Nearly one month ago, this board began its search for Texpatriate‘s Person of the Year. Our rules were somewhat simple. The individual who contributed the most (good or bad) to both Texas and Houston politics would win the contest. However, upon closer scrutiny, this formula is not so simple. Often times our biases will blind us as to what the unadulterated facts right in front of us are, and will deceive us into believing something untrue. This board finds no greater example than with Ted Cruz. We believe that, speaking strictly to Texas affairs, Sen. Cruz has made far and away the most news in the State; much, much more than Wendy Davis. A majority of this board dislikes his political views, and we are certain that most of our readers have similar reservations, but there is no denying his tremendous impact upon the way things get done, not only in Texas, but around the country.
Sadly for Sen. Cruz, however, our criteria includes more than just what happens in Statewide or national news. Alternatively, we look for the individual who affects both the politics and governance of Houston and the State of Texas. To fit such a bill, this board can think of no individual better suited than Annise Parker. While we originally bestowed this honor on the Mayor before (in 2009), we believe she may be even more deserving here and now. Forget about being reelected –every Mayor gets reelected and Parker had notoriously incompetent opposition this year– and focus instead on Mayor Parker’s leadership both on the City Council and out in the field with Houston. Indeed, as far as credible Statewide candidates exist for the Texas Democrats, this board suggests they look no further than Mayor Parker.
Liberal supporters of President Obama were promised in the leadup and immediate aftermath of his reelection that a newly emboldened President would truly be free to implement his agenda. Well, the Obama agenda never really took off (or arrived, for that matter), but the Parker one sure has. Just in the last few weeks after her reelection, Mayor Parker has pushed for wage theft controls, payday lending reform and same-sex spousal benefits. Looking towards her final term, the Mayor is intent upon advancing a whole slew of issues such including both liberal pet-causes and long term budgetary and infrastructure reforms.
Just a few days ago, this board awarded the title of “Best Councilmember” to Stephen Costello, a Republican, for what we called “pragmatic progressivism” in the style of Michael Bloomberg. We like Annise Parker for many of the same reasons. While she maintains a very open and nominally liberal vision of what the government is and should be, the Mayor is not under any delusions about the serious economic challenges we must deal with. Further, again like Costello, we are confident that Mayor Parker will strive to come up with a comprehensive pension solution that solves our unfunded liabilities without giving the shaft the workers and pensioners. It is this type of leadership that we believe is so important.
What Rick Perry is to Texas, Annise Parker is to Houston. The strong-mayor system of the municipal governance ensures that Mayor Parker has total and complete control over the Council agenda, and is often able to strong-arm colleagues into support of even the most controversial proposals. While many items on her so-called progressive agendas are actually well behind the terms (e.g., Payday lending reform and a non-discrimination ordinance), some are not (e.g., Wage theft regulations). New and exciting proposals involving food deserts and other beautification proposals could easily be some of the most interesting in the country.
Additionally, we believe that Mayor Parker’s potential still has higher to ascend. The aforementioned pragmatic progressivism, combined with strong executive experience, make her an ideal candidate for statewide office in the future. This board looks forward to the day that the rest of Texas will be able to learn about the woman Houston has know for many years.
This board would also be remiss if we did not note the results of our interactive online poll for this contest. The sagacious may recall that in 1998, the first year that Time launched an online poll to assist with its search for a Person of the Year, wrestler Mick Foley won the online survey hands down. Similarly, even though he was not one of the original options, a man named Luis Fayad won Texpatriate‘s person of the year poll with a strong majority. Some may remember Fayad as the internet-troll who might have taken it too far with Councilmember Rodriguez, but he was also the Chairman of the Houston Mayor’s Youth Council the first year that the members of this board served on it (2009-2010).
However, we decided to honor Fayad in some small way nonetheless, by asking our readers to follow his Twitter account (@LeFayad1991). While he is often unclean and never safe for work, he is always a good laugh.