Unprecedented Growth for Houston’s Airports

If you needed another sign that the Houston region is growing (besides skyrocketing property taxes and increasingly clogged freeways), this may do the trick.  The city’s big airport will be adding a second international terminal.  Here’s more from KPRC Local 2

Houston City Council members unanimously approved a funding and phasing plan for a new international terminal building at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The new facility would replace the existing Mickey Leland International Terminal Building, Terminal D, and would be constructed in the same location as the existing structure.

“Houston is firmly established as a key player on the global market stage, and we need an international terminal building that adequately reflects that standing,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. “International travel is vital to both our economic health and our quality of life.  We’ve been remarkably successful in attracting new international air service to Houston, and now it’s time to address the infrastructure needs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.”

The news of a landmark expansion at IAH comes barely 10 months after construction started at Houston Hobby, which is also building a new international terminal thanks to Southwest Airlines.  If the Bayou City has a goal of becoming the United States’ premiere international gateway, it seems like these projects will put the area well on the way.

With the constant stream of “Houston booming” stories, many people are probably questioning if the city needs all of these huge, simultaneous projects right now.  It’s a fair question to ask, as a lot of money is being spent in the area to get all of this done. For the airport system at least, here are a few concrete reasons for “Why Houston, why now?”…

1) Some of this growth is actually being directed to Houston by the federal government.  In an effort to alleviate air traffic at very busy sites like Atlanta and New York, the FAA steered more air traffic through Houston as a way for flights to save on fuel costs and cut carbon emissions.  Many of these new routes, which result in shorter flights for the airlines, started at the end of May.

2) Houston has seen impressive growth in International Flight service, with much of it warranted by demand.  In just one year, the flight scheduled has added non-stops to Seoul, Munich, Beijing and Istanbul.  New flights to Stavanger, Norway, Chile and possibly another destination will be announced later this year.

No question about it… the Houston airport system is booming right now.  But given the growing importance of air travel in a global world, hopefully this boom will lead to better prosperity for the region in the years to come.


Longview Celebrates It’s First Pride!!

LGBT Pride Month is a commemoration of the Stonewall riots, which (by most estimations) was the start of the gay rights movement.  After enduring seemingly endless police brutality, a group of New York City residents gathering at the Stonewall Inn finally decided to fight back.  It was the start of huge sea change in 1969, and that same struggle for rights has now spread to cities and towns all over the world.  Many LGBT communities celebrate Pride through a parade and festival, most during the month of June.

And last weekend for the first time in city history, the Pride tradition came to the town of Longview in Northeast Texas.  Long regarded as a region that frowns upon the LGBT community, this town sought to prove that their community could have a safe and successful parade.  From the Glenn Evans of the Longview News Journal, here was the result…

The rainbow’s end rested Saturday on downtown Longview as members of a minority and their supporters celebrated pride in the gay and lesbian community.

Actually, they celebrated the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, evidenced by the “Hey there!” a man in a white dress and fishnet stockings had for folks arriving at Heritage Plaza.

“We were hoping to get 50 or 60 people,” organizer Mallory Waugh said, 30 minutes into the festival as the crowd approached 200. “And look at this. There’s people here from Shreveport, Dallas, all over.”

Waugh is secretary for the local chapter of PFFLAG, formerly Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays. She said organizers hope to make the festival an annual event.

“This is important for Longview,” she said. “Because Longview wants to be a thriving and inclusive community.”

The event was important enough for Mayor Jay Dean to pen a letter commending its spirit. Councilwoman Kasha Williams read the mayoral missive after embracing the crowd.

“This is such a commemorative event here in Longview,” she said, noting people had come from near and far. “That is a message that this is a much-needed event. I am a Christian, but in the same vein I have to add we can no longer afford to hide behind the veil of Christianity. So, to you today, I say I love you.”

The organizers, originally concerned about a larger crowd of protesters than celebrants, were met by a miniscule group of 4 men with a couple of signs.  It’s sufficient to say that even in Deep East Texas, the Longview Pride Festival was a rousing success.

As communities all over the world celebrate the LGBT liberation, it’s especially wonderful to see a community starting a new tradition, and shattering old misconceptions in its wake.

