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King makes his official entry

Add Bill King to the “made his official announcement” list.

Bill King

In the middle of a noisy, torn-up west Houston street that he said epitomized Houston’s crumbling roads, Bill King launched his campaign for mayor Monday morning, pledging to return the city “back to basics.”

King, a former Houston Chronicle columnist and a mayor of Kemah, pledged to tackle the issue on which he long sounded the alarm – pension reform.

“There is no pathway to financial stability for the City of Houston that does not lead through meaningful pension reform,” said King. “Anyone who tells you differently is either misinformed or is not telling you the truth.”

King recognized that trimming pension payouts is “an emotional and difficult” issue, but stressed that he does not support changes to current city employees’ benefits, just future employees.’

King also took a veiled shot at who is likely to be his main competitor for the votes of the center-right, business crowds: Councilman Stephen Costello, who is tied to a road improvement plan called “ReBuild Houston” that King derided as the “Rain Tax.”

“We cannot afford to wait another five or six years to rebuild our streets,” said King, standing in the median of S. Kirkwood Road. “It’s time that we rethink ReBuild Houston.”

As you know, King is not at the top of my candidate list. Nothing against the guy, as he is perfectly nice and adequately qualified, but we do not see eye to eye on enough issues that I can’t see him being my choice in November. A case in point here is his shot at ReBuild Houston. Putting aside my distaste for anyone that uses the term “rain tax”, if you don’t like it but you want to make fixing the streets a priority, what would you do instead? We all agree that fixing the streets will cost a lot of money. ReBuild Houston provides a funding mechanism for that. There are certainly issues with it, not the least of which is a lack of visibility, but what would you do instead? This was a question that the foes of the Renew Houston referendum never ever attempted to answer. They agreed with the problem, opposed the solution, and had no alternate plan of their own. So I’ll ask again: If this isn’t the answer, then what is? You have eight months to come up with something viable.

Now sure, I get that this was a campaign event, not a get-all-wonky-with-details event, but as I’ve said before, just about everyone running for Mayor this year has been running in one form or another for a long time. I’ve said what my priorities are. I don’t plan to be patient waiting for the Mayoral herd to start talking specifics. I’m not singling out King here – so far, no one has said anything that isn’t suitable for a bumper sticker. I’m saying I don’t plan to grade on a curve, or to cut any slack. Just tell me what you want to do, in enough detail that it makes sense, and we’ll go from there.

Anyway. King is in, and there are still more of these announcements to come. I’ve put the press release I received from the King campaign beneath the fold. On a tangential note, I see via Facebook that Chris Brown has announced his intent to run for Controller this year. Brown is Deputy Controller, and his name surfaced as a potential candidate a few weeks ago. He joins three other candidates so far – HCC Trustee Carroll Robinson, 2013 Controller candidate Bill Frazer, and former Council member Jew Don Boney. That Facebook photo is the only info I have on this, so it wasn’t worth a post on its own, thus the addendum here.

HOUSTON — Pledging to get city government “back to basics” and address the chronic budget and infrastructure problems that threaten Houston’s future, businessman and civic leader Bill King today declared his candidacy for Mayor and asked his fellow Houstonians to come together to put “America’s City of Opportunity” back on the path to financial stability.

King, 63, announced his candidacy standing on the median on Kirkwood Road in west Houston to highlight his “Back to Basics” platform that he succinctly describes as: “Fix the streets. Catch the crooks. Balance the budget.”

His campaign also launched a website today at

“On the basic issues affecting our lives, city government too often isn’t getting the job done — so today I am declaring my candidacy for Mayor to get Houston back to basics,” King said. “I want to put my business experience to work getting City Hall focused on fixing the streets, catching the crooks, and balancing the budget.”

King, the son of a union pipefitter, grew up in the Houston area and was the first person in his family to graduate from college. He worked his way through the University of Houston — where he earned both his bachelor’s degree and his law degree — and over the last 40 years he has led numerous businesses and practiced law in Houston.

From 2001 to 2005, King served two terms as Mayor of Kemah during which time he started spearheading a regional effort to address the lack of hurricane planning. From 2010 to 2014, he wrote a weekly public policy column for the Houston Chronicle, which gave him an opportunity to study a broad range of issues confronting the City of Houston: aging infrastructure, public debt, traffic, economic development and many others.

“The massive problems we face have been years in the making,” King said, “and it will take a united effort to turn our City around. All my life, I have worked hard and reached out to find solutions – and so I am going to ask every Houstonian to lay aside their partisan and ideological differences, and come together, and help me get this City back to basics.”

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  1. Noel Freeman says:

    What’s funny is that Kirkwood is already on the schedule for reconstruction. Also, if he thinks the drainage fee is a tax, then he either does not understand public funding mechanisms or he’s being intentionally dishonest. I’m fairly certain he knows the difference between a user fee and a tax, so you can draw your own conclusions.

