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May 26th, 2012:

Saturday video break: You Really Got A Hold On Me

Song #66 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “You Really Got A Hold On Me”, by The Miracles and covered by The Beatles. Here’s the original:

You pretty much can’t go wrong with Smokey Robinson. And here’s the Fab Four version:

The Beatles did quite a few of these Motown songs – the ones I have are on the “Anthology” double CD – and I think they generally did a decent job of it. I mean, “Twist And Shout”, right? If they helped bring some awesome music to a wider audience, so much the better. What do you think?

For shame, Keryl Douglas

Take a look at what was being handed out at an early voting location yesterday:

Keryl Douglas push card

So much for all those denials about that “Ministers for Keryl” email. You’d think that President Obama’s recent embrace of marriage equality might have made her reconsider this course of action. I mean, it’s likely that the national platform will contain a plank endorsing marriage equality. Even putting that aside, non-discrimination in all forms is a basic and bedrock Democratic value. How in the world does Keryl Douglas think she can lead the Harris County Democratic Party if she doesn’t share those values?

Primary campaigns are always the worst, because we’re all supposed to be on the same team. The fights we do have tend to be that much nastier because we otherwise generally agree with each other, on the goals if not always on how we reach them. If you’re going to launch a personal attack against a fellow Democrat, it really ought to be for conduct unbecoming of a person who would represent us in that particular office. Producing and distributing this push card is definitely conduct unbecoming, especially for a would-be party chair. For shame, Keryl Douglas.

More reactions to the new Astrodome report

Texans owner Bob McNair says “Sure, that’s nice and all, but don’t you forget about me.”

This would be cheaper to renovate

“Our first concern is Reliant Stadium,” McNair said Thursday. “We want to make sure we’ve got adequate funds there for repairs, replacement and improvements, and right now we don’t have ade-quate funds. I’d like to see that taken care of first.”

McNair claimed only $2.5 million is going into the stadium’s upkeep fund when $8 million is needed, explaining that the economic downturn since 2008 has significantly cut into tax revenues that would have been earmarked for stadium repairs, replacement parts and upgrades.

“(Commissioners) court has been very supportive,” said McNair, who watched the Texans’ OTA practice with Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee, on whose turf the Reliant complex sits. “It’s just now being brought to their attention. They’re contractually obligated to (maintain the stadium), but with the recession and the difference in tax receipts that were anticipated, there hasn’t been as much money available. (The Texans) and the rodeo have helped, and we’ll continue to do that. But it’s something that needs to be addressed long term.

“Compared to the other issues that we’re looking at, it’s a drop in the bucket. I think it needs to be addressed first.”

He is of course comparing costs with that of the proposed Astrodome/Reliant Arena renovation, which would almost certainly require a tax increase to pay for.

Bill Jackson, the county’s chief budget officer, said such a large bond issue likely would require a tax hike or deep budget cuts, particularly given other projects for which the county will need to sell bonds, such as a forensic sciences facility.

Financing $500 million over 30 years at 5 percent interest would require $28 million annually, Jackson said. For comparison, $28 million covers the annual costs for all but seven of the county’s dozens of departments, not counting the commissioners.

“It would be very difficult with everything we that have on our plate right now” to issue $500 million in bonds without a tax hike, Jackson said. “It’s a matter of setting priorities and figuring that out.”

A one-cent tax increase would generate about $26 million a year, Jackson said. That increase would raise the taxes on a $200,000 home by $16 annually, assuming the owner had a homestead exemption.

Yes, let’s talk priorities. I’m certainly not opposed to the idea of a tax increase. I’ve argued for some time now that Harris County should have considered at least rolling back the property tax cut they made a few years back to avoid or at least reduce the need for layoffs during the downturn. This project, in whatever form, would not be where I would want to see extra revenues go. It’s not even close. If it came up for a vote, I would vote against it. I agree with Judge Emmett here:

“The way it was trotted out, we’re going to re-purpose the Dome and we’re going to replace the arena with a new building,” Emmett said. “If we’re doing that, why don’t we use the Dome for the purposes the arena was being used for? Because that would obviously cost less.”

Yes. What exactly would a renovated Dome and/or Reliant Arena actually be used for? More to the point, what use could one or the other have that isn’t currently being addressed by some other facility? And even if there is some identifiable unfulfilled need, why would we need both of them for it? I touched on that yesterday, and John Royal asks as well.

Essentially they want to raise the floor and turn the Dome into a small venue for football, soccer, hockey, basketball, and concerts. But that’s also what they want to do with Reliant Arena. And what the consultants want to do with the Dome is what is supposed to be done with that new taxpayer-funded paradise the Dynamo is playing in. You know, that new small stadium meant for hosting soccer, football, and concerts. And one of the purposes for renovating Hofheinz Pavilion, besides giving the Cougars a modern basketball facility, is using it, once again, for concerts. And I’m sure Les Alexander would love Harris County trying to steal business from his Harris County-funded arena.

Royal concludes, with a heavy heart, that it would be better to demolish the Dome and put it out of its misery. The more this all drags out, the most I think that’s where we’re headed whether we want to admit it now or not. That said, I must admit I’ve not seen many good ideas for what to do with the empty space post-demolition. Turning it into some sort of park, as Royal and others suggest, sounds nice but who would actually use it? What attractions would be there to draw people in, and who would pay to build and maintain them? The upside is that this is by far the cheaper option, even if the cost of demolition is still on the way high end compared to other stadia.

Endorsement watch: Three for SBOE

The Chron finally crosses one redistricting-affected category off its list by issuing three endorsements in State Board of Education primaries.

Patty Quintana-Nilsson

State Board of Education, Position 6, Democratic primary: This race has drawn a particularly strong slate of Democrats. (We are impressed by Traci Jensen’s knowledge of the arcane workings of the SBOE.) But Patty Quintana-Nilsson, a Spring Branch ISD technical-education teacher, receives our endorsement because of her practical, real-world commitment to improving education for all Texas students, not just those bound for four-year colleges. “There’s a big disconnect between what we have to do in class and what our students need,” she notes.

Linda Ellis

State Board of Education, Position 8, Republican primary: Our choice – Linda Ellis, a fiscal conservative – is challenging incumbent Barbara Cargill, a member of the SBOE’s religious-conservative voting bloc and currently chair of the SBOE. Ellis, a reading consultant who helps turn around low-performing schools, decries Texas’ overreliance on testing and the board’s lack of respect for teachers. “The education of our children,” she says, “is more important than politics.”

Dexter Smith

State Board of Education, Position 8, Democratic primary: Dexter Smith, an energetic, thoughtful Friendswood elementary-school teacher, knows first-hand how curriculum plays in the classroom. Science education, he says, should be based on the scientific method. As a father, he believes that parents should be the primary guides of their children’s sex education; but he also believes that too many parents fail to do so, so it’s important for schools to fill that gap.

My interview with Patty Quintana-Nilsson is here, with Traci Jensen is here, and with David Scott is here. I didn’t interview anyone in SBOE 8 because I didn’t realize until only recently that there was a contested Democratic primary. I’ll be sure to schedule one for the general election. If you’re wondering why they didn’t endorse in the contentious GOP primary in SBOE 7, the reason is presumably that SBOE 7 no longer contains part of Harris County in it – you can see the map here. It does contain Liberty, Chambers, Galveston, Brazoria, and most of Fort Bend counties, and you’d think there would be a few Chron readers in those places, but that’s how they roll. Given how many Harris races have not been and may not be done, it’s hard to argue.