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April 13th, 2012:

Friday random ten: Tax day

It’s what really makes the world go ’round.

1. Easy Money – Billy Joel
2. Money – Pink Floyd
3. Money – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
4. Money – Yes
5. Money – N.A.S.A
6. Money, Money, Money – from “Mamma Mia”
7. Money For Nothing – Big Daddy
8. Gimme Some Money – Brian Grosz
9. I Need Some Money – John Lee Hooker
10. With Plenty Of Money And You – Count Basie

May your return be error-free and on time.

The home stretch for interviews

Barring anything unusual, I’ve done all of the Harris County interviews I’m going to do at this point. You can see who I’ve spoken to and listen to them all on the Harris County primary page. You may have noticed that there’s still a couple of weeks till early voting, and you might be wondering what I’ve got left to bridge the gap till then. The answer is that I’m working on interviewing candidates in the multitude of contested Congressional primaries. This post is one part what to expect and one part request for help.

I don’t know how many of these candidates I’m going to be able to interview. Unlike Harris County, I don’t have connections to a lot of these people, so it’s harder to get things set up. For the same reason, I’m not going to be able to group interviews by race very much. I’m going to try to reach more than one candidate for each race where I talk to someone, but there are no guarantees. So with all that said, here’s how things look as of this morning:

Candidates I have already interviewed – These will run in some order over the next two weeks:

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, CD16
Pete Gallego, CD23
Ciro Rodriguez, CD23
Marc Veasey, CD33
Ramiro Garza, CD34
Anthony Troiani, CD34

Candidates with whom I have made contact, but do not yet have scheduled – I hope to get them all on the calendar soon, but I need to get a suggestion of what dates would work for them first:

Beto O’Rourke, CD16
Joaquin Castro, CD20
Domingo Garcia, CD33
Sylvia Romo, CD35

Candidates I have sent email to but have not heard back from – In my copious spare time, I will try to phone them if I can find a phone number on their website:

Armando Villalobos, CD34
Filemon Vela, CD34
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, CD35

Candidates I would like to talk to but have not yet contacted – The road to hell is very nicely paved, I must say:

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, CD15
Ronnie MacDonald, CD27
Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson, CD30
Barbara Mallory Caraway, CD30
Taj Clayton, CD30
Kathleen Hicks, CD33
Steve Salazar, CD33

That last list could grow depending on how industrious and/or delusional I get. This is where you come in. My preferred modus operandi for contacting a campaign is to find someone who knows someone and ideally get an introduction or at least a name and a responsive phone number or email address. What I like to avoid where possible is cold calling or sending email to a generic email address. I presume, or at least I hope, that my readership includes people who are with or know someone who is with these campaigns, and I’m including the penultimate group as well as the last one. If you are one of these people, I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me and let me know so I can take advantage of your connections. You can email me – kuff at offthekuff dot com – you can send me a message via Facebook, or you can leave a comment on this post and tell me how to reach you. If all I ever publish are the six interviews I’ve already done, I’ll still feel pretty good about my accomplishment, and I’ll work on tracking down the stragglers at the TDP convention in June. Needless to say, I’d like to do more before the primary. So please help me if you can, and we’ll all be the better for it. Thanks very much.

The plot thickens

Once again, I got nothing.

They're probably involved, too

Houston City Councilwoman Helena Brown voted against a city construction project Wednesday, warning that in signing off on two energy-efficient building projects the council was handing millions of dollars to a “non-American initiative and interests.”

It was the first of two occasions during the weekly meeting that Brown suggested city projects were linked to Agenda 21, a non-binding resolution the United Nations passed at the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. The catalog of proposals aims to combat sprawl and promote conservation. Brown voted in favor of the second project she linked to Agenda 21, however, because it came in under budget.

Activists and some politicians see Agenda 21 as a U.N.-led conspiracy to impose worldwide control on people, in part by denying private property rights through the implementation of sustainable growth or “green” initiatives by local and state governments.

I’m just curious. Has anyone informed CM Brown that the city of Houston fluoridates its water? It goes so much deeper than you feared, Helena! Run for your life!

One more thing:

The councilwoman’s string of votes against spending Wednesday targeted items ranging from housing for the homeless to dental care for seniors to family planning.

