Exactly one week from today, on November 3, 2009, there will be an election held across Texas. On the ballot are several Texas constitutional amendment votes and many cities across the state, including my hometown of Houston, will be holding local elections.
Texan or otherwise, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone with elections coming up to get out and vote. We can’t bring sanity back to our officials if we don’t know who we’re voting for or if we simply don’t care enough to participate. Voting is the first and best step to moving our country forward in a rational, responsible way. If you aren’t voting, you are accepting the government just the way it is, no questions asked. Complaining when you don’t bother to vote is as hypocritical as it is ineffectual.
Without further adieu, I’m pleased to present my endorsements for the 2009 Houston election.
Houston Mayoral Race
There are 7 names on the ballot for the Houston mayoral election. Only two of the candidates are conservative. Dan Cupp is not a serious candidate and Roy Morales is polling with less than 6% right now. Effectively, this means that there are no conservative candidates in the running with a real shot at winning. Despite this, however, there is a good pick in this election: Annise Parker. She may be a Democrat, but Annise Parker has two really good things going for her.
Firstly, she is the current Comptroller of Houston and has a solid track record of fiscal conservatism and financial responsibility. The Comptroller’s office is responsible for tracking where money is spent and auditing public accounts. In this capacity she’s spent the last 5 years tracking down waste, corruption and bureaucratic mismanagement. She knows the city’s budget. She knows where the money is coming from, where it’s going, and the actuarial side of government.
Secondly, she has a really good chance to win a runoff against the front-runner, Peter Brown. Brown is also a Democrat, but he’s far more liberal. While he’s been leading the race, he’s been spending millions of his own money to get that lead. The sheer number of candidates means that the race will almost certainly result in a runoff, and there’s no one better positioned to defeat him than Parker. Voting for her now ensures a fiscally responsible candidate a place in the runoff where she’ll be the strongest and most likely to defeat her liberal opponent.
All in all, I think Parker is a fairly good candidate in her own right, but when one takes into account the fact that there are no good conservative candidates, the fact that she’s the most conservative Democrat in the room, and the fact that she has a good shot at winning, I think she’s definitely the play to make.
Houston Comptroller Race
For the position of Houston City Comptroller, Pam Holm is my hands down favorite. There are two Republicans in the race, Holm and M. J. Khan. In all honestly, I don’t really know much about Holm, but here’s what I know about her opponents:
Khan, a Republican, and his wife have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaign of Sheila Jackson-Lee. For those of you unfamiliar with Texas politics (this is typically a political blog focusing on national issues, after all), the ultra-liberal Sheila Jackson-Lee is the ego-maniacal and blatantly racist Congresswoman from Houston who chats on her cell phone during town hall meetings instead of listening to constituents, constantly screams down her own aides, and gets chauffeured down the one block between her residence and office at tax payer expense. She’s suggested using more African-American sounding names for hurricanes because a hurricane is a strong, dangerous thing and the current names are too “lily white.” She’s proposed lifting a ban on exporting F-16 fighter jets to Venezuela, wants to use tax dollars to provide free health care to illegal immigrants, co-sponsored a program to use government money to distribute syringes to drug addicts (I’m not joking, it’s HR 179), consistently votes against opening up new sources of oil and gas production including allowing the construction of new refineries and offshore drilling, has a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO for her pro-labor vote (oh, and bonus: Houston isn’t even a union town), and has even been slammed by Nancy Pelosi for being completely insane.
Normally I’m not one to serve up guilt by association, but here’s the way I see it: Sheila Jackson-Lee is, in my book, easily one of the most loathsome members of Congress. She is the paragon of liberal psycho whrablgrabl. And the Khan family, theoretically conservative, is giving her thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. That means that, on some level, they support, approve, and seek to enable her. That means they somehow think that Sheila Jackson-Lee is their preferred representative. It, frankly, is a disgrace. I won’t vote for anyone who even remotely believes that hers is the style and direction of leadership this country needs.
As for Ronald Green, well, I’ll put it like this: He’s running to be the CFO for the city of Houston, but public federal tax lien documents filed earlier this year show he currently owes over $120k in back taxes and in 2000 a business he owned was shut down for not filing taxes. I suppose that sort of thing is becoming par for the course for Democrats in Washington, but I’m vaguely hoping that we Houstonians have more sense than that. Then again, with 56% of people undecided with less than a week to go before the vote, anything could happen.
Houston At Large City Council Positions
At Large 1 – Rick Rodriguez
At Large 2 – Michael “Griff” Griffin
At Large 4 – Curtis Garmon
At Large 5 – Jack Christie
There isn’t a whole lot to say about this list except for the At Large 1 position. I support Rick Rodriguez, a Democrat, because of his relatively conservative platform and his experience as a 24-year member of the Houston Police Department. For those of you who don’t know, Houston has an absolutely inept crime lab that consistently botches cases and HPD has an impossibly difficult time recruiting new officers. Anyone running for any office whatsoever campaigns in favor of increasing the number of officers on patrol. While that’s a good thing, it’s not like we just have to pass a few measures and, voila, we get new police officers. We’ve been short staffed for years and, despite their best efforts, City Council has been completely unable to do anything about it. There aren’t very many people who have ideas and experience actually dealing with these problems. I think he has something to offer City Council that the others running for that seat are missing.
Texas Constitutional Amendments
The constitutional amendment authorizing the financing, including through tax increment financing, of the acquisition by municipalities and counties of buffer areas or open spaces adjacent to a military installation for the prevention of encroachment or for the construction of roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure to protect or promote the mission of the military installation.
