It’s election season in Houston and, with apologies to readers who do not have a direct stake in the upcoming city election (although I submit that all Texans and many other Americans have a stake in a prosperous Houston!), here are some thoughts I have suggested to the candidates I am supporting:
· The future belongs to those regions that are attractive to capital and where it is well-treated, so those attributes that make Houston attractive to capital should be emphasized, particularly those that are friendly to the spirit of enterprise.
· A large part of Houston’s image and attraction is that there is not a “price of entry” in terms of class, origin, race, or family wealth. As a Wall Street Journal editorial has noted, it is a place where people come from all over the world to pursue whatever version of the American dream they bring with them. This should be celebrated and encouraged; Houston doesn’t need an “image” campaign or consultants.
· The messages we send mean a lot. Houston can continue to be the “Hong Kong of the Western Hemisphere” if it avoids the tendency to embrace “progressive” ideas like zoning and its cousins, land use planning and “smart growth” theories, publicly financed stadiums and hotels, and transit plans that are not sufficiently user financed.
· It will be of increasing importance to take a critical look at the role and proper functions of government at every level and be receptive to privatization (preferably “marketization”) opportunities wherever they present themselves. The competition for capital will demand this.
· Contract set asides and group preferences, whether to correct perceived past injustice or promote “diversity”, have a negative impact on racial and ethnic relations.
· The Greater Houston Partnership has studied regional governance and the concept of “urban federalism”, which needs political leadership to come to fruition. This is a high risk area, but someone should pursue it, and a Houston Mayor is the likely candidate.
· The number one priority for Houston should be a model elementary and secondary education system and this will not be possible until the dynamics of competition are fully integrated into education delivery. The City’s political leadership has a role to play in advancing public education excellence, and it should begin with a declaration of war on childhood illiteracy.
Come to think of it, the ideas that underlie these thoughts are pretty good ones for almost any city or region—for instance, California immediately comes to mind.