30 December 2009

Curious priorities till the very end

IN A FITTING END TO HIS TERM, Mayor Bill White announced the formation of a commission to recommend changes to (but not elimination of) the city's term limits:

White, in announcing the commission, said he had no particular goal for the outcome of its work. He said any public policy benefits from periodic review.

Mayor White doesn't believe that's true, of course, or HPD's sanctuary policy might have been brought to Council for its first public review ever.

As for term limits, we've tossed this topic around before in the forum, and are not that bothered by some tinkering with the limits. It's another of Mayor White's priorities we find curious, however, given so many real problems facing the city (that will be passed on to the next administration).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/30/09 05:01 PM |


Campaign-finance scofflaw update

THE CHRON'S MIKE SNYDER reports that carpetbagger councilmember-elect Al Hoang's "extra" homestead exemption is valid (this year).

As for all the other concerns raised about Hoang's campaign-finance disclosures and residency, well....

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/30/09 08:01 AM |


29 December 2009

Chron: Let's celebrate a convicted, corrupt former public official (whee!)

ANTI DEATH PENALTY ACTIVISM POSING AS JOURNALISM may have taken a hit at the Chronicle due to layoffs and a decline in death-penalty sentences (relative to Bexar and Tarrant counties), but it's good to see that our poor excuse for a big-city newspaper has found a new way to apply an old formula in the form of today's Chron Eye for the Convicted-Felon, Pull-Peddling, Hispanic Political Guy!

Do you think a few years down the line that the newspaper will be profiling former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay so sympathetically? Probably not....

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/29/09 10:00 PM |


Too bad Feibel won't be around to "report" the METRO/CTC spin

MICHAEL REED follows up his earlier reporting on METRO's coming light-rail mobility mess on Post Oak.

Remember after Reed's earlier reporting when METRO's army of PR spinners assured that the organization was working closely with businessowners along the high-end commercial strip? They seem to have missed a pretty prominent one:

"Nobody said anything to me," said Jim McMcIngvale, whose Gallery Furniture location at 2411 Post Oak, opened in March. "It sounds like another mess."

Yes it does, despite the best efforts of METRO's army of PR spinners and even a bogus METRO-generated traffic study (the predictions of no impact on traffic in the already congested strip simply are not believable, and are even more reason for Mayor-elect Parker to take Tory Gattis's advice and audit every aspect of METRO operations).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/29/09 07:49 AM |


28 December 2009

Activists/bloggers call for greater METRO scrutiny; Chron disagrees

TOM BAZAN passes along the latest dismal METRO ridership and fare collection statistics, which we have posted for public review.

Tory Gattis posts separately that "an immediate deep-dive audit and analysis of Metro's cloudy future plans and financials is absolutely called for." Agreed!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/28/09 08:51 PM |


The County Seat: Yuletide Greetings

IN AN ALL TOO RARE POST, The County Seat mocks the Chron Editorial Board's Christmas wish list.

Our newsy wish list for the nation's fourth largest city would include a newspaper metro desk befitting the same and an alt-weekly (or three) staffed by real journalists doing real journalism (instead of mostly amateur bloggers). Alas....

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/28/09 08:31 PM |


Slampo: ¿Dónde Está Bob?

SLAMPO LAUNCHES his Bob Stein Watch (so the rest of us are saved the trouble of tracking when the pro journalists at the Chron and elsewhere get lazy and tap an easy quote from Houston's expert on everything).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/28/09 09:51 AM |


Good riddance

THE END OF THE YEAR does bring news that transportation reporter Carolyn Feibel will be departing the Chronicle. We had thought her last column might offer readers yet more information about personalized license plates (covered in no fewer than three columns in the last month-and-a-half!), but she does close out by promoting (and mischaracterizing) her favorite transit advocates at the Citizens Transportation Coalition, so that's nice.

Given the most recent run, the Chron ought seriously to consider retiring this column (although a frequently updated transportation blog with more of a focus on news than editorial favs might not be a bad idea).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/28/09 09:46 AM |


Mostly continuing the holiday break...

