30 November 2010
Merely cautious or cleverly duplicitous: What are the City's red-light-cam plans?
TheNewspaper.com makes an interesting connection regarding the City's curious behavior on the red-light camera controversy:
[Federal Judge Lynn] Hughes had called a colloquy among lawyers for the city -- David Feldman and Hope Reh -- and the lawyers for ATS -- Andy Taylor and George Hittner -- on the day after Thanksgiving. Although the city technically filed suit against ATS, the city staff do not want to see the cameras removed any more than ATS does. The parties hashed out a compromise that happened to give ATS everything the firm wanted.
"ATS requests the court to preserve the status quo by enjoining the city from terminating the public safety program or otherwise implementing Proposition 3, pending an adjudication of these fundamental issues of law affecting not only these parties, but the general public at large," Taylor wrote in its brief to the court filed Wednesday.
The actions in Houston track what happened last year in the city of College Station after voters approved an anti-camera referendum. Attorneys for the city attempted to lose the lawsuit that ATS filed to overturn the result of the public vote. Ultimately, public pressure on elected officials forced the College Station cameras to come down, even though a local judge ruled against the vote. ATS is hoping it can win this time by arguing not only that voters have no right to overturn a city council decision through the charter amendment process, but that no power can take down the red light cameras.
The Newspaper goes on to point out that the City of Houston purposely removed an opt-out provision from the contract with ATS previously*, in an apparent effort to make the agreement bulletproof against legislation then being debated in the Texas legislature.
Various councilmembers have said they intend to honor the will of the voters, whatever may come of the legal wrangling. Councilmembers Jolanda Jones and Anne Clutterbuck have been very clear in that regard.
Mayor Annise Parker -- who communicated effectively in her successful mayoral campaign -- seems unwilling to provide an equally definitive statement about the cameras, deferring instead to the city's equally cryptic attorney and refusing interview requests (the mayor was much too busy to talk about the will of the people on this matter today, it seems). Perhaps she's merely being cautious, but it does invite speculation about her intentions.
* Another headache passed on from Bill White to the Parker Administration?
29 November 2010
One of the residents on a major cross street in our neighborhood apparently isn't very happy about the ongoing massive water leaks in his/her yard over the past few weeks:
What a mess! The repairs seem to be taking a while each time (lots of water being wasted in our green city, hmm).
Somebody apparently missed the "DO NOT POST!!!!!!" title
Here's an interesting item from the Chron's John McClain that just appeared in our feed reader:
This is the lede:
Texans receiver Andre Johnson found out today that the NFL has fined him $25,000 but will not suspend him for his role in the fight with Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan on Sunday.
And then when that story finishes, here's the next lede:
The NFL has suspended Texans receiver Andre Johnson and Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan for their fight in the fourth quarter of the 20-0 victory over the Titans on Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
Johnson will miss Thursday’s nationally televised game at Philadelphia.
News and views roundup (11/29/10 edition)
Did everyone get enough turkey?
If not, we have a few turkeys in today's catchup news and views roundup:
- Red light camera battle continues this week with lawsuit (Samica Knight, KTRK-13 News)
The on-air version of the story last night seemed much critical of the city's apparent duplicitousness in this matter than the online version.
You may remember several weeks ago, Houston citizens petition to get the cameras on the ballot, then at the beginning of the month voted them out.
Since then, the city filed a lawsuit against American Traffic Solution, the Phoenix-based company that installed the cameras and that lead to a countersuit by ATS. In its lawsuit, the camera company says the election was invalid, claiming the city of Houston broke the law by allowing Proposition 3 on the ballot in the first place.
Now a federal judge has ordered that the cameras stay in place while it's decided whether the referendum was, in fact, legal.
- Red Light Camera Controversy Continues (Ford Atkinson, KRIV-26 News)
Not only is that exactly what they have done, but they have seemingly done it with the assistance of Mayor Annise Parker and the city's "preemptive" lawsuit that was filed. The mayor needs to stop hiding behind the city attorney and too-clever legal ploys, and assure citizens that regardless of the outcome of these wasteful lawsuits, the city will heed the will of voters and be ridding the city of the red-light cameras as quickly as possible.
American Traffic Solutions, which has the red light camera contract, claims voters had no right to overturn an ordinance dealing with public safety.
The claim, according to Houston attorney Randall Kallinen, violates a company promise.
"The red light camera company has said and has promised they were not going to sue to have this election overturned. That's exactly what they did," says Kallinen.
- Judge halts Houston's red-light camera removal — for now (Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle)
- Mayor Parker Wants Qualified, Eligible Veterans In All City Positions….Just Not In UNION REPRESENTED Ones! (Big Jolly Politics)
- Traffic signal light outages spark concerns (Satara Williams, The Champions Sun)
This is not unlike spending millions upon millions for a toy train, only to neglect the rest of the transit system (which has seen overall utilization plummet year after year despite significant population increases). While Houston's sexiest blockquoter* will never criticize a LibDem boondoggle, we have no such aversion to criticizing government when it screws up, whoever is at the head. County government needs to do a better job on traffic signal maintenance. Kudos to the community newspaper for calling attention to the matter.
“Budget shortfalls have limited our traffic signal maintenance funding,” Wayne Gisler, the Assistant Manager of Traffic Engineering for Harris County, said in a email to Wang, “ In order to maintain the signals operating in a safe and efficient manner during our fiscal crisis, we've had to limit maintenance to emergency repairs only.”
Many understand the pitfalls of the economy and the financial bind that it has imposed on several fronts.
However, some believe that more funds should be funneled into signal infrastructure opposed to other arenas.
