When voter turnout suffers a Brown-out
Here’s a tale of a fateful vote (or lack thereof) of a city councilwoman who has hit a sour note. No airport runway repairs or road works – not a single “luxury.” Like former Congressman Ron Paul, she’s conservative as can be.
Last year, City Council was more of a soap opera than a legislative body, all thanks in part to Councilwoman Helena Brown.
Elected in a district that was already dissatisfied with its incumbent, who ran a mudsling campaign against her, Brown lucked out because of the eight percent voter turnout.
In the 2011 elections, Brown ran against an unpopular incumbent, Brenda Stardig, in a traditionally and reliably Republican district. The only other option, a Democrat, never had a chance.
Fairvote.org, a non-partisan website that promotes “respect for every vote and voice,” says low voter turnout is often pronounced during off-year elections and primaries.
This has the effect of producing unsavory candidates like Brown, who have fringe and extremist views because the only voters who show up at the polls are those who are either extremely passionate or reliable.
Greg Groogan of myfoxhouston.com called Brown a “self-proclaimed uber budget hawk” because her attitude on spending leaves her voting against anything that the Council wants to spend money on, even the essentials.
In a July 2012 article published by Houston Press, Brown is noted as having voted against anything she considers a “luxury item,” like fulfilling city pension obligations.
Brown has effectively blocked many bills throughout her fledgling career as a councilwoman. In Dec. 19 article, Emily DePrang of The Texas Observer says her obstructionism is because of an abuse of procedure. The City Council lets members “tag” bills, which delay votes for a week. One could see the use of a “tag” as a means to take the time to read it, analyze it and develop a counterproposal; others might see it as a pure stall tactic.
Brown is a huge fan of “tags.” She abuses them, forcing Council to break decorum and override her “tags” on several occasions.
She is no stranger to controversy. Her past seems filled with gaping discrepancies, all of her staff works part-time so that they don’t qualify for benefits and most of her staff left her within months of her first year. Not to mention, the man who seems to back her is a disgraced financier named William Park, who was involved in a Ponzi scheme that resulted to his ban by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The most ironic quirk Brown is her alleged use mishandling money. In many ways, she comes across as hypocritical because she cries austerity but doesn’t apply her philosophy to herself.
Brown took a trip to South Korea on the expense of taxpayers and tried to get Houston to also pay for Park’s gas and flight to Asia. She even sent some 13,000 magnets to constituents that were bought with taxpayer money.
“She obviously isn’t responsible,” says business junior Samantha Evans.
“Unless there are reasons we don’t know for her living with her parents, that’s red flag number one. If she’s mishandling money, that should say something too. I can see what she isn’t doing for (Houston), but I’m wondering what she is doing.”
Spouting fringe conspiracy theories on the Council floor counts as something.
Terrence McCoy of Houston Press reported that in a July 4 session, Brown intercepted plans to approve the construction of a $26 million maintenance facility.
“Let us see what this is all about,” Brown said. “This is a company that wants to take advantage of a $30 billion initiative that our president has approved to rebuild schools and outdated buildings, according to Agenda 21.”
Agenda 21, a socialist world domination conspiracy, had Mayor Annise Parker gasping. Brown even went so far as accusing fellow conservative and former Republican councilman, Mike Sullivan, as being a communist.
Unbeknownst to her, he was considered the most conservative on the board before she was elected.
She is up for re-election this year, but the time has come to vote Brown out of office and elect someone who is qualified. The only way to make that a reality is to have an increased voter turnout.
As cliche as it sounds, people should go out and vote. Houston needs someone who represents its constituents and not misguided ambitions.
Alex Caballero is a creative writing senior and may be reached at thedailycougar.com.