Here’s My Wish List for the New Mayor of Houston

It’s been full of junk and dirt so long there are flowers sprouting.

I was thinking about running for mayor of Houston. I’m so not political, but the currant national contestant we shall now refer to as The Hairmaster has a commanding lead in certain polls and this has got me thinking about what it takes to get people’s attention these days. It certainly isn’t the yard signs, or the email campaigns, or the phone calls. Drat those phone calls. The yard signs are an eye sore. The emailing will never get my attention, Sylvester Turner.

So maybe the way to get people’s attention is to say something outrageous. So, are you ready? I’ve got my outrageous all lined up.

I thought it would be nice to work for the city of Houston. They have great benefits, and the pension can’t be beat. I know, I know, I write as a job, too. But writing doesn’t always pay the bills. “The average civilian city worker earning $32,000 per year could get a million-dollar payout for spending an entire career with the city – plus a 90% pension.” says an article from the Houston Chronicle: Confusion surrounds city workers pensions vote – HoustonDAN FELDSTEIN, Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Published 5:30 am, Sunday, May 9, 2004

But hey, the whole pension scheme sounds great to me, so I sent in my resume and took my entrance exam. I am horrible at taking tests, so I was nervous. But by the third question I wondered if the purpose of the exam was to see if I was smart enough to catch on to their little trick of making it seem overly easy. Ha, you can’t fool me, says I. Question after question was all about alphabetizing names or putting numbers in sequential order. I kept waiting for the hard ones. I came to the typing test, took it, and then the test was over. What? That can’t be right. I made 97% and 50 WPM. Everything was electronic so the results were immediate. I thought, okay, I’m a “shoe-in”. I waited a few days without hearing anything and then contacted the city and was told that I was to wait four to six weeks before being contacted for an interview, if they liked my resume and test results. This is how to run an efficient city government?

A square peg in a round hole?
A square peg in a round hole?

So I come to the outrageous part. Wait for it … Balance the budget!

Yes, I said it. Let’s change the way pensions are paid to city workers. Let’s cut them in half. Let’s cull out the deadwood in the system by putting performance back in the standard of qualification for raises. That’s right, you do a good job in a timely manner and you get a raise. And I’m not just talking about performance from one day of observation. AND bosses do not need to send out notification about performance observation dates. Surprise observation days work every time. In no way will this make everything with the budget deficit right, but it will help. The firemen need to stop threatening to stop putting out fires if their pensions are cut. Get over it! If the status quo remains there won’t be funding for any pensions. A smaller pension is better than none.

One street, one name.

I’d like to see certain long streets renamed. What’s wrong with one name to cut down on confusion? Now that the discussion is about culling certain war hero’s names (I’m agin it) let’s just, instead, change some street names to make sense of our maps. Westheimer should be Westheimer for ever.

Street signs. Period.

More importantly I’d like to see street signs in legible English on every street around town, both coming and going. Just how much money did the city spend to put street names in Vietnamese? That’s fine. Leave them. It would cost too much money to touch them. But we need some names on the same street that the rest of us recognize, too. I’m appalled at the number of intersections with no street names. A lot of them blew away during Hurricane Ike and have never been replaced. Others disappeared ages ago (perhaps during the 70’s when it was cool to hang street signs in the living room?) and these have never been replaced. Case in point: Milam at Tuam. At least I think it’s Tuam. How am I to know?

The laws should be changed to allow bicyclists on the sidewalks.

Too many cyclists are getting hurt or killed on Houston streets. I’m not saying it’s all driver-fault either. I was in my car, stopped at a stop sign and just pulling out, when a cyclist ran his stop sign and nearly clocked my car. He wouldn’t have hurt my car, by the way, but I could have ended up in the hospital with a heart attack. I miss riding my bike, but I’m not going to do it around Houston. There are too many crazy drivers on cell phones. It’s bad enough walking with my neighbor in the evening. These newer cars don’t make a lot of sound, the streets are narrow with cars parked both sides so only one car can get by, and the sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk side-by-side. New sidewalks slated to be added need to be widened about a foot and a half and a line painted to indicate a bike trail while allowing a safe margin for pedestrians. It shouldn’t cost too much. Let’s take some pension money. Better yet, I’ll get out there with a can of paint myself.

Get serious about fixing the potholes.

The pot-hole-filler-truck comes around our street sometimes. I watch as the metal arm contraption is hoisted out (all automatic like our garbage trucks) and a thin layer of tar goop is sprayed on the hole and then another hose sprays the hole with pale stone. Depending on the placement of the hole in the street this fix may last a week or a few months. I say fix the holes by digging them out and filling with reinforced cement and putting enough barriers up to keep people from running over it until it has dried. Done!

Add enough city workers to the roster when there is an emergency.

Are there any people able to work part-time for the city to help in an emergency? I called 311 four weeks ago for someone to come clear out my street drain and it hasn’t been done yet. My street floods in a heavy downpour. Six years ago if I called 311 they were there the next day. What has changed? It certainly isn’t city pensions.

That’s my plan as mayor. Except I’m not running.

So I suppose after nine weeks of not being contacted by the city I should not hold my breath. In the event the city finds my job application (with my 97% test score, call me Mme Makutsi from The #1 Ladies Detective Agency) fallen behind the third metal filing cabinet on the left, and then they see this post on the web…well, I guess I won’t be getting that phone call. Goodbye sweet pension. *sigh

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