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December 8th, 2012:

Rick Noriega statement on SD06 special election

The following was sent to the SEIU Screening Council by Rick Noriega in response to a request that he screen with them for SD06. He shared it with me for publication here:

December 8, 2012

SEIU Screening Committee

SEIU Texas State Council

Dear Friends,

The untimely loss of our colleague, Senator Mario Gallegos, is more than the loss of a brother–it creates a huge hole in representation for the southeast portion of Harris County. With his passing, there is a void of voice and leadership. Where do we go now?

At the same time, change in leadership also is a chance for a new direction. The constituents of Senate District 6 have a unique opportunity to chart a new path for the future. Over the past few weeks, I was asked to consider whether I would enter the race to replace the late Senator.

The reasons given by my supporters were many–there was concern that the urgent and pressing issues of the district were not being adequately addressed in the conversation. In addition there was a concern that the current debate did not look at the larger challenges of the entire state.

Senators are responsible for Texas, not just their small district. The current voices need to rise to the level of the issues we face as Texans. It is not enough to just “vote right” for the district or fight the current establishment. The debate needs to be bigger; the debate needs to be more.

Senate District 6 serves as a microcosm for nearly every negative socio-economic trend that Texas witnesses. In this time of change, the position demands innovative thinking, the skills to work the process and the focus to get things done. No issue in the state stands alone, and it takes complex problem-solving skills and creativity to begin to address the level of complexity of the problems we face.

The constituents need to expect more–the debate truly needed about education, health care, infrastructure, revenue, economic development and jobs has not been on display.

Senate District 6 needs leadership, not a bitter battle for a plum elected office. You, as leaders, need to challenge the candidates to rise above self-interest and put forth plans that create real change, real opportunity in SD6.

I just returned from an amazing trip to the the Holy Land. The experience gave me the opportunity to give this matter much thought and prayer. In addition I have discussed it at length with my family.

The time is not right to take on this race, and the fundraising needed, for the Noriega family. We are dedicated to public service, and tell you this with much regret–this seat is a true opportunity for leadership, one with which great things could be accomplished.

I would encourage you, and all those interested in this race, to demand the very best Texas has to offer. There is too much at stake here, for the region and the state.

Thank you for offering me the chance to speak with you about this. I am honored and humbled by your consideration.

For Texas,

Rick Noriega

A copy of the letter is posted here. I may have more to say about this later, but for now I’m just going to let that speak for itself.

Saturday video break: La Bamba

Song #40 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “La Bamba”, originally by Ritchie Valens, and covered by Los Lobos. Here’s the original:

And here’s the Los Lobos cover:

Very similar, and deliberately so since they recorded it for the Valens biopic “La Bamba”. I’ve been a big fan of Los Lobos since “How Will The Wolf Survive?”, and even though these two versions are basically the same, I like theirs better. Not much else to say about this except that not long after that movie came out, Taco Cabana in San Antonio put out a radio ad to the tune of “La Bamba” that substituted “Taco Cabana” for the “Bamba, bamba” chorus, and it was a serious, bigtime earworm. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it, but I can still hear it, you know?

Still waiting for Perry to call the special election

Patti Hart reviews the bidding.

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, your elected representative and senator will convene under the state Capitol’s distinctive pink granite dome in Austin for the first day of the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature. That is, unless you happen to live within the boundaries of Senate District 6, which until his recent death was represented by Houston Sen. Mario Gallegos.

The eastside Houston residents of Gallegos’ old district will go senator-less, for a while. How long that legislative limbo will last is up to one person who is not too keen on the election of a senator from a safe-Democratic district: Gov. Rick Perry.

When will the constituents of the late Sen. Gallegos finally have representation in the Texas Senate? Under a timeline prescribed in state law, it could be as late as March 30 before the Texas Senate welcomes Gallegos’ replacement.

As we know, Robert Miller has documented that timeline. Thursday, December 6 was one of the milestones on that timeline:

Gov. Perry must conduct the state canvas for the November 6 election no earlier than November 21 and no later than December 6. Sec. 67.012. After the canvas, Gov. Perry must call a special election within 20 days to fill the vacancy in SD 6. Texas Constitution Article III, Section 13.

