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Cruz Missile

I have to give a shout out to Teddy Schleifer of the Chron for breaking the Sen. Ted Cruz running for president story Saturday evening. It has been a top national story ever since.

I heard the phrase “Cruz missile” on “Today” this morning. I am thinking we will be hearing it a lot over the coming months.

That being said, it really should not come as a surprise that Sen. Cruz is running for president. He has not been your typical U.S. Senator from Texas. Over the last couple of years, we haven’t seen him spending the weekends and recesses touring the state and speaking at local chambers of commerce banquets and Rotary clubs. You don’t see him hanging with the locals or riding in parades. That’s not how he has been rolling. Instead he has been where the national action is – early primary and caucus states and high profile conferences. Heck, he is not even announcing from the state he represents. What did you expect?

On “Today” this morning, a pundit called Sen. Cruz a second tier presidential candidate. I am not going to assess his chances. I will say that when he first got into the U.S. Senate race a few years ago a lot of folks didn’t give him much of a chance.

Everybody knows that Jeff Bagwell was our Opening Day starting first baseman from 1991-2005. Name our Opening Day starting first baseman in 1990?

This past Saturday the Chron E-Board gave a Thumbs Down to the Tour de Houston folks for playing in the Mayoral race – allegedly. Check this:

(Thumbs down) Very crafty of Tour de Houston organizers to route last weekend’s 60-mile bike ride through a park named after a mayoral candidate supported by former aides of the current mayor. This affirms our belief that only sewage treatment plants should be named after living politicians unless, of course, they are George or Barbara Bush.

Pardon the pun but that is so bush league! I wonder if they set up the bike route streets with the least number of #HoustonPotholes.

You have to admire the E-Board these days for how they are getting in the game so to speak.

City of H-Town pensions again got some run in Saturday’s Chron. Mike Morris wrote the piece. Here is one line from the article:

The rising cost of pensions has caused stress at City Hall for more than a decade; Houston is paying $353 million into its pensions this fiscal year, almost twice what it spends on trash pickup, parks and libraries combined.

Here is the entire Morris story:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/A-complex-proposition-advocating-for-pension-6149057.php.

I have said it before. This issue is here to stay.

In 1990, Glenn Davis was our Opening Day starting first baseman against Cincy of course.

Opening Day is two weeks from today.

Now that Teddy Schleifer of the Chron has put out a story that the Harris County Sheriff is ACTUALLY running for Mayor, the next story will be on when the Sheriff will ACTUALLY announce, then there will be one on the Sheriff’s announcement – got it.

Of course, there will be a story next Sunday on State Rep. Sylvester Turner’s OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN KICK-OFF from The Yard.

I am trying to think. Has Ben Hall or Oliver Pennington officially announced and gotten the Teddy Treatment in the Chron?

In the race for H-Town Mayor, so far, #HoustonPotholes and pensions are the issues that have gotten some run in the local media. What’s next?

Well according to the Chron on the Sheriff running maybe more on this:

…will portray himself as a fiscally responsible executive who has directly managed a large, complex agency and strengthened the financial health of the sheriff’s office…

I’m not complaining, so stay tuned!

How many times was Nolan Ryan our Opening Day starting pitcher?

The Chron E-Board today comes out in support of doing away with straight-party voting. I don’t agree.

A ton of folks vote straight ticket in Texas. I am going to guess that these folks are just interested in voting for folks from one party. I can certainly relate.

If you take away the option of entering the straight-ticket selection, I am guessing that these folks will just enter individual candidates of the same party. I don’t think eliminating the straight-ticket option is going to get these folks to think about splitting their ticket. I can certainly relate.

Most GOPers that get elected in their party primary are pretty much the same on issues like immigration reform, same sex marriage, Choice – you get the picture. The Dem and GOP party platforms are canyons apart, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to tell the candidates apart.

I don’t think those that vote straight-party are complaining about the current set-up. Are those that don’t complaining?

This is much ado about nothing if you ask me. Here is the E-Board take:

Anytime lawmakers start tinkering with rules on how we vote, it’s only natural to look for thinly disguised ulterior motives. We hate to be cynical, but whether it’s redistricting schemes, voter ID requirements or other rule-changing matters, party aggrandizement is usually at the core of the so-called reform.

Such may be the motive behind a bill that would eliminate straight-party voting, and yet the idea is worth considering. The sponsor of House Bill 1288, state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, points out that Texas is one of only 10 states that allows voters to walk into the booth and either punch a button or click a box to deliver their votes entirely to the candidates of one party.

