Archive for November, 2017

The Latest Candidate

Among active MLBers, where does Jose Altuve rank in the career batting average category?

This is from today’s Chron:

AUSTIN – Democratic Party officials confirmed Wednesday that Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez – the state’s first Hispanic lesbian sheriff – plans to resign from her current post to run for Texas governor as a Democrat.

If she files as a candidate next week, as Democratic Party officials said she will, Valdez would likely be viewed as the front-runner in a crowded field.

Ok. That’s promising, but then this:

She has also widely been reported to be a personal choice of state Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa to be the 2018 standard-bearer for a party that has not won a statewide office since 1995.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/Dallas-sheriff-plans-to-run-for-Texas-governor-as-12393737.php.

Everyone knows that Commentary isn’t and has not been a fan of the folks who have been running the state Dem Party. The election results speak for themselves so don’t even bother trying to argue with me. The key reason I like the Cong. Beto O’Rourke campaign for U.S. Senate is because it was not created by Dem Party leaders and shoved down our throats. Beto’s was organic through and through.   When I read that the Dallas county sheriff is the “personal choice of state Democratic Party Chair”, I get worried and you should too. I just don’t have any confidence in the folks who run the state Dem Party.   Do you? That’s really not the way statewide candidacies ought to be created these days.  A listening tour of sorts would have been preferred.

Oh, well!

CNN is not going to the White House Christmas party for the media this Friday. Good for them. What is up with the media members who are going? Don’t they remember that they are the enemy of the people?  Don’t they remember that they are fake?

BakerRipley is going local and good for them and us. Here is their press release from yesterday.

Our very own, Claudia Aguirre-Vasquez will be our New President and Chief Executive Officer.

Claudia Aguirre-Vasquez has been named the new President and Chief Executive Officer of BakerRipley, one of Houston’s leading non-profit agencies. The decision was announced today by Mike Ballases, Chair of the agency’s Board of Directors.

“We conducted an extensive national search and narrowed our list to internal and external candidates from across the nation,” stated Mike Ballases. “In the end, Claudia emerged as the one person who matched all of our criteria. We are confident that she will build upon our history of response to underserved communities. Claudia embodies the agency’s core values and has demonstrated a deep commitment to our mission.” 

Aguirre-Vasquez, currently Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer, has been with the agency since 2010. As Chief Program Officer she worked with the Board on the integration of programs across divisions and sectors. Aguirre-Vasquez has led the program development of six community centers, overseen the expansion of the BakerRipley Promise Community School District, and enhanced programs in civic engagement, small business incubation and immigration services. She has also developed innovative responses to emerging communities, such as the BakerRipley New Neighbor School, a nationally recognized school for newly-arrived immigrant and refugee children. 

Aguirre-Vasquez successfully managed the agency’s expansion efforts into the Near Northside and East Aldine communities. During BakerRipley’s capital campaign she led the volunteer fundraising committee for East Aldine. Her metrics-driven approaches have greatly strengthened the agency’s fundraising efforts.   

Aguirre-Vasquez holds a Master of Education degree from the University of Houston and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Saint Edward’s University. She also holds a Principal’s Middle Management and Superintendent Certification. 

“Claudia Aguirre-Vasquez has been a strong leader at BakerRipley. I believe in investing in the leaders already here, those with an understanding of regional challenges and resources. When we do that, the entire region grows stronger. I’m thrilled with the Board’s decision.” said Angela Blanchard, current CEO.

“We live in a fast-growing region of the country. As a leading community development organization we must be prepared to evolve and respond to emerging communities. I am excited and honored to extend my lifelong service to community in this new role.” said Aguirre-Vasquez.

Aguirre-Vasquez will formally assume her new role in January 2018.

I am not going to spend much time about Hunker Down and his state of the county speech the other day. He chastised the state GOP elected leadership. I wonder if he will get a GOP primary challenger? We will know in eleven days for sure.

With a .316 career batting average, Jose Altuve ranks second among MLB active players of course and Miguel Cabrera ranks number one with a .317 career batting average.

Baseball American named our own A.J. Hinch Skipper of the Year. Who else would it be? Congrats!

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George Harrison left us 16 years ago today.

There is no MLB question today.

Early Voting in the HISD and HCC runoffs begins today.

The Chron E-Board endorsed Gretchen Himsl for HISD Trustee, District 1. Well deserved. A very nice write-up. Here it is:

Houston ISD, trustee, District I: Gretchen Himsl

Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest public school system in the nation and the largest in Texas, is at a crossroads. The school district is facing a takeover by the state for failure to improve about a dozen schools. This drastic step would mean that Houston voters would lose the right to elect officials to govern the school system, which educates 216,000 of our children, and for which we pay local property taxes. The district also faced a budgetary shortfall even before Hurricane Harvey cut a path of destruction across the district and damaged many of its schools.

These are hard issues, and voters need to elect the candidate best qualified to deal with the complexity.

Two candidates are in a runoff for trustee of District I, a position that was ably held by Anna Eastman for eight years: Elizabeth Santos, a schoolteacher, and Gretchen Himsl, who works at Children At Risk, a Houston nonprofit.

Both have demonstrated a commitment to students through their actions for many years, Santos in the classroom and Himsl in the policymaking and volunteer world. Both women care deeply about public education.

The two candidates also agree on several policy points, including the need to rein in high-stakes testing.

But the similarities stop there. The two candidates bring markedly different skill sets to the table. Himsl is a policy wonk and volunteer. Santos is a passionate educator and advocate.

At a time when the future of the entire district has been brought into question, voters should pick someone with the skills to analyze and articulate the policies that can save HISD – and the ability to implement them as solutions. That candidate is Gretchen Himsl.

This is the sort of race that makes us wish the HISD board was a mix of at-large and district board members. Himsl offers a top-down policy expertise that HISD needs now, but Santos possess an informed, on-the-ground perspective of a woman who speaks to the soul of our schools. Her insight as a teacher gives her the ability to cut straight to the problems of how board policies impact and often disrupt the classroom. As she told the editorial board, you don’t need a standardized test to tell you that a classroom with 40 students is going to do worse than classroom with 20 students. Santos embodies the next generation of Houston leadership and would be a fine representative for District I.

However, as HISD wrangles with the Texas Education Agency, we have to think about a picture bigger than a single district. The entire system needs someone who understands policy and process from top to bottom. That’s where Himsl shines.

She spent years working as a staff member on the House Appropriations Committee in Austin and analyzes education policy in her job at Children At Risk. She’s supplemented this knowledge by enrolling as a fellow in the first class of Leadership ISD, a nonprofit, devoted to developing and connecting leaders, lead strategically and champion change in the public school system. Himsl, 46, also holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Policy.

But there’s more than résumé to Himsl. She has the practical, on-the-ground experience of a former PTA president and can rattle off issues facing individual schools. She speaks in specific and actionable options for ameliorating cumbersome yet mandatory standardized tests. In the heat of the debate, she offers a calm pillar of knowledge.

“I’ve been doing public policy for 20 years now and so I have experience with going deep in knotty problems, and that’s what HISD is facing right now, which is complicated, long-term problems.” Himsl told the editorial board, and that’s probably the best summary of why voters should select her.

District I covers inner Loop and north Houston neighborhoods including Garden Oaks, the Heights and Near Northside.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/recommendations/article/Endorsements-for-HCC-and-HISD-runoffs-12390401.php.

Gretchen certainly knows public education policy.

FYI: Gretchen is Commentary’s client.

Go vote early, please.

Andrew White is probably going to run for governor in the Dem Primary. I don’t know of a single Dem who is supporting White. Of course, I don’t know of a single Dem who is supporting anyone for governor in the Dem Party primary.

Yesterday, I spent over three quarters of the working day taking my Dad to a medical appointment. It is always a trip dealing with my Dad on these excursions. It is what you do when he is 94 years of age.

I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but Opening Day is four months from today when we open on the road in Arlington.

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Another Justin Verlander question. Where does he rank in career strikeouts among active MLB pitchers?

Commentary doesn’t follow the Royals, but I know about them because “Today” and CNN always let me know what they are up to. I know who Meghan Markle is because the flat screen let me know she is going out with Prince Harry. Now they are engaged.   I now know she is biracial and so what. The toxic times we live in have folks on social media making a fuss over it.

This is in part brought about because the toxic times say it is Ok to drop racial slurs at The White House and get away with it. The guy who lives there dropped them yesterday.

Then the Veritas folks got caught lying again trying to set up the Washington Post and now some folks are saying they were doing God’s work. The toxic times we live in.

A toxic times twitter chatter kept the Tennessee Volunteers from hiring a thoroughly vetted coaching prospect.

Early Voting in Person in the HISD and HCC runoffs start tomorrow and end next Tuesday and not yesterday and end next Monday like a few tweets said yesterday. Get your facts straight, please!

This came as a surprise. This fella is one of the leaders in the immigration reform fight in DC. I wonder if there is a story behind this or did he just decide to fight from another platform. Here is this:

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) a leading national voice on immigration reform, will not seek reelection, three Democratic sources with knowledge of the decision told POLITICO.

Gutierrez, who has held his seat since 1993, is expected to announce Tuesday afternoon he’s withdrawing the nominating petitions he just filed on Monday and will formally endorse Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, had forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff election in 2015. His bid for Gutierrez’s seat means Garcia will not challenge Emanuel again in 2019 as he had previously planned, sources tell POLITICO. With petition filing open on Monday, candidates for Gutierrez’s open seat will have to turn in nearly 7,000 signatures in less than a week.

Sources say discussions between Garcia and Gutierrez began Friday. Two Democratic sources said that polling already had been done in the district and showed Garcia with a strong lead among possible opponents. In his 24 years in Congress, Gutierrez, 63, was an immigration reform activist who easily won reelection by some of the largest margins of the Illinois congressional delegation. Of late he’s risen as vocal critic of the Trump administration’s response in the wake of a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico.

Gutiérrez’s spokesman, Douglas Rivlin said he couldn’t comment.

“I don’t know anything. I don’t know anything,” he said late Monday.

Garcia will begin circulating petitions for Gutierrez’s post on Tuesday.

What a surprise, for sure.

When folks in these parts don’t want to weigh in on stuff when they should, you have to wonder. Just like a lot of folks ducked the issue of all that out-of-state PAC money in the HISD races – $225,000. Gutless if you ask me. And don’t even try to argue with me. Hey, maybe their preferred candidates are benefitting from this out-of-town dough. These folks are officially out of the too much big money in campaigns debate. And I will remind them. Stay tuned.

Just like a lot of folks duck arguing with Bill King. Here is Bill’s latest:

In the 2015 mayoral election, all of the candidates except Steve Costello agreed that the drainage fee adopted by voters in 2010 had serious problems. Each of the candidates had various prescriptions. Turner agreed, expressing his concerns about how the money was being spent and promised a complete review of the program. Two years later we are still waiting.

