Bill White and Farouk Shami on why they're running for governor—and how they'd shake up Texas.
On Dec. 4, the day that three-term Houston mayor Bill White jumped into the race for governor, many Texas Democrats started dreaming big.
Their perfect scenario goes like this: Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison slug it out in an expensive Republican primary. Perry wins, but limps into the general election broke, bleeding and having staked out positions somewhere to the right of Rush Limbaugh.
White, a popular centrist who gained national acclaim for opening his city to Hurricane Katrina refugees, has been lying in the weeds. Unencumbered by a contested primary, he has been free to raise money, organize a campaign, and ready himself for the general election. On Election Day, White ends not only Perry’s decade-long stint in office, but Democrats’ 16-year losing streak in statewide races. Many political observers believe White has a chance to win. The 55-year-old San Antonio native brings to the campaign advantages that no Democrat has had in years: a track record of good governance; strong fundraising potential (thanks to his years as a high-end Houston trial attorney, a major Bill Clinton fundraiser and Department of Energy official, and business connections from his days running a Houston energy company); and immense popularity in a region that accounts for about a third of the state’s votes. In White, Democrats may have their strongest gubernatorial contender since Ann Richards in 1994. There is one problem with the Democrats’ dream scenario. His name is Farouk Shami. Shami, 67, is a millionaire Houston businessman who owns Farouk Systems Inc., one of the nation’s largest producers of hair-care products. Shami is running for governor as a Democrat. While most political insiders in Texas believe it’s unlikely that he can win, Shami could make life difficult for White in the primary. Shami has pledged to spend $10 million of his own money on his bid for governor. In early January, he began airing two slick television ads highlighting his background as a Palestinian immigrant who arrived in New york 44 years ago with “$71 in his pocket,” became a corporate entrepreneur and lived the American dream. Shami moved to Texas in 1978. He recently closed his factory in Korea and moved the operation to Houston, bringing, he says, 1,200 jobs to the state.
He’s been criticizing White at every turn—raising the possibility of the Democrats’ nightmare scenario: an expensive, nasty primary fight that will leave the eventual winner weakened and lacking funds against a Republican favorite. White’s campaign says it plans to raise and spend more than $5 million on a primary race against Shami. Those are dollars the White campaign would surely prefer to hoard for the general election.
White, who is ineligible to run for another term as Houston mayor, had planned to run for U.S. Senate in a special election when Hutchison vacated her seat to run for governor. When Hutchison made it clear in November that she would not resign before the primary, White switched to the governor’s race. He has been endorsed by more than 75 state lawmakers, making him the anointed candidate of the Democratic establishment.
So why is Shami in the race?
When you speak with Shami, it becomes clear he’s running a classic outsider’s campaign, not unlike a third-party candidate. His top issue is creating jobs and confronting poverty in Texas. He argues that only an accomplished businessman like himself can lift the economy. Meanwhile, he characterizes both White and Perry as typical career politicians who will maintain the status quo. He talks of ending corruption, putting unemployed Texans to work cleaning parks and highways, and turning the governor’s mansion into an orphanage. A typical politician he isn’t.
Then again, White also claims to be something different: a proven problem-solver rather than a big talker.
In anticipation of their upcoming televised debate on Monday, Feb. 8, the Observer asked Shami and White to talk about their reasons for running and their plans for Texas.
Associate editor Dave Mann interviewed Shami for nearly an hour at the magazine’s offices on Jan. 15. Observer editor Bob Moser interviewed White on two occasions in January, in person and by telephone, also for approximately one hour. Here are excerpts from those conversations.
Farouk Shami: The Spoiler?
TEXAS OBSERVER: First off, why are you running?
FAROUK SHAMI: Well, to serve the state in a better way than the career politicians do. Watching the economy as a businessman, I feel the urgent need to help. Running for governor would put me in a position where I can help on a state level. To recover the economy and stimulate the economy takes a businessman and not a career politician.
My concept of stimulating the economy is starting from the bottom up and not what the current government always does—go to the rich. We need to start with the people who are losing their mortgage, with the unemployed people. Those are the people who need the help and need the jobs. More than giving certain contracts to big companies and doing business with the special-interest groups and lobbyists. We need to really care for everybody. And I felt I needed to step up to the plate as a businessman, using my experience locally, nationally, and internationally.
