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District B

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.

Day 8 EV 2015 totals: Breaking it down to districts

Day One of Week Two:

Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
2015   73,903  23,560  97,553   43,279
2013   45,571  16,076  61,647   30,548


The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. The second Monday in person totals for this year (12,895) are greater than for 2013 (7,643), but some of that may be leftover demand from the weekend. In addition, both this Monday and the second Monday of 2013 are just a smidge higher than the previous Fridays (11,705 this year, 7,110 in 2013). We continue to run well ahead of 2013, but I continue to wonder if we’ll peak. That remains to be seen.

I don’t get the daily rosters, but Greg does, and he provides a breakdown of the vote as of Sunday by Council district. Go look for yourself, but the takeaway is that as of the end of the first full week, the share of the vote coming from Districts B and E was higher than it was in 2013, and the share of the vote coming from District C is down. See this post of mine from 2013 to see how things shook out per district in 2013. Note that the 2013 totals Greg cites are final, end of voting numbers, whereas what we have now is just a week of early voting. It is entirely possible that C is just a little slower to get to the polls than some other districts – it’s what the numbers are at the end that counts, after all – but this is worth watching. District B overlaps HD139, so it’s fair to say this represents a bump from the Turner campaign. District E is likely to be more motivated by HERO than anything else, and not in the way I’d prefer. Note that even with these trends, the overall numbers from C and E are nearly identical, and history suggests the voters in C will show up. So we’ll see.

Endorsement watch: For Jerry

The Chron makes another easy call by endorsing CM Jerry Davis for a third term in District B.

CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

In this race Davis is the only candidate who understands how the system functions and how a council member can pull the levers of power at City Hall to benefit his constituents.

In the private sector, Davis, 42, serves as executive director of Making It Better, a nonprofit youth program.

In his time on council, he has worked to place security cameras to catch illegal dumpers. He also successfully promoted a controversial tax incentive to encourage Krogers to expand its distribution center in northeast Houston. While we question the efficacy of these enticements, it shows that Davis uses every tool at his disposal to fight for District B.


The councilman said he supports the Houston equal rights ordinance, but only came to that position after talking with people and educating himself. It is an education that plenty of other politicians could use.


As Davis faces his third and final term, there is simply nobody else in this race who can match his knowledge and experience. Voters better start looking now for an effective replacement when term limits force him from office.

I agree on all counts. I didn’t do interviews in District B this year, but I have spoken with CM Davis twice before, most recently in 2013. The next Mayor will be glad to have CM Davis on Council with him.

Fighting illegal dumping

Illegal dumping of trash is a huge problem in some Houston neighborhoods. Enforcement is especially tricky because unless you catch someone in the act, there’s little to no evidence to go on. One way to help catch dumpers in the act is with cameras at locations where dumping frequently occurs. Council Member Jerry Davis has been working to get a camera program to fight illegal dumping going. He was able to get some money from the budget to work on this but couldn’t work out the details with HPD. We pick up the story from there.

CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

So last year, Davis and his staff instead turned to Harris County for help. He offered Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen the $250,000 to purchase, assemble and monitor 25 cameras in areas where people frequently cast off garbage.

Deputies from constable precincts 1 and 5 make up the county’s environmental crimes unit but have jurisdiction throughout the county. The deputies would largely focus on areas in council districts with the most illegal dumping complaints, ranging from Sunnyside to Kashmere Gardens to the East End. The county would own the cameras and keep any funds generated from prosecuting crimes.

In Houston, any amount of illegal dumping can result in fines, and more than 5 pounds can yield jail time.

On Wednesday, City Council approved the agreement, which could span three years with renewals. Harris County commissioners are expected to take it up early next month.

“It was a lengthy process and, yes, we did get a little bit upset at times,” Davis said. “But we just persevered and worked with the legal department to make sure this gets done because the people are counting on it.”

HPD environmental senior officer Stephen Dicker largely agreed with Davis’ assessment of why the city opted to work with the county. Dicker said HPD talks fell apart two years ago when he told the city he would need to add 15 people, effectively doubling the investigations unit, to set up, man and track the new cameras to the tune of $1.7 million. The money simply wasn’t there.

The city’s environmental unit also tends to focus on larger commercial and industrial offenders that have a bigger public health impact, Dicker said.

“The emphasis just doesn’t match up,” Dicker said. “He’s looking at just trash on the streets. We do water pollution, air pollution. Those are much bigger impacts. But we do hope the program with the county works.”

I’m glad to see this because it really is a problem, and for those of us who are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where it doesn’t happen, we have no idea what it’s like to put up with this. I get why HPD focuses its environmental enforcement efforts on commercial and industrial offenders, but I’m still disappointed that the department didn’t have the capability to take this on, given what a big quality of life issue it is. This is one reason why I keep saying that we need to have a much better understanding than we currently do about how HPD prioritizes its budget, which very much informs how it prioritizes what crimes it pursues. I have no doubt that there wasn’t an additional $1.7 million to be found in the HPD budget as it currently stands, but I also have no doubt that we could re-prioritize that budget in a way that would have allowed this. Maybe we would still not choose to pursue this, but we can’t know that until we have a clearer picture of what HPD does and why it does what it does and doesn’t do what it doesn’t do.

I will also note that one of the things that a garbage fee could help finance is a stronger enforcement organization against all forms of illegal dumping. We fund the Solid Waste department through general revenue, which makes Houston different than other Texas cities. They do a great job, but they could do more of it, and there would be more room in the budget for other things. And no, I don’t expect this to be brought up for discussion any time soon. I’m just saying.

Chron overview of District B

CM Jerry Davis has three opponents in his first re-election. Since I’ve interviewed CM Davis and one opponent, Kathy Blueford Daniels, here’s what the article says about the other two hopefuls.

CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

Each candidate claims to have the best vision and track record to address the many challenges facing the district: high poverty, low graduation rates, crime, abandoned homes, flooding, illegal dumping and decaying streets.

“It’s bad,” said Perkins, 54, who was born and raised in the district and works as a reserve officer for the police department and a security consultant. “People are afraid to go out because there’s so much criminal activity.”

As councilman, Perkins said he would start a “dialogue” among ministers, community leaders, educators and business owners about how to improve the district.

“We need jobs and education programs for our kids,” said Perkins, who thinks Davis has not acted quickly enough to address deteriorating roads and other issues.

Joseph, 34, said he was inspired to run again because of “the public’s dissatisfaction with the current administration,” including what he describes as Davis’ “lack of experience” negotiating, which he said has cost the district millions in capital improvements. Joseph, who founded an organization that helps increase access to youth programs and affordable housing for low and moderate income residents, said his résumé indicates he could better “leverage sources and resources in the community through partnerships and collaborations.”

If elected, Joseph said he would work to create more jobs and expand a program he started to combat illegal dumping by getting more burned-out street lights replaced.

My interview with CM Davis is here, and my interview with Daniels is here. I didn’t interview the other two candidates, but there are written Q&As out there with them – Texas Leftist with Perkins, Texpatriate with Joseph. The Chron endorsed Davis, and I largely agreed with their view of the race. Davis is a recent returnee to the district, having lived in Pearland for some years before moving back for the 2011 election. He faces some resistance in the district because of that, which is something I can understand. I also think that should be more of a 2011 issue than a 2013 one, as he has done a good job on Council. We’ll see what the voters think.

Endorsement watch: Jerry Davis

The Chron endorses Jerry Davis in District B.

CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

In his first term in office, council member Jerry Davis launched a pilot project to deploy surveillance cameras to catch illegal dumpers. He and his staff personally went into neighborhoods to mow a weedy lot, or to chainsaw a fallen tree for an elderly resident there. Davis is proud that, under his watch, the city made progress toward razing hundreds of the district’s abandoned houses and strip malls. He’s worked to bring new housing to the district, and says that in the future, he hopes to use the city’s development incentives to attract businesses such as grocery and department stores.

Critics argue that District B’s development is held back by woeful roads and drainage. As opponent Kathy Blueford-Daniels puts it, “Nobody is going to build a new house or start a new business on a raggedy street.” We agree. But fixing such problems takes time – much more time than a single two-year city council term.