The problem with straight-ticket voting is that it occasionally results in manifestly unqualified candidates being swept into office by herd-mentality voters, particularly in judicial and other down-ballot races where the candidates aren’t well known. According to a recent study conducted by Austin Community College, 61 percent of voters in the state’s 46 largest counties took advantage of the straight-ticket option in 2014, the highest percentage ever in a gubernatorial election year.

Eliminating straight-ticket voting won’t be a panacea, as Glenn Maxey of the Texas Democratic Party pointed out to a House committee this week. Maxey, a former state representative from Austin, noted that big-city voters have to contend with ballots so long that they’ll be spending half an hour or so making their choices. Lines of waiting voters will be as long as the ballots themselves. They might decide it’s not worth the effort.

Even more problematic, very few voters will be familiar with either the names or policy positions of every candidate. They will know that the Democratic candidate, in all likelihood, will be to the left of the Republican candidate, whether the race is for a judicial, executive or legislative office. Unless they’ve made a detailed study of every candidate’s background, experience and political views, then voting straight-ticket is a logical way to choose.

Wayne Thorburn, a Republican Party consultant, has pointed out additional problems with eliminating the straight-ticket option. Writing in the Texas Tribune recently, he noted that down-ballot candidates will have to spend more money building up their name recognition and seeking the support of special-interest groups. “That,” in Thorburn’s words, “will only lead to more nefarious ‘slate’ marketers selling advertisements in voter guides in return for an endorsement.” Harris County knows the slate shysters only too well.

It’s a close call, since support for a party platform despite a few weak candidates on the party slate is a legitimate position to hold. Still, we come down on the side of the Simmons bill. If eliminating straight-party voting results in a more thoughtful, better-informed voter, then that’s a good thing in a state where voting percentages are outrageously low. Even without the straight-ticket button, voters still can vote a straight ticket; it just may take awhile longer. Voters also have the option of consulting reliable information guides, whether produced by a hometown newspaper or the League of Women Voters.

We need to be about getting people to the polls, not eliminating choices.

Nolan Ryan was our Opening Day starting pitcher three times of course – 1982, 1985 and 1986.

The team is starting to whittle down the roster.

Name the only two ‘Stros who have been in the Opening Day starting line-up the last three seasons?

The new norm in Texas is campus carry and the AG suing over the extending of family leave benefits to same-sex married couples. Is there any relief in sight?

I guess it is time to start paying attention to college basketball.

One of the online posts from the last couple of days asks this question: How is the Harris County Sheriff going to make a living after he resigns? I wonder how much voters care about this.

I am thinking folks really want to know who will do a good job of running the City, dealing with finances, and attacking potholes.

I wonder if the Sheriff will start getting twitter bombed like some of the other candidates.

On, Tuesday evening, Maricruz and John Cody from La Porte took their three kids to the Rodeo and ended up getting handcuffed and detained in front of their kids. Maricruz also got falsely accused of shoplifting. What a shame and what a nightmare!

I guess the security thought they fit the shoplifting profile. They were Latino looking. They were the wrong color. Here is from the Chron on the incident:

Police later took off Cody’s handcuffs and went with him to collect his two other daughters.

“My kids have never seen anything like that before…” he said. “They were pretty upset.”

His wife and eldest daughter were released about two hours after the ordeal began.

Several law enforcement officers eventually apologized for how the incident was handled and told them they were free to go to the carnival or come back another day, but they told the family they had been banned from NRG Center, Cody said.

Maricruz, meanwhile, is still upset.

“She judged us, tried us, found us guilty,” she said, of the deputy who detained her. “She was adamant we had the earrings. … It was something very hard for me to watch, my daughter brought in in handcuffs, searched, treated like a criminal.”

And:

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials said they had recently learned about the incident and were reaching out to the Codys.

“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo wants all of its guests to have the best experience possible while visiting our event,” Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials said in an email on Wednesday.

“We want to extend our apologies to the Cody family for the problems they encountered as show guests, and are reaching out to them to help us resolve this situation,” the email stated. “They will be offered a day of hospitality here at the show, including rodeo and carnival tickets.”

Here is the entire Chron story: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Family-rodeo-outing-turns-to-hellish-nightmare-6144054.php.

Well at least the mighty Rodeo knows their security screwed up. If I was the family, I would settle for a couple of all expense paid suites to a couple of future Rodeo performances – at the very least. They deserve better!

