…just what will you do with another two years?
The Houston Chronicle poses this question after examining the initial celebratory nature of Mayor Annise Parker’s re-election. Mike Morris at the Chronicle sat down with Parker and discussed the serious issues that Parker plans to bring up for the remainder of her time as Mayor. What is most surprising, however, is just how quickly she wishes for many of these agenda items to be discussed and voted on by the City Council.
First, Parker said a controversial “Wage theft ordinance” would be on the agenda of the City Council meeting next Wednesday (November 13th). The astute will remember when this was first introduced in July (I was in favor), but subsequently slowed down by a tepid City Council in August. Wage theft, of course, is the illegal withholding of salaries or benefits to a worker, most typically the extra pay earned during overtime. The ordinance would created a “Wage Theft czar” who would oversee all companies convicted of this horrible action, then blacklisting the companies from any further contracting with the City.
Next, Parker discussed a reform of Food Truck laws, specifically “before the year’s end.” I tend to hold somewhat libertarian, laissez-faire views on things like Food Trucks (the existing regulations are absurd), as any fan of the At-large #2 race will know. The sooner we can get more “Food Truck parks” like they have in Austin, the better.
Without a time frame, Parker also expressed her desire to “expand curbside recycling to every home in Houston.” I have been very critical of the Mayor on this issue, as I believe she has made poor priorities. If the recycling program could be expanded to over 90% in her last term, I will be very impressed.
The comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance (protecting LGBT) was also brought up, about two months after Parker first seriously discussed the idea. Every Democrat on the Council supports the ordinance (including the sometimes socially unpredictable Andrew Burks), as does many of the Republicans including Stephen Costello and Jack Christie. Accordingly, it should pass.
The Mayor also speaks broadly about closing the City Jail, reforming firefighter pensions and water conversation projects. Inconspicuously off the list is an ordinance which would ban texting-while-driving. Back in April, the Public Safety Committee discussed a draft ordinance to that effect. Parker has told me recently, however, that the ban is being placed on the back burner until “awareness is raised.” I have no idea when the requisite awareness level would be fulfilled.
Term limits and other general reforms of the City Charter are also in the works. Color me skeptical of any proposed changes. While I would be open to extending the number of terms allowed, I feel very strongly that the two-year terms should not extended, lest we reduce the attentiveness of public officials to their constituents. Unlike a partisan election, which has a primary eight months before the general, no such occurrence happens in municipal elections. If one is an incumbent (and therefore already has name recognition), campaigning does not start until the end of the summer. A couple months of campaigning every biennial is not too much to ask for a politician. They serve on the whims and caprices of the voters, let us never forget that. But I digress.
Off the Kuff has more.