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Struggling ‘Stros

Commentary attended Governor Mark White’s memorial service yesterday. It was well attended and very nice.

Change is happening in Pasadena, Texas. From a press release from the Pasadena Mayor:

Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner has taken the first steps to restore Pasadena’s inter-city bus service. In recent weeks, the mayor and other city officials have been meeting with representatives from Harris County Transit Services to discuss reinstating bus service.

A proposed plan is currently being finalized and includes four routes that total roughly 70 linear miles. The routes have been designed to provide service to many low-income areas within Pasadena, as well as those where transportation needs are the highest.

“Many of our citizens have requested that we create some type of transit system throughout our city,” Mayor Wagner said. “The Harris County Transit system we had at one time seemed like a good option, but we’ve been working together to find ways to enhance that service even more. I am grateful for the support we are receiving from Harris County Pct. 2 Commissioner Jack Morman and everyone at Harris County Transit.”

Together, they have been reviewing potential routes and bus stop options to ensure that the new system serves the community more effectively and productively than the 2010-2012 route structure.

“After reviewing what we had previously, improvements were added to ensure that we had more access to things like county courts, medical facilities, the Social Security office, schools, grocery stores and shopping,” Mayor Wagner said.

The proposed routes include stops at San Jacinto College, Strawberry Clinic and Bayshore Medical Center, as well as at retail, grocery and pharmacy chains, such as Walmart, Kroger, Fiesta, HEB, CVS and Walgreens. The service would also give Pasadena residents access to existing Harris County Transit routes and would connect to the Houston METRO system near Richey Road.

Here is from the Chron:

The city of 150,000 has had no mass transit since former Mayor Johnny Isbell ended its agreement with Harris County Transit. Isbell said not enough people rode the buses to justify the cost to the city, which totaled about $226,000  in 2012.

Nice going, Pasadena!

This happened yesterday from the Chron:

Houston ISD trustees were defiant a day after being warned of a possible state takeover, arguing that they’re already turning around troubled schools and don’t need outside meddling from Austin bureaucrats.

Trustees on Wednesday heralded improved school ratings from the state and vowed to invest in long-struggling schools, which must improve to avoid potential state intervention. If about a dozen chronically failing schools don’t meet state academic standards by 2018, it would trigger provisions of a Texas law that could result in campus closures or the appointment of a school board manager.

“We intend to fight this in the classroom,” Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones said. “We think our kids are capable of learning. We are going to give them the tools to do that.”

Under the law, passed by the Legislature in 2015, any district with a school receiving five consecutive “improvement required” ratings faces state intervention.

Texas Education Association officials warned Houston-area lawmakers in a meeting Monday of the possibility of a state takeover of HISD, one of several large urban districts facing such an action. The 2015 law largely flew under the radar prior to the meeting and subsequent media reports.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/education/article/HISD-trustees-push-back-against-state-takeover-11746574.php.

I get it. Come and take it. Of course, all this does is highlight the failing schools. The total focus needs to be on improving the schools.

Commentary is back to talking about the ‘Stros. Even though we still have the second best record in baseball, we are not playing like we do. We are struggling. Our pitching is not holding up. Dallas Keuchel is having problems. Lance McCullers, Jr. is dinged up. Carlos Correa is still on the DL. Right now, I don’t think we would survive the first round in the playoffs. Ticket karma?

I will have the MLB question tomorrow.

Running HISD

Governor Mark White’s memorial service is this morning.

Commentary has mixed feelings about this on the front page of the Chron:

Texas education officials are warning that Houston ISD could be placed under the jurisdiction of state-appointed managers as early as next year if 13 district schools don’t show improvement.

The warning was issued during a meeting Monday between Texas Education Agency officials and Houston’s legislative delegation.

TEA officials told lawmakers that if even one of the district’s 13 schools that has struggled for at least the past three years receives failing accountability marks in 2017 and again in 2018, it could trigger state oversight of the entire district. Alternatively, the state agency could take over individual, chronically failing campuses.

And this:

State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., a Houston Democrat, said he could support a state takeover because he doesn’t have enough confidence in HISD to turn around schools that have been continuously identified as failing.

“We have almost 15,000 kids in failing schools in Texas. I’m tired of that. Most of them are in my district. Most of them are black and brown schools,” Dutton said.

HISD Trustee Anna Eastman also shared concerns about the board’s ability to function well enough to inspire such sweeping improvements. She pointed to a meeting in June when it took the board about eight hours to adopt a budget with a $106 million shortfall after midnight. She said the TEA required the boards for HISD and several other districts statewide to undergo mandatory training due to the number of district campuses labeled as failing, although she said she’s unsure the training had much of an impact.

And finally, this:

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, another Houston Democrat, lives a mile away from Kashmere High School, which has ranked low on the state’s grading scale for years. More than a dozen of the struggling schools identified by the TEA are in her district, she said, and the onus to turn them around falls on the HISD school board, not the state.

“If you look at that list, it’s all in the northeast area in the black community. I’m not running a flag up that this is discrimination, but somebody’s been asleep at the switch for this to continuously happen,” Thompson said. “It’s the district’s fault and they know how to fix this and they need to fix it.”

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/education/article/Houston-ISD-faces-state-takeover-if-long-failing-11743476.php.

Do we really think that a state takeover is the answer? This is a state that doesn’t prioritize public education and they want to come in and run our schools?  Of course, let’s see what the HISD Board does on filling the vacancy on the Board.   More on this to come for sure.

