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November 18th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for November 18

Isn’t it nice to be able to watch live TV again without having to dread the political ads?

More early voting, and more voting by mail, would do a lot to make voting easier.

The Internet withstood Hurricane Sandy.

One reason we know why voter fraud is not a big problem is that those who commit it so often get caught doing so.

Forty years of “A Thief In The Night”, the story that “Left Behind” should have been.

“What can be worse than to sell your soul and find it not valuable enough to get anything for it?”

Republicans had polling problems in addition to everything else.

“If there is a single plank in the Democratic platform on which Obama can claim to have won, it is taxing the rich. Obama ignored vast swaths of his agenda, barely mentioning climate change or education reform, but by God did he hammer home the fact that his winning would bring higher taxes on the rich.”

Financiers may be smart, but that doesn’t make them “numbers guys”.

Not all slopes are slippery. Sometimes you have to take a couple of steps back before you can move forward.

Sixty years of MAD Magazine.

We should just let TBogg be the Official Journalist of L’Affaire Petraeus. It’ll be way more fun.

Amazon doit 252 millions de dollars à la France.

Those darned “urban voters” and their urban voting.

Texting is up, but the use of SMS to send texts is declining. Yeah, this too is Apple’s doing.

I’m certainly not above bribing my kids with junk food, but I don’t think schools should institutionalize the practice.

I’m glad Nancy Pelosi will stay around on the Dems’ leadership team.

Apparently, God hates F1. Who knew?

With Steve Stockman heading back to Congress, Louie Gohmert knows he has to up his game to continue to be considered Texas’ craziest Congressman. Fortunately, he’s equal to the challenge, as I was sure he would be.

“How can you let a young woman go to save a baby who will die anyway?”

If Democrats can compete for Cuban-American votes in Florida, it’s a big deal.

One last reminder why it’s a very good thing Mitt Romney was not elected President.

How President Obama should have responded to that ridiculous secession petition.

Looking for a gift for the Romney voter in your life?

Constable Trevino indicted

Lovely.

Constable Victor Trevino

Longtime Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino was indicted Friday, accused of failing to report cash campaign contributions, diverting money from his youth charity for personal use and using deputies to serve eviction notices and then keeping the delivery fees.

Trevino was charged in four felony indictments alleging abuse of official capacity, misapplication of fiduciary property and tampering with a government document. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted, said Harris County District Attorney’s Office prosecutors who investigated the constable for more than a year and interviewed 165 witnesses.

Defense attorney Chip Lewis said Trevino will not step down as he fights charges he described as a hodgepodge of technical violations.

“What you see today is a product of what I call old-school law enforcement meets modern-day regulations,” Lewis said. “All of the allegations involve either inadequate bookkeeping, (or) failure to technically satisfy very technical laws.”

[…]

[County Attorney Vince] Ryan declined to address whether his office would seek to remove Trevino. The county attorney represents the state in a removal trial, which can be brought against any county officer on allegations of official misconduct, incompetency or intoxication.

[County Judge Ed] Emmett said Trevino should step aside until the case is done, though he did not call for the constable’s resignation.

“Being a law enforcement officer, him being under a cloud really complicates his ability to serve, I think,” Emmett said. “The best thing for him to do at this point would be to step aside and turn over operations of the precinct to somebody else until it gets resolved.”

Not been a good year for Constables, has it? We had now-former Constable Jack Abercia’s resignation and arrest to kick the year off, and this is like a bookend to that. Ryan released a report on the Constables’ offices in May that didn’t go into much detail but which was apparently used as part of the investigation of Trevino. I agree with Judge Emmett, it would be best if Trevino took a leave of absence or something, and let someone else handle the daily operations until this matter is resolved.

A third act for Jolanda?

Maybe.

CM Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones, who lost her at-large position 5 seat in last December’s runoff election, may run in next year’s elections to win a third term on Council — but this time it would be representing District D.

The seat will be open next year because Councilwoman Wanda Adams is termed out.

“I’m keeping my options open,” Jones said Friday when asked if she is running for District D, which extends south of downtown. She lives in the district and her family goes way back in the district, she said.

Jones would have one more obstacle than any other candidate who files for District D: The city attorney says she can’t do it.

Term limits call for a maximum of three two-year terms on Council. However, city law also states: “No person, who has already served two full terms, shall be eligible to file for that same office.”

City Attorney David Feldman opined last year that this precludes people from a non-consecutive third term. Peter Brown resigned in 2009 just days before the end of his second term in attempt to circumvent the prohibition and remain eligible for a third term. It didn’t pass muster with Feldman.

Nor would Jones moving from At-Large 5 to District D, Feldman said in an email Friday, “since a council member is a council member is a council member.”

