Sunday, May 31, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Time to audit Rebuild Houston

Remember Rebuild Houston?

The program designed (for the most part) by current Houston Mayoral Candidate Stephen Costello was sold as the answer to Houston's Life, it's Universe and it's Everything! (With apologies to the late, great, Douglas Addams)

On their website Rebuild Houston cites several projects, both completed and in progress, for which it takes sole credit in advancing. The biggest issue behind all of this is that we have no audited account that the statements are both true and accurate. These could be new projects that Rebuild Houston funded or they could be existing projects that were already on the books to which Rebuild Houston played an ancillary role.  The fact is we just don't know.

After the rains and flooding of last week, some of Houston's alt-media outlets are starting to take notice:

Refund Houston?? Jeffrey L. Boney, Houston Forward Times

After the most recent severe thunderstorm to hit the city, Houston taxpayers are beginning to wonder whether they should be asking city officials for a "refund" as opposed to continue to pay a drainage fee that is supposed to help the city "rebuild" its infrastructure.

While I think it's a little unfair to hold Rebuild Houston partially responsible for a 100 year flood event, I do think now is the right time to begin asking questions about a project that was sold, in part, as a way to lessen the impacts of major storms while improving Houston's crumbling infrastructure, an infrastructure that has been all but ignored by a succession of Houston Mayoral administrations.

The biggest problem with calling for any audit of this program is that it's unlikely to be implemented until after the upcoming city elections.  Current City Controller Ronald Green has performed very few audits since being elected to the position and he's currently embroiled in a nasty divorce. Because of this it appears that the role of auditing is going to fall to one of the aspirants of the office.

You would like to see some journalistic curiosity from Houston's mainstream media, and the most likely candidate to have this is Ted Oberg of ABC 13. You can probably write off the Houston Chronicle who are too busy celebrating their self-awarded Pulitzer Prize and running endless pictorials of women in bikinis then they are actually investigating anything.

Historically, Houston's City Hall has not been interested in taking a deep-dive look at anything unless their embarrassed into doing it.

That said, there might be some hope.

Earlier today Mayoral Candidate Bill King Tweeted about the issue and one would hope that this becomes a campaign issue. Granted, it's not likely to get much traction from the left, who consider infrastructure and basic city services to be "junk food" issues that obscure the more important items such as one-bin recycling so any movement for accountability is going to have to come from the center and the right. Given the relative dearth of good candidates in Houston from those political perspectives I've got little faith this is going to happen. For one, why would a liberal candidate such as Sylvester Turner want to turn off a rather large spigot of money that allows him to use other funds to purchase votes from a constituency that's largely in love with trinket governance?

In summary: I would love to see Rebuild Houston receive a thorough audit but, given the current state of political leadership in Houston, I'm not encouraged that it will every happen in a full and transparent manner.

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: The Next Battle? Zoning.

On Friday, typically a news day that's used to sweep away publicly unfriendly news stories, the New Mrs. White launched a trial-balloon regarding what I believe will become the next big push from her and the unproductive class.

Outer Loop Envy? The New Mrs. White, ChronBlog

In this fight against unwanted growth, plenty of the small towns can rely on their own zoning laws and other strict construction codes to help guide development. These are tools that have largely been banished from Houston's City Hall.

While hardly a new concept, zoning proponents have typically pointed to other, more world classy one presumes, cities in support of their arguments.  The big problems with heavily zoned cities has always been two-fold.

1. They are prohibitively expensive in which to live. Unsaid is that, to new-urbanists, this is a feature and not a bug, serving to keep out the undesirables and ensure that what is built is almost primarily stuff white people like.

2. Segregation in these cities is a huge problem. And, yes, it's a problem that's growing in Houston as it becomes more new-urban as well.

The problem, for the New Mrs. White and her new New-Urbanist friends, is that Houston is not proceeding along the path to Houtopia quickly enough. There are not enough little walkable enclaves filled only with boutique storefronts and coffee shops reminding them of a white-washed version of those European cities they see on TV. Instead, in Houston, we get CVS that dares to want to have a parking lot.  In the new Mrs. White's view this mars a project, that won awards despite the fact, that prevent Houston from being inundated with praise from fellow new-urbanist/design types across the country.  The only thing worse than not being considered World Class(y) to New-Urbanists, is that thought that you might be ridiculed by other New-Urbanists for not having something they have in their versions of Utopia.

