Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

July 5th, 2013:

Friday random ten: This List Is America (And So Can You)

Dedicated to that great American Stephen Colbert.

1. America – Simon & Garfunkel
2. America – Yes
3. America The Beautiful – Ray Charles
4. American Girl – Roger McGuinn
5. American Idiot – Green Day
6. American Land – Bruce Springsteen
7. American Pie – Don McLean
8. American Patrol – Glenn Miller
9. American Names – Sebastien Grainger
10. American Woman – Lenny Kravitz

Have a happy and safe weekend, y’all.

Rick Perry has exciting news to announce!

What could it possibly be?

Corndogs make good news go down easier

Maybe he’ll profess his love for corndogs

Rick Perry is inviting close friends and supporters to an event next Monday in San Antonio where he is expected to announce if he plans to seek an unprecedented fourth full term as Texas governor, CNN has learned.

Perry “will be making an announcement around mid-day in San Antonio concerning his exciting future plans,” according to a “Save the Date” email obtained Tuesday by CNN. The announcement comes as Perry finds himself at the center of a high-profile legislative fight over abortion rights in his state.

“Please join his family and closest friends on July 8th,” reads the email, which is being circulated to his political allies. “Details to follow.”

Perry has long said he will make a decision about his political future after the conclusion of this year’s legislative session, but because Democrats blocked the abortion measure with an attention-grabbing filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis last week, the governor was forced to call another session to tackle that issue and others.

Originally, Perry was supposed to announce his 2014 plans this week.

Anyone want to guess what the announcement will be? Perhaps it’s one of the following:

1. He expects to receive millions of dollars from a Nigerian prince that had emailed him asking for his assistance. The money will be used to help lure businesses from New York and California.

2. He’s the new spokesmodel for BrylCreem.

3. He will be selling all his possessions and giving the money to the poor, just as Jesus instructed his followers to do in the Bible.

Ha ha, no. He’d never do any of those ridiculous things. The speculation there and in the Trib and the Chron is that he will be announcing that he is not running for re-election in 2014 but will be launching another Presidential campaign. I’ve heard something similar from a friend who has some insider connections, and who also said that Greg Abbott will follow that up the week after with the least surprising news in the world about his candidacy to succeed Perry. Are you excited yet? Campos, who has some other career suggestions for Perry, Texpatriate, Jason Stanford, Juanita, and Concerned Citizens have more.

David Adickes hearts Houston

And he wants you to know it.

I just like this picture

Houston’s efforts at self-promotion – remember “Houston. It’s Hot!”? – have come and gone. Somehow, though, the Bayou City always looked for love in all the wrong places. Now, thanks to concrete sculptor David Adickes, the sprawling metropolis finally may have found some heart. Fittingly, it’s beside a freeway.

Workers on Tuesday began erecting Adickes’ newest creation, a multi-colored, 30-plus-foot-tall sculpture – “We (heart) Houston” – facing Interstate 10 East, just west of downtown.

[…]

“I think it’s going to have an interesting, welcoming approach into the downtown area,” said Minnette Boesel, the mayor’s assistant for cultural affairs. “I believe David’s inspiration is the iconic artwork that has been developed for other cities, the “I Love New York” art by Robert Indiana. … His thought is to use artwork to welcome people into our city. It’s on his property. The city does not own the statue or own the property.”

David Thompson, co-founder of the “Houston. It’s Worth It” campaign, suggested Adickes should erect twin towers, one bearing the legend, “We (heart) Houston,” the other, “If Only Outsiders Did.”

“We can’t have ‘We (heart) Houston,’ because it’s ‘We (heart) New York,'” he said. “I can’t believe it. I appreciate his effort, but it’s a bit derivative.”

Actually, David, it was “I Love New York”, not “We (heart) New York”. I remember this because I was there when that famous tourism ad campaign was running. See for yourself:

Is the Adickes work derivative of that? Yeah, it is, but I don’t care. He says his inspiration is the giant HOLLYWOOD sign. Fine by me either way. You can see a picture of this installation here. I need to do my own drive-by and get a picture of it myself. It will be formally dedicated on July 12. Not everyone likes Adickes’ latest, but I do. Keep ’em coming, David. I’m already looking forward to whatever it is you’re doing next.