“I understand the budget but there’s a bigger picture. They’ve spent tax money on work for the Grand Parkway,” Wang said. “If you build a piece of infrastructure you have to be able to maintain it. If you can’t maintain it, then you shouldn’t build something new.”
- Almost Famous (J.C. Reid, 29-95)
A highly compelling essay on Houston and its food scene. Enjoy it, Houston -- you don't need trinkets and dumb regulations to convince coastal elites you're world class.
I agreed with Caswell's implication that Eater.com's decision was driven more by style than substance, as did the echo-chamber of Houston's food bloggers and Twitterati (for what that's worth).
Ultimately, though, I kept thinking to myself, "Who cares?" Yes, Houston's restaurateurs and chefs must consider professional reputations and economic factors that could benefit greatly from more national exposure. But would that be good for Houstonians and the Houston food scene? Would Houston's chefs be better off showboating for a national audience like so many other regional chefs have done? As much as I'd like to see Houston chefs like Bryan Caswell, Monica Pope, or Chris Shepherd get their own TV shows, I'd much prefer them in their own kitchens cooking for fellow Houstonians. And somehow, I get the feeling, that's what they'd prefer to do too.
And even if there was a concerted effort to raise the national profile of the Houston food scene, how could you "brand" the bubbling cauldron of cuisines, dishes and ethnicities that make up the culinary landscape of Houston? ("Creole" and "New Creole" are terms that are sometimes used). The sheer size and diversity of Houston food scene is overwhelming even for those of us who spend a great deal of time trying to make sense of it all. On a recent speaking gig in Houston, TV food personality Anthony Bourdain admitted to being "intimidated" by Houston.
* Hat tip to Slampo.
23 November 2010
Have a great Thanksgiving
The blog is likely to be quiet over the next few days.
We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving break with plenty of quality time with family and friends.
News and views roundup (11/23/10)
Here's a final pre-Turkey Day roundup:
- Movie studio plan for Dome still lives (Chron Houston Politics)
Are we STILL doing this? Blow the thing up and turn it into a parking lot already.
- Controversy bubbling over Houston Mayor Annise Parkers' transgender order (Miya Shay, KTRK-13 News)
That clarification didn't clarify much. The Parker Administration sure has been having a bad run lately.
The mayor's office issued a statement Monday evening saying, "There appears to be a misunderstanding regarding applicability of my executive order and we need to clarify that. This is a matter of providing practical solutions in a diverse city. It is not about behavior. Where there is inappropriate behavior, there will be enforcement."
- Mayor disputes Houston's ranking among most dangerous cities (Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle)
- Acclaimed Author/Urbanist Joel Kotkin Hails Houston – the Opportunity City (Center for Houston's Future)
But doesn't he understand that we won't be "world-class" if we don't pursue anti-growth regulations and ding taxpayers to purchase more trinkets??
The author’s advice to Houston - “Keep being who you are, and don’t try to be Boston, Chicago, or any other city.” This, Kotkin says, has brought us where we are, and will earn us the well-deserved recognition as an undisputed City of Opportunity.
- "Fear and hype" over Muslims blamed for bogus bomb tip on Westheimer (James Pinkerton, Houston Chronicle)
On Monday, Dawud played down the incident, explaining that while he was not happy to be awakened, having the cab of his tractor searched, or having to wait while the bomb squad was summoned, he knows authorities have a responsibility to check reports of a possible truck bomb.
"It ain't no big thing," Dawud said. "The cops were cool. They were very professional."
- Red Light Citations - To Pay or Not to Pay? (KRIV-26 News)
We wouldn't -- but this doesn't constitute legal advice.
- Long Wait In Court Leaves Drivers Fuming (Amy Davis, KPRC-2 News)
21 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/21/10)
Time to clear out the weekend links:
- Ex-Port VP's severance raises eyebrows (Chris Moran, Houston Chronicle)
Clearly, this is an organization that desperately needs some oversight (and maybe more media coverage).
- HUD probe forces projects to halt (Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle)
Does the Friday-press-conference method of trying to bury bad news like this really work any more?
The temporary moratorium comes as the city's housing department continues to struggle under the onus of adverse HUD findings from the mayoral administrations of Bill White and Lee Brown.
In previous years, HUD "findings," or challenges to the way the city has administered federal money, have resulted in requirements that the city repay millions to the agency.
- Residents in half of city's historic districts seek vote on status (Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle)
That must be a little embarrassing to Mayor Parker and Councilmember Lovell.
- Battle brewing between Heights homeowners and city (Andy Cerota, KTRK-13 News)
- MetroLift riders complain of long waits (Jeff McShan, KHOU-11 News)
- Harris Co. departments asked to prepare 10% budget cuts (Chris Moran, Houston Chronicle)
- San Antonio's KLRN launching news program in January (Jeanne Jakle, SAEN)
Strangely, there's no reference to his plagiarism in this glowing review.
“Rick” is Rick Casey, an award-winning columnist for the Houston Chronicle, who has deep roots in S.A. journalism. Though born in St. Louis, he graduated from St. Mary's University here. After contributing to publications all over the country, including the New York Times and Washington Post, he returned to the Alamo City, where he worked as writer and editor for the old SA Magazine and as reporter and columnist for both the San Antonio Express-News and the old San Antonio Light.
“You have to approach San Antonio with a good combination of outrage and humor,” Casey said in a phone call from Houston, adding he is thrilled about this chance for a little energizing change. “I'm really excited about having the opportunity to plug back into San Antonio.”
Casey will commute from Houston, where he'll continue to write two columns a week.
