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Dear ‘Stros:

Before I get to pressing issues like my letter to the ‘Stros, let me mention a bit about the ongoing immigration issue. In Commentary’s opinion, the Democratic Party response to the current situation is feeble, not too united, lacking boldness, drowned out by louder voices, and certainly lacking in conviction on what should be best for the children fleeing Central America. That’s why it is easy for nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. to slap Dems around on this issue. Here is part of what he put out yesterday:

On immigration, many Democrats spend a third of their time impersonating Republicans. They spend the rest catering to blue-collar workers who are allergic to competition, and conning Latinos into thinking they’re in their corner. For the last two decades, Democrats have competed to see who can be the most cold-blooded toward foreigners.

He also doesn’t have much use for one of The President’s highest ranking Latina staffers, Cecilia Munoz. Here is this:

…. Cecilia Muñoz, the administration’s unofficial minister of damage control and propaganda on immigration. Muñoz’s official title is director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, but she spends much of her time misrepresenting Obama’s immigration policy on Spanish-language media.

Ouch. On the other hand, the other side is strong, united, bold, loud, and more than ready to put those kids on a kicking tee and boot them out and show complete disregard of their future welfare. All this is going on and certainly being noticed by Latino voters throughout the country. At this point I would say that Latino voters are a bit frustrated and disappointed on where this debate has been and where it is headed. Here is the entire Navarrette column: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Navarrette-Obama-sinks-lower-in-border-child-5633018.php.

An update: Guv Dude in the ultimate photo-op will put on his cavalry gear this afternoon and have a bugler sound “Charge” as he announces sending 1,000 cavalry troops to the border.

The following from the Chron is how all Dems should respond to Dude’s latest:

“The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out Border Patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why would Rick Perry send soldiers to confront these kids?” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said.

Dems certainly need to step up on this.

The ‘Stros are a young team. Name the ‘Stro on the current active roster with the most career dingers?

A good case can be made that the GMs of the ‘Stros, Rockets, and Texans aren’t getting the job done. The Rockets’ big deal fell apart last week. Yesterday, a Chron sports columnist punked the Texans’ GM for dissing future Hall of Fame great Andre Johnson. The ‘Stros on Friday blundered big time. Here is Commentary to the ‘Stros:

Dear ‘Stros:

We are not a major market ball club like the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, or Phillies and we don’t have a loyal fan base like the Red Sox, ATL, or Giants so we don’t have the luxury of committing major f__k-ups like the one this past Friday. These other teams can afford to mess up the signing of their top draft picks, we can’t. We have to sign our top talent if we want to get better – period.

Furthermore, we can’t afford to get cute, try to manipulate the process, or try to do some sleight of hand. Not in today’s world when too many folks are watching. It looks like we got caught with our hand in the cookie jar. We’ve now taken a major PR hit in the U.S. of A.’s sports world. Notice I said sports world and not MLB world. In the eyes of many we are a laughingstock.

Here is just a sampling:

ESPN.com headline: Astros’ failure to sign Aiken a total fiasco

From SBNation

As for the Astros? Look, sometimes you can get too bogged down into cost-benefit analysis to realize what you are doing. Reputation is worth something, and even though the Astros may not put a dollar amount on it, players absolutely will. Was breaking a verbal agreement with a top draft pick really a good business idea? The way this shook out may very well scare a few players into refusing to negotiate with the team pre-draft in fear of being hung out to dry like Aiken, effectively telling the team not to waste the pick on them. For young players on the team who enter free agency for the first time, are they really going to be willing to sign a “hometown discount” to play for a team that has acted so miserly toward them and others in the past? As for free agents, the Astros already have to pay a premium for talent to come play for them, the Aiken saga sure doesn’t help their image on the big league level either.

From Bleacher Report:

Unfortunately, the Astros’ 2014 draft now will forever be remembered as a complete and utter failure. That said, only time will determine how the organization’s inability to sign Aiken (as well as Nix and Marshall) will impact its long-term success.