Emphasis mine. According to the Council agenda from Wednesday, that means that CM Brown voted against the following:

18. ORDINANCE approving and authorizing contract between the City of Houston and TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS to accept the amount of $985,069.00 from the Housing Trust Fund for use in connection with the Texas Homeless Housing and Services Program

19. ORDINANCE approving and authorizing contract between the City of Houston and TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS to accept the amount of $186,753.00 in Below Market Interest Rate Funds for use in connection with the Texas Homeless Housing and Services Program

In other words, CM Brown’s recently professed concern for the plight of the homeless only goes so far. Just so we’re all clear on that.

Groundbreaking on the county’s new DNA forensics lab


Be careful moving that robot

Harris County officials on Tuesday broke ground on a new forensic genetics laboratory, to open later this year, which will let county scientists test DNA evidence in a growing number of cases.

The 15,000-square-foot facility, on Holcombe in the Texas Medical Center, could be considered the little brother of a new Institute of Forensic Sciences the county plans to begin building elsewhere in the Medical Center late next year. Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved $7 million for design work on the nine-story tower that will allow the institute to expand the rest of its services, including autopsies.


Dr. Luis Sanchez, the chief medical examiner, said the expansion also will let his staff further an effort with Baylor College of Medicine to investigate genetic causes for sudden death among infants and young adults, as well as add more fellowships for doctoral students.

See here and here for some background. What really interested me about this story, other than the chance to post that DNA robot picture again, was this:

The county’s move to expand its lab comes as city leaders look at plans to spin off Houston’s troubled crime lab. Mayor Annise Parker has proposed removing the city’s crime lab from the Houston Police Department and placing it under an appointed board.

Parker has said she welcomes county participation in her plan, but that seems unlikely.

County Judge Ed Emmett has called the idea a “nonstarter.”

That’s a much more pessimistic tone than what we had heard before from Judge Emmett. In February, when Mayor Parker unveiled her plan for the city’s crime lab, the Chron quoted Emmett as follows:

County Judge Ed Emmett said that although the city and county are on separate tracks right now, Parker’s proposal ultimately could make it easier for the two governments to come together.

“By having the LGC, it opens up more options for how the city can approach forensic science, including partnering with the Institute of Forensic Sciences,” Emmett said.

I was curious to know if something had changed, so I asked him. Judge Emmett told me that he didn’t intend for that to sound particularly negative. He and Mayor Parker have talked about this, many times and on friendly terms. He said it basically comes down to this: The city was approached several times, but didn’t want to sign on with the county when the money was carved out to build the new IFS lab, so the county finally just went forward at that time. The Mayor then unveiled her plans calling for a lab overseen by an appointed board. That was pretty much where the two sides kind of agreed to go their separate ways, because the county was not about to spend its money and build a new state-of-the-art lab and then have it overseen by a board appointed by the city and its interests. Judge Emmett said that as it is, the county’s lab is reviewed, overseen and accredited by six separate accrediting agencies.

He went on to add that this doesn’t mean there may not be some sort of agreement between the city and the county in the future, but it’s safe to say that the county is going forward with its own plans at this point. The city is welcome to join if it and the county find a format with which they are comfortable, but the county is not going to cede supervision of its nationally recognized forensics facilities to another government agency.

This is me speaking now. My interpretation is that the sticking point is the composition of the local government corporation, which would be appointed by the Mayor and approved by Council. I would presume that this is not necessarily the last word in how that is done, but even if it is there’s no reason to believe that the LGC couldn’t contract some operations to the county, or that there couldn’t be some kind of joint venture for some aspect of this. Judge Emmett may be closing one door, but there are still windows open. As I’ve said before, it makes too much sense for there not to be some kind of collaboration, it’s just a matter of what form it takes.

SJL talks high speed rail

The dream lives on.

I've been on this train

Officials in Japan and South Korea told Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee that they are interested in helping Texas build a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas.

The Houston Democrat said the foreign officials described their interest to her during an official congressional visit to Japan, South Korea and China.

“This is absolutely the right direction America should be moving toward,” said Jackson Lee, who traveled between Osaka and Tokyo on Japan’s world famous high-speed rail system.


Officials in Houston will make the next push for federal funding in 2013, Jackson Lee said.

I daresay the outcome of the next election will have a significant bearing on the odds of success for that push. Be that as it may, I presume these are the same officials in Japan that have expressed interest in this project before. All I can say is that it sure does take a long time for anything to happen with these ideas. Tune in next year and we’ll see if anything is different by then.