Davis deserves another term. In the 2011 election, we endorsed two other candidates instead. (Blueford-Daniels was one of them, and we still think she’d make a fine council member.) But since then, Davis has gained the advantage, overcoming the steep learning curve that any new council member faces – learning the ins and outs of city departments, forming relationships with the mayor and other council members, getting up to speed on city-wide issues such as pension plans, development codes, Rebuild Houston and airport expansions.

That experience and knowledge is valuable to District B. We urge voters to choose Davis.

Normally, it’s not remarkable for the Chron to endorse an incumbent. As noted in the piece the Chron endorsed Kathy Daniels in November of 2011, and Alvin Byrd in the runoff, so this is the first time they’ve given Davis the nod. I think they got it exactly right here – Davis has done a fine job, and Daniels would also do a fine job if she were to be elected. Give a listen to my interviews with Davis and Daniels if you haven’t done so already and hear for yourself.

Going after the dumpers

Glad to see this.


City Council District B will be the site of a pilot program in which five surveillance video cameras have been placed in undisclosed locations, [Mayor Annise] Parker announced. The cameras will be monitored in real time by the Houston Police Department’s Environmental Investigations Unit, which will relay information about illegal dumping incidents to patrol officers for follow-up.

Should the three-month pilot project prove effective, the city will buy another 20 cameras under a budget amendment by District B Councilman Jerry Davis.

“The pile of trash behind me is disgusting,” Parker said on the 1500 block of Maxine. “But the really bad news, the worst news, is that we have problems like this all over Houston. It’s bad enough when we have a condition like this in an out-of-the-way area that no one can see and experience. But we have conditions like this in neighborhoods. On tucked-away corners behind houses that our citizens have to deal with every day.”

This year’s city budget included $250,000 to buy new cameras, as well as upgrade those currently in use. The city long has used surveillance cameras to fight illegal dumping, Parker said, but because of changes in technology, including better visuals and reliability, “it was a good time to do this again.”

Parker hopes the program will identify 50 to 80 illegal dumping cases a month. HPD’s environmental investigations unit has investigated 1,159 cases so far this year, said officer Stephen Dicker.

Here’s the city’s press release on the initiative. Note the use of surveillance cameras, which in this instance strikes me as an appropriate way to deploy them to help fight crime. If you’re wondering about HPD having to watch hours of video to catch these dumpers, technology will lend a hand to that effort. I hope that effort turns out to be very successful.

Interview with Kathy Daniels

Kathy Daniels

Kathy Daniels

Challenging CM Jerry Davis in District B is Kathy Daniels. Daniels, who had also run in B in 2011, is a retired postal worker whose family has deep roots in the neighborhood. Like CM Davis, she has lost a family member to violence – her son Patrick was murdered in 2006, leading her to found BLAC MoM (Black, Latino, Asian, Caucasian ~ Mourners of Murder). Daniels was endorsed by the Chronicle in 2011, though she did not make it to the runoff. Here’s the interview I did with Daniels in 2011, and here’s this year’s interview:

Kathy Daniels interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

Interview with CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

We move now to District B, where CM Jerry Davis is in his first term. Davis is the CEO of the non-profit Making It Better, which works to improve literacy, leadership, and life skills for disadvantaged children. He is also a businessman – he co-owns the restaurants the Breakfast Klub and the Reggae Hut with his brothers. CM Davis has spent a lot of time on Council working on neighborhood and quality of life issues, often directly, but continues to face some opposition in the district in part because he had not lived there for a number of years before running for the office. Here’s the interview I did with him in 2011, and here’s this year’s interview:

Jerry Davis interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

July 2013 finance reports for district Council candidates

We move now to the remaining Council races, which are the district races. Here are the July finance reports for candidates in District Council races. Please note that all reports now appear on my newly-published Election 2013 page. Refer to that page for future updates, candidate interviews, and so forth.

Dist Candidate Raised Spent On Hand Loan ------------------------------------------------------- A Brown 67,446 29,633 46,674 0 A Stardig * 56,650 21,206 60,439 0 A Knox 41,666 13,139 35,624 12,500 A Peck 4,481 3,526 9,163 5,000 A Hale 2,670 3,438 137 0 B Davis 52,600 7,990 104,820 0 B B-Daniels 5,000 2,564 5,000 5,000 C Cohen 128,064 33,716 106,696 0 C Sosa D Boykins 150,155 52,262 100,592 0 D Richards 37,108 10,318 18,294 0 D Provost 20,916 17,618 2,378 9,000 D McGee 4,560 4,570 1,369 0 D White 780 780 780 0 D Caldwell 2,725 2,234 490 0 E Martin 53,950 6,225 23,710 5,000 F Hoang 13,480 2,100 11,399 0 G Pennington 185,500 44,455 249,059 0 G Taef 150 755 150 0 H Gonzalez 79,639 20,524 73,364 0 I Mendez 94,632 43,092 12,048 0 I Ablaza 27,230 4,574 16,582 0 I Gallegos 16,945 7,649 9,295 4,379 I Garces 18,917 13,195 4,272 0 J Laster 66,403 12,916 80,858 0 K Green

For reasons unclear, CMs Cohen and Green do not have finance reports posted as yet. I’m sure they will show up eventually. I was able to inquire with CM Cohen’s staff and get a copy of her report, which they had submitted on time; I did not get to do that with CM Green. There are several other candidates in District D, including Lana Edwards, wife of At Large #3 candidate and former State Rep. Al Edwards, and perennial candidate Larry McKinzie; I’ve just listed the candidates whose reports I could find. Let’s go through these in some more detail.

District A

Brown report
Stardig report
Stardig SPAC report
Knox report
Peck report
Hale report

Note that former District A CM Brenda Stardig filed two reports, one of which is for a special purpose PAC. That one had all the contributions and a portion of her expenditures, while the other one, which is the same basic form everyone else submitted, had the bulk of her expenditures. She’s clearly spending more on actual campaign outreach, which stands in contrast to her July 2011 report. Stardig took in $6,500 in PAC money, and also received $1,000 from Peter Brown, $1,000 from Rusty Hardin, and $20 from Orlando Sanchez.

I may have to recalibrate my estimate of CM Helena Brown and her odds of winning, because that’s a pretty decent haul she’s got. Only $4,750 of it was PAC money, which is less than what former CM Stardig got. You can look at that as the establishment being unwilling to back her, or as evidence of her ability to connect with individual supporters. She got no money from incumbent officeholders, but did get donations from activist types like Steven Hotze, Don Sumners, and Dave Wilson. Unlike last time, when she filed at the last minute and came out of nowhere based on pure disgruntlement and dissatisfaction with the incumbent, Brown has to run a “real” campaign this time around. Towards that end, she spent $9,600 on consulting services, mostly to an outfit called Colonnade. I don’t recall seeing that name on other forms, so we’ll see if this is their breakout moment, or their fleeting moment of fame.

Mike Knox also had a good report. Among his contributions were several with oddly specific amounts, which showed up more than once, including such figures as $92.25, $471.25, and six donations of $47.13 each. I have no idea what that’s about. $2,100 of his contributions were in kind. Most of his expenditures, including $2,900 for consulting services, were made from personal funds with the intent to seek reimbursement.

I’m puzzled by Amy Peck’s lack of fundraising success. You’d think the District Director for Sen. Dan Patrick would have more connections to utilize. She did receive $500 from SBOE Member Donna Bahorich, but there was nothing and no one of interest beyond that. In what may be a sign of a newer-generation approach to campaigning, she spent $463.05 on Facebook ads, and $438.90 on T-shirts. Make of that what you will.

Ron Hale contributed $730 to his campaign, and spent a bit more than $900 from personal funds.

District B

Davis report
Blueford-Daniels report

While at least two other district Council members have opponents so far (Cohen in C and Pennington in G), I consider first term CM Jerry Davis’ situation to be more like Brown’s than like theirs, since Davis won as an outsider in 2011, and there are members of the establishment in B that don’t like him. He has a credible opponent in Kathy Blueford-Daniels, who didn’t make the runoff in 2011 but was the Chron’s endorsed candidate in November. He’s definitely taking his task seriously, judging by his report. Of his contributions, $21,000 came from PACs, including $250 from Planned Parenthood PAC. I note that mostly because I don’t recall seeing anyone else receive money from them as yet. He also received $750 from Peter Brown. No major expenditures – mostly event sponsorships and other related expenses. The only entry I saw that had anything related to consulting in it was $8 for a birthday cake for his consultant. Awww.

Kathy Blueford-Daniels had nothing particularly notable on her report. She had $5K in pledges in addition to her contributions. She hasn’t been campaigning for long – I got a note to like her campaign Facebook page on June 25 – so perhaps her 30 day report will tell a different story.

District D

Boykins report
Richards report
Provost report
McGee report
White report
Caldwell report

This is Dwight Boykins’ fourth run for Council, and first time vying for a district seat. He finished third in At Large #5 in 1997, lost in the runoff to Gordon Quan in 1999, and lost to Michael Berry in At Large #5 in 2003. He’s clearly separated himself from the pack here, however. Of his astonishingly large haul, $14K of it is PAC money, with another $8,375 in business donations. He spent $20,051 on consulting fees, some of which were “field operations” and “printing expenses”. He probably doesn’t have to raise another dime the rest of the way, but what he can do is aim for 50% in the first round by flooding the district with name recognition-boosting ads.

Assata Richards’ total would have been a standout in some other years. As it was, she did receive $3,500 from Peter Brown, $1,500 from David Mincberg, plus another $324 in kind, $100 from Sue Lovell, and $50 from Sue Davis, who is one of the key members of Team Annise Parker. She spent most of her money on advertising – website design, push cards, yard signs, and the like.

Georgia Provost had the distinction of receiving a $1,000 donation from Ben Hall. She also put a lot of her money into advertising, but she was a bit more old school than Richards, with ads on radio station KCOH and in the Forward Times, in addition to push cards, yard signs, and robocalls. She also donated $25 to Battleground Texas, which bumps her up a notch in my estimation. The loan she received was from Justin Jordan.

District I

Mendez report
Abalaza report
Gallegos report
Garces report

Ben Mendez had the most complicated non-Mayoral report so far. Of his generally impressive total, $37,100 was in kind, most of which appears to be items for a fundraising auction. That includes items such as $100 for a yoga mat and $150 for an hourlong massage, both of which strike me as overvalued, though that doesn’t really make much difference to the bottom line. There were also in kind donations of $5K for website design and $3500 for campaign advertising/digital marketing, the former of which also strikes me as high. Most of the other reports had website design figures in the $1000 to $2000 range. Mendez also received contributions of $500 from State Rep. Ron Reynolds, and $100 from HCDE Trustee Erica Lee. He spent $19,500 for consultants.

Leticia Ablaza is back for a second try at District I, with a solid if not terribly interesting report. $7,660 of her contributions were in kind, and she received a $100 donation from At Large #3 candidate Chris Carmona. Not much of interest beyond that.

Neither Robert Gallegos nor Graci Garces did anything spectacular. Gallegos, a former staffer for now-Sen. Sylvia Garcia, received $500 from her and from Peter Brown, plus a few bucks from some current Garcia staffers. $2K of the loan he reported is from James Dinkins. Garces got $500 from Drayton McLane and spent $6,800 on consulting fees.

Other districts

Cohen report
Martin report
Hoang report
Pennington report
Gonzalez report
Laster report

The lobby made newest CM Dave Martin feel welcome, with $30,200 in contributions to him from PACS. He spent $1,500 on consultants.

I don’t quite understand why CM Al Hoang doesn’t have more campaign cash. Be that as it may, he got $7,500 from the PACs, and also spent $1,500 on the same consultants as CM Martin, Blakemore and Associates.

CM Oliver Pennington continues to be a fundraising machine. He got $30,900 in PAC and business donations, and many, many four-figure contributions from individuals, among them $1000 each from Patricia Dewhurst and Bob McNair. I just scanned his expenses since his form was so long, and spotted recurring fees of $3K to Sarah Tropoli (his daughter) and $2K to Richard Cron for consulting; $2500 and $500 to Walden and Associates for fundraising and office rent, respectively. Clearly, the fundraising fees are money well spent.

Also a prodigious fundraiser is CM Ellen Cohen, and she keeps that up here. In addition to $24,900 from PACs, she got $100 each from Kathryn McNeil, the campaign consultant for CM Stephen Costello; Sallie Alcorn, CM Costello’s chief of staff; and Sue Davis. She also got $100 from Ann Johnson, the 2012 Democratic nominee for HD134, Cohen’s former legislative seat, $500 from Peter Brown, and $20 from Stuart Rosenberg, Mayor Parker’s campaign manager.

CM Ed Gonzalez, my Council member, had another one of those solid reports that didn’t have anything terribly interesting to blog about. He took in- $28,500 from PACs and $20 from Stuart Rosenberg. He spent $8,321 on consulting fees.

Last but not least is CM Mike Laster, another solid performer. He received $250 from Peter Brown, $100 from Sue Lovell, $100 Rodrigo Canedo, who was one of his opponents in 2011, and the customary $20 from Stuart Rosenberg. He also got $31,750 in PAC money, and spent $4,644 in consulting fees.

And that’s all I’ve got for this report. Still to come are a look at the reports filed by people not running in 2013, a closer look at the Mayoral reports, and looks at the reports filed by officeholders and candidates in HISD, HCC, Harris County, and the Legislature. Did I mention that July was a busy time of year? As always, any questions or requests, leave ’em in the comments.

On helping District B

District B Council Member Jerry Davis is taking a direct approach to improving his district.

CM Jerry Davis

Davis hopes to inspire through his do-it-yourself approach a strengthened ethic of self-reliance. The answers to the challenges of District B, and there are many – high poverty, low graduation rates, abandoned homes, illegal dumping and crumbling streets – often lie with the residents of the district, not with City Hall, he said.

Davis is trying to fix District B one lot at a time. He frequently goes into the field in khakis or shorts to do trash pickups and weed lots. He is trying to find a way to make free estate planning advice available to reduce the number of homes that fall into decay once the family matriarch dies without a will. He has convened a task force to strategize ways to combat illegal dumping. He has formed a District B advisory council, not just to get feedback on what needs fixing, but to ask attendees what they intend to do about the issues they raise. On Saturday, he led a march at Tidwell Park to promote literacy in a district where just 31 percent of residents have high school diplomas.

His approach differs in emphasis from that of his predecessors. Jarvis Johnson, who served six years as District B councilman until last December, lauded his successor’s willingness to toil in the trenches. Johnson himself focused much of his energy on wooing developers. It is a matter of impact, Johnson explained.

“I didn’t want to chase my tail. The only way you change a community is by creating development,” Johnson said. Cutting weeds down works for a short time, Johnson said. Then the weeds grow back.

“When you can build on a vacant lot, it no longer is a weeded lot. It no longer is a dump site,” he said.

Johnson talks about luring a Joe V’s discount grocery store and a residential development known as Leland Woods to the district more than he does about his cleanup days.

Carol Mims Galloway, the District B councilwoman from 2000-2005, made roads, bridges and drainage her main concern. The district became the leading recipient of city capital improvement project funds on her watch.

“If you don’t lay the foundation, how are you going to attract businesses?” Galloway asked. She questioned whether Davis had a true feel for the district given that he only recently returned to live there. Even as he campaigned for office last year, Davis continued to claim a homestead property tax exemption on a house in Pearland.

There’s merit in both approaches, but it’s also somewhat of a chicken-and-egg question. District B needs cleanup and infrastructure, and it also needs to attract not just new businesses but new residents. The Fifth Ward will be the last bastion of affordable property in the urban core. It’s very much in the city’s best interest to help District B flourish. We can argue about the details later, but let’s get a commitment to the goal first.

Leland Woods

I’ve been banging the drum lately about encouraging growth inside the city’s boundaries as a long-term financial management strategy, so I’m glad to see this.


Eight years ago, city of Houston officials decided to incentivize the conversion of 80 wooded acres off Little York Road into a 375-home community, a place, in some small measure, to reverse working class flight to the suburbs and turn vacant land into a cluster of property-tax payers.

The idea was to give the area a little shove and hope that once Leland Woods took off, other developers would chase the success without city help and District B in northeast Houston would sprout new neighborhoods.

To seed the new neighborhood, the city put up $1.5 million in redevelopment money toward the land purchase. It resulted in only 41 homes before credit markets dried up and builders fled. The city got the land back, but it was out nearly $120,000 in fees and taxes to do it.

