It’s been a rough week for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Someone outs him for paying his close friend $95,000 a year as an intern. He denies knowing the guy. Tony Buzbee produces a letter of recommendation that Turner wrote for the intern and says that he has heavily redacted text messages between them. Turner has an oops moment and blames his lie on the fact that he wasn’t expecting the question from the reporter. Today, the Houston Chronicle has to walk back their defense of Turner’s record on violent crime, reporting via Twitter that violent crime has increased 6.1% during the Turner administration. Where to start.
Let’s start with the friend, the guy that Turner talked the airport system into hiring for $95,000 a year to learn on the job. Turner’s (mis)communications team issued two separate statements. The first one says “For reference, there are a total of 94 Senior Staff Analysts positions in the City of Houston, of which 15 are at the Executive Level. The current salary range for Senior Staff Analysts is $74,256 – $131,325.” and that “The City of Houston is proud of our record on recruiting, hiring and retaining qualified individuals. We are especially proud of our intentional outreach to attract millennials who bring innovative ideas and energy to our workforce. As we compete with the private sector for qualified employees willing to learn and excel, we are amazed at our good fortune to attract such talented young men and women committed to a life of public service.”
Think about that for a minute. As Bill King pointed out, Turner’s intern earns more than 95% of city employees, 99% of Houston firefighters. But it is far worse than just this one intern. Turner’s own statement shows that there are 94 of these “Senior Staff Analysts” in total. He doesn’t give us an average salary but the range is so broad that I’ll just use his special intern’s salary of $95,000. That equals $8.93 million taxpayer dollars just so that Turner can hire millennials. How many potholes will that amount fill? How many police officers or firefighters would that amount hire? It’s absurd.
The second statement is even stranger. In that one, Turner says that waiving job postings is normal and routine and that he has done it 122 time during his administration. Goodness. How many special friends does this guy have? A basic HR requirement in any large business is that positions are posted so that everyone has a chance to apply. That should be an even stronger requirement for government positions.
Another absurdity was the insane reaction when Tony Buzbee questioned the relationship between Turner and the intern. People on Twitter went nuts, saying that was off limits. Let me ask you something. In any other corporation, if a 65 year old manager hired a 31 year old intern at an excessive salary, would it be off limits to inquire about the nature of their relationship when you are given heavily redacted text messages between them? And the manager at first lies about even knowing the intern? No, it certainly wouldn’t. You want equality? You got it.
Pointing out that violent crime is up is not fearmongering
When Tony Buzbee and Bill King started focusing on violent crime in Houston, the Houston Chronicle decided that they had to protect Turner. On September 14, they ran an article with this headline: Houston’s mayoral candidates say crime is getting worse. The numbers say otherwise. Then a columnist had this headline on September 29: Buzbee should stop fearmongering about Houston’s crime rates.
Turns out that Buzbee wasn’t fearmongering at all. As Bill King noted at last night’s debate, the 2018 numbers hadn’t been released by the FBI. Well, they were today. And guess what? Buzbee and King were correct. I’ll let King’s email from this morning explain it.
FBI Crime Statistics for 2018 Confirm Violent Crime Up Significantly Under Turner
Yesterday the FBI released the crime statistics for 2018. Those numbers confirm precisely what I have been saying on the campaign trail. Violent crime, after years of decline has gone up dramatically since Sylvester Turner took office.
As opposed to the guesstimate reported in the Houston Chronicle earlier this month, here are the actual numbers from the FBI:
Violent crime in Houston had been on long-term decline prior to the Turner administration. But in 2016 and 2017 we saw a dramatic reversal of that trend. In 2017, there were 25,609 violent crimes. That was the highest total since 2009 and the second highest since 2000.
According to the new data, there was about a 6% decrease in violent crime in 2018 compared to the elevated levels in 2017. However, we still had 9.4% more violent crimes in 2018 than in Parker’s last year in office, not 4% as erroneously reported in the Houston Chronicle.
Of course, the number that jumps off the page here is the 68% increase in rapes. That number is somewhat exaggerated because in 2014 the FBI changed to a more expansive definition of rape. That change resulted in a third increase in the number of rapes that year. But even if you compare the number of rapes in the Parker administration after the definition was changed to Turner’s years in office, there is still a 42% increase. It is hard to know what is going on when you see this kind of dramatic increase. There may be some change in reporting behavior. But the fact that four of our fellow citizens are being raped every day in our City is unacceptable.
We certainly don’t need any fearmongering about crime. But neither do we need anyone minimizing crime to support their political agenda. If you want a mayor that will tell you the unvarnished truth, the good and the bad, I’m your man.
But wait, you say! That’s a candidate and he didn’t even use crime rates, he used actual numbers. Okay, I say, then look at the same information that was put on twitter this morning by one of the reporters that tried to convince you on September 14th that violent crime wasn’t a real problem in Houston.
This one shows that violent crimes per 100,000 Houstonians is up 6.1% during Turner’s term in office. Astonishingly, rapes per 100,000 Houstonians are up 24.2%.
The bottom line is that Tony Buzbee and Bill King are correct. Violent crime is UP under Sylvester Turner. And they are also correct that a lot of non-violent crime is no longer reported because it is a waste of time in this administration. I was glad to see that most of the candidates at the debate last night will immediately hire a new police chief if they are elected. I liked Dwight Boykins term for HPD Chief Art Acevedo: Hollywood. Acevedo is a blowhard that focuses on getting media attention instead of solid community policing. He has to go.