Archive for July, 2014

A Fresher Face?

Here in H-Town we kind of know who is seriously thinking about running for Mayor. Council Member Stephen Costello, State Rep. Sylvester Turner, and former Congressman Chris Bell are the ones most mentioned. We pretty much know what to expect from these three. They have all been around for a while if you know what I mean.

Commentary is hearing that a Latina is talking to folks about making the race. No, she is not a current or former elected official. I won’t mention her name because I have not talked to her. She would certainly be a fresh face. Being a Latina and the only woman in the race would help her. I think she could raise the money – certainly as much as the other three could. She is smart, articulate, and bilingual. Stay tuned for sure on this!

Name the two pitchers that lead MLB will four complete games each?

Let’s see now, Vince Ryan and his crew had a jury unanimously hand them their arses on the Dave Wilson residency trial and now Vince and his crew want to go over the jury’s head and ask the judge to reverse the jury’s unanimous verdict. I don’t know about that. All you are doing is giving Wilson more support in the community. Folks are starting to root for him now. Way to go! Here is from the Chron:

Although a jury decided Dave Wilson lived where he claimed when he ran for the Houston Community College seat he holds, the drama surrounding the perennial candidate continues.

Harris County attorneys filed a motion Wednesday asking Judge Mike Engelhart, who oversaw Wilson’s three-day residency trial earlier this month, to overturn the jury’s unanimous finding and rule in the county’s favor. The county argues Wilson does not live in a warehouse on W. 34th Street that he claimed as his residence when running for the HCC seat in November.

Wilson said he feels he’s being harassed.

“I’m out $38,000 in legal fees from the first of the year,” Wilson said. “I won the election, I won the recount. They took it before the board at HCC, I won that. They had a private investigator follow me around, and they caught me living here. Then I won a jury trial 12 to 0 and now they do this?”

The county’s petition lays out the same facts that assistant county attorney Douglas Ray argued in court: That Wilson owns a home on Lake Lane, outside Houston and the HCC district he won in November. His wife lives in that house and he has claimed it as his residence on tax forms.

Wilson used an address on W. 34th Street, in HCC District II, when he ran for the seat, but the city later determined the warehouse there was not up to code and could not be used as a residence.

“We are asking the judge to rule that as a matter of law Mr. Wilson should not be entitled to enjoy the benefits of having two different domiciles such that he derives benefits from both,” Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said in an email. “We believe that claiming one domicile for one purpose (tax exemption) precludes, as a matter of law, simultaneously claiming a second domicile for a different purpose (qualification for public office). We are asking the judge to rule on this issue.”

I am glad the Lone Star State decided not to get into the business of telling us what we can do with the Astrodome.

Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and our own Dallas Keuchel of course lead MLB with four complete games each.

We ended up taking two out of three from MLB’s best team and tonight start a four game series with the Jays from the AL East.

Read Full Post »

Today the H-Town City Council will finally get around to settling the Taxi-Limo-Uber-Lyft ride sharing ordinance. The taxi folks added my old pal Craig Washington to their team. The Chron E-Board today told City Council to get off their arses and let Uber and Lyft into the game. You can check out the E-Board take by going here: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Time-to-end-taxi-vs-Uber-debates-5655265.php.

I really stopped listening to sports talk radio close to a couple of years ago because I got tired of some of the hosts treating women like “babes” or talking down the WNBA and the LPGA. It is a culture that goes unchecked in sports media.

I wasn’t surprised last week when the NFL only gave Ray Rice a two game suspension for knocking out his then fiancée. Then he dragged her limp body out of the elevator and it was all over the internet. Two games? That’s the NFL for you and they go by their own rules and say F-You to all of us because we let them. They think they are better than the rest of us because we let them think so.

When some women in the sports world went off on the NFL via twitter, you should have seen some of the vicious and vulgar responses they received.

Last Friday, when the dumbarse on ESPN threw out the “provocation” word in domestic violence, a female colleague via twitter called him out. She too was subjected to vile and nasty tweets from the jerks of twitterville.

@ajpanos on twitter has compiled a list of the jerks that have gone after women. He put out the list yesterday. Good for him.

SI’s Richard Deitsch ‏@richarddeitsch put this out yesterday:

All day, every day. One long sh_tshow on Twitter for women in sports media.

You can say that again.

