15 August 2009
Where in Texas is Mayor White? (cont'd)
Last Tuesday Senate-Candidate White was in Longview, talking about bringing people together, and getting things done:
"I know how to bring people together and get things done," White said.
Er, exactly. Anyway, it's so soothingly vague as to be persuasive, apparently:
Mark McMahon, a local lawyer who attended the fundraiser, said he enjoyed White's speech.
"I think he'd make a good candidate," McMahon said. "He's mainstream and well-rounded."
12 July 2009
Why Bill White chose to run for senate
From Rick Casey's June 27th column:
He said Friday he is convinced that his background in energy both in the private sector and in Washington as deputy secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, as well as six years as mayor, gives him “experience that can make a difference for this state and country.”
He reportedly has said privately that another reason is that he could not with a straight face say as a gubernatorial candidate that he wouldn’t raise taxes in the face of the problems the state faces.
He fears he wouldn't be able to sweep the state's financial challenges under the rug as he has the city's pension mess, so he chose to run for the easier office?
12 June 2009
Chief Hurtt still in the running for SFPD top job
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt is one of three finalists for the top cop job in San Francisco, sources have told the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has selected the city’s next police chief, but he said Thursday his pick is thinking twice about accepting the job after a Board of Supervisors committee voted to strip public safety agencies of tens of millions of dollars in funding.
The Board of Supervisors budget committee voted Wednesday to rewrite parts of Newsom’s interim budget. Traditionally, the board rubber stamps the interim budget, but the committee voted to strip $82 million out of the police, fire and sheriff’s departments to reverse cuts to the health and social services programs.
I'll bet some camera revenue could generate replacement funds.
And then there's this:
Hurtt could not be reached for comment.
Hurtt is out of the office this week, HPD spokeswoman Jodi Silva said.
Phoenix is lovely this time of year.
15 February 2009
Terry Hayes, RIP
Matt Stiles passes along word via twitter that Terry Hayes, the Chronicle's "Cancer Diva" blogger, has passed away from the disease.
Chron.com has posted the unfortunate news here.
The Cancer Diva blog was a real inspiration, and so was Terry Hayes by all accounts. Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones tonight.
03 February 2009
Bicyclist Stein opines on Houston dining
For a guy who complains about allegedly being misquoted by the press, Bicyclist Bob Stein, Houston's expert on everything, sure does like to give his opinion to the press on, well, pretty much everything.
Here is Stein's latest, from Bloomberg:
Consumers across the U.S. may be tightening their belts during the recession, but Texans are bellying up for more restaurant meals.
Sales at Texas restaurants are projected to rise 4 percent this year, more than in any other state, the National Restaurant Association forecast. That outstrips its 2.4 percent estimate for all U.S. restaurant sales.
Restaurateurs are being encouraged by the Texas economy, said Mike Donohue, spokesman for the Washington-based trade group. The state’s population will increase 1.7 percent this year and disposable incomes will rise 2 percent, according to the group’s estimates. The December jobless rate in Texas was 6 percent, compared with 7.2 percent nationwide.
“We’re certainly glad we’re not opening in a city that revolves around the financial industry,” said Tom Kaplan, senior managing partner for Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, based in Las Vegas, whose grand opening for Five-Sixty, atop Dallas’s Reunion Tower, is next week. “What we’re seeing is instilling confidence in Texas.”Demographics play a role in big cities such as Houston, said Bob Stein, sociology and political science professor at Rice University. Thirty-seven percent of Houston households include children under 18 years old, he said.
“It’s not just about having the money, it’s about juggling the day,” Stein said. “A high population of families with school-age kids and two wage earners is a perfect recipe for eating out a lot.”
We had no idea (from his vita) that Bicyclist Stein had ever researched Houston or urban dining patterns. He truly is a knowledgeable man of the world, and we always enjoy reading his opinions on... well, everything!
25 January 2009
Houston METRO officer represents Houston well in DC
A few days ago, Jason blogged about the Houston METRO officer who saved a woman who was about to have an unfortunate encounter with a train.
As it turns out, officer Eliot Swainson was one busy guy helping save D.C. residents:
Less than 24 hours after saving a woman who fell in front of a Washington subway train, a Houston, Texas, transit cop was at it again.
Moments after leaving an interview Wednesday about his heroics at the train station, Houston Metro Officer Eliot Swainson helped victims escape an early morning fire at a Washington row house.
Swainson, who was deputized to help with crowds at President Obama's inauguration, and two Washington transit officers noticed smoke pouring from the row house in northwest Washington.
"We just pounded on doors and stuff," he said. "We couldn't get into the unit that was actually burned -- there was just too much smoke coming out of there."
D.C. residents are surely thankful for Officer Swainson's assistance.
Now if you don't mind, we'd like him back, thanks! He's a man who's much too useful to be in D.C. We'll happily trade you Queen Sheila and other useless pols.
16 January 2009
Chron: Borris Miles found not guilty; Defense attorney alleges conspiracy
The Chronicle's Brian Rogers reports that a jury has found former state Rep. Borris Miles not guilty of charges of deadly conduct stemming from alleged misconduct at a 2007 holiday party:
Jury foreman Forrest Peugnet said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict.
“There just wasn’t a smoking gun,” Peugnet said.
After the verdict, Miles said he was “glad the truth finally came out.”
“I went to the Toyota Center; I went to the St. Regis, but I didn’t have a gun at all,” Miles said.
He also said he would consider going back into politics if asked by his former constituents.
In closing arguments, Hardin said leading members of Houston’s African-American business community had orchestrated a campaign to unseat Miles and ruin his insurance business by lying about what happened.
“These people, who had an incredible motive to lie, did in fact, lie to you,” said Hardin. “What’s happening here is a disgrace.”
Prosecutors said that believing all of the witnesses conspired is ridiculous.
“Do you think all of these people want to come down here and talk about this?” Assistant District Attorney Jon Stephenson asked jurors.
“Of course not. It’s ridiculous.”
Voters apparently thought there was some merit to the story. Perhaps Miles should have Rusty Hardin run his next campaign! Hardin can be a persuasive fellow.
So the next question is: Did Miles' accusers conspire to smear an innocent man for personal and political reasons, and will the appropriate authorities pursue that possibility with as much energy as they pursued this case?
12 January 2009
Queen Sheila: Economic stimulas must come to Houston!
KRIV-26's Isiah Carey describes a Sheila Jackson Lee press conference that was delayed today, due to a spelling glitch.
It's good to know that even in tough economic times, we can count on Queen Sheila for a laugh.
13 November 2008
That's Peter Brown, ARCHITECT
KHOU-11's Lee McGuire has a great quote from Councilmember Peter Brown on some goofy construction at the new Costco on Richmond:
We found a traffic signal and utility pole sticking out of a handicap ramp on the sidewalk.
The maze lines one side of the new Costco shopping complex along Richmond. The sidewalk is part of Houston's effort to become more pedestrian friendly.
[snip]Houston City Council Member Peter Brown saw the sidewalk for himself on Thursday.
"Well that's a brand new pole," Brown said. "This is really the dumbest kind of construction I've seen in a long time and you know I'm an architect."
"It's really frightening, it's atrocious that this would happen in a new project," Brown said. "But, you know, you can't blame anybody particularly, except I would blame the city for not having standards."
Peter Brown is an architect? Who knew?
08 November 2008
Bicyclist Bob Stein goes international, downplays Obama's accomplishments vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton
Bicyclist Bob Stein, Houston's (Democratic) expert on everything and every (lazy) local political journalist's go-to man for the obvious quote, has gone international! The bicyclist is featured in today's Ottawa Citizen:
Bob Stein, author and political science professor at Rice University in Houston, agrees that the Clinton campaign was more substantive than Mr. Obama's."She was far more specific on policy," he says. "And my guess now is that she is more interested in her policies than she is in position."
Pushing Mrs. Clinton as Senate majority leader would be controversial and difficult, says Ms. Parry-Giles, who is writing a book about media coverage of the former first lady dating back to her pre-White House days.
Whatever becomes of Mrs. Clinton, she remains very much in the political game, adds Mr. Stein.
