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Precinct analysis: Age ranges

Let us one more time ask the question: Just how old were the voters in our 2015 election?

Range       All    Pct
18-30    21,998   8.2%
31-40    32,359  12.1%
41-50    39,074  14.6%
51-60    58,610  21.9%
61+     115,755  43.2%


The short answer is “not as old as we’ve seen in previous elections“. That’s a high-water mark for the 30-and-under crowd, by a considerable amount, as well as a high score for the 31-to-40 consort. The 61+ group is smaller than it was in the last few elections, though of course that is relative. It’s smaller as a proportion to this electorate, but this electorate was quite large, so the over-60 share is much bigger in absolute terms than before – there were nearly as many over-60s this year as there were total voters in 2011 – even if it’s a smaller piece of the pie.

I can’t easily tell you what the average age of a Houston voter in 2015 was. I’ve heard several people cite a figure of 69 years old, which I believe comes from the KUHF/KHOU poll in October. Based on the ranges I’ve shown above, I’d guess that 69 is a little high to be the average age, but it’s probably not too far off from that. The point I’m trying to make here is that this election wasn’t driven by a frenzied turnout of senior citizens. Turnout was up across the board, and while this electorate was hardly young – less than 35% were under 50 – there was more age diversity than we have seen in the past.

Where you will legitimately find a younger electorate is in the new voters than showed up this year. Here’s that table, with the accompanying one for the set of folks who voted in all elections since 2009 following it:

Range       New    Pct
18-30    17,106  16.8%
31-40    19,522  19.2%
41-50    17,889  17.6%
51-60    20,528  20.2%
61+      26,557  26.1%

Range       Old    Pct
18-30       351   0.6%
31-40     2,009   3.4%
41-50     5,279   8.9%
51-60    12,233  20.5%
61+      39,766  66.7%

A majority of the new voters this year were 50 and under, with 36% being 40 and under. That’s not too shabby. As for the old reliables, here “old” is an appropriate word. If you told me the average age of this group was 69, I’d believe it. I will say, if the revised term limits ordinance stands, it’s going to be more challenging to talk about new and experienced voters in our every-four-years elections, simply because there will be so much turnover in the voting population. Under the new system – again, if it stands – the last three elections would be 2011, 2007, and 2003. Three elections from now would be 2027. Of course, with incumbents limited to two terms, maybe there will be that much more emphasis on the last election, and less on others except for open seats. Who knows? One way or another, we are headed into uncharted waters.

I hope you enjoyed this trip through the data. I may take a look at recent runoff rosters to see if there’s anything there worth writing about. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in: Election 2015.

Reynolds receives jail sentence in barratry case

He got the max for the misdemeanor charge on which he was convicted.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds could spend up to a year in jail after he was sentenced Monday to the maximum penalty following his conviction on charges arising from what prosecutors called an “ambulance chasing for profit” scheme.

A Montgomery County jury sentenced Reynolds to up to 12 months in jail and a $20,000 fine following the attorney’s conviction last week on five counts of misdemeanor barratry, or illegally soliciting clients.

The Missouri City Democrat showed no emotion as County Court-at-Law Judge Mary Ann Turner read the sentence late Monday. He took off his suit jacket and tie and handed it to a friend, and gave his cellphone and watch to his wife. Then he was escorted from the courtroom by deputies and taken to county jail.

The sentence comes as Reynolds, the first African-American since Reconstruction elected to the Texas House from Fort Bend County, was starting to campaign for a fourth term. The misdemeanor convictions don’t require him to give up his seat, but deal a blow to his political and legal careers.

Reynolds’ attorney said he intends to appeal, and the court scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on his request to remain free pending that appeal.

See here for the background. You know how I feel about this, so let me just note that a lot of people have called for our indicted Attorney General to step down from his office. To be sure, the charges hanging over Ken Paxton have had an effect on his ability to do his job, but he’s a long way from seeing a courthouse, much less being convicted of something. If one believes Paxton is unfit to serve, it’s hard to see how one argues in favor of Rep. Reynolds staying in office, and that’s before taking into account the possibility that his jail sentence (if it stands) might overlap with a legislative session. Rep. Reynolds has been barred from practicing law while his appeal is ongoing, which I suspect will put a lot of pressure on him and his family. Again, it brings me no joy to say any of this, but the facts are the facts. The Press has more.

Posted in: Scandalized!.

HCC versus Dave Wilson, the continuing story

It’s a fight over legal fees.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson has long been a thorn in the side of Houston Community College trustees. That hasn’t changed now that he’s one of them.

Wilson, a controversial figure long before he was elected to the HCC board in 2013, has done nothing to diminish his gadfly reputation in his first two years as a trustee. From a campaign criticized as deceptive and a dispute over whether he lives in the district he represents, to a complaint filed against the college and a legal tussle over his exclusion from an executive session, Wilson’s actions have rankled his fellow trustees since he took office in January 2014.

Now Wilson is preparing to sue HCC over roughly $50,000 in legal fees stemming from a lengthy and ongoing dispute over the election that put him on the board.


Wilson has won several rounds in the court dispute over his residency, which the county is continuing to appeal, saying that the case raises important issues of law.

“We believe that a person should not be able to claim the benefit of a residential homestead at one location while registering to vote at a different location,” Robert Soard, first assistant county attorney, said in an email. “More fundamentally, an elected representative should not be allowed to serve and set the tax rate for a district in which he does not personally reside.”

Wilson says HCC should cover his legal fees, but his fellow trustees disagreed. Wilson wasn’t able to garner the votes needed to put the item on an agenda after the state attorney general ruled last month that the college would have to prove paying the fees was for a public good.

“Based on the attorney general opinion we’ve received regarding this request, I don’t feel we have the authority to reimburse trustee Wilson from tax dollars,” board chairman Zeph Capo said in a text message. “Wilson’s legal dispute with the county began prior to beginning his term as a trustee. Given the AG ruling, I’m taking the advice he often gives us in similar circumstances … Let ’em sue.”

And that’s what Wilson plans to do.

“It’s going to be soon, it’s going to be real soon,” Wilson said Monday, after failing to get support from the trustees at last Thursday’s meeting.

Here’s the AG opinion in question. I Am Not A Lawyer, but my layman’s reading suggests the board is on reasonably firm ground here in exercising its discretion about whether or not to pony up. The concluding paragraph:

In sum, the College has discretion to reimburse a trustee for the expense of defending a quo warranto action only if it determines that the expenditure concerns a legitimate public interest of the College and not merely the trustee’s personal interest and that the quo warranto action involves acts that were undertaken by the trustee in good faith within the scope of an official duty. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. GA-0104 (2003) at 4. Any determination by the College to reimburse a trustee’s expenses in the circumstances you describe would likely be subject to an abuse of discretion standard by a reviewing court. See Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. DM-450 (1997) at 9 (stating that a “decision by an institution of higher education will be set aside if it is arbitrary or umeasonable, or if it violates the law”). Thus, while it is for the College to make the initial determination, given the precedent involving election contests, a court is unlikely to conclude that the College has a public interest in paying the legal expenses associated with a challenge to a trustee’s qualifications for office.

There’s a footnote at the end that says they “cannot conclude that there could never be circumstances under which it is appropriate for a governmental entity to reimburse an official for costs he or she incurred in the defense of a quo warranto proceeding”, so Wilson could prevail in court. AG opinions are not legally binding, and clearly nothing is going to stop Wilson from having his day in court. We’ll see how it goes.

Posted in: Local politics.

Texas blog roundup for the week of November 23

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Continue reading →

Posted in: Blog stuff.

Precinct analysis: Where the voters came from

Yesterday we looked at the voting history of the people who participated in the 2015 election. Today we’re going to take a look at how those numbers broke down by Council district.

Dist   All 3    None    Rest   Total
A      4,686   7,238   8,173  20,097
B      4,873   8,829   8,738  22,440
C     11,471  17,129  18,588  47,188
D      6,988  10,196  11,204  28,388
E      5,906  14,302  13,392  33,600
F      2,348   5,456   4,942  12,746
G      9,703  13,523  17,630  40,856
H      3,035   7,452   6,958  17,445
I      2,897   5,939   5,856  14,692
J      2,001   3,437   3,305   8,743
K      5,730   8,101   8,846  22,677

Total 59,639 101,603 107,630 268,872


Just a reminder, “All 3” refers to voters who had also participated in the 2013, 2011, and 2009 elections; “None” refers to voters who voted in none of those three elections; “Rest” refers to the people who voted in one or two of those elections, but not all three. The first thing to notice is something I hadn’t noticed till I started working on this post, which is that for all the talk about “new” voters, there were a lot of “sometimes” voters in this election. Perhaps one of our oft-quoted poli sci professors could put a grad student or two on the question of why people vote in some city elections but not others. Obviously, some people are new to town or are newly eligible to vote, but what about the others? Why skip one election but vote in another? I don’t understand it. I wish someone would make the effort to try.

The other number that jumps out at you is the number of “None” voters in District E. It’s fair to assume a significant number of these were anti-HERO voters. Notice that E wasn’t the only district that saw the number of new voters be more than double the number of old reliables – F, H, and I also fit that bill. Why might that be? Could be any number of reasons – HERO, a disproportionate number of new and/or newly-eligible residents, the fact that there weren’t that many old reliables to begin with, some other reason. Of course, even the district that had a lot of old reliables, like C and D and G, saw a lot of newbies show up as well. What can you say? There were a lot of new voters. Even in this high-for-Houston-elections-turnout environment, there are still a lot of other people who vote in other years.

