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Gene Locke Confused About City Budget Process – Again

Once again, Gene Locke is confused about the City of Houston’s budget process.

Today, Locke attacked Annise Parker for praising Mayor Bill White, in Monday night’s debate on KRIV-TV, for finding efficiencies and already implementing a plan to eliminate vacant positions and to move people within the city. Locke twisted this statement into something about layoffs. Not a single elected official in the City of Houston has mentioned layoffs. The only person who’s talking about layoffs is Gene Locke. (Locke: “before we start laying off people…” KRIV-TV debate).

Locke is trying to divert attention from a Bloomberg News story that ran this week on his failed financial plan for Reliant Stadium. (Houston Stadium Bond Refinance Looms as Swaps Squeeze Taxpayers, October 13, 2009) Locke says on his website that he “led the negotiations” for Reliant on behalf of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. Now, according to Bloomberg, the Sports Authority “may need to refinance $1 billion in debt and pay as much as $142 million ahead of schedule on bonds and interest-rate swaps.”

Clearly, Lawyer-Lobbyist Locke did not earn the more than $500,000 his firm was paid by the Authority. He fumbled the ball and now taxpayers are on the hook for millions, despite promises that no tax dollars would be used in this project.

The Bloomberg story reports that the Sports Authority’s first chairman Jack Rains says the Authority overestimated income from taxes to cover debt. The story quotes Rains as saying: “I’m deeply concerned about the financial stability of the sports authority and all its bonded indebtedness. When you borrow for 30 years, you have to do prudent things, and they didn’t.”

Rains also told Bloomberg News that the Authority, on the recommendation of First Southwest, began buying insurance on its first bond issues in the late 1990s. However, Rains told Bloomberg, “First Southwest told them about the risks. They ignored the risks and plowed full-speed ahead.”

What else does the public not know? 

Texas Watchdog reported recently on Locke’s possible conflicts of interest with the Sports Authority and sent Locke a series of questions that his campaign refused to answer then and still has yet to answer.

It’s long past time to answer these questions and more.

Come clean, Gene.

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