Instead of Commentary’s political candidate clients getting interviewed by the Chron E-Board, I may have to screen the E-Board. See this from theroot.com:

Seven journalists of color are departing the newsroom of the Houston Chronicle just weeks after concerned employees invited in diversity trainers hoping to jolt management into addressing its longstanding lack of newsroom inclusion.

Houston is considered one of the nation’s most diverse cities, so much that the Asian American Journalists Association announced a week ago that it would hold its 2018 convention there.

“Houston is cited as one of the most diverse cities in the US and it is [one of] the fastest growing Asian communities,” Kathy Chow, AAJA executive director, said Friday by email.

The Hearst-owned Chronicle, however, does not reflect those demographics.

According to figures it submitted to the American Society of News Editors for its annual diversity census, the newsroom is 76.3 percent white, 7.9 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and 5.8 percent Asian Americans. There are no African American editors, and its top-ranking journalists of color, both Latina, are leaving.

Harris County, where Houston is located, is 42.4 percent Hispanic, 19.7 percent black and 7.2 percent Asian, according to 2016 projections from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The city of Houston, according to the 2010 Census, is 43.8 percent Hispanic, 23.7 percent black and 6 percent Asian.

Here is the entire story: http://journalisms.theroot.com/7-journalists-of-color-leaving-houston-chronicle-1797574585.

Sigh. Come on, Chron! You can do better. Don’t make me spend energy banging on you guys. I support you guys! Don’t make me look bad!

Does it matter? Commentary is talking about having a Dem run as a serious candidate against Gov. Greg Abbott. Will it have an impact on Cong. Beto O’Rourke’s race against Sen. Ted Cruz. The AP thinks it is a big deal. See this:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrats haven’t won a Texas governor’s race in nearly three decades, but a booming Hispanic population and the party’s dominance of the state’s largest cities have made them willing to invest in the contest to keep hopes of an eventual resurgence alive.

After high-profile candidates lost decisively in the last two elections, though, the party now finds itself in unprecedented territory for the 2018 ballot: with no major candidate to run.

Democratic leaders haven’t yet lined up a substantial name to represent the party and its message despite months of trying. Any continued faith in a Democratic turnaround in Texas is now colliding with pessimism that it will happen anytime soon.

“If they didn’t have somebody running for governor it’d be a symbol that they’ve given up,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

And the lack of a serious 2018 candidate, following the dismal showing of the Democrats in the 2010 and 2014 governor’s races, could make it harder to capitalize later if the political climate improves, as the party expects.

“You run the risk of looking irrelevant,” Rottinghaus said.

Here is the entire article: http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/A-new-low-Texas-Democrats-don-t-have-candidate-11742075.php.

I don’t think the Democratic Party in Texas would look irrelevant. Maybe some of its leadership, but not the Party.   Commentary would like to have a serious candidate in the race.  Is there another Beto out there?

Bill King has a take on immigration here:  

Not Everyone Concerned about Illegal Immigration is a Racist

I have regular breakfast with a group of politicos that represent a cross-section of the political spectrum.  Recently we had a discussion about immigration.  I referenced a recent Texas Lyceum poll which found that 72% of Texans were either extremely or somewhat concerned about illegal immigration.  The same poll asked an open-ended question of the most serious issue Texas is facing.  Illegal immigration and border security came in first and third with a combined total of 27%, more than double education, which came in second at 13%.  

I asked my group why they thought illegal immigration was weighing so heavily on the minds of Texans.  Two of the more liberal members of my breakfast group attributed the concern purely to racism.  But there were some other findings in the poll that contradict this simplistic explanation.  Sixty plus percent:  (i) were opposed to deporting all those living here illegally; (ii) supported some pathway to citizenship; (iii) opposed building a wall; and (iv) thought immigration helped the country more than it hurt it.  When asked why illegal immigration was a problem, only 2% said because it diluted American culture.  These are not the responses of racists.

And to completely lay the racist explanation to rest, 68% of self-identified Hispanics were either extremely or somewhat concerned about illegal immigration.  I’m pretty sure they were not motivated by racism.  

After kicking around these seemingly anomalous results, one member of our group with small children spoke up.  She said she was concerned about illegal immigration because of the effect it was having on her children’s school.  It had become significantly overcrowded because of an influx of immigrant children, most of whom spoke little or no English.  Trying to serve dozens of ESL children, including interfacing with parents who frequently spoke no English, was taxing the school’s resources and staff.  She noted cultural differences, especially as it related to the disparity in maturity regarding sexual matters.  She was also concerned about health issues.  Had these children been immunized as virtually all American children are?

These were imminently reasonable concerns and not at all based on racial animus.  And her concerns are not isolated.  How many times have you heard someone complain about being involved in an accident with an illegal immigrant who had no insurance?  There is no doubt that dangerous criminal gang members have slipped into the country along with those coming here for a better life.  Nor is there any doubt that they are making our drug problem worse.  And while we may not be able to calculate the amount by which illegal immigrant workers are driving down wages in low-skilled jobs, the basic laws of supply and demand tell us it must be having some effect.   

Is some of the current anti-immigrant fervor based on racial bigotry?  Undoubtedly.  But, there are plenty of valid reasons to be concerned about illegal immigration other than racial hatred.  And this is where I think immigration advocates hurt their case.  

The American people are generous and caring.  We make more charitable gifts than all the other countries in the world combined.  No country has a history of accepting more immigrants and refugees than the U.S.  When immigration advocates go on a screed charging racism, they are telling those with legitimate concerns that their concerns don’t matter and thereby make badly needed immigration reform less likely.

Like most public policy issues, immigration is complex.  But there is a broad outline of a rational policy that is obvious.  First, we must have a secure border, i.e., we must know who is coming and going in and out of country.  You cannot reform immigration without this predicate.  Second, we are not going to deport the roughly 10 million folks that are here without a valid visa.  So, let’s come up with a realistic plan about what to do with them.  Third, we must determine what is the appropriate level of immigration on an annual basis and how we should go about choosing the people we let in.   

Sure, there are those on the extremes who either want to have completely open borders or shut down immigration entirely.  But they do not represent the majority of the American people, notwithstanding that their slogans dominate the public debate on immigration.  As John McCain recently said, “To hell with them.”  It is time for reasonable people to come together to solve this problem.  

Commentary doesn’t have much to say about fire and fury.

The Governor Mark White obituary in today’s Chron is well written. Nothing is glossed over. Nice job and here it is: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/houstonchronicle/obituary.aspx?n=mark-white&pid=186311790&fhid=6290.

The memorial service is tomorrow.

The Chron E-Board pays tribute to Governor Mark White. I guess it will run tomorrow. Here is a part:

It’s sadly ironic that White departed this life at a time when a rancorous Texas Legislature has tied itself into knots over, in White’s words, “some silly restroom bill.” The son of an East Texas first-grade teacher, he believed in public education. He lost the governorship after one term in large part because he was willing to tell his fellow Texans that they were too focused on games their children played and not on whether they were learning in the classroom.

With the assistance of Dallas billionaire H. Ross Perot, he persuaded lawmakers to institute a controversial no-pass, no-play policy for high-school athletes. His education-reform package, known as House Bill 72, also included limits on elementary class size and the first-ever statewide testing standards. It’s hard to imagine today, but he managed to persuade skittish lawmakers to pass a $4 billion tax increase to help pay for teacher pay raises and class-size limits.

The state’s 43rd governor was proud of the fact that a west Houston elementary school, not a building or a street, bears his name, and yet his reward at the time HB 72 went into effect was galling defeat at the polls. He lost his bid for reelection to Bill Clements, the Republican incumbent he had defeated four years earlier. The loss was hard to take, and yet White drew strength from a guiding principle espoused by a predecessor in the governor’s office.

“Do right and risk the consequences,” his hero, Sam Houston, said. The iconic Texan lived it. So did White, who in 2009 told the Houston Public Library’s Oral History Project that he had no regrets about his efforts on behalf of Texas schools.

Here is the entire E-Board take on Governor White: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/White-sought-to-make-life-better-for-all-Texans-11740059.php&cmpid=twitter-premium.

I will always remember our Election Day drill. Campaigning in San Antonio and having lunch at La Fogata.

Good for the H-Town Mayor for defending H-Town and other cities in Texas. If it weren’t for the cities, Texas would be a one stoplight state. If it weren’t for us, folks would be getting their entertainment at the local DQ and six-man football would rule.   Here is part of the Mayor’s Op-Ed:

Remember the Alamo?

The most famous piece of history in Texas is not located in a ghost town or on a dusty plain. It sits in the very heart of San Antonio, a dynamic and bustling place that has surpassed Dallas as the state’s second most populous metropolis.

Remember Houston?

Our governor and lieutenant governor do. They weren’t born in Houston, but they got to Houston as soon as they could.

For good reason. They came to Houston to build their professional and political careers. And they succeeded in Houston, which is a worldwide leader in free enterprise and innovation; the biggest city in Texas and the fourth most populous in the United States.

Following a life-changing accident, the governor sought and received treatment at Houston’s top-ranked Institute of Rehabilitation and Research Memorial Hermann, one of the many pioneering medical institutions that have made Houston a global mecca for healthcare.

Now it’s time to remember what big cities mean to Texas and what Texas means to big cities.

It’s time to stop the bashing of big cities that suddenly, and without cause, has taken hold of the highest leaders at the state Capitol in Austin.

Here is the entire Op-Ed: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Turner-Abbott-and-Patrick-s-scorn-of-Texas-big-11740136.php?cmpid=twitter-premium.

Steve Houston sent me his two cents, more like twenty bucks on my mention of the H-Town Firefighters and their 2015 endorsed candidate for Mayor this past Friday. Here it is:

The firefighters are fair weather friends at best, their years of support for Turner cast aside when he carried through his campaign promise of pension reform. Most of that reform was supported by HFD’s pension board too, as soon as the new law passed, all of their wailing about amazing funding levels and ability to generate specific returns were dropped in favor of them demanding an over 50% increase in yearly funding, lowering their yearly goal on returns to almost what was imposed on them, and more accurate numbers provided than the numbers they continued to promote from ~5 years prior.

Then, after years of bashing former city attorney David Feldman, pointing out what a hack he was, how incompetent his legal skills were, and how he was not only one of the highest paid municipal lawyers in the country but how he was given huge yearly raises while other employees were laid off or received no raises; they hire the guy themselves. I’m not in a position to evaluate Feldman’s legal acumen but for years, all we heard from HFD were these personal attacks yet now they are hiring him, presumably at much higher hourly rates than the city paid, to champion their cause.

