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Archive for March, 2015

Craig Biggio visited Spring Training yesterday. Since he has retired, the ‘Stros have had four different Opening Day starting second basemen – name them, please?

Yesterday Open Carry moved forward in the Texas Senate. Here is what the GOP author of the bill said during the debate: “It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to band together and right this ancient wrong.”

It passed along party lines 20-11.

Commentary is not a fan of concealed handgun carry licenses and certainly not Open Carry. I don’t think they make us any safer. Show me the proof and/or the data!

Of course it is tough to argue with the author on his statement inviting Dems to help out. 20 years ago the Texas Legislature adopted concealed handgun carry licenses while Dems controlled the Texas State Senate 17-14 and the Texas House 87-63 and we also had a Dem Lite Guv and Dem House Speaker. Hey, but that was a different time.

It is a good thing local politics can keep me busy. I don’t have time to fret over Open Carry, sanctuary cities, Public Integrity Units, and all the other stuff the GOP is getting to do in Austin.

Let’s see, GOP U.S. Senators can’t stand AG Eric Holder so they are going to delay a vote on his successor so he can get to stick around. That makes perfect sense.

If you stayed up to see U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz with Seth Meyers last night you got to see Sen. Cruz brag about his filibuster to stop Obamacare and then Meyers asked him “how’s it go?” Ha, ha!

Since Biggio retired in 2007, Mark Loretta (2008), Kaz Matsui (2009-2010), Bill Hall (2011), and Jose Altuve (2012 to now) have been our Opening Day starting second basemen.

The ‘Stros will make their ROOT debut today.

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A Quorum

When Dante and I get together, we always end up talking about the latest on the flat screen. This past Saturday he told me I ought to be checking out “The Jinx.” What do I know?

It looks like Luis Valbuena could be our Opening Day starting third baseman. Name the three Colt 45s/’Stros players that were our Opening Day starting third basemen from 1962-1980?

Here is a Commentary tweet from last Friday morning:

Marc Campos @MarcCommentary • Mar 13
Ten Council Members show up so they have a quorum for Special Called Council Meeting. #pensionreforms #HouNews pic.twitter.com/dHlVftbuUK

To me, that’s the headline from last Friday. I really didn’t know if they would get a quorum. (Attended: Council Members C.O. Bradford, Ellen Cohen, Stephen Costello, Jerry Davis, Robert Gallegos, Michael Kubosh, Dave Martin, Oliver Pennington, David Robinson, and Brenda Stardig.)

Here is the headline from Chron.com on the meeting:

City Council maneuver falls short of vote on firefighter pension

Lack of quorum at end of unusual meeting prevents any vote on deal reached by mayor

Here is the headline from the hard copy of the Chron:

City Council’s fire pension tactic falls short

The headlines suggest that the meeting failed to produce a vote of some sort against the pension deal so it wasn’t a success. Well a vote was not cast but I think those that called for the meeting got something accomplished. The meeting received media coverage. The issue was further discussed. A GOP State Senator showed up and spoke and stayed for the entire meeting. This is from the Chron story:

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who addressed the council Friday, praised the gathering as a long-overdue discussion of the city’s pension problem. He said the lack of a vote will not stop him from taking the message back to Austin that most members present appeared to oppose the plan.

“That somebody used a parliamentary procedure to prevent a vote, it doesn’t diminish one iota the message,” Bettencourt said. “It’s clearly obvious there’s not a consensus in the city for this agreement.”

Well Sen. Bettencourt got something out of the meeting.

Here is the entire Chron article:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/City-Council-maneuver-falls-short-of-vote-on-6133165.php.

Friday’s meeting didn’t produce any winners or losers. This issue will continue to be discussed and debated. It is not going away – that is for sure.

The U.S. House Speaker said over the weekend that the House will investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails. I guess somebody forgot to tell the Speaker that when it comes to Congress investigating the Clintons, the Clintons own the scoreboard.

Bob Aspromonte (1962-1968), Doug Rader (1969-1975), and Enos Cabell (1976-1980) were our Opening Day starting third basemen from 1962-1980 of course.

Craig Biggio, Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Carter, and George Springer are on this season’s tickets. On the weekend that Biggio gets honored at The Yard, he won’t be on any of the tickets – DRATS!

Opening Day is three weeks from today!

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Some Spankings

Hey, this isn’t going as planned! I am talking about last Friday’s pension deal.

The eight day old tweet again:

Teddy Schleifer @teddyschleifer • Mar 5
Mayoral race fall-out could be fascinating: Does it take wind out of sails of those running on pensions? Or, elevate their signature issue?

Duh! This ain’t going away! An E-Board take today, a Breibart mention, a letter from the Partnership, an Op-Ed today, and today’s Special Called Council Meeting. That is not exactly what they had in mind last week.

Today’s E-Board take put a spanking on the pension deal, The Mayor, The Dean, Rep. Sylvester Turner, and the H-Town City Council. The E-Board did give a shout out to State Rep. Jim Murphy. Here is today’s lead E-Board editorial:

If Mayor Annise Parker’s deal with the firefighter pension is like Advil for a brain tumor, as we said Sunday, then plans for a City Council special session might as well be a placebo (“Special council meeting called,” Page B1, Tuesday).

