Where Tony Stands
Pay to play and corruption at City Hall must be stopped. Tony is taking NO campaign donations, seeking NO endorsements, and will give away his entire salary as Mayor to a voter.
Ending Pay to Play & the Rampant Corruption at City Hall
Houston needs a trustworthy Mayor who will work for everyday Houstonians. Too often City Hall politicians – including our current mayor – prioritize their contributors, old business partners and friends over the public good. Just one example: the current mayor pushed through a $35 million contract that included a $6.7 million payment for his former law partner. Abuses like this must end!
As mayor I will demand real and meaningful ethics reform. That won’t just start when I am elected mayor. I decided to lead by example from day one of my campaign. I will not accept any contributions or seek out the endorsement of any of special interests. I am 100% self-funding my campaign. I will only work for you, my fellow Houstonians.
I will also donate my entire mayoral salary to a randomly selected Houstonian every year or to a community or cause. We can all be involved in that decision!! I will also work to lower the mayoral salary for the long term. Houston has one of the highest mayoral salaries in the country – some of that money would be better spent on neighborhood services.
As Mayor I will also launch a petition to ask Houstonians to place a measure on the ballot that would end the practice of rewarding big campaign contributors with city contracts. Contracting with the city should be based on merit, and merit alone — not who you know or who gave money to the mayor or council. My position is simple: If you donate to a politician at city hall, you will be banned for one year from getting a contract with, or working for, the city—period.
As stated above, the first thing I’ll do is end the pay to play politics as usual at city hall. That means no more contracts for campaign contributors, and more transparency and accountability for lobbyists and politicians. Because no actual enforcement mechanism exists to regulate lobbyists many who lobby don’t even bother to register, set forth conflicts of interest, or report expenditures. I will make sure all who lobby actually register as such. Too many times we see council and the mayor at major sporting events and concerts. Although it is nice that our public officials are in attendance, we have a right to know who is paying for this. As mayor, we will have a much more rigorous enforcement of the gifts and perks that public officials receive and more stringent reporting for city lobbyists. I will put in place an actual enforcement mechanism to make sure those who lobby play by the rules. And, frankly, I won’t be lobbied.
I intend to make Houston a truly open government. Every Houstonian should know exactly where their tax dollars are going. I’ll implement full online disclosure for all tax dollars so that you, the media and the government watchdogs can hold the mayor and council accountable for public funds. Not only expenditures from the general fund, but also from enterprise funds. Due to transparency, we’ll see reductions in waste, fraud and abuse once politicians and bureaucrats know our public funds are actually being monitored and tracked.
I will also appoint an independent auditor and work to make the position permanent in the city charter so that future mayors and city councils always have independent oversight. This auditing arm will be able to audit more than just budgets and expenditures; it will be able to audit processes, such as pothole repair, permitting time, police response time, and actual live release rates from our shelters, among other things. Having an independent auditing arm will aid greatly in rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse at city hall.
With these reforms in place, we could be the first city in the country to have a true clean government, not subject to campaign finance influence, back door deals, or improper lobbying. Wouldn’t you like Houston to be known for that, rather than flooding or sexual trafficking? I certainly would. These reforms are required to ensure maximum transparency and public official accountability – the key to good government.
Houston voters decided firefighters deserve a raise. Tony will stop spending city money on waste and lawsuits, and instead will keep his word and give them their raise.
Prop B and Pay Parity
Prop B and Pay Parity will continue to be a major issue in the mayor’s race. I have been very clear about where I stand on this issue. To me, its more than a matter of fairness to the firefighters, it’s a matter of following the will of the voters. Perhaps an abbreviated history is in order:
Years back, there used to be pay parity between the firefighters and police. That, for whatever reason, changed. Some argue parity changed because the firefighters were more willing to protect their pension benefits than were the police and municipal workers, so they agreed to accept fewer pay increases to ensure that there was a funded pension in place. The police and municipal workers, on the other hand, continued to receive pay increases, while at the same time allowed changes to pension benefits or allowed the city to get away without making its required contribution to their pensions. No matter the reason, it is clear now that Houston firefighters get paid significantly less than their counterparts in other major cities. Moreover, according to the fire union, while the police have received raises over an approximate ten-year period of more than 35%, the firefighters have received 3%.
