Monday, September 17, 2007

Don’t Vote for Zaf Tahir If He Persists in Running for Houston City Council (A Special Slampo’s Place Non-Endorsement)

Zafar Tahir may be a prince of a fellow and for all we know would make an exemplary public servant, but he shouldn’t be running for city council, at least in Houston, and if he continues with his charade we call on all right-minded readers of this blog---at least the two or three who are registered to vote in the city---to shun his candidacy in favor of some suitable alternative (your choice).

Last week the Chronicle’s indefatigable Matt Stiles reported that Tahir and another candidate for the Position 5 at-large seat, former state board of education member Jack Christie, had both assumed addresses of convenience in the city in order to meet the loosely interpreted “residency” requirement for candidates. Each lived outside the city in before launching his campaign---Christie in the wealthy northwest enclave of Bunker Hill, Tahir in the rapidly diversifying burg of Sugar Land. Stiles proceeded to beat on Christie with his reportorial Ugly Stick---and it was beauteous thing---by revealing that Christie not only was claiming two homesteads for tax purposes with his estranged wife but had allowed an unsightly build-up of algae---what some would call “scum”---in the swimming pool at his in-town rental digs. Stiles’ reporting apparently led not only to a health department citation for the algae but to Christie’s quitting the race (results!). That was a good thing, because we're fairly certain we weren’t the only Houstonian unwilling to vote for a man who couldn't keep his pool clean.

Tahir, meanwhile, has of this writing escaped further blows from the Ugly Stick, apparently having no algae-infested pool---and possibly no pool at all---at his throwdown address, and no marital complications that might result in dual homestead claims. He has called for a return to a discussion of, ahem, real issues, whatever those are, presumably with the idea that the residency matter is but a temporary and minor obstacle on his road to taking his rightful place on City Council alongside his sponsor, fellow Paki-American and former (still?) non-Houston resident M.J. Khan. (And isn’t it a little odd for an incumbent council member to be so out front in backing an aspirant for another, open council seat at so early a date? It’s not, you say? Sorry we asked.)

We notice that Stiles’ stories have generated some discussion over whether “residency” really matters. Let us resolve the issue by explaining why it does: When you move into a jurisdiction solely to run for an elective office, you’re telling us (at least me) that you view the office first and foremost as a vehicle for your personal ambition(s), not as an opportunity for public service or to engage in the setting of public policy (yes, we know, most candidates for office are slightly touched egomaniacs driven by an admixture of motives, personal ambition being foremost, but the taking-an-apartment-in-town ruse makes it just too damn obvious). What you’re saying is that place doesn’t matter, that one is just the same as the other (false), and, above all, that commitment to place is meaningless. Commitment as in establishing a home and paying property taxes (at the least) in the jurisdiction where you want to serve, becoming part of a neighborhood (and not some phony-baloney “community”) and, if you want to get real crazy, sending whatever kids you have to the area public schools (okay, that might be asking too much).

We don’t know much of anything about Tahir, but we see his campaign Web site is full of blather about transforming Houston into a “truly global city” and so forth. We didn’t see the word “potholes” on the site, but maybe filling ’em is kinda passé and boring in our new borderless, place-less, flattened-out, gimme-the-money globe. Tahir himself apparently is in the business of expanding global economic opportunities, through an entity called International Spectrum Development and his affiliation with the government of Pakistan’s Board of Investment.

We suspect Tahir could find a similar opportunity for service on the Sugar Land City Council, although it might leave something to desire in the personal ambition category (less money, fewer outside business contacts/opportunities, less ass-kissing and having your ass kissed, etc.). But at least he wouldn’t have to bed down in that little townhouse all by his lonesome for the next two months.

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