Monday, April 11, 2016

From the Houston Chronicle: Now the hard part Mayor Turner's first 100 days have been a sprint, but real challenges

Some background for out look at the strong mayor form of government.

- Click here for the article.

Today marks Mayor Sylvester Turner's 100th day as mayor, and during his short stretch in office one thing has become perfectly clear: There are a lot fewer potholes on Houston streets.

Turner rushed from day one to fill the teeth-shatterers and suspension-killers that had become a hallmark of the daily commute and a chorus on the campaign.
Houston's new mayor also tore up potentially corrupt airport expansion contracts, saved curbside recycling, let a police chief retire and appointed an education czar and new leaders at Metro, the city attorney office and the Department of Neighborhoods.

We're still waiting for him to fill out the rest of his roster.
Beyond those mayoral duties that make headlines, there's a palpable change in tone at City Hall. Once icy relations between City Council and mayor have warmed, and could even be described as friendly. Fears that a partisan election season would seep into the daily work of running our city haven't come to fruition.
However, it is still too early to give anything but an incomplete on the mayoral report card - the real hurdles sit further down the line.
The city faces a $160 million budget gap that has to be closed by July 1 - Turner's 182nd day. He also needs to have a pension plan in hand before the next legislative session is gaveled in on his 375th day.
But even with those challenges months away, Turner still appears to be sprinting toward his goal. Council has been told to expect a preliminary budget plan by April 15 and a finished budget on May 10, with a vote on May 25.
The truncated timeline is supposed to send a sign of good faith to the credit rating agencies that recently downgraded Houston's debt. This rush also signals to voters that their elected officials are prioritizing the right issues.
As for that second big challenge - pensions - Turner has said that he'll have reform plans ready by the end of the year. That's an improvement on Mayor Annise Parker's strategy of going to Austin and unilaterally asking for local control. Parker was right when it came to identifying the problem of pension obligations growing faster than the city's ability to pay them, but sometimes it isn't enough merely to be right. Politics requires cooperation, as well.

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