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Archive for July, 2017

Over 50%

Remember when I said this about the price gouging, money grabbing ‘Stros a couple of days ago:

Commentary got a call yesterday from the ‘Stros. They told me my ticket prices for next season are going up 33% – yep, 33%, yep, a third.

I was wrong. I got my invoice yesterday. The grab is an increase of over 50%, yep, over 50%.   Money grab and price gouging pure and simple. Sorry for the correction.

If a staffer for President Obama would have used the language of the Smooch fella, he or she wouldn’t have a job for long – just saying.

Our Dem nominee for president has a book coming out titled “What Happened.” It should be titled “S__t Happened.”

Way to go to the folks who put together last night’s Northside community meeting. Well attended.

Speaking of still having a job or being paid while on leave, check out Ted Oberg’s piece on the Director of H-Town’s Public Works Dept.:

By Ted Oberg

Thursday, July 27, 2017 10:27PM

HOUSTON (KTRK) —

Convicted Houston Community College trustee Chris Oliver promised to make Houston’s now-public works director a millionaire, according to new details released in a court transcript in Oliver’s bribery case. Oliver agreed to plead guilty in a May 15 arraignment to federal bribery charges. In that arraignment, federal prosecutor Andrew Leuchtmann outlined how Oliver began taking money from Karun Sreerama. At the time, Sreerama was the owner of ESPA Corp., a company that provided engineering and consulting services to HCC.

Mayor Sylvester Turner named Sreerama the director of Houston’s public works department in the spring of 2017. Public works is the city’s largest department. Leuchtmann outlined nearly 10 meetings between the two men starting in May 2015. On May 29, 2015, Oliver and Sreerama met at a restaurant where Oliver asked if Sreerama was working on behalf of law enforcement. Oliver said he had helped Sreerama get business with HCC in the past and could do it again, then the pair agreed on a $2,500 per month payment from Sreerama based on “what he had paid him in the past,” Leuchtmann said. A few days later, the two met at a coffee shop where Sreerama gave Oliver an envelope with $2,500 in cash. “Oliver told [Sreerama] that if he found a contract to bid on and a certified company, he would make him a millionaire,” Leuchtmann said.

About a month later, they met again and Sreerama gave Oliver another envelope with $2,500 in cash.

“Oliver provided [Sreerama] with a list of the various contracts at HCC and implied that if he asked, he would deny all knowledge of how [Sreerama] got the list.” In August, the pair met again, this time Oliver was paid $2,000 in cash and with a $500 gift card. “Oliver discussed voting on contracts that [Sreerama] was competing for stating, ‘Unless you say something, I won’t be voting for it. If I vote, it is going to stick.'” In November, Sreerama met with Oliver to tell him he found a company to use in order to bid on a pest control contract. Oliver told him he would use his influence to move the company up the bid list so they had a better chance of getting the contract, Leuchtmann said. Sreerama paid Oliver $1,000 in cash and $500 on a gift card. At another meeting in February 2016, Oliver complained he wasn’t getting paid enough. He told Sreerama the contract was kept off the board meeting agenda so he convince the board to vote in favor of Sreerama’s company, Leuchtmann said. At this meeting, Oliver was paid $1,100 in cash and $400 on a gift card.

The pair met three more times over the span of as many months, where Oliver continued to tell Sreerama that he was working to convince the board to vote for Sreerama’s company.

“When KS told him that the company he was using to bid on the pest control contract was not willing to pay him anymore money without some results, Oliver ended the relationship,” Leuchtmann said. Sentencing is now scheduled for Nov. 13. Sreerama’s attorney Chip Lewis directed questions about the information to the federal government. Turner suspended Sreerama with pay and promised a full review of the case. That review is ongoing. Lewis has previously held that Sreerama was the victim in the case and has fully cooperated with authorities. Sources close to the case suggest that Sreerama may have been working with the FBI at the time of the payments. An email request for comment sent after hours Thursday was not immediately returned.

Commentary has said it before, everyone I have run into thinks like me on this matter.

The team is in Detroit for three and no MLB question today because I am still steamed.

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We all know that MLB baseball is full of superstitions. Commentary is thinking that last night’s 9 zip shellacking at the hands of MLB’s worst ballclub was probably the result of the recent price gouging and money grabbing directed at certain season ticket holders by the ‘Stros. The baseball gods at times can be unmerciful. We will see if they take it out on the team during the NLDS.

Commentary got a call yesterday by a fellow season ticket holder who also got gouged. We both happen to be Latino, just saying.

F__k the MLB question.

Commentary is thinking that promoting affordable housing in H-Town isn’t a vote getter. We don’t act on it. Here is from the Chron E-Board today:

A house is a house is a house is a house is a house, as architects like to say.

A housing bond, on the other hand, is apparently a gimmick. Or so the politicians admit.

Houston has been caught sitting on more than $30 million in bond approvals for affordable housing. No, money wasn’t misplaced – unlike the $46 million in TIRZ dollars that Chronicle reporters Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris discovered in their “Lost Money” investigation.

The brain trust at City Hall that cooked up the scheme over the past 16 years, it seems, never intended to take advantage of the approvals in the first place. They put just affordable housing bonds on the ballot three times to gin up turnout for other issues and appease political pressure.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Affordable-housing-11438858.php.

I guess folks that are in need of affordable housing don’t vote.

Commentary ran into a City Hall insider yesterday who told me the firefighters could very well win their election this November. Interesting.

The team is in Detroit today for a 3 game series that starts tomorrow. Maybe they will use their day off today to go check out the new flick “Detroit” which has a 100% rating today after 29 reviews on rottentomatoes.com.

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Money Grab

Commentary got a call yesterday from the ‘Stros. They told me my ticket prices for next season are going up 33% – yep, 33%, yep, a third.

I told them thanks a lot for ruining a good season.

They said they were giving my seats that I have had there at The Yard since 2000 a higher price designation. Mind you, they didn’t move my seats, they just assigned them to a higher pricing level. My sight lines stay the same and my distance from first base stays the same. Now that is what you call a money grab pure and simple.

Shameful way to treat a longtime fan Commentary doesn’t mind saying. Chicken s__t is a very appropriate response if you ask Commentary. Shameful way to treat a longtime season ticket holder and loyal one at that. I stuck with them when they were having 100 plus loss seasons but they obviously don’t give a rat’s arse.

Commentary is used to the 5% to 10% annual price hikes we have seen over the years but 33% with a horse s__t reason is a way bit too much.

Did I say money grab?

F__k the MLB question. I am p___ed off! Money grab!

Best tweet of yesterday:

Celia Israel‏ @CeliaIsrael 19h19 hours ago

 

Urban affairs committee witness: ‘I dont understand why y’all are having to hear this tree bill’

@RepAlvarado145 ‘we dont either ma’am ‘

This is the headline to one of Kuffer’s takes today:

There will be no city elections this November

Here is the take: http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=81768.

I am not going to get picky but we do have city bonds to vote on and maybe firefighters.

Steve Houston responded to the City of H-Town recycling deal here:

Ask most any company that does business with the city and they will tell you that most contracts are locked in long before there’s a vote at city council. Sometimes the contract specs are written so tightly as to exclude competitors, other times specific companies are warned off of bidding but in almost all cases, the fix is in. Lest someone suggest this is always about a political campaign contribution to the mayor or a council member, it is not, though that does appear to happen frequently enough, and despite shouts from the far right, Houston is sure not the only city or governmental body to act this way because they ALL do this, sometimes with the best of intentions to the “greater good”.

The media, particularly the Houston Chronicle, can slant things any which way they want to as a means of generating ratings but the only real solution is for voters to take a great deal more interest and to demand more transparency. The sad thing is, we’re lucky if a majority of people even bother to vote, never mind spend a few hours each week keeping up with what elected representatives are doing, not just local but state and national leaders as well. As such, there will never be the kind of transparency needed to insure the best contracts are the contracts our tax dollars purchase, not necessarily the low bid or the contracts tied to buddies of city hall but the best contracts for the city as a whole.

Ok.

What is the over/under for days remaining on the job for the AG?

We won again yesterday and did I say money grab?

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New Heights, Nope

After we wrap up the series in Philly tomorrow, how many games do we have left in NL cribs?

When you think about H-Town’s Fifth Ward, you think African-Americans. When you think about H-Town’s Heights, you don’t.

The Heights has been my hood for a long while and I know my demographic data and I can see my demographic data every time I go out around here.

I chuckled when I saw this on the Chron’s website this morning. Here is the online headline:

Home builder sees Fifth Ward as ‘the next Heights’

Here are parts of the story:

By Nancy Sarnoff, Houston Chronicle

July 25, 2017 Updated: July 25, 2017 7:00am

Camilo Parra started buying land in the Fifth Ward five years ago and has purchased 100 lots — most of them empty — to build homes relatively affordable by inner-loop standards.

His company, Parra Design Group  purchased many of the lots at county tax auctions. Most of them are between Waco and Lockwood, north of Lyons Avenue.

“Our approach has always been to go to find empty land. We don’t want to displace anybody,” Parra said. “That’s what creates a strong neighborhood. The residents are what makes the neighborhood special.”

He designed three-bedroom floor plans of roughly 1,600 square feet, and began building two per lot priced at about $235,000 apiece.

And this:

So far, the company has built 24 and sold 22.

The buyers, Parra said, have been “mostly young urban professionals” who may have been priced out of other neighborhoods close to downtown.

“We believe it’s going to be the next Heights,” he said.

Here is the entire article:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/real-estate/article/Fifth-Ward-Houston-housing-real-estate-affordable-11270086.php.

Stop laughing, please.

Here is from the Texas State Historical Association’s website:

Eventually, the Fifth Ward population became predominantly black. At Frenchtown, a four-square-block neighborhood in the ward, 500 blacks of French and Spanish descent from Louisiana organized a community in 1922. Black-owned businesses, including a pharmacy, a dentist’s office, an undertaking parlor, a theater, and several barbershops, operated after 1900 on Lyons Avenue and numbered forty by 1925. Working-class blacks were primarily employed within walking distance of the ward; many worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad or at the Houston Ship Channel. Others commuted across town to work as domestics and servants for wealthy Houstonians. By 1927 Phillis Wheatley High School in the ward, with 2,600 students and sixty teachers, was one of the largest black high schools in America. Other new businesses developed in the 1930s, including printing plants, photography studios, and the Club Matinee, which came to be known as the Cotton Club of the South. Local businessman Grand Duke Crawford organized the Fifth Ward Civic Club.

Houston’s second housing project for African Americans, the Kelly Court Housing Project, opened after World War II. Early community activists included Lonnie Smith and Lilly Portley. Peacock Records, a recording company founded by music entrepreneur Don Robey and named after his popular Bronze Peacock Club, started in the ward, as did C. F. Smith Electric Company, one of the state’s early licensed electrical-contracting companies. Finnigan Park, the second public park for blacks in Houston, opened in the community in the postwar years, and the Julia C. Hester House, a black community center, began service. Nat Q. Henderson, long-time principal of Bruce Elementary School, was the mayor of the Fifth Ward and became known for his leadership.

With passage of integration laws in the 1960s, many residents left the community and sought wider opportunities. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the Fifth Ward fell into decline, with rundown abandoned buildings, and developed a notorious reputation as a crime-ridden area. Texas Monthly described it as “Texas’ toughest, proudest, baddest ghetto.”

In the 1990s and 2000s the area saw significant housing and commercial growth as the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, organized in 1989, worked to revitalize the neighborhood through new home construction as well as an increased focus on job training, access to technology, and access to the arts. A cultural arts festival celebrated the artistic, culinary, and musical heritage of the area. By 2008 the neighborhood had an estimated population of more than 22,000, and by 2015 revitalization efforts had included the construction of more than 300 new homes, two multifamily complexes, two new commercial developments, and two commercial renovations, as well as the installation of public art and monuments. Restoration had begun on the DeLuxe Theater, and the Fifth Ward was the site of community fairs, neighborhood cleanups, and educational programs for homebuyers.

