The 2023 Texas legislative session is officially over, although Texas governor Greg Abbott has called for a special session to go over property tax relief and border security to address the massive influx of people pouring over the southern border of Texas.
Back here in Houston, the race for the next mayor (and city council) for the City of Houston will start heating up soon. Several candidates to succeed Sylvester Turner have announced their intentions to run for mayor. A list of roughly a dozen candidates can be found here, nearly all Democrats, with a few minor candidates who are politically unaffiliated. For the most part, I’m looking at the whole affair as being an internecine fight within the Democratic Party over who gets to control the spoils and which faction(s) of the Party are going to get the lion’s share of the public plunder. As far as I’m concerned, there’s little or no difference in terms of substance, policy, or articulating any new ideas between any of the main candidates.
Given the ideological similarities of the candidates in the field, are there any other reasons why to vote or not vote for a certain candidate? Well, yes! One quality of the job is that the mayor’s position in City of Houston government is an extremely strong one, involving overseeing the administration of quite a few bureaucracies, such as PW&E (public works and engineering), the Houston Housing Authority, some trash and recycling pickup, the parks department, the city’s airport system, not to mention appointing the board members of a slew of other local governmental entities.
Given the nature of the job, one very important aspect of being a mayor is that the mayor must be someone who is able to administer and oversee high-level managers and directors in all these bureaucracies. That in turn means being someone who is able to constructively manage people. And of all the candidates who has consistently shown to have a very big problem with dealing with people, there is one who stands out: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Sheila Jackson Lee’s long sordid history of staff abuse
Sheila Jackson Lee came to Houston after growing up in New York, attending Yale for an undergraduate degree and the University of Virginia for a degree in law. She made several unsuccessful runs at a judgeship before then mayor Kathy Whitmire appointed her as a municipal judge in the city courts. She then won a seat on Houston city council and served for several years before taking on Craig Washington for the seat of the 18th congressional district in 1994. One big criticism that was thrown at Washington, which Sheila Jackson Lee’s campaign exploited, was that Washington had developed a track record of not showing up for votes in Congress. One memorable political cartoon that ran at the time showed a door to Washington’s office, with a sign reding “out to lunch” (or something to that effect). Sheila Jackson Lee won that race and has been representing Houston ever since.
To the point, however, the congresswoman started generating headlines over time for the wrong reasons. Her abuse of her staff has become the stuff of legends. The left-leaning Huffington Post ran a story back in June 2011 that the Congresswoman had gone through 11 chiefs of staff in the previous 11 years. The story goes on to say that the average length of tenure for a congressional chief of staff was 6.7 years. Here is another story from the Daily Caller in which Jackson Lee was called “the boss from Hell.” If one bothers to search on, the hapless reader will find plenty of stories about the Congresswoman’s horrible treatment of subordinates.
Now, the congresswoman can get away with this behavior as long as she is just responsible for casting votes, spending other people’s money, indulging in her proclivity for getting herself in front of a TV camera whenever one is to be found, and for overseeing a staff of a dozen or more who in addition to dealing with constituent complaints also have to put up with their over-the-top boss. I know from personal experience that if your manager doesn’t like you, or is making your job almighty hell, then nothing else in the job really matters all the much. Indeed business research shows that most people don’t quit companies or their jobs, but instead quit their managers.
This might not matter so much when it comes to being a member of Congress, but it will turn into a really big deal if Sheila Jackson Lee somehow gets elected mayor of Houston, and suddenly is overseeing numerous departments in city government. Fellow blogger Bob Rehak has posted on how Harris County government has experienced a brain drain because County Judge Lina Hildalgo also has a major problem with staff turnover, with close to 50 department heads leaving County government in Hildalgo’s first 4 years in office. It’s bad enough that Harris County government has gotten bogged down and become dysfunctional, but if Sheila Jackson Lee gets elected mayor, then City of Houston residents will have doubled down and invited the exact same problem upon themselves all over again.
And that is something I’d rather not see.