TPA Roundup (August 26, 2013)

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy new school year as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff shows how the city of Pasadena and Galveston County are trying to take advantage of the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act to push through politically motivated redistricting plans.

Olivia at Texpatriate laments living in a world where the Lieutenant Governor can attempt to manipulate the law with little to no consequences.

David Dewhurst put his ailing political career out of its misery with one phone call to the Allen Police Department, and it fell to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs to write the obituary.

Republicans have figured out the best way bring back “states rights”. It’s to rule over the country from the states, where they hold much more power. WCNews at Eye on Williamson calls it Neutering the federal government .

Make way for the Bushes!! Specifically, George P. Bush. Many people have already crowned him as an “heir apparent” for the statewide office of Land Commissioner, but Texas Leftist thinks that if Democrats work hard, they can turn that heir apparent into an apparently NOT.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the taxpayer financed life boats on the Bolivar Ferry that runs across Galveston Bay. here seems little difference between state-purchased life boats and Texas Legislature support of Obamacare that will help so many people get health insurance coverage. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com. Please check out the full NeilAquino.com site if so inclined.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Walkable DFW draws a lesson in traffic management from the rail systems in Houston and Dallas.

The Observer profiles Jessica Luthor, the Janie-on-the-spot organizer during the rallies against anti-choice bills in the legislative special sessions.

And along those lines, Jessica Luther informs us of a new crowdfunding effort to create an educational online game about abortion and access in Texas.

I Love Beer is looking for a few volunteers for the 2013 Texas Craft Brewers Festival.

Letters from Texas piles on David “I’m Kind Of A Big Deal” Dewhurst.

Nonsequiteuse wonders why we don’t regulate bounce houses more, given the Legislature’s oft-stated obsession with the health of women and children.

Juanita points out that if Greg Abbott can’t read all the way to the end of a tweet, his interpretation of anything longer than that cannot be trusted.

Concerned Citizens calls on San Antonio council member Elise Chan to resign.

Grits For Breakfast documents the rise of futuristic technology in police work.

Former Texan Roy Edroso gives retiring blogger TBogg an appropriate sendoff.

Parker goes on the offensive

I got a number of press releases from Parker’s campaign today, including one I found especially interesting on education. Some may remember that, just a few days ago, Ben Hall floated the idea of the Mayor’s office taking over HISD. Today, I received the official response:

On the first day of school, local education leaders have come together to call out Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall for hypocrisy on the issue of education.

Debra Kerner is a leader of the Board of Trustees of the Harris County Department of Education.  Speaking as an individual, she said, “I was really taken aback when I heard that Mr. Hall was bragging about what he would do for education, when he couldn’t do the most basic thing – pay his school taxes. He doesn’t pay his taxes on time, but he wants to be mayor?”

Educator Alma Lara, retired after 35 years as a teacher and principal at HISD, said, “Ben Hall clearly thinks he is above the law when it comes to paying his school taxes and now he wants to be mayor? That’s a terrible example to set for our kids.”

Blake Ellis, Ph.D., Community College Professor, said, “Hall clearly hasn’t done his homework when it comes to education. He hasn’t offered one, single, solitary idea that would improve education. Worse, he claims that state law would give him the power as mayor to take over HISD schools. That’s not just wacky, it’s dangerous.”

Normally, I’ve liked Debra Kerner as an Education Trustee, but I was somewhat disappointed that she played so cautious with these comments. While Ben Hall’s tax problems are absolutely endemic of a larger problem –and I have certainly criticized him for it before– this does not automatically poison any ideas he has about schools.

Further, Ellis’ comments about Hall’s plans being “dangerous,” offer absolutely no substance to prove such an assertion. While I do agree that the City of Houston taking over HISD is not a very good idea (& Off the Kuff has a more ambivalent take on the matter), the Parker campaign must explain why in order to be taken seriously.

Parker, for her part, has explained in some detail what she has done on the topic of education. The page, which is part of her campaign website, is an overall positive post that reflects on the Mayor’s experience and trackrecord in office. Basically, exactly what she should have been doing all along.

In addition to the education comments, Parker’s campaign went the more discourteous route in publishing a new attack website, “www.AlltheFactsonHall.com

The website is a hodgepodge of all the (mainly Parker campaign-perpetuated) negative press against Ben Hall. Mainly the whole Tax Cheat issue, in addition to the residency issue, Parker’s commercial, and the refusal to show tax returns. All of this is expected from a negative website, but what I did not expect was what I found under the “Worth a Look” page.

