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Archive for February 13th, 2017

The Dean’s Dome Deal

Spring Training opens this week. Name the ‘Stro who has been selected to the All Star Team nine times, the one who has been selected seven times, and the one who has been selected four times?

Just to remind you.   Back in 2013, here was the ballot language that was presented to Harris County voters:

Harris County,

PROPOSITION NO.2.

THE ISSUANCE OF $217,000,000.00

HARRIS COUNTY ASTRODOME

REDEVELOPMENT BONDS AND THE

LEVYING OF AN ADDITIONAL SEPARATE

AD VALOREM TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF

WHICH IS ANTICIPATED TO INCREASE TAX

RATES WITHIN SAID COUNTY (Vote for none or one)

The item was listed right below the state propositions and just above the City of H-Town Mayoral race.

The outcome:

Against: 128,616 or 53.43%.

For: 112,087 or 46.57%

Under votes: 19,730.

Voter turnout was 13.23%.

So, I guess it makes sense for The Dean to want voters to decide if they want Harris County to spend $105 mil for Dome renovations because we already decided in a fair and square election. It is hard to argue against The Dean on this one.

Here is from the Chron this past weekend:

Veteran state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said Friday he plans to introduce legislation next week that would require the county to hold a referendum on its $105 million project to raise the floor of the stadium and create 1,400 parking spaces, a move many thought would be its saving grace.

And:

“I’m trying to allow the public to have a vote, the taxpayers to have a vote, before we spend over $100 million on the Dome with no stated purpose,” Whitmire said.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who has long championed repurposing the Dome and was one of the chief advocates of the $105 million plan, said Friday that Whitmire’s proposal “risks derailing” that solution, which he called a “fiscally prudent decision.”

And:

About one-third of the project, or roughly $35 million, would come from the county’s general fund, made up largely of property tax revenue. Another third would come from hotel taxes, with the remaining third coming from county parking revenues.

And:

The exact language of Whitmire’s bill, which he said he is calling the Harris County Taxpayer Protection Act, will not be finalized until it is filed next week. He said it would be worded to target projects like the Astrodome that had been targeted by referenda in the past. He said it had “broad bipartisan support.”

Gov. Dan Patrick could not be reached for comment. But state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Patrick confidante and Houston Republican, said he supports Whitmire’s proposal.

“It’s a good idea,” Bettencourt said. “We had a referendum. The vote was no. Everyone was promised they would not use property tax money in that project. And now that’s effectively what they’re proposing to do.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Whitmire-wants-voters-to-weigh-in-on-county-plan-10924876.php.

The Dean also told Channel 11 the following on Friday:

“We need that money to take care of our other venues. NRG stadium, Minute Maid, Dynamo, and Toyota all need those funds for maintenance and bonded indebtedness. And we had a commitment when I started the sports authority in ‘98 that we would never use property taxes on our sports facilities.”

Here is what Kuffer had to say about The Dean’s proposed legislation:

See here and here for some background. I do not support this bill, whatever winds up being in it. We require a vote when a government entity like Harris County wants the authority to borrow money via bonds, which was the case with that $217 million proposition from 2013. We do not require a vote on individual budget items, any more than we require a vote on (say) the county’s budget as a whole. We elect people to write those budgets, and if we don’t like the way they do it we can vote them out. Requiring a vote for how a county government spends county money is a gross incursion on local control, which is something we’re already had way too much of. I will not support this.

Now to be sure, part of the problem here is that the stakes of that 2013 referendum were never made clear. “The people rejected this specific plan that was put forward to rehab the Dome” and “The people rejected the idea of rehabbing the Dome and want it demolished instead” are both valid interpretations of that vote. Commissioners Court and Judge Emmett did not communicate to the public what their intentions were if that referendum was voted down as it was, and as a result we have been in a state of confusion since. Many ideas continue to be put forth for the Dome, which has since gained Historical Antiquity status, making demolition that much harder to do if that’s what we wanted to do. There’s no clear consensus. That may be the best argument for requiring a vote, but it’s still a violation of local control, and any such election would occur in either a low-turnout context (as in this November) or one where it was overshadowed by other campaigns, as would be the case next year. I say let Commissioners Court move forward with what they are doing, and if you don’t like it take a lesson from your friends and neighbors who are busy raising their voices on many other issues and tell the Court what you think. Isn’t that the way this is supposed to work? Swamplot has more.

Kuffer said this: “We elect people to write those budgets, and if we don’t like the way they do it we can vote them out.”

It is kind of hard to knock off a Harris County Commissioner. Like maybe a couple in the last fifty years, I think.

