HFD union sues City

UPDATE: Further hearing on the matter is set for March 7th.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Houston Fire Department’s union (Local 341) has sued the City over the recent brownouts in coverage going around the City. Last Thursday, a Council Committee voted to compel the Fire Department into managing a large budget deficit (predominantly caused by excessive overtime pay through a generous union contract) through their own means. Accordingly, after Mayor Parker gave the nod to this course of action, the Fire Department announced they would begin rolling blackouts of service throughout the city, grounding ambulances for example, such as what happened this weekend.

Today at noon, the Firefighter’s Union sought a temporary restraining order from Judge Elaine Palmer (215th Civil District Court), which was then summarily denied. City Attorney David Feldman, Houston’s key counsel on legal issues, laughed off the suit as frivolous, proclaiming “This is not what the courthouse is for.”

Rather than Chief Terry Garrison, who must retain some semblance of a working relationship with Mayor Parker, this push has largely been driven by Bryan Sky-Eagle, the Firefighter’s Union President. In comments first reported by KPRC, Sky-Eagle noted he believed this would be an ongoing effort, albeit he made his comments before Judge Palmer denied his request for a temporary restraining order.

Click here to read more, including a statement by Mayor Parker!

Lies against Kirkland continue

Texpatriate has learned that the horrendously misleading attacks and outright lies about Judge Steven Kirkland have reared their ugly head once again in his current campaign. Kirkland, who served as a Civil District Judge from 2009 to 2013, was infamously defeated for re-election in the 2012 Democratic primary after his opponent, financed by a disgruntled lawyer, promulgated both the aforementioned libels as well as homophobic tactics. Admittedly, this new round of attacks have not crossed the threshold of bigotry against the openly gay Kirkland. This year, Kirkland is once again running for a Civil District Bench, against yet another candidate bankrolled by the same disgruntled attorney.

Just a few days ago, a robocall made its rounds throughout the City. Today, a new mailer was delivered to homes around Houston as well. On the front side of this mailer, a broad image is simply presented of a man’s wrists shackled with handcuffs. “When it comes to drunk driving, you be the judge,” the mailer reads. “And say no to Steve Kirkland in the Democratic primary.”

The back side opens up with an ominous phrase designed to mislead meek readers down a rabbit hole. “Judicial candidate Steve Kirkland has been jailed and arrested twice for drunk driving,” the headline reads. While this is not per se untrue, it is highly misleading, as it occurred over thirty years ago. After the DWIs, Kirkland received treatment for alcoholism, turned his life around and has not had a drink in over 30 years.

Click here to read more!

Texpatriate endorses in 113th District Court primary

Do you know what the 113th District Court does? What about just a Civil District Court in general? Therein lies the problem that hoodwinked voters in 2012, and we sincerely hope does not negatively corrupt them once again in this year’s primary.

In the year 2008, voters elected a Democrat named Steven Kirkland to a Civil District Bench in Harris County. Kirkland is openly gay, but that definitely was not the reason he got elected. Contrary to some of the stories you may have heard, it wasn’t the reason he was defeated for re-election in 2012 either. Instead, the story bears a much sneakier and nefarious orientation. Shortly before the 2012 primary, Judge Kirkland presided over a suit against a prominent attorney accused of overcharging his clients. When all was said and done, the attorney –George Fleming– had been cost $13 Million by the lawsuit.

Fleming ultimately appealed the decision, but that was not enough. He was out for blood. Buying a general election is hard, particularly when so many voters select a straight ticket option in the Presidential year. But buying a primary election, where turnout hovers only in the single digits, is significantly easier. Fleming recruited an attorney by the name of Elaine Palmer, almost exclusively bankrolled her campaign, and let the cards fall where they may.

Click here to read the full endorsement!

Horwitz on City Council candidates

The following was a proposed Editorial that failed to receive enough support to be published under the board’s authorship. The author of the rejected Editorial has now elected to share his opinions individually:

With the 83rd Legislature now out of the way, all eyes are upon Municipal politics, specifically the City Council elections. By my count, there are currently 53 candidates for City Hall offices this November. Among these candidates are extremely diverse political ideologies, creating odd coalitions on many different issues. However, at the end of the day, partisan affiliation is still the best indicator of voting patterns and ideology on the ostensibly non-partisan City Council.

There is a Democratic Mayor, a Democratic City Controller, At-large City Councilmembers consisting of 3 Democrats & 2 Republicans and District Councilmembers consisting of 7 Democrats and 4 Republicans. While Houston has had a Democratic Mayor since the 1970s, the partisan makeup of the City Council was not always so simple, and sometimes took on odd shapes of its own. For example, between the 2007 and 2009 elections, all five At-large City Councilmembers were Democrats, while a smaller assortment of District Councilmembers consisted of 5 Republicans & 4 Democrats. This could have been easily attributed to gerrymandered maps, which, in turn, were gerrymandered for the (white) Democrats preceding the 2011 elections.

