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Archive for July, 2017

What Housing

How many of the current ‘Stros are hitting .300 plus?

How can you be a big city newspaper and not have an editorial cartoonist? Just saying!

On July 7, Commentary said this:

The Chron has another front page story by Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris on the problems at the City of H-Town’s housing agency.   The question Commentary has is how come nobody ever gets fired over there?

And this:

Can anyone tell Commentary where the buck stops on this mess? Oh, well!

Well, the Chron’s Elliott and Morris team had another front pager yesterday on the housing agency. Here are parts:

Despite repeatedly promising to address Houston’s affordable housing needs, city officials sat for years on more than $30 million in voter-approved housing bonds with little intention of using them.

Three times in the last 16 years, voters have agreed to let the city take on new debt to demolish blighted buildings, repair seniors’ homes or build new subsidized apartments.

Of the $53 million they approved, however, Houston issued and spent just $21 million, while the number of low-income families facing housing burdens grew by tens of thousands.

As of this month, some 44,000 families were on a waiting list for subsidized housing through the Houston Housing Authority alone.

Meanwhile, city officials have left roughly $3 million in housing bond proceeds furnished by local economic development zones unspent, allowing millions in interest to accumulate on the balance.

Even the bond money from those zones that Houston did spend often went to initiatives that lacked guarantees homes would remain affordable for low-income families for any period of time, let alone the decades it would take the zones to pay off their debt.

“It’s a failure of the city to invest in affordable housing,” Washington, D.C. lawyer and former federal housing official Sara Pratt said.

So why in the heck do we have a housing agency?

Here is more that is a bit disingenuous:

Despite receiving voter approval to issue $53 million in housing bonds since 2001, little more than half of the 2001 and 2006 bonds and none of the 2012 bonds have been used.

Former Mayor Annise Parker acknowledged she asked voters to sign off on the latest housing bonds with little intention of spending them.

“You need to have affordable housing on there as part of the package so that it’s sellable out in the community,” said Parker, recalling the political pressure she received from lawmakers and community leaders. “I don’t want to say that we did it with the expectation of not using it, but that’s in essence what we did.”

Now that’s how you get folks to have faith and trust in H-Town City Hall. I wonder if she is ever to going to run for office again?

And more:

Parker said Houston has not issued more housing debt in large part because it devoted most of its limited borrowing capacity to parks, police stations and community centers.

“We had higher priorities,” she said. “If you ask a district council member, ‘Do you want a new roof on your library, do you need new bathrooms in your community center in your park, or do you want more affordable housing’ what do you think they’re going to ask for?”

I wonder if Elliott and Morris will ask the 11 district council members that question?

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/City-sits-on-bond-funds-despite-affordable-11290134.php?cmpid=btfpm.

Like I said, why do we have a housing agency?

Carol and I shared in snagging a foul ball Friday night.  She kept the ball – cool.

Jose Altuve is hitting .350, Carlos Correa .321, Marwin Gonzalez .311, Josh Reddick .309, and SpringerDinger .306 of course and that is why we are at 62-30 with a 16 ½ game lead with 70 games left on the schedule.

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Pasadena, Again

How many games are we ahead for home field advantage in the American League playoffs?

Folks know how Commentary feels about the City of Pasadena continuing to appeal the voting rights case against them. Here is part of Mike Snyder’s article today on the matter:

It’s a question every Vegas roulette player and weekend poker-game enthusiast eventually faces: Should I cut my losses or go for broke?

A legal dispute over civil rights and fair elections, of course, shouldn’t be regarded as a game of chance. But as Pasadena’s mayor and city council consider whether to continue appealing a judge’s decision in a voting rights lawsuit, they’re struggling to calculate the best way to contain their legal fees. Either option available to them is a gamble.

In an executive session during a recent meeting, newly installed Mayor Jeff Wagner and council members discussed Patino v. Pasadena, the 2014 lawsuit that challenged a new council structure created in a charter change election. Last January, U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal found that the creation of two at-large, or citywide, positions intentionally diluted Latino voting strength. She ordered the city to use the old system of eight single-member district seats in this year’s election.

The city appealed. Wagner, a councilman and retired Houston police officer who won the election to succeed term-limited Mayor Johnny Isbell, said during the campaign that he would consult with the council before deciding whether to continue the appeal. Almost two weeks after Wagner took office, the question remains unanswered.

Aside from considering which council system serves the city better, the mayor and council must take into account the mounting costs of the litigation. Pasadena has already paid more than $2.5 million to its outside attorneys.

But there’s a complication: Under federal law, if the plaintiffs prevail, the city would be on the hook for their legal fees in addition to its own. The five Latino Pasadena residents who filed the lawsuit have been represented without charge by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/columnists/greater-houston/article/Legal-fees-figure-in-decision-on-Pasadena-voting-11287433.php.

Pasadena just went through an election without the at-large positions in play and the city government survived. Things are going to be ok in Pasadena. The all single member district system didn’t seem to overturn the cart. Just move on and leave this chapter of your history behind. It will be worth it in the long run.

The HCC Trustees did all they could do yesterday by voting to formally censure their colleague who pleaded guilty to bribery. There is nothing to report from H-Town City Hall on this matter. Like I said, I have not been enlightened.

Commentary hasn’t been saying much about Don Jr. and the Russians. What’s the point? We all know they are liars.

Don’t believe me? See this from today’s Statesman:

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, has some advice for President Donald Trump: throw your adult kids out of the White House.

“I’m going out on a limb here, but I would say I think it would be in the president’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House. Not only Donald Trump (Jr.), but Ivanka and Jared Kushner,” he told Bryan TV station KBTX. “I wish that he would get them out of the way so that we could have professional staff at the White House handle policy issues.”

Yeah, good luck!

The ‘Stros have a 10 game lead over the Red Sox for AL home field advantage of course.

Commentary is thinking good crowds will show up at The Yard this weekend.

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Not Enlightened

Commentary said this yesterday about the doings over at H-Town City Hall on the payments made by a City of H-Town honcho to a HCC trustee who pled guilty to bribery:

Now what am I missing here? If you are a vendor who has government contracts or want government contracts and if an elected official tries to shake you down, you can either make illegal payments, you can tell the elected official to go f__k-off, or you can go to the authorities and rat out the elected official and risk never getting a government contract again because elected officials and governments don’t like to do business with a rat. In this case, he made illegal payments to the elected official so what is there to review and what hard questions should be asked? Who thinks paying off an elected official is proper, acceptable and A-Okay? Like I said, what am I missing here? Enlighten me, please.

Nobody took the time to enlighten me and this is from the Chron’s Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris:

Houston’s Public Works director will vacate his post temporarily following revelations that he made unlawful payments to a Houston Community College trustee now awaiting sentencing on a federal bribery charge.

Karun Sreerama paid $77,143 to longtime HCC trustee Chris Oliver in three installments between late 2010 and mid-2013, when Sreerama owned a private engineering firm. Federal authorities say Oliver was leveraging his power to influence the awarding of HCC business contracts.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday he was unaware of the criminal case or Sreerama’s involvement prior to this week. Turner added that he spoke with the public works director during a “brief telephone call” before placing him on paid administrative leave.

And here is how it ends:

On the bribery charge, Oliver pleaded guilty to taking $12,000 in payments, promising to use his position to help secure contracts with the community college system. The acting U.S. attorney has agreed to dismiss the extortion charge against Oliver in exchange for his guilty plea on the bribery indictment, court records show.

Sreerama’s attorney, Chip Lewis, said Tuesday Oliver threatened to block Sreerama’s firm from getting contracts with the college system. He clarified that statement the next day, saying Sreerama’s firm never needed Oliver’s vote to secure contracts, and that Oliver’s alleged requests were framed in terms of friendship: “I’ll never forget what a friend you’ve been to me; you’re a friend and I’ll support you as a friend.”

Oliver solicited funds from Sreerama three times, Lewis said, and received three checks from Sreerama in return.

Lewis described how the payments were made: The first two were made because Oliver claimed he was going through a costly divorce, and then claimed he needed funds to complete the process of adopting a child. Both payments were presented as loans and were not repaid. The third payment took the form of an exorbitant fee Oliver charged after his company cleaned the parking lot at Sreerama’s business.

