The Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club hosted a forum for the Houston City Council At-Large 3 candidates today. The Greater Houston Pachyderm Club hosted the same group last week but I was unable to make it. Five of the six candidates were in attendance:
Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce themselves to the attendees.
Roland Chavez – He has spent his life serving the citizens of Houston as a firefighter and wants to continue serving in his retirement. He will be a full time councilman. Public safety is paramount to him but he understands that there are many issues and he is not a one issue candidate. He mentioned getting the endorsements of Orlando Sanchez, Toni Lawrence, and Bert Keller.
Rogene Calvert – She stressed that she has lived in Houston a long time and raised her children here. She mentioned her work helping those with mental health needs, seniors, and children. The city has a major influence on our schools. She stressed her ability to work across lines and groups.
Lt. Col. Roy Morales – He is the only candidate in the race that has never voted in a Democratic primary. He pulled out a push card from Michael Kubosh’s campaign for State Senator as a Democrat. He wants to audit every department and find missing money. He told Mr. Chavez that he was going to have to talk to Bert Keller about his endorsement because Keller is his strategist. He emphasized that he reduced taxes as a Harris County School Trustee and put Christmas back on their school calendar.
Jenifer Rene Pool – She stressed her small business ownership experience as a consultant that deals with the city on various issues every day. She loves the city and wants it to grow. The new permitting center is a nightmare. She is the most qualified because of her experience interacting with the various city departments.
Michael Kubosh – He is not the “same old, same old” candidate. He has a diverse group of supporters because of his involvement in defeating red-light cameras and trying to overturn the “feeding ordinance”. He has taken on city hall, beaten city hall, and if you put him on the inside, he’ll shed light on what is going on behind closed doors. He is concerned about people and has no experience in the Ponzi scheme of government.
Each question was limited to a one minute response.
Do you support limiting future limited purpose annexation?
- Calvert – Yes
- Morales – Need to look at the issue.
- Pool – Before annexing any Extra Territorial Jurisdiction, the city must be able to provide services.
- Kubosh – No taxation without representation. If you want to stop it and take back your government, vote for him.
- Chavez – He was a city employee when the city annexed Kingwood and Clear Lake but couldn’t provide services. Must insure that the city can provide core services before annexing anyone.
If you get elected, you are a single vote on council. How will you build a majority on your issues?
- Morales – It will be hard with a liberal mayor but his ideas to grow the city’s economy are popular with everyone and he thinks he can get support.
- Pool – Stressed that she is a team player. She finds common ground among various groups and works toward those goals. For instance, sidewalk maintenance. She can work with people that agree or disagree with her.
- Kubosh – These races are setup as non-partisan for a reason. He has demonstrated that he can reach across the aisle. Most agree on the issues but not on the implementation. The media likes him, perhaps because of his Santa Claus look. He will shine light on the cockroaches.
- Chavez – As a labor leader, he learned to work both sides of the aisle. He wined and dined Republicans back when they had eight votes on council. He is a proven steward for the community with a proven track record.
- Calvert – It takes nine votes to get approval. We must learn to work together and that is one of her strengths. We get smarter and better solutions because of collaboration. She will work for win-win solutions. Current Tax Assessor Collector Mike Sullivan has spoken highly of her record.
What do you hope to accomplish as a council member?
- Pool – She wants the city running more efficiently and for its employees to be more responsive to citizens. She said that as it stands now, citizens cannot deal in-person with an employee at the water department – it must be by phone or internet and she thinks that is wrong.
- Kubosh – Get rid of the feeding ordinance. He collected the signatures but Mayor Parker will not put it on the council agenda. Audit the TIRZ’s. Form a city version of the state Sunset Commission.
- Chavez – When he worked with labor, he worked for more benefits for employees and more jobs. After six years as a councilman, he want to be remembered as someone who did a better job and everyone benefited.
- Calvert – She wants to plan for future growth and do “smart planning”. And get the Rainy Day tax funds out on the streets quicker.
- Morales – Rework pensions, we must make the defined contributions. We must end “spiking” by firefighters, where they work a lot of overtime in their final year of service and have their benefits based on that year. Make sure that permitting employees know that they work for citizens, not the other way around, and get permitting done faster. Bring more private sector jobs to Houston.
Do you see TIRZ’s as a problem and how will you hold them accountable?
- Kubosh – TIRZ’s have to be reeled in. It is concerning that in the last session, the legislature created more of them. The city’s long term report says that the city will be broke in 2014.
