Mayoral candidates Peter Brown, Gene Locke, Roy Morales and Annise Parker calmly exchanged ideas and vision for Houston in the first official candidates’ forum at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Each candidate was given the opportunity to answer the same set of questions.
The first question had to do with the expansion of METRO’s light rail and how to encourage transit- oriented development. This is Roy Morales.
“We’ve got to listen to the people because if we want to sell light rail, we’ve got to sell it as a package with all types of transportation that’s available to us. And I think that we need to start looking at other areas and areas that we’ve forgotten years ago and I think that we need to revisit because it costs us less money is the monorail system.”
At the opposite end of the table, Peter Brown.
“There are good examples in other cities, we’re about 15 years behind Dallas in expanding our light rail system and we’re behind Denver now. Dallas has about 30 transit-oriented development projects going. We need some real aggressive leadership on transit-oriented development and expansion of our rail transit in Houston.”
The candidates also discussed how to spur economic development through the use of tax abatements and financial incentives for businesses. Here’s Gene Locke.
“We’ve got to be competitive and if those tools are available we’ve got to use them. And so under a Gene Locke administration we would aggressively court the introduction of new business in Houston using all of those means available. In addition to those, we’d try to look at participation agreements with developers to see if they would incentivize the development of economic development.”
All four candidates favored tax abatements, though Morales says he favors abatements only when used to grow specific areas that need it.
The candidates also agreed with Annise Parker that one of the most pressing issues for Houston is strengthening the city’s infrastructure.
“I’ve long advocated for changing the way the city of Houston thinks about our infrastructure problems. We have a five-year CIP program which is much too short. We need to have a 5, 10, 20-year infrastructure plan with an underlying agreement about how we’re going to pay for those.”
Brown, Morales, Parker and Locke were also given time for closing statements.
“I think the private sector partnering with city government where we have to do more with less at city government can use its horsepower better to shape the physical development of the city and to promote social progress in all of our neighborhoods.”
“If we come together as communities, and I think someone said it earlier this is not about partisan election, this is about communities, and that’s what we have to do because we can solve any problem that’s out there.”
“I have the skills and experience and knowledge to move this city into the future.”
“I envision a Houston where people come together. Where people come together in a way where diversity is an asset and not a liability. Where people take on the fiscal problems of the day and realize we have the can-do attitude to get through it.”
The mayoral forum was hosted by the Urban Land Institute.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.