Kind of late in the cycle given the number of lesser known candidates in these races, and not nearly complete, but here it is anyway.
In addition to the first open mayor’s race in six years, Houstonians can expect to see at least four new faces on City Council next year – three of which will come from contests to be decided in Saturday’s runoff election.
In the At-Large 1 race, former police officer Mike Knox faces photographer and philanthropist Georgia Provost.
In the At-Large 4 race, municipal finance lawyer Amanda Edwards faces former Harris County Department of Education trustee Roy Morales.
Edwards, who has served on nonprofit boards such as Project Row Houses, worked in the Georgia Legislature while in college, then for U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, before heading to Harvard Law School.
City Council must better articulate Houston’s goals, she said, so it does not work at cross purposes by retaining what she views as suburban parking rules, for instance, in areas primed for the sort of density that would enable bicycling and walking.
She said voters must be asked to modify a decade-old cap on city property tax collections at least to protect public safety spending, and rising pension costs also must be addressed.
“I can’t think of more complicated, pressing issues than some of the ones we face right now,” she said.
The race to replace term-limited Ed Gonzalez in largely Latino District H pits elementary school teacher Karla Cisneros against HPD community service officer Jason Cisneroz.
Cisneroz, an Army veteran, worked at City Hall as a staffer for Gonzalez and former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. Cisneroz said he believes a staffing shortage at HPD can be resolved, in part, by more effectively coordinating calls for service with other law enforcement agencies.
Cisneroz has emphasized the economic disparities in District H. Corralling stray dogs and catching illegal dumpers, he said, also would be top priorities. He also called for an independent “developer integrity unit” to make sure new projects do not adversely affect roads and drainage in the area.
“People talk about inequality all the time,” Cisneroz said. “I’m living it every day.”
Cisneros, too, has focused much of her campaign on inequality in the district, pointing to her experiences teaching elementary school on both sides of Interstate 45. The former Houston school trustee said many of the city’s tax increment reinvestment zones, which keep some property tax revenues within their boundaries for public improvements, have “institutionalized inequality.” Cinseros said she would work to limit the expansion of these zones and to disband others.
Not very conducive to excerpting, so read it all yourself. If there isn’t a story in today’s paper about the At Large #2 and #5 runoffs, I’ll be very disappointed. I mean, we could have a very different Council next year, with a ton of new faces, and yet I’d bet most of the voters who will cast a ballot today couldn’t name more than one or two of the eight At Large candidates off the top of their heads. I expect the undervote rates to be pretty high – not as high as they were in November, but in excess of 20% per race. We’ll see.
The Forward Times points out another notable aspect of today’s races.
This election is not like any other in Houston’s rich history.
After the November election, Council Members Jerry Davis (District B), Dwight Boykins (District D) and Larry Green (District K) were all re-elected to council. With Council Member C.O. “Brad” Bradford being term-limited, that reduces the number of African American council members to three. As a result of the general election results, however, Houstonians now have an opportunity to vote to have seven African Americans serving on Houston City Council at the same time, by voting for candidates in four At-Large city council races.
In the At-large Position 1 race, entrepreneur Georgia Provost faces Mike Knox; in the At-Large Position 2 race, Rev. Willie R. Davis squares off against incumbent David Robinson; in the At-Large Position 4 race being vacated by term-limited C.O. “Brad” Bradford, attorney Amanda Edwards faces Roy Morales; and in the At-Large Position 5 race, Sharon Moses faces incumbent Jack Christie, who defeated two-term incumbent Jolanda Jones, who fell short in her quest to complete her final term.
Not only would there be seven African Americans serving on Houston City Council, but in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Annise Parker as mayor of the city of Houston, Sylvester Turner also has a chance to be the 2nd African American mayor in Houston’s history. That would make a total of eight African Americans around the horseshoe at Houston City Council.
Some of those eight are better than others, obviously, but no question we could have a historic result. The story notes that we could have had six elected African Americans in 2011, but fell short when Jolanda Jones was defeated. Provost and Moses also have the chance to be the first African American women on Council since Wanda Adams’ departure in 2013. It will be interesting to see whatever happens.