Archive for June, 2014

And Running

The Mayor kind of tooted her own horn in the Chron yesterday. She wants to stay in public office.

I don’t have a problem with that. Of course, if she wants to run for Guv, it might have to wait until 2022 when Guv Davis finishes her second term. Here is from the Chron:

(Mayor) Parker said she would be interested in running for any number of statewide positions when her third and final two-year term is up in 2016 – even Texas’ top job.

“I would absolutely consider a statewide ballot effort for the right seat,” Parker told the Houston Chronicle, adding that she doesn’t have an exact plan drawn up at this time. “And as the CEO of the 4th largest city in America, I could be the governor of Texas.”

The 58-year-old said she would be “eminently qualified” to be comptroller of public accounts, Texas land commissioner or sit on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission.

Here is the problem. Once she leaves office at the end of 2015 she is out of the spotlight. It is kind of hard to get noticed when you are no longer in office. Nobody pays attention to you. Good luck!

In today’s Chron the Mayor makes it clear she wants to shut down Gus Wortham Golf Course and turn it into a botanical gardens. Well why not shut down the other City golf courses that are losing money? Here is from the Chron:

Mayor Annise Parker believes the botanic garden would be a better use of the city-owned Wortham property, but said local residents and district Councilman Robert Gallegos want the site to remain a golf course.

“The term sheets we’re discussing with them have clear benchmarks: ‘You must raise X amount of dollars by this date,’ ” Parker said. “I intend to have a botanic garden as a backup if they are not able to raise the money that would be necessary to transform the golf course to what it should be in order to be a first-class golf course.”

Jose Altuve is on a roll so to speak. I will be surprised if he is not the AL Player of the Month of June. Altuve made his MLB debut in July of 2011. Name the ‘Stros starting second baseman on opening day of 2011?

My favorite State Rep. after Carol Alvarado pi__ed off the GOP this past weekend over his take on “GOP”. Check this news story:

Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott‘s campaign blasted remarks made by state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas, calling them inappropriate and symptomatic of the party’s recklessness.

Martinez Fischer, well-known for his penchant for throwing bombs at his colleagues across the aisle, has been especially on point this weekend. During his speech to the full convention Friday, Martinez Fischer said “GOP” stood for “gringos y otros pendejos.” His office has also been handing out six Lotería cards to delegates, one depicting a red-faced Abbott as “El Diablito.”

“Wendy Davis and her allies beliefs that all Anglos and Republicans are ‘gringos’ and ‘pendejos’ is both despicable and insulting to the hundreds of thousands non Anglos that support Greg Abbott, including his own multicultural family,” Abbott campaign spokesman Avdiel Huerta said of the Fort Worth state senator, who accepted the state Democratic Party’s nomination for governor Friday.

“Instead of trying to sell her out of touch ideas like ObamaCare and higher taxes, it appears Sen. Davis new strategy is one of desperation,” Huerta added. Abbott’s wife Cecilia is Mexican American.

Martinez Fischer had this to say in response: “I stand by my words. I did not know Greg Abbott was at the convention to hear me, and if I had known that I would told him directly to his face.”

Abbott’s response came on the heels of a tweet political adviser Dave Carney sent remarking on the number of viewers watching a live stream of Davis speech.

“Given that Greg Abbott, his campaign and his allies have compared Wendy Davis to Hitler, Satan and a Barbie doll, their fake outrage today is both pathetic and predictable,” Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas replied Saturday.

“Clearly, Greg Abbott is desperate to change the subject from his latest scandal of firing an employee in the Attorney General’s office after she refused to lie under oath and smear one of his political opponents,” Petkanas added.

We need to have more of this kind of banter. This kind of campaigning and rhetoric will contribute to getting Latino voters stirred up in the fall. Put Trey on the road!

Bill Hall (who?) of course started at second base for the ‘Stros on opening day of 2011.

From the ‘Stros skipper on Altuve:

“In my opinion, this guy’s the best player in baseball right now.”

And from the Chron on Altuve yesterday:

When Altuve swiped second again in the second inning, he became the first player since Ray Chapman of the 1917 Cleveland Indians to swipe more than one bag in four straight games.

How about that!

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Yesterday morning I had to run a couple of errands for my parents and so I listened to the beginning of Team USA versus Germany on the radio – another interesting experience. Then I went to The Yard and caught the end of the match on El Grande. The ATL and ‘Stros fans were cheering together.

I heard this morning that more folks in the U.S. of A. watched Team USA versus Portugal than the World Serious and the NBA finals. I’m OK with that.

Folks are into Team USA and the Copa Mundial and that’s fine by me. Can’t we all get along?

Here is what the Chron’s Jerome Soloman wrote yesterday:

But win and advance, and a slew of local elementary school students, who one day will become professional sports fans, will add Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard jerseys to their wish lists alongside names like J.J. Watt, James Harden and Jose Altuve.

Lisa Falkenberg’s column today is about her experience yesterday watching the match at a Downtown eatery. Here is a part:

I learned interesting biographical facts. Clint Dempsey – the guy whose bruised face looks like he recently survived a car crash – is a Texan from Nacogdoches. The goalie, Tim Howard, has ADHD, and is active in raising awareness about it. And Graham Zusi is beautiful.

What struck me is how fast it all went. I can usually shop for the groceries, fix dinner, dust, mop, and read half of a Michener novel in the time it takes my husband to watch the first quarter of an NFL game, and that only includes 10 minutes of actual playing.

This was pure action. There was no idle standing and huddling. No shots of some benchwarmer gulping Gatorade. No buzz-kill whistles announcing time-outs. No commercials or incessant replays. No screen doodling.

As it turned out, there wasn’t much scoring either. But that didn’t flatten the room’s enthusiasm. It didn’t shush the crescendos of “ooohs” and “ohhhs” and applause. It didn’t halt the nail-biting, the skull-clutching, the togetherness.

It was a scene even a soccer novice could appreciate. I began to understand why the players always seem so angsty in photographs. There must be a heightened sense of agony and ecstasy in a game that carries the hopes and dreams of billions on its shoulders.

It is all about Team USA!

Name the three ‘Stros that played yesterday who were acquired from the Phillies in 2011 for Hunter Pence?

I guess biting is the national sport of Uruguay. They think the punishment to biter Luis Suarez was unjust. Check this from MSN:

Soccer-crazy Uruguayans raged Thursday at FIFA’s decision to kick their star player out of the World Cup for his third biting incident, fearing it could deal a death blow to their bid to win the sport’s greatest tournament.


Uruguayans of all stripes were nearly unanimous in their support of Suarez, calling the punishment excessive for what they felt was an act of immaturity.

”It feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup,” Uruguayan soccer federation president Wilmar Valdez said in Rio.


”The immorality and hypocrisy of FIFA has no limits. Neither does Chiellini’s inclination for being a tattle-tale and a fink!” Luis Puig, a lawmaker for Uruguay’s ruling Broad Front coalition said on his Twitter account.

Suarez also got support from former Argentine star Diego Maradona, who argued that the World Cup has seen worse foul play than the bite and those incidents have gone unpunished. ”This is football, this is incidental contact,” he said on Venezuela’s Telesur network.

Incidental contact? Huh?

Like someone tweeted yesterday, when FIFA says you did something bad, then you know it has to be bad.

Let the buzz continue! At least until Tuesday!

Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, and Josh Zeid of course all saw action yesterday.

Brad Ausmus and the Tigers visit The Yard for three this weekend. The ‘Stros will celebrate Orbit’s BD with giveaways. How old is Orbit anyway?

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And Next Up

Go check out today’s Chron on yesterday’s H-Town City Council meeting. I will not talk about it because I have a conflict. Here is what the Mayor says about City Council in the Chron story:

“I have news for them: I have 18 more months to serve, and I’m not a lame duck,” (Mayor) Parker said after the meeting.

Oh well!

H-Town City Council takes next week off then comes back after the Fourth of July. I am thinking the next big issue before them is the vehicle-for-hire ordinance. Let me say again that I don’t have a dog in this hunt. That being said I’m thinking don’t put your money on the Uber and Lyft movements. First of all I think they have pi__ed off folks here in H-Town by operating illegally. Second of all I think they have been completely outflanked by the disabilities community. Uber and Lyft don’t have an answer to their concerns. Thirdly, their demographic isn’t a political force in our burg – they don’t vote. Fourthly, Uber and Lyft don’t have any roots in our community and that has to count for something – don’t you think? Stay tuned!

Tim Lincecum of the Giants tossed a no-no yesterday against the Padres. He also threw a no-no against the Padres last season. Name the Giant who tossed a no-no in 2012?

I said this yesterday:

The local Dem Party put this out yesterday:

Are you ready for some LETICIA! signs?

The new Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Governor signs are available for only $5.00 per sign at Harris County Democratic Party headquarters, 1445 North Loop West Suite 110, Houston, TX 77008-1654, 713-802-0085.
Lane Lewis, Chair

Be the first on your street to show your pride in and support of
Leticia for Texas Lt. Governor

I sure hope they don’t ask regular folks in the ‘hood to fork over $5 for a sign. I wish they didn’t have to do this.

Here is how CEWDEM responded:

Sorry Marc…..but every major campaign charges for signs now. Not like it was when we did the silk screening ourselves and glued and pated to sticks. Just a fact of life. That five bucks goes a long way to making sure we have a continuing supply of signs available for folks who can’t afford. Couple of years back, in a prior party administration, signs were charged for at $10 a pop. And folks who needed them or couldn’t afford them were just s__t out of luck. I think you will see plenty of signs out and about when the time comes. btw. Have you been aware the Wendy people, the Angles and even Glen Maxey have been charging for this stuff from the very beginning and not a peep…..even Battleground Texas sells their s__t.

