Mayoral runoff debate fact check

December 2, 2009 4:45:08 PM PST
Eyewitness News is checking the facts after a heated mayoral runoff debate. The candidates for Houston mayor squared off here on ABC13 Tuesday night. Since then, we've found a few points are not adding up. It was a good debate and most of it was very helpful to voters and hopefully helped you make your choice. However, when the candidates misspoke or got confused in facts, we wanted to make sure the record is straight.

It was a good hour of political television and there were a lot of claims that we needed to dive into to make sure you have all the facts.

Let's start with football and the Reliant Stadium financing problems. You may know Gene Locke was instrumental in crafting the deal that got the stadium built. Now that deal could end up costing taxpayers millions. Parker wants to blame Locke for the taxpayer gaffe, but Locke says Parker approved it when she was on City Council.

Annise Parker: "I didn't vote on the sale of Harris County bonds."

Gene Locke: "Yes you did. Any issuance of Sports Authority bonds has to be approved by the county and city and you voted on it."

That's true. Locke got that right. Parker did vote in November 2000 to allow the sale of Reliant Stadium bonds, but according to her campaign, council didn't vote on the financial provision that's now in jeopardy.

Moving on, there is no doubt about this claim from Locke about his past.

Gene Locke: "I am not a lobbyist. I've never been a lobbyist. I am a lawyer. Being a lobbyist means you have to register. I hope Ms. Parker understands the difference."

That's false. On Wednesday, Locke admitted he "misspoke." Here is his 1999 lobbyist registration for the Sports Authority. Never is a long time and can be a dangerous word for debates which is why we checked this claim from Parker.

Annise Parker: "Actually sir I never voted for a property tax increase."

Gene Locke: "I think the record will reflect that in 2001 you voted for a one cent property tax increase."

Not true, Parker didn't make that vote. In 2001 she said she supported the idea of rolling back tax cuts, but four days later voted against that idea.

One more exchange that got our attention was when Locke criticized Parker for saying city finances are healthy when the city has a $106 million budget deficit. Parker countered that as controller she's warned council about the shortfalls and dwindling cash reserve every month for the last two years. Neither candidate slipped up there, but it was a point of contention.

We've posted the entire mayoral runoff debate on ABC13 here.

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