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Archive for March, 2014

MariGirl and I went to check out the ‘Stros and Veracruz at The Yard Saturday evening and the paid attendance was 11,549. Maybe that’s how many paid but not all showed up. It looks like the price of beer and grub went up. $9 for a cup of St. Arnold. I guess that is what happens when you don’t get a TV deal done. I sure hope their wins this season also increase.

A couple of firsts at The Yard Saturday evening. The PA announcing was in English and Spanish to accommodate our guests from Veracruz. During the game the English announcer must have forgot to hit the mute button and we heard “who that hell” – oops. The team acknowledged the oops in a tweet a few minutes later.

A little over 10,000 paid for yesterday’s game but again not all showed up. The team did a lousy job of promoting this series if you ask me. That is too bad since we have a huge population with Mexican roots in the H-Town area.

The DREAMERS are now cracking on the local Dem Party. Here is a letter they put out late last week regarding deportations:


Every time a member of our community is deported from Texas, the Democratic Party alienates the immigrant community.

Here in Texas, where President Obama’s deportation policies have done the most damage in tearing families apart, the Harris County Democratic party has been silent. That’s why I’m here with over 50 Dreamers to tell their County Chair Lane Lewis, enough is enough. If Democrats are serious about winning in Texas, they can’t stay silent as families are destroyed by deportations.

Let’s make sure he knows we mean business:

Sign the petition: Tell Lane Lewis to stand on the side of immigrant families and demand that President Obama use his executive authority to provide relief to the community, or risk committing political suicide in upcoming elections.

The legacy of Democratic Party in Texas is at stake. Will they fight back against the President’s deportation machine that terrorizes the immigrant community, or will they stand on the sidelines as Texas families are torn apart?

Greisa Martinez, Organizer, United We Dream

It would be wise for the local Dem Party leaders to pay attention and work with the DREAMERS. In Commentary’s opinion the DREAMERS are the force that is keeping immigration reform alive. If the DREAMERS keep this up on through Election Day and Dems continue to ignore the engagement of Latino voters, it will have an impact on turnout. Stay tuned!

What is the all-time Opening Record for the ‘Stros?

We all know that water is a huge issue in the Lone Star State so it really should not come as a surprise that State Rep. Carol Alvarado gets in on the policy action. Rep. Alvarado was given another assignment late last week. Check this from the Texas House Speaker:

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced Friday his appointments to four water-related committees, signaling the issue’s continued importance to the House’s work.

The appointees will work to ensure that efforts to improve the state’s water supply are properly and effectively implemented. They will also help the full House prepare to address water matters in the next legislative session, which begins in January 2015.

“Water remains a top priority for the Texas House because it remains critical to the Texas economy and our quality of life,” said Straus, R-San Antonio. “These Members will play an important role in building consensus around smart, responsible water solutions.”

And here is the one with Rep. Alvarado:

Environmental Flows Advisory Group: Reps. Allan Ritter of Nederland (Co-Chair), Doug Miller of New Braunfels and Carol Alvarado of Houston. The advisory group studies the policy implications of balancing demands on the state’s water supply with the need for adequate environmental flows for riparian lands, bays and estuaries.

Rep. Alvarado’s leadership at work.

The Chron E-Board gave the City of H-Town a spanking of sorts on Downtown subsidies. Check it out:

Houstonians are expected to live within their means, so it is galling when City Hall spends our tax dollars on its own pet projects.

The latest: Now, when our roads are in such disrepair, the city wants to use up to $75 million of our tax dollars to subsidize construction of downtown housing that’s likely to be occupied by people who make more money than most other city residents (“Sky-high view, no commute calling many downtown,” Page A1, March 20).

Public improvements such as Metro rail and buses, sports and entertainment venues and Discovery Green already provide great incentives for developers to build apartments and condos and for people to move downtown. So do booming employment at downtown businesses and new office towers under construction. Not only is the city’s Downtown Living Initiative unnecessary, this use of property tax dollars to subsidize housing reminds us of a housing lottery rigged by planners. The prize is precious tax dollars.

Quality housing is expensive next to the city’s second-biggest hub of employment: the Texas Medical Center. People who find it expensive to live near the Medical Center could well ask, why shouldn’t they get a subsidy? So, too, could some neighborhoods dealing with declining school enrollment because families with children are not moving in. Should city government use tax dollars to entice upscale housing in those areas?

