Archive for July, 2015

Ben’s Play

New ‘Stros pitcher Scott Kazmir didn’t disappoint us last night, going 7 2/3 innings, giving up three hits and zilch in the run department. Kazmir was drafted in the first round of the 2002 MLB Draft. Who selected him?

We will find out if this works. Commentary is talking about mayoral candidate Ben Hall trying to catch an anti-HERO wave. The play isn’t about Ben getting to City Hall. It is about who he hurts politically in the process. The Chron’s Rebecca Elliott has a lengthy piece on Ben’s play. It is definitely an insider story. Here it is:

Two years after coming up short in his first mayoral bid, a well-funded but unfocused affair, Ben Hall has found his campaign issue: taking down Houston’s equal rights ordinance.

Already a staunch opponent of the nondiscrimination law, Hall has become more vocal in the wake of last week’s Texas Supreme Court ruling that City Council must repeal the ordinance, known as HERO, or place it on November’s ballot.

From Twitter to television, Hall is using his criticism of HERO to set himself apart from the largely progressive mayoral field.

“There’s only one candidate in this race who has consistently for the last two years opposed HERO and supported the right of voters to vote,” Hall said in a Fox 26 segment that aired Tuesday. “When the pastors wanted to fight in the court system, none of the other candidates was present. I was.”

Most of Hall’s competitors have remained out of the HERO limelight, issuing a single press release about the Supreme Court’s decision or staying silent.

Five of them – former Congressman Chris Bell, City Councilman Stephen Costello, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, state Rep. Sylvester Turner and businessman Marty McVey – have said they support the ordinance, while former Kemah mayor Bill King has tried to straddle the fence.

“I do not see the empirical need for a discrimination ordinance,” King said last Saturday, after previously saying he would not have put the item on City Council’s agenda.

Like Costello, King is seeking the support of Houston’s conservative west side.

Through a spokesman, King declined to comment Thursday on whether he would vote to repeal HERO.

“He’s between a rock and a hard place,” said University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray. “The right conservative base doesn’t like HERO, but the people who write big checks are more moderate on this issue.”

Passed in May 2014, Houston’s equal rights ordinance bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, and family, marital or military status.

It applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting, and violators could be fined up to $5,000. Religious institutions are exempt.

Since the ordinance went into effect, 11 complaints have been filed with the city, five of them alleging racial discrimination, five alleging LGBT discrimination and one claiming gender discrimination, according to Houston’s Office of Inspector General. A settlement was reached in one of the five LGBT cases, and the gender case was closed due to insufficient evidence.

In accordance with the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling that the city suspend enforcement of HERO, the OIG is not continuing to investigate the other nine cases. The law’s most controversial provision remains its protection of transgender individuals’ ability to use the restroom consistent with their gender expression, regardless of their biological sex.

Like many of HERO’s conservative critics, Hall has voiced concern that the ordinance would allow men dressed in drag to enter ladies’ bathrooms to potentially harm women and children, and he is among those who signed anti-gay activist Dave Wilson’s petition to define gender identity.

In staking out that position, Hall has endeared himself to some on the right, including local donor Steven Hotze, who publishes an influential Republican endorsement mailer.

“Hall speaks his mind forthrightly with conviction,” Hotze wrote Tuesday in an email sent out through his Conservative Republicans of Texas group.

Campaign finance records show Hotze and his wife each contributed $5,000 to Hall’s campaign, the maximum allowed in a city race.

HERO also puts Hall in a position to chip away at Turner’s support in the African-American community, particularly its more religious subgroups, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. “If you’re Turner, this is not a positive development,” Jones said.

Among Hall’s donors is African-American pastor F.N. Williams, one of the plaintiffs in the case seeking to repeal the nondiscrimination ordinance.

“I’m excited that God has gained a victory. It’s not our battle, it’s his battle,” Williams said last Friday following the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling. “We’re standing for him. We’ll continue the fight against sin.”

Even with the resurgent HERO issue, Murray said it is unlikely that Hall, who earned little conservative support in 2013, will have the votes needed in November to make the expected runoff.

