When I first heard Houston Mayoral candidate Dave Wilson's robocall blasting sometimes conservative Gary Polland for cozying up to Mayor Annise Parker, I thought that perhaps the non-partisan mayor's race had turned into a Republican primary. After all, that is where the stench of pay to play typically is. Not that the Democrats don't do it, they just don't flaunt it.
But the more I think about it, the more it becomes clear that Mr. Polland doesn't care when, where, how, or to whom he sells his reputation. Just make sure the check doesn't bounce.
Here is Mr. Wilson's robocall that went out this past weekend to thousands of Harris County Republicans:
In that robocall, Mr. Wilson claims that Mayor Parker paid the sometimes conservative Polland $40,000 to shill for her. Just to make sure he was correct, I reviewed the Mayor's campaign finance report and sure enough, a payment of $40,000 was made to Mr. Polland via his Texas Conservative Review on 7/27/2011.
Now, it just so happens that I recalled that Mr. Polland had "reviewed" Mayor Parker's administration fairly recently and had given her a positive review and an overall "grade" of B+. Curious as to the timing, I went to Mr. Polland's archives and found the review, which was published on 8/12/2011, roughly two weeks after the $40,000 payment.
Parker has used her no-nonsense leadership style to clean up our city government. A plus is she kept her promises to clean house, replaced the Chief of Police, streamlined city government, cut waste and duplication and is saving millions while improving performance.
In the worst recession in generations, Parker has been able to balance the city budget without raising property taxes, and she correctly ended the practice of issuing bonds to pay pension obligations. She also cut hundreds of millions of dollars in spending, even when it was politically unpopular with her traditional base. She ended the stupid practice of letting employees take city cars home from work and back, saving millions of dollars. She cut costs by ending perks like cell phones and restricting the use of purchasing cards by city employees and she saved millions by renegotiating the city's insurance contracts. At the same time she saved critical police and firefighter jobs from city budget cuts. She rejected politics as usual when she resisted union pressure and took the lowest cell phone contract, saving the city $3 million dollars.
Coincidence? Mr. Wilson doesn't think so. And frankly, neither do I, having been exposed to this type of "pay to play" for too long.
The Mayor might want to make another payment to Mr. Polland, given her low polling numbers:
"She is down in almost every demographic and geographic area of the city," said Bob Stein, the Rice University professor who supervised the poll.
The poll indicates fully half of likely Houston voters — 50 percent — rate Parker's job performance "fair" or "poor,' while 47 percent rate her "good" or "excellent." That's an unusually low approval rating for a first-term Houston mayor.
At some point, Mr. Polland needs to either drop the "conservative" moniker on his "reviews" or try to live up to it. Now, I'm not one to go tossing "RINO" around flippantly. But I have to ask: is Mr. Polland a conservative Republican or not? He supported the Mayor and Councilman Costello's stupid rain tax – see page 3 of his 2010 rag. He supported Red Light Cameras after receiving a payment of $25,000.
There are at least three bona fide conservatives running for mayor: Fernando Herrera, Jack O'Connor, and Mr. Wilson. Surely Mr. Polland could pick one of those guys to support, if indeed he was truly conservative. It is one thing for a conservative to support the mayor in a runoff situation, as I did when she was certainly the greater of two lessers. But in an open election? No way.
I hope that Republican primary candidates remember his behavior in the upcoming election season. If they will stop pouring money into his coffers, he might find his way back to conservative principles.