Friday, February 6, 2009

Mayoral Preview: Annise Parker

As expected, this week City Controller Annise Parker announced that she is running for Mayor. Her web site lists five issues she will address in her campaign.

Keeping Houston Moving Ahead
We need a mayor who can lead our city through tough economic times and still keep Houston moving ahead.

That’s why I have a plan to create jobs, secure Houston’s future as the headquarters for new energy development, invest in stronger, safer neighborhoods and maintain fiscal responsibility.

This is one of those promises that politicians love to make--I'm going to create jobs. But those promises are almost always absent any details. More importantly, politicians do not create jobs, unless they are hiring for the government. The only way a politician can truly contribute to the creation of jobs is to get out of the way--repeal laws that violate individual rights and cut taxes.

Hire Houston First
We can create a system of powerful incentives for businesses spending our tax dollars to hire qualified Houstonians for the jobs they create. These could include:
Straightforward access to qualified workers through a referral system;
Job training and re-training to maintain a pool of qualified workers;
and Bid points to reward businesses whose proposals demonstrate a benefit
to our economy by creating local jobs.

Let me be clear at the outset: I am a businesswoman and I would never advocate for government to make hiring decisions. But the city should have a role in bringing business, nonprofits and labor together to improve our economy in a way that benefits all.

The purpose of government is to protect individual rights, not act as a referral service or job training center for employers. Politicians love to talk about creating incentives for businesses, and such claims have a certain appeal to many. But incentives is merely a nice way of saying "threats". When "incentives" don't work--that is, they don't get the results government desires--regulations and controls are right around the corner. The government is an agent of force, and when it "suggests" that you doing something, the implication is--or else.

Houston: the Headquarters for New Energy Development
My plan includes building partnerships with oil and gas companies, our local universities and the city - to encourage research, attract new businesses to Houston and work with our existing energy partners to create even more jobs.

These economic development priorities are a win-win-win for Houston - they will create high-wage jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and clean up our environment.
Parker offers another plan with few details. She is going to build partnerships and encourage research. While that sounds really good, what does it actually mean? She goes on to claim that this is a "win-win-win". But who will actually win? Certainly not the tax payer, or the property owner, or the individual--they don't receive any mention.

Safer, Stronger Neighborhoods
I have spent my entire adult life - in the private sector and as an elected official - fighting to improve neighborhoods and the quality of life for Houston families. As Mayor, I will fight to keep investing - even in a tough economy - in parks and recreation, libraries and after-school programs.
This is another area where Houston politicians love to make vague promises. After all, no credible candidate would run on a platform of doing harm to neighborhoods and destroying our quality of life. But it is one thing to make such promises, and another to actually articulate the principles that will make this possible.

"Quality of life" is a matter of individual values. Each person defines "quality of life" differently. For a public official to improve the "quality of life" he must necessarily choose one definition, that is, one set of values. Which means, he must impose the values of some upon the entire community. And this is precisely what Parker proposes to do, and has done. She has supported numerous ordinances that violate property rights, including the preservation ordinance.

Rather than continue to involve the city in inappropriate areas, she should propose selling the parks and libraries. She should propose returning government to its proper function--the protection of individual rights.
Maintaining Fiscal Responsibility
As City Controller, I’ve used tough, independent audits to uncover millions of dollars in waste due to inefficiencies, redundancies and outright fraud. That money is now funding our police and fire departments, important after-school programs and senior centers - instead of being wasted and abused.

I’ve managed billions of Houston’s tax dollars - and today, Houston is in much better shape than other cities that gambled their futures on risky investments and irresponsible budgets.

I’ve instituted management reforms that are saving tax dollars and making local government more efficient and accountable. One recent example is our recent conversion to a 100% paperless payroll system. This technology will save taxpayers a million dollars a year.
I am certainly not opposed to measures that save taxpayer money. But since that money belongs to the taxpayer until it is seized by the government, the best way to save it is to leave it where it rightfully belongs--in the hands of the taxpayer.

Politicians are quick to claim that they will root out inefficiencies and waste, but are loathe to cut taxes, which is the best way to help taxpayers. While Parker is crowing over saving taxpayers millions by going paperless, she should consider cutting the sales tax by .25%, which would save taxpayers about $100 million per year. That would be something to crow about.

In the end, Parker is not offering anything new. She will tout her years as Controller and as a member of City Council. She will play up her role in saving millions of dollars and making the city government more efficient. But the real issue is not improving the efficiency of government; the real issue is paring government down to size. And in that regard, Parker has no interest in doing so.

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