Congrats to Longview PFLAG, the city of Longview and all of your supporters! Cities all over the nation are definitely proud of you.

Longview Pride


Houston Becoming A More Walkable City

To most people, the words “Houston” and “Walkable” don’t really belong in the same sentence.

The Bayou City has long been characterized by its lack of zoning, boiler room summers and seemingly infinite miles of car-dependent, low-rise developments.  But those in the city today have been seeing huge changes over the past few years.  Here’s more on the report from Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Chronicle

Greater Houston is continually cited as one of the country’s most sprawling large metro areas. But as more Houstonians express an interest in living in walkable urban neighborhoods and developers build more compact sections of shops, housing and offices, will our future be as spread out as it is today?

Houston ranked No. 15 on a list of the country’s top 30 metro areas based on the amount of office and retail space jointly developed in “Walkable Urban Places,” or “WalkUPs,” according to a national study on walkability and urbanism.

The report also examined development patterns and other factors to predict how walkable these metros are likely to become. Houston ranked No. 13 among the 30 metros on that list.

“We think they paint Houston about right,” David Crossley, president of nonprofit Houston Tomorrow, said about the study. It was released last week by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, a program of Smart Growth America.

The report characterizes walkable urban development as having a higher density and a combination of real estate product types. This type of development is also connected to surrounding areas via multiple transportation options, such as bus and rail, bike routes and cars, the report said. Essentially, they are places where everyday destinations like home, work, schools and stores are within walking distance.

“The speed with which walkable urbanism is invading the city is pretty fast now,” said Crossley, whose group promotes urban development.

It’s important to note that sprawl is still the predominant layout of Houston, but as more urban and transit-oriented development comes on line, people will have a wider array of options to choose from.  Take the new Mid-Main Project in Midtown… a mixed-use development that targeted specifically towards Millennials.  Situated between Downtown and the Texas Medical Center, the complex is close to universities, major sports arenas, museums and concert venues of virtually every size and scope, all at the heart of the city’s transit network.  Unlike the past where sprawling homes used pools, great rooms and backyards to lure buyers, the best amenity in this development is simply it’s location.

Mid-Main is just the start.  As evidenced in Rice’s annual Houston Area Survey, this transformation is being led by demand… urban dwellers are seeking living spaces that are closer to their jobs, public transit and major city attractions.  What’s also interesting about these domestic changes is that they’re not only good for residents, but they make Houston a better city for visitors as well.  We’ll see what the future holds here, and hope these trends keep moving in the right direction.

Texas Democrats Utilize Heinous GOP Platform

So this is how it normally goes in Texas Politics… Republican candidates will run for office, and throughout the campaign they will do a bunch of stupid, even atrocious things which are virtually ignored by the media, and then finally sail into elected office in November.  Meanwhile the few brave Democrats that were willing to run for office or willing to call out GOP candidates can barely turn any attention their way.  Like trees falling in the forest, those that are not seen and not heard, are also not elected.

But 2014 is proving itself to be a very different ball game. Suddenly, Texas Democrats have new levels of support through networks like Battleground Texas and  the Latino Victory Project. Instead of being totally ignored, Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, Steve Brown and other statewide candidates have regular press coverage of their ideas and views on state politics. Texas politics ain’t a ‘one-horse town’ anymore.

As a result, when the 2014 platform for the Republican Party of Texas comes out, you can be sure that Democrats have lots to say about the horrendous  document. And this time, people are taking notice. Several prominent Texas Dems lambasted the platform on MSNBC.

Texas Democrats are criticizing a controversial policy platform

The platform calls for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, endorses sham “conversion therapy” that seeks to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians, and puts forth a harsh anti-immigrant policy plank that calls for the repeal of a law signed by Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

“The GOP platform isn’t worthy of Texas. It is shameful and disgusting,” the state’s Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer said in a statement Wednesday.  “If Republican candidates have even a shred of integrity they will turn their backs on this disgraceful platform and join Texas Democrats in support of true Texas values.”

The beauty of this approach? No one of significant prominence on the Republican side is actually defending their party platform, even though they JUST voted for it at the state convention. Greg Abbott has evaded questions on the document at every turn, and even the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas Steve Munisteri is saying he doesn’t agree with the endorsement of reparative therapy!! This is par for the course for the Texas GOP… Do one thing in the dark, but then try to change your story when things come to light.

For Democrats, the release of the GOP platform might as well be Christmas in June. It is literally the gift that keeps on giving. We know that any same GOP candidate is going to evade these extremely false and harmful positions. So the next step is to use it against them, and stretch this fight clear into November.

Some in Texas have immediately taken notice. Houston Democrat Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, sent out this great mailer in response to the GOP platform’s endorsement of ex-gay quackery…

You have probably heard about the Texas Republican Party’s platform by now.

Among other offensive positions, they have endorsed “reparative therapy” for LGBT people. Rick Perry added insult to injury by comparing being LGBT to being an alcoholic saying, “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue that way.”

Yes, they are serious.

While Republicans are pushing junk science and trying to “fix” LGBT people, Democrats continue to embrace equality for the LGBT community.

This year, there are more openly LGBT candidates running on the Democratic ticket than at ANY point in history. And we don’t think those candidates need to be fixed, we think they need to be elected.

In Texas, there is sleeping giant of disengaged, disaffected voters. They are living their everyday lives, working hard and are dissatisfied with the current state of government. But even the most politically inactive people will have a reaction to the falsehoods and terrible ideas in the Republican Party platform. They may even think of themselves as Republicans, but they cannot support all of these “beliefs” of the party. If Democrats can make enough hay about this heinous document, they can ride that hay to surprise victory this November.

Houston City Council Passes Budget

In a marathon meeting that beat out the recent HERO fest (but not by much), Houston City Council passed $5.2 Billion dollar budget for the city’s next fiscal year  It got done, but few would call it an easy process.  Here’s more from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle

The budget was approved in a 14-3 vote that followed council members slogging through 63 amendments they and their colleagues had proposed to Parker’s spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Council members interested in new programs bested those interested in controlling spending, despite ample discussion of the deficits looming in the coming years.

Parker said council’s decisions concern her, given the warnings of trouble ahead, and said some “naivete” exists around the table on budgeting.

“Council members were clearly in a mood to spend rather than save,” she said. “They see the economy, they see things are picking up. They also see a lot of needs and they want to respond to those needs, and it’s very hard to say, ‘But we have a rainy day down the road, you need to put some money aside for that.'”

The coming challenges are driven by soaring pension and debt costs and the impact of a decade-old, voter-imposed cap on city revenues that is expected to force a cut in the property tax rate next year. Houston next summer is expected to face a nearly $150 million gap between revenues and expenses in its general fund, which is fed mainly by property and sales taxes and funds basic services. That exceeds the gap during the economic recession, when Parker laid off 776 workers.

Of particular interest to see will be how District Council Members choose to use their additional $1 million dollar allotments.  The funds won’t go very far if Council Members try to tackle broken streets, but may be better applied through police patrols, better lighting and increased city services.

With everyone so worried about limited funds for next year, it’s unfortunate, but not exactly a surprise that issues like the complete mess over at HPD didn’t get addressed in a substantive manner.  As to whether more funding for HPD could come with a vote on the city’s revenue cap, only time will tell.

Music Musings: Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes

Hundreds of years ago, as European society awoke from the Dark Ages and launched into a period of unprecedented creativity, they formulated an ideal that we carry strongly with us today.  A Renaissance Man was someone who could seemingly do and exceed at anything they tried.  In the style of scientist, painter, sculptor and philosopher Leonardo da Vinci, it was a person that society held up as a supreme achiever in several fields.  Even today, so many of our music and movie stars strive for this legacy, but only a precious few actually reach it to become Renaissance Men and Women.

And then there are those that have been on that path for their whole life.  As this incredible feature article by Dave Ramsey of the Arkansas Times notes, if there was ever a candidate for that title in the 21st Century, it would be musician, park ranger, former NFL player, alligator wrestler, and actor Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes (full disclosure… he’s also my uncle) .  Here’s a snippet from the feature, but it’s definitely worth a read of the whole thing…

When Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes arrived in New Orleans almost 20 years ago, he felt an uncanny recognition when he heard people speaking Creole French.

“I picked it up right away,” Barnes said. “When I was a kid I used to have all these dreams in Creole. I didn’t know what it was, I just knew it was some kind of different language. When I moved to Louisiana, I knew.”

Barnes has always been attuned to dreams. He was born in Benton in 1963 under a prophet sign, according to his grandmother, a Louisiana-born “fix-it lady” who did traditional healings and read stars for people in their community. “She told me I would have dreams and visions, and she taught me how to interpret them,” Barnes said. Laughing, he added, “and she told me not everyone would believe me, or understand.”

Whatever the cause, it’s hard to deny that Barnes has found his path. Nowadays the boy who used to dream in Creole in Benton sings in Creole in New Orleans as one of the most prominent musicians in zydeco, a traditional music form originating in southwest Louisiana. Barnes — a multi-instrumentalist who plays accordion, harmonica, rub board, piano, talking drum and more — fronts Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots. Though Sunpie is a popular mainstay on the zydeco circuit, Barnes’ music isn’t contained by a single genre — he mixes in Delta blues, gospel, boogie woogie, R&B, and West African and Caribbean influences. He calls it “Afro-Louisiana.”

Barnes, in addition to being a musician and composer, is a naturalist, a full-time National Park ranger, a black-and-white portrait photographer, a television and film actor and a former professional football player with the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I’m not interested in being restricted,” Barnes said. “I’m interested in life.”

Interested in life isn’t even the half of it with Barnes.  He’s living life as full and great as possibly anyone on the planet.  After just completing a national tour with musical legends Sting and Paul Simon, Barnes is back home playing capacity crowds in and around the Crescent City.  You also may have caught him on HBO’s tv series Treme.  But wherever the wind takes him, Sunpie definitely knows how to bring the house down.  Be on the lookout for him!!

Texoblogosphere: Week of June 16th

he Texas Progressive Alliance thinks it’s the Republican Party of Texas’ platform writers that need some therapy as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff emphatically reminds us that Greg Abbott owns the RPT platform, no matter how much he may try to avoid the subject.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos asks why bother to address issues of substance that matter to most of us when it is easier to scare voters with hate talk? The Texas GOP Unleashes its Hate Genie.

Almost as rare as Haley’s Comet, both houses of Congress actually did some WORK this week, overwhelmingly passing legislation to help our Veterans get better healthcare. But as Texas Leftist shares, helping our nation’s heroes is simply a bridge too far for some over at Fox News.

The latest poll taken of the Texas electorate for the 2014 elections is what it is, just as Texas voters are what they have been for at least twenty years. All it demonstrates is that everybody’s work is still cut out for them. But PDiddie at Brains and Eggs cautions everyone not to buy into the “It is inexorable” conservative spin of those numbers.

In the series “What Idiot Would….” Bay Area Houston adds another about Greg Abbott in “What Idiot would hide explosive chemicals from the public?

WCNews at Eye on Williamson tells us we need candidates that can make undecided voters and non-voting Texas see the Texas GOP as extreme and frightening, In Order To Be A Hero, There Has To Be A Villian.

Neil at All People Have Value posted an updated list of ideas and thoughts for everyday resistance to our violent and money-owned culture. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.


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

Fascist Dyke Motors tells her story of observing the opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance as it was being passed by City Council.

Scott Braddock reports on negative reactions to the Republican Party platform from Latino GOPers.

LGBTQ Insider laments the harsh homophobia of that same platform.

In the Loop reads deeper into the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange.

Nancy Sims ponders the future of the RPT platform.

Grits wonders why we restrict the use of asset forfeiture funds to drug treatment only.

Susan Duty provides some helpful tips to straight people on how to avoid being converted to homosexuality.

Lone Star Q identifies the “ex-gay” man behind the “reparative therapy” plank in the RPT platform.

And finally, the TPA bids a fond and hopefully temporary farewell to In The Pink Texas, whose use of Sleepless in Seattle as a political metaphor remains a classic of the genre.