Casey has never really thrown himself into covering Houston despite writing for our daily and living here, so going back to San Antonio ought to work out well. Kind of funny that San Antonio will be getting a Houston-area hack to comment on their affairs, while Houston gets a San Antonio-area talker to comment on its affairs (in the form of Joe Pags).
Hat tip to Slampo for the heads up on this one.
- These Men Want to Save You a Taco (Truck) (Eating Our Words)
The story wasn't racist (and the unsubstantiated accusations of the same grow to have less effect all the time, thankfully), and the story wasn't even KPRC's! Just another example of fact-free/editor-free emoting at the Village Voice Houston Amateur Hour.
It doesn't help that mainstream news outlets such as KPRC gives air time to frivolous, casually racist stories like "Health department says filthy taco truck vendors found during surprise visits."
- Searching for real answers in the debate about Global Warming (ABC13 Weather Blog)
We're always inclined to pay more attention to trained professionals like Tim Heller than to the Chron's little faith-based global-warming enthusiast guy.
- HISD as an education "lighthouse for the world" (Houston Strategies)
More METRO service improvements!
A NEW ROUND OF METRO SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS: If you have any interest in giving METRO your opinion on the proposed "improvements," December 1st at noon is your time. If you can't be at METRO's under-utilized downtown headquarters on a workday, you can call in or log your opinion online. Just another example of why METRO is the Gold Standard in transparency.
It's not their hard-earned money so they don't really care
IRRITATING ATTITUDE OF THOSE WHO HAVE TAX DOLLARS AT THEIR DISPOSAL:
Sports Authority Chairman J. Kent Friedman on having to use reserves to cover a debt payment:
"It doesn't cause me any concern at all," he said.
Port of Houston Chairman James Edmonds on a generous severance package given to a former PR executive:
"I think she provides value. I'm comfortable with the agreement..."
Just remember, these (unelected) elites know better than you how to spend your money. Since they don't work for taxpayers, they have no incentive to be responsive to taxpayers. Here's an idea: Anyone who can spend taxpayer dollars should have to be elected by voters.
18 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/18/10)
It's your Thursday night edition of news and views:
- Parker loses fight to appoint union leader to port authority (Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle)
The sense of entitlement from all parties was off-putting, but Mayor Parker's clumsy, failed effort to reward a political constituency also drew some pointed criticism:
Mayor Pro Tem Anne Clutterbuck, who along with Councilman James Rodriguez led the way for Longoria's reappointment, appeared to chide Parker for setting up a situation where one candidate would be publicly spurned.
"It is my sincere hope that ... our nominations and appointments process will not proceed like this in the future and that we will return to the habit that has been in place the previous years that I've served on council, where we do not put our outstanding citizens who volunteer themselves for service to a losing side of the vote," she said.
- Mayor appoints transgender attorney to judge post (Brian Rogers, Houston Chronicle)
Brian Rogers wasn't the first out of the gate with this story, but his *ahem* seamless gender transition from one graf to another merits praise. As for the substance of the story, let's hope the person is a good judge, and that this isn't merely another instance of mayor Parker rewarding a political constituency.
A graduate of Texas A&M, Frye was an Eagle Scout and an Aggie cadet known as Phillip Frye.
She later graduated from law school and has practiced criminal defense law in Houston since 1986. She now heads a six-lawyer firm.
- Red Light Camera Fallout: HPD Will Take Cops From Neighborhood Patrol For Traffic Duty (Hair Balls)
Instead of snide comments about the motivations of voters and threats to cut neighborhood patrols, perhaps Mayor Parker's police chief could show some creativity in dealing with his budget (like Mayor Parker's fire chief, see below).
- Reorganization part of HFD's $13 million cost-cutting plan (James Pinkerton and Brad Olson, Houston Chronicle)
That's some leadership from the HFD chief. Hidden away in the story is that fact that Mayor Parker and her Council raised ambulance fees from $415 to $1000, though!
- City spends $360,000 on sculpture despite budget problems (Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11 News)
An outrageous fee increase for ambulance transport and big cuts at HPD and HFD, but the arts special interests keep their trinkets? Talk about misplaced priorities.
- Police: Classmate Confesses To Killing Teen, Burning Body (KPRC-2 News)
Apparently, he also skipped the big Bullying Summit that few attended.
- Winning the Gold in Transparency (Write on METRO)
Since METRO has a long history of NOT being either of those things, we should thank METRO's expensive blogger for highlighting a useless state program that ought to be eliminated when the Texas legislature convenes and starts trying to deal with budget shortfalls.
The NEW METRO has just earned the Gold award in the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle program, launched by the Comptroller of Public Accounts.
The program, started a year ago, spotlights local government agencies that are open and accountable to the public.
- Budget woes force UH to weigh businesslike model (Jeannie Kever, Houston Chronicle)
"Businesslike" and academia are terms that don't go together, unless you're a reporter trying to keep sources happy (because happy sources toss exclusives your way for not reporting news in a timely manner, after all).
- Houston cops write fewer tickets as city officials crack down on overtime, court no-shows (Jennifer Peebles, Texas Watchdog)
- Why You Have To Appear In Traffic Court, But Officers Don't (Amy Davis, KPRC-2 News)
- Travelers at IAH OK with New Scanners (Bill Stamps, KUHF-88.7 News)
This traveler isn't. Neither is the one linked directly below.
- Changing Airport Security on our Own (The Loop Scoop)
- Give up Medicaid? Not easily (Lisa Falkenberg, Houston Chronicle)
The teen perspective returns to the Chronicle after a hiatus. Did any teens miss her?
