Council Member Green Calls Out Congress On Infrastructure, Project Brays

It’s a story that local public officials know all too well in the modern era… abdication of the Federal Government when it comes to infrastructure projects.  Whether it was Democrats moving to prioritize other needs over needed infrastructure spending, or Republicans trying desperately to refuse spending of any kind, one thing is clear… federal partners have been absent from the picture for a long time.

As the Houston Chronicle Editorial board shares, some local officials have had enough, and are even linking this abdication to this week’s historic flood events…

“Acts of God” are what we call those violent forces of nature outside humanity’s control.

The floods that struck Brays Bayou during Monday’s storm, however, feel a bit like an act of Congress.

Floods are nothing new for the neighborhoods near those muddy waters, but after Tropical Storm Allison the federal government united with the Harris County Flood Control District to improve water retention and flood prevention in the Brays Bayou watershed. The project began with optimistic expectations, working off a bipartisan local-federal framework established by former Houston-area U.S. Reps. Tom DeLay, a Republican, and Ken Bentsen, a Democrat. However, the promised federal funding has been hard to come by. Groups such as the Bayou Preservation Association have had to engage in letter-writing campaigns to convince the federal government simply to reimburse the flood control district as promised. As the funds have tightened, the construction along Brays Bayou has slowed to a trickle. Now a project that was supposed to be completed last year has been pushed back to 2020, according to Dr. Phil Bedient, director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster Center at Rice University. That’s six years of potential floodwaters – including Monday’s flood – that could have been significantly reduced.

How many flooded homes and businesses would have survived if the project had been completed on time? It is a question that’s hard to answer, but in a speech during Wednesday’s City Council meeting Councilman Larry Green placed the blame at the feet of our representatives in Washington.

“We know that if Project Brays is fully funded it will allow for the widening and will provide Brays Bayou the opportunity for more capacity,” said Green, who represents District K in southwest Houston. “I implore our federal representatives to stop playing partisan politics when it comes to infrastructure investment.”

We live in a time when elected representatives care more about playing to primary voters than delivering for their district’s needs, and when any spending – no matter how necessary – can be dismissed as pork. But try telling that to the residents of Meyerland, or owners of grocery stores that sat underwater, or congregants at flooded synagogues.

The Chronicle’s question is certainly a valid one, especially when you consider just how common flooding is for the Houston area.  At some point, we know that there is going to be another flood.

The Weather Channel took on this question, and did a comparison of the 2015 Memorial Day Flood to others in Houston’s history, including Tropical Storm Allison.  Basically, floods happen in Houston… it’s not a matter of if, but when and where.



In 2001, Brays Bayou and the Meyerland did not flood as severely as other areas of the city.  For this area of town, the 2015 flood bore a much greater impact with more localized damage to homes and businesses.  It’s a shame to think that preparation was already in place that could have prevented so much damage.

President Obama has made campaigning for infrastructure investment a central hallmark of his time in office.  Whether 2009, 2012 or 2015, he has tried repeatedly to send the message to Congress that our nation’s aging roads, bridges  and flood systems were not built to last forever.  Whether you believe in Climate Change, population growth, or just change, the nation’s infrastructure must have investment or it will fail.

Infrastructure investment at the Federal level has all but dried up.  But our tax revenues have not.  Every single year, we send trillions of dollars to Washington in sales, income and property taxes.  But with the way Congress has functioned lately, you’d be hard-pressed to know it.  Eventually, Americans must ask one other question– if our tax dollars aren’t being used to improve the country, then what are they being used for??  Council Member Green is right… it’s time for Congress to get its act together.


Texoblogosphere: Week of May 25th

The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes the unofficial beginning of summer as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a look behind the scenes at the deal struck between Houston’s Metro and US Rep. John Culberson.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos injects a little Colbert humor into his piece about craven Texas politicians that run away from crucial issues that will impact our future whether we like it or not. Knowing how the Titanic Passengers felt…

Socratic Gadfly discusses how Pew Research’s latest religious survey is another reason Democrats shouldn’t make demographic assumptions about voters, in this case, Hispanic/Latino ones.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders how republicans can ignore real needs, promote xenophobia and violate labor standards for the DPS with one act.

Neil at All People Have Value took a walk in Houston Freedman’s Town and in Galveston. He took good pictures. Everyday life is fun and interesting if you make some effort and look around. APHV is part of

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Damn near everyone knows that our political systems are rigged. Those on the left those on the right and everyone in between. That frustration is being shown in many different ways all over the political spectrum. Where Left And Right Come Together – Our Political System Is Rigged.

‘Mr. Tesla’, according to Rep. Senfronia Thompson, was one of the biggest losers so far in the Texas Lege’s 84th session. But so has been Rep. Senfronia Thompson, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

From Drake’s star-studded Houston Appreciation Weekend to the historic opening of two new light rail lines, Texas Leftist can say in earnest that it was a great week to be in the Bayou City.


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

Austin Bakes is fundraising for Nepal.

Juanita wonders what it would take to stem the open carry tide.

