Six Debates

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Evidently, the Ben Hall campaign sent out a press release (please see image) this morning challenging Mayor Parker to six –yes, I said SIX– debates between Labor Day and Election Day. The exact text of the announcement goes as follows:

The Honorable Annise Parker
Mayor of Houston
901Bagby Street
Houston, TX 77002

Dear Mayor Parker,

I am writing to propose that you and I share our contrasting ideas and vision for the
future of this great city through a series of debates.

Three debates should be held after Labor Day but prior to the start of early voting
and three additional debates after the start of early voting and before our November
election. Too much is at stake for us not to share our plans for Houston with her
citizens, and I hope you agree promptly to debating six times this fall.

I have instructed my staff to contact your campaign staff to begin discussions on the
details.

Please accept this invitation.

Sincerely,
Ben Hall

I have a few comments on this. First, it makes absolutely no sense to have three debates during Early Voting. That is literally one of the worst ideas I have heard from the Hall campaign this year, and that is saying something. Over half of regular voters cast their ballots before Election Day, so including half of the debates during that time is a bad idea.

Second, and perhaps this is just my own personal preference, but I am disappointed in the no-debates-until-after-Labor-Day suggestion by Hall’s team. I leave for Boston on August 27th, and won’t be back until after the Runoff Election. However, I do tend to recall an August debate in 2009. That splits up the time a little more efficiently.  Cramming six debates into eight weeks reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Finally, the whole thing smells. Not the Texas Senate smell, but you get the point. I recall something similar back in 2008, when John McCain challenged Barack Obama to 10 town hall debates. The debates, of course, never happened, but there was one town-hall style debate between McCain & Obama. As I recall, Obama wiped the floor with McCain in that debate, as the old opponent had nothing memorable to say, with one key exception.

But the main point is that McCain was desperate, and so he blurted out this unrealistic goal of myriad debates, knowing Obama would have no choice but to rebuff his offer. For the record, McCain made the offer in June, not the last day of July. Ben Hall could be employing a similar tactic here.

I am looking forward to the Mayoral debates, though–although I would much prefer three debates: 1 in August, 1 in September and 1 in October. Parker has never been an especially adept speaker or talented debater. Ben Hall, on the other hand, is a somewhat good debater. I supported Gene Locke in 2009, based in large part, to his debate performance. In that election, however, all three candidates were an equal footing when it came to other issues. In 2013, that is simply not the case between Hall and Parker.

One other major point is who will be included within this debate. The 2009 debates included Brown, Locke, Morales and Parker. In that election, only three other candidates existed, and all of them were far fringe. It is arguable that Eric Dick, Keryl Douglas and Don Cook should be included in these debates.

Texas Leftist has more.

Mayoral shots fired

Some of the first direct shots in the Mayoral election have been fired today. First, Ben Hall broke a long silence on the Mayoral election by posting a long rant about the state of the election. From Dr Hall’s Facebook:

Really, No Debate?!

Over the weekend, Ben Hall attended the Juneteenth parade and celebration at Emancipation Park. He encountered the incumbent mayor standing by herself with her 6+ HPD bodyguards. Clearly, the crowd did not seem interested that the mayor of the city was even present….In any event, Mr. Hall greeted her and suggested they debate. The mayor responded she was NOT going to debate him! It is quite telling when an incumbent is too afraid to debate a challenger like Mr. Hall. After 16 years of being paid by the taxpayers, you would think the mayor would want such a debate. She says she does not! Well, enough said!

A reluctant mayor doesn’t deserve more time to carry out policies she can neither publicly debate nor defend! The public deserves to be fully informed before voting this year!

The Ben Hall for Mayor Team!

Without missing a beat, Mayor Parker’s campaign fired back on her Facebok:

Get your facts straight Mr. Hall!

The mayor will debate all her major opponents –not just you – because the voters deserve to hear from all serious candidates!

The Annise Parker Campaign Team

Then, in an apparently random comment, Dr Hall’s Facebook page posted this soliloquy in the comment section of the  preceding status. Evidently someone felt compelled to respond to the tax troubles thing:

 If you check your facts, you will see that the IRS lost the appeal of that lien and was forced to withdraw it within less than 24 hrs of erroneously posting it. More evidence of IRS abuse! Next time, dig more completely! One more for the good guy, Ben Hall.

Immediately following that, a commentator remarked “Who are you talking to?” A comment that garnered more “likes” than Hall’s original talking point. Wow. After that, the crossover fans on both the Parker and the Hall pages really went at it. One of them even tried to use one of my articles as her “proof” in the internet debate. Perhaps someone needs to have a conversation about what and what not a reputable source is, but I digress.

Anyways, I find it to be a little troubling that Hall would actually think for a moment that Parker would refuse to debate her. For being a layperson, Parker is actually pretty quick on her feet and can hold her own in a debate (though Peter Brown wasn’t the best at the podium either, I suppose). There were a number of debates in 2009, I was even in attendance at a few of them.

Again, this is not a good strategy for Hall to use. As I have said many times, there are nearly 30 times as many Facebook likes for Annise Parker than Ben Hall. Accordingly, many more people will read what she says on the issue, rather than what he says.

I went to Parker’s campaign office opening last Saturday, and noticed a striking parallel. With a few exceptions, the relationship between the Parker and Hall candidacies is like a traditional Democrat versus Republican face. Parker’s supporters of very diverse, very enthusiastic and very young. Hall’s supporters are generally older, less enthusiastic and instead of being predominantly White they are predominantly Black. But still no diversity.