17 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/17/10)
The seemingly unfocused Parker Administration hits political turbulence in today's edition of news and views:
- Radiation in Houston's tap water, long history of contamination (Mark Greenblatt, KHOU-11 News)
That old Chris Bell/Dan Jones plan to sell bottled water under the Houston label looks sillier all the time.
- Houston's red-light funds loss adds to grim outlook (Brad Olson, Houston Chronicle)
Forget the silly Chron headline on the story. The real stories are: 1) That Mayor Parker seems to be dithering with relatively trivial nonsense (like historic preservation, eco-shuttles, and education summits) while the city's deficit grows larger (and the choices to close the deficit more painful); and 2) That Council passed a sham "balanced budget" back in June, and everyone just went along with the charade for months.
Several City Council members sharply criticized the administration in an acrimonious budget meeting last week in which many of the stark details were revealed, particularly the amount of time Parker spent on updating the city's historic preservation ordinance in the wake of the financial challenges.
Mayor Pro Tem Anne Clutterbuck, who chairs council's Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee, said council members are prepared to make tough decisions, but they need time to weigh the various austerity measures Parker is planning.
"It is the sincere desire of council to see the administration bring something forward so we can act on it," she said.
Much of the frustration was over a $9 million increase in expenses and the fact that efforts to cut the budget through departmental consolidations or better management of the city's fleet have not yet been realized.
- Controversy grows over Port of Houston board appointment (Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11 News)
No, actually, that's not "really what the Port's all about." But it is illustrative when folks who want payback waddle up to the political trough and are so forthcoming. See below.
Dozens of supporters, for both candidates, packed city council chambers to speak before council members.
"Dean will represent labor,” union member Richard Shaw said. “And that's really what the Port's all about. It's about working men and women out there."
- Makeup of Port Commission called into question (Miya Shay, KTRK-13 News)
It would be nice if Mayor Parker were spending a little more time trying to fix the budget mess (preferably with more spending cuts and fewer fee increases).
Multiple sources at City Hall say the reason Parker has been working hard to appoint Corgey is because his particular union supported her during the mayoral campaign. We understand she's doing a lot of lobbying in the background right now to get her way. It's a crucial vote that can go both ways.
- Perception of Lykos runs two ways (Brian Rogers, Houston Chronicle)
- Sheriff Garcia using tax money to do favors (Jeremy Rogalski, KHOU-11 News)
- Top value: High price for Houston's 'GhostBusters' skyscraper a good omen (Houston Chronicle)
Matt Bramanti notes that wikipedia seems to have been an inspiration to the Chron's sorry editorial board on this one.
15 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/15/10)
It's your "busybodies, fibbers, and hypocrites" edition of news and views:
- Few come to UH summit offering tools to fight bullying (Safiya Ravat, Houston Chronicle)
Could it be that this "problem" really wasn't such a problem?
Not to worry, we're sure the busybody set will jump all over the next not-problem.
- This is not what Heights' residents signed up for when they agreed to be in a Historic District. Who can call this progress? (Cynthia Mullins' Real Estate Market Blog)
In the real world, the unintended consequences can be a problem. Never in A Place Called Perfect, of course.
- What's next for Bill White? Not a run for Senate, he says (Joe Holley, Houston Chronicle)
A jeans-wearing Bill White happily took 21-year-old daughter Elena to lunch at a gourmet hamburger joint in the Heights on Saturday. The former Houston mayor has had precious few such father-daughter moments during 22 months of almost constant campaigning, first for the U.S. Senate and then for the Governor's Office.
22 months? Wait a second.... that would mean Bill White was running for statewide office as mayor of Houston, even though his parents taught him that's not the right way to do things.
So here's an observation from a friend -- when Rick Perry repeatedly says he has no interest in running for another, supposedly higher office, the state's lackluster political media will not believe him. When Bill white says he has no interest in running for another office, the state's lackluster political media fall all over themselves repeating the news (while basically running a free "Hire Bill White" reverse want ad). Interesting.
- Houston drainage fee fight heading to Austin (Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11 News)
- Fighting city hall: Houston man's $2,500 water bill adjusted down to $3.74 (Steve Miller, Texas Watchdog)
Accident investigations? Huh?
“We do accident investigations constantly, and when these things come up, they are red flags. We jump on them quickly,” said Alvin Wright, a spokesman for the public works department. Wright said the news coverage played no role in the billing adjustment.
They "jump on them quickly?" Texas Watchdog reported on a problem that dates to July. It is now November. Somehow, we think Alvin Wright's definition of "quickly" is not quite the same as a normal person's. We also think he might be fibbing when he suggests media coverage played no role in getting this problem fixed. But we might be wrong. *shrug*
- Derivatives, SubPrimes, Hedge Funds - and Republicans Against Tort Reform? (Big Jolly Politics)
Nice catch, David Jennings.
- Eversole federal indictment either imminent or never (Rick Casey, Houston Chronicle)
There you have it.
14 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/14/10)
A friend requested we do SOMETHING to get that Chron.com "unicorn vomit" Disney screen to scroll down the page, so here's a weekend roundup:
- Company: Houston red light cameras to go dark on Monday (Andy Cerota, KTRK-13 News)
- Houston will turn off red-light cameras on Monday morning (James Pinkerton, Houston Chronicle)
After this news broke, Mayor Annise parker tweeted, curiously:
It's a story because the administration was never clear on what "appropriate action" meant.
Told all Htown media after the election that I would take appropriate action on the red light cameras on 11/15. Suddenly thats a story?
Precision -- or ambiguity -- in messaging matters.
