Statewide contests will be decided by a handful of faithful voters
Houston’s newest City Council member will barely finish celebrating a special election victory May 12 before he or she jumps into extremely complicated city FY2008 budget discussions. In fact, the new Council member will arrive at the council table about the same time as the mayor’s budget and will be expected to cast a vote on it by the end of June. The city should end this year with a “surplus,” but don’t expect that to go far in the new year with still-looming pension underfunding, dramatic increases in public safety spending, as well as continuously rising employee health-care costs.
VOTE MAY 12
Special elections are won by those who show up! The very few who show up. Every registered Houston voter may cast a ballot in the May 12 election. Perhaps seven percent of them will. There will also be a state constitutional amendment on the same ballot, having to do with ad valorem taxation of homesteads of the elderly, which should be dominated by city voters.
Eleven candidates are vying for the open at-large Houston City Council seat created by the resignation of Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. The front-runner appears to be Melissa Noriega. Many of you may have heard of Melissa because of her interim service as a state representative during her husband Rick’s service in Iraq. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus, among many others, endorsed her. City employee Noel Freeman, head of the local Log Cabin Republican chapter, is also seeking the seat in his first run for public office. The winner will simply keep campaigning, because the seat must be defended on the November ballot.
RAINBOW ACROSS TEXAS
San Antonio One-term incumbent District 7 City Council Member Elena Guajardo, an open lesbian, seeks her second and last term. Unfortunately, San Antonio boasts the country’s strictest term limits, a total of four years. Guajardo (www.voteelena.com) received high marks in her first term. At a recent Houston fundraiser, she talked about how her presence at the political table has translated into GLBT progress: The police chief consults her; a GLBT rep will help pick the next police captain; police cadets will receive more training in GLBT issues from GLBT community members. When she talked about gaybaiting, the newly confident council member challenged, “Bring ’em on.”
When I met her two years ago, she bristled at the thought of facing gaybaiters. But that was before her Victory Fund candidate training. Hopefully, she’ll seek another position after her council service ends.
Dallas Openly gay City Council Member Ed Oakley is a serious contender as he campaigns to become the first openly gay mayor of a large U.S. city. Oakley (www.edoakley.com) has represented two council districts in the southern sector and near North Dallas.
A recent fundraising letter was signed by 49 prominent residents, including influential developer Trammell S. Crow. If not this race, look to see a breakthrough win in one of America’s top 10 cities in the next few years.
Austin The state legislature’s in session until June 1. If you want to stay connected to bills that affect the GLBT community, check www.EqualityTexas.org, our GLBT lobbyist’s website.
Annise Parker is the second-term city controller and the highest-ranking openly GLBT-elected municipal official in any of the 10 largest U.S. cities. Her website is www.houstoncontroller.org. Parker’s television program, Money Matters, airs Monday on the Municipal Channel (time Warner Cable) at 2 & 8 a.m. and 2 & 8 p.m.