Texpatriate’s Questions for Ken Wise

Editorial note: This is the sixth in our series of electronic interviews with candidates for Statewide and Harris County offices. We have sent questionnaires to every candidate on the ballot, given we could find a working email address. We have printed their answers verbatim as we receive them. If you are or work for such a candidate, and we did not send a questionnaire, please contact us <info@texpate.com>.

Ken Wise, Justice on the 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7

Texpatriate: What is your name?
KW: Justice Ken Wise

T: How long have your held this post? What number term are you seeking?
KW: I will have been in office over a year at the time of the election. I was appointed to this position in October, 2013 and am seeking my first full term.

T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
KW: Judge,152nd District Court: 2002-2008; Judge, 334th District Court: 2011-2013.

T: What is your political party?
KW: Republican

T: Please describe a majority or concurring opinion that you have written in the most recent term. What were the parameters of this case? Why did you come to your conclusion?
KW: I have written many opinions during my time on the Court. I always work to write opinions that are clear, thorough and easy to understand and apply. Each opinion gets my full effort, no matter the size of the case or the status of the parties.

T: Please describe a dissenting opinion that you have written in the most recent term. What were the parameters of this case? Why did you come to your conclusion and disagree with the majority?
KW: I have yet to dissent from an opinion of a panel to which I’ve been assigned.

T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
KW: The most important quality of a good appellate justice is experience. I have over ten years of experience as a judge. My opponent has no judicial experience and has not, to my knowledge, even practiced law.

T: What role do you think a Justice of the Court of Appeals should have individually? What role do you think the Court of Appeals should have as a whole?
KW: An individual justice should be thoroughly prepared when participating on his or her panel. The justice should review opinions carefully before voting. The Court as a whole has a responsibility to rule promptly, which is the reputation of the 14th Court of Appeals.

T: What are your thoughts on the partisan election of Judges?
KW: Partisan election is the way the legislature has decided judges should be selected. As the law of the State I support it. I also very much enjoy discussing my service with the voters and being accountable to the citizens. There are challenges with such a system, of course, but as long as it is the law of the State of Texas I will be a willing participant.

T: What are the three most important issues to you, and what is at least one thing you have done to address each of them?
KW: During the entirety of my judicial service I have had multiple opportunities to serve in leadership roles. I co-chaired a State Bar of Texas task force that conducted the first top-to-bottom study of the Texas court system since 1894. I was in charge of the judicial committee overseeing the construction of the first new civil courthouse in Harris County in over 100 years. I served as the Local Administrative Judge, overseeing the state district judiciary in the third largest county in the United States. In these and other leadership roles I have had the opportunity to address a tremendous number of issues including infrastructure, juvenile justice, judicial administration, technology and many others. I’m tremendously proud of my service to date and look forward to the opportunity to serve the citizens of Texas into the future.

Food Truck fight!

On Wednesday, the Houston City Council’s Quality of Life Committee began deliberating reforms of food truck laws. The Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Board was one of the first entities to truly cover the process, while Miya Shay at KTRK provided a much more extensive and evenhanded account of the issue. As best as I have understood, proposed reforms center around whether or not to allow propane-based food trucks in Downtown and the Texas Medical Center, as well as relaxing restrictions on how close they may congregate and prop up tables and chairs. I have placed calls to officials on both sides of this issue, in an attempt to understand this issue further.

Furthermore, the Houston Chronicle reported that, following Wednesday’s contentious committee hearing, Mayor Annise Parker announced that she would be unilaterally changing the pertinent regulations regarding food trucks downtown, though she would still try to push through Council-approved fixes on the other topics.

As best as I can figure out, this topic will be on the agenda at the next City Council meeting. Coming on the wheels of the super contentious Vehicles-for-Hire fight earlier in this same month (which itself followed the non-discrimination ordinance by only one week), Mayor Annise Parker has continued attempting to pass a large chunk of radical policy reforms. Love her or hate her, everyone should be impressed by just how much she has been able to accomplish, and will undoubtedly continue to accomplish (in the Strong-Mayor system used in Houston, the Mayor almost always gets her way). However, the key difference that I have been able to find is that the Mayor sought more of a consensus on the topics. The once-controversial Wage Theft ordinance passed unanimously, and the Payday Lending reform ordinance passed with only two dissensions. On the other hand, the NDO and the Vehicles-for-Hire fights were bitterly fought over and left many with bad feelings.

