Local Elections: My picks for 2009

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Political Commentary

This Tuesday Houstonians will be voting on a number of important issues, including Mayor, Controller, several City Council positions and a handful of State Constitutional Amendments. The exceptionally small voter turnout at local elections reveals a great public misunderstanding about the institutions and individuals that affect our daily lives. On the other hand it allows those of us who do vote to have an increased influence on local issues.

National figures often climb their way up from local roots – like Bill White, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat next year – so putting the right people in the queue early on is one reason to vote in local elections. But there are far more important reasons. While the Federal Government has vastly increased its reach into our personal lives since the 1930’s, it is primarily the responsibility of State and City governments to oversee things like waste disposal, water management, transportation, education, property taxes, building codes, law enforcement, and so on. You encounter local government restrictions on a daily basis, and when you violate them, it’s the local courts and bureaucracies that will handle your case. Considering all of this it seems strange that there’s hardly anyone talking about the election.

The Mayor of the City of Houston is the most powerful mayor of any large city in the U.S., mostly due to his power to appoint many department heads, and the fact that he is a voting member of City Council. There are four individuals running for Houston Mayor: Peter Brown, Gene Locke, Roy Morales and Annise Parker.

Before I say how I’m voting I should explain what I’m looking for. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I’m a conservative. I believe in small government, less regulation, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, sound economic policies, state’s rights, individual rights, and strong security. I’m looking for people and policies that support these ideas, but I’m also looking for experience, expertise and leadership.

Seeing as how Roy Morales is the only “Conservative” candidate I would like to vote for him, but I think he has run a poor campaign, he is not prepared for the office, and his platform is the same as the others – all four candidates are in agreement on major issues. The Texas Conservative Review rates Parker as the second most conservative candidate. She has had experience as both a City Council member and City Controller, giving her a better understanding of how things work. She has also spent 20 years in the oil and gas industry – a vital industry for the region. Her record in public office is long, and clean. That’s something that the lawyer (Locke), the architect (Brown) and the “Security Consultant” (Morales) can’t say for themselves. In one sentence, Parker is a moderate liberal with a good amount of respect from the community and a lot of experience at City Hall – and she happens to be a lesbian, but I will leave you to decide what that is worth.

Locke and Brown are both further left. I had initially liked Brown, until I began to connect the dots. Having a plan – or “blueprint” – is great, as long as you’re not going to force everyone to comply with it. I mean, Obama had lots of interesting ideas… they just happen to cost trillions of dollars and reduce our freedoms. In a Texas Conservative Review questionnaire, Brown was the only candidate to say that the city should be able to raise taxes without a 60% majority, and the only candidate to to say that the government should be able to seize private property from individuals and corporations for the “good of the community” without fair compensation. Those two answers alone were enough to sway my vote. Locke was rated as the least conservative, which added weight to my prior decision not to support him.

This brings me to ultimately choose between Morales and Parker. Since a Morales win is basically impossible, and the race is essentially down to Brown and Parker, I’m going to throw my support to the least liberal, and most experienced of the two – Annise Parker.

As for other offices that we will be voting on this Tuesday, it would take far too long for me to list the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, and argue each amendment, so I’ll just give a run-down of how I will be voting.

City Comptroller – MJ Khan

City Council at Large #1 – Stephen Costello

City Council at Large #4 – C.O. Bradford

City Council at Large #5 – Jack Christie

My City Council District (G) – Oliver Pennington

District Picks according to the Texas Conservative Review voter guide:

City Council District A – Brenda Stardig

City Council District C – Anne Clutterbuck (incumbent)

City Council District  E – Mike Sullivan (incumbent)

City Council District F – Kalid Khan

In addition to these offices we will be voting on 11 amendments to the Texas Constitution, in the form of propositions. The Texas Constitution was written very stiffly as a reaction to abusive power by a union-appointed governor after the Civil War. This strict constitution forces the state legislature to propose new amendments after nearly every session. Once the legislature has voted on it we are allowed to approve or disapprove through our vote. You can go here to see the actual wording and arguments for and against, but I will be voting as follows:

Prop 1 – FOR
Prop 2 – FOR
Prop 3 – FOR
Prop 4 – FOR
Prop 5 – FOR
Prop 6 – FOR
Prop 7 – FOR
Prop 8 – AGAINST (allows use of valuable state resources to help build federal hospitals for veterans)
Prop 9 – AGAINST (allows the state to seize private beach-front property for public use and makes laws harder to change in the future)
Prop 10 – AGAINST (doubles terms of emergency board members, making them less accountable to public. These members have the power to raise taxes)
Prop 11 – FOR

If you need info on where to vote, or for a sample ballot, check www.harrisvotes.com

Please comment if you have information that I, or my readers, should know before we go into the booth on Tuesday. Thanks for stopping by.

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