"Nobody thought that either a black man or a woman could be a candidate for president," he says, "and what she achieved was breaking a glass ceiling that was even more formidable than the barriers to electing a black man."
Gee, we wonder whom the bicyclist supported in the primaries? Not that he would ever let us know, given the reputation of impartial bicyclist/political observer that he must uphold (for lazy local political journalists, at least). *wink* *nod*
15 October 2008
Good times with Lee P. Brown!
While recovering from last weekend's backpacking trip, we missed a gem that appeared on the Chronicle's (ethically challenged) editorial page from none other than Lee P. Brown, the former mayor/police chief responsible for so many of Houston's problems.
The cost to maintain the nation's police, judicial and corrections system costs American taxpayers some $204 billion annually.
Costs ... cost?
The temporary drop in the crime rate that has occurred in the past couple of years is not likely to become permanent.
Temporary declines are... temporary?
Deep stuff! Thank you, former Mayor Brown, for a fun flashback to Houston's recent past. And thank you, term limits, for putting an end to it before he could do further harm to the city.
09 July 2008
Gray: "In his personal life, [Mincberg]'s a teardown kind of guy"
The Chronicle's Lisa Gray expands on a topic covered on local blogs previously in a column about David Mincberg's plans to tear down an architecturally interesting home on his property:
David Mincberg, the Democratic candidate for county judge, promises that if elected to Harris County's top job, he'll do everything possible to save the Astrodome. But in his personal life, he's a teardown kind of guy.
In April, Mincberg bought an architecturally significant house at 6040 Glen Cove, a few blocks east of Memorial Park, with plans to raze it and build a new house for his family.
The Harris County Appraisal District values the house and its land at $2.8 million, an impressive price for a teardown even in this gilded age. (Mincberg has appealed the appraisal.) But the 1.3-acre property, complete with a turtle pond and ravine, is a significant trophy, and it lies in a neighborhood that's a magnet for expensive new development.
Mincberg doesn't think that his razing the house will faze voters. ``The public sees an enormous disparity between the Astrodome and a house,'' he says.
The Astrodome, he notes, is a beloved, publicly owned icon in a highly visible part of Houston. He fondly remembers watching baseball there as a boy. ``We have to explore every conceivable option to preserve it,'' he says.
At some point, the expensive albatross known as the Astrodome is going to need to be destroyed. Nobody wants to say it, but that's the most likely scenario. As for Mincberg's home -- it's his property, and if he wants to tear down an architecturally significant home to replace it with a McMansion, that's certainly his right. But Gray's contrast of his rationales in each case is interesting, as is her conclusion:
Mincberg says he hoped his family could live in the Crispin house. But he says previous owners neglected the house, and that it's been flooded.
During the option period, Mincberg had it inspected twice. He says his inspectors found termites, foundation troubles, mechanical problems, ``you name it'' - major problems he says render the house unlivable. But instead of leaving those problems to some other buyer, he closed the deal, with plans to tear the house down and build something new on its lot.
Historic buildings often suffer structural infirmities. And fixing them doesn't come cheap. But TLC has revived many an abused old building - and revived a piece of its city's history along with it.
From what I could tell, the Glen Cove house isn't an extreme case. According to Harris County tax appraisers, the house's condition is ``above average.'' Termites may have chewed some of the house's trim, but it's hard to see how they could hurt a steel frame. And the house certainly looks solid, both from the street and in photos that the previous owner used to market it.
I asked Mincberg to share the inspectors' report with me. He declined.
I trust he'd be more transparent in his dealings with the Astrodome.
Does running government "like a business" include transparency? Hmm, that's refreshing to know.
08 July 2008
Arrogance of power, John Whitmire edition
Gary Scharrer of the Chron's Austin bureau reports on a California activist who's doing the work that once was done by watchdog reporter types:
A California disabled veteran who spends six days a week sifting through campaign finance reports has filed complaints against 10 Texas legislators and 15 judges with the Texas Ethics Commission, ranging from failing to identify campaign donors to using campaign money for personal use.
