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August 30th, 2013:

Friday random ten: Millennium nostalgia

My inspiration this week is this Grantland playlist of the Top 64 Songs Of The Millennium. I presumed it was a decade retrospective thing, thus defined as the years 2000-2010, but it turns out that they just meant “since 2000”. I don’t have enough of these songs, including covers and parodies, to add up to ten – what can I say, I’m just not that into hip-hop – so I combed my library for ten of my top-rated songs from the last decade:

1. Hurricane Season – Trombone Shorty (2010)
2. Hurt Feelings – Flight Of The Conchords (2009)
3. How Long Do I Have To Wait For You? – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings (2008)
4. LDN – Lily Allen (2007)
5. Texican Style – Los Lonely Boys (2006)
6. Rehab – Amy Winehouse (2006)
7. Someday You Will Be Loved – Death Cab For Cutie (2005)
8. Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day (2004)
9. Hurt – Johnny Cash (2002)
10. Sell Out – Reel Big Fish (2001)

I tried where possible to avoid covers (the Johnny Cash masterpiece “Hurt” excluded), re-recordings (thanks to Popdose I have a ton of KCBO studio cuts, which are awesome but not at all indicative of the decade), live performances, local bands, and anything for which the year listed in iTunes was sketchy. I couldn’t find anything matching these criteria for 2000 or 2003, so I doubled up on 2006 to fill the gap. As it happens, “Rehab” is the one song from their list that I have and am responsible for in my library. I have four other non-covers that are there because Olivia asked for them – “Teenage Dream”, Katy Perry; “Bad Romance”, Lady GaGa; “Call Me Maybe”, Carly Rae Jepsen; and “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together”, Taylor Swift. I’ll add that Olivia has made a Taylor Swift fan out of me, but that song was from 2012 so I wasn’t looking for it. Anyway, I think this is a reasonably accessible list, not too cheesy and not too snooty. What are your faves since Y2K? Leave a comment and let us know.

Interview with Brenda Stardig

Brenda Stardig

Brenda Stardig

My last candidate interview for District A is a fitting bookend for the first one. Brenda Stardig was elected to District A in 2009, leading the pack in November and cruising in the subsequent runoff. It’s fair to say that her two years in office were tumultuous. Some people didn’t like the political choices she made, such as supporting the Renew Houston proposition, others didn’t think she was sufficiently engaged in the district and with her constituents. Previous Council Member Toni Lawrence, who had backed Stardig in 2009, switched her allegiance to challenger Helena Brown in 2011. It all added up to her defeat at the hands of CM Brown in the 2011 runoffs. It is also fair to say that CM Brown’s time in office has been tumultuous, and so Stardig, a realtor and former Super Neighborhood president, is back to try to get a second chance in office. Here’s the interview I did with Stardig in 2009, and here’s the interview for this year:

Brenda Stardig interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

We’ll have to wait a little longer for Wendy

Take the time you need, Sen. Davis.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democrats’ best hope to run for Texas governor, said Wednesday she is postponing the announcement of her decision so she can help care for her sick father.

“I had hoped to make public my decision about that next week, but with everything that’s going on with my dad, I won’t be doing that,” Davis said. “It’s likely it will be late September before I do.”

Davis’ father, Jerry Russell, has been in critical condition at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth following complications from abdominal surgery. In a Facebook post, Davis said Russell, who has been battling pneumonia, was “continuing to show small but positive steps toward improvement” but was “not out of the woods” yet.

Russell, an actor and director, is well known in North Texas theater circles. He is the founder of Stage West, a popular nonprofit theater company that offers dinner service. He was in the third week of production of his latest play, Thank You Jeeves, when he fell ill, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

My best wishes for a fast and full recovery for your father, Sen. Davis. I’m sure I speak for many when I say we understand and we’ll be ready when you are. BOR has more.

