HERO and the Houston Mayor’s Race

Houston City hall chamber

As we continue to discuss the Houston Mayor’s race, we should also look at the issues we expect to hear the candidates discussing during the campaign.

What issues do we as Houstonians care about? I’ll take a stab at a few but would also love to hear from you in the comments section.

The condition of the streets and traffic seem to be major issues with the voting public. There is nary a street in Houston that is not in poor condition. Potholes, road deterioration, cracks and more make driving difficult. Add to the road conditions, the volume of traffic that has increased on city streets and people begin to increase their voices with displeasure.

Public safety is always an issue in local political campaigns and the voters usually respond. People want to feel safe in their homes, shopping and riding the bus. They want to know that there are enough police officers for protection and enough fire fighters to respond in a timely fashion. The police and fire unions are certain to engage, share their preference for a candidate and ensure that this issue stays front and center during the campaign.

The intelligentsia of the city is most concerned with pension reform and city budgets. No one wants to see the city file for bankruptcy as has happened in other major urban areas. Expect this topic to emerge from candidates. It will be interesting to see if the voters care as much.

The one issue that will most definitely penetrate the election, however, is the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. (HERO). This ordinance was hotly debated last summer and is now embroiled in a court case. Citizens petitioned to have the right to vote on the Ordinance but according to the city, did not collect enough valid signatures.

Some pundits are saying that the case will resolve and it will all be over by the time the campaign gets underway. I disagree strongly. When people are passionate about an issue, they do not let go so easily. There are many bruised feelings on both sides of this hotly debated issue and the ballot box is likely to be their sounding board. Those who support it will be looking to endorse and work for candidates that stand with them. Those that oppose it will be doing the same. If Mayoral candidates think they can brush off this issue, they are very misguided. They will have to take a position and face the consequences.

The issue will also penetrate into the Council races. Some Council Members were threatened at the time of the vote at the Council table and may see resulting action.

Personally, I hope the focus stays on the best ways to run our city and does not become sidetracked by an emotional issue. Yet I know from experience that emotional issues can easily dominate an election and expect this to be no different.

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