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January 26th, 2013:

Saturday video break: Unchained Melody

Song #34 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Unchained Melody”, originally by Todd Duncan and covered by the Righteous Brothers. Here’s the original:

I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard that version before. You can see the bones of the Righteous Brothers’ version there, though, which is easily the most famous of the gazillion covers of this song out there. Here it is:

That one I’m pretty sure you have heard. Here’s another one that’s probably closer to what you hear on the radio, but that first one was close enough, and how often did you get to see it performed live? Like I said, there’s a lot of covers of this out there, almost all trying sound like the Righteous Brothers. Here’s one that doesn’t, from the Manhattan Transfer:

I have that album – on vinyl!- and it wasn’t until I’d heard this song a few times that I realized what it was. I actually prefer it to the RB version. What version of this song is your favorite?

Election Day in SD06

It’s highly unlikely that this will settle anything, but today is Election Day in SD06. If you live in SD06 and have waited till today to cast your ballot, you can find your polling place here or here. I’ve already done my spiel about turnout and finance reports, so let’s see what the media has to say. Here’s the Texas Trib:

Alvarado and Garcia have campaigned at breakneck speeds after Perry officially announced Saturday’s election date on Dec. 13. The ensuing weeks have seen several candidate forums and fundraisers.

The most recent campaign finance filing period ended Jan. 18, with Garcia reporting about $164,000 raised since Jan. 1, expenditures of $300,000 and about $228,400 remaining in her war chest. A pre-election telegram report, which is filed to report contributions received after the date of the last report, shows Garcia raised an additional $14,500.

Alvarado raised about $185,000 during the same time period, spent about $315,000 and has about $110,000 left on hand. She also raised about $20,000 after the filing date, according to her telegram reports on file with the Texas Ethics Commission.

The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that plaintiff’s attorney and Democratic donor Steve Mostyn provided a bulk of Garcia’s support. Mostyn has donated more than $200,000 to Garcia throughout the course of the campaign, including about $187,000 in in-kind contributions from Mostyn’s Texas Organizing Project PAC.

The publication also noted that Alvarado received $22,000 from the Houston Police Officers Union and a $15,000 donation from HillCo lobbyists in Austin.


Garcia also hit Alvarado after the representative touted an endorsement from Stand for Children, an education advocacy group that Garcia said supports school vouchers.

“Sylvia Garcia strongly believes in fully funding our public schools, not using those dollars to help wealthy private schools take money away from our children,” Guerra said in a statement.

Hitting back, Alvarado said she has always supported public education and is on the side of educators and school districts.

“I am a product of HISD,” she said. “If there is any doubt on where I stand on public education, look at my voting record. I am the only one in this race with a record.”

In her release, Garcia includes a link to a document on the Stand for Children website called “What We Stand For: School Choice.”

“This paper begins with an overview of existing choice programs and a discussion of the current evidence available on these policies and their impact on student outcomes and equity,” the researchers write.

Calls to Stand for Children seeking clarification on where the group stands on the issue of vouchers were not immediately returned.

“School choice” means different things to different people, but I have zero doubt that Alvarado would oppose vouchers. There’s nothing in her record or her rhetoric to suggest otherwise. It would be nice to get some clarity from Stand For Children on this, but this will not keep me awake at night.

More from the Chron:

Alvarado said she was focusing on the issues the district’s voters care about: education, the economy and jobs, health care.

“We’re knocking on doors, phone-calling and keeping on message,” she said. “I’m happy we haven’t lowered ourselves into the gutter the way our opponent has.”

Garcia rejected the negative-campaigning charge. “Any time you compare a record – and that’s all we’re doing – your opponent will say you’re going negative. We’ll just have to let the voters decide.”

Whatever you think about the race so far, any real nastiness will come out in the runoff. That’s just how the world works.

[Dorothy] Olmos, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the State Board of Education in 2010, said she is working her ground game, as well.

“We’re knocking on doors and beating the bushes,” she said.

Olmos, a former teacher and hair salon operator, noted that she received 80,000 votes in the general election for the State Board of Education, 35,000 from Senate District 6.

