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Dave Wilson

Looking ahead to 2019

Yes, yes, I know. We’ve barely begun the 2018 cycle. Who in their right mind is thinking about 2019? I plead guilty to political insanity, but the beginning of the year is always the best time to look forward, and just as 2018 will be unlike any election year we’ve seen before, I think 2019 will be unusual, too. Let’s just take a moment to contemplate what lies ahead.

I’ve posted this list before, but just to review here are the Council members who are term-limited going into 2019:

Brenda Stardig – District A
Jerry Davis – District B
Ellen Cohen – District C
Mike Laster – District J
Larry Green – District K
Jack Christie – At Large #5

There is an opportunity for progressives to elect a candidate more favorable to them with CM Christie’s departure, and his At Large colleagues Mike Knox and Michael Kubosh will also draw attention. Against that, I would remind everyone that Bill King carried Districts C and J in 2015, so we’re going to have to play defense, too.

It is too early to start speculating about who might run where, but keep two things in mind. One is that there’s likely some pent-up demand for city offices, since there won’t have been an election since 2015, and two is that some number of people who are currently running for something in 2018 will find themselves on the sidelines by March or May, and some of them may decide to shift their focus to a more local race. The point I’m making here is expect there to be a lot of candidates, and not just for the term-limited offices. I don’t expect Mayor Turner to be seriously challenged, but I do expect the firefighters to find someone to support against him. Finally, I expect Pasadena to be a hotbed of action again for their May elections, as Democrats missed by seven votes in District B winning a majority on Pasadena City Council.

The following HISD Trustees are up for election in 2019:

Rhonda Skillern-Jones – District II
Sergio Lira – District III
Jolanda Jones – District IV
Diana Davila – District VIII

Skillern-Jones was forced into a runoff in 2015, but she then won that easily. Lira was elected this year to finish Manuel Rodriguez’s term. Jolanda is Jolanda, and no election that includes her will ever be boring. Davila sued to get on the Democratic primary ballot for Justice of the Peace, but was not successful. I have to assume whoever runs against her will make an issue of the fact that she was job-hopping in the interim.

The following HCC Trustees are up for election in 2019:

Zeph Capo – District 1
Dave Wilson – District 2
Neeta Sane – District 7

It is too early to think about who might be running for what in Houston and HISD. It is very much NOT too early to find and begin building support for a good candidate to run against Dave Wilson and kick his homophobic ass out of office. That is all.

Republican Party sues to get Farenthold off the ballot

Now here‘s something you don’t see every day.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

The Texas GOP is suing the Texas secretary of state to keep embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold off the 2018 primary ballot — one day after the Corpus Christi Republican announced he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Farenthold, who’s facing a raft of allegations that he sexually harassed staffers and created a hostile work environment, had filed for re-election by the Monday deadline and missed the deadline the next day to withdraw. Still, he asked Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey on Friday not to include him on the ballot, according to the lawsuit, which notes Dickey has until Tuesday to submit the names of all primary candidates to the secretary of state.

Filed late Friday in federal court, the lawsuit calls into question the “incongruity” between the separate deadlines to withdraw and to hand over the names, while arguing Farenthold’s appearance on the ballot at this point would violate the “First Amendment associational rights” of the party.

“In short, the State cannot constitutionally force any political party to be represented on the primary election ballot by a candidate with whom it does not wish to associate,” the lawsuit said.

See here for the background. As you know, I Am Not A Lawyer. I am, however, a sentient carbon-based life form, and I am highly dubious of this claim. Candidates who are not representative of a given political party run for office in the primary of that party all the time. Dave Wilson has filed as a Democrat numerous times, for instance, most recently in 2016 when he challenged Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148. Keisha Rogers and Lloyd Oliver, both of whom have had success in primaries, have done this as well. The reason Farenthold is still on the ballot is because he resisted the pressure from national Republicans to step aside until it was too late to legally withdraw his filing. The fact that he’s had a change of heart now is nobody’s problem but his own. There are other Republican candidates running for CD27, and working to ensure that one of those candidates defeats him in March is a perfectly viable option. Farenthold can abet this by not campaigning, or even endorsing one of his opponents. If the people choose to support him anyway, that’s just too damn bad. He can stay on the ballot and hope all is forgiven, or he can withdraw at that time and leave it up to the RPT to find a suitable write-in candidate, a la Tom DeLay and Shelley Sekula Gibbs in 2006. The RPT can also remember that it has total control of state government, and lobby for a change to that portion of the electoral code in 2019. Until then, I say tough luck. We’ll see what the courts say.

Wilson sues HCC

It’s a thing with him.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson, a District II trustee, is accusing Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, the board’s vice chair, of improperly voting remotely during a September trustee meeting.

Board bylaws say that only trustees present in person can vote, though absent trustees can listen to the proceedings electronically.

Wilson’s lawsuit says the meeting in question took place on Sept. 21. HCC trustees did not meet that day, but at the Sept. 22 meeting, the board was scheduled to elect a secretary for the remainder of 2017, authorize HCC’s chancellor to execute a facilities maintenance contract and define how vendors who violate the board’s ethics code should be disciplined, among other items.

“If the court finds that participating by video chat in the board meetings violates (board bylaws), then the court should declare her vote illegal and void,” his lawsuit reads. “The court should order a recount of each agenda item for the board meeting.”

I have a copy of Wilson’s complaint here. It’s quite short and to the point, so go ahead and read it. I can sum it up as follows:

– In 2010, the HCC Board voted to amend its bylaws to state that only Trustees who attend meetings in person may vote. A Trustee who is not present may view the meeting electronically may not vote, and proxy votes are not allowed.

– Trustee Carolyn Evans-Shabazz was not present for the September 21 meeting, but attended via video conference. She voted on agenda items, over Wilson’s objection, and her votes were counted.

– Wilson wants the court to require the Board to enforce its bylaws, and void all the votes taken on September 21.

And that’s it. What struck me is that Wilson cites no laws in his suit, just the Board bylaws. I agree that Trustees should follow their own rules, but I’m kind of perplexed that a court would consider itself to have the jurisdiction to step in and enforce that. Any attorneys out there want to comment on this? By the way, Wilson never alleges that any of Evans-Shabazz’s votes were decisive, nor that the Board would have lacked a quorum without her. As such, I’m not sure what the point is, beyond the principle involved. Which, much as I deplore Dave Wilson I can kind of understand. Still, the two PTA boards I’ve served on had bylaws, too, but I don’t think it would have occurred to me to file a lawsuit if I’d thought those bylaws were not being followed. Was there no other way to resolve this?

July 2017 campaign finance reports – HCC

Welcome to the last and least interesting of these campaign finance report posts. This one is about the HCC Trustees, and there’s not much to see. Take a look at what there is – you can find all available reports here – and we’ll discuss it below.

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz
Robert Glaser

Adriana Tamez
Dave Wilson
Eva Loredo
John Hansen
Neeta Sane
Zeph Capo


Name            Raised    Spent     Loans     On Hand
=====================================================
Evans-Shabazz    3,125    1,027         0       2,812
Glaser               0        0     5,000       8,439

Tamez                0    3,533         0       6,247
Wilson               0        0    12,782           0
Loredo               0      881         0       1,109
Hansen               0        0     5,000       8,925
Sane                 0    6,043         0      20,803
Capo                 0    1,100         0       2,064

First, let me just say how far the HCC webpage has come from the days when I had to file an open records request to get my hands on these things. They’re easy to find now, and all reports are available for everyone who has a report. The only downside is that you can’t tell at a glance who is and isn’t a candidate – you have to look at everyone to see who has a current report – but I can live with that. Kudos for getting this right, y’all.

And so, what you see above, is everyone who has filed a July 2017 report, which is to say the eight non-felonious incumbents, and no one else. Neither Carolyn Evans-Shabazz nor Robert Glaser has an opponent as yet, and there’s a giant void in District 9, where there is neither an incumbent nor a candidate for the position. Someone will be appointed to fill the seat soon enough, and from there we’ll get some idea as to who may be in the running for November, but for now this is all we have.

As you can also see, no one is exactly burning up the phone lines hitting up donors. Again, this may change when and if someone gets opposed, but until then there appears to be no rush.

Is the end near for straight-ticket voting?

It could be.

Rep. Ron Simmons

Partisan efficiency experts might love the time-saving charms of straight-ticket voting, but a number of the state’s top elected officials are ready to outlaw the practice.

Straight-ticket, or one-punch, voting allows people to cast a ballot for all of one party’s candidates with one pull of the lever, stroke of the pencil or click of the voting button.

One and done.

Its requires partisan faith on the part of a voter, an expression of trust in a party’s primary voters, a conviction that the chosen candidates — no matter who they are, what they’ve done and whether they are qualified — are better than candidates offered by the opposition party.

And it makes the coattails of the people at the top of the ballot very, very influential.

Just ask a judge.

“I will say only a word about judicial selection, but it is a word of warning,” Texas Supreme Chief Justice Nathan Hecht said this week in his State of the Judiciary speech. “In November, many good judges lost solely because voters in their districts preferred a presidential candidate in the other party. These kinds of partisan sweeps are common, with judicial candidates at the mercy of the top of the ticket. I do not disparage our new judges. I welcome them. My point is only that qualifications did not drive their election; partisan politics did. Such partisan sweeps are demoralizing to judges and disruptive to the legal system. But worse than that, when partisan politics is the driving force, and the political climate is as harsh as ours has become, judicial elections make judges more political, and judicial independence is the casualty.”

State Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, has filed legislation — House Bill 433 —to end straight-ticket voting in Texas. He might have some angels: House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have both sponsored bans in the past. Both remain critical of one-punch voting.

The major political parties are reluctant to part with it, however — it’s part of the regulatory advantage that makes the Republicans and the Democrats appear to offer the only viable choices for Americans — or Texans — who want to take part in civic life.

The two-party racket just about kills the possibility that you can find a candidate with whom you completely agree. Instead, you’re generally stuck with two options, left to choose the least undesirable candidate in a field of two.

Libertarians and Greens and Teas and Occupies and who knows who else would love to elbow their way in, but this is a protectorate.

[…]

One of the best arguments for straight-ticket voting is that there are too many people on the general election ballot, that too little is known about them and that the party label is the average voter’s most reliable guide to which candidate is more likely to agree with that voter’s political preferences.

A strong argument against is that partisan coattails can be stronger than brains. Every election seems to end with an unintended consequence, often a good judge tossed aside because the political winds replaced one party’s flag with another — or a loon elected by voters who actually knew nothing about their candidate.

Rep. Simmons filed the same bill in 2015, and what I wrote about it then still stands. Putting aside the fact that nobody had a problem with this until Democrats started winning judicial races in Dallas and Harris Counties, the arguments that Ross Ramsey puts forth just don’t make sense. You can vote straight ticket Libertarian or Green, you know, and if you can’t vote “Tea Party” it’s because no one is identified on the ballot as such because no official political party by that name exists. This past year was in many ways the best year ever for third party candidates, as they racked up big numbers in multiple statewide races, in particular for President and for Railroad Commissioner, despite the prevalence of straight party voting. Plenty of “loons” get elected in primaries and non-partisan elections (see, for instance, Dave Wilson getting elected to the HCC Board of Trustees in 2013). In what way does straight ticket voting make the difference?

The one thing that will change if straight ticket voting is taken away is that it will take longer to vote. If I had any reason to believe that the people pushing this also intended to address that problem, by allocating some money for counties to buy extra voting machines or allowing longer early voting hours or broadening the class of people who can vote by mail, then I would have no strong objection to this. But they don’t, and I have no reason to see this as anything but another way to make voting a little harder and less pleasant for some people. As such, I continue to oppose these bills.

HCC Board condemns Dave Wilson

Well, who doesn’t?

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Trustee Dave Wilson was issued a public reprimand Thursday by a majority of his colleagues on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, an action that effectively condemned several of his actions that board members said “are harmful to the institution.”

At issue was whether Wilson violated board bylaws and inappropriately piled up legal bills for the college system. The board voted for the public reprimand 6-1, with two abstentions. Wilson, who often is the lone no vote on issues, was the only vote against the action.

The reprimand, which is a literal public announcement of condemnation, will not stop Wilson from doing what he feels is right, he said.

“When I see a situation where I think there’s an injustice going on, I’m going to give them my attorney’s phone number and do it again,” Wilson said. “This reprimand is never going to stop me from doing that.”

The board originally intended to vote on a possible censure, which could have led to Wilson being stripped of some board privileges. Trustee Zeph Capo suggested the board instead vote on a public reprimand, which would spotlight Wilson’s action for the public.

[…]

Wilson said that college officials unlawfully overpaid when they spent $8.5 million on a former Conn’s building for the district. Investigators found no evidence of a crime.

Tamez said in the past two years Wilson incurred almost $273,000 in legal fees to the college, including when he filed a complaint with the Harris County district attorney in the Conn’s dispute, according to Tamez.

Wilson also is under fire for giving his attorney’s contact information to a group of HCC nursing graduates. His attorney filed suit on behalf of 19 nursing students who say the college is withholding graduation documents, keeping them from getting jobs or taking the state licensing exam, in an effort to boost test scores in the program.

Here’s a story from before the board vote with a bit more detail. Wilson filed the complaint over the Conn’s deal last August, and it was dismissed by the DA’s office in March. Here’s the relevant bit from that story:

The college paid $8.5 million for the former big box store – $3.2 million higher than the building was originally valued just months before the purchase. The higher value, by the same appraiser, reflected a planned five-year lease of the building to Tesla Motors that never materialized.

HCC is nearing completion of a separate agreement to lease out the property to another entity – a step college officials have tried to take since they purchased the building more than a year ago.

After reviewing documents from the college, Tesla Motors and the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board, the DA’s office wrote to Wilson on March 4 that it did not find any evidence of criminal activity and was closing the investigation.

[…]

College leaders, including Maldonado and several trustees, have said the former Conn’s building was a good investment, even if it wasn’t to be used right away. It was the only building in a former shopping center that is now HCC’s West Loop campus. By buying the Conn’s store, HCC officials have said they were completing the campus and would make up the purchase cost by leasing it.

The college has not said to whom the building will be leased.

The DA’s office declined to comment.

Wilson said investigators told him a bad business deal doesn’t rise to the level of a felony.

“I get tired of that excuse – ‘It’s not a crime to be stupid,’ ” Wilson said. “The undisputed fact remains that the college overpaid millions of dollars of taxpayer money for a piece of property the school does not need.”

I don’t have any opinion about the Conn’s deal. It clearly didn’t work out as intended, but life is like that sometimes. One can certainly criticize it as a bad investment, and one can criticize the judgment used in making that investment, and one can call into question the competency of those who made those decisions. Filing a criminal complaint says to me that one has reason to believe that one or more people involved in these decisions stood to profit from them in some illegal way, or that someone involved in the deal deliberately lied about it in some fashion. These are very serious charges to make, and if you go back and read that first story, there’s no evidence given to suggest either of those things were possibilities. Filing a criminal complaint about this, which not only wasted a bunch of time that the DA’s office could have been using on more productive pursuits but also needlessly inconveniences a bunch of people who did nothing wrong, is a massive overreaction and calls into question the judgment of the filer. Why would we believe anything Dave Wilson says about the activities of the HCC board after crying wolf so loudly?

As for the case of the nursing students, I have no idea if there’s any merit to their protest or not. If there is, I wish them all the best in getting it resolved. Regardless of that, having a sitting Board member refer his personal attorney to them seems like a really bad idea, and a potential conflict of interest. How do we know Wilson isn’t just spoiling for a chance to make some trouble after coming up empty with the Conn’s complaint? Again, there are plenty of things Wilson could have done to show solidarity with the students and criticize perceived wrongdoing on HCC’s part without giving them his lawyer’s phone number. It’s also true that sometimes a system is so broken the only way to effect change and get things done is to go outside the system. It helps if you document the brokenness of the system first, so people can understand the futility of working within it and understand the need to subvert it. Otherwise, one risks looking less like a visionary and more like a crank throwing a temper tantrum. The former can inspire the change they seek, while the latter do little more than pile up reprimands and failures. Well done, Dave.

Please don’t compare George Scott to Dave Wilson

I mean, come on.

George Scott

George Scott

I was a bit confused when conservative blogger George Scott told me he planned to strap on ice skates before heading to his swearing-in ceremony this past week as a Katy school board member. Was this some strange suburban leadership ritual? Then Scott delivered his punch line.

“Hell,” he said, “has frozen over.”

No doubt many of the students, parents and staff members in the Katy Independent School District had thoughts along those lines after Scott unseated Joe Adams, who had served on the board since 1989 and had defeated nine challengers before Scott slipped past him by a six-vote margin. And fellow board members might not be ready to welcome Scott with open arms, given his relentless criticism of the district’s leadership during his internet-based campaign.

I wondered who might offer sound advice to a scrappy challenger who had narrowly defeated an entrenched incumbent for a seat on a public education board, vowing to change a moribund institutional culture. If only someone else fit that description. …

“It’s tricky,” said Dave Wilson. “It’s going to be tough for old George.”

[…]

It’s important to note that the comparison between Wilson and Scott only goes so far. Scott, unlike Wilson, wasn’t accused of deceptive campaign tactics, nor does he share Wilson’s history of anti-gay activism.

I cut out the bit where Wilson offers “advice” to Scott because the comparison falls apart as soon as it’s made. First and foremost, Scott ran an actual campaign for Katy ISD, whereas Wilson was a name on a ballot with a misleading website and mailers. Scott ran for Katy ISD based on his longstanding interest in education matters and his detailed policy ideas for the board. Wilson ran for HCC because he’s a perennial candidate who has run for Mayor, City Council, County Commissioner, and State Representative, and possibly other things that I may have missed. And to whatever extent Wilson has had problems getting stuff done on the HCC Board, putting aside the fact that most of what he’s tried to get done has been his usual anti-gay crap, it’s because he ran a dishonest non-campaign that had nothing to do with anything other than his desire to be elected to something, while Scott has been busy reaching out to his soon-to-be colleagues on the Katy ISD board so he can get started on the real work of the job he actually ran for. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s “don’t be like Dave Wilson”, which is both good general advice and something I’m sure George Scott already knows. Let’s never discuss this again, OK?

Appeals court upholds Wilson residency ruling

No surprise.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

A state appeals court has sided with Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson in a lengthy legal fight over whether he lives in the district he represents.

Ever since Wilson was elected to the HCC board in 2013, the Harris County Attorney’s office has argued that he did not actually live in the district when he ran to represent it.

At issue is whether Wilson lived in an apartment in a warehouse on West 34th Street or with his wife at a home outside the district, which he has listed on tax forms. In 2014, a jury unanimously determined Wilson lived at the 34th Street address. A judge later upheld the ruling, and now the state appeals court has done the same.

“The State…did not conclusively establish that Wilson did not reside at West 34th Street on November 5, 2013,” the ruling says. “Wilson, on the other hand, presented evidence that he started living at the West 34th Street property in early 2012; that he intends for that property to be his residence; that he spends most of his time at that property, including sleeping there five nights a week; that he keeps personal belongings and receives personal mail at that address; and that while he spends two nights a week at the Lake Lane house, he always returns to the West 34th Street property.”

[…]

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said in a statement that he was disappointed by the court’s ruling, but not surprised, because ” ‘residency’ as the court outlines, is basically where one says he or she lives with relatively insignificant requirements to establish that residency under the law.”

See here and here for the background. I appreciate the County Attorney pursuing this, but we are at the end of the line. Any further pursuit of this matter should be in the Legislature, an option Vince Ryan alluded to in his statement. We’ve discussed this before, and at this point I’d favor an approach that says 1) you can’t claim a homestead exemption at one address and a voter registration at another, and 2) you can’t claim a homestead exemption in one taxing entity (city, county, school district, etc) and run for office in another. No approach to this is foolproof, but this would at least attach a cost to the “I live where I say I live” shenanigans, and that may be the best we can do.

On a side note, I wonder if the absolute thrashing Wilson got in his attempt to knock off Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148 – she beat him by an 88.1 to 11.9 margin, which is the kind of spread one normally sees when a candidate has only third-party opposition – is partly the result of all the publicity Wilson has reaped from his fluke election to the HCC Board in 2013 and the subsequent attempts to disqualify him. He can’t operate in the shadows the way he used to, because now many more people know who he is and what he’s about. If so, then that’s one positive thing that has come out of this mess.

Support Jessica Farrar

From Andrea Greer:

Rep. Jessica Farrar

Rep. Jessica Farrar

Last week, Senator John Whitmire addressed a crowd of supporters at a fundraiser for Representative Jessica Farrar.

“Jessica, I’m here because until today, I gotta be honest,” he admitted, “I didn’t know you had a challenger.”

Senator Whitmire is hardly the only one caught by surprise by not just the fact that this beloved state representative has a challenger, but that he is running in the primary, claiming to be a Democrat.

What can we say about Dave Wilson?

[…]

Jessica Farrar’s experience and expertise are invaluable. She’s a fierce advocate for civil rights, healthcare, animals, schools, and more, but she also understands that governance means learning how to work together with people whose opinions she may not share. She understands that governance is about finding ways to say yes.

Jessica Farrar is the only responsible choice in the March primary. Let’s keep her in the Texas House.

I’m pretty sure everyone reading this blog knows what can be said about Dave Wilson, but go ahead and click over to refresh your memory. I don’t live in HD148 any more – my neighborhood was split in half in the 2011 redistricting, with my half being placed in HD145 – so I can’t vote for Rep. Farrar in the primary, but if you live in HD148 please make sure that you do. I don’t care who you support for President, just don’t miss this race. The stakes are too high to take any of this for granted.

HCC versus Dave Wilson, the continuing story

It’s a fight over legal fees.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson has long been a thorn in the side of Houston Community College trustees. That hasn’t changed now that he’s one of them.

Wilson, a controversial figure long before he was elected to the HCC board in 2013, has done nothing to diminish his gadfly reputation in his first two years as a trustee. From a campaign criticized as deceptive and a dispute over whether he lives in the district he represents, to a complaint filed against the college and a legal tussle over his exclusion from an executive session, Wilson’s actions have rankled his fellow trustees since he took office in January 2014.

Now Wilson is preparing to sue HCC over roughly $50,000 in legal fees stemming from a lengthy and ongoing dispute over the election that put him on the board.

[…]

Wilson has won several rounds in the court dispute over his residency, which the county is continuing to appeal, saying that the case raises important issues of law.

“We believe that a person should not be able to claim the benefit of a residential homestead at one location while registering to vote at a different location,” Robert Soard, first assistant county attorney, said in an email. “More fundamentally, an elected representative should not be allowed to serve and set the tax rate for a district in which he does not personally reside.”

Wilson says HCC should cover his legal fees, but his fellow trustees disagreed. Wilson wasn’t able to garner the votes needed to put the item on an agenda after the state attorney general ruled last month that the college would have to prove paying the fees was for a public good.

“Based on the attorney general opinion we’ve received regarding this request, I don’t feel we have the authority to reimburse trustee Wilson from tax dollars,” board chairman Zeph Capo said in a text message. “Wilson’s legal dispute with the county began prior to beginning his term as a trustee. Given the AG ruling, I’m taking the advice he often gives us in similar circumstances … Let ’em sue.”

And that’s what Wilson plans to do.

“It’s going to be soon, it’s going to be real soon,” Wilson said Monday, after failing to get support from the trustees at last Thursday’s meeting.

Here’s the AG opinion in question. I Am Not A Lawyer, but my layman’s reading suggests the board is on reasonably firm ground here in exercising its discretion about whether or not to pony up. The concluding paragraph:

In sum, the College has discretion to reimburse a trustee for the expense of defending a quo warranto action only if it determines that the expenditure concerns a legitimate public interest of the College and not merely the trustee’s personal interest and that the quo warranto action involves acts that were undertaken by the trustee in good faith within the scope of an official duty. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. GA-0104 (2003) at 4. Any determination by the College to reimburse a trustee’s expenses in the circumstances you describe would likely be subject to an abuse of discretion standard by a reviewing court. See Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. DM-450 (1997) at 9 (stating that a “decision by an institution of higher education will be set aside if it is arbitrary or umeasonable, or if it violates the law”). Thus, while it is for the College to make the initial determination, given the precedent involving election contests, a court is unlikely to conclude that the College has a public interest in paying the legal expenses associated with a challenge to a trustee’s qualifications for office.

There’s a footnote at the end that says they “cannot conclude that there could never be circumstances under which it is appropriate for a governmental entity to reimburse an official for costs he or she incurred in the defense of a quo warranto proceeding”, so Wilson could prevail in court. AG opinions are not legally binding, and clearly nothing is going to stop Wilson from having his day in court. We’ll see how it goes.

Wilson denied by Supreme Court

Some good news that came in late Friday.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Anti-gay activist Dave Wilson’s attempt to amend City Charter and bar men “who perceive or express themselves as women” from entering women’s restrooms will likely not appear on the November ballot after the Texas Supreme Court on Friday denied his request for emergency action.

Instead, Wilson’s legal arguments will now play out in district court. With ballot measures due by the end of the month, there does not appear to be time for the city to count the signatures on Wilson’s petition and have it certified for the fall ballot.

Mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans said the city had yet to receive a copy of the decision Friday.

“But we’re pleased that the court has ruled in the city’s favor,” Evans said. “We were confident in our argument.”

Wilson, a Houston Community College trustee, warned that he will continue to push the issue in district court.

“I’m not gonna give up,” Wilson said. “I’ll be back. I will get this on the next election.”

[…]

[In late July] a state district judge ruled that the city secretary had a “nondiscretionary ministerial duty” to count and certify the signatures.

The city appealed that decision and Wilson, meanwhile, sought intervention from the Texas Supreme Court to force City Secretary Anna Russell to immediately count the signatures.

Wilson said the city had engaged in a “series of illegal stall tactics,” adding that he was not satisfied that voters will already get a chance to repeal the city’s equal rights ordinance in November.

See here, here, and here for the background, and see here (second from the bottom) for the Supreme Court order. To be clear, this is not the end of the story – far from it. What it means is that the city can continue its appeal of the district court judge’s ruling without having to count the petitions and potentially put the issue on that ballot now. Those things still may happen if Wilson wins on appeal. All this means for now is that we won’t see it on the ballot this November. I continue to believe that Wilson’s argument about this not being a backdoor attempt to alter HERO is a load of hooey, but that doesn’t mean he can’t win in court. The responsibility for continuing that fight will fall on the shoulders of the next Mayor. Perhaps someone should ask them all how they feel about this.

Both Wilson and the city filed their petitions with the Supreme Court this week – the city’s was filed on Thursday – so the turnaround on this was quick, as you’d expect with a deadline coming up. From here it goes back to the normal speed of litigation, meaning it could be months before we have an appellate ruling, and years before we get final word from the Supreme Court. Who knows what can happen in the meantime.

Supreme Court requires HERO ballot language change

Whatever.

HoustonUnites

The Texas Supreme Court has again overruled Mayor Annise Parker’s administration in connection with the legal fight over her signature nondiscrimination ordinance, ruling Wednesday that the mayor and City Council erred in choosing the language that will appear on the November ballot when the ordinance faces possible repeal.

The justices, writing in “yet another mandamus proceeding concerning the City of Houston’s equal rights ordinance,” said the city charter is clear in requiring that voters be asked to vote for or against the ordinance. Parker had instead argued it was proper to vote for or against repealing the measure, and the council approved language with that approach Aug. 5.

“Though the ordinance is controversial, the law governing the City Council’s duties is clear. Our decision rests not on our views on the ordinance — a political issue the citizens of Houston must decide — but on the clear dictates of the City Charter,” the justices wrote. “The City Council must comply with its own laws regarding the handling of a referendum petition and any resulting election.”

[…]

The ruling rejected an argument from the ordinance’s foes that the ballot should not contain the words “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” which they said was politically charged.

Yeah, because nothing about this is politically charged. I don’t really get the fuss over this – voting to “keep” or “repeal” seems like two sides of the same coin to me, and if the petition is to repeal, then it’s logical that the vote should be to repeal – but if that’s the way it is then that’s the way it is. In the end, I doubt it makes that much difference, unless the number of easily confused people in this town is higher than I think it is.

By the way, on the matter of ballot language, I like the way the Press put it:

Frankly, we found Taylor’s language more confusing than the ballot wording, but the thing that really stuck out was Taylor’s other complaint — rejected by the court — that the language shouldn’t include the words “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.”

“It is simply a gratuitous, albeit intentional, insertion designed to give proponents an edge at the polls,” Taylor wrote, adding that the ordinance’s supporters wouldn’t want “Child Predator Protection Act” appearing on the ballot.

The difference, of course, is that only one of those is accurate nomenclature.

Indeed. Never forget how much lying the leaders of the repeal movement have done. Mayor Parker’s statement is here, and the Trib, PDiddie, and Texas Leftist have more.

On a related matter, there’s still the Dave Wilson Potty Package Check Petitions, which one court ruled needed to be counted; the city has appealed that ruling to the First Court of Appeals. That was still being litigated as of yesterday, and I happen to have a copy of the city’s response to Wilson’s motion to have their appeal dismissed. To sum it up, the city is arguing that Wilson has cited no authority for his dismissal argument, and the trial court erred by granting Wilson temporary emergency relief without requiring him to prove a right to that extraordinary relief. As it happens, later in the day yesterday the appeals court denied Wilson’s motion to dismiss the city’s appeal, and gave the city ten days to “file a written response to this notice, providing a detailed explanation, citing relevant portions of the record, statutes, rules, and case law to show that this Court has jurisdiction over the appeal”. So we’ll still be arguing this at the end of the month, and that’s going to make it a very close call as to whether Wilson’s issue could get on the ballot, if the petitions were certified in the first place. Stay tuned.

Students against Dave Wilson

OUT SA, the website for out students and allies at Houston Community College, reviews a litany of Dave Wilson’s recent activities and discusses what can be done about them.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Mr. Wilson has created a hostile environment for LGBT students, staff, and faculty of Houston Community College by these actions. In addition, with his last action, he puts HCC at risk of violating Title IX protections. The US Dept. of Education has stated that Title IX specifically protects transgender identities, and the ability of those with these identities to use facilities at federally funded educational organizations, a category which HCC falls into. If the Trustee is successful in his petition, most transgender students will not be able to use the correct bathrooms and locker rooms for their gender identity. As such, HCC will be in violation of Title IX. This puts HCC at risk of litigation and/or the removal of federal funds.

You may be wondering what you can do to help prevent this blow to both LGBT rights and to Houston Community College. There are two options, and depending on your residence, or your status as student, staff, or faculty at HCC, you may be able to participate in one or both.

For students, staff, and faculty, you may file a complaint with the HCC Office of Institutional Equity. To do so, fill out this contact form, and a representative of that office will be able to contact you. If you are a student, your department and job title will be student, and the college will be the one which you attend most frequently (Central, Coleman, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, or Southwest).

If you are a resident within the HCC District, you may fill out this petition. If you’re unsure of whether you reside within the District, please visit this map, if you live within one of the numbered districts, you live within the HCC district.

And remember, if you meet both qualifications, you can fill out both the complaint form AND the petition.

We are also planning on attending the September Board of Trustees meeting. If you would like to speak to the Board, or you just want to attend, please contact us, and we will let you know how you may participate.

Emphasis mine. I’ve previously suggested that Wilson’s proposal is illegal on its face, but I hadn’t considered the Title IX angle. That’s a lot of your taxpayer dollars that Dave Wilson would like to put at risk, both in terms of funds for HCC and defending against the litigation I’ve suggested would follow. Maybe this isn’t something that an elected official with fiduciary responsibilities should be doing. Maybe the fact that Wilson is (God help us) an elected official with fiduciary responsibilities is something that we ought to take into consideration when we discuss this vendetta he has.

(Food for thought: Suppose Wilson manages to get his proposal on the ballot, and it passes. When the inevitable Title IX lawsuit is then filed against HCC, what is to stop the other HCC trustees from declining to dedicate funds to pay for the defense of said lawsuit, and instead instructing their lawyers to seek an immediate settlement? That would be the fiscally responsible thing to do – never mind the morally responsible thing to do – after all.)

That petition referenced in the post, which calls on Wilson to “cease working to violate the civil rights of the students he is supposed to be representing”, or failing that for the rest of the Board “to begin removal procedures against him”, deserves some love. Put your name on it and help spread the word. The more people know about and stand against Dave Wilson, the better.

City appeals Wilson petition order

No surprise.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The verdict on whether anti-gay activist Dave Wilson collected enough valid signatures to force a vote to amend the city charter and bar men “who perceive or express themselves as women” from entering women’s restrooms will have to wait.

On Friday evening, the city appealed District Court Judge Brent Gamble’s order to count the signatures on Wilson’s petition by Saturday’s deadline, saying it “is an untimely referendum petition, not a charter amendment.”

Wilson, a Houston Community College trustee, said he collected more than 22,000 signatures, more than the needed 20,000 to change city charter.

The secretary’s office was counting signatures under order from a state district judge since late July. Wilson says the city tried to delay validating signatures until Monday and asked Gamble to clarify his order in a conference call on Monday. Gamble refused to grant the city a delay or to clarify his order, according to both Wilson and the letter from the city appealing the order.

[…]

Wilson has said the equal rights ordinance is not driving his petition, which seeks to define gender identity “as an individual’s innate identification, as either male or female, which is assigned at birth.” It would require businesses to adopt the same definition.

To Wilson, the petition is a small step in reversing a cultural decline in the city.

“We need to focus on filling potholes rather than the homosexual agenda,” Wilson said.

See here, here, and here for the background. Anyone who believes Wilson, who didn’t start collecting signatures for this effort until after the HERO had passed, wasn’t motivated by the HERO probably also believes in the Easter Bunny. That’s not exactly the same as saying his effort is equivalent to a repeal, however, so I’ll refrain from speculating what an appeals court might rule. And anyone who thinks the repeal effort isn’t being driven by a deep-seated animus towards LGBT folks need only read those last two paragraphs. We’re either a city of opportunity for all, or we’re Dave Wilson’s Houston. I know what my preference is.

And now we have a lawsuit over HERO repeal ballot language

Oh, for crying out loud.

RedEquality

Last month the Texas Supreme Court suspended the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, more commonly known as HERO, and ordered City Council to either repeal the non-discrimination measure or put it up for a public vote.

On Wednesday council voted 12-5 for the latter, and in November Houston voters will be asked this question at the polls:

“Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530 which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information gender identity or pregnancy?”

That question, according to the coalition of pastors and conservative activists that have been fighting HERO tooth-and-nail since it went before council last spring (even though religious groups are exempt from having to follow the law), is deliberately confusing and not the same as a public vote on HERO. On Friday, Andy Taylor, one of the attorneys who first sued the city over HERO alongside Steve “Men Who Lose Their Testicles Can’t Read Maps” Hotze (who later dropped out of the suit), filed yet another legal challenge against the city in hopes of changing the wording of the ballot measure.

In a motion filed with the state supreme court Friday, Taylor points to the city charter language related to ballot referendums: “…such ordinance or resolution shall not take effect unless a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon at such election shall vote in favor thereof.”

That’s the legal basis for Taylor’s petition to change the ballot language – that voters should vote “yes” or “no” on HERO, not “yes” or “no” on whether to keep it.

[…]

Ultimately, it appears the anti-HERO coalition fears the ballot language could harm their chances of success at the polls. “This is a legal recipe for an electoral disaster,” Taylor writes. “Voters will be confused, because someone who is against the proposition cannot vote against, and vice-versa.”

It’s unclear why Taylor and his coalition still feel they haven’t won the HERO-ballot battle and keep heading to the courts. The public now has the opportunity to cast a vote on other people’s rights, which is what Taylor and other opponents have wanted all along. Is the current ballot language (do you or do you not think HERO should stand?) really so confusing as to spoil the anti-LGBT contingent’s chances at the polls?

Mayor Parker’s statement is here. I’m convinced that the only language that would be acceptable to Taylor and his band of idiots is “Do you or do you not want to protect your children from a bunch of filthy perverts?” But hey, maybe they’ll get the Supreme Court to save their sorry asses again.

In the meantime, while we wait for that foolishness to be adjudicated, there’s this:

Boosters of big sporting events in Houston are nervous about the fight over the equal rights ordinance.

Opponents of the ordinance have succeeded in putting the issue on the November ballot. Now, some HERO supporters are calling upon the NFL to move the 2017 Super Bowl out of Houston if the ordinance is repealed. The online petition was launched by a blogger and it has dozens of signatures.

“Well, I think if Houston is ever perceived as an intolerant, bigoted place, it will greatly diminish our opportunities to bring sporting events to town,” admitted Sports Authority Chairman J. Kent Friedman.

Houston’s Super Bowl Committee had no comment.

The NFL reportedly considered moving a Super Bowl out of Arizona over legislation that would’ve offered legal protections to businesses that discriminated against gays. That never happened, because the governor vetoed the bill.

HERO opponents say it’ll never happen here either.

“That’s simply a red herring. That’s simply what they tried to do in Indiana and Arkansas and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” said ordinance opponent Jared Woodfill. “It basically shows that they are going to do anything and everything they can to skew the issue.”

“I think it’s a real threat,” said KHOU 11 Political Analyst Bob Stein. “Now, how it plays with the voters is very interesting. It could conceivably become one in which voters have a backlash against it, see it as a — how can I say this? — a threat.”

Via PDiddie, the blogger in question. The petition is here, and it surely can’t hurt to sign it. How likely it is that the NFL might actually move a Super Bowl that would be 14 months out at the time of the vote if it goes badly I couldn’t say, but it would certainly make it a lot harder, if not downright impossible, for Houston to win bids on other big events, and I would predict with absolute certainty that some events that are currently on the calendar would be canceled, just as they were in Indiana after they passed that ill-advised “religious freedom” law. There’s a good reason why the Greater Houston Partnership supports HERO – this is the norm in the business world, and it’s a base condition for companies that want to recruit top talent. Anyone who thinks repealing HERO would not have negative repercussions is not living in the real world. You can like HERO or not, you can like the way Mayor Parker got it passed or not, and you can be like Dave Wilson and obsess all you want about the genitalia of every person who enters a women’s bathroom if you want, but the prevailing reaction to the loss of HERO will not be good for Houston. Texas Leftist has more.

HISD and HCC finance reports

Here’s what we know, though it’s incomplete.

BagOfMoney

Fundraising among most HISD board members was slow during the first half of 2015.

Board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who plans to seek re-election to her District 2 seat this November, raised the most money this reporting period ($4,000) and has the most on hand ($8,195), according to the July campaign finance reports.

Three other board seats are on the ballot in November. Trustees Manuel Rodriguez Jr. (District 3) and Juliet Stipeche (District 8) have told me they plan to seek re-election. Trustee Paula Harris (District 4) has not returned messages, but she has raised no money and reports none on hand — a good sign she is not running again.

The first day to file the formal paperwork to be on the ballot was Saturday. Only one candidate, Ramiro Fonseca, who’s seeking the District 3 seat, had filed as of Monday morning. The last day to file is Aug. 24.

Three others have filed reports naming a campaign treasurer, indicating they were interested in running: Jolanda “Jo” Jones (District 4), Ann McCoy (District 4) and Darlene “Koffey” Smith (District 2).

July reports for all of the HISD and HCC Trustee candidates that I know of are now up on the 2015 Election page. Note that only reports for HISD incumbents are available through the HISD website. HCC posts non-incumbent candidate reports as well, and good on them for doing so. HISD, you need to do something about this.

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand ================================================ Skillern-Jones 4,000 5,150 0 8,195 Rodriguez 3.325 808 0 2,856 Stipeche 0 5,733 0 9,884 Tamez 16,750 248 0 15,820 Evans-Shabazz 0 0 0 0 Hansen 200 1,826 5,000 3,374 Loredo 4,147 779 0 4,805 Aguilar 0 4,827 10,000 5,172

Compared to some of the other races we’ve seen, these are Dollar General to their Niemann Marcus. In HISD IV, everyone I’ve spoken to has told me that Paula Harris is not running for re-election. It’s annoying that the non-incumbent reports are not online, but they do exist in paper form, and Ericka Mellon was kind enough to track them down.

Former City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones has raised more than $8,100 in her run for the HISD school board, nearly twice as much as competitor Ann McCoy.

Jones’ contributions for the District 4 race include more than $2,800 from her council campaign. She served on the council from 2008 through 2011.

Community activist Larry McKinzie also has filed a campaign treasurer report to run for District 4 but did not submit the fund-raising report due July 15, indicating he had not raised money at that point.

[…]

In District 3, incumbent Manuel Rodriguez Jr. faces a rematch with Ramiro Fonseca. Rodriguez has more than $2,800 on hand. Fonseca has filed a treasurer report but said he has not raised funds yet.

In District 2, incumbent Rhonda Skillern-Jones, the board president, raised $4,000 during the last six-month reporting period. Darlene “Koffey” Smith, also running for District 2, has not raised any money but reports spending $1,800 that she intends to reimburse with donations. Youlette McCullough, who lists her nickname as “Baby Jane,” has filed a treasurer report for the District 2 seat, indicating her plans to run.

No word yet on whether HISD trustee Juliet Stipeche will face an opponent in the District 8 race.

There’s more at the link, so go check it out.

As for HCC, the only contested race so far is in my district, District 8, where first-termer Eva Loredo faces Art “brother-in-law of Abel Davila” Aguilar. John Hansen is running for the seat being vacated by Sandie Mullins Moger, Carolyn Evans-Shabazz was appointed to replace Carroll Robinson after he stepped down to run for Controller, and Adriana Tamez is running for a full term after winning the remainder of Mary Ann Perez’s term in 2013. I have heard that Dave Wilson plans to back some candidates for the Board, including Aguilar, but there are no other candidates as yet. His own finance report shows no funds raised or spent and nothing but an outstanding loan on hand; if he does play in any races I’m sure he’ll do it via a PAC, however, so don’t read too much into that. If you hear anything about that, let me know. Otherwise, not too much of interest here to report.

Judge rules Wilson petitions must be counted

Thanks, Supreme Court. Thanks a hell of a lot.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

City of Houston officials must count the signatures on a petition filed by anti-gay activist Dave Wilson, who is seeking a vote to amend the city charter and bar men “who perceive or express themselves as women” from entering women’s restrooms, a judge ruled Tuesday.

State District Judge Brent Gamble ruled Tuesday that City Secretary Anna Russell has a “nondiscretionary ministerial duty” to count and certify the signatures Wilson submitted in early July, and to present the count to City Council by Aug. 8.

City attorneys, however, intended to file an immediate appeal late Tuesday, said Mayor Annise Parker’s spokeswoman, Janice Evans. She did not comment further.

[…]

Wilson submitted a similar petition in April, but apparently misunderstood state law and was 300 signatures shy of the 20,000 names needed for a charter amendment. He said he started over and said he submitted more than 22,100 valid signatures on July 9.

For months now, Parker’s legal team has contended that Wilson’s proposed charter revision too closely resembles a repeal petition pertaining to the city’s equal rights ordinance that had been tied up in court. His effort is too late and should not be considered, they have said, because those seeking to repeal an ordinance must submit their petition within 30 days of the law going into effect; City Council passed the ordinance in May 2014.

Regardless of the future of Wilson’s petition, the equal rights ordinance itself likely will be put to a vote in November, thanks to a Texas Supreme Court ruling last week.

See here and here for the background. I suppose the good news, if you want to call it that, is that thanks to that awful Supreme Court ruling, we’re going to have a HERO repeal vote anyway, so what difference does this make at this point? Because let’s be clear about two things: One, Wilson’s efforts have totally been about trying to damage HERO. Anyone who believes otherwise also believes in the tooth fairy. And two, if we take that Supreme Court ruling on its face, Wilson could have simply signed the names of the first 22,000 or so registered Houston voters himself on his petitions. If all Anna Russell is supposed to do is check that yep, those are the names and addresses of registered Houston voters, then why not cheat a little to make sure you make it across the goal line? Who’s ever going to know?

OK, I’m being a little bitter here, but just a little. We’ll see what if anything comes of the city’s emergency appeal, but consider this: if we take to heart the core of the Obergfell and Windsor decisions – and Lawrence v. Texas before them – a law that is based on animus against a group of people cannot be constitutional. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems clear to me that Wilson’s hateful proposal could not survive judicial scrutiny if it were approved. But putting all that aside, thins is just wrong. It’s wrong to use the weight of a majority to push around a minority, and it’s wrong to put people’s humanity to a vote. Funny how a heathen like me understands that better than a “Christian” like Dave Wilson.

Hall for all the haters

He is who we thought he was.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Houston mayoral candidate Ben Hall said Thursday he signed a petition seeking to define gender identity and prevent men “who perceive or express themselves as women” from entering women’s restrooms because he wants to protect the right to vote.

Hall’s press conference at his Montrose law firm comes three days after an LGBT blog reported that Hall signed the request, which it framed as “anti-gay.”

“I’m trying to correct the record about people who are mischaracterizing why we signed the petition. I want to make sure we change that narrative,” said Hall, who was accompanied by his wife. “We signed this petition because everybody has the right to vote, whether you like the outcome or not.”

Hall added that he “will protect all our citizens from illegal discrimination, gay or straight.”

Of this year’s crowded slate of mayoral contenders, Hall, the 2013 mayoral runner-up, is the most vocal opponent of the city’s equal rights ordinance, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, and family, marital or military status.

A picture of Hall’s signature was posted to the HOUEquality Facebook page a few days ago; Hair Balls confirmed it was in fact Hall’s autograph. I think everyone would agree that the one sure beneficiary of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling is Hall, who is the one Mayoral candidate with any visibility who is full-on for repeal. He’s got Wilson and the Hotzes in his camp, and where else are these voters going to go? Bill King isn’t a HERO supporter, but I don’t see him lining up with the repeal forces, not if he wants business support. Oliver Pennington voted against HERO on Council, but he’s not in the race any more. Who else is there? As David Ortez reported, at least one fringe candidate is rabidly pro-repeal as well, but there’s a reason why fringe candidates are on the fringe. Hall is the choice of those who think that HERO was crammed down their throats, and who want very badly to stick it to Mayor Parker. And yes, that choice of words is quite deliberate.

Dave Wilson will never go away

What’s that definition of insanity again?

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Opponents of Houston’s equal rights ordinance have once again submitted petitions calling for a voter referendum to put a gender identity issue on the ballot in November, but the mayor says it’s not going to happen.

Anti-gay activist Dave Wilson showed up at Houston City Hall Thursday with boxes of petitions he said bore the signatures of 20,000 voters calling for a referendum on a city charter amendment defining one’s gender as whatever sex was assigned at birth.

“It will prohibit men from going into women’s bathrooms and vice versa in all sex-oriented facilities — like swimming pools, locker rooms — that the city has,” Wilson said.

[…]

Wilson said his proposed charter change would effectively nullify much of the equal rights ordinance. And that’s precisely why Mayor Annise Parker said Wilson’s latest petition drive will come to nothing.

“It’s a non-starter, because it has been determined by a federal court that you cannot change an ordinance with a charter amendment,” Parker said.

The legal precedent the mayor cited comes from a ruling in a case involving Houston’s troubled history with red light cameras. It’s a complicated matter involving the difference between an ordinance and the city charter.

Any petition effort to repeal an ordinance in Houston must be completed within 30 days after the passage of that ordinance. Opponents of Houston’s red light cameras thought they’d worked their way around that restriction by proposing not a repeal of the ordinance, but a charter amendment that accomplished the same goal.

But a federal judge issued a sharply worded opinion against that notion.

It was just three months ago that Wilson failed at this the last time, having not turned in enough signatures to meet the statutory minimum. Not that it mattered, since as Mayor Parker points out, you can’t use the charter process to amend an existing ordinance except within a 30 day period of the ordinance taking effect. Needless to say, that ship has long since sailed. But as always this is really all about Dave Wilson getting attention for himself and painting himself as a victim of oppression, both of which he is highly successful at doing. The rest of it, not so much. And to add to the mountain of evidence that the law means nothing to Dave Wilson, he’s filed a lawsuit against the city to force them to count the signatures anyway, presumably before dumping them all in the trash since they’re irrelevant. I guess all this activity keeps him off the streets, so we should be thankful for that. I just pity the poor judge who will have to deal with this, since Wilson is representing himself. (According to the Chron story, the case is in the 270th District Civil Court.) And I’m sure we’ll be back in another few months with another batch of pointless petitions. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Wilson thwarted again

Dave Wilson’s latest troll job: applying for a spot in the annual Pride parade. It did not go well.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Wilson told me he received preliminary approval to appear in the parade, and paid $805 in fees. He said he crossed out portions of the contract that said he supports LGBT equality. He planned to drive a 1956 Cadillac convertible, dressed as a groom with a woman dressed as a bride, dragging tin cans behind. On the side of the car would be signs advocating “traditional marriage” between a man and a woman.

“I thought the homosexual community was inclusive, nondiscriminatory, tolerant, all of those things they say,” Wilson told me. “It sounds like to me I fit right in … and I think if they do anything other than that, they’ll prove that they’re not.

“I don’t care if the Supreme Court and everybody else in the whole world thinks the other way, I’m never gonna change what I think,” he added. “You can’t reproduce with two of the same sex. It’s suicide to a culture if everybody is homosexual, so just from that standpoint, it’s not the right behavior for a culture to adopt and to praise and to propagate. It’s a suicidal lifestyle.”

After I contacted Pride Houston about Wilson’s entry, they informed me that he’d been rejected.

“This was actually an issue that was being addressed late last night by the Board,” Pride Houston’s David Ly said Friday. “Houstonians for Family Values did register and pay in full, however they were not fully approved. The contract they submitted had many lines struck out which go against Pride Houston’s mission. Therefore they will get a full refund and will not participate in the parade. They are being contacted.”

Note carefully Wilson’s inability or unwillingness to follow simple instructions, something that is a common occurrence with him. Again, though, actually getting to be part of the parade wasn’t his goal here. His goal, as always, is to get attention for himself and to paint himself as a poor persecuted victim of official oppression. It’s what he does and what he has done for a long time, with the same obsessive zeal as any stereotyped RPGer or fantasy sports fanatic. One might be tempted to feel some pity for him if he weren’t such a loathsome slug.

Wilson completes his latest troll job

He totally half-assed it, too.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Houston Community College trustee and longtime anti-gay activist Dave Wilson has submitted a city charter amendment petition seeking a November vote to bar men “who perceive or express themselves as women” from entering women’s restrooms, but it appears he misread state law and submitted about 300 fewer signatures than he needs to qualify for the ballot.

Wilson delivered 19,707 signatures to City Hall on Tuesday morning, but state law requires those seeking a city charter change to submit 20,000 signatures or signatures from 5 percent of qualified voters, whichever is smaller. Mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans said the city wasn’t sure yet about the law surrounding Wilson’s petition but would offer an opinion this afternoon.

Wilson, standing beside his white pickup containing six boxes full of signatures, said he needs only 17,269 signatures — 10 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election, and the threshold for repealing an ordinance, not a charter change.

Wilson’s proposed charter revision is a pointed challenge to the city’s legally embattled equal rights ordinance, passed last May, that opponents perceive as allowing men dressed in drag to enter a women’s restroom.

“My whole point is, do you want your mother to be in a woman’s restroom and a man walk in on that?” Wilson said. “I don’t think so. That’s totally out of the question.”