During the last mayoral election cycle, the firefighters endorsed Mayor Turner and worked very hard to elect him. Turner made many promises to the fire union. Turner ultimately won by approximately 4,000 votes, and the firefighters would argue that they had a significant role in that win. Almost as soon as he was elected, Turner worked with his colleagues in Austin to address the impending pension crisis. In so doing, the firefighters argue that he took from their almost fully funded pension, and used that money to help fix the failing pensions of both the police and municipal workers. Needless to say, the firefighters were not happy, and rightly felt betrayed by Turner.
As one would expect, when it came time for the firefighter union to negotiate with the city for a new contract, there were already hard feelings because of the pension issue. According to the fire union, the city refused to reasonably negotiate. No matter what actually happened, what is clear is that an impasse was reached. Once there was an impasse, the fire union requested arbitration. The city refused. At this point, the fire union decided to take matters in their own hands and seek pay parity with the voters, via Prop B. After quickly collecting the required signatures, the fire union presented them to the city. Nothing happened, despite tens of thousands of Houstonians indicating through petition that Prop B at least deserved a vote. Because the city refused to certify the petition signatures, the fire union then was forced to sue the city and Mayor Turner to force the city to put Prop B on the ballot. That lawsuit succeeded. Mayor Turner’s inability to competently handle the issue with the firefighters was a major failure. There should have never been a situation where a large segment of city workers, whose budget exceeds $500 million, should feel compelled to go to the ballot box for a raise. A mayor is supposed to lead. Turner did not.
The election surrounding Prop B was very heated. The firefighters worked very hard to pass Prop B. The Mayor worked hard to defeat it. In fact, using his former law firm, Mayor Turner set up a political action committee specifically to defeat Prop B, and funded that PAC with more than $500,000 of his campaign funds. Despite Turner’s efforts, Prop B passed with almost 60% of voter support, in every council district. More than 290,000 voted for Prop B—almost three times more than voted for Mayor Turner when he was elected.
Almost as soon as Prop B passed, Turner again turned to his old law firm again. This time he took the legal position that Prop B was unconstitutional, even though it was his own administration that put it on the ballot. He also argued that now that Prop B had passed, he could no longer negotiate with the fire union. He further threatened to lay off almost 1000 firefighters as a way to implement Prop B. Worse, he pitted the police union against the fire union, encouraging the police union to file suit against the fire union, which the city ultimately joined. The Mayor’s lawsuit failed. Yet Prop B has not been implemented, and the Mayor has put forth no plan to do so. Even after failing in his first lawsuit effort and publicly announcing he was preparing a plan to implement Prop B, now the mayor has filed paperwork in the same lawsuit asking the court to find Prop B unconstitutional. Basically, we have the city suing itself. This lawsuit foolishness must end.
Since Prop B passed, the current mayor instituted what he called a hiring freeze, but still did not implement Prop B. Already one class of 24 new firefighters, who have completed their training, have not been graduated or hired due to the freeze. Another class of 47 is nearing graduation. The city has spent more than $13,000 per firefighter cadet for training, but now apparently intends to throw that money away so the mayor can try to prove a point. This is despite the fact that the city continues to pay overtime to those firefighters already on the job because the fire department is short on firefighters. Worse, despite the so-called hiring freeze, the mayor has hired 73 new police officers, and 182 other city workers. It appears that the hiring freeze only applies to firefighters!!
The Mayor’s refusal to fairly and reasonably implement pay parity is both a slap in the face to fire fighters and the voters who approved their pay. As mayor, I’ll treat our public safety professionals fairly and follow the will of the voters. Despite what this mayor says, we have the money to implement Prop B. As mayor I will drop the lawsuits and immediately implement Prop B.
We are facing a major problem with rising crime. As Mayor, I will make it my top priority to improve public safety; the most important role of government is to keep our citizens safe.