All this aside, the most perplexing idiosyncrasy of Houston’s municipal politics is the rampant, unyielding and plain troubling disregard for the 11th Commandment: Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Any Fellow Democrat. Instead of uniting against Republicans, the best and brightest tend to just go after each other, sometimes to the detriment of other, more important, contests.

For too long, two Democratic groups in Houston have gone at each others’ necks: African-Americans and White Upper-Class Intelligentsia, dominated by Gays & Lesbians. Both groups have engaged in horribly homophobic and/or racist tactics. Most Democratic-dominated contests in Houston tend to be a contest between groups, whether it be Annise Parker vs. Ben Hall, Lane Lewis vs. Keryl Douglas, Steven Kirkland vs. Elaine Palmer, Kristi Thibaut vs. Andrew Burks, Noel Freeman vs. C.O. Bradford, or old contests between Burks & Lovell or Locke & Parker.

To me, the conflict is most exemplified this year by the race in At-large #2, where incumbent Councilmember Andrew Burks is being challenged by David Robinson, a local architect. While I have had plenty of quarrels with Councilmember Burks in the past, and may very well end up supporting Robinson in November, it pains me to see such a race, not because of what decision Robinson made, but because of what decision Robinson did not make.

Burks has not been a perfect Councilmember, but he is still a nominally liberal Democrat. The at-large section of Houston’s City Council is home to not one, but two, Republicans: Stephen Costello and Jack Christie. While the former, Councilmember Costello, is extremely moderate if not progressive, the latter, Councilmember Christie, is not. Christie served for years on the State Board of Education, you know, that same organization that believes the world is 9000 years old and other such gems as the redaction of controversial, anti-Christian characters like Thomas Jefferson.

Christie is untruthful as well. In preparation of his 2011 campaign, he libeled my friend Neil Aquino of Texas Liberal, incorrectly claiming his endorsement, in a spectacle that was rebuked by the Houston Chronicle. Christie is also well-versed in the Republican tradition of uttering asinine statements, such as that “you don’t die” from influenza, and inoculations should be resisted.

Councilmember Christie, despite this troubling past and frightening tenure on the City Council, is currently running unopposed in November for a second term. This tells me that serious, legitimate candidates like David Robinson were specifically coaxed into challenging fellow Democrats such as Burks rather than Republicans like Christie.

Unfortunately, the trend is not limited to this race. Keryl Douglas, the homophobic attorney who unsuccessfully challenged Lane Lewis’ chairmanship at the Harris County Democratic Party, recently announced she would be running for Mayor, though I have yet to find one concrete piece of her platform. Again, rather than challenge the unopposed Republican on the City Council, Douglas felt it most compelling to challenge the Democratic mayor.

What is it that these Democrats find so offensive about their fellow kind? I do not want to think that, within Democratic politics, that members of the African-American community are homophobic or that members of the GLBT & Friends community is racist, but I fear it may be the case. For the sake of our city, I hope I am wrong.

UPDATE: I added a few filler words to clarify my last statement. I was not attempting to insinuate that the institutions are actively discriminatory or prejudicial, but that action of individual members of the respective communities may be based, in part, by animus.

Texpatriate Person of the Year, 2012–Lane Lewis

2012 was not a good year for Democrats in Harris County. However, it was not the horrible butchery many were expecting for the Democrats, and it was not a repeat of the debacle of 2010. We here at Texpatriate believe that, more than anyone else, Lane Lewis has been the embodiment of this Democratic resilience.

When the year began, people had been predicting another horrible shellacking at the ballot box for the Democratic Party. Lane Lewis, the (at that time interim) was facing an uphill challenge for his office from Keryl Burgess Douglas, a prominent attorney. I don’t know if the LGBT political community is allegedly racist, or if the African-American political community is allegedly homophobic, but the two political communities always seem to have to run against each other. In May 2012, the two high profile elections were Lewis vs. Douglas, and the Elaine Palmer/Steven Kirkland contest. In a split result, Palmer and Lewis won. However, stakes looked pretty bleak for the Democrats. They even managed to nominate a sketchy, Republican loser as the Democratic Party’s candidate for District Attorney.

Then came the election. The Democrats retained a majority of the Judgeships up for election, including 2/3 of the incumbent Democratic judges. They retained the County Attorney and Sheriff. Additionally, the Democrats also picked up a few seats on the County Board of Education, now commanding a majority. We must admit that we were very pleasantly surprised by the results, and were considering at first giving the award to the “Harris County Democrat.” However, we soon realized that the Chairman of the Party is a better recipient (I do not like abstract awards).

Some would argue that Helena Brown had a more individual impact upon City affairs, but I do believe that the Chairman has certainly had the most insightful, long-lasting impact.

Musings on the election

First up, Congrats to President Obama! Four more years! The President won Harris County by a few hundreds votes. Democrats expand their majority in the Senate to 55 and lessen the Republican majority in the House. All fantastic news.

Statewides
Republicans keep the Railroad Commission and the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals–no surprise there. However, Keith Hampton got clobbered, which is upsetting.

