Category Archives: Houston

Texoblogosphere: Week of August 11th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is glad to live in an age where we can zap political ads on TV if we want to as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff wonders why AG Greg Abbott didn’t just have his own lawyers testify in the latest lawsuit against HB2 given how much they coached their witnesses.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is very disturbed to learn Greg Abbott”s rulings and decisions demonstrate a pattern of his support for abusers vs. their victims. Corporate Marionette Greg Abbott Seems to Enjoy Punishing Victims.

Glenn Hager, Tea Party candidate for Texas Comptroller, was caught in the act. Bay Area Houston has the video.

After being told all summer that “nobody pays attention until Labor Day”, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had to wonder if we had suddenly jumped ahead a month on the calendar.

What’s this about voter fraud? CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants all of the reality-based people to know that voter id does nothing to stop fraudulent absentee ballot procedures.

Texas Leftist shares the truth about Medicaid expansion. Right now, Texas taxpayers are subsidizing healthcare benefits for other states, while millions of our people suffer without health insurance. Also make sure to check out Wayne’s guest column in CultureMap discussing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

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

Texas Watch points you to a resource to tell how safe your hospital is.

LGBTQ Insider calls the 2014 elections “imperative” for the LGBT community.

Juanita finds a bad use of ta tas.

TransGriot and HOUEquality have news roundups on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and the so far failed effort to put an item on the ballot to repeal it.

Lone Star Q lists the 63 Texas legislators that signed on to the Texas Conservative Coalition brief in the same sex marriage appeal, in which they drag out more insulting and discredited arguments to support those made by AG Greg Abbott.

Grits for Breakfast still thinks the Driver Responsibility surcharge should be scrapped.

Lone Star Ma celebrated World Breastfeeding Week.

SciGuy showed us what happens when a spaceship gets close to a comet.

The Highwayman and Unfair Park examine the link between poverty and fatal auto/pedestrian accidents.

 

(photo credit:  Focus- Fort Worth Photography)

Fort Worth skyline

Texas Leftist Published in Houston CultureMap!

As the decision over the HERO petition jostles through the courts, a new debate has arisen in media… should the ordinance be subject to a vote of the people?  Yesterday Clifford Pugh, Editor-in-Chief at CultureMap Houston, penned a response saying that Houstonians should be able to vote on the measure.  Knowing that I disagree, Mr. Pugh allowed me to write an opposing view on the subject.  Check out the excerpt below…

One must admit that “Let the people vote” is a nice-sounding argument. Voting, at least in contemporary democracy, is the way we choose our representatives in government, and it is often the way we choose how to allocate public money for certain uses. In recent years Houstonians have weighed in on the fate of the Astrodome, the usefulness of red light cameras, funds to rebuild city infrastructure and whole host of other topics.

These are issues that deserve a vote.

But the Astrodome, beloved or hated as it may be, is not a person. It wasn’t guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t think, it doesn’t feel, and it doesn’t become disenfranchised. These are experiences that belong solely to people, and under the Constitution of the United States of America, people have rights above and beyond subjection of public opinion…

For more, head on over to CultureMap.  Be share to comment on the article and share with your friends!

Houston City Council Passes Vehicles-For-Hire Amendments

After a long and heated battle, Uber and Lyft can finally operate legally in Houston.  Here’s the story from Doug Begley of the Houston Chronicle

It took 16 months, but Houston officials Wednesday finally found acceptable regulations to corral the changing paid ride industry.

By a 10-5 vote, with two council members absent, City Council approved new paid ride rules, amending the existing Chapter 46 that covers everything from taxis and limos to jitneys and airport shuttles. The changes open up Houston, legally, to new entrants like Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to connect willing drivers with interested riders, using the driver’s personal car.

This was a very public, brutal battle waged on both sides, and as such for the “losing side” in Council chambers, emotions were high.  After the vote, one cab driver even took his operator license, threw it on the floor and stomped on it right over the city seal.  Clearly many in the taxi industry are upset and fearful of how to make their living in the city’s new transport landscape.  But there were some silver linings.

Noah M. Horwitz, public relations consultant for Yellow Cab, released this statement on the newly- amended Chapter 46…

“We’re pleased with the comprehensive reforms that passed today at City Hall. While we did not get all that we wanted, neither did our opponents. And most of the new reforms, such as strenuous insurance and drug testing requirements, benefit the consumer most of all.

