Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Open Letter to Annise Parker


I emailed Ms. Parker, congratulating her on her win. Below is a slightly edited version for public consumption:

Ms. Parker, I am a GOP precinct chair in Spring. I am also a long time local blogger that posts under the nom de plume of "Rorschach". I live in the ETJ and in an area that was recently "annexed for specific purpose". So while I pay city sales taxes now, I do not pay city property tax and therefore do not have an official say in the running of the city, even though those of us that live in the ETJ are heavily influenced by actions in City Hall.

I want to congratulate you on your winning the Mayorship of (Editorial note: what is expected to be when the next census is done) the third largest city in America. If you would be so kind to lend me you ear (or eyes as the case may be.) for the moment I would like to suggest something that I believe would serve you and the city of Houston in good stead. You have made it clear that you intend on changing the way HPD works. This is a good thing, HPD is a broken dysfunctional organization in need of wholesale repair, but I think you and I both can agree that change, for the sake of change, is not enough, nor is change necessarily good, it needs to be the RIGHT change. Jay Wall tells me that he and Alan Helfman have spoken to you about trying to implement CompStat here in Houston, and that you were somewhat positive about it. But like any tool, CompStat is only as good as the people wielding the tool. I would suggest that you seriously consider talking to Chief Bratton about coming to Houston, if not as police chief himself, perhaps as a consultant to help us maximize HPD's effectiveness. He has turned both New York and LA around and allowed those cities to bring crime down twice as fast as Houston has over the same time period while working with what would rightfully be called short handed departments.

I believe (and many others do as well) that HPD's bloated command staff is frankly not a good place to look for talent, given the situation with the Crime Lab and the Latent Print unit, and Houston's sanctuary city status among others. Too many of these failings can be laid at the feet of this very command staff. The city of Houston is short upwards of 5000 police officers but as you are painfully aware is on the brink of bankruptcy, so obviously we do not have money to spend bringing more police on board, but we can do what we can to make the officers we DO have as effective as possible. This is what CompStat does. Who better to implement this system but the person who quite literally wrote the book? Chief Bratton I believe is currently unemployed, having retired from LA. He may not be willing to take on the Chief of Police job, but I'd be willing to bet one of his former command staff would be willing to take on the challenge. I think it would serve you and the city well to at least contact Chief Bratton and try to hire him as a consultant to help put HPD right.

Please, I beg of you, do not let identity politics influence your choice for Chief of police or his or her command staff. These positions are far too important to be awarded based on someone's ethnicity or sex or sexual orientation. We need the best person for the job, not the best minority for the politics. This is no place for an affirmative action candidate. Your win is proof that Houston is a gender and color blind city. But part of that color blindness dictates that neither gender nor race should influence who gets a job. It should be based strictly on the person's qualifications. Color and gender blindness absolutely MUST cut both ways.

While you and I probably diverge on many issues, you and I seem to agree that a city has certain obligations it MUST meet before it wastes money and resources on more frivolous endeavors. Things like basic sanitation, and maintenance of infrastructure and police and fire protection all have much higher priority than supporting the Houston Arts Alliance, or building a soccer stadium, or buying hybrid vehicles that cost 65% more than an equivalent gasoline powered vehicle, or LNG trucks that never see the outside of a repair shop, or any number of other wasteful programs that the city takes part in. Just like your family budget, if you can't pay the rent, or buy groceries, you don't go and buy yourself a sports car or new furniture. This city has bought itself too many sports cars and too much new furniture. I know you have inherited a bad situation and I offer you any help or advice I can give. I wish you luck.

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