I'm not exactly sure what we're to make of this op-ed piece in today's Chron. It outlines four "ground rules" that are supposed to produce "leadership that will protect and advance our city over the long term". Frankly, they sound like idealism to me, but let's take a look and see, shall we?
Until recently, Houston benefited from a tradition of nonpartisan politics. Our leader should be elected upon his or her ability to serve Houston, not based upon political party affiliation. There are those who wish to abandon this tradition to further a state or a national agenda. If that results in Houston's having anything less than the finest leadership possible, then our city's good would be sacrificed for the benefit of someone else's objectives. This cannot be permitted to happen.
The two announced candidates, Bill White and Michael Berry, have both said the usual stuff about being a mayor for everyone and so on. Both have tried to reach across party lines and have succeeded to some extent. Of course, these are the two candidates who are perceived to have no natural base of support, so draw your own conclusions.
I can't speak for Sylvester Turner, but Orlando Sanchez ran in 2001 as Mister Republican and he did pretty well. I don't know if he'll do that again in 2003 or if he'll try the mayor-for-everyone routine, as he hasn't officially kicked off his candidacy. He does have some former Lee Brown strategists on his staff, and it's interesting to note that Berry has picked up endorsements from Republicans who are pissed at Sanchez for that. How ironic it would be if Sanchez lost support for not being partisan enough to someone whose initial rhetoric is from the uniter-not-divider school.
Bottom line is that like it or not, a candidate without some partisan backing is going to be sitting out the runoff. So what's next?
Do not be influenced by ethnic, racial or religious factors.
Houston has thrived because it has offered opportunity to all who come here, regardless of ethnic, racial or religious background. This is an important tradition that should make every Houstonian proud. Houston's citizens should support and vote for the person they feel will become the best mayor -- not discriminate for or against a candidate because of extraneous factors. We should elect a mayor to unite us, not divide us. We need to work together for the betterment of our city, if we are to succeed.
Emphasize the long term.
This election should select a leader who has the experience, intelligence and vision to understand how decisions today will affect our city for many years to come. Voters should select the candidate who understands that our quality of life affects our long-term economic well-being. Short-term thinking is not appropriate here.
Select the best leader -- it is not a horse race.
Some people seem to regard an election as an opportunity to place a bet on a likely winner, not a hallowed process to select leaders to guide us through difficult times. Houston will have the best leaders when we stop wasting time and energy trying to guess who is most likely to win and start working to educate ourselves on who should be elected. It is not too much to ask that each person in Houston rise to the highest standard, fulfill the most important responsibility as citizens, and demonstrate that we cherish the privileges of our democracy. Obviously, not everyone will agree on the best candidate -- but surely it is not too much to ask that each of us inform ourselves and vote for who we honestly feel will make the best mayor.