Now that Adrian Garcia's City Council seat in District H is officially empty, the special election to replace him can be set for the next uniform election date, which is May 9. That was on the agenda for Council yesterday, but it got off track when the possibility of appointing an interim replacement was raised.
"Common sense tells us all that leaving this office vacant, no matter how well the intentions of any caretakers looking after the district might be, leaves District H, and 42 percent of the Latino community in this city, woefully underrepresented," said Vidal Martinez, a lawyer and former Port of Houston commissioner.
He suggested Garcia's wife, Monica, as a possible temporary appointment. He said he supports Ed Gonzalez, who works for the Houston Police Department and also is favored by Garcia, as a candidate for the District H special election.
But Councilman James Rodriguez said it was too late to consider an appointment and questioned whether Martinez really was speaking on behalf of District H residents, since many he knows already have been preparing for a special election. That process is the best way to ensure a fair outcome, he said.
"It's not a backroom process," Rodriguez said. "We need to be better than that."
White said he had heard little from District H residents about the need for an interim appointment and would not support it unless there were widespread calls for such action.
Several council members said the district was sufficiently represented by the at-large members and questioned whether the racial makeup of council should have any relevance.
Garcia said he has not been involved in any discussions about his successor and had no position on whether an appointment was needed.
"I think the mayor and the council will do the right thing by the city and the district," he said. "I've been busy focusing on my responsibilities here at the county."
I have been asked if I am supporting a candidate for this race. The answer at this time is no, I have not made any decisions yet. I intend to try to meet and talk to all of the candidates - I definitely intend to try to do interviews with all of them - before I make any decisions. Since November when it became known that we would have a special election, I have had the chance to meet Karen Derr, who lives in my neighborhood. I've been to an open house at her office and to a holiday party at her house. I've had a phone conversation with Ed Gonzalez (he called me), and some email correspondence with Hugo Mojica, who sent out a statement opposing the idea of an interim appointment, which I've reproduced beneath the fold. This is going to be a tough decision, because there are some good candidates running. I'm glad for that, and I'm looking forward to the official start of this race.
UPDATE: Marc Campos has a long post on this subject, which is worth reading. Of particular interest is this excerpt from an email sent to him by his clent, District I Council Member James Rodriguez:
The day before the election, the City Attorney and the administration sent out a memo that set out a procedure on filling the vacancy. Let me say that according to the memo, state statue does give Council the authority to appoint - if there were less than 270 days between when Adrian was sworn in and the next general election. We fall beyond the 270 days and trust me - a lot of folks in District H are aware of this.
Greetings Mayor White and Council Members,
As a resident of District H, I wanted to express my strong opposition to the appointment process mentioned in today's Council meeting. I believe appointing someone instead of having an election goes against our democratic system of government. Moreover, the appointment process rewards only those who are politically connected. The process should be about transparency and fairness not the typical "coronation mentality" proposed by some within our community.
In closing, I urge you to please approve ordinance 13, setting the special election for May 9, 2009, so that we can ELECT who we want to be our representative at City Hall.
I am available anytime at (713) 256-7277 if you would like to discuss this issue further. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Hugo J. Mojica
District H Candidate