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dreamstimexxl6656042 Houston’s Next Mayor

Intown's Mayoral Race is wide open and upon us. Polls show that more than half of Houston voters have not decided on a candidate. Here is some insight into the qualifications and direction of the candidates who were declared at press time. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order

 

Chris Bellchrisbell

Chris Bell was born in Abilene and raised in Dallas, and is a graduate of the University of Texas and South Texas College of Law. He has lived in Houston since 1988.

Bell started his career as a television and radio news reporter, covering the courts for KTRH in Houston while attending law school. In 1992, Bell was named Best Radio Reporter in the state by the Texas Associated Press.

In 1997, Bell was elected to Houston City Council and served under mayors Bob Lanier and Lee Brown. His leadership positions on Council included chair of the Fiscal Affairs and Ethics Committees. Bell was elected to Congress in 2002 and represented Texas’ 25th Congressional District from 2003 to 2005. In his first term, he was selected as one of two freshmen to serve on the Democratic Whip Team. He served only one term in Congress, as a controversial mid-decade redistricting of Texas congressional seats made the re-election of some Houston-area Democrats difficult.

Bell ran for Governor of Texas in 2006 and made an unexpectedly strong showing against Governor Rick Perry (39 to 29%) despite two strong independent challengers.

Bell is a name partner in the litigation firm of Berg Feldman Johnson Bell, LLP.

He has served on numerous national and community boards. Having lost his mother to Parkinson’s disease, he now serves with the Houston Area Parkinson’s Society Advisory Board and nationally on the board of StemPAC.

Chris Bell and Alison Ayres Bell have been married almost 23 years and they have two boys, Atlee and Connally.

When not practicing law, Bell’s hobbies include reading, golf, jogging, walking the dogs, and entertaining friends.



Intown Questions for Chris Bell

 

Party affiliation?

 

Democrat.

 

 

Favorite Book?

 

What It Takes, by Richard Ben Cramer

 

 

Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?

 

I returned to politics after a short absence because I strongly believe Houston’s next mayor MUST be willing to create a government that makes the fourth largest city in the U.S. the most modern city in the U.S. using technology to improve service and create a more transparent government.

 

 

What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

 

I would change the way the City manages its infrastructure maintenance and repair, especially streets. We cannot let our streets deteriorate to the point where repairs are an emergency.

 

I think the Mayor has had great success in a number of areas, specifically improvements to parks and greenspace including bikeways. BARC has been significantly improved and there have been significant improvements to the City’s overall quality of life.

 

 

What will be your two top priorities as mayor?

 

Anyone elected Mayor should have the management of the City’s finances toward long-term stability as the top priority.

 

Street maintenance is a persistent issue. Making street repairs, and rebuilding streets must become routine business, and not be allowed to reach the point of needing an emergency response.

 

 

What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?

 

First, we must honor existing agreements with City employees. But we must also realistically negotiate the terms of future pensions and retirements in a way that is manageable.

 

I will not balance the City’s budget on the backs of the men and women who protect us every day, our police and firefighters.

 

 

How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

 

We have been through these cycles before, and we will weather this one. There has been significant progress in diversifying the City’s economy and employment, and so far economic indicators are showing that we are not suffering any damage from which we cannot recover.

 

 

What event or person has had the biggest influence in your life?

 

Mother, Dorothy Hyde Bell

 



Steve Costellosteve costello_1121 headshot ok

 

Steve Costello is a husband, father and grandfather who loves Houston more than any place on Earth, and wants it to be the best it can be for your kids and grandkids. While Steve believes Houston is the greatest city in the nation, he also recognizes that we can, and must, do better. That is why as your next mayor, Steve will work to fix our roads and traffic, prioritize our public safety, and protect taxpayer money. Houston is where Steve has spent most of his adult life. It is the city where he grew a successful engineering firm from scratch. And it is a diverse community he is proud to represent as an at-large member of the city council. Married to his wife Debbie for 39 years, and as a father and grandfather to two young granddaughters – Eliana and Giana, Steve believes that we must not only work to build a better Houston for the months and years ahead…but also for future generations of Houstonians yet to come. An engineer by education and trade, Steve was trained to look at problems and work to find a logical solution. His successful engineering firm, Costello, Inc. has not only helped grow hundreds of new jobs in and around Houston, it has also been named as one of the “best places to work” by the Houston Business Journal. Steve continually works to serve his neighbors and his community. He has helped protect and expand our parks and public green space through public advocacy efforts, and has also worked to cut wasteful spending, develop solutions to our many infrastructure needs, and even fought to protect our most vulnerable against dangerous “payday” lending as a member of Houston City Council.

