Texpatriate’s List of Best and Worst Councilmembers

Back in June, this board came out with a list of the Best and Worst Legislators of the 83rd State Legislature. The list was largely modeled after what Texas Monthly has been doing after sine die for now 40 years. But nobody –at least nowadays– does lists of best and worst members of the City Council; we felt it was time to change all of that.

Theoretically, this list should cover the entire term from the beginning of 2012 to the present, but it is admittedly heavily biased in favor of the actions taken by Councilmembers this year alone, given the recent inception of this board as an institution. That being said, we attempted to use a rather well-rounded method to distinguish the good from the bad. Additionally, given the unmatched power that the Mayor holds at City Hall in unilaterally setting the agenda, dissent is sometimes conflated with obstinate obstructionism. Again, this board has tried its best to separate the emotions and intentions of a Councilmember’s act of disobedience from the breakaway itself.

Much like our June list of Legislators, we have included (ranked) the three best City Councilmembers and the three worst City Councilmembers. Additionally, like Texas Monthly, we have included a further category for the quintessential bellwether. In Monthly, it is referred to as the “Bull of the Brazos,” a politician whom “the line between a scoundrel and a statesman can be hammered too thin to recognize.” We will call it the “Bull of the Bagby,” a whimsical reference to Bagby Street, the location of City Hall. Further, we will also grade the City leadership with a letter grade. Since this board includes a student of Harvard University, considering the recent attention, we have worked very hard to combat any “grade inflation” that Texpatriate may engage in. Not everyone gets “A”s, nor should everyone, so an imperfect mark is not intended to be construed as a sign of failure within this exercise.

This board also entertained the idea of given out some sort of distinction similar to Monthly‘s “furniture” designation, which denotes the lawmakers who participated at similar levels as their desks and chairs. However, we eventually decided such a label would be too harsh for any of the Councilmembers, considering we are now without the likes of a Jolanda Jones, who was notorious for playing hookey.

We know many will disagree with our rationale, some possibly strongly. We invite those to address our hypothetically-alleged shortcomings when they publish their own list of Best and Worst City Councilmembers. This board looks forward to them with great zeal, especially the Houston Chronicle’s.

Accordingly, we present, our list:

Click here to read our list!

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Civil Affairs: Parker’s night

CIVIL AFFAIRS

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This past Saturday night was my last weekend evening in Boston as a resident. Despite this, I could find no better activity for the night than to meticulously follow and live-blog the Houston municipal runoff elections. Albeit, most of my friends have either gone home for Christmas or are intensely studying, and it did not help anyone’s social life that a foot of snow fell upon Boston over the weekend.

Click here to read Horwitz’s column!

Council update, 12/11

The Houston City Council took no major action this week, as Councilmembers high and low tagged proposals to delay them for one week. Instead, the only updates we have are those that seek to prognosticate towards the future involving existing proposals, almost all of which were pushed back by the dilatory tactic.

First, KPRC is reporting on a proposal to relax the City’s alcohol sales ordinance, which bans any store from selling beer or wine within 1000 feet to a school or a church. Mayor Parker has now proposed easing the regulation to 300 feet, applying only to “larger grocery stores.” I have no idea what the cutoff between a small store and a large grocery store is, and I am in no small part concerned about the possibility that this is an olive branch to Wal-Mart and the like. That being said, perhaps I am just misreading all of it.

The proposal is meant to attract more grocery stores to low-income areas, where very small churches are often ubiquitously located in strip-malls alongside shopping centers. These low-income areas are often called Food Deserts for the scarcity of healthy eating and shopping options nearby. The Houston Chronicle recently cataloged these problems, citing efforts by the City to help alleviate the problems.

Click here to read about the Payday Lending ordinance and why it is in jeopardy!

In re Runoff election dates

The Houston Chronicle reports that a City Council committee, the Elections Committee, discussed a proposal to move election day in runoff elections to a Tuesday, and not the current system of Saturday election dates. This would not affect the 2013 election dates.

Early voting includes two days of weekend voting, with some pretty generous hours. In a wonderful irony regarding voter suppression, Texas actually has pretty great laws involving early votes. Massachusetts, by comparison, has no early voting, and absolutely no attempts are made to synchronize elections (e.g., there is a congressional special election in October three weeks before a regularly scheduled municipal election). However, one of the highlights of our runoff election system has been a Saturday election.

This is because, even though it is possible to otherwise vote on a weekend, some people really, really enjoy voting on election day. There is something special to them about being able to walk down the road and interact with everyone in the community. It is significantly easier to do this on a Saturday than on a Tuesday.

The Chronicle article notes that, because most voting locations (such as schools) are closed on Saturdays, the City must reimburse these locations for keeping the building open. David Feldman, the City Attorney, makes the note that shifting the election day could save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Additionally, last night’s poll also evidently measured support for this possible changes. 56% of respondents favored this change, and the number rose to 71% when the monetary effects were brought into the question.

Bob Stein of Rice, interviewed by both the City Council and the Chronicle, noted that this could depress voter turnout, most likely because of the aforementioned reasons.

The meeting showed rare harmony between the Parker administration and its biggest critic, Vice-Mayor Pro Tem C.O. Bradford. Feldman, assuming he is speaking on behalf of Parker, and Bradford were the proposals biggest backers, while Melissa Noriega and Mike Laster, two of the Council’s more liberal members, were far more opposed.

