Ashby’s Getting High… the price we pay for lax Houston zoning

At long last, we finally have our answer to this most ugly feud. Mayor Parker sent a letter essentially putting the “nail in the coffin” to Southampton’s vehement protests, stating that the city has reached a final settlement with Buckhead development and that Ashby High Rise will get built. After five years of bickering, frivolous lawsuits, 10 rejected city permits, and a host of adult tantrums that could compete for the best reality tv moments on Toddlers and Tiaras, the devlopers have won. And they won by doing what all Houston developers do… abiding by Houston’s laws. Sadly, some of the worst may be yet to come, as the Southampton Civic Club promises to mobilize against Parker and Council Member Ellen Cohen if they don’t get their way.

The big gaping loophole that Southampton residents don’t want to address?? The city of Houston does not have basic, comprehensive zoning laws. Granted there are some city ordinances that have cropped around parking and land size, but there is nothing to actually protect a neighborhood from having a high rise built in the middle of it. The latest attempt at a vote was in 1994, and was overwhelmingly defeated in a low-turnout referendum. Now many argue that there are big advangtages to this… of which the most prominent is affordable housing throughout the city. But then there’s the dirty side of the storm seen through fights like this one. The Ashby High Rise wasn’t just a citizen group in protest, but elevated to become a very ugly stain on Houston’s political history.

Not to be negative towards the citizens of Southampton… in fact I agree with them that the location of this development is terrible, and will add more traffic to cripplingly busy intersection. But instead of spending thousands of dollars to demonize the developers, they missed an opportunity to put zoning on the ballot and let Houstonians decide. Remember the red-light camera debacle? As many complaints as were lodged against the city then, the ballot measure has ensured their removal. Done. END OF STORY. This could have also been the fate of Ashby High Rise, if the residents of Southampton had put 1/4th the energy they did in screaming signs and transferred it to the ballot box. What we have yet to figure out… until the citizens of Houston come together and put comprehensive zoning in place, there will always be another Ashby. And in the end, the developers will win that fight too.

Fox News on Gas Prices– 2008

Part of the beauty of living in Social Media world is that the past can truly live forever. Many on Fox News have been quick to blame the Obama Administration for somehow causing rising gas prices. But back in 2008, as this poignant reminder from Media Matters shows, they were singing a different tune. Some of the commentators even advocate for GOVERNMENT spending on things like Public Transportation, and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Wha-huh?? What a shame that they’ve decided to be so hypocritical now…

Coming Back in 2012

I know I’m not a super-active Blogger. To be frank, I just haven’t had the time to do this as I’d like. But in an election year as critical and devisive as this one, I will be doing some intermittent posts. In blood-red Conservative Texas, it’s important that Liberal voices are heard (and seen). So here I am. Three cheers to Texas Liberals and Moderates in places like Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio and Austin who swim against the current to fight for the rights and protections of ALL Texans, not just the privileged few!!

Set for Battle… What White can learn from Perry

So the race for Texas Governor is finally set… incumbent Rick Perry vs. former Houston mayor Bill White. Most claim that it is Perry’s race to lose. He’s a powerful establishment-Republican that flirst with the fringe Tea Partiers when convenient. And according to Paul Burka’s blog at Texas Monthly, it’s Perry’s race to lose at this point, and much more of an uphill charge for White. Texas (as we know it) is still a staunchly Republican stronghold. But there’s one thing that Texans like much more than party affiliation or even (dare I say it) political ideology. It’s strength. Right now, that’s what hurting Bill White the most… Perry’s getting all of the “strong points” because people simply don’t know enough about him. I’m not talking the city of Houston here… we’re already in White’s corner. But the rest of the state barely knew his name until this primary was over.

So the former Mayor has got to toughen up and be CLEAR with his positions. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s downfall was her lack of clarity. Is she pro-life or pro-choice?? The primary debates exposed grave weaknesses for her on issues that should have been crystal clear. In Texas politics, you earn more salt with a voter that understands your point, even if they disagree with you. Bill White is ahead of the game on this, but there’s still some room to grow.

Secondly, don’t let Texans have a short-term memory. This was Kay Bailey Hutchison’s greatest gift to the White campaign. All of the dirt and shameful cronyism that Perry has amassed as governor is incomprehensible compared to some red ink on the Houston budget or disagreements with Harris County. The Governor’s press power is unmatched, mostly because he always knows exactly what to say, and what to leave out.  Bill White may have to get a little ugly, but voters need to be reminded that Rick Perry’s campaign talk is nothing like his governance.

Finally, White’s campaign must be built from the ground up. Pandering to the Democratic Party establishment simply won’t work in Texas. His ground team has got to be twice as diligent as Perry’s by registering voters and getting the word out about White.

So an uphill battle?? Probably so, but to those of us that are tired of Perry’s antics, it’s certainly worth it for Texas. Let’s see what Mr. White can do.

Partisan stalling tactics have hurt our country.

The job of government is supposed to be deliberate and thorough (let’s just say the word… S-L-O-W), but eventually we must reach a breaking point for such behavior. The breaking point was months ago in the United States Senate.

Rachel Maddow pointed it out last night… the Senate is sitting on 290 bills that have already been passed by the House of Representatives. Many of them bipartisan ventures that are being ignored thanks to the filibuster. It’s a real shame when the needs and quality of life for almost 310 million Americans have to be ground to a halt because of a few greedy politicians. It’s not just Health Care folks… we can all understand differences of opinion on things like the Public Option for Health Insurance. It’s a big step. But do we really need to hold up bills like the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act? Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act?? 139 bills have been filibustered by Senate Republicans this year. That’s far more than any time in the 229-year history of our great nation. That means that finally, partisanship has crippled us to the point that our great government system… built on the hopes dreams, blood and tears of people wishing for a better life… has been arrested in the hands of a greedy few.

Not surprisingly, AP’s Matthew Lee writes that this is not only frustrating and dangerous to our nation’s security. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to the “gridlock in appointing officials to critical positions, including those with key foreign policy and international assistance responsibilities.” Literally, the irresponsibility of Senate Republicans is taking its toll on jobs all across our government, and exposing us to potential threat.

So my question to the Senate Republicans is this… how many Americans deserve to be denied important progress in their lives because you “don’t like” the current administration. Are the citizens of the USA really just a game to you all?? If so, then shame on you.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s got it right

According to Rob Hotakeinen at McClatchydc.com, the Governor of California has proven once again that he’s a bit more independent than his Washington party affiliates. And you can be rest assured that many more moderates around the US are glad to see thier views represented.

He actually supports Health Care reform, and unlike most of the Republican party leaders, believes that we’ve made too much progress to “start from scratch” now. It’s true… Americans have now gotten closer than ever in our history to making important changes in our health care, and ensuring fiscal responsibility and first rate care for generations to come. Both houses have passed significant bills that (in a normal cycle) would have been merged and signed into law by now. But of course in today’s Washington, partisan politics reigns supreme… far ahead of the best interests of our people.

So a hearty thank you to Governor Schwarzenegger… thank you for being a voice of reason that has so often gotten lost in campaign squandor this year. It’s time to put the party games aside and help to make a system that will be better for all of us. I hope that my Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison will be present and receptive at Thursday’s summit. It’s time to invest in our health and in our future as Americans.

A Voice for the Rest of Texas