 

Intown Questions for Steve Costello

 

Party affiliation?

 

Houstonian first, but I vote in Republican primaries

 

 

Favorite Book?


The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, by Bob Glover

 



Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?


As a professional engineer, I’m the best prepared to fix our city’s street and drainage problems. As a small businessman, at-large member of City Council and chair of the budget committee, I have the problem-solving experience to manage our city’s finances in what are projected to be some very difficult budget years.

 



What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

 

The current administration has missed the mark on implementation of the voter-approved ReBuild Houston street and drainage program. I will refocus the program to prioritize neighborhood reconstruction, and make sure maintenance issues like potholes are addressed in a timely manner. Under ReBuild we have tripled street and drainage spending as well as lowered our debt by $350 million, but we can and must do better by allowing more local input, increasing transparency and holding the city accountable for the resources we are expending.

 

 

What will be your two top priorities as mayor?


Fixing our roads and installing true pension reform to get our city budget under control.

 



What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?


The city is facing projected deficits over $100 million in each of the next 5 years. On my website, www.costelloformayor.com, you can read my detailed plan to reform our pension system in a way that is fair to both taxpayers and city employees. The end result of my plan is fully funding all three of our pension systems while also saving $200 million a year in taxpayer money that can be used to hire more police, fix our streets and provide tax relief to senior homeowners.

 



How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

 

Keep taxes low, and be proactive vs reactive when it comes to developing our infrastructure. We’ve got to find a solution to fix our streets, and we have to get the city’s finances in order so we can restore faith with credit agencies like Moody’s who recently gave us a negative outlook. As a businessman and engineer, I feel I am uniquely qualified to address those challenges.

 

 

What event or person has had the biggest influence in your life?

 

Debbie, my wife of 40 years, has been by my side through it all. Starting a family. Founding a business. Deciding to run for City Council. I once smoked 2 packs a day and weighed nearly 250 pounds. Now I run about 6 miles daily and have competed in 7 Ironman triathlons. The lowest point was when my youngest son Chris was in a near fatal car accident, and we struggled through 3 weeks of our child in a coma and over 3 months of medical rehabilitation. She put up with me through it all, and was also my inspiration during all those challenges and opportunities. None of that happens without Debbie.

 

 

Adrian Garcia ag full length photo 2015

Adrian Garcia began in public service as a Houston Police officer. After 23 years with the Department, former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier appointed Garcia to the position of HPD’s liaison to the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office. In 1999, he was named Director of this anti-gang effort. After leaving HPD, Garcia served six years as a Houston City Councilman eventually becoming Mayor Pro-Tempore under Mayor Bill White. On City Council, Garcia chaired the Public Safety and Homeland Security committee, while also serving on the Minority Business Women Enterprise, Fiscal Affairs, and Flooding and Drainage committees. In 2008, Garcia was elected Harris County Sheriff. Under Garcia’s leadership he reduced the overcrowding at the Country’s third largest jail. Garcia also brought more diversity to the department’s command staff. In 2012 Garcia was re-elected Sheriff. Garcia lead a workforce of almost 5000 employees, managed a budget of approximately $500 million dollars and reformed the office to save taxpayers millions of dollars – all while putting more officers on the streets. Garcia believes the story of his success is owed to his family, friends and numerous colleagues he has met along the way.

 

 

Intown Questions for Adrian Garcia

 

Party affiliation

Democrat

 

Favorite Book?

Leadership by Rudy Giuliani

 

Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?

A lifelong Houstonian, I am asking for the privilege of becoming the mayor of my great hometown. This city has been very good to me, and I want to make sure it remains as the city of opportunity to the next generation of Houstonians. I believe I am uniquely qualified to lead the City of Houston because I’m the only candidate in this race with executive experience. I lead, managed, and reformed a major organization, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, into savings of over $200 million dollars while keeping the streets of America’s 3 rd ­largest county safe. Throughout my entire tenure at the HCSO, I promoted diversity in hiring and a professional environment of mutual respect and trust, so that the Sheriff’s Department could best protect all residents in the most diverse and culturally rich county in America. My nearly 35 years in public service, starting as a patrol officer with the Houston Police Department, taught me a great deal about our government. From the front seat of a patrol car, you get a first­hand look at where our City is serving its residents and where it is failing to provide the services it should. My efforts to decrease gang involvement, a major national issue at that time, prompted Mayor Bob Lanier to appoint me to the Mayor's Anti­Gang Office in 1994, and within 5 years I was promoted to be the director of the program. Our efforts were tremendously successful in decreasing the gang violence plaguing Houston neighborhoods through employing creative community policing initiatives, which were centered on building trusting relationships between the patrolling officers and the community. I then took the skills that I learned as a police officer and directed them towards addressing the broader needs of our community by being elected to a seat on the Houston City Council, where I served three terms. Serving on the Council as Bill White’s Mayor Pro tem, I helped develop and pass initiatives expanding senior homestead exemptions and making homeownership more affordable because experience had taught me that neighborhoods are stronger when people can own their own homes. I had also learned from my experience as an officer that more crime could be prevented with a greater focus on timely data collection and analysis. This led me to work on creating HPD’s Real Time Crime Center, which produced immediate results in lowering crime rates. While I was an ardent supporter of METRO lightrail expansion as a councilmember, I listened carefully to the concerns of many residents about the new rail lines. Hearing concerns about the rail construction impact on longtime area businesses, I created the city’s Construction Mitigation Program to extend low interest loans to existing micro businesses who needed a little help to get through the disruptive construction period of a major infrastructure project. Throughout my tenure on City Council, I worked tirelessly and collaboratively to tackle major issues like crime prevention while also supporting the kinds of smart infrastructure and economic development initiatives that helped make Houston even greater. Voters then awarded me the honor of leading a Sheriff’s Office of almost 5,000 personnel and a budget of roughly $500 million, and in dire need of new leadership and reform. When I arrived on my first day, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office was $60 million over­ budget, and the county jail so overcrowded that taxpayers were paying over $10 million annually to house prisoners in Louisiana. By demonstrating leadership and establishing reforms aimed at progressive community policing, I was able to keep a lid on crime while delivering four straight fiscal years under budget. I was also able to dramatically lower our jail population and stop sending prisoners out of state by developing programs and partnerships to make sure that our mentally­ ill Houstonians began receiving the treatment they needed instead of yet ticket to our county jail. I am living proof of the promise of Houston, where if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get anywhere you are bold enough to dream. My career has taught me the importance of listening to the needs of all communities and how we can make our City government work efficiently to serve Houstonians with a great quality of life today, while building our infrastructure for tomorrow.

 

 

What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

Mayor Parker has done an amazing job with her aggressive implementation of programs such as Green Houston and the Bayou Greenways program. The transformation of Houston into a more sustainable city that places an emphasis on the environment, health and quality of life of our residents is something I feel obligated to continue.

 

That said, and in order to ensure the availability of proper funding for such initiatives, we need to do a better job addressing our city finances. Looking inward, the City must partner with employee groups to develop systems incorporating technology and best management practices aimed at eliminating waste or redundant operational practices. The savings of taxpayer dollars will be reprogrammed towards meeting our obligations to Houston residents, and our employees and retirees.

 

 

What will be your two top priorities as mayor?

Apart from City Finances, we also must address our Mobility and Transit needs and focus on Economic Development. We must grow our local economy for One Houston ­ Economic development that creates jobs and benefits all of Houston’s communities while allowing those who work in the City to affordably live in the City. Our economy cannot grow if our City cannot move effectively, so I plan to work on an integrated, multimodal transportation system and smart development plan that allows for more Houstonians to move by bus, bike, train, and by foot. While I plan to fix a lot more potholes than are currently being fixed, our transportation challenges will require a solution that is more complex because potholes are just one symptom of car dependence and overused roadways. I’m committed to completing the trail network and environmental restoration in our Bayou Greenways 2020 plan, which will give us the largest urban trail network in the country. I’m also committed to coordinating access to these trails with our mass transit network.

 

 

What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?

We have been operating under a structurally unbalanced budget for too long. The biggest driver of this issue is our unpaid pension obligations. While I strongly believe that we must keep our promises to current retirees and employees so that they know their retirement is secure, I believe we need to take a holistic look at all of the city finances, including pensions, to find an efficient Houston solution going forward. Some people approach the pensions as three silos outside of the city’s finances, but I feel that such an approach misses the opportunity to redefine how our pension obligations play a role in our overall city finances. My whole career has been committed to public safety, and, as an HPOPS retiree, I have personal skin in the game when it comes to any pension negotiations. I am committed to bringing all parties to the table to craft a local solution that allows for the City to keep its promises to public employees while still maintaining critical infrastructure and the hiring of the public safety personnel we need to keep Houston safe.

 

 

How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

Houston must continue to foster the expanding innovation that exists within our City.

We are not just an oil and gas town, but a hub for forward thinking minds and we need to better market this aspect of our City. In addition to energy, we have a cutting edge bio­tech industry located at our Medical Center, avant garde aerospace programs at NASA and a rapidly expanding Import Export economy facilitated through the Port of Houston.

 

 

What event or person has had the biggest influence in your life?

My Dad




Ben Hall

ben hall 2

Benjamin Hall III was born into a family of meager financial means, giving him a lifelong understanding of the struggles too many families face. Ben also struggled academically as a child, and many teachers doubted his ability to succeed in college. However, he knew his own potential and refused to compromise his goals.

Ben graduated with honors from the University of South Carolina in 1977. He continued on to Duke University, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 1979 and a Ph.D. in 1985. Ben saw an opportunity to help underrepresented communities as an attorney, and in 1986 received his law degree from Harvard Law School. From there, he began working at the Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston, Texas. He went on to serve as City Attorney for the City of Houston in Mayor Bob Lanier’s administration. For approximately three years, Ben supervised a legal department of over 200 employees and managed an annual budget of over $12 million.

In 2000, Ben founded the nationally recognized Hall Law Firm, where he fights for average people every day. Ben has used his legal practice and his specialty in personal injury law to speak out on behalf of those who need a strong voice to champion their causes. Ben and the Hall Law Firm also maintain a significant commitment to pro bono efforts on behalf of groups, corporations, and individuals in need of representation.

Ben has been married to his wife, Saundra, for 34 years. They have two sons, Benjamin IV and Zachary. Ben and Saundra are the owners of KCOH Radio (1230 AM), the oldest black talk radio station in the Greater Houston area, and KCOH-TV. Ben has been an ordained Christian minister for over 40 years.

Community Involvement/Professional Accomplishments

 

  • Life Member, NAACP
  • Sustaining Memver, Harris County Democratic Party
  • Former Board Member, Red Cross, Houston Chapter
  • Highest Rating by Peers for Legal and Ethical Competence
  • Member, American Board of Trial Adovates (ABOTA)



 

Intown Questions for Ben Hall

Party affiliation?

Democrat (Fiscal conservative)

 

Favorite Book?

Albert Schweitzer's, The Philosophy of Civilization

 

Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?

I am committed to addressing the chronic problems confronting the city for decades with creative and realistic solutions. I have both the legal and business experience to tackle these challenges without raising taxes and maximizing use of public tax dollars. I have operated four (4) successful businesses, as well as served as the Houston City Attorney for 34 month during the Lanier Administration. I have creative policy fixes for the city's fiscal and pension challenges without raising taxes and honoring legacy obligations. I favor a shift to a defined contribution pension system for all present non-vested employees.

 

What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

I will change the undisciplined use of 380 Agreements and TIRZ policies to recapture tax revenue for general use. I will also end the city's drainage fee, if this fees is not extinguished by court order. I will not enforce the present HERO ordinance without revision, if the HERO is authorized during the November election. I will end the defined benefits approach to city pensions. I will also take a constructive and serious approach to addressing drainage problems and flooding concerns .

 

What will be your two top priorities as mayor?

Stabilizing the City's finances, and immediately addressing deferred maintenance (roadway and drainage) issues.

 

What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?

Reallocate TIRZ tax revenue back into the city's general funds, grow the tax base by increasing development and growth inside the city; and reducing costs by joining governmental functions with other tax funded agencies.

 

How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

By diversity the economic base. Increased focus will be placed on international markets, growing our medical footprint and expanded maritime trade through our Port.

 

What event or person has had the biggest influence in your life?

Jesus

 

Bill King



Bill King Biographybill king cutout

A lifelong resident of the Houston area, King grew up the son of a union pipefitter and worked his way through the University of Houston. He earned his bachelor's degree and his law degree – becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. He started in 1979 in the savings and loan industry – a venture that succumbed to the severe economic downturn of the late 1980s. King joined Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson – a firm that collects delinquent taxes – and was eventually named managing partner. While there, he helped lead Houston’s efforts to convert foreclosed properties into affordable housing. King also practiced law at Bracewell & Giuliani, and served as president of Southwest Airport Services, a fixed-base operator located at Ellington Air Force Base, from 1999 until February of this year. King served two terms as Mayor of Kemah, Texas, where he helped re-draw hurricane and disaster response plans. For his leadership, he was awarded the Outstanding Service Award from the National Hurricane Conference in 2007. Bill also wrote a public policy column for the Houston Chronicle from 2010 to 2014. King was one of three co-founders of the Houston Fire Fighters Foundation. In 2012, Bill co-chaired the HISD bond campaign to rebuild its dilapidated high schools throughout the city. King has served on the board of Interfaith Ministries and the Memorial Hermann Foundation.




