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Archive for October 28th, 2014

One week from tonight we will be talking about what happened and not what is happening. Kuffer has a very good take today on Early Voting and what is happening now of sorts. Here it is: http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=63588.

Here is the latest tweet from Robert Miller:

Robert D. MIller ‏@Robert_Miller 46m46 minutes ago
After 7 days, R analysis shows Harris Co. EV as 54.14% R and 45.86% D. HD 144 (@repmaryannperez) 53.69% D and HD 149 (Vo) 51.91% D. #txlege

As of yesterday in Harris County, 221,204 have Voted Early in Person or mailed in a ballot. In 2010, 447,701 Voted Early in Person and by mail. So as of yesterday, we are at 49.4% of the 2010 pre-election day turnout. We had 55,560 total mail ballots returned in 2010, we are at 57,929 as of yesterday. We would have to hit 56,624 per day over the next four days to reach the 2010 pre-election day levels. That is obviously not going to happen.

A quick review of Early Voting locations in Latino neighborhoods has me concerned. Maybe some of those folks are now voting by mail and not in person – but still. Stay tuned!

Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner is getting some nice run for two outstanding pitching performances in the current World Serious. Name the Hall of Fame pitching great who had three consecutive shutouts over two consecutive World Seriouses in the 1960s?

More not so good news over at HCC. Here are bits from behind the Chron.com paywall:

The former top attorney and acting chancellor of Houston Community College filed a lawsuit Monday alleging she was fired because she told the FBI of her suspicions that board members sought to use bond funds to award kickbacks.

Renee Byas, ousted in August, said in the lawsuit that some of HCC’s elected board members wanted to change procurement rules “so they could hand out bond-related contracts to friends or family.”

The whistle-blower lawsuit is the latest in a series of accusations of improper business dealings involving one of the nation’s largest community colleges. And it alludes to renewed interest in the institution by federal investigators.

Neeta Sane, chairwoman of the HCC board, denied that Byas was fired in retaliation for talking to the FBI and said she did not know of any instances in which board members tried to steer contracts to preferred vendors.

And:

Byas, represented by high-profile Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, also alleged in the lawsuit that Sane and trustees Dave Wilson and Robert Glaser “cornered” her at a conference in Santa Fe, N.M., and questioned why she couldn’t revise the procurement process so that local firms could be given contracts for bond projects.

Wilson and Glaser could not be reached for comment.

Byas, named acting chancellor by the board in 2013, was so troubled that she carried a personal journal and tape-recorded conversations “so she could document the numerous instances that Trustees pressured her to break the law,” the lawsuit said.

I thought Dave Wilson said he was going over there to clean up the mess. Oh, well!

Can somebody tell me why the publisher of The Leader has it in for the Mayor? Here is his latest:

The Leader’s Jonathan McElvy:

The phone and email messages over the past week have been enough to make me feel like I’m the guy running a karaoke machine down at the local watering hole.

It’s not often that I take column requests, but just enough people have asked for my take on Mayor Annise Parker’s subpoena spill that I feel required to load a few lyrics into this week’s machine. If you don’t know what this Parker-subpoena issue is all about, it’s OK for you to come out of the tornado shelter now. The bad weather has passed.

In a story that sent a twister through our city, Parker and her consigliore, City Attorney David Feldman, directed (or did they?) their pro-bono attorneys to subpoena the sermons of five area pastors to see if they discussed homosexuality, gender identity, Parker herself, or the petition to seek repeal of a recently passed Houston Equal Rights Amendment.

Christians across the country – and rightfully so – launched a crusade to crucify Parker’s bully-like tactics on those who dare disagree with her.

Here’s the problem with writing a column taking Parker to task for her oppressive approach: I’m a day late and a lawyer short. Considering who has opposed Parker’s legal strategy, is there anything left to say?

The Houston Chronicle, hardly a Parker critic, said she and Feldman were wrong.

“Regardless, the legal questions can be sorted out without heavy-handed tactics that polarize the community. Feldman’s actions look like intimidation,” the Chronicle wrote in an Oct. 16 editorial.
Parker’s friends over at the ACLU even waved a finger at her:

“Freedom of conscience is a core American value. At the ACLU of Texas, we fight every day for the principle that each of us is free to pursue our faith without fear that government will query us about our beliefs or target those who hold disfavored points of view,” the organization wrote.

And even Parker back-tracked, throwing her pro-bono (which means free) attorneys under the bus, blaming them for the verbiage:

“We don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners.”

If Parker, the ACLU and Chronicle have all said Parker was wrong, I’m kind of pointing out that Houston is hot in August. Instead, what I find most interesting is the catastrophe Parker has created that very few are discussing right now. To understand, we need some background:

When Parker and Houston City Council passed HERO, a group of citizens created a petition to have the ordinance placed on the ballot. If the ordinance made the ballot, the voters could then confirm the council’s decision or repeal the ordinance, making it void.

The citizens signing the petition sent it to the city earlier this summer (as in July). The city secretary counted the votes near the end of July. Feldman, in perfect henchman fashion, declared the signatures invalid – but he waited until Aug. 6 to make that declaration, a full week after the city secretary said there were enough signatures to place the petition on the ballot.

This may sound like political speak, but it’s not. If Feldman had gone ahead and allowed the petition to go to the voters, it would have been placed on this year’s Nov. 4 ballot (the deadline was around Aug. 18 to be on the November ballot). While there are statewide elections at stake, the only notable local elections are for district attorney and a bunch of judgeships.

Guess what happens now? The attorneys representing the petitioners have a lawsuit against the city, and that trial will begin in January. The court will then decide if there are enough legal signatures to place the petition on the ballot. My guess is the city will lose that trial, but even if they don’t, you have now re-angered the entire Christian base in Houston and the United States, and those eyes are going to focus squarely upon our city elections.

Guess when those are? Next November.

Let’s say the city wins against the petitioners. Well, every person upset with city government will make it a point to show up at the polls, and that’s going to be difficult for any politician aligned with Parker and her reputation for shoving an agenda down the throats of citizens.

Now, let’s say the petitioners win, and there’s a measure on next November’s ballot determining the validity of HERO. There’s a lot of hyperbole surrounding that ordinance, but Christians and regular old people are actually concerned about transgendered people using bathrooms of their choice.

We’ve talked about the voter turnout problems in Houston repeatedly (we did so last week), but I can promise there will be no voter turnout problems if HERO is on the ballot next November. And guess who’s coming out of the woodwork to vote in that election? You think churches are preaching about the issue now? Wait until about October of next year.

Guess what position is on the ballot next year? Mayor of Houston, and Annise Parker can’t run because of term limits, which is probably a good thing for her.

Every single candidate aligned with Parker (think Sylvester Turner, Adrian Garcia, Ed Gonzalez) is toast. Those voters seeking to repeal this ordinance aren’t going to put their pencils anywhere close to one of those names. Meanwhile, folks like Chris Bell or Ben Hall (who, ironically, is helping the petitioners) will catch a wind-fall of support.

It’s obvious to any observer of Houston politics that Parker is out to advance her agenda before she leaves office. That is completely within her right, as long as she does it legally. But one of the unwritten rules in American politics is you try to leave your allies in good shape when you leave (unless you’re Bill Clinton and Al Gore).

Parker is leaving a devastating path of obstacles for whichever Democrat separates himself from a crowded 2015 mayoral field. And in only Annise Parker fashion, she just doesn’t seem to care.

Yankee great Whitey Ford of course tossed shutouts against the Pirates in Games 3 and 6 of the 1960 World Serious and a shutout against Cincy in Game 1 of the 1961 World Serious.

The Chron Sports is reporting today that the future of Tal’s Hill is under review.

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