Editorial note: This is the eleventh in our series of electronic interviews with City Council, City Controller and Mayoral candidates. We have sent 10 questions based on seven different templates: (1) incumbent City Council, (2) challenger City Council, (3) open seat City Council, (4) challenger Controller, (5) incumbent Controller, (6) challenger Mayoral and (7) incumbent Mayoral. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.
Annise Parker, Mayor of Houston
Texpatriate: What is your name?
AP: Annise D. Parker
T: What is the position you currently hold?
AP: Mayor of Houston
T: What number term are you seeking? Have you held or run for previous public office?
AP: I am currently in my second term as mayor, seeking election to my third term. I was elected as the city controller in 2003 and served for three terms. I was elected as an at-large city councilmember in 1997 and served for three terms.
T: What is your political affiliation? We understand that City Council elections are nonpartisan, but this is a point many voters find important. If you are not comfortable currently identifying with a political party, what was the last Political Party’s primary election you voted in (a matter of public record)?
AP: I am a Democrat.
T: What was one ordinance you authored that has now become law?
AP: There have been so many! I would highlight our Hire Houston First initiative.
Hire Houston First gives a preference to companies bidding for city contracts if they hire local workers. It keeps our tax dollars working at home – when we hire Houston workers, they spend their earnings here, supporting other Houston businesses that can hire even more workers. In its first year, we certified 617 companies and awarded more than $139 million of city business under the Hire Houston First program, sustaining more than 6,000 jobs. Today, there are 944 firms that have been certified under Hire Houston First.
That’s a big deal for Houstonians who have been struggling since the recession. I understand what it feels like to suddenly not know how you’re going to make ends meet. When I was growing up, my father invested all his savings to start a fishing camp on the Gulf Coast. It was his dream, and it was a success – until one day a barge knocked down the only bridge to the peninsula where we were located. It wasn’t his fault, but my dad went broke. I can still see the worry in his eyes. It took a long time for our family to get back on its feet. And I know there are a lot of families like that in Houston today.
I am proud of Hire Houston First because it’s making real progress for Houston families.
T: Why do you deserve another term?
AP: Houston is leading the nation in job creation and the vast majority of ways that people rank cities. I’m seeking re-election because I believe we can do even better. During my two terms as mayor, Houston’s city government is borrowing less and doing more on a pay-as-you-go basis. We’ve created a dedicated fund for street repairs and flood prevention. We’ve secured funding for new libraries and laid the foundation for a parks and trails system that most cities can only dream of. Crime is down. We’re demolishing crack houses and dangerous abandoned apartment complexes – and we’re modernizing our police and fire stations. I’m the first person to say there is a lot of work ahead of us and I want to help the best city in America get even better.
T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
AP: We have a number of projects in the pipeline. One of my priorities is to build a joint processing center for city and county jail inmates. It would effectively get the city out of the jail business – thereby reducing wasteful duplication of services, saving money for taxpayers and allowing us to focus more public safety resources on fighting crime.
T: What has been the most rewarding experience in serving as the Mayor?
AP: I’ve enjoyed having the chance to work with so many communities to make Houston an even better city. Before I was elected to public office, I served as a civic club president, volunteered as a diversity trainer at the police department and was active in non-profit groups and political clubs. I believe that a culture of community and public service is one of the greatest assets of our city. I see my job as mayor as an extension of my community service.
Three Minutes with the Mayor is one of my favorite activities because it brings local government out into the neighborhoods. I enjoy Make Safe Saturdays – our neighborhood cleanup initiative – because we get to see the fruits of our labor right when we finish the work. And our neighborhood revitalization efforts are particularly rewarding. A few weeks ago, we unveiled the first of 16 homes being built in the Sunnyside and South Union neighborhoods as part of a neighborhood revitalization project – I’m proud to use city resources to bring neighborhoods back to life. We have so many vibrant communities in Houston and I love being engaged in each one.
T: Obviously, an officeholder strives to maintain a diverse core constituency and political base, but all candidates have interest groups they have been traditionally strong with and traditionally weak with, respectively. For you, what would be one example of each type of group?
AP: Being a Democrat and serving in nonpartisan elective offices can often upend the traditional notions of a “base.” Certainly I was first elected to public office with the strong support of neighborhood activists, the LGBT community and women voters – because that’s where my community work had been done. Since then, however, voters have judged me on my record. In this campaign, I have the support of a wide variety of constituencies that are not often aligned politically. From the AFL-CIO and every Democratic club that has endorsed so far, to every business organization and the C Club, Houstonians are uniting around our shared vision to make the best city in America – our city – even better.
T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
AP: It’s still early in the campaign, but one of my biggest takeaways so far is that Houston will be in good hands long after I’m gone. Why? I’ve spent a good deal of time with an amazing group of young leaders – more than 80 – who are participating in our campaign Student Leadership Program. I’ve literally been blown away by their intelligence, integrity and dedication. If they are in charge when I’m in my twilight years, Houston will continue to be the best city in America for many years to come.