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Archive for September, 2017

Another Czar

We now have us a state recovery czar on the Harvey mess. We have us an H-Town recovery czar. We now have a state housing czar on Harvey. We have had an H-Town flooding czar.   How about a what to do with the too much rain czar?

Commentary doesn’t comment on the football fella who takes a knee during the national anthem. I sing it when most folks don’t. Everyone knows the words, so why don’t folks sing it? We can sing Happy Birthday. We can sing “God Bless America.” Why don’t folks sing the national anthem?

We got gypped out of the last play of the game last night. Here is from the Chron:

KPRC (Channel 2) had a “Heidi” moment Thursday night.

The NBC affiliate was so eager to have its newscasters celebrate the Texans’ win over the Bengals that it cut away from the NBC/NFL Network telecast with two seconds to play and the outcome still in doubt.

With the clock at 10:30 p.m. and the game clock showing 0:00 before officials added two seconds for one final play, Channel 2 dumped the network broadcast and rolled its News 2 Houston graphic with the cheery voice of anchor Bill Balleza: “Well, second or no second added, we begin tonight with that Texans’ victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.”

“You saw it right here on Channel 2 just moments ago,” chirped anchor Dominique Sachse.

Only you didn’t. Not all of it, at least.

While the station showed highlights and switched to anchor Keith Garvin and sports director Randy McIlvoy in Cincinnati, fans watching on NFL Network saw the final play, which featured four downfield laterals by the Bengals before J.J. Watt made the final stop to end the game.

McIlvoy and Garvin acknowledged on camera that the final play took place off camera, and Channel 2 aired the play during its sportscast about 20 minutes later.

Viewers, understandably, were irked at the quick cutaway, voicing their displeasure with Channel 2 on social media.

But it could have been worse. The most famous early departure from a NFL game telecast came on Nov. 17, 1968, when NBC cut away from a Jets-Raiders game with a minute to play so it could start a telecast of the children’s tale “Heidi.”

The Jets led 32-29 when the network left the air, but the Raiders scored twice in the final minute to win 43-32. Viewers in the Pacific Time Zone saw the conclusion, but fans in the eastern half of the nation saw a little Swiss girl instead of football.

Known to posterity as the “Heidi Game,” the event is still considered one of the most memorable moments in TV history.

Thursday’s game aired on NBC affiliates only in the home team markets of Houston and Cincinnati.

I remember the Heidi game. Last night wasn’t Heidi but Channel 2 screwed up for sure.

The final homie of the season starts tonight. We have a nooner tomorrow and a nooner next Saturday. They are giving out Houston Strong t-shirts tonight and Springer bobbleheads tomorrow.

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Amendments

On a sad note on Jim Simmon. From the Chron:

“We are saddened at the news of the death of Jim Simmon, our former colleague,” said Chronicle Senior Editor Tony Freemantle.

“We remember him for his sharp wit, his commitment to facts and the truth, and his dedication to holding those in power accountable. He was also a very good man. Our thoughts are with his family and his many friends.”

And this:

As news of the death spread, Houstonians and current and former journalists mourned the loss. “Jim Simmon, my friend, my former editor, fellow product of 1954, fellow kayaker, an irascible blessing to Texas who could say a funny lot with a grunt and write like a Hunter S. Thompson of the Gulf Coast,” (Alan) Bernstein wrote online, “is lost to us now on a permanent basis, and, I hope, is enjoying perpetual roots music in another sphere.”

Here is the read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/article/Former-Houston-Chronicle-editor-found-dead-in-12195710.php.

Sad.

I got letter from the Texas Secretary of State a couple of days ago letting me know that there will be seven constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot. Folks tend to not pay attention to these. If you have been out to The Yard the past two seasons and play the raffle where the winner gets half the prize money and the ‘Stros Foundation gets the other half that’s because a couple of years ago we voted for a constitutional amendment to allow the state’s major league pro sports teams to conduct these raffles. You’d be surprised at the number of folks – many of the most political savviest – don’t know this. Well now you know.

Just so you also know, this year’s Prop 5 deals with the issue again. This time they are adding the minor league clubs and other pro sports groups who want in on the action. Pay attention, please.

The H-Town Mayor is listening for sure. Before he has City Council vote on a tax increase, he is going to try to give us specifics. Here is from Mike Morris and the Chron:

The mayor said his staff will work over the next two to three weeks to better estimate what insurance policies will cover, what the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse and what the city will be left to pay itself.

Bad move on the part of the Harris County GOP Chair for jumping the gun, not waiting for specifics, saying the County is managing the proper way, and making this a partisan issue. Bad move. I wonder if he will now oppose a Harris County tax hike. Bad move. Here again is from the Morris article:

Harris County GOP chair Paul Simpson issued a statement, accusing the city of “chronic waste and misuse of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars” and calling on council members to “reject this opportunistic Tragedy Tax.”

“Not only does the City have cash reserves to meet short-term cash flow needs, the open-ended nature of this tax hike means it would do little to solve real challenges,” Simpson said.