Furthermore, the biggest barrier to competition between the cab companies and Uber/Lyft has been removed. Now that taxis can variably price in a similar manner to Uber/Lyft, we can effectively compete with them on financial grounds while still providing a superior service.”

With fares now on an equal playing field, all TNCs can compete for Houston business fairly. At the end of the day, this point is a compromise that should be acceptable to all.

Council admitted that there are still many issues to work out regarding rides for people with disabilities. But rather than delay legislation any further, They chose to create a Disability Task Force set to report and discuss problems as they arise. The group will meet within a year, compile any concerns and bring them back before Council. In the mean time, all TNCs are required to diversify their fleet so that a larger share of vehicles will be available to disabled riders. This is a large step forward for all Houstonians because it increases choice and competition for affected persons, while lessening the burden of services like METRO Lift and Harris County Transit.

Like any major change, there are going to be hurt feelings and uncertainty while new regulations get implemented. But Houston has never been a city driven by fear and complacency. With a new, modernized Chapter 46 in hand, the Bayou City is finally read to hit the road again.

HERO Opponents File Suit Against City of Houston

Here’s the story from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle

Opponents of Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance sued Mayor Annise Parker late Tuesday after city officials rejected a petition the group had submitted hoping to force a repeal referendum in November.

Plaintiff and conservative activist Jared Woodfill said his group is asking a state district judge to declare that City Secretary Anna Russell followed her legal duty and verified a sufficient number of signatures to force a referendum before City Attorney David Feldman illegally inserted himself into the process.

“If he felt there were underlying problems with the petition then he, like us, has the right to file a lawsuit if he doesn’t agree with what the city secretary did,” Woodfill said. “Going in before she’s ever made the decision and influencing her is inappropriate, it’s illegal and we believe the court will agree with us and that folks will have their voices heard in November on this issue.”

Feldman declined to comment until he had seen a copy of the lawsuit, but earlier Tuesday disputed the idea that his involvement crossed any ethical or legal lines.

“The fact is, that given my role as defined by law,  I’m supposed to give advice to city officials, whether they be elected, appointed or just employees,” he said. “That’s part of my role and the role of this department, so I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here in terms of our involvement.”

This move was to be expected, which is why Mayor Parker decided to delay the new ordinance while all of the legal battles are being worked out.  Plaintiffs listed on the lawsuit were Ex-Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill, almost convicted criminal Steven Hotze, Pastor F.N. Williams Sr. and Pastor Max Miller.  Noticeably absent from the plaintiff list was Pastor and Kendall Baker, whom has had his own trouble with the law. Rest assured, it ain’t no “family values” Brady Bunch.

UPDATE:  Be sure to visit Lone Star Q for an excellent post on the lawsuit as well.  Here is some critical information that they have published…

The lawsuit alleges that last Friday, City Secretary Anna Russell determined there were approximately 17,846 valid signatures on the petition, more than the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot. However, on Monday, Parker and City Attorney David Feldman held a press conference to announce that the petition contained only 15,249 valid signatures.

Given that there is a significant disagreement between the City Secretary’s numbers from Friday, and the announcement on Monday, this could certainly strengthen the plaintiff’s case in the lawsuit.  Kudos to Lone Star Q for publishing not only this information, but including both the lawsuit and City Secretary’s official memo, dated Friday August 1st.

(Steven Hotze.  photo credit:  Death and Taxes mag

BREAKING: HERO Opponents FAIL At Recall Attempt

It appears that the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has survived an attempt to be forced onto the ballot.  According to City Secretary Anna Russell, opposing forces to the new law did not successfully attain the over 17,000 signatures needed to require a referendum.  According to Janice Evans in the Mayor’s office (via Twitter), the city was able to verify only 15,249 signatures of those turned in.

Even before the H.E.R.O.’s final passage, opponents had begun to organize in the effort to defeat the law.  From those with the HOUequality group, an independent community effort that was also checking petitions separately from the City Secretary, it was clear that some pages had to be thrown out because their collection dates were before the law was signed by the Mayor. In other cases, people printed their name and then didn’t sign, or their information was illegible.  Another issue seen by the independent group was that petition collector were not City of Houston voters.  These are just a couple of reasons that municipal officials likely invalidated petition pages.

