Friday, September 26, 2014

How Will They Govern: Dan Patrick vs. Leticia Van de Putte

Previous Posts:

Part 1: How will the Democrats campaign?
Part 2: How will the Republicans campaign?
Part 3: How will the Candidates for Governor govern?

I realize it's been just a bit since I put forth an entry on this but I have a couple of good excuses that you can choose from as to why.

1. It was still a little far out from election night when I started this and this seems like a more reasonable time in which to do it.

2. I just got busy and forgot.

All that said it's time to jump back in the saddle and start taking a look at how the candidates for the (now) 2nd most powerful elected office in Texas will govern.  It might help, before you read this, to go back and at least read the introduction so that you can see what my goals are here.

First up: (In alphabetical order by last name)

Dan Patrick (Republican - Houston)

One thing about Mr. Patrick, he's a very effective campaigner and knows exactly what to say and what time to say it.  He's also more media savvy than most of his contemporaries and he uses that to his great advantage. This is a trait that also infuriate some of his colleagues in the Texas Senate.

With that out of the way it's not all that clear that Mr. Patrick would be a very effective Lt. Gov in terms of running the Texas Senate.  Mr. Patrick's first priority, above all others, would be to repeal and forever rid Texas of the so-called "Rosebush" bill which requires a Supermajority to pass most legislation. This has been a stated goal of his for years now and he has made at least two attempt to have this done.  As Lt. Governor this would certainly be at the top of his list.

It is very clear, by his rhetoric on the campaign trail, that Mr. Patrick does not place much value in the oft-mourned fraternal atmosphere in the Senate. Mr. Patrick has repeatedly stated that he would not seat Democrats as Committee chairs and that his interest in reaching across the aisle is limited to times when they are willing to reach out to him.

In many ways, Sen. Patrick can be expected to run the Texas Senate in the same way that President Obama deals with Congress.  There will be a lot of lecturing and speeches to the media, some calls for bipartisanship and then blistering media interviews where he blames the Texas Democrats for any bill that does not pass.

Mr. Patrick's policy proposals will be to the right of the political spectrum and, based on his stump speeches, will call for school choice through vouchers, further restrictions to abortion and tax credits to businesses.  Mr. Patrick appears to be in favor of maintaining both the TEF and the TETF.  Strongly Evangelical, he led the charge to have "In God We Trust" added to the tote boards above both the Texas House and Senate.

On fiscal issues Mr. Patrick is an unknown. He ran his campaign primarily on the issue of property tax appraisals but, since being in office he has been surprisingly mute on fiscal matters choosing instead to focus on social ones. Mr. Patrick, during the last legislative session, voted twice for increasing school funding but ultimately voted against the budget.  This has been used by his opponent for the office as a sign he voted against increased education spending.  There are arguments for/against this, your feeling as to the validity of such probably depends on your partisan leaning.

Leticia Van de Putte (Democrat - San Antonio)

Since starting her campaign Senator Van de Putte has been talking big.  Her spending proposals for Texas, (should she be elected) include $2 Billion to provide free community college to all Texas children, $1 Billion for Highway funds and an as yet undetermined number of Billions for elementary education.  Clearly, the governance plan for Sen. Van de Putte is a departure from Texas' historical lean government, low spending past.

However, this post is more about her governing style than it is her policy positions, but I do think the two are closely intertwined.

For one, there is no way a Lt. Gov Van de Putte pushes any of her proposals through a strong Republican-majority Texas State Senate.  Because of this she is going to have one of two options:

1. Moderate her stance on issues, place Republicans into committee chairs and work with some of the more moderate members to craft policy that her side finds tolerable.

2. The nuclear option. Freeze Republicans out of chairmanships as much as possible, quash their bills in committee and make sure nothing gets done.  Then blame them in the bully pulpit with the loudest decibel levels hoping that voters take your side.

Under no circumstances would Van de Putte want the Rosebush bill to be repealed since it's the only thing preventing Republicans from running rough-shod over her Party from legislative perspective.  Also, given the combative nature of Sen. Van de Putte I am fairly confident in predicting that her governing style would be very confrontational. I would expect her to try and fight the Republicans head-on for most issues and wouldn't be surprised to see the Democrats be willing to torpedo the budget process hoping to further embarrass Republicans.