Instead, he said, the city should follow Harris County’s lead in managing its resources.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Wednesday said he would support a large bond issue – perhaps upward of $1 billion – and a tax hike to pay for it to refocus the county’s flood control strategy, including the construction of a new reservoir, continued bayou widening projects and large-scale buyouts of properties that repeatedly flood.

Here is the entire Morris read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/City-plans-hearings-on-Harvey-related-property-12195951.php.

Bad move. When you make it a partisan issue over at the H-Town City Hall, you pretty much guarantee Dems will prevail. That is called counting your votes. Bad move.

Some folks were putting out yesterday’s Texas Trib piece on H-Town’s Flood Czar Stephen Costello. I was reminded by a key player that there was no mention in the Trib piece of the Rebuild H-Town fund which has been in place since 2011. H-Town voters passed the measure in 2010. How can the Rebuild H-Town fund not be mentioned in the Trib piece on flooding in H-Town? Don’t they know?

Here is the Trib piece here: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/09/13/follow-conversation-houstons-flood-czar/?utm_campaign=trib-social-buttons&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social.

FYI: Commentary worked for the Rebuild H-Town campaign.

From Steve Houston:

While FEMA and other forms of aid (no word from Governor Abbott whether the so-called “rainy day fund” will be used to cover what experts have called the “rainiest event in recorded US history”) will cover much of the city’s government losses, it won’t cover it all and in an already tight budget, the city is allowed to make an exception to the revenue cap so hopefully the hearings will allow Bill and others to get the kind of detailed information they will need to support or reject the measure. It should be noted that the average increase was stated at a little over $100, not Bill’s stated “hundreds of dollars”, but there’s some time for the Mayor to offer up specifics so there’s no need to jump the gun.

Bill’s continued attacks on Rebuild Houston also ignore the great many projects the program has accomplished but one need only go to the dedicated website and see what has been done, semantic games aside, a lot has been done that includes flood projects but in a pay as you go program, you’re not going to fund projects like Bill’s pet project, the Ike Dike, or revamp infrastructure that is wildly out of date and collapsing and everyone knows it. Might some of the funding going to buying out homes that repeatedly flood, much like the county plan, or on addressing some of the health concerns arising from the flooding? That seems likely but let’s wait before we join in to look like douches who try to capitalize on storms that made so many miserable. On a related note, contrary to popular opinion, most houses did not flood nor sustain any appreciable damage from Harvey, this needing to be said given the semantic games some politicians are playing.

On a last note, it’s surprising that neither Marc nor Bill made mention of Ed Emmett’s recent speech suggesting the county’s need to issue bonds, a minimum of a billion dollar’s worth at that, to address some of these concerns, as Bill has pointed out in the past, that form of financing can double the true costs, frankly, I’d rather pay an extra $118 now over issuing bonds but Ed is the leading GOP official for the county and has a better handle on these matters than all the Monday morning quarterbacks so I’m sure he’ll elaborate on specifics too when given a chance. Area flood control projects, including the billions championed by Bill for surge protection, are not going to come cheap, nor should we expect the feds to pay for it any more than the governor has made it a priority so get ready for more expenses.

On the ‘Stros: Unless Cleveland cools down, we need to aim for home field advantage in the ALDS and make sure the last four games at Fenway are meaningless. What else can I say?

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Asking Questions

Commentary said this yesterday on the possibility of H-Town property owners paying more taxes:

If we are going to have to cough up more dough, you figure there have to be some trade-offs.

What exactly are we short? What exactly are we paying for? For example, if we lost 334 vehicles, what is the replacement cost for 334 vehicles?

And this:

One question I have is have we – folks from H-Town – ever seen our taxes increased to help pay for damages after a major hurricane or storm?

I have not gotten an answer on this.

Bill King is asking the tough questions and raising some points that ought to be discussed. Here is what Bill put out today:

Many Questions Need to be Answered

Before We Raise the City’s Property Taxes

Harvey was an extraordinary event and calls for an extraordinary response.  That response may include raising more revenue for flood projects in our region.  But the proposal by Sylvester Turner for City Council to immediately raise the City’s property taxes by $113 million raises a number of troubling questions.  

First, let’s not kid ourselves that his money is going to be used to stem flooding.  Since 2012, the City has collected about $800 million in “drainage fees.”  A tiny fraction of that money has actually been spent on flood control projects.  Trust me, none of this $113 million will be.  

Under the property tax cap charter amendment, City Council can raise additional property tax revenue over the cap by an amount “necessitated by city expenditures related to the inclusion of the city in any declaration of an emergency or disaster.

Therefore, the threshold question must be:  How is the $113 million going to be spent?  The only explanations we have gotten so far is that the City will have to pony up about $20 million for it share of debris removal expenses, needs to replace about 300 flooded vehicles and repair some unspecified damages to some of the City’s facilities.  But we have a $20 million “rainy day fund” (recently renamed the Budget Stabilization Fund) for exactly this purpose.  And it should not cost more than about $15 million to replace 300 vehicles.  So where is the rest of the money going?  

And were any of those losses covered by insurance?  I found a note in the 2016 Annual Report that appears to suggest that the City is covered for any flood losses over $10 million.  I do not know if that is actually the case or not.  But if we do not have any coverage, why not?  (And for that matter, why were over 300+ vehicles left where they would be flooded in the first place?)    

How much of these expenses will be covered by donations?  Are there alternatives to raising taxes?  Can some of the TIRZ money be tapped?  City reports show there is about a $50 million fund balance in the “dedicated” drainage fund.  Can that be used?

City Council has an obligation under the charter to demand an accounting of what expenses are necessitated by the disaster before voting to suspend the cap.  To do otherwise raises the question of whether this whole exercise is just a pretext to accomplish what the advocates of repealing the property tax cap knew they could not do at the ballot box.  

There are two things that make me suspicious this is just such a pretext.   First, the increase is exactly (to the one-hundredth percent) the amount the tax rate has been decreased because of the property tax cap.  Are we to believe that the city expenditures necessitated by the storm just happen to come out to that exact number?  

Second, Turner’s main surrogate for the repeal of the property tax cap, Council Member Dwight Boykins, made a telling statement.  He told the Houston Chronicle, “Anything to bust that damn rev cap, I’m in.

I think Boykins statement reflects the true opinion of many at City Hall.  They resent that Houston taxpayers have limited the amount that they can increase the property tax and will use any device or excuse to get rid of the cap, including exploiting a natural disaster.

I think it is also noteworthy that no other taxing jurisdiction in our area has proposed increasing taxes in response to Harvey.  The County and HISD both had more severe damages to their facilities, as did several of our sister cities on a relative basis.  Why is the City of Houston the only jurisdiction that needs to immediately raise its taxes?  

There could also be an unintended consequence from a tax increase.  It could spark a taxpayer backlash that will show up at the polls in the November for the City’s bond election.  My guess is that the improvement bonds are already in trouble since they have no money for streets or drainage.  But this could also imperil the passage of the pension bonds, which have, at least to now, enjoyed a comfortable margin of support.  The additional revenue from this tax increase will pale in comparison to the costs if the City is forced to go back to the drawing board on pensions.  

Many in this City are hurting right now.  True, the proposed tax increase will not make a significant difference to most.  But the optics of the City piling on to their misfortune are ugly and will do much to unravel the unity we have found through this ordeal. 

And it is $113 million that the City Council will decide how to spend instead of taxpayers.  That is $113 million less for Houstonians to repair damaged homes, replace flooded items and give to charities.  

Every tax dollar is a precious trust and especially so under these circumstances.  There may be a case for the City increasing taxes.  But that case has yet to be made.

Kuffer kind of hints at what the tax increase will be used for here:

The point here is that the city has some big unexpected bills to pay. It has to pay for a lot of overtime for police officers and firefighters who were rescuing people during the floods and who are dealing with aftereffects like traffic control. It has to pay for a lot of overtime to Solid Waste employees who are working to pick up the enormous piles of trash around the city. Your taxes are going up by a couple hundred bucks to pay for this. If you have a problem with that, I don’t know what to tell you, other than I can’t abide that kind of thinking.

Here is all of Kuffer: http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=82439.

The Chron E-Board today supports the tax increase without asking the tough questions. Here is a part:

We support – and hope you will, too – Mayor Sylvester Turner’s proposed temporary property tax increase. Houston will receive a sizable amount of state and federal relief funding. The city’s insurance policies will eventually pay out. But it is incumbent on all Houstonians to contribute to the recovery effort, even if it means a higher tax bill in 2018.

Nobody particularly enjoys paying taxes, and we sympathize with homeowners who feel the mayor’s proposal adds insult to injury. We especially feel for those facing the prospect of paying more taxes for flooded homes that are suddenly worth a lot less.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Generating-flood-funds-12192873.php.

Bill makes good points.  So does Kuffer, but specifics, please. Just lay out what we have to pay for. It is pretty simple if you ask me.

I need to talk to James to see if Pasadena is raising taxes.

Baytown is back to curbside recycling so I guess they won’t see a tax increase.

HISD suffered $700 million in damages. I wonder if they will raise taxes.

Hunker Down hasn’t signaled a tax increase.

Stay tuned.

We still have 18 games to play and they already released next season’s schedule. Here is from Tags:

HOUSTON — The Astros will open the 2018 season on the road March 29 against American League West foe Texas, marking the second time in club history they open the season against their Lone Star State rivals. Major League Baseball released the 2018 schedule on Tuesday.

The 2018 season will be the first under the new scheduling format agreed to as part of the 2017-2021 Basic Agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The new format extends the length of the season by adding an additional weekend of play at the beginning of the season.

And:

The March 29 start date will mark the earliest Opening Day in Major League history, excluding special season openers at international venues.

The Astros, who have won five consecutive games on Opening Day, will play the Rangers 19 times next year, but none in the final two months of the season. When the Rangers visit Minute Maid Park July 27-29, it will be the final meeting of the season between the teams.

And:

Houston’s longest road trip is 10 games through Texas (June 7-10), Oakland (June 12-14) and Kansas City (June 15-17). Its longest homestand is 11 games, when the White Sox (July 5-8), A’s (July 9-12) and Tigers (July 13-15) come to Minute Maid Park.

