Following suit with the Democrat in the White House, Houston Mayor Bill White almost got away with the taxpayers of the city of Houston bailing out some here who would like to purchase a home but have a credit score too low for approval. As unbelievable as it sounds, the scam is true.
Mayor Bill White has bigger political ambitions for when he is term limited out as mayor of the nation's fourth largest city. He is a former deputy energy secretary during the Clinton administration and he is a Democrat hoping to win election to the seat being vacated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
White decided to run for the U.S. Senate rather than Governor of the State of Texas when Senator Hutchinson made her intentions clear that she will run for Governor. White knows he can't win against her so he decided a seat in the Senate would be good. He will face strong Republican opposition for the seat, however. Several strong contenders have made it known they are running - including a popular black Republican, Michael Williams, currently Railroad Commissioner. Despite the name of his title, the Railroad Commissioner does not run the railroads, he is in charge of energy policy.
So, while Mayor White was back slapping and glad handing in Washington, D.C. for the Mayor's conference, he slipped in a topic on the Houston City Council agenda that would have Houston city taxpayers footing the bill for low income folks to buy a house. He called it "The Credit Score Enhancement Program" and it would provide $3,000 grants for people who were just short of an acceptable credit score number for a traditional mortgage. The 'grants' would be used to pay off debt balances so that their credit scores could rise.
The City of Houston wanted to pick the winners and losers, just like the President wants to pick winners and losers with the federal bailouts on the backs of "the rich". Rich is a relative term. Those making $250,000 in Houston are not considered rich. Houston has a lower cost of living than other major cities but even here it takes more to be "rich".
Yesterday on a financial business show, the woman who represents my district on the Houston City Council, Pam Holm, appeared to congratulate the citizens of Houston who rose up and said no to this madness. "I do not understand how we can ever justify spending taxpayer dollars to pay somebody's credit card," She said. "I don't understand how it can be even considered to come up. I am truly embarrassed. I think it shows poor leadership." The "poor leadership" part of the remark truly perked up ears here, as it is very rare for a member of City Council to openly criticize the mayor. Those surprised by Holm's remarks have not been in her company. She is a member of my local Republican Women group and she is a strong advocate for her district. She is a tireless worker and she is not bashful to express an opinion. At a recent District meeting for state Republican women, I heard her announce her intention to run for city Comptroller. Our current Comptroller, Houston's first openly gay female politician, is running for mayor.
The mayor had to back off his plan to use the 'grants', to be taken from monies set aside for homeowner repairs after Hurricane Ike damage, and then feigned surprise that the motion had made it to City Council's agenda. That is completely crazy. The mayor sets the agenda and council members only vote or offer amendments. They have no agenda setting privileges. And, White was conveniently in Washington D.C. while the meeting was conducted. Cowardly at best.
Citizens were outraged and the e-mails began. One council member spoke of a voter that mailed him a bill and told him to pay it. The mayor finally admitted that he may have put too much pressure on his Housing Director to help put home buyers in the areas identified as "Houston Hope" areas. These are neighborhoods set aside to be revitalized by the city. Applicants can't earn more than 80 percent of the area's median income. The mayor blamed the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.
White claimed the monies would come from the $444,000 leftover from the city's $1.5 million appropriation for emergency home and roof repairs. It is quite a stretch of the imagination to believe there is money left over and no one in need.
The city has provided grants for down payments and for closing costs for 872 families since 2005. Incredible as that sounds, it is a fact. The Housing Director claims only one family has had a foreclosure from those receiving this benefit. Of course, he works for the mayor. The recently embarrassed mayor.
This scheme made national news. Fortunately for the people of Houston who pay their taxes and their bills, a light shined on the proposal. It is time for any arm of government - whether city, county, state or federal to stop with the picking of winners and losers.
It is hard to believe this scam from Mayor White was anything more than a pander to the lower income voter in hopes of support as he runs for higher office. Our mayoral races are billed as non-partisan but it is always clear which party is represented. White is a Democrat.
Do not think this disapproval comes solely from Republicans. It was rejected by all political stripes. It is a shame the mayor has this blot on his record. He has been widely popular throughout the city. I voted for his re-election based on his job performance after Hurricane Katrina. He worked with the county president - a Republican - and gave a place of refuge to the people of Louisiana. The city of Houston is known for its generosity to others. This was reinforced at that time here and abroad.
Houston, we almost had another problem. Mission accomplished. And, I am proud to be represented by Pam Holm on the Houston City Council.
Anyone ready for a tea party?