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November 28th, 2012:

Precinct analysis: City propositions

And we come to the city of Houston bond referenda, of which there were five on the ballot. Here’s the usual breakdown of them:

Dist A Yes A No B Yes B No C Yes C No D Yes D No E Yes E No ========================================================================== 126 720 231 725 239 711 228 671 275 604 342 127 10,728 13,251 10,015 14,121 9,564 14,299 9,464 14,517 6,752 17,158 129 12,592 8,536 12,244 8,976 11,924 9,074 11,978 9,188 9,169 11,926 131 19,375 8,878 20,694 7,808 19,547 8,223 19,495 8,404 19,192 8,770 132 276 132 281 136 269 144 259 156 217 197 133 31,386 19,808 32,668 19,184 29,304 21,291 27,775 23,065 21,907 28,628 134 37,134 18,433 40,946 15,768 36,140 18,775 33,942 21,283 27,591 27,116 137 12,712 5,596 13,374 5,154 12,719 5,404 12,303 5,939 11,205 6,968 138 9,992 6,797 9,915 7,032 9,427 7,274 9,210 7,585 7,370 9,361 139 15,034 8,819 16,117 8,048 14,893 8,702 14,848 8,822 13,931 9,847 140 5,010 2,437 5,234 2,242 4,922 2,396 4,851 2,485 4,545 2,844 141 8,627 4,459 9,419 3,833 8,935 3,912 8,976 3,912 9,478 3,547 142 8,460 3,908 9,168 3,372 8,631 3,533 8,659 3,573 8,979 3,310 143 5,961 2,659 6,237 2,404 5,914 2,540 5,854 2,612 5,506 3,032 144 1,441 744 1,468 716 1,430 732 1,382 780 1,219 941 145 12,561 5,897 13,434 5,163 12,483 5,757 12,235 6,066 10,936 7,380 146 25,928 11,707 27,810 10,225 26,063 10,913 25,585 11,518 24,641 12,598 147 28,731 12,830 31,836 10,453 29,314 11,721 28,501 12,736 27,160 14,174 148 21,916 10,805 23,752 9,472 21,140 11,140 20,626 11,872 17,233 15,126 149 10,212 4,831 10,605 4,590 10,045 4,840 9,766 5,166 8,863 6,077

Greg has a map for Prop B, for those of you who like pictures to go with the numbers. All five bond issues passed, with Harris County percentages ranging from 68.06 for Prop B to 55.55% for Prop E. The city does of course extend into Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties, but I’m not including those precincts in my analysis. For what it’s worth, the Fort Bend precincts voted overwhelmingly for the bond issues, and the Montgomery County precincts also supported all five bonds. Of interest is the fact that the bond issues generally did well in the Republican State Rep districts in Houston. This is of interest because the Harris County GOP passed resolutions opposing all bonds on the ballot. To whatever extent they publicized that opposition, it had little effect. Only Kingwood (HD127) opposed the bonds, which isn’t really a surprise given that Kingwood would oppose a resolution declaring that puppies are adorable if it was a city of Houston resolution. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration – Kingwood did support the two Houston charter amendments – but still. HDs 129 (Clear Lake), 133 (Memorial/Westchase), and 138 (Spring Branch) supported all but Prop E, while HD134 supported all five. Note that HD138 largely overlaps Council District A, home turf of CM Helena Brown. If Helena Brown’s constituents were voting for the bonds, that should tell you how seriously the Harris County GOP’s resolutions were taken.

More broadly, there was a whole lot of ink spilled during the election season about ballot fatigue and conservative anti-government surges and fragile economies and what have you, and in the end none of it mattered. All the bonds, including the HISD and HCC bonds that will lead to tax increases, passed easily. All of them did well in Republican areas despite the official opposition of the Harris County GOP. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to rethink that narrative about people being tired of government spending and demanding cutbacks. Maybe, just maybe, that’s a load of hooey.

The Lege will take another crack at payday lending

I’m glad to see this, because the Lege definitely left business unfinished last time.

About 83 percent of customers in Beaumont and 75 percent in the Houston and San Antonio metro areas are locked in a loan renewal cycle, latest lender reports show.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, both members of a Texas Senate committee examining the problem, said data and testimonials from payday customers statewide support legislation to prevent so many Texans from being financially exploited.

“In a perfect world you wouldn’t need (payday lenders),” Whitmire said. “But I do know that people can’t make it sometimes because they have no line of credit and no credit – and they can go to these institutions, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be held up.”

[…]

The new data confirms Texans typically pay more for short-term credit than consumers in other states. A $500 loan initially costs customers about $110 in Texas compared to only $55 in Florida and $65 in Oklahoma, where the industry is better regulated, said Ann Baddour, a policy analyst for Texas Appleseed, part of a coalition of secular nonprofits and religious groups that advocate stronger rules and lower-cost credit options.

“We find it extremely troubling that Texans are paying more for these products than others in other parts of the country – there has to be a limit to the number of fees set up for the same loan,” Baddour said.

[…]

Last month, members of the Senate Business and Commerce committee led by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, reviewed data and heard testimony.

“Landmark legislation in the 82nd Legislature enabled us for the first time to get some hard numbers about the payday and auto title loan industry,” Carona said. “We have enough information now to come back and address the abuses in the industry.”

We know what the problem is, it’s just a matter of the Legislature exerting the will to do something about it. This isn’t about ideology – the issue unites such disparate legislators as Rep. Tom Craddick and Sen. Wendy Davis. Unfortunately, the legislation that was passed last time was a water-down compromise that really didn’t do much of anything. As it happens, the person responsible for those watered-down bills, Rep. Vicki Truitt, the chair of the House Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Committee, lost her primary race this May, so someone else will be carrying this ball in the House. I hope that’s a good sign, but the even bigger problem over there remains.

Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, himself a longtime payday loan business owner, was among those who blocked the proposals. He said the cities’ regulations are unnecessary and unconstitutional and existing federal consumer and credit laws provide enough oversight.

“The Legislature clearly considered the issue … and the Legislature decided not to pass those restrictions,” he said. “Anybody can pay off their loan anytime they want so the consumers obviously have that choice. … You can stay in debt on MasterCard or Visa forever.

“Do we need a law to say every month you have to pay down your MasterCard or Visa because some city council thinks that’s what you ought to do?”

You kind of have to admire Rep. Elkins’ sheer brazenness here. He makes his living off the misery of other people, he will do whatever it takes to defend the money he makes through the immiseration of those people, and he doesn’t give a damn what you think about it. He’s a State Representative, he has lobby money and his personal relationship with other representatives in his corner, and you don’t. So there.

UPDATE: Be sure to read Forrest Wilder’s story about new frontiers in the payday lending industry. I’d ask how these guys could get any sleazier, but I fear the answer I’d get.

We should expect boring Congressional races for the foreseeable future

That’s my takeaway after reading this.

CD32

For Pete Sessions, election night ended with yet another resounding send-off to Washington.

He won a ninth term, with 58 percent of the vote. But an analysis by The Dallas Morning News raises questions about how long the swath of Dallas and Collin counties that makes up Sessions’ 32nd Congressional District will remain safely Republican.

And more broadly, the 32nd is a microcosm of the challenges Republicans face maintaining control in congressional and legislative districts as the Hispanic population, which favors Democrats, continues to grow.

The district’s Hispanic-origin population will grow from 25.6 percent to 29.7 percent by 2016 and will only continue in years to come, according to population projections from Esri, a leading provider of demographic software and data. The percentage of registered voters in the district with Spanish surnames grew from 7.3 percent of eligible voters in 2002 to 8.8 percent in 2010.

Experts said that while changes are coming, Sessions should be safe for the next few elections.

“The big takeaway, looking at the last couple of elections in Texas, is that things are changing demographically — and that certainly has political implications,” SMU political scientist Matthew Wilson said. “But the partisan levels of those implications aren’t rising as quickly as the Democrats had hoped for.

“Change is slow, and looking at 2014 or 2016 as a tipping point might be getting ahead of the game a little bit.”

There were two competitive Congressional races this year, CD23 in which Rep.-elect Pete Gallego ousted freshman Rep. Quico Canseco, and CD14, in which Nick Lampson fell short in a race to succeed Ron Paul. The latter was basically only competitive because of Lampson, who represented a chunk of the new CD14 in his first years of service in Congress. Barring anything unusual, Rep.-elect Randy Weber will likely have a smooth ride in 2014. Only CD23 is likely to be seriously contested again.

I base this on a review of the 2008 results for the current districts and the actual results from this election. To put it mildly, there were no surprises.

