Houston Voters Less Optimistic About City's Future
by: Laurie Johnson, October 18, 2011 5:10:00 am
If you look at the current numbers, they don't seem too bad.
The KUHF-KHOU 11 News survey shows 47 percent of respondents think the City of Houston is headed in the right direction.
Thirty percent think it's on the wrong track and 22 percent don't know.
Rice University Professor Bob Stein conducted the survey of 748 registered voters. He says the interesting thing is the change between now and two years ago.
"It's declined precipitously. In 2009, when the mayor was first elected, we asked people about whether the direction of the city was in the right or wrong direction. Seventy-five percent after Bill White's term said the city was heading in the right direction. Two years after Parker's in office only 47 percent of voters in the city believe the city's heading in the right direction."
Stein says people who feel the city is headed in the wrong direction are also displeased with the job performance of Mayor Annise Parker. Just 39 percent of people say they will vote to reelect her.
Another third say they'll vote for someone else and the rest simply don't know.
"The mayor won this election on September 6, when the filing date to run for mayor she did not get a serious opponent. She has five men and women who are running against her who are virtually unknown. More than the mayor is polling poorly among voters, when you get into that voting booth, you don't get to vote for none of the above or don't know or refuse, you get to either vote for Annise Parker or one of the other five candidates. And as a result, she won that election in September."
Sitting at a conference table in her office at City Hall, Mayor Parker seems unperturbed by the fact that half of the people in the survey say they're undecided on who to vote for. She says she's led the city through the toughest economy in 30 years and the reality is making difficult decisions like budget cuts doesn't win popularity contests.
"I have tackled long-standing, intractable problem areas for the City of Houston and tackled them head-on. And it hasn't been easy, it hasn't been fun for anyone. Nothing in this poll is really any different than what you would find anywhere else in America."
Back when Parker first took office as mayor, she told the public they would have to eat their vegetables and there wouldn't be any dessert.
"We have to be realistic. People didn't elect me to tell them what they wanted to hear. People elected me to be frank about the problems and to bring solutions."
Across the street at the City Hall Annex, At-Large Councilmember Melissa Noriega has a similar take on why people feel the way they do. She says it may have more to do with the general mistrust of the American people toward government, rather than poor performance on the part of Houston's leaders.
"You have a lot of overlap — you have schools, you have the city, you have the county, you have the state — and my experience has been that residents don't always know who's responsible for what."
Nearly 51 percent of people polled say they approve of Houston Council.
Thirty percent disapprove and 19 percent don't know.
Anne Clutterbuck is finishing up the last few months of her term as Councilmember for District C. Here at the end of her six years in office, she, much like the voters, gives the city a mixed review on performance.
"We do some things well and some things not so well. All we have to do, frankly, is just be able to live within our means. But longterm, what I see looming on the horizon is a bill that will come due for these pension benefits for our three pensions that we will not be able to pay out of traditional revenue sources. And that is what scares me."
We also surveyed voters to find out how the worst drought in Houston's history has changed our city and our habits. That story is coming up tonight on KHOU-11 News at ten.