|Ellen Cohen is the District C Representative on Houston's City Council|
Houston City Council Member Ellen Cohen Shares A Few Thoughts On How she Identifies the best Candidate In An Election
AUBREY R. TAYLOR: “As a voter, how do you go about selecting the person who is the best candidate in any given election? And what are a few of the characteristics you look for in a leader?”
COUNCIL MEMBER COHEN: “As both an elected official and a long-time voter, I have become familiar with both sides of the coin when it comes to choosing between political candidates. The question of who will represent you at the local, state, and federal level of government could not be more critical, so it is important to be well-informed about the candidates and the issues.
I believe all politics is local, so when selecting a representative, my first step is to research the issues the elected official will actually be voting on, and find out what each candidate’s views are on those specific issues. I am drawn to leaders that are passionate about these local issues and pragmatic about problem-solving. Grandstanding about challenges is no substitute for a solid plan of action, so the ability to think critically is also imperative to me.
As a Council Member and a former State Representative, I have found that another trait essential to good governance is the ability to work with those whose opinions differ from your own. Without the ability to build a consensus, a lawmaker will come to a stalemate in office.
Ultimately, I vote for candidates who share my viewpoint, are passionate about local issues, and are able to implement effective solutions for bettering their community.”
Houston City Council District C
Here’s A Little About Council Member Ellen Cohen
While a single event doesn’t define an individual, the event’s impact can shape the future. Such was the case when Ellen Cohen was diagnosed with breast cancer before she was 30 years of age. Living in her late husband Lyon’s hometown of Montreal at the time, she had questions her doctors could not answer. The support of her family, an instinct for survival, and an inquisitive mind sustained her. In fact, as soon as she was able, she determined that no other woman would endure the diagnosis of breast cancer alone, and she founded Reach to Recovery of Canada, a self-help post-mastectomy group. The program was in all Montreal hospitals when the Cohen family left Quebec.
Ellen could have returned to her native Ohio when the family – including daughter Marcie and son Eric — relocated to the U.S. in 1977. Instead, she and Lyon chose Texas, in part, because “things were settled with a handshake.” With its black gold under the ground and intellectual black gold above, the state was on the move. Ellen’s administrative acumen fit right in. Houston offered unlimited possibilities resulting in yet another advocacy role as executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). There she worked with the leadership from Houston’s diverse religious and business communities to foster mutual understanding and tolerance for one of the nation’s premiere human relations organizations.
After a decade with AJC, she served as President and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) for 18 years. Dedicated to eliminating domestic and sexual violence, the Center again allowed for the blending of her executive leadership abilities with her compassion. In that capacity, she managed a $6.2 million budget and a 120-person staff, serving over 6,000 women, children, and men annually. Ellen continues to be recognized nationally as an expert on domestic and sexual violence issues.
Following almost 20 years at the Houston Area Women’s Center, Ellen was presented with the opportunity to become an entirely different kind of advocate – that of an elected official.
In 2005, Ellen was encouraged by a group of leaders in the community to consider running for the position of State Representative, District 134. She felt it was a natural extension of the work she had been doing in Houston for the past 28 years. On November 7, 2006, Ellen Cohen was elected to the Texas House of Representatives with the largest margin of any challenger to an incumbent in Texas at that time. During her two terms in the Texas Legislature, Ellen worked diligently to restore balance and integrity to the Texas Legislature and her record reflects this commitment. She is widely respected by her former colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, for her ability to work “across the aisle” and bring reasoned discourse to Austin.
Ellen served on various committees’ during her tenure in the Texas Legislature including Appropriations, Higher Education, Public Health, Rules & Resolutions, Select Committee of Federal Legislation, and Urban Affairs.
Ellen worked on significant legislation as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. She was the first House sponsor of the bill creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) that funds grants addressing cancer research, clinical trials, and laboratory facility construction in Texas. In addition, she authored and passed legislation with the goal of providing $25 million for adult and child survivors of sexual assault through an Adult Entertainment Fee and co-authored the bill creating the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Ellen helped craft a $182 billion biennium budget which unanimously passed the House. She was also the joint author on the bill which set the stage to create more Tier One research universities across Texas, including the University of Houston.
Ellen’s career choices are a reflection of her commitment to public service. She is dedicated to continued public service and giving back to the City of Houston.
Houstonian and Community Leader
Ellen dedicates her time to serving on various boards with a significant impact on the Houston community. She serves or has served on the boards of: American Cancer Society, American Leadership Forum Executive Committee; American Jewish Committee; City of Houston Housing and Community Development Consolidated Plan Advisory Task Force, Congregation Beth Israel; Cool Globes Houston Programming Advisory Board; Faith Trust Institute; Houston Area Adult Protective Services; Museum of Fine Arts-Houston Board of Trustees; Park Plaza Hospital Board; and Police Advisory Board. She is also a former President of Leadership Houston and the Medical Center Hospital Board.
Ellen was appointed by President Bill Clinton along with the US Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the National Violence Against Women Advisory Council. She accepted this role because of the need for comprehensive language dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault. She was also appointed to the Governor’s Planning Council for the STOP Violence Against Women campaign. The Supreme Court of Texas appointed Ellen to the Gender Fairness Implementation Executive Committee. In addition, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus appointed her to the serve on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission following her sponsorship of the bill establishing the Commission.
After two terms in the Legislature, Ellen decided to continue her public service career at home and announced her candidacy for Houston City Council District C. She was sworn into office in January 2011 as the first City Council Member to represent the newly-redistricted District C.
Due to the 2010 Census, the City of Houston underwent redistricting to reflect our population growth throughout the last decade. The original districts were redrawn, and two new Districts were added. The newly-set District C is an exciting mix of neighborhoods and urban life, and this map will remain in place through the end of 2020. District C is approximately 15 miles long (north to south), with about 200,000 constituents. Its boundaries include: Oak Forest, Garden Oaks, Timbergrove, Lazybrook, Shady Acres, the Heights, the Washington/Memorial Corridor, Rice Military, 4th Ward, Montrose, Midtown, Upper Kirby, Southhampton, Rice Village, Braeswood, Meyerland, and Maplewood. Ellen is thrilled to be representing such a diverse and active portion of the City!
As the Council Member for District C, Ellen has been appointed by Mayor Parker as the Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee. She is currently serving on three other Council Committees as well: Budget & Fiscal Affairs; Ethics, Elections, & Council Governance; and Quality of Life. She looks forward to advocating for her constituents throughout her first term on Council, and is delighted and honored to have the opportunity to do so!