February 05, 2008
More on Borris Miles

The Chron has a fairly nuanced article about the tribulations of Rep. Borris Miles.

At first glance, the June 30 concert at Reliant Arena might have seemed just a routine hip-hop affair. But this one was different. Even though 7,500 teens and young adults turned out to hear Lil' Wayne, J Xavier, Mista Madd and a host of other hip-hop celebrities, the only way to get into this event was to be tested for HIV.

Hip Hop 4 HIV was the brainchild of freshman state Rep. Borris Miles, a flamboyant insurance agent-turned-politician whose heavily black District 146 accounts for three-fourths of Harris County's HIV infections.

To Miles' supporters, the concert was characteristic of the fresh thinking the legislator had brought to his inner-city district after a surprise 2006 runoff victory over 27-year incumbent Al Edwards. But even as backers celebrate Miles' innovations, others are concerned about a series of incidents involving the lawmaker that ranged from awkward to frightening.


Aggressiveness is a point of pride for Miles, an athletic man who strikes a stylish pose with close-cropped hair and a taste for Gucci shoes and expensive suits. But beneath the confident exterior, the 42-year-old lawmaker wrestles with the knowledge that he suffers from an illness -- sickle cell anemia -- that often claims its victims in mid-life. Miles spent more than a week in January hospitalized with pneumonia.

"Because of the short mortality rate," he said in an interview after his release, "I've tried to get things done, not tomorrow, but today."

City Councilman Ronald Green, who has known Miles for 18 years, characterized the lawmaker as "passionate about his work in the district."

His credits include stints on the local board of the Urban League and the United Negro College Fund. In 2003, he received the YMCA's Super Achievers Award. Two years later, he won the Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce's Pinnacle Award, in part for moving his business to the Third Ward and redeveloping its rundown location.

"He's very bright, young and wealthy," said Francis Cook, an official with the Across the Track PAC, which typically supports minority candidates. "It might come off as brash, depending on circumstances. He's extremely confident. He's a 'free Negro' and can't be bought. He's a little hard to deal with, hard to intimidate unless you can convince him to your way of thinking."


During his first term, Miles said, he authored, joint authored or amended 25 pieces of legislation, among them bills creating an ombudsman for the Texas Youth Commission and ensuring college admission to the children of firefighters or law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Edwards, who will face Miles again in next month's primary, countered that his experience and legislative connections trump the freshman's first-year triumphs, which he minimized. "I don't know what he has done that wasn't already being done," Edwards said.

Miles' whole career has been characterized by energy, State Rep. Garnet Coleman said.

"He has a certain energy that bursts out at times," Coleman said. "You can deal with it through anger management, through lessening the amount of alcohol you take."

Sometimes the trait that makes a person good at what they do is also a negative for them. There's a fine line between aggressiveness and recklessness. People who are lauded for their aggressiveness when they're getting stuff done get criticized for their recklessness when they inevitably do something dumb. We see this all the time, in many places. You can accept the bad that comes with the good as all part of the same package, or you can decide the bad is too much and reject the good as well.

I'm not going to excuse Rep. Miles' bad behavior, the latest example of which is still for now just an allegation. (One wonders if the DA's office will be more decisive in its investigation of the complaint filed against him than it has been so far regarding David Medina.) He can face whatever consequences there may be for it when and if it comes to that. I support Miles' candidacy in the March primary because I think he's been a good State Rep, and because Al Edwards would be a disastrous step backwards. If it turns out that the allegations against Miles have merit, then after he's secured the nomination for HD146, we can revisit the matter, and put pressure on him if needed to step aside so that someone else who can ably represent that district may replace him. The best option is still for Rep. Miles to see his name cleared and get back to Austin to continue his good work. The unacceptable option is for Al Edwards to get a second chance to enable Tom Craddick's iron hand. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 05, 2008 to Election 2008