But as far as all the back and forth regarding the counting of the petitions, maybe HFD’s union should have started the process sooner, after all, the city secretary’s office has about 9 people in it to handle all their duties and it is likely that several of them have scheduled vacations or other time off this being a high demand time for vacations. Given the wailing by HFD to be allowed to take off any time they want regardless of the resulting overtime cost, they should understand this, although admittedly it isn’t deer season. And their belief that everything else should be dropped to expedite their petition over all else is just childish, the matter will eventually come to a vote whether it is in November or May if they have the signatures, the matter almost certain to end up in the courts for years afterwards no matter what.

So if Marty and the others making wild-eyed conspiracy claims that Mayor Turner is manipulating Anna Russell’s office don’t want to sound like lunatics, they really need to come up with some credible, irrefutable proof of Turner’s involvement because nobody seems to think Ms. Russell, the city secretary for over 45 years (working at the city for over 65 years) is prone to being influenced. The woman has won various awards over the years, including some from the League of Women Voters, and given claims of how many signatures were collected, the sheer bulk of the task could easily take months. There’s a big difference between Turner taking an active hand discouraging a quick tally and simply letting their own procrastination to implode the vote for now.

Check out today’s Chron on another story about the Firefighters and their petitions.

Governor Mark White

First a Facebook post Saturday from Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg:

Political courage is hard to come by these days. Sometimes I wish I were old enough to have seen it in action. I was saddened today to learn of former Gov. Mark White’s passing. As governor, he risked his political future to improve schools for Texas students and support teachers, efforts that required a tax increase. We used to be willing to invest in our future. Not anymore. In his retirement, Gov. White was still active. He served on boards, and I’d see him around town at …

…. I came away impressed with his insight and his grace. #RIP, governor. We can all learn a thing or two from your life of service.

Here is the beginning of a RG tweet from Saturday: White didn’t get the credit he deserved.

Today he is getting credit. Over the last 36 hours, I am finally getting to read and hear about Governor Mark White’s legacy and a great one at that.

Full disclosure. Commentary served Governor White for five years. In 1982 as a key member of his campaign team and from 1983 – 1986 as a Special Assistant to the Governor.   He was my former boss and he was my friend.   And I was there to see his political courage in action from a front row seat, heck more like from a trainer’s stool in a prizefighter’s corner.

I recognize describing someone as “the real deal” is overused but that is who Mark White was – the real deal. He had backbone, courage, balls, a great sense of humor who could also make fun of himself. More importantly, unlike many elected officials of today, he took responsibility and didn’t blame others.

As a campaigner, he was amongst the best if not the best. Yeah, as a typical campaign day would start, he would gripe about starting early and ending late on a schedule with multiple stops. Once he got into campaign mode though he turned it on, he was genuine. He would look his fellow Texan in the eye and take in their concern and/or issues. He wasn’t one of those candidates shaking a voter’s hand while at the same time looking over at the next person in line. He was all eye contact to the max and was very accessible and engaging. He never talked down to folks. Grocery store cashiers, farmworkers, business owners, he treated them all the same. At the end of a campaign day he came away with a personal sense of what was important to the Texans he had engaged.

Over the last couple of days, a lot has been written about Governor White on his championing of education reforms, supporting teacher pay raises, and leading the charge in the diversification of Texas’ economy. Here is this from the Statesman:

Gov. Mark White, the last hurrah of the Texas Democratic Party’s conservative wing, delayed the full emergence of the Republican Party of Texas, diversified the state’s boom-and-bust oil economy and championed public education reforms that helped end his political career.

Governor White did start out in the conservative wing of the Democratic Party but I don’t feel that we took office in 1983 as the conservative wing. I never felt for one day I was working for a conservative or advancing a conservative agenda.

While in office he travelled to a fundraiser at the D.C. area home of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Kennedy greeted us on his driveway when we pulled up. Unlike some Texas Democratic elected officials at the time, Governor White didn’t have any problem being seen with the likes of Sen. Kennedy and the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo.

I guess folks have forgotten about the Indigent Health Care Program bill of 1985.   It was the last night of the 69th Legislative Session and conservatives and GOPers ran out the clock on the Indigent Health Care Program bill. A few minutes past sine die, members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) hurried over to the Governor’s office and met with the Governor and demanded that he immediately call a special session. The MALC members were justifiably p_ssed off – not at us – that the bill was killed. The Governor listened intently, huddled with some of us on the staff then visited with Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby and Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis and called for a special session to begin the following morning. The bill passed a few days later.

He signed a key farmworker supported legislation and the signing took place at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in the Rio Grande Valley surrounded by farmworkers and Latino state legislators.

Governor White also believed it was important that state government should look more like the people that it served. He was the first governor to systematically begin to appoint women and folks of color to major boards and commissions and name the same type of folks to key positions on his staff, including senior staff.

Here is from an AP story:

The no-pass, no-play initiative, which barred students from playing school sports if they were failing a class, was a politically tricky and unpopular move in a state crazy about its high school football. It had to survive a challenge in the state Supreme Court.

White underestimated the passionate resistance to no-pass, no-play that sparked protests and a few threats of violence.

“It was horrible,” White said. “I misread the intensity of it until I saw it for myself in West Texas. My security people thought I should go by myself: ‘Here’s my gun. You go.'”

I accompanied the Governor on that trip to Odessa and Midland. We met with teachers and coaches in a local hotel conference room. The Governor patiently listened and explained his actions. I remember the teachers and coached being irate and vocal but at the same time respectful.