I have historically been broadly supportive of food trucks, as most astute followers of this publication might remember. Opponents of the proposed reforms have typically been a little slow in getting their valid objections out there, and the mainstream press has harped on the silliest statements ever made by Council opposition,. The Chronicle editorial not once, but twice, mentioned the outlandish tirades that former Councilmember Andrew Burks went on against food trucks, suggesting (among other things) that the propane tanks downtown could be used for terrorist activity. I stand by my assertions that strange comments are unbecoming of a public servant, but they shouldn’t be used to justify a position one way or another on this issue.

Something to remember on this issue is that food trucks are not a monolith. Food trucks should not be all assumed to be the cute, glitzy vehicles zooming around Montrose that so many simply assume them to be. They can also be unsafe, dirty deathtraps, typically situated in poorer neighborhoods. They need very stringent safety inspections, perhaps even more stringent than brick-and-mortar restaurants. But, as far as I can tell, the proposed changes do not deal with safety violations.

As for the propane tanks in densely populated areas, I am still skeptical of the regulation being sound. The facts are still out on the idea that trucks in densely populated areas are dangerous. There was, for example, a terrible tragedy out of Philadelphia last month involving an exploding food truck that killed two people. But restaurants deal with plenty of dangers too, and they have been prone to burning down every once in a while. However, as the Chronicle article repeatedly mentions, the trucks are allowed Uptown and in Greenway Plaza, other high density areas. Like any other issue, I think there should be some consistency. Ideally, that would be strengthening safety standards for the propane tanks, including regular inspection, then letting the trucks into the neighborhoods.

As for some of the other proposals, I still have not completely made up my mind. I am, however, an opponent of allowing individual tables and chairs for the specific food trucks. I do like and support the so-called “Food Truck parks,” in which community tables and chairs are shared among a plethora of trucks. But if individual furniture is used, the truck transforms into a pop-up restaurant.

Just like the Uber/Lyft debate, I am a big believer in everyone providing the same service abiding by the same regulations (Editorial note: Horwitz formerly contracted with the Clifford Group, a public relations firm that counted Yellow Cab among its clients. I have no dog in this fight, though). Restaurants must follow some pretty onerous restrictions, namely for public safety and health reasons. I can understand the idea that a restaurant and a food truck could plausibly provide different services, but not if the latter allowed “dine-in” service. You can’t have it both ways.

Personally,  I am sick and tired of people comparing this issue to the Vehicle-for-Hire spat. There are some big differences, chief among them is that food trucks are not what I would call a “disruptor” into the restaurant industry in the same way. Food trucks, be it the Eatsie Boys or Bernie’s Burger Bus, have taken the next step and become restaurants on many occasions. I don’t think Uber or Lyft want to one day shift to the same business model as Yellow Cab. Furthermore, food trucks have not been operating downtown or doing other things that so openly and cavalierly violate the City of Houston’s ordinances. Call me old fashioned, but Uber’s incessant and gleeful lawbreaking is what sent me other the edge originally. The integrity of laws is important.

That is why I am bitterly opposed to the Mayor’s irresponsible decision to go around City Council on this issue. The Mayor, for all its power, is not a tyrant.

What I sent to The New York Times

Regarding the indictment of Governor Rick Perry, which has been covered remarkably well by the Texas press corps, a plethora of otherwise reasonable media outlets –The New York Times chief among them– were quick to lambast the indictment as nothing more than political theater. In doing so, they ignored the serious legal background and precedent underlying this case. I drafted up about 950 words on why I disagreed with their editorial positions, and why the indictments are not overly frivolous or litigious. The Times said that their reserve the right of exclusive publication, but to feel free to assume they would not publish after three days, so I waited. I have now sent the article to a couple of sites which do not demand exclusivity (The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Times and the Los Angeles Times). I’m aware that no one will publish it, so I decided to share my thoughts here.

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I’m big on Texas politics. I love it so much that I transferred from college at Brandeis University in Boston to the University of Texas at Austin so that I could return to my native State and follow the twists and turns of the full-contact sport known as our political process. And though I consider myself a left-of-center Democrat, I have a big problem with people who rag on Texas in general.

But more than my indignation at detractors of the Lone Star State, I maintain a pet peeve against the dilettante; he or she who feels entitled to write and judge what is going on south of the Red River, despite not being familiar with our laws, our traditions or our history. Sometimes the judgment happens without the author even visiting the State. I have seen this in action a disappointing number of times in the immediate aftermath of Governor Rick Perry’s indictment at the hands of a Travis County (Austin) grand jury.

