Voters Guide - Mayoral Runoff Race

EMERGE USA VOTERS GUIDE
MAYORAL RUNOFF RACE 2015 

Emerge USA contacted mayoral candidates Bill King and Rep. Sylvester Turner and requested they respond to our candidate questionnaire with answers to questions about issues relevant to the MASA (Muslim, Arab and South Asian) community.

Each candidate's response is reproduced here exactly as submitted without editing or verification. Each candidate is personally and solely responsible for the content of his response. Emerge USA is not endorsing any candidate or position. This voters' guide is for educational purposes only.

To find out more information about this election visit our 2015 Runoff Elections Info page. You can also hear the two mayoral candidates in person at our Conversation with Mayoral Candidates being supported by Emerge USA on Monday, Nov 30th, 2015 at HBU from 7-8PM.

Also, watch video of the Emerge USA Candidate Forum where all the mayoral candidates were invited to speak to MASA voters before Election Day.

BILL KING

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Question 1

A strong public education system is vital to the future of our diverse Houston communities. In other Texas cities, we see city governments making significant investments in education. In Austin, following a successful pilot of the community school model at two formerly struggling east Austin schools, the city is now funding an expansion of the community schools model, which transforms schools by engaging parents, teachers, and community partners to secure wrap-around services that ensure all students can achieve. In San Antonio, the city has led and funded initiatives to enact universal pre-K and to fund counseling and scholarship support for high school students in the transition to college.

 As mayor, what specific steps would you take to enact universal pre-K, college access, community schools or other educational initiatives in Houston?

I am proud of my record on education. In 2012, when Houston ISD needed resources to rebuild its dilapidated high schools, I stepped forward to lead the bond campaign. The measure passed with over 70% voter approval.

My first priority as your next mayor will be to repair the City’s broken finances. Until we achieve balance in the annual budget and get the long-term costs of public pension funds under control, it will be difficult for the City to find the resources for new initiatives. Other candidates for mayor who will extoll the benefits of these programs—without saying how they will be paid for—are simply not being serious with the voting public. I am running for mayor to build a city that has the flexibility and financial stability to respond to future challenges.

 

Question 2

Southwest Houston has the highest density of small businesses, including many owned and operated by recent immigrants or refugees, who are most vulnerable from the growing economic inequality in Houston. These individuals possess the entrepreneurial spirit, but lack the requisite business skills and financial planning to succeed long term. What programs will you promote/create to assist these individuals to compete so that Houstonians can benefit from their ingenuity and hard work?

City Hall should be a willing partner for schools, colleges, and community organizations that provide job training to underserved populations. I look forward to unlocking the full economic potential of our many immigrant communities.

 

Question 3

With a gamut of new jobs from low skilled laborers to technical professionals, the city is currently growing faster than the rate of infrastructure change. The working poor are particularly vulnerable to due to lack of access to reliable transportation, relying on public transportation, bike paths, or pedestrian walkways to get to work. What are your plans to meet this demand growth without adding more cars and pollution on the streets of Houston?

I am encouraged that METRO has refocused its attention on maintaining an excellent bus system. Better bus stops and modern park and ride facilities can make a significant difference in commuters’ experiences. With Houston’s large geographic spread and lower population density, we simply cannot solve the city’s transit issues with expensive light rail.

Houston has made significant progress on pedestrian walkways and dedicated bicycle lanes in recent years. I will make sure that this progress continues. The only way to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in a city of distracted drivers is to create separate infrastructure for these commuters. Completing the Bayou Greenways Initiative is one of the more important pieces of this puzzle.

 

Question 4

There is a developing distrust and divide among the community and law enforcement due to miscommunication, cultural unawareness, and linguistic isolation. What will you do to bridge the gap and regain the public's trust in law enforcement agencies to support their efforts to make the city safer? What changes will you make to increase diversity in the police force and to promote high ranking officers that are reflective of the communities they serve?

 Trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is an absolutely essential component of effective policing. The overwhelming majority of Houstonians want to see more of their police department; more officers patrolling the streets; more crimes solved.

 I have proposed pay incentives to encourage officers and their families to live within the city limits. And I firmly believe that HPD officers should have access to national best practices on community relations, and the best possible training.

 

Question 5

Share your vision for the City of Houston and how it includes South Asian, Asian American, Arab and other immigrant communities. What is unique about your candidacy for this office?