Weeks later we visited the Rio Grande Valley and were greeted by hundreds of teachers protesting the Governor and the testing provision of the education reform bill.

And this is from RG:

It would be easy to look upon Mark White’s single term as governor as a failure because of his re-election defeat. But student athletes perform better today because no pass, no play forces them to, class size was reduced to make teaching more effective, and the Legislature increased education spending 26 percent to equalize state public spending statewide.

At the end of White’s term, the state paid 67 percent of all education costs in Texas. Today, the state’s share is down to 38 percent. One could reasonably argue that local property taxes are rising in part because no politician today has the courage to say, as White once did, “Blame me.”

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/education-governor-mark-white-dead-77/.

Governor White had touch choices to make back then and he made them. For our schools, for our teachers, for our infrastructure, to keep state government working – he made them and it cost him dearly. He wouldn’t have done it differently.

Let me end with this from an article yesterday:

The credit for White’s (1982) upset largely went to U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, who financed a massive Democratic turnout effort that propelled a generation of Democrats, including Ann Richards, Jim Mattox, Jim Hightower and Garry Mauro, into higher office.

(White campaign treasurer Shannon) Ratliff said White didn’t get credit for his contribution to the 1982 electoral sweep.

“If you went into the black precincts and in the rural areas, Mark White did better than Bentsen and Hobby,” he said.

This has always been a political pet peeve of mine, but I didn’t want to expend a whole lot of political energy on this back them but now that Governor White will be going to his grave, I will address it. Give Governor White’s campaign its credit.

I travelled the state in 1982 and visited and met with the political folks on the ground. They were excited about Mark White’s campaign. Yeah, the other campaigns spent money but so did we.   The White-Clements race was one of the most watched in the country that year and certainly the premier race in Texas. Do you even remember who the GOP put up against Sen. Bentsen and Lt. Gov. Hobby? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Folks just didn’t want to give White his due just like folks didn’t want to give him his just due after we got beat in 1986.

By the way, it was Cong. Jim Collins and George Strake and also by the way, there were more votes cast in the governor’s race that year than in the other two.

I was proud to have worked for Governor White. He was a political giant, but he certainly didn’t act like one. We accomplished a lot. It was the greatest honor in my life to work for him. He was a great guy.  He loved Texas.

God bless Texas and God bless Governor Mark White.

Full Friday

Now that Adrian Beltre has joined the 3,000 base hit club, who is next on the list?

Commentary has said it before. It is not my fight. I am talking about the Houston Firefighters and their petitions and the H-Town Mayor. Commentary has also said this before. Breaking up is hard to do. Both were waltzing together across H-Town just a couple of years ago.

The Firefighters are accusing the City of dragging their feet on getting their petitions certified. Here is from Mike Morris and the Chron:

(Mayor) Turner rejected any suggestion that he has involved himself in the City Secretary’s effort to verify their petition, and his office on Thursday said an offer by the fire union to cover any staffing costs needed to count their signatures is being examined as a possible attempt to improperly influence a public official.

Apparently, the strong mayor form of governing doesn’t apply to the City Secretary. Here is this from the article:

“She’s the one who’s doing the counting, she verifies the signatures. That’s the process,” Turner said. “No one runs the city secretary’s shop but the city secretary.”

Now why did the Firefighters make that endorsement two years ago? This too from the Chron:

“This is just one more example of the reason that firefighters do not trust Sylvester Turner,” ( Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 president Marty Lancton) said. “It is one more example of the lies that continue to happen from the Turner administration.”

Here is the entire Morris piece: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Rancor-between-firefighters-mayor-flares-anew-11732905.php?cmpid=btfpm.

Let’s cut the BS. If you can beat the Firefighters, put it on the ballot. If you don’t think you can and don’t want to take the major budgetary hit, run out the clock and deal with it in the courts and in the election of 2019.

The Chron also has a piece on the Pasadena voting rights lawsuit. Here is a bit:

The (city) council voted 5-3 on Aug. 1 to pay $45,585 to the Bickerstaff firm, bringing the total paid in legal fees over the last six months to the firm to more than $320,000. The city paid more than $2.5 million before the ruling.

At the Aug. 1 meeting, Councilman Don Harrison broached the topic of a settlement regarding MALDEF’s legal expenses.

“I understand through sources there are negotiations going on with MALDEF, who has requested $1.6 million to settle the lawsuit. We’ve had an executive session to discuss this, and yet we’re still continuing with the appeal,” said Harrison, who joined Sammy Casados and Cody Ray Wheeler in voting against approving the latest payment. “It’s time to settle this matter with MALDEF and get this lawsuit over.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/neighborhood/pasadena/news/article/Pasadena-mayor-silent-on-city-s-appeal-of-federal-11732489.php.

I am betting when the law firm was hired by the City of Pasadena way back then, they said they had a slam dunk case. Well we know how that turned out. Settle the darn case and stop listening to the law firm.

Yesterday, Commentary volunteered to participate in an online survey conducted by the ‘Stros. I thought I would get my shot in on the ticket prices. They didn’t ask about tickets. They did ask about the Saint Arnold hangout over by Union Station. I put in a good word for the Saint Arnold hangout. I sure hope they are not considering closing it. Heck, they just expanded the area this season.

They also asked in detail about utilizing kiosks that self-serve. I don’t know about that. I hope they aren’t thinking about this as a way of cutting back on employees. One of the key reasons for getting the stadium referendum passed back in 1996 was to create economic development – for tourism, restaurants, bars, development in the area, and jobs for folks, both inside and outside of The Yard. It wasn’t passed just to make the ‘Stros more dough.