The local party didn’t put that announcement out, I did it personally and signed it and I did it all by my lonesome. Wish it was like the old days….hell I wish we en had campaign buttons, but as you know we don’t…Guess there some economics and supply and demand at play……I’m still waiting to go back to Jack In The Box and get a burger fried and shake for a buck.

Here is how a GOPer responded:

Do they accept EBT Cards in payment for the new Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Governor yard signs?


Oh well!

The Tea Party folks are crying foul because African American Dems crashed their Mississippi election a couple of days ago. Talk about party purity!

Commentary will be checking out Team USA today at 11 am – will you?

Matt Cain of course put a no-no perfecto on the ‘Stros back in 2012.

Same old song last night from The Yard. I don’t know what else to say except it is Dollar Dog Day this afternoon versus The ATL.

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A local tweeter challenged CNN’s Dana Bash for saying on air last night that some Dem African Americans in Mississippi came out to vote for incumbent GOP Sen. Thad Cochran. Here is what the tweeter put out:

Sorry I disagree with @DanaBashCNN. Black folks DID NOT show up in a republican primary run off to vote for @SenThadCochran . Just no facts.


I would have to see the exit polling to validate such a bold statement.

I don’t know about that. As the polls were closing CNN had a camera crew at a few locations and interviewed African Americans exiting the polling places. They all said they were Dems and had voted for Cochran. I would call that live exit polling.

The local Dem Party put this out yesterday:

Are you ready for some LETICIA! signs?

The new Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Governor signs are available for only $5.00 per sign at Harris County Democratic Party headquarters, 1445 North Loop West Suite 110, Houston, TX 77008-1654, 713-802-0085.

Lane Lewis, Chair

Be the first on your street to show your pride in and support of
Leticia for Texas Lt. Governor

I sure hope they don’t ask regular folks in the ‘hood to fork over $5 for a sign. I wish they didn’t have to do this.

Last night George Springer had a dinger go 441 feet smack dab into a Bud Patio diner’s main course. Name the only ‘Stro to hit three dingers in a game at Minute Maid Park?

Today is the anniversary of the Sen. Wendy Davis filibuster heard around the universe and there are a couple or so stories about running away from the A word – abortion.

Here is Lisa Falkenberg’s take today on the subject:

It’s hard to believe Wendy Davis’ filibuster was a year ago today. It seems a lifetime ago.

A lifetime ago that a roaring chorus of thousands shook a building made of granite.

A lifetime ago that Texans who may not have known the names of their senators became activists, camping out in the Capitol’s Renaissance Revival hallways, eating “freedom pizza” while waiting to testify against the latest legislative assault on abortion rights.

A lifetime ago that a petite blond senator in pink sneakers stood 13 hours without food, water, bathroom breaks, without even leaning on her desk, to battle the inevitable.

I stood on the floor of the Texas Senate that night as the clock ticked down the minutes until the session’s midnight end.

Davis was still standing, but Republicans were trying to stop her filibuster on technicalities. Finally, a gallery full of orange shirts had enough. The heretofore polite crowd rose to its feet and lifted its collective voice until everything else – the rules, the process, the lieutenant governor’s gavel – was drowned out.

After midnight, Republicans briefly declared victory. But it soon became clear that the bill had failed. At least for that night, it had failed.

It wasn’t the way democracy should work. But that made it no less profound. No less moving. No less than the most historic event I’ve ever witnessed.

And it was witnessed not just by those in the Senate chamber, but around the world on home computers and smartphones.

Davis’ words resonated with many. Her stand, even her shoes, became powerful symbols. That night started a movement – one that seemed unfazed by Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to call another special session that led to the bill’s passing.

What mattered is that Davis had fought. She had stood for Texas women. She had spoken.

But then something happened. The words stopped.

When the senator became the Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate – the brightest prospect the state’s Democrats have had in decades – she stopped talking about the issue that catapulted her to political stardom in the first place, mentioning it only rarely, and usually only when asked about it.

When she announced her candidacy, she avoided the word “abortion” like it was profane. The “issues” section of her website covers education, strong economy, government accountability and veterans – all important – but there’s no mention of women’s health care.

Law has taken its toll

Meanwhile, the law, which banned abortions after 20 weeks, required abortion facilities to meet standards for ambulatory surgical centers, and abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, has taken its toll. Advocates say it led to the closure of 21 clinics, which also provided birth control, pap smears and cancer screenings. More closures are expected.

Politically, Davis’ silence makes sense. Contrary to what Republican opponent Greg Abbott’s adviser thinks, Davis isn’t too stupid to run for governor. She’s studied the numbers. She knows that abortion doesn’t make good sound bites in the reddest state. She believes that talking about pre-K, and even open-carry legislation, is more productive. And she’s still badly trailing in the polls.

Hubbub contrived

No one is suggesting that Davis run only on this one complex, divisive issue – only that she acknowledge its existence every now and then. To use the podium and the celebrity to keep the momentum and the education going on the issue.

It’s possible to utter the “A” word without alienating. Focus on common ground: Keep reminding people that better funding for family planning is the first step toward reducing abortions.

Remind Texas women, particularly the younger ones who have never lived without reproductive rights, that we are losing them one law at a time.

Davis is scheduled to host an event Wednesday to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the filibuster. But frankly, after her silence, the anniversary hubbub seems contrived.

You don’t just dust off a social movement because a year has passed and you need to raise money. The fire Davis lit has to be fed and tended if it’s going to spread. The Fort Worth senator may take for granted votes of those who already joined her cause. But what about the social liberals and moderates who haven’t joined Davis’ cause? What about the sympathetic but distracted voters who need to be deeply moved to get to the polls in November?

Rudderless movement

Some of her supporters agree with me and think Davis ought to dance with the ones that brung her. Others don’t. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, a veteran advocate for women’s rights, says the movement hasn’t lost momentum. It’s just spread out.

“At some point, people want to see the results on bread and butter issues that affect their lives every day, like equal pay and minimum wage,” she added.

Thompson is right in saying abortion isn’t an everyday issue for most Texans. But neither is gay marriage or gun control. Reproductive liberty gets under our skin in the same way. We’re talking about constitutional rights.

Other Davis supporters say she has done enough talking about the issue. Indeed, who has talked more?

“There’s not a Texan alive who isn’t clear on her position on a woman’s right to choose,” Democratic consultant Harold Cook told me awhile back. “What more could she say?”

The problem, though, isn’t that we’re unclear. The problem is that we’re unmoved. And that’s no way to lead a movement.

Nice job Lisa Falkenberg!

There is a front page story in today’s Chron about our smelly water. The City of H-Town says it is “naturally occurring compounds.” Really! Well fix it! We’re not supposed to have smelly water! I’m betting not a single member of City Council gives it a mention at pop-off today.

Morgan Ensberg of course hit three dingers in a game against the Giants at The Yard back in May of 2005.

We left ten men on base last night. That explains our 3-2 loss. Really! Well fix it!

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Special My Arse!

If Dems have learned anything this past decade plus is that nothing good ever comes out of Regular or Special Sessions of the Lone Star State Legislature. That’s why I am thinking Sen. Wendy Davis’ letter to Guv Dude asking him to call for a Special Session so the State can provide humanitarian relief to border communities is just posturing.

Some right wing GOP legislators also want a Special Session, but they want increased funding for border security, i.e, tanks, artillery, armed drones, and alligator filled moats.

The situation on the border is serious and needs to be addressed. The border situation also lends itself to political and campaign maneuvering in an election year. Yesterday Sen. Davis, AG Abbott, Guv Dude, and Sen. Ted Cruz all photo opted on the subject.

Texas Monthly’s Erica Grieder put out a real good take on the issue yesterday. I recommend you checking out her take. Here is how it ends:

Also clear, during my time in the Valley, was that the immigrants themselves are not particularly scary or threatening. They are not, for example, disease-infested. Tony Lopez, who was volunteering as a medic, said that half of the health problems he’s encountered thus far could be cured with Pedialyte. Other than dehydration, he added, the most common ailment among the migrants is seasonal allergies, which he was suffering from himself at the moment. Nor do they seem to be criminal. Many have reportedly hired smugglers to help them get across, and many Mexican smugglers work for that country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations. But the relationship between the immigrants and the cartels seems to begin and end with that transaction. One local explained that in her experience, people who cross the border on cartel business usually dart through the brush on the banks of the river. They certainly don’t stroll up in broad daylight and ask if someone can call the authorities.

What’s happening in the Rio Grande Valley can fairly be described as a humanitarian crisis. It’s also, simultaneously, a situation with serious implications for America’s border security. As sympathetic as these immigrants are, their relatively sudden arrival in large numbers clearly requires a lot of attention from law enforcement–attention that used to be applied to other tasks. A Border Patrol agent who stopped to chat as I was sitting by the river made that clear. “What’s more important—being nice to these people, or protecting the American public?” he asked. The immigrants themselves don’t seem to be drug lords or human traffickers, he continued, but such criminals exist, and are surely aware that local law enforcement suddenly has its hands full.

Democrats have reacted to the humanitarian dimension of the story; Republicans are more focused on the security side. Both aspects of the situation should be addressed. The effort to do so would benefit from thoughtfulness, calm, and cooperation—between the parties, and between the state and federal government. Such qualities have been in short supply during recent rounds of debate about illegal immigration, though, and after several days of reporting, I found that to be an ominous aspect of the situation in itself. Compared to the situation unfolding in the Valley this summer, illegal immigration from Mexico looks more and more straightforward: an economic phenomenon, rising and falling in response to labor market conditions, without nearly so many children caught in the middle.