Authorities confronted Sreerama in March 2014, seven months after he made the last of the three payments to Oliver, Lewis said.

“He’s guilty of a bad decision,” he said. “There’s no criminal activity in him loaning money to a friend and actually paying far more than he should have for a sweeping of his parking lot. The only thing Karun is guilty of is being kind-hearted. Karun isn’t a guy going around trying to grease people; never was.”

Wendell Odom Jr., a local criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said the boundaries in this case aren’t that clear. Someone who took similar actions could have been charged as a co-conspirator, Odom added.

“He acquiesced to the shakedown, so he participated in it,” Odom said, adding that people should report extortion attempts to authorities.

Craig McDonald, executive director of Austin nonprofit Texans for Public Justice, said the payments simply should never have occurred.

“It’s pretty hard to swallow that that kind of money passed just because of friendship and good-naturedness,” McDonald said. “That situation is not credible with the general public.”

Over the years, Sreerama has been a prolific political donor, predominantly to Democrats, and was a key supporter of Turner’s 2015 mayoral bid. His family contributed a combined $20,000 to Turner’s runoff campaign. He also has contributed to the campaigns of seven of the 16 sitting council members: Green, Ellen Cohen, Amanda Edwards, Brenda Stardig, David Robinson, Jack Christie and Jerry Davis.

Until the Sreerama’s job status is resolved, Turner said deputy Public Works director Carol Haddock will lead the department during Sreerama’s leave, returning to the role she held in the weeks before Sreerama assumed the post earlier this year.

Cohen said she could see Sreerama resuming his leadership role with the city.

“As far as I’m concerned with the information I have to date, I believe that he’s in a position, once everything is discussed, to continue to do a credible job,” Cohen said.

Others were more skeptical. Councilman Greg Travis said he does not believe Sreerama should stay on.

“The moment somebody sits there and comes to you with something illegal, you say no and go right to the authorities,” Travis said. “That’s probably the most important spot next to mayor in the entire city, and if you’re compromised on ethics, how can you stay there? I don’t care how competent you are.”

Councilman Mike Knox, too, was doubtful.

“My question is: If you’re willing to do that as a contractor, might then you also be willing to accept a payment?”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Public-Works-director-who-made-unlawful-payments-11284898.php?cmpid=btfpm.

This is from Bill King:

Bill King‏@BillKingForHou 21m21 minutes ago

Replying to @rfelliott

A person who pays a bribe is not a victim.

And:

Bill King‏@BillKingForHou 25m25 minutes ago

In bribery there are 2 criminals, the one paying a bribe and the person receiving it. The taxpayers are the victims. 

Like I said, what am I missing here?  Aside from his lawyer, nobody is really stepping up to defend him.

Commentary has to think that the Houston Firefighters are tired of hearing “we appreciate all you do to keep our city safe, but…..” That’s what they got today from the Chron E-Board. Here is how it starts:

We’re grateful for everything our firefighters do every day. When we need them, we count on them to rush to our aid because the lives they save are literally priceless. But we can’t afford to write them a blank check.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Firefighters-petition-11284677.php.

Commentary has said it before, it’s politics baby!

No MLB question today, it’s the All Star break.

 

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This is in today’s Chron and we learned about it yesterday:

Houston Public Works Director Karun Sreerama made $77,143 in unlawful payments to a Houston Community College trustee who faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to bribery, according to federal court records.

The payments – made when Sreerama ran a private engineering firm – are related to an extortion and bribery case against 21-year HCC trustee Christopher Oliver, who was accused of taking payments and promising to use his position to help secure contracts with the community college system. The acting U.S. attorney has agreed to dismiss the extortion charge against Oliver in exchange for his guilty plea on the bribery indictment, court records show.

The extortion count lists an individual with the initials “K.S.” as a “victim” of “extortion under color of official right” carried out by Oliver between December 2010 and August 2013, meaning Oliver allegedly used his position as a public official to obtain an unlawful payment.

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Public-works-director-ensnared-in-HCC-bribery-11281775.php#comments.

And the Chron E-Board put out this today and here is how it starts:

Anybody who’s admitted taking a bribe has no business serving in elected office.

Seems like a simple principle, but the simple truth is that Chris Oliver, an admittedly corrupt politician, is now serving on the board of the Houston Community College. And a man tied to unlawful payments made to Oliver has a top-level job in Houston city government.

Oliver needs to step down immediately, and Houston’s mayor needs to investigate and reveal what’s going on with Public Works Director Karun Sreerama, one of his administration’s most important department heads. Sreerama’s name surfaced when his initials appeared in court records describing an extortion scheme that authorities say Oliver initiated.

While Sreerama’s involvement needs to be reviewed, there is no question what should become of Oliver, who has served on the Houston Community College board for 21 years.

And how it ends:

Meanwhile, Sreerama took charge of Houston’s public works department about a month after the indictment, but his involvement in the case wasn’t revealed to City Council members who confirmed his appointment.

It’s important to note the indictment identifies “K.S.” not as a criminal or a co-conspirator, but as a “victim,” as Sreerama’s lawyer confirms. Nonetheless, it raises important questions about what Sreerama did in connection with this scandal. What were the circumstances surrounding his unlawful payments to Oliver? Did he tell Mayor Sylvester Turner about this investigation before he was nominated to his important executive position?

The community college board has called a special meeting for Thursday afternoon at which it will consider censuring Oliver. Unfortunately, it appears the board cannot force the resignation of a confessed criminal who admits betraying the taxpayers’ trust and who’s awaiting sentencing on federal corruption charges. If Oliver wants to impress U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore before his sentencing, he should immediately resign from office.

Meanwhile, if he hasn’t already, Houston’s mayor needs to ask his public works director some hard questions about this case. If the head of the city’s public works department made unlawful payments to an elected official who’s pleaded guilty in a federal bribery case, Houston taxpayers need to know the whole truth about what happened.

Here is the entire E-Board take: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Oliver-should-resign-11281818.php.

Now what am I missing here? If you are a vendor who has government contracts or want government contracts and if an elected official tries to shake you down, you can either make illegal payments, you can tell the elected official to go f__k-off, or you can go to the authorities and rat out the elected official and risk never getting a government contract again because elected officials and governments don’t like to do business with a rat. In this case, he made illegal payments to the elected official so what is there to review and what hard questions should be asked? Who thinks paying off an elected official is proper, acceptable and A-Okay? Like I said, what am I missing here? Enlighten me, please.

Harris County is not joining the anti-SB 4 lawsuit. Here is from the Chron:

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said it would be ineffectual for the county to sue the state because the county is, constitutionally, an arm of the state. He said not voting in favor of joining the lawsuit against the law was not an endorsement of the statute, which he called an overreach by the state that would increase distrust in immigrant communities.

“Do not interpret, if we choose not to, don’t interpret that as an endorsement of Senate Bill 4,” Emmett said. “It is not.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Harris-County-will-not-join-sanctuary-cities-11281761.php.

Sorry, Hunker Down, it is an endorsement.

I don’t have a MLB question today.

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Stay Tuned

The outcome of tonight’s All Star Game will not determine World Serious home field advantage. What was the final score of last year’s game?

Remember when I put out the Op-Ed last week from Jasmine Jenkins, the Executive Director of Houstonians for Great Public Schools. She had that take on the HISD School Board meeting. Well, here is from the group’s website:

Great school boards drive student success

And:

The mission of Houstonians for Great Public Schools (HoustonGPS) is to increase public understanding of the roles and responsibilities of school board members and to hold members accountable for high performance.

And:

Houston GPS Core Values:

Strong leaders are driven by clear goals for student outcomes. We use data to measure progress toward community educational goals to determine the effectiveness of our leaders and share that progress with the Houston community to ensure full transparency.

Very interesting. Stay tuned for this I am sure.

The Texas Tribune has a take on Pasadena politics and voting rights here: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/07/11/voting-rights-battle-pasadena-could-come-wide-legal-ramifications/.

Just drop the appeal and move on.

Steve Houston had a short take on the Houston firefighters’ latest move. Here it is:

If they get that kind of raise, it will likely impact their pension plan corridor too, leading to lower pension benefits and increased healthcare premiums.

