Editorial note: This is the twenty-eighth 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.
Assata Richards, Candidate for the Houston City Council District D
Texpatriate: What is your name?
AR: Assata Richards
T: What is your current occupation?
AR: Program Manager, Community Liaison and Researcher
T: Have you run for or held public office before?
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)?
T: Open seats typically attract countless candidates. Why are you specifically running for this seat?
AR: District D is where I was born, and it will always be my home. I am in the community daily with my work with Project Row and as the Vice Chair of the Houston Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. I have become a bridge builder and advocate for communities with local government and the private sector. I have the relationships and experiences that allow me to represent the array of community voices and help the city meet community needs and challenges.
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?
AR: The current Councilmember, Wanda Adams, is term limited so this is an open seat. But yes, I am in contact with her through my work with the Houston Housing Authority am confident that we will have a positive, effective working relationship when I am elected.
T: What do you hope to get out of serving on the City Council?
AR: At the end of the day, my goal is to make a positive sustainable impact in the community, with the community, and for the community. Each day, I work to build more effective communities through the involvement of a diverse set of individuals. I am not running for Houston City Council as a career move or for the prestige- I am running to fulfill a longstanding promise I made to myself, to give back to the communities of District D that gave me so much. My heart is in the district and the community, and I am still here and I am still listening. I have seen this community through all its phases, just as it has seen me in mine. Just as sure as these communities made me who I am today and ensured that I was the best I could be, I want to do the same for those communities and the individuals and families who define them.
T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
AR: As State Senators Rodney Ellis, Sylvia Garcia and John Whitmire have requested of local officials, I would introduce a strong ordinance to place restrictions on the more than 550 payday and auto title storefronts operating in the City of Houston that cost low-income residents and our local economy approximately $240 million dollars in simple interest and excess fees.
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?
AR: As a non-traditional candidate, I believe I have been able to have strength across interest groups. I have always worked with community-based interest groups and that is definitely where I am the strongest. But, through my work as Vice Chair of the Board of Commissioners for the Houston Housing Authority, I have been given an opportunity to develop and foster strong relationships and networks among industry based groups, such as developers and architects.
T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
AR: Throughout the campaign, I have learned how inaccurate and limited the assessment of District D has been, both from parties outside the district and at times by members of the district. I have always known and appreciated the assets of the district, as well as the rich history and culture that make our communities unique. We are resilient despite our challenges, and it is important that our city acknowledges the people and communities of District D for their incredible strengths rather than perceived weaknesses.