Here is Grieder’s entire take:

It is going to take a while to get this issue resolved – if ever. Congress isn’t going to be a part of the solution because when was the last time Congress was part of any solution?

It is going to take The President’s administration working with state and local government agencies and officials. The administration is going to have to work with Mexican and Central American leaders on a long term strategy involving economic development incentives. The administration and state and local governments are going to have to enlist the support of non-profits and charities.

This situation down on the border is going to last for months. There is going to be a lot of heavy lifting involved, all against a backdrop of political posturing, finger pointing, playing the blame game, and sniping at The President.

The last thing we need is for members of the Texas Legislature to convene in a Special Session. No telling what wacky and outlandish proposals would be introduced. Let’s not forget that this is the same bunch that wanted to arrest TSA personnel. Stay tuned!

The ATL returns to The Yard this evening. Name the last ATL pitcher to win the NL Cy Young Award?

Now this is interesting. This is from Chron.com this morning:

Superstar LeBron James will opt out of the final two years of his Miami Heat contract and become an unrestricted free agent, his agent has told the franchise, according to multiple reports.

The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen wrote here that the Rockets would try to sign James in the offseason if he became a free agent.

Tom Glavine of course won the NL Cy Young Award in 1998.

Both the Rangers and the ‘Stros are under .500 in case you have not noticed.

Jose Altuve leads the MLB in base hits and the AL in stolen bases.

The team only hit .144 against the Rays this past weekend. Oh well!

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They are going to call it the groan heard around the U.S. of A. I am talking about last night’s last minute goal against Team USA. Just about every front page of every newspaper across the country has a story and a photo on the match this morning.

From the Chron front page: ‘Such a let down.’

From the Chron front of the Sports Section: Last gasp deflates U.S.

From the WSJ front page: Last-Second Heartbreak Nets U.S. a Draw With Portugal.

Last night was as exciting in sports as it can get. I am thinking work productivity in the U.S. of A around noon Eastern Time this Thursday is going to take a severe dip.

Jose Altuve leads the MLB with 103 base hits. In 1983, a ‘Stro finished the season tied for the NL lead in base hits. Name the ‘Stro?

First of all, Commentary watched the entire City Council debate last Wednesday on the City of H-Town budget. I saw the votes on reducing taxes go down the drain. I also saw the vote on giving each district member of City Council $1 million for district matters. I don’t know if that is such a good idea because I think it has the potential to be abused.

The Chron E-Board yesterday kind of spanks the City Council for its handling of the budget. I don’t know if a spanking is warranted. Here is the spanking of sorts:

Last week’s annual budget session at City Hall had a bit of an unseasonable Mardi Gras feeling to it. No, there weren’t any beads or floats, and no frozen daiquiris – though the extended session did have some reporters longing for a drink. But there was an undeniable sense that City Hall was host to a reckless carnival of spending just prior to a time of mandatorily lean budgets.

Topping out at $5.3 billion, the budget process was one of naiveté, as Mayor Annise Parker put it. Houston should be working now to prepare for the impact of the revenue cap, which will limit how much the city can collect in taxes, and the looming pension obligations that threaten to devour the budget. Despite these projections, all votes to cut spending failed. Instead, City Hall went on a spending spree of 63 proposed amendments.

The largest amendment, and perhaps the most questionable, was Councilman C.O. Bradford’s plan to give each district council member $1 million to spend on local issues. At best these funds will still have to go through the same procuring rules and construction standards that hold up other projects. At worst, they’ll act as some unchecked slush fund that puts City Hall on the path toward the bayou equivalent of Chicago’s notoriously corrupt alderman system. As Chronicle reporter Mike Morris noted, this program has City Hall observers whispering dark jokes about the inevitable indictments for misused funds (“Council districts quick-fix plan has potholes,” Page B1, Friday).

Even if the program were run by angels, fantasies of council members responding posthaste to potholes and broken sidewalks run into the reality of our city charter, which prohibits council members from administering funds or exercising the authority of department heads.
And sometimes the problem with slow projects isn’t one of money, but manpower. For example, council approved $250,000 for more security cameras to catch illegal garbage dumping, but the Houston Police Department doesn’t have officers available to watch the tapes and enforce the law. With 20,000 ignored cases last year, council is spending money on tools that aren’t likely to be used. Too much of what City Hall does is high on spending but low on follow-through.

Despite all the debate, these amendments were small ball compared to the single largest expense increase in the 2015 general fund budget: pension payments. At $261 million, Houston spends more on pensions alone than on libraries, parks, trash pickup and municipal courts combined. Ballooning pension plan payments, combined with growing debt obligations and the revenue cap, are pushing Houston toward a projected $142 million gap at next year’s budget session. This will be a larger deficit than the recession-driven budget gap in 2011, when Mayor Parker laid off 776 workers and made extensive budget cuts.

Calls for more police and firefighters cannot truly be answered until Houston addresses these long-term budget problems. But instead of preparing for next year, it seems like City Council is trying to drink at the public trough until the party is forced to shut down.

Houston is in for a mean hangover.

Here is the problem. If we are really going to deal with some of these financial issues then we need to do away with term limits altogether. That’s the only way unless you have a better idea and nobody has shown me a better idea. It is time to get serious.

In 1989, Jose Cruz of course tied with Andre Dawson of the Expos with 189 base hits each to lead the NL.

This Friday we will hit the halfway point of the season. Somebody needs to tell the Skipper and GM that we can’t keep trotting out players that are batting under or just above the Mendoza line. Yesterday we had five Mendozians in the starting line-up. Those guys can’t hit!

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On Dudeless

Today is last day of Spring – huh! How will you celebrate?

Commentary may have to retire Guv Dude’s name. He says he’s given up wearing cowboy boots. He says they contribute to his back problems. He can’t be Guv Dude unless he’s wearing cowboy boots – can he?

Maybe now he is seeing the writing on the wall. He’s backing off his earlier remarks on gays. He said he stepped in it. Check this:

“I got asked about an issue, and instead of saying, ‘You know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country to everybody, and get back to talking about, whether you’re gay or straight, you need to be having a job.’ ”

Dude as well as the Chair of Lone Star State GOP are also backing away from the GOP Platform on gays. Like I say, they know how to read the writing on the wall – maybe.

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers tossed a no-no against the Rockies Wednesday night. He also struck out 15. Name the three other pitchers that have tossed no-nos and struck out 15 batters?

Yesterday was Juneteenth. Bill Calhoun, Chairman of the Texas Federation for Republican Outreach put out this statement yesterday:

Today is June 19th, also known here in Texas as Juneteenth. On this day, we’re reminded of a very important event in the history of Texas and the United States.

In 1854, the National Republican Party was formed to abolish slavery. And though in 1860 the nation elected Abraham Lincoln as its first Republican President, a lot more work would need to be done before former slaves would enjoy full citizenship.

So on January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed an historic document–The Emancipation Proclamation. However, the news of freedom didn’t reach Texas until Army Maj. General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston in 1865 where on June 19,1865, 149 years ago today, he read General Order Number 3 which included these 4 words: “All Slaves are Free.”

General Granger’s words were based on the principle embedded in our Declaration of Independence, “That All Men Are Created Equal.” Still, more work would have to be done before former slaves could achieve the American Dream.

So, Republican Members of Congress authored and passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, formerly abolishing slavery, granting full citizenship, and establishing the right to vote for former slaves.

Then on July 4, 1867, 125 African American men and 20 Anglos met in Houston at the first Republican State Convention. And a Galvestonian named Norris Wright Cuney, an African American, rose up to be elected Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

Happy Juneteenth!

Now the GOP is lucky to get 10% of the African American vote in the general election. Heck, they don’t even make an effort to get the African American vote. Instead they trot out voter suppression efforts like voter I.D. laws. Yeah, Happy Juneteenth!

Warren Spahn (Braves versus Phillies, 1960), Don Wilson (‘Stros versus Braves, 1967), and Nolan Ryan (Angels versus Twins, 1974) tossed no-nos and struck out 15 of course.

We only got three base hits last night. We’ve lost four in a row! What happened?

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The W Word

I am talking about watermelon. I don’t know about this. I am thinking the HPD Police Chief is a little thin skinned these days. His department is under question. Heck, there is another front page story on the HPD mess today. The Chief took offense at my pal Bill King’s column last week because Bill referenced a watermelon joke. Here is Bill’s column today:

On June 8, my column argued that before we invest any more money in the Houston Police Department, it should undergo a management review by an outside consulting firm. I based my opinion on numbers from the city that, notwithstanding the fact that the department’s budget has nearly doubled in the past 10 years and that its caseload has declined, it is nonetheless solving nearly 20 percent fewer cases.

According to records I obtained from the department, nearly 93 percent of all burglaries and 63 percent of all violent crimes go unsolved.
In 2013, HPD averaged just 1.5 arrests for violent crimes for each officer on the force.

The total number of cases solved was the lowest in six years, notwithstanding that the investigative staff has increased by 50 percent during that time.

I also noted some issues in the department’s budget that I found troubling and for which taxpayers, who will bear the cost, deserve an explanation. For example, in the past six years, the “Chief’s Command Staff” has gone from 170 employees with a budget of $21 million to a proposed 2015 budget calling for 269 employees and a budget of over $34 million.

During the same time, a new cost center – presumably, a new, recurring line item on the budget – called “Chief of Staff” was added with the proposed 2015 budget. This new cost center, with an $18 million tab, calls for 153 employees.

I also questioned why, out of 5,200 officers, only 4,100 were assigned to patrol or investigation.

These all seemed like pretty fair questions to which taxpayers are entitled answers. I expected that the department would not like these questions, but I thought, at least, it might provide some answers or an explanation.

