Woodfill comes out swinging.... but at what exactly?
The Chronicle's Ron Nissimov devotes a surprising amount of space today to Harris County Republican Party Chair Jared Woodfill, who is highly critical of cooperation by city council Republicans with Mayor Bill White:
The executive committee of the Harris County Republican Party has voted overwhlemingly to support Proposition 2 and to repeal Safe Clear. The local party's Web site has links to council voting records maintained by the city.
Woodfill said the Harris County Republican Party has a good relationship with Republican council members and is not planning immediate action against them.
But he said the party is keeping a closer eye on them and may take more aggressive stances if they continue to vote for what he called liberal positions.
There are conservative alternatives to Mayor White's approach to municipal government, which may fairly be characterized as a technocratic-progressive approach that relies heavily on the mayor's considerable interpersonal skills, but Woodfill and the Harris County Republican Party haven't been been presenting them effectively (if at all). Woodfill has admitted he supported the SAFEclear program initially, and seemed only to get worked up over it about the time Mayor White gave in to public pressure and decided part of the $1 million windfall could pay for tows so that poor people wouldn't have their cars impounded and sold; Doctor-Councilwoman Gibbs deemed this "socialized towing," but after a motorist died while seemingly trying to beat a SAFEclear wrecker, Council finally stopped playing games and passed the changes. As for Proposition 1, there are probably many Republicans who wish that Woodfill had been more proactive when councilman Ellis actually helped write the legislation with the mayor.
If the Harris County Republican Party wants to engage Houston municipal politics, great. Policy should benefit from some counterweight to a mayor who until recently blasted everything he wanted through council. But engaging Houston municipal politics means just that -- jumping in and offering conservative solutions from the start, rather than taking potshots at Republicans and/or Mayor White after compromises have been reached and new policy (good or bad) has been enacted.
Speaking of missing counterweight, Nissimov offers the following:
But two local political scientists said what really rankles the Republican Party is that White sometimes acts like a Republican, making him one of the few Democrats regarded as a rising political star in conservative Texas.
"Republicans have said they wanted a mayor who runs the government like a business, looks at the bottom line and is consumer-friendly,"said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein.
Stein said the Republican Party is worried because White has often been praised for being such a mayor — even to the point of sometimes alienating Democratic council colleagues.
Stein and University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray hypothesized that Woodfill wanted Republican council members to fight White on the two issues mostly to take some luster off White's political sheen.
"The only major offices that Democrats hold in Texas are the mayor positions in Houston and Dallas, even though they are nonpartisan offices," Murray said. "It's about the only pool of elected officials that Democrats can look to for candidates to run for bigger offices, and Mr. White is rumored to be looking at such a run in the future."
Nissimov should have noted that not only are Richard Murray and Bob Stein political scientists, but that Murray recently came out as a Democratic activist, and Stein has advised Mayor White on policy and his wife serves as a mayoral aide. Readers ought to be given the option of deciding if those facts are important. For that matter, maybe reporters in this town need to find some new political scientists to interview.