31 July 2011

KTRK-13/Texas Watchdog examine ongoing problems with Parker/Costello rain tax

The bombshell regarding METRO playwright-in-chief George Greanias' habit of viewing gay porn, gay escort sites, and even possible gay child porn on public resources crowded out other news for a few days (and should continue to make news if anyone takes the time to investigate Greanias' visits to apparent gay child porn sites), so we held on to a few links from KTRK-13's Ted Oberg and Texas Watchdog, who teamed up to investigate ongoing problems with the Parker/Costello rain tax.

Here are Oberg's news pieces, followed by additional links.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/31/11 09:57 PM |


28 July 2011

METRO Playwright-in-chief Greanias suspended for accessing porn at work

METRO CEO SUSPENDED ONE WEEK FOR VIOLATING COMPUTER POLICY (METRO Press Release)

METRO President & CEO George Greanias has been suspended for one week, without pay, effective immediately. This disciplinary action followed a METRO investigation that concluded Mr. Greanias violated company guidelines on the use of electronic communications.

METRO’s investigation revealed that while on his personal computer, Mr. Greanias accessed more than one dozen adult oriented sites of a sexual nature through the METRO Internet System. The access violations occurred on 14 days from February 9, 2011 to July 1, 2011.

Well, there's a titillating new item for Mike Snyder to add to the next biographical puff piece on METRO's playwright-in-chief!

UPDATE: Hair Balls posts a list of websites that Greanias was visiting. It leaves us feeling a little embarrassed for the man. But it was a highly inappropriate use of work resources, to be sure, and might well have resulted in termination elsewhere.

UPDATE 2: Two of the sites with "boy" in the name feature what appear to be adolescent males engaged in gay sex acts on their front pages. If these sites were indeed visited by Mr. Greanias, as reported, then he owes the public a good explanation. If he has no good explanation for visiting what appear to be child-porn sites using METRO computer resources, he should be terminated.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/28/11 01:06 PM |


27 July 2011

Fertitta "quietly" helps friends (well, except for plastering it all over the newspaper)

Restaurant tycoon Fertitta goes the extra mile for friends - Zain Shauk, Houston Chronicle

We've said this before, and we will say it again -- the Chron truly excels at these sorts of hagiographical, cheerleading pieces.

If there were a category devoted to this sort of thing, we suspect the newspaper would have won that elusive first Pulitzer many years ago.

Some of the comments give the piece a bit of the *ahem* balance that was missing.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/27/11 09:53 PM |


Chron finally comments on the lawsuit against Queen Sheila

Sheila Jackson Lee accused of bias? Astonishing - Lisa Falkenberg, Houston Chronicle

In which the Chron's junior columnist laughably insists that much criticism of Sheila Jackson Lee is unfair, racist, and sexist (her own effort excepted, of course), and that the Congresswoman has a reputation for “getting things done” (the main “things” that come to mind for us are needless press conferences and other efforts to game local media).

It's nice that the local newspaper finally decided to comment on this story, a couple of weeks after the Washington Times picked it up. The headline could be better, though.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/27/11 09:37 PM |


Not that there's any fat in the federal budget...

House committee would gut EPA Office of Smart Growth - Jay Crossley, Houston Tomorrow

The US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations has passed legislation that would eliminate funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Smart Growth, according to New Urban Network.

Oh no!

What will Houston's Smart Growth busybodies DO if the government funding dries up?

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/27/11 09:29 PM |


26 July 2011

City of Houston commits $20M+ to Harrisburg toy train underpass

Houston commits $20.6 million to Harrisburg light-rail underpass - YourHoustonNews.com

Of the $20.6 million in financial assistance being offered by the city:

$10.0 million — CIP funds previously committed to this issue

$4.9 million — Postponement of the Fulton Paving and Drainage Project (District. H)

$3.2 million — Postponement of the Telephone Road Reconstruction (District I)

$2.5 million — Harrisburg TIRZ funds

Well, it's always good to know that in tough budget times, the City of Houston can find a few million bucks to divert to METRO.

We're sure folks who are having their neighborhood capital improvement projects postponed because of this diversion will be delighted to be helping out the few hundred riders per day who may use the line.

When it's not raining, of course. Electric trams and rain aren't a good mix for a Houston underpass.

UPDATE: Thanks to Michael Berry for the radio shout out earlier, and for calling his audience's attention to METRO's latest.