HISD inspects North Forest schools

It’s not pretty.

The HISD leaders tried not to scowl as they walked into classrooms with broken glass, flooded floors, outdated chalkboards, graffiti on walls, gum on desks and the smell of mildew.

The head of food service swept cockroaches from the high school kitchen and pledged that the exterminator would return for a second visit.

“It’s about expectations. Why would you allow this for kids?” Orlando Riddick, the district’s high school chief, asked as he toured North Forest High School Tuesday.

It was the second day of a 55-day clean-up mission that the Houston Independent School District must assume since the state ordered it to take over problem-plagued North Forest ISD. Dozens of maintenance workers and high-level staff descended on the campuses this week, and their concerns quickly stretched beyond cosmetic issues to safety problems.

[…]

At Fonwood Elementary, one of North Forest’s older schools, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier pointed out exposed wires and broken playground equipment, and noted that one area inside had failed an air-quality test.

Grier said he hopes to find funds to replace the 54-year-old building, but for now it will get a mild makeover before classes resume in August. Crews this week ripped out mildewed carpeting, prepared to install doors that meet disability rules and ordered new water fountains. The old ones are too tall for children and are bolted to the walls, presumably to keep them from falling or being stolen.

“I just keep repeating, ‘I can’t believe kids were here,’ ” said the new principal, Kimberly Agnew Borders, who lives in North Forest and still attends church in the northeast Houston area.

There are more photos here, and some of them are quite appalling. I understand that people were fighting to keep North Forest in part because it’s part of their history, but seeing the condition of these schools really makes you wonder. I don’t know how things will shake out with test scores and all, but it’s hard not to believe that the students’ school experiences will be better now. Note, by the way, that HISD still has to get student records from North Forest, since they hadn’t been made available to them before July 1. We can’t even begin to talk about comparing student performance until HISD has those records in hand. It’s more than just construction and rehab work that needs to happen before September. Anyway, I’d love to see what the After pictures look like once the physical work is done. K12 Zone has more.

Here come the hotels

Lots of downtown hotel construction going on, or about to go on.

George R. Brown Convention Center

The area around the George R. Brown Convention Center is about to see a burst of hotel construction as developers plan several new projects, two of which will offer more moderately priced rooms.

The new projects are planned for sites just outside the convention center’s front doors, making this the most active period for hotel construction in this part of downtown in a decade.

Houston hotel firm American Liberty Hospitality is planning a 300-room property along Crawford between Capitol and Rusk.

The 14-story building will have two brands under the same roof: a Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites.

[…]

A second project, to be built on the same block as Massad’s property but fronting Rusk, will be a Hyatt Place.

The 11-story hotel will be developed by College Station-based Oldham Goodwin Group and Phin-Ker of Houston. The group expects to break ground on the 261-room property by January and open by the summer of 2015.

Hyatt Place is considered a “select-service hotel,” which offers a slightly bigger amenity package than a limited-service property. Rooms typically include free breakfast, Internet service and coffee throughout the day.

A third property will be a 1,000-room Marriott Marquis planned for a site just north of Discovery Green park and west of the convention center.

Financing for the $335 million Marquis project, expected to open in 2016, will come in part from Houston First, which operates the city’s arts and convention business. The agency is providing funds to buy the hotel site and build an adjacent parking garage. The new hotels are expected to be up and running by the time Houston hosts Super Bowl LI in 2017.

City leaders have been pushing for more hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention center – something convention bookers look for when selecting a city.

Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the additional room types downtown will help boost convention bookings.

They will also serve the growing leisure traveler segment.

“We’re starting to get a lot more leisure traffic,” he said. “Our image has improved dramatically.”

See here for some background. There’s still a lot of open and underused space on the east side of downtown, so it’s good to see this moving forward. The city has been trying to get more hotel space for the GRB for years, in the hope of making it more competitive with other convention centers. At least with the Super Bowl and other big sporting events coming to town, it’ll be nice to have. I do wonder, however, how well this will mesh with the New Dome Experience, since the New Dome’s new life as a multi-purpose event center might make it a competitor with the GRB. Not as much as it would have been had it been turned into a hotel/convention center itself, of course. Anyway, if you like seeing construction cranes in and around downtown, it’s going to be a good couple of years for you.