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November 19th, 2012:

Precinct analysis: City and county

If you know a little something about Excel (or in my case, OpenOffice Calc, which has the same basic functionality), it’s fairly straightforward to calculate the vote totals and percentages for various candidates in various county, state, or federal districts. These districts are well-defined, and by that I mean they contain a certain number of precincts in their entirity, and two districts of the same classification (i.e., two State Rep districts) have no overlap between them. (That actually isn’t exactly right, but it’s close enough to not worry about.) It’s not the same for determining the vote in the city of Houston versus the rest of Harris County. City boundaries do not conform to precinct boundaries. There are numerous precincts that are part Houston and part not-Houston. When I first tried to do this, after the 2008 election, I wound up counting a number of non-Houston votes as being from the city, which had the effect of underestimating the Democratic percentage by two or three points. After getting some feedback on this, I refined my methodology and got a result that I thought was more accurate. It’s definitely an estimate, but I’m confident it’s in the ballpark.

This year, I have the benefit of the city of Houston bonds and charter amendments on the ballot, which identify all of the precincts that contain city of Houston voters. Obviously, I don’t want to count all of the votes in each of those precincts as being city of Houston, for the reasons given above. You can look at the individual precincts and see a handful of bond votes but hundreds or thousands of Presidential votes, so you know you can’t count the whole precincts. What I wound up doing was counting the votes in any precinct that had at least ten Yes votes for Proposition B, the parks bond that was the biggest winner among the bonds, as Houston precincts. It’s not exact, but it’s close enough. Here’s what I got from doing that:

Candidate Votes R Votes Pct ===================================== Garcia 381,103 211,886 64.3% Obama 371,755 242,953 60.7% Ryan 370,181 225,952 62.1% Trautman 367,587 226,185 61.9% Hampton 359,110 227,134 61.2% Sadler 356,630 242,658 59.5% Petty 356,110 225,061 61.3% Bennett 353,317 234,256 60.5% Henry 342,986 240,103 58.8% Oliver 342,701 252,168 57.6%

By this calculation, which remember is as much approximation as anything else, Obama lost 0.3 percentage points from 2008, while Adrian Garcia lost about a point and a half. This is consistent with the amount they lost overall from 2008, so again I feel pretty confident. You can see that Garcia, Vince Ryan, and Diane Trautman all attracted some Republican support, while Mike Anderson, Christi Craddick, and Mike Sullivan all drew Democratic support.

Here’s the flipside, non-Houston Harris County, which is simply the totals above subtracted from the overalls:

Candidate Votes R Votes Pct ===================================== Garcia 230,860 310,551 42.6% Ryan 215,781 326,609 39.8% Trautman 214,896 326,012 39.7% Obama 213,696 341,913 38.5% Petty 208,702 321,146 39.4% Hampton 207,229 326,415 38.1% Bennett 206,689 328,248 38.6% Sadler 206,325 338,539 37.9% Oliver 199,443 343,351 36.7% Henry 198,206 334,588 37.2%

Pretty much what you’d expect based on the first set of results, with the exception of Paul Sadler sliding down a few spots, for which I’d blame – again – his lack of resources. I read these amazing stories about the turnout effort in Ohio, and I ask myself again what that might look like if it were ever tried here. I don’t really have anything more to add to this, so I’ll leave it here and we’ll continue with more analysis later.

We need infrastructure, yes we do

But paying for it is often a problem. That doesn’t work very well for a chant, I’m afraid.

The American Society of Civil Engineers Houston branch assessed the structural and economic viability of roads, transit, solid waste, wastewater and drinking water facilities.

Drinking water systems received a D, and roads and highways got a D+. Bridges, flood control and transit scored a C-, while solid waste received a C and heavy rail systems – freight rail and Amtrak – a C+.

The report is the first local assessment done by a Texas branch of the national engineering society. Houston is the 11th region nationally to look at local infrastructure. Most regions fared slightly better than Houston, with most categories in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, for example, receiving B and C grades.

Houston drinking water systems in particular are behind on needed maintenance, said Clay Forister, chairman of the engineering society committee that produced the report.

“I think everyone remembers last summer and all the water-main breaks,” Forister said, referring to the drought-related line failures around Houston, which peaked at 1,000 in a single day in August 2011.


Future demand is great, the report found. The combined population of Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Waller, Montgomery, Liberty and Chambers counties is expected to grow by 3 million, to 8.8 million, by 2035, the engineers said.

Without improvements, the 422 miles of local highways will not accommodate that growth, and water and sewer plants will strain to serve an increasing number of people.

You can see the report card and related information here. As the story notes, the city is taking some steps to fund infrastructure renewal – Rebuild Houston is the obvious thing we’ve got going on, but there was also that water rate hike from 2010 that was done in part to fund infrastructure projects for Houston’s water system. Houston’s problems are hardly unique, of course, as are their concerns about how to pay for what needs to be done. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the federal government needs to put up a few billion dollars for infrastructure projects around the country. Water systems everywhere are in desperate need of upgrade, and this would serve as economic stimulus at a time when it’s still a good idea. Unfortunately, that won’t happen any time soon, most likely not until we’re past the point of crisis.

Shall we wait for SCOTUS?

Texas Redistricting:

The three-judge panel in San Antonio overseeing redrawing of Texas’ redistricting plans has signaled that it is at least considering the possibility of delaying action on new maps until the Supreme Court decides questions about the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, asking the parties to brief by December 3 “whether this court should place this case in an administrative stay pending a decision.”

The court’s order is here, and background on the Shelby County case is here. If I had to guess, I’d think the state would like the court to wait for SCOTUS, and the plaintiffs would like them to get a move on already. We’ll see.

Mount Rush Hour Park

It’s actually called American Statesmanship Park, but either way it’s awesome.

Mount Rush Hour

Harris County on Tuesday accepted a donation of a small plot of land near the intersection of Interstates 10 and 45 where 18-foot concrete busts of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington sit.

Each bust by Houston artist David Adickes, 83, was valued at $100,00, plus $87,000 for the land. Precinct 2 parks superintendent Gilbert Smith said there are plans to name the plot American Statesmanship Park, after words inscribed on the base of the sculptures.

In addition to oversized presidents and dignitaries, Adickes also is known for the 67-foot-tall Sam Houston statue in Huntsville and the 36-foot-tall cellist at downtown’s Lyric Centre. A plaque on the site will identify him as the busts’ creator and Quinita and Christopher LaPorte as the donors.

“We’re going to work on some kind of a nicer signage for the front, something low that will look nice, and mow it on a regular basis and the pay the light bill to light it at night,” Smith said, adding that he’s been told the occasional coat of white paint and some intermittent power washing also will be needed.

There’s an aerial photo at the Chron link, and here’s a Google map if you want to get a closer look. You can get there easily via the Heights Bike Trail – head east to Houston Avenue, turn right towards downtown, then turn left (east) on Edwards Street, and you’ll see the statues as the road veers around towards Bingham. David Adickes is a national treasure, and we are so lucky to have him in our town.