News Column

Houston Mayor Recommends Port Commission Chair

Oct. 15, 2012

Kiah Collier, Chris Moran, Mike Morris

Houston

Mayor Annise Parker is recommending Janiece Longoria be appointed chairman of the seven-member Port Commission, two years after fighting Longoria's reappointment to the Port of Houston Authority's governing body.

In a letter sent to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett dated Tuesday, Parker wrote that "a number of potential nominees, all with excellent credentials and abilities" have been floated "informally" but that she is recommending Longoria for the position.

Longoria first was appointed to the commission by Houston City Council in September 2002.

"It is time for new leadership, but there is still a need for experience such as Commissioner Longoria has," Parker wrote.

The mayor tried unsuccessfully to oust Longoria from the commission two years ago. Parker backed Dean Corgey, vice president of the Seafarers International Union's Gulf Coast region and one of the earliest union officials to back her first mayoral campaign in 2009. Council's 9-6 vote reappointing Longoria remains Parker's highest-profile defeat in nearly three years as mayor. The vote was preceded by an emotional and public fight that pitted union officials against local Latino political leaders. Longoria, who spoke out against Parker after the vote, accused the mayor of using the Port Commission "as a bargaining chip to repay a political favor."

Pleased by support

On Friday, Longoria said she was aware of Parker's letter.

"I'm very pleased to have the support of Mayor Parker and members of City Council. But to be clear, if I am ultimately the person who is selected, I am going to represent both the city and the county," she said.

"The mayor has no specified requirements other than the chair be someone with the appropriate credentials to fill the position," Parker spokeswoman Janice Evans wrote in an email. "She has let commissioners know her recommendation and has also, by way of the letter to Judge Emmett, extended an invitation for appropriate alternatives to that recommendation."

Another option

Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman offered an alternative Friday.

"My first choice was Steve Stewart (president and founder of a shipping logistics firm), who's definitely from the industry, knows a great deal about the goings-on at the port, and I think he'd be a great asset as chairman. It doesn't look like there was a consensus around him, but Janiece would be a very good second choice in my book," Morman said.

The port chair is jointly appointed by the city and county, and under statute, the Harris County judge and Houston mayor take turns calling meetings to vote on a replacement.

The term of Jim Edmonds, who has served as the chairman since 2000, expired in June. Under the statute, he must serve until an appointment is made.

No meeting plans

It is Harris County's turn to call -- and host -- the joint meeting to appoint a chairman.

Joe Stinebaker, a spokesman for County Judge Ed Emmett, said Friday that the judge has "no plans to request a meeting" anytime soon "because he has no sense that there is a consensus on the court as to who the members want to appoint."

"At this point, it could be Janiece, it could be somebody else or it could be somebody new," Stinebaker said.

Stinebaker said it is difficult to know when to call a meeting because it is illegal for the judge to poll members of Commissioners Court, so it is a matter of "having conversations with folks about who they like and don't like" and trying "to gauge whether there would be consensus."

Stinebaker said Emmett has not personally endorsed any candidate.



Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2012 the Houston Chronicle


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