being elected having unsuccessfully run for state representative once and for city council twice, and that difficult road to office still shapes his tenure on the Council. He has shown himself willing to represent all in district J as well as address any gross in justices that Houstonians have regardless of whether or not they are in his district. The path to office he endured has instilled a servant’s heart in him, and it is that same servant’s heart and willingness to represent all that make him the good councilman that he has been. Regardless of party affiliation, that desire to serve all and propensity to push back against the City to address issues regardless of constituency is needed on the Council, and the next person to occupy the seat needs to have that same characteristic.
Candidate Forum Questions
The first two questions were standard fare softball questions provided to the candidates beforehand. The third question to every candidate was as follows (in no particular order):
Sandra Rodriguez – your campaign’s Facebook presence shows that you are actively courting Democrat and Hispanic voters. There are allegations of residences here in Sharpstown where the occupancy is higher than permitted per the residence’s square footage. This is in violation of municipal ordinance. If presented with credible evidence establishing the allegations to be true, would you direct the neighborhood protection officer to take all steps necessary to enforce the ordinance?
Nelvin Adriatico – your campaign’s Facebook presence has a significant focus on immigration and an open hostility to President Trump. Congressman Castro recently doxed his constituents who donated the maximum to the Trump camping. Are you willing to condemn his actions, and would you support a city ordinance prohibiting city employees and contractors from doxing others?
Barry Curtis – your camping web page offers scant details as to how to achieve your stated goals. By way of contrast, in the Mayor’s race both Tony Buzbee and Bill King released substantial flood control plans earlier this week, and Mayor Turner responded by announcing a green initiative similar to what was proposed the day the plans were released. Why should voters elect you when there’s no evidence of how you will address the city’s problems on your campaign web page?
Edward Pollard – your campaign Facebook presence stresses unity. However, the city has a crime problem, and a district attorney who seems to not want to prosecute criminal activity. One example is HPD was recently involved in a chase where a gun was thrown from a vehicle, but they could only write a citation for littering a gun since the district attorney would not accept charges. How will you be able to address the crime issue in a unifying manner if the district attorney simply will not cooperate?
Andrew Patterson – There is very little information out on the web regarding your campaign. The city has three areas that people can say are significant issues: flooding, crime, and potholes. Which do you think is the most important issue, and what concrete actions would you take to resolve the issue.
Freddie Cuellar – A Sharpstown resident was recently murdered by an illegal alien. Would you direct HPD to honor every ICE detainer, and would you direct HPD to report any out of status individual in HPD custody?
Based on the background research and the answers to the questions the candidates break down into different tiers. The bottom tier is Andrew Patterson and Barry Curits. Both gentlemen seem sincere in their desire to help the city. However, both seem not ready to hold the position. Their campaign web presence is scant, and there’s no fleshing out of details for what they want to do if they are elected. A vote for either is a blind vote as to what will happen. Maybe they would end up a great leader. However, the lack of details in their campaign leaves that not just an uncertain outcome, but also an unpredictable outcome. With the City having significant issues that impact everyday life we need someone ready to go from day one; not someone who will learn the job on the job. Hopefully they both stay involved in local politics, but it seems that they are not yet ready for the position.
The next tier consists of Mr. Adriatico, Mr. Cuellar, and with some separation ahead of the two Ms. Rodriguez. Of the three, Ms. Rodriguez is clearly the best choice.
Before commenting on their campaigns I have to give my respect to Mr. Cuellar. He had a very difficult question to answer – the crowd gasped when it was asked – and he answered it directly and straightforward even though the answer would not be well received by most of the audience. That forthrightness deserves recognition.
This tier of candidates is characterized by a more robust campaign, but is also a campaign that a person can reasonably come to the conclusion that the campaign is focused on winning a block of voters rather than appealing to everyone. In this tier, the answers to the third question give rise to pause on both Mr. Adriatico and Mr. Cuellar.
Looking at Mr. Adriatico first, it seems he didn’t know what doxxing was. He did a good job of answering what he thought was asked despite not answering what he was asked. Just like Mr. Cuellar, he gave a bluntly honest answer – he wouldn’t accept donations from Trump supporters. However, the district he seeks to represent, especially Sharpstown, has a significant Republican contingent and he will need to represent Trump supporters. If a voter supports, and especially if a voter has donated to, Trump it’s a legitimate concern would he be a City Councilman who would be responsive to their concerns.