Reason: There’s no real need for counties to purchase buffer zones for federal military installations. One would think if there was some sort of compelling interest to expand a base or a security need to erect a buffer zone next to one, that decision would be made by defense officials and either the state legislature (in the case of National Guard facilities) or Congress (in the case of our national armed services) and not county politicians. In either case, there’s no real reason to increase property taxes to fund bonds to do it. Those bases aren’t simply county resources – they provide for the protection and well being of the entire state and expecting local counties to increase taxes for the benefit of wider population which would be an undue burden to the residents of those areas.
The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for the ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property’s value as a residence homestead.
Reason: Capping property taxes at actual value instead of some theoretical value is completely reasonable while the reverse is completely insane. It’s all well and good for a piece of land to be worth more as an office building than it would be as a home, but it’s not an office building. It’s a home. Taxing property as anything other than what it is actually worth is completely absurd.
The constitutional amendment providing for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for ad valorem tax purposes.
Reason: Taxation should be fair and uniform. Allowing the state to tax at one rate for one area and another rate for another area while providing the same level services to both areas is absolutely unfair.
The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund.
Position: Ambivalent, leaning towards for.
Reason: The legislature already has a program like this in place, but that program is not currently active due to a clause in the bill that established it. This amendment would scrap that program and transfer the money currently in it to another account and use the interest from that account to create a new research fund thereby keeping the whole thing budget neutral and shifting the money from the State Comptroller’s office (who could, in theory, decide to spend it however they wanted to as long as it promoted education) to top tier universities. I rather tend to think that money that the government doesn’t need should be returned to the people – but I also tend to think that there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of that ever happening. If it has to be spent, Prop 4 is a reasonable and responsible way to do it that gives something back to society.
The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to authorize a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that elect to provide for consolidated equalizations.
Reason: The economic reality is that smaller counties just don’t need a full time appraisal staff. Giving the state the ability to consolidate these boards makes logistical and fiscal sense.
The constitutional amendment authorizing the Veterans’ Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized.
Reason: While I support this nation’s veterans wholeheartedly, it’s not the state’s job to play mortgage company – it’s bad enough when the feds do it with Freddie and Fannie. I also happen to think that the legislature should be able to exercise the ultimate authority to authorize – or not authorize – funds for state agencies. In essence, this amendment creates a permanent bond program (interest on bonds is paid by the taxpayer – amounting to a new and permanent tax) that is unable to ever be stopped without another constitutional amendment. We simply cannot allow an agency to perpetuate a tax without legislative oversight to fund a program that shouldn’t be a government concern in the first place.
The constitutional amendment to allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices.
Reason: The separation of powers is vitally important to the safety and stability of the government. The last thing I want to see is a mix of military and civilian hierarchies.
What happens when a county commissioner has to take orders from his commanding officer about the placement of sandbags and he happens to think that building is more important to his constituents? What happens when a mayor gets to order the national guards under his command to supplement his police force? What happens when the state comptroller gets sent to Iraq for a few months?
The military is a strict, no questions asked hierarchy. When your commander gives you an order, the next words out of your mouth are, “Yes, sir!” Civil servants run our government. They make decisions, implement policy, and have checks, balances, and clearly defined areas of responsibility. Both have to be in place during a crisis (you can’t have just one and expect things to work) and they have to be independent of one another. You can’t simply send one away and expect government to function. You can’t tear down those walls separating military from civilian.
I love our military. I don’t have a problem with retired members of the military who are still under contract serving the government in an official capacity – and I would support that amendment in a heartbeat – but having active and reserve military in bureaucratic or civilian leadership positions is a line I simply cannot cross.
The constitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans hospitals in this state.
Reason: The state already has such authority. Actually, not only do they already have this authority, they have already set up at least one such hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. I don’t really see the rhyme or reason for this amendment except to make absolutely clear that which is already law.
The constitutional amendment to protect the right of the public, individually and collectively, to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico.
Position: Irrelevant, but against it anyway.
Reason: This amendment is already state law. I also happen to thoroughly disagree with this law. Basically, the law of the land as it currently stands is a crime against private property owners everywhere. It strips land owners of property without recourse and legally protects the “rights” of squatters and trespassers. This amendment would turn an already abusive law into an abusive constitutional amendment.
The constitutional amendment to provide that elected members of the governing boards of emergency services districts may serve terms not to exceed four years.
Reason: Currently, these are two year positions filled by appointments made by the county commissioners (except in Harris County, which is the only county where they are elected). This amendment changes their terms from two years to four years. Opponents to this amendment say that it makes the governing boards less responsive to the will of the people by insulating them from the democratic process. I say hooey. I doubt very many people could even name the chairman of their board of emergency services, let alone explain who they would vote for next year. I certainly couldn’t, and I’m a politics nut. The fact of the matter is that these obscure boards have very little to do with democracy. They are, in fact, patronage positions and what this amendment does is insulate them from having to suck up to keep their jobs. Frankly, the less schmoozing they have to do for their jobs, the better.
The constitutional amendment to prohibit the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for public use unless the action is for the ownership, use, and enjoyment of the property by the State, a political subdivision of the State, the public at large, or entities granted the power of eminent domain under law or for the elimination of urban blight on a particular parcel of property, but not for certain economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes, and to limit the legislature’s authority to grant the power of eminent domain to an entity.
Position: Irrelevant, but in favor anyway.
Reason: This amendment is already state law. This proposition simply strengthens the law of the land to make it more resistant to change. I happen to think eminent domain is one of those necessary evils that should only be evoked for the most pressing of needs. I also happen to think that eminent domain is too readily abused and that tight restrictions should be placed on its use. I’m supporting this amendment because I think those restrictions are important and the harder it is to repeal them, the better off we are.