¡Que Onda Magazine!

Houston's oldest bilingual publication

Tony Buzbee for Mayor

What news can you tell us about your campaign?

I have added $4 million dollars to my campaign, for a total of $6 million contributed. The current Mayor is bringing in, on average, $110,000 a month from special interest groups doing or seeking to do business with the City. We won’t be outspent on what is now a two-man race.

Moreover, the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) recently followed the Houston Federation of Teachers in rescinding their support for Sylvester Turner. I am calling on all unions todo the same and to support our campaign because I understand the importance of the collective bargaining process and will fight for it.

What prompted you to run for mayor?

I’m at a point in my life where I’m at the top of my career. I’ve done well for myself. I’ve raised my children, I’ve served in a variety of capacities, the last of which as a regent of Texas A&M University system. I’ve lived and worked in the city for a long time and Houston needs help. So I’ve put my name in the arena to be considered mayor. I think I would make a good mayor unencumbered by any campaign donations or special interests groups. Essentially, I’m motivated by one single goal: to make the city work for the people that live here.

Can you elaborate on this as your core platform?

It all starts by cleaning up City Hall so that the government works for the people. A lot of Mayor Turner’s campaign donations come from out-of-state individuals or groups looking todo business with the City. What we’ve found is that a lot of the people who are getting these contracts with the city are not doing good work. So before we can talk about addressing core issues such as alleviating flooding, fixing the streets, picking up trash on time, and putting more police officers in rotation, we need to first clean up City Hall and make sure that our government is operating efficiently and without bias.

What would you do once you are elected?

We need to take an honest, brutal assessment of city finances and current policy. What we find when we try and get information from the City, is that they hide the ball. Whether it’s background information on a convicted sex offender that was reading to children in the library, paying $2.5 million on veteran services with no measurable results or wasting $73 million on an airport redevelopment project with no actual development to date. Once we have an honest accounting, we can sit down with union leaders and negotiate an amicable working agreement. I have 20 years of experience in negotiating very big deals where you give a little and at times must be firm. I think all these union conflicts could be worked out and I know it’s in the best interest of our City.

To what do you attribute the large turnout at your campaign rallies?

There is a lot of excitement among Houstonians in supporting our campaign with standing room only attendance, because I think people are ready for a change.

When I’m elected, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and go into City Hall and do what it takes to make the city work better for the people. I think residents are weary of the same old same old. Every time there is an impending storm, people worry about flooding and protecting their property.

Another consistent issue or the rise in is crime. This mayor promised to put 500 more police officers on the street and he hasn’t delivered on that promise. In fact, there are fewer police officers now than when he took office. We are an international city and we are missing out on conventions coming to our city because the firefighters are in litigation with the police which are in litigation with the city. We cannot have that as a forward-moving city.

What is the latest on donating all your mayoral salary to an individual?

Many have responded positively to the fact that I’m going to serve the city out of a desire to make it work for the people. I think I’m going to give it to a cause or group of individuals. I’ve pretty much been convinced that giving it to one individual is probably not the way to go. And I think this gives you a sense of how I operate.

If I have a good idea, I can still be persuaded. So I haven’t yet decided who the recipient is going tobe. Maybe we can have a “write in” with suggestions on our website. This mayor makes $236,000 a year, which is one of the highest salaries in the country. In fact, this mayor makes more per year, than the mayor of New York City and yet he has spent more than 125 days outside the city, most of those days outside of the country, on taxpayer money. He has a detail of 8 police officers and twoSUV’s where he goes around to breakfasts, luncheons or dancing at some party. When I’m mayor, you are not going to see me in South America, all over Europe, or some other country, unless there is a legitimate reason. You are going to see me on the streets, managing the work, doing what you expect the mayor to do.

With the recent surge in the Latino vote, how will you appeal to Latinos?

In life, I’ve learned we all want the same thing: we want a city government what works for us. We all travel the same streets and we all want safe communities. We all want to make sure that if our house or apartment catches on fire, that first responders will respond quickly. Latinos make up a large part of the city and many groups feel left out. Under my watch, I’m going to make sure everyone has a seat at the table so that everyone feels they are part of the process.

Why do you think you had such a large number of Latinos at your kick off rally?

I think people of every demographic are connecting with my message and they think, ‘This guy can’t be bought. This guy is going to listen to the people and do what’s best for the city. Here’s a guy who doesn’t need the job. Here is a guy who hasn’t been in government all his life, who is not a career politician. Here’s a guy who’s going to give his salary away and he’s not taking campaign donations and he’s talking about things that are important to me. He’s going to make my family safe, make the roads better, do something about flooding.’

Also, I’m not a trust-fund kid. I think I appeal to all demographics because I come from a working class family; I’ve worked my way up from the bottom.

Is free representation for firefighters still on the table?

We need a stronger voice in Washington D.C. and the state capital. We need more dredging of the San Jacinto River. We need more capacity on the west side of Houston. We need the mayor to be involved in the decision to open, or not open, the reservoir gates. This mayor was a spectator in the last storm. He was not an active leader until after the storm hit. There has been nearly a billion dollars collected on from the drainage fee, but very little has been spent on actual drainage projects. According to this mayor, filling a pot hole is a drainage project. I reject that notion.

What will you do to prevent another disaster like hurricane Harvey?

We need a stronger voice in Washington D.C. and the state capital. We need more dredging of the San Jacinto River. We need more capacity on the west side of Houston. We need the mayor to be involved in the decision to open, or not open, the reservoir gates. This mayor was a spectator in the last storm. He was not an active leader until after the storm hit. There has been nearly a billion dollars collected on from the drainage fee, but very little has been spent on actual drainage projects. According to this mayor, filling a pot hole is a drainage project. I reject that notion.

Latinos are underrepresented in employment with the city and Metro, what will you do to change this?

I see that too. I recognize that and we are going to work hard to ensure equal representation for all people. Every demographic should have a seat at the table.

What will you do to fix Houston’s transportation problems?

First, we have a very inefficient way of filling pot holes. We may have to spend more to do the job right the first time, but it will save us money in the long run. We also need a comprehensive plan that includes light rail, new major thoroughfares and street repairs.

What will do you do about pension reform?

I’ve spent a lot of time with pension experts and as far as we can see, both the police officers’ and firefighters’ pensions are good for five years. So any so called reforms are not needed, but at some point though, we are going to need help from the state.

That’s something I’m going to work on during my first term.

How do you think your relationships on both sides of the aisle in Washington and Austin will help the city?

I think one of the reasons the City of Houston doesn’t get more help from the federal or state government, is because of the leadership we have in Houston. Over the years, I’ve made sure that I speak with and have open lines of communication with both sides. I don’t identify with either side. I’m just a guy trying to make Houston better. Both my friends at the state and federal government tell me they could do more, but they don’t because of the current leadership.

How will you help Houston ISD?

First, HISD needs to sort out their leadership issue. I would also strongly advocate at the state level for more equitable funding. We also need to make sure our teachers are taken care of and paid what they deserve. Proper funding for our public schools and teachers should be viewed as a long-term investment rather than a line-item expense.

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