Four City Council members have signed a letter calling for a special meeting today, exceeding by a single signature the City Charter’s minimum requirement. Today also happens to be the filing deadline for most bills in the Texas Legislature, which currently controls Houston’s firefighter pension. So, short of a legislative miracle, whatever comes out of the special meeting isn’t likely to result in a new solution for Houston’s pension problems. And this presumes that the four council members are even able to assemble a quorum and comply with Texas’ open meeting laws, which are necessary to do public business.

City Council has had months, if not years, to draw attention to Houston’s pension challenges and work with legislators in Austin and the firefighters to hammer out a deal that puts the city’s pension obligations on a sustainable path. Instead, they’ve sat by while the mayor, state Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Sylvester Turner, both Democrats, have succeeded in promoting a bill that only delays the city’s payments while long-term costs continue to grow.

Parker seems content with this arrangement because it gives Houston some short-term budget flexibility and brought the intractable fire pension board to the negotiating table. Whitmire’s history of lobbying for the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund should raise eyebrows about what he’s trying to sell. Turner, however, ought to know better than to promote a bill that will cost the city and firefighters $57 million more in the long run. After all, the longtime Houston politician also has thrown his weight behind a $440 million proposal to shore up the chronically underfunded retirement system for state employees. Apparently, Turner is willing to work for sustainable pensions in Austin but not Houston.

The only elected official in Austin who seems dedicated to fixing Houston’s long-term pension burden is state Rep. Jim Murphy, a Republican, who has filed a bill that would give cities direct control over their pensions. Other self-proclaimed fiscal watchdogs are nowhere to be seen.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with defined-benefit pensions as a way to compensate employees. However, future promises don’t always keep track with today’s budgets. Without careful monitoring, pension obligations can grow faster than revenue, leading either to municipal budgets devoured by pension obligations or ticking time bombs of debt. Keeping control of pension benefits out of local hands makes these problems almost inevitable.

Parker is well aware of these underlying truths and has been ringing the alarm for years about how poorly managed pensions can squeeze out other priorities, such as new equipment or employees for the Houston police and fire departments. But instead of putting up one last grand fight, our mayor has swallowed a pill to numb the pain while she waits out the rest of her final term. City Council members will put on a show of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Murphy will find himself with few allies as the sole advocate for responsible pensions. And Houston taxpayers will continue to pay the price for political promises that don’t fit with fiscal reality.

The Special Called Meeting of the Houston City Council will start at 10 am this morning.

This is from a recent Greater Houston Partnership letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick:

The pension crisis in Houston is the single biggest threat to our region’s growth and economic development. The business community will only support efforts to fix the real problem: Houston’s structural budget deficit driven by rapidly escalating pension and other post-retirement costs. We are opposed to any effort that would amount to more patchwork: we need a real solution and we need it now.

There are two bills in Austin that bear directly on this critical issue. One bill would give us the power to fix the pensions by giving Texas cities local control of their retirement systems. The other bill would make Houston’s pension deficit worse by reducing payments into the already underfunded retirement systems.

And:

We strongly urge you to help Houstonians and all Texans by strongly encouraging Senator (Joan) Huffman to author and champion the companion local control bill to Rep. Jim Murphy’s bill (HB 2608). The State Affairs Committee should not consider any legislation that would codify the “no deal deal” announced by Mayor Annise Parker.

And this is from the end of an Op-Ed in today’s Chron from the Texas Public Policy Foundation:

The only small-but-important change made would be to give communities back some say over a system they already pay taxes into and are affected by on a day-to-day basis.

Local control of local retirement systems is a straightforward public policy matter. If we’re going to ask our communities to create and support local pension plans, then it’s only right that those same communities determine how they’re run. It’s time that the Legislature addressed this issue head-on and restored power back to the people.

Here is the entire Op-Ed:
http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Legislature-s-oversight-of-firefighter-pensions-6131032.php.

Pardon me, but where is the support for the deal?

The MLB batter that drew the most walks last season will be in uniform at The Yard on Opening Day. Who am I talking about?

This came out last night:

CNN Breaking News ‏@cnnbrk 34m34 minutes ago
Dr. Nancy Snyderman is out at NBC News, @brianstelter reports: http://cnnmon.ie/1ArkiBa

This was kind of expected after her Ebola take-out incident.

Commentary has said before that any major moves on H-Town City police and court facilities ought to be left up to the next Mayor. According to today’s Chron, the Police Chief, the Municipal Courts Presiding Judge, and nearby neighbors all have issues with the idea of putting the police and courts into the Downtown Exxon building. As far as I am concerned, this from today’s Chron says it all:

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, one of the prospective tenants in the 45-story tower at 800 Bell, expressed concerns about the safety of having one high-rise structure potentially house the police department, fire department commanders and municipal courts operations.

“If you look at the Oklahoma City bombing, the Murrah Federal Building, there were many, many law enforcement agencies and federal agencies in that building, and one madman in one truck almost took out the entire building, and there were a lot of lives lost,” McClelland said. “Any potential terrorist attack, those types of things concern me.”

Here is the entire piece from behind the Chron paywall:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Questions-emerging-over-plans-to-move-justice-6131323.php.

Cleveland’s Carlos Santana of course led MLB with 113 walks last season.

Just a reminder! Cleveland will be here on Opening Day on April 6.

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Still Smarting

The H-Town Mayor said yesterday that it wasn’t her idea to put out the news on the pension deal last Thursday evening. She said she only called for a press announcement for Friday after the news was already out. Well I guess it was either the pension folks or State Rep. Sylvester Turner’s folks who put out the news. Oh, well!

While watching the H-Town City Council meeting on the flat screen yesterday, I tweeted the following that got a response from Mike Morris of the Chron:

Marc Campos ‏@MarcCommentary 1h1 hour ago
@AnniseParker said @mmorris011 @HoustonChron got it wrong on her office lobbying against quorum for Friday’s Special Called Council Meeting.

Mike Morris ‏@mmorris011 1h1 hour ago
@MarcCommentary @AnniseParker No, she said i didn’t “interview” him. I was standing next to him as he made the comment at a public meeting.

Yeah, well I kind of didn’t hear The Mayor clearly. CM Kubosh was complaining about an aide lobbying against a quorum and reading about it in the Chron and The Mayor did say that the Chron didn’t interview the aide and that she would talk to him. Of course, she would talk to him a day after the article appeared. Oh, well.

Here is what Morris’ colleague Katherine Driessen put out today on Friday’s meeting:

But (Council Member C.O.) Bradford and other council members said that power is largely an illusion because they claim staff from Parker’s office has been working to discourage a quorum at Friday’s meeting, which Parker later said she did not order and would not do.

It looks like the Special Called Meeting will happen but it is hard to say at this point what will happen at the meeting.

I will say this. There is not the enthusiasm for the pension deal today as there was just prior to the deal being announced. I am guessing even the enthusiasm got kicked down the road.

Remember when I posted the following about The Dean mentioning to the Chron E-Board H-Town Council Members Dwight Boykins and Michael Kubosh and their role with pensions. Here is that E-Board take again:

Whether they decide to act, state legislators can’t escape their role at the core of the pension fight.

In addition to employee contributions, the firefighter pension is funded by tax dollars collected by City Hall. However, City Hall can’t set the amount it is obligated to pay. State law creates a framework that dictates what Houston taxpayers owe. Local tax dollars should be controlled by the elected officials at City Hall, but that isn’t what Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire thinks.

“Do you really want [Council Member Michael] Kubosh to be in charge of a $3 billion fund?” Whitmire asked the Chronicle editorial board during the past election season. “Do you want [Council Member] Dwight Boykins to be in charge of a $3 billion fund?”

Yes. In fact, that’s exactly what Houstonians elected them to do. City officials control the city budget.

Well now that The Dean and State Rep. Sylvester Turner are carrying a bill on the pension deal, CM Boykins took a shot at The Dean at yesterday’s Council Meeting. I guess CM Boykins is still smarting some. Here is what I tweeted:

Marc Campos ‏@MarcCommentary 21m21 minutes ago
#Ouch! @DwightBoykins just called @whitmire_john “Little John” at #Houcouncil meeting. #pensionreform #HouNews #TheDean

Here is part of what CM Boykins said: “So ‘Little John” listen to me. I want to see what you are going to do this legislative session to help solve this problem for the City of Houston.”

Name the ‘Stro who committed the most fielding errors last season?

Commentary is a fan of Hillary Clinton for President but I think she needs to go through Spring Training, err, a competitive primary. She needs more than just BP in a batting cage. She needs to see live pitching and game situations before she gets into the General Election.

Today the Chron E-Board kind of agrees here: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Editorial-Clinton-redux-6128750.php.

Commentary said this wasn’t a good idea. I am talking about the H-Town City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Charter Review. The Mayor is not agreeing with one of their key recommendations. What did the Mayor expect Council to recommend with less than ten months left in her term? Here is from the Chron:

Mayor Annise Parker has largely dismissed a council-backed city charter change that would allow six members to place an item on the agenda, undercutting Houston’s strong-mayor form of government that grants only her that power.

Last summer, Parker branded the proposal a “non-starter,” saying “voters don’t care” about the issue. Recently, she also said that it might violate the state’s Open Meetings Act, which prevents council members from gathering to discuss an agenda item outside of a properly posted meeting.

“What they want to do is for six council members to get together and secretly meet and decide on an agenda item,” Parker said. “Well, you can’t secretly meet to decide on an agenda item. You can’t even publicly meet. In order for council members to confer at all about an item of business, it has to be publicly posted.”

A Houston City Council charter review committee, however, has unanimously recommended putting the issue to voters, saying it would give the city’s legislative body greater ability to actually legislate. With the charter review committee meeting for the last time Tuesday night, both the agenda-setting recommendation and another recommended proposal to change term limits from three two-year terms to two four-year terms in 2019 will now go to Parker for consideration. The committee voted down repealing the decade-old revenue cap and giving council the power to meet in closed-door executive sessions. Any charter changes must get voter approval.

Here is the entire article that is behind the Chron paywall:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Parker-skeptical-of-proposal-to-give-council-more-6129006.php.

I have said before, if you are going to look at major charter changes, then invite all stakeholders to participate. That way you get a lot more buy in. They didn’t.

I am not going to say anything about us facing Andre Johnson twice next season.

Shortstop Jonathan Villar of course committed 18 fielding errors in 86 games to lead all ‘Stros last season.

Villar played center field yesterday.

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Don’t kick this tweet down the road:

Teddy Schleifer retweeted
John Arnold ‏@JohnArnoldFndtn 1h1 hour ago
Houston mayor kicks the can to the next generation to solve the pension crisis. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/McGee-Firefighters-pension-deal-will-cost-more-6126228.php?t=9318cf1266cca1ae63&cmpid=twitter-premium … @anniseparker #generationaltheft

“Kicking the can down the road” could very well be the local political phrase of the year this campaign season. The phrase is often associated with politics. We have been hearing it a lot lately in regards to pensions. The latest is in an Op-Ed in today’s Chron from Josh McGee from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation on the proposed pension deal. Here are parts:

After complaining that previous administrations have failed to fix the city’s broken pension system, some city leaders are now doing exactly what they have faulted their predecessors for. They are kicking the can down the road.

The recent deal between the city of Houston and the firefighters’ pension board does nothing to solve the pension problem.

And:

There is no reason that officials from elsewhere in Texas should be dictating how Houston structures its retirement plans.

State law already allows most cities to make these decisions locally. Houston and all of the major cities in Texas should have that same authority.

It is time for the city and the pension board to stop pushing the pension problem into the future.

Mayor Annise Parker herself has said the deal is “not pension reform,” it is merely “cost avoidance.” The city and the board should implement responsible funding practices now and should work with the Legislature to obtain local control of the pension system in order to implement a structure that is affordable, sustainable, and secure.

Firefighters risk their lives to protect our city. They shouldn’t have to risk their retirement, too.

Here is the entire Josh McGee Op-Ed: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/McGee-Firefighters-pension-deal-will-cost-more-6126228.php.

BTW: Did you check out Laura Arnold’s Op-Ed on a death penalty lawyer in yesterday’s Chron here: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Texas-defender-drew-unfair-treatment-6124191.php.

This Chron.com story today on the state legislator who was supposed to be the City’s point man on pension reform says a lot. Here are parts:

Houston lawmakers introduced dueling bills this week to reform the city’s fire pension system, with one piece of legislation backed by City Hall and the fire pension board and the other backed by neither.

Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner introduced the bill backed by Mayor Annise Parker and unveiled on Friday that would lower the city’s pension costs over the next three years.

Also Monday, Republican Rep. Jim Murphy, who has introduced pension reform legislation in the past and was seen by City Hall as an ally on this issue in the Legislature, introduced his own bill.

Murphy’s bill would eliminate the state’s involvement in Texas cities’ pension systems, granting the local control that Parker long has sought to negotiate binding agreements with the city’s fire pension board.

“There’s no real reason for why people in Austin should decide what people in Houston should either pay in taxes or receive in benefits,” Murphy said. “My very wise father once told me: ‘If it’s none of your money, it’s none of your business.'”

And:

Parker will not formally lobby for or against Murphy’s bill, mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans said, though the mayor has attempted to push local control bills in the previous two sessions.

“Best of luck as he tries for a third time,” Evans said.

Thanks a lot! I am sure Janice Evans didn’t mean to sound this grateful – ouch!

Here is the entire piece on Rep. Murphy’s bill:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/Murphy-introduces-competing-fire-pension-bill-to-6126041.php.

The pension deal is supposed to be discussed at City Council today so stay tuned!

BTW: Some fella named Steven Houston has posted a couple of comments on this website on the pension deal.

Jeff Bagwell stopped by Spring Training yesterday. When Baggy won the NL MVP Award in 1994, how many first place votes did he receive out of the 28 votes cast?

State Rep. Carol Alvarado’s online over registration bill got the lead editorial in today’s Chron. Here it is:

During a week in which President Barack Obama, civil rights icon John Lewis and some 80,000 Americans gathered in Selma, Ala., to commemorate a people’s valiant effort to secure the sacred right to vote, it’s appropriate for a Texas lawmaker to remind us that it’s the obligation of government to encourage voting, not to erect barriers.

Toward that end, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, is sponsoring legislation that would allow Texans to register to vote online. It’s an idea – a simple one, in fact – that’s long overdue.

Alvarado points out that we do everything else online, including banking, taxes and stock transactions, so why not voter registration? Twenty states already offer an online voter-registration application, and the Texas Association of Elections Administrators also supports the idea. It’s convenient, it saves money and it’s safe against fraud and cyberattacks.

Arizona was one of the first states to implement online registration. Alvarado notes that officials in Arizona’s largest county have reported that the cost of a single registration dropped from 83 cents per registration card to 3 cents. Applying those numbers to the slightly more than 14 million Texans registered to vote, the savings to taxpayers would amount to more than $11 million.

For those worried about the integrity of the process, Alvarado’s House Bill 953 would cross-check driver’s license information with Department of Public Safety records and would be rejected if the information the would-be voter provided was inaccurate. The applicant also would have to have a signature on file with DPS.

Minnesota, one of the 20 states that provides online registration, traditionally leads the nation in voter turnout. It was a cause for alarm among Minnesotans last fall when turnout fell to 50 percent. The Texas turnout, meanwhile, was a dismal 24.9 percent. Obviously, a variety of factors account for the difference in turnout between the states, but registration convenience must surely be one of them.

Parties, politicians and Texans overall benefit when more citizens participate in the governance of their state. Ease of voting, including online registration, is one way to nurture a healthy democracy.

Nice job Rep. Alvarado!

I tweeted the following yesterday during Secretary Hillary Clinton’s press conference:

Marc Campos ‏@MarcCommentary 1h1 hour ago
#ClintonEmails press conference responses are not going to satisfy GOP critics. #PersonalEmails pic.twitter.com/bOltLiSpBn

Then this was tweeted:

Teddy Schleifer retweeted
Carly Fiorina ‏@CarlyFiorina 28m28 minutes ago
In effect, @HillaryClinton told us to trust her. Nothing in her track record suggests we should do so.

Knock yourself out! 23 years! That’s how long the GOP has been trying to take down the Clintons.

On a related note, GOP U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who admits he has never sent an email is criticizing Hillary on her emails. Sorry pal! If you haven’t used email then you don’t know what you are talking about!

In 1994, Jeff Bagwell received first place votes from all of the 28 writers who cast a NL MVP Award ballot of course.

I got this from The Yard yesterday:

Join the Houston Astros as we celebrate Craig Biggio’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame!

2015 Hall of Fame Travel Packages

Official Astros 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend packages are available now. Choose from the following packages:

Induction Weekend Package – $795
• Three Days/Two Nights Hotel Accommodations
Hampton Inn, Albany, NY – July 24-26, 2015
• Induction Ceremony Lawn Seating

Induction Weekend Extra Innings Package – $995
• Four Days/Three Nights Hotel Accommodations
Comfort Inn & Suites, Albany, NY – July 24-27, 2015
• Induction Ceremony Lawn Seating
• Legends of the Game Roundtable

VIP Induction Weekend Package – $1250
• Three Days/Two Nights Hotel Accommodations
Albany Marriott, Albany, NY – July 24-26, 2015
• Induction Ceremony VIP Seating

Ultimate VIP Induction Weekend Package – $1795
• Three Days/Two Nights Hotel Accommodations
Albany Marriott, Albany, NY – July 24-27, 2015
• Baseball Hall of Fame Artifact Spotlight
• Induction Ceremony VIP Seating
• Legends of the Game Roundtable
• Autographed Baseball

What’s in your wallet!

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The issue has moved from still on the table to helping set the table as four members of the H-Town City Council are now calling for a Special Council Meeting this Friday. Even if they don’t get a quorum of their colleagues to attend, they are keeping the issue at the forefront. The Council Members are C.O. Bradford, Michael Kubosh, Dave Martin, and Brenda Stardig.

Here is from a City Council memo that was sent out yesterday:

A special called Houston City Council meeting has been scheduled for Friday, March 13 at 10:00 a.m. in Council Chambers located at 901 Bagby, Second Floor. The meeting has been called in response to the announcement Mayor Annise Parker made last week concerning the “Agreement Regarding Litigation and to Mutually Support Legislation” conferred between the Administration and the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF).

The proposed agreement, which would require a vote of the State Legislature, only provides temporary relief to the City’s General Fund and does nothing to address the long term financial crisis facing the City. Houston Firefighters would be required to increase their contributions to their pension plan from 9% of their salary to 12% in years 2016, 2017, and 2018; however, the contribution rate will revert back to 9% after 2018. This agreement also binds the City from placing a new pension plan proposal through December 31, 2015 further limiting input from City Council Members.

Mike Morris from the Chron writes about the called meeting today and here is a bit:

(Mayor Annise) Parker’s liaison to council, William-Paul Thomas, said he will work against a quorum.

And this:

Parker, through a spokeswoman, said she would brief council on the deal Wednesday during the group’s regularly scheduled weekly meeting. Of the Friday meeting, spokeswoman Darian Ward said simply, “City Council members have the right to call a special meeting.”

Well, if they have the right to call the special meeting, let them go on ahead and meet and don’t lobby or twist arms against. If you like the deal and stand behind it why worry about council members getting together and having an open discussion in front of the public. If you are going to brief them in public on Wednesday, what is going to hurt to have them meet a couple of days later. In this day and age, you are not going to be able to suppress their opinions.

I would hope they are not afraid of this from Morris’ article:

“This issue is too broad and has too great of an impact on the city of Houston and the citizens and taxpayers and firefighters for City Council members not to be briefed, not to be involved,” Bradford said. “The deal may be a good deal; it may be a bad deal. What I’m trying to do is have a public discussion so we can make an informed decision. We represent the citizens of this city, too.”

Here is the entire Mike Morris piece that is behind the paywall: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Members-use-rare-provision-to-force-council-6124358.php?cmpid=btfpm.

And once again Teddy Schleifer’s tweet from this past Thursday evening, the day before the pension deal was announced:

Teddy Schleifer @teddyschleifer • Mar 5
Mayoral race fall-out could be fascinating: Does it take wind out of sails of those running on pensions? Or, elevate their signature issue?

Well we all know the answer.

Council Member Stephen Costello announced for Mayor yesterday but he didn’t say if he is attending Friday’s meeting.

This tweet from State Rep. Carol Alvarado just came out. Way to go!

Carol Alvarado ‏@RepAlvarado145 8m8 minutes ago
Laying out #HB 170 in the Public Health Committee that will ban the sale of e-cigs to minors.

I know what I will be watching this afternoon. Check this tweet that also just came out:

CNN Breaking News ‏@cnnbrk 21m21 minutes ago
Hillary Clinton to hold news conference this afternoon, aide says; she’s expected to address email controversy. http://www.cnn.com/politics

It looks like new ‘Stro Evan Gattis will be our starting left fielder on Opening Day. Who was our Opening Day starting leftfielder from 1971-1974?

For those that think the NY Times on purpose cropped out President Bush 43 from the front page Selma bridge crossing photo, go to the White House website here and check out this cool pic: https://medium.com/@WhiteHouse/behind-the-lens-selma-50-years-later-68bf9a3a70.

Come to think of it, it is probably a good thing Assessor Collector Mike Sullivan didn’t put his mug on the billboards promoting the single-sticker vehicle registration and inspection program. Here is a bit from the Chron:

The official who oversees more vehicle registrations than anyone else in the state gave the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles a failing grade Monday after another error surfaced in its new inspection and registration system.

“It is having an adverse effect on my ability to do the work of the taxpayers,” Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan said of the state’s administration of the new single-sticker system, which took effect March 1.

The latest error, discovered Friday, involved incorrect bills sent to 321,927 motorists with April registrations coming due. Of those, 83,541 were in the eight-county Houston area, including 56,965 in Harris County.

The confusion led to long lines at local tax offices, frustrated motorists and haggard county staffers.

“I’ve got people demanding to see me and calling my office,” Sullivan said. “This is a state issue, but the county tax assessors are the face of this… (Motorists) are angry and frustrated, saying they’ll never vote for Mike Sullivan again. I’m a big boy, I can take it, but I feel bad for the people coming in.”

As of March 1, the familiar state vehicle inspection on Texas windshields was eliminated, though the requirement to the give the vehicle a once-over was unchanged. Inspections are now a condition of renewing state registrations of all motor vehicles, including trailers, in the state. Inspections will need to occur within 90 days prior to renewal.

Now this is a time when State Dems up in Austin ought to be slapping around the GOP controlled state government. There ain’t nothing that pi__es off a voter more than standing in long lines on account of government bureaucratic ineptitude.

As expected, KHOU-TV co-anchor Lisa Hernandez announced last night that she is having a baby. Congrats!

Bob Watson of course was our Opening Day left fielder from 1971-1974.

Evan Gattis told the Chron yesterday that he is “still not all that comfortable” in left field. Well get comfortable!

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Here is how the Chron’s Teddy Schleifer started off this week’s “The Horseshoe” that was just released:

FIRST ON THE HORSESHOE: The newly launched campaign of Bill King raised $250,000 at his kick-off fundraiser last week, according to his campaign. We always knew King could raise serious dough through his high-powered network – along with tapping his own bank account – yet Tuesday’s haul is a strong early show of force as this campaign gets underway.

Remember when Teddy tweeted this Thursday evening, the day before the pension deal was announced? Here is this:

Teddy Schleifer @teddyschleifer • Mar 5
Mayoral race fall-out could be fascinating: Does it take wind out of sails of those running on pensions? Or, elevate their signature issue?

Well it is certainly still on the table and the issue isn’t going away and for sure it isn’t going to be solved during this campaign.

Friday’s “deal” announcement very well could have elevated the issue. It was on a lot of the local evening news shows, made it to the front page of the Chron’s Saturday City/State section, and got the lead editorial in yesterday’s issue.

Then you got the feeling that some of the handlers of the deal makers were in a defensive mode even before the deal was announced.

Commentary said this last Friday:

Aside from the deal makers, I wonder who will step forward to say it is a good deal.

Here is how the Chron E-Board started their take yesterday:

Like Advil for a brain tumor.

That’s how city pension consultant Craig Mason described the proposed firefighter pension deal back when it was being discussed in September. Not much seems to have changed between then and late Thursday, when the fire pension board announced a final deal with the city (“Parker, firefighters make deal on pensions,” Page B1, Friday). The problem keeps growing, and all we’re getting is short-sighted respite from the pain.

Here is the entire E-Board take:
http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Pension-pill-6119828.php.

Then here is what Bill King tweeted yesterday:

Bill King ‏@BillKingForHou 3h3 hours ago
My former colleagues at the Chronicle editorial board nailed it on the new fire department pension deal. http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Pension-pill-6119828.php

Then this came out on Friday:

Steve Costello, Chair of Houston City Council’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding today’s announcement about adjustments to the Houston Firefighters’ pension:

“Our firefighters deserve to have their pensions covered in full and this deal, negotiated without City Council input or approval, not only leaves their pensions cut short, but continues to put the city’s financial well-being at great risk over the long haul. This agreement simply continues the damaging cycle where the City of Houston fails to fund the pension, racking up tens of millions of dollars in new debt in the future.

Like I said, this issue is still on the table.

We all know Craig Biggio will be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame this summer. How many times was Biggio our leadoff hitter on an Opening Day lineup?

State Rep. Carol Alvarado had an Op-Ed on her bill on online voter registration in yesterday’s SA Express News. Check it out here: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/The-dirty-little-secret-of-government-6117408.php.

I decided to hold off on my visit to the gym Saturday afternoon so I could check out the President’s Selma50 speech. I’m glad I did. Here is what I tweeted afterwards:

Marc Campos‏@MarcCommentary 21h21 hours ago
Just watched an incredible, powerful and historic speech by @BarackObama. #Selma50 #VotingRightsAct pic.twitter.com/MIWOth3ogC

The President rocked!

Last night we got to see “The Good Wife” prepare for her meeting with the E-Board.

The last couple of days, Channel 11 has been promoting Lisa Hernandez’s Big Announcement. Lisa is one the evening news co-anchors. Let’s see. She got married last year. I am guessing she will announce …… this evening.

Craig Biggio was the leadoff batter in 12 Opening Day lineups for the ‘Stros of course.

Yesterday, a lineup with five, maybe six, of our 2015 Opening Day starters was no-hit by The ATL pitchers yesterday. Hey, it is just Spring Training!

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Let me remind you that The Alamo fell 179 years ago today after a 13 day siege. I’ll probably play the Asleep at the Wheel CD while I am out and about today.

“Bad, bad deal” is what the City Council Budget Committee Chair says about the deal that will be announced today between the H-Town administration and the Fire Fighters Pension leaders.

This tweet came out last night:

Teddy Schleifer @teddyschleifer • 11h 11 hours ago
Mayoral race fall-out could be fascinating: Does it take wind out of sails of those running on pensions? Or, elevate their signature issue?

This issue is definitely not going away. Commentary doesn’t really think it is a good idea to announce a deal on a big deal that looks like it will be a big political deal during the upcoming campaign. Throw in the involvement of one of the major candidates for H-Town Mayor and it starts to look like a suspicious deal. Really?

Here are some more tweets from late last night:

Teddy Schleifer ‏@teddyschleifer 17m17 minutes ago
And here’s @mmorris011’s early look at pension deal to be announced tomorrow. @s_costello calls it “bad, bad deal.” | http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Mayor-firefighter-pension-trustees-reach-6118184.php

Teddy Schleifer ‏@teddyschleifer 12m12 minutes ago
In January, @SylvesterTurner told me re: his involvement in brokering deal (long rumored): “I’m not going to try and get ahead of anything.”

Teddy Schleifer ‏@teddyschleifer 3m3 minutes ago
Roadblock to pension reform long been @whitmire_john. But thought to be softening. In Jan. he told me he was “open-minded” to meet & confer.

Teddy Schleifer ‏@teddyschleifer 11m11 minutes ago
Another big detail unearthed by @mmorris011 tonight: City agrees to not lobby #txlege for 3 yrs while deal in place | http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Mayor-firefighter-pension-trustees-reach-6118184.php

Here is from Mike Morris’ Chron piece on the deal:

The fire pension board’s announcement credited mayoral candidate and state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, with assisting in the talks.

Well, we now know Rep. Turner’s position on this issue.

Also from the Chron is a reaction from one of the City’s experts on pensions:

Craig Mason is a pension consultant who represents the city on the police, fire and municipal pension boards. Mason, who followed the talks but had not seen the final deal, said the deal would see firefighters contribute more of their pay toward their retirement and have the city contribute less, for a term of three years.

Mason and other pension reformers have said, however, that without changing pension benefits the city will not be solving the problem long term.

And here is why some folks will be scratching their heads today – also from the Morris piece:

(Mayor) Parker’s support for the deal is curious, given that she said the pension trustees’ proposal from the fall “reflects no true pension reform” and repeated the same stance as recently as Wednesday, saying, “There’s no reform in that … we’re just putting more money into a system that I think needs help.”

I am certainly scratching my head. Well at least a lot more folks will now be paying attention to this issue. I wonder if that’s what the deal makers wanted. Aside from the deal makers, I wonder who will step forward to say it is a good deal. Stay tuned for more!

Here is the entire Mike Morris article: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Mayor-firefighter-pension-trustees-reach-6118184.php.

There are sixteen pitchers in MLB history who have struck out 3000 plus hitters in their career. Fourteen of them have been voted into the MLB Hall of Fame. Name the two who haven’t?

From Chron.com this morning:

U.S. employers extended a healthy streak of hiring in February by adding 295,000 jobs, the 12th straight monthly gain above 200,000.

Of course, the GOP still won’t give The President any credit.

Len Cannon from KHOU-TV did a commentary on the Ferguson Report yesterday. Check it out here:
http://www.khou.com/videos/life/2015/03/05/commentary-with-len-cannon/24466623/.

The Rocket with 4,672 strikeouts and Curt Schilling with 3,116 have yet to get a phone call from the MLB Hall of Fame of course.

The ‘Stros had three dingers and a win yesterday.

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I think I have mentioned before that future City of H-Town court and police facilities changes ought to be left up to the next administration. It is a big ticket item that needs a lot more discussion. In today’s hard copy of the Chron there is a story about what the current administration knew and when they knew it when it comes to the latest on the idea of moving court and police operations to the Exxon Building. Here is a little bit from the Chron story:

The Houston Chronicle, however, has obtained a memorandum dated in 2014 showing top city officials discussed cost estimates for the renovation and lease of the tower, contradicting claims that the idea was entirely in its infancy before being announced in late January. The document also renews questions about why Parker did not present leasing space as an option when City Council discussed the future of the city’s justice facilities on Jan. 14. The mayor then offered only the options of repairing the city’s current buildings or building new ones, saying there was no formal lease proposal to present.

The memo estimates the city could lease the building for $25.2 million per year for 30 years, and includes figures on what it could cost to upgrade heating and air conditioning systems, restrooms and other areas of the 1.2-million-square-foot tower, as well as the estimated fees the developers would receive.

Councilman Dave Martin said he was disappointed the estimates in the memo were not shared with the council, but said more pressing is whether the city could afford $25 million in annual lease payments.

“You’re going to have to have some serious budget cuts to make this thing happen,” Martin said. “Where are you going to make them?”

You kind of have to agree with CM Martin and that’s why I say it needs a lot more discussion. I say again to leave it up to the next administration. Here is a bit more from the Chron:

The memo was not among the papers (Mayor Parker spokeswoman Janice) Evans produced in response to a January open records request by the Chronicle seeking documents related to the lease proposal. Those records showed city officials had understated the extent of the lease talks and the timeline on which they occurred, but revealed little about the deal itself and contained nothing as detailed as the memo.