Prior to this session, when the Democrats were staunchly opposed to an issue they went to Ardmore Oklahoma where they stayed at a very nice casino and gave the Texas Rangers the raspberry.  This time around I think they stay because they'd have someone in a leadership position to whom Texans would be forced to listen.  From this perspective, for the Democrats, Van de Putte could be a very effective Lt. Gov despite no having any policy to show for it.

Conclusion:  My favorite saying about this race is as follows:  "No matter who wins, the citizens of Texas lose".  I'm afraid that Sen. Dan Patrick is a self-aggrandizing demagogue who will say anything and everything to get elected. I feel that Sen. Van de Putte is a political pugilist who lives mainly to put others down and feel good about herself.  I don't believe that either of these candidates have the best interest of Texas (or Texans) at heart and are only looking to bolster their own powers and ego.

I also don't think that either of these two State Senators has the social intelligence or political make-up to be effective in the role they are seeking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ChronBlog: The New Mrs. White continues to find a new bottom.

I, and other media watchers in Houston, keep saying that the Houston Chron Editorial Board (The New Mrs. White) cannot continue to get worse. One would think that there has to be a bottom somewhere.

Based on recent editorials one would be wrong.

Road Squeeze. The New Mrs. White,

Improving efficiency and applying best practices can provide the traffic equivalent of adding an extra lane - all without the cost of construction. For example, synchronized lights can reduce traffic delays by up to 25 percent and improve drivers' fuel efficiency by about 5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
This is all well and good but the things that actually help traffic are called sequenced, or coordinated, lights. Light synchronization would turn every light red/yellow/green at the same time.  Hence the term "being in sync".

Textbooks, again. The New Mrs. White,

But the greater problem is that we elect these board members with no guarantees of knowledge or experience in the education field. Consequently, many see it as a stepping-stone to a higher office, or a platform for their ideological or political preferences.
A recurring theme with the New Mrs. White (and her past iterations) is an annoying tendency to blame either "voters" or "the system" (which was, not coincidentally, voted in by the voters) for almost anything that she, or her fellow travelers, doesn't like. In matters of Texas Text Books, Houston Light Rail, area preservation, urbanization, wanting us to be more like some other city that's perfect but not perfect and refusing to elect the 'right', bright people it's the citizens of Texas who are to blame. This reduces problems from something that need to be addressed to something that needs to be dictated away by whomever it is the elite consider to be the smartest person in the room.

For Mrs. White, it's usually someone outside of the State government (all of them being conservative republicans after all) or (for local issues) someone within the City Government.  Her overarching them is that the people, you and I, are too stupid and insipid to make their own decisions. That more of you are making the decision to stop supporting ChronBlog financially is viewed as a symptom of your ignorance, not result of their continually writing against the interests of the paying customer.

A Teachable Moment. The New Mrs White,
We need to talk about corporal punishment in this country; we need to question whether hitting or slapping or whipping a child is ever appropriate. And while we're at it, we might ask whether a child who's beaten ever truly heals, regardless of whether the punishment is "for his own good."
Anecdotal evidence, taken from an extreme case, as evidence for a broader, mainstream call to arms is a favorite tactic of the New Mrs. White in the current form and in all of her previous iterations. Taking a switch off of a tree and (allegedly) whipping a 4 year old until they bleed and have bruising is a far cry from what most of us would consider "spanking".

Only warped mind of an activist do such extreme cases occasion the removal of day to day freedoms. In short, that is what The New Mrs White/The Apple Dumpling Gang/The Artist Formerly Known as Mrs. White/Mrs White are, an activist for progressive causes who occasionally write a supposedly industry/Republican friendly bone in order to paint herself right down the middle. Quite frequently, these 'right-leaning' editorials are done to preserve political access or throw a bone to advertisers.

Lest we forget, this is a for-profit enterprise that we've allowed to construct a profitable narrative about how the world works all the while being held to no logical/accuracy/writing standards of its own.

It's far past time the Chron shut down this waste of resources and redeploy the cost/space savings to local reporting.