BLOGVERSATION: Harris County Almanac.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/26/11 10:18 PM |


METRO to eliminate Airport Direct bus service

Metro to eliminate Airport Direct shuttle service to Bush - Carol Christian, Houston Chronicle

And Yellow Cab smiles.

This should come as no surprise, really. Prices were too high in the beginning, the coaches were too large to be economical, and there was not sufficient buy-in from potential downtown partners. It took way too long for METRO to start tinkering with the service (and pricing) in an effort to attract ridership to those huge coaches.

Someone (apologies, but I can't remember who. UPDATE: Remembered, Tory Gattis, here) suggested that METRO and downtown interests ought to consider a partnership with The Wave to provide reliable and economical airport jitney service. That probably makes too much sense to be considered seriously (and Yellow Cab probably would exercise a veto).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/26/11 09:48 PM |


25 July 2011

Controller warns on reserves in June, says we've "rounded corner" a month later

Here's City Controller Ron Green back in June:

Mayor Annise Parker‘s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget will cause the city to draw down its reserves so low that it will cost Houston millions more to carry its debt, Controller Ronald Green warned last week.

He issued the latest warning during a regularly scheduled report to City Council.

By Green’s projections, the city’s budget will have to draw down its reserve account by $31 million. That would leave the city with about a $71 million cash reserve. If that comes to pass, the city’s reserves would amount to about 4 percent of its $1.8 billion general fund budget.

That matters because anything below 5 percent is a signal to the bond markets that Houston is on shaky financial footing.

“It’s like having bad credit. Your borrowing costs are increased. That’s a major issue for us,” Green said.

Here's City Controller Ron Green in an op-ed that appeared in the Chronicle this past weekend:

I wasn't surprised when the city's budget became troubled - it was only doing what the area's economy was doing, an economy larger than the economies of two-thirds of the countries on Earth, an area economy that affects every municipality in the eight-county region. While the city of Houston must continue its stringent belt-tightening in FY 2012, I believe FY 2012 will be a turnaround year and that subsequent years will see an increasingly healthy revenue stream to support the city's delivery of services.

From worries over alarmingly low reserves to tangerines and roses in a little over a month!

Of course, the elephant in the room (the various muni pension plan liabilities) goes unmentioned in Green's bizarre little op-ed.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/25/11 09:55 PM |


24 July 2011

News and views roundup (24 July 2011 edition)

It's time to clear out a few links...

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/24/11 09:53 PM |


21 July 2011

CM Costello still working on Houston's "food deserts"

Interview with CM Stephen Costello - Off the Kuff

Be sure to listen about two-thirds of the way through the interview, at which point Councilmember Costello -- the public infrastructure builder who was the driving force behind the Rain Tax -- discusses his current obsession: Irrigating Houston's "food deserts" (pardon the little pun).

We previously discussed Houston's "food deserts" here. And yes, CM Costello apparently does think this is one of the city's pressing problems.

Will Franklin had an entertaining post about Austin's "food deserts" on his blog today, along with a great quip on twitter noting that the liberal social engineering project has now expanded from guaranteeing "a chicken in every pot" to "a grocery store on every block."

RELATED: Manhattan Moment: Cutting the 'food desert' myth down to size - Dr. David Gratzer, Washington Examiner.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/21/11 09:25 PM |


19 July 2011

Councilmembers criticize Mayor's HPD helicopter patrol cuts

  • HPD Helicopters Cut Back To Save Money - Jennifer Bauer, KPRC-2 News

    One of the Houston Police Department's crime-fighting tools will soon be used much less.

    Because of budget trouble, HPD's helicopters will only be flown three hours a day.

    Houston City Councilman C.O. Bradford said that is a drastic reduction from what they typically fly, and this measure is being done to save on fuel and operating costs.

    [snip]

    Bradford said each helicopter cost the city about $1.6 million. The department has 12 helicopters.

    "We cannot afford to park -- literally park -- million-dollar helicopters with state-of-the-art technology on the ground," he said.

    He has a point. We'd rather see them deployed for crimefighting, but if they aren't going to be used, sell some of them.
  • HPD Grounds Helicopter Fleet - Pat Hernandez, KUHF News

    Retired Houston Police Officer and councilmember Ed Gonzalez agrees with Bradford:

    "I know first hand how critical these helicopters and their pilots can be in assisting ground troops. They can help sometimes with car chases. It's a lot easier or more safe for a helicopter to be able to gain control of that chase, for example, by being the eyes that hover above, or sometimes if they're pursuing a suspect on foot as well."