My mother can take care of herself just fine, but that’s neither here nor there. Putting aside the fact that Wilson and his dirty-minded buddy Steven Hotze continue to lie through their teeth about this, let’s assume for a moment that Wilson’s interpretation of the law is correct. (A later version of the Chron story suggests that even Wilson now has his doubts about that.) If that were the case, what are the odds that more than 90% of the signatures he claims to have collected are valid? The rule of thumb for petition gathering like this is that you need at least double the required amount to feel confident about qualifying for the ballot. Why would anyone think that Wilson would be meticulous enough to allow himself such a narrow margin of error? I think we all know the answer to that. This is just another pathetic attempt for attention by someone who’s made a living getting attention for himself for a long time.

Dave Wilson goes trolling again

It’s what he does.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The battle over Mayor Parker’s efforts to protect gay and transgender Houstonians is roaring back to life. A petition is making the rounds saying, sign if you agree gender is assigned at birth. The man behind it says he has enough signatures to take it to a city-wide vote.

“Whatever you’re born with you have to live with, that’s what this is basically saying,” said Dave Wilson, a HCC Trustee.

He wants to take it to the voters. Wilson’s been busy mailing out petitions, but not all the feedback is positive.

“Jesus wouldn’t sign this and neither will I,” said Wilson, reading some of the hate mail he received.

However, this HCC Trustee claims he’s boxed up enough signatures to force a city-wide vote on gender identity. Basically saying in Houston, sex is determined at birth. For example, that means no men in women’s bathrooms, even if that person identifies as a women.

[…]

Wilson’s new petition would put the controversy on the ballot, during an election season when the mayor’s spot is also up for grabs.

“What I’m talking about doing is a charter amendment change, which permanently codifies into the city charter the fact that men cannot use the women’s bathroom,” said Wilson.

He plans to take these petitions to city hall next week. Then, officials would have to verify the signatures, before it goes on the ballot this November.

Look, Dave Wilson is a grifter and attention hound. This is his schtick, and he’s been doing it for a long time. We heard about this project back in January, because getting attention for every little thing he does is Wilson’s core competency. I seriously doubt he’s expended the time and effort and money to get enough signatures for this petition, and I bet any effort he did put into this is as half-assed and sloppy as the HERO repeal petition effort has been shown to be. (*)

And you know what? It doesn’t matter to him, because he wins no matter what. If by some miracle he did collect enough signatures to force a vote, he gets months of free publicity, which is crack for his ego. And if he fails as expected, he gets to whine and cry and play the victim at the hands of that mean old Parker administration and its inexplicable vendetta against him. Heads he wins, tails we lose. That’s how Dave Wilson likes it. Campos has more.

(*) – Here’s the city’s response to the latest claims by the plaintiffs about which signatures should be counted. See what I mean?

Wilson’s legal fees

Oh, come on.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The ongoing legal battle over Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson’s residency is poised to pit one source of taxpayer dollars against another, as the college may be on the hook for his legal fees and the county continues to pay to pursue a case it has lost twice.

HCC has an insurance policy that covers legal fees for trustees, but the deductible is $300,000 – much higher than the $36,980 Wilson’s case has cost him so far, meaning the college probably will have to pay the full bill. The college, which would not comment for this story, has requested an attorney general’s opinion to determine whether it is permitted to use public funds to reimburse personal attorney fees incurred by trustees.

[…]

Although he thinks the county should stop trying to oust him, Wilson says it’s appropriate for HCC to cover his legal fees.

“If you don’t indemnify your trustees, you’re never going to get anybody to run for anything,” Wilson said.

I hate to say it, but he’s right. Dave Wilson remains a lousy human being, but he’s also the winner of the court case against him, and as such he’s entitled to have his costs covered. The bill in question is, relatively speaking, small potatoes. Just pay it and be done with it.

Officials in the county attorney’s office say they continue to pursue the case because it raises important legal issues. The county has pointed to the fact that Wilson has claimed his wife’s home outside the district on tax forms.

“We believe that a person should not be able to claim the benefit of a residential homestead at one location while registering to vote at a different location,” First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said Tuesday. “More fundamentally, an elected representative should not be allowed to serve and set the tax rate for a district in which he does not personally reside.”

It was right for the County Attorney to take this action against Wilson. If nothing else, it has shown what a sham residency requirements are, a weak spot in the law Wilson fully exploited. Whether it makes sense to pursue this further is less clear to me. It’s hard for me to see an appeals court seeing things differently. I agree with the principle involved, but at some point it really should be a matter for the Legislature to deal with if they so choose, and not the courts.

The Dave Wilson bill

A little too little and a little too late, if you ask me.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson has made his way to Austin — in spirit, at least.

A bill filed by state Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston would make it a felony to misrepresent one’s residence when running for office — something Wilson has been accused of doing. He has been cleared by both a jury and a judge.

[…]

Dutton’s bill would make lying about residency to run for office a third degree felony — on the level of assault, theft or evading arrest — which is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Wilson, who maintains that he lives in District II, takes credit for inspiring the bill, calling it “the Dave Wilson bill.”

“I’m honored that I’m so important that I have the state Legislature spending their time writing a bill about it,” Wilson said.

Should the bill get a hearing, Wilson says he’ll show up to speak in favor of it: “I think people should live in the district they run for.”

The man knows how to troll, I’ll give him that much. Dutton’s bill is HB816. I appreciate the effort, but this doesn’t address the real issue, which is that there’s no enforceable standard for residency, which the Wilson case proved. Under what circumstances would anyone even break this law? Let’s address that question, then we can worry about punishment.

January campaign finance reports – HCC Trustees

There are nine trustees on the HCC board. With them serving six-year terms, in a normal year three trustees are up for re-election; 2013 was an abnormal year, with two extra races to fill out unexpired terms. We are back to normal this time, so we have three races. As with HISD, at this time all incumbents that are up are currently expected to run for re-election, and no opponents have emerged at this early date. Here are the incumbents in question.

Adriana Tamez, District III

Dr. Tamez won one of those two special elections from 2013, to fill out the term of Mary Ann Perez, who stepped down after winning in HD144 in 2012. The candidate she defeated in the runoff was one of two supported by Dave Wilson, so that was extra sweet. (Speaking of Wilson, he nominated himself for Board President at the start of this year, but had to withdraw after no one seconded him. Then, to add insult to injury, Zeph Capo, who defeated Wilson’s buddy Yolanda Navarro Flores in 2013, was elected Board President. Sucks to be you, Dave.) Tamez was elected Board Secretary for this year.

Sandie Mullins, District VI

Sandie Mullins, formerly Meyers, is serving her first term on the Board. She was elected in 2009 without facing an opponent to fill the seat formerly held by now-State Rep. Jim Murphy. (Mills Worsham was named to replace Murphy in 2007 after his initial election in HD133, then Worsham ran for Council in 2009 instead of a full term on HCC.) Like Murphy and her ex-husband, HISD Trustee Greg Meyers, Mullins is a Republican, one of two on the board along with you-know-who. She is herself an alumna of HCC, and serves or has served on a number of other boards.

Eva Loredo, District VIII

Under normal circumstances, Eva Loredo would not be on the HCC Board. She didn’t file for the race in 2009, against incumbent Abel Davila. No one did, and on filing deadline day Davila was expected to run unopposed for re-election. Except that he decided at the last minute not to run, and instead his brother-in-law Art Aguilar filed. That led to a medium-sized crap storm, which led to Aguilar’s withdrawal. Loredo had by then submitted paperwork to be a write-in candidate, with some assistance from the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, and with no other candidate on the ballot, she won. She would be on the ballot this time.

As for finance reports, you may recall that as recently as 2011 it was damn near impossible to lay one’s hands on HCC Trustee finance reports. I claim a small measure of the credit for changing that situation. Be that as it may, the fact that these reports are now available online at this link doesn’t mean that they’re available in a timely fashion. Despite the fact that the city, the county, the school board, and the state all had theirs up within a day or so of the January 15 deadline, HCC still had nothing more recent than last July’s as of yesterday. So those are the totals I will include, pending them getting off their butts and updating this information.

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Tamez 7,150 15,392 7,000 610 Mullins 0 1,878 0 18,400 Loredo 0 492 0 2,004 Oliver 8,225 6,060 0 2,165

So there you have it. I’ve included the totals for Chris Oliver as well, since he is now running for Council. I’ll update all this in July, and ought to have my Election 2015 page up by then as well.

By the way, Dave Wilson also hates transgender people

I mean, no surprise, right? What’s more, he puts his money where his mouth is.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Now, anti-LGBT activist Dave Wilson is circulating another petition that would place a charter amendment on the ballot to repeal trans protections in both HERO and Mayor Annise Parker’s 2012 executive order covering city employees.

Wilson, of Houstonians For Family Values, led efforts to pass a charter amendment prohibiting domestic partner benefits in 2001. He also made headlines in 2013 when he deceived voters into thinking he was black to get elected to the Houston Community College board.

Houston resident Sheri Taylor Bockelman, the mother of trans activist Nikki Araguz, said she received the petition in the mail along with a letter from Wilson on Saturday. (View images of the mailing below.)

“Enclosed please find our petition to prohibit men from using the women’s restroom and women from using the men’s restroom,” Wilson’s letter states. “Yes, you read the first sentence correctly.”

The letter goes on to state that both HERO and the executive order prohibiting discrimination against trans city employees “allow men to use the women’s restroom if they perceive or express themselves as women.”

See here for some background. Unless I’m confused, the executive order in question was in 2010, not 2012. There’s an image of Wilson’s latest mailer at the link above. Note that it is dated January 9, which means that it’s a separate expense from the one recorded in the January 15 finance report of his PAC. We won’t know till July how much he dropped on this one. If his address database includes people like Nikki Araguz’s mom, it’s highly likely that most of what he’s spending will be wasted. Which is fine by me – I hope he keeps it up till he bankrupts himself. TransGriot has more.

Not really related to this but worth including: We don’t really know much about the state of the transgender community in America, but what we do know tells us that these people face a lot of obstacles. I for one favor doing what we can to remove those obstacles. I definitely do not favor adding more of them. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, go read Nancy Sims’ account of how she came to understand and love her transgender child.

January campaign finance reports – PACs

PetitionsInvalid

Mayoral reports
Controller reports
Council reports

There are a lot of PACs that play in Houston’s elections. It’s hard to keep up with all of them, and I say this as someone who reads far more campaign finance reports than is healthy. Very few of them file finance reports with the city of Houston – I presume this is because most of them are state organizations that operate in elections elsewhere as well, so they file their reports with the state. This year there were three special purpose PAC (SPAC) reports that caught my eye and that I thought were worth examining, so here they are.

