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May 5th, 2017:

Friday random ten: Stuff I bought in 2016

A little later than usual because of the previous series, but it’s time for my annual review of the music I acquired in the last year. We’ll begin with purchases from iTunes, Noisetrade, and elsewhere.

1. Birdland – Maynard Ferguson
2. Something Tamed Something Wild – Mary-Chapin Carpenter
3. Crossing The Sabine – Piper Jones Band
4. Mainstream Kid – Brandi Carlile
5. Good Day – The Suffers
6. Late Night Radio – Cowboy Junkies
7. 4th of July – The Dig
8. My Love – The Delta Saints
9. Hotel Pool – Lily & Madelein3
10. Not Alone – Solas

I used to have a few of Maynard Ferguson’s albums, including Carnival from which “Birdland” comes, on cassette tape, but that was years ago. I finally re-purchased a few of the individual songs last year. The Piper Jones Band is a local Celtic group, some of whose components had been members of other local Celtic groups in the past. My friends Michael and Ginger attended their CD release show at the Mucky Duck and picked me up a copy of it. The Suffers had their first CD released last year as well, and Solas put out a 20th anniversary album via Kickstarter. Everything else is from Noisetrade, including some festival and mixtape compilations.

It’s already crowded in CD07

Gonna need a scorecard to keep track of all the players.

Rep. John Culberson

On Wednesday, two Texas Democrats are launching separate campaigns for Congress in a district that’s served as a Republican stronghold since the congressional days of former President George H.W. Bush. One is Alex Triantaphyllis, director of BakerRipley, a community development non-profit; the other is Dr. Jason Westin, a cancer research doctor at MD Anderson.

They are not alone. Four other Democrats have filed campaign papers with the Federal Election Commission, and one other is expected to soon. That’s in addition to two independent candidates, and one Republican primary challenger: Houston businessman David Balat.

Another potential GOP primary challenger is Maria Espinoza, a conservative activist and high profile Trump campaign booster.

Altogether, there could be a dozen candidates, including Culberson, contending in a Texas congressional election that’s still 18 months away.

[…]

“The results of the 2016 election in this district show that the people in this area are concerned about the direction that the president might take us, and I think they will become increasingly concerned that Congressman Culberson has stood with Trump,” said Triantaphyllis.

Westin also sees growing anti-Trump sentiment, particularly around the GOP’s latest Obamacare replacement bill, which Culberson supports. “There are a lot of smart people that don’t buy into some of the circus tricks that Mr. Trump is doing,” he said. “The enthusiasm of the grassroots movement is exciting.”

As you know, I’ve been tracking potential candidates for CD07 for some time now. This story doesn’t add any new names, at least not on the Democratic side. Balat is new (at least to me), while Espinoza ran against Culberson in the 2016 primary along with a third candidate, receiving 17 percent of the vote. I have no idea who the two independent candidates may be, but given that one needs to file a declaration of intent to run as an indy during the regular filing period (which doesn’t begin until November) and also collect 500 valid petition signatures from registered voters in the district who didn’t vote in the primary or primary runoff for either party for that year’s election (i.e., the 2018 primary) in the time period between the primary and 30 days after the runoff in order to qualify for a spot on the ballot, it may be a tad bit premature to care about their identities.

Joshua Butler, another candidate for CD07, recently posted a picture on Facebook of finance report data for several of the contenders in that district. I wouldn’t read too much into that – anyone who still has an active treasury, even if they are not currently a candidate, has to file a report – but it’s another way to keep track of who may be in. The first quarter ended on March 31 and as was the case with Beto O’Rourke’s announcement for the Senate, April and now May are busy times for new candidates to make themselves officially known. The next round of reports in July ought to be quite interesting.

The Chron wasn’t the only media outlet to note this round of activity. Here’s a longer story from the Trib:

Something strange is happening in Texas lately: Ambitious Democrats are coming out of the woodwork to run for Congress in places few in the party paid attention to even just a year ago.

Take the 7th Congressional District currently represented by Houston Republican John Culberson. Four Democrats had already filed for the seat before Wednesday morning, when two more jumped in.

“I’m running for Congress because I think we need to hold the president accountable,” said Alex Triantaphyllis, the director of Immigration and Economic Opportunity at Neighborhood Centers Inc., a Houston nonprofit. He said his young daughter was a motivating force for his run.

“I want her to know that we got results in our efforts, that we didn’t just have good intentions,” he added.

Jason Westin, a cancer researcher, was thinking along similar lines Wednesday morning.

“The politics of late is prompting me to say this is enough, and we need to get new people who aren’t the typical politicians..and get off the sidelines and do something,” Westin said, after his own announcement.

