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December 5th, 2012:

Precinct analysis: A closer look at the Latino districts

Here’s a more in-depth look at the Latino districts in Harris County. I’m particularly interested in the question of how President Obama did in comparison to the other Dems on the ballot, since as we know he lagged behind them in 2008, but we’ll see what else the data tells us.

CD29 Votes Pct ======================== Green 85,920 73.40 Garcia 81,353 73.29 Ryan 76,188 69.01 Trautman 75,904 68.97 Obama 75,464 66.60 Bennett 74,691 68.48 Petty 74,275 69.19 Hampton 73,917 67.97 Oliver 72,971 66.19 Henry 72,581 67.46 Sadler 71,382 64.73 08Obama 70,286 62.20 08Noriega 75,881 68.30 08Houston 73,493 67.70 SD06 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 95,602 73.28 Gallegos 93,136 70.94 Ryan 90,047 69.29 Trautman 89,853 69.31 Obama 89,584 67.14 Bennett 88,289 68.78 Petty 87,920 69.55 Hampton 87,456 68.37 Oliver 86,390 66.56 Henry 85,891 67.84 Sadler 84,671 65.26 08Obama 85,445 63.50 08Noriega 91,173 68.80 08Houston 88,565 68.30 HD140 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 17,674 76.57 Walle 18,297 75.67 Ryan 16,719 70.92 Trautman 16,653 72.89 Obama 16,548 70.74 Bennett 16,481 72.57 Petty 16,341 73.07 Hampton 16,225 71.63 Oliver 16,184 70.75 Henry 16,131 71.96 Sadler 15,668 68.64 08Obama 15,399 66.20 08Noriega 16,209 71.00 08Houston 15,967 71.00 HD143 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 22,258 74.89 Luna 21,844 72.94 Ryan 20,902 70.92 Trautman 20,731 70.57 Obama 20,597 67.82 Bennett 20,580 70.51 Petty 20,377 70.97 Hampton 20,335 69.97 Oliver 20,077 68.19 Henry 19,971 69.18 Sadler 19,597 66.40 08Obama 20,070 64.10 08Noriega 21,525 70.10 08Houston 21,130 70.20 HD144 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 13,555 57.96 Ryan 12,668 53.96 Trautman 12,663 54.18 Perez 12,425 53.35 Bennett 12,382 53.63 Petty 12,328 54.27 Obama 12,281 51.47 Hampton 12,226 53.24 Oliver 11,966 51.07 Henry 11,919 52.49 Sadler 11,761 50.50 08Obama 11,983 48.00 08Noriega 13,197 53.60 08Houston 13,129 54.50 HD145 Votes Pct ======================== Alvarado 20,829 68.86 Garcia 19,180 67.67 Ryan 17,860 63.04 Trautman 17,886 63.30 Petty 17,254 63.03 Bennett 17,252 61.90 Hampton 17,154 61.85 Obama 17,890 61.13 Henry 16,624 60.63 Oliver 16,778 59.22 Sadler 16,655 58.79 08Obama 16,749 57.10 08Noriega 18,427 63.70 08Houston 17,315 61.70 HD148 Votes Pct ======================== Farrar 25,921 64.56 Garcia 23,776 63.87 Ryan 22,413 59.91 Trautman 22,199 59.77 Petty 21,013 58.89 Hampton 21,219 58.49 Obama 22,393 57.92 Bennett 21,061 57.80 Sadler 21,210 56.51 Henry 19,888 55.55 Oliver 19,848 53.34 08Obama 22,338 57.50 08Noriega 22,949 60.10 08Houston 21,887 59.20

My thoughts:

– First, a point of clarification: Reps. Armando Walle and Carol Alvarado were unopposed, while Rep. Jessica Farrar had only a Green Party opponent. In those cases, I used their percentage of the total vote. Also the 2008 vote percentages on the Texas Legislative Council site are only given to one decimal place, so I added the extra zero at the end to make everything line up.

– In 2008, there was a noticeable difference between the performance of Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic ticket in Latino districts. Obama underperformed the Democratic average by several points, as you can see from the above totals. This year, in addition to the overall improvement that I’ve noted before, President Obama’s performance is more or less in line with his overall standing at the countywide level. Generally speaking, those who did better than he did overall also did better in these districts. Obama’s vote percentage is still a notch lower in general, but this is mostly a function of undervoting or third-party voting downballot. What all this suggests to me is that whatever issues Obama had with Latino voters in 2008, he did not have them in 2012. This is consistent with everything else we’d seen and been told up till now, but it’s still nice to have hard numbers to back it up.

– Paul Sadler’s issues, on the other hand, come into sharper relief here. We know that Ted Cruz got some crossover votes in Latino areas, though the total number of such votes was fairly small. I continue to believe that this has as much to do with Sadler’s lack of resources as anything, but if you want an even more in-depth look at the question, go read Greg.

It’s still Gene Green’s world. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

– I have to think that Mike Anderson left some votes on the table here. Some targeted mailers into these areas that highlighted some of Lloyd Oliver’s, ah, eccentricities, would likely have paid dividends. Didn’t matter in the end, but if it had you’d have to look at this as a missed opportunity.

Plaintiffs want to proceed with new redistricting maps

Texas Redistricting:

Plaintiff groups in the Texas redistricting litigation in San Antonio told the court that it should go ahead and start the process of drawing remedial state house and congressional maps for use in 2014, but disagreed slightly about the timing of the process.

Under proposals from two plaintiff groups, the state would have until March 1, 2013 to submit new proposed remedial maps, with plaintiff groups then being given until April 1 to submit any alternative maps or object to the state’s maps. The court then would hold a map hearing in late April and rule on new maps by July 1.

The groups told the court that this schedule would allow counties time to redraw precinct lines in time for the start of precinct chair candidate filings on September 10 and minimize impact on the Texas election schedule. At the same time, they told the court the schedule would give the Supreme Court time to rule on both the constitutionality of section 5 in Shelby County v. Holder and on Texas’ appeal of the D.C. court’s redistricting ruling (both rulings expected by late June) before issuing final maps.

The Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force filed a separate advisory proposing a more drawn out schedule which would allow the Texas Legislature an opportunity to consider and adopt new redistricting plans.

Under the Task Force’s schedule, the state would file proposed maps by March 8 but objections to plans would not be due and the plaintiffs’ remedial plans would not be due until June 1 (after the end of the Legislature’s regular session) and a hearing on proposed remedial plans would not take place until June 21. The advisory proposes August 15 as a target date for a ruling on new maps.

All of the groups told the court it should not wait for a ruling on in Shelby County v. Holder on the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Here are the briefs in question:

Joint advisory of MALC, NAACP, LULAC, Quesada plaintiffs, Perez plaintiffs, Congressman Cuellar, Congresspersons Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Al Green

Travis County plaintiffs

Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force

LULAC and Wendy Davis (state senate case)

Not surprisingly, the State of Texas has proposed deferring any action until July to allow the Supreme Court to rule both on Shelby County and on the state’s appeal of the D.C. court’s redistricting ruling. You can see their brief here. I of course think that the court should get on with it, and I’m glad to see that I called this one correctly after whiffing on the voter ID briefs.

On a side note, the LULAC/Wendy Davis brief urges the court the keep the interim State Senate map as the remedial map. In an email sent out by the Lone Star Project, they suggest this would be in the best interest of the entire Senate:

In the brief, Davis, LULAC and other plaintiffs make an important legal point that Texas leaders should consider before taking action to alter SD10 or any other Senate district boundary – any change made by the Legislature or the courts to the Senate map will result in ALL 31 incumbent Senators standing for re-election in 2014. The key paragraph reads:

“There is also legal authority suggesting that if the State of Texas attempts to dismantle SD10 in 2013 and impose new districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth region or otherwise attempts to replace the interim plan with a new plan, then all 31 Texas senators must stand for re-election in 2014. See Armbrister v. Morales, 943 S.W. 2d 202 (1997).”

If the current map used in the 2012 elections remains unchanged as the Davis Plaintiffs argue, only 15 or 16 Senators would stand for re-election in 2014, and those would be determined randomly by a drawing. The others would have four year terms and an extra cycle to consolidate their support and head-off strong potential challengers. Any change, however, even if it is only to Senate District 10 and adjacent Senate districts, means all Senators would be forced to gear up for potential challenges.

They note that a brand new map might make SD10 more Democratic, and they note several “safe” incumbents who were defeated in primaries this year as a reason why Senators would prefer not to create more elections for themselves than necessary. I’m not sure I buy the legal argument, because in 2006 when SCOTUS declared the Tom DeLay-drawn CD23 map to be illegal, only the Congressional districts that were redrawn as a result of fixing CD23 had special elections that November. None of the others were affected. I don’t know why that logic wouldn’t apply here, but I’m not a lawyer, so make of that what you will. If we’re going to get into gamesmanship, I can think of two reasons why the GOP would prefer to ensure that Davis would have to run again in SD10, even at the risk of the courts drawing her a safer district. One, off year elections tend to have more Republican electorates, which would make it easier for them to knock off Davis even in a friendlier district; and two, if Davis really is a legitimate threat as a statewide candidate, ensuring her seat is up for election in 2014 forces her to make a choice. That may still happen when the Senate does their drawing to see who’s up in 2014 and who gets to wait till 2016, but if Davis gets lucky there she could run for something else in 2014 without abandoning her seat. We’ll see what the court makes of all this. Postcards has more.

Could this be the catalyst for Astrodome redevelopment?

Maybe.

A new beginning?

The city of Houston and Harris County are preparing to create a mammoth, two-part economic development zone covering more than 11 square miles along the South Loop and at the northeast end of downtown.

The plan stems from a deal the two governments struck three years ago to secure a new soccer stadium east of downtown for the Dynamo, and it could pave the way for long-discussed capital projects, such as the redevelopment of the Astrodome or a city-county inmate booking center.

[…]

Reliant Park will be included in the southern portion of the zone, which could pave the way for redevelopment of the Astrodome, which has not been home to a sports team in 12 years and has been deemed unfit for occupancy since 2009. Also within that portion of the zone would be the 104-acre former home of AstroWorld.

The northern portion of the zone includes an area near the current County Jail complex, where a joint city-county inmate booking center, rejected by voters in 2007, could be built.

[Commissioner El Franco] Lee said his colleagues on Commissioners Court first must agree to join the Greater Houston Zone but said the Dome may be the largest beneficiary if the plan is approved.

Every option to renovate the Dome, presented as part of a Reliant Park master plan earlier this year, ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Simply razing it would cost an estimated $64 million.

“The biggest issue was dollars, and that will remain an issue, so having a buildup of those kinds of dollars will make it just that much more attractive to do on a large scale,” Lee said. “This can be a source of funds that does not put a strain on any existing revenues to do existing things.”

Basically, this is a big TIRZ, and the genesis of it all is the Dynamo Stadium deal. City Council has to draw the boundaries under state law, and Council will take the first step on this plan when they vote on whether to set a public hearing to seek input on the plan. Once that happens, I figure things will move quickly. How long till the County is in a position where it can finally do something about the Dome, that remains to be seen.

EDF report on school buses

From the Environmental Defense Fund:

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) [Monday] released a report titled “Review of Texas’ Clean School Bus Programs: How Far Have We Come and What Is Still Left to Do?” This report evaluates each of the clean school bus programs in Texas, reviews accomplishments, and offers suggestions for improvement.

Diesel engines power most of the estimated 480,000 school buses in the United States, and the World Health Organization recently classified diesel exhaust as a known carcinogen, specifically noting a causal link between exposure to diesel exhaust and lung cancer. One of the most dangerous components of diesel exhaust is particulate matter (PM). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is particularly concerned with these smallest-sized particles, because they are known to aggravate asthma, cause lung inflammation, lead to heart problems, and increase the risk of cancer and premature death.

Texas children riding to school in buses built before 2007 may be breathing air inside the cabin of the bus that contains 5-10 times higher the amount of diesel pollution than found outside the bus. These older bus engines spew nearly 40 toxic substances and smog-forming emissions. Children, who breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults, are therefore exposed to even higher health risks because their lungs are still developing.

As of the 2010-2011 school year, the Texas Education Agency reported that nearly two-thirds of current school buses were over six years old, emitting at least 10 times as much PM as older buses, and much more in many cases because a large proportion of the fleet is even older. More than 700,000 children are impacted, meaning that nearly half of the students relying on school buses for transportation in Texas still ride dirty buses.

[…]

There are two current programs available to help retrofit or replace the remaining 17,000 dirty schools buses in Texas. Under the Texas Clean School Bus Program, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is accepting applications for grants through November 30. This is a comprehensive program designed to reduce diesel exhaust emissions through school bus retrofits. All public school districts and charter schools in Texas are eligible to apply for this grant. Private schools are not eligible for funding. Public school districts that lease buses are also eligible.

EPA also launched a new rebate funding opportunity for school bus replacements under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. Applications will be accepted from Nov. 13 to Dec. 14. The first round of rebates will be offered as part of a pilot program and will focus on the replacement of older school buses in both public and private fleets. If the pilot proves successful, EPA will look at rebates for other fleet types and technologies.

The report is here, along with supplemental information. The deadline for the TCEQ grants has been extended to December 14. I had no idea any of this existed, so it’s good to know and good to see that we’re making progress. Many buses can be effectively retrofitted, but some will need to be replaced. Perhaps this will be an opening in the state for the electric school bus industry. In any event, check with your school or your local school board to see what’s being done for your kids.