Interleague Play will include matchups against all five NL West clubs, four of which will be at home: the Padres (April 6-8), Giants (May 22-23), Rockies (August 14-15) and D-backs (Sept. 14-16). The Astros will travel to the D-backs (May 4-6), Rockies (July 24-25), Dodgers (Aug. 3-5) and Giants (Aug. 6-7).

We won last night and are 87-57.

 

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Trade-Offs

The H-Town Mayor wants to increase our property taxes to help pay for stuff after the Harvey mess.

One question I have is have we – folks from H-Town – ever seen our taxes increased to help pay for damages after a major hurricane or storm?

Here is the start of Mike Morris’ story from the Chron:

Mayor Sylvester Turner will ask City Council to approve an 8.9 percent hike in the city’s tax rate this fall to help Houston recover from Tropical Storm Harvey, in what would be the first tax rate hike from City Hall in more than two decades.

The average Houston homeowner would pay $118 more in property taxes next year under the proposal, which will begin a series of public hearings later this month and reach a formal vote in mid-October.

The tax rate would rise from 58.64 cents per $100 of appraised value – the lowest city tax rate since the late 1980s – to 63.87 cents. That was the rate from 2009 through 2013, when a 13-year-old voter-imposed limit on Houston’s property tax collections first began forcing City Council to cut the rate each year to avoid bringing in more revenue than was allowed.

Turner is able to propose an increase beyond the strictures of the revenue cap – allowing the city to collect an extra $113 million for one year – because Harvey placed Houston under a federal disaster declaration.

“If this is not an emergency, I don’t know what is. What we’re able to recoup from one year, the $113 million, will not even be enough to cover the expenses we will have incurred,” Turner said Monday. “What we don’t get from the feds we’ll have to come up with ourselves. I would be not doing my job if I did not advance it.”

Debris removal could cost more than $200 million and will require Houston to foot 10 percent of the bill without being reimbursed. The city also lost 334 vehicles to floodwaters and saw its municipal courts complex, city hall and its adjacent annex and two wastewater treatment plants knocked offline.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Turner-proposes-tax-rate-hike-for-Harvey-response-12189814.php.

In the article, seven members of the H-Town City Council had a comment. All four Dems supported the Mayor and three GOPers opposed.

If we are going to have to cough up more dough, you figure there have to be some trade-offs.

What exactly are we short? What exactly are we paying for? For example, if we lost 334 vehicles, what is the replacement cost for 334 vehicles?

How about tougher regulations to keep folks from building in areas that flood easily?

How about committing to some of the 12 points raised by the Chron E-Board this past Sunday?

I know this may sound cold blooded. The property owners who suffered severe damage probably feel that they should be exempt from paying more taxes. The property owners who didn’t suffer any damage may wonder why they should paying for clean-up in other parts of town. Interesting dilemma. Nobody gets a free ride though.

To the GOPers who have a problem with paying more taxes, how about getting Gov. Greg Abbott to shake some serious money loose from the so called Rainy Day Fund to help pay for the recovery.

Stay tuned on this item for sure.

It looks like Hunker Down reads Commentary. I said this yesterday:

Commentary gets that all of our local elected officials have been busy trying to help their constituents that sustained flood damage and they have not had the time to focus on next steps. It will be interesting to see which ones will finally get around to embracing major changes in how we do things around here.

This is the co-headline in today’s  Chron:

COUNTY: Emmett eyes upgrades for dams, reservoirs, regulations

Here is the start of the article:

Calling Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastation a “game-changer,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Monday called for a sweeping reexamination of the region’s flood control strategy, a process that could include billions of dollars to upgrade aging dams, building a new storm water reservoir and ramping up regulations to tamp down booming development in flood-prone areas.

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Emmett-calls-for-sweeping-changes-to-region-s-12189908.php.

Nice! Let’s get others on the program.

Here is from Commentary’s client, Gretchen Himsl for HISD Trustee, District 1:

Dear Friends,

As we move into the final eight weeks, I wanted to take a moment to provide an update on our campaign. First, our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey. We are saddened by the devastating losses our fellow Houstonians experienced, but also inspired by the acts of heroism large and small we witnessed in the storm’s aftermath. It’s what makes Houston such an amazing place to call home, and I look forward to continuing to help our city and our schools rebuild.

As we try to return to normal, I want to report that our campaign continues to gain momentum. I’m excited to announce the endorsement by City Councilmember Karla Cisneros, who previously represented District I on the School Board and now serves a large number of its residents at City Hall.

Houstonians for Great Public Schools (www.houstongps.org) also endorsed me, joining other public education advocates such as current HISD Trustee Anna Eastman, State Representative Garnet Coleman, former State Representative Scott Hochberg, and former HISD Trustees Paula Arnold, Dianne Johnson, and Cathy Mincberg. A full list of supporters can be found on our updated website at www.gretchenforhisd.com.