The response I received was something I never would have contemplated in a million years. The chief complained to my editor that the column was a racist slap directed at him personally.

The basis of his allegation was that I had used as a lead-in to the story an account I first heard in business school 40 years ago about a vendor buying watermelons for more than he was selling them. As the tale goes, the vendor concluded that to make more money, he would need a bigger truck.

The point of the story is that simply throwing more resources at an unsound business model or organization will not solve its problems.
Obviously, the story could have been told about any commodity. Why it has traditionally been told with watermelons, I have no idea.

I did do a quick check on Google and found scores of references to the story in business journals and even in the popular media, including a column in the Huffington Post.

None of the retellings of the story took place in a racial context.

Nonetheless, it is true that watermelons have been used as a symbol to stereotype, insult and demean African-Americans. And I truly regret if the chief or anyone else interpreted my retelling of this story in this context because that certainly was not my intent.

Anyone who knows me and my involvement in this community and the way I have run the businesses in which I have been involved knows I would never intentionally make a derogatory racial remark or reference.

Candidly, the connection between the business school story and the racially charged use of watermelons never crossed my mind. Nor did it raise concerns from a number of editors and writers who read the column before publication.

But the incident is a powerful illustration of how we all come to the civic discourse with our own history and experiences.

It is a reminder that we all need to be more sensitive, not just to what we intend to say, but also how others may hear and interpret what we say. I certainly intend to do so.

I read Bill’s column back on June 8 and I didn’t find it racially offensive, but then I am not of the African American persuasion. I still find it a stretch but oh well.

The Tigers visit The Yard next week. Name the first Tiger pitcher to win the AL Cy Young Award.

HCC Trustee Dave Wilson doesn’t want HCC to participate in the Pride Parade. What else is news?

Denny McLain of course won the 1968 AL Cy Young award after going 31-6.

We’ve now lost three in a row. Come on guys!

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The Greg Abbott Campaign launched a Spanish language ad yesterday that ran on Univision’s live coverage of Copa Mundial during the Brazil versus El Tri match. The ad features the AG’s Latina mother-in-law and Latina sister-in-law saying in Espanol that he’s a nice fella. According to the Chron story on the ads, the ads will continue running during Univision’s coverage of Copa Mundial.

I can’t remember the last time a statewide candidate in the Lone Star State kicked off their paid advertising on Spanish language TV. We are usually an afterthought or a no thought. It is good strategy. He is on the air talking to a key voter. He’s on alone. He’s airing during the most popular sporting event of the Spanish speaking community.

He is also letting the Spanish speaking voter know that he’s married to a Latina and his familia is Latina. This is interesting. We will see where this goes.

I wonder when Team Davis is going Espanol. Here is the story on the ad and the ad itself:

This may be the best thing that could happen to Team Davis. Having to go up on Spanish language TV in the summer could very well create a buzz of sorts in the Latino community – resulting in a higher voter turnout.

Name the three MLB franchises that have never produced a NL Cy Young Award winner?

Speaking of the World Cup, Commentary is not very knowledgeable about soccer. I know what a soccer ball is. I know what a goal is. I don’t know how many players you have to have on the field or pitch. Don’t ask me to name each position. I could probably name only a handful of soccer players past and present. I know the matches are 90 minutes long but don’t ask me why they add minutes. I would not know a Real Madrid from a ManU. I know what El Tri is. I have only been to BBVA Compass once – I was invited to watch from a suite.

You are not going to catch me dissing the most popular sport in the universe. I confess I am one of those that just pays attention during the World Cups. I am not one of those that is going to say it is boring because they have 1-0 scores. I get the excitement of the sport.

Two days ago I had to run an errand and listened to Team USA on 97.5 FM. I watched the rest on ESPN and was sitting on the edge of my recliner when Ghana got their goal and whooped it up when we came back a few minutes later.

I spend my time on MLB of course but certainly have nothing but respect for the world’s game. USA, USA!

The HFD firefighters union gave the big thumbs down to the proposed negotiated contract. It was a 93% landslide, err avalanche vote. They obviously didn’t like the deal. I am thinking the union rank and file doesn’t have lot of confidence in their president. I am hearing that they didn’t like the fact that the deal included a provision that prevented the chair of the fire fighters pension board from taking time off to do pension work. I am thinking it was kind of silly that this was in the deal in the first place. I am thinking that the rank and file would just rather wait and cut a deal with the next mayor. They definitely don’t like the current mayor.

Can somebody please ‘splain to me why Andre Johnson is unhappy? Is it because he doesn’t think we have a good QB on the roster.

The Fish, Reds, and Rockies of course have never produced a Cy Young Award winner.

Jose Altuve had four base hits last night but we still lost 6-5 to the Nats.

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Former City Council Member, political strategist, Latino activist John Castillo is no longer with us. John was a true pioneer in Latino politics here in H-Town.

John was one of the most knowledgeable individuals I ever ran across. He was a fun guy to be around. He had a great sense of humor and was one of the best at wisecracks.