In response to some questions from Council, Controller Chris Brown has been promising an “audit” of the Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal Fund (DDSRF), which was finally released last week. It is a farce.

The audit examined three projects which totaled about $44 million. Through the end of this fiscal year, about $1.4 billion will have been deposited into the DDSRF. So, this audit covers a whopping 3% of the total.  [Click here to read the audit.]

The report includes an appendix which lists 35 projects that it indicates are completed “using the drainage utility fee component” from 2014-2016 at a cost of $246 million. There is no explanation of that phrase nor are there any supporting schedules. Presumably, the report is suggesting that these are the projects that were paid for by the drainage fee. Beyond that, there is no detail other than a general description of the location of these projects and no indication that the audits did any review of them.

Even if we accept that $246 million was spent from the dedicated fund on these projects, that would only be about 76% of the drainage fee collected for those years and only 39% of the total amount deposited into the dedicated fund. Where was the rest spent? That was the question we were all hoping an audit would answer.

 We used to have a better idea of how the money was spent. During the Parker Administration, the budget document available to the public had 13 pages of information that included a reasonably detailed description of the expenditures and a list of personnel paid from the fund by position type.  [Click here to read 2015 budget.] It was from that detail that we were able to determine that most of the positions paid by the fund were office personnel. But since Turner took office, the budget document has only seven pages and omits most of that detailed information.  [Click here to see 2018 budget.]  

The drainage tax was sold to taxpayers on the promise it would be dedicated to alleviate flooding. Remember this guy telling that us, “The best part is that the politicians cannot divert a single cent.”

Since the drainage fund was set up in 2011, Houston taxpayers have paid over $750 million in drainage fees and an additional $650 million has gone into the fund from other taxpayer sources. Does anyone think we have gotten $1.4 billion worth of value in flood control or street improvement projects?

I suspect folks are just going to hope that Bill moves on to another subject before they try to explain their position. They don’t know that Bill isn’t going away. There is no ducking Bill – sorry.

Justin Verlander is number three on the list of MLB career strikeouts among active MLBers of course with 2,416.

$438,901.57 is what each ‘Stro pocketed for their World Series run. Paid for by folks who attended the games.

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Retire World Serious

If you haven’t read Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg’s column from yesterday, please do. She really opened herself up for the whole world to see. Here it is: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/columnists/falkenberg/article/Making-yourself-vulnerable-is-a-true-test-of-12383436.php.

Outstanding to say the least. Kudos to Lisa.  Wow!

Among active MLB pitchers, where does Justin Verlander rank on the career wins list?

The Chron E-Board gave The Dean the thumbs down this past Saturday. Here it is:

(Thumbs down) Texas’ longest serving state senator, John Whitmire, has just under $8 million in his campaign finance account, the most – by far – of any sitting legislator. So what does a 68-year-old in that position do? He holds another fundraiser, of course. In an effort to scare off a potential challenger, he sucked in more cash at the Four Seasons last week.

The Dean has $8 million in the bank. He doesn’t care what the E-Board says about him.

Commentary will no longer use the term World Serious. I guess I started using the term back during the 2004 and 2005 playoff years when we actually made it to the Fall Classic and have used the term ever since. Now that we have won the entire thing, I can let it go in peace. Now that we actually have a World Series Championship trophy roaming the streets of H-Town, using the term World Serious doesn’t sound right anymore. Don’t you agree? So, it is adios to World Serious and it was nice knowing you.

As usual, Commentary won’t say much about college sports because the players don’t get paid, but the fired college coaches make millions.

I usually don’t name products to buy other than folks know that when I am thirsty my friend, I prefer Saint Arnold Amber. If they are out of Amber, Art Car is my second choice, then Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I don’t name wines because way, way back I once did, then a couple of weeks later they jacked up the price on the wine I mentioned. I will say this. I picked up an apple pie at Whole Foods the other day for Thanksgiving Day dinner and I have to say it was the best store-bought apple pie I have ever had – I think.

Christmas Day is four weeks from today. Got it?

My best friend Al and his lovely wife Julie who is also like family to me got their picture in yesterday’s Chron on a big spread in the Zest section on the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Gala. Commentary attended the black tie gala in a tux but instead of the bow tie, I wore a cool Dia de los Muertos neck tie that Marisol gave me for my BD.

Fifty years ago today, the “Magical Mystery Tour” album was released here in the USA and I was there to buy mine. “Hello, Goodbye”, “The Fool on the Hill”, “All You Need is Love”, “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Baby You’re a Rich Man”, and “I Am the Walrus.” Do I need to say anything more?

Justin Verlander and John Lackey of course are tied for third in career wins with 188 among active MLBers. Lackey has 147 career losses and Verlander 114.

For ‘Stros fans, they are already taking orders for a 2017 World Series Championship 2018 wall calendar at calendar.com and on the ‘Stros’ website. I am getting one.

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Thanksgiving Day After

Yesterday was our first Thanksgiving Day without my Mom. We handled it Ok. We definitely missed her.

There will be no MLB question today.

A little over a couple of weeks ago we voted to expand the raffles that the ‘Stros hold at The Yard. Now the Skeeters and Express can hold those raffles. We did it through approving a constitutional amendment. The Trib today has a real good explanation on why we keep having to approve stuff through constitutional amendments. This is required reading for all Texas politicos, please. Here is a part:

Texans have been voting on constitutional amendments ever since — and the document keeps growing. Since 1876, Texans have voted on roughly 680 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution (and approved 498), and the constitution has expanded from 289 sections to 388, according to the Texas Legislative Reference Library. It’s now the second-longest constitution in the nation.