The Chron article was a bit silly. I love my hood but it ain’t getting more diverse if you know what I mean. We have like 3% African Americans and that is probably stretching the data. The Fifth Ward is a long, long way from being the new Heights and I don’t know if they want to be the new Heights.   Silly, silly, silly!

Commentary is thinking the AG likes being punked regularly by Donald Trump. Why else would he be showing up for work?

 

With the Texans fixing to open up their training camp, I hope the Chron and the local TV stations will continue to give the ‘Stros top billing, after all, they do have by far the best record in the AL and second best record in MLB.

FYI: this is a prediction from USA today in the Texans’ upcoming season:

Houston Texans (8-8): We know, Bill O’Brien has never failed to go 9-7 in any of his three seasons. But when your team’s top two quarterbacks have two combined NFL starts, it’s easy to foresee a season that serves as one step back before two steps forward occur in 2018.

Just saying.

After the ‘Stros leave Philly tomorrow they will have two games left in Arizona of course next month.

After scoring 13 runs last night, the team is batting a ridiculous .293 – ridiculous.Steve Houston

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State Senate

At 65-33, we have the best record in the AL. Name the team with the second best record in the AL today?

Commentary is not going to say much about that Spicer fella getting his arse run out of job that he held for six months. It is going to take a lot longer than six months to get half of his cred back – maybe.

Commentary is glad that some political leaders can change their minds. Last week the H-Town Mayor stood solidly behind the recycling proposed contract. Here is what he said:

“I have looked at this process myself, along with the others and I’m confident in the process and I’m not going to toss this out. That is a good deal for the city of Houston.”

Then he tossed it. Here is from Mike Morris of the Chron this past weekend:

Pummeled by procurement concerns on a 20-year curbside recycling contract, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Friday he will seek a new round of proposals from the four final bidders.

Turner met with small groups of city council members Thursday to hear the concerns they have raised since the proposal first was rolled out in late June, and several members said his decision reflected advice they or their colleagues had offered.

“This action is designed to put to rest the concerns raised by members of council, which must approve the contract before it takes effect,” Turner said. “Whatever the result, my only allegiance is to this city, and I will always seek what is in its best interest.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Turner-re-opens-procurement-process-for-recycling-11306386.php.

Commentary is going to go out on a limb and guess the votes were not there.

I am thinking that Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick own the Texas State Senate and here is from today’s Chron front page:

Lawmakers in the Republican-led state Senate this weekend advanced more than a dozen conservative bills despite objections from hundreds of witnesses, cuing up much of Gov. Greg Abbott’s conservative special session agenda for swift passage this week.

The future of many of those bills is unclear in the House, which is less excited about the governor’s agenda. In addition, senators have found it difficult even to muscle some of their more complicated legislation out of committee.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/Senate-cues-up-bills-for-swift-passage-11324912.php?cmpid=chronstrrpc.

I don’t know what else you can say about this other than will they own the Texas House?

The Red Sox at 55-45 of course own the AL’s second best record.

We are in Philly for three and by the way, the Phillies have the worst record in MLB – 34-62.

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Near 94

Yesterday, I was kind of busy with my Dad so I don’t have much to say today.

Commentary’s Dad turns 94 a month from today. How about that?

Like folks that reach 94, they have to deal with real issues.

It seems like these days, I learn something new every day related to my Dad. Exams, tests, assessments, appointments….. you name it.

Yesterday, my Dad and I spent half of the day together.   The good thing about this is I didn’t get to watch the O.J. deal. I was spared.

It is never boring hanging with my Dad, though.

My sister and her family’s business made it to Fortune again.  Here is how it starts:

Miguel Garza knows that, statistically, the deck is stacked against a startup  like the one he runs.

While Latino-owned businesses account for 12% of all small businesses in the U.S. and grow two-and-a-half times faster than the average U.S. business, these companies — and their leaders — face a dearth of capital and a ceiling on revenue. According to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, less than 1% of startups funded by venture capitalists have a Latino founder. And just 2% of all Latino-owned businesses see revenues north of $1 million.

Garza’s business, the grain-free tortilla maker Siete Family Foods, has beaten those odds, securing outside investors and achieving seven-digit revenue figures in the three years since launching Siete in 2014. It’s a fact that the 29-year-old CEO attributes to good fortune (“we’ve been blessed to work with really good people who have helped us grow,” he says), and also some ingenuity.

“We had never pitched a business before,” he says of his team, which is also his family (Siete is named for the seven Garza family members, six of whom are involved in the company). Because of this, and because of the general lack of access to capital for Latino businesses, he says, the Garzas prominently featured their educational backgrounds in their investor presentations when they were just starting out.

Check out the story here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2017/07/13/how-one-under-30-overcame-the-barrier-to-funding-for-latino-owned-businesses/#569db7ce2a46.

Nice.

We all know Donald Trump did deals with the Russians. It should not surprise us that he is trying to stop the Special Counsel from looking into his Russian deals. It also should not surprise us if he uses his pardoning powers to save his family and associates. It also also should not surprise us that the GOP leadership is gutlessly and cowardly standing with Trump – for now.

We are in B’More for three this weekend.

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Dunkirk

HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez left us yesterday. Here is from the Chron: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/houston/article/Houston-ISD-Trustee-Manny-Rodriguez-dies-11299894.php.

The much anticipated “Dunkirk” opens this evening nationwide. The director of the flick is Christopher Nolan who brought us The Dark Knight Trilogy. Here is from the headline of the online review in Rolling Stone:

‘Dunkirk’ Review: Christopher Nolan’s WWII Epic May Be the Greatest War Film Ever

Filmmaker’s recreation of key British battle is stunning, stirring – and a stone-cold masterpiece

The movie trailer caught my interest a few months ago. They say “Dunkirk” should be seen on the IMAX screen. The movie also comes in at under two hours – very good.   I have found that a lot of younger folks I have talked to about “Dunkirk” know absolutely zilch about what happened in Dunkirk in 1940.   I learned about it in high school when we were taught about World War II. Maybe they don’t teach it anymore or maybe as some younger person pointed out to me is we don’t know about it because it happened a year and a half before we – the USA – got into World War II. Folks are going to know now.

It is on my list of flicks to see soon.

On the “greatest war film ever” line, I will just compare to WW II flicks. My fav is “Saving Private Ryan” but it didn’t win best pic at the Oscars. The two that did are “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Patton.” We will see.

What the heck, I will throw in another fav, “The Dirty Dozen.” It got four Oscar nominations.

Here is from Rebecca Elliott’s article on the latest on the City of H-Town Public Works Director who is on a paid leave of absence:

Mayor Sylvester Turner declined to provide a timeline Wednesday for his review of the Houston Public Works director’s conduct, but said his assessment is underway in light of revelations that the longtime public contractor made unlawful payments to an elected official awaiting sentencing on a federal bribery charge.

Karun Sreerama, whom the mayor placed on paid leave last week, paid $77,143 to longtime Houston Community College trustee Chris Oliver in three installments between late 2010 and mid-2013, when Sreerama owned a private engineering firm.

Oliver was indicted for allegedly extorting Sreerama, but the acting U.S. attorney agreed to dismiss that charge in exchange for Oliver’s guilty plea to a separate bribery charge, court records show. 

Turner reiterated that he was unaware of the situation prior to appointing Sreerama in March. 

“I’ll take the necessary time to thoroughly vet it to make sure that no additional shoes are going to fall and that I have all the information I need to make a good decision for the city,” Turner said. “Public works is important, and perceptions are important.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Turner-continuing-to-vet-public-works-director-11300446.php.

Well if “perceptions are important”, he’s a goner. I don’t know of a single person other than his lawyer who says he should stay on.

I am skipping the MLB question today as our lead is now 15 ½ games with 67 to go and we are off today then start a 9 game roadie in B’More tomorrow and we are 33-11 away from The Yard. Got it?

We don’t play at The Yard again until the last day of this month when we host the Rays.

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