25 May 2010

Ain't government grand?

AN OBSERVATION REGARDING THE JURY SUMMONS I RECEIVED THE OTHER DAY: If I were under indictment for misdemeanor theft, I would be disqualified for jury duty. If I were a stay-at-home mom who would have to leave a child under the age of 15 home unattended in order to complete jury service, I would be exempted. But there is no exemption or disqualification for a serious medical condition. So, even though I am tethered to a chemo pump 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and I have to get daily radiation treatments at the hospital (and am suffering the expected side effects from each), I must appear downtown at the Jury Assembly Room on the appointed date and time:

If you think you have a situation that may exempt you but is not on the form, you must appear on the date you’ve been summoned. Once assigned to court, you will have the opportunity to discuss your situation and be considered for exemption at that time.

Isn't that wild? I have no problem fulfilling my civic duty; I just need to postpone it for about a year.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 05/25/10 05:09 PM |

16 May 2010

Blog hiatus -- Call for reader participation

THE BLOG is going on a little hiatus.

I will be traveling through much of the rest of the month, and my better co-blogging half is indisposed at the moment (unfortunately).

Rather than throw up four posts per day that begin by announcing we don't have an opinion and then rambling, we decided to take a little blog vacation (most likely through May).

BUT... you shouldn't.

Instead, we'd ask that you come participate in the new open-comments forum.

If it's about Houston, come start a post. We ask that you respect our general forum rules of civility (and no copyright abuse, please), but other than that, it's pretty much an open discussion.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/16/10 09:38 PM |

Bettencourt invokes God in phony "voter contract" outrage

PAUL BETTENCOURT is "fighting for the public" against those draconian water-rate increases that the Parker Administration has imposed.

And we are somewhat sympathetic to his argument substantively.

That's why it's such a shame that this quote from Bettencourt was included in Brad Olson's story for the Chronicle:

“If you're going to make a contract with the public and get them to vote on it and get them to pass the vote, then by God you better honor that contract,” Bettencourt said of Proposition 1, a charter amendment passed in 2004 with the backing of then-Mayor Bill White and City Council. “I saw the campaign. I know what the public approved, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that the public vote is followed ... This is outrageous behavior by government.”

By that reasoning, then "By God" our friend Mr. Bettencourt should have honored the pact he made with the voters who elected him to serve out a full term back in 2008.

But he didn't. So any "By God" proclamations Mr. Bettencourt may issue in the future probably should not reference contracts with voters.

BLOGVERSATION: Harris County Almanac.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/16/10 09:36 PM |

13 May 2010

A not-so brief intermission

TAKING A BREAK: I thought I'd share with you why I've been absent from the blog, and why it probably will continue for a time. Recently I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer, and my focus has shifted to fighting that battle. My doctors are optimistic that I can beat this, so I'm very upbeat about what lies ahead. Most of my treatments will be at Memorial Hermann Northwest, where I have a great set of doctors, and that's where I'll start chemo/radiation treatments next week. Later this summer I'll have surgery, and that will be followed up with several more months of chemo. And then, sometime early next year I should be done -- yay!

So, the little blog has, unfortunately, gone on the back burner for me, but I hope to be back again one day. But keep on, keeping on. I still love reading it and the forum. God bless y'all!

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 05/13/10 07:12 PM |

11 May 2010

Chron editorial board celebrates new METRO chief

THE CHRONICLE EDITORIAL BOARD breaks out its equivalent of mariachi bands and scratch-off cards today to celebrate new leadership at METRO.

It's the sort of uncritical cheerleading that the newspaper does so well for the area establishment, or in this case, the new establishment. Now, whether a critical/skeptical word* will find its way into print before the next big scandal and major change in leadership/establishment in Houston is an open question. Acting as the public watchdog of the establishment can sometimes conflict with the cheerleading mission, after all.

BLOGVERSATION: Harris County Almanac (we agree, btw -- Good luck to the new leadership team! Please try to learn from the many mistakes of the last one).

* Of the area establishment, that is. Those who do approach matters from a more skeptical point of view may well find themselves under fire from so-called journalists at the establishment newspaper.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/11/10 12:32 PM |

10 May 2010

TW: Woodlands-area activists user voter registration quirk to turn out utility board

LAST WEEK, Texas Watchdog's Steve Miller reported on some Woodlands-area activists who decided to claim the address of a local Residence Inn for voting purposes, in an effort to turn out the incumbents on a local road utility board. As Miller noted, some folks used to business as usual (the last election was held a decade ago) didn't seem to like the activists' efforts to "register" voters and force an election:

Page, the attorney for the district, remains baffled by the new voters and their apparent anti-tax fervor.

“Some people think that because the word tax is involved, they should have some say over it, even though they aren’t paying that tax,” Page said.

That "nothing to see here, don't you worry" attitude from public organizations is always so endearing!

Miller follows up today with the news that the activists succeeded in voting out the incumbents over the weekend.

The incumbents, presumably, are not happy, and legal proceedings to contest the result seem likely.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/10/10 08:31 PM |

07 May 2010

Frank Wilson has left the building

FRANK "PROCUREMENT DISASTER" WILSON has finally been forced out at METRO (whatever the departure is being called), according to the Chronicle. As reported previously, former city controller George Greanias will take the job on an interim basis.