Attempts to convene a constitutional convention to make the document easier to use and understand have been unsuccessful. The most promising attempt was in 1974, when lawmakers met for a constitutional convention and drafted a simplified constitution. The new constitution failed by only three votes, in part because of the addition of a controversial “right-to-work” provision that was strongly opposed by labor groups.

Here is the entire must read: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/11/24/hey-texplainer-why-are-so-many-trivial-things-put-texas-voters-constit/.

I was there during the epic 1974 Constitutional Convention. It went down to the wire for sure.

My good friend and client H-Town City Council Member Karla Cisneros pushed this issue to the forefront during the 2015 city elections. Here is from today’s Chron:

In one of the most economically segregated cities in the country, the divide between the haves and have-nots is apparent. “While Houston ranks as the second-most prosperous city in the United States and the fifth fastest-growing, it only ranks 64th on a list of most economically inclusive cities,” notes a recently released report from the task force, which included researchers from the Kinder Institute.

Here is another must read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Is-income-equality-possible-in-Houston-12369973.php.

The best thing about yesterday’s dinner was the selfie we sent to Laredo and the response we received from Laredo.

The only thing I have to say about the ‘Stros is that the Team Store is open today so go get your gear.

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I will always remember 54 years ago today. I remember where I was at when I heard the news. I remember what I did the rest of the day and weekend.

Royko sent me this on the border patrol agents:

That’s it! They both tripped, numerous times, and just happened to crush thier sculls. Why does that not work the other way, when the agents are accused?

An investigation is underway. That is really all I can say.

They are going to fix the I-69 and West Loop 610 interchange to ease traffic.  Do you believe that?  I don’t.  It is going to take like five years to complete and then it will be a bigger mess.  They actually want us to believe that building more freeways is going to ease congestion.  They have been telling us that for around 50 years in these parts.   Tell me if you feel less congested.

I am skipping the MLB question today.

Commentary is not a fan of retail outlets opening tomorrow evening. I don’t know who to blame though. The stores or the shoppers? Heck, I don’t even shop on Black Friday.

The ‘Stros’ World Series documentary premiered last night at UH and they had an orange carpet instead of a red carpet – cool. Here is an MLB.com take on last night:

HOUSTON — November remains one of the busiest months of the year for Jeff Luhnow, but even the always-active Astros general manager was willing to make time in his schedule for a premiere of the 2017 World Series documentary.

Luhnow attended an event for the 90-minute showing with Houston manager A.J. Hinch, Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and numerous other club staffers. Produced by Major League Baseball, the documentary showcases the franchise’s first World Series title through highlights and exclusive access and interviews.

“It still hasn’t really sunk in,” Luhnow said on the “orange carpet” outside the Cullen Performance Hall on the University of Houston campus, with the Commissioner’s Trophy posed neatly behind him.

“Every day I wake up and think, did we really just do that? There will be time to reflect down the road, but we’re a little busy right now. But I’m really proud of the entire organization and the effort and the accomplishment here.”

Here is the entire read: http://m.astros.mlb.com/news/article/262329798/astros-world-series-documentary-premieres/?topicId=27118380.

Here is MLB.com’s Richard Justice’s take on the documentary:

HOUSTON — Fans showed up to cheer the Astros again Tuesday night, loudly and raucously, stomping, chanting and letting it all go. No use holding anything back when you’ve had 56 years to dream about something.

Only this time, it was different. In some ways, it was better. This time, there was no World Series tension, no anxiety and no more turning off the television to take a breath. As Astros radio broadcaster Steve Sparks said at the beginning of the evening, “You’re going to like the ending.”

So this was a chance to again celebrate one of the greatest moments the fourth-largest city in the country has had.

Actually, what Sparks had said earlier was even better.

“Can you believe why we’re here?” Sparks asked.

That captures what a lot of people were thinking. Sparks had said the same thing as he stood beside the World Series trophy outside the Cullen Center on the University of Houston campus, before Major League Baseball premiered its 90-minute 2017 World Series documentary.

Sparks kept glancing back at the trophy as if it might disappear, as if somebody might come and take it off to St. Louis or Los Angeles or some place that has done this more often than Houston.

“Surreal,” Sparks kept saying. “It just seems surreal.”

And it will for a while longer. This city that had watched others hoist World Series trophies now has one of its own, thanks to a team that was a nearly perfect mix of youth and experience, passion and resolve.

The fans relived the whole thing during the documentary premiere. It was beautifully done — a film that connects on every level in mixing action, interviews and behind-the-scenes drama that puts it all in perspective.

There was Marwin Gonzalez‘s improbable, game-saving ninth-inning home run in Game 2. And the blasts from Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer that followed.

There’s that 5-hour, 17-minute Game 5, one in which the Astros overcame deficits of 4-0 and 7-4 to finally win, 13-12, in 10 innings.

There’s Astros hitting coach Dave Hudgens giving Springer a pep talk after his four strikeouts in Game 1. There’s Springer sitting near the batting cage before Game 7 saying, “November 1. Put that in your calendar and remember.”

There’s a sweet moment of Altuve and his wife, Nina, and infant daughter, Melanie, in their home a few hours before Game 3.

If you love baseball, or sports, you will love this film. If you’re an Astros fan, you will watch it again and again.

You will see facial expressions you hadn’t seen before. You will see the tension on the faces of both the Astros and Dodgers.

