First Chron endorsement of the season, and it’s one I called.
When government is broken, who do you hire to fix it? For the Harris County Housing Authority, the answer was Tom McCasland. Plenty of candidates can tout their ideas for repairing Houston’s problems, but only McCasland has a record of working within government to cut fat, root out corruption and balance budgets. In the race to replace a term-limited Steven Costello for the City Council At-Large 1 seat, voters should send McCasland to City Hall so he can put his skills to work.
McCasland, 42, has a biography that reads like a Horatio Alger story. The child of missionaries, he grew up next to a Navajo reservation in a home that he shared with his nine siblings – no electricity and no running water. From these modest beginnings he ascended to Baylor University for a master’s degree in philosophy, Yale Law School and a job at Vinson & Elkins. McCasland stepped into the public eye, however, when he was appointed to head up the troubled county housing authority after a Chronicle investigation revealed that the agency had wasted millions of dollars on unnecessary expenditures, including statues, parties and executive pay.
As CEO, McCasland cut the operations budget while increasing services to the needy and even giving his lowest-paid employees a much-needed raise. Essentially, he took a slush-fund and successfully rededicated it to its true purpose: helping the poor and homeless find safe places to live. This focus on core services is a philosophy that voters should want to see in City Hall.
In this field of seven candidates, former police officer Mike Knox and Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis also stand out. However, voters should be wary of Chris Oliver, a Houston Community College trustee, who voted for a contract with a major vendor without disclosing it had hired his own company as a subcontractor. He has since apologized for what he calls an “honest mistake,” but there’s little room for mistakes in this crowded race for At-Large 1.
Among all those candidates, McCasland has a proven record of going above and beyond the call of duty in office and deserves voters’ support in this election.
Let’s review. I made McCasland the favorite to get this endorsement, though I thought Lane Lewis had a shot at it. I also suggested the Chron would not be favorable to Chris Oliver. Not too shabby so far. The mention of Mike Knox is a tad bit worrisome, since Knox is an anti-HERO candidate, but he ran a pretty respectable race for District A in 2013, so that probably helped him. As noted, this is the first Chron endorsement, but there are lots more to come. I’ll be keeping an eye on them and updating the 2015 Election page as we go.