Parker Administration budget priorities contribute to HFD brownouts

Image credit: Pixabay

Last Friday, the City of Houston suffered “brownouts,” as Houston Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison was forced to pull some fire department resources offline as a result of Parker Administration budget priorities.

Recall that several weeks ago, Mayor Annise Parker’s handpicked fire chief was critical of the Parker Administration’s preference to take public safety resources offline (instead of revisiting city budget priorities), stating that of course public safety would be affected.

As Cory Crow implied here, Mayor Parker finally seemed to figure out that jeopardizing public safety (in a rather transparent attempt to break the firefighters’ union, which has not supported her politically) was not playing all that well with the public, given her administration’s questionable budget priorities and overall bungling when it comes to delivering basic public services (like pothole repair). A convoluted “solution” was announced with great fanfare — and took the problem out of the news for just a little over two weeks.

Speaking of Mayor Parker’s budget priorities, we learned this week of at least two more.

First, there was this tidbit in one of those “rah rah downtown living!” stories that the Houston Chronicle likes to run from time to time (replete with a typo in the photo caption):

With people like Iyer in mind, developers are proposing six residential projects for downtown Houston that could add more than 2,200 new apartments to the urban core, fueled by a $15,000-per-unit city subsidy program that officials now want to expand.

If the Downtown Living Initiative program is expanded from its original cap of 2,500 apartments or condos to a proposed 5,000 – opening the door to up to $75 million in subsidies – all of the new projects and potentially many more could benefit from the program.

“We have a crest going on. Let’s be opportunistic and take advantage while we can right now,” said the city’s chief development officer, Andy Icken.

Sure — maybe we can idle even more fire trucks, and go all the way to $100 million in subsidies for world-class downtown residential projects (that few people want)!

And there was also a bit of staffing news related to the departure of longtime City Hall insider Waynette Chan (who will surely find some way to wind up in the middle of the next mayoral administration, even as she is drawing retirement):

Mayor Annise Parker has named two new executive staff members to replace 28-year City Hall veteran Waynette Chan, who is retiring next week.

Chris Newport, chief of staff in the city’s Administration & Regulatory Affairs Department, begins the transition into one of the city’s most powerful non-elected posts this week as Parker’s chief of staff. Solid Waste Management Department Director Harry Hayes will fill the newly created Chief Operating Officer post, while remaining director of his department.

The story does not give any financial estimates, but it’s probably safe to assume that these two staffers will cost taxpayers more (net) than one veteran staffer did.

As priorities go, here are some of the other activities Mayor Parker has been focused on this week, while the city has been suffering HFD brownouts and Houston drivers/cars continue to take a beating thanks to neglected roads (via twitter):

Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX