28 April 2011

News and views roundup (04/28/2011 edition)

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/28/11 09:44 PM |

26 April 2011

News and views roundup (04/26/2011 edition)

It's a slow news week...

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/26/11 09:56 PM |

24 April 2011

News and views roundup (04/24/2011 edition)

We hope everyone enjoyed the Easter weekend... we certainly did. Time to catch up:

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/24/11 09:19 PM |

20 April 2011

Sports Authority default? No worries!

The Houston Chronicle print and e-editions (but not Chron.com) reported today that the Houston Sports Authority still runs the risk of defaulting.

Here is the lede:

The agency created to finance Houston’s professional sports stadiums soon may face a $27 million obligation that would halve its reserves and could push it closer to default (Mike Morris, "Sports Authority at risk of debt default," Houston Chronicle).

Executive Director Janis Schmees told the Chronicle that neither a missed payment nor a default should worry the "average citizen or sports fan."

Spokesman Mustafa Tameez also told the Chronicle there are no worries.

Lots of other people are quoted saying really, there are no worries. So there you go.

We understand this withheld public-interest story should make it to Chron.com sometime Thursday.

Incidentally, this is the same newspaper that just ran an editorial insisting that school boards continue to spend exorbitant amounts of money to run public notices in the newspaper (last year, HISD, Spring Branch ISD, and Cy-Fair ISD alone spent $400,000 with the Chronicle, according to Matt Bramanti's research, although he did not break out how much of that was for public notices*) . Because, you know, they're into serving the public interest and all with their journalism. *wink*

* Edited after posting to include that italicized caveat for clarity.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/20/11 06:30 PM |

19 April 2011

News and views roundup (04/19/2011 edition)

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/19/11 12:16 PM |

18 April 2011

News and views roundup (04/18/2011 edition)

Time to get back in the game...

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/18/11 11:41 AM |

14 April 2011

METRO's multi-faceted approach to Park and Pillage security

Recall back in 2006 METRO Police Chief Tom Lambert finally found some state-of-the-art security for METRO's Park and Pillages. Described as a "quantum leap forward," specifics were as follows:

At the heart of the new security system are cameras that can be programmed to spot a variety of activities, from a car parked in a bus loading area to a suspicious package left near a bench. Such events will alert METRO police officers at Houston TranStar of a suspicious activity or that a crime may be in progress.

The multifaceted system also features call boxes for patrons who have an emergency or who spot suspicious activities, a public address system, and entrance gates that can be closed at a moment's notice.

Sounds great! Unless you park at the Grand Parkway Park and Pillage, because METRO made a decision a couple of years ago not to spend money on the multifaceted, quantum leap forward, state-of-the-art security system out there:

Metro is stepping up patrols of its Grand Parkway Park and Ride location after someone broke into 11 vehicles Tuesday.

The lot off of Interstate-10 is the only Park and Ride location without security cameras.[snip]

But Metro said its Grand Parkway location was the only lot without the cameras. Installing them would cost about $300,000, Gray said, because the property is leased.

"A decision was made a couple of years ago because of the expenses and whatnot, and the lease situation, we would not have cameras out there," he said.

Hmmm, "a decision was made a couple of years ago..." That rings a bell. Where have we heard that before?

Police officers are no longer manning the MAP vehicles at METRO. Lambert said he decided two years ago to move those officers to patrol duties where they are badly needed. Employees of other METRO departments, such as wrecker drivers, were moved into the MAP jobs, and Lambert said he is not rethinking that decision.

Ahhh, yes. Chief Lambert strikes again! We don't have to work too hard to guess who made the decision a couple of years ago not to install the security system. The man is a genius. Hopefully someone will recognize it and give him a promotion!

At one point in KHOU's story, I thought we were getting ready for a Raequel "9-volt" Roberts sighting:

Still, Metro wants to put the breaks-ins in perspective.

Alas, it was Super Spokesman Jerome Gray providing METRO's perspective. I'm sure those who had their cars broken into feel much better knowing METRO saved $300,000.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/14/11 06:39 PM |

13 April 2011

Introducing Texas Iconoclast

Part of the reason things have been a little slow here over the last few weeks (in addition to a couple of quick trips to Europe and other intrusions of "real life") is that I've been tinkering with a new project with a few other right-bloggers.

Today, we went public with Texas Iconoclast, a review of Texas politics, media, and culture from a center-right perspective.

Initially, we'll be posting a morning roundup of links (not entirely unlike what we frequently post here). There will be a separate blog with lengthier commentary. We hope to generate some good political discussion.

