Reflection on the Houston Mayoral Forum

Most of you will just want to know … who won last night? Well, I will start off with just that and then explain how I arrived at that reason. The answer is not that black and white.

In all honesty I believe Gene Locke and Annise Parker performed well tonight. Perhaps, Locke had a home field advantage … at times asserting himself with a confidence that did not seem to radiate from the other candidates.

Parker must be the default front-runner because Peter Brown and Roy Morales went after her aggressively.   She held her ground and sold the audience in her ability to manage the city. Parker was able to transcend racial boundaries and connect with the audience as well.

We sat in a small cozy lecture room that comfortably seats about 150.  To my surprise, it was close to capacity with about 85% of the seats occupied at one point.  The racial makeup of the audience was not as diverse as I hoped. The majority of attendees were African-Americans. I was sad to see a lack of Hispanic voters.

The forum was hosted by the Texas Business Alliance and thus understandably the majority of questions revolved around city contracts with small businesses and taxes on businesses. The fact that there was not a reasonable amount of Hispanics representing their business interest was disappointing.

It isn’t that Hispanics do not own any businesses. They have a stake in what candidates had to say just as much as other racial groups.  All you have to do is go into the Harrisburg area near Wayside Drive and you will see how many small businesses are owned by Hispanics. Thus, their lack of participation is intresting.

Roy Morales, the only Hispanic candidate, arrived 40 minutes late to the event and just like that … he left promptly as it concluded. I sought and introduced myself to all the candidates. I briefly spoke to Gene Locke, Annise Parker and Peter Brown.

As I scanned the room … Morales was nowhere to be seen.  Morales showed poor etiquette by showing up for the last twenty minutes of the forum. The word on the street is that he was at a fundraiser collecting greenbacks. I can’t knock his hustle but come on … how do you think that will look when the media reports it?

He should have canceled due to a scheduling conflict.  It isn’t like these events came out of nowhere or is it? I heard Locke canceled an event in the Heights to attend the forum but who knows.

There was a moment towards the end where the moderator, Art Rascon, asked Morales if he was qualified to be Mayor considering the fact that he had the least amount of government experience. Without missing a beat, Morales was able to refute that assumption and poised himself as a legitimate candidate.

Peter Brown had some great ideas that he failed to relay to the crowd. Don’t get me wrong … I knew what he was talking about but at times those in the audience did not build the rapport that Brown needed in order to relay his message.

Brown’s downfall was being the first person next to the moderator. He was the first to respond to Art’s questions but at the same time was the first to be challenged by Locke. The candidates were in the following order: Brown, Locke, Parker and Morales.

Thus, Locke always got to pick on Brown for not being able to answer the questions within the 1-minute time slot. Parker ended up repeating what Locke said or was at a loss of words because Locke had answered eloquently.

At the end of the day … when there are 4 candidates and 1 of them fails to show up for the majority of the debate … you cannot do any worst. Brown was not on his A-game tonight but he still did a heck of a job for the position he was in.

Parker and Locke were tied. Locke’s biggest shortcoming tonight was not asking a candidate a good question he had come up with. This is not “Who wants to be a Gentleman?” Locke should have shown some hunger and gone after a candidate. His insightful question (which Art ended up asking everyone) was rendered mute when he did not address a candidate in particular.

Parker failed in a similar way. She opted to asking a candidate a question and instead asked for a question from the audience. This minor confusion led to Art skipping her request and moved on to the next question.

Parker did stand out when she brought out her boxing gloves in reference to a Morales and Brown question. Morales challenged her on running a deficit budget. Parker was able to address that assertion with ease.

Brown claimed that Parker wanted to reduce the budget for the Houston Police Department at times when crime rates are high. Parker calmly reminded Mr. Brown that she was only seeking to hold HPD accountable. The City of Houston spends 1/3 of their budget on law enforcement … it makes logical sense that we hold them accountable for their expenditure.

The night was eventful and entertaining. Before I knew it, an hour had passed and I was hooked. Like any good cliffhanger, I was addicted and will return to the next event in which all candidates share their views.

I have not yet decided whom I will endorse and by no means is one to interpret my reflection as an endorsement for one particular candidate. I will entertain all candidates until I arrive at an informed decision.  So far, Locke, Parker and Brown have left a good impression with me … I have to first meet Morales before I can discount him though.

Who do you support?