Archive for December 3rd, 2015

An Extreme Career

I really don’t think the career politician thing is sitting well with Bill King’s opponent. During last night’s debate, they played the one ad with Mattress Mac and the fella sitting next to me mumbled – “I haven’t seen that one yet.”

Commentary is in full Christmas tune mode in my ride. I get to hear the Bill King ads. The police union and Fire Fighters 341 combo ad with the 14 second disclaimer. Yesterday, the Turner camp put out an ad that says Bill is “too extreme” for H-Town. Okay.

There were quite a few younger folks in attendance last night so I don’t know if they got the falling off the boat reference.

The next debate is tomorrow night on Channel 2 at 7 pm.

Chris Carter and Panda Crusher are no longer ‘Stros. How many dingers and RBIs from last season are we letting go.

Here is the Chron story on last night’s debate:

Houston mayoral candidates Bill King and Sylvester Turner took aim Wednesday at each other’s plans for financing road repairs and solving the city’s pension problem during a tense first televised runoff debate that featured a string of personal attacks.

The showdown, hosted by KTRK-13, Univision and Mi Familia Vota from the University of Houston-Downtown, hit topics ranging from gun violence, sanctuary cities and Syrian refugees to public safety, education and inequality.

Yet King and Turner butted heads most vigorously on questions of fiscal policy that have defined the campaign as Houston confronts a projected $126 million deficit next fiscal year, largely the product of a voter-approved cap on property tax collections, soaring pension obligations and a looming spike in city debt payments.

“You go from complex to impenetrable when you start to talk about the specifics of these issues and how each campaign is misrepresenting the issues of the other campaign,” said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus, who attended the debate. “You’ve got confusing positions and you’ve got confused voters, both of which are a recipe, in a low-turnout election, for people simply to not turn out to vote.”

Turner, a 26-year state representative running his third campaign for Houston mayor, finished atop a 13-candidate mayoral field on Nov. 3, earning 31 percent of the vote to King’s 25 percent. Early voting for the Dec. 12 runoff runs through Dec. 8.

Turner won most of Houston’s left-leaning, majority-minority City Council districts, while King took three conservative council districts, most of them majority-white, and earned a plurality in progressive District C.

The once-cordial opponents looking to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker were not shy Wednesday about launching personal attacks, echoing some of the criticisms being levied in their television commercials and delivered to voters’ mailboxes.

King, the former mayor of Kemah, took Turner to task for repeatedly criticizing him for naming a boat he previously owned “Hard Times.”

“The boat was named after a boat that was owned by the founder of Kemah, where I grew up,” King said, later accusing Turner of lying about the origins of the name. “Why did y’all lie about it and say I named it Hard Times to mock poor people?”

King then used an anecdote about falling out of his boat into Galveston Bay as a thinly-veiled reference to an incendiary KTRK story aired during the 1991 mayor’s race, in Turner’s first bid for the office. The broadcast linked Turner to an alleged insurance scam, devastating his campaign.

“I was out one day I was trying to get a line loose and I fell off the boat into Galveston Bay, but instead of vanishing and turning in a false insurance claim I just swam back over and got back on my boat,” King said, as the crowd stirred.

Turner sued KTRK and the reporter for libel. Turner won the case and a $5.5 million award in trial, but both were overturned on appeal.

‘Kind of nasty’

Turner attacked King’s business record, criticizing him for the 1980s bankruptcy of a savings and loan he ran, among other ventures.

“You cannot say that you’re the businessperson if you have been in three businesses – a savings and loan in particular – and they’ve gone under and you’ve left people holding the bag,” Turner said, before addressing his own record in business and elected office. “No, I’m not a career politician. I’m a public servant. Everything in my public record is fair game, but I have been a successful public servant for 26 years.”

Rottinghaus cast the exchange, which led to some fidgeting among the crowd, as “kind of nasty.”

“These interactions, I think, can be telling,” he said. “Mayors have to negotiate with people. How they can punch and counterpunch should be meaningful to people.”

Asked whether he could be expected to address the city’s rising pension costs when Houston’s three employee groups have all endorsed him, Turner named a slate of other prominent supporters, and said they know solving problems is about building consensus.

“They recognize I’ve been in the Legislature 26 years working with Democrats and Republicans alike building a consensus,” Turner said.

Turner criticized King’s proposal to issue bonds to cover the city’s pension underfunding of $3.2 billion as part of a reform package reducing retirement benefits for new hires.

“The math simply doesn’t add up,” Turner said, contending issuing that much debt risks tax increases, credit downgrades, or even bankruptcy.

ReBuild Houston

King dismissed these assertions, saying the city is paying those debts today with each pension payment, at an interest rate of 8 to 8.5 percent, the pension funds’ assumed rates of return on their investments. Interest on the bonds he wants to issue could be half that, King said.

“If you had a house loan at 8 percent, wouldn’t you want to refinance it at 4 percent? That’s not increasing the debt, that’s reducing your debt service,” King said. “The problem is Sylvester’s friends. We’re borrowing it from them at 8 percent and they want us to keep doing that. I don’t think that’s fair to the taxpayers.”

The mayoral hopefuls later confronted each other over ReBuild Houston, the city’s controversial pay-as-you-go street and drainage improvement program.

“We passed this ReBuild Houston program five years ago, we agree to impose an additional $100 million a year in taxes on ourselves to fix the streets and drainage,” King said. “So far I haven’t met anybody who thinks the streets and drainage are better off than they were five years ago.”

King said the drainage fee he opposes could be scrapped and still leave plenty of funds for roads repairs if the city could issue debt using the other dollars still left in the dedicated ReBuild fund.

Turner reiterated his support for a pay-as-you-go approach to infrastructure investment.

“We are a growing, developing city, which means we have been lagging behind in our infrastructure. We can’t do it the way we used to do it. Bill proposes issuing bonds, but you’ve got to pay the debt service,” Turner said. “We shouldn’t do it that way. We need to do the pay-as-you-go and move forward.”

More than 29,000 Houston voters cast a ballot during the first day of early voting Wednesday, about 11,000 of them in person and another 18,000 by mail. These do not include city residents living in Fort Bend or Montgomery counties.

Chris Carter had 24 dingers and 64 RBIs and Panda Crusher had 11 dingers and 33 RBIs of course. That is a healthy amount of offense.

Carter also struck out 151 times and Crusher 63.   That’s a lot of strikeouts.

It looks like the ‘Stros and Padres may play an exhibition game or two in Mexico City next March. In 2004, the ‘Stros and Fish played beisbol in DF.


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