Second baseman Jose Altuve and catcher Jason Castro are the only two ‘Stros who have started on Opening Day the last three seasons (2012-2014) of course.

Pitcher Scott Feldman will get the starting nod on Day Two of the season.

#PotholeHeaven!

Commentary was watching the local news this morning and I had to tweet the following:

Marc Campos ‏@MarcCommentary 24m24 minutes ago
This morning @KPRC2 traffic reporter @JenniferReyna refers to Richmond Ave as #PotholeHeaven. #HoustonPotholes pic.twitter.com/sx8sDBPevm.

Jennifer Reyna certainly ought to know!

She also tweeted me this response:

Jennifer Reyna @JenniferReyna
@MarcCommentary ⚠️⚠️ #potholes #richmondadisaster

It’s #HoustonPotholes Stupid 2015! (What an idea for a bumper sticker!)

This tweet came out yesterday:

Brian McTaggart ⚾️ ‏@brianmctaggart 4h4 hours ago
Astros announce Dallas Keuchel as Opening Day starter

This will make it six straight ‘Stro Opening Days with a different starting pitcher – name the six pitchers?

Since we are on the subject of key issues in the race for H-Town Mayor, the Chron’s Teddy Schleifer has a piece today to let us know that the Harris County Sheriff is still running for Mayor but he will let us know when he actually does – got it? Here is from the Teddy take:

He’s (The Sheriff) going to rocket to the top three right away, making it a more contentious fight,” said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus, who sees (Sheriff Adrian) Garcia clawing with (State Rep. Sylvester) Turner and former Congressman Chris Bell in the first tier. “He’s really the kind of candidate that can change the game here.”

Folks know how I feel about handicapping the race at this point because there are still issues to debate, candidate forums to attend, money to raise, and #HoustonPotholes to discover!

There are also some local Dem activists to appease who will not be too happy with the fact that the Sheriff will be punting the Sheriff’s Office over to the GOP. But the Sheriff’s folks know that.

This is Teddy’s piece on the Sheriff’s campaign:
http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Sources-Adrian-Garcia-to-run-for-Houston-mayor-6140978.php.

Maybe Teddy or someone else will survey Dem elected officials and Dem party leaders and activists to get their take on handing the Sheriff’s Office to the GOP.

Pere Rose has applied to MLB for reinstatement. He wants back into baseball. He wants to get into the MLB Hall of Fame muy pronto. I don’t give a rat’s arse! I just hope we don’t have to be subjected a full blown media debate on the pros and cons of his case.

Roy Oswalt (2010), Brett Myers (2011), Wandy Rodriguez (2012), Bud Norris (2013), Scott Feldman (2014), and now Dallas Keuchel (2015) will make it six different Opening Day starting pitchers since 2010 of course.

I am OK with Keuchel getting the Opening Day nod.

20 Years Later

Craig Biggio visited Spring Training yesterday. Since he has retired, the ‘Stros have had four different Opening Day starting second basemen – name them, please?

Yesterday Open Carry moved forward in the Texas Senate. Here is what the GOP author of the bill said during the debate: “It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to band together and right this ancient wrong.”

It passed along party lines 20-11.

Commentary is not a fan of concealed handgun carry licenses and certainly not Open Carry. I don’t think they make us any safer. Show me the proof and/or the data!

Of course it is tough to argue with the author on his statement inviting Dems to help out. 20 years ago the Texas Legislature adopted concealed handgun carry licenses while Dems controlled the Texas State Senate 17-14 and the Texas House 87-63 and we also had a Dem Lite Guv and Dem House Speaker. Hey, but that was a different time.

It is a good thing local politics can keep me busy. I don’t have time to fret over Open Carry, sanctuary cities, Public Integrity Units, and all the other stuff the GOP is getting to do in Austin.

Let’s see, GOP U.S. Senators can’t stand AG Eric Holder so they are going to delay a vote on his successor so he can get to stick around. That makes perfect sense.

If you stayed up to see U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz with Seth Meyers last night you got to see Sen. Cruz brag about his filibuster to stop Obamacare and then Meyers asked him “how’s it go?” Ha, ha!

Since Biggio retired in 2007, Mark Loretta (2008), Kaz Matsui (2009-2010), Bill Hall (2011), and Jose Altuve (2012 to now) have been our Opening Day starting second basemen.

The ‘Stros will make their ROOT debut today.

A Quorum

When Dante and I get together, we always end up talking about the latest on the flat screen. This past Saturday he told me I ought to be checking out “The Jinx.” What do I know?

