Editorial note: This is the twelfth 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.
Ben Mendez, Candidate for Houston City Council District I
Texpatriate: What is your name?BM: My name is Ben Mendez.
T: What is your current occupation?
BM: I am President and Founder of PMG Project Management Group, LLC. PMG was recently awarded by ICIC at Harvard University as the 41st fastest growing inner-city business in the country.
T: Have you run for or held public office before?
BM: I was a Democratic candidate for State Representative, District 145 in 1992 and 1998.
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)?
BM: I am a Democrat, and I have consistently voted in Democratic Primaries for the last 25 years.
T: Open seats typically attract countless candidates. Why are you specifically running for this seat?
BM: I am running for Houston City Council. District I. As a former City Council Aide, I always knew I would one day run for City Council. I have a passion to provide safe, affordable housing for seniors, improve infrastructure and uplift the quality of life for the district.
I have lived, worked and raised my family in the District for over 18 years, and I am aware of some of the disparities in resources & services which have not been addressed. Since my early years as a teacher at Austin High School in the heart of the district, I have found ways to seed into the success of families and young people. I will continue to do so as a Councilmember.
T: Are you in contact with the incumbent Councilmember for this position? Would the two of you have a good relationship for a possible transition?
BM: I am well-acquainted with the incumbent Councilmember, and believe the focus on the needs of the people will result in a smooth transition.
T: What do you hope to get out of serving on the City Council?
BM: Serving on City Council would allow me to apply my skill sets to uplift the community. I have a unique perspective due to my experience as a business owner, educator, and community servant. I will be able to leverage relationships to bring new resources into the district.
My qualifications/assets I feel earn great consideration are as follows:
Management & Budget Experience with the City of Houston
As former Manager of Building Services Department Capital Improvement Plan, I played a key role in the development of the City of Houston’s 5-year Construction Plan. In addition, I was hired by the Houston Independent School District to develop the district’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan for the construction and renovation of schools.
Small Business Experience
As the Founder and President of PMG, I offer more than 10 years of experience in the energy, architectural, engineering, and construction industries, with special expertise in managing, budgeting, and program/policy development.
As the Chairman of Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC), I have proven experience in promoting strategic to enhance small business growth in the community.
Community Organizing Experience
As the founder and board member of various community organizations and as a former Union Steward for the Houston Federation of Teachers, I have the community relationships and grass-roots organizing experience to increase civic engagement in our communities.
T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
BM: I plan to introduce ordinances to strengthen the security of existing property-owners in the district, and green initiatives to promote energy efficiency.
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?
BM: The ethnic breakdown of District I is as follows:
I have a strong base in the Latino neighborhoods in the heart of the district due to having lived there for over 18 years, worked there as both an educator and public servant, and a strong advocate for immigration reform. I have helped hundreds of people gain citizenship over the years in District I through a non-profit I chaired.
Outside of my base, I have solid long-standing relationships with members of all communities. These relationships give me the ability to engage stakeholders outside of my traditional base. I am a strong believer in collaboration.
T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
BM: This campaign has underscored the importance of commitment and staying grounded in the community. Working families have dreams and the desire to take part in the decisions affecting their lives and are anxious to have their voices heard. Our campaign has been grass-roots with young and energetic volunteers knocking on doors.
Consequently, I’ve been gratified to earn the support of community organizations such as the Association of Federal State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA), The Teamsters, the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the Flight Attendants Association (AFA), The Afro-American Sheriff’s Deputy League, the Ironworkers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), who represent scores of families ready for a new day in District I.