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October 12th, 2012:

Sen. Gallegos in “grave” condition

Scary.

Sen. Mario Gallegos

State Sen. Mario V. Gallegos Jr., D-Houston, is in grave condition at Methodist Hospital in Houston, sources have confirmed.

“Senator Gallegos’ family is at his side during this difficult time, and they have asked me to respectfully request that they be allowed their privacy, so that they may devote their undivided attention to their loved one,” political consultant Harold Cook said in a statement.

It was unclear what prompted Gallego’s’ hospitalization, but the senator received a liver transplant in 2007. In 2006, Gallegos began treatment for alcoholism and learned he had cirrhosis of the liver.

A few weeks after receiving the transplant, the weakened senator installed a hospital bed in the office of the sergeant-at-arms in the Capitol, so he could cast a vote in opposition to a bill that would have required a photograph to vote. The Senate passed the bill last session.

“We are certainly very concerned about his condition and he’s certainly in our thoughts and prayers,” Harris County Democratic Party chairman Lane Lewis said.

As he is in mine. Get well soon, Sen. Gallegos.

Friday random ten: For the ladies, part 1

There are a lot of songs out there whose titles are just the name of a woman. I’m going to go through the ones I have in my collection.

1. Alison – Tufts Beelzebubs
2. Alma – Tom Lehrer
3. Amanda – Aisha Duo
4. Angela – Jarvis Cocker
5. Aunt Avis – Widespread Panic
6. Bertha – Los Lobos
7. Bijou – Asylum Street Spankers
8. Billie Jean – Big Daddy
9. Bobby Jean – Bruce Springsteen
10. Carmelita – Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon

I tried very hard in making these lists to stick to songs whose title is just the name – no adjectives or descriptive phrases included. I did decide to let titles like Aunt slide through, since they’re clearly part of a name. It’s all a judgment call, and as is always the case with lists like these, I make no claim of consistency.

Mail ballots

Campos has been tracking mail ballot requests to the Harris County Clerk.

Here is what the County put out yesterday evening:

As of this evening we have approved 71,101 applications and sent out 67,376 ballots. We have received 19,468 voted ballots returned.

25,848 have been generated by the GOP and 20,866 by Dems.

In an earlier entry, Campos noted that “In 2008 in Harris County, 76,187 requested mail ballots and 67,612 (88.7%) were returned and counted. In 2010 in Harris County, 69,991 requested mail ballots and 55,560 (79.4%) were returned and counted.”

So 55.3% of the ballots that have been requested by people with an identifiable primary voting history are going to Republicans. Out of curiosity, I looked at the two most recent Presidential-year elections in Harris County for a point of comparison. In 2004, 29,926 absentee ballot voters went for George W. Bush, and 17,010 went for John Kerry. That’s 63.8% for Bush. In 2008, the numbers were 41,986 absentee voters for John McCain, and 24,503 for Barack Obama; that’s 63.1% of absentee votes for McCain. Already we have more absentee ballots requested with more than a week to go before early voting starts than were cast in 2008, and about as many that can be identified by party primary voting as were cast in 2004. We don’t know how many of those requesters from each group will actually return their ballots, and we don’t know how many of those 19,000 or so non-primary voters really belong to each party, but early on at least it looks like Democrats may have closed the absentee gap a bit. Whether that means anything for the final totals I couldn’t say – it’s entirely possible that most if not all of the new absentee ballot requesters are folks who would have voted in person anyway, in which case this is just shifting things around a bit. I make note of this because I’m a numbers guy and these are some interesting numbers. Are you voting by mail this year, and if so have you done it before? Leave a comment and let us know.

Pro tip: Vote only once

Oops.

Bruce Fleming

After the Fort Bend Star received a tip about the Republican candidate for Fort Bend County Precinct 1 Commissioner, the Star conducted an in-depth review of Bruce Fleming and his wife, Nancy Fleming’s voting record. Our research found that for several years Fleming voted both in Bucks County, Pa. and in Fort Bend County.

Although Fleming claims to be a 20-year resident of Texas, he first registered to vote in Bucks County, Pa. in 1992 and still owns a home there. He is listed as an active voter Bucks County.

Fleming first voted in Fort Bend County in the general election of 2006. He voted early in Fort Bend then voted absentee in Bucks County, Pa. in the same general election.

In 2008 he voted absentee in the general election in Bucks, County, Pa but in Fort Bend County he voted in person in the Democratic Primary and again in the 4/8/2008 primary run off. He also voted early in the November general election in Fort Bend.

In 2010 he voted absentee in the general election in Bucks County and in Fort Bend County he voted early in both the primary and the general election. Fleming voted in person in the 2010 primary in Fort Bend County and voted early in the primary run off.

The Star has been unable to get the primary voting records in Bucks County for 2012, but those records should be available next week.

According to Fleming, his wife, Nancy, is seldom seen in Fort Bend as she stays in their home in Pennsylvania in order to keep her job there. She usually votes in every general election in Pennsylvania. 2010 records indicate she voted in the general election in both Bucks County (absentee) and the general election in Fort Bend (also absentee).

However, in 2012 with her husband a candidate, she voted in Fort Bend in both the Republican primary (in person) and then absentee in the primary run off. She is classified as an active registered voter in both Pennsylvania and Fort Bend County, Texas.

The Star contacted Bruce Fleming to ask him why he had voted in both states in the same elections for at least three different elections. According to Fleming he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007 and he was back and forth between Houston and Bucks County for treatment. He seemed to indicate that was why he voted in both states. However, our research shows that Fleming started voting in both states in the 2006 general election and continued to vote in both states through 2010. Again, the 2012 primary records for Pennsylvania are not available yet. Fleming told the Star that he would have to talk to his wife and get back to us. He didn’t.

Ouch. Fleming is the Republican candidate for Fort Bend County Commissioner Precinct 1, against Richard Morrison. Fleming’s vote in the 2008 Democratic primary was aberrant – as Juanita demonstrated, he’s a consistent Republican primary voter otherwise. One presumes he was among those who voted in the Dem primary that year at the exhortation of Rush Limbaugh, to mess with things. Anyway, the Chron story ties this back to a larger theme.

“I’m, frankly, shocked at the double, secret life that my opponent has been living for the past six years,” said Fleming’s Democratic opponent, incumbent Commissioner Richard Morrison. “I know a lot of precinct chairs that are Republicans here in Fort Bend County, and I know them to be hard-working, they play by the rules and they would never stoop to anything like this.”

Morrison and fellow Fort Bend Democrats took aim at Catherine Engelbrecht, founder and president of True the Vote, a Houston-based tea party group dedicated to combating voter fraud nationwide and pushing for voter photo identification. Engelbrecht lives in Fort Bend’s Precinct 1.

“While local and national Republican leaders were tilting at the windmills of imaginary voter fraud, real voter fraud was taking place under their noses,” said Fort Bend County Democratic Chairman Steve Brown. “It demonstrates that the Republicans’ crusade against voter fraud is either disingenuous or ill- conceived – maybe both – to be totally unaware of a serial fraudulent voter like Fleming while aggressively harassing little old ladies attempting to vote in Briargate (a Houston neighborhood in Fort Bend County).”

The irony sure is thick, isn’t it? The story has a fairly limp response from some TTV person, because let’s face it, people like Fleming aren’t who they’re interested in. Additional coverage from the Fort Bend Star is here, a little gloating from Juanita is here, further commentary from FBCDP Chair Steve Brown about what protecting the integrity of the vote really means is here, and PDiddie has more.

News flash: Birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies

I know, I’m as shocked as you are.

Right there with them

Free birth control led to dramatically lower rates of abortions and teen births, a large study concludes. The findings were eagerly anticipated and come as a bitterly contested Obama administration policy is poised to offer similar coverage.

The project tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured. They were given their choice of a range of contraceptive methods at no cost — from birth control pills to goof-proof options like the IUD or a matchstick-sized implant.