Alan Dershowitz, David Alexrod, The Atlantic. A plethora of progressive mouthpieces have inexplicably defended Perry against what they foolishly call an unsubstantiated allegation, one that may be frivolous or overly litigious. Rather, the only thing frivolous is these parties’ understanding of the way Texas does business.

This is not about political blowback, it is not about any ongoing investigations into the Governor’s office and it is not even about any specific veto. It is about a threat. Perry threatened a public officeholder, the Travis County District Attorney, with leverage —the denial of funds for her office— unless she did a specific official act: resign.

The DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, has broad power over the entire State because her office, which maintains jurisdiction over the State Capitol and the Governor’s mansion, commands the Public Integrity Unit, best known for an unsuccessful trial against former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and a successful conviction against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (that one is still tied up in appeals). Lehmberg herself is no saint; she was caught driving drunk last year in a videotaped incident that recorded her belligerent and discourteous attitude toward law enforcement. For her part, she pleaded guilty and served about a month in jail, the toughest sentence for a first-offense DWI in Austin’s history.

But this simply is not about the actions committed by a District Attorney. A DWI is not a felony, nor is it a crime of moral turpitude that would necessitate removal from office. She has been no-billed by a grand jury looking into the matter, and a civil trial to determine if she should be removed from office for dereliction of duty ended with a resounding NO.

Perry is not the King of Texas; he is merely the State’s Chief Executive in a system with the separation of powers, not only between branches, but constituencies. The Governor is not the District Attorney’s boss. When Perry says that Lehmberg has “lost the public’s confidence,” where is he getting his information? She has been convincingly elected by her constituents twice, and remains somewhat popular—at least when the alternative is a Perry appointee. It is also worth noting that the Travis County District Attorney’s office only prosecutes felonies (the County Attorney handles misdemeanors), so Lehmberg’s office did not even control the process over her own crime, as many critics have falsely charged.

At the end of the day, however, what Lehmberg did is a complete red herring. It has absolutely no basis for justifying what Perry did or changing the pertinent law or precedent on the matter. This issue is not about her, it is not about the veto, it is about threat. That very simple fact bears repeating because it appears that no one in the ostensibly credible national press can remember that.

To better illustrate this point, the same principle of Perry’s illegal act should be taken to an absurd extreme. Take the ongoing spat between Perry and William Powers, the President of the University of Texas at Austin. What if Perry demanded Powers’ resignation, perhaps using the cover of the phony scandal embattled Regent Wallace Hall supposedly uncovered regarding law school admission, or else he would cut off funding? What would the State do then? Thankfully, there is a precedent.

Texas impeached one Governor nearly 100 years ago for eerily similar circumstances: James “Pa” Ferguson, a populist Democrat. Ferguson, who like the current Governor was a fervent opponent of the University of Texas, vetoed virtually all of the University’s appropriations after unsuccessfully trying to fire Regents and Professors at UT-Austin. Once again, it was not the veto so much as it was the threat. Ferguson used his power inappropriately in order to meddle in another public official’s business. This should sound familiar.

This has always been —and is— what the scandal centers upon. The legal basis is sound and holds lengthy precedent. When prominent legal minds attempt to chime in on this issue without being familiar with the underlying case, it hurts everyone who is exposed to misinformation.

The Travis County DA’s office’s public integrity unit, it should be freely stipulated, can sometimes generously be described as partisan hacks. Lehmberg’s predecessor, Ronnie Earle, engaged in a witch hunt with very little proof against Hutchison, and the office has been a bit trigger-happy investigating every misstep taken by Perry. But since this controversy has revolved around the DA’s office which normally investigates these cases, Lehmberg and her office recused themselves from all proceedings.

A Republican Judge out of San Antonio, Bert Richardson, appointed a non-partisan Special Prosecutor, Michael McCrum, last year to investigate the complaints lodged against Perry. Call it what you will, this is not a partisan witch hunt. Indeed, it is far from it.

Davis proposes overhaul of Rape laws

The Dallas Morning News reports that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, has proposed an overhaul of sexual assault laws. Specifically, in a recent speech in Dallas, she proposed nixing the 10 year Statute-of-Limitations for rape, which in Texas law lists as a Second Degree Felony, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison (Aggravated Rape, on the other hand, is a 1st Degree Felony). The article from the Morning News notes that the statute of limitations does not apply in offenses that involve a child in any way, or offenses regarding untested or mismatching DNA evidence.