- Cash-strapped Sports Authority agency dips into reserves (Chris Moran, Houston Chronicle)
- A Question for Kent Friedman (Houston's Clear Thinkers)
- Official Says Farmers Market Lacks Racial Diversity (Isiah Carey, KRIV-26 News)
The usual suspect (useless race-obsessed bureaucrat) at "work." Just precious.
- City Hall Employee Files Complaint with the City of Houston Over City Hall Farmers Market's Lack of "Racial Diversity" (Eating Our Words)
The pro-diversity white liberal response to the race-baiting of useless bureaucrat. Also precious.
- Rice, UH Officials Made Embargo Agreement With Chronicle On KTRU Story So They Could Have "A Quiet Weekend" (Hair Balls)
- You know it has been bad for Dems when... (Big Jolly Politics)
12 November 2010
Disney: Where Chron.com lives?
WHERE HOUSTON LIVES* may not yet be A Place Called Perfect, but, well, we'll just let this screencap from yesterday speak for itself:
* Chron.com's nifty little motto.
11 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/11/10)
THANKS to all of our veterans! On to the news and views roundup:
- Houston City Council considers fee increases due to budget woes (Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11 News)
Who saw Clarence Bradford emerging as the sane fiscal conservative on Council? But he's right. Cut the spending.
"These times are too difficult on citizens and businesses to bring about new fees and new taxes," Councilman C.O. Bradford said.
- Houston City Council debates future of Safe Clear towing program (Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11 News)
Greanias said Safe Clear had reduced freeway traffic and prevented accidents, but he cautioned against having Metro bear the entire cost of the program.
That quote is either wrong or Greanias is mistaken. SAFEclear arguably has reduced post-accident freeway congestion. It has not reduced "freeway traffic."
- Red light cameras still up even after voters ban them (Ted Oberg, KTRK-13 News)
- UH practiced deception, cooked up "cover story" as it closed deal to acquire Rice U's KTRU radio station (Steve Miller, Texas Watchdog)
- There are alternatives to Metro's plans for rail (Bill King, Houston Chronicle)
Good ideas from Bill King, as usual. See below.
- How METRO could work (Harris County Almanac
The place to continue the discussion.
- White blames straight-ticket voting for defeat (Doug Miller, KHOU-11 News)
Err, what? When Bill White decided to run for statewide office in 2009, he was still mayor. He never resigned.
Looking back on his political career, White confirmed that political insiders advised him to run for governor four years ago. That was shortly after his nationally praised leadership of the Hurricane Katrina crisis, when hundreds of thousands of storm victims evacuated to Houston.
At the time, Perry was considered so politically vulnerable he attracted three challengers. (Perry ultimately won with only 39 percent of the vote.) White said "the numbers looked good," but he decided he had an obligation to finish his tenure as Houston mayor.
"I personally do not see how somebody could both run for statewide office effectively and hold (the mayor's) position," White said. "You'd have to resign. You know, work full time on it. And my parents didn’t raise me that way."
What sort of mental illness causes politicians to lie in this manner, and seem actually to believe what they are saying?
- Economic hard times drive prostitutes off street corners (Rucks Russell, KHOU-11 News)
One word: SWEEPS!
10 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/10/10)
It's your Wednesday evening edition of news and views:
- Houston man's $2,500 water bill leads to weeks of confusion, bureaucratic wrangling (Steve Miller, Texas Watchdog)
Our near doubling of water rates probably won't produce similar gains in customer service, we're guessing. Still, public officials ought to call back reporters with some answers when they promise to do so.
- How safe is your water? (Mark Greenblatt, KHOU-11 News)
After the ridiculous increase in my water bill (higher than electric this month) thanks to the Parker Administration, I would hope there were concomitant increases in safety! In all seriousness, go check out Greenblatt's work.
- King Street Patriots Ready To Go National (Hair Balls)
Well, isn't that nice?
During this year's election cycle, the King Street Patriots became an easy target, identified as a bunch of Tea Party crazies who descended upon the polls to intimidate voters in minority precincts.
After an election night party last week, we've been wondering if any of that is true, and really, it's probably not. The group, mostly made up of middle-aged white people, became extremely well-versed in state election laws (moreso than many election judges, the group says) and set out during early voting and on Election Day to make sure those rules were followed.
You know what would have been even nicer (and not gutless)? If just one professional at Village Voice Houston had stood up three weeks ago when the Amateur Hour was posting rumor and innuendo about King Street Patriots as news on their blog, and actually done some real reporting on the topic.
- The 10 Worse [sic] Things About Family Thanksgivings (Hair Balls)
The quest for pageviews produces.... unfunny mockery of family tradition. Wow. What a sad fall from onetime media critic at a publication that grownups read to lingering bitter hack at local corporate alt-weekly amateur hour.
- Houston's Spending in the Red (Laurie Johnson, KUHF-88.7 News)
Remember how Council was so eager to compliment itself after allegedly passing a balanced budget in June? Premature.
The end of the first quarter of the fiscal year came with some bad news for Houston councilmembers. The city has overspent its budget by $9.6 million. City Controller Ron Green says $1.6 million of that is for higher electricity costs. But the remainder is because cost-saving measures that were written into the budget and scheduled to go into effect this past July still haven't been implemented.
Oh, and where was Mayor Parker during this tough talk about lingering budget deficits?
Incidentally, the mayor was absent for the budget discussions. She's at an education summit out of town.
- Harris County taps experienced hand for public defender (Chris Moran, Houston Chronicle)
There's a new member of the local establishment, and the Chron is there. Rah rah!
- Houston police will issue red-light camera tickets until March (Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11)
Fine. There's no good reason to pay the things, though.
