A few weekends ago you'll recall that Democratic candidate for governor Farouk Shami appeared on WFAA's Inside Politics in the Dallas/Fort-Worth media market. Shami took a swing at his primary opponent, Houston Mayor Bill White, that most folks may have missed but that I caught and have been looking into.
Oftentimes in campaigns a great deal of misinformation gets bandied about that if not nipped in the bud immediately can eventually become what I like to call a political myth—which is to say, a lie. Look no farther than the 2009 debate on reforming our country's health care system and how Republicans went out of their way to lie about important elements of emerging legislation.
During his interview with WFAA's Brad Watson, Shami made the following remarks when asked about platform specifics such as balancing the upcoming state budget in 2011 or how he'd create jobs:
By creating more jobs here. When you create more jobs you are creating more taxpayers and that is the only solution to create money is to create jobs. The current people in this state with the current governor, a Republican, not doing anything about it. Neither is the candidate from Houston. He is on the verge of bankrupting the city. We need to get rid of those things that really delays our budget and put us in a worse recession that we are in.
Farouk Shami made the claim that Bill White has bankrupted the City of Houston and the fact is that Farouk Shami is wrong. He perpetrated misinformation similar to what the Texas Observer did, which then had to backtrack quickly once facts blew holes in their disappointing reporting. By Municipal Law Houston, much like our state, must balance its budget each year. Houston cannot carry a budget deficit. And, even despite Rick Perry and Republican claims that they don't want any of Washington's money—yet use them to balance our state budget, federal stimulus dollars can't balance Houston's budget like they did Texas' fiscal budget. Houston Mayor-elect, and current comptroller Annise Parker noted in a letter back in November that a projected budget shortfall of $106.4 million exists; however, in reality only a $3.3 million gap remains to be closed in Houston's fiscal budget for 2010. Without going into too much budget wonk you can read the Houston Chronicle's excellent breakdown of the budget numbers here.
The facts are that due to the fiscally responsible leadership of Mayor Bill White since he took office in 2003 the City of Houston is better positioned to overcome the same revenue shortfalls that other major cities across the United States are experiencing, but unable to overcome.
Since 2003 Mayor Bill White has more than doubled Houston's reserves from $85 million when he took office to $172 million today. Part of the projected 2010 revenue shortfall will be made up by using the city's Rainy Day Fund. Frankly, this is exactly what a Rainy Day Fund is for and demonstrates sound fiscal stewardship and overall foresight on the part of White to build up that fund for situations just like this.
The $3.3 million dollar gap out of a $2 billion dollar city budget will be made up by contract renegotiations, cuts in non-essential city services, budget trimming, and cost savings initiatives such as payroll management and combined utility systems.
Moreover, Mayor Bill White is leaving Houston Mayor-elect Annise Parker a drafted 2010 budget that will continue and steer the city through its current economic recession and not compromise essential city services.
It is flat irresponsible of Farouk Shami and other credible publications to perpetrate misinformation. Now that you have the facts you can help dispel these political myths.