Cohen’s election a first on council

Jan. 5, 2012The Houston Chronicle

It’s possible that new District C Councilwoman Ellen Cohen is the first female Jewish council member in the city’s history.

That’s what the Jewish Herald-Voice reports. Cohen said it doesn’t make her a pioneer, but she brings her Judaism with her to the job in subtle ways. Cohen said she has shared a joke with office neighbor Jerry Davis, an African-American councilman representing District B: He told her he loves bagels and lox, and she responded by disclosing her fondness for waffles and fried chicken. Both are menu items at the Davis family restaurant The Breakfast Klub.

Cohen also said she typically will not accept invitations on Friday nights because that’s when she has Sabbath dinner with her family.

Cohen has a photo of what she jokingly calls “the Jewish caucus” from her days in the Texas House, where she served from 2007 through 2010. Cohen is posing in the photo with Speaker Joe Straus and Reps. Scott Hochberg and Elliott Naishtat.

As far as the issues, first up for Cohen is figuring out how to fund more police cadet classes.

“I know we’re not near the number of cadet classes we should have” to keep pace with attrition and the city’s population growth. Public safety is her top priority, she said, and not just because of Houstonians already here. Safe neighborhoods are an economic development tool.

“That’s a good selling point for the businesses moving here,” Cohen said.

How to pay for more police cadet classes remains an open question. In the three-day boot camp the mayor’s office put on for the seven new council members last month, the budget briefings did not include a forecast of what the city faces in constructing a budget for fiscal year 2013.