You will almost feel the vibrations of two packed ballparks, Dodger Stadium and Minute Maid Park, and you will be taken back to a World Series that delivered on everything, from drama to entertainment to great theater.

This was a World Series rich in personalities and players performing at their best with the lights brightest.

You will see tears, too, especially those of Carlos Beltran, this great veteran of the game capping off a 20-year career with a championship.

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s premiere, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow took the stage to remember his first two seasons, 2012 and ’13, when the Astros lost 107 and 111 games, respectively.

Astros owner Jim Crane was transparent about how things were going to go when he bought the club in late 2011. He said he was going to hire a general manager with a great track record in player development — which would be Luhnow — and he was going to give him the freedom to start anew.

When the Astros lost 111 games, Luhnow got a specialized license plate with “111” on it.

“I wanted to be reminded every single morning and night,” Luhnow said. “You know how many we won this year? That’s right, 112, baby. I’m going to get a new license plate.”

Luhnow’s first major decision was using his first two Draft picks on shortstop Correa and right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. Another smart move was hiring A.J. Hinch to manage the Astros in 2015.

“The manager is the heart and soul of your team,” Luhnow said. “He’s the one the players have to believe in.”

When Luhnow departed the stage, Hinch made the perfect entry, walking slowly, World Series trophy in hand.

“This is ours,” Hinch announced. “It’s been chaos. You people are crazy about the Astros.”

Hinch saluted American League Most Valuable Player Altuve, saying, “As long as he’s on our team, I’m never going to doubt this team.”

And with that, the documentary put the amazing run back on display. Mixed into the film was the story of Hurricane Harvey, both the damage it inflicted on Houston and the way it affected the Astros, individually and collectively.

As Hinch said, “We’re always asking a city to rally around a team. It’s OK to ask a team to rally around a city.”

Or as Springer, the World Series MVP, said, “It shows dreams can come true.”

“I think forever our lives have changed,” McCullers said. “I don’t say we’re legends, but our team is legendary.”

Nice. I can’t figure if it is going to air on the MLB Network or do you have to go buy it.

#EarnedIt.   Commentary is talking about R-E-S-P-E-C-T! From the Chron.

ESPN said Tuesday it will air two Astros games as part of its 10-game schedule for the opening week of the 2018 Major League Baseball season.

The network will air the 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29 season opener at Arlington against the Rangers and the 6 p.m. Monday, April 2 home opener against the Orioles at Minute Maid Park. Both games also will air on AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

Hey, we are a good team and America wants to see Jose Altuve, #SpringerDinger, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and the rest!

Opening Day, baby!

Commentary will be off for Thanksgiving Day so have a happy one with family and friends. Take care!


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The 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is out. 33 former MLBers made the ballot. How many of them played for the ‘Stros?

From the Before We Go Shoot a Mexican Dept., here this from CNN this morning:

(CNN) Details remain scant in what the FBI describes as a “tragic incident” that left one Border Patrol agent dead and another in serious condition.

The FBI said both men were found injured late Saturday in a culvert area in southwest Texas.

Rogelio Martinez, 36, died from his injuries at a hospital Sunday morning. His partner, who hasn’t been identified, remains hospitalized in serious condition.

The two Border Patrol agents suffered traumatic head injuries and other wounds such as broken bones, according to the FBI, which is leading the investigation. The results of Martinez’s autopsy are pending.

Although there hasn’t been an explanation of what happened, Texas politicians — including Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz — have described the incident as an “attack.” President Donald Trump said the injured agent had been “brutally beaten” as he called for the wall between US and Mexico.

But in Culberson County, where the two officers were injured, the local sheriff painted a different picture, suggesting to the Dallas Morning News that investigators are considering the possibility that the agents fell in a nighttime accident. “The evidence is not obvious as to what happened out there,” Sheriff Oscar Carrillo told the paper.

Here is the entire read: http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/20/us/border-patrol-agent-killed/index.html.

Why not wait for the facts before jumping to conclusions, please. Of course, I don’t expect anything differently from Abbott, Cruz and Trump, do you?

Commentary hasn’t seen an animated flick at the movie house in like over seven years – “Toy Story 3.” I am ready to see “Coco” which right now has a 95% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The Washington Post has a piece on “Coco” and I like this line:

Creating a Day of the Dead film also led Pixar — which has featured relatively few characters of colors over the past quarter-century — to hire a nearly all-Latino cast of voice actors, including Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach and Edward James Olmos. “This film has leaned very heavily at the studio on Latino artists,” (co-director Adrian) Molina says, “from the animation side to the story side to the art/visual development side.”

Here is the entire read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2017/11/15/coco-forced-pixar-to-dive-deep-into-a-real-world-culture-and-add-some-diversity/?utm_term=.eebf044b97f0.

The “Today” crew talked this morning about what topics to discuss at the Thanksgiving meal table. A no-no was politics. A yes-yes were The Beatles and Tom Hanks. At our dinner it could be politics, for sure it will be family and the ‘Stros, maybe my niece Rachel’s new house, and maybe the ‘Stros again.

Commentary pretty much made his position clear on the Sexiest Man Alive stuff. The Chron today devotes nearly a half page column to the issue. They mentioned #SpringerDinger as a contender. Here is the column: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/Blake-Shelton-No-literally-anyone-else-should-12371717.php.

I won’t be attending this tonight:

The 2017 World Series Documentary Premiere presented by Budweiser

Tuesday, November 21 7:00 p.m. CT Show / 6:00 p.m. CT Orange Carpet Event

Cullen Performance Hall

University of Houston 4800 Calhoun Road, Houston, Texas 77004

More at uh.edu/cph.