I can stimulate the economy. And if we stimulate the economy, we can improve education. We can improve health care. We can do everything if we have money and the jobs. I don’t have confidence that the politicians can stimulate the economy because they are the same people who caused the recession. … This is my future, my family’s future, and my kids’ and grandkids’. This country has been good to me. I’m living the American dream, and I have the responsibility to serve the people of Texas.
Can you elaborate a little on your plans for stimulating the economy? you said you want to start at the bottom. What does that mean? I’ve been to El Paso, and I visited the colonias. I understand there are thousands of these. In Houston, I see the Fifth Ward, Third Ward, Sunnyside, Acres Homes. Such poor people. As long as those people are poor and having no jobs … so my concept is to start with these people and create jobs. Bring factories to these communities.
I’ve been working for the last few months with engineers and experts on solar panels. Soon we will be building the first solar panels in El Paso and hiring hundreds of people and working there with the community for people to do installing of those solar panels. [Shami has been a major investor in a solar panel project in El Paso.] I’m hoping we can do that in all poor communities and create approximately 150,000 jobs in the next couple of years.
So that’s where I say stimulate the economy starting from the bottom. Those people, when they get a check, they spend it the next day. It goes back to the economy. And that keeps the money in the state. That’s how you stimulate the economy.
We need green jobs. They would serve many purposes—working with the solar panels, using the sun, which is the cheapest form of energy and the cleanest form of energy, and it’s creating jobs. The other thing, as a governor, is we need to make Texas beautiful. Anybody who doesn’t have a job, we can hire them to improve our parks that have been neglected and our sidewalks and the roads, the highways. We need to really make Texas more beautiful.
Plant roses, plant flowers, and do agriculture. That’s what stimulates the economy—find a job for everybody. We need jobs for everybody.
We have 800,000 people not working right now.
That is costing us a fortune for unemployment, food stamps, and welfare. All that stems from lack of jobs.
Those are the people who need the jobs, the poor people. So those are the people who are the priority.
We should not have poor people in the United States of America. Because with poverty comes lots of disasters. Lack of education, crime, drugs, all of that stems from no hope and no jobs.
When did you first start thinking about running for governor? Actually, I first started thinking about running when Obama won the election. I thought, “An immigrant has a chance in the state of Texas.”
Then I thought, we need change in the people who run this state. … Seriously, it was about trying to stimulate the economy. I just wanted to do my part. I’ve committed myself to creating a minimum 100,000 jobs in my first two years as governor. And if not, I’ll give the state $10 million.
So you’re promising to create 100,000 jobs in your first two years or you’ll donate $10 million to the state—like a money-back guarantee? That’s right. And I’m not going to receive a salary as governor, except $1 a year. And I’m not going to live in the governor’s mansion. I would like to put an orphanage there. I will rent my own place to live. I don’t want to cost the state $13,000 a month.
What are other issues—besides the economy—you feel are important? Everything stems from the economy. When we have money, we can do much better on education. The state is suffering from poor education, from dropouts, from teenage pregnancies, not paying the teachers enough. Lots of things are needed to improve education, and you need money for that. Of course, health care is an issue. The justice system, I feel, needs to be improved. We’re spending too much on inmates and not enough on education.
To switch gears: I think some people are wondering why you’re running for governor—why not state representative or state senator or city council? Why jump in and run right away for governor? The only way to serve the whole state, the whole state of Texas, is to be in a position to serve the whole state.
The governor is supposed to be the team leader, where people listen to his plan, and he works with the Legislature to pass a plan that can stimulate the economy. So I need to be in a position of leadership. Because I don’t see that our congressmen or senators are doing the job. Of course, the governor isn’t doing the job either. That’s why we need a new governor who thinks out of the box.
A lot of people have talked about Bill White as having a good shot for the Democrats. Are you concerned about being a spoiler? People are really tired of the Democratic Party being a clique of old-fashioned thinking. One thing we need to reform is the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has not been winning for a long time. yes, I like the Democratic thinking and the Democratic concepts, but I am against the Democratic Party being a clique, keeping the same people who have not been winning. It’s time for a change. The party needs to reform itself. They need new leadership.
Some people have said that Bill White is the Democrats’ best chance to win, and they’re concerned about him having to win a primary and spend money in a primary. Is that a concern for you? I think the person who has the least chance of winning is Bill White. The people who want a change, they’re going to choose Farouk Shami. The people who want to stay with the status quo, they’re going to stay with Rick Perry.
So Bill White does not have a chance. The only popularity he has is in the closed circuit of his party. His record is a record of failure, as much as Rick Perry’s.
They’re both in the same boat. They both don’t understand business. Bill White claims he’s a businessman.