The campaign embedded tweets by the fake Ben Hall twitter (@benhall4mayor) account. Historically, the campaign has distanced itself from the account, especially after Eric Dick made the accusation of the two being related. At press time, Parker’s campaign had not responded to my requests for comment on the matter.

UPDATE: The campaign still maintains the account is not run by the campaign, though I still find the cozier attitude somewhat perplexing.

As I have said many times before, the Mayor will always be in the best position by running a positive campaign on her record. Unfortunately, she did not even come close to doing that today.

Texpatriate’s Questions for Bill Frazer

Editorial note: This is the sixth in our series of electronic interviews with City Council, City Controller and Mayoral candidates. We have sent 10 questions based on seven different templates: (1) incumbent City Council, (2) challenger City Council, (3) open seat City Council, (4) challenger Controller, (5) incumbent Controller, (6) challenger Mayoral and (7) incumbent Mayoral. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.

bill

Bill Frazer, Candidate for Houston City Controller

Texpatriate: What is your name?
BF: William “Bill” R. Frazer

T: What is your current occupation?
BF: CPA

T: Have you run for or held public office before?
BF: No

T: What is your political affiliation? We understand that City Council elections are nonpartisan, but this is a point many voters find important. If you are not comfortable currently identifying with a political party, what was the last Political Party’s primary election you voted in (a matter of public record)?
BF: Republican

T: Typically, this board will defer to incumbents unless we are convinced the incumbent has failed in some way. Do you believe the incumbent has failed at her or his job? If so, why?
BF: The City Controller is elected by voters to serve as a watchdog over tax dollars, conduct audits, and report timely findings to the public in a way that is clear and easily accessible.

The incumbent has been a City official for ten years, 6 as an At Large Council Member and 4 as City Controller.  Yet the vast majority of Houstonians are unaware of the serious financial problems the City of Houston faces.

  • The City has over $2.5 billion in “Decreases in Net Asssets” (“Net loss” in private sector jargon) over the past 10 years.  Our city is wasting valuable resources with no leadership or information from the Controller.

  • Houston has accumulated over $2.3 billion in Negative Unrestricted Net Assets, severely restricting future tax revenues. We’ve pushed payments for promises made into the future long after the services have been received or assets have been consumed.

  • Houston has been unable to adequately fund its pension plans and, as a result, has amassed over $1.5 billion in high cost debt; over $600 million in pension obligation bonds and $1 billion in IOUs to the pension funds themselves. We’ve promised rich retirement programs without the ability to pay for them.

  • There has been NO published report on the status of the Dedicated Drainage & Street Repair Fund (or RenewHouston) since the voters approved the drainage fee in 2011.  A survey of available documents indicated underfunding of this program of up to $120 million over the initial 3 years. Our infrastructure continues to crumble, and the promised fix is being spent on other programs without full transparency.

  • No audit reports on key tax incentive issues such as the Ainbinder/Wal-Mart 380 Agreement, the Costco sales tax abatement and other tax programs such as TIRZs. There has been no accountability at a time when the public needs sound financial information to help them understand if these programs are necessary or even working as intended.

The Controller has released Houston’s audited financial statements on or just days before December 31 of each year, after key November election dates.  This is 180 days after its June 30th fiscal year end.  Public companies with revenues in excess of $700 million or more (compared to the City’s $4 billion) are required to release final annual reports 60 days after their fiscal year end.  Although Houston meets the State’s legal requirement, delay in releasing comprehensive financial information for a city of Houston’s size represents a total lack of transparency.

T: Why are you specifically running against this incumbent?
BF: Houston simply cannot afford two more years of excessive debt, excessive spending, lack of transparency, and delayed financial reporting.

The current Controller is an attorney with no accounting training or prior financial management experience.  He has his sights set on future elective office and is beholden to the Mayor and City Council to support his political ambitions.

Houston deserves a CPA to serve as City Controller, someone who is uniquely and professionally qualified for the position and who has met the ongoing ethical standards of the profession and the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy.

T: What do you hope to get out of serving as the City Controller?
BF: My wife and I are native Texans and moved to Houston 39 years ago, raised our family here, and have been actively involved in the Houston community.  I began my accounting career here in January, 1974 and I retired last year after 26 years as Chief Financial Officer of CBRE Capital Markets to work towards serving the community in a significant fashion. After an extensive study of the City of Houston’s financial condition, I decided my most meaningful contribution would be to take on the City Controller position and put my 39 years of financial management experience to address and to begin solving the very serious financial issues that Houston faces.  These issues can be solved with a lot of hard work and help from experienced professional leadership.

T: What is an action as City Controller you would do if elected?
BF: The most urgent financial challenge facing the City of Houston, its taxpayers, municipal employees, its bondholders, the business community, and civic leadership is to fix the City’s three public pension systems.  Prior “meet and confer” negotiations have only swept the key financial issues under the rug and have delayed funding.  Houston needs a seasoned financial professional as Controller to provide key oversight on any future negotiations and agreements.  We cannot afford to push the financial burdens of our decisions onto future generations.  For example, in 2006, instead of paying past due contributions, the City issued over $600 million in “pension obligation bonds”.  Since then, not one penny has been repaid, at a cost of over $30 million in interest a year.  Also, since then, the City has issued $1 billion in IOUs to the pension funds at a cost of over $85 million a year in interest.

Mayor Parker has tried to work with the Legislature to help Houston negotiate needed changes, but she hasn’t received the support she needs from the Houston delegation. I would work with officials in Houston and Austin from both parties to help implement reforms that make the benefits of future retirees safe and stable. The Controller should be someone with professional financial management expertise who can sit at the table on behalf of taxpayers as a meaningful participant in all negotiations and without the distraction of personal political ambitions.

T: Obviously, an officeholder strives to maintain a diverse core constituency and political base, but all candidates have interest groups they have been traditionally strong with and traditionally weak with, respectively. For you, what would be one example of each type of group?
BF: As a first time candidate, I am beholden to no core constituency.  CPAs as a whole are not overtly politically active and place the professional and ethical standards and practices of the accounting profession above politics.  I am supported by taxpayers who understand the financial issues the city faces.  I am building my political relationships from scratch in this campaign by reaching out to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.  I have included individuals in my campaign who are representative of the many ethnicities that comprise our international city and who support improved financial management for Houston.  My Steering Committee is comprised of respected Democrats (Mark Lee and David Acosta) and Republicans (Pam Holm and Steve Krueger), and I have participated in the screening processes of organizations across the political spectrum.

I do, however, have a single non-political constituency, the CPA community, who place a very high degree of emphasis on fair financial reporting, accountability, risk assessment and personal and professional ethics.

T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
BF: I have been shocked to learn just how unaware most Houstonians, even very active voters, are of the serious financial challenges the City of Houston faces. I’m convinced we need to make a change in the City Controller’s office in order to begin to right the City’s financial ship.

Darkest before the dawn

About two months ago, the Editorial Board wrote that “it’s going to get worse,” that Democrats and progressive politics will continue taking blows, instead of the conventional wisdom that we have already reached the bottom. Simply put, we haven’t reached the bottom yet, and I have found some evidence of this continued decline.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published an op-ed this morning discussing the plight so-called “moderate” Republicans like David Dewhurst have been along. My colleague summarized Dewhurst’s recent saga yesterday, but he by far not the only such official to find himself in such a predicament.

Avid readers of the Texas Tribune would have noticed that Jim Pitts, the only Republican to ever chair the House Appropriations Committee, is retiring. Pitts is often remembered as not-the-worst of the Republicans, being willing to work across the aisle and being able to go after Rick Perry, especially his regents. I would not be surprised if Pitts was deathly worried about facing a primary challenge from the Tea Party. This is because, after two insurgent-fueled Tea Party-dominate primary cycles, 52 of the 95 (55%) Republicans in the State House were elected in either 2010 or 2012. A mere 15 Republicans are left who take office before 2003, when Republicans took over the lower House. Of those 15, two (Hilderbran & Pitts) are already not seeking another term. Considering the rural areas these individuals represent, they will no doubt be replaced by far-right Tea Party types.

Kennedy’s opinion piece at the Star-Telegram continues by mentioning the sour place Senator John Cornyn was put into after Ted Cruz refused to endorse his re-election bid. The Dallas Morning News has the full story on that. The hypothetical primary opponent for John Cornyn at this time would be Louie Gohmert, the foul-talking Congressman with birther-tendencies. Again, the Morning News covered the issue in greater detail, as did Off the Kuff.

The op-ed uses the general theme of cynicism and doom & gloom I have been talking up for years. The night is always darkest before the dawn, and it is certainly still getting darker.

