Thursday, May 1, 2014
Last week, I was able to sit down with one of the candidates in the runoff for the House District 132 seat, Ann Hodge. Ann has been a resident of District 132 for a while now and her name is synonymous with the Katy Chamber, of which she has been the president since 1999. With the primary over and the runoff in full swing, it's like hitting the reset button on vetting candidates and trying to sway voters to support each respective candidate. We discussed that and other issues related to the election; from families to committees, nothing was off limits.
Kelly Horsley: Ann, what made you decide to run for office?
Ann Hodge: People in the community came to me and asked me to run, because it was clear that they felt like we needed someone who was more grounded in the community, had lived the issues and they felt like someone needed name identification, and they needed to be able to raise the money and they needed to be able to go the distance; and not a career politician.
Kelly Horsley: How long do you think that you would serve in the state house, if you were elected?
Ann Hodge: My guess is it would probably be eight to twelve years just depending on what happens. You know, it's not that I want to make it a career, by any stretch of the imagination. I think it would closely mirror what Bill Callegari did and I think that he was able to achieve most of his agenda, during that tenure. I think two to four years is probably a little short, but I would say that would be my best guess.
Kelly Horsley: I know that's kind of subjective and that you might say, I'll go back to Austin as many times as the voters send me back, but I was just curious.
AH: It's certainly not a stepping stone for me.
K H: I know that there are a lot of tough issues that we're facing as a nation, nationally, locally, etc. What do you think is the biggest issue facing Texas?
AH: I actually think there's three, and I think infrastructure is huge. Matter of fact, I just saw where Congress is taking a look at a one time funding for mobility. I'm very, very concerned about the lack of funding for mobility, particularly in the high growth areas. I'm extremely concerned that Texas is having to protect our borders, that the feds are not doing that and that it's falling to us as taxpayers. And last but not least, I'm passionate about local control, I do not feel that the people in Austin much less in Washington D.C. know what's best for my children or my grandchildren.
KH: What house members, if you were to get elected, would you see yourself working closely with?
AH: I think the delegation that we have. Of course we don't know what will happen with Glenn Heger's seat, we don't know a couple of seats. We know that Paul Bettencourt will be probably our next Senator for district 7. We have been very, very blessed, in my opinion to have Bill Callegari, John Zerwas, Dan Patick, and Joan Huffman and all of the folks including Glenn Heger that have done a great job. I think the biggest thing is we work together; they've listened to the community, they've tried. One of the things that concerns me is being in three counties; the Katy area, you can't just vote from our legislative boundaries. And people say to me, you hosted a fundraiser for John Zerwas a couple years ago, yeah, and John's got part of Katy. I may not get to vote for John, and I don't get to vote for Dan Patrick anymore for that seat, but I think we are all in this together. So, you align with the people that I think can most closely mirror what you're trying to do. That's probably going to be more of your urban legislators than it is your rural, although we certainly have some issues in Cypress as well as Katy with some of your existing farms that need a lot of assistance too to maintain their stablity.
KH: What committees do you see yourself working on, if elected?
AH: Well, State Affairs, of course, the plum is always appropriations. I would be remiss to not say education; the holy grail.
KH: What are your thoughts on home schooling?
AH: Oh, I applaud it. I have five grandchildren and I can tell you they all have five different gifts. My first granddaughter I told my husband that I would get down and kiss the ground if she walked across the stage at the Merrell Center and she did, bless her heart; and I did, I kissed the ground. The next one that graduated from Katy High is at Uof H in the Bauer program so, the one that graduated first, though, attended some private schools, and definitely been in one charter school, and just trying to find that niche. So, I'm very sensitive to that that. one size doesn't fit all and I don't think they develop their gifts and their talents at the same rate and I think we've got to figure out a better way to address that. I'm very concerned that by eighth grade they're being asked to decide a career path. I'm not convinced that everybody in the eighth grade has the ability to do that.
KH: You are known as the 'chamber lady'. I wouldn't normally equate the chamber with 'grassroots'. How do you bridge that gap to the voters who might have that same thought?
AH: When HCC decided that they were going to force annexation on Spring Branch, Katy ISD and NorthForest and Alief to bring them into the taxing district.
KH: When was that?
AH: I believe that it was in 2006. I am positive that they thought that we would never rise up. So, they were going to get our tax base. Whereas, Cy-Fair has said, no-no; we will make our own determination for our community college district. The head of the Cy-Fair chamber at the time, what used to be North Harris County Montgomery Community College, which is now Lone Star, and to HCC, you may make formal presentations and then our community will decide. We were being forced into the annexation and they held a vote, at the Houstonian to call the election. Now, I called my fellow chamber execs, there wasn't really one for NorthForest, with all due respect, I mean, you know what happened to North Forest, but Spring Branch and Alief said, 'no'. I said, 'no', we're not going to sit back and take this. Our community deserves better, we should have a say. If we are going to be in the taxing district, we need to have a say.
So we launched a massive grassroots campaign on absolutely a shoestring and stopped them dead in their tracks. We then went to Callegari and Heger and Patrick and all of our delegation and got that loophole in the law closed in the next session. The loophole basically said, if you want to annex an existing school district that is not part of your tax base, it's a majority vote of your existing tax base, plus the to-be annexed. So, if everyone at NorthForest, Spring Branch, Alief and Katy ISD, had voted against it, they would have still outnumbered us and why wouldn't they want us in their tax base? Look at what the tax rolls were that we would bring in and we would have no say. We stopped them; grassroots, because we flooded them.
KH: There was a recent effort chamber of the chamber to take out the Tea Party..
AH: The US Chamber; We're not a member, we are not affiliated with that.
KH: Well, how do you feel about that?
AH: We absolutely oppose it. And, our board has never voted in favor of that. There are a lot of initiatives by TAB as well as the US Chamber that our board will not go for. Bill Hammond went to all of the chambers and asked them to support a guest worker program. I told him, I'm not taking that back to Katy! Are you kidding me? So, it's a great sound bite. People say, well, you are an affiliate of (the US Chamber) and I'm like, oh, no, we're not. You need to look at the Secretary of States filing. We were incorporated in 1962 and we are a stand alone non-profit. We have a stand alone board who answers to no one but our members. They don't answer to Washington, D.C., or Austin, but it's being used against me.
KH: I'm glad I got the opportunity to ask the question.
AH: I appreciate the opportunity to answer. You would be surprised how many true believers in the tea party philosophy you have in the business community. The challenge is sometimes, there are activities that are frightening to business leaders. No business owner or executive that I work with and have worked with either at BFI or in the Chamber, want more taxes or more regulations; they get it.
Sometimes, they're concerned about confrontation, so they are very passionate about lower taxes and lower regulations and that's why you see the support for me because they know that I've fought for that. You know, do I think that the business tax is the perfect tax in this state? No, I don't, not at all. I think that we are hurting ourselves, I mean, I worked for fifteen years at BFI and I was told the other day, someone wanted to know when was the last time the state of Texas cited a landfill? It's been four years.
Now with the growth we are experiencing, let me just say, I understand nobody wants them in their backyard, but I spent enough years in that arena to know that we better be preparing for how we are going to deal with it. You and I don't have any problem putting it out on the curb, but we divorce ourselves from it once we put it out on the curb. I'm being flooded right now with letters on recycling batteries and stuff. I don't know who started this campaign, but if I've gotten one letter, I've gotten 150 letters about this. So environmental issues are still something that people are very passionate about and somebody's definitely launching a bit effort. I think that the business community has more passion around a lot of the philosophy
I had such a great interview with Ann, and there is more to share. Stay tuned for part two of Spotlight on HD 132. Thanks for reading!