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January 12th, 2018:

Friday random ten – Come, come now, part 1

Another multi-part list! And we’re still in January! Woo hoo!

1. Come & Get It – Selena Gomez
2. Come A Day – Nils Lofgren
3. Come A Little Bit Closer – Jay & The Americans
4. Come And I Will Sing You (The Twelve Apostles) – Great Big Sea
5. Come As You Are – Midnight Juggernauts
6. Come Back And Stay – Paul Young
7. Come Back Home – Matthew Mayfield
8. Come Back To Me – Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
9. Come Down In Time – Sting
10. Come Down Slowly – James William Hindle

Nils Lofgren is probably better known for his time in the E Street Band. “Come As You Are” is from a tribute to Nirvana on the 20th anniversary of Nevermind. “Come Down In Time” is probably the best Elton John song you’ve never heard; Sting’s cover is from the excellent Two Rooms tribute album. “Come And I Will Sing You” is one of those songs that builds on itself, like “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, but much better and less annoying. I’ll have two more of these lists in the next weeks.

Interview with Joshua Butler

Joshua Butler

We’re more than halfway through the Democratic field in CD07, and we’ll be keeping it going through the weekend. I’m not sure what I’d have done if there were more than the seven candidates there are. Good thing I don’t need to think about it. One of the first candidates in this race to reach out to me for a conversation last year was Joshua Butler, a first-time candidate like so many others this year. Butler is a native of Birmingham, Alabama and received a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Alabama. He worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Heart Association before moving to Houston to work at UH as Director of Advancement and then at a medical research firm as a Development Officer. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Judicial Q&A: Charles Collins

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. You can see other Q&As and further information about judicial candidates on my 2018 Judicial page.

Charles Collins

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My Name is Charles Collins. I am a 39 year-old attorney and native Texan. I am a lifelong Democrat, father, family man, public servant and long-time resident of Houston’s Historic Third Ward. I am a 2001 graduate of Prairie View A&M University and a 2004 graduate of The Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. I am running for Judge of the 246th Judicial District Court in the March 6, 2018, Harris County Democratic Primary. I hope to secure the party nomination and advance to the November 6, 2018, general election against the incumbent.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

It is one of 10 Family District Courts in Harris County. These courts hear a variety of family law matters including divorces, child support and child custody disputes, paternity establishment suits, adoptions, termination of parental rights suits, child protection matters, and name change petitions. These Courts may even perform marriage ceremonies.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The 246th Judicial District Court is rated among the lowest performing family courts in Harris County based on the Houston Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation. Since the time I began practicing in Harris County Courts in 2005, it has traditionally received lower scores in areas such as impartiality, efficiency, and overall performance. I am running because I want to improve the quality of service this court provides to the citizens of Harris County. It is the court where my experience and qualifications will have the most meaningful impact.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have over 12 years of full-time, exclusive, family law practice experience. I am a member of the Texas and District of Columbia Bars. I am also a member of the Bar of The United States District Court for The Southern District of Texas. I have served as Assistant State’s Attorney General for the Title IV-D Agency since 2005. I am a former Assistant Attorney General of the Year for Region 6 (2007). My employer is the state’s largest law firm and I have served as a Managing Attorney for it since 2010. In this capacity I supervise over 50 agency employees and its busy day-to-day operations to secure financial stability for children and assist absent parents who wish to establish their parental rights. I have handled thousands of family law cases. I have extensive trial experience representing the state’s interest in virtually all subject matter within the court’s jurisdiction. I remain current in my understanding of the law and have presented continuing legal education (CLE) courses within the agency I work for and to the Houston Bar Association.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is monumentally significant because it represents the very foundation of our society: The family. The decisions made in family court have a lasting impact on our lives. They can mean the difference between a family that thrives and one that is fragmented. A family court’s impact can bring new, brighter, beginnings for some; however, if the court fails to act responsibly it can charter a future that is uncertain. The decisions made in our family courts could mean the difference between a troubled life for a child and a future of stability and promise. Harris County deserves the most qualified, and experienced, family court judges to help build strong families and communities. There is a lot at stake here.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

I am the only candidate in this race whose exclusive area of legal practice is, and has always been, family law. It has been my passion, and my focus, since day one. This experience has made me a very knowledgeable candidate in my area of practice. I am the only candidate for this bench who is a career public servant. I am also the only candidate with proven management and leadership experience in a high-volume legal practice environment. As such, I value the importance of exceptional customer-service and implementing new ideas to improve efficiency. The citizens of Harris County can trust that I will hold this office with integrity, as I have in my current position. I believe in a family-first approach and will treat all people fairly. I am committed to assigning the utmost importance to each matter that it deserves, as I would want for my own family. I will implement a solutions-based approach to each case. I am energetic, dedicated, respectful, humble, kind, and look forward to bringing a fresh new perspective to this court. I am ready to serve the citizens of Harris County in this very meaningful and important role.

Still grappling with how to handle sexual harassment claims

I like the idea of putting the authority to investigate harassment claims in the Legislature into an independent body.

Calls for independence between sexual misconduct investigations and those in power have grown in recent months, and experts and several lawmakers agree that impartiality is crucial for building trust in a reporting system at the Capitol, where repercussions for elected officials are virtually nonexistent. But efforts to establish that independence — which could require officeholders to give up their current oversight over investigations — will likely face political challenges in persuading lawmakers to hand over power to a third party.

Any independent entity investigating sexual misconduct at the Capitol would need the power to truly hold elected officials accountable, several lawmakers and legal experts said. That could mean sanctions against officeholders that their colleagues may be unlikely to pursue.

“It cannot be officeholders policing officeholders,” said state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, who is among those calling for an independent investigative agency.

[…]

But to alleviate concerns with existing reporting procedures that leave investigations in the hands of elected officials, lawmakers have proposed several ways to establish what they say is needed independence in investigations. Those proposals range from a review panel that doesn’t include lawmakers to a new state entity comparable to the Texas Ethics Commission, which regulates political activities and spending.

The creation of an independent investigative body “is a necessary immediate step” for the Legislature to address skepticism in the current reporting system set up for sexual harassment victims, said Chris Kaiser, director of public policy and general counsel for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

“I don’t think that you have to impugn the work that any investigators are doing currently to accept the fact that that skepticism itself is preventing people from coming forward,” Kaiser said. “It’s really clear the Legislature has a lot of work to do to build trust.”

See here and here for some background. I will just say, if there is an independent body to handle these complaints, it has to be truly independent, by which I mean free from any legislative authority or meddling. I mean, the Texas Ethics Commission is an independent body, but it’s hardly a good role model for this sort of thing. I have a hard time imagining that happening, but if there’s enough of a shakeup in the composition of the Lege, there might be a chance. First and foremost, it needs to be an issue in the campaigns. I’m asking every candidate I interview about harassment and the institutional policies that deal with it. The more we talk about it, the better.

Council approves new recycling deal

Huzzah!

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Houston residents are set to have their used glass and plastic bags picked up for recycling at curbside, but not until next year.

The 20-year, $37 million agreement City Council approved Wednesday is the product of two years of wrangling over recycling and positions Houston to pay less per ton to recycle.

Houstonians still have to wait another 14 months before putting bottles or bags in their green curbside bins, however, while the city’s chosen contractor builds a new processing facility.

To bridge the gap, the city plans to renegotiate its existing, costlier recycling agreement, which expires in April.

“From a financial point of view, it is a much better deal for the city of Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said, praising the deal with the Spanish firm FCC. “In terms of technology, it meets what our needs are and what we have asked for.”

[…]

Rosanne Barone, Houston program director for the advocacy group Texas Campaign for the Environment, lauded the city for “heading in the right direction” on recycling.

“This shows the mayor is committed to continuing moving forward to make the city of Houston more sustainable. We’re so happy glass is going to be back, and so happy and surprised and excited that plastic bags are now going to be included,” Barone said. “The next step is just to keep moving forward: To keep including more materials, to expand curbside pickup to apartments and businesses.”

See here and here for the background. CMs Knox, Stardig, and Kubosh were No votes, but CM Dave Martin, who had previously been a critic of the deal, voted Yes. I know a lot of people will be happy to have curbside pickup of glass back, though that will likely mean the end of one new business that emerged to fill that gap. Getting curbside pickup for plastic bags, which San Antonio has been doing since 2014, is a nice bonus. As Rosanne Barone says, let this be another step in the journey forward. Houstonia has more.