One thing is certain, however: Failing to reach an agreement with the No. 1 overall pick is a crushing blow for an Astros franchise that’s in the midst of a rebuilding process and potentially a few years away from playoff relevancy.

Here is from Evan Drellich of the Chron:

Perception, occasional misperception and the compounding effect of both have been overwhelming and self-imposed forces on the Astros, a team that has found itself and put itself at the center of attention.

General manager Jeff Luhnow’s family vacation to Mexico presumably had no effect on the Astros’ inability to sign No. 1 pick lefthander Brady Aiken. But it’s easy for someone to question why the GM didn’t scrap his plans, fly to San Diego and court Aiken.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, when he was Red Sox general manager, had Thanksgiving dinner with Curt Schilling in his courtship of the pitcher following the 2003 season.

It looks bad, being out of the country. What good would it have done for Luhnow to return? Probably none. It’s an image matter, and the Astros haven’t been good about controlling their image, from things like this to bigger matters. They don’t draw the benefit of the doubt.

And from Buster Olney, ESPN.com:

The Astros have had an incredible opportunity, having picked at the top of the draft for three straight seasons, but time and again, they have been penny-wise and pound-foolish and damaged their brand along the way.

To Commentary, it looks like the team went into the draft with a lot of swagger and then started acting like bullies. Teams like us with three consecutive 100 plus losses seasons can’t be bullying and trying to pull some fast ones. We still need to go in with hat in hand so to speak. It is like the wimp of the sixth grade class went over and tried to bully a second grader and got caught. That’s a real shame if you ask me.

James Garner is no longer with us. It seems like I grew up with him. From “Maverick” to “Darby’s Rangers”, to “The Great Escape”, to the Polaroid TV ads, to “Rockford Files”, to “Victor, Victoria”, and the flick “Maverick” – he was all cool and all class.

The Chron E-Board said this Saturday:

(Thumbs up) Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is correct to label the plan to tear down the Astrodome as “silly.” Other s-words would be short-sighted and senseless. Anybody’s list of the most important buildings in Texas (the Capitol, the Alamo, Mission Control, Gruene Hall) includes the Dome. How can we possibly bulldoze a place that significant?

Let’s see, a place where we make laws, a place where we fought for our freedom, a place where we sent folks to the moon, a dance hall, and a place where folks hit dingers, scored TDs, and rode bulls – got it!

Chris Carter of course has 67 career dingers to lead the current batch of ‘Stros.

The ‘Stros have today off then play three with the best team in the MLB – the A’s.

Commentary was never in favor of going after HCC Trustee Dave Wilson on his residency. He won his race unfair and unsquare. All you do when you go after him like this is you give him a platform to spew his stuff. Yesterday he put it on Vince Ryan and crew. Here is what I said back on January 2:

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan doesn’t want incoming Houston Community College (HCC) Trustee David Wilson to take office. Vince says Wilson is not a resident of HCC. Excuse me while I scratch my head on this one. Why didn’t Vince move on this right after Wilson filed for office a few months ago? A couple of Democrats that I respect have told me in the past few days that they don’t like the idea of Vince trying to undo the results of an election. Stay tuned on this one for sure.

And here is from today’s Chron on the trial:

Harris County officials hired a private investigator to trail Dave Wilson for four days in their quest to prove he didn’t live where he claimed when he won a seat on the Houston Community College board in November.

But the evidence they gathered and presented in court this week – from clandestine footage of Wilson loading barbecue meats into his wife’s vehicle outside a warehouse, to pictures of the spare, clean apartment inside – wasn’t enough to convince a jury that Wilson was lying about his residence.

“Thank you,” Wilson shouted when the verdict in his favor was announced Thursday afternoon.

It was a waste of resources if you ask me. Now you have legitimized of sorts his victory last November. Now you have given him a win. You let him beat the system. Now more folks will start listening to his arse. I don’t know who gave the thumbs up on this. Dumb move if you ask me but again – they didn’t ask me!