The AL won last year 4-2 of course.

Don’t forget to catch the ‘Stros tonight!

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The ‘Stros are 60-29 at the All Star Game break. When we went to the World Serious in 2005, what was our record at the All Star Game break?

They sure are a long way from the days when they endorsed the H-Town Mayor a couple of years go. Commentary is talking about the H-Town Firefighters and their latest move. Here is from Mike Morris of the Chron:

Houston firefighters are launching a campaign to place on item on the November ballot asking voters to mandate parity in pay between corresponding firefighter and police-officer ranks.

The petition drive to amend the city charter, slated to launch Saturday morning, follows the fire union’s decision last month to sue the city over stalled contract talks, alleging Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration failed to negotiate in good faith.

“I don’t know what else to do. We’re trying to find a fair and reasonable solution that affects 4,100 members and their families,” said Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. “Let’s let the voters decide what’s fair and we’ll see.”

The mayor’s office declined comment.

Houston firefighters have been without a contract for three years. The “evergreen” terms that had governed their employment during that time lapsed last month, reverting to state law and local ordinance. City Council made the terms in that local ordinance less favorable in a unanimous vote on the same morning the union filed its lawsuit.

And this:

“It’s bordering on very disturbing the way the city treats firefighters,” Lancton said, adding that his group’s effort seeks only to return to Houston’s historical parity between police and fire personnel.

And this:

“I know they’re desperate and they’re my friends, but this is a non-starter,” (Houston Police Union Executive Director Mark) Clark said of the firefighters’ petition drive. “They’ve got an important job, but police and firefighters do not have the same job, and their rank structures are completely different. Just to come in and say, ‘We want what they’ve got’ – certainly I understand asking, but where in the world would the city of Houston come up with the kind of money that it would take?”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Firefighters-frustrated-with-contract-talks-11274186.php.

Some folks are going to say, hey you folks jumped on the Mayor’s program early on so just live with it and I don’t blame them. I wonder how many of their elected official friends are going to be supporting their effort. When you attach a significant supposedly $40 mil fiscal note to it under our current financial situation, it is going to be a tough sell to the voters. Not impossible, but difficult.

Here is Kuffer’s take:

Apparently, something like $40 million per year, according to the story. This is an easy No vote for me, if it comes to one. We elect representatives to make these decisions, and it is generally my preference for that system to be allowed to do its thing. There’s a place for letting the voters decide on things, but this is not one of them. The cost, the difficulty in setting up a system to match job ranks, the fact that this is an obvious retaliatory move for the recent political setbacks the firefighters have experienced, those are also factors. I have no idea what happens from here, but if this does get on the ballot it will be interesting to see how a campaign plays out. The potential for it to get ugly is very high.

They really have no one to blame but themselves on this issue. It was their political calculation. Just saying.

In 2005, the ‘Stros were 44-43 at the All Star Game break of course.

A 19-1 victory certainly put an accent on our 60-29 record which has us 16 ½ games up in the AL West with a plus 162 run differential and a .289 team batting average. And we also have our three starting All Stars batting .347, .325, and .310 – that’s Altuve, Correa, and SpringerDinger.

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Name the team in MLB with the most doubles hit thus far this season?

The Chron has another front page story by Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris on the problems at the City of H-Town’s housing agency.   The question Commentary has is how come nobody ever gets fired over there? Here is how the story starts out:

Houston’s housing department kept inadequate records on its local affordable housing fund, spent more than half of the fund’s expenditures on personnel or administration, and supported projects with a “tenuous relationship to affordable housing,” according to an audit released by the controller’s office Thursday.

The audit for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 echoes a Houston Chronicle investigation into the same fund that showed the city collected $130 million in local taxes over the last decade to provide housing for low-income families, but produced fewer than 500 homes that remain tied to city subsidy rules.

The Chronicle found nearly half of the $96 million spent since fiscal 2007 went toward such expenses as administrative overhead or federal fines. Repeated questions from the newspaper about financial discrepancies led the city to discover $46 million was available for new projects as of this spring, tens of millions more than officials thought.

Here is the entire article:

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Audit-questions-Houston-s-use-of-affordable-11271291.php.