Our voter outreach efforts will kick back up this weekend — walking neighborhoods and hosting weekly meet and greet events with our District I neighbors. If you would like to help, please contact us by email, phone, website, Facebook or Twitter – there’s a job for everyone! This also is a good time to check your voter registration. The last day to register is October 7. If you aren’t sure about your registration, please visit http://www.hctax.net/Voter/Search and enter your name. We have more details on how to register on our website.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has contributed financially to our campaign. We have been blessed by the generous support of so many friends and neighbors. Campaigns are expensive, even at this local level. The contributions you make at the website https://tinyurl.com/contributetoGretchen will go directly to communicating our message to the voters of District I in the coming weeks. Thank you again for your support!

Sincerely,

Gretchen

Paid for by the Gretchen Himsl Campaign.

The ‘Stros need to start playing better. That’s all I have to say as Justin Verlander starts this evening.

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Patriot Day

It seems like it has been more than 16 years. Commentary is talking about September 11, 2001. Maybe it is because of the events of the last couple of weeks and for me personally having to deal with family stuff over the last 18 months or so. I still remember.

And we are still at war.

One calendar I have says Patriot Day, the other doesn’t.

Good luck to the many schools around here that are opening today.

Last week a number of prominent folks came out with Op-Eds, blogs, and other social media posts on drastically changing the way we handle rainwater in these parts. There were also a number of articles written on the subject in various publications and media outlets. There were a few folks who just said to get bigger umbrellas.

In yesterday’s Chron, the E-Board laid out a blueprint of sorts on what we need to do. Here are their 12 points:

  1. Establish a regional flood control authority
  2. Build a third reservoir
  3. Build the coastal barrier system
  4. Buy the Westwood Golf Club
  5. Approve new funding streams
  6. Require more effective land-use regulations
  7. Reform the National Flood Insurance Program
  8. Insist on a transparent Corps of Engineers
  9. Reinvigorate our politics
  10. Protect renters
  11. Help schools rebuild
  12. Establish a national emergency website address

Here is the entire must read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Fight-flooding-now-12185716.php.

Commentary gets that all of our local elected officials have been busy trying to help their constituents that sustained flood damage and they have not had the time to focus on next steps. It will be interesting to see which ones will finally get around to embracing major changes in how we do things around here. Stay tuned for sure.

Kuffer has a take today on how Harvey has kind of put the local elections on hold. Here is a part:

And then Harvey came to call. In addition to the devastation and misery, as well as triumph of the spirit, it has knocked the usual campaign schedule for a huge loop. I know of at least one candidate whose house flooded, but every candidate has suspended their campaign activities, out of respect for the victims and to pitch in for the recovery. I have no idea at this point when enough of us will feel normal enough to get back to the usual business of running for office and picking candidates to vote for. Election Day is November 7, so early voting will begin October 23. I think it’s safe to say we’re going to get that mad dash to the finish line, though likely with a lot of hearts not really in it. Though I totally understand this, it is a bit of a concern. HISD has even more challenges ahead of it, and two-thirds of its Trustee seats are up for a vote. Three Trustees are stepping down. One Trustee was appointed earlier this year to fill out the term of a Trustee who resigned. Another Trustee won a special election last December for the same reason. Only one Trustee who had previously been elected to a full term is on the ballot, current Board President Wanda Adams, and she has several opponents. The HISD Board will be somewhere between “very different” and “completely remade” net year. It’s a pretty big deal. The HCC Board has three contested elections, two for Trustees who won special elections to fill out terms, and one to succeed the disgraced Chris Oliver. Again, the potential for change is big.

The good news, I suppose, is that while basically no one is paying attention to any of these races, there are at least fewer races for them to not pay attention to. Imagine if we had a full slate of city elections going on now, too. Campaigns attract money and volunteer energy, two things that are desperately needed for Harvey relief right now. I have to say, I’m not unhappy with the way events in the term limits lawsuit played out.

Here is all of Kuffer’s take: http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=82341.

One of Commentary’s political clients took incoming this weekend from supporters of her opponents. I guess they think she is the frontrunner or something like that. Anyway, game one.

The only thing you can say about the Texans is they were not prepared.

The ‘Stros no longer have the best record in the AL thanks to Cleveland’s 18 game winning streak.

We have 19 games left – 10 roadies and 9 at The Yard.

No MLB question today.

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They warned us

That’s the headline of today’s lead Chron E-Board take.   For years we have been warned about a Harvey like event and our leadership has done absolutely nothing.

What is it going to take?

Here is how the E-Board take starts today:

Who could have predicted the disaster wrought by Hurricane Harvey?

Who could have foreseen that the Addicks Dam would overflow its spillway? Or that dangerous materials from EPA Superfund sites could be washed into floodwaters? Or that chemical companies could keep the public in the dark about toxic risks while their plants burned?

The answer, of course, is that plenty of people saw this coming.

Hydrologists and activists had long warned about how unplanned development would risk routine flooding.

Environmentalists and investigative reporters warned about the toxic threats that loomed in the east end of our city.

Climate scientists warned that a warming planet could bring stronger storms and monsoon-like rains that we experienced less than two weeks back.

And it ends like this:

Harvey was a catastrophe. The Tax Day flood in 2016 was a catastrophe. The Memorial Day flood in 2015 was a catastrophe, and so were the litany of other major flooding events that have struck our city. One-hundred-year floods have become one-year floods. Yet far too many developers, lobbyists and politicians want to turn their backs to the potential death and destruction. Think of it as a man who survived a series of heart attacks but argues that, since it didn’t kill him, there’s no reason to stop eating cheeseburgers and fries twice a day.

We need to stop yielding political power to those who insist there’s little we can or should do to keep us safe. Because nothing can be further from the truth. Plenty of Houstonians warned us. They’ve spent years futilely trying to turn their ideas into action, only to see their efforts quashed by a political structure that insists there’s no improving upon unregulated concrete, and no avoiding a flood.

This political structure was exemplified by former Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Mike Talbott, who refused to study global warming and its impact on our region, who dismissed warnings about runoff from a developed Katy Prairie, and denigrated concerns from scientists and conservationists as “anti-development.”

Talbott may have left office, but that philosophy of development at any cost remains the status quo around Commissioners Court, City Hall and the state Legislature.

Hydrologists, environmentalists, scientists and activists offered a prescient vision of destruction that went ignored. If Houston wants to rebuild a resilient city, then we must lift those with true foresight out of the political wilderness and put them in proximity to the levers of power.

Here is the entire must read take: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/They-warned-us-but-few-listened-12181607.php.

What a darn shame. Commentary is embarrassed. We have been let down for sure and don’t let anyone argue this with you. It is good to see the E-Board calling out the leadership past and present. It is well deserved.

Who is ready to challenge the “political structure” on this pressing issue? Commentary will stand with you for sure.   This is what the folks want and are looking for and need.

The H-Town Mayor, Hunker Down, the H-Town Police Chief, and the Harris County Sheriff have all been getting props for their work the past couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the HISD Superintendent is trying to get schools ready for 218,000 students.

Here is Bill King on DACA:

The Dilemma of DACA

In Charles Dickens’ classic, Oliver Twist, when Mr. Bumble is told that the law presumes he controls his wife’s actions, he declares that “the law is an ass.”  Similarly, the current law which provides that children who are brought to this country illegally by their parents should be deported back to the country where they were born is an ass.  So are the 15% of Americans who think these young people should be deported.  

And there is no question that it is shameful that Congress has not already acted to fix this law.  But fixing the law through executive action, as President Obama did, pits two of our fundamental principles against each other.

The first, of course, is fundamental fairness.  We do not hold children guilty for the sins of their parents.  Our law, in fact, does not even hold children guilty for crimes they commit.  Make no mistake: deporting a person to a country they have never seen and where they do speak the language; ripping them from friends, family, their school or job, their community; is an unthinkably harsh punishment for a crime they did not commit.  That is why 85% of Americans oppose their deportation.

The second principle is incorporated into Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution which provides that the president “take care of that the laws be faithfully executed.”  Most public officials are required to take an oath solemnizing the commonsense notion that executive officers are supposed to enforce the laws passed by the legislative bodies and not make up their own or decide which laws should be enforced.  To do otherwise violates our principle of the separation of powers.  

Of course, the concept of prosecutorial discretion is firmly established in our law.  In fact, the principle is mandated by the ethical rules for prosecutors to “seek justice, not merely to convict.”  The simplest example of prosecutorial discretion is when a police officer decides to issue a warning instead of a speeding citation.  I doubt many of us would accuse the officer of violating his oath of office or the separation of powers for issuing the warning; especially if we are the speeder!  But, I suspect most would feel differently if our local police chief announced he had decided that speeding laws were unnecessary and that the police force would no longer enforce them.  

I do not fault President Obama for issuing DACA in the face of Congress’ failure to act.  No, any fault for this situation must be laid directly at the feet of our worthless, cowardly Congress who will not stand up to partisan extremists to solve this problem.  

I think President Trump is genuinely conflicted on DACA, both as a matter of conviction and politics.  But if he really “loved” these young people he should have offered and pressed for legislation to address the issue and not just pass the hot potato to Congress.  But irrespective of his motives, he is right that Congress should act.

Even President Obama conceded DACA was a stopgap measure.  While DACA was a welcome life ring for these young people, it was never true security.  Congress needs to fix this and fix it now; and provide permanent security for those stuck in this legal limbo through no fault of their own.  

In a strange irony, President Trump is putting some of his most ardent Congressional supporters between a rock and a hard spot.  Trust me, while Republicans in Congress loved to rail against President Obama’s “usurpation” of their power, they were also enormously relieved they did not have to vote on an issue strongly favored by the districts but largely opposed by their primary voters.  And they know all too well that the first of these DACA young people that is actually deported with every news outlet in the world covering it live every step of the way, will be the end of the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.  

Here’s the bottom line.  85% of Americans agree that those brought here as children illegally should not be deported.  If Congress cannot act and continues to allow 15% of the country to impose its will on the other 85% of us, we need to fire the whole bunch and start over.

It is back to local campaigning tomorrow for some organizations.

I am skipping the MLB question today.

Cleveland has now won 15 in a row and are now 2 ½ behind us for the best record in the AL.

