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May 21st, 2012:

Interview with Rose Meza Harrison

Rose Meza Harrison

I know that I said when I did that last interview that it would in fact be the last interview for the primary election, but as is often the case it turns out there was more to do. I was contacted by the campaign of Rose Meza Harrison after that came out to see if I would do one more, and of course I said Yes. Harrison is running for CD27. She worked her way through college and law school as a single mother and is now an Assistant County Attorney in Nueces County. She has also been the Democratic Party Chair for Nueces and San Patricio County. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Texas Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Meet your Crime Lab board

Mayor Parker has recommended nine people be appointed by Council to the governing board for the proposed Houston Forensic Science Local Government Corporation (LGC).

Rep. Scott Hochberg

“The people I have selected have varied backgrounds in science, law enforcement, public policy, business and defense of the accused,” said Mayor Parker.  “Their perspective will be invaluable as we proceed forward toward my goal of a crime lab that is truly independent from law enforcement, prosecutors and political influence.  I said we would get this done during my second term in office and we remain on track to meet that timeline.”

The mayor is recommending the following for the board of director’s:

  • The Honorable Scott Hochberg, Texas House of Representatives, District 137
    (The mayor is recommending Representative Hochberg for chair of the board.)
  • Enrique V. Barrera, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Rice University
  • Willie E. B. Blackmon, retired, Judge Advocate, United State Air Force
  • Nicole B. Ca′sarez, Professor, Communication Department, University of St. Thomas
  • Donna Fujimoto Cole, Founder, Cole Chemical and Distributing, Inc.
  • Art Contreras, retired United States Marshal, Southern District of Texas
  • Marcia Johnson, Professor, Thurgood Marshall School of Law
  • Catherine Lamboley, retired, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Shell Oil Company
  • Sandra Guerra Thompson, Professor, University of Houston Law Center

Once created, the Houston Forensic Science Center LGC will oversee operation of an independent center providing the city and area communities with accurate and timely analysis of forensic evidence and related services.

You pretty much can’t go wrong with Hochberg. He’s a great choice for this. Everyone else is a lawyer, scientist, or law enforcement type, which should be satisfactory to Council. I think they’ll do a good job and I look forward to them getting started.

City sues firefighter pension board

We knew this was coming.

The city of Houston sued the firefighters pension board in state District Court on Wednesday in an effort to pry open the retirement system’s books for a look at supporting data behind the $61 million annual bill it sends to City Hall.

“We need access to this very basic information if we are to be able to protect taxpayers who foot the bills and the employees who deserve fair, financially secure retirements,” Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement released by her office. “I do not want a situation where we must choose between vital city services and paying retirement benefits. We have to be able to accurately plan for the future. It is a critical piece in our long-term budget process. Since our repeated requests for the information have been turned down, we are left with no alternative other than relief in the court system.”

You can see a copy of the lawsuit here. As the story notes, Mayor Parker spoke of this back in February. The story at the time said “the city wants information on beneficiaries of a deferred option retirement program, in which employees eligible for retirement continue working and start an account credited with the amount of pension payouts he or she would have received plus interest” and that they believe “some DROP beneficiaries’ pension benefits exceed their salaries through the program”. Todd Clark, the chair of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund, wrote an op-ed in March claiming that the city already had the information it said it was seeking; it also made vague allegations about “wasteful” spending that didn’t impress me. Both sides can’t be right about what information the city actually has. We’ll see how the court sorts it out.

Early voting after one full week

Here are your seven day early voting totals for the 2012 primaries, and some historical context to go along with them.

Year 7 day Early 7 day % Final 7 day % Early % ============================================================== 2004 R 11,330 28,217 38.91% 82,212 13.78% 34.32% 2004 D 8,607 22,523 38.21% 78,692 10.94% 28.62% 2008 R 28,773 66,375 43.35% 171,108 16.81% 38.79% 2008 D 81,843 179,348 45.63% 410,908 19.92% 43.65% 2012 R 36,612 2012 D 17,635

If history holds, more than half, perhaps 60%, of the early and mail ballots will be cast this week, and at least twice as many more as that final total will be cast the following Tuesday. Of course, no one thinks this is a normal year, so who knows what will happen. My opinion all along has been that this would be like 2004, and so far we’re on track for that – if the seven day total is about 20% of the final total, then there will be between 85,000 and 90,000 Democratic votes. Republicans are obviously so far on pace for about double that. We’ll see if that continues. Feel free to make your own guess about turnout in the comments.