The A’s lead MLB with 66 wins. Who led the MLB in wins last season?

Commentary said this yesterday: I don’t think I would like to be serving on the H-Town City Council these days.

Here is more City financial bad news from today’s Chron:

With an estimated $144 million budget shortfall looming next summer, the city’s finance director delivered a harsh message Tuesday: even lifting a voter-imposed revenue cap will not save the day.

Instead, city officials will have to cobble together a package of contentious reforms, including possible service cuts, layoffs and new revenue sources, to close a budget gap that could swell to more than $200 million by fiscal year 2018 if nothing is done. Though the city’s revenue cap is among the problems facing the budget, removing or reducing that cap would not solve the city’s spiking pension costs and debt obligations.

Surging property tax appraisals are expected to run the city into the voter-imposed revenue cap next summer, forcing a cut in the property tax rate. But projections put the revenue lost to the cap at just 12 percent, or $17 million, of the deficit next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2015.

Changing or modifying the cap, which would require going to the voters, may be part of the city’s solution. But budget chief Kelly Dowe warned the budget and fiscal affairs committee that it can’t be the whole solution.

“There’s no silver bullet for bridging these gaps going into the future,” Dowe said.

So city officials are left with a long list of possible fixes, from service cuts to a garbage collection fee to a shift in health care costs to ambitious pension reforms.

Pension obligations are a large part of the city’s financial problems. Next fiscal year, the city will have to pay $50 million on top of its scheduled payment to the police pension, about $120 million. A contractual trigger requires the account to keep funding at least 80 percent.

Mayor Annise Parker has said she does not want to refinance debt and delay pension obligations, a move that could greatly reduce next year’s budget gap but would add to the city’s deficit later.

Dowe said the finance staff could probably “patch together something and push off the day of reckoning,” but they can’t solve long-term budget problems without council action.

Committee Chair Stephen Costello said Tuesday’s conversation was an important starting point for what’s likely to be a year-long debate about cutting the deficit. Costello said his top priority is scaling back pension costs, a task that would likely require legislative intervention.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Costello said. “So moving forward, between now and next year’s budget cycle, we have to make some hard decisions. The real question is whether my colleagues are going to make some of those hard decisions.”

Some council members said they wanted a clearer understanding of how the city ended up in such a bind. Councilman C.O. “Brad” Bradford called for an analysis of the city’s core services and whether any “nonessential services” could be contracted out for less.

Though most council members are hesitant to sign on to specific cuts or new fees, Councilman Jack Christie said he would support a garbage fee that the solid waste director has proposed. That would run $3.76 a month, or $45.12 per home per year.

Tuesday’s forecast will help force that conversation, among others, Christie said.

“This is a beautiful, transparent document listing our challenges and possible solutions,” Christie said. “It lays it out, warts and all.”

Dowe is expected to come back with more specific recommendations in August.

Expect more bad news.

The Red Sox and San Luis led MLB in wins last season of course with a 97-65 record.

You just come to expect blowing a 4-1 lead in the ninth last night and losing 7-4. I have lost all confidence in the Skipper. Terrible, terrible, terrible!

Read Full Post »

City Workers Next

Jose Altuve now has 149 base hits and leads MLB. Who led MLB in base hits last season?

Dave Wilson is certainly giving Vince Ryan and his crew the big F-You. He put out a photo of his second crib with a sign that says “home sweet home”. I told you!

No word yet on the signature count at City Hall.

I don’t think I would like to be serving on the H-Town City Council these days. Apparently they are going to have to deal with a budget shortfall next year. Yesterday, the Chron had a piece on a possible garbage fee to help erase the looming deficit. Today in the Chron there is mention of a proposal to have City employees cough up some of their dough for their health insurance. Hey, it is what it is. It is going to be interesting in that next year is an election year including races for Mayor and Controller. Here is the Chron piece on sticking it to City employees:

Houston’s municipal workers may be asked to pay a larger share of their health care costs, one of the ideas officials will present to the City Council on Tuesday to reduce a $144 million deficit looming next summer.

The cost of health care for Houston employees, which makes up roughly 10 percent of the general fund budget, has been a source of stress for city finance officials in recent years. Short-term spikes and dips in claims have prompted several changes to premiums and benefits, causing confusion or consternation among workers.