I get where Kuffer is coming from. I also get where The Dean is coming from.

There is something to be said about the debate and deal The Dean talks about when the Sports Authority was created.   Advantage The Dean.

Kuffer also said this: “We require a vote when a government entity like Harris County wants the authority to borrow money via bonds, which was the case with that $217 million proposition from 2013.”

So does Kuffer want a vote on the pension bonds that the H-Town Mayor has proposed or are pension bonds a different type that don’t require approval by the voters? We will see.

Speaking of the Sport Authority, Chron sports columnist Brian Smith had a column this past weekend on the NRG upgrades and talked to the H-Town Mayor about them and here is a part:

Meanwhile, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner honored Bill O’Brien’s 2016 offense by conservatively running up the middle on third-and-10.

“I’m going to leave that decision up to the county, to the Texans, the Rodeo, Houston Sports Authority – all of them are direct stakeholders in NRG Stadium,” said Turner, when asked if NRG needs upgrades and, if so, who will pay for them. “So I dare not speak for the county judge or the county commissioners on how they intend to address NRG.”

When Turner was pressed, he punted.

“I’m going to defer to those who have a direct say on what sort of money, if any, they choose to invest in NRG,” the mayor said.

So I guess my pal Bill Kelly tweeted these:

I like @ChronBrianSmith but I’m surprised he thought @SylvesterTurner was ducking his questions. Why did he ask @RodneyEllis or @EdEmmett ?

City made sure @DiscoveryGreen rocked, while the county does sports facilities. Great relations between to two but respect the territory.

Commentary is not going to defend Brian Smith, but the Mayor brought up the Sports Authority and the City of H-Town does appoint half of the Authority board and along with the County, appoints the Chair. So the city does have a say, I think.

This is from conservative-leaning columnist Kathleen Parker from this past weekend. I only wish:

WASHINGTON — Good news: In two years, we’ll have a new president. Bad news: If we make it that long.

My “good” prediction is based on the Law of the Pendulum. Enough Americans, including most independent voters, will be so ready to shed Donald Trump and his little shop of horrors that the 2018 midterm elections are all but certain to be a landslide — no make that a mudslide — sweep of the House and Senate. If Republicans took both houses in a groundswell of the people’s rejection of Obamacare, Democrats will take them back in a tsunami of protest.

Once ensconced, it would take a Democratic majority approximately 30 seconds to begin impeachment proceedings selecting from an accumulating pile of lies, overreach and just plain sloppiness. That is, assuming Trump hasn’t already been shown the exit.

Or that he hasn’t declared martial law (all those anarchists, you know) and effectively silenced dissent. We’re already well on our way to the latter via Trump’s incessant attacks on the media — “the most dishonest people in the world” — and press secretary Sean Spicer’s rabid-chihuahua, daily press briefings. (Note to Sean: Whatever he’s promised you, it’s not worth becoming Melissa McCarthy’s punching bag. But really, don’t stop.)

With luck, and Cabinet-level courage not much in evidence, there’s a chance we won’t have to wait two long years, during which, let’s face it, anything could happen. In anticipation of circumstances warranting a speedier presidential replacement, wiser minds added Section 4 to the 25th Amendment, which removes the president if a majority of the Cabinet and the vice president think it necessary, i.e. if the president is injured or falls too ill to serve. Or, by extension, by being so incompetent — or not-quite-right — that he or she poses a threat to the nation and must be removed immediately and replaced by the vice president.

Aren’t we there, yet?

Here is the entire Parker read: http://www.timesheraldonline.com/article/NH/20170210/NEWS/170219986

I believe this. This is who we are up against. From Market Watch this past Friday:

Public Policy Polling is known for the unusual questions it asks.

So it maybe shouldn’t be shocking that PPP asked 712 registered voters this question: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘The Bowling Green massacre shows why we need Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration?’ ”

The Bowling Green Massacre, in case you’re not familiar, was an outrage that White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway invented to explain support for the executive order signed by the president barring refugees from seven mostly Muslim countries. Though she referenced the “event” in multiple interviews, Conway subsequently said she actually meant the arrest of two Iraqis in Bowling Green, Ky., who had attacked U.S. soldiers in their home country.

PPP’s Bowling Green question received the support, by a 51%-to-23% margin, of those who identified themselves as Trump voters. Hillary Clinton voters, by contrast, rejected that statement by a 90%-to-2% margin.

Like I said, I believe this.

On All Star team selections, Carlos Beltran nine, Brian McCann seven, and Jose Altuve four of course.

Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow.

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