As much as I dislike David Dewhurst, Dan Patrick will almost certainly be worse in an executive position. As poorly as John Cornyn serves this State in the U.S. Senate, Louie Gohmert would be exponentially worse. The place where I break with Kennedy’s op-ed is at the end, where he has the bodacious temerity to assert the sun may be rising sometime soon:

The danger for the GOP,” he wrote, is that by the time Republicans realize they have swung too far, “it will be too late, and [Democratic San Antonio Mayor] Julian Castro will be celebrating his election as governor.”

That might be in 2018.

That’s three House election cycles away.

2018 is a very long five years away, but unless a lot of things go very right, it still won’t be a competitive election.

Texpatriate’s Questions for Ron Hale

Editorial note: This is the fifth in our series of electronic interviews with City Council, City Controller and Mayoral candidates. We have sent 10 questions based on seven different templates: (1) incumbent City Council, (2) challenger City Council, (3) open seat City Council, (4) challenger Controller, (5) incumbent Controller, (6) challenger Mayoral and (7) incumbent Mayoral. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.

RonHale4DistrictA

Ron Hale, Candidate for Houston City Council District A

Texpatriate: What is your name?
RH: Ron Hale

T: What is your current occupation?
RH: Director | Engineer at NZ Control Specialists

T: Have you run for or held public office before?
RH: No, I have not ever ran nor held any public office.

T: What is your political affiliation? We understand that City Council elections are nonpartisan, but this is a point many voters find important. If you are not comfortable currently identifying with a political party, what was the last Political Party’s primary election you voted in (a matter of public record)?
RH: I identify myself as conservative, republican. However, my aim isn’t to conserve anything which is no longer providing intention and or results. I will accept change and improvement based on the need, that is what makes me different than just your typical conservative. I am not between parties or waived on what my core beliefs are, I am very aware of my stance within the party I claim, but I do welcome and accept change, as it is necessary if growth is to be acquired.

T: Typically, this board will defer to incumbents unless we are convinced the incumbent has failed in some way. Do you believe the incumbent has failed at her or his job? If so, why?
RH: In this particular case. I do believe the incumbent has not lived up to the job in question. Identifying to the lonely and to the no-vote only, isn’t how a council member stands resolute. Opposed to focusing on what the incumbent did wrong, I’d rather discuss how I would better handle things. Through observation of what approach seems to fall flat, I have a decided manner and new direction which will produce results, that being said I recognize the importance of working with others and realize that the willingness to do so is also imperative, especially as the position and the success of the position depend on how well you connect and collaborate with people. My results will be driven by careful planning and through proper action, also by my choice to always inform and listen to the people along the way. Essentially the ideal candidate should be the very representation of conservative values, and is exemplified in the application of these principles when running a business or organization. The notion is that the candidate will make a lot of officials and people otherwise want to work with them, while supporting them. Furthermore, being a conservative … I understand the need to try and stretch every dollar, to make it last, but I also fully believe that saving a dollar is every bit as essential. It is about appropriating the cities tax dollars wisely, spreading them to cover even more of the cities projects without spending more of the peoples tax dollars. It should be this way, we need to manage better because it is up to us to initiate projects, and we shouldn’t spend any more than we have to, and we have to cut down on wasteful spending and poorly drafted projects which result in overspending, bottom-line, and this is what every council member should want in order to meet the needs of their constituents.

T: Why are you specifically running against this incumbent?
RH: The opportunity to approach things differently and more effectively is why I am up against the incumbent Helena Brown, I aspire to bring my community back together and bring more people into the combined interests of the city council, and showcase what it can do for their community if given the opportunity. My notion of community togetherness, implies that once the people are willing to get behind a candidate either with full support or maybe just some blind faith, this action speaks the loudest because when that council member speaks by the people, that council member is undoubtedly fulfilling the wants and needs of their constituents.

T: What do you hope to get out of serving on the City Council?RH: I am committed to improving many aspects, but it is in my main interest to change the way city services handles CIP projects. I want to extend the tax dollars being spent in order to get more CIP projects done, with as little waste possible, if not any waste, preferably. I venture to bring all the sides of my District together, in resolution of all our combined needs, once these are addressed properly, it directly affects and improves the way of life for all my constituents.

