Texoblogosphere: Week of September 16th 2013

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks any day we’re not dropping bombs on someone is a pretty good day as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff suggests a way to measure the effect of the voter ID law in the November elections.

Horwitz at Texpatriate discusses the renewed efforts to bring a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance to the City of Houston.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson points out that the absurd has become reality in Texas, thanks to ignorance and lies, Absurd?

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that the batsh*t crazies on the Texas State Board of Education textbook review board are still pushing creationism in and science out.

Texas is home to two of the top five dirtiest power generation facilities in the United States, and a new report suggests that they are “the elephant in the room” when it comes to climate change. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks he has identified the main culprit, and it’s not what you may have first thought.

Neil at All People Have Value said that with the proper balancing of internal life and external life, the right calculation exists to make sense of life. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

Even with a barrage of annoying mailers, emails and kissing babies, elections are very important. Besides being the way we choose new leaders, they are also important to ensure that our currently elected officials listen to the public, and sometimes the only way to hold them accountable for what they do. For all these reasons, Texas Leftist has decided to “take the plunge” with an official candidate questionnaire and endorsement process.

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Nancy Sims highlights the pitfalls of liking a candidate’s Facebook page.

Texas Watch calls out Rick Perry’s lies and distortions about the state’s tort “reform” law from 2003.

On The Move created a Google map to illustrate where the road rage incidents are in Texas.

TFN Insider explains how anti-CSCOPE activists just cost you a million bucks.

The Observer interviews State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon about the drought, climate change, and other fun topics.

Glasstire explains a roadside art project intended to raise awareness about the homeless.

The Bloggess uses the occasion of Suicide Prevention Week to remind us all that we are irreplaceable.

Finally, the TPA wishes all the best for KT Musselman, now the Emeritus Publisher of the Burnt Orange Report, as he moves on to his next phase in life, and to Katherine Haenschen, who succeeds him in that role.

TLCQ 2013: Modesto “Moe” Rivera

In the Second installment of the 2013 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Modesto “Moe” Rivera, candidate for Houston City Council At Large Position 2.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted verbatim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

TL: What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

MR: Modesto (Moe) Rivera

TL: Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

MR: Negative, this is the first time I have run for office.

TL: As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

MR: Government is essential since it represents its voting and non-voting citizens and has the power to rule and enforce laws. Government is necessary to manage its people’s affairs, offers rights and protection and certain services without government chaos would exist. We need to elect officials that look out for everyone’s interest.

TL: If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it.

MR: Promote a balanced budget and insure that expenses do not exceed its collected revenue (Tax, services and other revenues). I plan to do this by educating and influencing other members of Council s of such. I will also use my personal financial record, accounting, business experience and education as assets in obtaining a balanced budget. I will only approve responsible and reputable construction projects and service contracts.

TL: With the exception of city government and some other select businesses, Houstonians can still be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender because we do not have a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance for general employment. This lags behind other Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin, and Ft. Worth. Do you support a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance for the city of Houston? If not, please explain why. If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure.

MR: I cannot support a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance for gays and lesbians; but will support a policy of “Don’t ask and don’t tell”. Gays and lesbians need to be protected from being ridiculed, bullied and treated unfairly; I promise to fight and defend them to the best of my knowledge and strength.

TL: There have been an alarming number of complaints filed against officers in the Houston Police Department, accused of unwarranted police brutality towards citizens. A disproportionate amount of this violence occurs in minority communities, and in the vast majority of these cases, officers have gone unpunished. As a result, these incidents cause a cycle of mistrust between Houstonians and the very officers sworn to protect them. What can you do to increase oversight of the Houston Police Department, and help ensure that these incidents do not continue?

MR: Agree that this is an ongoing issue; the Mayor through the back-up from City Council should inform the HPD Chief that this type of behavior and abuse will not be tolerated. If abuse is reported then the Mayor must appoint an independent commission to investigate the incident and take action based on its recommendation. Consequently this may lead to the suspension and or dismissal of the abusive police officer and its chain of command.

TL: What makes you the best candidate for this office?

MR: My candor, persistence, demeanor, work ethic, and respecter of social justice before God.

TL: When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

MR: I spend my time training physically, mentally and spiritually and mentoring others.

Thanks to Mr. Rivera for his response.

TLCQ 2013: Dane D. Cook

In the First installment of the 2013 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Dane D. Cook, candidate for Houston Community College Board of Trustees, District 3.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted verbatim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

TL: What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

DC: Dane D. Cook

 TL: Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?


 TL: As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

DC: Government is the people deciding what we want in a collective voice. We have decided we have priorities and goals simple examples are Police, Education, and Infrastructure. Government is the organized response in what one would hope would be a methodical and intelligent approach.

TL: If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it. 

DC: have HCC adopt an open and transparent contracting and budget processes. A detailed budget along with contractors and there disclosure of any contractors donating to political campaigns placed on the HCC trustees website. While I am aware I am only one vote I will first find how many of other trustees support the idea then go to organizations and ask them to put political pressure on the any holdout trustees.

TL: As our nation’s educational and professional landscape continues to evolve in the 21st century, institutions like HCC stand to be a critical part of that important process. In your opinion, is HCC ready for the monumental changes coming to education? What can the system do to best prepare?

DC: NO, Successful student’s come from quality educators, HCC needs to look at policies that encourage quality educators to remain within the HCC school system. We currently place numbers of graduates above quality of graduates, and HCC does not even do that well with a 14 percent graduation rate. We must allow our faculty to educate without unnecessary administrative markers and bureaucratic red tape. This will allow for a more rigorous curriculum. I believe when our students are challenged intellectually they will become more engaged and rise to face the challenge. Then we will produce more students with the critical thinking skills to meet the evolving challenges in the 21st century.

TL: What makes you the best candidate for this office?

DC: I am the only candidate that has gone to HCC. I have dealt with the issues of HCC not from hearing or being told by administrators. I have dealt with the bottom line issues from the perspective of a student, and student leader. I am completely removed from any contractors and will provide a neutral perspective free from any implied or unapplied preferences.

TL: When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

DC: mountain bike, reading, cooking, going to Houston Dynamo and Astros games.

Thanks to Mr. Cook for his response.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Hates Veterans?

Many know by now that David Dewhurst, the embattled Lieutenant Governor of Texas, is facing a brutal battle to keep his job as the state’s second-highest public official. As President of the Senate, Dewhurst (according to the GOP) is the one that allowed State Senator Wendy Davis to gain national attention with her filibuster of the state’s omnibus abortion bill. As a result, He’s got four significant challengers for the Republican Primary alone, with potential Democrats yet to be announced. Well after a recent forum discussion with those challengers in Houston, Dewhurst didn’t do himself any favors. Directly from Patricia Kilday Hart of the Houston Chronicle, here’s a small portion of what happened…

Dewhurst reminded the conservative crowd of other highly partisan issues [besides the omnibus abortion bill] he passed, such as Voter ID. “You think that was easy? That was a blood bath,” he said. “We had to change the rules. We had to fight the Democrats.”

He also said taxes have been cut “50 times,” including a $7 billion local property tax cut, since he took office. “I want to come back and cut ’em even more,” he said.

Patrick claimed that Democrats have been allowed to block legislation on sanctuary cities and school choice, largely because Dewhurst has given them too much power.

“I will not appoint half of the Democrats as chairman of committees,” he said.

Dewhurst responded that Democrats led only 5 of 17 Senate committees, and assured the crowd that none of them was important.

He’s supposed to be the Lieutenant Governor of all Texans, right? If so, then why is he BRAGGING about not listening to the citizens of his state? If you admit that you have to “change the rules” to be able to pass bad legislation, maybe it shouldn’t be passed in the first place.

Even more sickening is his comment saying that 5 of 17 Senate committees aren’t important. Among Lt. Governor Dewhurst’s list of “non essentials” is the Committee on Criminal Justice chaired by Senator John Whitmire, the Committee on Open Government chaired by Senator Rodney Ellis and the Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations chaired by Senator Leticia Van De Putte.

For the Lieutenant Governor of a state to imply that any of the work he does on behalf of the people of Texas is “not important”, that’s problem number 1. Each and every committee has some level of importance. Even that Open Government committee is critically important, as the rules they set and refine are the whole reason Texans know what’s going on in Austin to begin with. And to say that the work of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs isn’t important… Does the Lieutenant Governor have some sort of problem with Texas Veterans? Senator Van De Putte responded to his comment with a Tweet. I agree with her assessment… if Dewhurst doesn’t think the work of the Senate is important, then maybe he should find another job.

Putting the 2014 Ballot Together

As the gravitational pull of the 2014 elections weighs ever closer upon Texas, the Republican party’s dominoes seem to be falling in line. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is off to pretty massive start, having well over $20 million dollars in the bank for his Gubernatorial campaign. But even all that money hasn’t bought Abbott a flawless start to his campaign, which is good news for Democrats. His only challenger thus far for the GOP Primaries is Tom Pauken.

Texpatriate has done a fantastic job of tracking how the 2014 ballot is shaping up. Here are the basics…

Lieutenant Governor (David Dewhurst) Candidates– David Dewhurst- GOP incumbent Lt. Governor, Jerry Patterson- GOP current Texas Land Commissioner, Todd Staples- GOP current Ag Commissioner, and Dan Patrick- GOP State Senator.

Attorney General (Greg Abbott) Candidates– Dan Branch- GOP State Rep, Barry Smitherman- GOP Railroad Commissioner, and Ken Paxton- GOP State Senator.

Comptroller (Susan Combs- GOP incumbent… retiring) Candidates– Glenn Hegar- GOP State Senator, Debra Medina- GOP/ Libertarian and 2010 Gubernatorial candidate, Raul Torres- GOP and former State Rep., and Mike Collier- Democrat and businessman. Harvey Hildebrand- GOP State Rep is also expected to run.

Land Commissioner (Jerry Patterson) Candidates– George P. Bush- GOP attorney and well named offspring, David Watts- GOP businessman, and John Cook- Democrat former El Paso mayor.

Agriculture Commissioner (Tood Staples) Candidates– Tommy Merritt- GOP former State Rep., Eric Opiela- Former Texas GOP chair, and Brandon Creighton- GOP State Rep.

Railroad Commission (Barry Smitherman- GOP incumbent… running for Lt. Gov.) Candidates– Stefani Carter- GOP State Rep, and Malachi Boyuls- GOP businessman.

With John Cook and Mike Collier (thanks for the tip PDiddie) being the only Democrats in the races thus far, it’s clear that the party is going to have to start far behind the gate. But hopefully not too much longer, as word of Wendy Davis’ decision of what to run for is expected as soon as this week.

Once that big announcement happens though, Texas Democrats have a lot of work to do to get candidates lined up for the remaining 6 statewide offices. Here are some other folks that I hope considering a run…

Joaquin Castro— Though his brother Julian may have pledged to be “Mayor of San Antonio through 2017”, the freshman United States Congressman has made no such pledge to stay in Washington. And given the complete lack of leadership within the House of Representatives, he may just decide that Austin is calling him back. After all he, unlike his brother, spent 10 years in the Texas House of Representatives, and has better name ID than virtually any other Democrat in the state. It would be a big shocker if he were to announce for Attorney General or Lieutenant Governor, and would change the game for Texas Democrats in 2014. Quite interesting how he’s managed to let his brother have so much of the national spotlight. And in the case of a statewide run, that could actually turn out to be a good thing.

Leticia Van De Putte— as Off the Kuff has mentioned, the State Senator is widely considered to be the Democratic frontrunner for the Lieutenant Governer’s race, but she could be a credible candidate for some other races as well. Davis and Van De Putte would be a substantial pair, with both significant name recognition and solid records in the State Senate. Once Davis decides, she’d likely be the next person Democrats will look to.

Ana Hernandez Luna— Another clear and present rising star, the State Representative from Houston is a talented organizer and understands the political game from every side. Hernandez Luna gained national attention for fighting the 2011 sanctuary cities’ bill. She shared her story of being born in Mexico, living as an illegal immigrant, and finally gaining US Citizenship. Her jump to a statewide office would likely help forge new energy among Texas Democrats.

Trey Martinez-Fischer— the State Representative has spearheaded several battles… both within the Legislature and legally against Attorney General Greg Abbott in the Texas Redistricting saga. The skilled politician is known to Texas Democrats as a true fighter, and a statewide office would allow him an even better platform to fight for Texans. His activism has even extended to President Obama, when he attended a private meeting at the White House about the Voting Rights Act.

It’s a risky proposition for any politician, but once they see the flood of money Davis brings in when she announces, I think some brave Texas Democrats will be willing to join the fray.

Texas Leftist appears on Houston Matters

Well I must say this was a lot of fun.

Houston Matters is a brand new show on KUHF Houston Public Radio. The show is about all things Houston… discussing important events around the city, and the ever-changing nature of the region. Needless to say, it’s already one of my favorites for subject matter alone. Just this week, they talked about how Houstonians would be affected in Syria, the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Ike, and a host of other topics.

I was honored to be asked to participate on today’s show with Host Craig Cohen, John Beddow, Operator of the Houston Business Journal and Joe Holley, Columnist and Editorial Writer for the Houston Chronicle. KUHF reporter Edel Howlin arranged the segment. Check it out!

A Retail Plan for Downtown Houston

Between now and 2017, Downtown Houston is going to see some massive changes on all fronts. Along with new office towers and a slew of new residential projects, the city is also rolling out a plan to build a healthy retail core in downtown. Here’s the full press release, directly from the Mayor’s Office

“Retail Task Force Releases Final Report

Goal to add destination national and regional retailers over a 3 year timeframe

(Reporters may contact Angie Bertinot at the Downtown District Friday to arrange interviews and obtain copies of the report.)

The panel Mayor Parker created in January 2013 to develop recommendations for increasing shopping options in Downtown Houston has released its final report. The plan presented by the Downtown Retail Task Force envisions Dallas Street serving as the commercial spine of a downtown shopping district that would extend from Milam to La Branch.

“Increasing the amount and quality of downtown shopping will enhance the economic vitality of the entire city,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “This report details how we can build a healthy, vibrant mixed-use downtown shopping district. Coordination between my office, the Downtown District and Downtown Redevelopment Authority will be crucial to achieve the vision.”

Dallas Street was selected because of its proximity to the dense office population in the southwest quadrant of downtown and to residential growth areas to the south and east. It is also near the George R. Brown Convention Center, seven existing hotels, two new hotels in development, Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center, Discovery Green and public transportation, all of which can help support increased retail shopping options.

Dallas and adjacent streets Main and San Jacinto also already have the only concentration of existing downtown street level shopping at The Shops at Houston Center and GreenStreet, formerly known as The Pavilions. Both properties are critical components of an expanded shopping district and have potential to add more soft goods, restaurant and entertainment-focused retail to their projects.

Although it will be a challenge to convert/develop existing properties along Dallas into retail space, the task force believes that this area has the highest amount of potential leasable retail space in the downtown market—approximately 325,000 square feet of retail space has been identified.

“Density, critical mass and co-tenancy are essential in creating a successful retail environment,” said Downtown Retail Task Force Chair Fred Griffin, Chairman of Griffin Partners. “The task force, supported by past studies and the potential for concentration of shopping activity, determined that efforts be focused on transforming Dallas into a pedestrian-oriented retail street by improving the streetscape and providing financial assistance to property owners to attract retailers. We expect improvements to building facades, in order to enhance retailing, will also be needed.”

The task force’s report details twelve recommendations as a path forward to ensure the evolution of shopping in Downtown:

1. As a major urban center, Downtown Houston should have a premier shopping district that adds to the character and reputation of the city and helps attract residents, visitors and employers.

2. Develop a unique, commercially viable setting for a premier shopping district on Dallas Street between Milam and LaBranch with connections to adjacent retail activity on Main, San Jacinto and Austin.

3. Provide a public realm within the shopping district that is supportive of a premier retail setting which will attract national, regional and local retailers and shopper that will support them.

4. Secure commitments from enough property owners to participate in coordinated development, management, leasing and promotion of the shopping district to ensure critical mass of shopping.

5. Provide incentives to help develop the shopping district, attract the right retail tenants and in the end, pay for themselves.

6. Designate or create an entity to coordinate planning, design, leasing, promotion, programming and management of the shopping district.

7. Attract anchor retailers to enhance the urban lifestyle mix.

8. Provide convenient parking, transit and pedestrian access to ensure high levels of shopper traffic.

9. Designate portals connecting the shopping district to the tunnel system.

10. Develop brand awareness of the shopping district.

11. Attract additional residential and hotel development in or adjacent to the shopping district to increase the pedestrian traffic and street life in the area and increase the attractiveness of Downtown as a destination.

12. Advance development of the shopping district by the 2016 NCAA Final Four and 2017 Super Bowl LI.”

Here’s the link to the full report.

I think this is a big step to help transfigure Downtown. The neighborhood is a highly under-utilized resource for Houstonians, who mostly visit downtown for work, government business or special events (games, concerts, etc.). But along with increasing overall retail for the area, hopefully planners will remember to incorporate tourist centered retail. As Houston works to increase the Convention business, it becomes critical to have more options for people staying in all of these new downtown hotels. Things like gift shops and tourist information booths (to point people to other nearby attractions) in close proximity to the Convention district shouldn’t be left out of the plan.

I drew up a quick map to pinpoint the areas being discussed. It’s good to see a comprehensive plan for Downtown retail, and I’m glad the city and downtown district have started the process.