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Another Czar

What is our magic number to clinch the AL best record?

This is from the City of H-Town’s website:

Houston residents, please remember that due to the disaster debris collection efforts, the only regularly scheduled solid waste service is garbage collection. All other scheduled services – curbside recycling, yard waste and junk/tree waste – are suspended until further notice. Please do not put your green cart with recycling or yard waste bags out, they will not be collected. We appreciate your cooperation and patience as we all recover together.

I guess my neighbors haven’t seen the memo. A number of them have their green bins out on the street today.

I guess we got us another czar of sorts. I just hope it doesn’t end up being another layer of red tape. Here is from the Trib:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is tapping John Sharp, the chancellor of Texas A&M University, to lead the rebuilding effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Sharp will chair the newly formed Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas, according to Abbott’s office. The governor is expected to unveil the commission at a news conference Thursday at the state Capitol.

Sharp has served as chancellor of the A&M system since 2011. Years before that, he was a longtime Democratic elected official, serving as the comptroller, in both houses of the state legislature and on the Railroad Commission. 

When he served in the state Senate in the 1980s, Sharp’s Victoria-based district included communities that were hardest hit by Harvey when it made landfall last month as a Category 4 storm.

Abbott’s appointment of Sharp to lead the commission was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Sharp is not expected to have to leave his job at A&M for the new position. 

I would have preferred a commission on how to get our act together on dealing with all the rain when it gets here.

Politico has a piece today on how Dem leaders are reacting to Sec. Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book tour. Here is the article: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/07/hillary-clinton-book-tour-democrats-242419.

She ought to know by now that she is the favorite target of the right wing crowd.   If she wants to put herself out there, well it is her choice. I would prefer to move forward. It just distracts from Dems going after the GOP on issues like DACA.

21 is our magic number to clinch the AL best record of course. 9 for the AL West title.

We have won 7 in a row. Cleveland has won 14 in a row. The D-Backs have won 13 in a row.

 

 

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Rest My Case

We are 85-53. Our best season ever was in 1998 when we went 102-60. When did we have our second best season?

I rest my case. I am real pi__ed off. Check this from the Chron today:

DALLAS (AP) — A report released two decades ago on the Harris County reservoir system predicted with alarming accuracy the catastrophic flooding that would besiege the Houston area if changes weren’t made in the face of rapid development.

The report released in 1996 by engineers with the Harris County Flood Control District said the Addicks and Barker reservoirs were adequate when built in the 1940s. But it noted that as entire neighborhoods sprouted over the years around the reservoirs in western Harris County, as many as 25,000 homes and businesses at the time were exposed to the kind of flooding Harvey has now brought.

In the report obtained by The Dallas Morning News , engineers proposed a $400 million solution that involved building a massive underground conduit that would more quickly carry water out of the reservoirs and into the Houston Ship Channel. The conceptual plan envisioned a conduit consisting of eight channels to carry water out of the reservoirs and safely past developed areas downstream.

“The primary flood threat facing the citizens of west Harris County and west Houston comes from the inability to drain the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in an efficient manner,” the report said.

When asked about the report, Harris County flood control officials said they could not immediately locate a copy and were unfamiliar with the details.

“What I recall is, and I haven’t read the report since back then, was that it was going to be very difficult to do physically,” said Steve Fitzgerald, the flood control district’s longtime chief engineer.

Here is the entire read: http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/Engineers-20-years-ago-warned-of-flooding-risk-12175182.php.

We spent hundreds of millions on The Yard, Toyota, and NRG, but not this.

I also saw a piece today that I can’t find now from the Chron from a January 2017 piece on stuff we should be doing but we are not.

Governing is hard. Courage is harder.

This from The Hill:

The Trump administration is advising beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to “prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States,” ABC News reported Tuesday.

Talking points distributed to GOP lawmakers and obtained by ABC News say that DACA recipients should use their remaining time in the U.S. to get their affairs in order, after President Trump rescinded the program Tuesday.

“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States – including proactively seeking travel documentation – or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible,” the document says.

Multiple sources confirmed the authenticity of the talking points to ABC News.

Trump has been pushing members of Congress to take legislative action on DACA’s protections before the end of a six-month phase-out period for the program.

“As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion – but through the lawful democratic process,” Trump said in a statement, adding: “It is now time for Congress to act!”

Still, the president’s decision to end the program, which shields certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation, spurred widespread criticism and prompted some lawmakers to urge swift legislative action on the matter.

In a Tuesday night tweet, Trump said that if lawmakers were unable to pass a measure addressing DACA’s protections, he would revisit his decision to end the program. 

Royko sent me this:

There’s two sides to the argument.

The problem was made worse over the past several years when Obama allowed unknown numbers of unaccompanied “children” to be released and disbursed throughout the nation with no monitoring. And one wonders why vicious gangs such as MS-13 are so widespread throughout the nation.

From the internet:

It only took half a decade, but finally, someone has discovered a use for the Apple Watch, the watch made by Apple. The New York Times reports that the Boston Red Sox used the device to help steal hand signs from the New York Yankees. Personnel monitoring video would watch the catcher to see what signs he was giving to the pitcher and then send that on to the dugout, where an athletic trainer would relay information about upcoming pitches to players.