But he’s a failure as a businessman because the only time he talked about business is the last year when he was a deputy for the Energy Department. If you recall that year, he … travel[ed] to Russia and the Caspian Sea. Then he invested $60 million in drilling gas and oil in the Caspian Sea. And in the first year, he lost $60 million. That’s his history of business. [In 1996, after leaving the Energy Department, White founded the company Frontera Resources Corp., which borrowed and invested $60 million to develop oil from the Caspian Sea. The investment didn’t go well, and much of that money was lost. White is no longer listed among Frontera’s board of directors or corporate officers.]
His history of running the city for six years—he did not improve any of the poverty. We still have this poverty. He didn’t do anything for African-American areas, Hispanic areas. He served the rich people that support him. And look, the city of Houston, he left it with a $103 million deficit. [This number is disputed by White and city officials, who say there is no deficit.] So if a man could not run a city, how could he run a state?
My record speaks for itself. I’m a successful businessman. His record speaks for him as a politician and as a failure. He served only the special-interest groups who helped him get elected. He’s for the rich and famous. He’s not for the people. I challenge him: What did he do for minorities?
I think people would point to his environmental record in Houston. What did he do for the environment?
Well, he tried to crack down on refineries. We’re still the most polluted city. What did he do? Talk is cheap.
I think he struck agreements with polluters to reduce emissions. Well, one of the most polluted cities in the United States of America is still Houston.
OK? So he talks. People are tired of talk. People want action, and he’s definitely not a man of action.
In terms of policy, are there areas where you two—you and Bill White—really disagree? I don’t know what his issues are. I hear him talking about education.
Why didn’t he do something about it as mayor? He’s talking about jobs. Why didn’t he create jobs as mayor? Talking about health care. Why didn’t he do something about that? Energy—why didn’t he do something about it? He had an opportunity of six years, so on his report card, he gets an “F” on almost everything. And I’m speaking as a citizen of Houston myself.
Did you vote for him for mayor? I’m out of the city [in Harris County].
Did you think about stopping your campaign when Bill White decided to run for governor? I’m a man of determination, not like him. He’s the one who can’t make up his mind. I make up my mind, and I stay on it. Bill White is well known in the Democratic Party and in Houston. That’s about it. I’m much more known.
People know me and my name, know that I’ve brought billions of dollars to this state. I’ve brought thousands for jobs to this state, and that’s something that he didn’t. Unless he’s talking about jobs that I created.
So I really don’t feel that Bill White is my competition.
Who’s your competition? Rick Perry. Bill White is just in the way. If he didn’t flip, then I would have won the nomination without a [contested] primary.
I read [in the Austin American-Statesman] that you were quoted saying you pray every day, but … I meditate.
Meditate … OK, but you wouldn’t classify yourself as being part of any organized religion. Is that right? You know, I always tell people I was born in the land of Abraham, the father of all religion. So I believe in Moses, I believe in Jesus, I believe in Muhammad, and we all believe in one god. Religion is the art of living. Religion is between a person and his god. And I’m running for governor, not a religious position.
Some observers have speculated that you’re running to help promote your company and your products. What’s your response to that? I don’t work at the company. I’ve made enough money at the company. … I’m finished with the company, and governor or no governor, I’m not going back to the company. So I’m not promoting the company.
My company is already the No. 1 company in the beauty business in the United States of America. And we export to 114 countries. So it’s a very successful business, and my children run my company. My company is already very well promoted. you will find my product in approximately 90 percent of the homes in Texas. My company does not need promotion. I don’t need to spend my money in an election to promote my company.
So right now you don’t have an active role in running the company? Your children run it? Well, for example, this week I called them to tell them to donate $1 million worth of shampoo and body cleansers for Haiti. That’s, this week, my only involvement. When the earthquake happened, I jumped in to help. But that was my only involvement with the company. I’m dedicated to the governorship.
Bill White: The Contender?
TEXAS OBSERVER: We’re in a time when there’s a lot of anti-Obama backlash and a lot of antigovernment sentiment. Clearly you are running on a good-government message, which hasn’t always worked in Texas, to say the least. How are you going to sell people on competent governance?
BILL WHITE: you know, Texas will be a poorer state without an economic future that’s as much as it can be. We lead the nation in the percentage of adults without a high school diploma. Texas is unusual among American states and countries on Earth of having the younger generations having a lower percentage of college degrees than older Texans. We will not have a solid economic future unless we invest in the people of this state and have people who are productive, that can save and invest in small businesses, that can purchase consumer goods. And I think Texans understand this.