Davis, for her part, has been remarkably focused on the topic of sexual assault. She has been a tireless force for ensuring local municipality’s police departments (Houston included) test their untested rape kits, and her first campaign ad was even totally centered on that topic. At a press conference a couple days ago in Dallas, Davis noted the stories of survivors of sexual assault, such as Lavinia Masters, who cold not press charges for the heinous attacks against them because the decade-long statute of limitations had run out.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, for his part, fired back by claiming that he is a vehement defender of survivors of sexual assault, and will intently prosecute all rapists to the fullest extent of the law. Granted, the Office of Attorney General is tasked with going after some of the worst-of-the-worst, including Statewide serial sex offenders, the same type of degenerate targeted by Davis’ announcement on this topic.

“Victims of sexual assault in Texas have no greater advocate than Greg Abbott, who as attorney general has spearheaded the arrests of over 4,500 sex offenders and awarded over $1 billion to victims of crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence,” Abbott’s campaign said.

Pointedly, I have not seen any evidence that Abbott has concurred to Davis’ suggestion, which I actually find surprising. Even in the midst of an especially bitter political campaign, there will always be rays of light that I would hope the two sides could ostensibly come to some type of consensus on. Strengthening penalties and laws on rapists should be one of those.

In an ideal world, this should be the type of no-brainer that both parties quickly attempt to claim as their policy, and the Legislature would quickly pass the fix next session. Unfortunately, Abbott may very well avoid taking a position on the issue, just because Davis made a note of her position on it first. That is unfortunate, not only for the Governor’s race, but for everyone in Texas, namely the victims of a horrible, horrible crime.

But  if Abbott continues to equivocate on this issue, Davis should show him no mercy. I can hear the television commercials now: “Wendy Davis is tough on crime; she wants to ELIMINATE the statute-of-limitations for rape. Greg Abbott wants to continue with business as usual.”

Will Wendy Davis approve this message? Only time will tell. The priority, though, should not be scoring political points, it should be improving our laws. Short of that, however, use it.

Texpatriate’s Questions for David Collins

Editorial note: This is the fifth in our series of electronic interviews with candidates for Statewide and Harris County offices. We have sent questionnaires to every candidate on the ballot, given we could find a working email address. We have printed their answers verbatim as we receive them. If you are or work for such a candidate, and we did not send a questionnaire, please contact us <info@texpate.com>.

David Collins, Green candidate for Harris County Judge

Texpatriate: What is your name?
DC: David B. Collins

T: What office are you seeking?
DC: Harris County Judge

T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
DC: None.

T: What is your political party?
DC: Green Party of Texas.

T: What do you think the role of the County Judge should be?
DC: The role depends greatly on the size and character of the county. In Harris County, the Judge should hear the reports of Commissioners and their staffs on the needs of each precinct, assess those needs in light of county resources, and evaluate proposed solutions to meet those needs. I would prefer that the County Judge vote in Commissioners Court sessions only as a tie-breaker. One part the County Judge should notplay is greasing the skids for real estate developers, which is something Harris County Judges have done for longer than I can remember.

T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
DC: Since Democratic candidate Ahmad Hassan has dropped out of the race, and there is no Libertarian candidate, my only opponent is Republican incumbent Ed Emmett, whom I respect. Judge Emmett is one of the few Republican office-holders who don’t turn my stomach: He is more of a pragmatist than an ideologue, and he handled his toughest test (Hurricane Ike) with compassion and courage.

However, Harris County needs a candidate who will advocate strongly for developing clean, renewable energy and public transportation that serves working people. Also, since Harris County is notorious worldwide the death penalty capital of the West, I would encourage the District Attorney’s office to continue the current decrease in pursuit of death sentences, which is not a result of policy change so much as the cost of prosecuting capital cases.

T: What is a specific proposal the incumbent has made in the last term before the Commissioner’s Court that you disagree with?
DC: Our Commissioners Court proceedings are not exactly transparent and don’t get much coverage in local media, so that’s hard to pinpoint. It’s ridiculous how much power five people have over the lives of 4 million-plus, without those 4 million-plus knowing what goes on in the CC. It’s not so much Judge Emmett’s proposals that I disagree with as the lack of sunshine at the county level, even for residents of unincorporated areas who have no city government. I would work to change that.

T: Do you believe that the incumbent has specifically failed at her or his job? If so, why?
DC: I don’t.

T: What, exactly, is your plan regarding the Astrodome?
DC: Something similar to that proposed by Astrodome Tomorrow: Save the structure, and turn it into a tourist destination that integrates well with the surrounding Reliant Park complex.

