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Saturday video break: For excitement, and emotion

School starts Monday in these parts. In honor of that, here’s a little Schoolhouse Rock:

We have one of the Schoolhouse Rock DVD sets. I need to play it for Olivia, I think she might be old enough to appreciate it now.

Saturday video break: Squirrels in my pants

Don’t you hate it when this happens to you?

If you’re not a fan of Phineas and Ferb, you should be. See more of their music videos here. I recommend the Evil Love Song as a starting place:

Who says they don’t write ’em like that any more?

Saturday video break: Happy Presidents Day!

Monday is Presidents Day, which normally means no mail delivery and mattress sales. But it should mean a bit more than that, so here’s a little song to help you celebrate:

Obviously, a newer version is needed now, but it’ll do. Happy Presidents Day!

Spending on voter outreach: The Mayorals

I didn’t take a look at the Mayoral candidates’ expenditures on voter outreach in the 30 days out reports, as this exercise is rather time consuming, but I figured I’d have a look at the 8 day reports, just to see what we’ve got going into the home stretch.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Annise Parker 9,365.91 Research (Celinda Lake) Annise Parker 500.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 175,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 75,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 1,750.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 780.30 Ad (KCOH) Annise Parker 1,789.25 Ad (KROI & KMQJ) Annise Parker 40,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller)

Parker reported a bit over $500K in spending on this form, after having reported $738K spent on the 30 days form. $410K of this spending, more than 80%, is on TV. I saw two media buys from Rindy Miller in the 30 days form, worth $500K; there may have been more, but that form was 414 pages long, and I just did a search on “Rindy” to spot-check it. I assume the “Research” entry is for her recent poll. Those radio buys are small compared to Locke and Brown, but since she’s not engaged in an authenticity contest as they are, perhaps they’ll have a greater effect. Parker was one of many candidates who placed an ad in Gary Polland’s Texas Conservative Review; my understanding is that this is for a printed document that will be mailed to some number of households. As all of the others I’ve seen so far with this expense have been Republicans, I presume Parker will tout her fiscal conservative credentials and leave it at that.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Gene Locke 28.89 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 25,000.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,000.00 Media production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 225.75 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 677.25 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 20,319.00 Printing Gene Locke 2,281.68 Robocalls Gene Locke 6,000.00 Video production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Gene Locke 4,300.00 Ad (Houston Style Magazine) Gene Locke 50,160.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 95,670.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 54,862.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 10,649.50 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 13,584.05 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 15,747.20 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 165,770.25 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 6,300.00 Media/newspaper (Adelante) Gene Locke 250.00 Ad (Linda Lorelle scholarship fund) Gene Locke 100.00 Ad (KEW Learning Academy) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 1,500.00 Ad (The Houston Sun) Gene Locke 903.00 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 1,755.00 Ad (African-American News & Issues) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 36,641.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 22,858.65 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 139,953.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 27,005.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 17,721.40 Printing Gene Locke 2,295.30 Robocalls Gene Locke 5,177.10 Research (Stanford Campaigns) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 38,251.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 2,625.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 14,474.98 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 162,966.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 11,853.40 Printing Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 49.00 Ad (Involver.com) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 17,799.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,749.80 Robocalls Gene Locke 34.37 Web ad (Domino's Pizza) Gene Locke 23,500.00 Polling Gene Locke 2,205.00 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 46,800.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 5,725.56 Door hangers Gene Locke 16,235.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 36,120.80 Printing Gene Locke 800.00 Ad (NAACP - Houston) Gene Locke 125.00 Ad (South Wesley AMEC)

Clearly, Locke is leaving no stone unturned. Everything from Facebook to African-American newspapers (no doubt to boost his standing in the community) to TV and radio. Bear in mind that some of that money spent on TV was for ads that ran much earlier in the month; we knew about them before the 30 day reports came out, but the expenditure wasn’t listed in that report. As such, while Locke outspent Parker on TV in this report, she has spent more than him overall. Adelante, which I believe is campaign manager Christian Archer’s outfit, is big on field work/GOTV, which is how one can wind up buying nearly $50,000 worth of door hangers. There were many, many entries relating to paid field workers, which I skipped to maintain my sanity and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome for another day. Other candidates up and down the ballot have similar entries, though not nearly as many; Parker is a notable exception to this, as she’s putting her money into media and is relying on an extensive volunteer network for GOTV activities. We knew Locke was doing polls, even if we never get see any of them. Oh, and Ttweak, of course, are the folks that brought us Houston, It’s Worth It. I give Team Locke style points for hiring them in whatever capacity.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Peter Brown 1,214.17 Printed materials Peter Brown 36,675.00 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 43,601.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 251,027.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 888.99 Printed materials Peter Brown 1,742.82 Printed materials Peter Brown 75,120.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 5,800.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 82,225.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,949.43 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 27,438.89 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 500.00 Text messaging service Peter Brown 59,213.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,682.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,125.99 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 42,338.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 2,553.00 Printed materials Peter Brown 5,000.00 Media buy (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 126,485.92 Consulting (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 4,558.60 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 451,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 117,964.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 5,953.75 Printed materials

Behold the Peter Brown media empire. The man has a fortune at his disposal, and by God he used it. The disclosure form listed over $2.4 million in expenses, which is to say nearly five times what Parker spent and a bit less than double what Locke spent. Of that, as you can see, over $1.7 million was spent on media buys, which I presume all means television. I could be wrong – I don’t know what the difference is between Foston and Buying Time, though one possibility is “cable” versus “broadcast”, and another is “radio” versus “TV”. I’m guessing that the $5K and $126K expenditures to Neuman should be reversed, but since all of his direct mail expenditures – all $350K+ of it – were listed as “Consulting”, I could be wrong about that. And in the midst of all this airtime, it’s nice to know they didn’t forget about more modern forms of voter outreach. I’ll bet $500 buys a lot of text messages.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Roy Morales 1,976.25 Radio ads (KSEV) Roy Morales 8,650.32 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 3,000.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 378.88 Printing Roy Morales 2,500.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 1,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 500.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 5,000.00 Mailer balance Roy Morales 1,500.00 Commercial purchase

Roy didn’t have much to spend, and what he did have he mostly spent on mail. Kind of piddly compared to what Brown spent, but then most things are. I’m not actually sure what Locke spent on mail, since all I saw were those “printing” charges, which could be many things. Parker didn’t spend anything on mail, but she’s been featured in several third party mailers I’ve received, including one from the HGLBT Political Caucus, one from Annie’s List, and one from the Houston Turnout Project. With friends like those, you can concentrate on other things. Oh, and let’s not forget the Texas Conservative Review, too. I bet it’ll chafe Roy to realize that Parker will have a bigger ad in Polland’s piece than he will. I’m just now realizing that neither Locke nor Brown had an expense for that, which strikes me as odd. Roy also got a $3000 in-kind donation for video production on his ad, and that $1500 commercial purchase, which I presume landed his ad somewhere, was an addendum to his original report. Anyone want to guess what show Roy’s ad interrupted was? Just a hunch here, but I’m thinking it was a one-off.

I’ve got similar reports in the works for the At Large and district Council races. Hope you found this useful.

Eight days out: What the Controller candidates are spending their money on

You may recall I looked at how the Controller candidates were spending their money after the 30 day reports came out, and I figured I’d do it again with the 8 day reports. Along the way, I found a little surprise. I’ll get to that in a minute. Here we go:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Ronald Green 809.17 Printing Ronald Green 1,301.17 Printing Ronald Green 1,081.42 Door hangers Ronald Green 150.00 Ad (Riverside UMC) Ronald Green 16,573.30 Direct mail Ronald Green 16,573.30 Direct mail

Well, he’s sending mail. That’s something. And I even got one of his mailers yesterday. Progress! Anybody else get some mail from Green?

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ MJ Khan 500.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 6,000.00 Radio ad production and buy MJ Khan 105,048.70 TV media buy MJ Khan 18,300.00 TV ad production MJ Khan 1,100.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) MJ Khan 10,000.00 Ad (HCRP) MJ Khan 214,473.00 TV & radio media buy MJ Khan 1,690.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 2,895.69 Printing of signs MJ Khan 2,500.00 Radio ad buy MJ Khan 2,000.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications)

Pretty decent media buy. Khan’s $300K will get him a fair amount of TV time, including in some places that don’t have very many voters. Note the $5K ad with the Texas Conservative Review, which you’ll see again and again, and the accompanying $10K ad with the Harris County GOP, which most Republican candidates bought at some level as well. Gotta give ’em credit for knowing how to make a buck when the opportunity presents itself.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Pam Holm 10,000.00 Video shoot Pam Holm 10,063.82 Direct mail Pam Holm 3,750.00 GOTV field ops Pam Holm 125.00 Ad (South Wesley AMC) Pam Holm 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Pam Holm 1,000.00 GOTV Pam Holm 10,000.00 Radio time Pam Holm 612.40 Ad (Houston Community Newspapers) Pam Holm 1,650.81 Yard Signs Pam Holm 1,914.94 Push cards and letterhead Pam Holm 14,641.00 Mailer Pam Holm 1,350.00 Push cards Pam Holm 5,000.00 Ad (HCRP) Pam Holm 50.00 Ad (Acres Homes Citizen Council) Pam Holm 1,500.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications) Pam Holm 487.13 T-shirts Pam Holm 1,850.00 Push cards Pam Holm 4,350.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications) Pam Holm 2,301.40 Signs Pam Holm 22,158.91 Direct Mail