Intown Questions for Bill King

Party affiliation? Favorite Book?

None. Unapologetically Moderate

 

 

Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?

This city has been good to me, and I want to give back by putting my 40 years of experience in business and public service to work addressing the tough challenges facing Houston. I will get City Hall back to basics by fixing the streets, catching the crooks, and balancing the budget.

 

 

What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

I am encouraged that this administration has made some significant progress on the park system, particularly along Buffalo Bayou. I hope to continue--perhaps even finish--our linear park system that has been in the works for decades.

 

Unfortunately, the current administration has not been able to tackle the looming pension crisis, nor has it taken other necessary steps to stabilize the City's finances. The recent debt downgrade from Moody's Investor Service should be a wake-up call to Houston's leaders that the City needs to learn to live within its means — and that the next Mayor must will willing and able to fix these tough problems.

 

 

What will be your two top priorities as mayor?

The City must start taking concrete steps toward a balanced budget, or it will be very difficult to find resources for new initiatives — or even some basic services. Shelving pricey boondoggles like the Post Oak dedicated bus lane and addressing the over $70 million that the City spends each year on overtime pay are just a couple of the measures that I have identified to help fix the City's balance sheet.

 

Infrastructure problems in Houston have reached the point of a crisis. Cost savings from other programs should be immediately dedicated to pothole repair until Houston streets and sidewalks are back up to standards.

 

 

What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?

I do not support pension changes for any CURRENT retirees or employees. A deal is a deal. But newly-hired city employees should start with a 401k-style defined-contribution retirement plan. The cost to the City is so much less that we can offer signing bonuses and other incentives to attract the best possible people. Studies show, and HPD Chief McClelland recently told City Council, that signing bonuses mean more to young workers than expensive pension plans.

 

 

How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

Houston has other vibrant economic sectors, like medicine, that can help to drive the economy in a time of lower oil prices. But there is no getting around the fact that lower energy prices have caused some hardships here, and there is always a possibility that things may get worse before they get better.

 

That's why I want to get City Hall back to basics with sensible financial decisions and balanced budgets. If tougher times do come along, we don't want to harm the local economy and taxpayers with drastic cuts to payroll and services.

 

The city needs to constantly seek out ways to develop new economic strengths. My vision is to leverage our already-substantial medical and scientific expertise to help the Texas Medical Center and surrounding areas become the “Silicon Valley of Biotech.”

 

 

What event or person has had the biggest influence in your life?

When the savings and loan crisis hit back in the 1980s, I was brought close to financial ruin. It was my friends from around Houston who encouraged me to dust myself off and get back in the game, and since then I have been blessed with some great successes. These events taught me about the value of resiliency in the face of adversity, but I also learned a lot about the caring, giving, adventurous, and entrepreneurial spirit of Houston. If we keep in mind that this city dredged a ship channel 50 miles inland and sent a man to the moon, then we can't help but have confidence that Houston will always overcome the challenges it faces.

 

Marty McVeymcvey

 

Marty McVey is a 41-year-old entrepreneur with more than 15 years of international business development, leadership in creating new businesses through direct financial investments, as well as recognized social justice expertise. In 2011, he was appointed by President Barack Obama as a Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD). USAID plays a critical role in US efforts in stabilizing regions and building responsive local governance; the agency addresses many of the same problems as military interventions but uses a different set of tools. USAID extends help from the American people to achieve results for the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. Responsibilities with the agency include providing guidance to the federal government regarding investments in training, research, and technology transfer to developing countries. McVey founded a private equity firm that spurred the creation of award-winning businesses in the Real Estate, Clean Energy Services and Healthcare sectors. Mr. McVey is also a licensed Real Estate Broker in Texas. McVey has been guest lecturer at the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University, Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri, the Moody College of Business at the University of Louisiana, the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, the Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University, the Center for International Studies at the University of St. Thomas, the Center for International and Comparative Studies at the University of Houston among others. Mr. McVey earned a Bachelor and Master of Business Administration, from American University. He received his Global Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University as well as a Master Universitario en Administración Empresas from Esade University in Madrid, Spain. Additionally Mr. McVey completed Harvard Business School's Developing Future Leaders' Program.