Can anyone tell Commentary where the buck stops on this mess? Oh, well!

If you are a Beatles fan and if you go to Seattle, visiting the Edgewater Hotel is a must. In 2004, Commentary and my Best Friend and his kid went to Seattle to watch the ‘Stros play the Mariners at Safeco and we stayed at the Edgewater. Here is from the hotel’s website:

In 1964, during their first world tour, The Beatles stayed at our Seattle hotel, newly completed for the World’s Fair. At the time, no other hotel in the city would accept The Beatles as guests; however The Edgewater happily welcomed them. 

Beatlemania so consumed Seattle that The Edgewater had to install cyclone fencing around the hotel to keep the screaming fans at bay. Some fans even tried swimming across Elliott Bay to reach the Fab Four. After their concert, The Beatles were rushed back to the hotel in an ambulance, while taxi cabs and stand-ins were used as decoys. During their stay, the band famously fished from the window their suite, the photo of which has become legendary. 

In 2004, when we stayed there, the hotel was commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ visit. The hotel card keys had the famous photo on them and the hotel was selling a ton of Beatles gear in the gift shop.

Yesterday, I went out on an errand and when I returned I noticed a gift bag hanging on my doorknob. The gift bag was from the Edgewater. I looked in the bag and there was a coffee mug with the famous photo of the Beatles fishing along with the Edgewater Hotel logo. Very cool. The gift was from my good friend Edgar who recently visited Seattle and stopped by the Edgewater. Very cool indeed and perfect size and it is now in my morning coffee mug rotation along with my Yellow Submarine mug.

Yesterday was National Kissing Day or International Kissing Day. Some folks like to say that the kissing in the rain scene in “The Notebook” with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams is one of the best all time movie kissing scenes. Commentary goes with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in the checkmate scene from 1968’s “Thomas Crown Affair.” That kissing scene gave folks some pointers for sure.

The Chron published the list of walk-up tunes for some of the ‘Stros players. I only recognized three: Alex Bregman’s “Baba O’Riley” by The Who, Evan Gattis’ “Freedom” by Richie Havens, and Lance McCullers’ “Shake It Off – Neon NiteClub Remix” by Taylor Swift. I wonder if any player in MLB uses a Beatles tune like “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Magical Mystery Tour” or “Twist and Shout.” Heck, maybe even Paul’s “Live and Let Die” or “Band on the Run.”   Go check out ‘Stros players’ list here: http://www.chron.com/sports/astros/article/The-walk-up-song-for-each-Astros-player-music-11264088.php?ipid=hpsportsctp.

The ‘Stros of course lead MLB with 188 two-baggers.

We got our 10th roadie loss last night and are up by 15 ½.

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After 85 games, we are 58-27. Our previous best after 85 games was in 1979 when we were 53-32. How did our 1979 season end?

Remember this from the Chron’s Mike Morris last week on the H-Town Mayor wanting to put more bonds on the ballot this November when repealing the revenue cap was in play:

Adding a general bond issue to the ballot alongside the pension bonds and what amounts to a tax hike is risky, said Jay Aiyer, a Texas Southern University political scientist professor.

“The more measures you put on the ballot, the more confusing it becomes for voters and I think the more attention is taken away from selling the one item that absolutely must pass, and that’s the pension obligation bonds,” Aiyer said. “It would make a whole lot more sense to make the pension obligation bonds a standalone and push some of these other items off.”

They certainly wised-up over at the H-Town City Hall. They are scrapping plans for now to repeal the revenue cap. They must have closely reviewed the polls and realized it was a very hard sell. I guess a whole lot of H-Town folks are not into paying more in property taxes when our schools are getting short-changed in funding by the state and when they don’t get much in return from paying into the county. Property taxes are not getting much love these days. The city had a massive selling job to undertake over the next three and half months before early voting in person got underway. Tough sell if you ask me so I guess scoreboard for now goes to the pro-rev cap forces.

Here is from Chron’s Rebecca Elliott:

Mayor Sylvester Turner abruptly reversed course Wednesday on his plan to ask voters to repeal Houston’s revenue cap this fall, saying it now is “unlikely” he will ask for its removal.