    He says a city as big as Houston cannot exist without police presence in the air.

  • Mayor defends scaling back of HPD choppers - Gabe Gutierrez, KHOU-11 News

    [S]ome council members are asking the police chief to reconsider the cutbacks.

    "That wasn’t made very clear to us during the budget sessions," said Council Member James Rodriguez.

    The head of the Houston Police Officers Union, Gary Blankinship, also said it’s a costly move, since the city will fail to utilize 28 pilots.

    "Extreme waste of resources," Blankinship said. "It costs a lot of money to train somebody to be an HPD helicopter pilot."

  • Didn't mayoral candidate Annise Parker promise no reduction in public safety resources?

    It would seem that cutting HPD helicopter patrols so dramatically amounts to a reduction in crimefighting resources. Here's hoping the mayor will listen to the former cops on Council on this one and will look for savings elsewhere.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/19/11 10:22 PM |


    18 July 2011

    DA asked to review CM Jones ethics allegations; Review panel suspends work

    Jones panel suspends its work - Chris Moran, Chron Houston Politics

    Jolanda Jones case referred to DA - Chris Moran, Chron Houston Politics

    The Harris County District Attorney has been asked to review for possible criminal prosecution allegations that Councilwoman Jolanda Jones used city resources to support her private law practice, Mayor Annise Parker confirmed this afternoon.

    Shortly after the Office of Inspector General released a report last month summarizing its findings that Jones had used a city phone number, fax machine and employee time to run her practice, Parker said she did not believe Jones should face criminal prosecution. The alleged crimes are misdemeanors.

    Since then, Parker has chaired numerous meetings of a three-member review panel advised by City Attorney David Feldman to determine whether Jones should face the judgment of her fellow council members. If the panel sends the matter to council, Jones could face penalties ranging from reprimand to removal.

    Last week, Marc Campos noted that Councilmember Jones had seemingly begun to fight back, giving the city attorney grief in Council proceedings and making it clear she could stack chambers with supporters and activists.

    One can't help but suspect that the folks who originally thought the review panel sounded like a grand idea suddenly decided they didn't really want much to do with it.

    So the matter gets passed on to the DA. Lykos probably isn't going to bring criminal charges. The review panel will use that decision as justification not to do anything. And that will be that.

    That's how I see it playing out, anyway. What do you think?

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/18/11 10:21 PM |


    17 July 2011

    BARC turnaround featured in Chron; "The One" claims credit

    Often-criticized BARC euthanizing fewer animals - Jessica Priest, Houston Chronicle

    Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department Director Alfred J. Moran Jr., who has overseen the shelter for 18 months, said turning around BARC mostly was a matter of cleaning house.

    "Essentially, BARC was filled with employees that other departments didn't want," Moran said, noting that the Health Department's primary focus is on people. "Animals, from a strategic point of view, became the lesser of the two," he said.

    The agency was transferred from the city's Department of Health and Human Services to Moran's department in 2009. Under his direction, BARC fired some five dozen shelter employees and began concentrating on building up the shelter's infrastructure.

    Credit where due -- BARC (and the animals it shelters) seems to be in much better shape now than it was under the last administration.

    Former Mayor Bill White's high-priced CONsultant Gerry Fusco seems to want to take credit for the BARC turnaround, even though he is not cited in this story. According to his website, there apparently was even a Gerry Fusco Day in 2010! Who knew?

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/17/11 10:07 PM |


    15 July 2011

    Nick Lampson eyeing Ron Paul seat

    Door opens as Ron Paul heads for exit, and White House - Joe Holley, Houston Chronicle

    University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray, a redistricting expert, noted that the newly drawn 14th district is very similar to the district [Nick] Lampson represented before [Tom] DeLay took it apart. "A strong Democrat deeply rooted in Jefferson County would have a chance," he said.

    Some years ago, Professor Murray came out of the closet as a Democratic partisan/activist. In stories like this, it would be helpful to readers to note that fact.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/15/11 07:52 AM |


    13 July 2011

    Ryan, Lee, Eversole: Nothing to see here, move along

    Harris County is slow to probe luxuries purchased on your dime - Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle

    "My problem with the entire situation is, it appears that Edwin Harrison was just left unfettered to do as he pleased," County Judge Ed Emmett said. "Obviously, blame goes all through the county. The auditors had their jobs to do. (Budget director and Harrison's boss) Dick Raycraft had his job to do. Then Commissioners Court, we ultimately approve everything that comes through."