One of the complaints takes aim at state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, for dipping into his massive campaign chest for $165,061 worth of Houston Astros, Texans and Rockets tickets — expenses the veteran says personally benefit the senator.
"Does every voter get a free ticket to the ballgame?" wonders Dave Palmer, who filed the complaint. "It's a wonder that the Astros don't ask him to call balls and strikes."
In his campaign finance report, Whitmire says the expense was necessary for "constituent entertainment."
Politics is big business, of course, and our politicians have grown very accustomed to the same sorts of perks that many top business executives enjoy.
Besides, Sen. Whitmire told the Chronicle that watchdogs shouldn't be so worried about his political bidness:
"It's a total non-issue by some character out in California, so I don't care what he thinks," Whitmire said Monday when the commission received Palmer's complaints.
As one sarcastic Chron.com commenter wrote, "Ah, the voice of a public servant."
It's not clear that the sports expenditures actually amount to an ethics violation, but there is a clear violation detailed later in the report:
Palmer's complaint against Whitmire also accuses the senator of not fully identifying major campaign contributors by not including the donor's occupation and employer. The requirement became law in 2003 for those who contributed at least $500. Whitmire has failed to fully identify more than 250 supporters whose contributions amounted to more than $400,000, Palmer said.
Whitmire said he was unaware of the requirement and will instruct the person who prepares his reports to amend them.
Wait a second, we thought he didn't care about these alleged non-issues raised by a Californian?
BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport.
22 June 2008
Peter Brown has figured out the root cause of violence: high gas prices
Really. Anger and violence are caused by high gas prices and job dissatisfaction, so sayeth Councilman Peter Brown:
With word Saturday that yet another parent was implicated in an attack on his children — police say he led them to the partially burned bodies — there was a feeling that something is horribly wrong with some families in the Greater Houston metropolitan area.
"Whether it is high gas prices or people not happy with their jobs or whatever, we have got a lot of anger and violence in our society, way too much, particularly family violence," Houston Councilman Peter Brown said.
14 June 2008
Slumlord-Rep. Vo: I hope voters won't hold this against me
Slumlord-Rep. Vo pats himself on the back, saying "I kept my promise," except that he kept his promise only after he was caught. He certainly didn't keep his promise to his tenants until Councilman Rodriguez raised a stink.
Former Congressman J. C. Watts' definition of character is fitting in this instance: “Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught.”
Maybe he could actually visit his properties once in a while, and talk to his tenants.
Vo said he hoped voters would not define him based on one issue.
"I can't speak for my opponent," he said. "I just hope that people will look at my legislative record and the things that I have done for the district."
Don't forget Vo's motto: Accessible. Responsive. Independent -- "It’s all about being accessible to you and our community, responsive to the needs of your family or small business, and independent enough to put people over politics."
Maybe now Vo will apply his motto to his tenants, and not just voters in his district.
MORE: I had forgotten about Vo's attempt to intimidate HPD to ease up on his slum properties -- he used official Texas House of Representatives letterhead! As Kevin noted at the time, "Nothing like trying* to use your elected position of power to intimidate local law enforcement to the benefit of your private enterprise."
I'll bet Slumlord-Rep. Vo hopes voters won't hold this whole sorry spectacle against him.
01 June 2008
Chron profiles one Houstonian's travel hobby
The Chronicle's Dai Huynh profiles a Houston man who makes a habit of being on inaugural Continental Airlines flights:
Circling the Earth by plane would add 25,000 miles to your frequent flier account. Imagine doing that four times a year.
Jim Shelly travels city-to-city, country-to-country for his job as a sports consultant and marketer. He averages more than 100,000 miles per year, or four times around the world. You would think the Houston-based road warrior would have grown weary of life in the sky. Not Shelly, who has boarded every major Continental Airlines inaugural flight of eight hours or longer since a dare in 2001.
He doesn't fly on the inaugural flights for work, either. He does it for fun, and on his own dime.
"It's a buzz, going over and coming back," Shelly said. "There's an excitement that is hard to replicate. Look around, I don't think anybody is going to sleep on this inaugural flight to Mumbai."