So, when economic development officials asked City Council last week to approve $100,000 to give it another go, even new District B Councilman Jerry Davis confessed to having some initial reservations.

“I want to make sure that myself, as well as other council members, understand that this is going to be a good investment, not a case of throwing good money after bad,” he said.

Davis said he is confident that a second attempt to grow the neighborhood will succeed because the city has one of the nation’s largest home-builders involved. D.R. Horton plans to build at least 44 more homes and is in talks with the city to continue working toward the original vision of Leland Woods. The city searched for a new builder for two years before selecting D.R. Horton.

The council signed off Jan. 18 on moving the $100,000 from some of the city’s other redevelopment zones to restart Leland Woods. The money is to pay for landscaping, parks, fencing, a monument – and to cover interest payments on the bank note the city holds from a previous developer.

I’ve embedded the TIRZ map in the quote above, but to really appreciate this you have to have a view of the area. Here’s a Google map link, and here’s a closeup look at the development area and its environs:

Leland Woods, south of Cheeves at Little York

That’s an awful lot of undeveloped land. There are a number of reasons why unincorporated Harris County has grown more over the past decade than the city, but one prime reason is because there’s a lot more empty space out there that can be easily and inexpensively converted into housing and other development. There’s not nearly as much of that inside city limits, but where it does exist it behooves us to do something with it.

Even successful redevelopment projects take time, officials say. The redevelopment zone in Midtown, for example, is held up as a success story, but it grew slowly in its initial years before ultimately expanding from a tax base of $211 million 18 years ago to $1.3 billion today.

This is exactly what I’m talking about. Midtown was a wasteland when I moved to Houston in 1988. It’s some of the most prime real estate in the city now. Leland Woods may never be that successful, but it sure as heck can be more than it is today. We need it and other places like it to be.

Don’t draw broad conclusions from muddled evidence

I have a number of issues with the analysis presented in this Chron story about what happened in the runoffs and What It All Means.

The results illustrate a continuation of a national trend of anger and frustration toward government during the worst economic stretch since the Great Depression, political observers said.

In short: Voters want change.

“A lot of people are angry at virtually all institutions and the government is high on their list,” said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “And these are the people in a low-turnout election that are most likely to show up because they are angry. They’re agitated.”


The results show clear opposition to the status quo, particularly following a general election in which Mayor Annise Parker and several council members narrowly avoided runoff elections, said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University.

“It’s a strong repudiation of this administration – not just the mayor, but the council,” Stein said.

First of all, I believe that voters who are angry and agitated vote. I don’t see how that’s consistent with an election with six percent turnout. I refer you to the 2010 election, and the historically high Republican turnout, for a canonical example. Maybe it’s just me, but the words I use to describe an electorate that fails to show up like this are “disengaged” and “apathetic”. Your mileage may vary.

But maybe turnout was disproportionately high in District A, which is the one election out of the four where I will agree there were angry voters sending a message to someone. To see if that was the case, I checked the ratio of turnout in districts to the Harris County portion of the citywide turnout for runoffs in the past five elections. This is what I found:

Year Dist Turnout Overall Ratio =================================== 2011 A 8.28 6.08 1.36 2011 B 6.76 6.08 1.11 2009 A 18.82 16.48 1.14 2009 F 13.41 16.48 0.81 2007 D 6.29 2.70 2.33 2007 E 5.05 2.70 1.87 2005 B 4.92 4.02 1.22 2005 C 9.38 4.02 2.33 2003 F 18.98 22.71 0.84 2003 G 29.53 22.71 1.30 2003 H 20.57 22.71 0.91

I only went back as far as 2003 because that’s as far back as the County Clerk has runoff data. The ratio of District A turnout to overall is higher than average, but by no means historic. To be fair, the higher level of turnout overall compared to the 2007 and 2005 runoffs may be masking the effect. There’s just not enough data points for me to say, and we’re still talking about eight percent turnout in A. I have a hard time assigning any special meaning to that.

Further, I strongly disagree with taking the result in District A and extrapolating it to the rest of the city. With all due respect to Professor Stein, if the voters intended to repudiate the Mayor a month after re-electing her, Jolanda Jones is the last Council member they should be kicking to the curb. CM Jones was arguably the Mayor’s most vocal and visible critic on Council. I feel pretty confident that they’re not losing any sleep in the Mayor’s office over this result. We may not know exactly what we’ll get with CM-Elect Jack Christie, but we do know that he’s a supporter of Rebuild Houston and that he voted to keep the red light cameras.

Perhaps there was an anti-incumbent message in these results. For sure, CMs Jones and Stardig are the first sitting Council members to be unelected since Jean Kelly in 1999, and only the third and fourth incumbents of any kind to lose since term limits were established. I would argue that there are unique circumstances to each of their losses. To put it mildly, CM Jones had some baggage, and was very nearly ousted in 2009. I’ve been saying all along that a runoff would be a crapshoot for her, and indeed she rolled snake eyes. With the help of Gene Locke’s mayoral campaign she was able to win the turnout fight two years ago, but not this time. I suspect as well that her performance deteriorated in Anglo and Hispanic Democratic areas – I’m sure the Bill White endorsement of Christie had some effect on that – though that’s a question that will have to wait for the precinct data.

As for District A itself, those voters did mostly vote against incumbents last time around, so it’s probably not much of a surprise that they did it to their incumbent District member in the runoff. That said, CM Stardig clearly had her own set of baggage. If anyone can think of another situation offhand in which the three prior incumbents of a given Council district were supporting the opponent of the current incumbent, let me know about it, because I doubt it’s happened any time recently. Far as I can tell, she didn’t have much of a campaign going into the November election – her eight day report showed expenditures on signs, some ads in neighborhood newspapers, and a $6K ad in the Texas Conservative Review that I’m guessing wasn’t well-received; her 30 day report had practically nothing. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but let this be Exhibit A for future incumbents: Unless you’re unopposed, run hard. You never know. Hell, run hard even if you are unopposed. Never hurts to get people into the habit of voting for you – your name ID probably isn’t as good as you think it is.

Putting this another way, Stardig was primaried, and she was not prepared for it. Redistricting did her no favors on that score, either. It will be interesting to see how CM-Elect Helena Brown reconciles her professed political beliefs with the sort of things that constituents tend to expect to get done. Maybe there is such a thing as a Republican pothole.

There’s still two other races to consider. The result in District B could be considered an anti-incumbent vote, but when you consider that the outgoing incumbent is CM Jarvis Johnson, is it really that surprising? As for Prof. Stein’s thesis, here’s what CM-Elect Jerry Davis had to say for himself:

Davis, 38, said he hoped to begin working with the administration as quickly as possible to cut down his learning curve as he gets set to start his first job as a public representative. He said his main goal as a council member would be to represent the priorities of District B constituents.

“My job is to represent the people and do what the people want me to do and that’s going to be the number one step,” Davis said.

I mentioned before that of the five candidates I interviewed, only Davis said he supported Renew Houston prior to the referendum passing. If you listen to the interview I did with him, you will also note that Davis supported the red light cameras, again being the only candidate in the district to do so. Way to repudiate the Parker Administration, District B voters!

As for Burks v Thibaut, good luck making sense out of that one. Again, I’ll wait till I see precinct data, but it seems to me that the vaunted “pincer strategy” of African-Americans plus Republicans finally worked. Why Republican voters fell into line behind an Obama delegate at the 2008 DNC convention who once ran for HCDP Chair is a bit puzzling to me, but I suppose stranger things have happened. It’s not like Burks is well-known for policy positions, so he’s a pretty blank slate onto which one can project whatever one wants, and then there is that Hotze embrace to whet the appetite. I don’t think this result would have happened in an election where the votes were distributed more proportionally. Perhaps someone will test that hypothesis in two years’ time. Like I said, we’ll see what the precinct data tells us. Oh, and for what it’s worth, the one elected official who endorsed CM-Elect Andrew Burks was CM Brad Bradford. If you want a guide for how Burks is likely to vote, I’d say to start there. Greg and Stace have more.

Eight day runoff finance reports

Seven of the eight campaign finance reports for the runoff have been posted; all but Jack Christie’s were available online as of last night. Let’s have a look at them. First up, District A:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Stardig 74,103 42,308 0 81,023 Brown 13,840 13,340 0 4,409

Helena Brown may have finished ahead of CM Brenda Stardig in November, but the establishment is still backing the incumbent. Brown got $1000 each from Paul Bettencourt’s campaign fund (what’s the deadline on using leftover campaign funds like his?) and the Texas Latino GOP PAC, $750 from Don Sumners, $500 from Norman Adams, and $100 from Bruce Tatro. Stardig got $2500 in kind from Mayor Parker’s campaign, $500 from CM Stephen Costello, and a boatload of PAC money, including $10K from the Council of Engineering Companies and $9500 from the Texas Association of Realtors PAC; they contributed in at least two of the other races as well. I still don’t know why Stardig had spent so little before now; if she manages to survive she’ll at least have a nice nest egg for 2013.

District B:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Byrd 23,700 17,672 0 6,027 Davis 37,350 16,480 0 29,435

As noted before, Alvin Byrd received a fair amount of support from elected officials for the runoff. Jerry Davis didn’t get any donations from electeds that I saw, but he did collect $200 from former Congressional candidate Michael Skelley. Roland Garcia, who was Mayor Parker’s finance chair in 2009, and Kent Friedman of the Sports Authority were both in for $500, Rusty Hardin gave $2000, and Jeff Caynon of the Firefighter’s union went for $5000. Both received PAC money, but just eyeballing it I’d say Davis had more.

At Large #2:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Burks 13,750 15,698 0 10,455 Thibaut 68,818 53,115 10,000 29,083

Andrew Burks‘ report is just a mess. Each contribution is listed twice. The $9500 he got from the Realtors was credited to Constable May Walker, which would be illegal if it were true; in reality, either Walker was listed erroneously or the total he cited does match the individual dollar amounts listed. I don’t recall seeing that the $10K loan he made himself in the regular cycle was paid off; no balance for that loan is given here. As with Griff, you’d think a guy who runs for Council as a matter of habit every two years would have some idea what he’s doing by now, but you’d be wrong. As for Kristi Thibaut, there’s no question she’s the establishment candidate. She got a ton of PAC money. Her former colleagues State Reps. Borris Miles and Garnet Coleman gave her $1000 and $2500, respectively. Port Commissioner Janiece Longoria gave $1000, Kent Friedman another $500. Former Council Member Peter Brown chipped in $1000 (his Smart PAC kicked in another $1500) and Council Member-Elect Larry Green gave $200. Usually the big money bets correctly, but between this race and the Stardig-Brown runoff, there’s a better than usual chance that it will be wrong.

As for At Large #5, the only action to report is on CM Jolanda Jones, who had another stellar report. She took in $70,217, spent $68,576, and had $24,400 left on hand. She got $2500 from Rep. Garnet Coleman, $1000 each from Rep. Borris Miles, Sen. John Whitmire, Ben Hall, $500 from Roland Garcia and District Court Judge Kyle Carter, $250 from Sylvia Garcia and Chris Bell, $200 from the Rev. William Lawson, $150 from CM-Elect Larry Green, and $100 each from Constable Ruben Davis and JP Zinetta Burney. She had less PAC money than you might expect. No report yet from Jack Christie – I know he’s sent out at least three mail pieces, so I’d guess he’s spent upward of $50K. Whether he’s financing that himself as he did last time or he’s got it covered I couldn’t say. When I see the report, I’ll update this post and let you know.

UPDATE: There was indeed a Jack Christie finance report uploaded. It was from a day earlier than the others, and was amid some amended reports from candidates not in the runoff, so I just missed seeing it. The Christie campaign pointed this out to me, and I apologize to them for the error. Here’s the Jones/Christie comparison:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Jones 70,217 68,576 0 24,400 Christie 71,580 43,147 500 33,094

Nearly identical amount raised – inded, roughly $70K is more or less the standard for the At Large runoffs, with three of the four candidates in that vicinity. Christie received $10K from Anne Clutterbuck’s campaign, and $1000 each from Beverley Woolley’s campaign and Peter Brown, whose SmartPAC also chipped in $1500. As with CM Jones, not a whole lot of PAC money on his report.

Endorsement watch: Byrd for B

The Chron makes its last endorsement of the 2011 cycle.

District B needs effective leadership at City Hall. We believe the lifelong resident and city government veteran Alvin Byrd offers both the experience and knowledge of the district to bring change and hope to this majority-minority district. We recommend a vote for Byrd in the runoff election on Dec. 10. Early voting is under way.


Alvin Byrd brings the energy and commitment to move District B forward, as his campaign literature urges. We believe he is the right choice for leadership at this critical juncture in the life of the district.

Byrd also picked up the HBAD endorsement a couple of days ago; both that and the Chron endorsement had gone to Kathy Daniels in November. I believe the District B runoff is one with no bad outcome, as both Byrd and Jerry Davis are good candidates. Byrd also reported $23,700 raised on his 8 Day runoff report, which is the only one I’ve seen posted so far, including contributions from State Sen. John Whitmire, State Reps. Borris Miles and Sylvester Turner, Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney, Peter Brown, and Laurie Robinson. I’ll update this post when I see a report from Davis.

Runoff early voting totals, Day One

Early voting for the city of Houston runoffs began yesterday, and you can see the Day One totals here. I don’t have a daily EV record from the 2007 runoffs, but I note that the total early vote from the 2007 runoff was 11,374, and the total absentee and in person votes yesterday was 4,519, so I’d say we’re well ahead of the pace from that year. The busiest single location was in District A, not too surprisingly. We’ll see if any patterns emerge for this year. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for 8 Day finance reports to post, and we’re all still waiting for a runoff endorsement in District B from the Chron. When do you plan to vote?

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

You remember that we have runoff elections for four Houston City Council positions, right? Well, early voting starts today and runs through next Tuesday, December 6. Here are the early voting locations that will be open for the runoff. Early voting will run from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except Sunday the 4th, when it will be 1 to 6 PM. You can go any time you want, as I expect you will be the only person voting whenever it is you show up. The over/under for turnout in this runoff is 25,000, which is to say about what it was for the 2007 runoff. Districts A and B, and At Large #2 and #5 are up.

Eight day finance reports are due Friday, so I’ll be checking for those and posting them along with anything interesting I find in them. The one remaining question is who the Chron will endorse in the District B runoff. They had endorsed Kathy Daniels for the November election, but she finished third. In the other races, they went with CM Brenda Stardig in A, CM Jolanda Jones in At Large #5, and Kristi Thibaut in At Large #2. You can debate how much endorsements mean, but whatever it is it’s surely more so in a low-profile, low-turnout race.

And low turnout it will be. Look at it this way: your vote never counts more than it does when there aren’t that many votes cast. This is your last chance to vote in 2011, so go make it count.

Looking ahead to the runoffs

The runoff election for the city of Houston will be Saturday, December 10. It’s going to be an extremely low turnout affair – as was the case with the general election, I expect the runoff to have about the same level of turnout as the 2007 runoff, in which 25,382 ballots were cast. Look at it this way: If you bother to vote in the runoff, your vote really counts for a lot.

Some thoughts and questions about the runoff now that we’re two weeks out from the November election and all of the precinct analyses have been done:

– On paper, CM Brenda Stardig has all of the advantages in District A. She had $67K on hand as of the 8 Day reports, while Helena Brown had less than $1500. She swept all of the endorsements of which I’m aware except one, from the odious Steven Hotze. She’s the incumbent, and incumbents generally don’t lose. But the fact remains that she trailed Brown by six points and nearly 500 votes. How does she make that up? Does she try to woo Democratic voters by reminding them that she’s not nearly as bad as Brown, or does she try to out-wingnut her? How much help does she get from groups like the realtors, the police, the firefighters, and so on? Conversely, is Brown able to raise funds now that she’s demonstrated that she can win? Does she get any endorsements from elected officials? This one should be Stardig’s to lose, but then it should have been Stardig’s to win in regulation time. As I said before, I have a bad feeling about this one for her.

– As I said before, a lot of people waited on the sidelines to see who would make the runoff in B before committing to it. Now is the time to get off the fence. Jerry Davis previously announced the support of several former opponents, and Monday it was Alvin Byrd’s turn to make his new supporters known. He now lists former District B candidates Kathy Ballard Blueford-Daniels, Kenneth Perkins, and James Joseph; former Council members Jarvis Johnson, Carol Galloway, Michael Yarborough, and Jewell McGowen (on behalf of Ernest McGowen); and elected officials State Reps. Senfronia Thompson, Sylvester Turner, and Ron Reynolds, plus HISD Trustee-elect Rhonda Skillern-Jones. There are still numerous groups that have not made a choice in this race, including the realtors, the police, the firefighters, HOPE-SEIU, and Planned Parenthood (both Davis and Byrd scored 100% on the PP questionnaire). HBAD and the Chron went with Daniels in the first round, so they’re up for grabs as well. Neither candidate raised much money up till now – Davis has $9,274 on hand, while Byrd has $3,882. There will be another finance report due on December 2, and I’ll be looking to see if some big checks have been coming in. As of this writing, this one looks like a tossup.

– Not much to add to the At Large #2 runoff that I didn’t say before. Kristi Thibaut has the early momentum, and I expect she will collect most of the remaining endorsements in addition to the ones she has already received. I’ll be very curious to see if Andrew Burks reports any major endorsements – off the top of my head, I can’t remember any coming his way in 2009. That was when he was going against an incumbent, however, so this time may be different. Thibaut has $19K on hand, Burks has $12K, most of which is left over from his $20K loan, originally reported as a loan from his wife but later corrected to indicate it was a self-loan. Does anyone write Burks a check? Burks has the advantage of CM Jolanda Jones running, who will turn out voters that will be more inclined to support him than Thibaut, if they bother to vote in his race. What will Burks do to actually try to win? I see this one as being lean Thibaut, with the only thing holding me back from making a stronger statement the low turnout.

– As for At Large #5, what else is there to say? I’ll be curious to see if there’s another big show of support for Jack Christie from some of CM Jones’ colleagues. In retrospect, it’s not clear to me how much that actually helped Christie or hurt Jones, but it sure felt like a big deal at the time. Laurie Robinson picked up a few endorsements, including the police and the firefighters, who I think it’s safe to say will back Christie. If there’s going to be any real money thrown around in the runoff, it’s likely to be in this race. Jones starts out with $40K on hand, while Christie has $23K, but as we saw last time he’s willing and able to write his own check as needed. I feel like there’s another shoe or two to drop in this one, but I have no idea where they may come from or when they may fall. This one is a tossup. Nothing and everything will surprise me.

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

You remember that we have runoff elections for four Houston City Council positions, right? Well, early voting starts today and runs through next Tuesday, December 6. Here are the early voting locations that will be open for the runoff. Early voting will run from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except Sunday the 4th, when it will be 1 to 6 PM. You can go any time you want, as I expect you will be the only person voting whenever it is you show up. The over/under for turnout in this runoff is 25,000, which is to say about what it was for the 2007 runoff. Districts A and B, and At Large #2 and #5 are up.

Eight day finance reports are due Friday, so I’ll be checking for those and posting them along with anything interesting I find in them. One question that remains unanswered is who the Chron will endorse for the District B runoff. For the November election, the Chron endorsed CM Brenda Stardig in A, CM Jolanda Jones in At Large #5, and Kristi Thibaut in At Large #2, but their choice in B was Kathy Daniels, who finished third. As of this morning, they have not updated that recommendation.

Regardless, today begins your last chance to vote in 2011. Your vote never counts more than it does in an extreme low-turnout election, so go take advantage of that.

More thoughts on the Council elections

One district at a time…

– I confess that I did not see the District A result coming. Helena Brown did raise a decent amount of money since entering the race at the filing deadline, about $22K through the end of October, which makes me wonder how she might have fared if she had gotten in the race sooner. For what it’s worth, she’s at a big financial disadvantage in the runoff, as CM Brenda Stardig reported over $67K on hand in her 8 Day report, while Brown listed only $1378 on hers. Maybe Stardig needed to spend more during regulation time. Brown has received donations from the two previous District A members, Bruce Tatro and Toni Lawrence, the latter of whom apparently had a falling out with Stardig a few months back. If Brown wins she will be a big success story for the anti-Renew Houston forces. She would probably like for the runoff to be a low turnout affair in which she can campaign like it’s a Republican primary. Stardig will likely need to persuade some Democrats that she’s worth voting for; I would also expect the Houston Association of Realtors to try to come to her rescue. I have a bad feeling about this one for the incumbent.

– A lot of endorsing organizations avoided choosing a candidate in District B for November. I presume that part of the reason for that was that it was a crowded race with no obvious frontrunner and multiple contenders who might have a shot at making it to the runoff. Now that it’s narrowed down to Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis, who received the bulk of the endorsements that were made, it’ll be interesting to see who lines up behind whom. Davis had an email out yesterday touting the fact that former competitors Kenneth Perkins, Phillip Paul Bryant, Bryan Smart, and Charles Ingram were all now supporting him. Also up for grabs now are the HBAD and Chronicle endorsements, both of which had gone to third place finisher (and currently unaligned, as far as I know) Kathy Daniels.

– Moving to the non-runoff districts, I’m still not sure if I’m surprised or not that Ellen Cohen won in C without a runoff. I had no doubt that it was possible, but I had no good feel for what the likelihood of it was. I do have a feeling that Cohen’s next two elections will be much easier to prognosticate.

– Given how a few other first-termers did, CM Al Hoang’s 56% win in District F has to be seen as a pretty strong performance, but much like Helena Brown in A, I wonder how Peter Lyn René might have fared if he had entered the race earlier. He missed out on the opportunity to screen for an awful lot of Democrat-friendly endorsements. I’m not saying he would have won, but a swing of less than 300 votes away from Hoang would have put him into a runoff. Surely that was achievable with a few months’ extra time to organize and fundraise.

– I’m just going to point you to what Greg says about District J, because there really isn’t anything I can add to it. I hope CM-elect Mike Laster makes an offer to Criselda Romero to be on his staff so that she can be in a good position to succeed him in 2017.

– Regarding the At Large runoffs, it’s easy to see the AL2 and AL5 races in racial terms, with the fates of the candidates entwined. Here’s Greg again:

As an aside in looking at the At Large runoffs together, I have a hard time seeing the needle threading such that both JoJo and Kristi win, though that’s obviously the outcome I’d most love to see. The more JoJo voters there are, then theoretically, the better the odds are for Andrew Burks. And the better things look for Kristi, the harder they look for JoJo. I really hope I’m wrong on this.

I think it’s a little more complex than that, for the simple reason that Burks isn’t a particularly good candidate. To put it another way, while I would agree that there will be a correlation between the vote totals of Burks and CM Jones, there will also be a lag between their totals. I believe a fair number of people who show up to vote for Jones will not bother to vote for Burks. As evidence, I cite the district returns from the 2009 runoffs, which featured both Burks and Jones as well as Ronald Green and Gene Locke. Take a look at these numbers, which I compiled from these earlier posts:

Candidate B votes D votes ============================ Locke 11,395 15,223 Green 10,017 16,935 Burks 7,773 11,974 Jones 10,673 17,653

Burks received less that 75% of Jones’ vote total in the African-American districts in the 2009 runoff, and he was running against someone who is not nearly as well-liked as Kristi Thibaut. He isn’t anywhere near Jones’ league. Maybe this time it will be different, but I see a lot of room for Jones to win and Burks to lose. And like District B, there are now a bunch of endorsements up for grabs. Thibaut, who had more endorsements by my count than other candidates going into the November election, counted HBAD among her supporters. She has since picked up the support of former candidates Bo Fraga, Jenifer Pool, and David Robinson; a whole host of Democratic elected officials, including numerous African-Americans (Rodney Ellis, Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Ron Reynolds, and Senfronia Thompson); and the Oak Forest Dems and Democracy for Houston endorsements; both of those groups reaffirmed their support of CM Jones as well. I think that says something, and about Burks’ ability to keep up with Jones.

As far as CM Jones goes, the playbook is the same for her as was two years ago: Run up the score in the friendly precincts, and hope it’s enough. Without a Gene Locke at the top of the ticket to drive turnout, that could be harder to achieve. She does have the benefit of the runoff in B to help her, but that may be canceled out by the action in A. It’s a crapshoot. I wouldn’t bet against her, but boy this is a tough way to go about it.