“There are simply too many documents and irregularities to overlook.  The petition is invalid.”  City Attorney Feldman said.

“Clearly the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process.”  said Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

However, the Mayor also said that implementation of the ordinance will be delayed, as further legal challenges are anticipated.

UPDATE:  Here is a statement from the group Equal Rights Houston

Opponents of equal rights failed to submit the required number of valid petitions for one reason and one reason only: Houston is a city that doesn’t discriminate. Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance modernized our nondiscrimination laws in a balanced way with the support of the broadest coalition of Houstonians – from the Greater Houston Partnership to the NAACP, Rice University, LULAC, the GLBT Caucus, the League of Women Voters, the Houston Chronicle, public safety professionals and faith leaders. The Equal Rights Houston campaign will defend against any attempts, whether in the courts or at the ballot box, to overturn the basic, common sense protections the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance provides to all who live and work in our great city.

 

 

 

 

Houston: New METRO Rail Lines Delayed

Here’s the news directly from Swamplot

There’s still “some uncertainty” over the exact schedule, but all the pieces needed to allow Metro to open Houston’s second and third light-rail lines won’t be in place until late December, according to reports delivered to a committee of the transportation organization’s board of directors last Friday.

[…]

The contractor building the lines won’t be ready to turn over the completed tracks until September 30th to Metro, which will then need approximately 60 days to prepare for their operation.

Just for further verification, I went ahead and asked METRO via Twitter, and they gave the same response as quoted above.

metro se

 

The article also cites delays in construction of axle counters, and construction that of a separate building project in downtown. Not mentioned however is the continuing drama surrounding METRO’s delivery of rail cars.  At this point, the CAF-USA factory in New York has actually made adjustments to be able to build the cars and ship them to Houston as quickly as possible.  But as Off the Kuff notes in a recent post, the delay for the opening of both lines actually gives  more time to get the necessary cars operational.

Delays have their annoyances, but it’s far more important that these lines start when everything is done the right way than it is to try and rush the process.  Let’s hope that METRO can get them running soon.

 

The Astrodome Park Proposal

Since the initial news, Lisa Gray of the Houston Chronicle has updates on the Astrodome saga.  The full plan from the Texans and the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo have finally been revealed, and the county, is now considering it…

Yesterday Harris County said that it’s open to a plan to raze the Astrodome and create in its place a park that salutes the Astrodome’s history. Just for a moment, let’s pretend that’s not crazy.

In the site plan, the proposed park is described as “reminiscent of Discovery Green” — which is to say, like one of Houston’s favorite parks, an intensely used, much-loved urban space. But the description of the Astrodome park and the its site plan — see the slideshow — seem very different. There’d be a ring that imitates the old Astrodome’s “ribs,” each decked out with a historic plaque. There’d be multiple “event stages.” And at the center, in something that looks like a mini-Dome, is what the site plan seems to call a Hall of Fame.

It’s unfortunate that more Houston- area business leaders don’t see the potential of a repurposed Astrodome. The park proposal is certainly not a bad idea, but short-sighted compared to what could be done. Still, this plan is a marked improvement over the worst-case scenario of a surface parking lot, and the choice to honor the original structure is appreciated and absolutely necessary.   If done right and well-maintained, even the park proposal could be utilized to grow the city’s tourism business.

But the secret to creating a tourist draw that Houston hasn’t seemed to figure out yet… it doesn’t happen overnight.  Like any business venture, you have to make an upfront investment, promote it and then trust that you’ve done everything  you can to make it a good visitor experience.

In recent years, the Bayou City has made some good choices that provide good tourism potential. With all of the city’s major sports facilities located in close proximity, it’s easy to envision a scenario where people come to the city for a sporting event, but then add a visit to the Dome sight to learn about sports history. Having a museum on the site (perhaps this is what the Rodeo/ Texans plan is referencing with their Mini-dome “hall of fame”) should be essential. The Astrodome’s mark is forever written into the 20th century, and Houston would be foolish to not observe and honor it as such.

Regarding this and any other possible proposals, we’ll see what happens soon enough. See Brains and Eggs, Off the Kuff and Texpatriate for more thoughts.