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InsideOut At City Hall: Politics, Politics, Politics

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Amid an onslaught of presidential primaries, early voting begins for Houston elections.

With so many states splashing about like amorous frogs in the rain (see how I worked in the Houston weather?) trying to be the first to schedule primary votes, the November 2008 presidential campaign has already turned out to be the longest and most omnipresent election season in our history. In a little more than three months, candidates duke it out in the January 14 Iowa caucuses, required by Iowa law to be the nation’s first primary.

Thanks to a zillion cable channels and hours of programming to fill, we can’t turn on TV without seeing pundits and candidates pontificate on multiple channels 24 hours a day. How all this media shock and awe will affect turnout and Americans’ opinions about the political system, I don’t know. I suspect it won’t be positive. By the time the election is actually upon us, I think many casual voters will have long tuned out.  

Perhaps, at the very least, when it’s all over and the election costs top hundreds of millions of dollars, we might just begin some serious discussion about public financing of elections – as they do in many other countries – to remove some of the enormous influence of money and lobbyists. The average person would be astonished to learn that U.S. senators and representatives spend dozens of hours on the phone every month raising money just to remain in office and discourage potential challengers. That’s what we pay them to do under our political system. No wonder they can pass expanded surveillance legislation, then argue about what it means.

After all these years, I still can’t fathom the 50 percent of Americans who don’t vote. No matter how jaded, apolitical, or fed-up non-voters claim to be, how can they not care that the next president may appoint one or more Supreme Court nominees and change the course of history for the next 20 – 40 years? The court is already tipping 5-to-4 conservative in more and more decisions. Roe v. Wade, GLBT rights, privacy issues, civil rights, and environmental protection are just a few of the critical Supreme Court decisions at stake in the 2008 presidential contest.

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL

Enough politics? Hardly! Let me try to bring you down to earth. Houston, we have a city election in November. Mayor, city controller, and all of city council are on the ballot.

Ultimately, all politics is local. In part, that means you’re most affected by local government: water and sewer, garbage pickup, police and fire protection, the number and quality of parks and libraries, street conditions, and countless other vital services. The nine district and five at-large city council races feature an array of interesting candidates, with four of those seats having no incumbent running. Both the mayor and I are seeking our third and final terms as under term limits, which restricts officeholders to three two-year terms.

District council members actually have more influence than at-large council members in one area, because they directly influence all-important CIP (Capital Improvement Projects) budgets in their district. If you want your street repaved before someone else’s, it’s a good idea to let your district council member know.  

By the time you read this, the filing deadline will have passed and the full list of candidates will be available. (I am unopposed, thank you very much!) Early voting for the November 6 city election begins October 22. As always, organizations such as the Houston GLBT Caucus PAC (www.hglbtpc.org) endorse candidates and provide information. If the caucus PAC does not endorse in a particular district race – meaning the candidate did not seek endorsement – good information may be found in the Houston Chronicle, which endorses, as well as through the League of Women Voters Guide , which gives objective data in the candidates own words.

By the time the city runoff elections finish in December, you’ll barely have time to finish shopping so you can enjoy the holidays before bracing for Super Duper Tuesday.

Then keep your voting card handy for Texas’ March 4 party primaries, with district judges, governor, and U.S. Senate candidates vying for party nominations.   

Whew! This is enough politics, even for me.

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 (Comcast) at 2 and 8 a.m. and 2 and 8 p.m. The City Con-troller’s webpage is www.houston tx.gov/controller/index.html. To receive the controller’s newsletter, send an email to [email protected] houston.net.

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Annise Parker

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker is the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute. A complete list of Victory Fund-endorsed candidates is available at victoryfund.org/ourcandidates. They currently have 16 endorsed candidates running in Texas.

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