Parker inaugurated again

This morning, I attended the official Houston inauguration at the Wortham Center. Mayor Annise Parker and City Controller Ronald Green were both inaugurated for their third and final two-year term in office. Additionally, the new City Council were initiated and took office themselves. Among the new additions to the Council were David Robinson and Michael Kubosh in At-large seats and Dwight Boykins, Richard Nguyen and Robert Gallegos in district seats. Brenda Stardig, who has previously served, also took office once more after a two year hiatus.

Parker and Green both had the oath of office administered by Vanessa Gilmore, a local Federal Judge. Parker then delivered a rather brief inaugural speech that was somewhat light on specifics. She did mention, quite specifically, the passage of a non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT people. This move was met with only tepid applause from a fraction of the City Council, including the inconspicuous absence of applause from Councilmember Bradford. Actions meant to assuage the damage caused by hurricanes (read: Ike Dike) were also explicitly referenced, as was further improvement to roads and drainage. Perhaps the biggest shock of the day occurred when Parker announced her intention to “completely eliminate chronic homelessness.” This line drew big applause from individuals who have disagreed profoundly with the Mayor in the past, including, most notably, Michael Kubosh.

Click here to read more!

Council update, 12/11

The Houston City Council took no major action this week, as Councilmembers high and low tagged proposals to delay them for one week. Instead, the only updates we have are those that seek to prognosticate towards the future involving existing proposals, almost all of which were pushed back by the dilatory tactic.

First, KPRC is reporting on a proposal to relax the City’s alcohol sales ordinance, which bans any store from selling beer or wine within 1000 feet to a school or a church. Mayor Parker has now proposed easing the regulation to 300 feet, applying only to “larger grocery stores.” I have no idea what the cutoff between a small store and a large grocery store is, and I am in no small part concerned about the possibility that this is an olive branch to Wal-Mart and the like. That being said, perhaps I am just misreading all of it.

The proposal is meant to attract more grocery stores to low-income areas, where very small churches are often ubiquitously located in strip-malls alongside shopping centers. These low-income areas are often called Food Deserts for the scarcity of healthy eating and shopping options nearby. The Houston Chronicle recently cataloged these problems, citing efforts by the City to help alleviate the problems.

Click here to read about the Payday Lending ordinance and why it is in jeopardy!

Hoang vs. Vo

The Houston Chronicle reports that Al Hoang, the two term member of the Houston City Council recently defeated by political newcomer Richard Nguyen, will be continuing his political career in a new way: running for the Texas House. Hoang will reportedly challenge incumbent Hubert Vo, a Democrat and the only Vietnamese-American member of the legislature, in District 149. Hoang, an ostensibly moderate Republican (he endorsed Mayor Parker), is waging much more of a partisan campaign this time.

Interestingly, some made veiled accusations that it was Vo and associates of his who originally propped up Nguyen to run against Hoang. However, this makes little sense. Nguyen mentioned in his interview with us that he is a Republican, and for rather unapologetic conservative rationale (…because I believe strongly in the US Constitution). Even Morris’ article notes that Hoang received some negative publicity for supporting deescalation with Vietnam.

Click here to read about Hoang’s campaign strategy!

2013 results and analysis

We’re working on trying to abridge the hours and hours of livestreamed Texpatriate election return coverage into about 20 minutes of the top hits. Yesterday, our all-time view record was demolished as thousands of people appeared to come to our website to read up on candidates before they voted. Additionally, Richard Nguyen, the victor in District F, had little impact on the internet besides his interview with Texpatriate.

First and foremost, Mayor Annise Parker was decisively re-elected to a third and final term as Mayor of Houston. She cruised to over 57% of the vote, far outpacing the amount of the vote she received in 2011. Meanwhile, Controller Ronald Green also was re-elected, albeit by a much smaller margin. The only surprises amongst City Council races were in At-large 3 and District F, respectively. Otherwise, most incumbents cruised to re-election.

All nine Statewide propositions passed, as did Harris County Proposition 1 (the joint processing center/jail). The Astrodome referendum, however, did not pass, as the iconic 8th Wonder of the World now looks condemned to demolition.

Click here to see full results and read more!

Texpatriate’s Questions for Richard Nguyen

Editorial note: This is the thirtieth 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.

Campaign Photo

Richard Nguyen, Candidate for the Houston City Council District F

Texpatriate: What is your name?
RN: My name is Richard Nguyen. I am running for the District F Councilmember position.

T: What is your current occupation?
RN: I am an employee of the City of Houston, Solid Waste Management Department, Combustible Waste Storage Permitting and Inspection.

T: Have you run for or held public office before?
RN: No, this is my first attempt.

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)?
RN: It is true that City Council elections are nonpartisan.  However, I voted with the Republican Party because I believe strongly in the United States Constitutions.

T: Typically, this board will defer to incumbents unless we are convinced the incumbent has failed in some way. Do you believe the incumbent has failed at her or his job? If so, why?
RN: The incumbent has poorly represented District F.  The district is underserved.  However, the incumbent took credits for Capital Improvement Projects that were in progress before he took office.  Instead of representing the constituents in City Hall, the incumbent has been too busy either suing someone or defending himself in court.  He closed his door on his constituents and forgot why he was placed in office.

T: Why are you specifically running against this incumbent?
RN: District F does not need a Councilmember who is self serving.  District F needs a Councilman who serves EVERYBODY.

T: What do you hope to get out of serving on the City Council?
RN: Since I was young, I have always been taught that you must learn to serve in order to be a good citizen.  I want nothing more for me than to be a good citizen and give back to the community that I call home.

T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
RN: One of my pet peeves is to see our neighborhoods trashed with unused furniture and appliances.  I would like to see our city become of the cleanest places to live in.  We have scheduled trash pick ups that we must adhere by.  We have depositories that our citizens can use to dispose items they no longer need at no cost.  We cannot just dump our trash anywhere we please.  Perhaps an ordinance that further deter illegal dumping and encourage the use of our city facilities, or an incentive for clean ups is needed to keep our city sparkling.

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?
RN: Surprisingly, I have been weak with the Asian groups, perhaps because I have mistakenly considered them the traditionally “Model Minorities” and that they do not need more attention than other groups.  However, as an officeholder, especially one who represents the “International District” (District F), I will be representing the most diverse district in the city.  I will be striving for equal representation in every ethnicity, groups, or base.

T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
RN: Humility wins over hubris.  Honor your voters, not hustle them.  By surrounding myself with sincerity, not sycophants, I have received more affection from my supporters.  Although I have little money to run this campaign; I make up for that with motivation.  I am driven by compassion and when a decision has to be made between head and heart, I chose to not split the two.  Go with conviction.