Another Astrodome proposal

Reliant_Astrodome_in_January_2014

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?

Advertisements

Conflicted on the Dome

Reliant_Astrodome_in_January_2014

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!

County panhandling ban?

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Harris County Commissioners’ Court will soon consider a ban on panhandling in the middle of streets and intersections. Specifically, the proposed regulations would prohibit all “solicitation activities” from the middle of roads (including esplanades and medians), as well as impose a blanket prohibition on children panhandling.

These regulations would only apply to unincorporated areas of Harris County. The City of Houston already has a ban on such panhandling activities, though it is arguably more strict. Whereas Houston requiring all “fundraising groups” to obtain permits from the City, the draft County rules do not. Houston also maintains a broad exception for firefighters who seek to raise money for their charity Christmas fund.

Click here to read more!

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.

Endorsements: Everyone Else

I wrap up my candidate endorsements.

School Board
I endorse the Democrats: Diane Trautman, Siliva Mintz, and Erica Lee. I have thoroughly enjoyed the work that Trustees such as Jim Henley have done to benefit our community. Plus, I think someone mentioned that Roy Morales’s seat (6) was the greatest pickup opportunity for Democrats this election.

County Commissioner 1
I endorse the incumbent, Democrat El Franco Lee. Commissioner Lee has little opposition, and I think he has done a sufficient job in office.

County Commissioner 3
I endorse the Democratic challenger, Glorice McPherson. The astute will remember how I ALMOST ran against Commissioner Radack, so needless to say, I am happy to vote for any sort of competitor. However, I met the Democratic candidate at the State Convention and was pleasantly surprised. I think the Democrats have a strong, commendable candidate. Unfortunately, we have no money to fund these races.

County Commissioner 4
I endorse the incumbent, Republican Jack Cagle. My Kingwood connection tells me that he is truly not as bad as his predecessor.

The JPs seem to all be uncontested races.

Constable 1
I endorse the Democrat, Alan Rosen. I heard quite a few of Rosen’s speeches at the Convention in June and am convinced, quite strongly, that he will be a good constable.

Constable 2
I endorse the Democrat, Chris Diaz.

Constable 3
I endorse the Democrat, Ken Jones.

Constables 4-8 are uncontested. I live in 5, where Camus (R) is running unopposed. I will vote for him, he hasn’t seemed to have done anything especially wrong.