The Lake Houston Pachyderm Club held a forum June 9 at 7 p.m. for Houston mayoral candidates, Bill King and Tony Buzbee. Attorney Tony Buzbee and businessman Bill King, a 2015 mayoral candidate, former professional wrestler Booker T and Houston City Councilman District D Dwight Boykins have all announced their candidacy for the 2019 election, challenging Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The candidates debated topics such as police presence, local homelessness levels, the economy of the city, and area flooding.
Buzbee was asked about police officer presence and fire station support. He said, “The city currently has 5,200 total police officers in service, 2,300 of which patrol our streets, and there’s a definite need to add 1,500 to 2,000 more to keep our residents safe. We need to deter crimes from happening much like the speedometer on our car keeps up from speeding out of fear of a ticket. Together we must be more proactive versus reactive.”
While King agreed with Buzbee that more officers are needed, he felt the total number of officers needing to patrol the streets is significantly lower. “Our current mayor actually cut 300 surveillance officers while in office. This left us vulnerable as residents,” he said.
Another topic tackled by the candidates was homelessness. Both gave a different approach to the question, but resolved to enact change for this underserved population.
Buzbee proclaimed that the percentage of homeless individuals in Houston has not actually decreased by 50% as the current mayor would suggest, saying, “Our city has too many tent cities with thousands of properties owned by the city that could make a great place for this population to receive services and gain education. This issue is a matter of public safety and does not send the right message to those that are visiting Houston. We need a leadership plan.”
King agreed with Buzbee regarding the issue as whole. “I have seen first-hand that there is a homeless population in Kingwood, our own backyard,” he said. “This is a complicated issue. I have sat and had breakfast with these individuals. This group is of a mixed demographic; some have substance abuse, others have mental health challenges and another percent includes the elderly that can’t afford their expenses. It is important to rely on our faith community to be a solution.”
Another key topic among attendees was the idea of whether or not the Houston economy is in a healthy state.
“Houston hasn’t actually grown in the past two years. The region surrounding has experienced growth, but people are living outside the city and commuting to the core. People need to stay in Houston in order for the city to get turned around and become a healthy city to live,” stated King.
“The mayor’s office should not be up to the highest bidder. Recently, I received an unmarked envelope from Kingwood stating, ‘We are counting on you.’ Every resident matters and contributes to the big picture,” added King.
In response, Buzbee furthered this sentiment with the following words, “We need to stop the frivolous spending of the current office and pay more attention to the health and safety of our city. I agree that the health of our city is not in a good state. Our service professionals, including police and firefighters, need to be paid accordingly and we need to ensure that Station 101 can be reopened. Right now, our gangs are going nuts and we need to be stronger,” he said.
There were several other questions posed, such as whether property taxes need a cap or could be lowered, how to handle the Northpark traffic issues and favorite locales in Houston.
One of the final and key inquiries from Kingwood residents dealt with the recent flood damage.
“I want the area residents, especially Kingwood, to know that much of the flooding, particularly post 1979, has occurred outside of hurricane season. As the candidate that has done more development than any other candidate, the Elm Grove flooding was a development issue. We need to hit the issue of future flooding head on,” Buzbee said.
To conclude the forum, both candidates were asked about the key point that every voter should take away from the night’s session that defines them as the best candidate for office.
Buzbee said, “In two minutes, let me relay to you how I will beat the current mayor as a Marine that is a strong leader with innovative ideas. I possess the needed backbone to serve the community, especially the underserved. I will act, do and take action to give voters what is deserved.”
King rounded out the night with these sentiments: “As a candidate with strong local backing and endorsements, I have made solid investment choices. In 2006, I sold a company and did not have to work, but I was taught early on to work hard; to learn, earn and return. I have studied the issues at hand, visited and read the audit. I will ensure the people of this city are positively impacted.”
Election Day is Nov. 5, 2019.