Our Crime Problem
We have to be brutally honest about where we stand — we have a serious crime problem in Houston, and it’s only getting worse. All types of crimes are on the rise. If someone breaks into your home, there is a less than 5% chance that crime will be solved. When a Code 1 call comes in, the response time to that call–the most serious call–will be more than six and a half minutes! Our police officers are dedicated and hard working. The problem is we just don’t have enough officers on the streets. And, we are focused on reactive policing, rather than proactive policing. We have too many officers on desk duty and not enough out on our streets. We have almost 5,200 Houston Police Officers. Only 2,300 patrol the streets. At any one time, if we are fortunate, we will have approximately 500 officers on patrol. That is far too few to adequately patrol the City of Houston. The City of Houston is a horizontal city, 664 square miles! In Houston, we have 2.2 police officers per 1,000 citizens. On the other hand, New York City, which is a vertical city, has 4.4 police officers per 1,000 citizens. We need even more officers. We must grow the force, but in the right way–with patrol officers on the streets providing deterrence, building relationships, and learning the communities.
As mayor, I know that I cannot solve all our problems alone. I need your help. I have sought out experts to assist me in solving our most critical problems. With regard to crime, I have already put together a group of individuals who have dedicated their lives to dealing with crime issues. These individuals are not and will not be on the city payroll, and none will ever do business with the city. We are putting together plans to deal with some of the challenging issues, some of which are discussed below:
Compstat–a paradigm shift:
The most important change the Houston Police Department can make is to adopt the proactive Crime Control or Compstat (Computer Statistics/Comparable Statistics) style of policing. Books have been written on this completely different way of policing because of the dramatic reduction in all types of crime experienced when the Compstat model is fully implemented. Compstat begins with four principles: 1. Accurate and timely information, clearly communicated to all, with a breakdown of those barriers that make it difficult to share information within the department and with other law enforcement entities; 2. Rapid deployment of forces that are coordinated, controlled, and trained; 3. Tactics that are moral, legal, firm, but effective; 4. Relentless assessment and follow up, holding all persons accountable.
What does this mean with regard to “boots are on the ground?” It means that we use real-time, accessible data to know where crimes are likely to occur, and we rapidly respond and predict, thus deterring crime before it ever occurs. And, we need to consider a zero tolerance policy with regard to “small crimes,” because we know from studies that those that will commit lesser offenses will likely commit ones that are more serious.
The Compstat approach is a paradigm shift. It will take active and aggressive leadership from a mayor and police chief who understand the successes it has had in other cities. I believe it is an approach we have to implement if we are going to be serious about making ALL areas of this City safe again.
Human Trafficking: Houston is one of the top sex-trafficking epicenters in the America. One only needs to drive down Bissonnet from Beltway 8 to Highway 59 to see the problem we face. We have to address this problem, instead of continuing to ignore it! The solution to end this epidemic begins with education, not only of potential victims, but also of parents, teachers, and school administrators. We must get better at identifying victims, and put more resources in play to rescue them. Once a victim is rescued, our task doesn’t end there. We must also help them rehabilitate, and then assimilate. That means, of course, helping them transition back into society, preferably with gainful employment. There are a lot of very good people working in Houston to end sexual trafficking. The city must support these people, help coordinate efforts, and lead. As mayor, that is what I will do.
Gang violence and crime. Houston’s Police Chief finally admitted recently that there is an ongoing gang war in our streets. As a result, far too often innocent bystanders are victims of the crossfire. No community is immune. At last count, there were more than 23,000 DOCUMENTED (meaning we know who they are and what gang they affiliate with) gang members in Houston. That’s five times more gang members in Houston than there are Houston police officers on the street. We have got to do something! We’ve got to get aggressive. As stated above, as your Mayor, my first task will be to put more police on our streets. My goal will be to get more officers off of desk duty and onto the streets. Further, I will work to hire and train 500 more officers per year, over my first four-year term. And, we must encourage the new officers we hire to live within the city of Houston. The more officers we have that live where they work, the better they will be at policing our neighborhoods and keeping us all safe. I also believe in the neighborhood watch program. We need to engage our citizens in helping keep the city safe.
It is not just trafficking and gang violence we have to worry about. Over the last several years, we have seen the number of sexual assaults rise dramatically. Unfortunately, most go unsolved. Moreover, we have seen break-ins and car thefts on the rise. Again, very few of these crimes are solved because we don’t have the personnel to do so. We have to do better. The most important role of government is to keep our citizens safe and the current mayor is failing at this. Fixing this will be my top priority as mayor.
Other Ideas We Will Explore:
Civilian Review Board. We have to decide if we really want a Civilian Review Board that works. If we think such a board serves a purpose, then we need to give it some authority and not have it simply function as a pat on the back to the police chief.