- Chavez – TIRZ’s are supposed to give back to the community for affordable housing and jobs. City offices, such as storefront police stations, are not eligible to receive TIRZ funds. He will ask tough questions.
- Calvert – TIRZ’s were developed as a tool for infrastructure. For an example of one done right, look at Bellaire Boulevard. Some TIRZ’s are ineffective and inactive.
- Morales – We need to evaluate and audit TIRZ’s on a case by case basis. Some are bad but some are good. We have to be careful because we need businesses to provide jobs because that is good for the economy.
- Pool – She would begin with a complete audit of all TIRZ’s. Some are collecting money but not distributing it. Back to sidewalks, that is something they could do for the neighborhoods because for some people, the sidewalk in front of their house is their general mobility.
How do you plan to resolve the city’s pension problems?
- Chavez – He just retired so he knows the issue and is best qualified for the job. Bring all to the table and he is the best person to do that. He said “I’ve got a plan” and then the timekeeper shut him down. I’d have fudged the time to hear an actual plan.
- Calvert – Bring everyone to the table. A fix is not going to happen overnight. She doesn’t believe in breaking the contracts the city has with people. She is a former city employee and knows how important the issue is.
- Morales – Have to take control of the situation today. Rep. Jim Murphy tried to pass a bill for transparency of the unions but lobbyists defeated it.
- Pool – This is a problem that has been looming over the city for a long time. It needs to be addressed immediately and specifically. We gave workers our word that we’d give them pensions. Mayor Parker talks about all the “new” money flowing into the budget from the growing economy – Pool would take a portion of that money and set it aside to fund pensions.
- Kubosh – Whose money are we talking about? It is the citizen’s money. The citizens need to make the decision with a charter amendment. He’s paid more than $500,000 in fees, fines, and taxes to the city over the years and it is time to put this decision into the hands of the citizens.
- Calvert – Remember her experience and commitment to the city. As well as her ability to work with everyone.
- Morales – Only “true” conservative in the race with a track record to prove it, as well as a track record of growing businesses. Like it or not, Kubosh was the Democratic nominee.
- Pool – She is an advocate, saying that nowadays, “advocate” is used as a pejorative. She will make those in power uncomfortable until they make changes.
- Kubosh – He has the support of every black ministers group in the city. Send a statement to city hall by putting him on the council without a runoff.
- Chavez – He served 34 years as a firefighter. He’s now 56, single, and has no children and thus is able to be a full time councilman.
First off, Sophia Mafrige and Jim Lennon did a great job in keeping order and letting the forum proceed smoothly. If you’ve ever been to one of these things, you know that isn’t easy to do. We also had a statewide candidate, Stefani Carter, running for Railroad Commissioner, in attendance, which is always a bonus for the attendees.
By now on the campaign trail the candidates are familiar with one another and their audience. They knew that today’s attendees were likely to be conservative and their answers reflected that. I was somewhat surprised that Col. Morales attacked Kubosh – this isn’t a Republican primary and I don’t think it will matter to anyone that Kubosh ran as a D in 2006.
Even though all of the candidates answered most questions similarly, if you look at actual substantive answers, I thought that Jenifer Rene Pool was the “best”. Her answers were responsive and to the point and I liked her statement about making those in power uncomfortable until they did something. Plus it was obvious that she deals with various city departments and knows the ins and outs of what they do. No question that she would be effective in holding the bureaucracy in check.
I don’t think that Roland Chavez’s answers played well with this crowd, especially his answer on the question about what he wants to accomplish as a councilman. More benefits for employees at a time when most everyone cites employee pension benefits as a problem seems counterproductive.
As for the “true” conservative Lt. Col. Roy Morales, I’ll never forget that picture of him holding up a pack of crackers begging for a tax increase, which he ultimately voted against when it was clear that we were watching. He had a lot of talking points down today but there wasn’t much substance.
Rogene Calvert seems like a nice person but when I hear “smart planning” I cringe. And collaboration doesn’t always get the best results – sometimes you have to lead.
As for Michael Kubosh, you have to love his passion for people and for doing things the right way. I have zero doubt that if he is elected, he absolutely will shine light on the cockroaches. You can take one thing to the bank: Mayor Parker doesn’t want him on council.
A few pictures:
As you can see in the comments below, commenter Mainstream disagrees with my recollection on Roland Chavez’ statement about endorsements. He does not think that Chavez indicated that Lawrence, Keller, and Sanchez endorsed him, only that he had cordial working relationships with them. I didn’t record it but I know Mainstream personally and trust that his recollection is correct.