Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

May 8th, 2012:

Recap of all my interviews so far this cycle

To say the least, there was a lot of uncertainty at the beginning of the year when I was planning out my interview schedule for the primary election. There were no maps for the State House, State Senate, and Congress. We didn’t know if the primary would take place in April, May, June, or later, and we didn’t know if some offices might have their primaries on a different date than some other offices. Even for the offices not affected by redistricting, we couldn’t say for certain what the lineups were going to be because of a secondary filing period yet to come. As you might imagine, this made planning a challenge.

But I couldn’t wait for the courts to settle things. There were already too many races and too many candidates to let the calendar start slipping away. So I started with races where there were no disputes about boundaries, and went from there. Along the way, I covered a lot of ground, and since some of these interviews were published more than three months ago, I thought I’d list them all here in a convenient form as a reminder. As I said yesterday, there will be more to come, some likely from the TDP convention and others later on as we gear up for November. In the meantime, here’s a list of all the interviews I’ve already done, organized by level of government:

Harris County races

Sheriff: Adrian GarciaInterview

District Attorney: Zack FertittaInterview
District Attorney: Pat LykosInterview
District Attorney: Mike AndersonInterview

HCDE Trustee, Position 3 At Large: Diane TrautmanInterview
HCDE Trustee, Position 3 At Large: David RosenInterview

HCDE Trustee, Precinct 1, Position 6: Erica LeeInterview
HCDE Trustee, Precinct 1, Position 6: Reagan FlowersInterview

County Commissioner, Precinct 4: Sean HammerleInterview

Constable, Precinct 1: Cindy Vara-LeijaInterview
Constable, Precinct 1: Quincy WhitakerInterview
Constable, Precinct 1: Alan RosenInterview
Constable, Precinct 1: Grady CastleberryInterview

State races

SBOE 6: Patty Quintana-NilssonInterview
SBOE 6: Traci JensenInterview
SBOE 6: David ScottInterview

HD131: Rep. Alma AllenInterview
HD131: Wanda AdamsInterview

HD137: Jamaal SmithInterview
HD137: Joe MaddenInterview
HD137: Gene WuInterview
HD137: Sarah WinklerInterview

HD144: Kevin RisnerInterview
HD144: Ornaldo YbarraInterview
HD144: Mary Ann PerezInterview

HD146: Rep. Borris MilesInterview

HD147: Rep. Garnet ColemanInterview

Federal offices

US Senate: Paul SadlerInterview
US Senate: Sean HubbardInterview

CD07: Phillip AndrewsInterview
CD07: James CargasInterview
CD07: Lissa SquiersInterview

CD14: Nick LampsonInterview

CD16: Rep. Silvestre ReyesInterview

CD20: Joaquin CastroInterview

CD22: KP GeorgeInterview

CD23: Pete GallegoInterview
CD23: Ciro RodriguezInterview

CD27: Ronnie McDonaldInterview

CD33: Marc VeaseyInterview
CD33: Domingo GarciaInterview

CD34: Ramiro GarzaInterview
CD34: Anthony TroianiInterview

CD35: Sylvia RomoInterview

Whew. It’s been a busy few months, and I don’t see a whole lot of letup between now and November. I’ll be back with more after a brief respite.

Voter ID trial likely to be delayed

And if it is, it’s all the fault of the State of Texas.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

In another blow to advocates of Texas’ voter ID law, a federal district court ruled today that the law will likely not be in place by the November general election unless the state turns over requested documents by Wednesday.

[…]

Late last month, DOJ asked the district court in Washington, D.C., that will hear the case to postpone the trial. It is scheduled to start July 9. In an order issued today, the court said that Texas has not acted with a sense of urgency.

“Rather than engaging in expedited discovery consistent with its stated goal, Texas has taken steps that can only be interpreted as having the aim of delaying Defendants’ ability to receive and analyze data and documents in a timely fashion,” the court stated. “Texas has repeatedly ignored or violated directives and orders of this Court that were designed to expedite discovery, and Texas has failed to produce in a timely manner key documents that Defendants need to prepare their defense.”