Body Cameras On All Officers in the Street, even when Executing a Warrant
Address a Command Structure that Appears to be Bloated.
Better Recognition of Officers who Demonstrate Heroism or Outstanding Police Work
Outsource Vehicle Maintenance.
Revise the Current Chase Policy.
Civilian Police Academy with Certified, Trained Officers Patrolling Underserved Areas on a Volunteer Basis
Reinstitute Neighborhood Watch Programs, but Provide them Support.
Houston has some of the smartest, most creative people in the United States. Tony will engage them to develop innovative solutions to make Houston less vulnerable to flooding and improve infrastructure.
Improving Infrastructure – Preparing for Future Storms and Fixing Our Roads
Houston needs a mayor who will finally get to work fixing our outdated infrastructure – that starts with fixing our streets and improving flood prevention. Flooding is a regional issue, which requires coordination with the county, the corps of engineers, and the state. The truth is, the city can’t go at this alone. But, it can lead.
It’s a fact that there will be additional storms – we must prepare now. We have to get smarter about how we prepare for storms. We have some of the smartest and creative people in the country. I will engage them to come up with tangible things we can do RIGHT NOW to make Houston less vulnerable to future storms. We all remember the ravages of Hurricane Harvey because it was so devastating. But, the truth is, the overwhelming majority of the flooding that has occurred in the Houston area since 1979 occurred OUTSIDE of the defined hurricane season. The floods will worsen, and although we will continue to implement solutions to mitigate the damage, we must also do things in the short term to protect ourselves. Everyone in the Houston area may as well purchase flood insurance, no matter in what “zone” you live. We must learn to protect ourselves when the storms occur, to include using apps that show areas in the area that are passable and those not, and to use those devices that can be purchased to protect our cars. There are many more basic, tangible things that can be done. The campaign will roll them out once our comprehensive white paper is complete. Know, many of these solutions are ones we have known about for some time, and, indeed, many have been included in at least THREE mayors’ transition reports, but, yet, we have not had the leadership and honest to implement them. I will implement them.
There are at least three types of flooding that we must address in Houston and the surrounding areas: 1. Storm surge, which is an issue we are absolutely going to have to address with regard to Clear Lake, the industrial areas the the Port, and other southern parts of the Houston area. Failure to develop a plan to address storm surge involving the ship channel will kill the economy in Houston. We know that, although it has been said that Harvey was a rare storm, we will have more and more of such “rare” storms; 2. Sheet flow, which is the flooding that routinely occurs in places in Houston long before the bayous are full or the tributaries flow over their banks; and 3. river overflow or detention overflow, which is our lack of capacity which leads to Buffalo Bayou leaving its banks, or uncontrolled releases from the reservoirs. Each is a major problem that must be addressed in a comprehensive manner. And, like each of the types of flooding, solutions to flooding are specific and as unique as the areas in which flooding in Houston routinely occurs.
WEST SIDE: With regard to the west side of Houston, it is clear we need more capacity. We must lobby the Corps of Engineers to start creating that capacity, now. And, we must be mindful of when releases are made from both Barker’s and Addick’s reservoirs. During Hurricane Harvey, many that live on the west side felt that they had survived the storm with little to no damage, only to awake the next morning with flooding in their homes. These folks lost cars and other valuables they should have never lost, had they known the gates would be opened. But, unfortunately, the Corps of Engineers decided, during the night, to open the floodgates. The current mayor was aware when this decision was made, yet no warning was given. I would never allow that to happen. Who knows what personal items or cars could have been saved had someone bothered to let the residents know?
