Within the City of Houston, there are few positions more complex and less understood than the City Controller. The position was created over 100 years ago, but was somewhat ill-defined for the first era of its existence. In 1977, when Kathy Whitmire was first elected to the post, the modern era of the Controller first began. At that time, Mayor Jim McConn was spending large amounts of money from sometimes unscrupulous sources. Whitmire fought this spending tooth-and-nail, and ultimately won the war when she succeeded McConn as Mayor in 1982.
Shortly after that time, the conflict between the Mayor and the City Controller perpetuated. Whether that was George Greanais or Lloyd Kelly, Mayors often found themselves at odds with the City’s fiscal watchdog. All this unpleasantness, however, ended in 1998.
The concurrent tenure of Mayor Lee Brown and Controller Sylvia Garcia, as well as Mayor Bill White and Controller Annise Parker, saw unprecedented cooperation that helped to solve some of the biggest problems facing this City. Likewise, this board believes that Mayor Annise Parker and Controller Ronald Green have worked remarkably well together.
This board, however, has been very troubled by recent betrayals of the public’s trust on the part of the incumbent Controller, Ronald Green. We remember an article in a 2012 issue of the Houston Chronicle that noted lavish, improper trips and vacations taken on taxpayer’s expense. We also remember when Controller Green may have abused his discretion by defending a con man in his official capacity.
Controller Green has one opponent, Bill Frazer, a local CPA. Mr Frazer has struck us as a fairly sensible, pragmatic candidate, who would try his best if given the opportunity by voters. However, this board is concerned about just how aggressively Mr Frazer will pursue policies of austerity and work to counter the Mayor, if she is re-elected.
While both Mayor Parker and Mr Frazer agree that unfunded pensions represent a major problem for Houston, we are worried that Mr Frazer may seek cuts and reforms too zealously for our liking. While this board certainly agrees that the role of the City Controller is to be a strong watchdog, we are satisfied that Mayor Parker has been implementing strong fiscal policy. Further, we believe that, as the city must decide many important issues over the next biennial, a City Controller is needed who will be a strong backer of the policies of the Mayor.
While this board notes that Controller Green is not a perfect partner for Mayor Parker, he has completed his official duties very competently. We think the partnership should continue for one last term.
Accordingly, we endorse Ronald Green for re-election as Controller of Houston.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey & Noah M. Horwitz of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans.