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Archive for December, 2014

The Texas Observer looks at the bad year for Battleground Texas. Here it is: http://www.texasobserver.org/losing-ground-battleground-texas-democratic-party/.

Nick Anderson’s Battleground Texas cartoon sums it up best. Check it here: http://blog.chron.com/nickanderson/2014/11/bloodbath-2/.

Like I said yesterday, scoreboard matters. Before the election, some in the GOP were worried about Dems making progress in the Lone Star State. Since the election I have yet to hear a concern from key GOPer that Dems are a threat anytime soon. That ought to tell you something.

I guess heading into 2015, local politics will be dominated by the H-Town mayoral contest and national politics by the race for Prez. Here is what Burkablog has to say about Jeb Bush:

That didn’t take long. Jeb Bush is the “clear Republican frontrunner for president,” according to a new CNN/ORC poll. Bush received 23% of Republicans surveyed in the nationwide poll, ten points ahead of his nearest competitor, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who tallied 13%. Physician Ben Carson ran third, with 7%, and Rand Paul and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tied for fourth with 6%.

As I’ve written before, Jeb is going to be hard to beat. He is backed by the prodigious clout of the Bush family and their nationwide fundraising ability. No one else on the GOP wannabe list is very attractive, especially since Christie’s popularity has waned in recent months. It’s hard to envision anyone else matching Jeb’s positives as a candidate.

Nothing about Guv Dude or Sen. Ted Cruz.

Speaking of local politics, John Arnold got some run in Politico today on pensions. H-Town’s pensions are not part of the story though. Check it here: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/enron-billionaire-frets-about-public-pensions-solvency-113842.html?hp=r3_3.

Don’t worry, pensions will get some major run in the mayoral race.

A 2014 shout out goes to the Chron’s Lisa Falkenberg for her columns on our messed up grand jury system. I am thinking Falkenberg will some major accolades for her great work.

A 2014 shout out goes to the President for acting on immigration. Si se puede!

H-Town City Hall gave us Uber in 2014 and tonight folks using the service will get Uberized. Here is from Chron.com:

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that Keith Livingston is a fan of Uber, although he wasn’t thrilled after recently taking a 13-mile trip with the service that cost $247.50.

“I knew I was going to be paying more because it asks you to confirm, but it’s just crazy,” Livingston said Tuesday. ” You’re almost at their mercy because you don’t want to wait longer for a cab.”

It’s also a timely warning. One of Uber’s busiest nights is coming up as folks head out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and “surge pricing” — raising fares when demand increases – probably will be in effect in Houston.

The trip went down like this: Livingston took an $18 Uber ride from Oak Forest to Rice Village and met some friends. From there, he went to the Texas Bowl to see Texas play Arkansas at NRG Stadium. His group left before the game ended, around 11 p.m., and he and his friends planned to split a fare back to Oak Forest. It would normally be about a $45 ride, with the various fees and taxes.

“We walked to the Fiesta parking lot and found our Uber driver,” Livingston explained in an email. “He told us it would be at a higher rate because of the surge pricing … but we were tired of walking and looking for a ride so we accepted.”

Tuesday morning, Livingston posted his details on Twitter, chiding Uber for the big up-charge and wishing he’d just waited for a cab.

“I love Uber, don’t get me wrong, but the price gouging needs to be brought to people’s attention,” he said.

The increase is part of a practice called surge pricing.

What a racket! Hey, if you don’t like it, call your Mayor or City Council member.

I am skipping the MLB question today.

According to the Chron, Baggy would be interested in doing something meaningful for the team this season.

In 2015, we may have our first MLB Hall of Famer wearing ‘Stros gear.

That’s all I have so be careful tonight, stay warm, and have a Happy New Year and I will be back on Friday.

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State Sen. Wendy Davis was interviewed by Peggy Fikac and it is on the front page of today’s Chron. It is also behind the paywall on Chron.com. Here are a few bits from the piece:

Davis pushed back at the idea that the November election was a setback for Texas Democrats, pointing to bright spots including her hefty fundraising and volunteer force. But she added that she wants to learn from things that could’ve been done differently.

I don’t know about her “setback” take. Scoreboard is a pretty powerful indicator. And:

In an exclusive interview, she reflected on the campaign and pointed to one thing she would change. Davis that she wishes she had a do-over on her campaign decision to support open carry of handguns. Her position put her at odds with her party and alarmed a number of supporters. She said Monday that she opposes open carry.

Yeah, that was a pretty bonehead move. And:

The lawmaker catapulted to national prominence because of a well-publicized filibuster against tighter abortion restrictions. She has now accepted invitations to speak at Planned Parenthood events around the country.

Now that is good considering she was criticized during the campaign for dodging the abortion rights issue. And:

She didn’t rule out anything from another race for governor to trying to regain her state Senate seat, which was won by Republican Konni Burton after Davis ran for governor instead of aiming for re-election.

I am sure there are a whole host of folks that have plenty of takes on Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaigns – past and future. My advice: Nothing against her 2014 team, but how about reaching out and talking to other advisors across the state and country to get their takes. Who knows – they may be fresh?

Here is the story on the interview: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/Wendy-Davis-expects-to-stay-in-politics-5984368.php.

Only one MLB team failed to reach the 100 team dinger mark this past season. Name the team?

Commentary usually doesn’t mention kids in sports because they don’t get paid like the pros. I do want to give a shout out to little leaguer Mo’ne Davis of Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons for winning the AP 2014 Female Athlete of the Year.

Commentary was watching the Packers and Lions this past Sunday when the Detroit Lions defensive tackle stepped on Olivia Munn’s boyfriend on purpose. Yesterday the jerk from the Lions was handed a one-game suspension and will miss the playoff game against the Cowboys. What an arsehole. The whole country saw it.

Speaking of the NFL, Gary Kubiak is interviewing for the Jets’ head coaching position. I like Gary Kubiak and wish him all the best, but I just can’t picture him as a head coach in New York City. It would be fun to watch though.

During the fourth hour of “Today” yesterday they put on the “Today: The Musical.” It was written by fourth hour co-host Kathie Lee Gifford. The star was Regis Philbin. Huh? Putting together a musical wasn’t a good idea and a waste of time if you ask me. I watched it and in one word to describe: excruciating.

KC of course only had 95 team dingers this past season.

Nothing from The Yard today.

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The City of H-Town has a campaign season that begins next February 1. That is the day candidates – incumbents and challengers – can start raising campaign funds. In my book it is pretty simple – if you can’t raise the money, you really can’t run a real campaign. A candidate for City Council wants a federal judge to throw out the City of H-Town’s fundraising ordinance. Here is a bit from today’s Chron by Teddy Schleifer:

A federal judge is expected to rule this week whether to at least temporarily lift Houston’s fundraising blackout period and allow mayoral and City Council candidates to raise money immediately rather than waiting until Feb. 1.

The moratorium, enacted in 1992 as an anti-corruption measure, is being challenged in court on constitutional grounds by a Houston City Council candidate.

Trebor Gordon, a candidate for an at-large position on the council, sued the city of Houston in federal court last month for stifling his First Amendment right to raise money when he chooses. The current rules allow candidates for city office to raise money only from the February before an election to a few months after it concludes.

The ruling could have profound implications not only for the way Houston conducts elections for local leadership but also for San Antonio and Austin, which have similar ordinances.

“It’s a fundamental change,” said top city lobbyist Robert Miller.

In court filings, Gordon argues that the abridged timeline makes it impossible for a political challenger to amass the financial wherewithal to unseat an incumbent with a war chest. The city counters that the blackout period is essential to preventing corruption and that nothing stops Gordon from working the stump before asking for checks.

“Campaigning is a larger universe than simply soliciting and accepting donations. Gordon is not prohibited right now from spreading his ideas and seeking support,” the city attorneys argued in court filings. “He simply chooses not to.”

The city argues that Gordon has not aggressively used social media to woo voters, backed his campaign with any of his own money or transferred any unspent donations from his previous run for City Council to this race. Candidates are allowed to spend money prior to Feb. 1 – just not raise it.

“The only harm cited by Gordon is self-inflicted,” the city contended in another filing.

Gordon and his attorney, campaign finance lawyer Jerad Najvar, sharply disagree, charging that any campaign is feeble and futile until the candidate has the money to execute it.

Commentary supports the current ordinance only because I am used to it and we have had it for over 20 years. I am thinking though the City lawyers have a pretty weak argument though.

A lot of folks don’t have personal funds to put into their campaigns. I sure would hate to see a system where only the wealthy get to be the viable candidates.

The City saying that this Gordon fella hasn’t fully used social media really doesn’t understand using social media in political campaigns. You really have to hire folks to help with this and this cost money – websites, Facebook, twitter, constant contact – all have to be managed and you really can’t expect the candidates to do it all by themselves as well as go out and visit civic clubs and meet with voters. You get the picture – you have to have help and you can’t expect it to all come from volunteers.

So like it or not, right now we have in H-Town political campaign seasons, just like the NFL, MLB, and NBA all have seasons when they can play. We will see if the judge thinks having political campaign seasons is OK.

Here is Kuffer’s take: http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=64593.

Name the five players on the current MLB Hall of Fame ballot who have worn ‘Stros uniforms?

I saw this tweet yesterday:

Doug Sheridan ‏@dougsheridan 1h1 hour ago
Whoever is Houston’s next mayor, I hope they make improving the quality of inner-city streets a priority. It’s bad out there. #Houston

Don’t worry. This issue will get some major run once the political campaign season gets going.

This week is still a state holiday for some folks as the Aggies get going at the Liberty Bowl this afternoon, the Longhorns at the Texas Bowl over at NRG tonight, the Frogs at the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve, the Bears at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day, and the Coogs at the Armed Forces Bowl this Friday.

I always feel better about engaging the Latino voter when Latinos are in charge of the effort. I saw the following on Politico this past weekend so I am keeping hope alive. It would be nice if they brought the effort to H-Town for 2016. We will see so check this:

After a midterm election in which declining Hispanic turnout cost Democrats dearly in close races, causing some leaders to question whether President Barack Obama made a mistake in delaying his immigration order, the party is devising far-reaching plans to reverse the slide in 2016.

The efforts, according to party operatives, include a multimillion-dollar fundraising drive to boost Democrats in congressional districts with large Hispanic populations. With the incoming Republican-controlled Congress unlikely to support a comprehensive immigration package, Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill are forming a new “Immigration Strike Team” to go on a messaging offensive on the issue.

And last month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made a surprise choice to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a little-known third-term lawmaker who promises to make Hispanic voter engagement a top priority of the campaign arm.

The moves follow an election that saw Hispanics — the nation’s fastest growing voting bloc, and a group that helped power Obama’s reelection — stay home. According to exit polling, Hispanics made up just 8 percent of the 2014 electorate, down from 10 percent in 2012. And of those who did vote, fewer of them supported the president’s party. Hispanics broke for Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 28 percent, down from 44 percent in 2012.

“You had the perfect storm: a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of movement on immigration reform and a lack of capital investment to turn people out,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic strategist who specializes in Hispanic voter targeting. “I think everyone is reevaluating what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Much of the internal Democratic finger-pointing surrounded the question of whether Obama should have signed his executive action on immigration before the midterms rather than after with an eye toward activating Hispanics for the midterms. While House Democrats ensconced in safe blue districts supported a pre-election move, their Senate colleagues, many of whom were locked in tough contests in red states, pressed him not to. Obama’s popularity among Hispanics has been on the rise since the executive action: A Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Telemundo survey released last week showed 57 percent of Hispanics approving of the president, up from 47 percent in September, just prior to the midterms.

“It was really bad timing for some senators who approached the president and asked him to put off taking executive action on immigration,” said California Rep. Tony Cárdenas, the incoming chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political action committee. “Talking to Latinos, a lot of them were very bothered, a lot of them were very perplexed and confused.”

Now Cárdenas is gearing up to play a central role in the Democratic comeback with Hispanics. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker recently sent his Democratic colleagues a memo announcing his intention to raise $2 million, double the amount the caucus spent on behalf of candidates in 2014. Cárdenas also said he wants to elect two or three additional Hispanic Democrats to the House in 2016, and over the next decade to double their number to 50.

Here is the entire Politico article: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/democrats-immigration-elections-113818.html?hp=c1_3.

Like I said, this program should be implemented in H-Town with Latinos in charge so stay tuned!

Baggy, B-G-O, The Rocket, Jeff Kent, and Curt Schilling of course are on the Hall of Fame ballot and all have worn ‘Stros uniforms.

Nothing from The Yard this morning.

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Dave and Enrique, two of my nephews, took the patriotic plunge yesterday and downloaded “The Interview” so our family was represented as America fights back. Dave said it was a kind of “Spies Like Us” flick.

The Hallmark network had a movie that came out this year called “Angels and Ornaments.” A tune was sung at the end called “’Twas the Night.” It was sung by the lead of the flick, Jessalyn Gilsig. The tune is not available yet on itunes or elsewhere. It is a very sweet tune and I am thinking Hallmark will probably hand it off next holiday season to a bigger name singer and it will be one of next holiday season’s hits. Commentary thinks the Gilsig version is just fine and works well.

Here is an easy one from the Chron’s sports section that came out yesterday. Name the Chron’s top local sports story of 2014.

The Chron E-Board thinks Valero got a sweet deal from H-Town City Hall. Check this:

How much does City Hall love Valero? Let us count the ways in the recent sweetheart deal for Valero approved by a divided Houston City Council.

The deal means Valero’s Manchester facility, a refinery inside Houston city limits, will be considered outside the city boundaries for tax purposes. The move will let the energy giant pay lower fees than if it remained in the city and paid property taxes. What’s the rationale for giving a major company an estimated tax break of up to $17 million?

Andy Icken, the city’s economic development czar, said Valero convinced him that the $800 million expansion would occur elsewhere without the city’s help, according to Chronicle reporter Mike Morris (“Valero seeks special deal for its Manchester refinery” Page B1, Dec. 15). Icken refers to this as the “but for” argument. But for the tax break, the project would not go foreward.

In today’s oil price environment, a big investment in Houston’s energy sector like Valero’s expansion is welcome news to many, but City Hall loves Valero so much that it didn’t check the Internet. On a Jan. 29, 2014, Valero informed investors that its management had approved the Houston expansion. It looks like Valero had concluded that the economics of the investment – including future tax obligations – passed the company’s hurdle rate.

City Hall loves Valero so much that it says that a voter-imposed revenue cap means the Valero tax break would not cost the city money. Of course, City Hall could apply this rationale to reduce the taxes of any property owner. The property tax cap increases annually with inflation and population growth, so if the city hits the cap in one year there may be additional room under the cap in the future. If that happens, it won’t be fair that Valero should be paying less while other property owners are paying the regular rate.

City Hall loves Valero so much that this is the second public tax break the company has received for this same facility this year.

Here is the entire E-Board take: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Some-deal-5978127.php.

Jose Altuve chasing the batting title this past season was the Chron’s top local sports story of the year of course.

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As expected a who’s who were among the few hundred that attended Mayor Bob Lanier’s funeral service yesterday. It was SRO.

Pastor Joel Osteen officiated. The eulogies were delivered by two of Bob’s grand kids and his close friends Kenny Friedman, Vince Kickerillo, Charles Hurwitz, and Doug Pitcock.

Some of the 1991 campaign folks were there including Craig Varoga and Sabrina Midkiff.

The Mayor was there along with some members of City Council.

Former council members were there along with current members of Congress, the Texas Legislature, and other local elected officials.

Former Mayor Lee Brown and former County Judge and State Senator Jon Lindsay were on hand.

Some of the Mayoral candidates were on hand – I saw Chris Bell, Bill King, Ben Hall, and Council Member Stephen Costello.

Austin super lobbyist Bill Miller came down. Outgoing GHP Chair Paul Hobby and his wife Janet attended.

I saw former Governor Mark White. County Commissioner El Franco Lee and Bob’s trusted friend Dave Walden served as pallbearers.

Every TV station had their big satellite trucks parked in front.

Kenny’s eulogy focused on Bob’s record of service. Among the accomplishments he listed was letting Bud Adams take the Oilers to Tennessee and the subsequent building of the three major sports venues. (I kind of mentioned that yesterday.)

The songs performed included “Amazing Grace” and “What a Wonderful World.”

Looking at the Order of Service program that was printed and handed out, I thought we might be there for a couple of hours. It was over in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Even though yesterday’s gathering was a funeral, it was a celebration of his life and did have an upbeat flavor.

I am glad I was there.

Again, I will skip the MLB question.

I won’t be have a take tomorrow and maybe I will have a quick one on Friday.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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It is two days before Christmas and politics is just about shut down. I am sure a lot of local folks will be at Mayor Bob Lanier’s funeral this morning. I put this out yesterday from the Chron:

A man who never forgot his modest upbringing, a man who seemed more at home among common, everyday folks than the country club set, he took pride in being mayor of all the people. No wonder he left office as arguably the most popular mayor in Houston history.

And this was in yesterday’s Chron:

“He was a real hardball player,” said John Williams, who covered Lanier as the Houston Chronicle’s City Hall reporter. “That’s what made him one of the most powerful mayors in the city’s history. I try to think of what he failed at. He didn’t fail much.”

John makes a good point. While Mayor, where did Bob come up short?

Some folks might say that he let Bud Adams and the Oilers leave town under his watch – kind of an adios to Luv Ya Blue. Of course, some folks might say letting Bud Adams take the Oilers to Tennessee was probably good for H-Town because look what we have now.

Of course, letting Bud Adams and the Oilers get away forced us to look at the Astrodome as a venue for the ‘Stros which led us to the successful 1996 Downtown stadium vote campaign that Bob helped lead and look at that part of Downtown now. Not bad at all!

Here is from the Chron on Bob’s service this morning:

A funeral service will be conducted at eleven o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, the 23rd of December 2014, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. Prior to the service, the family will be receiving guests in the grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons commencing at ten o’clock in the morning.

I will see some of you there.

No MLB question today.

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Most Respected

The accolades keep coming for former H-Town Mayor Bob Lanier. Here is from yesterday’s Chron:

At various times, for various reasons, Lanier was likened to Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The commonality was that Lanier, the son of a Methodist minister turned oilfield roustabout, invariably was measured against America’s greatest movers and shakers.

“I’d put him with (Chicago Mayor Richard) Daley and (New York City Mayor Fiorello) La Guardia as one of the great mayors in 20th century history,” University of Houston political science guru Richard Murray once said. “He has the ability to get things done.”

Let me add that he is probably the most respected elected official I have ever encountered. He just commanded that respect.

I have discussed before his 1991 Mayoral campaign and have mentioned that he overwhelmingly won the Latino vote. I have said before that his campaign manager Craig Varoga and his trusted advisor Dave Walden advocated a strategy of engaging the Latino vote.

Bob was a numbers guy. He knew that in order to win we had to put together a coalition and the Latino vote was a key. He and I talked about it on numerous occasions during the campaign. He was all in.

His message to our community was Latinos will be full partners at City Hall. The 1991 redistricting battles were just about over and City Hall had rejected Latino redistricting proposals. There were a number of us that were frustrated with City Hall.

Bob engaged Latino civic and business leaders. We ran ads on Spanish language TV and radio. Bob attended numerous church bazaars and community events and Latinos responded with enthusiasm. He showed us respect and in return earned Latino respect and support.

No other Mayoral candidate in H-Town history had campaigned in the Latino community like Bob did in 1991.

Here is what the Chron E-Board said today about Bob:

A man who never forgot his modest upbringing, a man who seemed more at home among common, everyday folks than the country club set, he took pride in being mayor of all the people. No wonder he left office as arguably the most popular mayor in Houston history.

You can’t argue with that!

Bob’s funeral service is tomorrow.

Dante and I spent most of Saturday taking my parents (his great grandparents) to get a Christmas tree, setting it up, and getting it decorated. Dante also assisted my Dad with the outdoor Christmas lights. We had a great time!

Again, I’ll skip the MLB question today.

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