I have been commenting on Houston's mayoral candidates for nearly a year. As the candidates head down the home stretch, a recap of their positions is warranted.
What is particularly interesting about this set of candidates is how little they have done to differentiate themselves from the others. Certainly, there are superficial differences: we have a white urban planner, a black attorney, a gay city official, and a Republican Hispanic. But on the issues that matter, their positions are remarkably similar.
As long as I have followed city politics, Peter Brown has been calling for "planning". While he denies that he supported zoning in the 1990s, planning without land-use regulations is a pointless exercise. And Brown knows this--he has favored all sorts of land-use controls, from outlawing billboards to stopping the Ashby High Rise. Brown wants to bring the arbitrary and tyrannical edicts of zoning to Houston, but he lacks the courage and the honesty to call it zoning. He wants government to control land-use in the city, and thinks that if we call it something else then it somehow be more palatable.
Brown isn't content to limit government controls to land-use. He wants to expand the city's control over the economy as well. His white paper on the economy states that government should get out of the way of business, yet he has seemingly never seen a government regulation that he doesn't like. He wants to create an "Office of Economic Development and Job Creation" that will determine which industries the city will encourage, and then use tax dollars to train workers.
Brown has tried to position himself as the hier to Bill White. He wants to continue White's program to make Houston America's greenest city. Brown supports light rail, providing job training to gang members (instead of throwing their sorry butts in jail), and virtually anything else you can think of that will involve spending taxpayer money. While he claims that he will reduce government waste (and which politician has ever claimed that he would increase government waste!?!), he continues to advocate programs and policies that will kill jobs, raise taxes, and destroy individual liberty.
The Economy-- D-
Individual Rights-- F-
Parker is the closest thing to a career politician in the mayoral mix. She has served on city council and as city controller. As a member of council, she had an atrocious record, supporting preservationist ordinances and "quality of life" issues. She has opposed the Ashby High Rise and declared that we need more regulations on development.
Parker has made a big issue of her management of the city's finances as controller. Yet, the city is facing a budget deficit and she has offered nothing more than a vow to cut waste (where have we heard that?). She has offered no concretes on how she will do this, and given her track record, we can be sure that she will support more government intervention into the economy and our lives.
The Economy-- D-
Individual Rights-- F-
Locke is the only candidate who is not currently an elected official, but he certainly is a political insider. He has served in numerous appointed positions, including city attorney. Because of this, he doesn't have quite the track record of Brown and Parker. For the most part, Locke is in lock-step with Brown and Parker on the issues.
Unlike Brown and Parker, Locke does seem to be reaching out to Republicans a little more than the other two Democrats. While this might be a good political strategy to get elected, it doesn't bode well for the city. The likely result will be a few more crumbs thrown to Republicans for their support, and more appeasing from the party that once had some desire to defend individual freedom.
The Economy-- D-
Individual Rights-- D-
Morales is the lone Republican in the race, yet he has garnered little support from the party. In some ways that weighs in his favor from my point of view, but he has done little to really separate himself from the Three Stooges.
Like the others, Morales says that he will combat government waste. And like the others, he hasn't told us how he will do it. (I did email him with specific suggestions, but I never heard back and he apparently has not taken my advice.)
To his credit, Morales has opposed light rail. For this he gets some points. However, he also aligned himself with TJ Huntley, whose campaign lasted about fifteen minutes. Huntley wanted to turn the mayor's office into a bully pulpit for Christianity, and this loses Morales some points.
The Economy-- C
Individual Rights-- C
Admittedly I'm not a real candidate, but I get so disgusted writing about my choices that I have to write something to cheer myself up. Back in February I announced my "virtual" candidacy. Since that time, I have continued to address the issues, not that anyone in the media cared (though the Chronicle and other local bloggers have been linking to my posts with growing frequency).
Unlike the other candidates, I provided a clearly stated set of principles. In my platform statements I explained how limiting government to its proper function of protecting individual rights would benefit the economy, allow us to reduce taxes, and improve our quality of life. Not surprisingly, I am in complete agreement with myself on these issues.
The Economy-- A+
Individual Rights-- A+
I do not know if I will vote for mayor. If I do vote, it will be for Roy Morales. He will not make the runoff, which means that I will then be faced with the decision of voting for one of the Three Stooges or abstaining. But that is a decision I can delay for at least a few months. In the meantime I will continue to work for the day when I can rate a viable candidate with something above a "C".