Former Houston mayor says city facing "fiscal cliff", blames Turner administration
HOUSTON - Seven years after back-to-back terms as Houston's second woman and first openly gay Mayor, Annise Parker is offering a mixed review on the performance of her successor, Sylvester Turner.
"Sylvester Turner, and we need to give him credit, was able to shore up the pension systems. Bill White tried it, I tried it, and it wasn't that we didn't try it and pay any attention, but it had to happen in Austin and his particular expertise was able to make it happen," said Parker.
But when it comes to the City of Houston's financial health moving forward, Parker says Turner neglected prudent management by using finite federal pandemic relief dollars to balance the books.
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"You have the administration which plugged budget holes for ongoing expenses with one-time money," said Parker.
That financial decision leaves little in reserve for the next Mayor to address looming and potentially massive liabilities, including five years of back pay for firefighters and ongoing litigation over the legality of the City's street and drainage fee.
"And the next mayor is going to have to deal with a financial cliff even if the firefighters don't prevail in this litigation. Anybody running for this job needs to understand there are going to be significant challenges. In my first term, I had to lay off nearly 700 people because of economic downturn. I think that that is something that the next mayor is going to have to face," said Parker.
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Aside from "dollars and cents", Parker expressed a measure of disappointment that Turner has not yet re-introduced a version of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance she unsuccessfully championed.
"I think there were expectations in his constituency, folks that help get him elected, that he would revisit the issue. Houston is, was, remains the only major city in America that does not have any local non-discrimination protections," said Parker.
For the past five years, Parker has led the victory fund helping qualified LGBT candidates across the nation get elected. Parker says last election cycle, Victory achieved a 71 percent win rate.