Commentary understands the need for technology and modernization to make things more convenient for the fans, but don’t kid yourselves. The Yard driven by kiosks is not going to drop the price of a Saint Arnold or hot dog or a Torchy’s Taco – just saying. Don’t kiosk The Yard at the expense of the employees – a lot of them who are not making a whole lot of money. Just saying.

Bill King had this take on yesterday’s Daily Commentary:

GDP is the sum of population growth and productive gains. Productive is lagging and our native population is declining. I absolutely agree that we need to do something about illegal immigration for a wide variety of reasons, but unreasonably limiting legal immigration is a self-defeating strategy. Look at Japan.

WEK

Royko, aka Tom, had these:

That’s interesting because I am Latino and Trump is not coming after me.

The Progressives have bastardized the whole process.

Tell me again why we need to let MS-13 bad hombres run wild throughout the nation?

I would rather have educated immigrants who are self-reliant and think before they vote for a Marxist candidate who wants to tax and spend us into oblivion rather than an illiterate 3rd-world refugee who will be a subsidized ward of the state for their entire life, and dependably votes Democrat.

Time will tell if the majority of Americans want to keep the Obama policy of allowing open borders and an unlimited flow of illegals who continue to drain our precious resources.

Tom

And:

It would impact some immigration attorneys, true.

There is a lot wrong with the current process, and there is more than one view on the legislation.

From what I understand, all a legal immigrant needs to do is pay the attorneys to fill out the paperwork, be able to read one of three standardized sentences, and parrot the sentence.

Over the past number of years, there has been little if any enforcement of the self-reliance provisions.

Is it not a gross exaggeration to state “would [be] devastating to our economy?” The 2015 GDP was over $18 TRILLION.

Tom

And finally:

Pat Buchanan covered this issue back in 2001. He recognized that all of the Socialist industrialized nations were in population declines, but warned that a flood of immigrants was not the answer.

The EU adopted the UN plan to overrun every country with immigrants, where none of them have assimilated, and instead created chaos.

The chaos in Europe is mind-knumbing.

We have Sanctuary cities contributing to the chaos in the USA.

First, we need law and order. The activist federal judges are doing more harm by continuing Obama’s unsound policies.

Second, the nation needs to decide if it is better sober, or inebriated, as no good ever came from the abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs.

Third, does the American society return to growing, self-reliant family units, or continue the Nanny State.

Tom

Albert Pujols of course has 2,918 base hits so he will join the 3,000 base hit club sometime next season.

Karma anyone? I am surprised we still hold a 15 game lead as the Jays visit The Yard for three.

The 3 Ms

I was at my Dad’s yesterday and we were watching that scary looking fella who works for Donald Trump trying to ‘splain their immigration proposal. It didn’t take me long to figure out what was going on. This fella wasn’t serious about getting this proposal enacted. He was just feeding red meat to their base.

Commentary was glad to hear CNN’s Jim Acosta tell us about the 3 Ms that Trump is going after – the media, Mexicans, and Muslims. I guess I am in the bunch since I am of the Mexican-American persuasion.

Speaking of the media, it says something when CNN spends most of their evening last night not debating whether Trump lied or not, but rather why he keeps lying. He is a serial liar for sure.

Who leads the ‘Stros in runs scored?

My friend Bill King sent out a take on sanctuary cities and here it is:

What is a Sanctuary City?

Today’s world of 24-hour, partisan-slaved cable networks and an ideologically re-enforcing blogosphere is dominated by catch phrases that frequently create more obfuscation than illumination.  The term “sanctuary city” is exactly such a catch phrase.

What does it really mean to be a “sanctuary city?”  There are really only two public policy issues that are relevant to this issue.

The first issue relates to the procedures followed when a person is taken into custody.   When that happens, most law enforcement agencies attempt to make some determination about the immigration status of the person.  

Making that determination is not as straight forward as one may think.  About 40% of the individuals in the country illegally came here under a valid visa that has expired.  Those visas are frequently extended.  Attempting to determine if a visa has been extended or not is not a simple matter.  Similarly, under the Citizenship Act of 2000, if a child has one parent that is U.S. citizen, they are automatically eligible for citizenship under certain circumstances even if they were not born in the U.S.  And, of course, under President Obama’s executive order, persons here illegally, but brought here as children are not subject to deportation under certain circumstances.  President Trump recently extended that executive order.  The result is that, in many cases, you need an immigration lawyer to figure out if a person is in the country legally or not.

If it is determined that a person in custody is in the country illegally, that information is passed along to ICE.  Federal law prohibits cities from banning this type of communication between their police departments and ICE.  

In most cases ICE does nothing with this information because it does not have the resources to deport every person here illegally.  Normally ICE focuses only on those with a criminal record.  In that case, ICE may request that the city hold the person until ICE can pick them up.  Interestingly, there is no requirement in federal law for the city to hold a person for ICE, but most do so voluntarily.   

However, some cities, like Austin and San Francisco have refused to cooperate with ICE and detain prisoners in their custody.  Some have attempted to parse the issue by holding only prisoners who have been arrested for a serious offense.   

SB4, the immigration law recently enacted by the Texas Legislature, requires cities to honor ICE detainer requests.  It is hard for me to see the argument against this requirement.  I am surprised federal law does not already require it.  It is absurd for a city to release a person in custody that ICE has identified for deportation, requiring ICE to then track them back down. 

