News and views roundup (24 July 2011 edition)
It's time to clear out a few links...
- Homes still empty in Houston housing program for the poor - Yang Wang, Houston Chronicle
What do you bet that when this program was announced, the Chronicle provided the usual cheerleading?
Months after Houston Housing Authority officials conceded that its "scattered sites" housing program for poor and low-income families failed to provide the homes it promised, the agency has yet to remedy the legacy left to waste: dozens of empty and dilapidated properties.
A Chronicle investigation in April found that in the last four years, the program has done little more than frustrate potential buyers and reject others, leaving properties neither occupied nor sold — the profits of which could have helped the agency or helped people find homes.
The houses, 365 in all, were purchased from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1987 and 1988. At first, they provided rentals to low-income families, but ultimately they were meant to serve as a bridge for first-time home ownership.
Of the 365 houses, 174 still are vacant.
What a boondoggle. Speaking of which...
- Houston's Mobility Response team, running on empty - Tom Bazan, Boondoggles
Mayor Bill White started the MRT with $10 million in fiscal year 2007. The fiscal 2010 budget showed the MRT had 31.4 civilian employees and a few HPD and Public Works employees. They have spent lots and lots of money on vehicles and uniforms, as well as $582,157 for the ubiquitous "management Consulting" in fiscal 2009.
Statistics for 2010 show that the typical response time was one hour.
Somehow, Bill White's expensive mobility response team endures, through tough budget times and even after Wayne Dolcefino's damning investigative reports.
Be sure to check out Tom Bazan's new kinda-blog/column Boondoogles at the Houston Community Newspapers (psst, webmaster, how about an RSS feed?) (UPDATE: Mike Reed passes along this link for the Boondoggles RSS feed. Thanks!).
- New Video Of HPD Freeway Crackdown Raises Safety Concerns - Stephen Dean, Houston Chronicle
Remember Bill White's justification for SAFEclear (that obstructions on the side of the road create dangerous conditions for drivers)? Apparently, it's okay if the dangerous obstructions are revenue-generating traffic cops.
HPD has been placing motorcycle officers at merges along the Southwest Freeway to ticket drivers who dart in front of other cars to cross the double white lines, basically cutting in line at the 610 West Loop and the Spur 527 at Richmond Avenue.
Since Local 2 Investigates first reported on the crackdown in May, Transtar traffic cameras captured images this week of officers stepping out into moving freeway lanes, sometimes stopping vehicles in two lanes at a time.
During Thursday afternoon's rush hour, northbound traffic was already backed up nearly a half mile to Kirby Drive when officers stepped out to have cars from two lanes inch over to receive traffic citations.
- Parker's police chief plans to expand red-light cameras - James Pinkerton, Houston Chronicle
McClelland also said an existing contract with the red-light camera vendor allows the city to expand the system, and he plans to add more cameras in the future.
- Red light cameras began issuing tickets in Houston on Sunday - Demond Fernandez, KTRK-13 News
That's a start (much better than an earlier notion about holding another election). A better decision would be to honor the will of the voters and break the existing contract.
Houston's red light camera contract expires in three years, barring any court ruling. Mayor Annise Parker says the contract with ATS will not be renewed.
- Rape Kit Backlog Continues To Anger Community Activists - Pat Hernandez, KUHF News
As it should.
- The case for shale gas - Houston Chronicle
Matt Bramanti observes:
All of this is true. Shutter the editorial board and redeploy the resources to the newsroom.
Six sentences are lifted verbatim from the Baker Institute report (page 13) without being quoted.
It's bad enough when the board hastily rewrites old editorials from good newspapers. But at least the rewrite happens. Here, the board presents someone else's words as its own. It's similar to an unprepared student cheating on a test -- laziness followed by dishonesty.
Houstonians deserve a newspaper with high ethical standards. If the editorial board can't meet those standards, it should be replaced or eliminated.