31 December 2010

The "goodbye 2010, hello 2011" link roundup

We'll close out 2010 with a media-crit-heavy link roundup:

May you all enjoy a happy and prosperous New Year.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/31/10 06:09 PM |


No credibility: Chron editorial board on muni pensions

Just before Christmas, we were amused by a Chronicle editorial with the following headline:

Pension perils: Our city cannot keep avoiding this issue. Leaders must deal with unfunded liability

The editorial praised Mayor Annise Parker, who has lately been talking tough about tackling Houston's massive unfunded municipal pension liabilities.

The existence of those massive unfunded liabilities must come as a shock to folks who ran with the "Bill White for Texas" campaign talking points, like some gullible columnists in the DFW area.

For that matter, the existence of massive unfunded liabilities might come as a surprise to readers of the Chronicle editorial page. Here's what the editorial board had to say in May 2007 about the problem:

While Mayor White has not yet solved the city's pension problems, the rampant cost overruns are slowly being brought under control. With a maximum three years left at the city's helm should he seek another term, the mayor should focus on bequeathing to his successor a pension system on a permanent and firm financial footing.

And here's what the same editorial board had to say in February 2010 when the newspaper endorsed Bill White in the Democratic primary for governor:

In his six years running City Hall, White presided over a financial reorganization that reduced unfunded employee pension liabilities, aggressively promoted toxic air pollution enforcement, crafted innovative public safety programs, and ably directed the city's response to an influx of Hurricane Katrina refugees from New Orleans and the subsequent threats of Hurricanes Rita and Ike. In doing so he proved his executive mettle and worthiness to lead state government.

As the editorial board says now, "our city cannot keep avoiding this issue." So apparently things were not quite as rosy as this board once said.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/31/10 05:41 PM |


29 December 2010

Maybe she can become a Chron Bright in her spare time

WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HAND JOE HOLLEY A HANKY? He's overcome:

Afterward, the 60-year-old Democratic Precinct 2 commissioner professed not to know what's next. A public official since 1985, when she was appointed chief judge of Houston's municipal courts, she knows only that she'll be officially unemployed come Saturday.

"I'll have a significant, significant drop in income, so that means I'll be even more of a watchdog on my own pocketbook," she said during an interview in her ninth-floor office, the walls shorn of art and photographs. "All those years of watching the taxpayers' pocketbook, now it's time to watch my own."

Unemployed lawmakers tend to do okay for themselves. We're sure she'll land on her feet somewhere.

UPDATE: A constituent emails that he wishes Garcia had been a watchdog for HIS pocketbook during her years of public service.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/29/10 08:25 AM |


25 December 2010

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays everyone.

Here's hoping Pancho Claus left lots of goodies under your holiday tree.

Thanks to everyone who visits and contributes to the little blog. We're looking forward to a happy and prosperous 2011!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/25/10 08:44 AM |


22 December 2010

Saying goodbye to the big C

A LESSON IN PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE: I completed my final chemo treatment last week, and I'm in the homestretch of this little journey that began last March.

I have one more step -- another surgery -- and then I'll be done. That surgery should happen in February after all the chemo drugs are out of my system.

My long-term prognosis is very encouraging. When I was first diagnosed, testing showed that I was Stage 3 with multiple lymph nodes involved; therefore, I had chemo and radiation prior to surgery, which was incredibly successful. Post-surgical pathology reduced my staging to Stage 1!

I'm so grateful for my doctors, Dr. Tenczynski (oncologist), Dr. Newton (surgeon), and Dr. Hamberger (radiation oncologist), and their terrific staffs. Most of my treatment has been at Memorial Hermann Northwest's Cancer Center, and the folks there are just wonderful.

I'd also like to note that colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and curable cancers, so pay attention to your body, and if you're due for a colonoscopy, don't put it off. The procedure really isn't that bad, especially compared to the alternative.

Thank you for all the well-wishes and prayers. I'm so appreciative, and God's grace has truly enveloped me during this time. Merry Christmas to all of you, and here's to a fabulous 2011!

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/22/10 03:46 PM |


Feds to Eversole: Merry Christmas!

The feds delivered Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole an early Christmas gift yesterday:

At least one fellow conservative blogger who comments on local affairs has announced it's time for Eversole to resign, which sounds about right to us.