Some have argued that ICE is targeting individuals that pose no real threat.  I have seen any data on the type of crimes committed by those ICE is deporting, but it seems unlikely given their limited resources ICE is wasting its time with minor offenses.  But regardless cities should not be in the business of second guessing ICE’s determinations about who should be deported.   

The second issue is more complicated and deals with the procedures for when a police officer can and should inquire about a person’s immigration status.  Many police departments, including Houston, have a policy that prohibits police officers from asking a person about their immigration status until that person is taken into custody.  Interestingly, until a few years ago, the Texas Department of Public Safety had the same policy.  SB4 prohibits cities from keeping its police officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status if that person is lawfully “detained.”   

“Detention” is different from being arrested.  When a police officer pulls you over for a traffic violation, you have been detained.  So, this controversy is really about whether police officers are going to inquire about immigration status when a person is stopped for an otherwise legitimate reason, like a taillight being out.

The problem arises in trying to determine which individuals who have been detained, i.e., stopped, will be asked about their immigration status.  The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that police cannot discriminate during traffic stops based on race or nationality.  And, in fact, SB4 prohibits a police officer from using “race, color, religion, language or national origin” as a basis for asking about a person’s immigration status.

So exactly how is a police officer going to decide who to ask about their immigration status without considering the person’s nationality or language?  Anytime an officer asks about immigration status, he or she is opening themselves up to a civil rights lawsuit.   

And there is another problem.  Let’s assume that an officer stops a person for speeding and during the stop that person admits that they are not in the country legally.  What then?   

If the officer arrests the person for being in the country illegally, there is literally nothing to do with the person.  The County jail will not take them.  ICE will not take them.  In fact, there is a complicated legal issue as to whether local police officers even have the lawful Constitutional authority to make arrests under federal immigration law in the first place.  So, what is the point of asking?

The bottom line is that local police are not going to be asking detainees about their immigration status except in very extraordinary circumstances, SB4 notwithstanding.   

Immigrate advocates argue police officers asking about immigration status will chill immigrants from reporting crimes and being willing to be witnesses in criminal cases.  SB4 attempts to deal with that issue by prohibiting officers from asking crime victims or witnesses about their immigration status.  

There have been several reports that the number of crimes being reported by the immigrant community has declined recently.  Opponents of SB4 have attributed this decline to the bill’s passage which seems pretty far-fetched, considering it has not even gone into effect.  I have no doubt there is a decline, but that is more likely caused by the overall tone of the of national immigration debate, not one specific bill.   

The bottom line is that SB4 is going to have little effect either way on the immigration challenges we are facing.  Texas, like other jurisdictions, has entered the immigration fray out of frustration with Congress’ inability to act.  There is no question that allowing millions to enter the country illegally over the last three decades has caused many problems: accidents with uninsured motorists, criminal gangs slipping into the country with immigrants coming here to work, overcrowded schools and public hospitals . . . the list goes on and on.  Congress’ failure to enact comprehensive reform is an inexcusable dereliction of their duty.

The principal elements for such reform are clear and supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans.  Secure the border.  Provide a procedure for those here illegally, but are contributing and not criminals, to get legal or get out.  Create an enforceable temporary worker program.  Set reasonable annual immigration quotas.  It is not rocket science.  

But until Congress acts expect more SB4s, more litigation, more hardship for US citizens forced to  deal with the problems caused by illegal immigration, more uncertainty for immigrants, and more acrimony over a problem that is 100% self-inflicted by our worthless, do-nothing Congress.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal is one of the smartest guys covering baseball and here is his take on the ‘Stros not making a big trade:

THE ASTROS’ BIG FAIL

Astros reliever Will Harris went on the disabled list Sunday with right shoulder inflammation. Starter Lance McCullers joined him Monday with lower back discomfort. The team’s monthly ERAs have increased from 3.38 to 3.60 to 4.79 to 4.99, and the depth of both the rotation and bullpen for the postseason is in question.

The Astros’ answer to all this was …

… trading for Blue Jays lefty Francisco Liriano?

Explain that to a team that has built the best record in the American League, a city that has yet to win a World Series, a clubhouse that includes distinguished veteran Carlos Beltran, who at 40 is still seeking his first Series title.\

General manager Jeff Luhnow made a big deadline trade in 2015, acquiring Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from the Brewers in a deal that ultimately did not work out well for the Astros, costing them Josh Hader, Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips.

Is Luhnow spooked?

The GM, operating with a lesser club, did nothing at last year’s deadline but off-load two pitchers, Scott Feldman and Josh Fields. He told reporters that he had some possibilities Monday that he thought were more than 90 percent certain to happen, but ultimately slipped away.

One of those, presumably, was a trade for Britton – the Orioles, operating on their own planet, decided about an hour before the deadline they would hold the reliever, sources said.

No excuse.

The Dodgers also were trying for Britton, but launched into Plan B after learning he would be unavailable. The Astros evidently had no Plan B – or at least not one that came to fruition.

What happens if Dallas Keuchel ends back on the DL after missing more than seven weeks earlier this season with neck discomfort? What happens if McCullers fails to regain his equilibrium, if the bullpen continues to show cracks?

The Astros hold a 16-game lead in the AL West and 11 1/2-game lead for the league’s best overall record, but no longer do they look clearly superior to the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees.