It's the ultimate city-wide game of "keeping up with the Jonses" and it ignores all of the things that make Houston distinct and great. It's also trying to undo years of developmental history without any cost/benefit analysis given to what is being proposed replacing it.

The New-Urbanists won on the issue of light rail. As a result Houston is now saddled with an expensive system that is more suited to becoming a quirky wedding venue than reducing congestion. If they win on the zoning issues, Houston could be in even worse shape.

At least they've given up on the thinly-veiled lie that was "form-based codes" and have owned up to what it is they really want.....full control and say over what is built inside the Loop, how it is built, when, and what private land-owners can do with it.  Private property rights be damned.

I can't help but wonder if the Chron has penned a "internal memo" laying out a call to arms in support of stripping away personal property rights in Houston?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: The battle over rail in Houston is finished.

For years now, since my first foray into blogging in 2006, I've been staunchly against Metro and their rail plans. I've blogged about the error of Metro's design both on this blog and it's many predecessors.

And I've lost.

Metro, Culberson announce agreement on transit. Katherine Driessen,

Long-awaited rail complete, but discussion far from over. Dug Begley, ($$$)

I've long known that any objections forwarded on a small, hobby blog with a readership that wouldn't fill a cafeteria was going to have roughly the same impact as King Canute commanding the tide stop rising. Bad political ideas don't ever die, they just keep coming back until the opposition finally throws in the towel.

That's what happened with Rep. Culberson and it's what's happening with other opposition to Metro. Nevermind that the much ballyhooed 2003 referendum made promises Metro is not keeping (remember the promised uptick in bus service?), or that the agency has dug itself a financial hole from which escape will probably only be achievable through taxpayer bailout*, Houston wanted itself an inner-loop system to establish its world-classiness and it's going to build it come hell or high-water. (Which, amusingly, shuts down the train)

The Billions that have been spent on Light Rail are now a sunk cost. In accounting this means that they're off the table when discussing the on-going costs of the program.  They're spent, done, the books are closed and Metro can never get the money back to invest in projects that will actually have a chance at reducing congestion.

The plan that I envisioned (commuter rail from outside the city to terminus points and then circulator bus routes to get people close to Houston's multiple job centers) is as dead as Astroworld. Houston's biggest concern now is going to be the gentrification in neighborhoods that increasingly occurs as developers begin to cash-in on the decidedly "things white people like" aspects of the light-rail system.

Sure, those in the unproductive class will bemoan this, between Sunday morning mimosas probably, but the ship has officially sailed, so to speak.

So, congratulations to those of a new-urbanist lean, you've won, those of us in opposition, and Houstonians who reside outside the Loop, have lost as well.

*Of course, those who support rail will say this could never happen.  This ignores both the law of unintended consequences as well as the truism of politics that the primary solution to any problem is to increase the amount of money that is thrown at the problem.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Houston's Summer Tradition: See, the Kinder Houston Area Survey can be applied to EVERYTHING!

I don't know why I continually read the ramblings of the New Mrs. White. I really don't.  Maybe it's because I'm waiting for the editorial to come along that admits this board has all been a joke and it's been on us. Maybe it's because I have an affinity for reading comedy.

I don't know why I've continued to read Mrs. White over the years, but I suspect that, above all, it's because they always seem to provide me with wonderful blog fodder. If Falkenberg hadn't been handed the insider-baseball Pulitzer of the year, the Chron Ed Board could make a strong case they are the perpetually uncrowned winner in the humor division.

One of Mrs. White's oldest tricks is salivating every time the Houston Area Survey is released and desperately looking for places to misapply it.  This year, the obvious target is the suburbs.  That's because the survey takers expanded the survey into the suburbs, asked a bunch of context-less questions and then published the responses as definitive.

That's enough for Mrs. White, who has now decided to apply this to just about every negative road bond outcome she can find, whether it makes sense to or not. But especially when it's in one of the counties newly covered by the survey and especially when she thinks the case can be made, tenuously, for rail.

But, that wasn't the case here. As a matter of fact, had the architects of the bond issue simply carved out the Woodland's Parkway expansion the bond would have passed just fine. A similar bond, defeated in 2008, was struck down because of a failure to list specific projects. Nowhere in the opposition to either of these bonds was a yearning for increases in public transit expenditures. No where.

Yes, it's true that the The Woodland's Express bus service is very popular. So popular, in fact, there's talk of bringing in MORE busses.  And while Mrs. White tries to offer this up as proof of case for her argument that the suburbs want no cars and all buses and trains, the truth is actually the opposite.