Thoughts?

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/22/10 09:04 AM |


20 December 2010

News and views roundup (12/20/10 edition)

It's your omnibus Monday morning edition of news and views (because why let this stuff die in the weekend media black hole?):

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/10 10:20 AM |


17 December 2010

Bazan on the soccer stadium deal

Friend and government watchdog Tom Bazan passes along his letter on the soccer stadium deal, which apparently was published on the Chron editorial page this week:

The taxpayers paid $15 million for the land that is being so generously donated. Where do the taxpayers benefit from that?

The city and county taxpayers are going to pay for $20 million in special infrastructure for the stadium. ("A new venue; Soccer stadium a done deal for Dynamo," Page A1, Dec. 3).

The debt service payments for 30 years, at 5 percent interest, will be more than $1.3 million per year.

The Sports Authority has twisted the Dynamo's corporate arm and will be charging $65,000 per year in rent. How do taxpayers benefit from that?

The TIRZ 15 — the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone around the stadium - will be floating the bonds for this. The first word in TIRZ is tax. So the taxpayers will have to shoulder the $75 million in bonds to build the boondoggle.

The TIRZ already has special benefits and incentives for the developers, which are passed through to the taxpayers. So how does this benefit the taxpayers?

Sounds like the win-win is for the developer and ruling class at the expense of the taxpayers.

Tom Bazan, Houston

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/17/10 07:34 AM |


16 December 2010

News and views roundup (12/16/10 edition)

It's your Thursday "tax-and-spend" edition of news and views:

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/16/10 08:18 AM |


13 December 2010

News and views roundup (12/13/10 edition)

Time to dump some news and views:

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/10 09:38 PM |


12 December 2010

The Good Ship Parker continues to take on water

We've been waiting -- nay, practically begging -- for some local journalist really to dig into the dysfunction within the Parker Administration roughly one year since winning office.

We didn't expect this sort of treatment from Village Voice Houston, even though an alt-weekly would be a perfect outlet in many (world-classier?) cities. And we have to admit that we didn't see it coming from the Chron's senior metro/state columnist/plagiarist.

Yet Rick Casey's column in the Sunday Chronicle print edition (and e-edition -- sorry Kindle subscribers!) delivered today, both in terms of analysis and in terms of actual reporting involving phone calls and such (yes, we were shocked too!).

Since we are not one of Dwight Silverman's Anointed, we dare not reproduce half the column from our Chronicle e-edition (the sort of copyright abuse regularly practiced by Houston's sexiest blockquoter*), but here are some of the highlights (in précis form) of Casey's column:

We'll post a link to the full Casey column when it is finally posted to chron.com. We have to admit it's one of the more entertaining short pieces we've read about City Hall since Tim Fleck fled the local alt-weekly (back when there were still professional journalists there -- perhaps he saw where things were headed) to the anonymity and irrelevancy of the Chron editorial board.

UPDATE: Casey's column is now posted here.

* Hat tip to Slampo.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/12/10 08:25 PM |


09 December 2010

News and views roundup (12/09/10 edition)

Your Thursday news and views:

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/09/10 09:18 AM |


08 December 2010

Stein: Parker Administration "operating... like rookies"

Yesterday's report by KHOU-11's Gabe Gutierrez on the apparent disarray at City Hall contained so many interesting nuggets that we thought we'd break them out instead of including the piece in a roundup.

To start:

Finance Director Michelle Mitchell, who was appointed by Parker’s predecessor, Bill White, said she was returning to the private sector.

"It was mutual agreement with the mayor,” Mitchell said. “She's ready to go in a different direction. And I'm going to take my little conservative nature (elsewhere)."

That's the first quote we've seen from Mitchell since the news broke of her departure, and what an intriguing quote! It just begs for followup/elaboration, doesn't it? I'm dying to know what "different direction" and "conservative" mean.

Next:

"The (Parker) administration doesn't quite have a handle on its relationship with council," said 11 News Political Expert Bob Stein. "It's just hard to believe that this administration probably had 12 to 13 years under their belt and yet seems to be operating, like the mayor once said, like rookies."

Has Bicyclist Bob been reading blogHOUSTON?

He's right, though:

As she accepted a national community policing award Tuesday afternoon, the mayor downplayed the resignations -- especially Clutterbuck's.