Friday, September 12, 2014

ChronBlog: Why would you pay for this again?

Lise Olsen is back for the Chron, with yet another anti-industry piece, this time related to traffic crashes.  At least we think....

Crowded roads and fatigues workers contribute to triple-fatality accidents. Lise Olsen, HoustonChronicle ($)

The reason we 'think' this is what Olsen is on about is because below is a screen-shot of the entire article as originally published:

That's right, on paragraph.

Normally Olsen's stories are long, rambling things that twist and turn down different alleys and back-roads before coming to a terminus that, on most occasions, does not contain the smoking gun she implies.  Or, the smoking gun is a pop-gun and the story is as insignificant as to make no difference.

Alas, on this story, we don't know because we get teased with some flowery prose and then.....either someone at the IT department was in a hurry or the entire thing is so bad we've been spared the pain of reading it.

A more serious question is this:  Given the dearth of quality content on the free site (Slide Shows! Side Boob!) why in the world would people WANT to pay for a "premium" content whose main quality is that it proves no-one at the Houston Chronicle understands how this Interwebs thingy actually works?

I've had conversations of late with friends online suggesting that the level of suck for the new Mrs. White apparently knows no floor.  We assume there is one somewhere, but it's so far down below the competency level that it's yet to be found.  Is it any wonder more and more major political candidates have decided to not waste their time speaking to these panels of social awkward, barely functional people?

I think it's also time to have some serious conversations about the quality floor that is still trying to find.  From font issues to Lorem Ipsum to cutting off articles and washing things down the memory hole I'd be surprised if the number unique readers on this web-site, in a Metro region with a population North of 6 Million people, had a digit count higher than 5.

Even worse, there's very little news gathering going on at the Chron these days and now accusations of unethical behavior by junior reporters*.  All of this raises the question:  What in the hell are they asking us to pay for?  It's sure not a quality viewing experience, good journalism or compelling content. Could it be Gray Matters? 

Oh my goodness.

*I'm unsure how serious of a charge the complaint brings up, but it's interesting nevertheless.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Looking to November: For a desperate campaign, it's good to have an unquestioning TLSPM on your side.

There will be some jumping up and down over the following story, by both Democrats and the TLSPM:

Internal Survey: Davis trails Abbott by single digits. Patrick Svitek (w/Peggy Fikac).

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis is trailing Republican opponent Greg Abbott by single digits for the first time this year in her campaign’s internal polling, according to a copy of it obtained by the Chronicle.The Davis campaign’s latest survey, which was conducted last week, shows her taking 38 percent of the vote to Abbott’s 46 percent.

By 'obtained' the Chron means "given to us by the Wendy! campaign in hopes we'd dutifully report it w/o question."  Fortunately for the Davis staffers, that's exactly the way the Chron TLSPM team rolls.

The truth is we don't know exactly where the gubernatorial race is right now.  We have a pretty good idea that Abbott is ahead, but by exactly how much remains a mystery.

The good news is that there should be some "independent" polling released fairly soon (YouGov is reportedly releasing one) that should give us a better idea.

My gut is that Abbott still has a double digit lead and I think he's going to win fairly comfortably but honestly I don't have any hard numbers to back that up. 

It will be interesting to see if the TLSPM "obtains" an Abbott internal poll soon and if they afford it the same unquestioning treatment as the Wendy! polling.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Houston Leadership Vacuum: About that Fiscal Apocalypse!!!! Yeah, not so much.

For a couple of months now Mayor Parker has been consistently rambling on about how Houston is looking down the barrel of fiscal doom. Tales of furloughs and layoffs of city employees have been coupled with furrowed brows and ultra-serious warnings that basic services will be cut, presumably to levels where women and children will be crying in the streets, and here the transgendered will have to wait weeks to get their restroom complaints heard. It's all been very dystopian in nature.

Today's pay-walled Houston Chronicle story, however, seems to paint a slightly different picture....

City Rev Cap to force modest tax rate cut. Brian Rodgers, Houston

(If you can, go read the entire thing)

For many Houston homeowners, the reduced tax rate – which makes the first of several procedural appearances on the City Council agenda this week – does not mean they will pay less in property taxes, as home appraisals continue to rise.