Okay, something here is missing. We know Pam Holm is on the air – Martha asked around on Facebook and received confirmation from a couple of people that they have seen her ad several times, on CNN. Yet I cannot find a line item in her finance report that would correspond to a media buy of that magnitude. She only listed about $180K of spending in her report, which frankly wouldn’t buy that much TV time if that’s all it were being spent on. Stephen Costello’s report for his At Large #1 race showed $160K spent on a TV buy, and that’s the smallest one I’ve seen so far. Heck, just look at how much MJ Khan spent. She’s been on the air long enough that this should be accounted for in this report – it’s not in her 30 days out report – unlike the situation from earlier this month where Gene Locke announced his debut on TV after the reporting deadline for the 30 day reports. So I’m going to ask here: Where is Pam Holm’s spending on TV advertising documented? Maybe I’m missing something, and if so I hope someone will point me to it. But especially with Holm taking shots at Green about his tax lien, I think it’s fair to wonder why Holm has apparently filed an incomplete finance report.

UPDATE: Via Greg, here’s the purchase order for Holm’s ad buy. Martha has more.

RIP, Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales, the world’s funniest pie-in-the-face man, has passed away at the age of 83.

As the star of “The Soupy Sales Show,” he performed live on television for 13 years in Detroit, Los Angeles and New York before the program went into syndication in the United States and abroad.

Ostensibly for children, the show had broad appeal among adults who found Sales’ puns, gags and pratfalls deliciously corny and camp. His cast consisted of goofy puppets with names like White Fang, Black Tooth and Pookie, and a host of off-camera characters, including the infamous naked girl.

The high point of every show came when a sidekick launched a pie into Sales’ face. Sales once estimated that he was hit by more than 25,000 pies in his lifetime.

The gag became more than hilarious; it evolved into a hip badge of honor. Frank Sinatra was first in a long line of celebrities who clamored for the privilege to be cream-faced, including Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney, Sammy Davis Jr., Dick Martin and Burt Lancaster.

“I’ve never done a pretentious show; it’s always had a live feeling, the kind of thing that comes across when you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Sales told author Gary Grossman in the 1981 book “Saturday Morning TV.” “I’ve never done anything simply because I thought I could get away with it. I’ve just wanted to do the funniest show.”

Mark Evanier wrote a wonderfully affectionate remembrance of Soupy a few years back, which I highly recommend, even if you’d never heard of him before today. And if you’ve only heard a little bit, bear in mind that only some of it is actually true. Rest in peace, Soupy Sales.

HISD: Not must-see TV

Earlier this month, HISD agreed to broadcast its monthly meetings on its cable access station. While the promise of making their meetings more transparent to the public was appealing, it would seem there’s still a few bugs in the system.

The capsule review of Houston ISD’s first televised board meeting last Thursday is two thumbs down. It was neither good TV nor good public policy.

Viewers were put through the sort of excruciating self-promotion and hyperbole that has given HISD a reputation for shameless “spin.”

Spin is actually a kind word for what was old-fashioned, heavy handed propaganda by trustees.

It gets harsher from there. I still think this is a good and necessary idea, but clearly there’s room for improvement in the execution. Thanks to Hair Balls for the tip.

HISD to broadcast some meetings

This is a good first step.

Saying they want to be more transparent, Houston Independent School District trustees agreed Thursday to broadcast their once-monthly general meetings on the district’s cable access station, which runs 24 hours a day.

Trustees, though, are refusing for now to broadcast their less formal public meetings, where much of the debate and discussion — and even some votes — take place.

“If we televise everything we do as board members, then we would crowd out other programming,” Trustee Harvin Moore said. “Where would we stop? We have workshops. We have committee meetings. You have to draw a line at some point.”

Trustees also decided against airing the portion of their general meetings when citizens can address the board about any topic. Some trustees said they worried about parents violating children’s privacy.