Another way of looking at this: The share in each district of each kind of voter:

Dist   All 3    None    Rest   Total
A      7.86%   7.12%   7.59%   7.47%
B      8.17%   8.69%   8.12%   8.35%
C     19.23%  16.86%  17.27%  17.55%
D     11.72%  10.04%  10.41%  10.56%
E      9.90%  14.08%  12.44%  12.50%
F      3.94%   5.37%   4.59%   4.74%
G     16.27%  13.31%  16.38%  15.20%
H      5.09%   7.33%   6.46%   6.49%
I      4.86%   5.84%   5.44%   5.46%
J      3.36%   3.38%   3.07%   3.25%
K      9.61%   7.97%   8.22%   8.43%

Again, you can see the differential in E. No matter how you slice it, District C is the leader, but who comes in second and third and by how much C leads the way varies. Again, I have no broad conclusions to draw, I just think this is interesting. What do you think?

Tomorrow we’ll have a look at how old the voters were this year. Let me know if you have any questions.

Posted in: Election 2015.

Planned Parenthood sues Texas

Here we go.

Right there with them

Right there with them

Planned Parenthood’s Texas affiliates on Monday filed a federal lawsuit to keep state health officials from booting them from the state’s Medicaid program.

Following Texas’ announcement in October that it would stop funding any care for poor women at Planned Parenthood clinics — a response to what state officials called “acts of misconduct” revealed in undercover anti-abortion videos — the women’s health organization is asking the courts for a reprieve.

Ten patients joined Planned Parenthood in the lawsuit, according to the organization. One of those is Kendra Hudson of Houston, who said a pap smear she got at a Planned Parenthood clinic allowed her to identify an abnormal growth and prevent it from developing into cancer.

“They were the provider that I trusted and felt comfortable with,” Hudson told reporters on Monday. By cutting off Medicaid funding to the women’s health organization, Planned Parenthood argues that thousands of other women could lose access to similar services they couldn’t get elsewhere.

The state’s move wouldn’t just end state funding for Planned Parenthood services like pregnancy tests, contraception and cancer screenings. It would also end the allocation of federal dollars to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurer of last resort that is administered by Texas. In 2015, Texas spent $310,000 of its own money on the women’s health organization while distributing $2.8 million in federal dollars.


The legal challenge in Texas is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed across the country over how Medicaid dollars are disbursed to Planned Parenthood clinics. Texas’ move comes weeks after a federal district court in Louisiana temporarily halted similar efforts there until the courts could better examine the issue. Other lawsuits are also making their way through the courts in Alabama and Arkansas.

Federal health officials notified the Texas Health and Human Services Commission late last month that kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid could be a violation of U.S. law.

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for a copy of the lawsuit. The Observer adds a few details:

Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion groups have long claimed that other providers would be able to fill the void left by any Planned Parenthood ouster. Not so, said Dr. Hal Lawrence, CEO at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, during a press call announcing the lawsuit.

In fact, he said, it’d be “next to impossible” for non-Planned Parenthood providers to provide the same volume and quality of care. “It’s very difficult in many states to get Medicaid patients in to see other providers, schedules are already full,” Lawrence told reporters.

Planned Parenthood officials, who were given 30 days to respond to the Texas health commission’s Medicaid termination, said Monday that they are bypassing the commission’s appeals process in favor of filing their lawsuit. But attorneys did say that Planned Parenthood is complying with the inspector general’s requests for thousands of pages of billing and patient documents and subpoenas issued days after the termination letters.

One irony of all this is that one of the often-proffered reasons for not expanding Medicaid is that there aren’t enough doctors in the state who are willing to take new Medicaid patients. So of course kicking out a big Medicaid provider and forcing all its patients onto the mercies of the open market for doctors who will take them makes all kinds of sense.

I presume we all know how this is going to go: Planned Parenthood will win at the district court level, the ruling will be overturned on dubious grounds by a couple of the worse judges on the Fifth Circuit, and then we all get to sweat out another appeal to SCOTUS. Lather, rinse, repeat. In the meantime, this may speed up the timeline for the HHSC Inspector General to produce whatever report he’s going to produce on the claims that PP has been fraudulently billing Medicaid, the investigation of which was spurred by those latest ridiculous “sting” videos. Round and round she goes. Trail Blazers, the Statesman, the Chron, the AusChron, the Press, the Current, Daily Kos, and ThinkProgress have more.

Posted in: Legal matters.

State wants delay on immigration appeal

Of course it does.


The Texas Attorney General’s office is asking the U.S. Supreme Court for an extra 30 days to respond to the Obama Administration’s appeal of lower court rulings that have blocked controversial changes in immigration enforcement.

The move could affect the timing of a final decision on the program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, which has been blocked for more than a year since the state of Texas filed suit to halt the program.


The state’s request, if granted, would give the office of Attorney General Ken Paxton until Jan. 20, 2016 to respond to the White House’s filing. Advocates of the president’s program have already expressed concerns that a final determination by the high court could come as late as June, about six months before the president leaves office. It’s unclear what the timeline would be if the extension is granted.

The justice department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but in Friday’s request the agency argues the case “warrants immediate review.”

In the state’s request for an extension, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller says the state has “numerous pressing deadlines in other cases” before the Supreme Court that were pending before the White House filed its petition.

Keller also argues that the White House could have asked the high court to take the matter up sooner.

“After the district court and court of appeals months ago denied petitioners’ motions to stay the preliminary injunction pending appeal, petitioners declined to seek a stay from this Court,” he wrote.

See here and here for the background. The complaint that the Obama administration has slowed things down is pretty ridiculous; this appeal was filed less than two weeks after the Fifth Circuit issued its ruling, and there was no request made for an en banc review. If you really want to complain about the timing, take it up with the two judges that wrote the majority opinion, as their dissenting colleague criticized them for taking so damn long to rule. I’m rooting for SCOTUS to deny this request.

Posted in: La Migra, Legal matters.

More rules against polluting your neighbors proposed


The Environmental Protection Agency proposed tougher new limits on Tuesday on smokestack emissions from Texas and 22 other states that burden downwind areas with air pollution from power plants they can’t control.

At the same time, the EPA moved to remove two states — South Carolina and Florida — from the “good neighbor” rules, saying they don’t contribute significant amounts of smog to other states.


The EPA’s proposal on downwind pollution follows a federal appeals court ruling this summer that upheld the agency’s right to impose the clean-air standards, which block states from adding to air pollution in other localities. Some states and industry groups had argued that the rule was overly burdensome.

The rule applies mostly to states in the South and Midwest that contribute to soot and smog along the East Coast.

Under the EPA’s proposal, states would have to comply with air quality standards for ozone, or smog, set by the George W. Bush administration in 2008. Current rules are based on pollution standards developed in the late 1990s.

“This update will help protect the health and lives of millions of Americans by reducing exposure to ozone pollution, which is linked to serious public health effects including reduced lung function, asthma … and early death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

The proposal reinforces the obligations states have to address air pollution that is carried across state lines, McCarthy said.

See here for the background. The ruling in question struck down some earlier regulations, but affirmed the EPA’s authority to set regulations on this. I won’t be surprised if there’s another lawsuit over these rules, but one way or another in the end there will be new rules.

Posted in: National news.

Precinct analysis: Old reliables, newcomers, and everyone else

I have three more views of the 2015 electorate, now that I have a copy of the voter roster. With that, and with the past rosters that I have, I can try to paint a more detailed picture of who voted in this election, and perhaps make some comparisons to past elections. Today we’re going to look at voting history. How many voters this year were new, how many had voted in one or more recent elections, and how do those numbers compare to previous years?

Year    All 3   1and2   1and3   2and3   Just1   Just2   Just3    None
2015   59,639  13,150  26,170   8,714  33,993   6,566  17,964 101,603
2013   46,582  22,044   4,721  13,148  12,239  20,690   6,046  48,662
2011   44,744   9,706  15,360   4,302  15,559   2,830   5,394  19,927
2009   55,117   5,818  22,122  25,227  10,907   7,684  20,218  38,755


Let me translate what those column headers mean. “All 3” is the number of people in that election who had voted in each of the three prior city elections. For the year 2015, that means the number of people who had voted in 2013, 2011, and 2009. For 2013, that means the number of people who had voted in 2011, 2009, and 2007. I trust you get the idea for 2011 and 2009; I have rosters going back to 2003, so that’s as far back as I can do this exercise. These are your old reliable voters – year in and year out, they show up and vote.

The next six columns specify one or more of these prior elections. A 1 refers to the election immediately before, a 2 refers to the election before that – i.e., two elections before – and a 3 is for three elections before. Again, for 2015, those elections are 2013 (“1”), 2011 (“2”), and 2009 (“3”). Thus, the column “1and2” means all the people who voted in 2013 and 2011, but not 2009. “1and3” means means all the people who voted in 2013 and 2009, but not 2011. “2and3” means all the people who voted in 2011 and 2009, but not 2013. Along similar lines, “Just1” means all the people who voted in 2013 but not 2011 or 2009, and so forth. Substitute other years as appropriate, and you’ve got it. Lastly, “None” means the people who had voted in none of the past three elections. These are your new voters.

I presume I don’t have to tell you that 2015 was indeed an outlier in this regard. We knew going in that years with high profile referenda have higher turnout than other years, and that’s what happened here. In addition, you have to remember that “high turnout” is a relative thing. Turnout for the Harris County portion of the city of Houston was 268,872, which is more than any odd-year election since 2003, but pales in comparison to the turnouts of recent even years in which city props have been on the ballot. In 2010, for example, 389,428 voters came out in the Harris County part of Houston – 40.9% turnout – with 343,481 casting a vote on the red light camera referendum. In 2012, for the four bond items and two charter amendments up for a vote, there were 565,741 voters, with as many as 435,836 ballots cast. Point being, there are a lot of even-year city voters. Some number of them decided to vote this year as well. I’m not in a position to quantify it further than that, but at a guess based on the other years, I’d say 30 to 50 thousand of those 101,603 were true newbies, while the rest had some prior voting history in Harris County. As we’ve discussed before, new people move in all the time, and some other people become newly eligible due to turning 18 or becoming citizens. If and when I get more details on that, I’ll be sure to share them.

Here’s another way of looking at the data: The proportion of each class of voter for these elections.

Year   All 3   2 of 3   1 of 3   0 of 3
2015   22.3%    17.9%    21.9%    37.9%
2013   26.8%    22.9%    22.4%    27.9%
2011   38.0%    24.9%    20.2%    16.9%
2009   29.7%    28.6%    20.9%    20.9%

“2 of 3” and “1 of 3″ refers to voters who had voted in two of the previous three elections, and one of the previous three elections, respectively. Again, the share of new voters this year was clearly higher than in other years. It’s no surprise that the share of new voters was so low in 2011. It was a low turnout year – just over 117,000 voters in total – so you’d expect that a large majority of them would be the regulars. By the same token, the old reliable share this year was lower than usual, for the same reason. I’m fascinated by how stable the 1 of 3” share was across the four races. As we saw in the table at the top, the one prior election in question can be any of the three predecessors. It’s not just folks who’d been new the year before. That number is directly affected by the turnout levels of the election in question and the one before it.

So that’s our first look at this data. I don’t have any broad conclusions to draw here, I just find this stuff amazing. Who would have guessed that over 2,800 people who voted in the low-turnout 2011 election had also voted in the low-turnout 2007 election, but not the higher-turnout 2009 or 2005 elections? Well, now you know. I’ll have more tomorrow.

Posted in: Election 2015.

Our partisan Mayoral runoff

I’m shocked, shocked to find that there are partisan interests in the Mayoral runoff.

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

Even though Houston elections officially are nonpartisan, the contest between Bill King and Sylvester Turner has evolved into a test of party might as voters prepare to elect the Bayou City’s first new mayor in six years.

King has framed the runoff as the choice between a businessman and a career politician, a common appeal by Republican candidates against Democratic incumbents. Trying to paint King as too extreme for Houston, Turner’s campaign has taken to invoking the tea party and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the latter-day bogeymen of the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the local Republican and Democratic parties have endorsed their favorites and affiliated groups are gearing up their ground games to phone bank and knock on doors for their preferred candidates.

The result is a race without overt party identification, but with all of the trappings of a partisan battlefield.

“We’ve seen across the country the intensity of the partisan division grow,” University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said. “It’s not that the overall population has become more partisan and polarized, but people who vote, particularly in a low-turnout election like a Houston mayor runoff, tend to be partisans.”

Murray said he expects turnout to be about 20 percent in the Dec. 12 runoff to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker, down from 27 percent on Nov. 3.


Murray said the race is more partisan than usual for city races, attributing the dynamic in part to the equal rights ordinance thought to have brought many conservative Republicans to the polls.

“It’s not surprising that the Democrats particularly, since they have a significant edge in partisanship within the city, would try to make this a partisan race,” Murray said. “And Republicans hope that they can counter and in a low-turnout election get enough of their partisans to go to the polls to squeak out a win.”

I will note that 20% turnout for the runoff will equate to over 190,000 votes, which would be higher turnout than the 2013 or 2009 November races. The 2003 runoff had 220,725 votes, while the 2001 runoff had 326,254 votes. I feel confident saying we won’t reach that level. Both races were D versus R like this one, with Bill White winning by a huge margin in 2003 and Lee Brown squeaking by in 2001. The latter election had “first Latino Mayor of Houston” possibilities (so did the 2003 one, but by then the shine had largely come off of Orlando Sanchez), and it was heavily polarized by race. This runoff certainly won’t reach 2001 levels, and probably won’t reach 2003 levels, but I doubt it will be low enough for it to be particularly favorable to Republicans. I’ll say again, I think for King to win he’s got to blunt Turner’s appeal outside of his African-American base. That was the intent of the Bell endorsement, except that a large number of Bell voters were repulsed by it. The partisans are going to turn out, as they always have in these races. If Democrats of all stripes back Turner, he ought to win. If King can cut into that enough, he can win. That’s how I see it.

And before anyone bemoans all those dirty partisans besmirching their innocent non-partisan city race, please note that there are also significant policy differences between the two. HERO, the revenue cap, and Rebuild Houston are the headliners for that, but the list doesn’t end there. I for one would rather have a Metro Board Chair nominated by Turner than one nominated by King. It’s not like these guys largely agree on things and it’s just a matter of whose flag they fly. Sylvester Turner’s Houston and Bill King’s Houston will be different places. By all means, base your choice on that. From my perspective at least, the two roads lead to the same destination.

Posted in: Election 2015.

Paxton fires back at prosecutors


Best mugshot ever

Lawyers in Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ongoing securities fraud case have fired back against special prosecutors in the latest in a series of back-and-forth court filings.

In their Thursday filing, Paxton’s attorneys called the prosecutors’ reply to their motions to drop three felony charges “bombastic and diversionary.”

“Attorneys Pro Tem attempt sarcasm and inappropriate fictional analogies to mask their unsubstantive Reply that repeatedly misrepresents both Paxton’s arguments and the law,” the court filing said. “They are under the misguided belief that sound bites and quotes from fictional characters somehow trump law and documented facts.”


Paxton’s attorneys say the reply does not address their actual argument of improper grand juror qualification and that Paxton’s right to due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was violated.

The latest filing also claimed that prosecutors are enabling Oldner’s inappropriate actions as they “concoct a fiction that is unsupported in law or fact, to excuse his behavior.”

See here and here for the background. At this point, I think all future filings related to this should be more like this:

I’m far too amused by this case.

Posted in: Crime and Punishment, Scandalized!.

Now who’s messing with religious freedom?

What is Greg Abbott’s beef with faith organizations?

A prominent Texas faith organization signaled Friday that refugee resettlement agencies in the state may not comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to turn away Syrian refugees, writing a letter “to express shock and dismay” with the directive.

The governor’s order “constitutes an unprecedented attempt on the part of a state agency to pressure private, nonprofit organizations to violate federal law and their federal contractual obligations,” wrote Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, which works closely with resettlement agencies affiliated with religious institutions.

The letter asked the state to convene a meeting with resettlement agencies and federal authorities to clarify whether Abbott has the authority to issue such a directive.

Moorhead told the Houston Chronicle that among resettlement groups, “there seems to be some energy developing around convening them as a coalition to work on this issue.”

Moorhead’s letter came hours after the state’s top health official wrote refugee resettlement agencies in the state to say Texas was invoking its legal right to “require that you provide immediate and ongoing consultation with the Health and Human Services Commission Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) regarding any plans that may exist to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas.”

“If you currently have plans to participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugee in Texas, please notify us immediately, but not later than 4:00 p.m. Friday, November 20, 2015,” executive health Commissioner Chris Traylor wrote, adding the agencies should discontinue those plans and “further, please notify us immediately if, in the future, you learn that a Syrian refugee is proposed for resettlement with your organization.”

See here for some background, and here for a copy of the letter. The Statesman adds on.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office appears headed toward a legal showdown with refugee resettlement agencies and their sponsoring faith organizations over Abbott’s efforts to keep any Syrian refugees from resettling in Texas in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks.

Following Abbott’s directive, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor on Thursday sent a toughly worded letter to 19 refugee resettlement agencies in Texas — including Caritas and the Refugee Services of Texas in Austin — asking that they scrap any plans to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas and that they notify his office by 4 p.m. Friday if they had any plans to resettle Syrians in the state.

Refugee resettlement is generally a federal matter done in cooperation with national and local nonprofit, often church-based, resettlement agencies. The states play a supportive role and pass federal money onto the local agencies.

However, in his effort to make good on his pledge to keep Syrian refugees from coming to Texas, Abbott, a former state attorney general, is relying on a section of the 1997 legislation authorizing the refugee resettlement program. It states that it is the intent of Congress that “local voluntary agency activities should be conducted in close cooperation and advance consultation with state and local governments.”

Traylor cites that provision in his letter, and warns, “We reserve the right to refuse to cooperate on any resettlement on any grounds and, until further notice, will refuse to cooperate with resettlement of any Syrian refugees in Texas.”

“It’s a very disturbing effort by the state to coerce nonprofit organizations into ceasing the important services that they normally provide to vulnerable refugees to allow them to integrate into our community,” said Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law.

“The agency is seeking to force nonprofits to join the governor’s misguided policies that discriminate on the basis of national origin,” Gilman said. “Most disappointing of all is that those harmed will be families who have fled unspeakable violence in Syria, who have undergone a lengthy and cumbersome process to ensure that they present no threat, and who desperately need protection and support to recover some stability in their lives here in the United States.”

That’s religious nonprofits that Abbott is trying to coerce. At a time when for-profit corporations have been granted the right to impose the religious beliefs of their owners on their employees and when plaintiffs in a lawsuit who happen to be pastors getting subpoenaed is taken as an assault on freedom on religion. Again, this is Greg Abbott exerting government power to influence what religious organizations can do. I’m at a loss for words here. Thankfully, Lisa Falkenberg was able to find a few.

On issues like birth control, abortion and gay marriage, conservative politicians routinely charge into the fray like moral warriors, vowing to protect the sacred constitutional right to religious liberty.

Hobby Lobby. Kim Davis. They got your back.

But when it comes to a basic tenet of Christianity – caring for the stranger – the warriors have turned their swords against Scripture.

What would Jesus do, Greg? Feel free to ask a bishop if you need help with that.

Posted in: Show Business for Ugly People.

Weekend link dump for November 22

An oral history of Turkeys Away, the greatest episode of WKRP in Cincinnati and one of the greatest TV episodes ever.

“As the Internet of Things grows, we can scarcely afford a massive glut of things that are insecure-by-design.”

“The World Fantasy award trophy will no longer be modelled on HP Lovecraft”.

“Traditionally, most American white supremacists claim to be Christians…[but] a number of white supremacists are abandoning Christianity for a very different religion: Odinism”.

Silver insurance plans on the exchange are your better bet.

“But while PhD students are not so naive as to enter the program expecting an easy ride, there is a cost to the endeavor that no one talks about: a psychological one.”

Aaron Rodgers is a mensch.

“Our policy in Syria should be to destroy ISIS. Everything else can come after that.”

The case against killing baby Hitler.