Kingwood: Kingwood was annexed by Houston, yet the residents that live and work there get only a fraction of the services they deserve, when you compare the revenues Kingwood generates against the value of the city services Kingwood receives. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Kingwood residents. They feel ignored!! It’s time they were no longer ignored by the city. One resolution to this is to have a city office in Kingwood with a city representative to interact with the residents, in Kingwood. We need accountability. Which regard to the repeated flooding that has occurred in the Kingwood area, for years the San Jacinto River has needed dredging. The mayor, not once, has been a voice for these residents. A lack of dredging, and rampant sand mining immediately adjacent to the river, contributed greatly to the impacts of Harvey. Since Harvey, the lack of capacity of the river has worsened due to sand. And, although some dredging is being done, the area that most needs dredging–the mouth bar–isn’t being dredged! In addition to the dredging that is desperately needed, the flood gates need to be upgraded and replaced. Finally, there has to be detention built outside of Kingwood. Most of the water that comes into Kingwood is from outside. Kingwood needs a Houston mayor who will advocate for its interests. That will include interaction not only with Harris County Flood Control District, SJRA, the Corps of Engineers, but also Montgomery County. In addition to the issues discussed above, we also need to deal with the completely outdated storm and drainage infrastructure that causes parts of Kingwood to routinely flood. Areas flood due to sheet flow that simply should not flood. We have to directly deal with those areas in a methodical manner. That, of course, will include actually using monies collected from the rebuild Houston drainage fee and ad valorem tax on drainage projects, rather than diverting it to other projects or to the general fund to balance the budget. Finally, Kingwood needs a mayor who understands that some of the current development plans that are to come before council for approval will exacerbate Kingwood flooding. We have to be mindful that all development is not good, IF it detrimentally impacts those already there. Kingwood has been ignored for years. As mayor, I will be a strong advocate for Kingwood, and bring more attention to these issues, put in place short-term solutions, which working towards long-term solutions.
Many years back, Houston voted in favor of a drainage fee, and an ad valorem tax. That vote was reaffirmed in the last election. Since that vote, the city has collected more than a billion dollars. But, only a small percentage of those monies have been actually used on drainage projects. That must end. As Mayor, I will ensure that our drainage fees and the accompanying tax are actually spent on drainage – instead of being siphoned off into the general fund to pay for city operations. Houston stands poised to receive almost $1.18 billion in federal aid. We have waited more than 18 months, and many people are still out of their homes. This aid is intended to help those uninsured people to get back into their homes and apartments, and to buy out those who are in areas prone to flooding. We must ensure that every penny of those monies is spent for that purpose—and that purpose only.
When it comes to infrastructure we also need to get back to doing the basics right. That starts with fixing streets properly, the first time. Streets across this city are crumbling and pothole riddled. Too many times a pothole is filled but needs to be filled again only a month or two later. It makes no sense to spend taxpayer money and city resources to hastily fix a pothole only to go back and poorly refill it six months later. It also makes no sense to repave a street now that is scheduled to be torn-up for pipe replacements in a few months, or to repave streets in areas like River Oaks that are in good shape. As mayor I will have a group of engineers and construction experts to prioritize and figure out the best way to fix potholes and prioritize what streets we repair. None of these experts will be on the city payroll, and none will be allowed to do business with the city. With a comprehensive, vetted plan in place, we will then aggressively address our street issues once and for all, and will keep strict track of the efficiency of the road crews, the number of repairs made, and how long such repairs last. I’ll continue to work with these experts to continuously improve how our streets are fixed and ensure that jobs are done right, the first time.
Houston kills approximately 80,000 dogs and cats a year and has a stray dog population estimated to be more than 100,000; some estimate that the number of stray animals could exceed 3,000,000. Did you know that 54% percent of residents in Harris and surrounding counties say that stray dogs and cats are a problem, and that 1 out of 4 people in Houston say that stray dogs and cats are a very serious problem? Stray animals are not only a humanitarian issue, but also a safety and quality of life issue. In some neighborhoods, packs of wild dogs run free. We have heard reports of wild dogs attacking pets in the Third Ward. We’ve heard of children being chased by dogs in the East End. We have to do something. There are many good-hearted organizations doing a lot within Houston to address animal cruelty and the stray animal problem. Unfortunately, the city doesn’t provide much support. In fact, when compared to other major cities, Houston spends far less on the problem. We have to get serious about dealing with the stray animal problem. A big part of the solution is spaying and neutering. We also have to be more aggressive in answering calls about strays, keeping our shelter open for longer hours, and not discouraging people from picking up and turning in strays. The city should also seek partners in other cities to match adoptive pets, and work together to transport more of our stray population to those areas that need them, rather than just kill them. Finally, I believe we can achieve significant savings that we can put toward collecting and saving more animals if we look to combine the city animal shelter with that of the county. Most importantly, the city needs to lead the effort, encourage those working in the area, and provide support.
