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August 28th, 2018:

ECPS: Cruz 38, O’Rourke 37

Closest result yet, but it comes with a couple of caveats.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

A new Emerson College e-Poll finds the US Senate race neck and neck with Senator Ted Cruz at 38% and US Rep Beto O’Rourke at 37%; 4% are voting for someone else and 21% were undecided. In the Governor race, Gov. Greg Abbott has a 20 point advantage- 48% to 28% for Lupe Valdez a former sheriff of Dallas County, 3% were voting for someone else and 20% were undecided. The e-Poll was conducted 8/22-8/25, +/- 4.4 percentage points.

There is a stark difference in voter perception between the two Republican candidates running for re-election. Abbott has a 47% favorable and 33% unfavorable with 18% neutral and 2% never heard of him, Cruz has a 38% favorable and 44% unfavorable with 18% neutral and less than 1% have never heard of him.

The disparities in popularity and in the two elections appear to be driven by Independent voters. Ted Cruz has a 57% unfavorable rating among independents and a 25% favorable rating, conversely, Abbott, the other Republicans has a 41% unfavorable and 37% favorable rating among independents. These numbers play out in the ballot test where O’Rourke leads Cruz 45% to 25% among independents, while Abbott leads Valdez 38% to 27% among independents.

Adding to Cruz’s problem is that he faces a popular opponent, Beto O’Rourke has a 37% favorable and 25% unfavorable, 27% were neutral, while 11% had not heard of him. There is a generational divide between Cruz and O’Rourke voters. Among 18-34 year olds, O’Rourke leads by 19 points (47% to 28%); among 35-54 he leads by 8 points (45% to 37%), Cruz has a 14 point lead with those 55-74 (47% to 33%), and the incumbent Senator leads by 22 points among those over 75 (39% to 17%).

Of all the polls we’ve seen so far, this one has the lowest level of named candidates by respondents. In fact, all but one of the polls we’ve seen up till now had at least 80% of respondents pick either Cruz or O’Rourke. I don’t know that that makes this poll suspicious to me, but it is curious. The wide disparity between Cruz/O’Rourke and Abbott/Valdez, which is something we’ve discussed before, is a bit of an outlier as well, though in tune with the other most recent poll. ECPS has polled Texas twice that I know of, in 2016 and 2014, both times showing narrower Republican leads than the end result, though they were much closer to the mark in 2016 than 2014. Remember the mantra: It’s just another data point.

Be that as it may, this puts our 13-poll average at 46.23 for Cruz and 40.46 for O’Rourke. If we limit ourselves to the five polls done within the last 30 days, Cruz’s lead is a mere 3.4 points. It’s a tight race no matter how you look at it. Link via the Dallas Observer.

Cyber insurance

Seems like a good idea.

Houston City Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to spend $471,000 on cyber insurance, becoming the latest Texas municipality trying to bolster its response to growing technological risks.

The insurance can cover up to $30 million in expenses related to security breaches in the city’s network, including crisis response, recovery of losses and answers to legal claims stemming from cyberattacks.

While some data breaches are preventable, the prevalence of cybersecurity threats against city governments nationwide prompted Houston to take steps to insure itself, said At-large Councilman David Robinson, chairman of council’s Transportation, Technology and Infrastructure committee.

“There are those things that are just beyond the reach or scope of expected due diligence and preparation,” Robinson said. “You need to be prepared for the unknown.”

In the event of a cyberattack, such as hacking or phishing, in which people pose as trustworthy sources to obtain money or information, the insurance coverage could pay for crisis management resources, computer forensics, credit monitoring and call center services.

After a security threat is detected, the new policy could cover any loss of income or expense from the interruption of computer systems, according to council background materials outlining the insurance. It could be used to pay the cost of restoring or recollecting data affected by a cyberattack, as well the cost of investigating threats. The insurance policy also can be used for liability claims made against the city for failing to protect data or prevent access to confidential information.

This makes sense. Of course, as an organization you want to do everything you can to prevent an incident, but as we say in the business, it’s not a matter of if you’ll get hacked, it’s a matter of when. Like what happened to Harris County earlier this year. All of your vendors and suppliers and business partners are potential avenues for compromise, too. While I hope we’ll never need to use it, this is a smart investment.

STEAR-ing help to those who need it

Did you even know there was a state registry to help people with mobility challenges in the event of a natural disaster?

Texas has a system in place to identify people with disabilities who will need extra help during a natural disaster. But it’s unclear whether any of the people described in the emails signed up for or even knew about it. It’s also unclear how many people actually received help through the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry, or STEAR, during Harvey.

But as the recovery continues a year after Harvey’s Aug. 25, 2017, landfall, there’s tension and confusion in the disabled community about whether the registry will actually work when they really need it. As of November, 75,733 Texans were registered with STEAR, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The registry allows people with disabilities and special medical needs to sign up to receive priority status for evacuations, shelters, wellness checks, power and water shutdowns and information on support services.

More than half of STEAR registrants have physical, sensory, mental health, cognitive, or intellectual needs that affect their ability to function independently. Many don’t have a vehicle and have no way to evacuate without assistance.

In a disaster, disabled people are more at risk: wheelchairs or walkers may be left behind during an evacuation, a shelter may not be able to fully accommodate needs like accessible showers for people with mobility impairment, quiet areas for people with autism or space for someone who weighs 350 pounds or more. Some cannot afford multiple nights in a hotel.

While the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Division of Emergency Management administers the registry, the agency does not provide direct services to STEAR registrants during emergencies. The agency’s webpage notes that there are no guarantees for help.

“Your information will be provided to participating local governments for their use in developing emergency management plans and to assist them in preparedness and response activities,” according to the website.

While local officials can use the registry to dispatch emergency personnel and plan ahead for who may need special assistance during an evacuation, there’s no requirement that they use the registry — and no protocols for how to use it.

Lex Frieden, a professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and one of the authors of the American Disabilities Act, said “it’s just maddening, frankly” that the database was not used to its fullest potential during Harvey, which caused more than 90 deaths.

“It was a tacit contract that promised people who felt they might need help at some point and volunteered the information, they would be rescued if needed and checked upon after the disaster,” Frieden said.

Rick Flanagan, emergency manager for the City of Houston, said his office and emergency responders were fielding thousands and thousands of calls during the historic storm. Typically, the office uses STEAR five days or more in advance to tell registrants where to go and help them get out of the city. But with the magnitude of Harvey, Flanagan said they wound up not using the system. “We got really tied up with the different locations and multiple locations of events and the high call volumes,” Flanagan said. “We did not use the STEAR structure as it could’ve been used.”Asked if they hoped to use STEAR for future disasters he said: “Oh my god, do we want to use it? Yes we do.”

The STEAR website is here. Having a system like STEAR in place makes all kinds of sense. The city of Houston and the Houston Fire Department have something like this for high-rise office buildings so firefighters know going in who on a given floor might need help evacuating. We periodically remind people about it where I work, and it includes people with permanent disabilities as well as those whose mobility is temporarily compromised. But any system is only as good as its implementation, and if it’s not useful when it’s really needed, then it needs an overhaul. All I can say is that I hope the state and the local governments that use STEAR learned something from Harvey to make whatever improvements it requires.