The memo did appear, however, when Evans was asked to produce the records again after it became clear the Chronicle had paid for more pages of documents than had been provided.

Evans said she believed she had produced the document the first time, saying any omission was a “copying error” and that she had no motive to skirt open records laws.

“That’s all I can say,” Evans said. “Because that’s silly. Why would we do that and then two weeks later give it to you? If we wanted to withhold it, we would have withheld it the second time, too.”

I know Janice didn’t really want it to come out the way it sounded. She would never want to “withhold” anything at any time from the public. Here is the entire article that is behind the paywall: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Questions-surround-mayor-s-lease-proposal-6115710.php.

Way to go Chron for finally getting all the documents you requested!

New ‘Stro Luis Valbuena will start at third base today. He will be competing with Matt Dominguez this spring for starting position. Of the two, who has the highest career batting average?

Did you see this from the Chron’s Ericka Mellon yesterday?

Zeph Capo, vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, will replace longtime union president Gayle Fallon on June 1.

Fallon, 70, is retiring after 32 years of leading the Houston school district’s largest teacher group.

“I was very proud to nominate Zeph Capo as my replacement,” Fallon said in a statement. “He is extremely qualified for the job, and the HFT will go far under his leadership.”

Capo, elected to the Houston Community College board of trustees in 2013, was elected by his peers as that board’s chairman this year.

Congrats to Zeph!

Matt Dominguez has a .233 career batting average and Luis Valbuena a .229 career batting average of course.

This tweet came out yesterday:

Brian McTaggart ⚾️ ‏@brianmctaggart 2h2 hours ago
#Astros GM Jeff Luhnow at Matt Dominguez: “He’s got to win himself a job.” http://m.astros.mlb.com/news/article/111183386/matt-dominguez-welcoming-opportunity-to-evolve-as-ballplayer

The ‘Stros start Spring Training play today and I have some concerns. I don’t know if we are a .500 club today. On paper our pitching has improved but I am concerned with our offense and position players. I am OK with our second base, shortstop, catcher, DH and right field (George Springer). We need better production from our third baseman. I don’t know if Jon Singleton will do what we want him to do a first. I don’t know about putting a catcher in left field and I am not sold on Colby Rasmus in center. I hope Spring Training sorts some of this out – I hope!

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Let’s see. The City of H-Town rules on campaign fundraising say an individual can give up to $5,000 per election. A PAC can give up to $10,000.

Yesterday, Chris Bell lost his fight against State Rep. Sylvester Turner on campaign financing. Here is from Teddy Schleifer of the Chron:

The Houston Ethics Commission has rejected Chris Bell’s complaint that City Hall was letting Rep. Sylvester Turner start the mayoral race with a $900,000 head start in fundraising.

The ethics board ruled last week that it did not have jurisdiction over Bell’s case because he could not show improper ethical conduct by a city official, leaving the former congressman and city councilman with one less legal option to restrict Turner’s advantage. Bell filed his complaint last month after failing to win an injunction against the city in state district court in January.

Bell argues that Turner should not be allowed to transfer more than $10,000 from his legislative campaign account to his mayoral account, the most a third-party group can donate to a candidate. The city attorney’s office and Turner have said he should be allowed to transfer each individual donation that falls under the maximum cap set out by the city’s fundraising ordinances.

He opened his mayoral account late last month and starts with about $900,000, according to his campaign.

Here is what Commentary wants to know. If Jane Doe forked over $5,000 to Rep. Turner last October, can she give another $5,000 this July? Or is the $900,000 that Rep. Turner starts out with considered funds raised from a different or previous election.

I have the same question for a $10,000 contribution from a PAC.

If that is the case, it would appear that the Rep. Turner campaign gets two bites out of the apple while everyone else just gets one bite. I had a discussion about this recently with some folks in the know and I mentioned that it might violate the so-called “spirit of the law.” One of the responses I got was there is no longer a “spirit of the law” when it comes to fundraising at City Hall thanks to the folks that were in charge of looking out for the rules. That’s too bad since I thought for all these years that we had a pretty good system in place.

Oh, well, so now we operate under the spirit of the flaw. That is not what they had in mind when the original ordinance was first adopted.

Last night’s event was well attended.

How many combined seasons did Killer Bs Bagwell, Berkman, and Biggio spend in a ‘Stros uniform?

When is this going away? I am talking about this from the Chron:

The ongoing legal battle over Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson’s residency is poised to pit one source of taxpayer dollars against another, as the college may be on the hook for his legal fees and the county continues to pay to pursue a case it has lost twice.

HCC has an insurance policy that covers legal fees for trustees, but the deductible is $300,000 – much higher than the $36,980 Wilson’s case has cost him so far, meaning the college probably will have to pay the full bill.

Really? Folks certainly know how I feel about this dog chasing its own tail.

Teddy also put out this yesterday:

Deputy City Controller Chris Brown will run for his department’s top job, he said, becoming the fourth candidate to commit to the race for the city’s top financial officer.

This will certainly make things more interesting on the Dem side.

Killer Bs Bagwell (15 seasons), Berkman (12 seasons), and Biggio (20 seasons) spent a total of 47 seasons in a ‘Stros uniform of course.

The April 6 Opening Day game versus Cleveland will be carried by ESPN at 6pm as part of their Opening Day quadrupleheader coverage. That’s Prime Time!

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