Mayoral race to cover top community issues
With Mayor Annise Parker’s final term ending and the new Houston mayoral election just around the corner, tension rises as ten candidates race to become the next mayor.
According to the Houston Chronicle, during the last mayoral election in 2013, only 13 percent of the city’s registered voters actually voted in the mayoral election. This stems the concern of whether Houstonians may know what the mayor’s role really is.
This fiscal plan measures the potential expenditures and revenues of the year. The budget is fed by property and sales taxes Houstonians pay – meaning the higher the budget, the higher the taxes; the lower the budget, the lower amount of resources allocated to the city’s departments.
Mayor candidate Adrian Garcia, former sheriff and councilman of Houston believes there are challenges to be addressed, but with the “budget potentially being already $126 million dollars in a hole,” it takes precedence.
“The first challenge will be to get our financials in order, make some tough decisions, find some efficiency and do everything possible to balance the books—that will be priority number one.” Garcia said.
With all the potholes, uneven roads and lack of sidewalks, one wonders how the streets of Houston can be so neglected. The mayor maintains the infrastructure of the city, ensuring the proper amount of resources is being allocated to the Department of Public Works and Engineering, all while making sure it is done efficiently.
Mayoral candidate Ben Hall, a former Houston city attorney, focuses on the infrastructure of the city. He believes the city should focus on long term solutions and with the introduction of new technology, road repairs should be more efficient.
“Transportation in Houston is a nightmare,” he said.
In Houston, there are a lot of options to get from point A to point B, but in some areas, those options are not as prevalent as in other areas. The mayor has jurisdiction in making the transit system more available through an expansion of METRO, light rails, hike-and-bike trails, bike lanes, roads and highways. Decongesting the highways is a key area, especially as population grows.
For psychology freshman Julie Do, having an alternative option for transit in her suburb town would alleviate pressure for those who commute.
“I hope that the next mayor will improve our METRO rail system in a way where even people in the suburbs have an easy access to (it),” Do said. “This will help people who do not own a car to be able to travel throughout the city with ease.”
It is presumed the education system is within the purview of the federal government and corresponding school districts, however, this is not always the case. Mayors do have an influence in the availability and opportunity of education.
For mayoral candidate, former councilman and former congressman Chris Bell, “improving public school in Texas is the most important issue facing Texas and…the city of Houston.” In his campaign, he details a plan of using under-utilized space in library branches to be remodeled for classroom space for pre-kindergarten classes. By using the 31 library branches in the Houston area and the empty spaces in each, Bell is making early education available for more students especially for those in areas where schools are not nearby.
Frequently, grants are given to political figures whom give the money right back to those in need. Parker did so when she provided $80,000 to assist students with tutoring through the After-School Achievement Program. Mayoral candidate and former Texas Representative Sylvester Turner similarly donated $500,000 to Lonestar Community College for tuition assistance thanks to H-E-B.
Houston is among the top most dangerous cities according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report. Therefore, it is no surprise for public safety to be on a mayor’s agenda. This includes dispersion of budgets and resource to police enforcement and fire department. Monitoring and enforcing the flood control district is a duty within the mayor’s sphere of influence. All of the mayoral candidates have addressed their specific ways in how they will assist and support those chronically challenged with flooding in the Houston community.
“I had no idea the mayor had control of this topic,” said Mehreen Basit, a management information systems junior. “My hope is that the next mayor really helps us out with flood control because my cousin’s neighborhood was flooded for about two days straight and they were basically stranded. So I really hope we fix our flood control problem.”
The mayor’s plate has plenty for this upcoming term. Each of the ten candidates have campaigned and will continue until the election on November 3, 2015 where the Houston community will come together to decide the future of the city itself.