Dr Hall is quickly finding himself stuck in a morass of his own: the token “Conservative” candidate’s.

In other news, “the Caucus” (GLBT) reported on their Facebook page that Michael Fitzsimmons is running for Mayor. Fitzsimmons ran for Congress against Gene Green last year, and is part of the Socialist Workers Party. And I thought leaving the People’s Republic of Mass for the summer would stop me from having to write about any more darn pinkos! Fitzsimmons is part of a colorful tradition of Socialist Workers running for office in Houston. Texas Liberal has the full story on that.

The election in AL2

Everyone seems to be talking about AL3, but that is definitely not the only competitive election this year. Andrew Burks, one of our more…entertaining….Councilmembers, has an opponent, who I was able to talk at length with recently.

His name is David W. Robinson, a local architect with a long history on many municipal boards and commissions. He has a shell of a website at “http://www.davidwrobinson.org/” (it seems to have stolen the font from Ellen Cohen’s runs) and a Facebook page here. Robinson ran for AL2 back in 2011, and received a puny 12% of the vote.

I guarantee he will receive more than that this year. His Facebook page lists a plethora of supporters, including Peter Brown, Anne Clutterbuck, Sue Lovell, Kristi Thibaut and Michael Skelly. Robinson has gotten quite the nod from Parker’s prime constituents, as well as the moderate wing of the GOP (it still exists in Houston). If Robinson could really get GOP support, this would be his election for the taking. But things rarely work out so easy.

As a general rule, I support the incumbent until a challenger can convince me otherwise. As of now, Robinson hasn’t done that, but there is a lot of time left and he doesn’t even have a complete website to share his thoughts yet. Burks has been, despite his oddities, more or less a good liberal Councilmember. If Robinson runs on a single issue “reform-food-truck-laws” platform, I will be a zealous supporter, though.

The campaign is already getting heated, with Burks recently “interrogating” Robinson at a City Council meeting. Certainly going to bring out the popcorn for this one.

Brown vs Brown

This was in the news a few days ago, and I thought it was not very noteworthy, but since the news has been so slow, I’m going to cover it.

The Chronicle ran a story about Helena Brown. Yeah, she’s still in the news. She was in the news a few weeks ago for using city money for “magnets” that constituted re-election advertisements (embezzlement?).   Anyways, Brown has re-payed  the City of Houston for these expenditures. $3000.00 to be exact, that is. When asked for comment, City Attorney David Feldman, has a very smart explanation where states he will not be “antagonistic” towards Brown, but insinuated that she is certainly guilty of an infraction. All I can say is that it doesn’t surprise me that the self-proclaimed  “most fiscally conservative” Councilmember wastes money like this.

Also, the other Councilmember Brown, Peter, is in the news again. Now the head of “Better Houston”, he has put out a youtube video about the need for more projects vis-a-vis pedestrian walkways. The video, found here, labels Brown as “Pedestrian Pete.”

Also it is worth noting that the comments on the Chronicle article about P. Brown are mildly supportive, whereas the comments with regard to H. Brown are horribly slamming (including a few comments I would not be comfortable repeating in public). Again, I look forward to taking a bowl of popcorn and watching the 2013 District A election unfold.

Jones to return?

I have a few comments on this, straight from the Houston Chronicle.

Jolanda Jones is reported to be considering a return to 901 Bagby, but by attempting to replace Wanda Adams; not run against Christie for her old seat. There is, of course, a convoluted term limits statute that may or may not prohibit certain people who have served two terms from seeking a non-consecutive third one. David Feldman obviously has an agenda to push, right or wrong, so I would take all of his comments with a grain of salt.

First, I know this comment may be irrelevant, but these segment of the term limit law is truly stupid.  Draw a line in the sand about how many years a City Hall politician can serve, but quit with all the exceptions. If anything we should encourage non-consecutive terms, as it allows for the politicians to not have to campaign while in office.

Second, the ordinance says “No person, who has already served two terms, shall be eligible to file for that same office”. It is worth noting that unlike Peter Brown, Jones did not resign before the end of her term (even by a few days). However, there is something to be said about the distinction between a District Councilmember and an at-large Councilmember. My first year working at City Hall (2009-2010), I worked for Toni Lawrence/Brenda Stardig, while one of my better friends worked for Ronald Green/C.O. Bradford. I can say from experience the two positions are extremely different, similar, in my views, to the relationship between the House and the Senate.

Third, I hold the belief that David Feldman has an axe to grind against Jones, and Brown likewise (he insinuated both would be ineligible at City Hall). Parker did not always get along with Jones, and certainly did not get along with Peter Brown (he ran against her). I do not mean Feldman holds any malice or what not, but he is biased.

District D may be the best opportunity for Jones, but it will not be easy. There will be a dozen candidates and getting into the runoff may not even be guaranteed. I endorsed Jones with a heavy heart in 2009, and endorsed her with an even heavier one in 2011, for a simple premise: a bad Democrat beats a Republican–especially a Texas one. She will have a lot of explaining to do if she wants my approval next year though, because I suspect there will be plenty of other Democrats in the race.

Jack Christie is most likely running again in 2013, but his website, “http://www.christieforhouston.com/”, now suggests otherwise (it is for sale and in Japanese). There have been few challengers proposed for the Councilmember and it is forgone conclusion that, as Jones did not resign early, she may not challenge him. That is probably a good thing.