The Empire Strikes Back

The progressive one, anyhow.

Amid painfully low voter turnout of less than 4%, it became abundantly clear that the progressives* had showed up in force last night *–I use the term progressive, not ‘liberal’ or ‘Democrat,’ in this context because the Council is far more diverse, with Conservative Democrats like Andrew Burks and Progressive Republicans like Stephen Costello. Two incumbent City Councilmembers were defeated for re-election and an open seat saw a repudiation of the longstanding political dynamic there. In many respects, this is the realignment of the City Council from the blunders of 2011.

There were also three elections for the HCC Board, two of which also featured incumbents losing their re-election bids. Particularly of note here was the loss of Yolanda Navarro-Flores, who has an accomplished political career. A longtime HCC Trustee and former member of the Texas House of Representatives, she has also run unsuccessful campaigns for the City Council and the State Senate. According to Off the Kuff, Navarro-Flores allegedly engaged in some pretty unseemly and homophobic tactics throughout the election. Despite having roughly a 23 point lead in November and just being a few votes shy of outright victory, she lost by a whopping 6 points on last night. Despite doing very well in absentee votes, she lost Election Day votes by 24 points. Goes to show what motivating your base will do for you.

Click here to read more!

Texpatriate runoff liveblog

Please follow @NmHorwitz on Twitter for up to the minute coverage from the runoffs!

10:58 BOS/9:58 HOU
Final RESULTS!
A–Stardig 51%/Brown 49%
D–Boykins 70%/Provost 30%
I–Gallegos 53%/Garces 47%
AL2–Robinson 51%/Burks 49%
AL3–Kubosh 53%/Morales 47%
HCC1–Capo 53%/Navarro-Flores 47%
HCC3–Tamez 53%/Garcia 47%
HCC5–Glaser 60%/Kunetka–40%

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Mudslinging in District I

First, the Houston Chronicle compiled an outline of the runoff election in District, between Graciana Garces and Robert Gallegos. As I noted about three weeks ago, the election looks to be a perfect carbon-copy of the special election for District 6 of the Texas Senate earlier this year. In that election, Sylvia Garcia (the former boss of Gallegos) defeated Carol Alvarado (the former boss of Garces) in the runoff that was ultimately held.

The Chronicle article, however, does not really note the policy differences that the two candidates have. Texpatriate endorsed Sylvia Garcia in March, just as how we endorsed Robert Gallegos in November, largely for the disquieting contributors of their respective opponents’ campaigns. Both Alvarado and (more timely) Garces have been funded in no small part by the payday lending lobby. Additionally, Councilmember James Rodriguez (to which Garces is actually the Chief of Staff) has been fighting against a recent proposal to regulate these payday lenders, and Garces has remained strangely silent and opaque on the issue. Her campaign continues to insist that she has not taken a definitive position, though I remain rather skeptical. Gallegos, on the other hand, is an ardent supporter.

Click here to read more about the mudslinging in District I!

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!

Thou shall not be a Usurer, Part III

Nearly two weeks ago, Mayor Parker announced an ambitious plan to regulate Payday lenders. The proposed ordinance, which was largely crafted by City Attorney David Feldman, was modeled after other municipal ordinances currently in place throughout the State, including in Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio. The ordinance requires, among other provisions, the loan sharks usurers lenders register with the city and provide easy to understand, concise contracts. Additionally, certain interest rates are capped and predatory tricks are forbidden. The ordinance immediately received somewhat harsh pushback from the business community.

Since the State of Texas does not have uniform regulations on these stores, a legitimate concern exists that the passage of the regulation will simply drive the institutions en masse to just outside the City limits. Accordingly, the usurious and predatory tactics will persist, but the City of Houston would lose the tax base. Such a solution would not work for anyone, and is similar to the rationale I have used in the past to discourage municipalities or even smaller States from unilaterally raising the minimum wage too far off the national base value.

Anyways, as promised, Mayor Parker officially presented this ordinance to the City Council this morning, with a tentative vote planned for next Tuesday. Today, a fair share of City Councilmember expressed strong reservations with the measure while many more were quite supportive.

Click here to read more about who opposes this ordinance!

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!

District I troubles

Among the many City Council races that have descended into runoff elections, District I has arguably received the least press of any contest, certainly the least of the open races. The Houston Chronicle recently ran two pieces, one on who former candidates in District D were endorsing in the runoff, and the other on ongoing legal dispute in At-large 3. Coverage of District I seems few and far between.

That is not to say nothing has been happening in this race; in fact, far from it. Recently, former candidate Ben Mendez endorsed Robert Gallegos in the runoff. Additionally, the Harris County Young Democrats, originally Mendez supporters, endorsed Gallegos. While it is certainly helpful to have the assistance of any former candidates, Mendez has a long history of doing especially strange things, including allegedly making low personal attacks against another candidate and defending child-rapists. Gallegos should tread lightly in receiving his support.

Additionally, the remaining candidate in the runoff election, Graciana Garces, has penned published a confrontational letter against Gallegos. In [T]he letter (which is reprinted in its entirety at the link),  she accuses Gallegos of intentionally misrepresenting himself as a family member and favorite son of Mario Gallegos, the former State Senator for the region.

Click here to continue reading!

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!

Final Chronicle endorsements

The Houston Chronicle has made its picks in the final four City Council races, as well as for the Constitutional Amendments. All the amendments were endorsed, and the Chronicle backed two incumbents (C.O. Bradford & Jack Christie), as well as made two selections in open seats (Graciana Garces & Rogene Calvert).

First, in this editorial, the Chronicle’s board summarizes the nine constitutional amendment, offering up absolutely no commentary on the matter besides “the Chronicle endorses all nine [amendments].” If you want a little more discussion on the matter, though agree with the editorial line of the Chronicle in this specific instance, I recommend consulting Texpatriate’s endorsements on the amendments (1-5;7-9 and 6). Burnt Orange Report also announced its endorsements in Constitutional amendments yesterday, though it is relevant to mention that they disagreed with both Texpatriate and the Chronicle in opposing Proposition 3 and Proposition 7.

First up, the Chronicle endorsed C.O. Bradford for a third and final term at At-large position #4. The editorial board goes out of its way to compliment Bradford’s recent commitment to changing the City Charter on certain items such as giving At-large Councilmember specific portfolios. He was also lauded for drainage issues, as well as providing an acceptable response on the Chronicle’s pathological obsession with pensions (specifically, “meet and confer”).

Click here to read more about the other endorsements!

Texpatriate endorses in District I

This board has long been impressed by Councilmember James Rodriguez’s tenure on the City Council, representing District I. In our opinion, he has served both his community and the greater City quite exceptionally. Now, after three successful terms on the City Council, the time has come for his successor to be chosen.

The race consists of four candidates: Leticia Ablaza, Robert Gallegos, Graciana Garces and Ben Mendez. Each candidate represents a different facet of the community, and deserves special recognition for such representation. Serendipitously, these associations perfectly mirror a recent State Senate election in District 6, a largely overlapping constituency.

First, this board has admired the honesty and bravery of Leticia Ablaza’s campaign. While we largely disagree with the political positions of Ms Ablaza, and believe they would be antithetical to the success of the district, this board is impressed by how well she has stuck to her guns, in spite of unyielding criticism and unpopularity. Simply put, we believe that Ms Ablaza would become a second Helena Brown if elected to the Houston City Council, making symbolic no votes at every opportunity, something this City absolutely cannot afford.

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