The 2013 election page is updated. Click above “2013 Election” tab, or click here to see all of the information about all of the candidates for Houston races.
Mayor Annise Parker was recently on the news talking about getting women more involved in politics. In the news clip, Fox 26 mentioned a report by the Women and Politics Institute that says that more men are involved in politics because men think about running for office more than women. Among 2,100 college students, “men were twice as likely as women to have thought about running for office ‘many times,’ whereas women were 20 percentage points more likely than men to never have considered it.” They attribute this to five factors:
- Young men are more likely than young women to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a career.
- From their school experiences to their peer associations to their media habits, young women tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion than do young men.
- Young men are more likely than young women to have played organized sports and care about winning.
- Young women are less likely than young men to receive encouragement to run for office from anyone.
- Young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office, even once they are established in their careers.
As a woman in politics, I can say that none of those factors applied to me, so maybe that’s why I did become involved (side note: I never really played any sports, but if you’ve ever seen me play a board game, you will quickly see that I like to win). My parents were and still are extremely encouraging. Not only did I grow up hearing my parents have discussions about current events and politics, when I was young, my dad and I used to drink tea a few nights a week and discuss a different political issue. He would take the opposite view of mine just so that I would have to argue my point of view. It is unfortunate that more girls (and boys) don’t have parents like this to encourage them to do anything in life that they want.
I agree with the study’s five factors about why women aren’t more involved in politics, but I would go a step further. I think many women, especially young women, don’t get involved in politics because of the fact that it is still very difficult to be taken seriously as a woman in politics, even for the women who have a passion for it. You have to be pretty, but if you’re too pretty, you’re not taken seriously. You have to be nice, but if you’re too nice, people think you aren’t tough on the issues. You have to be tough, but if you’re too tough, everyone thinks you’re a witch. You have to come across as strong, but you also have to have keep your femininity. If a woman running for office isn’t married, people wonder what’s wrong with her. If a man isn’t married, people think that he is just career-focused. If a woman is married, people wonder how she will be able to take care of the kids if elected. Men aren’t asked about their kids. If a woman is rich, people automatically ask what their husband does for a living. If a man is rich, people ask them about their career background.
Unfortunately more often than not, these criticisms come from women!! Ladies, until we stop being critical of each other, we will continue to be the minority in politics. Instead of knocking each other down for how we dress and how we look, we need to build each other up and offer encouragement and support. Of course, I am not advocating voting for someone just because they are a woman (or a man). If the male candidate is more qualified than the woman, then by all means, vote for the man, but don’t knock the female candidate down for putting herself on the ballot.
Not only am I a woman, but I am a young woman. I understand that most people my age aren’t running for political office, but I will not tolerate being discounted just because I am a young woman. I am a serious candidate with more experience in this field than any of my older opponents. I will fight for my constituents and for the issues that are important to them. I welcome criticism, but when I get criticized by women for nothing other than being a woman or a young woman, it makes me sad for our future generation and for the young girls out there who will have to go through the same thing if we don’t change this now.
Ladies, join me in encouraging other women to run for office and/or to be knowledgeable about the issues and involved in the election process. Politics might still be a man’s game, but it’s time to show the world that women are every bit as qualified to play the game too.
Fratelli’s Ristorante 1330 Wirt Road Houston, Texas 77055
Paid Political Ad Amy Peck Campaign; Jayson Mullin, Treasurer
Council Member Helena Brown is hosting a District A convention on 10/20/12. You can register here if you’re interested. It is from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM at Spring Woods High School.
Tourists visiting Houston go to the zoo and the Galleria and….
Well at least as Houstonians we know that we can either go outside and melt the day away or go to….
If you’re having trouble finishing these sentences, apparently you’re not alone. Although the arts (operas, ballets, symphonies, theatres, and museums) bring in about $869 million dollars a year, Houston isn’t known as the “arts capitol of the country” and maybe not even of the state. Furthermore, the arts in Houston bring about “about 20,000 jobs and $97 million in revenue for local and state government.” Still somehow Houston is known as a business destination.
With such high numbers, obviously people are participating in the arts, but it seems likely that we as a city aren’t capitalizing on this significant money maker. Rice University Kinder Institute conducted a great study about the arts in Houston. Interestingly 56% of those surveyed said that they would rather have the arts than sports in the city, yet it seems like sports are publicized far more than arts.
Then you have TripAdvisor and Yahoo Travel with arts/museums as their top places listed; but as you can see, it’s kind of all over the place, which can cause confusion for travelers. The website www.10best.com lists Theatre and Arts as the 5th (out of 6) thing that Houston is known for after diversity (?), space and science, shopping, and sports. Last on the list: restaurants. Finally, when you do a Yahoo search for “things to do in Houston, Texas” one of the related searches that is shown at the bottom of the page is “Kemah Boardwalk.” Again, Kemah is not Houston!!