    The FBI is investigating Harrison and investments he made that allegedly resulted in $1.14 million in overpayments to two brokers on dozens of questionable trades in the past six years.

    That probe and several others of Harrison, who retired last month, have raised questions of why the irregularities were not caught sooner.

    Harris County presses for answers on $300,000 in travel costs - Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle

    Emmett's willingness to discuss the trip clearly bothered Ryan, Lee and Commissioner Jerry Eversole, all of whom said it was inappropriate to air such concerns in public.

    Ryan said he should not comment on Emmett's ethics questions in generalities. When Emmett attempted to raise a particular concern, however, Ryan said specifics should be discussed only in closed, executive session.

    Kudos to County Judge Ed Emmett for attempting to shine the spotlight on these questionable activities. And shame on those pols trying to keep the public in the dark.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/13/11 09:54 PM |


    HPOU exec had thousands of reasons to praise red-light cameras

    Police union director also a red-light camera lobbyist - Chris Moran, Chron Houston Politics

    Mark Clark, executive director of the Houston Police Officers Union, served as a lobbyist for the city’s red-light camera contractor in Austin this year, according to Texas Ethics Commission records.

    Clark received compensation ranging from $10,000 to $24,999 from American Traffic Solutions, according to the TEC.

    Clark, who is also a Houston police officer, said he has not done any lobbying of city hall or the City Council. He has, however, given media interviews supporting the union’s position in favor of red-light cameras. He said he did not feel obligated to disclose his connection to ATS....

    Controversy over police officer who was vocal red light camera supporter - Ted Oberg, KTRK-13 News

    While Clark did disclose his deal to the state, the city and the union, he never said anything publicly. So when he told Eyewitness News viewers last weekend, "We're glad the cameras are back on. They never should have been turned off to start with;" neither you nor us had any idea he had worked for the company at the same time he worked for the union and the city.

    "I gave viewers what they needed to know...."

    So, ATS paid this guy handsomely for lobbying, and he just happened also to put out credentialed spin in their favor (without any sort of disclosure to local media). They've paid Judge Hittner's kid handsomely. One can't help but wonder just how many more interesting financial connections there are (because that's the Houston Way).

    Of course, it's all about $afety, and always has been. *wink*

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/13/11 09:36 PM |


    12 July 2011

    Queen Sheila sued by former staffer

    Disabled ex-aide sues Jackson Lee: Cites remarks, workplace conditions - Jim McElhatton, Washington Times

    When Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee spoke at a House hearing last year, she made clear the federal government needed to do more to help disabled Americans and even talked of plans to introduce legislation named after singer Stevie Wonder to help disabled schoolchildren.

    Queen Sheila Jackson Lee
    But a former top aide to the Texas Democrat, said the lawmaker’s public support for the disabled was nowhere to be found in her own congressional office when it came to the aide’s vision impairment. Mona Floyd, who served as the congresswoman’s legislative director, has monocular vision. She said she was told by Mrs. Jackson Lee in a private conversation within weeks of the hearing, “I don’t care anything about your disability.”

    Another time, when Ms. Floyd, a lawyer, brought up her disability, she said another staffer told her the congresswoman had said, “I don’t give a damn about her disability.”

    The accusations were outlined in a sharply-worded lawsuit filed recently in federal court in Washington, which seeks unspecified pay and compensatory and punitive damages.

    We knew from a previous report that Queen Sheila wasn't exactly a joy to work for. It seems that it's even worse for staffers with disabilities.

    AND.... now we also know why Queen Sheila was trying to change the topic the same day this story appeared by announcing to the local TV stations she was rushing back to DC to save the debt-ceiling talks!

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/12/11 07:55 PM |


    State to North Forest ISD: Close the doors

    After years of academic and financial failure, the state's Education Commissioner is revoking North Forest ISD's accreditation and ordering it to shut down after the 2011-12 school year.

    So what will happen to the district's students?

    Scott's spokeswoman said Tuesday that he is proposing that the neighboring Houston Independent School District annex North Forest ISD and assume the responsibility of educating the approximately 7,500 students.

    Oh.

    Posted by Anne Linehan @ 07/12/11 05:13 PM |


    11 July 2011

    Parker Administration readies more restrictions on property use

    Some Potential Setbacks for Tall Buildings in Houston - Swamplot

    A new draft ordinance prepared by the city’s planning department aims to make it tougher to build tall buildings next to single-family homes. The proposal is called the High Density Ordinance, but many of its restrictions would apply to any structure more than 75 feet tall, no matter how tightly packed or slow-witted the folks are inside. Well, with some exceptions...