Yogi Berra and Willie Mays will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year.

The best thing you will read today is this conversation with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem.

You are now free to wear a colander on your head for your drivers license photo. In the state of Massachusetts, anyway.

“So it was either loiter outside or sit in the river. We just thought we’re not going to get beaten by a river, we’re going to have a beer.” You have to admire that level of commitment.

“Lets’s start with the dick jokes. Oh, the endless dick jokes.”

John Kasich and Lindsey Graham demand equal time on NBC.

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is an emoji. Trust me, your kids will love it.

“I’ve taught refugee kids. I mean no-shit refugees, kids who’ve spent much of their youth in UN camps and whose experiences and losses make the worst moments of my life look like a Disney comedy by comparison. I’ve taught in rooms full of multiple different accents and Somalis and Russians and Southern Asians and kids from Mexico and points further south. Hijabs everywhere. And you know what? They’re GREAT KIDS. They’re HAPPY TO BE HERE. They’re poor and often they’re behind the academic curve because they’re still working on language acquisition as high school students. And they’re a joy to work with, because they know how good they’ve got it just by being here.”

Give yourself a security freeze for Christmas.

Don’t know much about geography, Ben Carson edition.

RIP, Smaug, the Komodo dragon at the Houston zoo.

I support the Interstate Swatting Hoax Act, even if it is limited in scope.

What Scalzi says. And also what Russell Moore says.

“A political analyst who spends months predicting the fall of a candidate who shows not only resilience but a towering increase in polling over that time clearly fails to understand the subject s/he is talking about in such a profound way that their credibility and expertise should be permanently undermined.”

Posted in: Blog stuff.

Precinct analysis: The Harris County bonds

Courtesy of Mike Morris at the Chron.

It’s an open secret of local politics that, when Harris County needs voter approval for big projects, they turn not to suburban county residents but to those in the city of Houston’s urban core.

Just look at this month’s elections: Though county offices are on the ballot in even-numbered years, county leaders put four propositions on the ballot, when Houston voters had much more of a reason to turn out (for an open mayor’s race and two city ballot measures) than those in the unincorporated area.

Once again on Nov. 3, Houston’s urban dwellers delivered, backing the county bond measures by wide margins even though they will see comparatively little of the spending in their neighborhoods (a note on that imbalance below).

It’s important to note that the vast majority of suburban precincts also passed the bonds, but the map below makes clear that support was weaker in the outlying areas and particularly strong in City Council District C, the progressive crescent west of downtown that was also the only district to support the city’s rejected equal rights ordinance.

for comparison’s sake, here’s how the 2013 jail bond went. That one was totally uncontroversial, but was basically left to its own devices. It passed – barely – with just enough support from Houston to overcome the (mild) opposition from the rest of the county. The lesson I took at the time was that you have to have some kind of campaign for even the most milquetoast issues. Doesn’t matter if all the Right People supported it, doesn’t matter if there’s no active opposition, you need a campaign. These bonds had one – it wasn’t much more than a couple of mailers, but it existed and that was good enough.

Posted in: Election 2015.

Rep. Ron Reynolds convicted of misdemeanor barratry charge

The word “tawdry” applies to this.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds was convicted Friday of illegally soliciting clients in an “ambulance chasing for profit” scheme, a verdict that carries the threat of jail time and deals a blow to his political career but won’t require him to leave office.

A Montgomery County jury convicted Reynolds, a Missouri City Democrat, of five counts of misdemeanor barratry after a week-long trial in which he represented himself. He was among eight Houston-area lawyers charged in 2013; Reynolds is the only one who did not accept a plea deal.

A teary-eyed Reynolds hugged his wife after the verdict was read. “I always respect the jury’s verdict. But while I respect it, I disagree. Based on the evidence, it did not show that I ever knowingly accepted a solicited case,” said Reynolds, the first African American elected state representative in Fort Bend County since Reconstruction.

Reynolds said he planned to appeal because he doesn’t believe the law was followed.

See here for the past history, and be sure to read the whole story to see why I described it the way I did. I’ll say again what I’ve said before: I like Rep. Reynolds personally, and I value his service as a State Representative, including and especially his leadership on important issues. It is with no joy that I say it’s time for him to conclude his service in the Legislature so he can straighten out his personal life. However well he has served the people of HD27, it’s time for them to have another choice.

Posted in: Scandalized!.

Pro softball returns to Houston

Didn’t know we had pro softball here, but it’s cool that we do.

The new sports franchise debuting here this summer is appropriately named: the Houston Scrap Yard Dawgs.

After an eight-year absence, professional women’s fastpitch softball is coming back to Houston and will be based at an 82-acre complex that is erecting a 4,000-seat stadium near The Woodlands.

Yet two stars of the sport, Cat Osterman and Christa Willams-Yates – both University of Texas standouts and gold-medal Olympians from the Houston area – know the players on this team will have to be scrappers to succeed.

Williams-Yates, 37, who now coaches at Friendswood ISD, was a pitcher with a windmill arm that used to send the ball flying across the plate for the last pro-team based here, the Texas Thunder.

This franchise played three years in League City until its base operations were moved to Rockport, Ill., in 2007.

“I had a great experience playing in the pros,” said Williams-Yates, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, originally from Pasadena. “It was always a challenge. You are playing against the best players in the world. In college, they’re spread out, but now they’re concentrated together.”

Nonetheless, she won the pitcher’s triple crown in 2005 for her wins, strikeouts and earned run average while playing in the National Pro Fastpitch league. She quit after her team relocated to Illinois.

“The lack of media attention killed us in Houston. Nobody knew about us. I can count on one hand in my three years on the team that there was anything in the news about us,” Yates said.


But while the National Pro Fastpitch league has struggled with rebrandings under two other names since its launching in 2004, Osterman and Willams-Yates believe the best years are ahead for this league.

They say the league has a new weapon: national TV coverage.

“We had consistent coverage this past year of our games. They were shown every Monday and Tuesday on the CBS sports network,” she said. “You could count on finding it there, which has helped grow awareness of the kind of excitement the game can generate.”

Men ages 35-55 are the primary audience for the NCAA world series in softball on ESPN, said the Scrap Yard’s general manager, Kevin Shelton.

I’m in that demographic. I enjoy watching the Women’s College World Series. It’s sort of like baseball, but very different in ways that make it really interesting to watch. I’m intrigued by a pro league in Houston, though having it out by The Woodlands dampens my enthusiasm a bit. I’m glad to see more opportunities for female professional athletes, and I wish the Scrap Yard Dawgs lots of success.

Posted in: Other sports.

Saturday video break: How High The Moon

Didn’t get my act together in time to post a video last week – sorry about that. This Saturday we get a little jazzy with the great Charlie Parker:

If you’re a sax player, then Charlie Parker is one of your gods. Wish I could have seen him perform live. As with many jazz songs, there are instrumentals and there are vocals, and when you think of the latter, you think of The Manhattan Transfer:

I asked myself, what could be better than the MT singing this song, and the answer I got was having Ella Fiztgerald join them doing a bit of scat singing. The only problem is that it was over too quickly. A slightly longer Transfer-only version, with a nifty guitar solo where Ella did her thing, is here. Enjoy!

Posted in: Music.

Obama appeals immigration order ruling to SCOTUS

As expected.


The Obama administration on Friday asked the United States Supreme Court to review a federal appellate court’s ruling that struck down the president’s controversial immigration program.

The request comes exactly one year after the program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was announced by the president. It would have allowed more than 4 million undocumented immigrants nationwide to apply for three-year renewable work permits and reprieves from deportation proceedings.

The petition — which the Obama administration said earlier this month it planned to file — states the case “warrants immediate review” and echoes the sense of urgency advocates of the program have expressed for months. If the high court decides to review the case, a ruling could come as late as June, roughly six months before Obama leaves the White House.

See here for the background. It’s hard to imagine SCOTUS not wanting to take this, it’s mostly a question of whether they take it for the next session, so as to have a ruling before the next Presidential election. That’s what I’m hoping for. Not much more to say at this point beyond that. A statement from the Texas Organizing Project is beneath the fold, and Daily Kos has more.

Continue reading →

Posted in: La Migra, Legal matters.

Mayor will seek texting-while-driving ban

One more agenda item before it’s all over.

It’s not the first time Houston officials have broached the issue; Mayor Annise Parker has long lobbied to impose a Texaswide texting-while-driving ban. But months after another legislative session with no action, term-limited Parker said she would ask council members to consider a local ban before she leaves office at the end of the year.

The danger of using cell phones while driving is well documented, increasing crash risks by more than 23 percent, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. In 46 states and the District of Columbia, texting while driving is already banned. Though Texas is one of the few states without such a law, 40 cities including San Antonio and Austin have already opted to enact a local ban.

The city’s public safety committee considered those statistics and two proposed laws Thursday: the first a citywide ban on texting while driving and the second an effort to enforce the existing state ban on texting and cellular phone use in school zones by posting signs. Parker has faced some criticism in recent months because the city has not installed school zone signs, citing costs, and had issued no citations as of September.

“We ought to ban it citywide, that would certainly be my preference,” Parker said earlier this fall. “But I don’t know where the council is on this, and it is certainly a big policy initiative. I think we should have banned it statewide, so of course I’m supporting it here.”

Posting citywide signage is also significantly cheaper than doing so in school zones, according to Jeffrey Weatherford, deputy public works director. There are nearly 8,000 school-zone entry points, costing between $1 million and $1.4 million to appropriately alert drivers. State law prohibits handheld cell phone use in school zones, but the city has not installed the warning signs to enforce that ban.

But if the city were to opt for a Houstonwide ban, they would need to mark just 44 entry points with two signs, costing about $55,000.

While the Parker administration directed the public works department to study the cost of a texting ban, Weatherford said he would recommend City Council take up a prohibition that covers all cellular phone use while driving.