 

 

Intown Questions for Marty McVey

Party affiliation?

Democrat

 

 

Favorite Book?

The Art of Happiness by Dr. Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama

 

 

Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?

For the last ten years, we have been talking about pensions, crumbling infrastructures and the massive debt service that Houston has accumulated. My expertise as a businessman and my experience on USAID of oversight of $22 billion demonstrates a proven record of implementing new strategies and cost-effective solutions. It's time for a business leader to become the CEO of the City of Houston, using sound business policies rather than politics.

 

 

What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

I want to establish a true all-encompassing Office of Economic Opportunity that will recruit new national and international businesses which include selected manufacturing that is eco-friendly along with technology startup companies. These companies would expand into underserved neighborhoods providing better paying jobs, multi-generational housing, mixed housing neighborhoods and city-sponsored community centers for health, wellness and training. Through the Office of Economic Opportunity, there will be a division for grant recruitment and a "Whole of Government" liaison that will reach out to all government entities, county, state and federal, to maximize tax dollars.

 

 

What will be your two top priorities as mayor?

“Economic development that attracts national and international clean manufacturing and technology to Houston producing tax revenues. Infrastructure to protect our crumbling streets, drainage and sewer. I also want to modernize our public safety departments of police and fire. Those affect all of us; we need to make sure our city is protected.

 

What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?

 

I want to expand the encouraging development underway now in Houston's East End and on the South side to bring in more partnerships with the private sector that will support effective programming.

 

 

How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

Diversify.

 

 

What event or person has had the biggest influence in your life?

 

My father, who is a retired police officer, had a great influence on my life. Historically, I admire the contributions of President Theodore Roosevelt to our country.

 

 

Demetria Smithdimitria

 

Demetria Smith is a Houston native and a small financial business owner with a background in mortgage finance/lending. Smith feels her candidacy has been excluded until recently and that the mistreatment was unfair to herself, women, and Houstonians as a whole. Smith has been a strong advocate for groups often overlooked by the political establishment, especially those near the poverty threshold -- women, children, and individuals with criminal records attempting to return to the workforce. Earlier this year, Smith lobbied heavily for House Bill 418, which was approved in May and addresses child trafficking and the immediacy with which victims can be placed into care. A mother of six and grandmother of four, Smith understands the importance of providing assistance for single mothers and others in the community who struggle to become independent from government assistance. She is a parent's’ rights advocate who not only lobbied for a bill to protect families from being bullied by child protective services, but also educates parents on their rights and how to fight unfair practices in order to regain custody of their children. Much of Smith's focus on poverty-stricken communities involves initiatives that help citizens become homeowners. “To generate wealth is to fight against poverty,” Smith maintains. She is applying her skills acquired in the financial lending industry to take on many of the poverty-related issues affecting the city. She is promoting financial literacy to families throughout the city, and lobbying to remove discriminatory individuals from their positions when they have failed to serve their communities.

 

 

Intown Questions for Demetria Smith

 

Party Affiliation?

Democrat

 

 

Favorite Book?

Holy Bible

 

 

Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?

Because I’ll be working together for the common good of all people, fighting against poverty, oppression, and injustice.

 

 

What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

I want to change the bathroom section of the HERO ordinance. I do not support the opposite sex sharing the same restrooms for public safety concerns.

 

 

What will be your top two priorities as mayor?

My top two priorities are to bring wealth to the city by creating wealth for our citizens while promoting home ownership, and to bridge the gap between our communities and law enforcement by introducing the H.E.A.L. Initiative. Help, Empowering, Accountability, and Leadership within our police department.

 

 

What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget, without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?

I will balance the budget by first taking a look at the city’s deficits, looking to address specific issues affecting the economy in those areas. I think it is key to promote more homeownership, small businesses, and create jobs that will pay above the income poverty threshold while giving citizens the opportunity to be skillfully trained for the demands of the job market.

 

 

How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

To sustain growth is to invest in our citizens by giving them the buying power that they deserve through our citizens qualifications and financial literacy programs. I also think it is very important to get ex offenders back to work, contributing to our economy.

 

 

What event or person has had the biggest influence on your life?

I find empowerment in myself, due to my passion and compassion for the people. I love all mankind, all lives matter. My understanding relates to the needs of the people of poverty. My inner strength and determination have truly helped my through my failures and struggles, along with my faith in God. I believe in my ability and am confident in all I can accomplish for our city as Houston Mayor.

