Since I’m gradually catching up on all things blog, I’ll take this opportunity to combine two events I had the good fortune to take part in recently. Both involved a lunch meeting with elected officials, so there’s a bit of similarity there. Both were also the product of Justin Concepcion organizing the idea for Mayor Parker, only to begin a new job with Harris County Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan before the event with the Mayor took place. Kudos to both electeds for their time and willingness to meet and kudos to Justin for making it all happen.
Friday afternoon with County Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan
The most recent meeting with Sullivan was held at his office, which afforded me the opportunity to pick up some info at the County Clerk’s office on the same trip. There’s something to be said for efficiency there. I’ve bumped into Mike a few times – all at or outside of church. In every instance, he’s been beyond cordial. Downright friendly, I’d go so far as to say. I’ve always had a fair amount of respect for Sullivan dating back to his time on City Council. While I may or may not have always agreed with those points where he spoke in opposition to something the Mayor wanted passed, I felt he was always thoughtful and explained his position very fairly. And since it’s my view that City Council works fairly well when there is one critical voice on the left and right, I think Mike’s time on council was a pretty good model for how to serve in that capacity from the right. It was an easy assumption in 2012 that if (and ultimately – when) Mike won the General Election, he’d be an easy upgrade over the previous two holders of his office.
The biggest point of emphasis that I think indicates Mike’s early success is that all of the voter registration-related lawsuits that were aimed at the office in prior years have since been dropped. That would appear to be a good sign of trust that the parties involved in those suits have in Sullivan to be fair with his treatment of the Voter Registrar section of his office.
I’m not sure how to compare Sullivan’s early years to that of Paul Bettencourt’s, though. While Bettencourt came up through the ranks of party bureaucracy and campaigns, I don’t know that I can point to his early years as being any kind of activist with regard to voter registration. But that’s certainly how it ended up for Bettencourt. For now, though, Sullivan benefits most in comparison to Don Summers and Leo Vasquez. That’s a low bar and one that Sullivan glows in comparison to. I’d obviously like to see the Sullivan we recognize today continue for as long as he’s destined to hold this particular office. There’s still a few areas of the office to keep an eye on if you’re the skeptical type.
My only minor gripe to impart was that the upgrade of the HCVoter.net website has apparently led to a change in the data provided for registered voters by precinct. Apparently, I can no longer download data to show whether a voter is “Active” or “Suspense.” My complaint has been politely heard and is being looked into. I’m confident that less than five other people in the world share in my grief over this.
We spent a bit of time discussing Voter ID, although much of the implementation of the law will fall on the County Clerk. I’m a little hopeful that Voter ID implementation will be looked at by the Lege once the Interim Charges are released. Part of that is a desire to see how agencies like the County Clerks, Tax Assessors, and Election Admins are dealing with the need to do outreach, training, advertising, and other activities at a point after much of their budget decisions have already been decided. I asked Mike what he could share about that and it seems the biggest uptick in dollars has come from new mailing requirements that added something north of $250,000 to the agency’s costs.
Kuff has some other notes from the meeting toward the end of this post. The gathering for this event was a Dem-friendly affair, with Justin noting that there were plans to arrange a GOP-friendly gathering afterward.
Last month with Mayor Parker
I arrived at this one a tad late. Two fairly interesting topics of conversations that came up were food trucks and pensions. The first of those mean something vastly different in my neighborhood than they do in trendier parts (or downtown, even). The latter of the two is a point where I’m not quite on the same page with the Mayor. Most of the attendees were among us Dem-types, but Tory from Houston Strategies was included for adding a bit of advocacy for libertarian policies for the city.
I don’t know that there was much new ground covered in the meeting with the Mayor since most of the issues the city deals with are covered by professional media on a daily basis and few of us bloggers are moonlighting as actuaries to dive into the weeds of pension policy. But points for the outreach effort, nonetheless. It might be a bit more noteworthy to try this again with the city at a time when some new initiative is being rolled out and split the meeting into one-half “Here’s what the Mayor wants to talk about” and another half of “here’s what bloggers want to ask about.” The recent Chapter 42 policy changes might have been a good tie-in, for example. I’ve been in front of all of one presentation on the subject and it’s both interesting and very complicated. Those sort of issues don’t always come along on a routine basis, but that strikes me as a good point to impart some useful info while giving others a chance to ask about anything else that pops to mind.
Just as well, I do think that one area where Mayor Parker has been a welcome change has been the degree to which she’s made the rounds at a variety of public events throughout her term as Mayor. Heck, I even bumped into her at my church where she was making a presentation as part of a conference several days after this meeting. All in all, still a good meeting and hopefully an idea that continues over time. I can’t say that I’d mind seeing County Judge Ed Emmett latch onto the idea, as well.