This is an important take-away, because it means that, contrary to previous reports, the City is not going to be taking in less money than in previous years.  Instead, it means that the increase in money collected is going to be slightly smaller. The problem then, is not that the City is going to be operating on reduced funds, but that the increases in spending are rising faster than population growth and inflation.

In short: The city has a spending problem.

If this all sounds familiar to you that's good, because we saw the same "reduced funding" lie in the debate over Texas education funding where a reduction in the increase was miscast as a "cut" by the happy scribblers of the Texas Lock-Step Political Media and the hive-mind of the InterLeft.

What worries me the most is not that there will be a discussion around city finances, but that the discussion itself is going to be held on a dishonest landscape. It should concern all Texans that one of our major political parties has totally abandoned any semblance of concern for the taxpayer in favor of government interests. That there's no sense of concern, from Texas Democrats, that some government agencies are inefficient and broken.

This is not to say that Texas Republicans should be given a free pass. In fact, in their quest to blindly cut spending while refusing to audit and push for efficiencies they've been an active participant in exacerbating this problem, but on the Democratic side of the aisle there is no onus to do anything other than increase funding, whether the money is spent wisely or not be damned.

At some point, you hope that the Texas voters understand the depths of the problem and demand that both parties offer real solutions. I wouldn't hold my breath however, because in most cases people either don't pay all that much attention to State and local politics or they are just clamoring to get noticed by a Pol or three to assuage their egos.

Watchdog journalism might put a dent in this, but the TLSPM is too busy making goo-goo eyes at Wendy! Davis and Rachel Maddow. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Things Houston doesn't do well (Protests)

First off, the Houston region is a great region. It's a place to live and do business while enjoying a very good quality of life at a relatively low cost.  And while the City proper certainly has may issues of various degrees of seriousness (Poor governance, a horrible print media, infrastructure problems, a relatively high crime rate, a growing unproductive class that wants to transform the place into California etc.) the outlying region is a great place to live.

Despite all of the things Houston does well however (provide jobs, healthcare, etc.) there is a laundry list of things the City doesn't do well at all (events, political leadership, journalism). 

Add "protests" to that list apparently......

Houston workers join national minimum wage protest. Dale Lezon,

Houston fast-food workers joined a nationwide strike and protest early Thursday morning in the latest push for a $15 hourly wage.
About 40 people gathered before dawn in a nearby parking lot and marched to a Jack in the Box restaurant in southwest Houston.

40 people?

For all of the noise coming from progressive bloggers and politicians about the blue hue of Texas' cities, the reality is whatever change that the Left is going to achieve is not going to be pulled along by the Lone Star State.

But, the fact is, Houston never gives good protest. Oh sure the folks over at Critical Mass are decent at organizing a fairly quick bike ride once a month, but over half of the people are just there because they think riding along with a group of committed activists makes them edgy. It gives them something to brag about at the coffee bar after they've driven 30-45 minutes on their single-occupant commute.

When it comes to real protesting, setting up with bad homemade signs containing spelling and grammatical errors, the Tea Party folks knock the progressive groups into a cocked hat. As a matter of fact, I would argue that "protests" of this type really do more harm than good. Let's say you're going to Jack in the Box for a breakfast sandwich (I'm assuming they sell one, honestly I'm not a customer) and you see a very small group of people holding signs and chanting some nonsense about dignity or respect or something. Given that only 40 people showed up you're likely to think that, instead of this being a National issue with "grassroots*" support, you're instead watching the rants and raves of some small-time carnival barker like Quannell X. Then you shrug your shoulders, unwrap your breakfast and go on your way, never giving the issue another thought.

That's protesting in Houston people. A better idea for the supposedly aggrieved would be to turn inward and see what they themselves could to better their situation.  Of course, that would take effort, something the poor and gormless seem determined to not put forth.

*"Grassroots" is one of those current words that has no real meaning any longer. It's like artisan and authentic in that there's really no definition and whatever the current definition is has been lost under an avalanche of poor marketing and idiocy. There's no such thing as a true grassroots movement any longer.  And, if there is, you wouldn't hear about it on the news anyway because it wouldn't have a PR firm.