 

 

Sylvester Turnersylvesterturner

 

Sylvester Turner was born and raised in Houston. Sylvester’s mother worked as a maid and his father worked as a painter and on the weekends, cut yards with his sons to make extra money. Sylvester lost his father to cancer when he was 13 years old. Turner attended public schools and went on to attend the University of Houston and Harvard Law School before joining the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski. He later founded the Barnes & Turner and in 1988, was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. He is a member of the Legislative Budget Board; Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Committee; Chair of the Subcommittee on General Government, Judiciary, Public Safety and Criminal Justice; and a member of the House State Affairs Committee. He also chairs the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and the Greater Houston Area Legislative Delegation. Texas Monthly Magazine named him one of Texas’ Ten Best Legislators in 2015. Sylvester was able to free up funds collected but not spent for trauma care centers around the state. Turner has fought to prohibit retail electric providers from charging minimum usage fees. He did not win that battle but the Public Utility Commission, seeing the positive response to his proposed bill, now allows citizens to see that information more clearly on its Power to Choose website. From 2003 to 2009, Sylvester served as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House. He chaired the House Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee and the House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike Storm Devastation, and served as a member of the House Calendars Committee and the House Select Committee on Electric Generation Capacity and Environmental Effects.

 

Intown Questions for Sylvester Turner



Party affiliation?

Democrat.

 

 

Favorite Book?

My favorite book is the Bible. I believe I would not have been successful in my life without the help of God. I was raised in a religious home and I am very active with my church, the Church Without Walls, with Pastor Ralph West.

 

 

Why should you be the next mayor of Houston?

I am running for mayor to make sure that today’s young people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, just like I did. That starts with providing a city that is well run, clean and safe, with an infrastructure that supports a good quality of life – and that treats everyone who lives here equally and with dignity and respect.

 

I have represented Houston in the Texas House of Representatives since 1988 and am the only candidate with 26 years of expertise with respect to the details of government. I have worked with Mayor Annise Parker and many others before her to advance the City of Houston’s priorities in the Legislature. Over the years as a legislator, I have fought to bring home hundreds of millions of dollars for the benefit of Houston. I am also the only candidate with a 26-year history of working with different voices and interests for the good of the people of Houston. I have a proven ability to work with leaders from every community to achieve results. For example, the relationships that I have built with Democrats and Republicans at the state level and with liberal and conservative faith leaders locally have been instrumental in my ability to win and protect gains with respect to civil rights and equality. None of my opponents has a similar record of results for our community.

 

 

What policies or direction of Mayor Parker will you continue or change?

I will work to bring our city together to build upon the progress we’ve made in recent years. Some of the areas I will focus on include: Economic empowerment. As stated elsewhere in this questionnaire, young people are the ones who are hardest hit by economic stagnation and our growing income inequality. When I was growing up in Houston, I believed that every opportunity existed for me to achieve my dreams. I want today’s young people to have that same opportunity to advance. That is why my very first policy proposal as a mayoral candidate, Road to the Future, includes plans for providing jobs and career training to young workers. You can read more about this proposal at www.sylvesterturner.com/future.

 

Public safety. Rebuilding the trust between HPD and Houston’s diverse communities, including our youth, is one of the most critically important issues facing our city today. As mayor, I will work to return Houston to a community-policing model that forges real connections between officers and the communities they serve; to make that model work, I will push to increase the number of officers on the streets. I will also work to increase the accountability of the police to the general public by funding the body-camera program that has long been proposed. Step one toward accomplishing these necessary changes is securing the resources we need. We must be open to exploring alternative sources of revenue, including potentially lifting the revenue cap, for these critical public safety improvements. You can read more about my public safety proposal at www.sylvesterturner.com/partners-in-safety.

 

Basic city investments. Our most visible infrastructure problem is the terrible condition of our roads. For example, Mayor Parker has rightly called the state of our roads a “crisis situation.” She has acknowledged that we need to strike a better balance between emergency road repairs and long-term road projects that take longer to complete. During the drought, the city implemented a quick-action model to repair water leaks – it wasn’t perfect, but we should look at that model, as well as the county’s 24-hour pothole repair unit, and craft our own program for rapid-response pothole repairs.

The next mayor will need to do a careful and thoughtful review of the city’s entire financial portfolio; I am the candidate with the experience and judgment to lead that effort.

 

 

What will be your two top priorities as mayor?

There is a top tier of challenges that our next mayor will need to address, including the need for safer neighborhoods, improved roads and infrastructure, stronger support for our public schools and careful management of our budget. Those are all top priorities for me.