Dream big, Dorothy. RW Bray got 38,201 votes in SD06 in November, and that’s about twice as many votes as will be cast in total for this race. As a point of comparison, Lawrence Allen, the incumbent Democrat in SBOE 4 that Olmos opposed in 2012, got over 77,000 votes in SD06. And just to fully beat this into submission, by my count there were 27,556 straight ticket Republican votes cast in SD06. This means that nearly 80% of Dorothy Olmos’ vote total in SD06 came from straight ticket voters, of which there will be none today, and that just under 7,500 people made the deliberate and conscious choice of voting for Dorothy Olmos last November. Of course, if she were to match that vote total in this election, she’d be a near lock for the runoff, but I feel pretty confident saying that ain’t gonna happen. I’ll have a brief post about who does make the runoff tonight and a fuller one tomorrow morning. Stace has more.

UPDATE: It will be Sylvia versus Carol for the runoff. No surprises at all.

Inside baseball with the hospital district

I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to learn from this article about the political relationship between the Harris County Hospital District and Commissioners Court.

New name for HCHD

You have to wonder if David Lopez ever feels like he’s in the circus.

When Lopez, the CEO of Harris Health System, Harris County’s public hospital district, visits Commissioners Court to present a proposal, purchase, or budget, he tends to play the role of target in a precision knife-throwing act, facing a flurry of sharp questions.

So it was last week, when Lopez sought to buy a mothballed outpatient surgery center on the Southwest Freeway for $7.8 million. Frowning court members said it was the first they had heard of the item, and nearly rejected the matter outright before sending it to the county infrastructure director for further study.

It was the latest example of disconnect between the hospital district and the county’s leaders. The district operates separately from the county, but its board is appointed by Commissioners Court and the court approves its annual budget, tax rate and long-term real estate leases and purchases. Aides to the court members attend the board’s meetings to monitor operations and, presumably, report back to their bosses.

Yet, Lopez and HHS cannot seem to get buy-in from the court on a consistent basis.

“The district is adrift in a sea of uncertainty, and they can’t really figure out what they need to do or should do. It’s a moving target,” said Commissioner Steve Radack, the health system’s most vocal critic on the court. “They say one day they need a hospital in this area, then they go to another area, then they come back to the first area. They really don’t know what they want.”

Things that I did learn from this story: Harris Health System, formerly known as the Harris County Hospital District, and Commissioners Court sometimes don’t see eye to eye on what HHS wants to do. Better communication between them might or might not help.

Things that I did not learn from this story: First and foremost, whether an outside observer would be inclined to agree with the HHS’s vision for primary care and prevention or if such an observer would agree with the Court that the HHS isn’t focused enough on primary care and prevention. Or perhaps that observer would tell us that it’s not so much a matter of vision as it is one of execution on HHS’s part or expectations on the county’s. It would also be nice to know what an outside observer thinks the county’s needs are and what the priorities should be, and how those compare to what HHS and the county say HHS is doing. Unfortunately, the whole story was basically a he said/she said, and that left me unable to properly evaluate either side’s position. It’s good to know that HHS and the Court disagree on things, but it would be even better to know, or at least suspect, that one or both of them is talking out of something other than their mouths. I don’t have any way of drawing that kind of conclusion or inference from this story, and that’s a shame.

The Real Housewives of the Oilpatch

Sure, why not?

Not these housewives

A reality television show developer has traveled from California to Texas in hopes of spinning the “Real Housewives” concept into an oil field drama.

Matt Stroud, a development producer for CrashHat Entertainment, recently released a casting call for women who can show “the real American pride that goes hand-in-hand with being an oil field wife.” He said he already has received applications from 400 wives eager to share their lives on the small screen.

Stroud, who works from Santa Monica, Calif., said he was unfamiliar with the unique lives of oil field families until he was introduced to the roughneck culture during a recent visit to Texas.

“It felt very marketable in terms of what would work” for TV, he said.

Oil field jobs often require two-week shifts, with workers cycling between 14 days in the field and 14 days at home. Some wives have created a vibrant online community, with websites devoted to their lifestyles, Pinterest boards pinned with pink hard hats, and Facebook community pages where tens of thousands of wives swap advice about surviving their husbands’ long stays away from home.

Stroud said wives from across the country have sent applications, from Alaska to Pennsylvania to California.

They don’t have a network yet, but I’m kind of rooting for them. There are certainly worse things on which to base a TV show. And who knows, it might actually be educational. All I know for sure is that if this does become a thing, I request – nay, I demand – that the Chron’s Therese Odell blog about it. I mean, this was meant to be.