Houston’s budget problem is driven by spiking pension obligations and debt payments and a decade-old voter-imposed cap on city revenues expected to kick in for the first time next year. Without tough changes, Mayor Annise Parker has said, layoffs await.

A key option, Parker has said, is to increase the share of health care costs employees pay. The city now pays three-fourths, and employees pay one-fourth.

“We have a very generous health benefits plan, even with the changes,” Parker said, referring to premium increases and cuts to benefits made last year. “We could shift more of those costs to our employees.”

Forcing employees to pick up 30 percent of health costs, rather than a quarter, could save the city up to $20 million in the first year, officials estimate. Requiring employees to cover half of health costs could save $80 million.

Melvin Hughes, president of the Houston Organization of Public Employees, said such discussions mean the mayor and council are not considering the people who make the city run. Such an increase would lead many workers to stop seeking care for themselves and their families, Hughes said.

“There’s no way we could accept that. We can’t afford an increase on health care. We do not make that kind of money,” Hughes said. “I understand it’s tight and I understand there’s a budget shortfall coming this way. They’re going to have to manage the money a little bit better.”

Changes in budgeting for health care costs began in 2011, when Houston moved from a fully insured plan – under which the city paid fixed monthly premiums – to a self-insured plan in which it pays only when employees need care. The city also started an aggressive prevention program that penalized employees who skipped check-ups.

The approach worked. City health care costs have been flat or decreased in recent years. However, the city repeatedly struggled to accurately project costs.

That led to an awkward few months last year when Houston dumped millions into the health fund to cover a shortfall, increased premiums and cut benefits, and then – a few months later – found the same fund held a large surplus. In response to demands from Hughes’ municipal union, Parker reversed some benefit cuts and rolled back part of the premium increase.

Projection problems continued this year, albeit with a happier outcome, thanks to claims coming in far below expectations.

“We continue to do things to promote the use of preventative measures instead of prescriptive measures,” city Human Resources Director Omar Reid said. “We try to be as accurate as we can with the projections, but when people don’t go to the emergency room because they’re healthier, it’s hard to say what the number’s going to be at the end of the year.”

The health fund on Monday held about $62 million – many times the level of any recent end-of-year balance. The city’s auditors and new proposed financial policies cap the amount of money that can sit in the fund, however, so roughly a third of the balance is being returned to other areas of the city budget.

About $6 million of the money will wind up in the general fund reserve, helping to offset next year’s deficit. City leaders acknowledge the real decision on whether to tap the health reserve, should it still hold a large surplus, will come next year.

“Everything is in play,” said councilman Stephen Costello, who chairs the budget committee. “It really is going to depend on what kind of hole we’re trying to fill next year and what projections we have moving forward.”

Councilman Dave Martin, who chairs a council subcommittee on health benefits, said shifting some health costs to employees might make sense, but he said the surplus in the health fund means no decisions should be made now because the city has asked employees to pay more than was needed.

“If I’m an employee, I’m going to scream and say, ‘Where’s my fair share? You told me you needed more money, we gave you the money, and lo and behold you really didn’t need it because your projections were off,'” Martin said. “I don’t think it’s fair to put it back into the general fund and to spend it. I don’t think that’s proper.”

Adrian Beltre of the Rangers and Matt Carpenter of San Luis of course each had 199 base hits last year to lead MLB.

I don’t know what to say about our four dinger explosion last night to beat the best team in MLB.

Read Full Post »

Not Yet, Whiners

The Mayor is contemplating sticking us with a garbage fee. There is a budget shortfall on the horizon and I guess she needs to cover her bases so to speak. I don’t know if we are ready for another fee. In 2010 we voted ourselves a drainage fee for infrastructure and so far the city hasn’t really made the case that infrastructure progress is being made. They need to make the case that the drainage fee is working just fine and our streets are getting better. They need better PR on this.

The other thing is I don’t think the votes are there on City Council for a garbage fee. It doesn’t help when The Mayor refers to City Council as whiners – SEE BELOW. Oh, well.

Jose Altuve now has 148 base hits. Who led the team in base hits last season and with how many?

Here is the Chron front page article on the garbage fee.

For years, Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department Director Harry Hayes has suggested the city implement a garbage fee to expand curbside recycling and pay for other initiatives. And for years, Mayor Annise Parker has demurred.

Now, with a looming budget deficit that could force widespread layoffs and cuts to services, the idea may see serious discussion at the council table for the first time.

Though Parker has not endorsed any particular path, she acknowledges a garbage fee is among the most important of the dozens of ideas officials are considering as they try to close a $150 million budget gap by next summer.

Parker said she understands the fee would be a tough sell for residents, just as persuading voters to amend a cap they placed on city revenues a decade ago – expected to carve millions from next year’s budget – would be difficult.

The mayor said she could ask voters to amend the cap to accommodate needed services, including waste pickup, or could let the cap force a cut in the property tax rate and impose a garbage fee instead, explaining to voters why it is necessary.

“I’ve been successful having those conversations on water-sewer rates, on streets and drainage, and now I’m going to have a conversation about this area, too,” Parker said, referencing a 2010 water rate increase and the drainage fee imposed by the voter-approved ReBuild Houston program. “We’re going to lay all that out and council will whine about it, and then I’ll put forward a position so they can attack it, and then we’ll actually get somewhere.”

Imposing such a fee, Parker added, would be about more than revenue.

“A garbage fee actually allows us better control over the waste stream and how we incentivize people to recycle,” she said. “There are benefits there.”

For Hayes’ part, he said he has “been like the North Star on this,” pushing roughly the same fee for the same reasons for six years, always reminding council members that Houston is one of the only major cities in the country, and the only one in Texas, without a garbage fee.

“I have consistently stated the same things to both mayors, who have both been huge recycling advocates, and the same thing to all the council members,” Hayes said. “If you’re asking me what to do and I’m your appointed and confirmed expert, here’s what we should do as a best practice in this particular city business.”

The fee Hayes has pitched – $3.76 a month or $45.12 per home per year – would ensure recycling trucks and containers are replaced on time and without taking on too much debt, would deploy officers to better enforce rules against illegal dumping, and would add neighborhood depository sites.

Other examples

Hayes said any broader proposal in line with what other Texas cities charge would be designed to generate enough revenue to cover his department’s $76 million budget, removing waste operations from the tax-supported general fund entirely. Such a fee in Houston, Hayes said, would be $15 to $20 a month per home, or $180 to $240 a year.

Using fees for 96-gallon bins, the type Houston distributes, Dallas charges residents about $21.92 a month, San Antonio $17.69 to $19.93, Fort Worth $22.75, Austin $33.50 and El Paso $16. Austin also levies a monthly $6.65 fee that funds other waste operations.

“I don’t suspect a $20 monthly fee would sit well with anyone, but a $3, $3.75 monthly garbage fee? Perfectly reasonable,” said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein. “If you’re going to do anything in the way of raising fees, this might be the one to do it. It’s a service everybody uses, and this is a department and an operation people are happy with. They get high positive ratings.”

Hayes is confident a fee on par with other cities will be among the options discussed but said he is mulling the idea and has not pitched it to council members. Still, he said, the discussion always has hinged on the mood of council, which he said has shifted over time.

“Council members, obviously, will look at this a lot more seriously, for those that haven’t or may have been middle-of-the-road, given what we have to face in the future,” Hayes said. “We have to look at everything.”

Being the oddball

Councilman David Robinson said passing a larger fee almost surely would be impossible and said even the smaller amount would be difficult.

“You can make the case, as Mr. Hayes has done, that we’re the oddball out, but I bet there’s going to be pretty big pushback on that,” Robinson said. “He alluded to the broader truth, which are the fiscal problems we’re having. It does leave us with some pretty tough choices.”

The oddball argument was unconvincing to Councilman C.O. Bradford.

“When you look at business magazines, trade publications, economic forecasts, Houston is separate,” he said. “Houston is doing much better than those other cities because we do things differently. We don’t have to do it just because other cities are doing it.”

Councilwoman Ellen Cohen said an informal survey of civic clubs in her district last year showed general support for the $3.76 monthly fee.

“People were willing to consider that,” she said. “For me, we have serious issues ahead, and I think everything should be on the table for the purpose of talking about it.”

Councilman Dwight Boykins said he is supportive of the garbage fee concept but is far more comfortable with the lower amount than leaving a $15 to $20 monthly fee in place indefinitely, particularly for low-income residents.

Councilmen Larry Green and Jerry Davis are against the idea, saying constituent surveys have found more opposed than in favor.

Green said residents cannot afford another fee on top of the ReBuild Houston drainage fee and ever-increasing water rates, which the 2010 changes tied to inflation.

“The citizens, they hear about a big deficit, but it’s up to us and the administration to figure out how we balance that,” Davis said. “All they want to know is ‘I don’t want my taxes raised.’ I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but right now, I don’t think this is the answer.”

Answering critics

Hayes said he has heard this response at plenty of civic clubs.

“Our general counter is we’re talking about quality of life, clean communities, regardless of where you live,” Hayes said. “Citizens demand and deserve many more services that we just can’t pay for.”

Stein said garbage fee foes typically are low- to moderate-income households, adding the timing is not ideal following only a few years after the imposition of a drainage fee. However, Stein said, many of the people moving to Houston want more services.

“It doesn’t look very attractive. It’s a tax increase,” he said. “But do any of these council members have any other ideas? Tell me the other choices they have to raise that money.”

Speaking of whiners, some on the team were not too happy that last year’s top draft pick Mark Appel dropped by The Yard yesterday to throw a bullpen session. It has something to do with violating the so called unwritten rules of baseball. I hate to say this but I think the ‘Stros are a dysfunctional organization these days. The front office, the Skipper, the team – you name it. About the only ones that are worth watching are Altuve and Orbit. Here is the Chron article on the latest dysfunctionalism:

In a sport that prides itself on being a meritocracy that requires bonus babies and 30th-round guys to all pay their dues, Mark Appel’s presence at Minute Maid Park on Sunday and his promotion to Class AA Corpus Christi created a stir in the Astros’ clubhouse.

“Unbelievable,” one Astros said. “I’m not in a good mood.”

A few minutes later, another Astro approached a reporter to offer his thoughts while the media waited to speak with farm director Quinton McCracken and manager Bo Porter in the home dugout.

“So now you get rewarded for having an 11 ERA? And you have two guys down there (at Class A Lancaster) with 2 ERAs who can’t get called up?” the Astros player said on the condition of anonymity, alluding to Appel’s ERA and lefthander Josh Hader’s superb season at Lancaster.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who set up Appel’s bullpen, did not respond to multiple requests to comment on Appel’s visit or his players’ feelings.

Appel, who was given a $6.35 million bonus last year after he was taken first overall in the 2013 draft after his senior season at Stanford, was promoted to Class AA Corpus Christi despite a 2-5 record and 9.74 ERA over 12 starts and 44 1/3 innings. Hader is 9-1 with a 2.46 ERA.

Appel threw his bullpen session under the supervision of Astros pitching coach Brent Strom. Unlike most pitchers, however, he was walked back to the clubhouse through the back of the stadium instead of the dugout entrance, keeping him away from the media.

Without discussing Appel by name, Astros manager Bo Porter was clearly aware about the resentment in his clubhouse before the final game of a three-game series against the Marlins.

“Any time something affects your clubhouse, I think as the manager you have to handle it,” he said. “I will handle it internally. It’s unfortunate that they have been put in that position. But as the manager I will handle it internally.”

Pressed a bit more about baseball’s meritocracy, Porter appeared to at least understand his players’ feelings.

“When you talk about earning a right to be here, I think it’s something again that’s a well known fact in baseball that I think that everyone does everything they can to abide by,” Porter said. “But at the same time I’m not going to speak for the feelings of the people that probably were offended.

“But at the same time I will handle those conversations internally with our players, allow them to speak their minds and I will address it accordingly.”

McCracken, 43, didn’t seem surprised by the outcry. He spent 12 years in the major leagues and remains highly respected around the game because of the way he played and handled himself.

He urges players to not be concerned with which players do or don’t deserve promotions.

“You can’t get caught up in that,” he said. “We’ll relay that to them, and they shouldn’t get caught up in that. And the same applies to our big leaguers. They need to focus on the job at hand, which is coming out here and helping us win games.

“Getting caught up with what a minor league player does shouldn’t affect them. They’re professionals. They’re getting paid handsomely to do a job and we expect them to go out there and do a job.”

When I say dysfunctional I am being kind if you know what I mean.

Altuve of course led the team last year with 177 hits.

The team doesn’t have any leadership. The Skipper seems lost. That’s why we got swept by the Fish this past weekend and now the best team in MLB is in town for three – have mercy!

Read Full Post »

From today’s Chron and certainly the quote of the day:

“We don’t need 1,000 National Guard troops,” said Pharr Mayor Leo “Polo” Palacios. “I think we need to send 1,000 teachers.”

Meanwhile, Senator Showboat is proposing legislation to give the national guard immigration arrest authority. This guy is in la-la-land for sure.

Lisa Falkenberg’s five part series of columns on a messed up local grand jury is must read for sure. It is a sad commentary. It is certainly worth the Chron subscription I pay. Part five is out today.

The GM of Channel 2 came out in support of Uber and Lyft today.

Name the only club in MLB history to win two World Serious Championships the only two times they advanced to the playoffs?

I have said it before that the Sunday morning news talk shows have become stale with the same old tired talking heads from the DC media and political class. They are so predictable and come armed with the same old talking points. I have them on but I am usually occupied with other matters on Sunday mornings. I am really not surprised by the fact that NBC will be making changes to “Meet the Press”. Here is from today’s Politico:

All of the Sunday shows have lost considerable influence in recent years. The programs no longer set the week’s political agenda. More often than not, they serve as a venue for the promotion of stale talking points and conventional wisdom.

NBC places much of the blame for this on viewers’ disenchantment with Washington. In fact, both “Meet the Press” and ABC’s “This Week” have already implemented changes that broaden their shows’ focus. Interviews and policy debates are shorter so that more time can be given to packages on other topics, regardless of their relevance to Washington. This is a departure from the days when Tim Russert would spend segment after segment interviewing one congressman or senator, then debrief with the roundtable. Indeed, it seems to upend the very essence of the genre.

If NBC commits to broadening its scope and decides to reinvent itself for a general audience, it will likely turn to a general news personality like Cynthia McFadden, the network’s senior legal and investigative correspondent, or Savannah Guthrie, the co-host of NBC’s “Today” show. In that event, the show would likely relocate to New York — an event that would be as devastating to Washington’s political-media class as the relocation of The Vatican would be to Rome’s Catholics.

Then again, NBC also knows that compelling television depends in large part on the personality sitting behind the desk. And indeed, no matter what you think of Gregory, George Stephanopoulos, or Bob Schieffer, it’s quite obvious that none of them are as politically engaged as Tim Russert was. Gregory often seems uninterested, his inquiries more scripted than genuine. Stephanopoulos has so many commitments — chiefly, co-hosting “Good Morning America” — that it is impossible for him to stay engaged. Schieffer is nearing retirement.

I would recommend moving the shows out of DC. I would also limit talking heads to maybe one appearance per network every six months. I would also insist on an aggressive host who would cut off guests if they went straight to the talking points. I might even alter the name of the show to “Meet the Press with no Talking Points”.

The Fish of course made the playoffs in 1997 and 2003 and came away with two World Serious Championships.

Let’s see, George Springer is on the DL for a couple of weeks.

The MLB players union filed a grievance against the team for the shenanigans the team pulled trying to sign their top draft picks.

Dexter Fowler is still out.

Sixteen out of the next nineteen games are at The Yard including three consecutive weekends starting this evening.

They are handing out team beach towels tonight and shades tomorrow. We have the Fish this weekend, the A’s next week, and the Jays next weekend.

Read Full Post »

Dome Doings

These letters made it to the Chron today:

Pro-Hunker Down:

Judge Ed Emmett’s going against negative pressure to destroy the Dome puts him up there with Judge Roy Hofheinz and the other great visionary Houston heroes. He’s right about saving the Dome, and he knows it and is not afraid to stand up for what he believes.

Anti-Hunker Down

To call a plan to create much-needed green space in place of the embarrassingly deteriorated Astrodome “silly” is childish and simply shows, once again, that Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is a sore loser.

Hunker Down is far from being a “visionary hero” on this issue. He has been in office for a number of years and still hasn’t come up with a solution for the Dome. He has been more of the janitor-in-chief of the Dome. It will soon be 15 years since the ‘Stros last played there – 15 YEARS – and nobody has come forward with a workable solution. NADA! ZILCH!

Among active MLBers, name the player with the most career doubles?

The Chron will be moving most if its operations to the old Houston Post building off of the Southwest Freeway. I guess it doesn’t matter to me. I wonder how many newspapers in cities across the U.S. of A. are located in their downtown district.

