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Initial day-after-election thoughts

– We now have two cycles’ worth of data to suggest that having more good candidates in a Council race does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. Following in the footsteps of At Large #3 in 2013, a handful of Democratic candidates in At Large #1 split the vote with sufficient closeness to keep them all out of the runoff. The votes were there, they just went too many places. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland = candidate in the runoff, pretty close to Mike Knox in total. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland + Jenifer Pool = leading candidate going into the runoff. I have no idea what, if anything, there is to be done about this. There is no secret cabal that meets in a back room to decide who does and doesn’t get to file for a race, and we wouldn’t want there to be one if there were. I’ll just put this out there for candidates who are already looking at 2019, when the terms will be double and the stakes will be concurrently higher: If there’s already a candidate in a race – especially an open seat race – that would would be happy to vote for in a runoff scenario, then maybe supporting them in November rather than throwing your own hat in the ring is the better choice. I realize that framing the choice this way turns this decision-making process into a multi-level Prisoner’s Dilemma, but one can’t help but wonder What Might Have Been.

– On the plus side, the runoffs have given us some clarity:

Mayor – Turner
Controller – Brown

At Large 2 – Robinson
At Large 4 – Edwards

In AL 4, Amanda Edwards faces Roy Morales, who caught and passed Laurie Robinson by less than 900 votes by the end of the evening. As for ALs 1 and 5, I’m still deciding. I said “some” clarity, not complete clarity.

– Speaking of CM Christie, if he loses then there will be no open citywide offices in the next election, which is now 2019. That won’t stop challengers from running in some or all of the other AL races, but it would change the dynamics.

– In District Council runoffs, it’s Cisneros versus Cisneroz in District H, which is going to make that race hard to talk about. Roland Chavez finished 202 votes behind Jason Cisneroz, who got a boost from late-reporting precincts; he had been leading Chavez by less than 40 votes much of the evening. Jim Bigham finished all of 28 votes ahead of Manny Barrera for the right to face CM Mike Laster in December, while CM Richard Nguyen trailed challenger Steve Le but will get another shot in five weeks. I’m concerned about Laster and Nguyen, but at least their opponents pass my minimum standards test for a Council member. That would not have been the case if either third-place finisher (Barrera and Kendall Baker) had made the cut.

– Moving to HISD, if I had a vote it would go to Rhonda Skillern-Jones in II. I would not vote for Manuel Rodriguez in III, but I’d need to get to know Jose Leal better before I could recommend a vote for him.

– Your “Every Vote Matters” reminder for this cycle:


Aldine I.S.D., Trustee, Position 1
=======================================
Tony Diaz                  5,813 49.98%
Patricia "Pat" Bourgeois   5,818 50.02%

Yep, five votes. There were 3,742 undervotes in this race. I have since been forwarded a press release from the Diaz campaign noting that provisional and overseas ballots have not yet been counted, and hinting at a request for a recount down the line. I’d certainly be preparing to ask for one.

– Speaking of undervoting, one prediction I made came true. Here are the undervote rates in At Large Council elections:

AL1 = 28.56%
AL2 = 31.02%
AL3 = 33.09%
AL4 = 28.35%
AL5 = 32.34%

That’s a lot of no-voting. Contrast with the contested district Council races, where the (still high) undervote rates ranged from 15.97% to 22.49%. See here for a comparison to past years.

– Meanwhile, over in San Antonio:

In a stunning outcome, Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomás Uresti were leading a six-candidate field for Texas House District 118 in nearly complete results late Tuesday.

In his second run for the office, Lujan, 53, showed strength in a district long held by Democrats, narrowly outpolling members of two prominent political families.

“I’m still on pins and needles. It’s not a done deal,” Lujan said with many votes still uncounted.

In his low-key campaign, the retired firefighter, who works in sales for a tech company, emphasized tech training to prepare students for the workforce. His backers included some firefighters and Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC.

Uresti, 55, a legal assistant, is vice chairman of the Harlandale Independent School District. With 35 years of community involvement as a coach, mentor and tutor, Uresti capitalized on his network of friends and family name — his brothers are state Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio and Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti.

“Democrats are going to pull together again to win this one,” Tomás Uresti said of the impending runoff.

A runoff between Lujan and Uresti would be Jan. 19.

Gabe Farias, son of outgoing Rep. Joe Farias, came in third, less than 300 votes behind Uresti. Three Democratic candidates combined for 53.3% of the vote, so I see no reason to panic. Even if Lujan winds up winning the runoff, he’d only have the seat through the end of next year – the real election, which may produce an entirely different set of candidates, is next year, and Democrats should have a clear advantage. Nonetheless, one should never take anything for granted.

– Waller County goes wet:

Waller County voters overwhelmingly passed a proposition Tuesday to legalize the sale of all alcoholic beverages, including mixed drinks.

Though Waller County is not dry everywhere to all types of alcohol, various parts of it have operated under distinct alcohol policies passed in the decades following Prohibition. The change will apply to unincorporated areas of the county.

“I’m ecstatic with the numbers,” said Waller County Judge Carbett “Trey” Duhon III, who had publicly supported the proposition. “… It’s a good result for the county and for all the citizens here.”

Supporters like Duhon have said the measure was needed to smooth over confusing, overlapping rules and to help attract restaurants to a county poised to benefit from Houston’s sprawling growth.

See here for more details. And drink ’em if you got ’em.

– I’m still processing the HERO referendum, and will be sure to dive into precinct data when I get it. (I have a very early subset of precinct data for just the Mayor’s race and the two propositions. I may do some preliminaries with it, but this data is incomplete so I may wait till the official canvass comes out.) One clear lesson to take from this campaign is that lying is a very effective tactic. It also helps when lies are reported uncritically, as if it was just another he said/she said situation. Blaming the media is the world’s oldest trick, and I’m not going to claim that lazy reporting was a deciding factor, but for a group of people that considers itself to be objective truth-seekers, they sure can be trusting and unprepared for for being lied to. As with item 1 above, I don’t know what if anything can be done about this.

– Bond elections and miscellaneous other things are noted elsewhere. Have I missed anything you wanted to see me discuss?

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28 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    “lying is a very effective tactic.”

    Not always…lying wasn’t very effective for the MAYOR and the Red Light Camera vote.

  2. Ross says:

    There was no lying about the red light cameras, and the city is worse off without them. We are back to the days of multiple cars blowing through lights with impunity.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    Ross—so you say. The majority of the people disagree. They also disagree all across the nation.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    The intrinsic problem with red light cameras is, they will sooner or later be victims of their own success. Lots of people think, “well, I don’t run red lights, so this is great. We can tax the other drivers.” Then, when those same folks start actually getting red light camera tickets, they reevaluate their position, and when given a chance, they vote to get rid of them. Places like Lufkin and Diboll that still have them bank (pun intended) on the fact that most of the motorists nabbed by the cameras are out-of-towners passing through, and thus, they can’t vote on them.

    I credit Mayor Parker for accepting defeat more or less gracefully on the red light cameras. Wish she would have used that same grace and aplomb with the HERO defeat.

  5. Joe says:

    People dislike red light cameras, red light camera companies want to make money from taxpayers, municipalities want to make money from more tickets, and more people will die if we won’t have red light cameras. All those things are true. People all across the nation can disagree, it doesn’t make a fact less true.

    If anything, the red like camera vote was similar to the Hero vote because people cast their vote based on an emotional, gut response and not based on facts. People don’t want big brother sending them a ticket in the mail for what they think was a yellow/orange light when they gunned it. People don’t want boogeymen preying on them in the bathroom.

    Red light cameras reduce fatal traffic collisions and nobody is using nondiscrimination laws to break other sex crime laws. Doesn’t matter. You can’t beat back emotional responses with facts.

  6. The #1 reason demicrats keep losing term limited at large seats…

    They have no platform, plain and simple.

  7. David Rosen says:

    Kuff, when is the last time that we had one Republican and one Democrat in so many citywide races?

    Turner (D) vs King (R)
    Brown (D) vs Frazer (R)
    Provost (D?) vs Knox (R)
    Robinson (D) vs Burks (D…?)
    Edwards (D) vs Morales (R)
    Moses (D?) vs Christie (R)

    Also, if the Turner-King runoff gets ugly, what implications does this have for the ‘pincer strategy’ that has been so effective recently in bringing black voters and Republican voters together? This coalition helped elect CMs Bradford, Kubosh and Burks (though it failed to elect Locke in 2009 or Hall in 2013) and defeated both the red light cameras and HERO.

  8. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Democrats and Republicans shouldn’t need a platform for non-partisan elections unless we’re trying to encourage some sort of machine political organizations to re-form and take over city elections. The whole point of non-partisan elections should be that candidates run on their personal merits, not on the merits of the political machine that backs them.

    Sadly, reality falls short of the ideal.

  9. General Grant says:

    Speaking of lazy reporting, a Republican finishing first in HD 118 against multiple strong Democrats is not “stunning”. A Republican winning the seat would be stunning, but that’s not what happened.

    Also, I appreciate that you discuss undervoting as a simple factual matter and not ascribe some moral decay to it. Undervoting is a completely better outcome that completely uninformed voting (and I include in that those voting solely with a Hotze slate or something similar). Yes, it would be optimal if every citizen showed up to cast a reasoned, informed vote, but that is a pipe dream.

  10. Joel says:

    “Undervoting is a completely better outcome that completely uninformed voting (and I include in that those voting solely with a Hotze slate or something similar).”

    what is your basis for this claim? hint: answer may not rely on any notion that someone must be qualified to vote, b/c that would justify literacy tests at the polls and/or other practices that have used to limit access to the ballot. how well thought out must someone’s vote be, exactly, to count as legitimate in your eyes? exactly as thtoughtful as your own vote, or wouldlo just a little less do? how would you feel if someone said they woul rather *you* didn’t vote because they fear you aren’t equipped to do so properly?

    undervotes are not a good thing. they are a travesty of voluntary disenfranchisement, brought about by the prevalence of sentiments such as yours.

  11. Steve Houston says:

    Lying as a tactic has proven successful since the beginning of recorded politics, historical accounts of some of the whoppers are forefathers told to get elected make for great reading. Ask Turner if lying in local races is new, considering the lies told by a yellow journalist were a major factor in him losing the runoff in 1991. Considering so many of the election results were impacted by the “big lie” as some are calling it, perhaps it will force those lied about to get off their butts and confront the lies next time. It will be interesting to see if the state legislature picks up the bathroom claim in 2017 too, the likelihood that if dealt with, it will be dealt with in as clumsy a manner as usual and not survive a legal challenge when some transgender type sues.

    As far as red light cameras were concerned, nobody likes getting a ticket or paying a fine but getting one well after you broke the law is the icing on the cake. It didn’t help that the vendor’s contract was far too generous or that claims the city reduced the timing to catch more violators were not addressed openly and honestly, but the cameras were a cheap solution to a major problem. Up in Willowbrook the other day, I counted at least 8 cars running the red light, it may have been more, like they knew nothing would happen to them and they were right; luckily those coming from the other direction were wise enough to wait not only for their light to proceed but the lawbreakers too. If it was purely about safety, the timing of the lights would be adjusted and lots of expensive upgrades to dangerous intersections would be made but as long as there are arts to fund or bike trails to build, safety can wait.

    In some of the races, the quality of the candidates is so jarringly different that the “right” candidate doesn’t fall along political lines. At Large 1 has a seasoned public safety expert with many years as a police officer, a paid consultant in public safety for the area, and an activist with tremendous knowledge of local and state politics, even serving on his HOA as president. His opponent has a degree in photography from TSU and grammatical skills comparable to Joshua Bullard’s scribbles (judging by messages she sent out and her campaign website where she tells the world: “For 50+ years she has servied as a community acativitst/voluntereer and has paticipated in the business”). When looking both of them up via their campaign websites, Knox outlines very specific areas of concern and his take on them while Provost has a list with no ideas or direction. So while I disagree with Knox in key areas, he shows the ability to communicate clearly while his opponent does not. She seems like a nice lady but I’d pick her car salesman campaign treasurer over her, this held up as an example of picking candidates based on race over substance.

    But if the GOP were truly interested in funding city campaigns and wanted to “take back the city” as mentioned in one of their recent functions, they would take this opportunity to get their vote out in droves to lock in those positions for four years. I doubt that will happen but it is their first real opportunity in years, even if people like King leave them holding their noses to vote.

  12. General Grant says:

    When I was a kid, I used to go in the voting booth with my mother. She invariably knew nothing about the candidates beyond the top line, or two, but she considered it her duty to vote even if she had no idea about any of the candidates. So, she invariably voted at random.

    She’s hardly alone, and I simply fail to see how that’s a better outcome than simply leaving the race blank. It’s perfectly legitimate to have an informed opinion on Mayor and be clueless on, say, HISD Trustee. So in that case, don’t pretend to have an opinion. This is especially true in even year elections when there are eight billion offices on the ballot. Some of the judicial outcomes are a travesty, especially in the GOP primary where he ignorant vote has effectively been herded by the Hotze, Lowry, and Polland pay-for-play slates. Or, on the Democratic side, I would cite the example of Lloyd Oliver, for whom I contend very few people, if they were even remotely informed about who he was, would vote.

    Undervotes, and people who don’t show up at all, are a bad thing as you say, because they indicate a citizenry that chooses not to involve itself with civic affairs. But, that’s simply a fact of humanity, it doesn’t exist because I note that uninformed people vote in an uninformed manner. The difference between us is not that we think this is a good situation, but that I don’t view an ignorant vote for James Partsch-Galvan as a better outcome than not voting. Nit’s all bad.

    Please note, I am not suggesting and would not suggest any “intelligence test” or “information test” for voting. That would be classic “cure is worse than the disease”. If people want to cast blind votes, they have that right and should absolutely be able to exercise it without any justification. But, I do say voting is a responsibility as well as a right, and not enough voters take that responsibility seriously.

  13. Joel says:

    random selection is a perfectly valid way to select representatives in a democracy. in fact, that is how the original democracies did it.

    even random voting serves to dilute the votes of others, who while being more informed, may also exhibit some other common tendencies (or interests). to the extent that “elites” are better informed in the issues, deferring to their knowledge would be to replace democracy with aristocracy.

    in other words, it would be better to have an entire electorate filled with mothers who vote randomly than to leave all elections to the most educated & wealthiest among us. i salute your mother’s efforts, even if you missed the point.

  14. General Grant says:

    How is “informed voting” synonymous with ” leaving it to the most educated and elite”? I would argue that the less informed you are, the more likely you are to be moved by moneyed interests. Hotze is the perfect example. If voters weren’t ignorant about the downballot, he’d be out of business.

    Also, the ancient Greeks selected legislators by lot from the entire population. That is quite different from randomly choosing between a list of self selected individuals. And even there, the executive councils that actually made decisions were not chosen randomly, and in fact were ripe for demagoguery.

    I think you misunderstand me in the sense that I am looking to empower elites. I am just the opposite actually. I want an informed, high turnout, responsible electorate that takes looking out for its own interests seriously and is so civically engaged they are immune from the influence of moneyed interests.

  15. Ross says:

    I used to vote at random on races where I had no idea who the candidates were until the third or fourth time I read just how awful some of my random choices were. I now skip races where I don’t have a clue. That didn’t apply this time, but does during years where we elect a lot of judges and other County positions.

  16. freddyrun says:

    At large races should be one big pool. Highest vote totals win. With instant runoff or some such. Which is to say that the idea of At-Large ‘seats’ is random and foolish. There has to be a better way.

  17. Mainstream says:

    Robinson’s run-off opponent is not Burks, but Rev. Willie Davis, with a long Democrat voting history, but backing from Hotze and related socially conservative/religious conservative Republican groups.

  18. Steve Houston says:

    General, the ancient Greeks did NOT select “legislators by lot from the entire population” for the most part. If you were free, owned the requisite land, and met other criteria, including years of military service depending on which time frame, then you had a chance. Our country’s own record on voting is not that much different, from the testing, poll taxes, or other roadblocks established.

    Joel, random voting leads to wildly disparate results. Candidates themselves lacking any real knowledge of the issues just empowers the experts they inevitably lean on, often the entrenched bureaucracy who will always find ways to sabotage things they don’t want to do or have done to them, greatly increasing the cost of such programs.

  19. Joel says:

    “Joel, random voting leads to wildly disparate results.”

    one might even say it leads to random ones … ;O)

  20. J says:

    Red light cameras went down because Black people voted against the police, in overwhelming numbers (like 80+%) that overcame all other precincts that modestly were in favor. The cameras were approved by decent margins in almost all Anglo areas, with a couple of exceptions (I forget which of Clear Lake or Kingwood was more strong against them; but that vote is, similar to the Black vote, a vote mostly against the proponent of the item — in this latter case, a vote against the City, which CL and Kingwood hate).

  21. Paul Kubosh says:

    J and your point is?

  22. John says:

    I don’t think people are against red light cameras themselves. The west side conservative Republicans voted for them, albeit narrowly. Democrat Anglo precincts were in favor by huge margins. African Americans voted against the police. Kingwood and Clear Lake voted against the government of Houston, which they hate and will never pass anything put before them. You could have a prop to give free candy to Clear Lake and Kingwood and they would vote against it as a trick of some sort. I don’t think proponents lied and I don’t think opponents should be proud of how they won; they just took advantage of base instincts of dislike, even hatred. But I also don’t know how we got off on this topic… It just makes me sad everytime someone dies in a red light running accident.

  23. Manuel Barrera says:

    Most of the cameras were placed in areas where there were high concentrations of minorities. One on Westheimer and 610 after numerous complaints by not so minority group was changed and a stop was changed to a yield. Most of the violations were for failing to come to a complete stop at a red light. I know this because I had thousands of hearing concerning the red lights.

    Handicap violations, at $500 a pop are mostly issued in minority areas. I know this because I heard thousands of such cases. The city ordinance prohibits reduction of handicap violations.

    Blocking the sidewalk, mostly minority areas, areas like the Heights the parking officers were told not to enter to issue citations. That came from Adrian Garcia and continued with Ed Gonzalez. Wonder why they didn’t do the same for the other part of District H. But they were the only one to tell parking where they could not go.

  24. Manuel Barrera says:

    But they were not the only ones to do that.

  25. Manuel Barrera says:

    Failing to come to a complete stop while making a right turn was I should have wrote. Not a single parking citation was issued at River Oaks, with the exception when they had a tennis tournament, then the area wanted enforcement.

    Neighborhood protection they seem to target the owners that have one or two properties and not enough to hire an attorney.

  26. Steve Houston says:

    “Most of the cameras were placed in areas where there were high concentrations of minorities”
    How does that work in a city like Houston where usual “majority” is the minority? Most of the cameras were placed in intersections noted for high levels of red light running & accidents with large volumes of traffic, along major freeways. Such locations are notoriously difficult for police to enforce in an effective, safe manner (at least with any volume) even if they had the manpower to conduct regular enforcement.

    “Handicap violations, at $500 a pop are mostly issued in minority areas.”
    “Blocking the sidewalk, mostly minority areas, areas like the Heights the parking officers were told not to enter to issue citations.”
    The city budgets for about 35 meter maids each year. Guess where they are all located during the day? Hint, it’s not in minority neighborhoods, it’s downtown. As far as the volunteer program to write handicap violations, most of those (I know some and was invited to join them) are not prolific outside of a handful. These two groups write the vast majority of parking tickets in Houston per the city budget.

    But as a hearing administrator, keep in mind that the cases you heard probably differed from what the cameras or meter maids caught. Most people just send/sent in the fines, those seeking some form of relief more likely to be out of work or under employed to where contesting such tickets made economic sense to them.

