HOUSTON – A majority of voters in Bayou City approve of Mayor Annise Parker’s job performance, according to an exclusive 11 News/KUHF-Houston Public Radio poll released Tuesday.
Rice University’s Center for Civic Engagement conducted the poll, which surveyed 500 registered voters in the city of Houston earlier this month. It had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
Fourteen percent of the respondents said Parker's doing an “excellent” job. Forty-two percent rated it “good.” Twenty-seven percent called her performance “fair.”
Just six percent gave her a “poor” rating.
The rest were undecided.
"What was interesting was how many people couldn't rate her,” said Prof. Bob Stein, 11 News’ political analyst. "But in fairness, this is not the kind of mayor that looks for the press coverage and publicity that Mayor (Bill) White did."
Houston residents 11 News spoke with earlier this week did not seem to mind Parker’s lower profile.
"Not being on the news so much, I think she's doing a great job,” Manuel Carranza said. “She's taking care of business."
Parker is no stranger to Houston politics. She was an at-large city councilmember from 1997 to 2003 and city controller from 2004 to 2009.
"She's a quiet individual,” Elbert James said. “She's been that way through her political career."
Stein noted that her predecessor, Bill White, had slightly higher approval ratings at this point of his tenure, but he also pointed out that he was dealing with a much better overall economy.
"I believe that while I may not be as visible on the TV screen, I'm much more visible on a local level, a personal level,” Parker said.
It’s been a busy first term for Parker so far.
She’s made history as the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city. She’s helped balanced the city’s toughest budget in years and appointed new heads of the police and fire departments.
But she’s also faced tough questions about Metro, which is under investigation by the Federal Transit Administration. Last week, the federal government said Metro violated Buy America provisions and that has put federal funds in jeopardy.
When asked what her biggest regret in office has been, Parker responded: "I don't have any regrets about the job. I will tell you the one thing that I was absolutely afraid of, and that was, to lose any of my people."
She was referring HPD Officer Eydelman Mani, who died during a police chase in May. Parker said visiting his family in the hospital has been her toughest challenge in office.
"I know it could happen again,” she said. “Now I know what it feels like."
There is plenty of debate over whether Parker’s strong approval ratings will hold up.
Analysts predict she'll face a lot of challenges next year, including an even tougher budget as well as redistricting. That could add two council seats and prove to be politically divisive.