Jones said simply, “Feldman’s been wrong before.”

I am, of course, Not A Lawyer. So, I’d like for someone who is a lawyer to explain to me the difference between Jolanda Jones and former Council Member Mark Ellis. Ellis was elected as Council Member in District F in 1999, re-elected in 2001, then after serving two full terms ran for and was elected to At Large #1 in 2003. The ordinance in question doesn’t have anything more to it than what was quoted, so I don’t know what else to say. Why Ellis and not Jones or Brown? I welcome your feedback on this.

Washington Avenue parking

The city of Houston has been trying to tackle the problem of insufficient parking in the busy Washington Avenue entertainment corridor.

What to do about Washington Avenue is Houston’s latest public policy discussion of what government’s role should be in growing business, in helping a fledgling business strip turn into a destination district.

The players all seem to want the same thing: Turnover at the restaurant tables, safe revelry in bars and clubs, pedestrians strolling a well-kept avenue and sprinkling their cash at the storefronts. All the while, people should be able to sleep through it two blocks away.

The city’s parking czar is rolling out plans for what he calls a parking benefit district, which would include residential parking permits to protect nearby homes, better lighting and security, and spruced-up sidewalks. It would be paid for by charging for spaces along the curb.

Don Pagel, whose official title is deputy director of Houston’s Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs, says the avenue’s very success threatens to undermine its future. It is a Yogi Berra philosophy summed up in the Yankee legend’s oft-quoted remark that a New York restaurant “is so crowded nobody goes there anymore.”

Parking is a commodity, Pagel said, just like groceries or furniture, and should be priced accordingly to derive the maximum economic benefit. In practice, this means it should cost more when it is scarce. Charging for parking will not only bring in money that can be reinvested into the neighborhood, Pagel said, but it will ensure that the folks who have money to spend will get the premium spots at the curb. Someone who tries to avoid a $2 parking charge, Pagel suggests, is unlikely to spend $50 on dinner.

“Folks with the most money have the least amount of patience,” Pagel said. They will make one pass along Washington, he speculated, and if they don’t find a space they’ll move on to Montrose or Midtown.

I’m not particularly thrilled about residential parking permits, but everything else sounds pretty good. It’s particularly encouraging to hear officials like Pagel talk about parking as a valuable commodity, one that should be priced accordingly. Among other things, the sidewalks on Washington Avenue are atrocious, so if this parking benefit district can genuinely raise some money, perhaps that can finally be addressed. I have to think that any long-term solution must include better ways to get to Washington Avenue’s recreations without driving and parking – i.e., bikes, mass transit, and remote parking areas with shuttle service. But this sounds like a good start and the right direction, so let’s see how it goes. The Chron’s editorial page has more.

Beer is still a job creator

We really owe a debt of gratitude to beer, in particular to microbrewers.

Saint Arnold Brewing Co., the city’s oldest craft, has 43 employees and is in the midst of hiring at least three more, founder Brock Wagner said. That is about double the staff before production shifted to a new brewery with more capacity 2½ years ago.

“We’ve been able to turn it into a place where you can have a career,” Wagner said, noting such benefits as fully paid health care, a generous 401(k)-match program and paid vacations.

The employment growth is actually greater considering that several volunteers who used to help set up Saturday tours at the original brewery were given paid part-time positions to handle the weekday and Saturday tours at the new place.

Karbach Brewing, which marked its one-year anniversary Sept. 1, already has tripled its staff, from the original seven.

“Obviously, our growth was higher than anticipated,” marketing chief David Graham said.

An ongoing boom in craft-beer sales is boosting hiring nationwide.

In a speech during last month’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper noted this statistic from the Colorado Brewers Guild: While craft beer accounts for less than 5 percent of beer produced in that state, the 150 craft breweries there provide 64 percent of the brewing jobs.

That’s because major breweries, like Houston’s Anheuser-Busch plant, produce millions of barrels annually, compared with the Saint Arnolds and Karbachs in the tens of thousands of barrels. The difference in scale enables the big players to utilize a lot of cost-saving efficiencies.

In contrast, said Dave Fougeron, founder of Conroe-based Southern Star Brewing, “We do things backward and slow.”

Fougeron and other supporters say this laborious process results in better-tasting beers and more diversity for consumers.

In other words, the big breweries rely on automation, while the microbreweries rely on people. That’s a formula for more jobs, many of which are for skilled people. This story refers to a study of the economic impact of microbreweries, which could be a lot if the Legislature would finally do something about those archaic restrictions on selling beer. The microbrewers have a strategy, and they’ve done a good job getting their story told in the media. It’s got to happen one of these days, doesn’t it?