Bill White officially jumped in to the 2003 Mayoral race on Wednesday. He's got a plan for transportation:
In an announcement speech called "Let's Get Houston Moving," White presented a transportation plan that he said would reduce the average commuting time of Houstonians by 25 hours annually.
The plan includes:
·Working with the business community to shift 5 percent of commutes to non-peak morning and afternoon hours, when freeways are less congested. That will have the same impact as investing $1 billion in highway improvements, he said.
·Creating a "war room" to make sure city street improvements are completed on time and within budget.
·Using computer technology to better manage traffic.
·Seeking consensus for extension of the light rail system under construction downtown. He said he will have a more specific plan later in the campaign.
Meanwhile, the candidate who has to be considered the favorite got a boost to his campaign yesterday. Port of Houston Chairman Ned Holmes announced he would support Orlando Sanchez instead of running for mayor himself. Holmes backed Lee Brown in 2001, and support from the business establishment has always been key. If Sanchez can keep the same level of Hispanic support he got in 2001, he will be in very good shape.
On the slightly bizarre side, this Houston Press article highlights an issue that might haunt Bill White. White is the CEO of an international oil-and-gas business called the Wedge Group. It's owned by a Lebanese billionaire named Issam Fares, who is now a member of Lebanon's legislature. He's also voiced some unpopular opinions here:
The candidate's relationship with Deputy Prime Minister Fares of Lebanon could also become a campaign issue. Two years ago, a Fares-endowed fund paid incoming Secretary of State Colin Powell $200,000 for a 30-minute talk at Tufts University. Fares also ponied up a $100,000 contribution for President George W. Bush's inaugural festivities. Media reports focused on allegations that the Lebanese official was trying to buy influence with the new administration.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Fares angrily responded in a statement blasting "the Zionist lobby in the United States and its agents" for "distortions and lies." Fares also opposed the U.S. government's decision to add the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia group Hezbollah to its terrorist list in the wake of 9/11.
"It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation," Fares told Agence France-Presse. He claimed the group has never targeted Americans, a position disputed by U.S. officials as well as Fares's own Wedge Group CEO.
"I personally think the Hezbollah militia is a terrorist organization," counters White, who notes that he and Fares rarely talk politics. The candidate says his own position on the Arab-Israeli conflict is clear.
"I think I am the only non-Jew on the board of the American-Israeli public affairs committee," the candidate says. "Regionally, I've been on the board of the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs out of Washington for six years. I think that Israel has been victimized by terrorism, period."
Finally, Greg Wythe has some thoughts about Bill White's chances that are similar to mine, along with some recent examples of unknown candidates who did much better than expected. And everyone's favorite
house plant Chronicle columnist Thom Marshall gives some idle speculation about Chief Bradford's theoretical prospects in this race.