We need to move our state forward. We’ve had too much of the wedge politics issues in the past. And I think that most Texans are ready for somebody just to work for the people of Texas on solutions.
I think what you’re seeing a backlash against is what people consider to be a lot of political theater in Washington. There’s a lot of hype and rhetoric. When you have two wars going on, when you’re in a global and economic recession, and we’re in a state that is last in a lot of things we ought to be first in, then people are ready for some new leadership.
You’ll be running against a likely general election opponent who will be trumpeting the greatness of Texas and accusing you of running down Texas. How do you talk seriously about the problems the state faces and avoid sounding like a doomsayer? Well, I’m proud of the people of Texas, and I believe that the people deserve a better state government. If Gov. Perry thinks he is synonymous with Texas, then he has been in office too long.
If you’re the nominee, Gov. Perry will work very hard to stick the “L” word on you. How are you planning to combat that? Well, I mean, here’s the facts: I’ve built successful businesses in this state. I’ve met payrolls. I was the mayor of a big city in the state where we had decreases in our property tax rates each of the first five years that I was mayor. I’m a good steward of taxpayer dollars. I was not the person who proposed a massive Trans-Texas Corridor that would have taken by force a lot of the agricultural land of our state.
I am sure that they will use the politics of labels and the wedge-issue politics and the hot rhetoric to perpetuate their grasp on power. But how ’bout accountability? There’s a word I like. The fact of the matter is that our homeowners’ insurance rates are the highest in the nation. Deregulation was supposed to give us lower electricity rates, and now electricity rates that used to be lower than the national average are higher. We now have a large dropout rate. In measure after measure, we are lagging behind some other states, on education performance and in creating jobs for the future.
There’s a study that I commend to Observer readers and any informed Texans. The state didn’t put on its Web site; I had a hard time finding it on the Internet last night. It was by a commission appointed by Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and [former Texas House Speaker] Tom Craddick to study and report back on the global competitiveness of Texas in higher education. It showed that Texas’ per-capita income used to be in line with the average income of the rest of America, and over the past 25 years, we’ve been falling behind. That’s not a good trend. And now’s the time to have accountability.
Insurance rates are a huge problem in Texas. What is your plan for bringing homeowners’ insurance rates down? I think there needs to be more competition. There’s many who believe that, with both this and health insurance, that some of the old protections for anti-trust—the McCarran-Ferguson Act and state regulatory frameworks which create impediments to new entrants—really deprive consumers of the benefit of market competition.
I cannot tell you that I know all the causes. But I do know that even apart from the rates for wind damage and hurricanes, we have rates that are higher than those in the rest of the country. The average in America for homeowners’ insurance is $800; in Texas it’s over $1,400. And it’s not because we have the most expensive houses in the country. So I will at least say that I’ll look into it. I won’t have a simple demagogue solution. But I’ll give you an example of how I’d do it: When I was mayor of the city of Houston, we had one of the largest group health insurance plans, and I asked the insurers for their loss runs. Nobody had asked for that, nobody had gotten it. But I think we ought to take a look at what are their actual loss experiences, and what are their premiums. And that will point us in the right direction.
The State Board of Education has been primarily an ideological body, not a governing board. What specific reforms would you advocate for the board? To me, our principal goal should be raising the achievement of our students: cutting the dropout rate and preparing our students for good jobs for the future. Sometimes that requires training at a two-year institution and sometimes in a four-year institution. That ought to be the dominant preoccupation of all who are involved in education.
Let me ask about another troubled state agency: the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. What would you do to make TCEQ more responsive to the public interest? I know that there many outstanding career professionals in TCEQ. But I know that its rules are tilted to protect some polluters. And I’ll give you a very specific example. Lyondell [Chemical Worldwide Inc.], a company that’s been in a bankruptcy court, that was bought by an international billionaire a few years back, applied for a permit in September of last year, in the middle, right in the middle of the recovery from Hurricane Ike, when we had a large percentage of our population who didn’t have electricity, including city employees. The TCEQ insisted that we file our objections to Lyondell’s application to put dozens of tons of benzene, a known carcinogen [into the air]—that we had two weeks to do it and no extensions.
We presented scientific evidence, we made our objection, and our request was that there be a public hearing. And they have not yet granted a public hearing to us. They’ve taken no action on the permit. But Lyondell is allowed to put those dozens of tons of benzene in the air until its permit is decided on. Now tell me that that is not tilted towards the polluter.
