Texpatriate endorses for County Judge

Counties in Texas are managed by a five-person Commissioner’s Court. Four commissioners are selected from different precincts, each representing roughly a quarter of the population. The fifth member is the County Judge, elected countywide to manage the affairs of the county and preside over the commissioners’ court, though no trials.

Since 2007, the County Judgeship of Harris County has been in the capable hands of Ed Emmett. A former member of the Texas House of Representatives for four terms from 1979 to 1987, Emmett represents a seemingly dying breed of moderate Republicans. A transportation planner by trade, he has served on the Interstate Commerce Commission and understands the need for vigorous expansion of mass transit options. He has fought for Texas to assent to Obamacare’s proposed Medicaid expansion, and he is a perpetual advocate for the preservation of the Astrodome. On social issues, Emmett takes a largely moderate stance, and thinks the County should have no role in regulating or commenting upon them.

But Emmett’s greatest asset is his inimitable leadership qualities. In 2008, when Hurricane Ike devastated the entire region, Emmett was a familiar face who tirelessly worked day and night to turn the lights back on and maintain normalcy in Houston. While voters have judged Emmett twice since that time, and we should really be judging his actions in the last quadrennial, his skillful leadership during the tragedy have set the stage for a constantly prepared County Judge. Emmett’s face is usually on a billboard or two every summer, with his signature phrase “Hunker Down,” and his office is one of the best prepared in the State for dealing with possible tropical cyclones.

Simply put, we believe that Emmett is our best representative on the Commissioner’s Court. He shows an understanding and a empathy for the average person to an extent nearly unheard of in today’s crop of politician. And, most importantly, he prioritizes pragmatism and big solutions over ideology and small-minded partisanship.

This was put on full display earlier this year when Emmett put his money where his mouth was, so to speak, on that front. He largely underwrote the campaign of Paul Simpson, who had challenged Jared Woodfill for Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party. Woodfill was a zealot who put undue priority on divisive social issues and bullied more moderate members of the party. Simpson, with Emmett’s help, defeated Woodfill and has begun making the County Republicans arguably a little more of a “big tent” party. We are ecstatic to see it.

Emmett’s only opponent, after his Democratic adversary dropped out, is Green candidate David Collins. While he means well, even he lauds the record that Emmett has. Simply put, we think that, since the incumbent has done a good job, he should be rewarded with another term.

Unfortunately, Emmett has announced that -assuming he wins- this next term will be his past. We thoroughly hope this means that he will run for Governor in 2018. Removed from party labels, he has done wonders for Harris County. Hopefully, Texas will be next.

Accordingly, this board endorses Ed Emmett for County Judge.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the board.

Another Astrodome proposal


The Houston Chronicle reports that County Judge Ed Emmett (R) has unveiled yet another plan for the Astrodome: turning it into a large indoor park and recreation center. Under Emmett’s vision, the area would have “a large open green for festivals and other community gatherings, general exercise facilities, an amphitheater, a pavilion for music and other events  and special educational facilities for children, even museums.”

The announcement was made at a rather grandiose press conference by the County Judge, and served mainly as an opportunity to provide a vision on the idea, not to work out the details. Emmett freely admitted that he has not run the numbers on what all of this would cost, and from the sounds of it, the total expenditures would likely be pricey. As the astute will surely recall, there was a previous proposal to renovate the Astordome –which has stood vacant for about 10 years– last year. The County Judge and Commissioners approved idea, which would have created $217 Million in bonds to repurpose the dome into a convention center, was shot down by voters in a November referendum. Exit polls heavily insinuated that voters’ key concern was its high cost.

After the referendum boondoggle, many began to think the Astrodome would likely be demolished. A much, much cheaper proposal was floated to demolish the dome and convert it into a park with a small “replica dome” around where home plate once stood. However, progress on demolition came to a grounding halt at the end of last month, when a State Commission indefinitely tabled a designation on the site’s historical status. Needless to say, it’s been a long and grueling ride.

As I stated in one of the previous articles linked to this post, I am still very conflicted on the Astrodome. While I wholeheartedly supported last year’s resolution, the people spoke and rejected spending a significant amount of money to renovate it. I obviously still disagree with their small-minded, senseless and carpetbagger-esque rationale, but there is something to be said for a public servant who follows the desires of his constituents. Emmett spoke today about securing private funds for this project. If there is any modicum of a chance that is possible, I sincerely wish it to happen, but color me skeptical. I have no doubt that if outside funding had previously been a realistic source of revenue, in order to mitigate the damage done to taxpayers, it would have been used for last year’s resolution.

All in all, as you are probably aware by this point, the total and final say on what happens to the dome is with the Commissioner’s Court, which Emmett rules over somewhat firmly. Granted that he’s a shoe-in to stay in his current post until early 2019, two years after we host the Super Bowl, this could prove very interesting. Emmett, for his part, has stated that he will, in no circumstances, be okay with the Astrodome being demolished. County Commissioner El Franco Lee (D-Pct 1), for what it’s worth, was the only Commissioner interviewed by the Chronicle to voice an opinion on today’s proposal. He was cautiously optimistic.

What do you think about the dome proposal?

Conflicted on the Dome


EricEnfermero –

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Astrodome now looks slated for demolition. The Houston Texans and the Livestock Show & Rodeo have both endorsed a $66 Million plan to level the dome and replace the space with some sort of “green space.” The plan, which I recall hearing my friend Perry Dorrell (Brains & Eggs) discuss at length in the past, demolishes all but the outside skeleton of the dome, then fills in the depression with grass. Thus, an open air structure would stand that would pay tribute to the Astrodome while requiring minimal upkeep. It is a fitting tribute to the dome, though it is significantly more expensive than just paving over it.

As the astute will surely recall, a contentious fight erupted last year when a proposition was put on the ballot to spend over $200 Million renovating the dome into a modern convention center. Texpatriate wholeheartedly supported that proposal, but it ended up failing by a few percentage points. After that, some talk has occurred over designating the structure a landmark, though it is exceedingly unlikely this would actually prevent demolition if the powers-to-be truly wished for it. In the last few months, the Editorial Board has heatedly debated the prospect of another editorial on the topic (e.g., “Tear down the Dome!” or “Not yet, a desperate plea”), but there was not enough support one way or another to write anything.

Click here to read more!

Dome update

It’s been a whirlwind few days for the Astrodome, but Kiah Collier at the Houston Chronicle appeared to sum up the entire story remarkably well. In short, the Houston Historical Commissioner (HAHC) voted to deem the Astrodome a protected historical site, though the action only places a 90 day hold on renovation or demolition — a relatively minor hurdle– without further steps taken by the City Council. Mayor Parker has unequivocally ruled out such action.

About a month ago, this idea was first proposed by Maverick Welsh, a Historical Commissioner. Welsh also serves as the Vice President of the local GLBT Caucus (and is, by many accounts, next in line for the Presidency) and he was a candidate for the City Council back in 2009. For those who do not remember, the Astrodome has been basically a shoe-in for demolition ever since Harris County voters rejected a bond measure seeking to turn the dome into a convention center last month.

Accordingly, at the meeting yesterday, Collier reports that the commissioners voted 9-1 to impose this landmark status on the Astrodome. What this does is prevents any action affecting the exterior of the building –up to and including demolition– from taking place without the express approval of the City. However, this hold is only applicable for 90 days, making it less than effective.

Click here to read about Mayor Parker had to say!

Die another day

…for the Astrodome, that is.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Astrodome might not be doomed after all. The Houston Historical Commission has “voted unanimously” to discuss awarding historical landmark status to the Astrodome. If the commission further votes to give the distinction to the dome, a “90-day hold” will be placed on any effort to destroy the facility.

However, more notably, the City Council could vote to confirm the designation, thus preserving it from destruction. Such a move would be sure to pick a huge fight between the City and the County. While the dome is owned by Harris County, it is located within the City limits. This is exemplified by the fact that while 53% of Harris County voters opposed spending money to save the Astrodome, a majority of City of Houston voters voted to save it.

The Commissioner’s Court will make a further decision about the Astrodome on December 12th, most likely demolition. (Editorial note: See update) The City, while it may ostensibly block demolition, could not force the County’s hand to do something –anything– productive with the dome. Accordingly, the prognosis for such a strategy is a game of stalemate that could continue until someone blinks.

Click here to read more!

2013 results and analysis

We’re working on trying to abridge the hours and hours of livestreamed Texpatriate election return coverage into about 20 minutes of the top hits. Yesterday, our all-time view record was demolished as thousands of people appeared to come to our website to read up on candidates before they voted. Additionally, Richard Nguyen, the victor in District F, had little impact on the internet besides his interview with Texpatriate.

First and foremost, Mayor Annise Parker was decisively re-elected to a third and final term as Mayor of Houston. She cruised to over 57% of the vote, far outpacing the amount of the vote she received in 2011. Meanwhile, Controller Ronald Green also was re-elected, albeit by a much smaller margin. The only surprises amongst City Council races were in At-large 3 and District F, respectively. Otherwise, most incumbents cruised to re-election.

All nine Statewide propositions passed, as did Harris County Proposition 1 (the joint processing center/jail). The Astrodome referendum, however, did not pass, as the iconic 8th Wonder of the World now looks condemned to demolition.

Click here to see full results and read more!

From the mail…

For those readers of this blog who are not also Facebook friends with me, one may not know that I am in Houston this weekend. Among other reasons, I wanted to do a little bit of campaigning for my father (James Horwitz) as well as attend the Johnson-Richards-Rayburn dinner.

