Archive for February, 2014

With one day left to vote early, Harris County Dems stand at 17,092 in person and GOPers at 42,975. In the mail category, Dems are at 6,802 and GOPers at 16,696. The GOP’s primary is a lot more interesting. They got fights at the top of the ballot and at the bottom.

Name the baseball theme flick that earned over $25 mil for its opening weekend – the best opening weekend haul for a baseball flick?

Today of course will be the best Early Vote in Person day.

The Uber supporters are flooding the H-Town City switchboard so to speak and the City is not happy and told Uber to stop it. Good luck with that. Here is the question I have: Are the folks that are sending stuff H-Town residents or are they coming in from all across the universe?

I got a Bruce Steffler for Judge piece yesterday.

“42” of course earned over $25 mil during its opening weekend last year.

Spring Training action starts today.

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As of yesterday 14,131 Dems have voted early in person compared to 34,190 GOPers. In the vote by mail category it is 6,261 Dems and 15,862 GOPers. Tsk, tsk, tsk!

Name the Actor/Actress that was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1984 flick “The Natural”?

I don’t think Sen. Dan Patrick has had a good past few days. He was outed of sorts last week when a private investigator turned up evidence that he used to hire paperless folks. Yesterday his marriage math was off by a chromosome or two. Now today he is running an ad denying everything. When you have to put out an ad denying stuff that usually means that what you have to deny is working. Got it?

A very nice crowd showed up at Rep. Carol Alvarado’s fundraiser last night.

FLASH! The Chron didn’t take a cheap shot at James Rodriguez today.

I went to vote yesterday. Why does the Dem Party have to put those issues at the end of the ballot? What is up with that? What is the point?

Yesterday I got another Alameel mailer and a HoustonTurnoutProject.org mailer.

Glenn Close of course was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “The Natural” back in 1984.

Nothing to report from The Yard today.

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Rooting for Hunker Down?

The other day Kuffer said this about the race for Chair of the Harris County GOP:

“I’m just going to say this: Most Democrats I know are rooting for Woodfill to win. Those of you that vote in the Republican primary, make of that what you will.”

I don’t know about that. It appears as though Hunker Down wants to move his Party away from the far right ledge. Maybe if Hunker Down is successful these guys might come to the table on immigration reform and stop the hating of folks.

Once again the Chron gave another front page story to the GOP Chair race and here are bits:

The unusually divisive race to lead the Harris County Republican Party also may be the costliest, as challenger Paul Simpson raised an additional $145,000 in his bid to oust 12-year Chairman Jared Woodfill.

The bulk of that – $90,000 – came from County Judge Ed Emmett, who publicly and repeatedly has criticized Woodfill for his management style and unabashed focus on social issues.


Emmett on Monday said he has “told everybody that the best thing I can do to elect Republicans in the fall is to get rid of Jared.”

His $90,000 donation is in addition to $10,731 Emmett already had donated to Simpson from his campaign account.

The flick “Eight Men Out” is about the 1919 Black Sox Scandal and the fixing of the 1919 World Serious. Who did the Sox play in the Serious?

The Chron E-Board came out in support of Uber for H-Town today and in the process came out with a cheap shot on former Council Member James Rodriguez for working for Yellow Cab. Hey, it is their right to cheap shot but I think it was totally unnecessary.

Here is the latest. 12,405 Dems have voted early in person and 5,456 Dems have mailed in ballots versus 28,887 GOPers in person and 14,687 by mail.

The Sox lost to Cinncy of course in the 1919 World Serious.

The first Spring Training game is tomorrow versus The ATL.

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Sums It Up

Commentary is not going to put out yesterday’s Early Vote numbers because they are included in the following Chron piece. One would think that if we are truly going to make a run for the state blue this year that some folks would kind of be warming up here in the state’s largest county. What do I know?

Name the baseball related movie with the most Academy Award nominations?

I don’t have a dog in the Uber and Lyft wanting to get into the H-Town market fight. I don’t know if they are needed. Here is what I don’t understand though. Why do we want to let these guys come in and rake in a bunch of dough and haul it off into the pockets of NoCal billionaires? It is not as if they are going to reinvest their profits in H-Town.

Yesterday I got a nice mailer from Kim Ogg.

Here is the Chron piece on voter turnout:

Turnout among Harris County Democrats is on track to be the lowest in three primary cycles, while area Republicans expect to be on par with the last non-presidential year and are eyeing a sharp uptick in mail-in balloting.

Voters who have not already requested a mail-in ballot can visit one of 39 early voting locations across the county through Friday. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart warned many voters who wait until the March 4 primary election day “are going to be inconvenienced or upset.”

“For half of voters, it’s not going to be the same place you voted last November,” Stanart said, noting the county has a limited amount of equipment that has to be split among locations selected by each party.

As of Monday night, 51,784 voters cast ballots in both primaries, according to Stanart’s office. In the Republican primary, 23,530 voters cast ballots in person; another 13,573 have voted by mail. On the Democratic side, 10,210 people have voted in person, and 4,471 have cast mail-in ballots.

Through Sunday, Republicans have exceeded the early voting totals from the 2010 gubernatorial primary, he said. Compared to this point that year, in-person turnout is ahead by 7.5 percent and the number of returned mail ballots has shot up 44 percent.

During the last three primaries, about 20 percent of early ballots cast by county Republicans have been by mail.

Drop among Democrats

Democratic in-person voting is down about 27 percent, and mail-in ballots are down 13 percent from this point in 2010. Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis called his party’s turnout disappointing, but not surprising.

“We don’t have any really, really hotly contested top-of-the-ballot stuff like the Republicans do,” he said.

The Harris County Republican primary ballot includes 37 competitive races, excluding party positions. On the Democratic side, only 16 non-party races have more than one candidate.

Decisions by Republican statewide officeholders to change jobs sparked a shuffle that has created competitive openings for a variety of posts. Attorney General Greg Abbott is seeking higher office, and Comptroller Susan Combs is retiring. Nearly all Texas House and Senate seats have opened up, as well as a slew of local judicial posts.

It has lengthened the Republican ballot and led to additional campaign spending that can be linked to higher turnout in some areas.

Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill pointed to Clear Lake as an example of increased competition driving turnout. So far, more ballots have been cast at the Freeman Branch Library than the traditional party leader, the Kingwood Branch Library.

After Rep. Steve Stockman decided, along with six other Republicans, to challenge Sen. John Cornyn’s re-election efforts, 12 Republicans flooded into the Clear Lake area to campaign for the seat.

Similarly, seven candidates are vying for a Texas House seat vacated by roofing contractor John Davis after one term.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy for those particular races,” Woodfill said.

Mail-in ballot push

He attributed the jump in ballots cast by mail, however, to more aggressive efforts by political groups to connect eligible voters with that option.

“A lot of campaigns and bigger entities, like Conservative Republicans of Texas, have really racheted up their ballot-by-mail programs,” Woodfill said. “You’re going to see higher number voting by mail than you’ve ever seen in an election in Harris County.”

“The Pride of the Yankees” about Lou Gehrig starring Gary Cooper of course garnered eleven Oscar nominations.

I don’t have anything from The Yard.

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It’s TV, Man

Through yesterday here in Harris County, 8,399 Dems have gone to vote early in person versus 19,249 GOPers. 3,592 Dems have mailed in ballots versus 12,288 GOPers. It’s the TV ads, man. That’s all I see. Dewhurst, Patrick, Branch, Paxton, and all the rest. GOP candidates have the ads and that’s why they have a better turnout.

Speaking of their ads, most of the ads are what I call immigrant bashing. Latinos are being painted as invaders. According to a poll that has just been released it looks like there will be runoffs for Lite Guv and AG so we can expect another two months of bashing on TV.

Hey look at it this way. That is not going to do the GOP any good in trying to attract Latino voters come November. Hey, they asked for it.

Since this is the week of the Oscars, my questions will be about baseball and movies. In the flick “For Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner, Costner plays a 40-year old pitcher named Billy Chapel. What MLB club does Chapel pitch for in the flick?

This past weekend I got a Damian LaCroix mailer, a Judge Kirkland mailer, a David Alameel mailer, and another Judge Hinde mailer.

The eight-day campaign contribution and expenditure reports are due today.

Billy Chapel of course plays for the Detroit Tigers.

Yesterday the ‘Stros and other MLB teams sent out photos of team members urging peace in Venezuela – that’s a good thing.

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First of all the best headline of the day goes to Kuffer for the following:

Dan Patrick strongly denies having once been a decent human being.

It made my day. Way to go Kuffer!

This is kind of scary and I hope it gets resolved in a good way. This is about the Fire Department being over budget. I am not taking sides and at the same time I hope I don’t have to call 911. Check out the entire Chron front page piece here:

The safety of Houston’s citizens and its firefighters will be compromised over the next four months as the fire department limits the number of personnel on duty and removes trucks from service in an attempt to cut spending, Fire Chief Terry Garrison said Thursday.

“People that are suffering from EMS calls are going to be suffering a little longer, houses and buildings are going to burn a little bit longer, because our response times are going to be increased,” Garrison told members of the City Council’s budget committee. “We’re going to have to change our decision-making model when we get on the scene, because fires will be doubling in size every minute.”

City Councilman Stephen Costello, chairman of the budget committee, rejected Garrison’s bleak prediction.

“I find it hard to believe we’re going to compromise public safety. I really don’t believe that’s the case,” Costello said. “It’s simply a matter of, once we respond to a call, we make sure that we have backup from another station. They do it all the time when they have two- or three-alarm calls.”

City Council members listening to Garrison’s presentation Thursday visibly struggled to balance the two basic priorities of local government: financial responsibility and public safety. Those present voted 7-3 to hold HFD to its original $447 million budget rather than give it additional funding to cover soaring overtime costs. Committee votes are nonbinding but do indicate the will of the larger council.

HFD is on pace to exceed its budget by $10.5 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30. Most of that, $8.5 million, is due to overtime paid to firefighters to cover a staffing shortage exacerbated by a union contract that leaves the chief unable to restrict when firefighters take time off.

The department averaged 90 overtime shifts per day during the second half of last year, and has averaged 47 overtime shifts per day for the last 45 days.

To stay within budget over the remaining four months of the fiscal year, Garrison said, HFD must not average more than 23 overtime shifts per day.

On days the department exceeds that number, fire trucks will be idled and supervisory shifts will not be filled, the chief said.

Losing fire trucks

Under his plan, Garrison said that one in five department engine and ladder trucks could be pulled out of service during the peak vacation months of March and June, and staffing could drop by as much as 10 percent on an average day.

The first stations to lose fire trucks under the chief’s plan would be Station 78 in southwest Houston, Station 20 in the southeast, Station 77 in the northwest and Station 45 in the northeast. Some stations also could see one of the two paramedics on squad units pulled and replaced by lesser-trained technicians; some chief posts also could go unfilled.

“Every fire engine company that we take out of service, every unit that we put one less paramedic on, every district chief that we take out will have a direct impact on the service we deliver to our customers, in response time and in service delivery,” Garrison said.

The stations targeted to lose resources were chosen on the basis of past call volumes, the ability of nearby stations to step in, the need to protect key targets such as high-rises, and other factors, Garrison said. The cuts will be implemented in tiers, increasing in severity as more firefighters miss shifts each day.

Most of the time, Garrison said, the department will implement its first or second tier of cuts, dropping its daily staffing by up to 10 percent and idling 13 percent of its fire trucks and some medical units. During the peak vacation months of March and June, he said, the daily head count likely will drop 14 percent, with 19 percent of fire trucks idled and 9 percent of the emergency medical fleet parked.

Councilwoman Brenda Stardig, whose District A is one of two council districts in which additional trucks would be idled at each stage of the chief’s four-tier reduction plan, voted against the resolution requiring the fire department to solve its budget problem without additional funding, as did council members Dwight Boykins and Ed Gonzalez.

“I am very much about toeing the line on this budget, but if this comes at the cost of public safety, then there’s got to be a balance,” Stardig said. “The consequences I hear are at the risk of my constituents.”

Some residents upset

Garrison’s plan was not well received by some neighborhood leaders.

Jessica Castillo-Hulsey, a Second Ward civic activist who lives near fire stations 18 and 20, which likely will be affected, declared herself “pissed off.”

“I am concerned about the safety of our citizens. It will affect all of us: our families, our children, our seniors,” she said. “Why they cannot go somewhere else and cut? They’re playing with our safety.”

John McReynolds, president of Shadow Springs Civic Association in Stardig’s west side district, said he would have expected other services to be cut before public safety. He lives near Station 77, one of the first that could lose a truck.

“We would definitely be against idling any of the engines at 77,” he said. “We have had a number of incidents where their quick response, I think, made a difference with house fires and other issues. We’d be having to wait for things to come from farther away.”

How many total games did the team win over the past three years?

Yesterday I got another Alameel mailer.

I also got a Judge Dan Hinde mailer. I don’t know about that. He’s a GOPer. They got messed up data if you ask me.

4,228 Dems have voted early in person here in Harris County versus 9,278 GOPers and in the vote by mail category it is 11,464 for GOPers and 3,048 for Dems.

For you transportation geeks, check this from the Chron about Uber, Lyft, and cabs and decisions that will have to be made at City Hall:

Free rides suddenly became available in Houston on Thursday night as two online companies clamored for attention before they officially break into the city’s cab market.

Uber, which has been working with the city on a high-end private car service called Uber Black, announced late Thursday it would immediately launch its Uber X ridesharing service. The announcement followed competitor Lyft’s confirmation Wednesday that it would start service Friday.

The pattern is common as the two companies break into metro markets across the country. When one leaps, the other soon follows.

Entry of these services into more than 20 U.S. cities has prompted lawsuits and cease-and-desist letters from taxi owners concerned about their livelihoods and regulators who accused the firms of skirting the law.

Neither company, however, can accept fares in Houston until the city adjusts its taxi and private car rules, said Christopher Newport, chief of staff for the city’s regulatory affairs department.
The businesses contend that they are not taxi and limo services, but simply platforms that connects people who need rides with drivers. The services don’t own vehicles or employ drivers.

If drivers accept money, they could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for operating an illegal taxi. The companies could be charged with running an unlicensed dispatch service. Both offenses are punishable by a $500 fine for each occurrence.

For Houstonians, the rides are free for now. In other markets, the ridesharing companies have charged prices based on peak demand, something cab companies have said is akin to price gouging.

Cabs operate under strict rules, and taxi companies have opposed loosening those regulations to accommodate competitors like Uber and Lyft.

The sudden leaps into the market also complicate the city’s efforts to rework its regulations, Newport said Wednesday.

In a joint meeting Tuesday, members of two City Council committees are expected to discuss possible changes to the taxi codes. Newport estimated any new regulations would take seven weeks to take effect.

The ‘Stros have won 162 games over the past three season – that’s a season.

Roy O stopped by Spring Training yesterday.

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Next Door

The house next door has been vacant for a few months. It is an older home. Yesterday a demolition crew showed up and knocked it down. Neighbors came by throughout the day to take photos. One neighbor said he was surprised it only took a day to pulverize the structure and haul it away. Another said “this is the Heights, they know how to do this.” Oh, well.

How many total games has the team lost the past three seasons combined?

After Day 2 of Early Voting, 2,832 Dems have voted early in person compared to 6,119 GOPers. 2,484 Dems have sent in mail ballots compared to 10,514 GOPers.

Only once every four years do folks in the U.S. of A. and folks on the “Today” show give a rat’s arse about skiing, ice skating, and bobsledding.

Way to go to CNN for pouncing on the Ted Nugent and AG Abbott love fest. I wonder if the staffer that recommended the photo-op is still working today or do they have him or her making campaign signs or worse handing out poll cards at Kashmere where only one GOPer showed up to cast a vote yesterday.

I am not going to say anything about Sen. Dan Patrick other than to say he asked for it. It would be nice if paperless folks were his undoing. It would be sweet.

I got a Planned Parenthood mailer for The Dean yesterday and the GLBT endorsement mailer.

The last three seasons the ‘Stros have lost a total of 324 games of course.

The Skipper got mad at the team yesterday for disrespecting The Rocket by not showing up on time to listen to him. They must have misremembered.

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Let’s Vote

Day 1 of Early Voting is in the books and as expected the GOP leads in turnout. 2,807 GOPers voted early in person as compared to 1,246 Dems in the state’s largest county. 9,048 GOPers have voted by mail versus 2,080 Dems.

Commentary was checking out the Election Day polling locations and there are more combined precincts. The East End’s highest performing precinct will not be voting at its regular location. Why do they do that? The two Eastwood precincts have been combined – sheesh! This is very disappointing if you ask me.

Name the MLB pitcher that has thrown the second highest all-time career walks?

The Chron E-Board finally got around to writing up The Dean’s endorsement today. Here it is:

In 1973, a 23-year-old college dropout named John Whitmire hopped aboard a wave of voter disgust with ethically challenged incumbents and won a seat in the Texas House.

More than four decades later, that same Houston lawmaker is still in the Legislature, as his young opponent pointedly noted when the two men met with the Chronicle editorial board.

Houston attorney Damian LaCroix, 39, insists that four decades is enough, that Whitmire has lost touch with his constituents and that it’s time for a change. In theory, we favor frequent turnover, as well, but not this time. Whitmire, 64, still has much to contribute to residents of Senate District 15 and to Texas as a whole.

Serving as chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Whitmire is an expert on criminal justice issues and has played a key role in bringing about reform to both the adult and juvenile justice systems.

LaCroix, a graduate of Texas A&M University and SMU Law School, is a fresh face on the local political scene. We hope he chooses to stay involved, but at this point he lacks both the knowledge and the experience to replace “the dean of the Senate.” We wholeheartedly recommend Whitmire’s renomination as the Democratic candidate in District 15, comprised of north Houston and parts of Harris County.

I got a Steve Kirkland mailer yesterday.

It looks like Sen. Dan Patrick has him a paperless folk problemo. If he gets into a run-off it will be his undoing. Hey, he deserves it!

Steve Carlton of course has thrown 1,833 walks and is number 2 all-time.

I don’t have anything from The Yard.

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EV Today

Look at it this way. Two weeks from this evening two of the following – Dewhurst, Patrick, Patterson, or Staples – are going to be toast. I am definitely OK with that.

The Chron has The Dean listed as one of their endorsed candidates. I must have missed the write-up.

Name the MLB pitcher with the most career walks pitched?

Here is what Kuffer says about the local GOP Chair race:

“I’m just going to say this: Most Democrats I know are rooting for Woodfill to win. Those of you that vote in the Republican primary, make of that what you will.”

I really don’t want to hear Dems complaining about Dem Primary turnout here in Harris County. If you don’t ask folks to go out and vote, don’t expect them to show up at the pols – period. Not that many campaigns in these parts asked Dem voters to show up to vote so you get what is expected.

I went by Ripley this morning and there were not that many campaign signs.

I hear things were hopping over in the GOP strongholds.

All I am going to say about Ted Nugent is that he is a hater. He doesn’t represent anything that is Texas.

Nolan Ryan of course is the all-time career leader in walks pitched with 2,795.

Here Is what is being handed out at The Yard this season: Schedule Magnet, Gym Bag, Tote Bag, Golf Umbrella, Jason Castro Bobblehead, Los Astros T-Shirt, Gnome, BBQ Grill Sets, BP Jersey, Orbit Antenna, Sunglasses, Big Puma Bobblehead, Beach Towel, Pettitte Jersey, Roy O Bobblehead, Altuve Jersey, Cowboy Boot Mug, Cowboy Hat, Lone Star Series T-Shirt, Nolan and Reid Ryan Bobblehead, and Team Poster.

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Vote Tomorrow

Of course some folks are already voting by mail but Early Voting in Person starts tomorrow. I am anxious to see what kind of Dem turnout we have here in Harris County. With a couple or so exceptions, there isn’t a whole lot of field activity going on. We will find out soon enough.

In the last couple of days I have received a mailer from The Dean, one from Kim Ogg, and a couple from David Alameel. I also received a Kim Ogg robocall.

On this President’s Day, how many times has a team from D.C. won the World Serious?

The Chron today has a front page story on the race for Chair of the Harris County GOP. Hunker Down is supporting the challenger and here is the part about Hunker Down:

At a Houston Chronicle editorial board meeting last month, Emmett complained that the local party is “driving young people away,” that hundreds of Republican precinct chair positions are vacant and at least 80 percent of the party’s money comes from its own candidates.

“The party is supposed to be supporting candidates,” he said. “Right now, the party is living off a few candidates that can raise money. I look at it and I say, ‘Look, we need a county party that understands it’s about winning elections, it’s not about giving speeches.’ ”

Republican political consultant Jim McGrath said “a lot of people have been looking for a viable alternative to Jared just because he’s not getting the job done, and we need to hold him accountable for a lack of results.”

Ouch! Stay tuned on this one.

Peggy Fikac’s column today is kind of critical of Sen. Wendy Davis. Here is a part:

You want positions on issues? Sen. Wendy Davis has ’em.

The Democratic candidate for governor in recent days has weighed in on same-sex marriage, Medicaid expansion, fair wages, the rainy day fund, decriminalizing marijuana and the potential for a ballot initiative on new taxes for roads.

But her smooth handling of myriad topics ran into bumps on abortion and guns, issues on which she got headlines only to return with key details or a correction.

In the process, she has created difficulty for herself and potentially some confusion for voters.

Ouch again!

Johnny Manziel is telling the Texans that they will regret not picking him. I say pick him.

The Washington Senators won their only World Serious in 1924 in seven over the Giants of course.

Spring Training is on!

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