Friedman touts proposals for border security He calls for 10,000 guardsmen and upsets some with evacuee comments
By KRISTEN MACK AND GARY SCHARRER Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News
Texas should deploy 10,000 state National Guard troops to the border and issue special worker cards for immigrants, gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman said Wednesday as part of his "Keep It Simple, Stupid Politician" plan.
In a Houston campaign appearance, the maverick independent also expressed a dim view of Hurricane Katrina evacuees still in town.
"The musicians and artists have mostly moved back to New Orleans now," he said, according to KHOU (Channel 11). "The crackheads and the thugs have decided to stay here. They want to stay here. I think they got their hustle on, and we need to get ours."
He wants the state to give Houston $100 million for more police officers to deal with a spike in street crime related to the evacuees.
Houstonians who have worked closely with Katrina evacuees didn't take kindly to Friedman's characterizations.
"We've been working with ordinary working people who want their city rebuilt and a decent place to live while they're displaced," said Ginny Goldman, Texas' head organizer for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
Friedman acknowledged later that most of the evacuees still in Houston probably are not crackheads and thugs.
"There are some good people who came from New Orleans and who are looking for work and want to be good citizens," he said.
Frank Michel, Mayor Bill White's spokesman, reiterated the mayor's statements in response to earlier generalizations about evacuees: "It's unfair to judge the many by the few. There are some relatively small number of people who engage in crime and they've never been welcome here."
Jo Ann Jordan, a Katrina evacuee living in Houston's Westchase neighborhood, said Friedman was stereotyping.
"My best friend is a schoolteacher, her husband is a social worker," she said. "My boyfriend is a full-time student at TSU. I'm a full- time student and part-time worker at IKEA."
Philanthropist Carolyn Farb, who hosted a fundraiser for Friedman in Houston on Tuesday, said the candidate was not suggesting everyone go back to New Orleans.
"We have opened our arms," she said of Houstonians. "When you have guests, you expect them to be good citizens, be responsible and give back to their new and adopted home."
Friedman said he would roll out more public policy proposals before the Nov. 7 election.
"Right now we want to keep it simple because the tendency in politicians is to bureaucratize everything," he said.
Friedman said Texas should immediately deploy 10,000 National Guard troops to the border to reinforce several hundred who are there now.
"We've been waiting for 153 years for Washington to help us with the border. They're not going to do it," he said.
Friedman said he would require immigrants to buy "taxpayer I.D. cards" that would allow them to work legally in Texas, and proposed fines of up to $50,000 against employers who hire illegal immigrants without the card.
The musician-turned-author also said he favors a cap on state spending, a stricter cap for property appraisal increases and abolition of the new state business tax.
He would pay for his ambitious ideas by tapping into what he described as an $11 billion state budget surplus.
"We have the biggest surplus in the world sitting there. We are awash with money," he said.
Not so, said Gov. Rick Perry's campaign spokesman Robert Black. The surplus never reached $11 billion and most of it will pay for property tax cuts, he said.
"It's awfully hard to have a serious debate with someone who makes a living trying to make people laugh at him," Black said.
Besides Friedman, the incumbent faces challenges from Democrat Chris Bell, independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Libertarian James Werner.
Friedman said he wants to lower the 10 percent cap on annual property appraisal increases to 3 percent because property taxes "are obscene." And he would cap state spending at current levels, adjusted only for inflation, population growth and major disasters.
Friedman is trailing Perry with the rest of the challengers, according to a poll that the Texas Trial Lawyers Association sent out to its members on Wednesday.
The poll showed Perry with 41 percent support for re-election. In second place was undecided at 20 percent. Strayhorn was at 14 percent support with Friedman and Bell at 13 percent support, essentially a statistical three-way tie.
Houston Chronicle reporters Rosanna Ruiz and R.G. Ratcliffe and KHOU (Channel 11) contributed to this story.