As it was two years ago, Hall’s campaign largely is self-funded; he received contributions from just 36 individual donors in the first half of the year, taking in some $94,000, according to his finance report. Hall lent himself an additional $850,000.

“I don’t think you can ride that single issue into the runoff,” Murray said. “I don’t think it has enough resonance with voters that are so much more concerned about infrastructure and the deterioration of the streets.”

Reporter Mike Morris contributed to this story.

No doubt Ben will get votes on this. But he becomes the anti-HERO candidate. A one issue candidate. Let’s see who he ends up hurting.

Scott Kazmir was drafted by the Mets of course in 2002.

Last night was electric! A scoreless game with two out, two on, and a one and two count against Jason Castro in the bottom of the ninth then his dinger to right and The Yard erupted! I was actually getting ready to settle into extra innings, instead, we swept the Angels. Baseball doesn’t get any better, folks!

The team is making some moves. We have us a two game lead. The D-Backs are in for three. Baseball is alive in H-Town and welcome to H-Town, Carlos Gomez

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Yesterday, I wrote about “Your Priorities, My Priorities.” Yesterday, the Mayor let us know about her priorities. Here is from the Chron:

With her signature nondiscrimination law likely to appear on the November ballot, Mayor Annise Parker left in doubt Wednesday whether she will ask City Council to also place before voters long-discussed changes to term limits and the city’s revenue cap.

Parker said she has no interest in putting the latter two items to amend the city charter to a vote only to see them fail because they lacked robust campaigns behind them.

“It was my full expectation that I’d be spending my remaining campaign funds and my personal time advocating for these two good-government items, but because of the presence of HERO (the Houston equal rights ordinance) on the ballot, I’m going to be having to split my energy over there,” she said. “There is no – at this point – group willing to step up and advocate for the other two. I’m not going to put some things out there just to fail. It may be more timely to bring the charter amendments to next November’s electorate, and I can leave that decision to the next mayor.”

I am not surprised. I think Rev Cap changes and term limits would have been soundly defeated by the voters. There just hasn’t been any leadership out there for these two issues. Not from City Hall, not from the Downtown business community, not from neighborhood groups, not from political players, and not from special interests. Folks have been pretty timid.

Albert Pujols had a dinger last night and now has 550 for his career. That is 15th best in the career dinger department. Who is at number 14?

Here is from a questionnaire from this campaign season:

Would you support city issued municipal IDs to provide photo identifications for Houston residents, including undocumented immigrants which could serve as an ID card for public services, including a library card? Would you train HPD to recognize and accept the identification?

I understand where this is coming from. But I worry about compiling a city database of folks without papers and then having anti-immigrant groups request it under our Open Records law and having info on where folks without papers live. Talk about harassment! That is really not a good idea.

Manny Ramirez has 555 dingers of course and sits at number 14 all time in career dingers.

Hey, the ‘Stros are back in first. 31,000 plus turned out last night on an ESPN televised game. We are the real deal as Scott Kazmir gets the start tonight.

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The HERO on the ballot gets some run today by the Chron E-Board. Here is how it ends:

Just a week ago it seemed like the mayor’s race would be about potholes and pensions, with the city’s revenue cap as the most likely referendum item. Now we’re back to refighting an issue that’s dogged local politics for decades. It is time to finally put it to sleep, and if punching a ballot is the only way to show that Houston is a place that doesn’t discriminate, then let the block-walking begin.

Here is the entire E-Board take: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Equal-rights-and-true-liberty-6411109.php.

Some folks think the HERO vote should be the most important item on the ballot this November. Some folks might think the possibility of losing the Super Bowl is paramount. Other folks might think city finances are a priority. Some might think picking the next mayor should be at the top of the list. And others might think the county bonds are the most important. Some might think the constitutional amendments should be our main focus. How about infrastructure? Everyone has their own priority and we have to respect that. Pick your poison.

Evan Gattis is tied for third in MLB with seven triples. Name the player with the most triples?

The county wants us to vote this November on $848 million in bonds. I wonder how much of the bond money is earmarked for within H-Town? Does that matter? Of course it does.

The lead story on the front page of today’s Chron is about another plan to save the Astrodome. Ok.

Lisa Falkenberg writes today about the editorial cartoon in the Chron this past Sunday that depicted Sandra Bland’s funeral hearse getting pulled over by a trooper. I saw the cartoon and never gave it a second thought. Apparently a lot of folks were offended. I get their point. Some folks wrote letters to the Chron today. The cartoonist also responded. Go check out the Chron.

Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays leads MLB with 10 triples of course.

24,031 showed up at The Yard last night to see the ‘Stros win one and regain a share of first place with the Angels. We scored ten runs including dingers by Correa and Carter and Gattis’ three bagger. Tonight is Dollar Dog night so I expect a bigger crowd. 101 games and we are tied for first.

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Police Presence

Commentary is thinking if the HERO is on the ballot this November, altering the Rev Cap might be a little more difficult. The thinking is the HERO item will bring a bit more social conservatives to the polls who are not inclined to alter the Cap. That’s what I’m thinking. Same goes for altering term limits.

According to MLB.com, Jeff Bagwell is an early favorite to be part of the 2016 Hall of Fame Class. What was Bagwell’s career batting average?

I wonder if the following will have an impact. I am talking about giving HPD officers bonuses for living in high crime areas in the city. This is part of a front page story from today’s Chron:

Officers who agree to reside in 10 of the city’s police districts with the most frequent calls for service would receive three years of bonuses, according to mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans.

A draft version of the plan heads to the city’s public safety committee Tuesday.

Officials hope it will deter crime and build goodwill in a city where less than half the force calls home.

“It would make people here more comfortable,” said LaTonia White, who works at the community center abutting the church. “It would just help to see a familiar face. And for police, they could see firsthand what goes on here rather than just acting on an assumption that ‘oh, that must be what happens in Sunnyside.’ Unless you live here, you really don’t know.”

The plan, Evans said, would offer 50 officers up to $12,000 to live in districts largely selected because of high call volume – ranging from Sharpstown to the area around Hobby Airport.

The first-year bonus would then step down to a maximum of $8,000 the next year and up to $5,000 the year after. Eventually, 200 officers could receive bonuses for either relocating or already living in those neighborhoods.

“We think it’s important to have as many of our municipal workers actually live in the city as possible,” Mayor Annise Parker said. “It can be particularly important to have the presence of police in neighborhoods with high crime.”

Here is the entire story from behind the paywall: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/City-would-pay-officers-to-live-in-high-crime-6408898.php.

I am not going to be critical. I don’t know if it will deter crime. You might as well give it a try.

Jeff Bagwell of course has a .297 career batting average.

Taylor Swift thinks the ‘Stros are a legitimate playoff contender. She’s moving her concert at The Yard from October to September. Nice move.

She must have looked at the schedule and saw that we had 62 games left including 9 with the Angels, 3 with the Yankees, 3 with the Dodgers, and 2 with the Giants.

Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and now Shane Victorino visit The Yard this evening.

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I thought Craig Biggio gave a great acceptance speech yesterday. It was great because he thanked a number of people who helped him get to Cooperstown – teammates, coaches, clergy, friends, family, owners, clubhouse folks, and his wife Patty. He also thanked the game itself.

I am more than A-OK that Craig Biggio will wear forever in the Hall of Fame the lid from the brick red days that made its debut when The Yard opened in 2000. He wore it the night in June of 2007 when he got his 3,000th base hit and he wore it the last eight seasons of his career. I will wear that lid to every game I make it to this homie in honor of Criag Biggio.

Pammy approved that now Hall of Fame lid. Nice choice!

Biggio is the first Hall of Fame great to be inducted wearing ‘Stros gear. Name the seven Hall of Fame greats who at one time wore H-Town gear as a player?

After the HERO got shot down by the Texas Supremes last Friday, this was put out:

Sylvester Turner issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that suspended enforcement of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO):

“I support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and am confident that voters will uphold the ordinance. Houston is strongest when we work hard, work together, respect each other’s differences and always put the good of the community first.” – Sylvester Turner

I don’t think so. I really don’t think either side is going to show a whole lot of respect for the other. That’s not going to happen. Not when the potential focal point of the debate is going to be bathrooms.

