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Archive for the ‘Harris County Commisioners Court’ Category

My parents Alicia and Tony Campos celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary this past Saturday.  Top that!

Early to Rise is now officially early to bed.  Maybe next time around they need to make sure Hunker Down is talked to at the beginning.

Name the former ‘Stro with the third best batting average in MLB?

Robert Miller talks about the H-Town Mayoral race today and give us some background on run-offs.  Commentary mentioned it looking like a run-off a couple of weeks ago and I really got no push back.  We will see.

Here is Robert’s take.

AG Greg Abbott likes to say that he gets up every morning looking forward to suing The President or something like that.  Now he has decided to go after the City of San Antonio for their passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance.  Why doesn’t he just mind his own business?  Either that or move his arsse to SA and run for city council.

Speaking of, former sports commentator and former GOP U.S. Senate candidate Craig James has every right to talk anti-GLBT any time he wants.  He just don’t get to talk Xs and Os in reputable sports network studios.   Sorry, pal, you are out of bounds, called for encroachment, were sacked, thrown for a loss, penalized and have no way to audible your arse out of this one.

A lot of folks will be staying up late tonight as we have a kickoff around nine.  I wonder if folks will be wearing their Texans gear throughout the day.  Lay the 4 ½ and take the over 44 ½. 

Former ‘Stro Chris Johnson – now with The ATL – is batting .330 of course – third best in MLB.

We’re 47-96 so it looks like we’re going to hit the 100 loss mark at The Yard this weekend.  What a bummer!

 

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The Chron has a front page story in the hard copy and for subscribers only on The Mayor giving a select few of her key staff some pretty good pay raises while the thousands of other city employees got so-so pay raises.

In the story The Mayor gets criticized by the folks that want her out of office – Ben Hall and the Firefighters Union.

Let me just say this. The Mayor is entitled to give out pay raises. The folks that criticize are also entitled to take shots. It is fair game and only time will tell if it matters. It is however the lead story in the hard copy and I have said it before, Chron hard copy readers are probably older voters and more likely to vote in November.

Here is a part of the story that I found interesting:

GOP communications consultant Jim McGrath said the issue will be little more than water-cooler fodder at City Hall unless Hall can show a pattern of such decisions.

"Taxpayers and voters care about their well-being and their future and if the mayor has failed in some regard as it relates to that, that’s something you can get traction with," McGrath said. "This inside baseball stuff will not fundamentally alter the dynamics of a race that isn’t looking good for Mr. Hall at present."

Democratic political consultant Mustafa Tameez agreed: "This is not going to be seen well by the public, but something like this doesn’t make or break the election."

I guess Jim McGrath and Mustafa got the special campaign briefing.

The Mariners are in town for four. Everybody knows that Junior leads the Mariners in career dingers as a Mariner with 417, who is at numero 2?

HISD Trustee and Board President Anna Eastman will participate in a candidate forum today at the West End Multi-Service Center on Heights Blvd. at 6 pm.

There will be a reception this evening at 5:30 pm for HCC Trustee District 3 candidate Adriana Tamez at Doneraki at Gulfgate.

Anna and Adriana are both clients.

It looks like the Save the Dome campaign will be headed by former County Judges Jon Lindsay and Robert Eckels and my friend Edgar Colon. Good luck fellas!

Hunker Down dropped the Harris County AFL-CIO meeting last night and I don’t think he mentioned the campaign to Save the Dome. I might have missed it though because I was chatting with The Dean.

Hunker Down also didn’t mention why he pulled an Early to Bed.

Another Forbes writer says the ‘Stros didn’t make $99 mil.

Here it is.

I never believed it but I still don’t know what to believe.

Everybody knows that Commentary never says much about college players because they don’t get paid – sort of. It turns out Johnny Football got a reward. He is not going to play the first half against Rice in mid-90 degree heat. Way to go NCAA!

The final 3 minutes and 23 seconds of “The Newsroom” the other night was four stars for sure as the great Jane Fonda owned the scene and that’s why she is up for an Emmy. Get it back!

Edgar Martinez of course is numero 2 on the Mariners career dinger list with 309.

44-88 and not much else you can say as the team comes home for seven.