When price wasn’t an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.

The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.

There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That’s lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.

In fact, if the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, Peipert’s team reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The findings of the study, which ran from 2008 to 2010, come as millions of U.S. women are beginning to get access to contraception without copays under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Women’s health specialists said the research foreshadows that policy’s potential impact.

“As a society, we want to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortion rates. This study has demonstrated that having access to no-cost contraception helps us get to that goal,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“It’s just an amazing improvement,” Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said of the results. “I would think if you were against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access.”

You would think so, wouldn’t you? But of course the same so-called “pro-life” zealots in our Legislature also spent the last session slashing funds for family planning services, thus doing their best to ensure that we have a maximal unwanted pregnancy rate. Sen. Dan Patrick once told Paul Burka that even if he opposed the sonogram bill, he ought to “celebrate if a life was saved because a woman, who chose to see the sonogram, or hear the heartbeat, decided to keep her child, or put it up for adoption”. You’d think people like that would want to take every reasonable step they could to reduce the number of abortions, but clearly their definition of “reasonable” doesn’t include family planning or contraception. Instead, this is what we get from the “pro-life” lobby:

Jeanne Monahan of the conservative Family Research Council suggested contraceptive use can encourage riskier sexual behavior.

“Additionally, one might conclude that the Obama administration’s contraception mandate may ultimately cause more unplanned pregnancies since it mandates that all health plans cover contraceptives, including those that the study’s authors claim are less effective,” Monahan said.

It’s about the sex, you see. It’s always been about the sex. If you’re going to have the kind of sex that the Family Research Council doesn’t approve of, then you deserve whatever consequences you suffer as a result.

Ashby Heights

Here’s the next frontier in unwanted development.

A residential development proposal that’s been on and off in the Heights since 2004 is back on, reviving neighborhood opposition to the project and catching the attention of the mayor.

Canadian developer Group LSR is requesting a multi-part variance that, if approved, would allow it to move forward on a building with as many as 84 units along the hike and bike trail. The site is at the east end of E. 5th Street, which dead ends just after it intersects with Oxford.

On Thursday, the planning commission, which votes on such issues, is expected to delay taking action on the variance for two weeks so it can have more time to consider the details.

When the developer first bought the land for the project in 2004, neighbors launched a grass-roots campaign hoping to stop the project. They said it would cause traffic, flooding and safety problems as well as threaten the urban bird and wildlife habitat. They set up a website and signed petitions.

This time around, the neighborhood has been working quickly to fight back, placing protest signs in their yards and making calls to City Hall.

The Heights Life has the details on the current fight against this development, which I have written about before. The photos in that first post have been archived; sorry about that. The main difference between this and Ashby is that this development can’t happen without variances, which Mayor Parker doesn’t seem inclined to support. One of the variances involves building a bridge from where 5th Street dead-ends at Oxford to where the condos would be. The full Chron story has a few more details.

One of the reasons for the request is that the developer owns only 35 feet of frontage along East 5th. Typically, 60 feet of frontage is required, though variances have been granted with far less than even 35 feet of space, according to the city’s Planning & Development Department.

[…]

The developer has considered other options, like accessing its site through Frasier Street, which connects to White Oak. But the city had concerns over that plan.

“We think the conditions of Frasier have changed,” said Suzy Hartgrove, planning department spokeswoman.

Hartgrove was referring to the explosive growth in new bars and restaurants that has occurred along White Oak.

Traffic there and along intersecting residential streets already has increased considerably, creating tension between homeowners and businesses.

Yes, traffic on White Oak was a concern when this project, whose name has apparently changed from Viewpoint In The Heights to Emes Place, was first proposed. Needless to say, with White Oak having since transformed into Washington Avenue North, that concern is even greater now. Frasier Street remains too narrow to handle any consistent traffic load. And then there’s the very popular Heights Bike Trail, which passes right by the proposed bridge location at 5th and Oxford. There’s a lot to be concerned about here. We’ll see what the planning commission has to say, but until then send some email and let your voice be heard.