Good luck finding an announcement that the election has been canvassed. The most recent news on the Secretary of State‘s webpage is that we have a new Secretary of State, though they do provide a weather report on their Twitter feed, because Lord knows such information is hard to find otherwise. As for Rick Perry, he’s got news about a business moving to The Woodlands and of course a tribute to Jim DeMint, each of which is clearly more important than certifying the election. Be that as it may, I placed a call to the SOS office yesterday and confirmed that yes, the canvass did take place. So now the 20-day clock is on for calling the special election. Anyone want to bet against the proposition that Perry will wait till December 26 to make the call? It sure would be nice if someone were to ask Rick Perry what his intentions are with this election, and why he is taking his own sweet time on it.

Anyway. On a side note, Rep. Carol Alvarado is touting a poll that shows her tied with Sylvia Garcia on initial inquiry, then taking an 8 point lead in a head to head matchup with Garcia after “positive biographies of both Alvarado and Garcia” were read to participants. That’s certainly nicer than being behind, but I figure polls are not likely to be too informative in this race, which is going to come down to who can get more of her supporters to the ballot box. I suppose the silver lining in Perry’s procrastination is that both candidates have plenty of time to build up their ground game.

Germantown gets historic designation

Congratulations to what may be the last historic district created in the city of Houston.

The first historic district created under a stricter rewrite of Houston’s preservation ordinance passed City Council on Wednesday, though conservationists predicted future districts will be scarce even as they cheered the milestone.

With council’s 11-5 vote, Germantown Historic District – nestled between Interstate 45 and Houston Avenue, with Alma to the north and Woodland Park to the south – becomes the city’s 20th protected historic neighborhood.

Mayor Annise Parker devoted time and effort in 2010 to strengthening the city’s previously toothless preservation ordinance, which allowed historic structures to be razed even if the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission disagreed.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to be using the historic preservation ordinance that much; we had captured many of the historic districts,” said Parker, who lives in Westmoreland Historic District. “I hope more neighborhoods use it.”


Wendy Parker led the effort to create the Germantown district, the name of which stems from the presence of German farmers in the area north of White Oak Bayou in the late 1800s, according to the city planning department.

“We started to see town homes pop up and historic homes being knocked down at will without any consideration for the history of them or necessarily the condition,” she said. “We wanted to stop that process and make sure the architectural character of the neighborhood was kept.”

See here to learn more about Germantown, which is just east of the Woodland Heights – basically, it’s the neighborhood in the triangle formed by Houston Avenue, I-45, and White Oak – and see CultureMap for more, including a Google Map view of Germantown if you still can’t visualize where it is. I met Wendy Parker at an I-45 public forum last year, and I know one of the reasons she was pushing for this was as a defense against proposal to expand I-45 that would require condemning property in Germantown. I hope this does it for them.

Save those seeds

What would have been worse than the drought and the wildfires in Central Texas that wiped out millions of trees? Not having the wherewithal to properly reforest afterward. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but it was a closer call than you’d have thought.

Loblolly pine trees

The Texas A&M Forest Service was making plans to dump more than a half-ton of loblolly pine seeds into a landfill when the most destructive wildfire in state history began its deadly march through the Lost Pines in Bastrop County last year.

Now the seeds will be used in a massive, multiyear effort to restore the fabled forest, the westernmost stand of loblolly pines in the United States. The fire burned so hot that it claimed not only 50 square miles of pines but also their seeds, making it impossible for the trees to return without help.

To restore the Lost Pines, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and state forest service intend to plant more than 4 million trees on public and private land during the next five years. The Arbor Day Foundation is trying to raise $4 million, or $1 per tree, for the recovery effort.

The first seedlings, which come from the same genetic stock as the tall pines that carpeted the area before the fire, will arrive Tuesday at Bastrop State Park, about 35 miles east of Austin. Planting is scheduled to begin Saturday.

“If you are going to be successful in restoring the forest, you need the right seed source,” said Tom Byram, a geneticist with the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Here’s some background from the A&M Forest Service. Apparently, Byram had a large supply of such seeds sitting in a warehouse freezer for five years, where they sat while the forest service tried to find buyers for them. Loblollies aren’t in great demand because they grow slowly, and Byram was beginning to feel guilty about them taking up space. Good thing he didn’t act too quickly on that. See here for more on the Arbor Day Foundation, and go here if you want to make a donation or volunteer your time to help.