Houston’s exceptional diversity is one of the city’s great assets, and that diversity will be reflected in my administration as your next mayor. Our thriving South Asian business community is just one illustration of the unique entrepreneurial spirit of Houston. I want to bring that can-do approach from the world of business to the business of running City Hall and its $5 billion annual budget. Of all the candidates for mayor, I am the one with serious ideas to move our city forward and serious experience to achieve our goals.

 

REP. SYLVESTER TURNER

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Question 1

A strong public education system is vital to the future of our diverse Houston communities. In other Texas cities, we see city governments making significant investments in education. In Austin, following a successful pilot of the community school model at two formerly struggling east Austin schools, the city is now funding an expansion of the community schools model, which transforms schools by engaging parents, teachers, and community partners to secure wrap-around services that ensure all students can achieve. In San Antonio, the city has led and funded initiatives to enact universal pre-K and to fund counseling and scholarship support for high school students in the transition to college.

As mayor, what specific steps would you take to enact universal pre-K, college access, community schools or other educational initiatives in Houston?

Quality education, and especially a quality public education, is the single most important factor for future success.  That is why, as mayor, I will make support for our schools a top priority, including providing safe routes to school for our youth, increasing communication and sharing resources among the city and our school districts, and helping community college graduates have a good chance to get good, local jobs by creating partnerships between community colleges and the private sector to improve workforce education and job training. I have released a detailed plan on supporting our public schools, including keeping students safe and maximizing their achievement by expanding after-school and summer enrichment programs, expanding extracurricular activities, and offering mentoring opportunities, including with police officers. My proposal also details plans for bringing our public schools every dollar they deserve from the state, as well as plans for preventing the closure due to low-enrollment of the neighborhood schools that serve such a central function in communities of color.  Please see my Partners in Learning proposal at www.sylvesterturner.com/partners-in-learning/ for more.

 

Question 2

Southwest Houston has the highest density of small businesses, including many owned and operated by recent immigrants or refugees, who are most vulnerable from the growing economic inequality in Houston. These individuals possess the entrepreneurial spirit, but lack the requisite business skills and financial planning to succeed long term. What programs will you promote/create to assist these individuals to compete so that Houstonians can benefit from their ingenuity and hard work?

 I am a strong believer that our economy is at its best when our small business community is thriving; that is why my very first policy proposal as a mayoral candidate, Road to the Future, includes ideas for growing our small businesses.  In Houston and across Texas, small businesses and Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) – those owned by women or minorities – are too often left out of the loop of the kinds of contracts that could help them grow. For example, in 2014, only 2.78% of all statewide contracts were awarded to minority HUBs. That’s not only a loss for the businesses themselves, but for the communities in which they operate and for Houston as a whole.  With Road to the Future, I propose to partner with groups like the Asian American Contractors Association of Texas, the Associated General Contractors of Texas, the Black Contractors Association, the Hispanic Contractors Association, and the Women Contractors Association to grow our small businesses by providing technical training, contracting guidance, and networking opportunities. A competitive business environment, including a thriving community of minority-owned, women-owned, and small businesses, is critical to Houston’s future economic health.  You can read more about Road to the Future at www.sylvesterturner.com/future/.

 

Question 3

With a gamut of new jobs from low skilled laborers to technical professionals, the city is currently growing faster than the rate of infrastructure change. The working poor are particularly vulnerable to due to lack of access to reliable transportation, relying on public transportation, bike paths, or pedestrian walkways to get to work. What are your plans to meet this demand growth without adding more cars and pollution on the streets of Houston?

As mayor, I will fight for a world-class, comprehensive transportation system that includes not just improved roadways but buses, rail, bikes and pedestrian options to provide effective and affordable transportation to all areas of the city.  It is crucial that any citywide transportation proposal includes usable transportation for every community, not just point-to-point transportation for commuters. I support TxDOT's plan to update I-45 and METRO's recent steps forward on its long-term BRT proposal. I also believe we must strike the right balance between emergency road repairs and larger, long-term improvements.

I believe the city should take more responsibility for sidewalk repairs. Leaving it up to property owners is not getting the job done. Yet, with current limitations on revenue, transferring responsibility to the city in the near term is not feasible. I support Mayor Parker's recent efforts to make it easier for property owners to maintain their sidewalks by providing access to contractors that have been vetted by the city and that have agreed to fixed rates for the repairs. I have also proposed – in my Partners in Learning plan – expanding the city’s sidewalk construction program to provide for sidewalk maintenance adjacent to schools. 