Last fall, Shelly was on Continental's first daily, nonstop service between Mumbai and its New Jersey hub at Newark Liberty International Airport. All around him, the mostly Indian passengers were standing in the aisles, chatting about the significance of the nonstop route that would allow U.S. travelers to bypass lengthy connections in Europe. Also, Mumbai is India's commercial center. The new service, several people said, further validates India's influence on the business world.
"They're excited," Shelly said. "Who can blame them? It's almost like they're making history because they're the first on this flight. It's unique; it's something not many people get to do."
Unless you're Shelly. His first inaugural flight was to Hong Kong, followed by Amsterdam, Geneva, Beijing, New Delhi, Mumbai and most recently, London Heathrow Airport. Next year, he plans to board Continental's inaugural flight from Newark Liberty to Shanghai.
Many sane people probably wonder about Mr. Shelly's unusual hobby, but I have to admit being a little envious. I would at least spend a few days at the locations, though. Same-day turns to exotic places don't make much sense to me, but maybe he's already seen it all.
26 April 2008
How sweet it's been
Earlier this week, the Chronicle's Fran Blinebury penned a nice profile of longtime Rockets' announcers Gene Peterson and Jim Foley, both of whom will be retiring at the end of the season.
Gene Peterson has always been my favorite "voice" of the local teams -- so much so that it's really hard to imagine anyone but Peterson doing Rockets' games. Depending on tonight's outcome (it's not looking good at the moment), we may have only one more installment of Peterson's sweet announcing. It's too bad injuries and the Utah Floppers are likely to prevent a deep playoff run, which would be a nicer sendoff than another first-round exit.
20 April 2008
Local busybody says too many of us are driving solo
Peter Wang, a geophysicist in the oilfield services and a board member of the Citizens' Transportation Coalition, pointed out that with oil topping at $100 a barrel and an apparent recession shrinking our economy, we should consider carpooling or vanpooling if we have a regular office schedule.
Wang said he believes most of us don't do so because of socio-psychological reasons. We adhere to the lone cowboy image - especially here in Texas - and we want to drive alone into the sunset. But that, argued Wang, is not the way to build an efficient transportation system.
In a comment to the post, Wang expands his point in response to a question from Kevin Whited:
Kevin, I don't mean to imply steathily that single-occupant vehicles should be gotten rid of. I myself drive my SOV about 75 miles per week. But I will explicitly and publicly state that SOVs are very much over-used in our society, and this overuse creates lots of problems.
Basically, the current generation of Americans have given their hearts and minds over to the marketing people at the car companies. They really do want to be "Ford Tough" or whatever. They will acquire massive debt and waste all kinds of money and resources to implement the lifestyle that has been hypnotized into their brains.
What kind of lifestyle is it do be perpetually in debt, no cash flow, and no forseeable way to even continue in the current mode into the coming decades?
That's the nightmare we are living. We have to change.
What an astounding mindset.
Who determines what is overuse of single occupancy vehicles? What is the criterion? Why does Peter Wang get to say that everyone is in the grip of automaker marketing? Who is he to say that we all are in massive debt, and that we waste all kinds of money and resources on our lifestyles?
Hypnotized?? Is he serious?!
Who is he to determine what is an acceptable level of debt and cash flow? Does he propose government start monitoring our bank accounts? Does he have a crystal ball that tells him what will happen in coming decades.
Just because Peter Wang wants to ride a bike and use mass transit doesn't mean the majority of us want to. Most of us like to have control of our transportation. We like the freedom of being able to run errands when we want to, pick up the kids when we need to, meet friends for lunch when we like to. If our transportation becomes a hardship, then we will make adjustments.
This whole nanny-state mindset is what eats away at our freedoms, our liberties. For goodness sake, the government is going to mandate what kind of light bulbs we can buy in the future. And the light bulbs the government has chosen are more damaging to the environment, AND give some people headaches! But the decision has been made for us. Soon, no more choice.
If we want to change our driving habits and our lifestyles, then we will change them, but we shouldn't be forced to do so because someone else has set some arbitrary standards. Locally, the real nightmare will begin when Peter Wang and his like-minded friends start running things.
