Signal endorsement: Sylvester Turner for Houston mayor

Early voting runs through Dec. 10
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Tony Buzbee’s campaign– best illustrated in his drunken-like, near-incomprehensible, camo-clad election day speech– has been a bit embarrassing.  

For that reason, among others, we’re unsurprisingly endorsing Mayor Sylvester Turner for a second term. 

When the mayor’s race began in earnest earlier this year, there was hope that the crowded field of candidates would produce a healthy discussion about the city’s top issues.

Instead, Houstonians received a Trump-like dog-and-pony show, largely thanks to Buzbee pouring $10 million of his own cash, more money than any other campaign, into his run for mayor, antics and all.

Buzbee, who gave $500,000 to Trump, lacks policy seriousness. Just this week, he introduced a flooding plan, which the Turner campaign characterized as a “mix of things that are already being done combined with worn out, false political attacks.” 

Turner, the crisis manager

Public and private polls show the Houston mayor’s race is Turner’s to lose. 

That’s in part because he has clear policy victories to show for his first term. His team helped create almost 100,000 new jobs since last year. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1981. The city has negotiated steady pay raises for most of its municipal employees, and most recently, Turner signed an executive order to increase the minimum wage for Houston airport workers, increasing their hourly $10 wage to $12 by 2021. 

On flooding, the mayor has proven his crisis manager bona fides, which will inevitably come in handy again during the Next Big Flood (which has become a near yearly affairs). He has worked to secure federal grants for flood mitigation, increased high-water rescue resources, and pushed to overhaul outdated regulations that did not require homes built in the city’s 500-year floodplain to be constructed at least two feet above the floodplain. 

Perhaps most importantly, the mayor unveiled the city’s first-ever Climate Action Plan, a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become a carbon-neutral city by 2050. 

“To be able to put forth the city’s first-ever climate action plan in the energy capital of the world is significant, it’s a big deal,” Turner said in an interview. “If it can be done in Houston, it can be done anywhere. We have a responsibility, Houston has to lead the way.” 

Looking ahead

The Signal asked Turner about the next four years. What will be his priorities and vision for the city?

“My focus is making sure that we don’t have two cities in one, cities with haves and have nots,” Turner said. “The goal is to do even more to eliminate disparities between communities and between people’s standard of living, and to provide affordable housing opportunities and better living wages so that we don’t have two cities.” 

Turner has also hinted during his next term that he may greenlight placing a HERO 2.0 on the ballot, the second attempt at a Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that voters rejected in 2015 because of rank disinformation from LGBT opponents (whom Buzbee has courted).

One constant through Turner’s term, and over the next four years potentially, is his belief that Houston is a welcoming, inclusive city — no matter immigration status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or income. 

Early voting runs through Dec. 10. Election Day is Dec. 14.  

Fernando Ramirez contributed reporting.

Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

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