The Complete Streets concept is an important shift for the city in terms of establishing a new standard for transportation development. The main obstacle to the effective implementation of Complete Streets is funding. Public-private partnerships are solutions for a few neighborhoods but relying exclusively on the market leaves other Houston communities behind. We need to bring all stakeholders to the table, including investors and residents, to develop an equitable solution for funding these improvements throughout the city.

 

Question 4

There is a developing distrust and divide among the community and law enforcement due to miscommunication, cultural unawareness, and linguistic isolation. What will you do to bridge the gap and regain the public's trust in law enforcement agencies to support their efforts to make the city safer? What changes will you make to increase diversity in the police force and to promote high ranking officers that are reflective of the communities they serve?

Rebuilding the trust between HPD and the people of Houston is one of the most critically important issues facing our city today.  That is why I released Partners in Safety, my plan for improving policing in Houston.  Partners in Safety contains several policy changes designed to reestablish trust between the police and Houston residents, including effective implementation of body cameras, police training in de-escalation techniques, community representation and abandoning “broken windows” policing in favor of a community policing model that forges real connections between officers and the communities they serve. You can read more about Partners in Safety at www.sylvesterturner.com/partners-in-safety.   Step one toward accomplishing these necessary changes is securing the resources we need.  We must be open to exploring alternative sources of revenue, including potentially lifting the revenue cap, for these critical public safety improvements.

 

Question 5

Share your vision for the City of Houston and how it includes South Asian, Asian American, Arab and other immigrant communities. What is unique about your candidacy for this office?

My vision for Houston’s future is rooted in my own experience as a lifelong Houstonian. I grew up one of nine kids in a two-bedroom house in Acres Homes. My father, who died when I was 13 years old, painted houses for a local company and operated a yard service on the weekends. My mother worked as a maid in the old Rice Hotel.  They taught me everything I know about the importance of hard work, community and dreaming big.   They gave me the confidence to believe in the limitlessness of my future.  That’s why, as a kid, I would take the bus from the North side to downtown and walk up Main Street dreaming of one day working in one of those tall buildings; I believed that my dream was within my power to achieve. And today, the business I started 32 years ago is located in one of those big downtown buildings.  I am running for mayor to make sure that today’s young people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, just like I did.  That starts with providing a city that is well run, clean and safe, with an infrastructure that supports a good quality of life – and that treats everyone who lives here equally and with dignity and respect.  

Houston is the most diverse city in the country. That diversity is one of our greatest strengths. To nurture our diversity, we must first ensure basic protection from discrimination for all Houstonians.  That is why I am a proud supporter of the HERO ordinance. 

Encouraging our diversity also requires that we make it crystal-clear through our city policies that our diverse groups are welcome, valued members of the Houston community.  That is why one of my priorities as mayor will be rebuilding the trust between communities of color, our LGBT community, and our young people and the police.  To that end, I will be introducing specific proposals to expand community policing so that officers are meaningfully engaged with the communities they serve.  Also to that end, I am proud to have opposed legislation as a state representative that would have resulted in increased police harassment of Latinos and other residents based on their perceived immigration status.

Embracing our diversity also requires us to ensure that our diverse communities have a fair opportunity to succeed.  I am a strong believer that our economy is at its best when every Houston community is thriving.  That, again, is why my very first policy proposal as a mayoral candidate, Road to the Future, includes plans for providing jobs and career-training to young workers and workers of color, and for growing our Historically Underutilized Businesses – those owned by minorities and women. 

Finally, a true embrace of our diversity requires that we welcome diverse voices at the table of decision making.  As mayor, I will actively seek policy input from diverse stakeholders before moving forward with decisions that affect them and I will ensure that appointments to boards and commissions reflect the diversity of our city.  I will also seek ways to improve the effectiveness of diversity efforts in city hiring and contracting.  For example, one way that top corporations and some major cities have chosen to handle issues of diversity in hiring, promotion and pay is by hiring a Chief Diversity Officer – a senior-level executive with the authority and broad mandate to address diversity issues with the seriousness they deserve. Given the Houston’s incredible diversity, I look forward to exploring it as Mayor.

 


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