I was able to catch-up with Jamaal Smith, Democrat for HD-137, this weekend to listen to some of his stances on various issues.
Smith states he is running for HD-137, not to fill in the shoes of outgoing Rep. Scott Hochberg, but “to match the passion and continue the legacy that he…left behind” concentrating on education and economic development. Smith believes that his work experience, passion and Democratic credentials makes him the best candidate.
Smith believes one of the solutions needed for the problems faced by public education is to make it a value–give it value and the funding will follow as parents become accountable and involved. Smith wants to find new funding sources, such as eliminating the “early filer” tax giveaway which, along with other reforms, would amount to $30 billion in new revenue. Smith also believes in reforming accountability, as in getting beyond testing. As an example, he used Scott Hochberg’s HB 2233, which gives ISDs flexibility on testing, allowing teachers to stop teaching to the test and instead to students’ weaknesses so that they may improve.
Regarding economic development, Smith feels that understanding the district and demographics is crucial, with Smith stating there are legitimate concerns between groups that require a leader who will serve as a conduit to working with other government entities and leaders to create opportunities. Serving as an information source to the community would be part of the solution, according to Smith, citing the fact that as diverse as the district is, there have only been 3 applicants for HUB loan programs.
Smith also believes the state’s structural deficit must be addressed, stating that the tax code needs to be scrubbed. Getting rid of the “margins tax” would be one solution, stated Smith, while repeating his idea that removing the “early tax filer” exemption from corporations would provide upwards of $30 billion in revenue. Citing caps on various programs, Smith reminded me of the cap on the amount of money that actually goes to public education from the Texas Lottery, and not what was promised when Texans voted for a Lottery.
Smith views health care access and the health care reform act as mandatory, stating that a government should provide an opportunity for Texans to have a better life and that the State has an obligation to provide a minimum standard of care.
Smith also has some ideas about transportation, stating that the one thing in which all Houstonians do have some sort of equality are bad roads. Smith feels that because of a lack of zoning, city planning becomes important to ensure safe roads and create transportation options. Smith feels that building more roads is not the answer and that rail and other methods are viable options to address traffic issues, stating he would fight for the federal dollars that the area deserves.
Jamaal Smith is the former executive director of the Harris County Democratic Party, has worked as a legislative director to the late State Rep. Joe Moreno and as an advisor to State Senator Rodney Ellis.
Editor’s Note: I’ve known Jamaal for some time now and I know his work in the community and in the Party. Whatever the task, he’s given it the same passion he has given to helping create good public policy. When I found out I was moving to HD-137, it wasn’t difficult to decide to whom I’d give my vote when taking his experience and credentials in consideration versus the other fine candidates. In the 2012 Democratic Primary, I’m voting Jamaal Smith for Texas House District 137.