Will the transit organization celebrate with mariachi bands and scratch-off cards?

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/07/10 04:55 PM |

06 May 2010

Channeling Banjo: How many people are getting laid off?

MIKE MCGUFF highlights the latest "improvements" coming from the Hearst Newspapers in Texas.

Much like METRO's "service improvements," it's probably safe to expect much less from the "improved" product.

As has become the case when the Chronicle posts press releases to spin their regular circulation declines, at least Smiling Jack Sweeney didn't force a real journalist to attach his/her name to the thing.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/06/10 10:31 PM |

METRO "credibility" consultant racks up $100k bill

THE CONSULTANT hired by David Wolff and limited in scope to deliver just the message Wolff wanted to hear about Frank Wilson cost METRO (us, really) just under $100,000, according to the Houston Politics blog.

That may prove to be only a small amount of the taxpayer's money/resources squandered by the Wolff/Wilson tandem during the Bill White era.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/06/10 10:11 PM |

Wilson tenure ending soon; Wolff calls friendly reporter to "unload"

VARIOUS MEDIA REPORTS continue to indicate that the end is nearing for METRO CEO Frank "Procurement Disaster" Wilson.

Lisa Falkenberg's most recent column for the Chronicle reports the sharpest criticism yet from Mayor Annise Parker of METRO under the nontransparent, arrogant reign of David Wolff and Frank Wilson:

“The reason federal funding is in jeopardy today is because of decisions that were made by Mr. Wolff and Mr. Wilson that either deliberately misled the FTA or mistakenly assumed that they could get variances from the FTA on a very clear set of guidelines called either Build America or Buy America that are required for transit funding,” Parker said.

Now that the mayor herself has said that federal funding is in jeopardy, we suppose that may discourage these sorts of Chronblog posts explaining why any given media report to suggest as much isn't accurate.

This snippet from Falkenberg's column amused us:

Wolff, who was vacationing in Istanbul, took time to call Chronicle reporter Mike Snyder, and unload about news that Metro officials are likely to send Wilson packing by Friday. Metro officials are trying to work out a deal whereby Wilson would get some of the compensation promised in his contract, though not all, in exchange for his resignation.


“[Mayor Parker] knew so little about Metro that she had to have 40 people study it for three months before she knew what was going on,” Wolff said.

We've heard from reliable sources that even Mayor Parker's staffers and task force had a tough time getting information out of METRO, which is one reason among many that we now refer to it as the area's rogue transit organization. Normal citizens who ask for the public's information were frequently stonewalled by the organization over the last six years, as we've documented from time to time, and a host of Chron transit reporters (save for Rosanna Ruiz, who was laid off--message there?) have tended to prefer covering the agency more like its public relations arm than the public's watchdog, as we've also documented from time to time. So we are not surprised that it took time and effort for Mayor Parker's staffers and task force to get even small amounts of the information they wanted.

We're not sure why Wolff thinks he can make the mayor look bad by whining about her to one of the Chron's least skeptical/curious reporters that nobody knows much about the nontransparent transit organization he once headed. That's precisely the problem! The Chron transit reporter and his editors may persist in structuring their "coverage" so that Wolff is given the last word in stories and can continue to offer praise of Wilson, but the fact is that ship has sailed. The Wolff/Wilson tenure looks worse by the day, and we suspect that no amount of phone calls to "unload" to a receptive transit reporter at America's Worst Big City Daily is going to change that reality all that much at this point. But perhaps it's good, cheap therapy for the two of them!

BLOGVERSATION: Campos Communications, Texas Watchdog.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/06/10 08:43 AM |

05 May 2010

Sometimes, they don't even pretend to do journalism

JESUS ORTIZ dons the pom poms for America's Worst Big City Daily re the Dynamo Stadium boondoggle.

Who ever saw that coming from that reporter or that newspaper? *eyeroll*

BLOGVERSATION: Houston's Clear Thinkers, Harris County Almanac.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/05/10 01:13 AM |

Chron Bob Stein Quote #23,802 (or so)

BECAUSE SLAMPO is temporarily unavailable, we feel obliged to bring you this Bob Stein update.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/05/10 12:49 AM |

04 May 2010

Chron: Wilson could be gone on Friday

THE HOUSTON POLITICS BLOG reports that METRO chief Frank "Procurement Disaster" Wilson may finally be going away this Friday.

Of course, the last time a journalist reported that Wilson could be gone on a Friday, the Houston Politics blog later reminded that the report was "incorrect."

It's been clear for a while that Wilson will be leaving, so it's really just a matter of timing at this point. It's also pretty clear that Wilson is leaving the job under extreme pressure, whatever Chron transit reporters and METRO's PR department want to call it. We're sure both will let us know when it actually happens.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/04/10 02:42 PM |

03 May 2010

United to buy out Continental

The good news about United's deal to buy Continental: We will never again have to watch other newspapers blow away the Chron's pitiful coverage and analysis* of the hometown airline through the decision to sell out to United.

The bad news: There will no longer be a hometown airline.

* The Houston Business Journal didn't exactly distinguish itself either.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 05/03/10 06:29 AM |


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