- Greanias Asks Business Community for Support (Write On METRO)
Come on now. That's not The Houston Way. More accurate: "If I screw this up, I will take a job with one of METRO's many contractors/affiliates/favored interests."
"The question for all of us is: If we build the new METRO...will you join us? Will you help us? We're going to work our hearts out," said Greanias, adding, "One of the down sides of being a local guy is, if I screw this up, I will have to live with it."
- Channel 2 anchor Jerome Gray's contract not renewed (David Barron, Houston Chronicle)
- Sen. Dan Patrick Has Good Start, Files Fiscal Conservative Bills (Big Jolly Politics)
Good for KDAN. His effort to weaken the supermajority requirement in the Senate, however, is a shortsighted, not-conservative move.
The pipeline from the Chron to government agencies is still open
** EXCLUSIVE MEMO! MUST CREDIT BH. EXCLUSIVE!**
To: HISD Employment Office
Re: PR Spokesman position
To whom it may concern:
Hi -- Jason Spencer here. I'm inquiring about the opening in your Communications department for a spokesman. Yes, I'm THAT Jason Spencer, former reporter/current editor covering education for the Chronicle, but I'm hoping we can let bygones be bygones. You know, times are kinda tough in the newspaper industry and I hear that government jobs are where the money is at.
Anyhoo, I may have had some challenges when I was a reporter getting everything right (the Chron's layers of editors sometimes let me down), and then when I became an editor, I may have still had the occassional oops, but in the long run, I think I helped HISD. I gave the Communications department PURPOSE back in the day! And just because I wrote a blog post complaining about former spokesman Terry Abbott's salary and PR tactics doesn't mean I don't want to get in on the action.
So, I was hoping we could get together and chat about what I can do to help METRO, er HISD. (Sorry, momentarily forgot which local governmental agency I was applying with.)
Looking forward to hearing from you,
P.S. I would prefer a position with the title of Public Information Officer as opposed to Press Secretary. I don't want Terry Abbott's former title (that would be awkward), but I wouldn't mind his salary!
** For any literal readers, we kid.
09 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/09/10)
It's your Tuesday edition of news and views:
- HPD's crime lab still has major rape-kit testing backlog (Cynthia Cisneros, KTRK-13 News)
- Red light camera revenue top on the agenda today at Houston city hall (Sonia Azad, KTRK-13 News)
Since city officials have constantly assured us the cameras were NOT about the revenue, I can only assume this headline is mistaken, and a discussion about carrying out the will of the voters and dismantling the cameras immediately is the real agenda item. Right?
- Houston City Council seeks ways to balance growing budget deficit (Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11 News)
- City of Houston experiencing budget woes (Miya Shay, KTRK-13 News)
- How to calculate your drainage fee (Chron Houston Politics)
Better answer: Nobody honestly knows how to compute the rain tax or how much it will eventually cost.
Before we tell you how to figure it out, be forewarned. There is no way to know your fee for sure at this point, because the ordinance implementing the fee has not yet been passed by City Council.
- The 10 Worse Things About Family Thanksgivings (Hair Balls)
The Village Voice Houston amateur hour has nothing better to post than thanksgiving mockery? Maybe a new staffer will help.
- Rival who defeated Sylvia Garcia aims to make difference (Chris Moran, Houston Chronicle)
The pro-establishment newspaper is always good about running these sorts of glowing profiles when the establishment changes.
- Joel Kotkin speaking Wed on Houston's past and future (Houston Strategies)
07 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/07/10)
Time to clear out some links and get ready for next week:
- Frank Wilson's last hurrah (Steve Miller, Texas Watchdog)
- Former Yates High Principal Ronald Mumphery accused of sexual harassment, HISD records show (Lynn Walsh, Texas Watchdog)
- Former Yates principal Ronald Mumphery's sexual misconduct investigation (Mike McGuff, KIAH-39 News)
- Houston wants to continue red-light cameras after voters rejected them (Grits for Breakfast)
- Don't mess with a Texas chef: Bryan Caswell stumps for Houston (Eatocracy)
Our prosperous, livable city does indeed have a thriving food scene, made even better by the diversity of our international city. Good for Caswell for making the case to national folks. We're not all that concerned if coastal elites think Houston is "world class" or not, frankly, but it's nice to see Caswell cite Kotkin, who rejects so much of the "smart growth" nonsense advocated by urbanists infatuated with A Place Called Perfect (and, apparently, at Village Voice Houston -- see below).
Here are some questions for you all to answer:
- In the past 10 years what U.S. city has grown 24% (five times the growth rate of San Francisco, Boston and NYC)?
- What city has an influx of new residents equal to that of NYC and 50% higher than Boston or Chicago?
- What city did Joel Kotkin of Forbes Magazine name the most successful 21st century urban city?
The answer to all of these is Houston. That’s right, you heard me: H-Town, baby.
Those who write about food, music, culture and art are supposed to be in the know. Obviously, they’re not paying attention. Well, I’m here to put you in the know: Houston’s restaurant scene is thriving as fast as the city is growing.
- Bryan Caswell Defends Houston on Eatocracy, But Can We Defend Ourselves? (Eating Our Words)
Our culinary scene is great, but it would be "world class" if we would just regulate the things that Village Voice Houston folks want regulated, not regulate things that Village Voice Houston folks don't want regulated, and spend lots of money on trinkets to impress tourists (and maybe some food writers elsewhere)! What an incoherent mess -- pretty much the norm at the Village Voice Houston amateur hour these days. Definitely short of world-class.