 

I would add to that list a big challenge that my opponents are not addressing: ensuring that Houston’s progress and promise are truly benefitting all of our communities, not just a select few. We are a world-class city with the resources and wherewithal to meet the fundamental needs of all of our families and to provide real opportunity in every community. But right now, Houston’s economy is working a lot better for some of our communities than for others. In fact, economic inequality has sharply increased here over the past 30 years and too many Houstonians are shut out of our prosperity. Our economy is strongest when our middle class is thriving and when all our residents have access to good-paying jobs. Making the long-term strategic decisions that will expand opportunity throughout the city is the key responsibility of our next mayor.

 

What are some of the ways you will work to balance the budget without sacrificing safety and benefits for city employees?

Like cities across the country, Houston is facing a tough budget climate. Our ongoing cycle of shortfalls and short-term fixes is unsustainable. What is needed is a new, comprehensive strategy for revenue growth. Targeting one source of revenue, like fee increases, will not create the sustainable growth that we need. Instead, closing our budget gap will require a holistic strategy. We must maximize our resources by cutting waste and spending inefficiencies. One potential way of achieving this is to implement performance measures with specific targets and outcomes to measure progress and even to consider the limited implementation of zero-based budgeting for some departments. Additionally, we must explore alternative sources of revenue, such as lifting the revenue cap for certain limited purposes such has hiring more police officers as part of a community policing strategy. And, ultimately, we must grow our tax base to keep our city thriving. This means both employing the judicious use of incentive funding to attract new businesses to Houston and making the needed investments in our infrastructure, our public safety, our education system and more, that will make businesses and their employees want to stay here. Changes to existing budget allocations should be made in a deliberative process that includes all affected stakeholders.

 

 

How do you sustain Houston’s growth in a low oil price environment?

As mayor, I will pursue a vision of economic growth and stability throughout the city, meaning:

  • Neighborhoods where families can afford to live, with amenities families need, including strong schools, retail, and transit

  • Using all the tools at my disposal, including the responsible use of business incentives, to encourage job growth and development within city boundaries, and especially close-in to the city center

  • Prioritizing the development of affordable, livable workforce housing to support business growth.

  • To achieve these goals, I will apply the following strategies:
  • Regulatory certainty through long-term planning.

  • We have to decide what we want this city to be, then act accordingly by targeting our incentives and investment to achieve those outcomes. Then, just as importantly, we have to let business and industry know what those goals are. The one thing that all investors are looking for is certainty. Too often in the past, our city incentive strategy has been ad hoc and reactive. I will make sure that, when companies come to Houston, they know exactly how we can help them and how they can help us.

  • A focus on the key needs of the middle-class: infrastructure, education, housing, retail.

  • First, it creates the kinds of pleasant, livable communities that we want to see, where people can raise families and enjoy their experiences.

  • Second, it attracts business development and encourages job growth. When major companies consider moving to Houston, they aren’t just looking for tax incentives. They want to know whether their employees will be able to send their children to good schools and whether they’ll have something interesting to do on the weekends. They want to know that the roads are well-maintained so that their employees won’t be stuck in traffic every day. They want to know that our school system has done a good job in training potential new hires. If we don’t want to be on the losing end of some of these calculations, we need to be willing to make the basic investments that these corporations expect to see.

  • The focus on basic middle-class needs has a two-fold benefit:

  • Working with neighborhoods to implement their ideas.

  • Let’s face it: the people who live and work in our neighborhoods every day are the best judges of their own needs. Many of the development ideas that we’re looking to see – proposals for mixed use development near transit lines, proposals for industrial conversions – have already been created by these neighborhood development groups. As mayor, I will make sure that those voices are at the table in a significant way.




What event or person has had the biggest influence in your life?

When my father passed away when I was 13, my mother became “the captain of the ship.” She would come home from her job as a maid at the Rice Hotel and make sure that all nine of her children had what they needed to succeed. She couldn’t drive but she ensured that we got where we needed to go and if a neighbor drove us somewhere, my mom would insist on paying. I could not have attended Harvard Law School without my mother signing the loan papers. So when I graduated, the one person I wanted at the ceremony was my mom. It was her one and only plane ride. Mom said she would visit her children at our homes but on the major holidays, we all had to come back to 3005 Stallings, the house she and my father bought in 1954 in Acres Homes. She said if it was good enough to have raised us in, it was good enough for her grandchildren. My mother was ill for the last few years of her life. At one point, it was suggested we put her in hospice. But she insisted on coming home and she lived several more years after that. My mom passed away this past December, still living in that same home.