 

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I saw this tweet last night that kind of cracked me up during the Harris County Tejano Democrats (HCTD) endorsement meeting:

John C. Gorczynski ‏@JCGorczynski11h

I move the Harris County Tejano Democrats endorse @JJWatt for King of Htown.

It was an outstanding night last night for some of Commentary’s folks.  HISD Trustee Anna Eastman picked up the HCTD endorsement with the help of a lot of folks out in the crowd wearing her yellow stickers.  Anna’s eighth grader was there helping convince Tejano Dems to support her mom.

Graci Garces won out over two of her opponents and a motion to duel endorse.  Graci did it on one ballot – nice.   Graci had widespread support last night.

We managed to stop an endorsement in the HCC Trustee 3 race.

Folks pretty much got along last night although there was a bizarre moment when a Ben Mendez supporter got up and made a motion along the lines of “Sheriff Adrian Garcia nominates Ben Mendez.”  The sheriff was nowhere in sight – huh!

The Mayor was able to withstand a challenge from Ben Hall last night, quite handily may I add.

The Yankees have the record with most World Serious grand salamis with eight.  Name at least five of the Yankees?

In today’s Chron Lisa Falkenberg has a few questions about the details of Early to Rise.  Of course you have to have a subscription to read the Falkenberg take.  Here is a part:

Reasonable people, many of whom strongly back early education, are wary of a program about which they know little.

"While I appreciate the effort to increase access to high quality preschool," Houston Independent School District board president Anna Eastman told me, "when was the last time a self-appointed group of people said ‘we’re going to collect a tax and spend money on something that’s not clearly defined?’ "

If you ask me Early to Rise has done a terrible job of rolling out Early to Rise.

Here was a tweet that Commentary saw from my good pal Sue Davis a couple of days ago:

Sue Davis ‏@suedavis197414 Aug

Ben Hall whining about negative campaigning=laughable. Can’t stand the heat, get out of Oz. Click your heels 3 times, go home to Piney Point

Ouch!

If the local Dem Party wants to be useful, they ought to head over to Pasadena and help the Latino folks from a redistricting grab.  Check out the today’s Chron E-Board take:

After former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay‘s fall from grace, we thought that Texas politicians would know better than pursue mid-decade redistricting. Not so in Pasadena, where Mayor Johnny Isbell is trying to change Pasadena’s city council districts.

Isbell proposed last month to replace two of Pasadena’s single-member districts with two at-large seats. The Bond/Charter Review Committee recommended against moving forward with the changes, at least for the upcoming election. But the proposal alone is distressing enough. Historically, replacing districts with at-large seats has been used to discriminatory ends, and such moves are often blocked by the Department of Justice. Only a few months ago, that would have been the case here. Not anymore. For decades, the Voting Rights Act has been a useful speed bump in Texas. Due to our history of discrimination, any alteration to voting laws or processes had to be approved by the Department of Justice. When the Supreme Court struck down the part of the VRA that based preclearance requirements on past discrimination, it busted open a hole in that wall, and Texas politicians have wasted no time to climb through.

This newfound lack of federal oversight allows local politicians to implement maps that threaten to discriminate against minority voters. The current individual districts in Pasadena allow large, compact and politically cohesive minority populations to elect the representatives of their choice. Replacing these districts with at-large seats could dilute minority voting power, submerging the voting-bloc in a sea of majority voters.

As our Founding Fathers wrote in the Federalist Papers, our republic cannot function if the full spectrum of our nation’s diverse interests do not have representation in government. Decades of discrimination kept vast segments of society away from the table, and only now do we start to see representation rising to the ideals our nation was founded upon. That progress is brought to a halt when cities such as Pasadena make it more difficult for a growing Hispanic population to take part in the democratic process.

Even with the removal of direct barriers to voter registration, historic discrimination in education, housing, employment and health services hinders minority ability to participate effectively in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Pasadena’s city government makes this point painfully clear – Hispanics comprise a majority of the voting-age population, and a majority of a voting-age population in six of the eight city council districts, but have yet to turn that into electoral success.

Anyone who cares about functioning government should be troubled by such a disconnect between population and representation.

Tony Lazzeri (1936), Gil McDougald (1951), Mickey Mantle (1953), Yogi Berra (1956), Moose Skowron (1956), Bobby Richardson (1960), Joe Pepitone (1964), and Tino Martinez (1998) are the eight Yankees of course with World Serious grand salamis.

We would have to go 24-18 the rest of the way to avoid another 100 loss season.

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The chingasos have been thrown by The Mayor in her kick-off ad that began airing yesterday.  Here is the script:

“Ben Hall wants to be mayor of Houston, but he hasn’t bothered to vote in a city election in 11 years. In fact, Hall didn’t even live in Houston. Just last year he bought a house inside the city so he could run for mayor. When Houston was hurting in the recession, Hall offered no vision, no ideas and no leadership. Now that things are good, he’s back. Ben Hall really wants to be mayor. He just didn’t want to live here.”

Ouch!

Please don’t talk down to me when public funds are involved.  Here is from the Chron for subscribers only:

The Harris County School Readiness Corp., a new nonprofit led by business and civic leaders, is calling for a ballot initiative to levy a 1-cent-per-$100 tax through the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE)to generate about $25 million a year for training teachers and buying school supplies for child care centers serving children up to age 5.

Here’s the deal.  The group wants us to vote for a tax increase but they really don’t want us involved on how the funds will be spent.  Here is what their Chair said:

"We’ve been working to find the right balance of public oversight," (James) Calaway said, declining to talk specifically about details until the proposal is presented publicly to the department’s board of trustees Tuesday.

Thank you very much sir!  What the f__k is the right balance of public oversight? Memo to this fella:  It should be 100% public oversight!  It doesn’t pass the smell test and could very much head to cronyism, lack of oversight, lack of transparency – you get the picture, which is a very cloudy picture.  In other words, screw the public.  I hope the HCDE doesn’t roll over on this. 

How many of the current ‘Stros have more than 20 career big league dingers?

Here is more talking down to us.  The HISD Board and the Houston Endowment would like a study done of the Apollo Program.  That brought a big F-You from its consultant.  Here is what he sent HISD:

I think your school Board is a bit confused about the academic process,” (Roland) Frier wrote in an email to (HISD”s Terry) Grier on Tuesday. “I am not a for-profit organization selling you software or someone who needs a particular result to keep their business afloat. I am a tenured, and chaired, professor at Harvard University. One of the only ways I can lose my tenure is by violating my academic integrity.  Therefore, my incentives are very much to tell you the truth about the Apollo results. Physicists, Biologists, Chemists, Economists, and most of the Sciences and Social Sciences evaluate their own experiments. It’s not just common — it’s expected.

HISD needs to tell this fella to go kiss our arse!

The County wants us to vote on redoing the Dome this November but they won’t give us an option of tearing it down.  Come on!  Give the voters a choice.  Here is from the Chron and again for subscribers only:

The Commissioners Court on Tuesday unanimously voted to place a bond election for up to $217 million to convert the iconic stadium into a massive, street-level convention hall and exhibit space, saying residents should take part in deciding the historic structure’s fate.

Here is the part that I don’t get.

If the bond fails in November, Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said it "would make no sense to me at all" to spend millions of dollars demolishing the structure.

"There’s another day to have another election," he said. "Why are you going to spend $8 million and then tear it down?"

So if it is voted down it will just continue to sit there.  Now that is what I call good public policy…smirk….smirk.

CNN Money named Commentary’s ‘hood as one of the best big city ‘hoods in the U.S. of A. How about them apples!  We’re right up there with ‘hoods I’ve never heard of like NY’s Park Slope, LA’s Silver Lake, Lakeview in Chi-Town, Mount Airy in Philly, Windsor Square in Phoenix, and Willow Glen in San Jose.  Those I heard of are SA’s Alamo Heights, Lakewood in Dallas, and Pacific Beach in San Diego.  Ours is a good ‘hood once you get past the congestion on I-10 and Studewood/Heights/Yale. 

Great Lisa Falkenberg tweet yesterday:

What does it mean when @tedcruz says abolish the #IRS? Don’t get it. Would the U.S. government be funded on the honor system?

The current ‘Stros with more than 20 career big league dingers are Chris Carter (40), Brett Wallace (25), and Jason Castro (22) of course.  That’s why we’re 38-80 and we won one last night in Oakland.