Looking at his campaign as a whole it seems like he is running from the wrong office. His campaign and his issues are a great fit for the state legislature. He would be a good candidate in the democratic primary and voters could decide if he were to make the general election. However, this is a city council race that is nonpartisan. It’s not that he’s a bad fit for office, but he is a bad fit for this office.
Mr. Cuellar is running a race that is more appropriate for city council. However, just like Mr. Adriatico, his answer to the third question gives rise to significant concern regarding how he would act if elected. When presented with the question of an illegal alien murdering a Sharpstown resident and would he require HPD to honor ICE detainers and would he require HPD to report every illegal alien in custody to ICE he gave an answer that he would have required that instance to be reported, but that stands with the immigrants.
What’s troubling about his answer is he didn’t draw a line at what types of crime he would require to be reported, and what type of crime he would tolerate release back into society. We have a set of judges who set very low bail and a district attorney who is hesitant to prosecute crime. This combination of standing with the immigrants and a prosecution system that seems to prioritize keeping people out of the legal system is the groundwork to make Houston a sanctuary city where criminals are let back out on the streets. Mr. Cuellar would act in support such a process, and that places us all in danger.
Ms. Rodriguez is a cut above Mr. Adriatico and Mr. Cuellar. She has a robust campaign and is involved in the Gulfton neighborhood. She also pointed out how she has experience in addressing policy issues. She seems more polished and involved than the other two candidates in this tier. While she did a good job answering the question she was asked her web presence gives rise to question about how she would act if elected. A few things stand out.
First, the campaign is very Gulfton centric. Her campaign web page focuses on Gulfton and doesn’t mention Sharpstown. The district, as well as the City, needs someone who will act in the line of Laster and represent everyone in their district. Her webpage doesn’t suggest that she is concerned with the issues in Sharpstown, or at least Sharpstown is an afterthought compared to Gulfton.
More troubling, is her webpage’s selection of issues. The issues she chooses to address are Public Safety, Mobility, Small Business, and Affordable and Quality Housing. While these issues have an impact on the community, mobility and small business are second tier issues. The inability of the City to timely provide core services such as waste removal needs to be prioritized above these second tier issues. The huge problem of flooding is absent from her campaign web page. Flooding, and how the City responds, not only is an economic issue, but it also has a significant financial impact on the city.
Lastly, her web page tells what she wants to accomplish, but now how she will accomplish her goals in light of the fiscal reality of a spending cap. For example, in the Affordable and Quality Housing section she states her belief that housing is a right for everyone. How will this expensive proposition be accomplished within the constraints of the spending cap? While her goals are laudable there’s a significant question as to how they can be accomplished, and where the priories are. Second tier goals are important, but they are secondary to core services, such as waste disposal, and the first tier issues.
Edward Pollard stood out as a cut above at the forum, and he also is the best candidate for the position. Just like Mr. Laster he has an established history of seeking office and his path to office, if he prevails, leads him to be more willing to serve all. He had the line of the night when he said that he’s been here (at the SCA meetings) before and was not suddenly appearing to get a vote. His campaign and his actions mesh better than any of the other candidates. While all candidates say they will represent everyone, his actions give a much stronger ring of truth to the claim when compared to the other candidates.
Looking at his campaign web page gives a significant contrast to the other candidates. His campaign gives the most insight as to how he will conduct himself as a city council member, and he demonstrates the broadest knowledge of the issues. His campaign web page gives a philosophy of how he will conduct himself as an office holder as well as addresses the first tier issues in addition to the second tier issues.
His “The Pollard Plan” acknowledges the fiscal reality that the City has a spending cap and directly states prioritizing core services over everything else. His campaign web page also discusses both first tier and second tier problems the city faces. The issues discussed, and the plan for how he will achieve his goals gives the feel of someone who is better versed to fact all the problems we will face as a City. His actions and his broader and deeper knowledge of the problems we face and how he will fix them makes him the best choice for J.
Some final points
While it doesn’t address the issues; there is a persistent rumor that Mr. Adriatico does not actually reside in District J. The Fort Bend Central Appraisal District notes a home with he and his husband listed as owners in Sugarland. The Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar gives an apartment address that corresponds with a business address. I’ve been in his campaign headquarters at his campaign kickoff, and it legitimately could be livable. There’s a full kitchen as well as space for bedroom there.
Ms. Rodriguez is a city employee and posted a sign she will be unavailable from Tuesday June 11 returning Monday July 29. She has campaign activities on work days during this time period on her Facebook page, though all conceivably could have occurred outside of working hours on the work days.
In the interest of transparency, after the forum and deliberating on the merits of the candidates I donated to the Pollard campaign.