For what it is worth, I believe that any proposal like this that sacrifices voter turnout for a reduction of expenses is a repugnant action on the part of any Democrat. I agree that these “hundreds of thousands of dollars” spent is a problem, but perhaps it would be better to solve the source of the problem rather than assuaging its demands. It is absurd that HISD would charge for these elections, especially since the Board of Trustees holds concurrent elections. The real solution to this problem would be a negotiation between the City of Houston, HISD and Harris County that drastically lowers the amount paid for use the election facilities.

New Candidates in AL3

Off the Kuff breaks down some of the candidates for the City Council’s At-large 3 position this year. He talks about six declared candidates, and two “maybes.” I only have four candidates listed: Chris Carmona, Michael Kubosh, Roy Morales and Jennifer Pool, so I will discuss the others a little bit.

About a week ago, Dos Centavos mentioned a retired firefighter named Roland Chavez announcing his candidacy for the City Council, and, somehow, I missed it. A cursory Google search shows that he donates his money to Democrats, so I have a good feeling about his political leanings. He has a Facebook page which may be seen –> here. He also has a website –> here.

Then there is Rogene Calvert. Calvert is also a Democrat, and used to be the President of the Asian Chamber of Commerce. I can’t really find any news about Calvert, nor any website or such.

Lastly, Nancy Sims is mentioned on the Off the Kuff article as stating that Laurie Robinson, the Democrat who ran against Jolanda Jones in 2011, has been making noise about running for the seat. Additionally, a rumor was floated about Al Edwards, of all people, running for this seat. Oh how the mighty have fallen. I hope Edwards runs, actually. He would be a reliable Democrat who has great name recognition–could prevent the seat from falling into Republican hands.

I’m sorry that I could never get to writing the Wikipedia pages for these candidates, but I actually am going to start working on it this weekend.

UPDATE: Robinson posted the following flyer on Charles’s Facebook wall, very open to public view. Turns out she isn’t really running for anything this year.

Photo: Hi Charles. I hope all is well and thank you for keeping us informed! Attached is the letter I sent out to my supporters on March 1st explaining why I decided not to run this year. (Please excuse the typo in the letter. I caught it, but wanted to send you what originally went out.) I am not giving up on politics. 2016? You never know...maybe even a higher office.

What nobody is talking about

Let us say, arguendo, State Rep. Alvarado is elected to the Texas Senate on Saturday. Then, the question is who becomes the State Representative in the 145th District. I have not heard anyone talking about this, the Special Election that could be here by the summer, nor contributing any solid ideas to would run in this theoretical special election.

James Rodriguez seems like a possible candidate, given how strongly he has been supporting Alvarado in this election My two cents say Melissa Noriega would be a uniquely qualified candidate, seeing as that she represented the district for a term while her husband, who was the official representative at the time, was in Afghanistan. There are, however, a number of problems with that.

An election would not take place until late April at the earliest, and would be pushed to the end of May in the event of runoff, meaning that the newly elected Representative would have no time within the current legislature. Therefore, it could make some sense for a Rodriguez or Noriega to wait until the regularly scheduled 2014 election to run. The only problem is that there would already be an incumbent at that time, and incumbents are generally hard to knock off in a Democratic Primary (unless you are Sheila Jackson Lee).

Anyways, we can talk about this on Saturday if it is even necessary.

Kubosh et al is in

My plane lands in Houston tomorrow morning, I’ll be there for six days, and then Austin for two more.

Anyways, Michael Kubosh was on the steps of City Hall, announcing his intentions for Councilmember Noriega’s term-limited seat. I haven’t seen Michael since I interned at the Criminal Courthouse, but he is quite an interesting guy, so I expect this race to be a lot of fun.

According to the Chronicle article, Kubosh was flanked by prominent Republicans, including Chris Daniels and Allen Fletcher, as well as many leaders in the African-American community, James Nash and Quannell X. In short, if he ran for Mayor, he could very well expose all of Parker’s weaknesses at once–but more on that later. The article named a lot of names, including Chris Carmona, an attorney who ran against Noriega in 2011. Carmona will seek the seat again, and already has a website here. The GOP has claimed the guy, for the record.

The article also mentioned a few names for District A, District D and District I that I have not seen before. 5 to be exact. First, there is a woman named Assata-Nicole Richards, who is the Vice-Chairwoman of the Houston Housing Authority Board. Then, there is Georgia Provost and Keith Caldwell. I have never heard of these people, but I do not think that they have run for office before. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Richards is a Democrat (how many Housing board people are tea baggers?). A curosry search of Provost will show that she does some fundraising with TSU, specifically with El Franco Lee. Further, she likes a lot of Democratic officeholders on her facebook page, so I’ll label her a as well. Finally, Caldwell has this weird dead link with the HCDP, so it is probably safe to assume he is a Democrat as well.

In District I, Ben Mendez is mentioned. Mendez has a website. A quick search on the TX Trib will show that Mr Mendez has run for office twice before, both times in HD145. He ran in the 1998 Democratic Primary, when Diane Davila retired, ultimately losing to Rick Noriega. Further, he ran in the 1992 Democratic Primary for the seat, when Davila was first nominated.

Ronald Hale will be running for District A. Still ambiguous on this guy’s leanings, but he sounds like a Republican. Big Jolly has confirmed, too, that Mike Knox is a Republican.

I will update the election tab page, but this election season sounds like fun.

UPDATE: It’s MICHAEL. MICHAEL Kubosh, as Kuff so publicly point out. I read the Chronicle article, and then wrote this, pretty quickly on my phone right before I got on an airplane, so I am sure there are a few grammatical errors herein.