  27. Manuel Barrera says:

    Steve, I was a hearing officer and know that what you said is not true, but you can believe anything you want to. How many camera on Kirby and the Freeway, Sheppard? Once you get out the 610 loop you could find one in almost every intersection under the freeway. I guess people inside the loop don’t run red lights?

    As to the handicap, yes they are volunteers and they mostly work the malls, but guess what they were often told not to go into certain places if they ventured in. Most citations are meter violations and those are downtown, but the blocking the sidewalk, parking in the wrong direction, they were not. They were issuing blocking a sidewalk up till 10 p, at night at one time, not sure if they still do it. Why not take them up on that volunteer stuff and go issue citations at the Galleria? By the way most volunteers do not come from the very well do areas so guess where they issue the citations?

    Steve you have a lot of opinions based on what. Those Parking enforcement officers work until midnight.

    You are wrong, but you never admit it. Why don’t you do an open records request and prove me wrong. You do know what an open records request is, don’t you.

    But like always you are either too lazy to do so or don’t want to prove that your opinion is wrong.

    You want to tell me what I saw was different than what I heard. How many people just send in $500 for a handicap citation? Council members not uncommon if their vehicles were booted did not have to pay. Carl Lewis got a special deal as did many other persons with the ability to pay. One of Annise Parker’s staff when as a council member came in with the council member, why was that?

    So Steve once again prove me wrong if you think I am wrong, but your constant misstatements, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that you are just not outright telling lies, does a disservice to transparency and a true discourse of a subject matter that was brought up.

    Have a great day, Steve, but stop the fibbing.

  28. Steve Houston says:

    MB, rather than get butt hurt when I point out the only people you would see would be those contesting parking or red light camera tickets, not the majority who simply mail in the payments, by all means provide specifics to your latest assertion of racial inequality.

    Parking: Either of us can look up the budget numbers for given years, looking at how many meter maids there were, and find out the number of parking tickets were issued. I know you turn almost everything into a race issue but the funny thing is, a parking ticket goes to a vehicle. Most people accept that cars have no race and the owners are generally not around when the ticket or boot is placed on the vehicle. That said, “during the day”, most parking enforcement is done downtown, including areas around the city court. Courtesy of KPRC, here were the given top ticket spots for a few years:
    5,423 1400 Lubbock
    4,156 400 Texas St.
    3,383 4400 San Jacinto St.
    3,184 900 Girard St.
    2,603 1600 California St.
    2,370 8300 Tybor Dr.
    2,271 1000 Texas St.
    2,011 1100 Texas St.
    1,981 1500 Kane St.
    1,922 300 Caroline St.
    1,865 500 Walker St.
    1,777 100 San Jacinto St.
    1,699 900 Franklin St.
    1,665 1900 Travis St.
    1,607 1600 McKinney St.
    1,443 400 Avondale St.
    1,438 12300 North Freeway
    1,427 200 Caroline St.

    “Working from public data, Click2Houston reporter Jace Larson compiled the top 19 addresses cited in the 415,000 parking citations the city issued in 2012 and 2013, and highlighted 6 of them in his TV report. Of the top 19, only 6 are not directly adjacent to government or public-institution-related buildings; the vast majority of them are Downtown.”

    Note that tickets written later in the day tended to be around clubs, restaurants, and other groups that refuse to provide enough parking for patrons, not residential neighborhoods. And if you never saw a parking ticket come from the River Oaks area, at least on days other than event days, I’d suggest that is because the meter maids efforts are focused in and around commercial areas, not because of some decree to “stay away”. You made the claim so let’s see the proof otherwise.

    Red Light Cameras: Their locations are still found online but you were the one claiming “Most of the cameras were placed in areas where there were high concentrations of minorities”. The Texas Tribune did a great story on them, including the numbers of tickets written at each:
    http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/red-light-cameras/houston/

    As a former hearing administrator, you probably watched a great many of those video clips that proved the violations occurred and the racially blind cameras did their job. If you have hard evidence that they were placed based on race, by all means share it with us but a great many people of all races received camera tickets. In either case, politically connected people probably did get special treatment, just as they often do in life. I hear some of those hearing officers sure demanded it when they were caught short, a topic we can discuss another day. lol

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