2011 Houston results

Let’s go through the races…

– Mayor Parker won with a shade under 51%, with none of her opponents cracking 15% on their own. Obviously, this is not a position a Mayor with no serious opposition wants to be in, and it won’t surprise anyone if one or more potential opponents for 2013 are on the phone already calling potential financial backers. It’s certainly possible, perhaps likely, that she will face a much tougher challenge in two years. It’s also possible, given a better economy, a less dire budget, and fewer externally-driven issues like a red light camera referendum, that she could be in a stronger position for re-election in two years and that the time to have beaten her was now. Many people thought Rick Perry looked vulnerable after winning with 39% of the vote in 2006, but things don’t always go as you think they will. Often uncertain the future is, that’s all I’m saying.

– Brenda Stardig trailed Helena Brown in District A by 479 votes. She and Jolanda Jones, who led Jack Christie by about 6700 votes, will be headed to a runoff. All other incumbents won majorities, with CM Stephen Costello having the closest race but winning with 51.2%. So much for the anti-Renew Houston slate.

– Only two of the five open seats will feature runoffs. Ellen Cohen in C (53.62%), Mike Laster in J (67.27%), and Larry Green in District K (67.23%) all won. Alvin Byrd (25.11%) and Jerry Davis (24.38%) head to overtime in District B, while the perennially perennial Andrew Burks led the field in At Large #2, garnering 17.33%. Kristi Thibaut came in second, with 15.65%, followed by Elizabeth Perez and David Robinson. This is at least the third time Burks has made it to a city election runoff – he lost to Sue Lovell in overtime in 2009 – and I wonder if he will get any official support. Being in a runoff with Jolanda Jones and a District B race also on the ballot will help him, but beyond that it’s hard to see him doing much of anything. You have to wonder what Michael P. Williams is thinking this morning. Oh, and Eric Dick finished seventh out of ten. Apparently, it takes more than spreading campaign signs like grass seed and putting out puerile press releases to win public office. Good to know.

– Paula Harris and Juliet Stipeche easily won re-election in HISD, as did Chris Oliver in HCC. Carroll Robinson defeated Jew Don Boney by a 55-45 margin to succeed Williams as the District IV Trustee. The closest race of the election, one that will have people gnashing their teeth all winter, was in HISD III, where Manuel Rodriguez barely held on. I’m a staunch advocate of early voting, but you have to wonder how many early-goers to the ballot box may have regretted pushing the button for Rodriguez before his shameful gay-baiting mailer came out.

– There were 123,047 city of Houston votes cast in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, making this election a near exact duplicate of 2007 turnout-wise. There were 164,283 votes cast in Harris County, of which 120,931 were Houston votes, for a Houston share of 73.6%. The final early vote total for Harris County was 60,122, almost exactly what I hypothesized it would be, and the early vote total was 36.6% of the overall tally in Harris. There were 920,172 registered voters in Houston, about 15,000 fewer than in 2009 but 7000 more than in 2007. City turnout was 13.14% in Harris County.

I have my second tour of jury duty today, this time in the municipal courts, so that’s all from me for now. I may have some deeper thoughts later. What do you think of how the election went? PDiddie has more.

UPDATE: Robert Miller offers his perspective.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims weighs in.

Chron overview of District B

As it is now endorsement season, it is now also Candidate Overview Story season for the Chron, and they kick it off with a look at the multi-candidate race for the open seat in District B. It’s the standard type of story they do for these races, with each candidate getting two or three paragraphs and a quote. What was interesting about this particular story was that they included a candidate who isn’t actually running in District B. I’m referring to Brad Batteau, who is running for At Large #3 according to both the City Secretary candidate page and the Chron’s own report about drawing for ballot order. I wonder if he’ll reappear when they do the At Large #3 story.

In any event, I spoke to five of the eight candidates in this race:

Phillip Bryant
Alvin Byrd
Katherine Daniels
Jerry Davis
Bryan Smart

I see this race as being fairly wide open, and the fact that many endorsing organizations have so far deferred on making a recommendation in B suggests that I’m not the only one. Perhaps the 30 day finance reports will tell us more. What are your impressions of this race?

Endorsement watch: Daniels in B

The Chron has made its choice among the candidates in the open seat District B race.

In a crowded field vying to replace term-limited incumbent Jarvis Johnson, the Chronicle believes retired Postal Service supervisor and community activist Kathy Ballard-Blueford Daniels is the best choice to represent the district at City Hall.

Daniels grew up in a family of nine children in Fifth Ward and graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School. She initially trained as a nurse and accountant/bookkeeper before a 27-year career with the Post Office.

She has been an active, altruistic force for neighborhood improvement in the area. She is a member of the NAACP, a participant in Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood #55 and a congregant of Greater True Vine Baptist Church.

They endorsed in A on Tuesday, and B today. I wonder if they’re planning to do them all alphabetically, or if this was just a coincidence. We’ll know soon enough. My interview with Kathy Daniels – for the record, I asked her before the interview how she wanted me to introduce her, and she said she was dropping the “Ballard” from her name, so at her request I went with “Kathy Blueford Daniels” – is here.

Interview with Kathy Blueford Daniels

Kathy Blueford Daniels

Wrapping up my weeklong tour of District B is Kathy Blueford Daniels, who is a retired postal worker and lifelong resident of the district. She is also the founder of BLACMoM (Black, Latino, Asian, and Caucasian Mourners of Murder), which she organized after her son was killed. This is what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Interview with Alvin Byrd

Alvin Byrd

District B candidate Alvin Byrd is the Constituent Services Director for current Council Member Jarvis Johnson. He is a Navy veteran who has worked at numerous community organizations and was the first president of the Greater Fifth Ward Superneighborhood Council. Here’s what we talked about:

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You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Interview with Bryan Smart

Bryan Smart

District B candidate Bryan Smart is, at age 24, the youngest candidate I’ve interviewed since I started doing this regularly in 2006. Smart is a graduate of Howard University, where he was the Executive President of the Howard University Student Association and served on the Budget Advisory Committee, which helped bring the university out of a deficit. He has also worked for the Defense Department and at Kashmere Senior High School as an Apollo 20 Fellow. Here’s the interview:

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You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Interview with Phillip Paul Bryant

Phillip Paul Bryant

Next up in District B is Philip Paul Bryant, whose bio lists him as a Community Organizer, Television Talk show Host, and Businessman, among other things. Bryant is the son of Bishop Prince Earl Williams Bryant, Sr., who is the pastor of the Island of Hope Church of God in Christ, and has served in his father’s ministries. Here’s what we discussed:

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You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Interview with Jerry Davis

Jerry Davis

For this week, I have five interviews with candidates from District B, which like District C is open this year. First up is Jerry Davis, founder of the nonprofit organization Making It Better and co-owner along with his brothers of the restaurants the Breakfast Klub and The Reggae Hut. Davis also manages an investment company and has a master’s degree in education administration. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Tuesday late filers report

This is a semi-regular tracker of late campaign finance report filings for City of Houston elections. I’ll keep this up until either everyone has filed, or we all get sick of it and I move onto other trivial obsessions. With that said, here are today’s contestants:

1. Andrew Burks, District D. Burks actually filed his report on time – it made it onto the city’s CFR website late Friday – but I include him here because I had not been aware he was running, at least not for this particular seat. Burks is a perennial candidate who nonetheless made it into a runoff with CM Sue Lovell last year. As with Griff Griffin, who topped 47% against Lovell in 2007, if he had had any semblance of a campaign or rationale for running other than “there’s nothing good on TV”, he might have actually won. Given that Burks accepted the endorsement of gay-hating Steven Hotze in his runoff against Lovell, I’m glad he lost then and I hope he loses this time as well.

2. Bob Schoellkopf, District A. Like Burks, Schoellkopf filed on Friday; like Burks, I had previously been unaware of his entry into this race; and like Burks, he filed a blank report. These two are the first opponents to district Council members that I know of.

3. Alexander Gonik, District K. Gonik filed a blank report that was posted Sunday. He’s the third candidate to file a report for District K. That is the sum total of my knowledge of him.