- Pictures of the Historic Preservation Ordinance and How It Affects the Houston Heights (Cynthia Mullins' Real Estate Market Blog)
Eh, what could a professional know about the market, compared to the Houtopians who dream about A Place Called Perfect?
- Some Friendly, Post-Defeat Advice for What's Left of the Texas Democratic Party (Bryan Preston, PajamasMedia)
Actually, it was more like $10 million last we checked. Think some enterprising Texas political journalist will sit down with Mostyn at some point for a chat about his efforts this election cycle?
Much more difficult will be dealing with the Shadow Party, aka the Lone Star Project. It’s a proven failure now: Matt Angle rode into town pledging to take a statewide office and take the state House by 2010. That’s now, in case you hadn’t noticed, and he’s failed. Angle’s LSP has spent millions left to him by a late trial lawyer, millions that went into setting up front groups and launching attack after attack after attack on Republicans, and has nothing to show for it. But he is the “de facto state party right now.” The problem is, he has no credibility. The TDP lost ground under his watch. Angle isn’t in politics for any discernible good. He doesn’t even care if Texans want the policies his party offers. He doesn’t even seem to care if they’re good policies. He’s just a soulless operative who wants to destroy Republicans, and he and his pack of wild blogs do just that, 24/7/365. Angle needs to be sent packing, to mess with some other state. Messing with Texas has made him wealthy, but has left the Democratic Party here in worse shape than ever, and made our politics more acrimonious than any of us should like.
Thornier still, will be dealing with the Lone Star Soros, Steve Mostyn. The Houston millionaire lawyer spent about $5 million of his own money this cycle, in order to replace Gov. Perry with Bill White, and in order to capture the state House, evidently to control enough votes to get Texas’ successful tort reform overturned. Seen in that light, the $5 million is nothing but a business investment, spent to make it easier for lawyers to sue the pants off of everybody else. Like Angle’s fronts, Mostyn and his front groups like the Back to Basics PAC (which are basically sock puppets on his hands) don’t really stand for anything other than attack ads and gutter politics. Together, Angle and Mostyn don’t just practice the “politics of personal destruction,” they are the “politics of personal destruction.” And after this election cycle, everyone in Texas knows that that brand of politics is all that they stand for, and everyone knows that they control the Democratic Party.
- How about hiring a fact checker? (Unca Darrell)
- Double standard (Houston Chronicle)
Keep on beating those dead horses.
- The front page got it (Unca Darrell)
Because he was so successful as police chief...
THOMAS C. LAMBERT, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER: Did you know that METRO's hapless police chief is no longer police chief? I've been out of the loop, so I'm not sure when that happened, but it doesn't inspire confidence in the "New" METRO that Lambert is now the CAO.
The guy was so clueless about security at Park and Rides that they turned into Park and Pillages; he berated Houston drivers for every Danger Train accident even when the accident was METRO's fault; METRO PD gave up patrolling bus stops because officials said there were too many of them -- METRO reminded bus riders that if they had a concealed carry permit, they could legally carry a gun on the bus -- yet METRO has an elite counterterrorism unit for the downtown (key word) light rail.
And now he manages METRO's daily operations.
04 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/04/10)
HERE'S an early-morning edition of the roundup:
- Houston voters OK drainage fee, but who will pay for it? (Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle)
Of course that question about the massive rain tax went unanswered before the election along with others, but a majority of voters seemed unbothered.
- Don't rev up to run the red lights in Houston just yet (Steve Miller, Texas Watchdog)
- The People Have Spoken -- And Houston City Government Doesn't Give A Crap (Rhymes with Right)
- Softballs from the editorial board (Unca Darrell)
- Another thing the Chronicle should do (Unca Darrell)
- Misunderestimating the Tea Party (Unca Darrell)
- Elections 2010 (This Blog Is Full Of Crap)
- KTRK 13 investigative producer Steve Bivens leaves the Wayne Dolcefino world (Mike McGuff)
03 November 2010
Local blogger recap of the election
THANKS AGAIN to the folks who dropped into the BH election live chat last night. We had a good time with it, and hope others enjoyed it as well.
We expect the usual news sources will be dominated by election recaps/analysis over the next few days, but here are some very good early recaps by local bloggers:
- Opening thoughts on the carnage (Off the Kuff)
- The Noise Machine (11/03/2010) (Harris County Almanac)
- Oh, What a Night! (Big Jolly Politics)
For those who haven't gotten enough of the election yet, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.
02 November 2010
blogHOUSTON Election 2010 chat
WE'RE going to copy our friends at Brothers Judd tonight, and host a live chat during the election coverage this evening. We'll be hanging out with fellow poligeeks as we do every two years, but we should still be able to check in and discuss the election from time to time. Anything election-related is fair game, although obviously this audience probably follows Harris County and Texas politics more closely than most (so please share any tidbits or results you'd like). Also, please try to keep your discourse substantive (not personal) and your language clean (same as with the forum).
We'll get underway about 7pm.
News and views roundup (11/02/10)
Here's your "Election Day" news and views roundup. Thanks to everyone participating in the political process today, and especially to Harris County poll workers for their hard work in pulling it off despite a fire that wiped out all the equipment just a short time ago!
