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November 3rd, 2012:

Saturday video break: China Girl

Song #45 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “China Girl”, originally by Iggy Pop, and covered by David Bowie. Here’s the original:

Yet another “Song that I didn’t know was a cover” song. The instrumentation is different, but you can certainly see where Bowie was coming from in his version from this. And speaking of Bowie:

I recall that video causing a bit of a stir back in the day because it was a wee bit to sexxay for MTV. Seems awfully quaint, no? Still a heck of a catchy tune, though I’d guess it might be controversial today for insensitivity rather than titillation. What do you think?

More strip club cash in the county races

Given the prevalence of strip clubs in Houston, I’m actually a bit surprised we don’t see more of this in our elections.

My, what big wads of cash you have

Four people associated with the strip club Treasures have contributed a combined $48,700 to the Republican challengers for Harris County attorney and a civil district judgeship – men who could, if elected, oversee an ongoing lawsuit against Treasures.

County Attorney challenger Robert Talton reported in a campaign filing on Monday that he got $15,900 from Casey Wallace, $6,000 from Ronald Monshaugen and $5,000 from Al Van Huff, all attorneys representing Treasures, as well as $7,000 from Ronnie Bird, the club’s longtime head of corporate security. The same foursome gave a combined $14,800 to judicial candidate Bud Wiesedeppe, who is seeking the bench in the 164th Civil District Court, where the Treasures case is being heard.

City of Houston and county attorneys sued Treasurers last May, labeling the club “an epicenter of illegal activity” and seeking to shut it down for a year. The club says it is being retaliated against for challenging the city’s sexually-oriented business ordinance. Trial is set for Dec. 10.

Lauren Serper, an attorney for other adult cabarets in the county, also contributed $3,000 to Talton and $2,000 to Wiesedeppe, records show. Serper gave input as the county strengthened its rules on sexually oriented businesses, rules that passed unanimously at Commissioners Court last month.

The five donors’ cash comprised 42 percent of Talton’s total contributions during the Sept. 28-Oct. 27 filing period, and half of Wiesedeppe’s.

As previously noted, Treasures is all in for GOP Sheriff candidate Louis Guthrie. Here’s Talton’s report, and here’s Wiesedeppe’s report. Did you know that Robert Talton and Bud Wiesedeppe both work for Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill’s law firm? That doesn’t have anything to do with this story, I just find it all amusing.

Commissioner Jack Cagle, who led the charge for the county’s new sexually oriented business regulations, said Talton assured him in a Thursday night phone call that he is committed to enforcement.

“There may be a statement that’s being made by some individuals that if you get involved in trying to clean up your streets that someone out there may choose to start making contributions to your opponents,” Cagle said. “Once that occurs, though, there’s no assurance that the opponent is going to agree with their position.”

Houston political analyst Robert Miller said lawyers, and others, have a right to make political contributions.

“That is our system, and our system of regulation is simply to disclose those contributions,” Miller said. “It’s clear that they want to elect (Talton), and voters would have to draw their own inferences as to why that is. Just because they want to elect him does not mean he would necessarily be favorable to them.”

This is all true. It’s also true that there’s a reason you don’t see these contributions earlier in the cycle. This is why the 8 day finance report is almost always the most interesting one to check out.

On helping District B

District B Council Member Jerry Davis is taking a direct approach to improving his district.

CM Jerry Davis

Davis hopes to inspire through his do-it-yourself approach a strengthened ethic of self-reliance. The answers to the challenges of District B, and there are many – high poverty, low graduation rates, abandoned homes, illegal dumping and crumbling streets – often lie with the residents of the district, not with City Hall, he said.

Davis is trying to fix District B one lot at a time. He frequently goes into the field in khakis or shorts to do trash pickups and weed lots. He is trying to find a way to make free estate planning advice available to reduce the number of homes that fall into decay once the family matriarch dies without a will. He has convened a task force to strategize ways to combat illegal dumping. He has formed a District B advisory council, not just to get feedback on what needs fixing, but to ask attendees what they intend to do about the issues they raise. On Saturday, he led a march at Tidwell Park to promote literacy in a district where just 31 percent of residents have high school diplomas.

His approach differs in emphasis from that of his predecessors. Jarvis Johnson, who served six years as District B councilman until last December, lauded his successor’s willingness to toil in the trenches. Johnson himself focused much of his energy on wooing developers. It is a matter of impact, Johnson explained.

“I didn’t want to chase my tail. The only way you change a community is by creating development,” Johnson said. Cutting weeds down works for a short time, Johnson said. Then the weeds grow back.

“When you can build on a vacant lot, it no longer is a weeded lot. It no longer is a dump site,” he said.

Johnson talks about luring a Joe V’s discount grocery store and a residential development known as Leland Woods to the district more than he does about his cleanup days.

Carol Mims Galloway, the District B councilwoman from 2000-2005, made roads, bridges and drainage her main concern. The district became the leading recipient of city capital improvement project funds on her watch.

“If you don’t lay the foundation, how are you going to attract businesses?” Galloway asked. She questioned whether Davis had a true feel for the district given that he only recently returned to live there. Even as he campaigned for office last year, Davis continued to claim a homestead property tax exemption on a house in Pearland.

There’s merit in both approaches, but it’s also somewhat of a chicken-and-egg question. District B needs cleanup and infrastructure, and it also needs to attract not just new businesses but new residents. The Fifth Ward will be the last bastion of affordable property in the urban core. It’s very much in the city’s best interest to help District B flourish. We can argue about the details later, but let’s get a commitment to the goal first.

Endorsement watch: For the bonds

The Chron reiterates its support for the bond issues on the ballot.

While all eyes are on the presidential race, we would like to remind voters that some of the most important issues for Houstonians aren’t on the first page of the ballot or covered by selecting straight-ticket voting (which we don’t advise in any case). Way down the ballot, Houston voters will find a list of bond propositions, and we encourage everyone to vote yes on all of them.

These bonds will raise money for necessary and appropriate civic programs that will help the city provide essential functions, help the Houston Independent School District build or refurbish schools and help the Houston Community College System train students and workers for our growing economy. The city of Houston bonds are even structured in a way that will fit payments into current budget projections, with no need to raise taxes. Like a business taking out a loan for a capital project, a vote for these bonds is a vote to invest in Houston. And that’s certainly a worthy investment.

That KHOU poll suggests that all these issues will pass, some by greater margins than others, but I’m reserving judgment on that. An earlier poll also suggested the bonds would pass. The Chron has previously endorsed the city bonds and the HCC bond; their list of all endorsements includes the HISD bond, but either I missed the editorial they wrote for that or they skipped writing one. How did you vote on these issues?