In past cycles, national Democratic groups had a heavy hand in candidate recruitment and telegraphed favored candidates to donors and reporters. This time around, thanks to a burst of anti-Trump enthusiasm and wounds from the 2016 presidential primary fight, party brokers are letting the primary process run its course without playing favorites in many districts around the country – including in Dallas and Houston.

The net result is a crush of candidates lining up to run for office, including three who announced their campaigns on Wednesday.

Triantaphyliss and Westin joined a crowded field vying to run against Culberson that already included Joshua Butler, James Cargas, Debra Kerner and Laura Moser.

ding! New candidate name alert! This is the first mention of Laura Moser as a potential candidate that I have seen. I don’t see any evidence of a campaign website or Facebook page, but Moser has been very actively engaged and has a connection to the Obama administration, so it’s easy to see where that might come from. I do note that Collin Cox, who was in that “very early speculation” post, was not mentioned in either of these stories, which may mean he’s already decided not to run or may mean he just hasn’t made any further steps towards running yet.

I should note that I received press releases from Westin and Triantaphyliss with their announcements, and later in the day I got one from Kerner, who made her own announcement. I’ve put them all beneath the fold. Looks like I may need to get going on creating an Election 2018 page, which means I’ll also need to create an Election 2017 page. It’s crazy.

Back to the Trib story:

Up north in Dallas, former Hillary Clinton staffer Ed Meier also announced he would join former NFL player Colin Allred in running for the Democratic nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions. Four other filed candidates – Awbrey Tyler Hughlett, Stephen Leroy Love, Ronald William Marshall and Darrell Allen Rodriguez – have also filed to run for the seat.

Party officials anticipate even more candidates to run in both districts.

“It is extremely unique – we don’t usually have this volume of conversations by April of the off-year,” said Jeff Rotkoff, of candidate outreach to his organization, the Texas AFL-CIO. “We have more interest in people running for Congress than I’ve ever experienced in my career.”

The DMN also notes Meier’s candidacy in CD32. I’m going to guess that the reason there isn’t an equally big rush towards CD23, which is the bluest of these three Clinton-carried districts, is that its status is in a bit of limbo due to the redistricting litigation. I figure someone will come forward in that district sooner or later anyway.

I said before that I believe there is a limit to how many candidates can and will run in these primaries. There’s only so much money and volunteer energy to go around. We won’t know for sure until the filing season officially opens. But so far at least, it’s looking like I may be wrong about my belief in the natural size of these races.

UPDATE: Naturally, as I had drafted this post based on the early version of that Chron story, the fuller version of that story then came out. I would have written this differently if I had only seen the later version, but them’s the breaks. This version includes more names and covers a lot of the same ground as the Trib story, and it throws a couple of new names into the mix as well:

In addition to the six Democrats who have formally announced or filed federal election papers, Houston trial lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher told the Chronicle on Wednesday that she is “very close to making the decision to step into this race.”

Ronald Kimmons, a former missionary and Reform Party member who works as a writer and translator, rounds out the field.

Like I said, you’re going to need a scorecard to keep up with all the names. I’m going to do my best to try.

(more…)

Final EV report for the May 6 election

Before I get to the numbers, here’s a Chron overview of the Pasadena Mayor’s race that mentions the numbers towards the end.

“I believe it’s a pivotal time in this city’s history – that it can either draw together and continue being one city, or it can divide apart and be fractured,” said John Moon Jr., a commercial real estate agent who grew up in Pasadena and worked as a banker for more than 30 years.

In addition to Moon, the field of candidates includes Pasadena city council members Pat Van Houte and Jeff Wagner; Robert Talton, who served as a state representative from 1993 to 2009; Gilbert Peña, who represented the same district from 2015 until 2017; David Flores, a former city employee who runs a Pasadena-based construction business; and Gloria Gallegos, an assistant superintendent with the Pasadena Independent School District.

[…]

The candidates are stressing different issues.

Talton is campaigning for increased investment in the city’s police and fire departments and senior services. Moon wants a five-year capital improvement plan. Gallegos, based on her experience with the school district, is pushing workforce development programs to bring people out of the city’s growing poverty.

Peña has said he will invest in programs to grow small businesses. Flores is calling for city departments to formally justify funding requests. Flores has five misdemeanor convictions from 2001 to 2004, including for theft, assault and evading arrest, and giving a false name to a police officer. He said his trouble with the law helped spur a commitment to public service.

Van Houte, among others, calls for increased transparency among the city and touts her ability to speak English and Spanish as a means to better communicate with voters. She once was escorted from a council meeting after questioning Isbell’s redistricting plan.