WE'RE MOSTLY CONTINUING our holiday slowdown, but here's a question some readers might be able to help with:

Is there something in the official MSM Journalism Handbook that requires endless, tiresome, repetitive end-of-decade/looking-ahead summaries* the entire week leading up to the new year?

[Read More]

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/28/09 09:37 AM |


24 December 2009

Give that man a raise!

ONE SLAMPO VS. FOUR CHRONNIES: Almost ten days after Slampo first highlighted the curious residency situation of District F Councilman-elect Al Hoang, and almost a week after Slampo questioned Hoang's campaign finance reports, the Chronicle's Mike Snyder tackles both topics, with the assistance of THREE Chron reporters.

How does Slampo do it?

UPDATE: Here's more on today's story from Slampo (The Chron's de facto metro editor for this story?).

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/24/09 02:29 PM |


22 December 2009

Fiscal woes everywhere, but no worries -- Oliver Luck still wants his stadium!

News coverage of interest from a public finance industry publication:

And as the board sorts out its financing plans for the three new stadiums, the authority is not even considering building a professional soccer stadium near downtown Houston that had the backing of former Mayor Bill White. To take on another stadium would represent a breach of contract with the three professional teams, [sports authority executive director Janice] Schmees said.

"Our revenues are pretty stretched right now," she said. "The three stadiums we have now are enough to deal with."

All-too-typical cheerleading from Houston's newspaper of record:

Of the MLS teams pushing for a stadium, the Dynamo appear closest to the goal. Team ownership hopes to strike a deal with the city of Houston and Harris County for a 22,000-seat, $80 million venue just east of U.S. 59 downtown.

Under a proposal backed by Houston mayor Bill White, the Dynamo would contribute nearly $60 million to the project, with the city and county each contributing $10 million in redevelopment money. The money would come from a tax increment reinvestment zone.

Meanwhile, Bill King notes that the City of Houston's budget shortfall is growing.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/22/09 11:02 PM |


Holiday slowdown

IT'S TIME FOR US TO TAKE a little break from the blog as the Christmas weekend approaches. Here's wishing everyone a Merry Whatever Holiday You Celebrate!

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/22/09 04:31 AM |


20 December 2009

Slampo on Al Hoang, campaign finance scofflaw

SLAMPO notes that the campaign finance filings of newly elected District F carpetbagger councilmember Al Hoang "make a mockery of the notion of 'disclosure' and hardly conform to the spirit of the law, much less the letter."

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/09 01:50 PM |


AP: Chief Hurtt gives himself an A-

ACCORDING TO AN AP STORY, outgoing HPD Chief Harold Hurtt gives himself a grade of A- for his tenure in Houston.

We liked Marc Campos's take: "Of course, the Mayor-Elect’s grade is the only one that counts." Indeed.

Mayor-elect Parker seems inclined to promote from within, which probably rules out a William Bratton or Bratton disciple. We hope the new chief will at least be open to the proven techniques Bratton and crew have developed. With our manpower shortage and budget difficulties, we will have to police more effectively than ever.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/09 01:39 PM |


Chron finally reports on HCGOP campaign-finance irregularities

THE CHRONICLE follows up on this week-old Texas Watchdog story about the Harris County GOP's apparent campaign-finance reporting problems with... their own story. We're surprised columnist Rick Casey never ran with this one, but perhaps sifting through campaign-finance reports and making phone calls is too much original work for the lazy plagiarist.

Republicans have an opportunity to clean up their current local leadership team in March. They ought seriously to consider doing so.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/09 08:53 AM |


Mayor White announces new adoption facility, slams critics

THE CHRON'S MIKE SNYDER reports on Mayor Bill White's big announcement about a new $11 million pet adoption facility. Even though Snyder covered the recent mayoral race, in which then-Senate Candidate White warned the mayoral candidates of excessive promises of new spending, we find no mention in this story of any effort to square that advice with Mayor White's new spending.

The thin-skinned mayor couldn't resist taking a shot at some of his more persistent critics in what should have been a feel-good presser:

Talk is cheap and advocates come a dime a dozen. Ooh, did I just say that? I did. And there's a role for advocacy. But real advocates are those who are willing to donate both their treasure and their time to accomplishing the goal that they seek. They're not so into taking credit as they are taking individual responsibility for making sure change takes place.

Thank goodness some of our city's advocates HAVE called attention to shortcomings in the city, whether it's been the failure to address deplorable conditions at BARC over the years or defending others who have trouble defending themselves. We agree with the outgoing mayor in this sense: Advocacy SHOULD come in forms other than the affluent writing pols hefty campaign checks!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/09 08:38 AM |


Kirkendall on the Fertitta financial dealings

TOM KIRKENDALL posts that Tilman Fertitta's "wild Landry's ride continues."

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/09 08:19 AM |


Kuffner lectures on.... copyright abuse?

DEM BLOGGER CHARLES KUFFNER calls out the Texas GOP for possible copyright abuse involving a political video.

We had no idea Kuffner had become such a copyright puritan, given his own abuse of copyright laws (ripping some 8-12 grafs of news stories at a time with minimal attribution), but it's good to know he's taking it more seriously these days.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/09 08:16 AM |


The Chron editors' wish list

The Chron's editorial board has some suggestions, a wish list if you will, for Mayor-elect Annise Parker. Here are a couple of tidbits worth noting:

The Houston Police Department's layered command structure will allow the agency to function smoothly while she conducts that search.

The bolded part explains why HPD was relatively unaffected by Chief Hurtt's trips home to Phoenix. Except that the press conferences were less interesting when the chief wasn't there.

Of immediate concern is a continuing budget shortfall Parker pegs at about $3 million that will require an adroit juggling of ongoing spending reductions and cost-saving measures in all city departments to avoid service cuts. Making those continuous adjustments has consumed much of Mayor Bill White's time during his closing months in office.

Actually, much of Mayor White's time during his closing months in office has been consumed with running for senate, and then, with a quick swipe of the white board, for governor.

The Chron editors continue on, expressing concern about the municipal pension problem that we've all been told Senate Gubernatorial-candidate White had "reformed," when they haven't completely ignored the issue. And the editors want Mayor-elect Parker to keep her hands off METRO lest she jeopardize any of the federal funding Frank "Procurement Disaster" is hoping to get. Big surprise.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/20/09 06:18 AM |


19 December 2009

Some insight on Senate-Candidate White's mayoral prioritizing

WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THE CITY'S SORELY NEEDED NEW EMERGENCY RADIO NETWORK?

2005: "It's not a problem that's going to be solved in one day. It will be over a period of years," said Mayor Bill White.

2006: In its new monthly in-house publication, the department admits there are limitations with its police radio system, largely due to the age of the equipment.

2007: "If the public allows me to keep the job for the next three years, I do want to put in place a strategy and contracts and a financing plan to get us into a state-of-the-art public safety communications system," White said.

2008: Houston is poised to build a $107 million emergency radio system that will allow police, fire and rescue officials to communicate with one another in large-scale catastrophes.

2009: Tom Sorley, deputy director of the city's radio communication services, confirmed the new radio system linking Houston police, firefighters and the Public Works Department will not be operational until September 2012. When functioning, he said, it will allow HPD to relay calls to other large police agencies in the region.

So, nearly 10 years after the city learned that its emergency radio network was seriously out-of-date, the city hopes to have a new system in place. And just in the nick of time, too, because, according to HPD, "By 2013, our current system, with wide band frequencies, will most likely be discontinued."

As an aside, Harris County upgraded its radio system years ago.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/19/09 07:03 AM |


Mayor White signs property tax collection agreement

CITY OF HOUSTON TO HARRIS COUNTY: Never mind, we'll sign the property tax collection contract.

Thuggish behavior doesn't play well when one is running for higher office.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/19/09 05:58 AM |


17 December 2009

Drayton fibs to local PR outlet, MLB gets the story instead

THE BIG SPORTS NEWS IN RECENT DAYS is that Drayton McLane recently nearly sold the Astros. The Chron's Drayton PR (er, baseball) section didn't break that big story, as John Royal notes:

Oh, and EPIC FAIL on part of the Chron. This story was broken by MLB.com which mentioned that Crane's bid for the Rangers was in doubt because MLB didn't trust him after he backed out of the deal with Drayton last year. Maybe if the Chron wouldn't have dumped all of those reporters earlier this year, they might have been able to get this story.

Probably not. The sports section prefers to play cheerleader and cozy up to its favorite sources, preferences that seem unrelated to manpower issues.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/17/09 07:59 AM |


Slampo: District F Residents Prepare to Welcome Their New Out-of-District Overlord

SLAMPO welcomes new carpetbagger councilmember Al Hoang to District F.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/17/09 07:49 AM |


Is he upset the other PR guy is competing for Drayton's favor?

CHRON BASEBALL WRITER JESUS ORTIZ had this odd graf in a recent blog post:

A lot has happened since my last blog, and I have even been told by a loyal reader that somebody spread some wrong information about what actually happened when I broke the story about the Astros firing Jose Cruz as first base coach and demoting him. I checked with Ed Wade at the time to ask if he was the one giving the misleading information to the communications department's blogger, and he said he didn't and that I should check with the public relations department to get that corrected. When I got that text back, I felt vindicated and decided against pushing the issue because I would never blame a public relations or spokesman for blogging something. Their job is to make the club look good, and there's no shame in doing that.

It's sometimes difficult to discern all that much difference in Ortiz's reporting and Astros PR.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/17/09 07:47 AM |


16 December 2009

More of Mayor White's "running the city like a business" acumen

CITY OF HOUSTON TO HARRIS COUNTY: We are not signing a tax collection agreement until you agree to withhold vehicle registrations for people who don't pay their red light camera tickets.

EYEWITNESS NEWS notes that Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez says the city does not carry its own weight when compared to the 65 other jurisdictions that pay the county for the tax collecting service.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/16/09 04:36 AM |


15 December 2009

Texas Watchdog on HAS champagne and lobster party

TEXAS WATCHDOG posts about a lovely sounding champagne and lobster party being hosted by the Houston Airport System and a vendor for local media.

Sadly, blogHOUSTON did not receive an invitation to the event (we could have gone for some lobster). Neither did Texas Watchdog, probably because they ask too many questions:

[S]hould a public concessionaire be holding the party at all? What if the company that hauls away the garbage threw a party in the council chambers at City Hall? Or a vendor supplying security cameras to state patrol cars had its Christmas event at the Capitol?

Actually, an end-of-election-year garbage-removal/transition party might not be such a horrible idea!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/15/09 10:17 PM |


Bye Bye, Chief Hurtt

VARIOUS MEDIA OUTLETS are reporting that Chief Hurtt has informed his command staff he'll be resigning effective 30 December.

Mayor-elect Parker made clear during the campaign that the bumbling police chief would be out if she won, so this is merely a formality. Given our colder-than-usual December, Hurtt is no doubt looking forward to Arizona (and maybe wondering if he can get a refund on that Locke campaign donation).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/15/09 06:20 PM |


Gattis on Mayor-elect Parker's inherited challenges

TORY GATTIS posts his extensive "wish list" agenda for Mayor Parker, but starts with the basics:

She faces a difficult financial situation at the city, and obviously her first priority will be getting that under control. In addition to those short-term pressures, there are the long-term financial issues of city employee pensions and Metro's solvency, with rail cost estimates spiraling upward and revenue shrinking. If she does nothing else in the next two years but fix those financial problems and get the city and Metro on a sustainable financial path (without raising taxes), she'll have one of the most accomplished mayoral terms in city history....

To the immediate financial problems, I would add improving the management at both METRO (which has problems with accountability not to mention a bloated PR department for a public agency) and HPD (understaffing, crime lab, and the soon-to-be-returning-to-Arizona chief bungler come to mind as inherited issues), along with some needed public works scrutiny (we'll defer to contributor Ubu Roi's wisdom here). We're good basic-government types, and we hope Ms. Parker will return a needed focus to finances, transit, police, and public works.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/15/09 05:59 PM |


Houston Way update: Uptown TIRZ settles with Collins brothers

THE CHRON'S MIKE SNYDER reported last week that the Uptown TIRZ "paid $990,000 to settle a lawsuit over the city's condemnation of a small piece of land adjacent to a mixed-use project being developed by a major campaign donor to Mayor Bill White."

There was a statewide campaign to be run, after all, so this "Houston Way" loose end really needed to be tied up before the next mayor arrived.

PREVIOUSLY: The Houston Way paves the way in Galleria-area land taking.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/15/09 05:37 PM |


14 December 2009

Political donations? What political donations?

TEXAS WATCHDOG broke an interesting political story on Friday that sort of got lost in the shuffle on election eve: The Harris County Republican Party is apparently having difficulties accounting for/reporting some political donations.

Jared Woodfill and his leadership team seem determined to keep giving Republican activists plenty of reasons to make a change. Will it happen?

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/14/09 10:32 PM |


How is Mayor Bill going to run for guv as a problem-solver?

YESTERDAY, THE CHRON'S CAUCASIAN THINK TANK admitted that there are still too many problems with HPD's crime lab:

Seven years ago — seven! — we learned that HPD's crime lab had botched thousands of cases. But even now, after a complete restructuring, the crime lab's problems persist....

About that long ago, we also started learning of HPD's looming manpower shortage. And of the massive unfunded liability in municipal pensions. Those problems persist, and we can throw in a serious deterioration in muni finances over the last five years.

We wish Mayor-elect Parker well in addressing these and other serious problems that she will be inheriting from Houston's Dem candidate for governor.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/14/09 10:22 PM |


The election and beyond

SLAMPO posts his fine summary of the municipal elections that have mercifully concluded.

And Cory Crow notes that the Chron has fired up the "newly elected public official cliche generator."

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/14/09 03:58 PM |


13 December 2009

Examiner: Uptown Light Rail mobility gives a brake to motorists

THE EXAMINER NEWS ran a story earlier this week by Michael Reed on the traffic/mobility disaster METRO is trying to foist upon the Post Oak/Galleria area.

The headline really drives home the point of the story.

Meanwhile, another area newspaper sat down for tea with Frank Wilson, who assured their fine reporters/editorialists/editors that everything is great and JOHN CULBERSON IS MEAN.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/09 10:51 PM |


Deficit spending? That had to be news to readers of Houston's newspaper of record

A LOREN STEFFY COLUMN from the past week (or so) had this interesting observation:

Five years of deficit spending have largely depleted reserve funds and left the city vulnerable to rising expenses and falling tax revenue.

Readers of Steffy's newspaper were surely unaware of this deficit spending over the last five years, having been subject to Mrs. White*'s celebration of Bill The Great's tenure and financial acumen.

* Mrs. White being Cory Crow's nickname for a recent iteration of the Chronicle editorial board.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/09 10:41 PM |


A "non-transparent" holiday media slight?

KRIV-26'S ISIAH CAREY AND KPRC-2'S MARY BENTON both blog about attending Mayor White's big local holiday media soiree.

We asked our friends at Texas Watchdog why they hadn't posted similarly exciting celebrity photos, but they informed us they weren't invited.

That's probably not a big surprise, huh?

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/09 10:28 PM |


More evidence that the city is broke?

KHOU-11 reports that the city is (another) $3.3 million in the red:

The variance is small -- just a fraction of one percent of the overall budget -- but it means some small projects may need to be postponed, said Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck.

Would it be too much to hope that the Dynamo stadium be among those?

A series of relatively small but unanticipated fluctuations in October's tax collections added up to the new shortfall, Parker and Mitchell said. One was heavy rain. The city's Combined Utilities System, which runs the water/sewer system, collected $6 million less in water bills in October because residents watered their lawns less than anticipated.

Just how much the city's budget has been stretched to cover "world class" amenities such as stadiums, bike trails, non-functional electronic parking meters, "mobility teams", etc. is obvious if a little rain can throw the entire budget out of balance.

Clutterbuck, who chairs the budget committee, said city leaders will have to make "hard decisions" and cut planned programs in order to keep the budget from sliding into the red. The city has already dedicated the money in a savings account to close gaps that already exist, she said.

Translation: We've spent our reserves down to zero to cover Bill White's spending priorities; there is nothing left in the bank. It's the Houston (soon to be Austin or Washington) Way!

Posted by Ubu Roi @ 12/13/09 10:25 PM |


The local newspaper goes... trivial

LAURENCE SIMON describes "why the Houston Chronicle will never win a Pulitzer."

Of course, there are many more reasons, but his example is a good one.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/09 10:20 PM |


A week away, and the Chron's as bad as ever

IT'S UNFORTUNATE WHEN YOU you come back to the metro desk of a bad newspaper after not reading it carefully for a week or so and find...

(1) Brad Olson offering the following: "Council member Lovell is in her own runoff race in which the outcome is not assured for anyone, so it defies logic that she would expend campaign resources on a race other than her own,” said [Keir] Murray, who is unaffiliated with any council races this year but worked for Lovell's opponent in 2005. "The rule is, you take care of your own business before you worry about anybody else's."

As we have noted before, when a journalist must run an identifier like that, a good editor should insist that the journalist find another source. This quote is even worse since the Aiyer/Lovell race was particularly acrimonious, eventually resulting in ethics and legal charges. Sadly, "good" and "editor" seem to be mutually exclusive terms at the Chron metro desk.

(2) Carolyn Feibel offering METRO's Frank Wilson this nice PR opportunity. Give Feibel credit -- she certainly isn't imitating the Rosanna Ruiz career-limiting move of critical reporting on the world's worst, least transparent transit organization. And the Chron editorial board has that same mindset. It's too bad that pro-METRO editorial preferences override any chance of honest reporting about the transit organization in the local newspaper. But the fact they ask us to pretend they are actually "reporting" objectively on the organization these days is just offensive.

(3) Mike Snyder getting this nice upbringing from a former Chron and AP reporter:

During my years as a reporter at the Chronicle, it was standard practice to call the subject of a story before publishing information about them. Had Mike Snyder called Judge Emmett, or me (as his spokesman), we could have explained....

Just click over and read the rest (scroll down).

Snyder should now lash out as an off-record and unidentified commenter to various bloggers. That always makes things better. *eyeroll*

(4) And finally, the Chron's expensive-but-pathetic doodler* finally getting some rare attention. Sadly, we think many people are taking Nick Anderson way too seriously. Like other people who moved to Houston hoping to capture a Pulitzer for the paper that just can't win one, we wish Anderson luck when he inevitably moves on after being unable to deliver for this pathetic excuse of a big-city newspaper.

* Yeah, before a certain journo can send that "please don't quote me" email blast -- I realize he's not on the metro desk. But the content fits, no? At least it generated more interest than most of his doodling.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/09 09:58 PM |


Government is America's only growth industry (even locally!)

THE CHRON'S CHRIS MORAN points out that County Judge Ed Emmett isn't happy about the county housing director's big pay raise this year. The housing bureaucrat's pay jumped from roughly $100k two years ago to $260k this year.

That's outrageous!

How does this happen (and why are the only growth areas of the current economy in the bloated public sector)?

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/09 09:18 PM |


Running the city like a business (not)... to the very end

AS MANY READERS know, I moved across town about a week ago... and have been busy unpacking, sorting out AT&T nonsense, etc., ever since.

One of the best things about taking a week off from commenting on the news of the area is that you KNOW there will be a good one when you get back to paying attention.

For me, that's the news that in the final days of the Bill White Administration, his fine public employees managed to certify a decorative fire hydrant as a live, City of Houston emergency fire hydrant. Pure comedy gold (unless your house in the neighborhood is burning down we suppose).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/09 08:50 PM |


Media labels

YEAH, THAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE IN THE ELECTION: It's been interesting watching national media reaction to Annise Parker's win yesterday. Many headlines are referencing her sexual orientation, continuing an ongoing media obsession with labels. The thing is, it doesn't seem to be a primary issue for her, and for more than a decade now, it hasn't been an issue for voters, despite the recent efforts of some Locke supporters. She's a moderate Democrat with conservative fiscal tendencies, and that combination has translated into electoral success.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/13/09 12:32 PM |


Mayor Annise Parker

CONGRATULATIONS TO ANNISE PARKER WHO WILL BE THE NEXT MAYOR: She'll inherit many challenges from Bill White, and we wish her the best of luck.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/13/09 05:52 AM |


12 December 2009

24 Hour Fitness manager now heads BARC

BARC HAS A NEW BOSS: "David Atencio, the new general manager who begins Monday, hails from the private sector and has spent the past 17 years in the fitness industry, working in sales all over the world before taking on management positions for 24 Hour Fitness, the health club chain. He does not have any experience with animals or shelters."

Via the Chron's Bradley Olsen, who notes that Gerry Fusco (management expert/The One) says experience with animals or shelters isn't necessary. For the animals' sake, we hope he's right.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/12/09 06:44 AM |


08 December 2009

Blogging slowdown

REAL LIFE is intruding on the blogging, so it's probably going to be a little quiet here over the next few days.

In the meantime, feel free to treat this as an open-comment thread.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/08/09 08:08 AM |


06 December 2009

METRO'S declining ridership numbers

IN LIGHT OF METRO CHAIRMAN DAVID WOLFF'S ADMONITION that Houston should have a "transit ethic," here are some eye-opening stats from the indefatigable Tom Bazan:

BEFORE METRO BUILT URBAN RAIL, FY 2001
Population: 4,262,000
Transit Boardings: 101,914,157
Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

SIX YEARS AFTER URBAN RAIL COMPLETED, FY 2009
Population: 5,090,600
Transit Boardings: 73,080,702 + 11,561,633(rail) = 84,642,335 total
Unemployment Rate: 8.5%

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/06/09 03:20 PM |


Chief Hurtt, thy name is Courage

CHIEF HURTT'S BLAMING PREVIOUS HPD ADMINISTRATIONS FOR FINGERPRINT UNIT PROBLEMS:

“As we go through the organization and we find these things, the messenger gets punished,” Hurtt said. “And this has been going on for many, many years in the organization and through many administrations.”

Hurtt added, “I'm not too sure that other folks in previous years didn't have the same knowledge but didn't have the courage, or no one had the commitment, to correct it.”

Okay, then what does it say about his leadership that the problems are just now coming to light, especially considering what has happened with HPD's crime lab? Meanwhile, councilmembers expressed concern with the $4 million price tag to begin addressing the problems, and with HPD's refusal to release the audit.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/06/09 12:23 PM |


METRO Chairman Saint David Wolff

NEW RAIL LINES WON'T EAT UP TRAFFIC LANES, according to METRO Chairman David Wolff who sat down for a chit-chat with the Chron's Carolyn Feibel. And there's this: "One of the differences that I think we had with Tom DeLay was that he felt that a transit system is sort of a form of welfare. I think this was unfortunate and narrow-minded, because it is not a form of welfare. [...] So I have very short patience for people who think it's a form of welfare, and therefore it's sort of a cross to bear. No, it's an important part of the city and people who don't realize that don't know cities."

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/06/09 05:40 AM |


05 December 2009

31 Flavors all over Houston

GOOD NEWS FOR ICE CREAM LOVERS: Baskin-Robbins to expand in Houston. Mmmmmm, Banana Royale sundaes.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/05/09 02:43 PM |


04 December 2009

Mayor White to use Houston crime rate as a selling point in race for Governor

MAYOR WHITE OFFICIALLY CHANGES WHICH ELECTED POSITION HE'S RUNNING FOR:

White, a three-term mayor who is balding and known for something of a bland personality, is expected use self-deprecating humor to tell a Hilton Americas crowd of supporters that he knows he is not a “perfect candidate” but is someone who can get things done.

