Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Annise Parker Wants to Hire Houston First. Then What?

posted by Free Press Houston @ 2:08 PM

by Mills McCoin

On March 9th, City Controller and Mayoral Candidate, Annise Parker proposed a “plan” to manuever taxpayer-funded projects into the hands of Houston companies that meet local hiring goals. In other words, she wants to hire Houston first.
The first thought I had was: “Soooo... we weren’t doing that before?”
This proposal, I believe, is a very easy, practical and basic concept. Hire First. And then when you throw the word “taxpayer-funded” into the mix, you get reactions like: “Are you kidding me? What were the other %#@*$ options!?!”
If you need oxygen (and you do), do you leave Earth to go get it? No. Not that often at least. So why is Hire Houston First being “proposed”? While we’re at it- I propose “the wheel.”
Let’s take a glance at the person offering up for consideration the novel idea of hiring Houston residents- Annise Parker.
Her background is some of the subject matter you might find in a John Mellencamp song. Her mama was a bookkeeper. Her daddy worked for the Red Cross. They lived in Spring Branch. Spent some time in Germany. Manheim, to be exact. Then, she graduated from Rice and began a 20 year career in the Oil and Gas industry. For 18 of those years, she worked for Mosbacher Energy.
Annise Parker lives in Montrose and was the president of the Neartown Civic Association from 1995 to 1997. She and Kathy Hubbard have two adopted children. Parker owned the Inkling Bookshop on Richmond.
In 1997, Annise Parker ran for and won the City Councilman At-Large position 1, making her Houston’s first openly gay elected official. She was re-elected (1999) and re-elected (2001)... until 2003 when she was elected as the City’s Controller. And then she was re-elected (2005) and re-elected (2007)...
The City Controller is the second highest elected city official. The position serves as the City’s Chief Financial Officer. She keeps an eye on the money. And that’s important. You can’t just have anyone holding the money these days- Rod Blagojevich, Eliot Spitzer, Marion Barry. Mayor Bill White has given other responsibilities to Parker in addition to the number crunching. She serves as a member of the stakeholders committee aimed at getting to the bottom of this crime lab fiasco. She helped the City’s payroll go paperless, saving Houston millions. She’s helping develop new ways to collect solid waste.
Annise Parker, she’s an accomplished lil’ civil servant. But does that make her Mayor material?
In a riveting phone conversation with Parker, I asked her about some of the loose or soft language in the Hire Houston First proposal. Terms such as: “Houston resident” and “local hiring goals” are extremely malleable. But Parker said that the language is as such on purpose. It’s deliberately loose; and that is because the proposal is not her formal plan. It’s more of a platform of promises. I reference the proposal itself:
“As Mayor, I will work with stakeholders and Council members to craft a policy and pass
an ordinance that incorporates one or more of the following local hire incentives and
local contracting preferences – and other good ideas developed by my colleagues in this
process. And if changes are required in state law, I will work with our state legislators to
make those changes happen.”
So if you were hoping that Annise Parker had everything already figured out... well, you’ll have to vote her in to see if this is something more than your average campaign gimmick.
Parker has also recently criticized Governor Rick Perry on his rejection of stimulus funds marked for funding unemployment benefits for out of work Texans. Texas was offered $555 million to supplement unemployment compensation and Gov. Perry said, “No thank you.” I hate that guy.
Texas is a “donor state”, which means we send Washington more money than we get back. So, in essence, that $555 million was already bought and paid for. Additionally, this money would update the benefits so that more students, women and elderly workers could qualify. Perry’s complaint is that when the federal money runs out the burden of additional costs will be placed on businesses- which is WHAT’S SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN ANYWAY! I don’t think our nation or government plans on being in a recession for an awesomely extended amount of time. That is to say, when things “go back to normal”, the businesses will go back to providing benefits.
According to a statement released by State Representative Garnet Coleman, a member of the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, “...by September 2009, the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund will have a deficit of at least $800 million, triggering the implementation of a deficit tax on Texas employers. This deficit tax will likely double the overall unemployment tax burden on the average Texas employer.”
Businesses are screwed with or without the stimulus money; so why is Rick Perry denying out of work Texans some short term help?
Annise Parker’s request for local input and transparency in allocation of this cash is not over-arching. She’s the City’s Controller (aka Chief Financial Officer); of course, she should demand involvement in this process. And it should be granted. Clearly, Annise Parker works for Houston’s best interest as she views them; but her record does strike close to home when the issues of street closures and festivals emerge.
Most of us remember the Westheimer Street Festival, or WestFest as it was once called. Well, basically Annise Parker murdered it in cold blood.
In March of 2000, during Parker’s second term as City Councilman At-Large Numero Uno, people with lots of money asked that the Houston City Council deny any street closure permit for the Westheimer Street Festival. The Council voted and the “concerned property owners” (rat bastards that they are) won. The Festival was re-located several times with complete un-success. After that, there were some attempts at reducing the budget so that the “festival” could be brought back to Montrose. This prompted Annise Parker to express her disdain for such fun in a March 2003 article of Out Smart. The festival’s return to Montrose was “in defiance of the city ordinance and without the benefit of city regulations requiring street-closure permits, insurance, security, etcetera..."
As is the case with most politicians, there are many sides to Annise Parker. Examine them carefully. Make sure you know who you’re voting for. These are vipers we’re talking about. Not clergymen or wise soothsayers. Cheers.


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