She got miffed at local journos (not known as the most aggressive bunch, honestly) and walked out of her own press conference, according to Isiah Carey. Another rookie-like blunder.

And finally:

"I'm sorry that [Clutterbuck] doesn't feel that she has a good of a working relationship with some of my senior staff, as she does with me, but this was her decision,” Parker said. “I tried to talk her out of it.”

The finance director is bailing on Parker, one of the most astute councilmembers when it comes to municipal finance is bailing on Parker, and all the mayor has to say is some folks need to learn to play more nicely with her staff? Bicyclist Bob is right -- that sounds much more like a rookie than the last mayor.

The good ship Parker sure seems to be taking on a lot of water, unnecessarily, right now.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/08/10 09:23 PM |


07 December 2010

METRO to cut power overnight to 150 homes

Here's the "New METRO" at work on one of our cooler nights:

Power line poles are being replaced. The power shutdown is scheduled for tonight starting at 11:30pm. About 150 homes will be without electricity until 4am Wednesday.

"There's seven construction segments on the north corridor," said METRO contractor Joe Dooley. "Four have already had relocations and this is the fifth, so there are two more."

[snip]

Meanwhile the League of United Latin American Citizens questions why the outage has to happen on such a cold night.... "I think they should postpone it at least until it gets a little bit warmer," said Herlinda Garcia with LULAC.

METRO says their construction plans were made well in advance and any postponement would cost millions in delays. (Cynthia Cisneros, Rail construction mean no power for neighbors, KTRK-13 News)

The "New METRO" seems about as arrogant and clueless as ever.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/07/10 08:35 PM |


News and views roundup (12/07/10 edition)

Here are some lunchtime news and views for your consideration:

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/07/10 12:34 PM |


05 December 2010

News and views roundup (12/05/10 edition)

Just a little weekend roundup:

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/05/10 07:51 PM |


04 December 2010

The government's definition of "customer service"

YOU GET TO PAY FOR THEIR INCONVENIENCE: Remember the Parking Authority's motto, "customer-service driven"? Well, how about this for customer service:

Question: I parked my vehicle in a non-City owned parking lot and it’s been booted? What do I do?
Answer: If you paid to park in the lot and can provide a copy of your receipt, the lot owner must release your vehicle, but a $25 administrative fee may be charged. If you cannot provide proof of payment for the parking, you may be charged up to $100 plus the parking fees to remove the boot. If you feel you were unfairly booted, you may request a boot hearing in the Harris County Justice of the Peace Court

So, you paid to park AND you have your receipt to prove it, but you can still be charged a fee for the lot owner's inconvenience. Guilty until proven innocent!

A run through the rest of the Parking Authority's FAQ section gives new meaning to the phrase "customer-service driven." Here's another fun one:

Question: Can I legally park at a nonfunctioning meter?
Answer: According to City Ordinance, parkers may receive a citation while parked at a non-functioning meter. We encourage public parkers to report non-functioning meters to 3-1-1 as soon as possible with the exact location and meter number.

However, Lilliana Rambo has complained in the past about having only four mechanics to repair broken meters. So, good luck with that!

RELATED: Victim Turns Tables On Parking Boot Firm, KPRC-2

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/04/10 09:04 AM |


03 December 2010

World-classness roundup: Dynamo stadium deal moves forward

Yesterday's news regarding the Houston Dynamo stadium should warm the hearts of all those folks who think trinkets are the way for Houston to become world class(ier):

Amidst the revelry over Houston's latest step toward world-classness, government watchdog Tom Bazan emailed the following, which we pass along for further consideration:

To amortize the $20,000,000 in infrastructure bonds over 50 years at 5% taxpayers would be required to pay annual payments of $1,095,534.71!!!

There is a decline in revenue for the Sports Authority, so how in the hell will the bonds be repaid? A mere $65,000.00 per year in rent is a bigger giveaway than when Lee Brown and Jordy gave away the Fire station #1 to Tillman for his Heliport and Aquarium.

When does this become a criminal giveaway of taxpayer resources?

Please discuss!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/03/10 10:35 AM |


01 December 2010

News and views roundup (12/01/10 edition)

It's your "Mayor Parker, Tear Down Those Cameras!" edition of news and views:

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/01/10 09:27 PM |


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