The Chron E-Board came out today in favor of lifting the trade embargo on Cuba. Here is how it ends:

But, as the older Cuban exiles who longed to return to a Castro-free homeland die out, things have changed enough that Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor in Florida now running for the same post as a Democrat, has come out against the embargo and said he will travel to Cuba if elected.

With the Castros in their 80s and the government gradually opening the economy, it’s time for the U.S. to discard its failed policy and move toward normal relations with the island. There are issues to be worked out, such as the fate of imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross in Cuba and of three Cuban agents jailed in the U.S.

But opening up to Cuba would create a new market of 11 million people for U.S. business and give the U.S. a commercial and social presence again on the island.

The embargo gave Fidel Castro half a century to build Cuban society his way, virtually free of U.S. influence. One wonders how different Cuba would be today if the embargo had lasted just five years instead of 52.

It is not going to happen anytime soon, thanks to the loud and influential voices in South Florida.

Believe it or not, plenty of folks still run around wearing or displaying the Johnny Reb flag. Call them arseholes, necks, racists, bigots, morons, or whatever. Commentary really doesn’t have a problem with the state issuing license plates to these folks. It is kind of like the state officially bestowing that these folks are arseholes, necks, racists, bigots, morons, or whatever – got it!

Bobby Abreu of the Mets of course has 574 career doubles to lead all active MLBers.

We lost late last night. It is a 2 pm start today then they come home.

Read Full Post »

Name the lefty who has thrown the most career strikeouts?

Guv Dude has a border. Rand Paul doesn’t have a border. Chris Christie doesn’t have a border. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a border. Dems have a border.

The more folks look at Dude’s latest border adventure, the more goofy it looks. We are forgetting that AG Abbott was right there by Dude a couple of days ago wholeheartedly endorsing his call for putting more cavalry troops on the border. A strategy that is a monumental waste of taxpayer funds. To put icing on the cake, Dude wants The President to foot the bill – fat chance. Here is from the front page of today’s Chron:

The Texas National Guard troops headed for the Rio Grande Valley are expected to provide a high-profile backstop for border agents dealing with the surge of child immigrants that has captured the nation’s attention.

But one thing they can’t do is catch people crossing the border illegally.

Despite calls by Gov. Rick Perry and others for Guard troops with arrest powers to beef up the border, “Operation Strong Safety,” which the governor announced Monday, does not grant the troops that authority.

Critics say the Guard’s presence will do more to send a political message than send anyone home, but Perry’s office says the troops will free federal agents to do their jobs better.

The details of the operation, which could involve as many as 1,000 troops, are much less dramatic than much of the political rhetoric leading up to the deployment would suggest.

Experts say that’s because of the Posse Comitatus Act, a post-Civil War Reconstruction law that has historically limited the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

“If anybody thinks National Guard is going to be at the border with rifles they’re wrong,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents the border region around Laredo. “I can’t speak for Governor Perry, but the authority the National Guard has is provide support service. They can provide intel support. They can be lookouts. But can they go out there and apprehend? Absolutely, under the law, they cannot do that.”


Monday’s announcement also followed a speech Perry gave in Iowa – the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state – vowing to take over border security if the federal government couldn’t.

“We know how to secure the border,’ Perry told Iowa GOP activists at a fundraising dinner. “If the federal government will not do its duty, then I will suggest to you that the state of Texas will.”

What a joke and AG Abbott was right there next to Dude smiling like the Cheshire Cat. We need shove this up their-you-know-what particularly amongst Latino voters.

Of course, those in charge of the campaigns apparently are not getting it. THIS IS OUR ISSUE!!!! Oh, well.

The Big Unit, err Randy Johnson of course has 4,875 Ks all-time to lead all lefties.

We won in 12 last night and are now two ahead of the Rangers

Read Full Post »

Speaking to Who?

I was watching the Trib streaming of Guv Dude’s press conference to call out the cavalry yesterday and a minute or two into the conference I was struck by the imagery – nothing but older white guys telling us about their call to action on a so called international crisis on our border with Mexico. Who are they talking to, I thought? Then it sadly sunk in. Dude was staging this for the Tea Party folks in Iowa in 2016 – plain and simple. If Dude had up there with him a couple or so border county judges, sheriffs, or legislators of the Latino persuasion, I might have thought differently.

