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June 20th, 2014:

Friday random ten: Lockjaw and The Chief

Names that start with E often come with nicknames. That’s the lesson we learn this week.

1. Mighty Mighty – Earth Wind & Fire
2. All Because of You Days – Echo and the Bunnymen
3. Leapin’ On Lenox – Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis
4. Keep On Truckin’ – Eddie Kendricks
5. Two Tickets To Paradise – Eddie Money
6. Hypnotized – Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater
7. Keep Playin’ That Rock ‘N’ Roll – Edgar Winter’s White Trash
8. Joe-Bob Rag – Elana James
9. Ship Of Fools – Elvis Costello
10. I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James

As I did last week with the name Dave, I probably could have put together a list this week based entirely on variations on the name Ed, but I didn’t want to repeat myself so quickly. I’ll save a rerun of that one for later.

Council adopts its budget for next year

Might be the last easy budget for a couple of years.

BagOfMoney

The Houston City Council agreed to boost funding for after-school programs, add cameras to catch illegal dumpers and give $1 million to each district council office to spend on projects for their constituents during a marathon session Wednesday to approve Mayor Annise Parker’s $5.2 billion budget.

The budget was approved in a 14-3 vote that followed council members slogging through 63 amendments they and their colleagues had proposed to Parker’s spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Council members interested in new programs bested those interested in controlling spending, despite ample discussion of the deficits looming in the coming years.

Parker said council’s decisions concern her, given the warnings of trouble ahead, and said some “naivete” exists around the table on budgeting.

“Council members were clearly in a mood to spend rather than save,” she said. “They see the economy, they see things are picking up. They also see a lot of needs and they want to respond to those needs, and it’s very hard to say, ‘But we have a rainy day down the road, you need to put some money aside for that.'”

[…]

The largest amendment passed Wednesday was Councilman C.O. Bradford’s idea to give each of the 11 district council members $1 million to spend on local issues, from mowing overgrown lots to fixing sidewalks to razing dangerous buildings.

“I don’t want this splashed around the media as a slush fund. That’s not what it is,” said district Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, who supported the amendment. “This is discretionary funds we can use in our district to expedite some of the issues. I have 80 civic clubs in my district. I promise you I hear from all of them what they need.”

The $11 million will be drawn partly from money that would have been saved for next year in Parker’s budget, and partly from the city’s capital spending plan, which comes to a vote soon. Parker said council members’ spending requests from the funds, to be legal under the City Charter, will need her approval. Expenditures topping $50,000 will need council approval, as with all other city spending.

Next year is when some deferred debts kick in and we have to deal with them, which will be a whole lot of no fun for the whole family. The money that Council chose to spend via their amendments has a lot of merit to it, and it wouldn’t have made that much difference for next year if they had chosen to bank it all instead. But it would have made some difference, and when we’re dealing with this next year we’ll feel like every little bit helps. As such, I fully expect the 14 Council members that supported this budget to not only support but also advocate for repealing the revenue cap so that they won’t be artificially and recklessly constrained by that poor decision ten years ago. It would be mighty inconsistent to support more spending now followed by needlessly maximal cuts later. We’ll know who tries to have it both ways soon enough.

DeLay gets his day before the CCA

Looks like he might have had a pretty good day, too.

Who are YOU to judge me?

Who are YOU to judge me?

Oral arguments in Tom DeLay’s decadelong legal fight with the Travis County District Attorney’s office heated up Wednesday as Republican judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals questioned whether prosecutors could prove the former House majority leader illegally funneled corporate money to state candidates.

[…]

Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, one of the panel’s eight Republicans, was outspokenly doubtful about prosecutors’ ability to prove DeLay and his associates illegally funneled $190,000 in corporate donations to seven GOP candidates for the state Legislature in 2002.

The money was donated to DeLay’s state political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and made its way into a Republican National Committee corporate donations account. Checks totaling the same amount then were distributed from a different RNC account to the state candidates.

[Travis County Assistant District Attorney Holly] Taylor said the scheme is illegal under state law, which bans corporate contributions to campaigns, but Keller and her colleagues were less sure.

“It seems like your theory of prosecution has some internal inconsistencies,” Keller said, referring to the money laundering argument. Judge Elsa Alcala also asked about the unprecedented nature of the state’s case, saying the original intent of the money laundering law was to target drug trafficking: “When I see this case, my first reaction is, ‘What are you talking about?’ ”

“The first time something happens, it’s still a crime,” Taylor responded.

Seriously, when was the last time Sharon effing Keller expressed that kind of skepticism in any prosecutor’s case? It’s like Dave Wilson not being a flaming homophobe – it’s just not in her nature. I have never bought into the idea that the CCA would be pro-Republican on DeLay’s behalf, but if this is how they actually go it will be hard to dismiss that idea. We won’t know till 2015 on that, so we’ll see. What do you think, am I reading too much into this? Texas Politics and Texas Public Radio have more.

Special session for border security?

What could possibly go wrong?

State Sen. Dan Patrick, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, joined some of his conservative colleagues on Tuesday in calling for “immediate action” to address the surge of undocumented immigrants crossing into Texas.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety has indicated that sustained operations along our southern border will require $1.3 million per week,” Patrick said in a statement. “I am calling on the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House to immediately allocate $1.3 million a week in emergency spending for the rest of the year for added border security through Texas law enforcement.”

A call placed to the Legislative Budget Board about whether a special legislative session would be necessary to set aside such funding has not yet been returned. Patrick’s statement did not specifically say whether he supports calling a special session on border security, which some of his GOP colleagues have suggested.

[…]

Last week Attorney General Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, wrote U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and asked for $30 million for a state-based border security initiative. The U.S. Border Patrol, he said, was overwhelmed by the influx of undocumented immigrants, including about 160,000 who have crossed into Texas in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector since October, including about 33,500 unaccompanied minors.

“With the Border Patrol’s focus shifted to this crisis, we have grave concerns that dangerous cartel activity, including narcotics smuggling and human trafficking, will go unchecked because Border Patrol resources are stretched too thin,” he wrote.

[Rep. Jonathan] Stickland said he and others would consider tapping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund for the state-based border security initiative if the federal government did not provide relief. Details of the plan would probably be debated should a special session be called, he added.

“This is a crisis situation depending on who you are talking to,” he said. “I haven’t heard any price tag — I have just heard people say this is a top priority. Depending on what we’re talking about, there are a number of different ideas. We need to start having these discussions and start figuring out what’s on the table.”

In a statement last week, state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said more resources on the border won’t properly address the crisis on the border.

“What we are dealing with is an influx of children fleeing from Central American violence; imagine a situation so dire that you allow your children to travel a dangerous journey — thousands of miles — to a foreign land,” he said. “What is needed are not more “boots on the ground” or any other euphemisms for the militarization that both impacts border residents’ daily lives and is inadequate to deal with the specific issue at hand.”

I confess, I have not followed this particular issue closely. My longstanding opinion about border and immigration issues is that we have a supply and demand problem, in that vastly more people want to enter the US than we allow to enter by legal means, and just as having an excessively low speed limit on a stretch of otherwise open road leads to a lot of people speeding, having excessively stringent limits on legal immigration leads to a lot of people finding other ways in. If we had a system that was more realistic, more compassionate, and more flexible about the demand to immigrate, we’d have far, far fewer people trying to enter illegally. For that reason, I believe the people that insist we must “secure the border” as a precondition for doing anything else have it exactly backwards and are exacerbating the problem. Of course, I also believe that a lot of these “secure the border” people have no interest in solving the problem, but instead have an interest in exploiting it. That’s a whole ‘nother story, so let’s leave it at that.

Anyway, the immediate political issue appears to be resolved for now, so that will likely quiet the talk about a special session. If it does come up again, remember that Rick Perry – who has the sole discretion to call a special – will do what he thinks is best for Rick Perry. If he thinks it would be beneficial to his Presidential campaign (I still can’t say the words “Presidential campaign” in the context of Rick Perry with a straight face), then he’ll call it. If not, he won’t. He’ll take into account the wishes of his fellow Republicans, but his own needs come first. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Texpatriate, Stace, and Burka have more.

Bad signs of the times

I don’t even know what to say.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD will spend $55 million to tighten school security, including installing strategically placed panic buttons on campuses and replacing existing entry windows with bullet-resistant glass – upgrades experts call a necessary but unfortunate sign of the times.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the improvement, which will be completed districtwide by 2020, in a $1.2 billion bond election in May.

“We know that students are No. 1 and our staff is No 1. We’ve got to protect them,” said Roy Sprague, associate superintendent for facilities. “How do you put a price tag on someone’s life?”

Cy-Fair plans to add security vestibules to the front office area of 50 schools to keep unapproved visitors from gaining access, upgrade security cameras and install lockdown buttons and stand-alone emergency phones at all schools – widely considered the best practices in school safety. They’re also moving forward with one of the latest trends since 20 children and 6 adults were shot at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 – installing bullet-resistant glass at the front of schools.

This will make Cy-Fair, Texas’ third largest school system, one of the only districts in the region with bullet-resistant glass, although others are considering a more budget-friendly alternative of laminating existing windows with a coating to slow intruders.

When I was a kid in school in the 70s and 80s, the violent crime rate was a lot higher than it is now. And yet here we are, spending millions on panic buttons and bullet-resistant glass. The story notes that “the recent focus on school safety has led to a proliferation of vendors and products – meaning better, cheaper choices for schools”. I suppose the least we could do is be grateful that we’re getting a good deal for our millions. I’m going to stop here because I’m too depressed to continue, but if you want to keep going then read this dKos post for more.