T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
RH: I believe we already have too many ordinances as is, but if I would have the opportunity, I’d like to revisit the existing ordinances with a revised methodology. This way it wouldn’t be necessary to create more,(ordinances) just for the sake of creating more. I understand it isn’t easy to change existing ordinances, but if they were once necessary ordinances, then it’s likely they are still very applicable and in the right direction when speaking resolution. The ordinances which I’d want to fix or extinguish the most are the ones that are responsible for hurting our residents and our businesses from flourishing ever like so. I would really like my staff and other council members to be on board with revising or getting rid of any ordinances which don’t properly facilitate the needs of the people. In condensing the number of ordinances to a more manageable amount, improvement and a clearer focus of what remains is only the beginning of the positive outcomes in store.
T: You discuss wishing to repeal or revise many ordinances, includes those
“responsible for hurting our residents.” Could you please give an example
of such an ordinance?
RH: No. 2012-269; Ordinance amending chapter 20 (Homeless Feeding Ordinance)

T: Obviously, an officeholder strives to maintain a diverse core constituency and political base, but all candidates have interest groups they have been traditionally strong with and traditionally weak with, respectively. For you, what would be one example of each type of group?
RH: I am stronger than most to the technology driven younger generation, as they are familiar with the importance of my way of campaigning and connecting to the people through media and social networking. It isn’t going away and I utilize technology everyday, and this mostly resonates with the younger generation. I do not have any special interest groups as of yet that push me to believe that I am weak in their eyes. If I would have to state any it would be the older generation, because they often think I should wait my turn, and work for others until I get more experience in city government before running. They imply that my inexperience or youth is somehow a downfall, these are the people I must win over by talking to them one-on-one … this is so they may form their opinion of me based on the facts rather than the assumption and judgement made. While I respect their suggestions, and get where they are coming from, as far as certainty in me, but  I also think they are resistant to change … and probably don’t realize that a change is what they need, not another career politician. I tell them we need people outside of politics, people who can provide a fresh perspective to an old, but good, design … which I still embrace just as much as any politician would. I’m not getting stuck in the failed attempts of politicians who place their agendas before their approach and how they deal with the people. I think experience and this mindset I’ve got is what will provide the momentum needed to tackle the cities many looming issues … and here-on-after, I’ll take the stance of a guy who is considered politically charged, but I’m no political ingenue, I’m a guy who hopes to speak for the many and the few.
T: Are there are any specific organizations who have endorsed your candidacy?
RH: RPA (Republican Party for America) and HBAD (Houston Black American Democrats)

T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
RH: I have been awakened at the sight of the abundant groups of people who band together, almost religiously, and all in hopes of bringing about change and change alone. The people are desperately seeking a leader and reformer, as well as a voice which speaks of all their various concerns. The people across this city are looking for the right people or person to take control of current issues, and who will be prepared … take on city hall. Keeping in mind that the voice isn’t heard in just a way so that it only helps one specific group of people … it helps with everyone as a whole, all the people. To my surprise community is very much alive and accepting of forward motion, more than I ever anticipated … and this fuels me to bring about togetherness persistently.

Dewhurst’s Messy Call

In the past week it has become alarmingly clear that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has little if any consideration for the law when it comes to personal matters. The Texas Tribune reports on thirteen-minute phone call between Dewhurst and Sargent Maness of Allen Police Department in which Dewhurst attempts to sidestep a “miscarriage of justice” and get his step-sister’s daughter-in-law, Ellen Bevers, out of jail.

He begins by asking for the “most senior officer available” and qualifies his inquiry by stating his name and title as the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. He is then transferred to Sargent Maness. He assures Maness that Bevers was arrested on a “mistaken charge”.

It becomes clear that the issue at hand is an “unscanned” bag of groceries from Kroger totaling fifty-seven dollars. She was charged with a Class B Misdemeanor for theft between 50 and 500 dollars. Dewhurst assured law enforcement that he has “known this woman for thirty years” and she is “the sweetest woman in the world”.

Dewhurst asked Maness to “explain to me what I need to do to arrange for getting her out of jail this evening” because he knew “in my heart was not involved” in the intentional act of stealing”.

Dewhurst’s attempts to circumvent legal protocol and use his title to influence the legal process are examples of a disregard for the legitimacy of the judicial process. He claimed this was all a matter of “unfortunate circumstances”, but how often has he quickly dismissed the same argument. Politicians like Dewhurst claim to abide by an ethical standard that more often than not, is disregarded when it comes to personal matters.