Courts of Appeals
1st and 14th stay all Republican, which is not surprising.

State Senate
Wendy Davis got re-elected. The composition stays at 19-12. Mario Gallegos re-elected posthumously, which means we will see a special election.

State House
Democrats pick up six or seven seats. Composition is at 95-55. Ann Johnson was defeated, again disappointing.

County Judges
11th–Mike Miller (D) re-elected.
61st–Al Bennett (D) re-elected.
80th–Larry Weiman (D) re-elected.
125th–Kyle Carter (D) re-elected.
127th–R.K. Sandhill (D) re-elected.
129th–Michael Gomez (D) re-elected.
133rd–Jaclanel McFarland (D) re-elected.
151st–Mike Engelhart (D) re-elected.
152nd–Robert Schaffer (D) re-elected.
164th–Alexandra Smoots-Hogan (D) re-elected.
165th–Josephina Rendon (D) defeated by Elizabeth Ray (R).
174th–Ruben Guerrero (D) re-elected.
176th–Shawna Reagin (D) defeated by Stacey Bond (R).
177th–Ryan Patrick (R) re-elected.
178th–David Mendoza (D) re-elected.
179th–Randy Roll (D) defeated by Kristin Guiney (R).
215th–Elaine Palmer (D) elected. Damn.
333rd–Tad Halbach (R) re-elected.
334th–Ken Wise (R) re-elected.
337th–Herb Richie (D) defeated by Renee Magee (R). Again, damn.
338th–Hazel Jones (D) defeated by Brock Thomas (R).
339th–Maria Jackson (D) re-elected.
351st–Mark Ellis (R) re-elected.
County Court 1–Debra Mayfield (R) re-elected.
County Court 2–Theresa Chang (R) re-elected.

Of the nineteen Democratic Judges: 14 win re-election and 5 lose.
Of the six Republican Judges: 6 win re-election.
Final Tally: 14 Demorats, 11 Republicans.

County Officials
DA–Mike Anderson (R) wins. No surprise.
Sheriff–Adrian Garcia (D) re-elected. Again, no surprise.
County Attorney–Vince Ryan (D) re-elected. Great News!
Tax Collector–Mike Sullivan (R) wins. However, it is close and Bennett hasn’t conceded yet.

Referendums
METRO Prop passed, City props passed, and all the Bond measures passed.

City Council
Martin wins without a runoff.

Discussion comes later.

Endorsements: Civil District courts

I am surprised how well my recommendations line up with the Chronicle. Without further wait:

11th: I endorse the incumbent, Democrat Mike Miller. As the Chronicle noted, Miller goes out of his way to treat those who go before his bench with “courtesy and respect”.

61st: I endorse the incumbent, Democrat Al Bennett.

80th: I endorse the incumbent, Democrat Larry Weiman. My father plays softball with Judge Weiman, and I have always noted his respectful demeanor towards the law.

125th: I break with the Chronicle to endorse the incumbent, Democrat Kyle Carter. Judge Carter seems to represent the new generation of progressives in our legal system, and I would find it a travesty of common sense to regress back to more of the old guard.

127th: I endorse the incumbent, Democrat R.K. Sandhill.

129th: I  break with the Chronicle to endorse the incumbent, Michael Gomez. Judge Gomez, like Judge Carter, is simply too valuable of a new breed of jurists to give up on.

133rd: I endorse the incumbent, Democrat Jaclanel McFarland. Good Democrat for a good seat.

151st: I endorse the incumbent, Democrat Mike Engelhart. Also a softball compadre of my dad, the amount I have interacted with Judge Engelhart, he seems to bring a sense for rightness and justice to the bench that Republican judges have been bankrupt in.

152nd: I endorse the incumbent, Robert Schaffer. As the Chronicle pointed out, Judge Schaffer commands huge respect from the attorneys in his courtroom.

164th: I endorse the incumbent, Democrat Alexandra Smoots-Hogan.

165th: I break with the Chronicle to endorse the incumbent, Democrat Josephina Rendon. Judge Rendon has done just as good of a job as her contemporaries in fulfilling an honorable term of office. The Chronicle, however, breaks to endorse the old, Republican incumbent who had held office until 2008. Judge Ray was part of the problem, and I do not want to go back.

215th: I endorse my first Republican of the year, Ken Shortreed. This is more of protest vote than anything else, I hold very little respect for Elaine Palmer after the way her campaign treated Judge Kirkland. She didn’t just break the 11th commandment, she DESTROYED it. Since it would be somewhat disrespectful to write-in my yellow dog, I will be voting for Shortreed.

333rd: I endorse the incumbent, Republican Tad Halbach. Judge Halbach seems to have a reputation to lawyers in Houston of being somewhat fair and judicious and his Democratic opponent doesn’t even seem to have a webpage.

334th: I break with the Chronicle to endorse Democrat Donna Roth. Incumbent Ken Wise always seems to be advocating extremist, tea party statements on his facebook page, which I really have no tolerance for. Donna Roth isn’t a newcomer to political campaigns.