T: What relationship do you believe that County should have with the City of Houston, other municipalities and the State?
DC: The tradition of home rule for counties in Texas is a mixed blessing, but I would like to see it continue. Houston may dominate the landscape of Harris County, but the two governments have no reason to merge a la Miami-Dade; they can continue to work together on projects such as Metro. We can work with Dallas County—and possibly Bexar, Travis, and Tarrant Counties—on connecting the state’s four largest metro areas with high-speed rail. Mostly, I would like to see regular meetings of the commissioners’ courts of the 13 metro-Houston counties, as equals regardless of population, to establish regional policies on protecting our natural heritage and creating incentives for businesses, farms, and residences to collect their own solar and wind power—although I have little faith that the Republicans who dominate the various county CC’s would go for any of that.

T: What are the three most important issues to you, and what is at least one thing you have done to address each of them?
DC: “Have done”? The wording of this question appears to be meant for the incumbent. However…

Since issues are interconnected, it is difficult to isolate three as most important. As far as County government is concerned, I could say, “Transportation, energy, and environmental protection,” but these three are facets of the same larger issue, which includes the notion of Smart Growth.

The Green Party believes strongly in encouraging multi-modal transportation options; the city and Metro are moving forward on making this a reality with Metro’s “reimagining” and the city’s Complete Streets initiative. However, the rest of the county outside Metro’s service area still leaves non-motorists out of the picture. Pasadena, Texas, is one of America’s largest cities with no public transit; it’s time for that to change. Let’s look into making FM 1960 and Louetta Road friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians, or expanding Metro’s service area to include more of Copperfield.

The refineries along the Ship Channel have essentially been given a 45-year exemption from Clean Air Act compliance. It is in the interest of health and safety for the entire region, but especially fenceline communities, that we use both carrot and stick to bring the energy companies into line. Despite our recent “coolest city” designations, no sensible person wants to relocate to a city or county with such ridiculously high rates of asthma and cancer. Most people who move here do so out of necessity, then find that they have to drive everywhere and pollute the air even more. Where does it end? I hope it ends with county governments finding and implementing solutions. One solution would be to retrofit those facilities and retrain workers toward the manufacture of solar collectors and windmills; this would take decades, but would be an essential step toward cutting atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases that drive climate change.

Honorable mention for issues of importance goes to housing. Too much recent development has been profit-driven to excess, such as knocking down older single-family and duplex housing in Inner-Loop Houston, which is suitable housing stock for young workers and students, to replace it with luxury lofts and mid-rises. The County should require developers to devote a reasonable percentage of their capital toward building truly affordable and durable housing for low- and middle-income residents, including the use of as much recycled material as practical.

More on the Perry indictment

Pictured above is Governor Rick Perry’s mugshot. He was booked, fingerprinted and photographed today in Austin, though a warrant was never put out for his arrest and he never saw the inside of a jail cell. As anyone who has read the news recently could obviously recall, Perry was indicted last Friday over a controversy brewing from a threat to a DA, asking for her to resign or face a funding cut. The two charges were Abuse of Political Office and Coercion of a Public Servant. The former is a 1st Degree Felony and the latter is a 3rd Degree Felony. They carry a combined maximum penalty of 109 years in prison.

A number of things have occurred since the weekend, the most notable of which was Perry compiling an all-star legal team. The Texas Tribune reports that at the helm of this team is prominent trial attorney Tony Buzbee.  This, despite being the one-time Chairman of the Galveston County Democratic Party, a two-time Democrat nominee for the State Legislature and the once rumored Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. However, of late, Buzbee has been appointed to the Board of Regents of his alma matter, Texas A&M University, and become a key financial supporter of both Perry and Abbott.

Meanwhile, Perry is firing back by waging war in the court of public opinion. Also via the Texas Tribune, it has been reported that his new “Rick PAC” has put out a video defending the Governor. The video, which runs about 2 minutes in a length, has a nifty little selective timeline that touts how Perry vetoed funding for the Travis County DA’s office following DA Lehmberg’s refusal to resign as a result of her DWI. Inconspicuously absent from the timeline is the threat he made immediately prior to the veto. As I have said before, that is truly the most important part.