The issue of hypocrisy in politics is nothing new, but the blatant attempt by Dewhurst is all the more insulting. Repeatedly stressing his title and rapport with law enforcement, Dewhurst badgers Maness for phones numbers and contact information. He seems to have no qualms when it comes to seeing “what can be done to prevent this very nice lady, through a miscarriage of justice, from spending the night in jail.”

Supporters of Dewhurst stress that he emphasized his desire to let law enforcement deal with the matter in the appropriate manner. While Dewhurst did say he wanted to conduct everything the legal way, he attempted to influence the legal process. The audacity to place the call is what should be discussed. It appears we live in a political climate that allows politicians to think they can manipulate the law with little or no consequences. In fact, though Dewhurst has received scathingly comments from both sides, he claims his statements were in no way an attempt to circumvent the law.

The issue was quickly picked up by Dewhurst’s opponents, who will no doubt exploit the issue in the upcoming Republican primary. Already, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has put out an Anchorman-themed Tweet on the subject, saying “Dew’s call to Allen PD sounds like Anchorman Ron Burgundy: ‘I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal. People know me.’

Bay Area Houston, Brains & Eggs, Burnt Orange Report, Letters from Texas and McBlogger all have more.

On the Mayor’s race and Schools

Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle wrote a stunning op-ed that has everybody buzzing. In it, she interviewed Hall, who went on a light rant about how he still honestly believes there is a chance to victory for himself, and why he specifically ran against Annise Parker.

Given that Parker is a relatively well-regarded incumbent who managed to avoid major scandal and any resounding cries of incompetence, why is Hall running? Why throw good money – mostly his own – after bad odds?

“In fact, the odds are that I’m going to win,” Hall responded, making it clear that he also disagreed with my “ludicrous” assumption that Parker is generally doing a good job. He most often mentioned her “pension fund neglect” and “mismanagement of assets” in the budget, and her silence on the problems in Houston schools.

As to his reasons for running for mayor, Hall explained that he wants to give voters a real choice. It was a decision he made several years ago, he said, but he had to pray for God’s guidance in choosing the right time and to give his reluctant wife “a spirit of acceptance” about the idea.

What I find most interesting about Hall’s comments was the line about the “a decision he made several years ago.” This, precisely, is why I have been so tepid about Hall’s candidacy thus far. When someone runs against an incumbent, she or he must adequately prove why the present incumbent is bad for the populace and why an opposition candidate such as her or himself is needed. I realize that Hall is ostensibly doing this, drudging up some minor issues like the alleged pension trouble, or even the bizarre issue I will discuss below, but comments like this one tell me that the candidacy is more about his ego than saving the City from his fellow Democrat.

Falkenberg goes on to talk about Hall’s animosity towards the Mayor, and vice versa. According to Hall, Mayor Parker was rude and vulgar with him. As the Chronicle article continues about the exchanges:

Hall believes part of the problem may be Parker’s “strident” leadership style, a bit of which he’s experienced during his few private encounters with her. The first time they met, at a University of Houston event, Hall said, the two shook hands and he recalls the mayor saying “ ’It’s nice meeting you. I’m going to whip your ass so bad that you’ll never run for public office again.’ ” At which point, Hall said, “I immediately told my friend, ‘My goodness, I now know what’s wrong with the city.’ ”

Hall then described a later exchange after the Juneteenth Parade. After introducing himself again, Hall says Parker responded, “I’m glad you keep introducing yourself to me because I keep forgetting who you are.”

Asked whether Hall’s recollections of the exchanges were accurate, Parker spokeswoman Sue Davis said in a statement: “Ben Hall needs to man up. The mayor did not use those exact words and she certainly didn’t curse. But it’s not surprising that Mr. Hall’s response to a confident woman leader is to call her names. Yesterday, Mr. Hall sent out a public statement calling the mayor a liar. What kind of leadership is that?”

I have known the Mayor personally for about four years now, and can say with all confidence that she would never curse at someone adverse to her. Falkenberg then closes her article with a complimentary tone towards Hall’s campaign, ending with a statement that Hall has made “this a better race.” For the life of me, I have never been able to figure out just what about Hall’s campaign is “over-inspiring,” as Falkenberg puts it. The campaign is pitifully light on substance, and it does hover on substance, it is all too brief.

Brains & Eggs and Texas Leftist have more.