I’m for a level playing field. I’m for healthy industry. I think somebody’s a hypocrite if they fly in an airplane and drive a car and say that they don’t contribute to some emissions. And I’m pretty forthright about that. But what’s fair is fair, and what’s right is right. And it does not make any sense to have our rules say that a person can apply for permits to put dozens of tons of cancer-causing chemicals into the air that they don’t breathe, that they do not own, that’s breathed by other people, without the permission of those other people, because they have designed that regulatory system. It is unfair. And I’m going to change that.
So among other things, TCEQ’s rules need to be changed? TCEQ’s rules need to be balanced. They need to balance the interests of the economic needs of those who seek to put stuff in the air and water, and the overall public.
I’ve just given you a prime example, and I will debate with anyone, anywhere, anytime, why the rule that I just described is fair. It is not fair. It is wrong.
And it’s designed to protect the polluter. So I have some views on that. (Laughs.)
The other thorny environmental issue of the future is going to be water—or lack thereof. Texas has antiquated laws that encourage waste and private hoarding of water. What would you propose to create a more rational system? We want to respect longstanding legal property rights and historical uses.
For those like me who want to be good stewards of natural resources, then they need to understand the consequences of excessive diversion of water. I think it benefits all of us to have a healthy rural economy with people who are good stewards of that land and are not forced to sell to people who will not be good stewards of the land and will just build straws.
We also need the right balance in our rivers and streams, so that we meet the needs of a growing state and we also respect the rights of the downstream users.
I do believe that there can be good, common-sense, practical, and widely supported measures that don’t alter our standard of living which reduce our per-capita consumption of water. Let me give you an example of that: In the city of Houston, we found that by using native plants in a lot of public spaces, we decrease our need for water and watering costs. If we wanted to talk about this all day, I could give you other examples.
Let me return to politics for a minute: When you were chairing the Texas Democratic Party leading into the 1998 statewide elections, you were quoted as saying “the heart and soul of the Republican Party is out of the mainstream.” Do you think that’s the case in 2010? Well, certainly those that would vote for Rick Perry after the nine failed years as governor are out of the mainstream. Texans do not want to be near the bottom of the nation in high school graduation rates; they don’t want skyrocketing tuition rates; they do want our kids to have access to CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance] programs so that working people’s kids have some access to health care. And they want the consumer and public interest represented at agencies with pollution, utility bills, and insurance rates.
You’ve made frequent references in campaign speeches to Gov. Perry’s suggestion that Texas might secede from the union. What do you think that says about his leadership that’s important for people to know? That it’s about sound bites and appeals to fear that might take us back to the past rather than move the state forward with the real issues Texas families are struggling with. People want somebody who’ll shoot straight and move our state forward. They’re tired of the spin and the superficial candidacies that you see out there right now.
I’m sure you’re very familiar with the dustup last fall over the Forensic Science Commission. Do you believe that Gov. Perry was engaging in a cover-up when he moved to replace commission members right before they were starting hearings on whether Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongly executed? It certainly looks wrong, and there’s something inconsistent with a governor who now says that he’ll defer to experts on his plans to greatly expand the governor’s mansion and destroy its historical integrity, while at the same time saying that he won’t defer to experts on issues such as forensic science.
Given the information the governor had about questionable forensics that convicted Willingham, should he have halted the execution before he went forward? I haven’t looked at all the details on that case, but if I was governor I would appoint people to boards involving pardon and paroles, and the Forensic Science Commission, who would represent the values of this state—and in the case of forensic science, who are experts. And I would rely on the judgment of those people.
Do you support the death penalty? Yes.
Do you support a moratorium on executions, as former Gov. Mark White has suggested, until we can ensure that Texas is not executing innocent people? No. I think it ought to depend on a case-by-case basis and not be a moratorium across the board.
How would you handle your review of these cases differently from what Gov. Perry has done? Where there is a question about the forensic science, I would listen to the scientists.
Let me move to another subject: Deregulation of tuition rates is a big part of what’s led to skyrocketing costs for Texans who want to go to college. As governor, what would you do to bring those rates down? First, I would set as one of my top priorities to moderate that increase or bring those rates down. And build a consensus among the Legislature and the public about what we need to do to accomplish that. I can’t tell you that I’ve looked under the hood and looked at what efficiencies can be found in every single state agency, and know how much revenues the state has that can displace that tuition income. But I do know it’s the wrong direction to go in, and you start by having a governor who acknowledges that and calls on people to help find a solution to that problem.