HISD, which televised its meetings decades ago, now plans to take a more restrictive approach than some other local governments. The Houston City Council, for example, airs its general meetings, plus public comment periods and some committee meetings.

The Cypress-Fairbanks school board has been televising its meetings for more than a decade. Like HISD, trustees there have one meeting to discuss agenda items in detail, followed by a meeting where they cast votes.

Cy-Fair also has been posting videos of board meetings on the school district’s Web site for six years, and it now streams them live online, too.

HISD spokesman Norm Uhl said the district is researching ways to broadcast the meetings online.

I think the technology of that is pretty well understood at this point, so I hope what that means is they’re looking for a way to do it given current staffing and funding levels. Live-streaming and posting videos is the obvious answer to the concern about hogging the public access channel. The rest is just details. I applaud HISD for taking this step, but let’s not stop there. More like Cy-Fair and Houston City Council, please.

Red, white, blue, and hopefully back

I’m glad to see that the KUHT political program The Connection: Red, White, and Blue is on its way back to the airwaves after an unplanned hiatus followed by a bit of a kerfuffle. It fills a very useful niche in the local media landscape – as the story notes, it was the only place to see Adrian Garcia and Tommy Thomas go head-to-head last year – and is the sort of thing that public television should be doing. (And just so we’re clear, I think KUHT has been doing some excellent work, most notably with its “Houston Have Your Say” series.) It’s also the show where I made my local teevee debut, so there’s some sentimental value there as well. I look forward to its return, hopefully in time for some shows focusing on the big municipal elections we’ll be having this fall.

The lap bands of Collin County

I have four things to say about this story, which appeared in the print edition of Monday’s Chron but which I could not find on the chron.com site.

About 150 obese Collin County employees have achieved dramatic weight loss with lap-band surgery. And they’ve done it at taxpayer expense.

The county has spent more than $3 million in public money on stomach-reduction procedures in the past seven years, records show.

Each operation costs $15,000 to $30,000, and the county insurance plan covers almost all expenses.

“I’m totally against it,” said new county Commissioner Matt Shaheen, who took office Jan. 1.

He railed against the procedure at his first commissioners’ meeting last week and got plenty of support. Other commissioners said they were shocked at the number of lap-band surgeries performed and the expense incurred.

“I think it’s probably being used more than it was intended,” Commissioner Joe Jaynes said.

Commissioners say they intend to stop covering the procedure. They’re scheduled to vote on the issue at their Jan. 27 meeting.

“In an economic situation like we’re in now, we need all our spare dollars,” Commissioner Kathy Ward said.

Commissioners decided to cover the weight-loss operation several years ago in hopes of cutting down on long-term medical expenses. If morbidly obese employees lost weight, they would incur fewer costly health problems, commissioners reasoned.

Now, however, they say far too many of the county’s 1,700 workers are turning to lap-band surgery instead of relying on diet and exercise to shed weight.

“Employees can control what they put in their mouth,” Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said. “They don’t have to get a rubber band placed around their intestine, or however the procedure works, in order to lose weight.”

[…]

The county covered 14 lap-band operations at a cost of about $350,000 last year, records show. County Judge Keith Self, who heads Commissioners Court, asked the human resources department to determine if many public or private insurance plans cover the procedure.

Collin County is self-insured, meaning it pays employee health claims from the general fund budget.

“We have limited dollars,” Mr. Self said. “That’s what government is all about – allocation of scarce resources.”

1. If what I observed on the (now defunct) TV show Big Medicine was any indicator, the answer to Judge Self’s question is that some do and some don’t. The docs on Big Medicine spent a lot of time wrangling with insurance companies over coverage of their procedures. Big shock, I know.

2. As much as Collin County has spent on their employees getting this procedure over the past few years, if they really have that many morbidly obese folks on the payroll then it’s not clear to me that this hasn’t been fiscally prudent, at least in the long run. Perhaps they would be better served to tighten their approvals process rather than to just unilaterally disallow this. Maybe implementing a wellness program would be a good idea, too. You know, an ounce of prevention and all that.

3. At the very least, it seems to me they ought to get some better data about what benefits they may have gotten as a self-insurer, to compare to the costs. Surely they should know more about the pros and cons of lap band surgery versus other methods of weight management before they make a decision, lest they act as ignorantly as Commissioner Hoagland sounds. Who knows? Maybe if they had it to do all over again, they’d have done the same thing.

4. Whatever else one might say about Collin County Commissioners Court, they’re quite consistent in their attitude towards health care for their citizens.