Horwitz on City Council candidates

The following was a proposed Editorial that failed to receive enough support to be published under the board’s authorship. The author of the rejected Editorial has now elected to share his opinions individually:

With the 83rd Legislature now out of the way, all eyes are upon Municipal politics, specifically the City Council elections. By my count, there are currently 53 candidates for City Hall offices this November. Among these candidates are extremely diverse political ideologies, creating odd coalitions on many different issues. However, at the end of the day, partisan affiliation is still the best indicator of voting patterns and ideology on the ostensibly non-partisan City Council.

There is a Democratic Mayor, a Democratic City Controller, At-large City Councilmembers consisting of 3 Democrats & 2 Republicans and District Councilmembers consisting of 7 Democrats and 4 Republicans. While Houston has had a Democratic Mayor since the 1970s, the partisan makeup of the City Council was not always so simple, and sometimes took on odd shapes of its own. For example, between the 2007 and 2009 elections, all five At-large City Councilmembers were Democrats, while a smaller assortment of District Councilmembers consisted of 5 Republicans & 4 Democrats. This could have been easily attributed to gerrymandered maps, which, in turn, were gerrymandered for the (white) Democrats preceding the 2011 elections.

All this aside, the most perplexing idiosyncrasy of Houston’s municipal politics is the rampant, unyielding and plain troubling disregard for the 11th Commandment: Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Any Fellow Democrat. Instead of uniting against Republicans, the best and brightest tend to just go after each other, sometimes to the detriment of other, more important, contests.

For too long, two Democratic groups in Houston have gone at each others’ necks: African-Americans and White Upper-Class Intelligentsia, dominated by Gays & Lesbians. Both groups have engaged in horribly homophobic and/or racist tactics. Most Democratic-dominated contests in Houston tend to be a contest between groups, whether it be Annise Parker vs. Ben Hall, Lane Lewis vs. Keryl Douglas, Steven Kirkland vs. Elaine Palmer, Kristi Thibaut vs. Andrew Burks, Noel Freeman vs. C.O. Bradford, or old contests between Burks & Lovell or Locke & Parker.

To me, the conflict is most exemplified this year by the race in At-large #2, where incumbent Councilmember Andrew Burks is being challenged by David Robinson, a local architect. While I have had plenty of quarrels with Councilmember Burks in the past, and may very well end up supporting Robinson in November, it pains me to see such a race, not because of what decision Robinson made, but because of what decision Robinson did not make.

Burks has not been a perfect Councilmember, but he is still a nominally liberal Democrat. The at-large section of Houston’s City Council is home to not one, but two, Republicans: Stephen Costello and Jack Christie. While the former, Councilmember Costello, is extremely moderate if not progressive, the latter, Councilmember Christie, is not. Christie served for years on the State Board of Education, you know, that same organization that believes the world is 9000 years old and other such gems as the redaction of controversial, anti-Christian characters like Thomas Jefferson.

Christie is untruthful as well. In preparation of his 2011 campaign, he libeled my friend Neil Aquino of Texas Liberal, incorrectly claiming his endorsement, in a spectacle that was rebuked by the Houston Chronicle. Christie is also well-versed in the Republican tradition of uttering asinine statements, such as that “you don’t die” from influenza, and inoculations should be resisted.

Councilmember Christie, despite this troubling past and frightening tenure on the City Council, is currently running unopposed in November for a second term. This tells me that serious, legitimate candidates like David Robinson were specifically coaxed into challenging fellow Democrats such as Burks rather than Republicans like Christie.

Unfortunately, the trend is not limited to this race. Keryl Douglas, the homophobic attorney who unsuccessfully challenged Lane Lewis’ chairmanship at the Harris County Democratic Party, recently announced she would be running for Mayor, though I have yet to find one concrete piece of her platform. Again, rather than challenge the unopposed Republican on the City Council, Douglas felt it most compelling to challenge the Democratic mayor.

What is it that these Democrats find so offensive about their fellow kind? I do not want to think that, within Democratic politics, that members of the African-American community are homophobic or that members of the GLBT & Friends community is racist, but I fear it may be the case. For the sake of our city, I hope I am wrong.

UPDATE: I added a few filler words to clarify my last statement. I was not attempting to insinuate that the institutions are actively discriminatory or prejudicial, but that action of individual members of the respective communities may be based, in part, by animus.

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4 thoughts on “Horwitz on City Council candidates

  1. As usual, good stuff!

  2. Some good points are made here I think. Agreed that it’s somewhat ludicrous that Jack Christie doesn’t have a challenger. But some of the frustrations you voice have less to do with City Politics, and more to do with the generally SPINELESS nature of contemporary (Post Bill Clinton) Democrats. The party would much rather divide and infight vefore actually engaging in substantive arguments with the GOP. Most Democrats, and care about people in government, but the lack the almost Borg-like discipline of the GOP. What you’re complaining about in Houston is the same script of a state-wide and nation-wide cast.

    Those who care about Progressive issues SHOULD be mad when they see Christie running unopposed. But we need to get JUST AS MAD when people like John “never-rail” Culberson run unopposed as well. City Council is a very visible symptom, but it’s definitely not the whole problem.

  3. Pingback: Texpatriate | Page not found

  4. Pingback: Texpatriate | Horwitz on his Father’s candidacy

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