The Red Sox are cheaters.

The 1999 ‘Stros went 97-65 of course.

Justin Verlander picked up the win last night.

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H-Town is DACA Strong

H-Town has one of the largest DACA communities in the nation. They are a vibrant and productive part of who we are. I want our leadership to stand strong for DACA. Where does the H-Town GOP leadership stand on DACA today?

I read two very troubling Op-Eds on Harvey the last couple of days. One of the pieces was authored by a construction company owner and it ran in Texas Monthly. The other ran in the Chron. They both said don’t worry about it, it just rained too much. One said don’t blame sprawl. The other called folks that want serious changes on how we build around these parts “narrative spinners.” These guys don’t get it.

Here is from one of the pieces:

 WE’VE SEEN a flurry of commentators in the past few days attributing Houston’s flooding to a litany of pet political causes. Aside from the normal carping about climate change, several pundits and journalists have opportunistically seized upon Houston’s famously lax zoning and land use regulations to blame Harvey’s destruction on sprawl and call for “smart growth” policies that restrict and heavily regulate future construction in the city.

What is this fella on? Are we just supposed to take it?   There are some places that flooded that have never flooded before. Are we just supposed to say it rained too much? We need to take a serious look at what happened and don’t rule out anything. These two fellas are way out of touch.

Here are the two Op-Eds. If you agree with them, have at it and get you a houseboat.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Don-t-blame-sprawl-for-Houston-s-floods-12172004.php.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/communitarian-view-hurricane-harvey/.

On the lighter side, the SiriusXM Beatles Channel ran this past weekend (over and over) the Top 100 Beatles songs as voted on by Beatles Channel listeners or subscribers. Here is the Top Ten:

  1. A Day in the Life
  2. In My Life
  3. Hey Jude
  4. Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came in Through the Bathroom Window/Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weigh/The End
  5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  6. Here Comes the Sun
  7. Strawberry Fields Forever
  8. Something
  9. Let it Be
  10. Yesterday

I am not complaining because I didn’t take the time to vote.   I will say “Hey, Bulldog” at number 13? This just reminds you how great and talented they were that “She Loves You”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “The Long and Winding Road”, “All You Need is Love”, “Come Together”, “Help”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, just to name a few didn’t make Top 10 status, plus not a tune from the “Revolver” album. Three are John’s, three are Paul’s, three are George’s, and one is John’s and Paul’s – got it?

Remember when the Dodgers seemed invincible. They still have the best record in MLB but they have lost 9 out of their last 10.

Remember when the ‘Stros cut J.D. Martinez at the beginning of the 2014 season? He’s only hit 117 MLB dingers since then. He had four yesterday against the Dodgers.

Justin Verlander pitches tonight for the ‘Stros.

We are already talking magic numbers with 25 games left.

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On Labor Day

An ABC News tweet:

Pres. Trump praises Coast Guard for saving people “by going into winds that the media would not go into…unless it’s a really good story.”

Terminating DACA.

This fella is a despicable thug and same thing for anyone associated with him.

I wonder if this is just a one day and one article story. From the Chron:

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday endorsed imposing new development restrictions on rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Harvey to prevent future repeats of the disastrous flooding in the Houston area.

In the past, local plans to limit and control runoff from large-rainfall storms have been sidetracked by high costs and by opposition from business and development interests in a city without zoning controls.

Abbott’s comments appeared to put him on the side of new development limits, surely for additional flood-control protections, in a city where the issue has been politically challenging for decades.

“As we go through the build-out phase, and rebuilding Texas, part of our focus must be on rebuilding in a way that will prevent a disaster like this from happening again,” he told reporters before speaking during Sunday services at the Hyde Park Baptist Church, on the official Day of Prayer he proclaimed last week in Harvey’s aftermath.

“An easy thing to say about this is we need to create the water ways and the water runoff, capture and distribution, in ways that we will be able to get flood waters out of the way without it creeping back up into flooding houses and other buildings.”

Here is the entire read: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-weather/hurricaneharvey/article/Abbott-Rebuild-coastal-areas-to-abate-flood-12170525.php.

I am thinking nothing comes from this. The political courage and political will thing, you know, just saying. Maybe if J.J. Watt was in charge, maybe.

I am having to deal with a fallen tree thanks to Harvey in my Dad’s back yard. It is covered with poison ivy so a trip to Home Depot was required and I learned that there is a poison ivy killer spray. We have to wait for the ivy to completely die before we put the chainsaw to the tree. It is big arse tree.

Commentary doesn’t like to talk about college sports but I did find this tweet funny today:

Katherine Kekua‏ @RealLennayKekua 11h11 hours ago

Kevin Sumlin just passed Joel Osteen as most hated person in Texas

We pay these fellas too much money.

One of the hottest items at The Yard this past weekend were the Houston Strong ‘Stros shirts. They ran out.

We are 83-53 and three games up on Cleveland and now on the West Coast for a ten game roadie.

Make the most of your Labor Day.

 

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