The politically cautious move would leave the city fiscally shackled in the hope that a lighter November ballot improves the chances voters sign off on hundreds of millions in general improvement bonds and $1 billion in pension obligation bonds, a crucial piece of the mayor’s landmark pension reform package.

“Do I believe that the needs are as much there to remove it as they were when I came into office? Absolutely,” Turner said. “Do I want to run the risk of losing the reforms that we’ve made to our pension system? No.”

Lifting Houston’s voter-imposed cap on property tax collections had been a pillar of the mayor’s agenda, and he regularly discusses how the restriction constrains Houston’s budget, preventing the city from hiring more police officers, replacing its aging fleet and maintaining other city services, such as street repair.

Turner’s about-face came during a City Council discussion of how the cap, which has cost the city an estimated $220 million in revenue since 2014, likely will force the city to scale back the street and drainage projects budgeted in its five-year Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP.

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/To-protect-pension-plan-Turner-now-unlikely-to-11268473.php.

They will probably look at the 2018 election so stay tuned, but for right now the sky isn’t falling.

Jasmine Jenkins had an Op-Ed in Sunday’s Chron that is a must read for those of us who are concerned about HISD. Here is how it starts out:

It’s true what they say about being unable to avert your eyes from trains that are close to colliding. I’ve been watching the spectacle of the Houston ISD school board now for two years. If it doesn’t change course, the district is quickly approaching a major crash.

Late last month, HISD’s Board of Education approved the budget for the 2017-2018 school year. While the budget includes much-needed raises for teachers and school support staff as well as funding for long-awaited special education positions, its 11th-hour passage and nearly $107 million deficit are stark indicators that something is wrong with governance in HISD.

The new budget, which will require the district to dig deep into its reserve funds to keep schools operating over the next year, is just the most recent symptom of a school board that has struggled to demonstrate strong, constructive leadership and effective advocacy.

Watching school board meetings over the past two years has often felt like standing in front of a burning house and seeing firefighters intermittently stop their work to argue about who gets to hold the hose. Though the board has managed to implement a few policies that will move the district forward, each positive step is followed by weeks – even months – of inactivity, public blame-throwing and unrealistic demands of a superintendent, who, it seems, is somehow expected to solve years of turmoil after nine months on the job.

It should be noted that much of the budgeting problem stems from a broken state funding system. Each year, our public schools are forced to do more with fewer and fewer dollars coming from the state. And several trustees have made repeated calls for the board to adequately prepare for the difficult road ahead. Sadly, those calls were drowned out by political grandstanding and the drumbeat of deep-seated ideological battles.

Those of us who attended the eight-hour public hearing June 22 (and into the wee hours of June 23), witnessed what seemed like an illustration of how governing can go very wrong. A lack of long-term, meaningful discussions and the apparent obsession of one trustee to pick political fights at nearly every turn left them with no other viable options than to approve the budget.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/What-ails-Houston-ISD-isn-t-just-about-money-11261386.php.

Jenkins is executive director of Houstonians for Great Public Schools, a local nonprofit whose mission is to increase public understanding of the roles and responsibilities of school board members and to hold members accountable for high performance

If you don’t follow HISD closely but still like H-Town politics, you are curiously wondering who in the heck is the “one trustee” Jenkins wrote about. For those of us who follow HISD, we know who she is writing about. It probably would have added gasoline to the fire if Jenkins had named the trustee if you know what I mean. Just saying.

In 1979, after 85 games, we were 53-32 with a 9 ½ game lead and ended up at 89-73 and 1 ½ games behind the Reds of course.

We had a two game stop in The ATL and scored 26 runs and still have our 16 game lead and now we are in Canada for 4.

 

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Claws

Commentary doesn’t have much to say on the public policy front today. I can’t think of anything other than to say the Pasadena City Council will meet this morning and I wonder how many Pasadena Latino citizens will attend and engage their new council and support their new police chief?

Ridiculous! I am talking about the ‘Stros. Yesterday, on the Fourth of July against The ATL, the ‘Stros had 19 base hits. On Memorial Day against the Twins, the ‘Stros had 19 base hits. Our team batting average is now .286. When was the last time a team finished the season with a batting average above .286?