I have seen a variety of familiar faces at the early voting locations, including (but not limited to) Roland Chavez, Eric Dick, Michael Kubosh and Assata Richards. Also, as I was walking out of the polling place yesterday (after voting), I literally walked into Ted Cruz. But that is another story for another day.

When I got home today, I found some campaign literature by the front door (most of which, my dogs did not eat/destroy). Among these were fairly unexciting mailers from the “Save the Dome” people and the Ronald Green campaign. The “Texas Conservative Review” came in the mail as well. Again, somewhat unexciting. The only surprise was the endorsement of Ben Hall for Mayor, and that is simply because of the sheer ubiquity of Eric Dick advertisements throughout the booklet.

Click here to read about the vicious mailer attacking a Councilmember!

Texpatriate endorses Astrodome Referendum

This board has long been dubious of bond measures put up before the voters with little-to-no explanation. These measures are often confounded in confusing, opaque language. The end result, unfortunately, is giving a blank check to the government to spend money on poorly-defined goals for poorly-defined reasons.

The recent plan to renovate the Astrodome is not one of these situations, however. After many years of continued limbo for the hallowed structure, this board has been pleased to finally see a meticulously detailed proposal come together. This proposal will convert the Astrodome into a multipurpose convention center, on par with the George R. Brown. The proponents of this measure have also been unrelenting in advocating for their position, raising awareness throughout the County for the important measure. We have been especially elated to hear that, already, major conferences and organizations have come together to pledge their intent to hold conferences at the Astrodome.

While an eventual demise is simply part of the lifespan for many sports arenas, this board believes the Astrodome is different. While Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium hold the secrets and traditions of their respective ballteams, the Astrodome has never been about the Astros. Instead, it has been about the structure itself, the first of its kind in the world. The Astrodome set the stage for a future of ubiquitous indoor or retractable-roof stadiums throughout the South. Never again would sports fans in Houston be required to suffer through a scalding summer in an outdoor stadium.

While this board believes even a meager property tax increase will be painful and excessive for many residents of Harris County, we could not think of many better investments than the Astrodome referendum. The roughly $200 Million spent by the county will be made up many times over as the economy of Houston is benefited from conferences held at this new center.

Accordingly, this board endorses the Harris County Proposition colloquially known as the “Astrodome rerendum.”

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey & Noah M. Horwitz of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans.

Poll supports Astrodome bond

Yesterday, KHOU released a poll on the Mayoral election. Tonight, it has released a second poll, specifically pertaining to the Astrodome bond referendum.

Any many will recall, all the voters of Harris County will see a $217 Bond measure on the ballot this November, that will seek to convert the Astrodome into a convention center. The ballot measure already has some somewhat zealous opponents, mainly hailing from the Tea Party (and others with a pathological hatred of the government). However, a broad coalition of supporters have emerged as well.

The poll showed 45% in favor of passing the bond measure, 35% oppose and 20% undecided. As the lead spokesperson for the Save-the-Dome PAC, Dene Hofheinz, mentioned, that this only means 1/4 currently undecided voters need to be convinced, somewhat good odds.

The poll’s full demographic results have yet to be released, though. KHOU notes that, unlike previous polls and snapshots on the matter, younger people were more open to the idea than older voters. The stark differences that do remain, however, are that Whites & Hispanics are far more supportive than African-Americans and that those optimistic about the city’s future are more supportive than those pessimistic. I cannot speak in any more than those generalities, as I do not have the detailed information.

The poll is a welcomed development for me. I have long been a tad bit suspicious of the referendum as something that was doomed to fail, thus ushering in the demise of the eighth wonder of the world. This, however, gives me a slight amount of hope.

Save the Dome!

The Houston Chronicle reports that a Political Action Committee (PAC) has been formed to fight to save the Astrodome, pending a ballot measure on the November ballot. Not too long ago, the Commissioners Court approved placing the $217M bond issue this November, concurrent with the municipal elections and Statewide ballot measures.

The PAC is receiving endorsements from an all-star cast that includes current officers such as County Judge Ed Emmett and County Commissioner El Franco Lee, as well as former County Judges Jon Lindsay and Robert Eckels. Dene Hofheinz, daughter of former Mayor Roy Hofheinz and sister of former Mayor Fred Hofheinz, also made statements in support of the group.

The article in the Chronicle mentions the Offshore Technology Conference, which has historically met at the George R. Brown convention center Reliant stadium. The group now pledges that they would host the conference at the Astrodome, giving some business and economic opportunity to the project.

The article also mentions other opportunities for an Astrodome Convention Center, including the possibility of a political convention. The astute will remember that the 1992 Republican Convention was held at the Astrodome, so the idea is not truly unprecedented.

This group is giving a small bit of backing to the idea that Emmett & Co actually want the Astrodome to be saved.