    Density in Houston is good and desirable.

    Except when density in Houston is not good or desirable.

    It gets tricky trying to make sense of the whims of Houston's elites when they start dictating how ordinary Houstonians should live and use their property -- which is one of many reasons we've been served well over the years by a more hands-off approach.

    We do wish further restricting the rights of property owners was less of a priority for the Parker Administration, and that the budget shortfalls and jobs were a little higher on the list.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/11/11 08:57 PM |


    Bridge lighting to return to Southwest Freeway bridges?

    TxDOT, city, locals working to replace lighting on Southwest Freeway bridges - Ken Fountain, YourHoustonNews.com

    Early this year, TxDOT officials began talking with Houston officials about the possibility of working together on re-lighting one of the bridges as a pilot project before going ahead with the other five.

    [snip]

    But the problem of funding remained, at least until other voices in the community spoke up.

    The board of the Montrose Management District (made up the former East Montrose Management District and the newly formed West Montrose Management District), recently voted to contribute $33,000 toward the installation of LED lighting on the Montrose bridge, according to Josh Hawes of Hawes Hill Calderon, the firm that administers the district.

    That commitment helped officials in Mayior Annise Parker's office decide to back a proposal by which the city would maintain the lights afterward, said Andy Icken, chief development officer.

    Those bridges have looked awful for a long time, so restoring some sort of lighting will be a nice touch. It's strange, though, that momentum for this restoration project has picked up during a time of tight budgets.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/11/11 08:40 PM |


    10 July 2011

    DeGeurin discusses Fast and Furious on Fox News' "Special Report"

    Famed Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin made an appearance in a report that appeared on Fox News' Special Report with Brett Baier last Friday (roughly 1:30 into the video):

    DeGuerin was speaking on behalf of local outdoors purveyor Carter's Country, which was forced to supply arms to questionable individuals by the Obama Administration as part of the "Fast and Furious" operation that is just now starting to attract some press attention. Initially, the Washington Post fingered Carter's Country as one of the "bad guys" (when in reality they actually alerted the government to the questionable arms deals).

    UPDATE: Here is the direct link to the embedded Fox News video. Some ad blockers might be killing the embed on the site.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/10/11 10:08 PM |


    07 July 2011

    Bill King on the Houston pension slow-motion crash

    Houston's pension plight is like a slow-motion crash - Bill King, Houston Chronicle

    Pursuant to the agreement that was approved by council last week, the city will only fund $98.5 million instead of the $133 million the actuaries say is needed. In other words, if the actuaries' calculations are correct, the city just agreed to push off another $35 million to future taxpayers and increase the unfunded liability of this plan by at least that amount. But the actual increase in the unfunded liability will likely be much higher, considering that the increase last year was $192 million.

    The agreement also establishes a schedule for the contributions the city will be required to make in the future. This year, the city's contribution of $98.5 million will equate to a little more than 19 percent of the payroll for these employees. That compares to the 22 percent the actuaries said was needed. The agreement provides that the city's contribution will increase by 2 percent each year until it is paying the actuarially required amount.

    One might assume from this planned increase that the city will be caught up and making the required contribution within a couple of years. However, that is not the case, because the actuaries also project that the required contribution rate will continue to rise, eventually hitting nearly 30 percent in 2020.

    And even these projections are based on some pretty optimistic assumptions.

    Mayor Annise Parker, like the mayor who preceded her, has quickly learned that it's much easier politically to kick this can down the road for someone else to deal with.

    Eventually, as Bill King keeps warning, we're going to have to settle the tab on all the promises Houston pols have made over the years.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/07/11 09:53 PM |


    06 July 2011

    Mayor Parker tosses aside will of voters, says cameras are coming back on

    City of Houston Seeks Permission to Appeal Red Light Camera Decision - Mayor's Press Release

    Mayor Annise Parker today announced that the City will attempt to appeal a recent court ruling invalidating last fall’s vote on red-light cameras. In the meantime, the red-light cameras will be turned back on today. Ticket issuance will resume after a short period of equipment testing.