Jose Altuve has 130 base hits. How many hits does he need to break B-G-O’s club record?

Hunker Down doesn’t have any use for any plan that calls for tearing down the Dome. Here is from today’s Chron:

Emmett told the group (Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston) that he did a “poor job” last fall of selling a $217 million plan by the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp. to turn the Dome into an events center. Voters rejected the plan last November.

In his speech to a luncheon crowd at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown, Emmett was not advocating for a specific proposal and told members there is not one currently under consideration by Harris County Commissioners Court. Rather, he said that tearing down the vacant stadium would be a waste of a valuable taxpayer asset and that demolition would come back to haunt him in retirement.

“The Astrodome is the only building in the world that’s 350,000 square feet of column-free space,” he said. “There are a lot of creative people in the world who would love to figure out ways to use the space if we just keep it and make it an option for them.”

Emmett has in the last week expressed vehement opposition to the $66 million proposal commissioned by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NFL’s Texans to demolish the vacant stadium and turn it into an outdoor green space like downtown’s Discovery Green where festivals, tailgating and concerts could be held. He did so again on Thursday.

“It’s a silly plan,” he said after his remarks.

Keep Dome alive! I can’t even keep count with all the plans and ideas that have been put forward. I’m thinking Hunker Down is in denial. I really don’t think that if it torn down under his watch folks will see him years from now and say “there goes Hunker ‘Knocked the Dome’ Down!” Oh, well!

Jose Altuve needs 81 base hits to surpass B-G-O’s club record of 210 of course.

Tiger’s in the hunt this morning in the British Open. I’m rooting for him.

The team is in Chicago for three with the White Sox.

The Decision on Dave

First of all in case you missed it, I am talking about must-see-TV on “Today” this morning. Natalie Morales is a thrill seeker and Jenna Bush Hager is not. You need to check both of them on something called the Terror-dactyl – a kick-arse ride off of a mountain and into a canyon in Colorado. Jenna Bush Hager is hilarious. Here it is: http://www.today.com/video/today/55664699#55664699.

Former ‘Stro catcher J.R. Towles gets some run in today’s Chron. What team batting record does Towles own?

In case you didn’t know, the HCC Trustee Dave Wilson residency trial is underway at the courthouse. I heard about it a couple of days ago on 88.7 FM then Doug Miller of Channel 11 reported on the trial yesterday. If the jury decides against Wilson, expect folks to start calling out other elected officials that don’t live in their districts so stay tuned!

Here is the Chron update on the trial:

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

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

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

If Wilson, accused of claiming a false residence in his run for his HCC seat, in fact lived outside of HCC’s District II, as the Harris County attorney contends, he would have been unqualified to run for office, and therefore unqualified to hold his seat on the board of trustees. Wilson could face removal from office, if the jury finds he didn’t live where he claims, Ray said.

Both sides gave their opening arguments Wednesday and the county attorney questioned Wilson, a 67-year-old businessman, who gained national attention when he beat a 24-year incumbent in the predominantly African-American district after allegedly leading voters to believe he was black.

4 different addresses

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

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

No rule against it?

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

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

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

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

Warehouse apartment

Wilson contends his residence is an upstairs apartment in a warehouse located at 5600 W. 34th St. The warehouse is owned by a company that belongs to Wilson’s sister, who lives in Illinois. He moved there in early 2012 from another warehouse on 34th St., which is not in HCC district II. He was registered to vote there before and claimed it as a residence in 2011 when he ran against Mayor Annise Parker. All the while, Wilson has claimed his home on Lake Lane as his residence when filing taxes, Ray argued.

Wilson’s attorney told the jury he bought the home for his wife as a way to coax her back after she left him briefly. Hers is the only name on the deed, he said.

Not allowed there

In January, after Wilson ousted former HCC Chairman Bruce Austin by 26 votes, city inspectors determined Wilson didn’t have permission to live at the warehouse where he says he lives. They gave him a 10-page list of improvements he needed to make to bring the place up to code, Wilson testified.

He contended he thought the apartment was “grandfathered in” and a legal place to live, but has since worked to fix the issues raised by the city.
He still does not have a permit to live there, he said.

Regardless, 5600 W. 34th St. is where Wilson calls his home, he testified.

“I admit to this day that sometimes I sleep a the house at … Lake Lane,” Wilson said. “But my residency is at 5600.”

When I was at the MLB All Star Game viewing party at The Yard Tuesday night a huge stage was being constructed for Friday’s Beyonce-Jay Z concert. We were told not to put photos of the stage on social media – huh!

In September of 2007 against San Luis, J.R. Towles had a franchise setting record eight RBIs of course.

The ‘Stros are getting bad PR on numerous media outlets throughout the U.S. of A. They have not been able sign their Numero 1 draft pick and are being accused of manipulating the draft rules. I don’t know about that. They have until 4 pm tomorrow to sign their pick.

The campaign money reports were released yesterday. I know this may not be popular with Dems but I kind of find it hard to argue with the following from the Chron:

“The real story is the cash-on-hand gap between the two candidates,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. “(AG Greg) Abbott, even if he were to not raise another dime during the second half of 2014, would still have enough money to run a very competitive campaign in the fall, whereas (Sen. Wendy) Davis does not have enough money to run a high level campaign during the month of October.” Fundraising efforts continue heading into the November election.

I hope Team Davis can raise a ton of money over the next couple of months or we could well be drowning in GOP ads this fall.

The MLB All Star Game was played last night. 20 years ago the ‘Stros sent five players to the game – named them?

The Chron E-Board weighed in again on the Equal Rights Ordinance. They don’t think it ought to be on the ballot. I get that but it is what it is. There is after all a process to collect and gather signatures. Here is their take.

If you want to see the problems with government by referenda, take a look at California. The once-golden coast has been rendered practically ungovernable by a state constitution that reduces policy to a popularity contest. Politicians end up restrained by contradictory agenda passed at the ballot box. There’s a reason why our nation’s Founding Fathers actively rejected a direct democracy and instead formed a republic, in which elected representatives could cool a populist fervor. But opponents of Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance have turned their heated feelings into 50,000 signatures, which they have submitted to City Hall to force a referendum vote on the otherwise generic ordinance.

This movement falls into the exact trap that James Madison warned against in his famous Federalist No. 10. In that founding document, Madison outlines the need for a republic that protects minorities against the tyranny of majority rule. The rights of people to use public accommodations without facing discrimination should not be subject to oft-changing political winds.

Support for that ordinance aside, the need for citizen referenda on specific policies in a city with two-year election cycles is highly questionable. A bit of patience could find City Hall with a totally new slate of elected officials, ready to act, without opening the door to California-style chaos.

There are also further questions hanging in the air about the legitimacy of those 50,000 signatures. While foes of the nondiscrimination ordinance claim that 30,000 of those signatures are verified, it isn’t clear whether they meet the specific standard necessary to get a referendum item on the November ballot. Following the requirements of our city charter, nondiscrimination opponents need signatures from 17,269 people registered to vote within the city of Houston at the time of signing.

Proponents of the Early to Rise education referendum last year saw more than 150,000 signatures in support nearly cut in half, whittled down to 80,505. That movement had several months to act, a broad support base and could pull from voters across the whole county. Opponents of the nondiscrimination ordinance did not have those advantages in their 30-day drive to collect signatures.

Many of the mega-churches that held rallies in opposition to the nondiscrimination ordinance sit near the edge of city limits. One has to wonder just how many attendees actually hail from the city of Houston and not some other jurisdiction in our Houstonia sprawl. There are also reports of nondiscrimination foes improperly soliciting signatures from people not registered to vote in the city. LGBT activist and historian Cristan Williams released a recording on the website transadvocate.com that seems to catch one of these foes in the act.

At first glance, 50,000 signatures is an impressive number, but the manner in which they were collected puts that number into doubt. City Hall is double-checking the information submitted, and LGBT groups plan on independently running their own verifications. We hope they run the signatures through a fine-toothed comb. Houston should not be a place that snatches away dignity because of a mistake.

The AL will have home field advantage in the World Serious this October. I am OK with that. It beats rotating every other year like they used to. It also beats having it go to the teams with the best record which usually favors the teams with the largest payrolls.

In 1994 the ‘Stros sent Baggy, B-G-O, Ken Caminiti, Doug Drabek, and John Hudek of course to the All Star game.

A “way to go” goes to Jose Altuve for his sacrifice fly RBI and his nice fielding play last night!

First Report

Well here is the first one we know of. From the Chron:

Republican lieutenant governor nominee Dan Patrick said Monday that his campaign has raised $1 million since beating incumbent David Dewhurst in a May 27 runoff.

The MLB All Star Game is being played tonight. Name the Hall of Fame great with the most stolen bases in All Star Game history?

All I am going to say about those that are demonizing the children at the border is have you talked to them? Ask them why they are leaving their country. Ask them why they are coming over here before you shoot out your press releases.

AG Eric Holder is right. Check this from CNN.com:

Holder on Sunday told ABC’s “This Week” that “there’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me (and) directed at the President. … There’s a certain racial component to this for some people.”

Holder said he also stood by comments from a 2009 speech in which he said America is a “nation of cowards” on race and sees a crop of new voter identification laws, many of them passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures, as a way to disenfranchise minority voters.

I will be at The Yard tonight for the following:

Thank you for RSVP’ing for the Season Ticket Holder All-Star Game Watch Party presented by Champion Energy Services today, July 15th!

In addition to our party, Roger Clemens will be hosting The Rocketman Celebrity Slam at Minute Maid Park, a charitable celebrity softball game that will be taking place simultaneously on the Minute Maid Park field. You will have the opportunity to watch this game in addition to the All-Star Game, with access to both the main concourse and Mazda Club Level.

The all-star celebrity lineup for the softball game includes Astros greats Jeff Bagwell and Roy Oswalt; Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley, former Dynamo forward and current Houston Dash Managing Director Brian Ching, former NBA All-Star and current Skeeters pitcher Tracy McGrady, Houston Texans punter Shane Lechler as well as many other former and current athletes from across the sports world. Local Houston rapper Paul Wall, country music artist Toby Keith, actor Lee Majors and several other celebrities from the music and entertainment industry will also participate in the Rocketman Celebrity Slam.

Cool!

Willie Mays of course stole 6 bases in 24 All Star games.

I hope Altuve gets a lot of playing time this evening!

The Break

Tomorrow candidates will file their July 15 campaign contribution and expenditure reports and the pundits and spinners will then assess who has a chance and who doesn’t.

Everybody saw what the Chron E-Board said yesterday. Here it is again:

At a time when the Internet can bring the totality of human knowledge to your fingertips – not all of it fact-checked – websites like Snopes and Politifact have risen to a place of prominence for helping to separate rumor from reality. With all the hearsay and innuendo around Houston’s new nondiscrimination ordinance, it almost feels like City Hall could use its own Snopes.

On its face, there is nothing controversial in the NDO. One could even claim that it is rather conservative, in the sense that this policy has been tested elsewhere time and again. The ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of categories already covered by federal law. It also extends protections to gay and transgender residents, following nondiscrimination laws that other cities and states have had on the books for years.
Religious organizations and small businesses are exempted, and the maximum fine is $5,000.

But the rather staid nature of the nondiscrimination ordinance has not stopped opponents (mostly a few limited political and religious groups) from labeling it the “Sexual Predator Protection Act” and pursuing a ballot referendum to eliminate the new law.

The crux of this ad hominem invective is that opening the doors of civil society to transgender people – including restroom doors – will somehow also benefit criminals. This is an accusation based more in fear than fact.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. More than 160 cities and counties have passed their own individual laws, including Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans. Dallas has had similar protections for a decade. Minnesota first prohibited discrimination against transgender folks in public accommodations more than 20 years ago. Even the Houston Independent School District added a transgender category to its nondiscrimination policy in 2011.

Houstonians have patiently studied these others’ experiences, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. A city of sex criminals run amok only exists in the perverse fantasies of those prone to moral panics, desperately yearning for evidence that their fears were rightly founded. That evidence simply does not exist beyond the anecdotal urban legend.

Just in case not everyone has visited one of those states or cities that already have a nondiscrimination ordinance, let us lay it out in simple terms: Business owners are free as ever to boot weirdos and criminals to the curb, whether they’re gay, straight or any other shade of humanity. They just need to have a reason that isn’t discriminatory.

The fact is that Houston was one of the few major cities that lacked these local protections, and now we don’t. Citizens can look to City Hall instead of the federal government to enforce equal rights. Support for this policy cuts across our community, uniting a broad spectrum of Houston including Log Cabin Republicans, the NAACP and business groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston Association of Realtors. It is a reminder that Houston is a city of business, and that in the 21st century nondiscrimination is a moneymaker. There is important symbolism in the fact that corporate boardrooms across the nation prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community, while Vladimir Putin spews homophobia from the Kremlin.

But neither business acumen nor the tyranny of factual evidence has dissuaded a few organizations from pursuing a local referendum to eliminate the new nondiscrimination ordinance.

We question the wisdom of settling civil rights issues at the ballot box – a topic that will be addressed in a later editorial. In the meantime, we encourage the ordinance’s opponents to open their ears – and their hearts. It was one thing when Houston lacked its own nondiscrimination ordinance. It will be something much crueler if today’s protections are snatched away.

Some folks sometimes get upset at Commentary when I post stuff GOPers send to me. I don’t know why? I am just letting folks know what the other side is thinking like this one in response to the E-Board I got yesterday:

The editors are careful not to mention the fact that that the black pastors are leading this push back to the Texas #1 Progressive Mayor’s agenda. There were 55,000 signatures collected in less than 30 days for a referendum to stop her (Parker is quoted that this is all about her). That fact alone should garner the attention of the entire community.

Yesterday, the Harris County Republican Party Executive Committee passed a resolution opposing the Mayor’s Ordinance 2014-0530. So the Mayor has united the black Ministers with the local Republican Party just before the November elections.

What an interesting unintended consequence.

We will see!

Target Field will host the MLB All Star Game tomorrow night. Which league has the most wins?

In other sports news the Rockets didn’t get better this past weekend and folks are saying that Andre Johnson will not report to camp on time.

The NL of course has 43 All Star Game wins and the AL 39 with two ties.

We are 40-56 at the break. We are better than we were at this point last year but we are still not good if you know what I mean.

ReReBuild Houston

The Chron E-Board went after the H-Town City Council today for getting into the ReBuild Houston fund. The headline reads “Busting Rebuild”. First of all, City Council can do whatever they want to do and if the Mayor can’t stop them then so be it. Commentary worked on the ReBuild Houston campaign back in 2010 – it was called RENEW HOUSTON – so I can only speak to what the campaign put out. This was the main theme of the 2010 campaign:

Proposition 1 establishes a pay-as-you-go system that ends wasteful borrowing and finally puts our streets and drainage programs on the path to fiscal responsibility. Proposition 1 creates a dedicated fund that can’t be used for any other purpose – and it will create thousands of jobs to strengthen our local economy.

The campaign also put out:

The money is used to fix the worst problems first, no matter what part of town they are in.