 

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KHOU FLASHHouston Mayor Annise Parker announced Tuesday morning there will be a Thanksgiving parade after more than $400,000 was pledged from the private sector.

HEB will be the lead sponsor of the event, but others are contributing as well.

The Chron is reporting the same and has a photo of Pam Gardner, Board Chair of Central Houston, standing with The Mayor this morning at City Hall.  Way to go Pammy!

Now they have to go find some floats.

The Early to Rise folks say they have 150,000 petition signatures and will hand them over to the county today.  Tax Assessor Collector Mike Sullivan will then have his staff verify the signatures.  Hunker Down is still saying he doesn’t know if the petition process is legal. 

Hunker Down just needs to put it on the ballot and if somebody wants to take it to court – let them.    Hunker Down can then campaign against.

Commentary is more interested on how this program is going to work. 

My pal Robert Miller wrote yesterday saying that Sen. Wendy Davis would be running for Governor.  Nothing official yet from Team Davis so we will have to stay tuned. 

Now that Wesley Wright is gone, name the longest tenured ‘Stro?

The Houston Stonewall Young Democrats sent this to the Graci Garces Campaign last night:

Thank you all for taking part in Houston Stonewall Young Democrats’ screening process. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting with every candidate and look forward to working with your campaigns!

For those who couldn’t make it tonight, tonight we endorsed the following candidates:
Controller Ronald Green
Council Member Stephen Costello (At-Large Position 1)
David W. Robinson (At-Large Position 2)
Rogene Calvert (At-Large Position 3)
Graci Garces (District I)
Council Member Mike Laster (District J)
Council Member Larry Green (District K)
Assata Richards (District D)
Council Member Ellen Cohen (District C)
Council Member Ed Gonzalez (District H)
We will be hosting a meet-and-greet brunch for our endorsed candidates to meet with our entire membership, as well as engage new young people who support pro-equality policies in our City’s government. The brunch will be hosted at a private residence on September 21. More information will follow as it becomes available. Please put this on your calendar and we hope either you will all be able to attend!

Please feel free to reach out to us whenever you need help during the campaign season! We’re here to help our endorsed candidates cross the finish line and take office in January. We look forward to working with each and every one of you!

Best,

Caroline Giese

@caroegiese

Vice President of Political Affairs
Houston Stonewall Young Democrats

www.houstonstonewallyd.com

Jason Castro of course is the longest tenured ‘Stro.  Castro made his debut on June 22, 2010.

During the game yesterday as Yu Darvish was putting the ‘Stros down in order the Chron’s Jose de Jesus Ortiz tweeted his prediction that Jonathan Villar would break up the perfecto.  He was right.  Carlos Corporan’s eighth inning dinger broke up the no-no and now we’re on pace to lose 111.

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If you are like Commentary and are old school and snatch up the fish wrap from your driveway in the mornings then you know that the Chron’s Lisa Falkenberg has endorsed Early to Rise and Hunker Down is opposing.  Here is how Falkenberg starts her column today:

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is fighting a "nutty" petition drive for an early education tax with his own brand of nuttiness.

Emmett has been battling the Early to Rise campaign ever since he got wind of the creative, albeit hasty effort to use a dusty old law to force him to put a penny tax on the November ballot. Some $25 million in proceeds would be dedicated to improving the quality of child care across Harris County.

What is Early to Rise you ask?  Well here is from their website:

We are a program designed to help young children up to age 5 get ready for Kindergarten through increasing the quality of early childhood education in Harris County.

This November, we are working to get an item placed on the ballot that would ask voters to approve a 1 penny increase per $100 of assessed home value. This tiny increase would average out to about $18 a year for a $180,000 home. This means that for $1.50 a month we can provide our area’s youngest kids with intensive early education and get them ready for Kindergarten and beyond.

Here is their website.

Commentary hasn’t taken a position on Early to Rise.  I have a lot of questions.

Name the first Red Sox pitcher to win the AL Cy Young Award?

This election cycle Commentary is going to do a scorecard on local elected officials endorsing candidates in local races.  For instance in the Mayoral race The Mayor is supported by:

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Jessica Farrar
State Rep. Borris Miles

Ft. Bend County Commissioner Richard Morrison
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan
Councilmember Ellen Cohen
Councilmember Stephen Costello
Councilmember Ed Gonzalez
Councilmember Al Hoang
Councilmember James Rodriguez

HCDE Trustee Debby Kerner
HCDE Trustee Erica Lee
HCDE Trustee Diane Trautman
HISD Trustee Anna Eastman
HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche
HISD Trustee Paula Harris

Ben Hall has the support of:

Council Member C. O. Bradford ·

Constable Reuben Davis ·

Constable May Walker ·

After the election I’ll give 10 points to each elected official for each winner and take 10 points away for each loser. 

I will also include initiatives like Early to Rise if itgets on the ballot.

It looks like The Dean has him a Dem Primary opponent.  Here is from an email that Commentary received yesterday:

My name is Damian LaCroix and I’m running for State Senator for District 15 in the 2014 Democratic Party primary.  I’m running because I believe now is the time to engage constituents, improve our educational system, create economic opportunities and promote equality for all.  I’m committed to making a difference in the lives of the citizens in District 15.
As State Senator, I will be active in the District, highly visible in the community, and easily accessible to the constituents. A Texas resident for over 39 years and a product of Houston public schools, I can relate to the issues and needs of the highly diverse District.

You can go check out his campaign website here.

Of course, he’s going to need more than a website to take on The Dean.

In 1967 Jim Lonborg won the AL Cy Young Award of course, went 22-9, struck out 246 and had a 3.16 ERA and led the Red Sox to the World Serious where they lost out to San Luis in seven. 

I don’t want to talk about the ugliness at The Yard last night.  A 5-0 lead turned out to be a 15-10 loss.

 

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Happy Birthday tomorrow to MariGirl!  Marisol Valero is celebrating another one!

The Chron E-Board and the Houston Press have takes today on the Astrodome proposal and they aren’t very good takes.  I’m thinking my friend Edgar Colon and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation might be heading over to the Chron to present their case on the proposal.

The E-Board thinks the fix is in and the Corporation is proposing an initiative that will fail.  Here is how the E-Board take begins:

Friends, Houstonians, Harris County voters, lend us your ears. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation comes to bury the Astrodome, not to praise it.

Ouch!  Here is how it ends:

County commissioners need to come out and say now whether they will support this plan or not come election day. The voters of Harris County deserve transparency from them as well as from the Rodeo and the Texans, two other very interested parties that play in a tax-subsidized facility. We’re afraid opponents will bide their time until election season and suddenly let loose a parade of horribles about every aspect of this Dome decision process, and it’ll be too late to do anything different.

Enough with the shell games, side corporations and every other trick to pass off responsibility on the Dome’s future. For once, county government faces an issue where it can’t merely fly below the radar. It is time to be honest with voters about the real goal.

Et tu, Harris County?

Here is the entire E-Board take.

The Houston Press was a bit more vicious.  Here is how they start:

The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation has spoken, and like much everything else that it has done during its existence, its great plan to save the Astrodome is a massive fail. A massive fail that, if actually put on the ballot and supported by voters, will end up costing $194 million.

The Corporation unveiled its grand plan on Wednesday, and in doing so, stated that no qualified private plans had been submitted, so it had to cobble together its own plan. A plan that essentially repeated warmed over plans that the Corporation had tried to pass off on suckers in the past. The difference being that this time the cost was an outrageous $194 million that, somehow, the public will be forced to fund.

Amazingly, there are sheep out there who think that not only is this a good plan, but that the costs are reasonable and doable. Those costs will be doable of course because taxpayers would be paying for it.

But being a doable plan doesn’t make it a good plan. Creating more convention and exhibition space that will only be used during the Rodeo, the Offshore Technology Conference, and the occasional Super Bowl at a cost of $194 million isn’t reasonable or doable. It’s idiotic. It’s moronic. It’s the work of imbeciles who, over past years, have also offered up proposals for turning the place into an aquarium, a movie studio, a hotel, and a theme park, to name just a few ideas.

Here is the entire Houston Press piece.

The credibility of the Corporation is being challenged big time.  The whole problem is that over the past decade every single Dome proposal put forward has been underwhelming.  Nothing has caught our fancy.  The only thing that makes sense is tearing it down but that takes courage.

I’m not going to question the credibility of the Corporation but they and the County are going to have to sell this to the public.  Hunker Down is going to have to take the lead.   They are also going to have to draft a few prominent H-Town folks to be part of the selling effort.  They have a long way to go.  If this thing moves forward then a campaign will have to be put together and we all know that campaigns cost money.   Stay tuned!

We’re at Wrigley this weekend.  How many Cubbies have won the NL Cy Young Award?

James Gandolfini’s unexpected death got me to thinking about the final scene from the “Sopranos” six years ago.  Here is what I said a couple of days later:

All Commentary wanted was for Phil Leotardo to bite the dust. Mission accomplished! It was pretty gruesome but fitting. I actually thought my TV set went south at the end but then I realized that “The Sopranos” will someday reappear – that’s a good thing. All in all, I give the finale 5 out of 4 stars.

A lot of folks afterwards were trying to come up with an explanation or interpretation of the final seconds that went dark.  Some said Tony got whacked by the guy in the jacket and Meadow was the last person he saw.  Some wondered why Tony kept looking at the door every time the bell rang.  Some even mentioned the juke box playlist that Tony was checking out.  Some have even gone as far to say that the creator of the show was just messing with our minds.

I just don’t know of an ending that would have satisfied the millions of fans that were watching that evening.  We would not have wanted to see Tony get a bullet to his head in front of his family.  We would not have wanted to see his arse get hauled off by the Feds.  We would not have wanted to see something bad happen to Tony and be told by the show that this is what happens to bad guys after a lot of us spent 86 Sunday evenings rooting for this bad guy if you know what I mean. 

I just kind of took the final dark seconds as this is the end so turn off the lights.  One thing is for sure now is we won’t have to wonder if they ever make a “Sopranos:  The Movie.”  There is only one Tony Soprano so that’s it.

Ferguson Jenkins (1971), Bruce Sutter (1979), Rick Sutcliffe (1984), and Greg Maddux (1992) of course are NL Cy Young Award winners for the Cubbies.

17,000 and change showed up yesterday to see Carlos Pena put one into the upper deck for a 7-4 walk off win.  We took 5 out of 7 in the homie and we look and play like a different team.

 

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The Harris County Sports Corporation will show us the proposals today and I don’t expect to be blown away by any suggestion.  To date not a single idea has persuaded me to support keeping the Dome.  It is not going to be a casino.  It is not going to be a super hotel.  It is not going to be a museum.  It is not going to be a movie production studio.  It is not going to be stripped down and made to look like a skeleton.  It is not going to be a water park.  It is not going to be an indoor ski slope.  It is not going to be s shopping mall.  It is not going to be a super food court.

It will either be a parking lot or green space. Stay tuned!

Name the two pitchers in 1969 who shared the AL Cy Young Award?

The H-Town City Council will vote on the budget today.  The meeting is off to a late start and I’m thinking there might be some lobbying going on behind the scenes on the property tax relief amendments that the Mayor does not support.  Check this from the hard copy of the Chron that is only available online to subscribers:

Some Houston City Council members are urging constituents to lobby their colleagues in support of property tax relief for seniors, setting up a Wednesday showdown with Mayor Annise Parker, whose administration has asked that those amendments to her proposed budget be pulled without a vote.

Complicating the situation is the November election looming for the mayor and 16 council members, and the political clout of seniors, who vote at higher rates than other demographic groups.

"We’ve paid our dues and I don’t think we should be under stress over if and how we’re going to be able to keep our homes," southwest Houston senior Minnie Taylor said Tuesday, one of several who addressed council on the topic. "I’m pleading with you to vote yes on the amendments."

By state law, residential property owners are eligible for a standard exemption on 20 percent of their home’s appraised value. Seniors aged 65 and older receive additional exemptions, which taxing entities – including cities, counties and school districts – can increase. About 95,000 properties in Houston receive the senior exemption, according to the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office.

Harris County’s exemption is $160,000. Some council members want to increase the city’s $70,862 exemption to match that.

Councilwoman Helena Brown sent 17,000 robo-calls to District A seniors, urging them to voice support for her proposal by calling the office of the mayor and some members of council. Councilman Andrew Burks sent a similar email blast to constituents and Super Neighborhood leaders. Brown and Burks’ ideas differ, but both would raise the city’s exemption incrementally to match Harris County’s.

"Property values are increasing, water rates are increasing, the drainage fee and all that – these folks are on fixed incomes and their exemption is not increasing," Brown said. "They’re feeling the impact, and I think it’s unjust. I think that argument will be heard. It’s just common sense."

In his proposed budget amendments, Councilman C.O. Bradford presented three options: freeze home values for properties valued between the city and county exemption levels, hike the city senior exemption to match the county’s, or raise the city’s senior exemption to $80,000.

In a document sent to council members Tuesday night, Parker stated her positions on the council members’ 60 budget amendments. She asks Brown and Burks to withdraw their items and asks Bradford to withdraw his proposal to freeze values because City Attorney David Feldman believes they violate state law; one council cannot mandate the actions of a future council, Feldman said.

Parker also asks Bradford to withdraw his other two proposals; one would cost $26.7 million and the other $3.8 million, City Finance Director Kelly Dowe estimates. Dowe estimates Brown’s proposal would cost at least $5.7 million in the first year and more than $102 million over time.

Parker last week said she was open to raising senior exemptions if offsetting spending cuts could be found. In the Tuesday night memo, however, the mayor states her support for amendments from council members Oliver Pennington and Dave Martin that would put all revenues above projected levels into the city’s reserves. Those items are scheduled to be voted on first; if either passes, Parker states she will not support amendments that cut revenue or raise expenses.

Bradford’s most modest proposal would save the average over-65 homeowner about $39 a year, Dowe said. Former county Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners, who has pushed the council to raise the exemption for two years, estimated the savings at $56; every bit helps those on fixed incomes, he said.

Pennington and Councilman Stephen Costello, who chairs the council’s budget committee, called for caution on raising the exemption, noting projections that show a potential $81 million deficit in the next budget cycle.

"Without a thorough examination of the impact of the exemptions, I certainly could not vote for them," Pennington said.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said raising exemptions is among the best ways local officials have to directly benefit voters, who can see precisely what they have gained.

"Not only is it a senior exemption, but it’s a senior homeowner exemption, and among seniors, homeowners vote more than non-homeowners," Jones said. "You’re taking the demographic that votes the most or has some of the highest participation rates, and you’re providing a direct benefit to them."

You have to wonder about the politics of this.  After all it is only four months or so from the election.  I’ll be watching City Council this morning.

In 1969 B’More’s Mike Cuellar and the Tigers’ Denny McLain won the AL Cy Young Award of course.

Last night was good baseball but too bad only 13,000 and change showed up.  Come on folks, err fans!  The team is playing better these days and you are missing out.  Get out to The Yard!

 

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If some local leaders have their way Harris County voters may have the opportunity to vote on an initiative this November to add a penny to their property taxes and put it into early childhood education programs.  This kind of sounds like what San Antonio voters approved last year.  The Chron has a front page story in the hard copy and only available to subscribers online.  Check out a piece:

Harris County voters could be asked to approve a tax increase later this year to improve and expand early childhood programs, if a coalition of business and civic leaders can get its initiative on the November ballot.

The recently formed Harris County School Readiness Corp., a group whose membership includes former Houston first lady Andrea White, is circulating a petition calling for the placement of an item on the next election ballot that would increase the county property tax rate by 1 cent, generating about $25 million a year to train teachers and buy school supplies for child-care centers serving children up to age 5.

"All the recent brain science development has indicated that early childhood education is absolutely pivotal," said Jonathan Day, a member of the corporation’s board and a former Houston city attorney. "The business community and academics, everybody’s of the single mind that, if there is a single point of investment for leverage to improve children’s education, it’s at early childhood."

The initiative stems from a recommendation made in an April report commissioned by the Greater Houston Partnership and the Collaborative for Children. It is similar to one launched by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, which ended in voters last year approving a modest sales tax hike to build new pre-kindergarten centers.

Of course the group has to get around 78,000 petition signatures.  That’s a lot of signatures.

County Commissioner Steve Radack has come out in opposition to the effort.  Check this from the Chron:

"I think people already pay too much money in school taxes and the fact of the matter is this is just a back door to try to get the county to get more money shipped over into education," Radack said.

This initiative has a long way to go.  They have to get the signatures.  They have to get the signatures approved.  Then they have to educate the voters.

I tried to follow the San Antonio effort last year.  The SA effort was their mayor’s initiative and baby.  He campaigned extensively for it.  Our mayor is in a battle for reelection so the local effort would have to find a well respected and well known local leader or leaders to sell the measure.  Good luck and stay tuned!

The Brewers are in town for three.  How many MVP Awards do the Brewers hold?

I guess what goes around comes around.  I’m talking about a proposed Astrodome initiative.  Tomorrow the County Sports Corporation will unveil the latest Dome proposals and will lay out one of their own.  It will be interesting if an initiative makes it to the November ballot.

Some folks may want us to support bonds to save the Dome.

Some folks may want us to support a penny property tax increase to save our kids.

Some folks will oppose both.

Rollie Fingers won the AL MVP Award in 1981, Robin Yount won the AL MVP Award in 1982 and 1989, and Ryan Broid won the NL MVP Award in 2011 of course.

Jason Castro is making a strong case to make the AL All Star team.   Let’s see how we do against Brewers.

 

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Commentary worked on the winning stadium referendum back in 1996 that led to the construction of Minute Maid Park and Reliant Stadium.  The campaign assembled a coalition of a number of interests that included the Rodeo.  At the time folks knew that Downtown was the proposed site of the baseball stadium. 

In 1995 the Oilers had already announced that they were packing their bags and heading for Tennessee.   Since the Rodeo was a major tenant of the Dome they had to be brought on board and ballot language had to stipulate that their interests would be included.  Here is the 1996 referendum ballot language:

PROPOSITION NO. 1:  AUTHORIZING HARRIS COUNTY TO ESTABLISH AND OPERATE NEW OR RENOVATED STADIUMS, ARENAS, AND OTHER FACILITIES FOR PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL AND FOOTBALL TEAMS PROVIDED THAT NO COUNTY REAL OR PERSONAL PROPERTY TAXES ARE SPENT TO ACQUIRE, CONSTRUCT, OR EQUIP THESE FACILITIES.

Passage of the referendum would be a key factor in acquiring an NFL franchise.  The Rodeo uses the football stadium so they knew that if we were to get awarded a NFL franchise a new state-of-the-art football stadium would get built.   Politically it also helped that the Rodeo has an incredible reach with thousands of volunteers and supporters, and numerous partners and sponsors whose backing would be critical to passage of the 1996 referendum.

775,525 votes were cast in the Proposition 1 ballot measure and it prevailed by 16,421 – 51% to 49%.

In 1999 H-Town was awarded an NFL franchise after new owner Bob McNair put up a few hundred million to bring a franchise to the city.  The rest is history.

Commentary mentioned the ‘Stros’ number one pick of the 1976 draft Floyd Bannister.  Three players drafted in 1976 are now in the MLB Hall of Fame – name them?

Back to the Dome, in today’s hard copy of the Chron we are reminded of the influence, err veto power of the Texans and Rodeo on any major changes at Reliant Park.  Here are parts of the Chron reminder:

While the primary tenants of Reliant Park do not have veto power over development plans, they do have other extensive rights to the site under lease and legal agreements with the county. Even though Harris County Commissioners Court will make the ultimate decision about what to do with the iconic stadium, those rights "must be taken into consideration," said Edgardo Colón, chairman of the governing board of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp., which oversees Reliant Park.

And:

Under a 2001 agreement, which officials say was designed in anticipation of Astrodome redevelopment, the Texans and the Rodeo are granted protection from any venture that would eat into their revenue streams, as well as exclusive access to all 25,000 parking spaces on game days, for the Texans, and to the entire complex for nearly three weeks during the rodeo.

Let’s not forget that a couple of months or so ago the Rodeo and Texans released a report on how much it would cost to put a wrecking ball to the Dome.  That kind of tells me where they stand.

The public proposals were due last night and the Texans and the Rodeo are on the informal review committee, the informal selection committee, and are sole members of the official veto committee.  That’s not a bad place to be.   They have both earned the power they yield on this matter. 

Hall of Fame greats Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, and Ozzie Smith of course were drafted in 1976.  (FYI:  Smith didn’t sign.  He was drafted again in 1977.) 

I don’t know what to say about winning six in a row and now losing five in a row.  It is not as if we are being blown out. 

 

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