This brings me to my second point. Recently, the Houston Chronicle reported on Ben Hall making an all-too-brief point about the City of Houston possibly taking over HISD. The position is not all that ludicrous, but like the other points in his campaign, there is no substance attached to it. It almost appears as that Ben Hall is just saying things in order to say things; seeing if anything sticks to the wall and attracts voters. Perhaps this is why Falkenberg went lukewarm for him, just waiting on him to capitalize and detail his many interesting ideas.

Off the Kuff has the best summary of this issue:

As with the other two points Hall noted, having to do with economic opportunity and crime prevention, this is what I find so frustrating about Hall’s candidacy. There’s absolutely no detail in this suggestion – I can hardly call it an “idea” with so little substance to it. There’s nothing to indicate what Hall would do as Mayor to this goal of providing the “best possible education that any school district or human history can provide”. Hall brushes aside the Mayor’s point about lacking any statutory authority, but the fact remains that unlike some cities, the Mayor of Houston doesn’t appoint a school chancellor or superintendent, and we have multiple independent school districts with independently elected school boards that have taxing authority and set their own budgets. Some of these school districts are quite large – HISD, Alief, Spring Branch, Kingwood, Cy-Fair – some are small, they cover turf that includes Houston and not-Houston, and they all have their own identity and governing philosophy. While I’m sure that most of them would be willing to work with the city on certain items, I’m equally sure none of them will cede any of their legal rights and responsibilities without a fight that the city would lose because it has no grounds to assert any authority over them. I truly have no clue what Hall has in mind when he says stuff like this. While it’s possible that he’s such a visionary that I can’t even see the box he thinking outside of, it’s also possible that he’s completely unclear about what office it is he’s running for and what that job entails. In the absence of further information, I have to lean towards the latter interpretation.

 

Gay Divorce

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases pertaining to gay divorce. The astute will surely remember the infamous case out of Austin from 2011, where the 3rd Court of Appeals upheld a gay divorce. This conflicted with an earlier ruling that year from Dallas (the 5th Court of Appeals), which threw out a gay divorce.

Traditionally, Courts of Last Resort, such as the Supreme Court, takes cases when the lower courts are split on the question. This is precisely what has happened here. It is worth noting, however, that the three judge panel assigned to the Austin case was comprised of two Democrats and one Republican (though the panel unanimously reached its verdict). This is quite different from the Texas Supreme Court, which consists of nine Republicans and zero Democrats.

Oral arguments will be held on election day, November 5th. Though an opinion will not be rendered for months, it will be very apparently obvious what will happen thereafter.

The Court will uphold the 5th Court, and reverse the 3rd Court, in refusing to recognize the gay divorces. This is because the case will surely not fly under the radar, as it has attracted publicity from our Attorney General and even our wannabe Attorney General. When social conservative crusaders get involved, all logic goes out the window. Accordingly, it is most likely an exercise in futility for me to delineate the reasons why, in an ideal world, the 3rd Court is correct just using Texas law.

The Texas Constitution says one man + one woman, it is pretty clear about that. Therefore, State Courts that use state law may not do anything that circumvents that provision. That is why homophobic provisions such as this one are typically thrown out in Federal Court. Bearing all that in mind, the question now shifts not to gay marriage, but gay divorce. But the Constitution simply states that “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” By granting a divorce, you do not perpetuate the marriage. The more gay divorces you grant, the fewer gay marriages are in effect.

The Dallas Voice has more.

Horwitz on his Father’s candidacy

For those who have not already heard the news, my father, James S. Horwitz, is running for the City Council. Specifically, at-large #5, against an incumbent Councilmember, Jack Christie.

My astute readers will note the last article that bore my name in the title, wherein I expressed my outrage at Jack Christie, a Republican at-large City Councilmember, having no opposition. At that time, nearly two weeks ago, I had expected someone –anyone– to jump the race before the filing deadline. Today, the penultimate day of filing, Christie was still the only candidate in the mix.

Accordingly, something had to be done. After much deliberation, my father decided to throw his hat into the ring and serve as the sole opposition to Jack Christie. He did this in an act of symbolism as much as anything else, to prevent someone such as Christie from running unopposed.

While Christie bears animosity against modern medicine, my father, a 10-year cancer survivor, owes his life to it. While Christie voted against legislation to decriminalize dumpster diving, my father understands the need to treat the homeless with compassion…not as common criminals.

Simply put, Christie is a Republican. I had the pleasure yesterday of attending a meeting at City Hall to welcome young people representing the Brazilian Government to our city. Among the elected officials in attendance was Councilmember Christie. Christie railed on and on about how modern medicine, predominantly pills, is anathema to health. He also seemed to have nothing good to say about our current President and nothing bad to say about our immediate previous President.