See here for more on the school zone issue. This is not the first time the subject of texting while driving has come up in Houston. There are questions about how effective such bans are, how they can be reasonably enforced, and whether they just provide another pretext for police officers to pull people over, but no one doubts that texting while driving is a dumb and dangerous thing to do. My thinking is that there are people who will do a given thing when it is legal but who will stop doing it if it becomes illegal, so passing the law against it will reduce the number of people who do it even if enforcement is next to impossible. As such, I support texting-while-driving bans. I suspect the votes will be there on Council to do it, so we’ll see what the recommended ordinance looks like.

Posted in: Local politics.

Some power companies like the Clean Power Plan

Not that you’d ever know it.


Thad Hill, in a split with many fellow power company executives, flatly opposes the lawsuits that Texas and 25 others states have filed to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The plan, which the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled in the summer, seeks to combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions at existing power plants. It would affect coal-fired plants most profoundly, because they emit the most carbon dioxide.

It’s no coincidence that the company Hill heads, Houston’s Calpine Corp., owns exactly zero coal plants.

While it’s intuitive that wind and solar power companies, which don’t emit greenhouse gas in generating power, support the Clean Power Plan, opinion within the traditional electricity generation sector is more nuanced.

Calpine, which operates the nation’s largest fleet of natural gas-fired generators, leads a relatively small group supporting the federal rule.

Most companies that generate power with coal oppose it, including Dallas-based Luminant, the state’s largest power generator. It also operates some gas plants and one of Texas’ two nuclear plants.


While the EPA has tightened other emissions regulations under President Barack Obama, the Clean Power Plan is the most sweeping overhaul, said Travis Miller, director of utilities research at Morningstar.

The plan is intended to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants 32 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

“The Clean Power Plan is going to have ripple effects throughout the entire energy system in the U.S.,” Miller said. “Utilities need a long runway to adapt, but they’re willing to adapt.”

In the lawsuit challenging the rules put forth by the Democratic Obama administration, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton calls the plan a massive power grab by the EPA that would increase Texans’ electric bills significantly and threaten the reliability of the electric grid.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages 90 percent of the state’s power grid, has estimated the rule could force the closures of some Texas coal plants and increase electricity prices 16 percent by 2030.

Miller agreed that the Clean Power initiative would affect Texas, though he said that Midwestern, Great Plains and Appalachian states most dependent on coal would feel the greatest effects.

Some of the changes in Texas’ power landscape are occurring anyway, because of cheap shale gas and Texas’ ranking as the largest wind power producer in the nation.

“There’s an impressive pipeline of new gas generation and new wind generation in Texas,” Miller said.

That presents market challenges to coal plants, and could move the state toward compliance with the Clean Power Plan. “Texas might not have to do all that much,” Miller said.

See here for the background. Miller’s statement is consistent with what ERCOT itself has said, and the Clean Power Plan would help conserve water, too. But this is Texas, and our leadership has to do things the hard way. Just remember, they don’t speak for everyone, not even in the power generation business.

Posted in: Bidness.

Transgender acceptance

I have a question to ask about this.

The trans civil rights movement began with stacked odds because it represents such a minority, less than 1 percent of the population, according to various studies. The movement is seen as the frontier beyond gay marriage rights, and trans activists “have moved so much faster than any of these other social justice movements,” said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “It’s because they’ve all laid the groundwork for us.”

She expects to see a tipping point as more transgender children come out, just as gay rights picked up support from families with openly gay children.

Minneapolis became the first city to pass protections for transgender people 40 years ago, and more than 225 other municipalities and 19 states have followed suit. Houston is one of the only major U.S. cities without such a law.

Despite those ordinances, the rights of transgender people are being disputed in court or considered by federal authorities.


In 2013, the Public Religion Research Institute reported that 9 percent of Americans had a close transgender friend or family member. In 2014, the Human Rights Campaign said 17 percent of American survey respondents knew or worked with a transgender person, increasing to 22 percent this year.

It jumps to about 80 percent when the question is about gays and lesbians.

Remember those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets that were all the rage a few years back? I always thought they were obnoxious, but it seems to me they might serve a purpose these days. What would Jesus do with transgender people? Would he spit on them and call them perverts and refuse to let them use public restrooms, or would he embrace them as his brothers and sisters under a just and loving God? I’m just asking. I guess you can tell how I feel by the way I framed the question. I also know that this is a matter of life and death for a lot of people. I know that we will become more accepting as a society over time, but for too many people that won’t be soon enough.

Posted in: Society and cultcha.

Friday random eight: Revisiting the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs list, part 21

Here’s their list.

1. Maybelline – Simon and Garfunkel (#18, orig. Chuck Berry)
2. I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles (#16)
3. Blowin’ In The Wind (A Female Perspective) – The Chenille Sisters (#14, orig. Bob Dylan)
4. My Generation – The Who (#11)
5. What’d I Say? – Ray Charles (#10)
6. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Meat Puppets/Tori Amos/of Montreal (#9, orig. Nirvana)
7. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys (#6)
8. Imagine – John Lennon (#3)

And in the end, there weren’t ten songs out of the top 20 that I had in my library. One of them is a parody, and one was the second half of a live medley (that would be “Kodachrome/Maybelline”, from S&G’s Concert in Central Park). Not sure why that was the case after having such a high percentage of the rest of the top 100, but so be it. I’ve enjoyed this exercise, and now I have a shopping list for iTunes. I’m soliciting a couple of Random Ten lists from Olivia and Audrey, which will run after Thanksgiving. Happy Friday!

Posted in: Music.

Precinct analysis: At Large #5

Last but not least, At Large #5:

Dist  Batteau  Christie  Nassif   Moses
A       1,034     8,302   1,895   2,876
B       2,784     3,157   2,374   6,849
C       1,782    13,555  10,866   4,592
D       5,108     4,098   3,138   7,231
E       1,247    15,479   2,664   3,355
F         811     3,815   1,143   2,545
G       1,079    20,058   4,567   3,203
H       1,349     3,895   2,445   3,502
I       1,372     3,531   1,678   3,062
J         616     2,744     988   1,545
K       2,149     4,891   2,946   5,259
A       7.33%   58.85%   13.43%  20.39%
B      18.36%   20.82%   15.66%  45.17%
C       5.79%   44.02%   35.28%  14.91%
D      26.09%   20.93%   16.03%  36.94%
E       5.48%   68.05%   11.71%  14.75%
F       9.75%   45.89%   13.75%  30.61%
G       3.73%   69.39%   15.80%  11.08%
H      12.05%   34.80%   21.85%  31.29%
I      14.23%   36.62%   17.40%  31.75%
J      10.45%   46.56%   16.77%  26.22%
K      14.10%   32.08%   19.32%  34.50%
Jack Christie

Jack Christie

This is not Jack Christie’s first runoff. It’s his third, in fact: He lost narrowly to then-CM Jolanda Jones in 2009, the defeated her somewhat less narrowly in 2011. He won without a runoff in 2013, and is now back in a familiar position. A review of the precinct data from the two previous runoffs is instructive. The comparison between the two isn’t exact due to the Council redistricting of 2011, but the basics are the same: Christie was clobbered in the African-American parts of town, but did well enough everywhere else. In 2009, the higher overall turnout from the Mayoral runoff was enough to sink his ship by making the margins he had to overcome in B and D that much greater, but the lower turnout of 2011 plus his improved performance in other parts of the city were enough to give him the win. We will be in a turnout environment more like 2009 than 2011 this year, and with Sylvester Turner running that could well boost his opponent and give him problems as was the case in 2009, but this time he’s running against a little-known first-time candidate and not a high-profile incumbent, which ought to work to his benefit. I surely expect a higher undervote rate this year than in 2011 when the AL5 runoff was the main event. I make Christie the favorite, but his re-election is far from assured.

As for Sharon Moses, I’m still getting to know who she is. She sent out a campaign email earlier in the week, which I have pasted beneath the fold. Her challenge and her path to victory are basically the same as they are for Georgia Provost, except that 1) her opponent is a two-term incumbent; 2) her opponent is fairly moderate and has a history of winning crossover support; and 3) she herself is less known than Provost is. Moreover, while Provost has picked up all the Dem-friendly runoff endorsements that I have seen so far, Moses has been a bit less successful in that endeavor. Both Provost and Moses were endorsed by the HCDP and by the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Action Fund, but only Provost was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. I can see scenarios where they both get elected and where they both lose, but if only one of them wins I’d bet money it’s Provost and not Moses.

As for Philippe Nassif, it was a good effort by another first-time candidate, but the district view shows that he still had a ways to go. He did well in the friendly confines of District C, though not well enough to outdo Christie, but did not make enough of an impression elsewhere. If he wants to run again in 2019 – and he should, unless he gets elected to something else between now and then or moves to another city – my advice would be to stay engaged seek out opportunities to get his name out there. Take a more prominent and visible role in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Write some op-eds for the Chronicle. Find a cause and throw yourself into it. There are far more ultimately successful candidates who lost their first race (or races) than there are instant winners. Stay engaged, keep yourself out there, and you’ll enter 2019 more prepared than most. I hope to see you on my ballot again.

Continue reading →

Posted in: Election 2015.

Lawsuit filed over term limits referendum

As if on cue, the following hit my inbox on Wednesday afternoon, from Eric Dick:


Phillip Paul Bryant is filing a lawsuit to invalidate Proposition 2 because the ballot language misled Houston voters.

Annise Parker and the City of Houston have a history with misleading voters when it comes to ballot language. Indeed in 2015 alone, Texas Supreme Court has found that Annise Parker and the City of Houston have used inappropriate ballot language at least twice.[1][2]

On November 3, 2015, registered voters of the City of Houston were asked to vote on several propositions, including a proposition extending term limits. (“Proposition 2”). The ballot language for Proposition 2 reads as follows:

“(Relating to Term Limits for City Elective Office) Shall the City Charter of the City of Houston be amended to reduce the number of terms of elective offices to no more than two terms in the same office and limit the length for all terms of elective office to four years, beginning in January 2016; and provide for transition?”