Major League Baseball will hold the premiere of The 2017 World Series Documentary at Cullen Performance Hall on Tuesday, November 21 at 7:00 p.m. CST. Orange Carpet event will begin at 6:00 p.m. CST. All tickets are General Admission for $25 plus fees.

Tickets on sale now!

I wonder when they will air it on the MLB Network.

The Rocket, Aubrey Huff, Jeff Kent, El Caballo, Brad Lidge, Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner – that’s seven –  of course all played at one time for the ‘Stros and are on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Good luck!

Our two preseason games next season at The Yard are with the Brewers. This past season the Brewers finished 86-76 and one game out of the NL Wild Card game. The games are Monday, March 26 at 6 pm and Tuesday, March 27 at 12 noon. Cool.

From Channel 13:


The holiday season is coming a little early for the Houston Astros in the form of extra money. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, the Astros World Series checks are expected to be around $438,000 — a record for World Series shares.

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Crowning Achievement

On July 20, 2011, Jose Altuve made his MLB at The Yard starting at second base versus the Nationals. Name our starting second baseman on July 19, 2011?

I got mine. Do you have yours?

Commentary is talking about Crowning Achievement, the magazine that came in yesterday’s Chron on the ‘Stros. It has great articles and great photos. I read it all.

Kuffer has a take today on the upcoming HISD and HCC runoff. He got one a little wrong. Here is his take:

Here’s the schedule and locations. Note that while the early vote period covers a week, from Wednesday, November 29 through Tuesday, December 5, there are only six days to vote, as there is no voting on Sunday the 3rd. Runoff Day itself is Saturday, December 9, which may be a bit complicated in my neck of the woods as that is also the date for Lights in the Heights. Won’t be the first time I’ll spend the better part of that evening refreshing the harrisvotes.com webpage on my laptop.

Anyway. For the most part, the regular early voting locations in HISD I and III and HCC 9 will be open, along with the Harris County Administration Building downtown and the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray, because that’s where Heights people like to vote. If you’re not in one of those districts you’re off the hook thanks to there being no city races on the ballot. For the same reason, we can expect turnout to be pretty light. I can throw one number at you: In the 2005 runoff for HISD I, when there was an At Large Council race but not a Mayor’s race, Natasha Kamrani defeated Anne Flores Santiago with 3,026 total votes being cast. I’d draw the over/under line at that level, with fewer votes in HISD III and maybe about the same in HCC 9. Make your plan to vote if you’re in one of these districts, the EV period will begin and end before you know it.

On the Early Voting locations, in the runoff the Bingo Lodge in the Heights isn’t being used. It was booked for other events. Just letting voters know.

According to one of the Dem candidates for Harris County Judge, Hunker Down is speaking tonight to the Meyerland Dems. What is up with that? Dem County Judge candidate Lina Hidalgo put this out on Saturday:

This Monday at 7, Ed Emmett has been invited to speak to the Meyerland Area Democrats. There will be open question time. Here are a few questions we have for him and encourage others to consider:

Why wasn’t flood control the most well funded-important item-on the 2015 county bond election?

Why did you spend more time fighting to waste taxpayer dollars on the Astrodome than you did prioritizing flood control projects, even though voters shot renovation plans down twice?

If you are re-elected, are you going to serve the full term or are you going to resign so Republicans on Commissioners Court can replace you with a younger Republican?

Why do you oppose property tax relief for homeowners?

Why do you want to raise the sales tax-the most regressive tax-on Harris County residents?

Do you support Equal Pay for Equal Work?

Do you support Donald Trump?

Why do you raise money for Ted Cruz?

Why are you spending taxpayers money opposing cash bail reform in Harris County? Do Republicans hate poor people?

Why didn’t you encourage the court to discuss the legal implications to join the lawsuit against SB4 instead of tabling the conversation? How can you expect the Immigrant Community to back you or believe you when you won’t swiftly take that kind of action?

Republican Ed Emmett’s leadership has fallen short. The Trump election showed us we must stand up for our principals, at all levels of government, before it is too late. It’s time for us, as Democrats to challenge him.

I like the Trump and Sen. Cruz questions. There needs to be a SB 4 question. On Hunker Down not serving a full term, I heard that from a major Dem player this past weekend. Of course, he has to win next year.


On a related note, see the following tweet:

CNN Breaking News‏Verified account @cnnbrk 5m5 minutes ago

The only facility in the world to host the Olympics, Super Bowl and Final Four has been reduced to rubble. The Georgia Dome, former home of the Atlanta Falcons was imploded today http://cnn.it/2z3vH1K

They didn’t have a problem doing away with their dome.

The Chron has a story on the Trump and Sheriff bumper sticker down the road in Fort Bend County. A sign of the times these days.

It is November 20 and 99.1 FM already has the Christmas tunes and so does SiriusXM Channel 4.

Angel Sanchez of course started second base for the ‘Stros on July 19, 2011.

The ‘Stros continue to rack up awards. Here is from Alyson Footer:

HOUSTON — The World Series champion Astros’ season ended more than two weeks ago, and there has barely been a moment to take a breath.

First, there was the World Series parade and rally at city hall. Next up was a week-long announcement of several prestigious awards, including the naming of Jose Altuve as the American League’s Most Valuable Player.

The grand finale of awards season culminated on Friday with the big reveal of this year’s Esurance MLB Awards. The Astros swept through myriad categories as the most nominated team in baseball. They also won the most awards, topping all 29 other clubs with seven.

The Astros won the following categories: Best Major Leaguer (Altuve), Best Manager (A.J. Hinch), Best Executive (general manager Jeff Luhnow), Best Major Leaguer, Postseason (Altuve and Justin Verlander tied), Best Postseason Moment (Alex Bregman’s walk-off hit in Game 5 of the World Series) and Best Fan Catch.

Also, a panel of MLB experts named the Astros as one of three winners of the Best Moment category. The Astros’ sweep of the Mets in their first home games after Hurricane Harvey, and Hinch’s uplifting speech to the crowd, earned them honors in that category.


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There are 30 votes that are cast for the AL MVP Award. Two baseball writers from each of the 15 AL team markets. Jose Altuve received 27 first place votes yesterday. Where were the other three votes from?

Not me. Commentary is talking about Dem Party folks who are recruiting other Dem Party folks to run for positions in Harris County. Commentary is not part of that effort – sorry.   I have one race I am currently working on and of course my very good friend State Rep. Carol Alvarado put out a statement a couple of days ago that speaks for itself.

Sure, I have said recently that Dems ought to field candidates for a bunch of offices. I have said this just in case a Dem tsunami hits in 2018. Realistically, I’d be happy if Dems picked up a couple of legislative seats, a countywide or two, and all the judgeships. Am I involved in the development of a strategy on this – absolutely not. I have not been invited to any meetings. Haven’t in a long while, a very long while.

Sure, I have said that Hunker Down needs to be banged around a bit. He knew better than to duck on SB 4. Has he said anything on DACA? Supporting DACA should be a no brainer.

I hear and read what other folks hear and read on the internet and on twitter. I am not part of any of the deals that may or may not be going on. I have had maybe a couple or more folks mention to me to why not get so and so to run for certain positions and I reply that is not my concern. I just hear that other folks are working on this.

Just wanted to be clear on this.

From Bill King:

Reform TIRZs, Don’t Repeal Property Tax Cap

My former colleagues at the Houston Chronicle editorial board opined this week that the City’s property tax cap should be repealed and that the tax increment reinvestment zones (TIRZs) need to be reformed.  [Click here to read.]  They are wrong on the first count but right on the second one.  

To begin, let’s get some facts straight that were mangled in the editorial.  

First, the City does not have a revenue cap; it has a property tax cap.  Property taxes make up about 25% of the City’s total revenue.  That is the only source of revenue that is limited under the City charter amendment that was approved by voters in 2004.  The other 75% of revenue is not restricted.   There is a cap on all revenues in the charter that was also approved by the voters in 2004, but because the property tax cap got more votes, the City only enforces the property tax cap.  

Repeal advocates insist on mischaracterizing the limitation as a “revenue” cap to mislead the public into believing that the City’s ability to raise any form of revenue is impaired by the restriction.  But since the charter amendment was enacted, City revenues have increased by a whopping $2 billion (67%), including the enactment of the drainage fee, which was the largest single tax increase in the City’s history.

Second, the increase in taxes is not “constrained by an arbitrary algorithm.”  The limit is the lesser of population growth and inflation or 4.5%.  Limiting Council’s ability to increase property taxes to population growth and inflation is a reasonable limitation and should be a rough estimate of the need to increase taxes.  If the City’s population and inflation were growing by more than 4.5%, I would have to agree that the limitation is arbitrary.  But because the City’s population has been growing at a very slow pace and inflation has been low since 2004, the 4.5% limitation normally does not come into play.

Third, and most importantly, the property tax cap repeal advocates always omit that the charter amendment begins with this clause: “The City Council shall not, without voter approval . . .”  In other words, in any year that the Mayor and Council believe that the City needs more tax revenue than the limitation allows, all they need to do is ask for the voters’ approval.  If they feel handcuffed by the charter amendment it can only be because they believe they cannot make a credible case to the taxpayers to pay more.  

My former colleagues are right about the detrimental effect the TIRZs are having on the City’s finances.  Last year, the TIRZs collected $132 million in property taxes, nearly 14% of the City’s total property taxes.  That is more money than the drainage fee brought in last year.  

They are also correct that the taxes collected by the TIRZs are excluded from the property tax cap.  As a result, TIRZ tax receipts have soared.  Last year the property taxes collected by all TIRZs increased 13%.  The receipts for the six richest TIRZs went up by an astonishing 27%!

Of course, the City has devised a number of clever ways to claw back more and more of this revenue over time and subvert the voters’ intention as expressed in the cap.  Each TIRZ pays the City an administrative fee and most make other contributions toward “shared” expenses.  But there is no question that if the City had all of this revenue back, it would go a long way toward solving its long-term structural deficit.

One of the challenges in bringing any of this revenue back to the City is that the TIRZs have been on a debt binge in recent years.  They currently owe around half a billion dollars.  So, much of their revenue is committed to repaying that debt.  Of course, voters had no say in the creation of this debt, notwithstanding that property taxes will be used to repay it.  

There are certainly some good projects that are undertaken by the TIRZs.  But increasingly they are grasping for projects on which to spend their largess; witness the idiotic $200 million bus lane project in Uptown.

Of course, our benevolent State Legislature has its finger in all of this.  All of the TIRZs were created by state statute.  So, the State will have to be involved in any restructuring.  Given numerous conflicts of interests between our local delegation and the TIRZs and their first cousins, the management districts, good luck with that.

Two baseball writers from the Kansas City market and one from the Toronto market gave Altuve second place votes of course.

