Makeup of Port Commission called into question

HOUSTON Some citizens went before City Council on Tuesday afternoon to voice their concerns over possibly losing the only Hispanic member of the commission.

Usually, the Port of Houston commissioner appointments are one of those powerful jobs that get very little attention -- but not this time. As Houston City Council prepares to vote on a new appointment on Wednesday, the vote garnered on Tuesday a lot of emotional tension that cuts across both political and racial boundaries.

As trade continues in the Port of Houston, the biggest battle over its future is being fought at city hall. Mayor Annise Parker is pushing for Dean Corgey to replace Janiece Longoria as the next port commissioner.

"I don't know what the motivation is. All I know is what I stand for, and I stand for integrity, hard work, and assuring that we continue moving more containers across the Port of Houston," Longoria said.

Longoria wouldn't get into the politics behind the battle and Corgey didn't want to comment, but plenty spoke on his behalf.

"Not because Janiece is not qualified -- she's very qualified -- but I think we really need a labor representative," said Rivers Patout, a Corgey supporter.

"We have a uniquely qualified individual that has maritime experience," another Corgey supporter, Dale Wortham, said.

Supporters of Longoria point out that Mexico and Latin American countries are major trading partners, so having a commissioner who speaks Spanish, in their opinion, is crucial.

"You're certainly not going to demonstrate we care about them if you take away the only Hispanic person that we have on this port," said Felix Fraga, a former council member and Longoria supporter.

Currently, the port commission consists of four white males, an African American, and two women. If Longoria is replaced by Corgey, the commission will consists of five white males, and no Hispanic representation, though some council members grew emotional over that issue.

"So this not about whether you support Hispanics or not, 'cause Dean does -- they both do," Councilwoman Jolanda Jones said.

At City Hall, the deciding vote could fall onto Ed Gonzalez, who is currently leaning toward supporting Corgey, though prominent Latino Houstonians were trying to change his mind.

"I would hope that those of you that aren't sure which way to go, specifically those of you that represent, or should be representing the Hispanic community, that you will take that into consideration," State Rep. Carol Alvarado said.

Multiple sources at City Hall say the reason Parker has been working hard to appoint Corgey is because his particular union supported her during the mayoral campaign. We understand she's doing a lot of lobbying in the background right now to get her way. It's a crucial vote that can go both ways.

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