A few nights ago, Commentary was surfing the flat screen when I ran across a show on TNT called “Claws.” It got my attention as I watched a mini-marathon of sorts for a few hours. It is about a nail salon and pill-popping clinic folks working in cahoots. I was hooked for sure.

Former MLBer Chuck Knoblauch is not a very good person. He went on a twitter mini-tirade against ‘Stros announcer Geoff Blum during last night’s game. Too bad “Blummer” wasn’t calling the game. Filling in for “Blummer” was Knoblauch’s former teammate Mike Stanton. Knoblauch used the term “fairy” in a derogatory fashion in one of his tweets. What an arsehole and dumbarse for sure.

Commentary watched the Baytown fireworks with my Dad yesterday at his crib. We had a great view from my Dad’s front porch. We were right across Goose Creek from the fireworks display. Cool.

In 2007, the Yankees batted .290 and the Tigers and Mariners batted .287 of course.

This is ridiculous. Commentary is talking about our 16 game lead on the Fifth of July and our 30-9 roadie record. Oh, yeah, and 30 games above .500.

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Happy Fourth!

These two Hall of Fame great pitchers recorded their 3,000th strikeout on July 4. Both are still with us and only 16 pitchers have hit the 3,000 plus career strikeout mark. Name the two, please?

A bonus. Three baseball theme movies are on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Top 100 Movie Quotes list. Care to try to name the three and the quotes?

More on Pasadena from the Chron’s Mike Snyder today and here are bits:

(new Mayor Jeff) Wagner deserves a chance to succeed or fail without the burden of (former Mayor Johnny) Isbell’s baggage, and some of the former mayor’s opponents are encouraged by what Wagner is showing them so far. They’re pleased, for example, by his appointments of Latinos to two key positions: former Houston Councilman James Rodriguez as the mayor’s chief of staff, and Pasadena police veteran Lt. Al Espinoza as police chief.

“I’m optimistic,” said Cody Ray Wheeler, one of three Latinos on the council.

And:

One of the things Latino leaders will be watching is whether the city continues its appeal of an order by a federal judge who found that the creation of two at-large council positions intentionally weakened the influence of Latino voters. U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ordered the city to use the old system of eight single-member district positions for this year’s election.

Some mayoral candidates vowed to drop the appeal, which already has cost the city more than $2 million in legal fees. Wagner has said he would ask the council for guidance on the decision; it’s unclear when that will happen.

If Pasadena continues its appeal and prevails, future elections will follow a system of six district and two at-large positions that will make it harder for Latino voices to grow stronger.

Here is the entire column: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/columnists/greater-houston/article/Good-will-at-ceremony-belies-challenges-facing-11263874.php.

Take the at-large council members off the table. It is a distraction. Mayor Wagner only needs these positions if he is politically insecure and he is not.  He can govern without these positions.

And on this Happy Fourth of July, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus tossed a firecracker, err cherry bomb at Dan Patrick. Here is the Speaker’s quote on the bathroom bill:

“I’m not a lawyer, but I am a Texan. I’m disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don’t want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands.”

Strong words on this Fourth of July aimed at the pathetic Patrick.

I am in Baytown this morning hanging with my Dad. Tuesdays and Fridays are their garbage pick-up days and I am thinking since today is a holiday there would not be any pick-up. Then I heard the rumblings of a truck down the street and there it was. I dashed across the house and snatched up the kitchen trash and went out the door and grabbed the bin and barely made it on time. Baytown contracts with Waste Management for trash pick-up so I guess WM doesn’t observe holidays.

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” – “The Pride of the Yankees” is 38 on AFI’s list of top movie quotes.

“If you build it, he will come.” – “Field of Dreams” is 39.

And “There’s no crying in baseball!” – “A League of Their Own” is 54.

And in 1980, Cesar Geronimo was Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th strikeout victim and in 1984, Larry Parrish was Phil Niekro’s numero 3,000 of course.

We didn’t play yesterday but still moved up a game and now we are 15 games up, yep, that’s 15, and we are in The ATL for the next two days.

Have a safe and Happy Fourth of July!

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