Early voting begins

The Houston Chronicle notes that early voting for December 14th’s municipal runoff election has officially begun. I have yet to receive my absentee ballot, though I have three layers of confounding incompetent bureaucracy (Harris County Clerk, US Postal Service and my university’s mailroom) to deal through, so I have faith it is somewhere between Houston & Boston at press time.

The incumbents in the top two municipal elections (Mayor Annise Parker and City Controller Ronald Green, respectively) were both re-elected outright last month, meaning that only an assortment of City Council races will be on next Saturday’s ballot. Specifically, at-large Positions #2 and #3, as well as Districts A, D & I. There are also a few HCC Trustee races with runoff elections, though these only cover a portion of the City.

Click here to read summaries of all the runoff elections!

Wage Theft unanimously passed

The Houston Chronicle reports that the controversial “Wage Theft” ordinance was been unanimously approved (Helena Brown was absent) by the City Council. As the astute may recall, this proposal was first proposed in July, before being shelved in August, resurrected shortly after the election, and temporarily delayed again last week. Needless to say, it has been a bumpy ride for this ordinance, but it paid off for proponents today.

The law creates a coordinator (Czar) to monitor instances of wage theft in the City of Houston and blacklist those employers who engage in it from receiving city contracts. Wage theft can take many forms including the misclassification of workers, denial of benefits or simply overt wage withholding. While original proposals consisted of items such as lifetime bans from city contracts for engaging in wage theft, the final version is a more mellow 5 year exclusion. Additionally, while the original proposal would impose the blacklist after a final conviction and only overturn it upon successful appeal, the approved ordinance would only impose the blacklist after the employer “exhausts all available appeals.”

Click here to read more!

Passport kiosks at Bush Airport

The Houston Chronicle (paywall) reports that the Houston City Council will discuss a measure tomorrow aimed at decreasing the amount of time spent in customs at Bush airport. Specifically, the airport (which is indirectly run by the City) is asking to install “automated passport-control kiosks” in the custom lines.

As the Chronicle article notes, the machines “allows travelers to scan their own passports, complete paperwork and confirm their travel information.” Thereafter, the traveler would still be forced to communicate/converse with a customs agent, mostly to double check and confirm everything. According to both the Chronicle article and similar studies, these use of these machines significantly reduces waiting times. This is because simple-though-time-consuming tasks take up the time of many of the limited number of customs officers. One caveat of the program is that it is limited to US Citizens.

Click here to continue reading!

Texpatriate endorses in District A runoff

When this board first examined District A in October, we split 2-2 on who would be the best choice in the election for the voters and constituents of the district. What we were unanimous on, however, was that Councilmember Helena Brown needed to be replaced. Accordingly, this board endorses Brenda Stardig for District A.

As we wrote last month, District A holds a special place in our hearts, as a majority of Texpatriate‘s contributors have, at one time, represented the area on the Houston Mayor’s Youth Council. During this time, we saw the District in the capable and competent hands of then-Councilmember Brenda Stardig, who held the post from 2010 to 2012.

Click here to read the entire endorsement!

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!

Election Watch Parties

Texpatriate will be offering comprehensive election night coverage tomorrow evening. Noah M. Horwitz will begin the evening at 5:30 (Houston time), live from Boston, offering color commentary and predictions for the final 90 minutes of Election Day. At the conclusion of voting, he will be joined by George Bailey to begin a full program, where the two will switch off between reading results and analyzing numbers. Texpatriate will be calling races and projecting victories in certain races before all votes will be counted.

Bailey & Horwitz will be joined in intermittent commentary throughout the proceedings by Andrew Scott Romo in New Orleans and Olivia Arena in Austin. Additionally, Texpatriate‘s Staff Writer Sophia Arena will be livestreaming from Annise Parker’s watch party in Downtown Houston.

We will provide a link to this livestream coverage on our website. Starting tomorrow afternoon, the first link on texpate.com should be an embedded video. Pre-coverage starts at 5:30, full program begins at 7:00 and the full program will end no later than 11:00. If there are any races still undecided at that time, Horwitz will stay on air as long as they are counting votes.

Click here to read about Candidates’ watch parties!

Brown and Hall agree on taxes

The Houston Chronicle reports on a futile effort by a City Councilmember, Helena Brown, to continue her one-person crusade against the Government. This is a typical Wednesday at City Hall, except to note the strange ally Brown garnered today.

As the council was set to approve the property tax rates for the year at today’s meeting, Councilmember Brown used a strange set of numbers to note that, as opposed to City data showing a 6% “revenue increase,” the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) notes the number is closer to 10.5%. It is important to note that a “revenue increase” just means that more money is being collected, not that the percentages have increased. This is actually, in some ways, a good sign, as it shows that property values have recovered from the economic downturn.

Councilmember Brown then proposed two amendments, one to decrease the property tax by two cents, and one to decrease it by one cent. Both measures failed, as the rest of the Council voted in unanimity against Councilmember Brown. Very conservative individuals such as Councilmember Christie, Martin and Pennington voted in favor of the measure. Accordingly, it would be unwise to conflate this with a normal left-vs-right measure.

To read about Brown’s unlikely ally, click here!