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Inside at City Hall:Securing Our Future and Honoring Our Past

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Why voting matters—every day.

By Annise D. Parker

Annise1Imagine trying to play with your children or dogs while looking over your backyard fence at a 23-story residential high-rise with dozens of people on balconies staring right into your backyard. 

Welcome to Houston 2009 … 2012? 

Plans for the 23-story Ashby residential high-rise cast an eerie shadow over the future of Houston neighborhoods, especially the Southampton and Boulevard Oaks neighborhoods where the high-rise will tower over the Bissonnet-Ashby intersection. 

Unless Houstonians want unbridled development—23-story residential high-rises popping up all across the city on already-crowded two-lane residential streets instead of wider four-lane thoroughfares—the next Houston City Council must stand up for responsible neighborhood-friendly development. 

So what little voice told more than half of Houston voters it’s not important to vote in the Houston city elections November 3? The recession means fewer TV commercials and less political mail, hence, more voter apathy.  

When a homeowner calls the police to report a man kicking in his front door, he wants officers at his home ASAP, a few minutes at most. Not 10 or 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter whether the homeowner voted or not. But he’s lucky. His neighbor took a little time to study candidates and vote, and she voted for city officials who stressed more police officers on patrol and maintaining fast response times. Her well-chosen candidates won. 

Perhaps the non-voting homeowner will vote next time. Perhaps it’ll take a halfway house or a noisy bar moving in across the street to make him spend an hour voting.

As they listened to distant cannon fire and worried about the British overrunning their farms and killing loved ones, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson debated word changes in the Declaration of Independence that would launch a bloody war and the great American experiment of democracy. No longer would the world be ruled by kings. If the disorganized and outnumbered colonies somehow managed to defeat the British Empire, the United States would establish the truly revolutionary idea of people voting for their own government representatives. That was 1776.  Both Adams and Jefferson died July 4, 1826, just hours apart on the country’s 50th anniversary.  Adams always swore he’d outlive his old friend and archrival Jefferson, although Jefferson was seven years younger. “Thomas Jefferson survives,” Adams said right before dying. He didn’t know Jefferson had just died.

The founding fathers were not perfect, and neither is our great country. They were, however, in agreement about one cornerstone of the new democracy: voting.

Annise2I love local government. I absolutely believe it’s the most important level of government because it’s the one that touches people’s lives most directly. If you have tap water to drink, the toilets flush, your garbage is picked up, and you have a street to drive to work on, there’s probably a local government to thank. 

I have been an active volunteer since my youth. Taking up the duty of community service doesn’t mean we can’t choose areas that bring us joy or that we find interesting. Duty doesn’t have to be a burden. But civic engagement must include participation in the political process that affects our lives every day. Being an informed voter is the minimum.

I hope each of you exceed that standard.  

A candidate for Houston’s mayor in the November 3 election, Annise D. Parker is Houston’s third-term city controller and one of the highest-ranking openly LGBT-elected municipal officials in the U.S. Her webpage is www.AnniseParker.com. To receive the controller’s newsletter, send an e-mail to [email protected]. Vote on November 3!

_________________________
On the Run
(1997)
by Annise D. Parker

You give up: anonymity, autonomy, privacy…
To gain: authority, celebrity, a legacy?
Perfect strangers share imperfect thoughts…
So, you’re running for office?
Well, just be yourself,
But… 
You’re too reserved, you need to loosen up!
Don’t quip or speak irreverently—you’ll offend someone.
Smile—you’d seem more approachable.
Don’t smile so much, people won’t think you’re serious.
Don’t cross your arms.
Don’t speak with your hands.
Don’t stand so stiff.
Your handshake’s much too firm.
A firm handshake signals confidence.
You stand too far away from folks.
You need to respect personal space.
You should be more spontaneous.
Think before you speak.
You should cut your hair.
Your hair’s too short.
You’re going gray—thought about a little color?
Highlights!
That suit’s too dark, not feminine enough.
Stick with power suits.
Stick to pants.
No pants.
You wear your skirts too long.
Your skirt’s too short.
Heels would make you taller.
A little makeup’s all you need.
You should do your nails.
I hope your speech isn’t too boring.
Oh, no, I’m not political at all.
…What was your name again?

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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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