The current state of the law in Texas is that only licensed veterinarians can spay or neuter. This needs to change. We all know that one major component of a sustainable solution for the stray animal population is spaying and neutering. Unfortunately, we have far too many stray animals to only allow licensed vets to do so. I propose, and will propose to the legislature, that a new, licensed vocation be created in the State of Texas akin to a nurse practitioner. That vocation would require training on how to safely spay and neuter, and can be animal specific. Within a few months, an individual could receive certification and start to practice. Rather than seven or eight years of schooling, this individual would be trained specifically on that one task with that one type of animal. Imagine how many more animals we could spay or neuter!
Let me be clear, I support “no kill.” One note here: Many people have advocated hard for Houston to acquire “no kill” status. This is certainly a worthy goal. “No kill” has different connotations to different people, and many times causes us to argue rather than work together. If one were to review the “live release” rates published by the city, one might be persuaded that the city is well on its way to no kill status. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because of a desire to be a no kill city, the city manipulates the data. No kill status is calculated based on the number of animals taken into the shelter, and the number that are transported or placed—meaning, not euthanized. To get closer to no kill status, the city makes it very difficult to drop off a stray. Two of their methods are to limit hours when strays are accepted, and to discourage an individual from dropping off an animal even when that individual is there during times when strays are supposed to be accepted. This must end. We have to be honest with Houstonians. We must have transparency. We have too many strays and we kill too many of the animals that are taking in.
I believe in Houston we must also do a better job enforcing laws against animal cruelty, and must work to strengthen such laws. Do we want to be known for a “corridor of cruelty?” We can do better than that, and we will.
In summary, there is no one answer that addresses the stray animal population. The solution must be comprehensive. The solution must engage both private and public resources. The solution will take time. But, one thing we know, any workable solution must involve the following: 1. Spaying and neutering; 2. Transport and Rescue; 3. Education; 4. Research; and 5. Cruelty prevention. The problem can be solved. We can and will do better.
One Bin Concept
We can make Houston completely waste free in four years. The city of Houston produces 2000 tons of trash per day. More than two thirds of our residents use city trash service. The city picks up solid waste once per week—when it actually picks it up. And, again, when it picks it up, the city picks up the recycling twice a month. Weekly. All of the solid waste picked up by the city goes into landfills. Only about 30% of the “recycling” picked up by the city actually gets recycled, the rest goes into landfills. (It has recently been reported that all of our recyclables are being buried at a landfill.) Around the perimeter of the city, we have multiple landfills, and multiple transit stations for this trash—all operated by private companies. What if we could put in place system such that we recycle all of the waste that the city produces, and sell it from Houston?? Believe it or not the technology exists to do so. As mayor, I will put in place a system such that we pick up waste once per week, with all waste going into the same bin. Such waste will be then taken to what is known as an ecohub, where it will be sorted and turned into various products that can be sold. This will not only reduce the amount of trucks and personnel we need for waste disposal, but will also save the city more than $40 million a year. The company that has this proven technology presented this idea to the city several years ago. But, due to lobbyists and the Mayor’s friends who are connected to the current waste companies doing business with the city, the proposal went nowhere. That will change. We can be the first waste free city in the United States. That’s something we can all be proud of.
Self-driving cars. The day will come when we will all transport with self-driving cars. Houston is perfectly poised to lead this effort. To accomplish this, we have to be forward thinking, change the way we do business, and be open to new ideas. Imagine if we had driverless busses and cars taking us around Houston. This would be a dramatic paradigm shift. The technology exists now. The only impediment is last century thinking, and lobbyists and business worried about losing market share and money. As mayor I will lead the effort to put Houston on the map with regard to developing technologies.
Repurposing our libraries. The city has forty-four libraries. We need to make sure we are getting the most out of our libraries. Too many times, we have more staff in the library than there are patrons. And, we are not providing a relevant service. We all know HISD is going through some very difficult times. We cannot let HISD fail. One way we could help is repurposing our libraries, and make sure they are being used on our youth. Whether it be pre-school programs or after school programs, the point we can support the school system and help give the kids something worthwhile and educational to do, all the while keeping them off the streets. I already have experts coming up with a plan on how we can do better with our libraries. The city employs more than 460 people at our libraries and spends more than $40 million per year on operating our libraries. This is an important service that the city provides. We can do it much better.