There’s no getting around it: Monday was a lost opportunity.

Here is another Rosenthal take on the ‘Stros and no big trades: https://www.facebook.com/kenrosenthalsports/posts/1468518593213867.

Folks know my feelings on this.

Here is from the ‘Stros yesterday:

Major League Baseball announced this afternoon that second baseman Jose Altuve has been named the American League Player of the Month for July, and first baseman Yuli Gurriel has been named the American League Rookie of the Month for July. Altuve had an historic month of July, hitting .485 (48×99) with 10 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 21 RBI and a 1.251 OPS (.523 OBP/.727 SLG) in 23 games. He led all Major League players in OPS, batting average, hits and on-base percentage during the month, while leading the AL in slugging percentage. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Altuve’s .485 batting average was the fifth-highest by a Major League player in any calendar month since 1961, trailing only Todd Helton (.512 in May 2000), Ivan Rodriguez (.500 in June 2004), George Brett (.494 in July 1980) and Wade Boggs (.485 in June 1987). It was also the fifth-highest batting average for the month of July in AL history. During the month, Gurriel led all American League rookies in hits (28), doubles (9), RBI (20), slugging percentage (.565) and OPS (.899), while ranking tied for first in runs (15), second in batting average (.304, 28×92) and tied for third in home runs (5). He tied Lance Berkman (2000) for the franchise record for most doubles in a single month of July by a rookie. This marks the first career monthly award for Gurriel, and the second career monthly award for Altuve, who was named the AL June Player of the Month in 2016. Altuve has three AL Player of the Week awards on his ledger: July 3-9, 2017, April 11-17, 2016 and April 28-May 4, 2015.

George Springer leads the team with 82 runs scored of course.

We sure need SpringerDinger and Carlos Correa.

55 games remaining.

 

 

 

The ‘Stros are on pace to win how many games?

Some folks are not happy that the H-Town Police Chief went to Austin to oppose the bathroom bill. Same for some H-Town City Council Members.   Playing to the base, I guess.

They are not supposed to be masterpieces. I found this funny. From the Chron:

Is a traffic control signal cabinet a thing of beauty or a blight to be beautified?

In Houston, the answers are yes and yes, because this city has plenty of room for public art and two thriving art communities that don’t mix much.

In some ways, these communities’ stories read like a classic tale of haves and have-nots: The highly educated types who traffic in art history, abstraction, minimalism and conceptual work some people wouldn’t consider art at all versus the self-taught street artists, a tight-knit group whose often brash works are more widely seen and wildly popular.

Their culture clash veered toward a head-on collision early this week after the visual arts website Glasstire dissed, generally, the mini murals by street artists that have appeared at more than 170 Houston intersections since 2015.

“When have you ever looked at a blank electrical box on the street and thought, ‘Gee, I wish someone with moderate artistic skills would paint a toucan on that?'” sniped Glasstire founder Rainey Knudson.

Comparing the mini-mural program to the “Cow Parade,” a fundraiser that brought dozens of precast cow sculptures to city streets 16 years ago, she suggested that the plain steel traffic boxes are “natural” elements of the urban landscape that should be left “invisible.”

“People aren’t necessarily asking for decoration in their lives,” Knudson wrote.

Members of the street art community felt blindsided by the criticism. Some agreed the program has produced some bad art. So, for that matter, Knudson conceded, have commercial art galleries and fairs.

Here is the article:  http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Houston-s-MiniMurals-Beauty-or-Blight-11725567.php.

Who cares? I also liked the cow parade. Oh, well.

The Chron’s Brian Smith dissed the ‘Stros front office for not making a big trade. He really enjoyed it when Dallas Keuchel called out the front office. Here is from David Barron’s piece on Keuchel:

Dallas Keuchel, one of the mainstays of the Astros’ long slog from the depths to the top of the American League standings, said Tuesday he was disappointed that management was unable to swing a deadline deal Monday and said the players are now determined to “win for each other.”

Keuchel was blunt and quick to the point in his reaction to general manager Jeff Luhnow’s inability to land a significant player upgrade prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.

“I’m not going to lie. Disappointment is a little bit of an understatement,” he said. “I felt like a bunch of teams really bolstered their roster for the long haul and for a huge playoff push and us just kind of staying pat was really disappointing to myself.”

The 2015 Cy Young Award winner said that while the Astros players are confident with their current roster, “Good teams can always be great and great teams can be legendary. At the end of the year you want to be the only ones left, and it (the lack of reinforcements) is a little disappointing for sure.”

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/astros/article/Dallas-Keuchel-disappointed-in-Astros-lack-of-11725573.php.

Brian Smith added this:

Dallas Keuchel said what needed to be said.

From the Astros’ clubhouse. As one of the main voices on the American League’s best team.

Kudos to the Cy Young winner for his unfiltered honesty and speaking the truth.

And this:

For Keuchel to publicly say that, it means other Astros are thinking and feeling it. And it reminds me of what a key Astro said more than a month ago, when the team was the best in MLB and the frenzy of the trade deadline was just a tease.

“They’re crazy if they don’t make a trade this time.”

No guts no glory.   You have to give up top prospects to get great players. We were not willing to pull the trigger. We were not willing to give up prospects. Prospects?

Commentary will say it again. Bad karma. That’s what happens when a front office becomes money grabbing, price gouging, and greedy. There are baseball gods watching.

The ‘Stros are on pace to win 105 games.

That’s all I have to say.