Texpatriate’s Questions for Don Cook

Editorial note: This is the fifteenth 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.

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Don Cook, Candidate for Mayor of Houston

Texpatriate: What is your name?
DC: Don Cook

T: What is your current occupation?
DC: I am retired Texas Parole Officer

T: Have you run for or held public office before?
DC: I ran for Houston city Council in 2009 and 2011.  I ran for Harris County Clerk in 2010, and I ran for Congress, District 122 in 2012.  I have never held public office.

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)?
DC: I have been a member of the Harris County Green Party since the founding of the Green Party of Texas in 1999.  When I could not avoid it, I have been a member at large of the Steering committee of the Harris County Green Party, an at large member of the Green Party of Texas, and a Texas delegate to the Green Party of the United States.  I am currently an at large member of the Steering Committee of the Harris County Green Party.

T: ypically, this board will defer to incumbents unless we are convinced the incumbent has failed in some way. Do you believe the incumbent has failed at her or his job? If so, why?
DC:   She has not failed in that she has not completely destroyed the City of Houston, but I guess I would say she has failed to perform the primary function of government in a democracy which is to help the people, to the maximum, in every way possible. This is evinced by her espousal of high school ROTC rather than after-school programs, her resistance to, and blocking with technicalities of, various initiatives and referenda from the people, her repeated failure to give notification of major policy changes such as red-light ticket cameras, the charitable feeding of the homeless, the handing over of large portions of city parks to local TIRZes, and her failure to give sufficient notice of votes on tax abatements to developers and large corporations such as Ainbinder($6M), Costco($1M), and Chevron($19M).  This last item, her rushing through of corporate welfare tax abatements in situations where the project in question did not require a donation from the city to go through and/or there was no benefit to the people of Houston.  She should rather have established a policy of tax abatements for small businesses and community coops, including small food markets in “food desert” areas of Houston.  This illustrates her closeness to Big Money rather than the people.  Additionally in the Ainbinder case she, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle in September of 2010, had received A $10K campign contribution from Ainbinder in 2009.

T: Why are you specifically running against this incumbent? 
AP: I have, in the course of her administration been disappointed with her militarism, her authoritarian style, and her closeness with Big Money.  People do not like her as is evinced by the fact that she avoided a runoff, that is won a majority of the vote, by only 0.08%  against far fewer opponents than the current 9 whom she greatly outspent in 2011 with $2M.  Scuttlebutt is that she’s going to take it seriously this year, raise much more money, I suppose, and win bigger.  We’ll see.

T: What do you hope to get out of serving as the Mayor?
DC: 18 years ago I bottomed out emotionally and knew that if I was going to go on I was going to have to live a meaningful life, which for me would mean striving to build a better world.  Perhaps an impossible task, but the point was to strive for it.  I soon decided the Green Party was the most effective world-betterment path I could see, and I became a GP political activist and organizer in 1999.  I never intended to run for office, but after years of hard-scrabble struggle, I adopted it as a tactic to encourage others to run in 2009. (the Green Party in Texas has to get 5% or more of the vote in one or more state-wide races in even numbered years, so we need to develop candidates.)This year I strongly felt should be our first year to run in the Mayor’s race, and while no one else seemed ready to step forward, I was receiving strong encouragement to run myself.  Knowing it would not be easy, never having expected immediate success, not even requiring conventional success, it’s been a gas.  I am fulfilled whether or not I become Mayor of the City of Houston.  If I win, I’ll just continue working the struggle from a different position.  It still won’t be easy with this city council.  We are a long way from Heaven.

T: What is an ordinance you would introduce as Mayor?
DC:Glad you asked:

1) I will introduce an ordinance, following the lead of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (www.celdf.org) to protect the citizens of Houston from pollution from the refining of Canadian tar sand oil in Houston by the Valero or B.

2) I will introduce an ordinance to require fast food workers employed more than 30 hours a week, to insure that such employees receive workers health insurance benefits. ( I feel somewhat ambivalent about this since as a child I was promised by futurists that thanks to automation we would be approaching a 20 hour work week, but of course it was implied that this shorter work week would not be a basis for any reduction in income.  And of course, I don’t recall any mention of health care by those futurists.  Given any living wage and single-payer health care advancement, I might with draw this proposal.)
3) There might be simpler, or at least other, pathways for accomplishing the restriction on HPD of merely issuing a citation and not arresting for possession of class-B-misdemeanor-amounts of marijuana possession and for giving subpoena powers to the HPD Civilian Review Board.  But if there are not, I will consider introducing ordinances for these issues.
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?
DC: I represent all progressive-issue “interest” groups: civil rights, environmental issues, peace, homelessness, democracy reform, worker, clean safe, unending energy, health, pollution.  In sum, these groups are the people, and this is my core.  But the term “interest group” as it is usually used today means a Big Money, campaign-cash-contributing group, and fortunately, I am weak with all of these groups.
T:  What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
DC: That none of the other mayoral candidates have or can express a complete, coherent plan to help the people.
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