It looks like Luis Valbuena could be our Opening Day starting third baseman. Name the three Colt 45s/’Stros players that were our Opening Day starting third basemen from 1962-1980?

Here is a Commentary tweet from last Friday morning:

Marc Campos @MarcCommentary • Mar 13
Ten Council Members show up so they have a quorum for Special Called Council Meeting. #pensionreforms #HouNews pic.twitter.com/dHlVftbuUK

To me, that’s the headline from last Friday. I really didn’t know if they would get a quorum. (Attended: Council Members C.O. Bradford, Ellen Cohen, Stephen Costello, Jerry Davis, Robert Gallegos, Michael Kubosh, Dave Martin, Oliver Pennington, David Robinson, and Brenda Stardig.)

Here is the headline from Chron.com on the meeting:

City Council maneuver falls short of vote on firefighter pension

Lack of quorum at end of unusual meeting prevents any vote on deal reached by mayor

Here is the headline from the hard copy of the Chron:

City Council’s fire pension tactic falls short

The headlines suggest that the meeting failed to produce a vote of some sort against the pension deal so it wasn’t a success. Well a vote was not cast but I think those that called for the meeting got something accomplished. The meeting received media coverage. The issue was further discussed. A GOP State Senator showed up and spoke and stayed for the entire meeting. This is from the Chron story:

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who addressed the council Friday, praised the gathering as a long-overdue discussion of the city’s pension problem. He said the lack of a vote will not stop him from taking the message back to Austin that most members present appeared to oppose the plan.

“That somebody used a parliamentary procedure to prevent a vote, it doesn’t diminish one iota the message,” Bettencourt said. “It’s clearly obvious there’s not a consensus in the city for this agreement.”

Well Sen. Bettencourt got something out of the meeting.

Here is the entire Chron article:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/City-Council-maneuver-falls-short-of-vote-on-6133165.php.

Friday’s meeting didn’t produce any winners or losers. This issue will continue to be discussed and debated. It is not going away – that is for sure.

The U.S. House Speaker said over the weekend that the House will investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails. I guess somebody forgot to tell the Speaker that when it comes to Congress investigating the Clintons, the Clintons own the scoreboard.

Bob Aspromonte (1962-1968), Doug Rader (1969-1975), and Enos Cabell (1976-1980) were our Opening Day starting third basemen from 1962-1980 of course.

Craig Biggio, Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Carter, and George Springer are on this season’s tickets. On the weekend that Biggio gets honored at The Yard, he won’t be on any of the tickets – DRATS!

Opening Day is three weeks from today!

Some Spankings

Hey, this isn’t going as planned! I am talking about last Friday’s pension deal.

The eight day old tweet again:

Teddy Schleifer @teddyschleifer • Mar 5
Mayoral race fall-out could be fascinating: Does it take wind out of sails of those running on pensions? Or, elevate their signature issue?

Duh! This ain’t going away! An E-Board take today, a Breibart mention, a letter from the Partnership, an Op-Ed today, and today’s Special Called Council Meeting. That is not exactly what they had in mind last week.

Today’s E-Board take put a spanking on the pension deal, The Mayor, The Dean, Rep. Sylvester Turner, and the H-Town City Council. The E-Board did give a shout out to State Rep. Jim Murphy. Here is today’s lead E-Board editorial:

If Mayor Annise Parker’s deal with the firefighter pension is like Advil for a brain tumor, as we said Sunday, then plans for a City Council special session might as well be a placebo (“Special council meeting called,” Page B1, Tuesday).

Four City Council members have signed a letter calling for a special meeting today, exceeding by a single signature the City Charter’s minimum requirement. Today also happens to be the filing deadline for most bills in the Texas Legislature, which currently controls Houston’s firefighter pension. So, short of a legislative miracle, whatever comes out of the special meeting isn’t likely to result in a new solution for Houston’s pension problems. And this presumes that the four council members are even able to assemble a quorum and comply with Texas’ open meeting laws, which are necessary to do public business.

City Council has had months, if not years, to draw attention to Houston’s pension challenges and work with legislators in Austin and the firefighters to hammer out a deal that puts the city’s pension obligations on a sustainable path. Instead, they’ve sat by while the mayor, state Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Sylvester Turner, both Democrats, have succeeded in promoting a bill that only delays the city’s payments while long-term costs continue to grow.