He was at the forefront in the fight for City of H-Town City Council single member districts and helped draw up the original lines.

He helped usher in the Latino voter engagement effort in Harris County. He knew where to go find Latino votes.

He was an Executive Assistant to two H-Town Mayors. He headed up a few City departments and agencies. He was the consummate City Hall insider and helped get us a seat at the table in city politics.

There may have been a couple or so times when we were not on the same side in a political campaign, I don’t ever recall where we didn’t get along though. That’s the kind of guy he was.

When you go over the history of H-Town modern day politics, John was a significant figure and pioneer for sure. Here is the Chron story on John:

John Castillo, a longtime architect of Latino political involvement in Houston who served three terms on City Council and helped guide successors into the District I seat he held for six years, died Sunday. He was 75.

“John Castillo was among the early political leaders in the Latino community,” said Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez. “Along with his brother-in-law, Leonel Castillo, they paved the way for so many young people.”

John Castillo’s campaigning and influence helped propel Leonel into the office of city controller, just as he did for numerous other Latino leaders from Houston’s East Side. Leonel Castillo died last November.

Ben Reyes, known as the godfather of local Latino politics before being convicted of bribery on City Council, said the deaths of John and Leonel Castillo solidify the end of an era.

“Leonel was the heart and soul of the Latino political movement, and John was the brains,” said Reyes, who was recruited into politics by John Castillo. “The two of them set the pace for all the rest of us.”

Local leaders said John Castillo was the first in Houston to develop a strategy to mobilize Hispanic voters, train candidates and guide them through elections. They lauded his role in a 1979 lawsuit against the city that led to the creation of single-member districts and opened the door for greater minority representation on City Council. Others recalled a successful scheme to sneak dozens of false delegates wearing fake badges into the state Democratic convention in a bid to add Latino voices to the board.

“Back in the ’70s, we didn’t really have mentors,” said Marc Campos, a consultant who often worked alongside and for Castillo during his decades in politics. “We were all learning back then. He was probably the first real numbers guy we had.”

Born Juan Felipe Espinosa Castillo, the first of 17 children of John V. and Enriqueta Castillo, John Castillo was the first in his family to attend college.

Attempts to reach family members Monday were unsuccessful.

He told an interviewer for an oral history kept at the University of Texas at Arlington that his family lived east of downtown in a six-room home “in a barrio called El Alacran,” or “The Scorpion.” He said he appreciated the negotiation skills he learned living in such a large family and his parents’ emphasis on learning, paying for him to attend private Catholic schools.

Castillo credited his father’s involvement in starting a local autoworkers union as his first introduction to politics, but said his interest and skills solidified over the seven years it took him to pay his way through the University of Houston as a mathematics major.

Lifetime achievement

As he was graduating, he worked on the campaign of Lauro Cruz, the area’s first Mexican-American state representative. He also was instrumental in the campaigns of Roman Martinez, Mario Gallegos, Tina Reyes and Ben Reyes, earning him a Hispanic Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement from Mayor Annise Parker in 2010.

“I had the pleasure of sitting next to him at the council table,” Parker said Monday. “He was a calm, patient man who had excellent institutional memory. Though he faced legal difficulties, he never wavered in his commitment to the people of Houston.”

Shortly after taking office in 1996, Castillo was accused along with two other councilmen in a bribery scheme to influence a city contract for a convention center hotel project. Two federal trials ended in hung juries and the prosecutors dismissed the charges in 1999.
The scandal, which led to the conviction of Reyes, did not deter District I voters from twice re-electing Castillo to City Council.

‘He was a gentleman’

Rob Todd, a former councilman elected the same year as Castillo, said he appreciated his professionalism, even when Todd voted against the hotel contract at the center of the FBI investigation.

“He always worked with me. He never took it out on me,” Todd said. “He was a gentleman.”

He chuckled as he remembered Castillo’s first term and his immediate ability to lead while Todd and other freshmen still were learning the ropes.

Former councilman James Rodriguez said Castillo did not hoard his institutional knowledge, sharing it freely with the campaigns he supported and leaders he mentored.

“On several occasions he had set aside time to go over and help me out on the city budget,” Rodriguez said. “I had a leg up out of all the other candidates.”

Even before Castillo was elected to office, a decision that divided the Latino political establishment that did not want to lose one of their best men behind the scenes, he wielded significant authority.

“If you wanted to get something done with an elected official, it was best to go to John first and get his blessing,” said state Rep. Carol Alvarado, who said she respected Castillo even when they were on opposite sides of an issue. “He had a way of being the intellectual voice of every campaign, and once he was at City Council, he was seen as very statesmanlike.”

After a failed bid for Harris County Precinct 2 commissioner in 2001, Castillo slipped into a quiet, personal life, friends said.

Funeral arrangements by Crespo Funeral Homes are pending.

I for one appreciate John’s contributions to our community and our politics.

No MLB question today.

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