My father was a union meat cutter. I have always believed that there are only two places a worker has a chance to get a fair shake—in a court room, or through the union. The current mayor has sought, in court, to declare collective bargaining unconstitutional. When I’m mayor, I will immediately drop that suit, not only because it has no legal merit and is a waste of taxpayer money, but also because I know the importance of unions in the workplace. We shouldn’t have the city engaged in litigation with firefighters, period.
We live in a dynamic, entrepreneurial, diverse, can-do city. I believe we have some of the most creative and generous people in the U.S. We are all in this together. For several years, I attended the various galas and balls that occur in the city each year. At these galas, you dress up in your Sunday best and mingle with all the “important” people in Houston. The people who throw these galas are wonderful people who are trying to raise money for many important causes. I applaud them and encourage them to keep up the fight! As mayor, I will encourage a new type of volunteerism. I believe that if you ask, people will help. Here are a few examples that will foster a renewed sense of volunteerism and bring us together to do something good, as well as help the city save money:
As mayor I will be asking citizens to help with the cleanup of the city. We will create and put in place a system to do what I will call “pop up, clean ups.” Organized by the citizens themselves, when a citizen spots a particular area of the city in need of cleaning, through the city and sanctioned by the city, that citizen can organize a cleanup effort. The city will provide security and water for the effort, as well as receptacles for the trash. Think of how we could clean up this city!!
The city has 370 parks and 200 green spaces. The city employs more than 700 people in the Parks Department, with a budget of more than $70 million yearly. Parks and green space are very important. But, we can do better. I believe that we can maintain our parks better, with fewer people. I believe that we could create a nonprofit for each park where it makes sense, and have the people who live in the area of the park maintain and improve that park. I know Houstonians. If you ask them, and lead, they will help. Think of the improvements we could see in our parks, and the money we could save.
Houston is home to many families who have made this city their homes for generations. Many of these families have been very fortunate, and control endowments and foundations that, by law, must donate millions yearly to charitable causes. I believe we could and should pool these resources for the great benefit of the city. As mayor, I will go to each of the major foundations across the Houston area (I’ve already started!!) with a comprehensive plan. We are calling it “Moonshot.” I believe we can choose an underserved area in our great city, do a complete needs assessment, as well as an assessment on what services are already in place. Imagine if we could put together a comprehensive program where we choose a defined area and, using private funds, ensure that pre-natal care, resources for children from age 0-2, pre-k, and after school programs focusing on vocational training and tutoring STEM subjects are all in place. On top of that, ensuring that adequate housing is available that will drastically reduce truancy, and that police protection that works with the community is actually living in the community. And, we can also make use of our local educational institutions, churches, and civic associations to assist in the project. Too “pie in the sky?” I don’t think so. We put astronauts on the moon!! Surely we can dramatically change for the better areas of our city that need extra help. I think that with private funds pooled in the matter I suggest we could make transformational change in some of the traditionally underserved areas of our great city.
Whether it be holiday lights or blight
removal or helping the homeless or cleaning up the city hall building,
Houstonians will pitch in and help if asked. The answer isn’t always hiring
more people and spending more money. Houstonians are yearning to be proud of
their city. We must lead the way and bring this city together. The way to do
that is to engage all residents in making Houston a better place to live.
As mayor, I will aggressively seek out businesses that are considering moving to Houston. The only way to do this, of course, is to make Houston a preferred place to live. This means, of course, we cannot let HISD fail, and we have to do a much better job at providing those core services that residents expect. That means dealing with flooding head on, picking the trash up on time, reducing and solving crimes, making sure our fire departments are adequately staffed and that firefighters have the right equipment, and making sure we can drive down the street without blowing out a tire.
Due to my background and experience, I know key people in most industries. I will make it known that Houston is open for business, and will then aggressively seek out those businesses that are appropriate for the city, and that the city has the infrastructure to support.
In addition to making our city work again, we will create panels of subject matter experts to help us make our city more efficient. We need to get the word out that the City of Houston is open for business. The best way to do that is to make the city work for its residents.