Commentary thinks it is way too early to say what Council is doing is a bad idea or to say City Council is violating the spirit of the campaign. Plus the Mayor is saying she is going to make sure the funds are spent according to ReBuild Houston guidelines. Still, it doesn’t help that folks including the E-Board are calling this a “slush fund”. Check out the E-Board take here:

The ReBuild Houston plan was supposed to be a dry and logical prioritization of infrastructure projects that befitted our city engineers. Then City Council got control of the funds. Now that voter-established drainage fee, which is supposed to create a pay-as-you-go fund for street and drainage repairs and pay down previous infrastructure debt, is going to be diverted to pay for council members’ pet projects.

This is all the result of a poorly conceived plan to allocate $1 million to each district council member to spend on his or her own agenda. However, council did not raise additional revenue to fill these slush funds, and will likely have to siphon the dollars from ReBuild Houston. This move threatens to undermine a rational worst-first plan of street and drainage repairs that kept politics out of the question. Now City Hall is slipping back toward a system of loudest first, where council members can put political aims over good governance. It is the exact sort of short-term thinking that all too often seems to drive our municipal government.

There still isn’t even a guarantee that this process will speed things up. These funds will have to go through the usual procurement process, and dollars diverted from ReBuild Houston will still come with charter-prescribed spending restrictions attached. With these rules in place, the funding change just seems to open the door to political influence, all while allowing council members to take credit for projects that would likely happen anyway.

There is also a sense that this fight over funds may be more about personality than policy. Tensions between City Council and the mayor feel like they’ve reached a fever pitch, especially after last month’s fight over contracts for tax collection vendors that included a rare council override of a mayoral ruling. It can make folks wonder whether council has simply lost faith in City Hall’s established practices – if they can’t trust the Department of Public Works and Engineering to fix the city streets, then gosh darn it, they’ll do it themselves.

But if there really is an issue with business as usual, then council should be tackling the big problem and try to make the system work better. Instead, they’ve created a workaround that threatens to drain the ReBuild Houston fund.

Texans have condemned these budgetary sleights of hand at the state level, and they’re all too common in Washington D.C. No one should want to see these tricks down at City Hall, either.

Look, Council is impatient with the bureaucracy. I get that. Let’s wait and see how this plays out. Let’s see how the citizens react. The opinion makers are not the only ones that count.

The Red sox are in town this weekend for three. The ‘Stros have three players with dingers in double digits – SpringerDinger – 19, Chris Carter – 17, and Matt Dominguez – 11. The Red Sox only have two – name the two?

The Rodeo and Texans came out with a $66 mil proposal to tear down the Dome and replace with green space sprinkled with a few commemorative plaques. Because it is a Rodeo-Texans driven plan it isn’t being immediately trashed by the key folks over at the County. Check this from the Chron:

“I think this is definitely a potentially viable option that definitely needs to be looked at,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman, who was openly opposed the $217 million events center plan, primarily because it would have led to an increase in the county property tax rate.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said the proposal “could be a way to do something without taxpayers paying the majority of the tab,” depending on how much the organizations are willing to contribute.

“It’ll be interesting to see what the total package is,” he said.

Even Commissioner El Franco Lee, whose Precinct 1 is home to the Astrodome, said, “It’s another plan that we should review and determine if it has merit. … We always want to listen to our tenants.”

Lee previously has opposed tearing it down. Spokesman David Ellison said Thursday that the commissioner still “wants to avoid demolition.”

Only Harris County Judge Ed Emmett expressed open opposition to the plan. His spokesman Joe Stinebaker tweeted Thursday that the county’s top elected official “has been – and remains – opposed to any plans to demolish the Astrodome. Period.”

Of course Hunker Down doesn’t have anything on the table except nostalgia. If they are going to go the plaque route don’t forget the two Ali fights, the Mike Scott no-no, and the last Selena concert!

Somebody needs to do a better job of briefing Sen. Wendy Davis. Yesterday she called on The President to visit the border. Duh! The President said a couple of days ago that he is not into theater.

Big Papi has 19 dingers and Mike Napoli has 10 of course. That kind of helps ‘splain why the Red Sox are in last place in the AL East.

Still it is the defending World Serious Champs at The Yard for three and for the second straight morning we are not in last place in the AL West.

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