Citizens to Keep Houston Strong
Equal Rights Houston Committee
Houstonians for Family Values

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== CtKHS 0 539 0 65,405 Eq Rts Hou 67,143 39,712 0 27,430 HFV 3,401 47,689 44,238 0

Citizens to Keep Houston Strong lists one William H. “Bill” White as their filer and treasurer. I have no idea what this PAC is for. It’s been around since White was Mayor – Penny Butler was the filer through 2010 – and has basically done nothing since he left office. If you go to the city’s campaign finance webpage and choose “Specific-Purpose Political Committee”, you will see that PACs come and go over the years. Some are for (or against) particular candidates, others are for specific referenda, like Renew Houston and red light cameras. I’m not sure what if any rules exist for disposing of PAC funds – candidates have a certain amount of time to dispose of campaign funds once they are no longer in office or seeking office – so who knows, this one could be around for awhile.

The purpose of the other two is more obvious. “Houstonians for Family Values” is Dave Wilson’s ugly baby – that $44K in loans is all from him. The reason the amount is so specific is because the total amount spent represents the cost of printing and postage for a mail piece. The fact that this PAC has no cash on hand should not lead anyone to conclude that it will be inactive this year. It surely won’t be the only such PAC this year whether or not we have to vote on HERO repeal, but at least we can say that Dave Wilson was there first. As for Equal Rights Houston, most of their money was spent on consultants. I’m going to guess that they’ll have other things to spend their money on this year.

Another HCC lawsuit

Hard to keep track of them all.

The former top attorney and acting chancellor of Houston Community College filed a lawsuit Monday alleging she was fired because she told the FBI of her suspicions that board members sought to use bond funds to award kickbacks.

Renee Byas, ousted in August, said in the lawsuit that some of HCC’s elected board members wanted to change procurement rules “so they could hand out bond-related contracts to friends or family.”

The whistle-blower lawsuit is the latest in a series of accusations of improper business dealings involving one of the nation’s largest community colleges. And it alludes to renewed interest in the institution by federal investigators.

Neeta Sane, chairwoman of the HCC board, denied that Byas was fired in retaliation for talking to the FBI and said she did not know of any instances in which board members tried to steer contracts to preferred vendors.

HCC won voter approval in November 2012 of a $425 million bond issue, the largest in the college’s history, creating numerous construction projects to put out for bids.

“I’m just so disappointed in all these allegations,” Sane said.

The lawsuit alleged that Sane and trustee Chris Oliver met with Byas for four hours in January “trying to convince her to abandon the strict procurement rules because people in their districts ‘wanted contracts.’ ”

“At one point during the meeting,” the lawsuit continued, “Ms. Sane showed Ms. Byas a list of firms who were supposed to ‘get’ contracts.”

Sane said she recalled looking with Byas at a list of project managers included in a public meeting agenda, but Sane said she never asked the acting chancellor to select certain firms.

“I would never be involved in a meeting like that,” added Oliver, the board’s vice chairman.

[…]

Byas, represented by high-profile Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, also alleged in the lawsuit that Sane and trustees Dave Wilson and Robert Glaser “cornered” her at a conference in Santa Fe, N.M., and questioned why she couldn’t revise the procurement process so that local firms could be given contracts for bond projects.

See here for some background. I’m amused by the presence of Dave Wilson’s name in this lawsuit – he has faithfully sent me a press release every time there has been news about his battle with County Attorney Vince Ryan, but radio silence this time – and not amused at all by the presence of the other names. HCC does a lot of good, but their governance has never not been a mess. There may be nothing to this lawsuit, but it’s not like anyone can say that with confidence. Campos and Hair Balls have more.

County appeals Wilson decision

Here we go again.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Harris County officials are asking an appeals court to reconsider the question of where Dave Wilson lived when he ran for his seat on the Houston Community College board,

The Harris County Attorney’s office is appealing a reluctant ruling by state district Judge Mike Engelhart, who in August upheld a jury verdict that Wilson did in fact live in an apartment in a warehouse on W. 34th Street that he claimed as his residence when running for the HCC seat in November.

The county attorney contends that Wilson actually lives with his wife in a home outside the city limits, and outside the boundaries of HCC District II. County attorney officials argue Wilson claims residency wherever he wants to run for office.

[…]

While some have questioned the county’s persistence in the case, officials in the county attorney’s office have said that the jury’s ruling sent an inappropriate message to those looking to run for office — in effect, that “anything goes” when it comes to residency.

“A lot of people are looking at the result of this and concluding that … the concept of residency, as far as qualifying for election goes, is meaningless,” Assistant County Attorney Douglas Ray said at the time. “If Mr. Wilson can claim he lives in a warehouse at the same time he has a homestead exemption at another location, then anybody can claim to live anywhere.”

See here, here, and here for the background. Color me skeptical of this. I rather agree with the County Attorney that the ruling in this case has functionally rendered the concept of residency meaningless. At some point, however, that needs to be an issue for the Legislature to deal with, if they choose to do so. Wilson found a loophole and burrowed into it, and the law as it stands doesn’t address that. I don’t see how an appeals court will see it differently. Campos has more.

Judge affirms Wilson residency verdict

No surprise.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The Harris County Attorney’s office, which has been challenging [Dave] Wilson’s residency for months, asked state District Judge Mike Engelhart to throw out last month’s jury ruling, arguing that Wilson was breaking the law by claiming two residences.

Engelhart said Monday that he “unfortunately” had to deny the motion, but he admonished Wilson in his ruling.

“In presiding over this trial and listening to you testify, observing evidence and photographs, I found you not to be credible at all,” Engelhart said. “I will always believe you were an opportunist looking to take advantage of a situation and somehow create a legacy for yourself.”

Engelhart said he was “especially dismayed” by evidence in last month’s trial showing Wilson registered to vote in South Houston with the intention of running for an open state senate seat, but never actually moved there, or made “any effort to even look for an apartment or other residence.” Wilson then switched his registration back to the warehouse in which he has an apartment in HCC District II.

“That speaks loudly about your integrity,” Engelhart said.

See here and here for the background. Judge Engelhart is exactly right: Dave Wilson is a sleazebag and a grifter who found a seam in the law and is taking full advantage of it. Perhaps an appeals court will see it differently, but I would not count on it. Unless the Lege takes action, we’re stuck with him till 2019. It sucks, but it is what it is.

County Attorney asks judge to overturn Wilson verdict

I’m not sure what the point of this is.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Although a jury decided Dave Wilson lived where he claimed when he ran for the Houston Community College seat he holds, the drama surrounding the perennial candidate continues.

Harris County attorneys filed a motion Wednesday asking Judge Mike Engelhart, who oversaw Wilson’s three-day residency trial earlier this month, to overturn the jury’s unanimous finding and rule in the county’s favor. The county argues Wilson does not live in a warehouse on W. 34th Street that he claimed as his residence when running for the HCC seat in November.

[…]

“We are asking the judge to rule that as a matter of law Mr. Wilson should not be entitled to enjoy the benefits of having two different domiciles such that he derives benefits from both,” Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said in an email. “We believe that claiming one domicile for one purpose (tax exemption) precludes, as a matter of law, simultaneously claiming a second domicile for a different purpose (qualification for public office). We are asking the judge to rule on this issue.”

Wilson won his case two weeks ago. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not sure on what grounds the County Attorney is asking Judge Engelhart to throw out the jury verdict. Isn’t this what appeals courts are for? This story at least answers that question.

The county is using a legal tactic wherein a party can argue that the facts in a case are indisputable and a judge can determine a jury’s verdict was wrong. It’s called non obstante veredicto, Latin for notwithstanding the verdict, and is essentially the after-trial version of a summary judgment. While it’s not unusual, it’s not typically successful, legal experts said.

“You take your shot at it and see if it works – and usually it doesn’t. Ninety-nine times out of 100 it doesn’t,” said David Crump, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center who teaches civil procedure courses, among others.

[…]

Jury verdicts tend to be regarded as final, said Frank Carroll, who runs TexAppBlog.com, an appellate law blog for non-appellate lawyers, and coaches moot court and mock trial at the University of Houston Law Center.

“There’s almost a dogma that when a jury makes a verdict, we don’t like to upset those verdicts,” Carroll said. “As far as the odds go, it’s kind of a long shot. It’s not the longest shot, but certainly the odds are against you.”

However Judge Mike Engelhart rules after an Aug. 18 hearing, the dispute is likely far from over.

“No matter which way he rules, it’s going to go to the appellate court for a better answer,” Ray said.

Well, now I understand what the County Attorney has in mind. They say that if Wilson didn’t violate residency requirements, then those requirements have no meaning. I agree, but as much as I don’t like the jury’s verdict, I don’t see how you can say that it’s objectively wrong. The issue all along has been the vagueness of the legal requirements for residency, which is why I’ve suggested an easily verifiable standard that the Legislature could implement. But that has no bearing on this case. Here, the county claimed Wilson didn’t really live at that warehouse, Wilson claimed he did, and the jury believed him, or at least they didn’t believe the county enough. Not the result I wanted, but I can respect it. What am I missing here?

Another perspective on residency requirements

The Texas Election Law blog looks at my coverage of the Dave Wilson residency saga and offers his thoughts on the matter.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The saga of gaming residence for the sake of running for office – what a tangle of legal precedent it provides. Mr. Kuffner has used the occasion of the Wilson lawsuit to suggest some sort of legal reform to our statutory definition of residence, mindful of the weeds and quicksand. Mr. Kuffner’s suggestion is to treat an out-of-territory homestead exemption as a bar to holding office within a territory (assuming the jurisdiction in question has a residence requirement for holding office).

I. IS DOMICILE THAT IMPORTANT?

I guess another way to ask the question is to ask why a person’s domicile is important to office holding, voting, paying taxes, or what-have-you. The short answer is that domicile isn’t important, except when we want it to be important.

[…]

I bring all this up as a reminder that there’s no inherent necessity to link residence with office. If we do make a requirement that someone has to consider a district their “home” in order to represent that district, such a policy choice is just that – a choice. Supporters of such requirements would likely argue that members of … say for example … the Houston Community College District Board of Trustees … should be residents of the community college district so that they will be personally invested in the problems and conditions of the district, forced by geographic proximity to share the experience of living in the Houston Community College District. We certainly don’t want those outsiders and strangers who live across the street from the Community College District to come in and impose their seditious ideologies and strange ways, do we?

II. RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS MIGHT BE A LITTLE ARBITRARY, BUT SO WHAT? GIVEN THAT SUCH REQUIREMENTS DO EXIST FOR MOST LOCAL ELECTIVE OFFICES, HOW DO WE DEFINE THOSE REQUIREMENTS FAIRLY?

Well, what is “fair?” I mean, any definition of domicile will involve some subjective standard for determining the sincerity of a person’s … hearth-cleaving. (Hearth-cleaving is my made-up term for domiciliary intent; it means, “emotional and physical ties to the one place in all the world that is home.”)

Legislatures, disgruntled losing candidates, judges, juries, voters, and angry political rivals have searched high and low for some universally applicable sure-fire objective test or standard for hearth-cleaving that would guarantee the exclusion of the carpetbagging outsider from office. But for every bright line test, there will come some sympathetic officeholder whose exclusion is unfair. Because there is really just one test underlying all these tests of domicile and residence. Is the candidate or officeholder one of us, or is the candidate or officeholder not one of us?

III. SO, TO SUM UP, RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS ARE ARBITRARY, SUBJECTIVE, AND A SOURCE OF ENDLESS FACTUAL DISPUTE, AND THEY ALWAYS WILL BE, AND THAT’S JUST INHERENT IN THE IDEA OF HOME, COMMUNITY, AND BELONGING OR NOT BELONGING TO A PLACE?

Yup.

Fair enough. As I’ve said, at least we now have a standard for our residency requirements, and clearly that standard is pretty loose. It’s loose enough that one could certainly make a reasonable case that they have no meaning and we ought to get rid of them. I’ve already expressed my preference for having some kind of meaningful requirement, and as the TELB notes you know what I would like to see done about it. Your mileage may vary on that, and while I can see the appeal of leaving this as a campaign issue rather than a legal issue, that’s not my first choice. This is why we have elections, I suppose.

I’ll stipulate that I was driven in part by animus for Dave Wilson, a man who has richly earned the animus of many, many people. It’s also about my dislike of people who are not residents of Houston but are nonetheless hellbent on meddling in its political affairs. I get the argument that some people have made that they work here, they own businesses here, and so forth. I get it, I’m just not persuaded by it. Some arguments can be settled by existing laws, empirical data, analogous examples, or cold hard logic. This isn’t one of those arguments. This is how I see it, and I make no apologies for that. If you don’t see it the same way, that’s fine. I’m not claiming that I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m just stating my preference, with which you’re welcome to disagree. I’m okay with that, and I hope you are, too.

Wilson wins residency fight

That was quick.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Houston Community College trustee Dave Wilson lives in the residence he claimed and can keep his seat on the college system’s board, a jury decided Thursday.

“Thank you,” Wilson shouted when the verdict was announced about 4:30 p.m.

Harris County officials filed a lawsuit seeking to remove Wilson from office on grounds that he did not actually live in an apartment at 5600 W. 34th St. in the HCC district he represents. Because of this, county officials said, he was unqualified to hold his seat.

Jurors disagreed.

[…]

A slew of exhibits by the defense showed that if Wilson doesn’t live in the warehouse, he’s gone to great lengths to make it look like he does.

Wilson’s blood pressure medicine is mailed to 5600 W. 34th St. His bank statements and bills go to the warehouse. His numerous magazine subscriptions – from Forbes to National Geographic and Hemmings Motor News – go there, too. He’s also registered to vote there and lists the address on his driver’s license.

The sticking point is that Wilson’s wife lives on Lake Lane. It’s also where Wilson’s children were raised, where Wilson says he spends his weekends and where the family gathers to celebrate holidays. Wilson also listed the home as his address on tax returns. Wilson says that’s because he wants the check sent to the house, so he can sign it over to his wife.

I’ve said all along that if nothing else I hope we get some kind of standard out of this, because the residency laws as they stand now are ripe for gamesmanship. I don’t know if this definitively settles the matter, but it certainly sets an outer bound, which we could call the Wilson Line. Anything less egregious than what he did is apparently okay.

Yesterday’s story, which focused on the county’s case, showed how Wilson tests boundaries better than any toddler or teenager you’ve ever known.

Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson, whose name has become a staple on local election ballots, has made a habit of claiming one residence after another to qualify for his numerous runs for office, a Harris County attorney argued in court Wednesday.

Wilson has also claimed tax exemptions at a home on Lake Lane, which is in the Lone Star College System district. Lake Lane is where his wife lives and where he raised his children, spends his weekends and has his family gatherings, Douglas Ray, an assistant county attorney, told a jury in his opening argument in a case to determine where exactly Wilson lives.

Wilson lives exactly where he says he lives: in a “fully furnished” apartment in a warehouse on W. 34th Street, in District II of the HCC system, defense attorney Keith Gross told the jury. Just because his wife lives on Lake Lane does not mean it has to be his residence, Gross argued.

[…]

Wilson has stated on voter registration cards, drivers licenses, tax and other forms that he has lived at four addresses since 2005, and those addresses all line up with some motive – whether that is to run for office, or take out a tax exemption – Ray told the jury.

“When it’s convenient for him to claim for some economic reason he lives on Lake Lane, he’s lives at Lake Lane,” Ray said. “When he wants to run for office, well he lives wherever he needs to live.”

Wilson lived, and still does live, exactly where he claimed when he filed to run, his attorney said,adding his client spends “more than 70 percent” of his time on 34th Street. He has a driver’s license there, is registered to vote there and has all of his bank statements sent there. He’s lived there since early 2012.

But since moving there, he’s also registered to vote at another address, on Claremont Street, where he never lived, so he could run for an open state Senate seat, Wilson testified during questioning. Wilson said he “intended” to live there, but he did not end up running.

His defense attorney says “nowhere is it ever written” that you can’t live somewhere, if your motive is to run for political office. Wilson, an anti-gay activist, only wants to “improve the community” and has offended people in his quest to do so, Gross said. The case against him is politically motivated and that’s proven by the fact that more than 4,500 Harris County voters are registered at commercial buildings, as Wilson is, and the county isn’t going after any of them, Gross said.

Residence, Wilson and his attorney argued, is based on three factors: volition, intention and action. People can choose to live wherever they want. That they intend to live there, and that they actually hang their hat there make the place a residence.

Basically, Wilson says he lives wherever he says he lives at the time, and that’s sufficient for the law. Nothing else matters – the homestead exemption on the house where his wife lives, the ever-changing nature of the address on his voter registration, the fact that some of his “residences” are not permitted as residential, etc. The law is vague and he’s hardly the first person to take advantage of that. He’s just the most blatant and least apologetic about it.

And now a jury has accepted it. So be it, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s right. More to the point, I don’t think this is how it should be. As you know, I have an idea what I’d like to see the Legislature do about it. I plan to start my lobbying effort shortly.

Dave Wilson residency lawsuit is underway

Almost missed this.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

A trial is set to begin Tuesday morning to determine whether Houston Community College trustee Dave Wilson actually lived in the district in which he ran last November.

Wilson, who ousted former HCC Chairman Bruce Austin in the Nov. 5 election by 26 votes, is being sued by the Harris County attorney. The lawsuit says Wilson did not live in the college system’s District II – the bulk of which sits in northeast Harris County – when he ran for office. Wilson has contended that he lives in “a 1,140-square-foot apartment upstairs” at his office, located at 5600 W. 34th St., which is in the district.

The building there is an 11,340-square-foot commercial metal warehouse, according to county records. A city inspection in January determined Wilson doesn’t have permission to use the warehouse as a residence.

Wilson, a 67-year-old businessman, gained national attention when he beat a 24-year incumbent for the predominantly black district after leading voters to believe he was black. Wilson – who is white – mailed campaign fliers without his photo that said he was endorsed by Ron Wilson – his white cousin, who happens to share the name of a black former state representative.

Jury selection begins this morning, and the trial is expected to last about a day and a half.

See here and here for the background. The trial was originally scheduled to begin April 15, but you know how these things go. The trial may have already concluded by the time you read this, or maybe it will stretch till tomorrow. In any event, I presume we’ll get a ruling soon. I hope there’s some more news coverage to go with it when that happens – this blurb on the free chron.com and this News 92 FM piece were all I saw for it. A search in houstonchronicle.com came up empty, and if there was something in the dead tree edition I missed it. I’d have missed this as well if Houston Legal hadn’t included it in its daily link roundup yesterday.

I have no idea what will happen in this trial. As we’ve discussed before, there’s little precedent to go by, and a lot of vagueness when it comes to what constitutes “residency”. If nothing else, I hope this will help with that. If Wilson loses, I expect him to appeal, going all the way to SCOTUS and maybe the World Court in the Hague if need be, because that’s how he rolls. If Wilson wins, I don’t know if Vince Ryan will pursue it any further. I’m not sure it would be worth the effort unless there’s good reason to think the trial judge screwed up.

I’ve been giving some thought to how this could be better addressed via legislation, and what I’ve come up with is this: A bill that says you are not eligible to serve as a trustee or the equivalent on a school board, community college board, MUD or RUD board, and anything else I might be overlooking, if you or your legally married spouse claims a homestead exemption outside the boundaries of the political entity in question. Note that this wouldn’t prevent someone like Dave Wilson from running for something like the HCC Board of Trustees, but it would require him to sell the house on which he has the exemption, divorce his wife, or give up the exemption. (I put the “spouse” requirement in there because you know the first line of escape by this kind of scoundrel would be to put the home in question in the spouse’s name. It also provides a loophole for same sex couples, at least until same sex marriage is officially legal in Texas. Yeah, I’m evil like that.) If you want to run for something here while owning a home there, you can still rent an apartment or claim a spot on someone’s couch and re-register as a voter here to qualify. You just have to forfeit the tax advantage on that house over there. I think that’s a suitable answer.

Now this is the part where I remind everyone that I am not a lawyer, and so there may be some legal or practical reason why this idea is nuts and completely unworkable. If so, please let me know in the comments. If you want to point out that this would affect some politicians that I happen to like as well as Dave Wilson, my answer is that I’m fine with that. They can make whatever choice to get right that they want, and we’ll have one less fig leaf in politics. If there isn’t a good reason why this idea is stupid, then I plan to start lobbying a few of my favorite State Reps about it. I didn’t include cities in my fantasy bill because I think they should come up with their own requirements for office, but if this can work at the Lege then I’d certainly support amending Houston’s charter to this effect as well. What do you think? Like I said, if this is crazy, go ahead and tell me why.

UPDATE: Today’s Chron reports on the first day of the trial. I’ll have a full post about this tomorrow.