The voters of the City of Houston passed Proposition 2 on November 3, 2015.

The language of Proposition 2 was misleading in one of more of the following ways:

  • The ballot language suggested that it would “limit” term length instead of expanding them from two-year terms to four-year terms;
  • The ballot language suggested that the “limit the length for all terms” to be four years instead of allowing elected municipal officials to serve a total of up to eight or ten years;
  • As admitted by Annise D. Parker in an interview with Houston Public Media, voters thought they were limiting the amount of time for municipal elected officials to serve in office.

See here for the background. Phillip Paul Bryant was a candidate for District B in 2011, and was engaged in the opposition to HERO. A copy of the petition is here; as always, I welcome feedback from the lawyers out there. On the one hand, I voted against the term limits change and feel that two-year terms are the better idea. On the other hand, I’m not particularly awed by Eric Dick’s legal prowess. On the other other hand, Lord only knows what the Supreme Court will do; the two footnotes in that press release refer to the decisions on Renew Houston and the wording of the HERO referendum. So who knows? If history is any guide, we won’t know for several years. The Chron and KUHF have more.

Posted in: Legal matters.

On Texas and refugees

Greg Abbott does not speak for Texas.

Tens of thousands of immigrants have come to Texas to escape persecution or political violence, and Texans have often offered their hearts, lands and money to the dispossessed. What has changed that makes it so easy for Governor Greg Abbott to declare Texas closed to Syrian refugees fleeing the murderous violence of ISIS and other rebel factions in their homeland? (Of course, Abbott cannot keep Syrian refugees out of Texas, but he can make certain the state does not cooperate in their re-location.) I spent a few minutes searching old newspaper archives to see how Texas handled refugees in the past.

When Russia began a purge of Jews in 1888, a Texan named J.B. Brown offered to give 100 acres of land to each Jewish family who wanted to relocate to Motley County on the plains of West Texas. Similarly, in 1939, a search was made around Texas for land that might be purchased for the relocation of European Jews. The city of Plainview notified Governor James Allred that 46,000 acres could be made immediately available if needed. There’s no evidence that any families took these offers, but the offers were at least made.

In 1956, when Hungarians revolted against oppressive Soviet control, people in Dallas welcomed refugees. Eighty-seven were greeted at Love Field by a local delegation, with the Southern Methodist University band playing the Hungarian national anthem, and the Lone Star flag of Texas joined by the national flags of the United States and Hungary. As The Dallas Morning News reported: “Refugees from blood-drained Hungary representing such diverse occupations as laborers, musicians, teachers, knitters and typists, Saturday will land in hospitable Dallas—their peaceful haven after bloody riots.” However, one group of six refugees had refused to come to Dallas because they believed the city was still the Wild West that they had seen in Hollywood movies. It was our violence they feared, not us fearing theirs.

(Indeed, Dallas continues to exhibit its welcoming spirit. The Morning News reported yesterday that Mayor Mike Rawlings said “he didn’t see what authority any mayor or governor had to keep legal U.S. residents out of a city or state. He said no one has contacted him about Syrian refugees but, if they did, it would be ‘the spirit of Dallas’ to help in a crisis.”)

When Cuban refugees started arriving in 1961, Texas Methodists, Baptists and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth organized to find them new homes and new jobs. “No church is too small to help meet the refugee problem,” the Texas Methodist wrote in an editorial. Will the churches of Texas be as welcoming to the Syrians now?

Similarly, Texas Quakers and Catholics in 1982 organized an underground railroad to help those fleeing violence in El Salvador find refuge in Texas by going around federal immigration officials. At one point, it was estimated that 25,000 Salvadorans were living illegally in Houston alone. Both sides in El Salvador’s civil war engaged in terroristic acts and death squads. Nothing could guarantee that some terrorists had not entered the country, nothing except the belief that most, if not all, of these people simply wanted to live their lives in peace, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In the 1970s, Texas welcomed 27,000 refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia.

He does not speak for Christians:

A push by Republican presidential candidates to ban Syrian refugees “does not reflect what we’ve been hearing from our constituencies, which are evangelical churches across the country,” said Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy at World Relief, an evangelical organization that helps resettle refugees. “Most of the people have been saying we want to continue to work with refugees, that what happened in Paris … doesn’t reflect who refugees are.”


The United States so far has admitted roughly 2,100 Syrians since the conflict in the country began in March 2011. To be allowed in, refugees have to undergo the most stringent security checks of any traveler heading to the United States, according to the State Department. Officials from the Obama administration on Tuesday began reaching out to the media and lawmakers in a bid to explain the screening process, which takes an average of 18-24 months.

Meanwhile, faith-based groups have also stepped up their advocacy efforts for refugees. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement expressing distress over calls by elected officials to halt the resettlement program.

“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said the statement by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the conference’s committee on migration. “Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes. Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive.”

Since the Paris attacks, World Relief has used a website to urge people to contact their governors to express their support for resettling Syrians. The Anti-Defamation League also has spoken out in favor of helping the Syrian refugees, noting that U.S. wariness to accept Jewish refugees during World War II is an example that must not be repeated.

I don’t know who Greg Abbott thinks he’s speaking for, but he doesn’t speak for them, he doesn’t speak for Fred, and he doesn’t speak for me.

Posted in: Around the world.

Council approves body camera contract

Moving forward.

City Council approved a $3.4 million contract Wednesday to equip Houston Police Department officers with body-worn cameras despite some lingering concerns that key pieces of the city’s policy for the equipment have not been finalized.

Councilmen Mike Laster, C.O. Bradford and Michael Kubosh along with councilwoman Brenda Stardig voted against the contract with the selected company, Watchguard. Officials hope the cameras will provide transparency and evidence in resident-officer interactions, particularly when force is used.

The four council members who voted against the contract said they supported outfitting officers with the cameras, but that they were either concerned that community groups had not been included in the broader body camera discussion or were frustrated that the city’s policy for storing the video data had not yet been finalized.

Mayor Annise Parker said the plan was to split the body camera program up into three parts: the equipment, the protocol for using the equipment and a storage plan. But she said the camera procurement was sound and the best price for the city.

“My only concern about this whole process is the police department being the police department was, ‘We’re the police experts, we’re going to …’ They don’t always think about the fact – and the chief acknowledged it – that this is a highly sensitized issue right now and a lot of scrutiny,” Parker said. “They could have done a little more up-front public information, although I’ll point out there were some council members today who … collective amnesia.”

A committee meeting on Thursday will tackle the question of whether footage from the cameras should be stored in-house or with a third party, a more costly option but one that proponents say would alleviate concerns about video being tampered with or edited.

There are more questions than that that need to be answered. I’m sure there’s time to get those questions answered before the body cameras are fully deployed, and if this was the deal that was on offer, then it needed to be completed. This process does need to move along, but let’s remember that it is a process, and it’s an ongoing one.

Meanwhile on a related note, this interview with Chief McClelland about the need for criminal justice reform is well worth reading. A sample:

How have previous policing policies affected Houston and how might this new response change that?

There are many who believe the criminal justice system is broken. I’m certainly not one to believe it’s broken – it’s producing the results it’s designed to produce. If we want different results, that’s why the system must be reformed. Because it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do. When we have mandatory sentencing laws [for] minor crime offenses, drug offenses, for people who are really not the greatest threat to community safety, and who are using massive amounts of law enforcement resources, there has to be a better way.

And criminal justice reform and what we’re speaking about in our group… to reduce crime and incarceration – we believe we can do both – if we put more resources into substance abuse treatment, treatment of folks suffering from some form of mental illness and also to reduce the homeless population. Because if you think about it – some of people we arrest on a regular and routine, and very frequent, basis for minor crimes – We are sentencing these people to life sentences – but they’re serving just 3-4 days at a time. Those suffering from intoxication, mental illness, homelessness – they commit a minor crime [and] they only stay in jail 2-3 days at a time, but they are being arrested quite frequently. And over a lifetime, we’re sentencing them to a life sentence – they’re just serving it 2-3 days at a time.

It just doesn’t get to the root cause of the problem or the issue the person is suffering from.

Now let me make this very clear – people who pose the greatest threats to our neighborhoods and our communities, especially those who are violent – and repeat violent offenders, we need to lock those people up for long periods of time, and some of those individuals need to be locked up for the rest of their natural lives. But that’s a very, very small portion of folks who make up the criminal justice system, because an overwhelming number – 90 percent of folks who go to prison get released at some point in time.

But if a person has nothing to be released to – no family structure – no opportunity for legitimate employment – no education, no job skills – the system is almost guaranteeing you’re going to get involved in some illegal activity and go back to prison.

Also, the empirical data clearly has shown that the earlier one contacts the criminal justice system, such as a juvenile, the chances increase two- and three-fold you will go to jail or prison.

So if we can prevent the initial contact from occurring, we reduce the likelihood a great deal that you’ll ever be arrested and put into the system.

Lots there for us all, including the next Mayor and police chief, to think about. Go take a look and see what you think.

Posted in: Crime and Punishment.

Precinct analysis: At Large #4

At Large #4 features a newcomer and a multi-time candidate in its runoff.