In today’s Chron hard copy, the E-Board’s headline says: Why now? Border troops may have to do with 2016. Here is part of the E-Board take:

Actually, it’s potential presidential candidate Perry who’s deploying the troops to the border, the same combat-ready would-be president who ventured onto the roiling waters of the Rio Grande a few days ago with conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity.

The surge, Perry said, is the result of the federal government’s failure to adequately secure the border.

Sheriffs along the border told reporters they had not been consulted. They also questioned the wisdom of sending in military personnel who have no authority to stop, question or arrest anyone.

“At this time, a lot of people do things for political reasons. I don’t know that it helps,” Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told the Dallas Morning News.

The good sheriff has that right. “I don’t know what good they can do,” he added. “I need people who I can hire who know the community, the language and who can help.”

If the governor, not necessarily the candidate, were truly interested in helping ease the border crisis, he would follow the moral exemplar of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who has offered facilities to help shelter the children until their immigration status can be determined. He would offer state assistance to clergy and church groups in the Valley who are doing the best they can to keep the children safe. He would treat the children as desperate refugees, not dangerous lawbreakers bringing disease and danger to this country.

Alas, there’s no political gain in taking a humanitarian approach, particularly when the nativists howling for the children to be deported posthaste will have a lot to say about who’s on the Republican ticket for 2016. Politician Perry is well aware of that fact.

No one believes in ignoring the influx of juveniles at the border, but as state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa told the Chronicle, there’s no need to militarize the border. The McAllen Democrat said the governor should be focused on helping local law enforcement and making resources available to feed, clothe and provide health checkups for the youngsters.

That would be the compassionate thing to do and the sensible thing, but, then again, someone who thinks he ought to be president doesn’t always exhibit good sense.

Come on Dude! You didn’t even consult the locals? The locals ARE boots on the ground. Get their advice! Here is more from a related Chron article.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera questioned the effort.

“Those DPS people that are down here,” Vera said. “There’s one every mile, or every half a mile. And then every once in a while you’ll see a cluster or three or four of them chatting. They are doing absolutely nothing.”

Vera said he thought the National Guard deployment would not do anything because that is what happened when guardsmen were sent to the border previously, in 2006 and 2010.

Go on ahead and shake your head in disbelief. Hey, look at the bright side – yes, there is a bright side. We only have to put up with Dude for another six months.

Big Papi smacked a couple of dingers last night to move him past Yaz to numero 36 on the all-time dinger list with 453 career dingers. Name the active player sitting at numero 35 with 454 career dingers?

Remember when Sen. Dan Patrick had those ads with him standing by the border promoting his anti-invasion campaign? Check this from the Chron:

Republican lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Dan Patrick has erected his campaign on a foundation of being Mr. Border Security, using tough talk on the issue of illegal immigration to help build a reputation as one of the loudest voices on the issue within the state party.

Yet, as an international humanitarian crisis unfolds along the Texas-Mexico border, Patrick has been noticeably low-key – almost silent on the issue over the last few weeks with the exception of a handful of messages promoted on YouTube, Facebook and in press releases.

And the state senator from Houston favored to win the spot as Texas’ lieutenant governor says that’s been by design.

Patrick, fresh off a relatively non-publicized border tour, said Monday that he’s intentionally stayed in the background the last couple of weeks, keeping away from photo ops and treading carefully with public statements to avoid stepping on the toes of the state leaders who are actually in a position of power to influence the situation.

“I want to be very careful,” he said in an interview. “I don’t want to be looking like I’m out in front, telling our current officeholders what to do. That’s the professional and respectful way to do it.”

What! Maybe this race is closer than most folks think!

Adam Dunn of course and now with the White Sox sits at numero 35 on the all-time career dinger list with 454.

I wonder which ‘Stro team will show up to play the best team in the MLB this evening?

Read Full Post »

Dear ‘Stros:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dems certainly need to step up on this.

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

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

Dear ‘Stros:

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

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

Here is just a sampling:

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

From SBNation

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

From Bleacher Report:

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

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

Here is from Evan Drellich of the Chron:

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

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

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

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

And from Buster Olney, ESPN.com:

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

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

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

The Chron E-Board said this Saturday:

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »