If you live in Southeast Texas, you already know how disappointing the Democrat mayor of America's 4th biggest city has been for its residents.
Back in 2015, when Houston elected Mayor Sylvester Turner, we knew he'd be a lackluster politician, but nobody anticipated it would be as big of a disaster as what we've experienced over the past four years.
Let's take a walk through the park of some of Turner's biggest scandals. As you peruse this list please ask yourself if this is seriously someone you want manning the helm of the most populated city in the state of Texas for another four years:
- Turner has spent around $400 million of tax payer money without city council's approval (up to $50,000 maximum). This happened during a budget squeeze. After being asked to show documents related to this spending (which is legally required under the Texas Public Information Act), Turner insisted it would take 155,000 hours to assemble the documents (the equivalent of 75 people working full time for a year) and the cost of copying the contracts would be at least $2.8 million.
- Turner gave health insurance provider Cigna information about medical claims during the bidding process for Houston's healthcare plan but failed to share that information with competitors. Cigna was eventually awarded the contract. Turner's close personal friend, Cindy Clifford, is the lobbyist for Cigna, according to city records.Cindy has been seen in photos on social media visiting with Mayor Turner and his family, despite swearing in lobbying reports that she hasn't given gifted them. The budget for health benefits for Houston in 2019 is $435 million.That's big money.
- Turner was unable to manage the city budget after voters overwhelmingly passed Prop B, a decision to pay firefighters a livable wage. This pushed our city further into the red and caused a budget crisis. Houston spent millions of dollars training these firefighters and now hundreds of them will lose their jobs because Turner couldn’t (or wouldn’t) manage our city’s budget in an effective manner. In the entire history of Houston we've never laid off firefigthers until now (including during the Great Depression).
- During a hiring freeze in response to Prop B, Turner hired almost 900 new city workers despite suggesting we didn't have enough funds to pay firefighters. Many of those employees still had their jobs in April.
- Turner's Communications Director used a city facility to work on her personal pet project: a reality TV show concept that had nothing to do with Houston residents or tax payers. This is the local government equivalent of taking the company car on a road trip with all your friends and charging them for its use.
- In 2015 Turner campaigned on the promise to fix Houston's potholes. Since then little to nothing has been done to fix the potholes and more recently Turner actually instructed a city employee to create a new pothole with a jackhammer so Turner could participate in a photo-op in which he pretended to fix the recently created hole-in-the-street. Amazingly, there were thousands of real potholes he could have used for the photo but he chose to create a new one instead.
- Turner has consistently misused funds from the Rebuild Houston infrastructure plan for non-relevant spending on pet projects.
- Theft crimes in the city has spiked despite a thriving economy. Historically crime usually goes down when the economy improves, but not under Turner's watch.
- Turner gave a $6.735 million contract to his former law partner, Barry Barnes. This contract wasn't assigned to handle legal matters.Instead it was for "outreach, intake and case management services" related to "potential" applicants for the Federal Housing Disaster money.
- Turner spent a half a million to hire a team of lawyers (more of the mayor's personal friends) to fight the firefighters in court. (Side note - Houston lawyer and mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee offered his services pro bono to Houston firefighters if the city proceeded with litigation against them.)
- And let's not forget the insurance fraud allegations.
While we're on the subject, here are a few more notable moves from the Mayor's office that should make us question his ability to effectively do his job:
- During a budget crisis Turner hired Houston a "poet laureate" - someone who writes poetry for a living. The "poet laureate" receives $20,000 from the city. How many potholes could you fix with $20,000? At least a few. Some of you will probably read this and say, “Yeah, but isn’t poetry an important part of our city’s art and culture?” If you honestly believe the answer to that question is yes, name a poem you've recently read. Go ahead. Take your time. We’ll wait.
- A family friend of Sylvester Turner named Maya Ford secured a $5000-a-month job with a company that wanted the Houston bullet train deal.That's not a coincidence.
- Turner is the co-chair of a group called the "Climate Mayors" - a group of over 300 mayors from across America who support efforts federal efforts to increase regulations on the energy industry. That might sound good to some people on paper, but Turner is the Mayor of Houston - the energy capital of the world. He's the member of a group who supports efforts to suppress the businesses and companies who employee people in his city. Think about how dangerous that notion is for the thousands of Houstonians who do business with the energy industry.
- Turner spent $3 million to hire live music to perform at the airport. Live music is great, but Houston isn’t considered to be a major destination for live music tourism or the audio recording industry. If the city had a surplus, $3 million for live music would be no big deal. But we’re having a budget crisis and $3 million would have helped provide the salary for a lot of firefighters.
This isn’t a short list, Houston. Mayor Turner has been in office for one term and this is the mess we’re dealing with under his leadership. Does this sound like someone you trust to run our city for four more years?
Photo of scandal ridden mayor by Getty Images