Friday, December 4, 2009

Forrest Gump for Mayor of Houston

On Tuesday mayoral candidates Annise Parker and Gene Locke engaged in a round of name calling and finger pointing as they desperately position themselves for the upcoming runoff. As is usually the case in these types of "debates", both candidates danced all around the real issues.

For example, Parker raised the issue of Locke's association with the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. This is certainly a legitimate issue, but Parker limits herself to its superficial aspects, rather than addressing the underlying premise.

Locke has apparently made a very healthy living representing the sports authority in its efforts to build a number of sports arenas. More recently, he has been pushing for a new stadium for the Dynamos soccer team. Parker does not question government involvement in building these stadiums--as a member of city council she supported bonds for Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center. She merely questions the city's involvement in specific projects. In other words, she has no principled opposition to the use of tax money for the purpose of building glorified playgrounds.

Consequently, all she can do is argue that a particular project is a bad deal, and this is precisely the tact she has been taking in regard to the Dynamos stadium--it isn't prudent now. The Chronicle reports on an exchange between the two during a debate on Tuesday night:

When Parker blamed Locke for the sports authority's financial challenges, he said the stadiums are “crown jewels” for the city and said she was “hypocritical” in attacking him because she approved the plan to build them as a council member.

“Your name is actually on the plaque at one of the stadiums,” he said.

Parker claimed she never voted to approve bonds for Reliant Stadium, only the more financially sound Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center, an assertion Locke immediately challenged.

This concrete-bound bickering might be entertaining in a different context, but one of these people will be the next mayor of Houston. While Locke offers to steal our money for the purpose of building large tiaras, Parker can only meekly complain that sometimes that isn't a good idea. And sometimes it is.

This absence of principles leaves both candidates continually flapping in the political wind trying to determine what position to take. Of course, the politically "safe" (and typical) thing to do is to say whatever will please the particular group you are speaking to at the moment. Consider their joint appearance at The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) on Monday. The Chronicle tells us:
Mayoral candidates Gene Locke and Annise Parker took turns making promises Monday night to a local community activist group that presented them with its wish list of priorities for the next administration.
Ignoring the fact that their sole purpose as mayor is the protection of individual rights, both are eager to spend our money for the "wish lists" of politically powerful groups such as TMO. Ignoring the fact that these wishes are paid for by tax paying individuals, they gleefully stick their nose up the butt of anyone who offers the potential of political support.

While both candidates have vowed to "do something" about flooding, crime, transportation, and myriad other issues, neither has offered much more than vague generalities. On occasion they have accidentally offered a few details, but who can be assured that these aren't subject to change. Both are like a box of chocolates--you never know what you are going to get.

No comments: