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Yesterday a few folks showed up at the H-Town City Council meeting to show support for a botanical gardens at Gus Wortham Golf Course and some showed up to show support for an upgraded Gus Wortham Golf Course. Some fella said that a botanical gardens would transform the surrounding community. He really didn’t explain the transformation process. I guess you could say the same about an upgraded Gus Wortham without really explaining.

Here is the deal. Commentary hasn’t taken a side. When this first came up, the idea of a botanical gardens sounded a lot better than a rundown golf course. Now that an upgraded golf course is on the table it kind of changes the dynamic somewhat.

An upgraded Gus Worthan Golf course will almost certainly increase the green fees and force some of the current Wortham golfers to head to cheaper tee boxes like Brock and Glenbrook. However, it will attract a new golfer that will want to play on an inner city upgraded course.

Of course the botanical gardens will also charge admission so it is not going to be a park-like place where community folks will regularly hang out. Folks will be coming in from all over to visit. I really doubt that the families that live in some of the older nearby apartments will go out and support the botanical gardens. They don’t support the golf course.

If you live nearby you can currently go and walk the course for free – you just have to watch for errant golf balls. You won’t be able to walk the gardens for free.

I think I have only had one conversation with one council member on this issue so I couldn’t tell you where council is headed on this but one would think that it would be a bit harder to change something than to improve something – got it.

Yesterday I mentioned the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s record breaking dinger against the Dodgers. Name the former ‘Stros player that was in the starting line-up for the Dodgers that evening?

One of the new shows Commentary checks out is “The Crazy Ones” with Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar. This week Pam Dawber of “Mork and Mindy” makes a guest appearance – cool.

Some GOP members of the State Board of Education will probably quash the effort to teach Mexican American Studies in high school. If the GOP does not support Mexican-American Studies, how can they expect our votes in November if we don’t exist?

Way to go DREAMERS! Put and keep the heat on Dem leaders. This from the SA Express News on the Civil Rights Summit up in Austin:

The summit began with former Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a fast-rising Democrat and top surrogate of Obama, urging Congress to tackle immigration reform before the end of the year.

“The stupidest thing we can do economically is make them leave. We don’t have anybody to replace them,” said Barbour, referring to the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the country without legal documentation. “So the impracticality of sending them home should be obvious to everyone.”

Their discussion was interrupted by a woman in the crowd shouting she was a so-called DREAMer — a young person who immigrated illegally into the United States — and calling on Castro to urge Obama to stop deportations of families.

No one removed the woman, who began shouting again when the panel was over.

Castro, the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, did not respond to the woman but later said he was troubled by families who are deported after minor crimes such as traffic stops.

“My hope is that his administration will go about it in a different way. I’m not comfortable with the number of deportations,” Castro said.

Like I said, way to go.

Jimmy Wynn of course was the starting center fielder for the Dodgers 40 years ago yesterday.

When you go 0-14 with runners in scoring position you aren’t going to win. Now we are in last place.

49 years ago today the Astrodome opened with the Yankees playing the ‘Stros and the rest as they say is history.

Impeachment

The lead story in today’s Chron is about University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall possibly facing an impeachment. Here is from the Chron:


University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall likely committed impeachable offenses, including abusing his office and potentially breaking state and federal law, in his campaign to oust University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, according to a draft report prepared for the Texas House committee investigating Hall’s activities.

The 176-page report, which was made available to members of the House Select Committee on Transparency and State Agency Operations on Friday, alleges that Hall leaked confidential student information, in apparent violation of state and federal law, in an attempt to silence his critics in the Texas Legislature. It also accuses the regent of trying to manipulate the investigation and coerce witnesses.

It has been 40 years since we went through an impeachment process at the State Capitol. Rusty Hardin’s law firm prepared the 176-page report. Maybe this Wallace Hall fella ought to consider resigning so the whole mess goes away. After all, you can’t impeach someone who is not in office.

As most folks know, State Rep. Carol Alvarado is Co-Chair of the House Select Committee on Transparency and State Agency Operations. If this process moves forward, Carol will obviously be a high profile player in this so stay tuned!

Speaking of 40 years ago today, 40 years ago today Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career dinger record. Name the venue where Aaron hit his 715th?

The team is 3-4. Last year after seven games we were 1-6. It seems like we have two teams. When we win we look like a very good team. When we lose we look like the 2013 ‘Stros like in yesterday’s loss where we made bonehead plays. We also have some starters that are not even batting their weight.

The Wall Street Journal was in my front yard again this morning. What is up with that?

Hank Aaron made history 40 years ago today at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium of course.

The team is in Canada for three. Which team? Your guess is as good as mine.

Don’t Run Pal!

MariGirl sent this out last Friday:

I’m very happy to announce that starting this Monday, April 7th, I will be joining the team of Neighborhood Centers Inc. as Immigration Program Manager for their Immigration Department. I have always been passionate about moving our community forward and I know Neighborhood Centers Inc. is an organization that holds that same desire. I’m very excited to join NCI in this capacity and I look forward to a future collaboration with you and your organizations.

Good luck Marisol!

I am sure most folks saw the blurb about the Dem congressman that thinks congress deserves a pay raise. Tone deaf? Here is a part:

Retiring Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., is aware that Congress is unpopular, but he still thinks the legislative body deserves a raise.

“I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid,” Moran, who’s announced he will leave office when the current Congress ends, told the newspaper Roll Call. “I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.”

Rank-and-file members of Congress make a yearly salary of $174,000 — well above the median household income in Washington, D.C., which between 2008 and 2012 was $64,267. Still, Moran said, “A lot of members can’t even afford to live decently in Washington.”

The only thing I have to say is if you don’t like the money then don’t run for office.

Name the MLB Hall of Fame great that won the MVP Award with the same team but in different cities?

Well the Chron E-Board put a spanking on Cong. Sheila Jackson Lee this past Saturday. It had to do with North Forest. It is a pretty good spanking so check it out here:

Ten months after HISD took over North Forest Independent School District, the high school has a newly renovated building that doesn’t smell and bathrooms that feature toilet paper, soap and paper towels. “There’s nowhere to go but up” (March 31, Page B6).

Principal Pam Farinas has ended “mall time,” a period after lunch during which students socialized as they would if they were in a mall. With the worst test scores in the state, there’s a lot of catching up to do, and school days have been extended until 4:15 p.m. At the high school, more than 100 students are on probation or parole for criminal convictions, roughly 30 girls are pregnant and a significant number of students have substance- abuse problems. We’re glad that the Houston Independent School District has committed four counselors and two social workers to the campus, even if students could use more help.

For years, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and others fought hard to keep North Forest alive as an independent school district. “This is going to be a fight for the children. Not for us. It’s going to be a fight for the children,” Lee announced at an emergency town hall meeting in February of last year.

We want to know: Where is Lee now? The old North Forest schools may not smell any longer, but many students at the high school are so far behind that the first step for them is just learning how to attend classes again.

While these students are making progress, they have many needs, some brought on by years of educational neglect. HISD is funding math tutors after school to work with students to build up basic math literacy. But many can’t read fluently, and funding for literacy tutors is not available.

To help these students catch up, the community should support these students through the gift of our time.

The North Forest area, in the northeast part of the city, does not boast much in the way of business or the cultural arts, yet some students seldom leave the area. Requests for field trips are met with a chilly reception; North Forest High School’s reputation precedes it. As a consequence, the students have a limited understanding of possible careers. To remedy this deficiency, Farinas would like to bring the community to North Forest. She says that North Forest High School would welcome speakers from all walks of life, and not just lawyers, doctors and nurses. Cosmeticians, X-ray technicians, mechanics, plumbers, day-care providers and construction workers, to name a few, have much to teach these kids about the broader world.

As camera crews may not be in evidence, we don’t expect Lee to show up to tell these students about the life of a congresswoman. But we are grateful to Principal Farinas and the other principals and teachers in this area for committing themselves to try to make a difference in the lives of these children.

These kids now may have a long way to go to catch up. But as Lee liked to pontificate when she was fighting to keep North Forest on life support, “We can’t ever give up on our children.”

Ouch!

Here is what I don’t get. The HISD Superintendent recommends closing five schools and the HISD Board votes to close just one – and that one is now a maybe. What is the point in recommending closing schools then? Here is the latest from this weekend’s Chron:

Facing continued protests from parents and activists over the looming closure of Dodson Elementary, Houston school trustees plan to reconsider its fate.

Board president Juliet Stipeche, with support from two trustees, exercised a rarely used policy to bring the item back to the board for consideration Thursday – four weeks after the board voted 5-4, during a tense meeting, to close Dodson. It’s unclear whether there are enough votes to save the school.

“We’re expecting the community to keep up the pressure,” said Loretta Brock, a community activist who organized a student boycott over the closure. “We are turning up the heat.”

Stipeche, whose district includes Dodson, voted with the majority in March to close the school. After mounting criticism, she received support from trustees Wanda Adams and Rhonda Skillern-Jones to add an item to the board agenda next week, over objections from Superintendent Terry Grier’s administration.

Grier had proposed closing five small schools, but Stipeche used her power as board president to remove three of them from the list in early March. The board later voted to close Dodson and to turn Jones High into a specialty career-focused school without athletics.

Grier’s staff released a statement Friday saying the administration stands by its recommendation to close Dodson, a few miles south of downtown, and to rezone the students to Blackshear, Lantrip and Rusk next school year.

“Regardless of the outcome, we will continue to work with the entire Dodson community – teachers, students, parents, community members – to ensure that we create a school environment where students can focus on learning,” the statement said.

HISD’s initial closure proposal said Dodson landed on the list because of “changes in housing development patterns.” Grier also acknowledged that district officials wanted to use the building to house students from other schools being rebuilt – a justification that frustrated Dodson supporters.

Officials are considering temporarily housing students from the Energy Institute High School and the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Stipeche’s alma mater, at the Dodson campus during rebuilding.

“After careful consideration of additional information and community input, I felt the need for this to be reconsidered,” Stipeche said, adding that Dodson’s Montessori program was popular enough to draw more than 200 applications, and parents were concerned about security around Blackshear Elementary. “I know that it’s difficult.”

Dodson enrolls about 445 students. Blackshear, a couple miles away, has about 340.

Trustee Paula Harris, who voted in the minority to keep open Dodson, said she expects to be absent from the board meeting Thursday. If Stipeche is the only trustee who changes her vote, the motion to keep Dodson open will fail on a tie.

Trustee Anna Eastman, who also voted against closure, said she is unsure how she’ll vote. She said she opposed the Dodson closure last month because it wasn’t part of a broader facilities plan.

“I just have a real problem with putting something up for vote one month and then bringing it back the next month,” Eastman said.

Oh well.

I got a Wall Street Journal delivered to me this morning. I think the Chron is trying to get me to subscribe. I don’t think so.

The great Willie Mays of course won the NL MVP Award with the New York Giants in 1954 and with the San Francisco Giants in 1965.

Well the team is 3-3. When they win they look great like in yesterday’s five dinger victory. When they lose they look like the 2013 ‘Stros. The H-Town fans are still not convinced though. They had crowds of 14,000 and change and 15,000 and change this past weekend for the Angels.

There is some interesting stuff in the news this morning. From the Chron on what the H-Town Mayor said in her State of the City address yesterday:

Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday said she would create a human rights commission to review violations of anti-discrimination laws, saying just talking about equality in the nation’s most diverse city is not enough.

“We don’t care where you started your life, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or who you choose to love,” Parker told the audience at the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual State of the City luncheon at the Hilton Americas. “Yet Houston is the only major city in the nation without civil rights protections for its residents.”

If The Mayor is going to spend political bucks on this, I hope she gets an ordinance with teeth.

There is no point in doing something symbolic that folks are going to ignore. Show me the teeth! Stay tuned!

What are the most consecutive wins we have had to start a season?

Now this is bizarre. HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez’s daughter recently spoke at a school board meeting under a fake name after she signed up to speak using her real name. Check this from the Houston Press:

Houston ISD trustee Manuel Rodriguez told us yesterday he wasn’t going to take a public position on the much-debated-question in recent months of whether the principal at Patterson Elementary is any good or not.

“It’s not a board member position to handle administrative or personnel positions,” he said taking the high road in response to our question about principal Jeannie Castano.

But in the past few months a lot of teachers, parents and concerned citizens have registered as public speakers to address trustees at their board meetings about Patterson. On February 13 a woman named Esmeralda Sanchez was among them.

Except that isn’t her real name. She’s actually Angelina Rodriguez, Manuel Rodriguez’s daughter.
And even though her father was sitting right there at the trustee table as the video shows, neither he nor his daughter corrected the mistake when Angelina came to the speaker’s mike after board president Juliet Stipeche called out “Esmeralda Sanchez.”

Which also begs the question: Why did Angelina Rodriguez answer to another name, clearly spoken by attorney Stipeche?

“I don’t know how that mix-up happened, but she signed up I believe as Angelina so I don’t know about the other name,” the trustee told us yesterday after confirming that “Esmeralda” was in fact his daughter, Angelina.

But a check of the officials speakers’ list for that meeting does not contain Angelina Rodriguez’s name or any variation of it. It does include Esmeralda Sanchez’s.

And perhaps no one else on the board recognized the true identity of the speaker, but some audience members did including one person who contacted us and said she was shocked to see Angelina Rodriguez – who she’d known for years – up there under a different name.

Although she did not want her name revealed, the person who contacted us wrote: “For an elected official to watch upon his own daughter provide false information at an official board meeting speaks volumes about his honesty.”

During her speech to the board, “Esmeralda” said she had a goddaughter at Patterson and that the principal was a bully.

“I want to speak on behalf of my goddaughter who goes to Patterson and let you know that the principal there has a 97 percent bully rating from her staff and is on a growth plan, and as far as I’ve seen there’s been no growth,” she is seen saying on the HISD video at about 5:30 in Part 2 of the public speaking portion.

Asked if the record ever got cleared up about Esmeralda Sanchez/Angelina Rodriguez, Manuel Rodriguez said “I don’t know.”

There is a rule about board members not engaging with members of the public who are allowed to make their comments and then return to their seats. Perhaps in this case, Manuel Rodriguez could have made an exception?

Honestly, this does not surprise me. I have said it for a while that this trustee has been there too long.

It is not a good press day for a couple of local Latino elected officials. The H-Town Mayor Pro Tem got some run today about some files he misplaced. Go to the Chron to check it out.

From the Dead Man Walking Department – check out the latest Burkablog on the Lite Guv:

The resignation of two of David Dewhurst’s key staffers should be the final nail in the coffin for the incumbent lieutenant governor. The reality is that Dewhurst has been politically dead since the night of the Wendy Davis filibuster, and he has no hope to retain his office. Unless something very strange happens, Dan Patrick is a lock to be the state’s next lieutenant governor.

I heard Dewhurst speak at the annual Texas Legislative Conference, in New Braunfels, on Friday, and I expected him to try to really connect with the crowd and make the case for himself on a personal level. Instead, he was the same old Dew. Nothing new to say except how great the Texas economy is doing. I want to feel sorry for him, because I think he is a decent fellow, but he simply cannot connect with an audience and get them energized.

The Lite Guv is a big boy and if he prefers to go down swinging – let him.

In 1987 the team started off with a 6-0 record of course – our best start ever.

Last night was very frustrating. We should have swept the Yankees. We hit into four DPs. We could not hit with runners in scoring position. We cut off a throw that would have nailed a Yankee at the plate. We blew a routine infield pop fly that allowed another Yankee to score. We looked like last year’s team. 26,348 showed up last night – sigh.

The Angels are in for four. The Big Puma and Roy O. will officially retire tomorrow at The Yard. Head on out there.

Dynamic Gouging

The ‘Stros have won their first two games of the season. The last time that happened was back in 2003. Name the team they took the first two from in 2003?

Only 23,145 showed up last night to see the ‘Stros put it on the Yankees. That is pitiful. I blame it in part on dynamic gouging, err pricing. Dynamic pricing is when the team charges more for games involving teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. They would have had a lot more folks in the seats last night, heck even a sellout if they just charged regular admission prices.

That Conan fella took a shot at H-Town the other night. Here is from the internet:

Conan then goes on to say that Wikipedia says Houston is, “650 square miles, all of it comprised of burning garbage piles. Houston’s smog is the 8th worst in the USA, and it’s home to every serial killer that’s alive today. It’s industries are known for pollutin’, and it’s the favorite U.S. city of Vladimir Putin. And here’s my last line, and I don’t mean to be callous, but if you drive near Houston just keep going to Dallas.”

I have never thought that this guy was funny and I thought NBC execs were on acid when they named him to replace Leno a few years ago. It turns out he tanked in the ratings and he was yanked.

The head of Houston First wants to swallow the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Why?

The idea isn’t going over well with Hunker Down because he thinks the county owned facilities will not be promoted. Here is from a Chron story on the matter:

“We are bigger than Houston, and the name of the bureau (that would be subsumed) is the ‘Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau,’” County Judge Ed Emmett said. “We have Reliant, we have a lot of facilities that need to be marketed separate from the city of Houston.”

He added, “I’m not in favor of the Convention and Visitors Bureau merging with Houston First if it means the city of Houston suddenly takes control of it. I’ve expressed that to the mayor.”

And:

Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack said the county contributes more than $600,000 annually to the visitors bureau and he is concerned about that money going to a group that might not support the entire region.

“As it stands right now, I wouldn’t vote to give something called ‘Houston First’ county money,” he said. Bringing the visitors bureau under the other group’s control, he said, is “not conducive to the unincorporated areas of Harris County, which are obviously highly important as far as future development. We build infrastructure, we do things, to attract people to Harris County.”

Well that seems to be the end of that. In reading the story I am not convinced that this is a good idea. It sounds more like a power trip by Houston First or is it Houston Thirst.

Ok, I know it is only two games so either we are very lucky, it is some sort of statistical anomaly, or we are a much improved ball club after taking the first two games from a Yankee team with some pretty good ballplayers. Like I said, I know it is only two ball games but that Dexter Fowler fella already has two doubles, a triple, and a dinger.

The ‘Stros took the first two from the Rockies back in 2003 of course.

It is Dollar Dog Night at The Yard this evening and can we actually sweep the Yankees?

Golf, Gardens, and 62

Commentary is not involved in the following debate. Here is from the Chron:

Politicians rarely fret when philanthropists offer to spend millions of dollars improving a public park – that is, until two groups of donors eye the same site, as is the case with Gus Wortham Golf Course.

The nonprofit Houston Botanic Garden wants to lease the century-old course, which sits on 150 acres in the East End, and pour up to $40 million in the first phase alone into a landmark amenity for Houston. Current plans call for part of the site to remain a city park.

Another group wants to raise $15 million to rehabilitate Texas’ oldest 18-hole course, saying the only reason it loses money – including a budgeted $75,000 this fiscal year – is that city has left it to rot.

They say the garden should be built elsewhere, the main alternative being Glenbrook Park, another city-owned course in southeast Houston.

Mayor Annise Parker said she wants a decision in April, and hopes to bring a long-term lease with the botanic garden to City Council in a few months. No city money would be spent.

The Mayor wants both competing groups to show her the money. Where are they going to get the $40 and $15 mil?

I really don’t think Glenbrook is an option because it has poor access so I think it is off the table.

If golf prevails and $15 mil is put in then it will be a different golf course all together and the green fees will rise and it may price out some of the current Wortham golfers. It could very well be a Memorial Park East of sorts. The demographics of the East End are shifting. The folks that are now moving in could very well help support a renovated upscale type golf course. Stay tuned!

Name the last Yankee to win the AL Cy Young Award?

Check this:

According to the Gallery Furniture website, the first 500 customers who purchase $6,300 or more from the store and have it delivered within one week could get those items free if the Astros win over 63 games during the 162-game regular season.

After last night that $6,300 might be a good investment. Can the ‘Stros win 62 more games?

It was a packed house last night. Great weather. There were also quite a few Yankee fans in attendance.

Of course we also won our first game last season and ended up losing our arses off the rest of the year. Let’s see how they do tonight.

The Rocket of course was the last Yankee to win the AL Cy Young Award back in 2001.

The team will honor Derek Jeter this evening.

Opening Day 2014

The only thing I am going to say on politics or policy on this Opening Day is 7 mil signed up for Obamacare so take that GOP naysayers. A milestone! See you in November and that is no April Fool’s Day Joke.

Commentary is not going to get into the ‘Stros passing on Derek Jeter back in the 1992 MLB Amateur Player Draft other than to ask if you can name the other four teams that passed on Jeter?

I’ll be heading to The Yard this afternoon with Bethany of course for another Opening Day.

What is new this year? Let’s see.

Managers now get to challenge certain calls using instant replay in return for not arguing the call.

Certain collisions at home plate are now illegal.

They removed the ugly left field signage at The Yard.

They moved the pennant and division winner signs.

The concession prices have gone up.

They are introducing more grub options that I doubt I will try like the Cajun Andouille Dog, the Bahn Mi Dog – huh, Texas Cobb, Pulled Port Tacos, and Chicken Fried BLT.

Hall of Fame great Nolan Ryan will be hanging around some.

They will open the roof during the games if the weather permits.

Dierk’s Bamboo joint is no longer around.

A-Roid has been benched of sorts.

Ryan Broid is back and he even got a standing ovation yesterday by forgiving fans at Miller.

Here is what is not new.

A lot of folks still can’t watch the games on the flat screen.

We still have the lowest payroll.

We are still going to lose a lot more than we win.

Commentary will continue to snag foul balls.

The Tribe, Expos now Nats, B’More, and Cinncy of course all passed on future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

Nolan will throw out the first pitch today to B-G-O so maybe I’ll see you at another Opening Day.

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