Parker seems content with this arrangement because it gives Houston some short-term budget flexibility and brought the intractable fire pension board to the negotiating table. Whitmire’s history of lobbying for the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund should raise eyebrows about what he’s trying to sell. Turner, however, ought to know better than to promote a bill that will cost the city and firefighters $57 million more in the long run. After all, the longtime Houston politician also has thrown his weight behind a $440 million proposal to shore up the chronically underfunded retirement system for state employees. Apparently, Turner is willing to work for sustainable pensions in Austin but not Houston.

The only elected official in Austin who seems dedicated to fixing Houston’s long-term pension burden is state Rep. Jim Murphy, a Republican, who has filed a bill that would give cities direct control over their pensions. Other self-proclaimed fiscal watchdogs are nowhere to be seen.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with defined-benefit pensions as a way to compensate employees. However, future promises don’t always keep track with today’s budgets. Without careful monitoring, pension obligations can grow faster than revenue, leading either to municipal budgets devoured by pension obligations or ticking time bombs of debt. Keeping control of pension benefits out of local hands makes these problems almost inevitable.

Parker is well aware of these underlying truths and has been ringing the alarm for years about how poorly managed pensions can squeeze out other priorities, such as new equipment or employees for the Houston police and fire departments. But instead of putting up one last grand fight, our mayor has swallowed a pill to numb the pain while she waits out the rest of her final term. City Council members will put on a show of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Murphy will find himself with few allies as the sole advocate for responsible pensions. And Houston taxpayers will continue to pay the price for political promises that don’t fit with fiscal reality.

The Special Called Meeting of the Houston City Council will start at 10 am this morning.

This is from a recent Greater Houston Partnership letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick:

The pension crisis in Houston is the single biggest threat to our region’s growth and economic development. The business community will only support efforts to fix the real problem: Houston’s structural budget deficit driven by rapidly escalating pension and other post-retirement costs. We are opposed to any effort that would amount to more patchwork: we need a real solution and we need it now.

There are two bills in Austin that bear directly on this critical issue. One bill would give us the power to fix the pensions by giving Texas cities local control of their retirement systems. The other bill would make Houston’s pension deficit worse by reducing payments into the already underfunded retirement systems.

And:

We strongly urge you to help Houstonians and all Texans by strongly encouraging Senator (Joan) Huffman to author and champion the companion local control bill to Rep. Jim Murphy’s bill (HB 2608). The State Affairs Committee should not consider any legislation that would codify the “no deal deal” announced by Mayor Annise Parker.

And this is from the end of an Op-Ed in today’s Chron from the Texas Public Policy Foundation:

The only small-but-important change made would be to give communities back some say over a system they already pay taxes into and are affected by on a day-to-day basis.

Local control of local retirement systems is a straightforward public policy matter. If we’re going to ask our communities to create and support local pension plans, then it’s only right that those same communities determine how they’re run. It’s time that the Legislature addressed this issue head-on and restored power back to the people.

Here is the entire Op-Ed:
http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Legislature-s-oversight-of-firefighter-pensions-6131032.php.

Pardon me, but where is the support for the deal?

The MLB batter that drew the most walks last season will be in uniform at The Yard on Opening Day. Who am I talking about?

This came out last night:

CNN Breaking News ‏@cnnbrk 34m34 minutes ago
Dr. Nancy Snyderman is out at NBC News, @brianstelter reports: http://cnnmon.ie/1ArkiBa

This was kind of expected after her Ebola take-out incident.

Commentary has said before that any major moves on H-Town City police and court facilities ought to be left up to the next Mayor. According to today’s Chron, the Police Chief, the Municipal Courts Presiding Judge, and nearby neighbors all have issues with the idea of putting the police and courts into the Downtown Exxon building. As far as I am concerned, this from today’s Chron says it all:

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, one of the prospective tenants in the 45-story tower at 800 Bell, expressed concerns about the safety of having one high-rise structure potentially house the police department, fire department commanders and municipal courts operations.

“If you look at the Oklahoma City bombing, the Murrah Federal Building, there were many, many law enforcement agencies and federal agencies in that building, and one madman in one truck almost took out the entire building, and there were a lot of lives lost,” McClelland said. “Any potential terrorist attack, those types of things concern me.”

Here is the entire piece from behind the Chron paywall:
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Questions-emerging-over-plans-to-move-justice-6131323.php.

Cleveland’s Carlos Santana of course led MLB with 113 walks last season.

Just a reminder! Cleveland will be here on Opening Day on April 6.

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