  2. Jules says:

    If it were a tax, we could use it as a deduction.

    It is a fee. A regressive fee.

    The software that is supposed to say how much of your land is impermeable doesn’t work. I sent a picture to all the Council Members of how the software said a large shadow on a empty lot was impermeable when it first came out. I heard nothing back.

    I’ve heard that 40% of the “rain fee” goes toward stuff the general fund used to pay for. They also used the “rain fee” to make minor repairs to the Yale Street Bridge so it can limp along for a few more years. How does that have anything to do with drainage?

  3. Mainstream says:

    My limited contact with this candidate has not been positive. He seems aloof and superior in his interactions with voters. Although he has written widely on topics of municipal government, he may lack the detailed understanding of the city budget and competing interests which council members like Pennington or Costello would have. I might prefer him if he makes it to the runoff against Bell or Turner, but he is no Bob Lanier.

  4. John says:

    King has zero financial acumen, he is a lawyer. He writes about the pensions, but has no understand of the math and accounting behind the problems. Even the GHP will probably support Costello, King has no base of support. Plus how many people read the Chronicle- nobody knows who he is

  5. Steven Houston says:

    I’ll start on a positive note in that I agree the county crime lab remains a better facility to handle all local needs, that the city needs to lower its debt, and that more operational audits should be conducted. From there, he slides downhill rapidly as a candidate because his roads program would need massive infusions of cash or debt to fix the problem (much more to fix it on his impossible time table of “now”), his apparent belief that the county will perform crime lab testing for the city at no cost to save the city money (which won’t happen), and the kind of operational audits discussed take a very long time to perform as well as a lot of money.

    King can claim he is a friend of firefighters all he wants these days but I’d be willing to bet his name recognition in the field, at least at HFD, is the highest of any candidate but in a bad way. He has repeatedly and routinely used cherry picked statistics to mislead area residents on pension issues, especially HFD’s pension which has remained decent as a percentage but only given the low pay employees get. They will be standing at the front of the line for the next mayor to finally get a pay contract, keeping in mind that pay contracts have nothing to do with pension contracts, the next mayor unable to change pensions without state permission until they meet two years later.

    Given the poor numbers he has used in his myriad of columns and op-ed’s on city finance and pensions over the years, King clearly thinks it is okay to embellish numbers or pick the worst possible scenario to sway public opinion, a tactic used by politicians devoid of decency, for years. His claims that the city would be bankrupt have become especially stale too, he has been claiming such would happen years ago, updating it every time his prediction fell flat. Houston will cut here and there, revenue estimates will be revised favorably, and various numbers cooked just like always, no matter who is in office.

  6. joshua ben bullard says:

    i had meetings with more building owners than i can count,last week.,my jaw dropped at how much money these guys were telling me they were going to donate to bill kings camp=unlike before , I can see bill king getting the funds up to 2.5 to 4 million us dollars by the time this thing clears.This guy is going to hit in the vote count heavy with high numbers.

    Joshua ben bullard

  7. Paul Kubosh says:

    John, the GHP will not support Costello.

  8. Bill King says:

    I will certainly have more to say about how we should rethink, Rebuild Houston. However, as to the question of whether it is a tax or a fee, I have given that issues some considerable thought and wrote about it at the time.

  9. Jules says:

    Thanks, Bill King.

    I like your answer to the tax or fee question. I’d also like to point out that it was called neither a tax nor a fee on the ballot.

  10. Steven Houston says:

    Considering all the things he could have addressed here, that was what he picked? Yeah, he’s a diamond in the rough (sarcasm intended for the bilking crew).

    Just looking over the comments, the main topic was fixing roads, Bilking’s campaign statements suggesting he had a way of doing it immediately and without going into more debt. I doubt very much that he’ll be able to put the squeeze on city employees more than has already been done (hint for the semi-literate: they are already paid well below their peers, most having given huge pension concessions too). Nor will any of his fat cat supporters writing these big checks Joshua speaks of likely pony up any of their millions, even restructuring debt as got us into the next few years of austerity budgets likely to help.

    And I reiterate that he would not be able to significantly impact pensions without worker approval, that ~10% of the city budget he has salivated over and fixated on for years now. Paul Simon called it best: “He’s just a one trick pony…”

  11. Jules says:

    The main topic of the comments here was not fixing the roads. There is only one comment that mentioned roads, and it also mentioned the Rain Tax (Rain Fee).

  12. Steven Houston says:

    Jules, I was including Kuff’s remarks, King’s remarks in the two articles, those others mentioned in the articles, as well as my own, Noel’s, King’s reply, and technically your own since terminology aside, all discussion of “Rebuild Houston” and the fee/tax are core elements of the roadways needing to be fixed. Drink the Kool Aid as you wish but considering the amount of time he has spent over the years suggesting the city pour tremendous amounts of money into a seaside flood project estimated in the billions, I wonder where this endless stream of money is going to come from that he wants to spend.