Monday, October 18, 2010
What did you say? THE Dallas Morning News Endorses Bill White for Texas Governor...what about Gov. Good Hair?
Texas' longest-serving governor is so certain his tenure should be extended that Perry has glided through this re-election bid with an impervious air, shrugging off tough questions and offering few specifics. Trust me, Perry tells voters, I know what I'm doing.
But in fact, Perry, 60, has done relatively little during a decade at the helm of state government. He can lay claim to few signature achievements. He lacks allies in the Legislature, and whether the issue is school finance, transportation or juvenile justice, he has not managed to see needed reforms through to conclusion.
The Republican governor is counting on the state's relatively strong economy to secure his third full term in office. But Texas' business-friendly environment predates Perry and will extend beyond his time in office. And now, with a deficit of up to $21 billion looming, more than budget bravado and a "taxes bad" mantra will be required to keep Texas on solid financial footing.
The state needs a solutions-oriented leader who is focused on bolstering Texas – not on doing battle with Washington.
Record of pragmatism
Democrat Bill White is better-suited to steer this ship of state through the challenges ahead.
The former mayor of Houston is a fiscal conservative with a progressive bent. He's more pragmatic than partisan. He's proven himself competent in business and in public office. Indeed, he's a bit of a throwback – in the best Texas tradition of the businessman governor.
We don't make this recommendation lightly. This newspaper has a long history of recommending Rick Perry for office against Democrats from agriculture commissioner to the governor's office. But Texas requires a different kind of leadership at this important juncture.
Bill White is an entrepreneur and an energy expert who succeeded in the private sector before branching out into public service. White, 56, has no use for Perry's swashbuckling, coyote-shooting style. The Democratic candidate is meticulous and analytical, hesitant to overpromise but determined to solve Texas' most pressing problems.
As Houston's mayor, White proved himself to be adept at balancing budgets, managing to cut property tax rates repeatedly. He drew national acclaim for his leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And White laid waste to the idea that environmentally friendly policies inevitably were bad for business – a myth that Perry perpetuates as he fights to maintain Texas' right to pollute with impunity. In Houston, White struck a careful balance, proving that a city could go green and still be open for business.
As governor, White would be well-positioned to deliver in areas where Perry has fallen short.
For example, Texas' transportation infrastructure needs are daunting and urgent. Yet Perry seems to be stumped when it comes to offering workable funding options for building roads. The governor's go-to move is to blame Washington – and he does, for not sending more money. That's a fine lament, but it won't pay for any new lane miles.
White recognizes the need for new revenue sources and supports allowing counties to call elections to raise funds for transportation projects. This local-option approach has the support of North Texas transportation leaders but would stand a better chance in the Legislature with the backing of the governor.
The blurring of lines
During Perry's decades in elected office and two-plus terms as governor, ethical lines have slowly blurred as more and more high-dollar campaign donors have received appointments or state funds. Perry surrounds himself with a sea of people echoing his views. And he wields his power forcefully, making clear that those who dare to disagree with him can be replaced. When a Texas Tech regent endorsed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the GOP gubernatorial primary, he said he was pressured to resign by a Perry emissary delivering a definitive message: The governor expects loyalty.
Even more troubling is the governor's apparent loyalty to campaign donors. Perry has played a pivotal role in awarding millions of taxpayer dollars from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to companies with investors or officers who also happen to be the governor's campaign donors – an uncomfortable and unacceptable arrangement that cries out for an overhaul.
Fortunately, White has outlined a number of ethics reforms that would change the way the governor's office operates. His common-sense proposals include limiting contributions from appointees, extending the waiting period before governor's staff members can work as lobbyists and requiring gubernatorial staffers to file personal financial statements.
While White is better-equipped to navigate the state's budget woes and handle a number of other difficult tasks, his ideas about education have disappointed thus far. He has complained about the emphasis on high-stakes testing but failed to offer a specific alternative that would hold schools accountable. White's views may yet evolve in the realm of education, and this one point of disagreement does not outweigh the Democrat's many other good ideas.
Perry's strident, tea party tone and strong-arm style won't serve Texas well for another four years. While White's focus has been on finding solutions in Austin, Perry has done little more than rail against Washington's problems. The governor's gaze seems to have drifted from the tasks at hand, as he openly discusses his aspirations of elevating his national profile.
White is right when he says that leadership has little to do with delivering a speech and much more to do with having a sense of mission. White is a man with a mission, a leader who will bring a purposeful determination to the governor's office.
Libertarian Kathie Glass, 57, a lawyer, and Green Party candidate Deb Shafto, 71, a retired teacher and business owner, also are on the ballot. But White's broad base of expertise and modern managerial style make him the best choice for governor and earn him our recommendation.