Paradise in Hell points out that the “Texas Miracle” has a lot in common with the “North Dakota Miracle”.

RG Ratcliffe interviews conservative video hucksters Hannah Giles and Joseph Basel.

Texas Clean Air Matters wants to know why our state’s leadership is more concerned about the success other states than they are about Texas.

Mark Bennett examines the criminal defense situation in Waco following the Twin Peaks shootings.

The Texas Election Law Blog highlights an actual case of alleged vote fraud in Weslaco, which like every other case of vote fraud we’ve seen would not have been prevented by voter ID.

Mike Collier notes that taxes are going up while schools and roads are going down.

houston buff

Today’s feature photo is of Downtown Houston taken from the recently transfigured Buffalo Bayou Park.  Let’s hope our city and new park recover quickly from this week’s historic flooding!

Historic Flooding Affects Houston

As Houstonians spent much of Memorial Day 2015 hearing news of massive flooding to their West, they were mostly untouched for the daylight hours… able to observe the day’s solemn ceremonies as planned.

But with nightfall, the Bayou City joined that long list of Texans affected by the state’s massive storm, stranding motorists and even claiming lives.  Here’s the story from the Houston Chronicle…

At least two people were found dead early Tuesday morning as floodwaters swamped the Houston area following heavy storms overnight.


Throughout the city motorists woke Tuesday morning to flooded freeways and streets, making the morning commute dangerous and even impossible for most.

The 610 Loop as well as Katy, North and South freeways were underwater in spots throughout the area. Other major roads blocked by high water include Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway near downtown.

Dozens of vehicles were stranded in high water throughout the city. In many cases, the water came up to to the driver’s side windows of the abandoned cars, Other vehicles are almost submerged.

The event for Houston caused traffic to snarl across the city, with several major roads taking on water.  As I traveled home on Tuesday morning, I snapped a couple of pictures of a flooded Memorial Drive…



Memorial Drive at Waugh looking towards downtown Houston.


Memorial Drive at Waugh looking towards Memorial Park, with Williams tower in the background.






The Eastbound on ramp of Memorial Drive towards Downtown.


Bike trails on Allen Parkway at Waugh.




Bike trails on Buffalo Bayou.


Houston Mayor Annise Parker has petitioned Governor Greg Abbott to declare a state-level disaster for the area, and the Governor is said to be touring Houston later today.  As residents struggle to retrieve flooded cars and assess damage in their homes, these disaster declarations will have an enormous impact on the ability for Texans to receive assistance with these repairs.  Stay tuned for more updates when available.


Houston METRO Opens New Rail Lines, New Possibilities

It’s been a long time coming, but Houston METRO finally reached the big day.  Dug Begley of the Houston Chronicle has the scoop…

After years of construction and months of testing, riders began boarding Green Line trains headed from downtown east along Harrisburg and Purple Line trains toward the University of Houston and Palm Center Transit Center on Saturday morning.

The dual openings mark the end of a sometimes controversial six years for Metropolitan Transit Authority, which first approached voters and won approval for the lines in 2003, with the hopes of opening them in 2012. Numerous delays and setbacks pushed opening day farther away from those original plans, as anticipation grew in the neighborhoods.

With the lines open and shuttling thousands of people around, the communities turned out for various celebrations, where Metro and residents celebrated the end of construction and the beginning of what is predicted to be a major change in how people get around, especially those more dependent on transit for daily trips.

With new lines in service, Houston’s light rail transit system increases from 12.5 miles to 23 miles. Here’s the new rail system map, from the METRO website…

new system map


Its tough to assume how the community will ultimately adopt the new transit, but from yesterday’s opening, METRO’s Southeast and East End Lines seem off to a very good start.  I was able to ride the Purple Line on its inaugural, and took some pictures of the experience..


A new Metro railcar as it passes by the construction site for Houston’s Marriott Marquis, a 1000 room hotel slated to open next year.  


A packed group of patrons wait at the Central Station platform, as a train approaches.


Houston METRO celebrated with a concert at the BBVA Compass soccer stadium.  With the opening of the Purple and Green Lines, every major sporting facility in Houston is connected by light rail to the City Center, and the Texas Medical Center.  


A Purple Line train rides along it’s new route on the University of Houston campus.  The new lines now connect Houston’s four largest 4-year educational institutions– UH, Texas Southern University, Rice University and the University of Houston Downtown– as well as various campuses of Houston Community College.  Students have access to new career and internship opportunities.  



Places most likely to see immediate benefit are the 50,000 students that attend the University of Houston and Texas Southern University.  For those that already commute via METRO, the new lines give them a direct route to downtown, and decrease travel time for their overall trip.  Once classes are back in session, it will be interesting to see how students utilize these lines.



Like Summer, Democratic Presidential Race Heating Up

Admittedly, it has been much fun watching the Survivor-themed Cicus that is the 2016 Republican Presidential field.  At present, any one of 20 notable contenders are criss-crossing the nation to share in what will ultimately be a very bright spotlight.  But at the end of the day, there can still only be one.

For Democrats however, much of the 2015 season has appeared to be a foregone conclusion, as Hillary Clinton continues to dominate all conversations, even as a precious few challengers like Senator Bernie Sanders are trying to gain some traction on the Left.

At this point, it’s highly unlikely that the number of Democratic contenders will suddenly swell to some huge number like the GOP.  But in the coming weeks, it could become a lot more interesting.  And today, those that care about a more robust Primary season got some hope for just that.  Enter an interesting new video from former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley

We have to talk music for just a second.  As O’Malley shares about his Irish and German forebears, a very slick gospel-style arrangement of O Danny Boy is playing in the background. It’s the perfect timbre and tone for an encouraging political message. Taking the Irish tune and blending it into a very traditional American setting is hugely effective… like a little American story in itself.

Best of all, that music fits perfectly into the not-yet but most likely very soon to declare non-candidate’s message

My parent’s grand-parents were immigrants, and the dreams they had were deeply American. As Mayor and as Governor, I always kept a sign on my desk that said “No Irish Need Apply.” It served as a reminder that we were all once strangers in a strange land.

Again, nothing’s official yet, but let’s just say that most people don’t produce videos like this to tell others they are not running.  But more important is that this video signals for O’Malley that nothing about his presumed campaign will be for practice.  When he does decide to run for President, he’ll be in it to win it.

The Democratic side of the house is about to have lots more to talk about.


Drake Hosts HAW2- Houston Appreciation Weekend

If you’re from the city of Houston, no one has to tell you how awesome of a place it is.  But did you know that the Bayou City has some major international fans like superstar rapper Drake?  Here’s the run-down from Zach Frydenlund at Complex Music

Drake and the OVO crew are heading back down to Texas this weekend for the second annual “Houston Appreciation Weekend,” or “HAW.” This year, Drake is turning Memorial Day Weekend into a full series of events, with a tribute to Bun B, charity softball game, performances from Future, Fetty Wap, and Boosie Badazz, and then the first stop of Drake’s “Jungle Tour” to cap the weekend.

Drake and OVO will use the weekend to raise awareness and money for a variety of charities in the Houston area, with tickets for the softball game available here. Additionally, OVO just released Eric Dingus‘ new HAW2 mixtape, which you can find below along with the full schedule of events for the weekend.

This is the second such Houston Appreciation Weekend that the Canadian-American rapper has hosted.

The Bun B tribute was hosted last night… a star-studded affair that included the likes of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, several City Council members and other elected officials, as well as other music industry movers and shakers.

But the weekend is just getting started.  Tonight, Drake hosts a Celebrity Softball Game over at the University of Houston’s Cougar Field, and performs to a sell-out crowd at Toyota Center Sunday night, with lots of high profile appearances in between.  Also is it pure coincidence that in the midst of Drake showing some major love for the Third Coast that a mysterious collaboration with Houston native Beyoncé leaked online to a swarm of social media attention.  The tracks also features vocals from OVO crew collaborator Sal Houdini. “Can we” have more of this, please??

If you’re around town, be on the lookout for some serious star power, and be safe this Memorial Day Weekend.

Texoblogosphere: Week of May 18th

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn’t need hindsight to know that invading Iraq was a tragically stupid decision as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is pleasantly surprised to hear that the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority and US Rep. John Culberson have reached an accord in their longstanding feud over funding for light rail in Houston.

Letters from Texas provides a step-by-step guide to using your hypocrisy to justify your bigotry.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos calls it as she sees it when the U.S. Congress cut Amtrak’s budget within hours of the train wreck outside of Philadelphia last week. Republican Austerity Kills. Literally.

Nonsequiteuse asks you to consider the long game for progressives in Texas, and explains why she’s building progressive infrastructure and working the next generation of leaders through New Leaders Council.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The GOP’s end of session plan for tax cuts is getting near completion, Give It All To Business – The GOP Tax Compromise.

In a roundup of events, Socratic Gadfly says this week in Texas politics was probably even nuttier than normal — a high bar to clear.

Julian Castro is Hllary Clinton’s pick for running mate, according to Henry Cisneros. That suggests a Latino will also be the vice-presidential nominee of the Republicans. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks that might be the most interesting thing that could liven up an otherwise completely predictable 2016 presidential season.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is surprised that a Republican was so honest about tax cuts being just for the business cronies. Who needs roads, schools, or safety inspections. The rich can buy their own. But, the shrinking middle class and the poor must pay for what’s left.

Neil at All People Have Value posted about 11 pictures he keeps in his phone that involve death. APHV is part of


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

Texas Clean Air Matters examines what Tesla’s Powerwall home energy storage battery means for Texas.

Better Texas Blog names the least worst way to under-invest in schools, college access and health care systems.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs documents her efforts to get the Legislature to require insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids for children under 18.

The Lunch Tray calls self-regulation of kids’ food advertising a “doomed effort”.

Paradise in Hell warns us that the anti-gay crowd isn’t going anywhere.

BEYONDBones explains why you should care about endangered species.

The Texas Election Law Blog tracks what has happened to election law-related legislation so far this session.