Mayor Annise Parker reflects on her City Hall career

Tom Abrahams Image
Monday, January 4, 2016
Mayor Annise Parker reflects on her City Hall career
The now former mayor of Houston is looking back at her accomplishments over the past six years and what she hopes the next mayor can do for the Bayou City.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Annise Parker wasn't just Houston's Mayor for six years. She served city government for 18. A third of those as a city council member, then as city controller, before taking the top job in 2010.

"At each stop in my public service career to date there have been specific things I focused on," she told Eyewitness News. "I love being able to come in and tackle an issue, look at it from all angles, figure out a solution, and then get it done."

She points to a lot of victories in infrastructure, helping the city establish a water and sewer enterprise fund to pay for future maintenance and improvements.

"We noticed a problem, we fixed a problem," she said. "We noticed a problem, we fixed a problem. I absolutely know I'm leaving the city better than I found it."

One of those victories, she says, was with Houston's homeless population. She points to a dramatic reduction in chronic homelessness. Another was enhancing the city's many parks. During his most recent trip to Houston, Vice President Joe Biden praised the mayor's leadership on creating usable greenspace.

"If I'd done nothing else I would have been a successful mayor," she said. "But those are just the highlights."

There were also the issues on which she was not successful. Namely there's HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which her council passed but after a lawsuit put the issue on the ballot, failed to become law when a well-funded opposition helped defeat it in November's election.

"This is an issue that if you're under forty you just scratch your head and are like why do they even care?" Parker asked rhetorically. "But the electorate they just didn't get it. The anti-HERO campaign did a masterful job of telling a lie, telling it over and over again and people began to believe it."

There is also the city's overwhelming pension obligation.

"I'll give myself an A for effort and maybe a D for success," she admitted.

Parker says she's already handed Mayor-elect Sylvester Turner a packet of everything she tried to reform the city's pension obligation, which at more than $3.1 billion, according to a recent study by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation found is one billion dollars greater than the city's revenue. It is now Turner's burden to bear.

If the next mayor does not solve the pension problem, the mayor after that is going to have a horrific time balancing the budget, Parker said.

"But we're not about to go bankrupt, we're not Detroit, we don't have an acute problem," Parker explained.

During her six years in office, the now former Mmayor married her longtime partner Kathy Hubbard. They're raising a family together and plan to stay in Houston. This is home she says.

As for what's next? Parker hopes to spend three months at the Institute of Politics at Harvard as fellow, teaching and helping students with research. After that, she's unsure. She might consider running for Harris County judge, should fellow Rice alum Ed Emmett leave the post. She might also run for state office in 2018. But as her time in city government ends, Annise Parker is more concerned with what she'll do when she wakes up Monday.

"I'm not interested in going to be a member of Congress," she said. "I've been running a $5 billion corporation for six years. I don't want to go talk about things. I want to be in charge of something. In some ways I can feel the weight lifting because this is a hard job. But in other ways I am going to miss it tremendously because I have been privileged to shape the future and very few people have that opportunity."