MLB.com’s Alyson Footer is fed up with media types asking Altuve about his height. I agree.

Some are already making comparisons about which player is the most beloved ‘Stro of all time.   Altuve, Hall of Fame great Craig Biggio, or Hall of Fame great Jeff Bagwell. That is kind of silly. I mean, have the Yankees chosen Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Joe Dimaggio, or Derek Jeter?

Biggio and Bagwell are Hall of Fame greats. Altuve has a World Serious title. They are all beloved.

But it is Ok to name Altuve H-Town’s Sexiest Man Alive.

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It is green bin day today!

The AL MVP Award will be announced today and let’s hope the Baseball Writers do the right thing and select Jose Altuve. We all know that Hall of Fame great Jeff Bagwell has been the only ‘Stros’ MVP winner when he won the NL MVP Award in 1994. Who was the AL MVP winner that year – 1994?

Did you actually think I was going to put out a sexiest man alive award or list for the 29th Congressional District? I wouldn’t even know how to go about putting together that kind of list.

I mention it because Blake Shelton was named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year yesterday and some folks got riled up on the internet. I know Blake Shelton because he’s that fella on “The Voice” that I have never watched. He’s been on the “Today” show a few times. I think I have maybe seen him on the Grammys show. He goes out with Gwen Stefan and I have to tell you I wouldn’t know a Blake Shelton or Gwen Stefani tune even if you spotted me a few verses and bars.

So, he’s on every week on NBC on “The Voice” and nobody says squat, but name him People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and folks go bonkers. Do you even know who was last year’s Sexiest Man Alive? Who handed the speedo over to Shelton yesterday?

Ok, back to the 29th Congressional District. Can’t think of one so how about the sexiest man alive in the Harris County Democratic Party and one for the Harris County Republican Party? This all kind of silly.

This came out yesterday:

Statement from the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on the retirement of Congressman Gene Green from the United States Congress: 


“The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce thanks Congressman Gene Green for his more than 26 years of service. In his more than two and a half decades of service in the United States Congress, Congressman Green has proven to be a champion of health issues, energy policy, education, a stronger labor force and so much more. He – along with outgoing Congressman Ted Poe – have served the people of the Greater Houston region with honor, distinction, and a selflessness not often found in today’s political environment. 

As Congressman Green finishes out his last term, the conversation has already begun about who will be elected to succeed him. When the Texas Legislature established the 29th Congressional District, they did so with the intent of sending a Latino to Congress. It is absolutely critical that, unlike prior elections important to our community, we will be able to come together to elect a congressperson who is truly representative of our community. In today’s political and business climate, the Hispanic community simply has too much at stake to not elect a representative who will fight for the interests of our families, our businesses, our city, and the future of our community.  

Many qualified candidates will – and already have – announced their intent to run for this seat. The Chamber does not endorse candidates, but looks forward to working closely with whoever becomes the elected representative. In the interim, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will continue to engage voters via our media platforms, which boast an audience reach of more than 3.3 million people. As the Leader of Houston’s New Majority, it is the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s hope that each candidate understands who they are running to represent because, put simply, the future of our community will depend on their leadership in the United States House of Representatives.” 


Dr. Laura Murillo

The State GOP is getting some advice from their consultant on 2018. Here is from the Chron:

AUSTIN — After months of assurances from top Republicans that they still hold a firm grip on Texas voters, a top campaign adviser to Gov. Greg Abbott is warning that recent Virginia elections should be a “wakeup call” to the Texas GOP.

In a private memo to Abbott’s aides, senior political adviser Dave Carney cautions that despite the fact that Texas is solid red in recent statewide voting patterns, suburban voters could pose significant problems for Republicans in next year’s mid-term elections.

“It would be easy for us to say Texas is not Virginia. It would be easy for us to say the Democrats in Texas aren’t that well organized,” wrote Carney, a New Hampshire-based political consultant who has served as an adviser to Rick Perry and Abbott and was the White House political director for George H.W. Bush.

“That would be a huge mistake.”

A copy of the memo was obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

Here is the entire Chron article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/Abbott-advisor-Va-Dem-wins-should-wakeup-call-12357522.php.

A few things here. I don’t see anything in the article where the consultant says the Texas GOP ought to moderate on some of their issues and positions, so I guess it is still Ok to go after State Rep. Sarah Davis. He is not telling them to back off of the bathroom bill or even to distance themselves from Trump. He is just telling them to prepare for more Dems to show up next year and maybe get more GOPers to vote.

I don’t know what the Dem leadership has in store, but I do hope they at least field candidates in all positions for starters. It is going to be difficult for Dems to fumble on this one since a lot of it is out of their control.

Frank Thomas of course with the White Sox won the 1994 AL MVP Award. The Big Hurt and Baggy were both born on May 27, 1968 but you already knew that.

This is good news from the Chron:

ORLANDO, Fla. — In the two weeks since the Astros won their first World Series championship, requests to see the trophy have been “off the charts,” team president of business operations Reid Ryan said Wednesday.


Anyone from the Astros’ corporate partners to local churches and rotary clubs to radio and television stations have sought the company of the Commissioner’s Trophy. So, like other recent winners of the Fall Classic have done, the Astros are planning a trophy tour to begin during this offseason and extend into the regular season when the team’s on the road.

More details about the tour will likely be announced next month, according to Ryan.

“Fans want to see it. The outlying communities want to see it – San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, places like that,” Ryan said. “We want to make sure we get out and get to take it to those communities as well because they’re all part of our fan base.”


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