An agenda for Mayor ParkerCongratulations to Annise Parker on her win last night, becoming, as she pointed out, the first Rice alum to become mayor of Houston ;-). Between her and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the Rice mafia now controls this town. Nerds rule, literally in this case. I'm hoping for my appointment call any day now... (hint, hint)
She faces a difficult financial situation at the city, and obviously her first priority will be getting that under control. In addition to those short-term pressures, there are the long-term financial issues of city employee pensions and Metro's solvency, with rail cost estimates spiraling upward and revenue shrinking. If she does nothing else in the next two years but fix those financial problems and get the city and Metro on a sustainable financial path (without raising taxes), she'll have one of the most accomplished mayoral terms in city history and will more than deserve two follow-on terms.
But that's no reason to limit our ambitions. I went through my highlight posts from the last five years to find some good strategies for the next few years, with an emphasis on low or no-cost ideas:
- A broad city philosophy of Opportunity Urbanism (including the policy appendix, more here: Opportunity Urbanism, 4 drivers op-ed, and response to critics). Also it's worth reviewing how not to become California.
- Securing Houston's economic and world-city future, including support for an Energy SXSW mega-conference (and update)
- Support the Ike Dike (with federal and state funding)
- A Pragmatic Approach to Houston’s Transportation and Development Future (part 1, part 2)
- Six Federal stimulus infrastructure projects for Houston (Chronicle op-ed)
- Adapting Metro Solutions to the new realities
- Cheap fixes for traffic congestion and keys to unlock our gridlock (includes a link to the 3-part series)
- Collaborate with Houstonians for Responsible Growth on their initiative to streamline and improve deed restrictions to protect neighborhoods.
- Creative ways to fund more police and innovative ideas on crime reduction in the Economist, mainly through deep relationships in the community. Excellent ideas for Houston to try under our new mayor and chief of police. I'm particularly a fan of GPS tags to prevent recidivism.
"The lesson of High Point is that you can reduce crime by making credible threats, without having to lock up so many people. To deter, a punishment must be swift, certain and severe....Mr Kleiman suggests several other promising, non-macho approaches to curbing crime. Raise alcohol taxes. Start school days later to prevent after-school crime. Force probationers to wear GPS tags, thus making probation a tough (and much cheaper) alternative to prison. Americans should experiment with such ideas, he says, and if they are serious about justice, the object should be to cut crime, not to make criminals suffer."Finally, in the more experimental category, I think there is a real opportunity to truly open up government to enable more engagement by citizens (including innovation and finding much-needed efficiency improvements), in the same way the open source movement works with software on the internet. But that's a topic for a whole 'nother blog...