Dist Obama Houston Dem Candidate Pct ========================================= 05 37.3 42.0 Mrosko 33.2 06 42.2 43.7 Sanders 39.2 07 40.4 39.1 Cargas 36.4 10 42.6 43.2 Cadien 36.2 14 42.1 47.5 Lampson 44.6 17 40.9 44.1 None 0.0 21 42.2 40.2 Duval 35.4 24 40.5 39.9 Rusk 36.0 25 42.7 43.5 Henderson 37.4 27 40.1 45.8 Harrison 39.2 31 42.5 42.4 Wyman 35.0 32 43.8 43.8 McGovern 39.4 Dist McCain W'wright GOP Candidate Pct ========================================= 15 41.8 37.3 Brueggemann 36.8 20 40.6 37.7 Rosa 33.4 23 49.3 45.0 Canseco 45.5 28 41.0 35.3 Hayward 29.7

These are all of the districts in which you could squint and see something potentially competitive based on either the Presidential number or the Sam Houston/Dale Wainwright number. Needless to say, that isn’t how it played out. Some of this is likely due to Obama’s reduced national margin from 2008, which is to say his decline among Anglo voters, some of it is likely due to the absence of resources at the state level, and some of it is likely due to the candidates themselves having little to no resources. Be that as it may, there’s nothing here to suggest there were any missed opportunities or any emerging hotspots. It’s CD23 all the way down.

There are two caveats to this. One is that we will not have the same Congressional districts in 2014. These were interim districts, to be used until the San Antonio court acts on the DC court’s denial of preclearance to fix the issues that the DC court identified. What the next map may look like and how this all may be affected by the upcoming SCOTUS review of Section 5 remains to be seen.

The other is that just because there won’t be competitive elections in November doesn’t mean there won’t be any in March. We saw one incumbent Congressman get bounced, thanks in part to some big external donors, but even if that group doesn’t play in 2014, the following members of Congress are, shall we say, less likely than some of their colleagues to make it to the next round of redistricting:

Sam Johnson, 82 years old.
Ralph Hall, 89 years old.
Kay Granger, 69 years old.
Rubén Hinojosa, 72 years old.
Eddie Bernice Johnson, 77 years old.
John Carter, 71 years old.

If nothing else, we’re likely to see a few spirited primaries in the coming years. Whether we get more than that or not remains to be seen.

RIP, Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller, whom Red Barber said was “one of the two or three most important men in baseball history, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson”, has died at the age of 95.

Marvin Miller

It is impossible to overstate Miller’s impact on Major League Baseball. While some — including Hall of Fame voters — have long given Miller short shrift (or piled on utter disdain), baseball today cannot be understood without understanding Marvin Miller’s contributions. He was a truly transformative figure who, after Jackie Robinson, did more to correct the excesses and injustices delivered onto players by baseball’s ruling class than anyone.

When Miller took over as the head of the MLBPA in 1966 there was no free agency. Players were told by ownership what they would make the following year and if they didn’t like it, tough. They couldn’t switch teams. They couldn’t do what any other worker can do and shop their services elsewhere. They were stuck thanks to baseball’s reserve clause and the ridiculous Supreme Court decision which exempted baseball and its owners from the antitrust laws.

Miller took all of that on and he won. He started small, negotiating the union’s first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968, which raised the game’s minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000. In 1970 he got the owners to agree to arbitration for the first time. In 1970 Curt Flood, with Miller’s support and guidance, challenged baseball’s antitrust exemption — and the dreaded reserve clause, which kept players tied to one team against their wishes — in the courts. Flood ultimately lost that case in the landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision. The decision did not, however, blunt Miller’s resolve, and he took his fight to other forums.

In 1974 he exploited a loophole — and an oversight by Oakland Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley — to get Catfish Hunter free agency and baseball’s first $1 million contract. Up next: the whole enchilada. In 1974, he got Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out the season without contracts, placing them in cross-hairs of the reserve clause and giving them standing to fight the provision in arbitration. In 1975 they won, with the Seitz Decision ushering in the age of free agency. Baseball players’ indentured servitude was over.

In all Miller led the union through three work stoppages: two short ones — 1972 and in spring training 1980 — and then the long, season-altering strike in 1981. In all three stoppages, the union prevailed. Overall during his tenure the average players’ salary rose from $19,000 to $241,000 a year and their working conditions improved dramatically. It is no understatement to say that Miller turned the MLBPA into the most effective and successful labor union in the United States. Not just in sports: in the entire United States.

The New York Times has a thorough obit that you should read as well. Truly, Miller was one of the giants of the game, who changed it for the better in a profound way. His exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a monument to pettiness and spite, but he took it in stride. Rest in peace, Marvin Miller.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann remembers Marvin Miller.