17 April 2008
KTRK's Lawson checks in with Priscilla Slade Rehabilitation project
Not even a month since disgraced former TSU president Priscilla Slade copped a plea to avoid prison, her rehabilitation is officially in full swing, beginning with an "exclusive" softball interview with KTRK-13's Melanie Lawson. The text is not available online, but here is the video.
It is not that we were admitting that any criminal acts had taken place.
Rather, she wishes she had communicated better with the regents, because (as she puts it) everything she did was in the interest of Texas Southern University.
Strangely, the "exclusive" interview with Slade also includes a snippet from Slade's attorney blasting Chuck Rosenthal. (It is bizarre that supporters of white-collar criminals like Slade and Jay Aiyer somehow want to blame Chuck Rosenthal and portray these criminals as victims).
However, Slade herself says she forgives Rosenthal. And she hopes to get back into the corporate world or the academic world!
Maybe Slade can even show KTRK-13's "exclusive" uncritical interview to potential employers (and hope they don't deploy the research services of Google.com).
10 April 2008
State Rep. Vo is a serial slumlord
After last week's news that state Rep. Hubert Vo is a slumlord (who owns a $4.5 million mansion), the Chron's Matt Stiles took a field trip to visit Vo's other properties. What he found is that last week's discovery was not an isolated incident:
Residents in local apartments owned by state Rep. Hubert Vo live in conditions that appear to violate numerous health and building standards, a Houston Chronicle review of the properties has found.
In recent days, the Houston Chronicle documented exposed electrical wires, rotting wood, broken and boarded-up windows and other potential violations of the city's "minimum standards" for occupied buildings.
After seeing the Chronicle's photographs, inspectors from two city departments pledged investigations into properties owned by Vo, D-Houston, saying the conditions could lead to misdemeanor criminal citations.
"There was nothing in those pictures that wasn't a violation," said Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department's neighborhood protection division. "You have to keep your property to certain minimum standards, and that's what these are falling under."
The Chronicle's inquiry began last week after city inspectors, acting on complaints, cited Vo for conditions at an apartment complex he owns in the East End. There, inspectors found open electrical boxes, loose wiring and inadequate balcony railings — all misdemeanor violations.
Vo's other properties, in varying degrees, showed similar problems, though one complex was outside the city limits and not subject to post-construction inspections.
Among other potential city violations at three complexes were overflowing Dumpsters, damaged parking lots and an algae-filled swimming pool — all conditions that could prompt criminal fines.
Vo, who has owned the properties for years, took blame for the problems Wednesday, saying he had not done enough to ensure the complexes were maintained. He said he would improve the conditions, pledging personal inspections of individual units, cooperation with city officials and outreach to residents to encourage them to report concerns.
So, while Vo touts himself as "Dedicated to Public Service" and "Accessible. Responsive. Independent.," he has actually not been interested in serving the people who pay him rent each month, until Stiles started poking around. Examples:
Tomasa Compean, 58, has lived for 18 years in her one-bedroom unit, where she pays $450 a month and has never received new carpet or paint. White powder bug poison outlines her baseboards, and a leaky faucet has left a large patch of rust and mildew in her tub, which apartment officials have covered only with paint.
"The worst things are the roaches and mice. That's just too much."
Carmen Aguilar, whose two-bedroom apartment faces a dusty courtyard next to a swimming pool filled with opaque green water, pointed to a buckled wall and a large, moldy hole above her bathtub.
Meanwhile, Vo is having a pity party:
Vo said he knew he would face criticism:
"It's going to affect me very much. It's going to kill my reputation. I just have to move on and try to repair the damage.
It's all about him. Poor Hubert Vo.
KEVIN WHITED ADDS: Be sure to click over to the Chronicle photo gallery of the Vo Slums. This photo of a murky green swimming pool is pretty good, although the actual structural violations of the slums are more of a concern. Certainly, the photos are quite a contrast from those of Vo's personal real estate!
RELATED: More Vo Real Estate for Sale: Memorial Mansion with Multiples (Swamplot)
[Previous 20 Entries]