Let me start with this: I’m against raising the revenue cap. It’s not needed. The city wastes millions of taxpayer’s dollars and public monies. The money is there to put more police on the streets and pay the firefighters, as well as to efficiently and promptly provide the core services that residents expect. A few cost-saving examples:
Recently it was revealed at the airport that the Airport Enterprise Fund had spent $85 million in the intended renovation of the international receiving terminal. Unfortunately, only $11 million of that was spent on actual brick and mortar. The rest was wasted on a plan that now all of those involved agree was “flawed.” We have to do better. There should be immediate accountability of all of those involved in this debacle, to include the Mayor himself. The current mayor is frequently prone to calling himself a “CEO.” We all know that any CEO who oversaw a debacle similar to what is happening at the airport would have already been fired.
The current mayor offered up and pushed through a spending item such that the city would spend $3 million to place bands at the airport. Why? This is a colossal waste of money. Assuming that I, as mayor, would ever conclude that bands at the airport were a good idea—which I wouldn’t—there are individuals in this town who would provide this service for free. We have to do better in the way we spend money.
Every year the city spends upwards of $500,000 on holiday lights at city hall. Again, in light of the current budget situation, we simply can’t afford that. There are many light companies in this town that, if asked, would likely provide this service for free. Houston needs a mayor who is cognizant of the fact that every dollar spent doesn’t belong to the city; it instead belongs to the taxpayer. The answer to a need or problem is not always to spend more money!!
Each day as I drive around Houston I see city crews working on various projects. Inevitably, among members of the crew, there are always those on the phone, those sitting and watching, those standing and watching, and few actually working. We have to be more efficient, and take pride in the work that is done. As mayor, we will.
Similarly, it is my belief that every department of the city is overstaffed. Have you looked at the various departments within the city? When I’m mayor, department heads will have to justify the necessity of every employee, detail what that employee does for the city, and why that employee is needed. They will also have to justify the existence of their very department. I believe in motivating and keeping good personnel. I also believe that in any organization there are those who do not pull their weight and don’t really provide a service. We all have to understand that the existence of city job is not to provide an income for the employee, but is instead to provide a service for the citizens. With regard to personnel, of course, I will start with the mayor’s office itself. Currently, the mayor has—in his personal office—almost fifty individuals. If you count the other offices of which the mayor has direct control, that number is more than 100. That is too many!! As mayor, I will make it clear to city employees that we work for the citizens of Houston, not vice versa.
We currently employ an individual whose entire job is to encourage moviemakers to come to Houston to shoot their movies. We pay this individual more than $150,000 yearly, and provide her a fully paid for condo in Los Angeles. Do you know how many movies she has convinced to film in Houston? ZERO. We cannot keep spending money like a drunken sailor. This will end when I’m mayor.
Savings and increased revenues through the permitting process. Permitting, whether through the building department or the fire department, generates millions of dollars yearly for the city. As an example, the fire department alone generates almost $100 million in revenue for fire inspections. I think we can generate even more I have been in discussions with our fire department about ways we can hire and retain more fire inspectors, who can then conduct more inspections, in a more timely basis, and ultimately generate more revenue while providing better service to those trying to get their businesses going or the building occupied. Conversely, one constant refrain I hear when talking to those who run businesses in the city is that delays that frequently occur in projects while they wait for building permits. Remember, the quicker we issue permits, the more the builder saves, and the faster he gets into business. The faster the builder is operational, the more tax revenue is generated for the city. I’ve heard too many times that an individual seeking to open a business spends more time waiting for a permit than is spent in actually constructing the business. This must change. We can make sure that structures are suitable for a business and pass muster, while also being efficient and timely. As mayor, one idea that I am studying is privatizing some portions of the inspection process. Other cities have done so and have achieved great savings, all the while providing strict inspections on a timely basis.
Many residents don’t know that more than half of the city’s budget isn’t actually subject to actual oversight and review by city council. In fact, only about $2.7 Billion of the General Fund–out of more than $6.7 Billion total budget–is actually overseen by council. Whether it be Enterprise Funds or other dedicated funds, or whether it be the funds collected by the TIRZ’s, we have to get control over how those monies are spent. More transparency is needed in all departments–we should know how every penny is spent. And, remember, the whole purpose of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones are special zones were put in place to attract new investment in a defined area. Some of these TIRZ’s may need to go. We will need to review the efficacy of each TIRZ, and consider ways that some of these funds can be brought back to the General Fund to help provide core services for ALL areas of the city.