It was a rousing ceremony
Notes from the Parker inauguration at the Wortham Center
Inauguration ceremonies are usually dull for everyone but the elected officials' families and fervent supporters. But the public swearing-in of Mayor Annise Parker, City Controller Ronald Green and the 14-member Houston City Council at the Wortham Theater Center Monday morning had a lot of pizzaz. (A private swearing-in of Parker and Green took place Saturday.) Here's what caught our attention:
Mayors on stage
Five former Houston mayors — Fred Hofheinz, Kathy Whitmire, Bob Lanier, Lee Brown and Bill White — shared the stage, but Whitmire got the prime seat next to the mayor. Whitmire, who served as mayor from 1982-1991 by cobbling together a coalition of white liberals and fiscally conservative Westsiders much as Parker did, also received a rousing ovation from the crowd that packed the Wortham Center's Brown Theater. It might have gone on even longer had mistress of ceremonies Lisa Foronda not continued to announce other names.
The only person to receive a larger ovation was White. It came when he was introduced at the beginning of the ceremony and also during Parker's speech when she said, "I have been handed a good city in good shape and I thank Mayor White for that."
Lanier, who backed Parker's foe Gene Locke, received polite but subdued applause.
Parker's team gave the press an advanced copy of her speech but warned that she was likely to deviate from it. She sure did, as most of her best lines were unscripted.
In introducing her life partner and multi-racial family, she said, "Yes, our family, too, looks a little like Houston, doesn't it?"
She noted that she would likely differ with city council members at times, adding, "Sometimes democracy is a little messy, but we get there."
And she was most poignant when she encouraged her gay and lesbian supporters to "dream big dreams."
"I promise you the pain is worth the reward," she said.
Biggest applause lines
#3) When Parker acknowledged that failures will happen and "I ask your forgiveness in advance."
#2) Noting that the quality of life in many cities is not what it was four years ago, she responded, "We will not let that happen to the city of Houston."
#1) She vowed to explore "all possible options" to make Houston's mass transit system work better.
Sartorial winners and losers
I agree it is sexist to critique a female public official's attire while we don't offer the same scrutiny to male counterparts. But I follow Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan's maxim: Until female officials adopt a "uniform" like most male elected officials always wear (usually a dark suit), their fashion choices are fair game.
So here goes: Parker's inspiring inauguration speech was much livelier than the dull purple pants outfit she wore. It wasn't flattering in the theater or on TV. The fashion winner in the family: Parker's partner, Kathy Hubbard, who wore a winter white pantsuit that was perfect for the occasion.
Hubbard was not the only political spouse to outshine her mate. Elyse Lanier wore a chic red suit that stood out in contrast to the dark business suit worn by her husband, Bob Lanier.
By far, the most stylishly-dressed person onstage was at-large council member Jolanda Jones. She exuded sophisticated style in a chic white belted sheath and a large black hat. Some will argue that it was too much for the occasion, but I thought she looked terrific. (We're working on posting a photo of Jones. Editors note: We found a photo, right.)
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, in a colorful sari of her native India, also added a touch of style that was appropriate as she read a poem for the occasion.
Remember this name: Mary Griffin
Singer Mary Griffin, who has toured with Patti Labelle but is not widely known outside of rhythm and blues circles, nearly raised the roof of the Wortham with a rousing interpretation of "America, the Beautiful" that sent the cheering crowd out of the Wortham on a high note to end the ceremony.
It was the best rendition of the patriotic song that I have ever heard, and others in the audience seemed to feel the same way, too. All I could hear at the end of her performance were audience members shouting, "Wow!"
See Channel 13's recording of the inauguration speech below: