As everyone expected, Mayor White has stayed the heck out of the race to replace him. So it’s a pretty big deal when he feels compelled to speak up about something that is happening in the race.
Mayor Bill White […] injected himself into the race for the first time to fact-check a mailer City Councilman Peter Brown sent out criticizing his opponents. The mail piece accuses City Controller Annise Parker of missing reporting deadlines for annual audits and “significant deficiencies” that left “Houston’s financial security at risk.”
“The city has not been put at financial risk,” White said in an e-mail released by Parker’s campaign. The mayor, who is term-limited and has not endorsed a candidate, added that the delays in the audits were caused by the implementation of new financial accounting software.
“The Controller is not responsible for these delays and the reasons for delays were discussed openly at City Council meetings with some frequency,” the e-mail says.
You can see the mailer in question here, a copy of Mayor White’s email to Controller Parker here, and Parker’s rebuttal to Brown’s charges here. I have to say, I’ve generally admired the campaign Brown has run, but this was bush league. I find demagoguery about taxes to be tiresome in general, but especially in this election when everyone agrees the city has financial difficulties now and ahead of it, everyone has plans to do stuff that will cost money – things like flood abatement, for instance, which everyone agrees is a big priority – and no one has a plan to pay for any of it besides cutting “waste”, finding efficiencies, and hoping to bring new businesses to town. I find the claim about Houston having a $1.5 billion operating deficit to be mostly crankery, but even if it’s not, it’s not something that just cropped up in the last few months. A two-term member of Council could have been speaking about about that problem for quite some time if it were such a concern. I personally thought the trash pickup fee was an idea worth pursuing. In case it’s not clear, I don’t find much merit in the claims Brown is making in his mailer.
One more thing from the story:
Burt Keller, a former city councilman who supports Locke, said that while some people are quick to criticize negative campaigning, it often is the most efficient way to distinguish between candidates. Voters, he said, are not always as put off as one might think.
“It’s what they expect,” he said. “It’s just like football or boxing. People who watch it like seeing people get tackled, or in boxing, they like watching people get hit in the face.”
If nothing else, attacks force you to really decide whether you like a candidate or not. It’s a lot harder to have vague feelings about a candidate when he or she is under attack, or attacking someone else. Nothing turns a soft supporter into a passionate one faster than a belief that his or her preferred candidate is being unfairly maligned.