20 December 2011

A Happy Holidays news and views roundup

The holidays are upon us, and we've overwhelmed.

So, here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Festive Kwanzaa, or whatever holiday you do or do not celebrate. We'll be taking a little break, but here's a news dump in the meantime to clear out the backlog. May Pancho Claus be good to you this year!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/20/11 11:03 AM |


14 December 2011

Occupy Houston squatters have cost HPD (read: taxpayers) an extra $366k so far

No clarity on why tent was used to cover arrests of Occupy activists - James Pinkerton and Safiya Ravat, Houston Chronicle

So far, Houston police have racked up $366,734 in additional costs to deal with the Occupy Houston protesters, who set up camp in Tranquility Park across from City Hall on Oct. 6., HPD spokeswoman Jodi Silva said.

The amount includes $10,789 in overtime paid to officers, but does not include costs associated with Monday's protest at the port.


Those were the last two grafs of the story. Talk about burying the lede!

For a followup, it would be nice to know how much Mayor Parker's decision to give away electricity (safely!) to the Occupy Houston squatters is costing taxpayers.

Interestingly, TIME just named this drain on productive society, generally speaking, its Man of the Year. Neat, huh?!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/14/11 08:03 PM |


METRO spreads holiday cheer to local hospital

Ho, Ho, Ho...METRO Blue Santa Cheers Young Patients - Write on METRO

METRO Blue Santa arrived by a custom-decorated Polar Express METRORail to Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital on Dec. 10, bringing bears, coloring books and cookies to young patients - along with X-boxes and Play Stations.

Siblings also received bears and coloring books.

This was the second annual Blue Santa visit to Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital - an event made possible by the hundreds of METRO employees who donated time, money, and bought barbeque, hot dogs and raffle tickets to raise funds.


Well, good for METRO for giving a little something back to the community. We do question the wisdom of letting disgraced CEO George Greanias (who was caught surfing apparent adolescent gay porn sites at work earlier this year) anywhere near children, however.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/14/11 07:48 PM |


13 December 2011

McGuff: Parker Administration campaigns for KPRC reporter

Houston City Hall campaigns for KPRC 2's Mary Benton - Mike McGuff

Tweets started going out from Houston City Hall staffers Wednesday morning promoting a new campaign. This was not a campaign about getting out the vote for Saturday's runoff elections or a new city council proposal, it was to get some TV coverage:

jessicamichan Jessica Michan
Starting a #Twitter campaign for @KPRCLocal2 to send @MaryBenton to cover City Hall. We need her here! She gets it!! #Mary2CityHall


This is just the latest amateur move from the Parker Administration, which shouldn't be naming reporters they'd like to come cover them. However innocuous it seems, it looks bad (like the Parker Administration is playing favorites) and puts the reporter in a tough spot (to avoid the appearance of being a City Hall fav, the reporter might well feel the need to be more critical than is warranted).

Mayor Annise Parker is working on her second decade of elected service in Houston municipal government. Given her experience, it's really surprising that her mayoral administration so regularly stumbles and bumbles like it does.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/13/11 09:39 PM |


12 December 2011

Runoff voters reject candidates favored by local lefty groups (or, what you don't really learn from the Chron's tired partisan "observers")

Houston runoff shows voters want change - Zain Shauk, Houston Chronicle

The results illustrate a continuation of a national trend of anger and frustration toward government during the worst economic stretch since the Great Depression, political observers said.

[snip]

"A lot of people are angry at virtually all institutions and the government is high on their list," said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. "And these are the people in a low-turnout election that are most likely to show up because they are angry. They're agitated."

[snip]

The results show clear opposition to the status quo, particularly following a general election in which Mayor Annise Parker and several council members narrowly avoided runoff elections, said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University.

"It's a strong repudiation of this administration - not just the mayor, but the council," Stein said.

Where to start with this?

First and foremost, the "national trend" has not been one of anger and frustration toward government (read: incumbents), but rather anger and frustration toward liberal Democratic government. We thought most media had given up on the unsupportable "anti-incumbent" meme, but apparently Zain Shauk hasn't been paying attention.

Of course, it doesn't help that the "experts" he talked to are two professors who are also Democratic partisans/activists (though Shauk does continue the Chron tradition of not identifying these two properly). Unsurprisingly, Professor Murray wants this to be generally about dissatisfaction with institutions and government and NOT liberal Democratic government (of the sort he favors). Stein at least gets closer to an insight, which is that in the runoff, a cadre of motivated voters expressed dissatisfaction with the Parker Administration and some members of Council (either seen as enablers or buffoons). It's also worth nothing that candidates endorsed by liberal groups (and the Chron) fared poorly in the runoff, whereas the candidates favored by conservative groups fared well (see Campos for more -- one can always tell when a liberal is unhappy with voters by the number of times vulgarities are used in a post).

Perhaps Zain Shauk and other Chron metro reporters will find some new sources for their reporting on Houston politics one of these days. Cory Crow has more on this ongoing problem.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/12/11 09:46 PM |


04 December 2011

More on Houston's deserts (food, mobility, and journalism)

Survey: Some areas in Houston lack grocery stores - Andy Cerota, KTRK-13 News

Fresh, healthy affordable food is not something Acres Homes residents take for granted.

"We have to go all the way out to I-45 and West Road to get to Walmart," resident Julie Hobley said.

They live in what's called a "food desert," a section of the city without enough access to grocery stores. What's more is that this area is not alone.

"In Houston, food deserts are a big problem. We have more food deserts than other metropolitan cities in the US," said Laura Spanjian with the city of Houston.


What is KTRK's deal with this press release reporting on "food deserts?"

As was the case with Ted Oberg's horrible reporting on this topic, "food desert" is not defined in any meaningful sense (what is "enough access to grocery stores?" Beats me. KTRK apparently isn't sharing, other than one bureaucrat's view whose job appears to involve figuring out ways to squander taxpayer dollars on remedying this "problem").

And here's a fun stat, repeated authoritatively:

It's a big deal when you consider some 440,000 Houston-area residents don't have access to good, quality nutritious food at low prices.


Did Cerota just pull that out of his posterior, or did that number come from some big-government bureaucrat? Again, beats me. KTRK doesn't say.

Once more, there's not one voice in the story asking why in the world this is a problem for the city to solve (read: squander taxpayer dollars). Just cheerleading. And there is certainly nobody raising the "Mobility Desert" question we did in our last blog post on this topic, which brings us to this:

Metro hearing will mull route changes - Caroline Evans, YourHoustonNews.com

Commuters who ride the bus might have to find a different route to work by January.

On Dec. 5, Metro will hold a public hearing on a proposal that would eliminate several bus routes, including the 49 Chimney Rock Crosstown, the 313 Allen Parkway Special and the 35 Fairview, which goes through River Oaks on San Felipe.


The 2003 referendum promised a 50% increase in bus service. Instead, it is cut, year after year after year, so METRO can funnel more money to a tram buildout that will serve few people.

Poor people who live in "food deserts" could probably use reliable bus service to address their shopping needs. METRO instead tells them their declining bus service is a "service enhancement" and big-government pols at City Hall try to figure out ways to squander taxpayer dollars by bribing grocery stores to build in neighborhoods that otherwise don't appeal to them (with cheerleading from KTRK and the Chron). Neat!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 12/04/11 08:47 PM |


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