Stephen Araiza Sits Down With Houston’s Rebellious Mayor Annise Parker
What goals do you hope to accomplish by the end of this term?
I want to leave Houston in a better position than it was six years ago when I became mayor. During my tenure, we have put in place a more stable financial structure, we are rebuilding our streets and drainage infrastructure, linking our bayous with linear parks, adding hike and bike trails, holding the line on crime, solidifying our reputation as a green city and housing the homeless.
What has been your greatest obstacle so far while being in office?
I like to move fast and sometimes that pace and the bureaucracy of government collide. We have been able to work through it though and accomplish much more than other previous administrations. Time is also an obstacle. Our current term limits allow those elected to city office to serve no more than six years. This is what fuels my fast pace. There is so much to get done and I always hear the clock ticking.
How far do you want to take your political career, do you see yourself running for governor one day?
I definitely want to pursue other public service opportunities. However, given the current election cycle and politics of Texas, there will not be anything available for me to pursue at the time my term as mayor will end. That means I will need to find something else to do until that next opportunity presents itself. At this point, I have not decided what that something else will be.
You have been given a lot of criticism recently, what motivates you to look past it and move forward?
I know that what we are doing is right for Houston and its residents. I also know that the criticism is not reflective of what the majority of this great city believes. We are a tolerant, diverse and accepting city – a city that doesn’t care where you came from or whom you choose to love. We care about what you have to offer and want everyone to have the same access to full participation in civic and business life.
“There is so much to get done and I always hear the clock ticking.”
Most people would consider equal rights a great thing, why do you think so many in the religious community are against an ordinance (referring to HERO) that supports equal rights?
I disagree with the premise of the question. We had great support from the religious community. The small minority of the religious community that has been the most vocal in opposition to the HERO is not reflective of the majority.
You got married early this year in California, do you see Texas legalizing same-sex marriage in the near future, and are you doing anything personally to push it?
I believe that same-sex marriage will be legal in Texas soon. This postion is supported by numerous recent court decisions and legalization of the freedom to marry in numerous other states. As for what I am doing personally, I am a co-chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, an effort launched at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in January of 2012. We started with about 80 Mayors. As of now, almost 500 Mayors from 45 states and the District of Columbia have joined the program. This group utilizes various means to promote the issue, including social media and the news media.
Aside from same-sex marriage, you recently made comments regarding current drug laws, how would you change them if given the opportunity?
I am on record in support of the legalization of marijuana. However, this is an issue that will be decided at the state level rather than locally.
Do you think the legalization of marijuana would have a positive or negative effect in the State of Texas?
I believe we could see a reduction in the wide range of criminal activity that occurs as a result of the illegal distribution of marijuana. There could also be a revenue impact from the taxes that would most certainly be applied to legalization.
What improvements do you feel need to happen in Houston?
We need to ensure better educational outcomes for our kids. We need to create a clear path from high school to the thousands of jobs in industry and, for the city, we must address pension reform. My administration has been working on these but real long-term solutions will have to come.