Wagner emphasized boosting employee morale.

But while there are differences in the candidates’ priorities, all emphasize a strong need to break from the past, including what some have described as a “political machine” associated with Isbell.

“That machine is not alive and well right now, without a doubt,” Wagner said. “In the past, I’m sure they had it. But, this is a new day.”

It’s unclear whether the alleged disparate treatment of Latino residents will result in higher turnout by Hispanic voters. Historically, Hispanic voters have turned out at lower rates than white voters.

As of Tuesday, just more than 3,200 had cast ballots at Pasadena City Hall, which University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said was high. Rottinghaus said roughly 50 percent of voters come out to early voting, with another 50 percent on Election Day. In 2013, the number who cast ballots early was 1,327, according to city records.

Here are the final EV totals, which I saved for posterity since you never know when I may feel the need to reference them. (Like, maybe for the Pasadena Mayor’s race runoff.) There were 3,204 in person early votes cast in Pasadena, but that’s not the sum total of all votes, as of course there are also absentee ballots. I asked around and was informed that as of yesterday 1,548 mail ballots had been returned as well, for a grand total of 4,752. If Professor Rottinghaus is correct about how many votes are cast early versus on Election Day, then we are headed for either about 8,000 total votes cast or 9,500 total votes cast, depending on whether he meant to include absentee ballots in the half of votes being cast early.

That’s obviously a lot more than 2013, when Mayor Isbell was very lightly challenged by current candidate and former State Rep. Gilbert Pena. A better comparison is to 2009, when a much more contested Mayoral race drew 7,539 votes. This year seems to be on track to exceed that, possibly by a fair amount.

I’m not exactly sure how to tally up the early votes for Humble ISD, as there are two early vote locations in Humble ISD buildings plus a third location at Humble City Hall. The first two have seen a combined 2,817 votes, with another 426 at Humble City Hall. There are also some number of absentee ballots, but I have no way of knowing how many. In 2015 there were 2,150 early in person votes cast and 1,358 Election Day votes cast; in 2013 it was 2,410 early in person and 1,767 on Election Day. No matter how you slice it, this year looks busier, though it’s hard to say by how much.

Finally, in Brazoria County there have been 3,139 early in person votes cast in Pearland, which I will presume covers both the city and Pearland ISD. Just that amount, which does not include absentee ballots, is more than the grand total for the 2014 Pearland ISD election (the trustees there appear to serve three-year terms), in which 2,868 total votes were cast. The city of Pearland also appears to be on three-year terms, so they have elections each year. Turnout figures for those last three years: 2,744 in 2016, 3,559 in 2015, and 3,387 in 2014, which was the previous Mayor’s race. Again, it would seem that turnout will be higher than in any of those years, though at least some of that may be fueled just by population growth, as the number of registered voters in Pearland climbed from 58,563 in 2014 to 63,584 in 2016. Still, we appear to be three for three in terms of increased voter participation. We’ll see what if anything that means for the results.

One last look at the recapture re-vote

There’s a lot at stake here, and not a whole lot of people voting on it.

For the second time in seven months, voters within the Houston Independent School District will determine how – and if – it should pay tens of millions to help subsidize districts that collect little in property taxes.

The vote Saturday comes as some HISD trustees have reassessed a decision by voters in November not to write a $77.5 million check to the state to comply with Texas’ “recapture” policy.

While district leaders don’t think it’s fair that an urban district with many poor students and English-language learners should be slapped with such a financial penalty, they’re split over the best way to respond.

Some trustees argue that Proposition 1 will deal a blow to progress in getting state legislators to rethink Texas’ widely criticized school finance system. They believe refusing to pay will allow the district to sue the state to free HISD of its recapture obligations.

Others believe that voters should hold their nose and vote for the measure, especially with Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath threatening that a “no” vote would prompt him to move some of Houston’s most valuable commercial properties out of the district’s taxable area.

That “detachment” scenario has never happened in Texas and could cost HISD $98.4 million in lost tax revenue this year, district officials estimate.

“Either scenario is bad,” acknowledged Glenn Reed, HISD’s general manager of budget and financial planning, adding that the district could end up losing more than 15 percent of its annual budget in a few years under either option. “You get used to living at a certain level, but now you can’t deal with cost increases. You have to start selling off furniture and only eat out once a week. It causes you to change how you do business.”

[…]

While Houston will owe $77.5 million in recapture fees this year, that number will soon balloon to $376 million owed just for the 2019-2020 school year, according to Houston ISD budget estimates. That same school year, Houston could lose as much as $413.2 million under the “detachment” scenario if property values rise (it would lose less than that amount if property values remain stagnant or decline).