While I will be helping my father’s campaign in many ways, I do realize that it is unethical to do so while covering the same election on this page. Accordingly, I will be recusing myself from any involvement or coverage of the At-large #5 campaign, and will recuse myself from the Editorial Board’s endorsement process in that election. The other members of Texpatriate (Romo, Olivia, George and Sophia) will pick up the slack on these issues.

Otherwise, I do strongly recommend checking out his website when it is uploaded here in the next few days.

Texpatriate’s second attempt with Eric Dick

On Tuesday evening, we published an article labeled ‘Texpatriate’s Questions for Eric Dick,’ in our installment of municipal candidate interviews. We received legitimate answers from bona fide representatives of Dick’s campaign. However, these answers consisted of poor grammar and, often times, nonsensical ramblings.

Eric Dick himself contacted one of the other members of this board, Noah M. Horwitz, to announce the answers were not a sincere representation of either himself or his campaign. Allegedly, Dick was never able to review the answers before submission.

Horwitz attempted to assuage the issues brought up by this unfortunate miscommunication by working with Dick to formulate a three-part solution.

First, new answers would be accepted and reprinted if Dick answered a further question explaining how in the world a campaign could have such an error in oversight. Second, the old article would include a disclaimer pointing the reader to this interview. Third, the old article would be preserved.

While I was not personally inclined to support such an arrangement, this board soon deemed it to be in the best interest of all involved parties. Further, we received no negative feedback from both the Hall and Parker campaigns, respectively, for this decision.”

~Olivia Arena, Texpatriate Editorial Board

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Editorial note: This is the fourth in our series of electronic interviews with City Council, City Controller and Mayoral candidates. We have sent 10 questions based on seven different templates: (1) incumbent City Council, (2) challenger City Council, (3) open seat City Council, (4) challenger Controller, (5) incumbent Controller, (6) challenger Mayoral and (7) incumbent Mayoral. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.

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Eric Dick (left), Candidate for Mayor of Houston

Texpatriate: Your campaign has sent a set of previous answers, which you have since disavowed. Why did you disavow these previous answers, and why did you submit these new answers in their place?
Eric Dick: For various reasons, I didn’t have the chance to review said answers.  Furthermore, I’m not a millionaire nor is my campaign funded by special interests, so we run on tight budget.  Sometimes we make mistakes.  Nonetheless, we are candid as to who we are and what we are about.
T: Would you mind delineating the reasons you did not have the chance to review the answers?
ED: A mixture of the following:
1.  A shoe-string budget
2.  Communicating with the entire city
3.  Fighting insurance companies all over the state
4.  My beloved three-month old daughter
5. Campaign coordinator is out of the country
T: Okay thank you. Let’s start the interview over again.

T: What is your name?
ED: My name is Eric Dick.

T: What is your current occupation?
ED: Insurance lawyer.  Specifically, I sue insurance companies.

T: Have you run for or held public office before?
ED: Yes.

T: What is your political affiliation? We understand that City Council elections are nonpartisan, but this is a point many voters find important. If you are not comfortable currently identifying with a political party, what was the last Political Party’s primary election you voted in (a matter of public record)?
ED: Proudly a Republican.

T: Typically, this board will defer to incumbents unless we are convinced the incumbent has failed in some way. Do you believe the incumbent has failed at her or his job? If so, why?
ED: Yes

  1. Made it criminal to share food with the poor

  2. Questionable priorities with the city budget as follows:

    1. Has no plans to cover next year’s shortfall in budget of $80 million

    2. Has no plans to deal with Houston’s $14 billion deficit

    3. Has increased the Mayor’s budget four times to that of Bill White

T: Why are you specifically running against this incumbent?
ED: Because I cannot sit and watch as this administration takes away our liberties and puts Houston more in debt.

T: What is an ordinance you would introduce as Mayor?
ED: An ordinance that would repeal the feeding ordinance as I believe it a violation of religious freedoms.

T: Obviously, an officeholder strives to maintain a diverse core constituency and political base, but all candidates have interest groups they have been traditionally strong with and traditionally weak with, respectively. For you, what would be one example of each type of group?
ED: I represent all of Houston and have diversity in constituents.

T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
ED: That Houstonians are passionate about their city, care deeply about their freedoms, and have serious concerns about the Houston’s financial wellbeing.