The court gave the state one final chance today, with very specific conditions, to turn over the information the Department of Justice is seeking. The department is specifically asking for databases and voter information it says will prove the voter ID measure will have a “disparate and retrogressive” impact on minority voters.

“If any of these deadlines or conditions cannot or will not be met, then the delays or ancillary litigation that will result will either make a July 9 trial impossible at all, or impossible without undue and manifest prejudice to the United States and Defendant-Intervenors,” the order instructs.

The state must turn over to the government by Wednesday proof that it has discussed this month’s deadlines with document custodians, technology staff, legal and administrative staff and prove that it can meet every subsequent trial deadline.

Additionally, the state must produce legislators that have been subpoenaed, something Abbott tried to block last month.

Texas Redistricting has the court’s order, which among other things notes that the defendants – that is, the Justice Department – have “worked tirelessly in discovery so that this case may be tried the week of July 9, 2012” and that the Court “would be well within its discretion to continue the July 9 trial date, to impose monetary sanctions against Texas, or to keep the July 9 trial date and impose evidentiary sanctions such as an adverse inference upon Texas”. This is what they call a bench-slapping. PDiddie wonders what AG Abbott is trying to accomplish by its foot-dragging while insisting on a speedy trial, but I think the TDP’s explanation is the correct one: The state has something to hide, and they know it. We’ll see for ourselves tomorrow what that might be.

Senate slap fight

Hilarious.

The quiet race to be the next lieutenant governor of Texas spilled into a nasty email exchange between two senators with aspirations for that post.

In this corner...

In an email apparently sent to all of his Senate colleagues — and obtained and published by a political news website, the Quorum Report — Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, accused Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, of spreading rumors that Patrick and his wife were splitting after decades of marriage.

“I was in Dallas last week and learned that Senator Carona has told people outside the Senate that Jan and I are separated and may get divorced,” Patrick wrote. “He added in a few other negative comments about me in an obvious attempt by him to discredit me for some reason. He can say anything he wants to about me, but saying that Jan and I are separated and may get a divorce is not fair to her or my family.”

...And in this corner

When that went public, Carona responded with an angry denial that he had been spreading rumors — a denial that floated gossip about Patrick’s sexual orientation and Carona’s opinion of his colleague.

“Call me cynical, but I believe your motivation for pulling this stunt centers around your paranoia over the 2014 Lt. Governor’s Race (for which you appear to have declared candidacy) and your concern that no other Senate Republican emerge as a threat to your ambitions,” Carona wrote. “As you know, if you truly believed I had said something unflattering, you could have simply asked. I’ve never been shy about sharing my dislike and distrust of you. Put bluntly, I believe you are a snake oil salesman; a narcissist that would say anything to draw attention to himself.”

Neither senator was immediately available for comment this morning.

I’ll bet. Two things to note here. One is that Carona is seeking the position as interim Lite Guv in the event David Dewhurst wins his election to the US Senate this fall. As was the case in 2001 when then-Lite Guv Rick Perry moved up to the Governor’s Mansion and was succeeded for a session by Sen. Bill Ratliff, Dewhurst’s successor for 2013 would be chosen by the Senators themselves. Patrick, who is reportedly running for Lite Guv in 2014 but is not seeking that interim job, would nonetheless likely be backing someone more in tune with his slash-and-burn style, such as Troy Fraser, for the post. It’s obviously more personal than that, but at some level it’s basically a political fight.

And two, Patrick’s original email claimed that a fellow Senator had told him about these things Carona was allegedly saying about him. This prompted a reply from Sen. Judith Zaffirini asking Patrick to name his source. I have a feeling Patrick is not going to comply with that request.

Anyway. This may be little more than a passing diversion, or it may be as Harvey Kronberg puts it something that has “probable implications into the next session and beyond”. Either way, there’s nothing like a good political catfight to stoke one’s hunger for popcorn. Enjoy it while it lasts. Burka has more.

The B-Cycle era begins

At long last, Houston’s B-Cycle program officially kicked off last week.

Mayor Annise Parker, an occasional bicyclist, called the federally-funded program “a quick, easy alternative to being stuck in traffic or walking long distances in downtown.” She said the bicycles may help familiarize residents with downtown, an area she said many still consider “foreign territory.”

Mobility alternatives

Bike Houston Chairman Darren Sabom said the new program may help dispel Houston’s national reputation as an uncongenial, sprawling metropolis.

“People want to live, work, play and eat close to one another and not be in their car as much,” city sustainability director Laura Spanjian said, citing a recent Rice University study that found most respondents wanted to live in compact, walkable communities. “The love affair with the car is finally over, and providing alternatives to help people get around in the urban environment will be increasingly important.”

She said plans call for establishing stations, possibly connected to the light rail system, in the Museum District, Hermann Park and the medical center. Stations also may be located on Washington Avenue, in Houston Heights and at area businesses, she said.

The bikes are equipped with baskets, locks and lights and are easily adjustable to accommodate the height of riders. Users are encouraged to wear helmets, which can be purchased at City Hall’s visitor center. Patrons may access the bicycles from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Daily membership can be purchased at a station or online at www.houston.bcycle.com; weekly and annual memberships are available only through the website.

With membership, the first 90 minutes of each ride are free. A rider returning a bike after 90 minutes may immediately check it out again for another free 90-minute ride. Rides longer than 90 minutes, however, incur an additional charge of $2 per half hour. A smartphone app is available for riders to locate stations and determine whether bikes or dock openings are available.

I’ll be very interested to see what the membership numbers look like in a few months. If this has been a hit in San Antonio there’s no reason it can’t do well here. Putting a few stations near rail stops is a good idea, too. Two weeks ago, I had to take my car in for service. The mechanic we use is near where Montrose meets Midtown, so I figured I’d take my bike with me and ride from the shop to the light rail stop at McGowen and get to work that way. Which was a great plan until I was reminded that you can’t take your bike onto a train during peak hours, so I had to sit and cool my heels till 9 AM. A B-Cycle option would have worked better for me. Maybe next time.

As for Houston’s potential as a bike city, here’s a visitor’s view of the lay of the land.

“Houston is the sleeper — the next big bicycle city that nobody knows about yet,” Tom McCasland told us on Thursday.

I was, of course, skeptical. My impression of Houston so far was all potholes, unpredictable driving, the chaotic geography of a city without zoning, and only a few sightings of hardy bicyclists. A conversation the night before with our host, a bike advocate, hadn’t altered that impression much. Besides, aren’t Southern cities, big and grey and built for cars, supposed to be harder to “green”?

But McCasland offered to take us on a bike ride to prove his point, and Joe and I weren’t about to turn him down. While Joshua cooked up some magic in the basement of Georgia’s Market (downtown’s only, if fancy, grocery store), we set off.

The thing that sets Houston up for success, McCasland told us as we drove out of downtown, is that the business community, including the oil companies and airlines that are the city’s biggest employers, is all for it. Quality of life is the reason, a lure for energetic, young new hires. As things currently stand, “it’s a tough sell to bring people here.” But there’s hope, in the form of cheap right of way around the city’s many bayous and a plan to transform an existing piecemeal trail system into a world class bicycling network.

Link via Hair Balls, where John Nova Lomax writes about his experiences bike commuting into downtown. These folks explored the not-yet-connected junction between the MKT and White Oak bike trails (among other places), which will eventually make a whole lot more of the city accessible by bike from downtown. Houston’s flatness may make it less visually interesting, but it’s a huge asset from a bike-riding perspective. And yes, it’s really hot here three months out of the year, but the flipside of that is that it’s generally pretty nice the other nine months. The weather here is a lot more bike-conducive than it is in, say, Minneapolis, the bike-friendly city to which the author of that piece compared us. The potential is there, I just hope we use it. We have a two month head start on New York, if nothing else. Swamplot has more, and there’s more on the B-Cycle rollout from Dale Robertson.