    “This is a difficult decision,” said Mayor Parker. “I have a responsibility to represent the interests of the voters, but I also have a responsibility to abide by the judge’s ruling. The City just went through a very painful budget process in which nearly 750 employees were laid off and park, library and health services were cut back. We simply don’t have the millions they claim we would owe for violating the court decision and our contractual obligation to American Traffic Solutions (ATS). Therefore, I have decided the fiscally-prudent path to take is to turn the cameras back on while also seeking a second chance for the voters in the courts.”

    Does anyone believe the "appeal" is anything but a token maneuver to give the mayor political cover?

    The RIGHT thing to do would be to honor the will of the voters and break the contract (knowing full well the damages might have to be litigated) while letting the same voters know that former Mayor Bill White's too-clever removal of a reasonable opt-out provision in the contract put the City of Houston in the position of owing ATS damages for respecting the decision of voters.

    At the very least, this press release should have specified that the cameras would be gone no matter what upon expiry of the contract in 2014. It's telling that Mayor Parker declined to make that pledge.

    BLOGVERSATION: Harris County Almanac, The Defense Rests, Campos Communications Blog.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/06/11 01:00 PM |


    04 July 2011

    KTRH morning news changes starting Tuesday

    Hughes, Pritchard are out at news station KTRH - David Barron, Houston Chronicle

    Lana Hughes and J.P. Pritchard, the longtime hosts of KTRH’s (740 AM) morning newscast, will be replaced Tuesday....

    Hughes and Pritchard, who have worked together at the station for 27 years and are members of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, were informed of the changes after their morning shifts. Thursday was their last day on the air, and Houston‘s Morning News with Matt Patrick will debut Tuesday at 5 a.m.

    Pritchard, 63, said his departure from KTRH and the change in the morning newscast reflects the changing nature of radio.

    “Lana and I both understood this was going to take place at some point,” he said. “It’s a trend. It’s not personal. It’s the way radio goes. Clear Channel has been very good to both of us. It’s the market forces, the way of the world.”

    Unfortunately, Houston seems to be a declining market when it comes to hardcore news, reflected by shrinkage in many news organizations. We wondered how much longer any sort of hard news program would survive on KTRH. Clear Channel is in business to make money, after all. That's not to minimize the loss of another hardcore news program. Newsies like us apparently just aren't enough of a target audience for a blowtorch AM radio station in Houston these days. It is what it is.

    KTRH All But Says Goodbye to News, Welcomes More Right-Wing Blather - Richard Connelly, Village Voice Houston

    The constant complaints from this guy about Houston's changing radio scene is more than a little ironic (and amusing), given his own publication's evolution from alternative must-read print publication written by professional journalists to... an online "media" outfit that generates pageviews by flooding the zone with mostly amateurish content and a print *ahem* targeted ad delivery product. Like Clear Channel, Village Voice is in business to make money too, we suppose.

    Too bad for newsies.

    Posted by Kevin Whited @ 07/04/11 09:53 PM |


    03 July 2011

    HISD: Political cronyism is acceptable

    As Texas Watchdog continues to unearth devastating details of HISD trustees' questionable judgment, one wonders how the old Jason Spencer would have reacted to these revelations?

    Okay, we don't have to wonder too hard. But the new Jason Spencer and the Chronicle have been fairly muted in reacting to what is adding up to some serious lapses. I mean, check out Spencer's response to Texas Watchdog when asked about Houston ISD trustee president Paula Harris voting on millions of dollars worth of contracts that went to a friend of hers:

    “The district’s conflicts of interest policies are significantly tighter than any restrictions in state law. To our knowledge, HISD was the first school district in Texas to adopt a local policy prohibiting businesses in which trustees, or trustees’ relatives, have a financial interest from contracting with the district.”

    And this from the complete text of questions submitted to HISD and HISD's response:

    There is no requirement in law for a school district trustee or, to our knowledge, any other elected official in Texas, to abstain from voting on a contract that has been recommended by staff, simply because the trustee or elected official might have a personal friendship with someone who works for or owns a business. There are requirements for trustees and other elected officials to file forms disclosing businesses in which they or their relatives have financial interests, and to abstain from voting on contracts with those businesses. There is no requirement in law for a school trustee to disclose every business with which a friend of a trustee is associated. HISD regularly discusses with trustees their obligations to report business relationships as required by law and by District policy.

    Hiding behind the distinction that no law has been broken doesn't excuse the behavior, nor does it make it more palatable. What it does do is reinforce the anger at those who profit through their connections to the powerful. Cronyism funded by taxpayer dollars is reprehensible.

    Posted by Anne Linehan @ 07/03/11 08:21 AM |


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