Just so we’re clear, cities don’t run the schools

Lisa Falkenberg does some fact checking.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall seems to have done his homework before he began claiming that, if elected, he’d have statutory authority over local schools.

But he apparently didn’t check his interpretation of the statute with the Texas Education Agency.

In an interview last week, Hall criticized Mayor Annise Parker for continuing “to remain silent” on education, and he took issue with Parker’s assertion that although her office is engaged in education-related activities, she doesn’t have statutory oversight.

“Well, one, she’s legally wrong on that,” Hall told me. “There is statutory authority for cities to take over even school districts or assets of school districts that are independent.”

I checked that statement with TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe, who researched the issue and found “the candidate is wrong.”

“Cities can regulate school districts in limited ways through general provisions like fire and safety codes,” Ratcliffe said, but the state ultimately regulates education and only the state education commissioner has the ability to “take over” or close a district.

One exception to the state’s power, Ratcliffe said, is something called a “municipal school district,” which has a hybrid governance that requires city council approval of the district budget. Ratcliffe said she believes the Stafford district is the only such hybrid left.

“But that is an anachronism,” Ratcliffe said. “Cities can’t run school districts any more than districts could cities.”

See here for the background. Now to be fair, this response isn’t the final word. I don’t know if Debbie Ratcliffe is a lawyer, but whether she is one or she just consulted with one, this is all just someone’s opinion, and in the absence of a court case one can reasonably dispute that particular interpretation of Texas’ education code. But ask yourself this question: What do you think would happen if Ben Hall were to try to exert some kind of authority over the schools to “expand education” according to his vision, whatever that vision may be? Do you think the two dozen or so school districts that overlap Houston will respond by saying “Sure, Mayor Hall! Whatever you want!”? Or do you think they will tell him, in polite but precise legal terminology, to go pound sand?

Again, if we had more details about what Hall has in mind, we could better judge whether his vision is realistic and/or worthwhile. As Falkenberg has documented, what he has said so far won’t fly. I really would be interested in hearing any ideas Hall might have to use the Mayor’s office to improve schools. But first he has to come up with something that he could actually do.

Lawsuit filed against Galveston County redistricting

Expect more of this going forward.

A Galveston County plan slashing the number of justice-of-the-peace districts from eight to four intentionally discriminates against minority voters and should be blocked, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit comes exactly one week after Galveston County commissioners approved a redistricting plan for justices of the peace similar to one rejected last year by the U.S. Justice Department. The department opposed the plan because it reduced the number of districts with black and Hispanic majorities from two to one, as does the one adopted last week.


By cutting the number of justice of the peace districts in half, Galveston commissioners reduced the number of judges from nine to four. Although the county has eight districts, there are nine justices of the peace because two are elected from a single precinct, an unusual arrangement arrived at under a 1992 consent judgment in a discrimination lawsuit.

Attorney Joe Nixon, whose firm was hired by the county to redraw the justice-of-the-peace districts, said the plan is in compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “It’s hard to say there was race involved when of the five seats lost one was a minority and four were non-minorities,” Nixon said. He said the proportion of minority districts is the same as in the plan the Justice Department approved for commissioner’s districts.

Attorney Chad Dunn, who filed the lawsuit, said the new plan is both intentionally discriminatory and has a discriminatory effect. “The county was already told by the Department of Justice that this plan was discriminatory,” Dunn said. “The county knew the plan was discriminatory and they did it anyway.”

See here for the background. The proportionality argument is interesting and may wind up being persuasive, but it didn’t work for getting preclearance. The county commissioners also argue that they can save a bunch of money by consolidating constables and JP courts, claiming that two of the courts they have targeted for elimination had very low caseloads; the plaintiffs in the lawsuit dispute this. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Texas federal court in Galveston, and a copy of the suit is here. Note that among other things, the plaintiffs ask that Galveston County be bailed in to preclearance requirements under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. Whatever happens with the lawsuits against the state, local requests for Section 3 supervision will surely continue until clearer guidelines are set.