News and views roundup (2 October 2011 edition)
I'm still playing catchup at work and elsewhere after being away two weeks, so regular blogging has suffered a bit. Hopefully we'll crank back up shortly with more frequent updates, but here's another linkpost of notable local news.
- Jerry Eversole, developer Mike Surface enter guilty pleas - KTRK-13 News
This saga began with aggressive watchdog reporting from Wayne Dolcefino and KTRK, although most local media will refrain from proper credit. County Judge Ed Emmett names the replacement on Monday.
- Developers revive Ashby high-rise - Nancy Sarnoff and Louis Casiano, Houston Chronicle
Excellent! Pass the popcorn.
- Harris County disputes city bill for park drainage - Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle
[Harris County Commissioner Steve] Radack called the offices of City Council members Stephen Costello, who led the campaign for the drainage fee, and Brenda Stardig, whose district includes the park, to express his displeasure.
In return, he got a letter saying the city was "reviewing" the bill and adding "no payment is due at this time." Public Works and Engineering Department spokesman Alvin Wright said that letter simply should have said the bill had been sent in error and that no money was due.
- Rivard ends 14-year run as E-N editor; Kyrie "MeMo" O'Connor is new interim editor - Jennifer Hiller, San Antonio Express-News
This promotion of sorts for the Chronicle's highly erratic features editor was shocking at first, since it was hard to imagine there wasn't a more capable internal candidate to take over on an interim basis. But it appears Hearst also eased out the #2 person on the news side. Given the extent to which the two Hearst newspapers have shared more and more features content in recent years, and ongoing rumors that another round of layoffs is on the way, this corporate decision isn't entirely shocking (if there are any staffers currently on maternity leave in San Antonio, it might be a good idea to update your resume now that Ms. O'Connor is in charge).
Kyrie O'Connor, senior editor of the Houston Chronicle, a sister paper of the Hearst-owned Express-News, will join the Express-News today as interim editor.
- 7, including Chinese visitors, hurt in HPD training exercise - Mike Tolson, Houston Chronicle
- Houston will crack down on disabled-parking fraud - Chris Moran, Houston Chronicle
The headline is inaccurate. Sure, that's how the Parker Administration billed the move, and apparently that was good enough for the Chron's reporter.
The fact is, nothing about this "crackdown" targets fraudulent parkers. Rather, it simply inconveniences legitimate handicapped parkers and fraudulent handicapped parkers equally -- and enriches city coffers. As we've noted before, parking bureaucrats have been pushing this move for years. We suspect Bill White never made the revenue grab because he knew that a crackdown on those who use handicapped parking wouldn't play well in a statewide political race. That's not likely to be a problem for Mayor Annise Parker in conservative/Republican Texas, and she wants more revenue. So there you go.
This is just stupid:
Once upon a time, the admonition "It's for the children!" (or sometimes "Racism!") was used in an attempt to close down factual debate over various policies. Now, the approach seems to be to make dubious claims about "Jobs!" (METRO has lately been touting the "Jobs!" that come from its colossal waste of taxpayer resources on non-solutions for Houston moblity; One of the Chron's biggest METRO cheerleaders helps spread the word here).
City officials also called the initiative an economic development measure because the turnover at the curb side will bring more customers to downtown businesses.
A perspective that would have added to this press release posing as news does finally show up... in the comments:
Yes, because it doesn't actually distinguish between legitimate handicapped parkers and fraudulent parkers (but it does enrich city coffers), a perspective that, amazingly, did not make it into the news story.
I am a disabled vet. I did my civic duty of Jury duty a few months ago. Due to the lack of handicapped parking I did park in one of the metered spaces with my tag. I was not picked by a jury but was tied up with jury duty for over 6 hours. So now since they have hardly any handicapped spots I have to ensure I pay the toll for the day. Which I will do, I can afford it, I am not sure all disabled can though. The City of Houston did not want to create more disabled parking places so they stated that the disabled could park in the metered spots. Yes, this is abused. But penalizing the disabled is NOT the solution. Some disabled people that are trying to fulfill their jury duty cannot afford to start paying for a spot due to the lack of handicapped parking in the area. I will be, and will do, but I think this is hurting a lot of others.
- Mitchell Foundation challenges Houston Tomorrow - Jay Crossley, Houston Tomorrow
As friend Neal Meyer observes, "It's rather odd that barons like Mitchell and Anne Schlumberger, who made fortunes in the oil and gas industry, are funding activities that are intended to reverse their life's work."
- Houston Chronicle editorial misses the point - Peggy Venable, AFP
That's usually the case.
- Grits for Breakfast: Houston police union rolling in cash, but six-figure thefts went unnoticed for years - Grits for Breakfast
Several people were injured here, yet this reporter (and apparently Chron editors) thought it appropriate to turn straight news reporting into a comedy routine?
There was suspicion, as yet unconfirmed, that Hollywood was involved in the smash-up at the Houston Police Department driving track: Surely this was a scene from the upcoming Police Academy 8: Heels Behind the Wheel
The collision between department vehicles came during a demonstration of what police at first said was a secret maneuver - later revealed to be some sort of choreographed U-turn - and sent seven people to the hospital. None of their injuries was believed to be severe, though the same cannot be said for civic humiliation.
The five visiting Chinese law enforcement officials were passengers in the two squad cars, which were driven by HPD instructors, presumably not cadets Hooks and Hightower.
That's the sort of professionalism we've come to expect from the newspaper, unfortunately.