Please come by the new site and see what you think. (And no, it won't be displacing what we do at BH -- we'll get things cranked up here again in a few days).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/13/11 10:34 PM |

12 April 2011

Blog slowdown

I meant to stick a note up a few days ago, but didn't get around to it.

The blog is going to be on a bit of a slowdown/vacation for a few more days.

Nothing major, just real life intruding on blogging a little more than usual.

Feel free to discuss any major news items in the forum, though!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/12/11 09:36 AM |

08 April 2011

METRO's "Perfect Block"

Looking for something to do tomorrow? Then why not join reformed METRO critic and current METRO board member Christof Spieler at Hot Block on Holman:

METRO Board Member Christof Spieler and METRO staff to join Community Artists’ Collective, Planners Revolution and ECOTONE in staging a ‘complete street’ for a day. The idea is to help communities visualize what a sustainable, perfect block would look like, complete with infrastructure in place that would make it easy for pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists and transit riders to travel the area safely.

Sounds FUN!

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/08/11 06:56 PM |

04 April 2011

News and views roundup (04/04/2011 edition)

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/04/11 10:18 PM |

Perhaps it means that he criticized METRO once....

Although the Examiner News has done some excellent work covering METRO, this recent characterization of METRO board member Christof Spieler struck us as strange:

Spieler, the board member (and former CTC member), told the group how he — a onetime outspoken critic of Metro on his CTC blog — was able to cross the fence to the other side (Ken Fountain, Leaders try to sell ‘new Metro’ to transportation advocates, Examiner News)

That sounds great (messaging!), and while Spieler and CTC were occasionally critical of a METRO policy or proposal here and there, they also worked quite closely with METRO at times (for example, trying to help METRO gin up support for Richmond rail some years ago, as this old email from a public information request makes quite clear; there are others from Robin Holzer).

This notion that Spieler/Holzer/CTC were ever consistent outspoken critics of METRO is erroneous. Mayor Parker knew what she was getting in appointing Spieler to the METRO Board, and it wasn't an outspoken critic. In fact, advising OLD METRO on how it could improve its PR/messaging was probably good practice to be part of NEW METRO. Some agency priorities seem rather... timeless!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/04/11 09:52 PM |

Chron: METRO's crowded trains, buses frustrate NCAA fans

Reporter Zain Shauk verged from from the (sub)standards established by previous Chron journos in covering METRO (most recently Mike Snyder) in a story today highly critical of the agency's ability efficiently to deal with the thousands of extra people in town for the Final Four (many of whom probably had no idea what sensible Houstonians know -- it's always best to ignore the proclamations/promises that emanate from METRO's bloated/expensive PR shop and make other arrangements if possible).

Here's Shauk's lede:

A doubly complicated commute to tonight's NCAA men's basketball championship game will test a public transit system that was already overwhelmed by Saturday's record crowds.

And here are some other snippets:

Trains were severely overloaded, thousands of fans were stranded without rides and scores found themselves suddenly left by bus drivers at an intersection on the fringe of downtown.

* * *

At light-rail platforms, most fans did not pay their fares because the large number of travelers, eager to get on the trains, overwhelmed pay stations.

* * *

Officials spent months coordinating a transportation plan for the Final Four, drafting a nearly four-inch book of maps, guides and schedules. The team's command centers at Reliant Center and the Hyatt Regency in downtown are fitted with TV screens monitoring Metro cameras, traffic patterns and the movement of private shuttles and buses.

Be sure to check out the rest of the story, because stories so critical of METRO generally do not appear in the area's cheerleader newspaper of record (this sort of writing seems to be preferred).

Of course, it's not surprising that a transit agency headed by a guy whose expertise is not transit (which he tries to portray as a strength here) and that still seems to have the OLD METRO habit of prioritizing PR above Moving People didn't actually.... move people very well during Houston's latest signature event.

Not to worry, though. We're sure all those people frustrated by NEW METRO's inability to get them around as promised were surely happy that METRO's bloated/expensive PR department was out distributing trinkets. And they were surely impressed as well when METRO's expensive new addition to its bloated PR department swung into action today (no doubt directing much energy towards the Chron's reporter, and perhaps even his editors):

Metro spokesman Jerome Gray added that many riders Saturday night were lost because they could not remember what rail stop they had boarded before the games.

Right. All the new customers were surely the problem (not the inability of a tram -- that's what they call these dinky "trains" in Amsterdam -- posing as a "mass transit system" to accommodate so many visitors, or the inability of METRO to anticipate customer needs and plan adequately).

NEW (PR REBRANDED!) METRO, same attitude and performance issues.

BLOGVERSATION: Harris County Almanac.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 04/04/11 06:51 PM |


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