Think of it this way. If, as a result of the phony scandal drugged up against UT-Austin President Bill Powers by UT Regent Wallace Hall, Perry demanded Powers resignation or face the end of state appropriations to the flagship University, would the people stand for it? If we merely take history as a guide, the answer is a resounding no. The Governor about 97 years ago, James “Pa” Ferguson, was impeached and removed from office for making such threats. A notorious critic of higher education, he vetoed the vast majority of UT’s appropriations after unsuccessfully trying to intimidate Regents and Professors out of their jobs. Ferguson had some sort of reason for his vendetta (A tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny), and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram even notes that he castigated his accusers as liars. This is the main issue at play here, whether or not a Governor has the right to threaten unrelated officials, in an attempt to compel them to do things, with money or lack thereof.

While we’re on the subject, I have seen a disappointing number of Perry-foes approach this issue the wrong way. Some of my colleagues in Austin have taken to calling this scandal “Briberygate,” for example. I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose the claim is ostensibly rooted in the fact that bribery is merely giving money in order to do something, so Lehmberg would have her office receive appropriations in exchange for her resignation. Additionally, there is some evidence that Perry’s aides did offer Lehmberg a job elsewhere in exchange for resignation. But the word “bribery” has such a strong connotation, that its use in this way is just plain wrong. Bribery invokes images of a cigar-filled room where a duffel bag full of $20 bills is handed from one person to another; obviously, not whatever this cluster was. It appears irresponsible and hot-headed to equate the impropriety here with actual bribery.

Rather, the focus should be on Perry’s obsession with being a megalomaniac. As Jason Stanford opined in a column today, “Nobody died and made Rick Perry king.”

Perry indicted

In case you haven’t checked the internets in the last two days, it is worth repeating once again that Governor Rick Perry has been indicted by a Travis County Grand Jury for two felonies, abuse of politicaal office and coercion of a public servant. Two big questions come to mind immediately. First, how did we get here? Second, where do we go from here? I will attempt to briefly answer both below.

In April of last year, the Travis County District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for drunk driving. She was nearly four times the legal limit, belligerent and tried to use her influence to get out of the charge. Normally, when an official screws up this publicly, a quiet resignation occurs and everyone will continue on their merry way. The problem with this, however, is that Perry would have appointed Lehmberg’s –a Democrat– replacement. The Travis County DA, additionally, is especially powerful because it oversees the Public Integrity Unit (PIU), which oversees alleged impropriety on the part of state officials.

Lehmberg was charged with a first-time misdemeanor, plead guilty and accepted a 45 day sentence in jail. The sentence was called by the Austin American-Statesman “without a doubt, the harshest sentence for a first-time drunken driving charge in the history of Travis County.” About a month later, she was back at work. Of note here is that the Travis County DA only prosecutes felonies, so her charged was not included. The Travis County Attorney prosecutes such misdemeanors.

But in June of that year, Perry stepped in around  veto time. He publicly threatened to cut off funding for the PIU unless Lehmberg resigned. The San Antonio Express-News recent reported last May that Lehmberg was offered a job in exchange for the resignation. When Lehmberg did not comply, he followed through and cut the funding.

This, in its simplest form, is the issue. Perry has attempted to frame it in a way that makes him look like a valiant moral crusader fighting against drunken DAs, but the controversially is completely separate. Perry had the unquestioned power to veto the PIU’s funds, but he did not have the power to publicly threaten to take or not take the action based on another person’s deed.

For what it’s worth, the PIU did not directly prosecute this case. A special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, was called in for this. I’ve even heard he is a Republican, but don’t care too much about that.

I think, when all is said and done, the only real affect of this issue is that it will sink whatever presidential prospects Perry may have had. He will have long left office before this goes to a trial. My inclination is that Perry will be convicted at least on the coercion of a public servant charge by a Travis County Jury, but the charges will be thrown out on appeal.

This case is all about the law, the grey. The facts are not in dispute. The only question is if Perry’s little diatribe to the media before line-item vetoing the funding constituted coercion.

In the past, I made comments suggesting that Lehmberg should not resign. Those were wrong, I should not have taken a hard position on this issue given that I am not one of Lehmberg’s constituents nor is she part of a deliberative body that directly affects me, such as the State Legislature. But whatever your position on Lehmberg and her drunkenness (to be fair, a trial designed to get her kicked out of office last year went nowhere quite expeditiously), it does not justify what Perry did. It does not make it any less illegal, nor less serious. It is a complete, 100% red herring.

No matter what Lehmberg could have been guilty of, it would not have justified what Perry did. He is not her boss, he just cannot micromanage like that while staying within the boundaries of the law.

I’ll likely have more when Perry gets his mug shot next week!