Trustees including board President Wanda Adams, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Mike Lunceford said they now fear vindictive action from the Texas Education Agency and lawmakers if the district doesn’t pay the recapture fees. But other trustees, including Jolanda Jones and Manuel Rodriguez Jr., want the district to hold steadfast in its decision not to pay the recapture fees. Jones said the district could take the state to court and argue that detachment is unconstitutional.

She contends that Houston ISD – the state’s largest school district – has the power to pressure the state to change its funding formulas.

“We can’t debate detachment until there’s an actual detachment,” Jones said. “No district has voted to detach, so that hasn’t been heard at all (in the courts).”

It should be noted that TEA Commissioner Morath isn’t “threatening” to detach properties. The TEA has already identified the properties it will detach. It’s just that the process doesn’t formally take place for another month or two, which is why HISD had the opportunity for the re-vote, which could prevent detachment from going through. Either we buy the attendance credits – i.e., vote Yes on the recapture proposition – or we experience detachment. Those are the choices.

Well, except that Trustee Jolanda Jones argues that detachment is unconstitutional. Which I suppose it could be – I Am Not A Lawyer, remember – but as Jones notes since no district has ever undergone detachment, the issues has not been litigated. I take that to mean that if the No vote wins again, someone will sue the TEA to stop detachment from happening. That does not strike me as the soundest of strategies, but I can’t say that it wouldn’t work. I can say that I personally would not choose to risk it, which is why I voted Yes.

Anyway. To get back to the matter of how many people are voting in this election, the final EV turnout document indicates about 8,500 in person early votes cast in HISD (basically, take the overall total and subtract the bottom five lines, to remove Pasadena, Humble, and Lone Star College from the amount), plus maybe 3,000 mail ballots. That suggests a final overall turnout in the 18-20K range. There’s no way to do a direct comparison to other HISD elections because the Trustees are on staggered four year terms, meaning that in a given election only some of the Trustees are on the ballot. HISD elections are also concurrent with city of Houston elections (though that will be different this year barring an order throwing out the term limits referendum), so turnout numbers in HISD districts are at least somewhat affected by that as well. To give a small amount of context, in 2013 there were 41,392 total ballots cast in three contested Trustee races (the County Clerk doesn’t provide the returns on uncontested Trustee races; state law allows for uncontested races to be skipped, which may be what happens in these cases), while in 2015 there were 76,184 voters in four contested races. Turnout rates ranged from 17 to 22 percent in the three districts in 2013, and from 21 to 28 percent in the four districts in 2015. Make of all that what you will.

“Sanctuary cities” bill gets final passage

It’s done.

The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted 20-11 to accept the House’s version of Senate bill 4, legislation that would ban “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Texas and allow police to inquire about the immigration status of people they lawfully detain.

The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared the legislation an “emergency item” in the early days of the legislative session, and is widely expected to sign it.

The legislation makes sheriffs, constables, police chiefs and other local leaders subject to a Class A misdemeanor if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold noncitizen inmates subject to deportation. It also provides civil penalties for entities in violation of the provision that begin at $1,000 for a first offense and climb to as high as $25,500 for each subsequent infraction. The bill also applies to public colleges.

But the final version also includes a controversial House amendment that allows police officers to question a person’s immigration status during a detainment, as opposed to being limited to a lawful arrest. Democrats and immigrant rights groups argue this makes the bill “show-me-your-papers”-type legislation that will allow police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during the most routine exchanges, including traffic stops.

Before Wednesday’s vote, some lawmakers were still hopeful the bill would go to a conference committee where lawmakers from both chambers could strip the amendment from the bill. But during a floor debate Wednesday before the measure was approved by the Senate, the bill’s author, state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said that the bill doesn’t require that officers ask a person’s immigration status. However the language does leave the door wide open for officers to make such inquiries if they feel the need during routine stops.

“We certainly don’t want ‘walking while brown’ to lead to reasonable suspicion,” said state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston. “It will happen. And in some parts of my district, it already is happening.”

[…]

It’s unclear however, if Abbott’s signature on the bill will be the end of the conversation. Several lawmakers have said a lawsuit to stop the implementation of SB 4 is very likely and cite several reasons, including legal questions surrounding the federal preemption of immigration laws and whether ICE detainers are voluntary.

Before the final vote, Perry seemed to acknowledge as much.

“We will let the court systems figure this out,” he told state Sen. Jose Menendez during a lengthy back-and-forth about probable cause.

You better believe there will be lawsuits. I trust we’ll have top-notch lawyers on this, I just hope the courts will keep up. May this wretched law never spend a day being enforced. The Chron, the Observer, and RG Ratcliffe have more.