Student organizations bring mayoral candidates to UH
Incumbent Mayor Annise Parker and candidates Ben Hall and Eric Dick talked to UH students Thursday about their plans and what they envision for Houston’s future.
With the Nov. 5 election just around the corner, the UH College Democrats, UH College Republicans and Student Government Association worked together to bring the three mayoral candidates to campus to promote local politics, education and student involvement.
“The reason why we put this together is so the University of Houston’s students know more about local politics,” said Catherine Tassin De Montaigu, president of the UH College Democrats. “These people are the people who change our everyday lives.”
Parker laid out her plans for bringing in and building new businesses to boost the city’s economy. She also had ideas on public safety, infrastructure, quality of life and fiscal responsibility.
“(Houston is) the best place for young professionals, the best place to launch a career and the No. 1 relocation city,” Parker said. “Forbes magazine last year named us the coolest city in America, and I know it has nothing to do with the weather. This year, Forbes magazine named us the global city of the future.”
The annual budget for Houston is $5 billion, and that money should be invested into local firms so local tax dollars can be kept in the local economy, Parker said.
With regard to improving Cullen Boulevard, Parker admitted street repair and maintenance is a challenge that needs attention.
“We have decades of deferred maintenance on the streets of the city of Houston,” Parker said. “We are now spending $100 million or more a year on street and drainage improvements, and over the next 20 years you’re going to see significant changes, but infrastructure problems are not a short-term fix.”
Ben Hall disagreed with the mayor’s plan and strategies.
“I have a totally different approach to streets,” Hall said. “We’re using old technology to address a persistent problem … they actually have an epoxy road surface that actually gives and takes with the contraction and expansion of soil.”
Hall also said the current administration has done little to address the No. 1 crime in Houston: burglary. He said that if elected mayor, he would harness face-recognition technology to fight this crime. An FBI statistic shows that this technology decreases criminal activity almost 85 percent, Hall said.
Hall stressed the importance of investing in entertainment and fun in the city.
“Just imagine if we could add to that entertainment, where people can go have fun,” he said. “I’ve reached out to some investors and said, ‘Would you bring in an underground center the size of the Galleria?’ I have an investor who wants to bring down $1 billion to do precisely that.”
Dick addressed liability problems in Houston.
“(In) next year’s (budget), there is an $80 million gap, and the current administration’s solution is to borrow more money,” Dick said.
He said he would address the problem by setting an example and reducing his own salary and capping the salaries of high-paid executives. He would also make budget cuts.
Students demonstrated concern about Houston ending up like Detroit, but Parker said pensions didn’t bankrupt the city.
“Thirty years ago, Detroit was the fourth-largest city in the United States,” she said. “It lost two-thirds of its population. No city can lose two-thirds of its population and not adjust its spending and survive. Pensions were just part of the collateral damage, and Houston is not going the way of Detroit.”
A poll conducted by Bob Stein and Stephanie Post at Rice University found that Parker leads with 34 percent of intended votes. Hall stands at 13.6 and Dick at two.