Robert Kane, a candidate for City Council District F, called me last week.
Now, I’m not a political whiz. I don’t intend to run extensive coverage of the local campaign (if you’re looking for such coverage, try Off the Kuff). I also am not planning to endorse any candidates, and I’m not endorsing Kane today. However, I do quite enjoy conversations like the one Kane initiated, and I’m happy to write about them when there’s anything interesting to report.
In this case the conversation was very interesting, and so I thought I’d relay some of it here.
Kane’s platform is pretty straightforward stuff: improve police coverage,fight crime and fix flooding and drainage issues. He also mentions improving community recycling, working to improve METRO service within District F, and working to help redevelop Sharpstown Mall. Kane recognized his position as a relative outsider, having lived in Houston only four years. He considers this a benefit to his District, as he’s been here long enough to know what’s going on, but has lived enough other places to have valuable insight into the best strategies used in other cities. I tend to agree with his assessment that Houston would benefit from having “fresh eyes” in our council.
I thought his stories and ideas about crime control were the most interesting part of the conversation. He began by explaining his vested interest:
My house was broken into when I first moved here, and it took the police 8 hours to respond. The police force is 1200-1500 members short, and 42% of the police force is eligible for retirement. That’s a huge problem.
And then he offered a really interesting idea. Kane noted the small police academy classes that are expected in the upcoming year, and stressed the importance of getting new cops on the street sooner rather than later. He suggested we consider an idea he first heard while living in Florida:
In Florida they do “community officers”, maybe a retired guy, someone who’s like a cop, but not a cop, someone who goes out and takes reports. They work at a lower salary, drive a more basic car. They handle the stuff that’s a real pain to cops, little secretarial stuff. But they take a huge load off the regular police force by helping with these little things. We need more people like that involved, more bodies on the street.
Now, that strikes me as a great idea. I could see the role of “Community Officer” as being a great role for retired police, EMT, or military personnel. They could stay busy and make some money but step back from the intensity of regular police duty. They could also serve as real ambassadors for the city and the police force, and be highly involved in their local neighborhoods. I love the idea of having familiar faces in the neighborhood, especially involved in reaching out to some of the kids who seem headed for trouble before it’s too late to help them.
Too often people are suspicious of the police, and see them as ‘not one of us.’ Kane’s idea strikes me as a really positive step in countering that problem.
Kane also mentioned an idea which I’ll just leave as a tidbit for now. He mentioned that he had been looking into Tubular Rail, an interesting (if unusual) concept for more cost effective rapid transit that’s being developed by a company here in Houston. His take on the technology was that it offered more value for the investment (obviously, grade separated rail is better than at grade), and that it’s the kind of idea he would take seriously as a city councilman.
He and I agree that the best solution is often not considered when it’s too different from what we’re already used to, and I appreciated that he had an open mind to honestly consider unorthodox ideas to address Houston’s challenges.
Lastly, I appreciated that Kane has put his phone number on his campaign web site, and it’s the real number (I tested it). That level of accessibility isn’t common. If you live in District F and would like to know more about Kane and his campaign, I recommend giving him a call.