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Priorities

The City of Houston is enjoying yet another budget shortfall this year.

Meanwhile, Harris County is enjoying another record surplus (with the total surplus growing to $172 million).

Both governments have enjoyed RECORD REVENUES FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS.

It was a little shocking to read that in the Comical today. I was half expecting a good column to follow. But instead, the Comical tries to explain the disparity, and does so in its usual agenda-driven fashion.

Matt Schwartz cites the excuses of a number of city officials on the reasons for the "shortfall" this year. He then dutifully reports that some "critics" charge that City Hall is simply mismanaged. And then he gets to the real heart of the matter. COUNTY GOVERNMENT IS BETTER ABLE TO SET LONG-TERM PRIORITIES BECAUSE THERE ARE NO TERM LIMITS:

To city Councilwoman Annise Parker, the difference between the two governments is largely one of philosophy: The city sees its responsibility as providing the best services it can, while the county provides only those services it can afford under its budget.

"I think there is more long-term thinking at the county," she says.

Parker is not alone. Almost everyone interviewed for this article cited the county's long-term outlook as the key to its current fiscal success. Such a philosophy is easier at the county because, without term limits, county elected officials tend to enjoy more stability.

What a laugher!

Of course, it's even more of a laugher that Ms. Parker would lament such short-term thinking since she is one of the members of council spending her time thinking about an anti-war resolution (never mind that the conduct of foreign affairs is reserved by the U.S. Constitution to the national government):

At-large Councilwoman Annise Parker reluctantly backs the resolution, reasoning that "the president has not made a case for a preemptive strike, and I believe we need to allow United Nations inspectors to do their job."
Ms. Parker is a perfect example of the problems at City Hall: the inability to set priorities. People we respect hold Ms. Parker in high esteem as a member of council, and she may be a whiz at municipal government. But that doesn't make her an expert on foreign affairs, and one would think she might concentrate on the job she was actually elected to do. So if she can't even set THAT priority for HERSELF, why are term limits to blame?

Let's get real. Term limits have nothing to do with this city's inability to operate under a budget. The city did just fine under the last mayor and a variety of council members who came and went during his time. We managed to have streets that weren't crumbling, decent police and fire protection, and a positive image under Bob Lanier. No, this problem is of recent vintage, and correlates nicely with the candidate the Comical repeatedly endorsed for Mayor, Lee Brown.

Although he made liberals in the city hysterical, Orlando Sanchez was absolutely correct during the last mayoral campaign when he identified this administration's inability to set priorities. The ongoing budget mess is a perfect example, and it has nothing to do with term limits. If that makes me one of those "critics" the Comical names, then so be it.

[Posted at 19:17 CST on 02/20/03] [Link]

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