The annual candidate night was held last evening at the Sharpstown Community Center and it was well attended by both residents and those seeking office. It’s a city of millions but it’s still a small world, as I discovered when I bumped into Larry Payne, who was present to speak on behalf of CM Brad Bradford. When I put out my hand I knew he was familiar and he greeted me like an old colleague. My wife Elizabeth picked up on it and asked “how do you know each other”, to which I replied, “from that previous life working for Bob Onstead, founder of Randall’s”. Larry smiled and nodded his head …it must have been 20 years ago. Still a nice guy.
We were fortunate to have a nice representation of Candidates and their reps:
Current District F CM Al Hoang opened the evening with brief remarks, thanking the SCA for previous support and acknowledging the move of the neighborhood into District J per the new council map.
Office of Mayor: Fernando Herrera and Jack O’Connor, and a rep for Mayor Parker.
City Council At-Large 1: CM Costello
City Council At-Large 2: Bo Fraga, Elizabeth Perez, & David Robinson.
City Council At-Large 3: Rep for Melissa Noriega
City Council At-Large 4: Larry Payne for CM Bradford
City Council At-Large 5: Reps for Laurie Robinson and CM Jones
The New District J Candidates were all present: Criselda Romero, Rodrigo Canedo, and Mike Laster
There were no great surprises, either missteps or breaking news, as all the Candidates did an acceptable job. Due to the format and time constraints there was little opportunity to ask questions but there were a few: What will you do about blight in the neighborhood? What will you do to get a “regular” grocery store into the neighborhood? What’s the area covered by District J?
Rodrigo Canedo, who I had the pleasure of talking with for about two hours recently at a local waffle house, did a fine job. He was calm and prepared. He got the question about the grocery store, and took it as a query about Sharpstown Mall (PlazAmericas).We discussed this at length (previously) and he admits driving outside the district to do some of his shopping and recognizes the economic impact that a traditional retail grocer would have. He was also asked about the “slum” apartments and gave a good response, that he would take a carrot and stick approach. Work with owners through the Mgmt District and TIRZ for resources, but through Neighborhood Protection for those who are uncooperative.
To be honest, Romero seems to have the talking points down, “stakeholders”, “community”, and played up her time at City Hall working for CM Ed Gonzalez, but her remarks were unconvincing that she has a plan and the gumption to get it done. She had trouble with the microphone and that hurt her performance. I spoke with her after and she was very nice, articulate, and promised to meet with me in the near future. She is a strong candidate though, probably will be in the run-off.
Mike Laster was very comfortable as this is his old crowd, and he is a former SCA President. They also know him well from his previous unsuccessful runs for office. Rather talk about what he “plans to do” he talked about “what he’s done”. He claimed credit for adding Deputy Constables through the SW Houston TIRZ and a reduction in crime of 13%. We know crime is down across the city, state, and nation so I don’t know if he can take all the credit. He didn’t mention the $500,000 spent for the new Midwest Patrol Precinct but that must be a factor. Laster would be the “Insider” I think, and those of us seeking change are of course skeptical of the old guard. He mentioned a roadblock at City Hall in getting the Bellaire Corridor project started, but I was unable to ask him to clarify. I’ll do so and post his response. Overall he was articulate, knows the issues, and is likeable.
I think Bo Fraga was impressive as a speaker. He seemed humble, articulate, and prepared. I chatted with him briefly post meeting, (first time I’ve met him) and he seemed very sharp. I would bet he’ll be in the run-off, and will likely win the At-Large 2 seat.
Jack O’ Connor railed against Mayor Parker, touting his business experience. He seemed focused about the pension issue and budget matters. HFD Leader Fernando Herrera, who noted he was recently the “Scene Commander” of the George Bush fires, seemed calm and collected. It’ll be tough to beat Mayor Parker but at least there are a few opponents to “keep her honest” as they say. That’s never a bad thing.
Finally, CM Costello spoke about the drainage tax-program and the creation of committee to address long term finance issues like the public safety pensions. Good information and no push back from the crowd about the additional tax. O’Connor (I believe) did point out that some residents will pay more in water bills than in property taxes. That’s true for seniors with frozen tax bills and high water usage, but probably not most residents. Regardless there was little outcry among the crowd.