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Why did the jail bond lose?

So, why did the jail bond fail? Ed Emmett would like to know.

County Judge Ed Emmett said Wednesday that he still was analyzing the loss — the first defeat of a county bond request in 20 years — and will consult with Commissioners Court on whether to hold another referendum for the jail project, possibly as soon as next year.

“We always have jail overcrowding,” Emmett said.

“Sooner or later, we will have to have more cells.”

You all know how I feel about this, so I’ll refrain from beating the dead horse. I’ll just say how nice it would be if the Chron, which as I said before has done some great reporting on the overcrowded jails, would do some more reporting on how the jails got to be overcrowded in the first place, and what we could do about it without building more jails. If nothing else, someone needs to explain this to Emmett.

I should note further that one explanation that has arisen for the defeat of this bond is the proposed location for the new jail, on Buffalo Bayou. Christof explores that aspect of the issue, which was curiously omitted from this story even though it got mentioned in an editorial (the op-ed page on Chron.com also linked to Christof’s post). A little better communication between Editorial and the City Desk, fellas!

In a pre-election poll, the jail bond had the support of only 38 percent of African-Americans likely to vote, said Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist who conducted the polling.

Franklin Jones, a Texas Southern University political scientist, said jail referendums often do not fare well among some African-Americans, who believe society should invest more in education and other programs and less on jails.

“It becomes a question of priorities and spending,” Jones said. “In the black community, many believe that if the money was spent on the front end, you wouldn’t need these factories and warehouses at the back end.”

Seems eminently logical to me. If you think it’s a poor use of your money, why should you vote for it?

Former Harris County District Clerk Charles Bacarisse, who is running against Emmett in the March Republican primary for county judge, said the county’s five bond requests would have fared better if Emmett had done a better job justifying why they were needed.

Bacarisse publicly supported each of the county’s bond requests on the ballot, but he refused Wednesday to disclose whether he voted for the bonds.

“I won’t say that I voted for all of them,” he said. “I just don’t like to talk about how I personally vote on any subject.”

Emmett said, “If the bonds were going to raise taxes, why did he say he was for them earlier? This is a guy who says he is for the package, but then says he is against it after the jail portion loses.”

Emmett said he and other officials would learn from this election and wage a better campaign if Commissioners Court decides to seek another referendum.

What was it I said about how this would play out between Emmett and Bacarisse? Oh, yes, it was “I think each side takes some credit and tries to pin some blame on the other”. Sometimes this gig is just too easy.

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