Mayor-Elect Parker Ready for a Challenge
by: Jack Williams, December 13, 2009 11:12:08 pm
With the city facing an uncertain financial future, Parker admits she probably won't be too popular after she's sworn-in to office January 4th.
"I am concerned that in the first months of my administration, I'm going to be spending all my time telling people no."
Parker says her first few months in office will be marked by belt-tightening and figuring out ways to do more with less. She'll begin reviews of each city department, with big changes already planned for the Houston Police
Department. She plans to name her own police chief and change how HPD does business.
"The police department's budget has grown by 40-percent in the last six years. We don't have any more officers on the street. We face critical problems in public safety and the potential of a large number of our officers retiring. I want a police chief who has the respect of the men and woman in uniform but who understands we can't keep doing things in the same way and expect different results."
This was Parker's seventh political campaign after 12 years as a member of city council and as city controller. It was the first campaign for her run-off opponent, Gene Locke, and she says it showed.
"This is very high level, full-contact politics. Not the kind of race you want to take the training wheels off on and Mr. Locke was a rookie candidate and he made a lot of rookie mistakes. He also had disarray in his campaign. He, I believe, replaced significant members of his campaign team at least three times."
Toward the end of the campaign, Parker's sexuality become more of an issue, with an effort by several local activists to highlight the fact that she's gay. She says those efforts failed.
"Dave Wilson and Stephen Hotze have been involved in these same ugly, divisive campaigns, attacking my community for a very long time. I am proud that the city of Houston has grown and matured, even though these gentlemen have not."
Parker says she'll review department heads over the next few weeks and doesn't plan to make sweeping changes unless there's a need to. She says she's ready to lead.
"We're going to move forward. We're not going to let the economy slow us down. We're not going to let problems in major city departments slow us down. I'm not going to solve them by myself. I don't have all the answers. I'm going to bring people in to help me tackle these."
She says every day between now and Christmas will be a work day as she builds what she hopes will be a cabinet that will be around for the next six years.