We’re eating our seed corn. We should be a state where every generation has more opportunities, not less, than the prior generation.
Along those same lines, how would you propose to cut the state’s dropout rate? There’s no silver bullet.
But here are some solutions: First, we must have more flexible hours in our public schools for those students who must work, to be able to accommodate that work schedule and remain in school and get a diploma through a high school. Second, for people who only need a few hours of work each day in order to make the rent, make car payments for their family, we need to have job banks around high schools of employers who will offer jobs to those young people on the condition that they stay in school. Third, we need to start early with dropout prevention. We can do that by expanding access to pre-K. We can also do that in programs such as the Summer Opportunity Sessions that we started in Houston, allowing voluntary enrichment summer school for elementary-school kids.
We found dramatic improvement in at-risk kids when they’re given that opportunity—improvement in their test scores. And that builds their confidence and their willingness to continue. That’s not all. But I’ll leave it at that for this answer unless you want more.
If you’re elected, you’ll be facing a substantial state budget deficit in 2011. What will be your main guiding principles in tackling that deficit? We ought to do it on spending; we ought to set our priorities. The career politicians who claim to be conservatives but have never met a payroll have these across-the-board, top-down budget cuts like they used to do in the Soviet Union. What a good business manager would do would be set priorities within the state budget so that some of the most essential services remain intact.
Next, rather than waiting until Feb. 15, when [in 2009] the governor sent out a memo with suggestions about what people could cut, I would have been in there as soon as it became obvious there was going to be a sales tax shortage to find productivity improvements, and requiring people to find productivity improvements. I’ll give you an example of that: In the city of Houston, as soon as we saw sales tax trailing off, I gave instructions to renegotiate our private vendor contracts. This is common in the private sector: When the customer is hurting, then some of the vendors may need to drop their prices.
After all, some of their raw material costs have dropped. I have not heard of that being done in state government. I would preside hands-on on that.
Inevitably, if you’re the Democratic nominee, you’re going to be asked to take a no-new-taxes pledge. Will you make the promise to veto any tax hikes as governor? Well, I will veto any wasteful spending or something that is done just for a special interest. But I think it would be disrespectful for the elected representatives of the people of Texas to say in advance whole categories of what you would veto. Are you telling me that if we had a unanimous state Senate or state House pass something that I would go in and veto just for political posturing? Absolutely not.
A related question: The Texas Enterprise Fund gives the governor basically free reign to hand out money to corporations who promise to create jobs in Texas. Do you think the fund should be structured differently, or eliminated? Structured differently, definitely. Eliminated, maybe. There’s potential for abuse. When you look at Countrywide Financial [Corp.], the biggest subprime mortgage lender, getting a big slug of money with a promise to create jobs, a lot of them in 2011. Countrywide goes bellyup; there’s no mechanism for recapturing a lot of those funds. [Bank of America subsequently bought Countrywide.] Something’s wrong with that. Then when you look at the contributors to the Republican Governors Association, or the various campaigns, you see many owners or executives of the same firms which have received these grants from the governor. To me, that’s just ridiculous.
I read the financial statements of one firm whom he gave money to that they counted not as an investment but as revenues—a biotech company whose stock has tanked. And in their public financial filings that I saw online, they had a disclosure about receiving these revenues and the number of jobs they promised to create, but then they noted to their shareholders that even if they didn’t create the jobs, they didn’t have to give all the money back. That stinks.
If Congress fails to act on cap-and-trade legislation, would you support Texas participating in a regional cap-and-trade system? No, I don’t think that you can really remain competitive if one state has a regulatory environment where somebody can avoid it by simply moving a plant next door. But I would take aggressive actions to reduce greenhouse emissions in Texas, as I have done in the city of Houston. In the city of Houston we’re the largest purchaser of renewable energy of any state, local or federal government entity in the United States. We have some of the most aggressive and practical energy codes for new buildings. We have a residential energy-efficiency retrofit program that has reduced utility consumption and bills in some 7,000 lowincome residences. We have purchased hybrids for hundreds and hundreds of our civilian vehicles, and converted many of our mass-transit buses to hybrid technologies, saving fuel, saving costs, and reducing emissions. And much, much more.
As a result of some of these things, while the city of Houston has greatly expanded its jobs and opportunity while I was mayor, the city has cut its utility consumption by almost 6 percent, even though we were growing. That’s the kind of leadership I’ll bring to the state of Texas.