Dist  Edwards  Hansen  Blackmon  Robinson  Thompson  Murphy  Morales
A       3,707     572       662     2,378     2,565   1,844    2,702
B      10,732     306     1,296     2,109     1,160     327    1,477
C      11,309   1,226     1,189     6,688     3,891   2,967    3,911
D      12,636     400     2,691     2,618     1,559     542    1,902
E       3,612   1,054       960     3,197     5,033   5,288    4,158
F       2,673     438       542     1,368     1,370     713    1,675
G       4,914   1,150       960     7,210     5,746   4,073    4,193
H       4,121     304       475     1,397       982     468    4,664
I       3,187     302       537     1,022       895     418    4,568
J       1,911     281       325     1,031       909     408    1,339
K       8,357     395     1,444     2,555     1,730     646    1,900
A      25.69%   3.96%     4.59%    16.48%    17.78%  12.78%   18.72%
B      61.65%   1.76%     7.45%    12.12%     6.66%   1.88%    8.49%
C      36.27%   3.93%     3.81%    21.45%    12.48%   9.52%   12.54%
D      56.54%   1.79%    12.04%    11.71%     6.98%   2.43%    8.51%
E      15.50%   4.52%     4.12%    13.72%    21.60%  22.69%   17.84%
F      30.45%   4.99%     6.17%    15.58%    15.61%   8.12%   19.08%
G      17.40%   4.07%     3.40%    25.53%    20.34%  14.42%   14.84%
H      33.20%   2.45%     3.83%    11.26%     7.91%   3.77%   37.58%
I      29.16%   2.76%     4.91%     9.35%     8.19%   3.82%   41.80%
J      30.80%   4.53%     5.24%    16.62%    14.65%   6.58%   21.58%
K      49.08%   2.32%     8.48%    15.01%    10.16%   3.79%   11.16%
Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards turns in an impressive performance, even more so for being a first time candidate. It occurred to me in looking at these numbers that Edwards has the kind of profile that would make for a strong challenger to Michael Kubosh – a progressive African-American with solid business/establishment credentials. Of course, a candidate with that profile would be a formidable opponent for anyone, which is a big part of the reason she did so well here. Every candidate in the runoff is at least somewhat dependent on the Mayor’s race, as that will do far more to determine who votes and how many of them there are, but Edwards’ first round performance makes her less dependent on that than most.

I suspect a lot of people (I was one) expected Laurie Robinson to do better than she did. She’d run before, she collected a decent number of endorsements, including a few from more conservative groups who apparently weren’t too impressed with the Republican candidates in the race, and it seemed likely she would collect a fair share of the vote in districts B and D. Instead, Edwards blew her out of the water, so much so that Robinson slipped into third place and out of the runoff. Robinson did slightly worse in these districts than she did in 2011, though here there were seven candidates including three African-Americans, while in 2011 there were four and two. One possible explanation for this is that people may have held a grudge against her for opposing then-CM Jolanda Jones, who was forced into a runoff she eventually lost. I have no way to test that hypothesis, so it’s just a guess. Whatever the case, if Robinson wants to take another crack at a Council campaign in 2019, her inability to do well in these districts is an issue she’s going to have to address.

With Roy Morales sneaking ahead of Laurie Robinson into the runoff, this race shapes up as D-versus-R, as are most of the others. In this case, while there were several Rs in the first round, they combined to score almost no endorsements from the Republican/conservative establishment; as noted above, Robinson did better with that crowd than Morales, Matt Murphy, Jonathan Hansen, and Evelyn Husband Thompson combined. They’re pulling together for Morales now, as they did at the tail end of the 2009 Mayor’s race, and Morales does have the advantage of picking up some low-information votes in districts H and I, but this is Morales’ third runoff out of five citywide races (2007 AL3 special election, 2007 AL3 November election, 2009 Mayor, 2013 AL3, and 2015 AL4, with the first, fourth, and fifth being the runoff races) and it’s hard to see him doing any better than he has done before. One should never take anything for granted, but I suspect the Vegas oddsmakers would install Edwards as a strong favorite in this race.

Posted in: Election 2015.

Perry’s day at the CCA

Now we wait to see if he comes out of this a free man or a man still under one or more indictments.

Corndogs make bad news go down easier

Never mind the corndogs, here comes the CCA

Lawyers for former Gov. Rick Perry fought Wednesday before the highest criminal court in Texas to finish off the 15-month-old indictment against him, while prosecutors argued it was far too early to let Perry off the hook.

At a critical two-hour hearing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, both sides fielded a slew of hypothetical scenarios and skeptical questions as they tackled a ruling by a lower court earlier this year that dismissed one of the two felony charges against Perry, coercion of a public servant.


Two issues were at play Wednesday. One was whether the remaining charge, abuse of power, should also be thrown out, effectively ending the 15-month-old case against Perry. The other issue was whether a statute should be reinstated that was struck down by the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals in July when it dismissed the coercion charge.

Eight judges listened as those issues were aired out in hour-long blocks split between David Botsford, the lead attorney on Perry’s appeal, and State Prosecuting Attorney Lisa McMinn. Judge Bert Richardson, who oversaw Perry’s case as a district judge and now sits on the Court of Criminal Appeals, did not take part in the Wednesday arguments.

As Perry’s legal team has done from the get-go, Botsford cast the case as having serious implications for First Amendment rights and a chilling effect on elected officials down the line. The indictment, he said, violates three principles to which Perry was entitled as Texas’ longest-serving governor: separation of powers, free speech and legislative immunity.

“The danger of allowing a prosecutor to do this is mind-boggling,” Botsford said as he sought to convince the eight judges present for the arguments that they should immediately end the indictment.

McMinn argued more than once that the defense was “getting ahead of ourselves” with its discussion of dispensing with the indictment before trial, insisting that not all the facts are out. Botsford later countered that such disclosure is not required for the court to dismiss the remaining charge. The questions before the judges, Botsford said, are “issues of law, not issues of fact.”

McMinn specifically sought to poke holes in Botsford’s argument that Perry had legislative immunity because vetoes are legislative acts, an argument she said “strains credibility” when one considers, for example, a member of the Legislature cannot take the same action. In his remarks, Botsford argued Perry was clearly “wearing his legislative hat” and thus protected from prosecution, regardless of any threats that may have accompanied his veto.

This hearing was originally scheduled for November 4, but you know how it goes. What happens next is we wait. The CCA justices (minus Bert Richardson, who is of course the judge in the actual criminal trial) asked more questions of McMinn than of Botsford, but who knows if that means anything. The trial is on hold pending a resolution of these issues by the CCA, so one hopes we won’t have to wait too long. See Trailblazers, the Express-News, and this Trib story for more from before the hearing.

Posted in: Crime and Punishment, Scandalized!.

Susan King suspends Senate campaign

Sorry to hear this.

Rep. Susan King

State Rep. Susan King has suspended her race for an open state Senate seat while she receives treatment for chronic depression, a condition she has battled “for some time,” her campaign announced Monday.

King, R-Abilene, still hopes to appear in the Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Sen. Troy Fraser but won’t make a decision about whether to run until closer to the Dec. 14 filing deadline, campaign spokesman Bryan Eppstein said.

“It has been difficult for Susan to take time out to address her personal battle with depression, but this is a serious condition that simply could not be delayed any longer,” said Eppstein, who praised King’s courage in being “open and public about her situation.”

King will not run if her doctors and family advise against it, he said. “Susan is a dedicated public servant and scrappy campaign fighter,” Eppstein said. “If she’s cleared for the campaign, she will run to win.”

See here and here for the background. I wish Rep. King all the best for a swift and complete recovery.

Posted in: Election 2016.

Texas blog roundup for the week of November 16

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks maybe we should finish celebrating Thanksgiving before we begin the Christmas season as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Continue reading →

Posted in: Blog stuff.

Precinct analysis: At Large #3

Only one candidate running for citywide office won outright in November. That candidate was first term CM Michael Kubosh in At Large #3. Here’s how he won:

Dist  Kubosh   LaRue  McElligott  Peterson
A      8,782   1,042         835     3,152
B      8,988   1,526       1,251     3,541
C     16,414   2,314       1,409    10,138
D     12,074   1,599       1,367     4,385
E     15,033   1,249       1,217     5,314
F      4,192     973         819     2,274
G     19,632   1,463       1,069     5,433
H      6,149   1,284         925     3,055
I      5,121   1,057         953     2,567
J      3,230     600         492     1,566
K      8,524   1,271         989     4,283
A     63.59%   7.54%       6.05%    22.82%
B     58.72%   9.97%       8.17%    23.13%
C     54.22%   7.64%       4.65%    33.49%
D     62.16%   8.23%       7.04%    22.57%
E     65.90%   5.47%       5.33%    23.29%
F     50.76%  11.78%       9.92%    27.54%
G     71.14%   5.30%       3.87%    19.69%
H     53.88%  11.25%       8.10%    26.77%
I     52.80%  10.90%       9.83%    26.47%
J     54.86%  10.19%       8.36%    26.60%
K     56.57%   8.44%       6.56%    28.43%
CM Michael Kubosh

CM Michael Kubosh

There’s not a whole lot to say here. Kubosh won a majority in every Council district, only coming close to not having a majority in District F. Some of this is a perk of high name ID, but said name ID was earned through work on the red light camera referendum and by being visible on Council. There have been a lot more people running for At Large seats in recent elections, challenging incumbents as well as piling up in open seat races. Since 2009, when CM Melissa Noriega ran unopposed, two At Large members have been dislodged, and every At Large incumbent save Steve Costello and Brad Bradford in 2013 have had at least two opponents. Sue Lovell and Jolanda Jones survived runoffs in 2009, while David Robinson and Jack Christie face them this year. In that context, Kubosh’s achievement as one of only two At Large incumbents to clear 60% against multiple opponents in this time frame (Bradford in 2011 is the other) is even more impressive. Give the man his due.

With all this recent interest in At Large races, and with the next election being four long years away (barring any further intervention from the Supreme Court), one wonders what the landscape will look like the next time these seats are up. As noted once before, CM Christie is the only At Large member whose term would be up in 2019, meaning that if he loses then every citywide officeholder as of January 2, 2016, can be on the ballot in 2019. (Like CM Kubosh, CM Robinson is in his first term, so regardless of the outcome in At Large #2, the incumbent in that seat can run for re-election.) With four years between races, one would think that there will be a lot of pent-up demand for Council offices, which may attract another truckload of citywide hopefuls. On the other hand, districts A, B, C, J (if CM Laster wins), and K will all be open then, so perhaps that will siphon off some of that demand. I really have no idea what it will be like, but barring anything strange, it seems reasonable to say that CM Kubosh will be a favorite to win a third term. Check back with me in January of 2019 and we’ll see how good that statement looks at that time.

Posted in: Election 2015.

