Magazine Actually Claims Harris County Can Govern Itself

Reporter John Mecklin worked a long time in Houston for the old Post; he also served as an editor at the SF Weekly, the San Francisco paper in our very own Village Voice Media chain.

He's now editor at a magazine called Miller-McCune, a publication started by a Southern California philanthropist; the magazine's motto is "Turning Research Into Solutions."

Mecklin spent enough time in Houston to become extremely cynical about county government here, so he's as surprised as anyone, it seems, with his latest article: a glowing love letter about how Harris County officeholders are working across the aisle to get things done.

It's a development that I wouldn't believe had I not seen and heard it myself: In a government once ruled by outlandish power politics, county officials are working together on matters of public interest -- from jail overcrowding to improved mental health care to ethics enforcement -- that could almost be seen as a common reform agenda.

He does caution that "the change shouldn't be overstated," but Mecklin goes on to describe the partnership of new County Attorney (and Democrat) Vince Ryan and new District Attorney (and Republican) Pat Lykos as wondrous to behold.

It's just as clear that [Lykos is] absolutely fine with saying, right out loud, that she respects the new Democratic county attorney. "I think that we can be an exemplar, that we can set a new paradigm," Lykos says, "that instead of petty politics, you have sincere people who want to do good."

This is Harris County?

The critics Lykos has attracted aren't quoted, partly because the piece is an attempt to show how people from different political parties can put aside partisanship to get things done.

"If the politicians in a sharp-elbowed place like Houston can work across party lines, why can't yours?" Mecklin asks.

It's true that the courthouse and commissioner's court have come a long, long way from the days of Bob Eckels, Jon Lindsay and Chuck Rosenthal. Whether they've come as far as Mecklin posits, we'll have to wait and see.

But for the moment, Harris County government is being held up as an example, so that's not a bad thing.

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