Heck, the name calling already started. This is going to be a very heated campaign. The local political insiders now want to know if the HERO campaign is going to dominate the political landscape for the next three months or so.

Way to go to the folks who shut down I-10 close to Downtown this past weekend. That was one big cluster___k ya’ll created.

I have to give a shout out to Carlos Duarte and his very professional crew over at Mi Famila Vota in preparing for the Emerging Latino Leaders event over at Rice University in September. Bill King was over there this past Friday for a well conducted interview and twitter chat.

Hall of Fame greats Nellie Fox, Randy Johnson, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Robin Roberts, Nolan Ryan, and Don Sutton of course all wore H-Town gear as a player during their careers.

The Royals also got a bit better yesterday.

Can ‘Stros baseball get any better? We trail the Angels by one and they are at The Yard for three starting tomorrow evening! Talk about a key series! Be there!

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HFD’s Turn

Commentary doesn’t think the Chron E-Board approves of how the current administration runs HPD and HFD. In recent months the E-Board has called out how the Police Department has been run. Today they put the wood to the Fire Department. Here is how it ends:

Houston needs political leaders who are willing to take a 360-degree look at our fire department and insist that taxpayer dollars only be spent promoting smart strategies. That’s the report we’re waiting to read next.


Check out the entire E-Board take here: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/HFD-report-still-leaves-us-wanting-6402455.php.

HPD and HFD are two or the largest City departments. What the E-Board thinks is one thing, what the voters think is another. What does that say?

Craig Biggio gets inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. He played his last game on September 30, 2007. Who did we play that day?

Go get a hard copy of the Chron so you can get your twelve page Biggio commemorative section.

Filling out candidate questionnaires is time consuming. Do they really need to be that long though?

Another week, another mass shooting. Only in America.

I think I will pull an Erica Grieder and not say much about Trump other than to say keep on trumping.

Craig Biggio’s last game was against The ATL of course.

Baseball is back. We made a trade yesterday that brought us Scott Kazmir from the A’s and that made us a bit better.

Then we swept the Red Sox last night on a Jose Altuve walk-off dinger.

30,000 plus showed up last night. We have won five of our last six and are now just a game behind. We are in KC for the weekend and the Royals have the best record in the AL.

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Here is the headline from today’s lead Chron editorial:

Fighting inequity
Structural problems at City Hall help well-off neighborhoods and hurt everyone else.

In going over this campaign season’s questionnaires and attending meetings, forums, and candidate screenings, there appears to be a concern that H-Town is becoming more of a city of “haves” and “have-nots.” Some folks don’t like the Rebuild H-Town formula for prioritizing projects. Some think “Worst First” discriminates against low-income neighborhoods. Some feel the well-off neighborhoods get the love from H-Town City Hall and some feel the low-income neighborhoods get neglected by City Hall. I am hearing this from trade groups, civic clubs, and grass roots groups.

Here is how today’s editorial ends:

The upscale neighborhoods get nice things, the poor get moved out of the way, and everybody else gets bad streets. If we want to change this, City Council members will need to start fighting.

Bill King is the only H-Town mayoral candidate who is talking about this and has probably upset a bunch of folks. Some folks in H-Town don’t like things being shaken up.

Here is the entire editorial: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Fighting-inequity-6400511.php.

Craig Biggio was our leadoff batter for all four of our World Serious games back in 2005. Who batted second?

The Trump media mega-machine goes to Laredo today. Once again he’s sucking up all the GOP press coverage. Meanwhile, the other GOP candidates struggle to get attention. Expect to see and hear Trump punk Rick Perry in his own backyard. In a way Perry is getting his. Perry was one the first to stir up the border security issue and now he’s getting trumped by it.

Commentary is hearing that the U Visa Program is going to be a topic at H-Town City Hall in the near future. Now that is interesting and probably necessary.

Are you following @VoteHOU?

Willie Taveras of course batted second behind Biggio in the 2005 World Serious.

31,000 plus turned out last night and a bunch scarfed down Dollar Dogs. We have won four of five since the All Star break and are still two out. We are 53-43 and continue to lead MLB with 132 team dingers.

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