Archive for June 23rd, 2014

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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