The Speech

First published online July 14, 2016

Intro photo by Sofia van der Dys


Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here to talk about you and me and the open seat in District C. More than any other part of the City, we in District C celebrate thinking across the entire political spectrum. There is no candidate “of the right” who will win this seat. Nor will a candidate “of the left” win. Your next Council Member will be a candidate “of the among”. I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. The way I think politically has a home right here among us in District C. And, speaking of a home, I’ve made my home in the neighborhoods of Braeswood, Montrose, Rice Military, and The Heights for the last 32 years.

So a little background … I’m a 25-year City of Houston employee. I was hired in June 1994 by Mayor Bob Lanier’s co-Chief of Staff and Director of Public Works and Engineering, where I wrote speeches and handled citizen correspondence in the pre-internet and pre-311 days. For the last 20 years I’ve been the City of Houston Webmaster, where I’ve administered the websites for four mayoral administrations, four City Controllers, and sixty-two Council Members. And in 2017, I completed 1,752 service requests for 1,003 unique webpages as City Webmaster. Now, after 25 years of service to the City, serving the people who serve the people, I want to move up a level and be the one who serves the people of District C.

We all know that every new Council Member’s first challenge and first year on the job is learning the ins and outs of City government. Well, for 25 years, working with and among the highest levels of City government and their staffs, I already know who’s who and what’s what and where’s where in the City. District C’s staff of five handles 250 citizen requests per month. In my current position, I handle about 160 service requests per month, with a staff of zero. More than any other candidate, the transition from term-limited incumbent to freshman Council Member of District C Council Member will be the most seamless if you elect me.

We will focus on budget, transparency, and neighborhoods the next four years ... [1] keep a bigger eye on smaller budget issues, which will in turn positively affect the bigger issues, [2] create a “One Stop Document Shop” on the City’s District C website, for all City work, current and coming up, in our District, and [3] renew the Neighborhoods to Standard Program of the mid-nineties.

BUDGET: keep A BIGGER EYE ON THE SMALLER BUDGET ISSUES

When we hear about big spending abuses and are rightfully angry at City government, we should also be paying greater attention to the lesser spending issues. Currently, any spending under $50,000 does not have to be approved by City Council. Which is a good idea, but can lead to budgetary abuses. There have been $49,000 contracts, and there have been curiously similar pairs of contracts of $26,000. And with later contract “corrections”, regardless of Fiscal Year limits, you can see the potential for abuse. What I propose is: create an Administrative Policy that states any spending by Departments or Divisions between $5,000 and $50,000 be reported to City Council within thirty days. You’ll be pleased at how quickly potential spending abuses will go away. And it naturally follows that once the “little issues” are resolved, the “bigger issues” will tend to go away as well.

This has not been done before. We can do it.

TRANSPARENCY: CREATE A ONE STOP DISTRICT C DOCUMENT SHOP

When you see a City crew working in your area, or a City contractor pouring concrete, you know there is a City document ordering or approving this work. Mayor White once said in a meeting of his directors that any document on a City computer should be made easily available to the public. We will create a “One Stop Document Shop” on the City’s District C website, where all relevant documents associated with District C will be available, be they road work, permit requests, 311 reports (redacted for any privacy issues), TIRZ agendas and meetings information, construction projects, variance requests, etc. You’ll have better and quicker access to what’s happening in our District at your fingertips.

This has not been done before. We can do it.

NEIGHBORHOODS: RENEW THE NEIGHBORHOODS TO STANDARD PROGRAM IN DISTRICT C

In the mid-nineties, Mayor Lanier selected fourteen neighborhoods for renewal and rehabilitation. There was ditch cleaning, street sign upgrading, street restriping or overlays, upgraded street lighting in conjunction with the energy company of the era, sidewalk installation along school routes, etc. Neighborhoods to Standard won national recognition for infrastructure excellence. And, by the way, guess who co-wrote the essay that won Neighborhoods to Standard this honor? Your next Council Member of District C! While Mayor Lanier selected fourteen neighborhoods City-wide annually, we can target two neighborhoods per year in District C every year, to bring up to standard. The result will be improved neighborhood value, increased civic pride, and a naturally resulting reduction in crime.

This has been done before. And we can do it again.

So this is who I am, and this is what I stand for.  To conclude ... In an open seat, we have always have many good candidates to choose from, and District C is no exception. We can choose from a couple of lawyers, or a realtor, or a couple of small business owners. Me? I’m a public servant. I’ve worked for you for the last 25 years. And in those 25 years, I’ve only had two jobs, but I’ve reported to 26 supervisors. I’m your constant. I’m your reliable long-term government employee. And now as I seek my third and final job with the City, I’d like to go from 26 supervisors to 211,000 — the population of District C. So let me leave you with three quick questions and answers. Am I your most qualified candidate? Do I have the best experience to serve you as Council Member for the next four to eight years? And will I do so to the best of my ability? Ladies and gentlemen ... I am. I do. I will.