So how can Houston capitalize on its apparently booming art industry? One idea might be to expand on the types of art that Houstonians and visitors want. In the Kinder survey, page 11 shows that 30.9% of those surveyed listen to Rock, pop, hip-hop, or rap music, whereas only .8% listen to opera. I was about to suggest a Houston hip-hop festival, but after doing a search, I discovered that there already is one.
This brings me to my next suggestion: use social media to get the word out! According to the study, 38.5% of people get information about art events from radio and television whereas 18.7% receive it from the Internet and smartphones (the survey then says that 3.9% receive it from social media…. You can probably add that to the category of “Internet.”) The average age of those attending arts events is older, but surely newer ways of advertising will increase chances of more people attending the event.
Finally, Houston needs rebranding. Las Vegas did it in the 90s when they tried to make it more family friendly. New York did it in the 70s with “I love New York.” This is where city council and the mayor should step in. While I don’t believe the government should be responsible for much outside of safety and infrastructure, I do believe in the government stepping in on tourism. We won’t have money for safety and infrastructure if we don’t have people coming here and spending money. While I’m not suggesting that we spend a ton of money on this, I am suggesting that we rethink how we spend the funds. It is time to promote Houston as the city that it truly is.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the Downtown Management District and the city of Houston are looking at ways to make downtown parking less of a hassle so people will want to be repeat customers. Although it took them a long time, I am glad to hear that the city is FINALLY starting to study these issues, something I have been calling for since I ran for office in 2009.
One of my platform issues was to implement a tax dollar review program. Under this program, the controller’s office would have to audit every city program. Each program would come up for review on a rotation every X number of years, depending on the program. Some should be audited more often than others. The controller’s office already conducts audits at the mayor’s request, so adding the number of audits won’t increase costs for the city much, and the amount of waste they would find would pay for this and then some.
Parking meters is one of the examples I usually gave to illustrate this concept. What if we were spending more money on the salaries of those who gave tickets to violators than we were making from the meters? We finally know that parking meters are making the city money, but how many years did it take them to figure that out? If the city would have audited this program years ago, they would have found ways to streamline it and ways to make people want to come downtown more often. Instead, years later, they are just now realizing that changes need to be made.
Implementing a tax dollar review program across the city will surely show elected officials how to be better stewards of our money and will strengthen the effectiveness of our tax dollars.
Houston City Attorney David Feldman proposed a new plan to allow for “closed-session discussions of hirings and firings, lawsuits, real estate transactions and other matters allowed by the Texas Open Meetings Act” (see here). Feldman said, “‘Contrary to what some might say, and that is that this is a move away from transparency, I believe that just the opposite is true. We are oftentimes – this administration, any administration of the city – accused of bringing matters to council as a fait accompli. The reason that that’s the case is that we can’t have an executive session like everybody else in the state of Texas to discuss these things before they’re placed on the agenda for action.’”
Mayor Parker ultimately decided not to try to put this proposition up on the ballot in November, but the idea is interesting. The Open Meetings Act “was adopted to help make governmental decision-making accessible to the public. It requires meetings of governmental bodies to be open to the public, except for expressly authorized closed sessions, and to be preceded by public notice of the time, place and subject matter of the meeting.” Basically the council members and mayor are prohibited from getting together and discussing city matters unless they open the meeting up to the public. It sounds reasonable, but, as with most things in life, there are pros and cons:
Pros to open meetings:
– Less likely to have under the table deals.
– We elect people to represent us, and we should know their thoughts and opinions.
– Transparency in government is always a good thing.
Cons to open meetings:
– Council meetings are soooooooooooo long. Members ask questions that they should have already asked, and then many of them talk and repeat what others said just to make a point. Closed meetings might allow some of their questions to be answered without dragging out council meetings. Honestly, who besides reporters, staffers, and me really sit through the meetings? It might be open, but who is watching?
– A closed meeting might allow members to work out sound policy ideas without worrying about politics and their next election.
One interesting note about closed meetings is that the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was completely closed and secretive. The delegates wanted nothing to leak out before their final draft was complete. They also wanted to be able to speak freely. The Convention was actually so secretive that windows and doors were closed, and no one was allowed in without signed credentials (from The Real George Washington, the True Story of America’s Most Indispensable Man by the National Center for Constitutional studies – I highly recommend it. It’s a long book, but it’s really good). I think the delegates at the Convention had good reasons for keeping this meeting secretive. Primarily if anything from the meeting leaked and was printed in the paper, it could take months before people were able to read it. By then the ratification fight already began, and the delegates needed to make sure that people received the real and final information, not bits and pieces from the discussion.
Clearly closed meetings have their time and place, but it was wise to not proceed with this proposal. Ultimately in today’s age of technology, I don’t think the public would have voted in favor of making this charter amendment, and the prospect of it might have made people angry and wonder what the city is hiding.