Seems like just last week we were looking back on how successful a year Mayor Bill White had in 2004. (See also his interview in the Texas Observer.) Since then, White has been pummelled for problems with the Safe Clear mandatory towing program and for lack of action cleaning up the HPD crime lab. Oops.
I haven't followed the Safe Clear story very closely - for all of their rhetorical excesses, the folks at blogHOUSTON have been all over that one. If Bill White is as smart as we've all thought he is, he'll recover from this since there's certainly merit to the concept of clearing stalls and fender benders from the highways, and a better plan, or a better implementation of this plan, could achieve that objective without pissing lots of people off. State Sen. John Whitmire, a recent critic of the program, has apprently suggested that an expanded MAP program would be a better idea, and so it would. Fixing this program is doable, and the sooner it happens, the more of a salvaged win this would still be for White.
(By the way, note how that Chron story on Whitmire's criticism has no indication that he supports even the idea of Safe Clear, but this KHOU story does? So much for the Chron being a cheerleader for White.)
A potentially bigger problem, floating under the surface, is White's relationship with those who should be his allies. At the Greater Heights Democratic Club meeting yesterday, Councilman Adrian Garcia discussed the Safe Clear issue, and he said that he had been assured prior to passage of the city ordinance which created Safe Clear, that items like fee coverage for the poor and transporting families would be taken care of. He stated that having seen what has happened with the program, he felt that he had been lied to by David Saperstein, Mayor White's "Mobility Czar". That's pretty damning, and it needs to be addressed at least as quickly as the other Safe Clear prblems are.
I still think White is in a strong position, but he's been bloodied, and it's his own fault. He can get back on the right track, but the clock is ticking. Don't screw it up, Mister Mayor.
(For more on the HPD Crime Lab, see Grits.)Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 09, 2005 to Local politics | TrackBack