Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mayor Ma Parker

With a number of Neanderthals waving anti-gay signs outside the Wortham Center, Mayor Annise Parker delivered her inaugural speech on Monday. According to the Chronicle:
Parker asked her fellow citizens for their prayers, their patience, their perseverance and, noting that mistakes and failures are inevitable, “for your forgiveness in advance.” [emphasis added]
If she already knows that she is going to make mistakes, why doesn't she take steps to avoid them? Every single day of my life I undertake activities that could result in mistakes or failures. I take reasonable steps to avoid those mistakes and failures, and indeed do avoid almost all of them.

However, I occasionally neglect to promptly thank my wife for something she has done. Should I apologize each morning, "noting that mistakes and failures are inevitable", since I might commit this mistake during the course of the day? Or, on occasion I overlook some detail regarding a customer. Should I apologize to each customer at our first meeting, "noting that mistakes and failures are inevitable"? This certainly isn't an effective way to win customers.

Nor is it an effective way to instill confidence in the citizenry.

Parker went on to say:
The city of Houston is on your side. I firmly believe that our city's future will be shaped by our citizens — not our politicians. I welcome your suggestions.
I am curious who she is referring to when she says the city in on "your" side. It certainly hasn't been on the side of Buckhead Development, which has had to endure more than two years of harassment at the hands of the city. It hasn't on the side of Spec's Liquor, which had its permit for a store on Washington Avenue yanked because of a "clerical error". It hasn't been on the side of small business owners and sign companies, who have seen the city wage war against "attention-getting devices".

It hasn't been on the side of sexually-oriented businesses, or taco truck owners, or veterinarians. It hasn't been on the side of home owners, who will be forced to use more expensive bags to dispose of yard waste. It hasn't been on the side of tax payers, who have been forced to subsidize the housing and transportation costs of other citizens.

If the city isn't on the side of all of these people, who in the hell is it siding with? Fortunately, Ma Parker provides an answer:
Parker, 53, said she often is asked to compare Houston to other cities, but that the only city to which she could compare it was “the Houston in my imagination.” That city, she said, was a city of neighborhoods “where the police are known and recognized, and they in turn know the neighborhood, and we are all safer. . a city where mass transit really works. . . a city with clean and safe air. . . a city safe from the ravages of flood water. . . a city where the high school drop-out rate is insignificant.”
There is nothing wrong with having a vision--that is a necessary aspect of leadership. But let us consider what is included in Ma's vision. Safer streets are a good thing; indeed, this is an aspect of government's only legitimate purpose--protecting our rights. To this point, I'm with her.

However, I'm uncertain what she means by "a city where mass transit really works". I am assuming that she means a rail system that has more riders than collisions with automobiles. Since government shouldn't be in the transportation business, I think that this is a moot point. And it really starts to go downhill from there.

I spend a fair amount of time outdoors, and I have yet to be attacked by the air. I have had a few birds buzz by my head, but I attribute any threat to my well-being to the birds, and not the medium through which they fly. And, while I have experienced my share of flooded streets, I am not under perpetual attack by the city's bayous. So from my perspective, I would much prefer that our police be used to combat actual crime, rather than trying to protect me from air and water.

A greater concern arises with her desire to reduce the dropout rate to an insignificant level. First, the government shouldn't be in the education business. Second, given the fact that a large percentage of high school graduates are functionally illiterate, I don't see what the big deal is. Third, given the fact that public education is "free" and yet many teenagers do not take advantage of it (despite mandatory attendance laws), I am curious why she thinks that applying the same principle to transportation (light rail) will work.

The truth is, Ma Parker has a vision for the city and she is more than willing to ram it down our throats. If we don't share her vision, that is just too bad for us. She can, and has, passed laws to make us abide by her vision. She knows is best for us, and you better look out if you don't like spinach. She told the Chronicle:
I’m going to be the mom telling you to eat your vegetables and you don’t get dessert.
Ma may have made that comment facetiously, but there is much more truth to it than she would dare to admit. My mother would send me to bed without dessert if I didn't eat my veggies. Ma Parker will send you to jail if you don't take down your over-sized gorilla.

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