- Could Houston have its own downtown serial killer? (Isiah Carey's Insite)
- With new names, illegal massage parlors stay open in Houston (Yang Wang, Houston Chronicle)
- Election season cries of voter fraud, suppression hit fever pitch across the US (Steve Miller, Texas Watchdog)
- Harris County focus of national attention in voter fraud debate (Trent Seibert, Texas Watchdog)
- King Street Poll Watchers Absolved of Harassment (Warner Todd Huston, EmergingCorruption.org)
- A Kinder, Gentler Tea Party in Houston (Michael Berryhill, Texas Observer)
- Political Partisans Give $8 Million in Final Week (Ross Ramsey and Matt Stiles, Texas Tribune)
THAT is a pretty big story (especially given the success of a handful of Progressive millionaires in flipping Colorado from Republican to Democratic over a few election cycles) -- and yet, the Texas Tribune chose to christen its "partnership" with the New York Times with the umpteenth story on GOP money man Bob Perry instead.
Steve and Amber Mostyn and their law firm have contributed at least $9.2 million so far this election cycle — by far the most of any single donor. And they played big through the last week, giving three-quarters of a million dollars to a collection of PACs and candidates.
- Cohen, Hochberg, Vo appear vulnerable (BurkaBlog)
Burka, the "dean" of the state's lackluster political media, has now pulled this post and seemingly changed his mind about the whole thing. For what it's worth, I'm doubtful any of these three will lose, but they might have been in more trouble if the area GOP had snapped to the coming tsunami sooner and gone hard at the seats.
- TV anchors named Barajas taking over Houston and Texas (Mike McGuff)
- The Future of Air Travel Thanks to the TSA (Stephan Segraves, badice.com)
Agreed on both points! We're certainly behind any local pol who wants to stand up for travelers (read: voters) against TSA Security Theater.
Let’s start sending notes to the men and women who work for us in government and ask that a serious look be taken at the procedures used at airports and oversight of the TSA. If someone in either House wants to make this their pet project, I’ll back them 100%.
For those of you who fly out of IAH, you can technically clear security at any checkpoint so long as your airline does not require you to go through a certain one (some international flights do). A number of the checkpoints do not have the backscatter machines, feel free to use those.
KTRK's Dolcefino looks at HPD's speeding ticket operation
KTRK-13'S UNDERCOVER MAN WAYNE DOLCEFINO has run a few stories on HPD and speeding tickets in recent days (which we were a little slow to notice, since Dolcefino's stuff inexplicably does not show up in KTRK's main RSS feed. UPDATE: We're now also using the separate Dolcefino feed):
- Are officers issuing tickets for traffic safety or money? (Wayne Dolcefino, KTRK-13 News)
- Who is issuing your speeding tickets? (Wayne Dolcefino, KTRK-13 News)
- Do you deserve your speeding ticket? (Wayne Dolcefino, KTRK-13 News)
01 November 2010
News and views roundup (11/01/10)
It's Election Eve, so the roundup is election heavy:
- Greanias: Metro doesn't owe the city (Michael Reed, West U Examiner)
The "new" METRO sounds a lot like the "old" METRO picking this nit.
- Repudiation Day minus one (Unca Darrell)
Unca Darrell takes apart the Chron's latest effort at political analysis. Most MSM print reporters should really stick to straight reporting, and leave "analysis" and PolitiFarce-style editorializing alone. But they just can't seem to help themselves (even as readers continue to turn elsewhere).
- Bad weather may add to Democrats' election woes (Joe Holley, Houston Chronicle)
Apparently, he's so unknown that the Chron's political reporter and copy editors couldn't get his name right. It's MORMAN. Perhaps this also explains why the Chron's resident plagiarist had trouble finding him on Google. Terrible.
Locally, Jared Woodfill, Harris County Republican Party chairman, spent a part of his Sunday afternoon training poll watchers and predicting a few surprises on Election Day. He was particularly excited about the possibility that in the Precinct 2 county commissioner's race, challenger Jack Moorman, an attorney in the office of former County Attorney Michael Fleming, could knock off two-term incumbent Sylvia Garcia, first elected in 2002.
Woodfill noted that Garcia started the year with $1.7 million in campaign cash and raised $577,000 more this year, while Moorman, a political unknown, has spent only about $60,000.
- An Aggressive Prosecutor (Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center)
- The Battle of Harris County (Abby Rapoport, Texas Observer)
Unsurprisingly, True the Vote is portrayed as a conservative project, but Houston Votes is not portrayed as a Dem-dominated, ACORN-like GOTV operation.
- Sheila Jackson Lee's Thug Tactics Against Law Abiding Poll Watchers Doomed to Backfire (J. Christian Adams, Big Government)
- The King Street Patriots Speak Out (TexasSparkle)
My feeling is that we should not encourage violations of the Texas election code.
My feeling is that we should have volunteers that videotape any actions that they know to be violating voting rights or interference. Let the videos speak for themselves.
- White looks back (Chron Texas Politics)
Bill White certainly has some audacity. Thank goodness the state's political media -- as lackluster as it is in many ways -- didn't prove quite as pliable as Jeff Cohen's newspaper when it came to examining White's record in Houston. The campaign rhetoric may be exaggerated*, but the problems are hardly imaginary.
"I was somewhat slow to respond to some things when they had been in the public records and hashed and rehashed about the City of Houston's finances and use of the pension net. The criticisms that lacked basis in fact had been there and been covered by the media and discussed in public forums for years. Frankly, when something was old and stale and proven wrong years ago, with due respect, there were some in the state media playing out the same thing all over again. It seemed so ridiculous on its face to me, when we had managed the city with such fiscal discipline, that people would question otherwise. I was a little slow to react."
- Gov. Rick Perry Invades Kingwood Tea Territory - And They Aren't Happy (Big Jolly Politics)
* Effective political rhetoric is frequently exaggerated, which is why we are so often amused by PolitiFarceTX announcing that some political statement is exaggerated (in excruciating detail). No, really?! *laugh*