4. Bryan Smart, District B. Smart put out a press release Sunday evening touting a fundraising haul of $43,755 in donations, with $24,397.12 on hand. The report appeared this morning. Those numbers dominate those of his opponents, but as with several other candidates, a big chunk of that first figure comes from in-kind donations, including:

– Two $5000 donations, from Ruby Ramirez and Hugo Mojica (who ran in the 2009 special election in H) for “Latino Voter Outreach”.

– A $4000 donation from Jerome Brooks, who sent the aforementioned press release, for “Consulting Services”.

– A $3000 donation from Max Temkin for “Web/Graphic Design”.

– A $1250 donation from the Texas Democratic Party for “Voter File Access”, which I didn’t think you could do as an in-kind donation.

Smart listed less than $1000 in expenditures, so there’s your difference between contributions received and cash on hand.

5. Scott Boates, At Large #1. Boates’ report, which listed contributions of $18,247 and cash on hand of $11,713, was rather a family affair, in that a total of $12,000 – two $5k donations and two $1K donations – came from people with the surname “Boates”. Gotta hit your inner circle first. Boates also loaned himself $1200. On the expense side, he spent $180 each on buttons and balloons, with vendors located in Iowa and New York, respectively, and in my favorite listing since the Pam Holm for Controller koozies, he spent $369.92 at Custom Wristbands in Richmond, TX, for “wristband printing”. I guess those are for entry to the VIP room. Anyway, these are the reports that have been added since last time. The remaining non-filers:

Michael Williams, At Large #2
Griff Griffin, At Large #2
Joe Edmonds, At Large #5
Kenneth Perkins, District B
Randy Locke, District C
Otis Jordan, District K

While going through my archives to find some of the links used in this post, I noticed that Perkins, who was a candidate for At Large #1 in 2009, never filed a finance report that year. I don’t suppose that will change this year. We’ll see who drops off this list tomorrow.

UPDATE: I have since been informed that Otis Jordan is not running, so I have stricken him from the list of non-filers. I have also since received a press release from Jack Christie officially announcing his entry into the At Large #5 field.

Interview with Council Member Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Running to unseat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in CD18 is Houston City Council Member Jarvis Johnson, who was recently elected to a third and final term in District B. (My interview with him from that race is here.) As he observes, District B is almost entirely within CD18, so he is familiar to many of the voters there. CM Johnson is the first serious opponent Rep. Jackson Lee has faced since her victory over then-Rep. Craig Washington in 1994. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

A full list of the interviews I have done is on the 2010 Election page. As always, your feedback is appreciated.

34 > 20, and other campaign finance news

I’ve added two more candidate reports to my campaign finance report spreadsheet, Robert Kane and KA Khan, both in District F. Each of them had filed paper reports instead of electronic reports. You can see a list of such reports here, and you can see scanned PDF copies of their reports here: for Khan and for Kane.

If you look at these reports, you will note that on the cover page, each candidate signs an affidavit that includes the following: “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” If you then take a look at KA Khan’s report, down at the bottom he lists his total contributions as $34,010. I realize math can be a tricky subject for some people, but I don’t think it’s too hard to grasp the concept that $34,010 is bigger than $20,000. Yet Khan signed the affidavit swearing he did not and would not collect more than $20,000 in contributions. Seems to me something is wrong here. And as Greg notes, among other things, Khan has spent a bunch of money sending out six mail pieces, yet those expenses are not accounted for on his report. I’m told a complaint is being filed against Khan. Should be easy enough to make a determination in this one.

Now as was noted in the comments to this entry when I complained about some other obviously erroneous reports, the City Secretary apparently doesn’t have the authority to reject them even if it’s clear at a glance that there’s problems. But I don’t see why the City Attorney, or some other agency acting as an ombudsman, couldn’t do a review of the forms as they come in and take some kind of action to respond to the ones that have glaring errors. If the City Attorney is going to disqualify candidates from the ballot for dumb yet basically harmless errors on the filing form, why isn’t there an equivalent level of vigor with campaign finance reports, in which the potential for deception and malfeasance is vastly greater? Right now we have a system that relies on third parties – often people acting on behalf of a rival candidate – to file complaints, which take however long to resolve, usually well after the election in question. There needs to be a better way. If this requires a legislative fix, then so be it. They’ve already got one issue from this election that needs their attention, may as well add one more item to the list.

As noted at the beginning of this post, I found campaign finance reports for the two more candidates, which I added to my spreadsheet. That still leaves a bunch of candidates for whom I can find no report. The same thing happened in July, where a number of reports did not show up until more than a week after the reporting deadline. One candidate to whom this happened in July, and whose report isn’t visible today, is Alex Wathen in District A. Wathen has confirmed to me that he did submit his report on time – you can see a PDF of his receipt here – but that the City Secretary’s office has had trouble reading his file, as they had in July. Mills Worsham in G has also confirmed to me that he submitted his report and that the City Secretary’s office said they were having trouble with it, too. Interestingly, I called the City Secretary’s office yesterday to inquire about a few of the missing reports, and the person I spoke to told me they didn’t have one from Worsham, or from Roger Bowden (District B), Otis Jordan (District D), Lewis Cook (District F), or Peter Acquaro (District F). I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but given the issues we saw in July that are affecting Wathen and Worsham now, this really needs to be investigated to get to the bottom of it. Technical issues should not be a barrier to the public’s access to this information.

Interview with Council Member Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Wrapping up my series of incumbent district Council member is Jarvis Johnson, who is finishing his second term in District B. Council Member Johnson has been one of the leading advocates for bringing wireless Internet access to various parts of the city, as well as being an adopter of social media through blogging and Twitter. (He and CM Mike Sullivan appear to be the most frequent users of Twitter among the not-running-for-another-office members of Council.) He has one opponent for November.

I want to say that at this point I am done doing interviews. I’ve got two more HISD Trustee interviews to run this week, to be followed by the Controller and Mayoral interviews I’ve got in the queue, but I am not scheduling any more candidate interviews. While I’ve done a huge number of these, I’ve not gotten to everyone. If you are, or you represent, a candidate with whom I’ve not done an interview, I’m willing to run a statement from you instead. Send me a few paragraphs (say about four) about yourself and your platform in which you address one or two issues that I’ve been asking about in these interviews, and I’ll print it. Please do not simply lift a bunch of text from your campaign website. You can contact me via email (kuff – at – offthekuff – dot – com) or Facebook message. I’ll run any statements I get as I get them, with October 30, the last day of Early Voting, being the deadline. Thanks very much.

Finally, you might also note that there’s a new tab on the top of this page called “2009 Election”, which collects all the interviews I’ve done in a more organized fashion, and includes information about early voting as well. There’s also a new item on the sidebar that links to my most recent interviews. Many thanks to Greg Wythe for the additions.

Download the MP3 file.


Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D
Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, District C
Progressive Coalition candidates
Council Member Mike Sullivan, District E
Council Member James Rodriguez, District I

Early voting schedule and locations for District H

Early voting for the District H special election begins three weeks from tomorrow, on Monday, April 27. The Harris County Clerk has posted the early voting schedule and locations (PDF) for this election. Briefly summarized, it is as follows:

For the week of Monday, April 27 to Friday, May 1: 8 AM to 5 PM
For Saturday, May 2: 7 AM to 7 PM
For Sunday, May 3: 1 PM to 6 PM
For Monday, May 4 and Tuesday, May 5: 7 AM to 7 PM

There are three locations:

The Harris County Administrative Building, 1001 Preston St downtown, first floor.

Moody Park Recreation Center, 3725 Fulton Street, which I believe is in Lindale.

Ripley House Neighborhood Center, 4410 Navigation Blvd, in the East End.

Martha notes that all three of these locations are inside the Loop and east of I-45, whereas a significant portion of District H is north of the Loop and/or west of I-45, and that this seems like a formula for low turnout. I can’t dispute her argument, but the fact is that these are the only early voting locations within District H that we’ve got. Inside 610 and west of I-45, the only location that’s not by the South Loop is the Metro Multi-Purpose Center on West Gray, which is in District D. North of 610 and inside Beltway 8 there ain’t much – the two closest locations are Acres Homes and the Hardy Senior Center, both of which appear to be in District B. Look at the early voting map from November (PDF) and see for yourself. I don’t know what you can do about this except push for more early voting locations overall.

Anyway. Moody Park is reasonably convenient to me, and I’ve voted there once or twice before, so it’ll be where I go. Make your plans now and be ready to vote when the polls open.