Sylvester Turner will run for Mayor

KRIV reports that Sylvester Turner, a longtime State Representative, will run for Mayor of Houston in 2015. Turner has run for Mayor twice before, in 1991 and 2003. While he finished in a distant third place in 2003, he proceeded into a very close runoff election during his first run. In that race, he lost in a squeaker to Bob Lanier after Wayne Dolcefino ran a slimy expose based on utter falsehoods. Turner later sued Dolcefino for libel, but that is neither here nor there. My point is that if you think of Sylvester Turner with preconceived notions of alleged wrongdoing, you are totally incorrect.

In the 22 years since then (30 years total, in the House), Turner has truly become a force to be reckoned with on the State Legislature. He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Committee (the ranking Democrat) and is one of the biggest leaders among the minority party in the Capitol. Instrumental in the passage of a massive water-infrastructure constitutional amendment this past session, he earned a spot on Texpatriate’s list of Best LegislatorsTexas Monthly also noted his massive contribution to the session by naming him the Bull of the Brazos.

Click here to read Turner’s announcement!

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It’s 2014, not 2015…

…but that has not stopped pundits from prognosticating as if it were.

The Houston Chronicle reports that posturing for the 2015 Mayoral election has already begun. Among the candidates mentioned are State Representative Sylvester Turner (who previously ran in both 1991 and 2003) and former Congressman Chris Bell (who ran in 2001). The article insinuates both have declared intentions to run, though this is the first I have heard of any of it. The article also mentions Councilmembers Stephen Costello (who evidently has announced intentions himself), Ed Gonzalez and Oliver Pennington as all looking at the race.

Names the Chronicle left off include former Councilmember Sue Lovell, Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Eric Dick. The last one in particular has the capacity to play the role of a major spoiler in the election and could ultimately determine whether someone such as Costello could even get into the runoff in the first place. There are also those who will probably not be running, such as Ben Hall or now-former City Councilmember James Rodriguez, City Controller Ronald Green and Councilmember C.O. Bradford.

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In re Mascot Names

A number of years ago, I gave a pair of speeches to the City Council and the School Board on the topic of ending offensive names at centers of public education. Originally, this complaint was limited to schools named after Confederates. However, after a suggestion from then-City Councilmember Sue Lovell, I began campaigning for HISD to rename offensive mascot names. The most infamous of these names is the athletic mascot of Lamar High School, the “redskins.”

The tremendously offensive slur for Native Americans has added insult since the namesake of the school, Mirabeau Lamar (a former President of the Republic of Texas), who made a point of working towards the “extinction” of Indians during his tenure as President. It is like having a disparaging term for African-Americans be the mascot name of Jefferson Davis High School.

Anyways, the School Board ultimately took no action on the subject, and sent me back one of the most patronizing letters I think I have ever read. Among the many unsubstantiated claims in the letter was that the term “Redskin” was chosen with “honor and respect.” The allegation is so preposterous that it does not deserve a response.

That is why it gladdened me to see Houston Chronicle columnist Randy Harvey come out in favor of changing the name to something –anything– less offensive.

Click here to read more about the Column!

Horwitz on City Council candidates

The following was a proposed Editorial that failed to receive enough support to be published under the board’s authorship. The author of the rejected Editorial has now elected to share his opinions individually:

With the 83rd Legislature now out of the way, all eyes are upon Municipal politics, specifically the City Council elections. By my count, there are currently 53 candidates for City Hall offices this November. Among these candidates are extremely diverse political ideologies, creating odd coalitions on many different issues. However, at the end of the day, partisan affiliation is still the best indicator of voting patterns and ideology on the ostensibly non-partisan City Council.

There is a Democratic Mayor, a Democratic City Controller, At-large City Councilmembers consisting of 3 Democrats & 2 Republicans and District Councilmembers consisting of 7 Democrats and 4 Republicans. While Houston has had a Democratic Mayor since the 1970s, the partisan makeup of the City Council was not always so simple, and sometimes took on odd shapes of its own. For example, between the 2007 and 2009 elections, all five At-large City Councilmembers were Democrats, while a smaller assortment of District Councilmembers consisted of 5 Republicans & 4 Democrats. This could have been easily attributed to gerrymandered maps, which, in turn, were gerrymandered for the (white) Democrats preceding the 2011 elections.

All this aside, the most perplexing idiosyncrasy of Houston’s municipal politics is the rampant, unyielding and plain troubling disregard for the 11th Commandment: Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Any Fellow Democrat. Instead of uniting against Republicans, the best and brightest tend to just go after each other, sometimes to the detriment of other, more important, contests.

For too long, two Democratic groups in Houston have gone at each others’ necks: African-Americans and White Upper-Class Intelligentsia, dominated by Gays & Lesbians. Both groups have engaged in horribly homophobic and/or racist tactics. Most Democratic-dominated contests in Houston tend to be a contest between groups, whether it be Annise Parker vs. Ben Hall, Lane Lewis vs. Keryl Douglas, Steven Kirkland vs. Elaine Palmer, Kristi Thibaut vs. Andrew Burks, Noel Freeman vs. C.O. Bradford, or old contests between Burks & Lovell or Locke & Parker.

To me, the conflict is most exemplified this year by the race in At-large #2, where incumbent Councilmember Andrew Burks is being challenged by David Robinson, a local architect. While I have had plenty of quarrels with Councilmember Burks in the past, and may very well end up supporting Robinson in November, it pains me to see such a race, not because of what decision Robinson made, but because of what decision Robinson did not make.

Burks has not been a perfect Councilmember, but he is still a nominally liberal Democrat. The at-large section of Houston’s City Council is home to not one, but two, Republicans: Stephen Costello and Jack Christie. While the former, Councilmember Costello, is extremely moderate if not progressive, the latter, Councilmember Christie, is not. Christie served for years on the State Board of Education, you know, that same organization that believes the world is 9000 years old and other such gems as the redaction of controversial, anti-Christian characters like Thomas Jefferson.

Christie is untruthful as well. In preparation of his 2011 campaign, he libeled my friend Neil Aquino of Texas Liberal, incorrectly claiming his endorsement, in a spectacle that was rebuked by the Houston Chronicle. Christie is also well-versed in the Republican tradition of uttering asinine statements, such as that “you don’t die” from influenza, and inoculations should be resisted.

Councilmember Christie, despite this troubling past and frightening tenure on the City Council, is currently running unopposed in November for a second term. This tells me that serious, legitimate candidates like David Robinson were specifically coaxed into challenging fellow Democrats such as Burks rather than Republicans like Christie.

Unfortunately, the trend is not limited to this race. Keryl Douglas, the homophobic attorney who unsuccessfully challenged Lane Lewis’ chairmanship at the Harris County Democratic Party, recently announced she would be running for Mayor, though I have yet to find one concrete piece of her platform. Again, rather than challenge the unopposed Republican on the City Council, Douglas felt it most compelling to challenge the Democratic mayor.

What is it that these Democrats find so offensive about their fellow kind? I do not want to think that, within Democratic politics, that members of the African-American community are homophobic or that members of the GLBT & Friends community is racist, but I fear it may be the case. For the sake of our city, I hope I am wrong.

UPDATE: I added a few filler words to clarify my last statement. I was not attempting to insinuate that the institutions are actively discriminatory or prejudicial, but that action of individual members of the respective communities may be based, in part, by animus.

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.