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June 7th, 2014:

Saturday video break: Bridge Over Troubled Water

One of the best songs Paul Simon ever wrote, and he wrote it for Art Garfunkel’s voice.

Hard to top that, but you can approach it with your own sense of style. That’s what Johnny Cash did.

I’ll say again, when The Man In Black sings “When times are tough, and pain is all around/Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down”, you know he feels and means every word of that.

And then there’s Aretha Franklin:

How did I not know that she also played a mean piano? Anyway, there are plenty more versions out there – great songs always draw many singers to them – but honestly, how many more do you need? Besides, these are the three I have in my collection.

Culberson’s attempt to kill the Universities Line about to come up for a vote

From Houston Tomorrow:

US Representative John Culberson has pushed an amendment through to the floor of the US House of Representatives to specifically deny Houston federal funding for rail transit in two corridors, according to the text of the bill HR4745 (page 52, section 165):

SEC. 165. None of the funds in this or any other Act

14 may be available to advance in any way a new light or

15 heavy rail project towards a full funding grant agreement

16 as defined by 49 U.S.C. 5309 for the Metropolitan Transit

17 Authority of Harris County, Texas if the proposed capital

18 project is constructed on or planned to be constructed on

19 Richmond Avenue west of South Shepherd Drive or on

20 Post Oak Boulevard north of Richmond Avenue in Hous-

21 ton, Texas.

The bill is expected to be up for discussion on the floor of the US House of Representatives on Monday, June 9th, 2014.

See here for the background. It’s not the first time he’s tried this – the man is nothing if not maniacally obsessed. You should contact your member of Congress ASAP to ask him or her to oppose this harmful amendment. Remember that Culberson’s Republican colleague Ted Poe supports rail on Richmond because he actually listened to his constituents about it. Until that fine day comes when John Culberson is no longer in Congress, the best we can do is keep him from doing any further damage.

TPJ files amicus brief in DeLay appeal

It’s almost time for Tom DeLay to go to court again.

Who are YOU to judge me?

Who are YOU to judge me?

A government-watchdog group on Tuesday petitioned the state’s highest criminal court to reinstate the money-laundering and conspiracy convictions of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, moving to join a brewing legal fight before a scheduled June 18 court hearing in the case.

DeLay, a former Sugar Land Republican, was convicted in November 2010 by a Travis County jury of raising almost $700,000 in corporate contributions through Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee, and using those funds to help Republicans win a majority in the Texas House in 2003.

Corporate contributions to Texas politicans have been barred since 1903, and prosecutors alleged that DeLay directed a criminal conspiracy to illegally launder corporate funds into Texas House races, an argument that watchdog group Texans for Public Justice said is correct and should result in reinstatement of DeLay’s conviction. The group filed an amicus brief Tuesday with the state Court of Criminal Appeals.


Calling the dismissal of DeLay’s conviction a “partisan, result-oriented ruling” by the appeals court, Craig McDonald, executive director of the watchdog group. “Facts show that DeLay and his co-conspirators knowingly broke Texas election laws.”

The amicus brief is here, and TPJ’s press release is here. It should be noted that DeLay’s legal team succeeded in getting one of the Democratic judges removed from the panel; the remaining Democratic judge dissented on the opinion to overturn DeLay’s convictions. As I’ve noted before, it will be interesting to see if the CCA’s notoriously pro-prosecution biases overwhelm any partisan sympathy they may have for DeLay. I will also note that it was eleven months between arguments before the Third Court of Appeals and their ruling, so I wouldn’t expect a final decision any time soon.

Sriracha post-mortem

The Motley Fool wonders if State Rep. Jason Villalba should get the credit for the resolution of the Great Sriracha Dispute of 2014.

In early January, Texas state representative Jason Villalba made a public invitation to David Tran to pack up and move Huy Fong to Texas. In his announcement, Villalba contrasted “excessive government interference” by “government bureaucrats” in California to Texas’ “low regulations and limited government interference.”

This could have come across as one-off political grandstanding, but Villalba didn’t let go of the issue. His pitch later expanded to include the notion of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley as a possible pepper-farm location—despite the fact that the valley and Dallas are 500 miles apart, which would hike Huy Fong’s transport costs considerably. And on May 12, he brought a delegation of state legislators and Texas officials to Irwindale for a high-profile tour of Huy Fong’s plant and a private meeting with Tran.

Whether or not Tran was seriously considering relocating or expanding to Texas, the visit and the publicity it generated gave him leverage in his conflict with the city. And it gave GOP leaders both in Texas and in California a national platform to criticize what they saw as shortcomings in the Golden State’s business climate.

The dispute’s endgame began Tuesday, when representatives from Democratic governor Jerry Brown’s office held a private meeting with Tran and city officials. Wednesday night, Irwindale’s council voted to drop the issues.

Whether that settles the matter for residents living near the plant won’t be clear until this summer when the pepper harvest comes in for processing. But for now, it looks like Huy Fong will stay put and its most popular sauce will keep flowing.

This was of course a local dispute, one that had nothing to do with state regulations, and the leading suitor for a relocated Huy Fong factory was surely elsewhere in California. Be that as it may, California Gov. Jerry Brown wasn’t taking any chances.

Afraid of losing a few hundred jobs and the world’s best hot sauce, Los Angeles officials urged Brown’s office to take action. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. began reaching out early this year to try to get the two sides talking, an adviser with knowledge of the meetings said.

Brown’s economic development team got the South Coast Air Quality Management District to evaluate Irwindale’s air — they found no significant odorous problems — and arranged for the mayor of Irwindale, Mark Breceda, and a city council member to visit the factory and begin making peace.

Leslie McBride, deputy director of business investment services in the economic development office, represented the Brown administration during the walk-through on Tuesday. Huy Fong showed city officials their new filtration system upgrades, which should help mitigate future air quality problems.

Brown was briefed several times on the progress of negotiations, the adviser said, though the governor’s office didn’t offer any specific incentives.

This LA Times story has more detail on the backstage activity. Honestly, I think this was more of a communications problem than anything else. For whatever the reason, the city of Irwindale and David Tran dug in their heels as the rhetoric escalated, and it wasn’t until the cooler heads from Gov. Brown’s office intervened, and the reality of maybe actually turning the business completely upside down as represented by the arrival of Team Villalba seeped in, that everyone came to their senses and worked out a resolution that should have been obvious six months ago. You can give credit to Brown, and if there is a real expansion opportunity in the future – still no word on that as far as I can tell – you can give plenty of kudos to Villalba, but from where I sit this was always how this should have ended up. Stuff does happen sometimes – ask a Cleveland Browns fan, or a Baltimore Colts fan, for two such examples – but what really mattered in the end was that the two sides finally started talking to, and listening to, each other. Isn’t that usually how it goes?