Endorsement watch: Bell for King

As the headline notes, this came as a surprise to many.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Former Congressman Chris Bell publicly backed fiscal conservative Bill King in the Houston mayoral runoff Tuesday, a move that could bolster King’s efforts to make inroads with progressive voters.

Bell’s endorsement came as a surprise to many political insiders expecting the progressive former mayoral candidate to support King’s rival, Democrat Sylvester Turner.

Bell cited King’s focus on pension reform, public safety, road repair and flooding as reasons for his endorsement, as well as the businessman’s thoughtful approach to policy issues.

“It might come as a surprise to some because of my political persuasion, but it really shouldn’t,” Bell said alongside King in Meyerland. “Truth be told, we agree much more than we disagree. As far as the major principles of his campaign, we’re in complete agreement.”

If you say so, Chris. From my perspective, the main area of overlap between the two campaigns was an enthusiasm for bashing Adrian Garcia. On a number of issues I can think of, from HERO to the revenue cap to ReBuild Houston to (yes) pensions, there seemed to be little in common. It’s easier for me to see agreement between Steve Costello and Sylvester Turner than it is for me to see concurrence between Bell and King. Perhaps it’s in the eye of the beholder, I don’t know. But really, on a broader level, it’s that Bell positioned himself quite purposefully to Sylvester Turner’s left, with his greater purity on LGBT equality being a main point of differentiation. Though he missed out on getting the Houston GLBT Political Caucus’ endorsement – amid a fair amount of grumbling about Turner buying the recommendation via a slew of last-minute memberships – Bell had a lot of support in the LGBT community; a couple of his fervent supporters courted my vote at the West Gray Multi-Service Center by reminding me of an old Turner legislative vote against same sex foster parenting. This is why it’s hard to believe his claims about there being so much in common between him and King, and why this announcement was met with such an explosion of outrage and cries of betrayal. It’s not a partisan matter so much as it is a strong suspicion that either the prior assertions about being the real champion of equality were lies or that this endorsement had to come with a prize. If Chris Bell honestly believes that Bill King will be the best Mayor, that’s his right and his choice. But no one should be surprised by the reaction to it.

Does this help King? Well, he needs to get some Anglo Dem support to win, and that was Bell’s base. Of course, speaking as someone in that demographic, I’ve seen very little evidence that any of his erstwhile supporters were impressed by this. Quite the reverse, as noted above. I guess it can’t hurt, I just wouldn’t expect it to do much.

In the meantime, various organizations have been issuing new and updated endorsements for the runoffs. A few highlights:

– As previously noted, the HCDP endorsed all Democratic candidates with Republican opponents. That means Sylvester Turner for Mayor, Chris Brown for Controller, Georgia Provost, David Robinson, Amanda Edwards, Sharon Moses, Richard Nguyen, and Mike Laster for Council, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jose Leal for HISD Trustee.

– The Houston GLBT Political Caucus added Georgia Provost and Karla Cisneros to their list of endorsed candidates. Turner, Brown, Edwards, and the incumbents were already on there. They did not take action on Moses and Leal.

– The Meyerland Democrats made their first endorsements in a city election: Turner, Brown, Provost, Robinson, Edwards, Nguyen, and Laster.

– Controller candidate Chris Brown sent out another email touting endorsements, this time from five previous Controllers – Ronald Green, Annise Parker, Sylvia Garcia, George Greanias, and Kathy Whitmire. As you know, I’m glad to see Green support him.

– As noted here, the Harris County GOP Executive Committee endorsed Willie Davis in AL2, though it wasn’t exactly unanimous.

– The Log Cabin Republicans transferred their endorsements to Bill King and Mike Knox, and reiterated their support for David Robinson, Jack Christie, and Steve Le. Guess being staunchly anti-HERO has its drawbacks.

– A group called the Texas Conservative View endorsed the candidates you’d expect them to – King, Frazer, Knox, Davis, Roy Morales, Christie, Steve Le, Jim Bigham – and one I didn’t, Jason Cisneroz. All of them were repeats from November except for Morales; they had previously endorsed Jonathan Hansen.

– Finally, the Houston Association of Realtors gave Bill King an endorsement that does mean something and makes sense, along with Amanda Edwards.

I think that catches me up. I’m sure there will be more to come – in particular, the Chron has a few races to revisit. They need to pick a finalist between Brown and Frazer, and make a new choice in AL1 and AL5. I’ll let you know when they do.

UPDATE: The line I deleted above about “being staunchly anti-HERO” was a reference to Willie Davis not getting the LCR endorsement in At Large #2. It made sense in my head when I wrote it, but I can see now that I didn’t make that clear at all. And given that the LCRs endorsed David Robinson in November, it doesn’t make sense even when I clarify who I intended that to be about. So, I take it back. Sorry for the confusion.

Posted in: Election 2015.

Ken Paxton says Ken Paxton’s arrest video can’t be released

How convenient.

Best mugshot ever

I looked into the unusual situation in which the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was asked to rule on its boss. Here’s what happened.

Media organizations requested the video of Paxton’s recent booking into the Collin County Jail. His office denied the requests.

Talk about a conflict of interest.

The lawyers who issued the ruling work for Paxton. What would happen to them if they ruled against their boss and further damaged his reputation?

It’s a legitimate question, especially since the attorney general is the top arbiter in the state of what’s public and what’s not.

So I reached out to the AG’s office and asked officials there to explain how they handled the conflict.


Cynthia Meyer of the AG’s office told me:

“In this instance, we directed that any open records ruling involving Attorney General Paxton in his personal capacity should obviously be screened from him.

“And to avoid even the appearance of a conflict where none actually exists, we screened such matters from executive staff review.”

Instead, she said, the rulings are handled by longtime career lawyers in the office with extensive open-government experience.

The AG’s office ruled that release of the video would have “interfered with law enforcement.”


Collin County officials argued that the recordings show secure areas of the jail and reveal blind spots not covered by surveillance cameras.

Release of the video could allow the bad guys to develop ways to circumvent the security cameras.

Do you buy that?

Um, no. The justification is lame, the process is sketchy, and in the end all roads lead to the benefit of Ken Paxton. I mean, seriously. All I can say is thank you, Ken Paxton, for making your buffoonish corruption so painfully clear. I just hope that when you run for re-election in 2018, we Democrats have figured out a way to make you own it. The Chron has more.

Posted in: Crime and Punishment, Scandalized!.

What people use B-Cycle for

From Rice University:

A new report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research finds that Sun Belt city residents are most likely to use bike-share programs for recreation, compared with users in the Midwest or Northeast, who regularly use the same programs for their daily commute.

The report, “Shifting Gears: Framing Bike-sharing Trends in Sun Belt Cities,” examines how consumers use bike-sharing programs in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston and Denver. The study is the first of several to be released by the Kinder Institute in the coming months and seeks to advance the understanding of the dynamics already at play in Sun Belt bike-share systems.

Bike-share systems are a growing part of the transportation options and recreational landscape of many cities. They place rentable bikes at a network of kiosks with bike docks and pay stations across a city. At most hours of the day, users can check out bikes from any kiosk after buying a daily pass or purchasing a longer-term membership. Riders can return bikes to any kiosk in the network.

“The flexibility of the system allows riders to use bikes for a variety of reasons – to commute to work, go out for a drink, exercise, run errands or take a relaxing ride,” said Kyle Shelton, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Kinder Institute and the study’s co-author. “Riders can engage in these pursuits without needing to own and maintain a personal bike, wait for transit or drive a car.”

The researchers grouped bike trips into four categories: weekday two-location (starting and ending at different kiosk locations), weekend two-location, weekday round-trip and weekend round-trip. Differentiating among the four types revealed that the four cities have a diverse set of bike-share programs and varied usage.

The study found that bike-sharing varies considerably across individual kiosks. In all four cities, the overwhelming majority of kiosks generate more two-location trips than round-trips. And in all four systems, round-trip activity is concentrated at a handful of kiosks located in parks or along bike trails.

“Recent discussions of bike sharing have focused on the large systems in Northeastern and Midwestern cities and tend to emphasize bike sharing as convenient means of commuting to work,” Shelton said. “While riders in Sun Belt cities make trips for a variety of purposes, including commuting, many riders — especially in the Texas cities – use bike share for recreation. Many of these kiosks near parks or bike trails are among the most heavily used stations in all four cities.”

In Houston and Fort Worth, only about one-third of trips are weekday two-location trips. The remaining two-thirds of the trips in these cities are round-trips or occur on weekends.

“This suggests that these programs cater primarily to recreational users,” said Kelsey Walker, a postbaccalaureate research fellow at the Kinder Institute and the study’s co-author.

However, in Denver and Austin, more than half of users’ trips are weekday two-location trips.

“These trips are most likely to replace peak-hour commuting trips made by other transportation modes,” Walker said.

Shelton and Walker hope the report will provide a richer understanding of how people use bike-share programs in lower-density and traditionally car-centric cities in the Sun Belt. As cities in the Sun Belt and around the country add, expand and implement bike-sharing systems, subsequent studies will examine kiosk characteristics and network dynamics more thoroughly.

“We hope that these findings will lead cities to view bike share not only as a novel form of public transit, but also as an accessible and exciting piece of park programming,” Shelton and Walker said. “Moreover, we hope that a closer look at the bike-sharing activity in these four cities will better equip decision-makers across the country to develop locally appropriate bike-sharing systems that capitalize on their cities’ existing strengths.”

You can see the full report here. There’s a brief video that accompanies it that is embedded at the Kinder Institute homepage and also in the Chron story that was written about this. That story notes that more of the downtown B-Cycle checkouts are one-way trips. With a big expansion coming, the expectation is that there will be more such trips overall in Houston. Not that there’s anything wrong with people using B-Cycle for recreation. I myself have used it entirely for short trips, mostly downtown where it’s a bit too far to walk in a timely manner and no other mode of transportation makes sense. Whatever people are using it for, people are using it, and there’s a lot more to come of it.

Posted in: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.