City planners are leading us down a slippery slope. Why? They say that until more people move downtown, additional retail businesses will be slow to open. Subsidizing apartment construction is an inefficient way to get stores to move downtown. And what’s the response to questions from dozens of lower-income neighborhoods when residents ask why the city can’t promote more and higher quality retail – or even just a full-service grocery store – closer to where they live?

Oh, but the city planners explain: Tax dollars will come from rising downtown property values. That type of argument, if applied consistently to all neighborhoods, will balkanize Houston and create more disparity in services. We will damage our sense of community if City Hall adopts the governing principle that each neighborhood’s taxes should be spent in its own area. Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones raise enough questions on their own.

In any case, according to the Downtown District’s website, “Downtown Houston is booming.” So why subsidize it?

In determining whether to vote for this program, City Council members should ask their constituents one simple question: Do you want your tax dollars to be spent fixing roads (or another citywide need) or subsidizing downtown apartments? The proposed downtown subsidy program may be an urban planner’s dream. But it’s a taxpayer’s nightmare.

We will see what happens next on this. Maybe it will come up as an issue in the next campaign for H-Town Mayor.

The ‘Stros are 24-28 on Opening Day of course.

Are you ready for Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann, and Jacoby Ellsbury?

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Taxes and QBs

The front page story in today’s Chron is about population growth in the H-Town area. Hunker Down is quoted in the story. Here is a part:

The Houston area’s growth does not come without potential costs, said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

“If we are going to continue to accommodate growth – and I think that’s a good thing – we are going to have to invest in the infrastructure to take care of it,” he said.

Emmett said the “vast majority” of Harris County’s growth is occurring in unincorporated areas.

“That is why we have to make the Legislature understand that Harris is an urban environment and the county is not geared to urban issues,” he said.

“It is important that Harris County and Houston and other jurisdictions find ways to cooperate and do things together,” the county judge said. “We need to look at things as a region, rather than at arbitrary county lines.”

Invest in infrastructure? Why doesn’t he just go on ahead and say raise our taxes so we can fix our roads. He is a top leader in the local GOP, so why doesn’t he go on ahead and lecture his GOP Party to get behind raising taxes. As Harris County’s ranking official, why doesn’t he just lay out a detailed plan on which taxes to raise? Do something instead of just watching the infrastructure crumble around you?

Players from the Yankees have won the MLB Award 22 times. Name the MLB team with the second highest number of winners?

Everybody knows that H-Town needs a QB. That is our biggest need – period. Here is from Chron Sports Columnist Randy Harvey:

It was the big ending you would expect of Johnny Manziel’s pro day on Thursday inside Texas A&M’s indoor football facility, every detail scripted – perhaps even the fashionably late arrival of George H.W. Bush, Barbara and her two dogs – and performed to near perfection.

Players can’t win pro days. They can only lose them. (See Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.)

But if anyone has been keeping score of superlatives, Manziel emerged as the clear leader among quarterbacks available in the May 8-10 NFL draft. That includes Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, the other two presumably near the top of most team’s boards.

Gil Brandt, formerly the head of the Dallas Cowboys’ scouting department when it was considered the NFL’s best, said he had never seen a quarterback have a better pro day, with the possible exception of Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, selected first overall by St. Louis in 2010.

The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, considered one of the most knowledgeable player evaluators, said in 11 years he has never seen a quarterback have a bad pro day, with the possible exception of Bridgewater.

But he added Manziel’s was exceptional.

“I think, if you’re looking for confirmation, you got it today,” he said.

I just don’t see how the team can pick someone else. The team would basically be telling us all that we are all just a bunch of dumbarses. The way I look at it is the team has already decided on two QBs without our help – Carr and Schaub – and we’ve only gotten two playoff wins out of those deals. Do the right thing and get the MANziel.

San Luis of course is numero 2 with 17 MVP Award winners.

Yesterday The Yard laid out new grub to be sold this season. I’ll stick with the dollar dogs on Thursdays.

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Undercover Riders

The Lyft and Uber folks are getting a warning from the San Antonio Police Chief to play by the rules or else. They are even going undercover to nail violators. Maybe H-Town ought to pay attention and do the same. Here is from a radio station in San Antonio:

San Antonio Police warned today that those on line car sharing apps like ‘Lyft’ and ‘Uber’ are illegal, and drivers who pick up passengers for cash risk being arrested.

“You might be one of these drivers who is summoned for a ride, and you won’t know who summoned you,” McManus warned. “It could be a police officer, and you’ll be in trouble.”

1200 WOAI news was first to report earlier this week that Lyft, which bills itself as ‘your friend with a car,’ is looking for drivers in San Antonio.

McManus said he sent Lyft a ‘strongly worded cease and desist letter’ today, warning them not to set up operations in San Antonio unless they conform to taxi regulations.

“I want to warn anybody in the city who may be tempted to use this service to be very very careful.”

Lyft says it is no different from a friend giving another friend a ride. The passenger doesn’t pay a fare, he or she gives a ‘donation’ to the driver.

But McManus says no matter how you cut it, taking anybody anyplace on city streets for cash is a violation of the city’s strict taxi ordinances.

“The problem with this is, the public is put in danger,” he said. “You don’t know who is going to show up, you don’t know what the condition is that the car is in that you’re going to get into.”

He says taxi drivers are registered with the city, and their vehicles are inspected by the city. He says Lyft vehicles are not, the passenger doesn’t know about the driver’s history, and the drivers are not required to demonstrate any knowledge of San Antonio geography, as taxi drivers have to do.

“They are not regulated, and there is no advantage to getting into one of these cars, where you get into one of these cars and you don’t know what their background is. The public is put in danger.”

McManus also warned that most Texas auto insurance policies do not cover people who carry passengers ‘for hire.’

“They are in direct violation of our city ordinances,” he said. “There are very strict rules as to who is issued a taxi drivers permit, and these people do not follow under our requirements.”

He said city taxi drivers are also drug tested, and if there is a dispute over the fare, which is regulated, customers can turn to the city, something which is not the case with ‘Lyft.’

Name the last player from B’More to win the AL MVP Award.

Don’t forget to attend HISD Trustee Anna Eastman’s Birthday Reception this evening at 13 Celsius, 3000 Caroline.

If you ever wanted to go check out the ‘Stros and sit in Diamond Level or Insperity Club but couldn’t because of the price you may want to go this weekend. Apparently a bunch of season ticket holders aren’t interested in watching Veracruz play the ‘Stros so they got their tickets up on Stub Hub at reduced prices. You may want to plunk down $100 bucks for two Insperity seats or $180 for a couple of Diamond Level seats and cash in on the good grub. You may not get another chance.

A NLRB Regional Office says football players at Northwestern can form a union. Don’t worry overzealous college football fans from the Lone Star State, we are a Right-to-Play state.

Cal Ripken, Jr. won the AL MVP Award of course for B’More in 1991.

Check out what John Royal from the Houston Press says about the ‘Stros:

The 2014 Houston Astros open up the regular season next week, and I don’t give a damn. Seriously, that’s a hard admission to make because I love baseball. But I can’t even begin to muster any enthusiasm for the band of rejects (mostly) that will trot out onto the Minute Maid Park grass next week and get their asses handed to them by the New York Yankees.

Intellectually I get what the Astros are doing. Burn it all down and start from scratch. But after three years of 100-plus losses, I’m tired of the intellectual arguments — arguments I’ve made myself for many, many years. Because if you’re going to charge major league prices, then there should be some effort to field a major league roster.

There are still plenty of tickets available for the opener next Tuesday at Dynamic Pricing.

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Do you believe in ghosts? The night before last I was watching Channel 11 News when a story aired about a huge apartment building being constructed just about on top of a historical cemetery. I remember thinking the visuals were a little scary. You could be on your first floor patio sipping a cold one in the evening and just reach over and set your St. Arnold on a headstone. Well, I thought, this is H-Town and for the most part unless it is a threat to our national security, you can build it wherever you want.

I was with my Dad at an appointment when I heard about the big fire yesterday. I then noticed a Falkentweet that said the fire was at the complex that was the subject of the Channel 11 story. I waited until it was reported that there were no injuries or deaths that I tweeted the following:

Maybe folks ought to think twice about building a 368 unit apartment building next to a cemetery. #Poltergeist #Montrose #MagnoliaCemetary

In all likelihood they will come out with an official explanation for the cause of the fire but just because it is official do you really want to bet against a graveyard? That’s all I am going to say.

Lisa Falkenberg has a column today on the graveyard and the complex. Go check it out.

Name the last Dodger to win the NL MVP Award?

Here is the Channel 11 story on the complex and graveyard:

One of the newest apartment complexes to hit the scene in the Montrose area is causing some controversy because of its location.

The complex, located at West Dallas and Montrose, is being built just feet away from century-old headstones.

Magnolia Cemetery has been there since 1884.

It’s home to some recognizable names in Houston history, including Bammel, Halliburton, Wortham and Telge.

Residents who move into the five story complex next door will now get a view of those headstones and the others on the property.

“This is not right,” said concerned citizen Trisha Keel. “If I have an open grave here and I’m standing here crying my eyes out because I’m putting someone in the ground, and I look up to see someone eating a bowl of cereal wearing their skivvies, it won’t be good.”

Trisha Keel doesn’t have a family member buried at Magnolia. However, she feels so strongly that she wrote a letter to the mayor’s office.

“I could sit on their patio and prop my feet on top of the gravestone. It’s too close,” said Keel.
Keel feels it is disrespectful to the people coming to visit loved ones who have passed. She is also disturbed to think about residents living so close to the dead.

“Those people who move along these edges will experience the decaying, dying energy,” said Keel. “This is not a place for new life.”

Keel, a native Houstonian, acknowledges Houston’s steady growth but believes this particular construction is setting a dangerous precedent.

“This isn’t going to be stopped, but there should never be another one ever. That’s why I’m speaking up,” added Keel.

Glen Telge, president of Magnolia Cemetery, says he wasn’t thrilled about the new complex at first.
“I feel like Magnolia Cemetery is a gem in the city of Houston. It’s like a sacred spot,” said Glen Telge.

He has since warmed up to the new neighbor and is trying to keep an open mind.

“It comes down to what can you really do about development. There’s some things we have control over and other things we don’t,” said Telge.

JLB partners, which is the developer and builder of the complex, purchased the property from AIG a year and a half ago.

A JLB spokesman says the corporation met with the cemetery association and has spent a significant amount of resources making sure the process has been respectful.

He also pointed out that a wall will eventually be completed around the backside of the complex to separate it from the cemetery.

Kirk Gibson of course won the NL MVP Award as a Dodger in 1988.

Nothing from The Yard today.

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More and more folks are starting to vote by mail. My parents finally got around to voting by mail a few weeks ago. You don’t have to show your ID when you vote by mail, just your John Hancock. You can even fill out an application and fax it in. In The Dean’s recent race, 18% voted by mail. In Rep. Carol Alvarado’s race, 20% voted by mail. That is the way it is heading.

When was the first season the ‘Stros won more than 81 games or better than .500?

Speaking of voting by mail, State Rep. Lon Burnam from Fort Worth is in court claiming he was robbed in the recent primary. Check this from the Star-Telegram:

State Rep. Lon Burnam filed a lawsuit Monday challenging his 111-vote primary election loss earlier this month.

Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said the goal of the lawsuit is to review data from the Texas House District 90 election “to determine if there were hundreds of illegally cast ballots.”

“I believe I have no choice after receiving multiple reports of an illegal computerized-signature vote-by-mail operation run to benefit my opponent,” Burnam said in a statement. “This operation appears to have clearly violated state law.”

Local businessman Ramon Romero Jr. won the race for the House seat, besting Burnam — dean of the Tarrant County delegation — earlier this month, local election records show.

Romero, who has served on several city commissions and lost a bid to represent District 8 on the Fort Worth City Council in 2012, could not be reached for comment late Monday.

“I now realize that Lon can’t get over the fact that we won fair and square,” Romero’s campaign manager, Michael “Mike” Valdez, said in a text message. “Once we win in court, it will validate the great campaign we ran and our win even more.”

In a lawsuit styled Lon Burnam v. Ramon Romero, Burnam noted that nearly 1,000 of the 5,078 votes cast in this race were absentee mail-in ballots — which could have been a deciding factor.

On Election Night, the race for this seat was close, sometimes only separated by a handful of votes. When the final count was released, Romero pulled ahead by 111 votes to claim victory.

“I have received reports from voters in the district who say they were approached at their door by campaign workers of unclear affiliation who asked them to fill out a vote-by-mail application on an electronic tablet device such as an iPad,” Burnam said in his statement.

“Texas law clearly does not allow the practice of filling out vote-by-mail ballot applications electronically, which the Texas Secretary of State’s has confirmed. Other questionable practices about this operation aside, this renders the entire operation illegal.”

Burnam, who took office in 1997, said he wants to review documents from the county clerk’s office and “from those involved in this operation.”

“I believe that these documents and other testimony will establish beyond question that the computerized-signature operation was illegal and that I won the election,” he said. “Part of my goal with this lawsuit is to root out these illegal operations before they become entrenched. Everyone, candidates and consultants, must play by the rules.

“Otherwise, they make a sham of the democratic process, and I cannot and will not accept that.”

I don’t know about this. I hope it isn’t sour grapes and if Burnam is going this route I hope he has identified enough voters to turn this around or else he may be accusing a fellow Dem of cheating without the facts or proof. It would seem like he would have to find 111 voters to admit that they signed the IPad gizmo and voted for Romero. That is kind of going to be tough to prove.

Rep. Burnam also needs to be careful that this doesn’t turn out to look like a bunch of Latinos are trying to steal an election. Now that wouldn’t look good for sure. Folks will be watching this one.

In 1972 the ‘Stros went 84-69 of course and some games were not played that season because of a players strike.

The 25 man roster is now set.

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Surprise

The owner of the ‘Stros wants the team to finish at .500 or above this season. Well bring up George Springer! When was the first season we finished at .500 or above?

Commentary is a fan of “The Good Wife.” So I was floored when Will Gardner (the male lead played by Josh Charles) was murdered in a courtroom during the show last night. That usually doesn’t happen during a TV series. When a major player leaves a show they send him or her off to someplace like to Seattle as in the case of George Clooney in “ER.” The producers of the show sent out a letter to the fans this morning explaining the untimely demise of Will. Life goes on they said and this time I will stay tuned! I just hope next season they don’t show Alicia stepping out of the shower and letting us know that it was all a dream.

The breaking news this morning was the Malaysian Prime Minister making it official – the airliner is a goner and there are no survivors. I wonder how CNN will start playing it.

Sooner or later you know it was bound to happen. I’m talking about the spill out in Galveston Bay. We even made the national news for all the wrong reasons. It is probably only going to get worse.

NBCSports.com called out the ‘Stros Friday for sending a top prospect to the minors when he is ready to play now – George Springer. I have to agree. It is disappointing and shows a lack of respect for the fans.

Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz from the Mexican League visit The Yard this Saturday and Sunday to take on the ‘Stros. The Mexican League is like Triple A ball level but they are not affiliated with MLB clubs.

The ‘Stros finished 81-81 in 1969 of course.

The team sent ticket holders an email Friday asking for folks to carry the big flag out onto the field on Opening Day. I’ll pass.

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Breaking News

Speaking of, Channel 2 had a breaking news bulletin this morning to announce the Texans had traded QB Matt Schaub to the Raiders. I don’t know if that is breaking news. To some folks it probably falls in the category of good news.

CNN is starting to get hammered on its “breaking news” banner that just about runs throughout the day on the missing airliner matter. There is even a cartoon in today’s Chron’s editorial page poking fun of CNN. I kind of have to agree.

Name the two MLB clubs that are 0-2 in World Serious play?

I said this yesterday:

For the last month or so my Chron delivery has been spotty. Late, incomplete, or not at all. Today the Star section is missing. I think I am the only one on my street that still gets it delivered. I don’t know about that.

If you subscribe to the Chron and you don’t get your fish-wrap in the morning or it is late, as a subscriber and you can go online and pull up an exact image of the day’s paper and check out what you missed. The problem is you have to zoom in and out and do a lot of other mouse action. It is a pain of sorts.

I got a couple of responses from folks saying they were also having Chron delivery issues.

Budweiser is promoting an online petition drive asking that Opening Day be declared a national holiday. They have it up on the White House website for petitions. Here it is:

MLB Opening Day is more than just the beginning of the season. It’s a symbol of rebirth. The coming of spring. The return of America’s national pastime. It’s a state of mind where anything is possible. You can feel the electricity in the air. Opening Day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of hope. It’s a day that, for generations, has been looked forward to by baseball fans every off-season. It’s an American tradition, and it deserves to be recognized as an American holiday. Join us in our quest to make sure every American can exercise their inalienable right to celebrate the day those two magical words are uttered for the first time: “PLAY BALL!”

I’m OK with this as long as all the teams play their first game on the same day. We open up with the Yankees on April 1. The Dodgers and D-Backs play tomorrow.

Maybe as a compromise Opening Day ought to at least be an excused absence from work or school.

I guess I’ll drop by my Senatorial District Convention tomorrow.

The Rangers and Padres of course are both 0-2 in World Serious play.

You have to check out Jose de Jesus Ortiz’s piece today in the Chron. He is saying that the fans are probably getting shortchanged because at least two players will not be on the roster on Opening Day and they should be and the ‘Stros know it. That is a bit upsetting. If that is true then GM Luhnow is a chicken s__t!

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