Second most powerful city office
Run-off predicted in controller race
By Susan MacManus
The City controller race is the
most hotly-contested one in the
upcoming November 8 city elections. There is no incumbent and
five persons have filed for the job,
which has a salary of $14,800. The
position is one of the most important in Houston, because the
city controller is the only full
time elected executive official in
Houston other than the mayor.
This official has significant checks
and balance type power over the
daily operations of the city
The last elected city controller,
Leonel Castillo, resigned in May
to become the head of the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization
Service. Henry Kriegel, former
city treasurer, has filled the position temporarily since Castillo's
Five of the six candidates in
the race for city controller are
considered to be serious contenders. They are: John Castillo,
former community development
director; Kathy Whitmire, a certified public accountant; Steve
Jones, also a certified public
accountant; Palmer Bowser, a
food market owner and former
director of CETA under Mayor
Hofheinz; and Bob Brewer,
formerly Hofheinz' administrative'
Each of these five has
a concentrated base of support.
Castillo draws support from the
which is said to be putting all of
its financial and political efforts
into the only citywide race
Mexican-Americans have a chance
of winning. He is a veteran political activist in the Chicano
community and closely tied to the
Political Association of Spanish-
Speaking Organizations (PASO),
whose members include key
leaders in the Chicano community.
Although this is Castillo's first
political race, voters are likely to
associate his name with that of
his brother -in -law, Leonel.
Political observers say John
Castillo lacks the charisma and
organizational abilities of Leonel,
but his slogan, "Castillo, Leadership Again," is intended to
portray a sense of continuity.
Whitmire draws her support
from several sources. Her name is
fairly well known in Houston
politics, particularly on the north
side. Her late husband ran three
ForVkur Vote I
SUPPORT MERYLYN WHITED
CITYCOUNCIL DISTRICT C
2007 Westheimer, Houston, Texas 521 -9065
Pa.d fc by the Merylyn \x/hited Ldmpd<gn _omnmttee. Merylyn
xX/hited, Treasurer 4845 Hdzeiton Drive. Houston Texas 77035
"The city controller is the only
one who has the authority to
approve disbursement of funds.
He is the watchdog of the taxpayers. To the degree that
those who control the money,
control-he does have power. But I
would also use the office to raise
the level of consciousness on the
part of city council and the
mayor-to provide them with
financial data to help make better
decisions than they do now. Then,
they'll have to answer to the
people. " - Palmer Bowser
"The mayor is the chief executive officer and the city controller
is the chief financial officer. All
spending must be approved
through the city controller. The
controller can go into other departments and check on priorities.
When it is found that the streets
are only fixed in certain parts
of town or there is favoritism, the
controller can point this out to
the people. This is the only
department head who is independent of the mayor. "--Kathy
"It's a very powerful office.
It has the power of the purse.
The controller has to sign for all
issuance of checks and bonds. If
funds aren 't available or properly
available, he has the power of legal
restraint. "-Steve Jones
"The office has the power to
provide check and balance in a
strong mayoral form of government. The city controller can stop
any expenditures that are not
accountable and can provide leadership in adoption of policies, and
can require city council to spell
out costs and amounts.' -John
"He reigns supreme as far as
certification of funds. I feel the
city charter provides authority
which so far has been little
utilized. I would watch contract
compliance and cost overruns
more carefully. It is imperative for
the city controller to remain independent. Too many votes are
taken in city council without
their full knowledge of the impact
now or in the future. It may be
necessary at times for the city
controller to go public." - Bob
times for city council. Her brother
-in-law is a state representative
from the north side. Whitmire also
will pick up support from the
accounting profession. She has
been active in professional
accounting societies in Houston
and among her professional peers
she is recognized for her competence.
She draws additional support
from women voters, who
recognize her as a qualified and independent candidate who could
perhaps become the first woman
ever to be elected to city government.
Jones is the only one of the
candidates who has previously
run for public office. He was defeated soundly by Leonel Castillo
in his last race for controller.
Jones identifies himself as a conservative Republican. He will draw
his greatest support from west
side voters, who traditionally
turn out in heavier numbers than
voters in other areas of the city.
He was one of the first to
announce his intention to run for
city controller and had a fair
amount of early success in raising
campaign funds from the white
business community. However,
when Brewer threw his hat into
the ring, a great deal of Jones'
support shifted to Brewer.
Brewer, who resigned as
Hofheinz' chief administrative
assistant to run for controller, was
active in the mayor's election
campaign and has worked for a
number of years in the Houston
Chamber of Commerce. Of all the
candidates, Brewer probably has
the least identifiable base of
support. He will rely upon the
white vote and try to draw on
Hofheinz' minority support.
However, that support has been
eroded greatly because both a
black and a Mexican-American
are in the controller race.
Bowser, a black businessman
and former city official, will draw
solid support from the city's black
organizations. Bowser, a native
Louisianan, is active in Houston
black politics. He was rewarded
for his support of Hofheinz' campaign with the CETA directorship
vacated by John Castillo. Bowser
is sure to draw nearly 100 percent
cf the black vote.
Dr. Susan MacManus is a member of the political science faculty at the
University of Houston.
It's always SAVINGS TIME at Heights.
locations to serve you
19th at Yale
Stella Link Center
9201 Stella Link
Where Saving Is Something Special— around the clock!
HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH OCTOBER 1977 PAGE 3