White has said he wants to end “strident partisanship” in Austin. He will tell supporters he wants to improve high school graduation rates and slow the rising costs of insurance and college tuition.

He will build his campaign on a record as Houston mayor, claiming lower crime rates and successful battles with polluters to clean the city's air even while being opposed by the state's environmental protection agency.

Via Chron.com

There was a surge in crime in 2006 (but we were told not to make a certain connection), HPD has had a manpower shortage for years now (which MayorWhiteChiefHurtt have tried minimize discussion about), and HPD has problems accurately counting crime stats (thanks to KHOU-11's Mark Greenblatt so we can't ever be sure if the numbers HPD produces are accurate).

UPDATE: More on Mayor White's crime-fighting expertise: "Meanwhile, Houston Mayor Bill White on Wednesday said that criminals likely went free because the fingerprint unit missed prints on evidence."

bH ARCHIVES: Crime Rate

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/04/09 04:37 AM |


03 December 2009

HPD still won't release audit of fingerprint unit

MORE ON HPD'S FINGERPRINT PROBLEM: "One employee, put on administrative leave with pay after the audit into the unit ended in October, is being investigated for alleged misconduct involving 'handling a piece of evidence,' said Tim Oettmeier, an executive assistant chief," via Chron.com, which notes that HPD still refuses to release the audit.

Maybe Chief Hurtt can find a new vision for the fingerprint unit in London.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/03/09 06:09 PM |


Preliminary University Line cost = $1.5 billion

BARELY A RESEMBLANCE TO THE ORIGINAL METRO SOLUTIONS PLAN: "If no one in Congress objects during the 10-day period, Metro can begin design work on the University Line. The project carries a preliminary cost estimate of $1.5 billion." The key word, especially when dealing with a government project, is "preliminary."

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/03/09 04:36 AM |


02 December 2009

CSM: Houston set to prosper in New Economy

HOUSTON is one of five cities "poised to prosper in the New Economy," according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/02/09 10:48 PM |


Meyer on the question of a HC public defender's office

NEAL MEYER takes on the question of whether Harris County should have a public defender's office.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/02/09 10:45 PM |


Slampo on the runoff elections

SLAMPO posts an update on various runoff races, and it's worth reading (as usual).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/02/09 10:40 PM |


01 December 2009

Audit turns up more problems at HPD

AN AUDIT at (what we hope is) the end of HPD Chief Harold Hurtt's tenure has turned up massive problems in HPD's fingerprint unit that could cost millions to correct and will force a review of cases going back at least six years, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

To add insult to injury, the Chron reports that HPD is refusing to release the audit immediately, instead insisting that media file public information requests. This, we presume, is yet another example of the transparency in municipal government that we hear about so often from Mayor White's press shop. *eyeroll*

On a more positive note, Chief Hurtt could be setting himself up nicely to run for District Attorney or City Council!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/01/09 10:56 PM |


Flyertalk on the Kellner era at Continental

THE AIR TRAVEL WEBSITE FLYERTALK is hosting an interesting discussion on the tenure of Larry Kellner as CEO of Houston-based Continental Airlines (and also his predecessor Gordon Bethune). Kellner is in his final weeks as the top dog at Continental, and will be replaced by Jeff Smisek.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/01/09 12:24 PM |


Candidates hold "me too!" session for TMO

THE CHRON'S MIKE TOLSON reports that Houston's mayoral candidates had another "me too!" policy session before The Metropolitan Organization last night.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/01/09 12:19 PM |


Olson: HPOU unhappy with Parker campaign claims

Bradley Olson blogs that the Houston Police Officers Union isn't happy with Annise Parker's claim to have been endorsed by police officers seven times in a row. Their rep Gary Blankinship argues that the claim is misleading since their organization -- the largest police union -- has endorsed Parker's opponent, Gene Locke. HPOU has been highly critical of Parker this time around.

Questions for HPOU and Blankinship: If Parker is SO horrible, how did she fool THEM for so many years? Are their investigative abilities THAT poor?

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/01/09 08:06 AM |


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