People like Park n' Rides because they allow them to keep their car, just not drive it all the way into work everyday.  This doesn't mean that there's going to be a flurry of votes for new expenditures for trains and dedicated bus lanes. You can try to spin it however you want, using whatever flawed study you want, and it still won't make it so.

Most (not all for sure) people like their cars, but hate their commute. What they hate even more are government agencies trying to spend a ton of taxpayer money with minimal accountability.  That's right, I'm looking at you Metro. It's also important to remember that, in opinion poll after opinion poll, people usually view public transit as things for other people to use. The real hope is that the rest of us take the (now mythical) train and bus while they continue scooting into work traffic-free allowing them to arrive before their latte gets cold.

Public transit then, loved by the Rice/Kinder Houston Area Survey, Mrs. White, and caffeine-addled selfish people everywhere.

There's an editorial for ya.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Houston's Summer Tradition: Lessons (not) learned from a poorly designed survey.

As Spring winds down and Houston begins it's long slog toward Summer's heat and humidity it's time to revisit the worst of political traditions, The Kinder Houston Area Survey.

It's a bright, sunny time when the unproductive class (and the Houston Chronicle) rely heavily on questions asked minus the vital context of trade-off. Where pluralities support light rail and dense, urban living without being asked what they're willing to give up in order to achieve Houtopia.

To whit:

Montgomery and Fort Bend Counties more similar than different study shows. Matthew Tresaugue, ($$$)

(You know the drill, fair use quote, go read the entire article if you can)

Separated by 50 miles of Houston sprawl, the two counties see bumper-to-bumper traffic as the region's biggest problem, ahead of crime and the local economy, the poll found. And despite the car-oriented cultures of both places, four in 10 people surveyed say they would prefer to live within walking distance of work, restaurants and shops.

(Emphasis mine)

Anyone surprised they said that?  Because who wouldn't want to live within walking distance of these things?  In a perfect world I'd like to live in the South of France and sip Chablis all day while watching beautiful sunsets with two ladies in bikinis by my side.

Of course, that would anger my wife, which would put a strain on my marriage and probably end up with me being divorced. So that would suck. I also would probably lose my job which would mean that I'd have to sneak into France, avoid their tough immigration and have to live in the shadows. Because of this I'd probably be broke so the Chablis that I would drink would be limited to mostly empty bottles that I lifted from cafĂ© tables, and the two bikini-clad French ladies on my arm would probably only be figments of my imagination since I wouldn't have the Millions of Euros needed to support that lifestyle.

So, that's out then.

What Kinder doesn't (adequately) ask people in it's survey is similar, although not nearly as extreme. What would survey respondents be willing to give up to live the mythical lifestyle that Houston Tomorrow and other groups advocate?

For one, they'd have to give up their current employment which, as is the case with most large companies, is located in on of Houston's business centers. This would probably mean that they'd have to take a significant pay cut. Are they willing to do that?

They'd also probably have to pay 5-10 times more for a similar home if they lived in a walkable area. Dense, urban city living often carrying a high cost. In reality, they'd probably be looking at multi-family housing. I know right now you're thinking one of Houston's many luxury apartments would be pretty good right?  Well, they're not cheap, "luxury" not meaning actually luxurious but expensive. In most cases, including rent and maintenance fees, these will run 2-3 times current house payments in the suburbs.  This means that they're probably looking at a mid-to-lower level apartment complex, which carry negative connotations of high-crime and dodgy maintenance.  Would they be willing to give up their yards and pets to partake in this idyllic life-style?

Then we have the thorny issue of schools. A LOT of suburbanites move to said suburbs to ensure that little Tommy and Tammy attend better school districts. They do this because they all think that their offspring are going to become star athletes or lawyers, doctors etc. The ignores the reality that, in todays marketplace, they're probably going to end up as middle managers with ulcers and 2.4 children, a mortgage (in the suburbs) and a car payment that's slightly too high because that Acura CXV really looked nice in the showroom and 84 months is totally a reasonable amount to spend on a car.

But would they want to give all of this up if it meant they could pop down to the local Whole Foods, get an EZ credit decision to finance their weekly grocery bill and get back home before the Voice starts?

Again, this year, we will never know because the study never asked.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

I need(ed) a car: What I bought (Final, in a series)

Note: What follows are my thoughts on cars that I have driven in my search for a new vehicle. I'm hoping to focus on how cars would react in real, Houston conditions. Not whether they have "tech" or how sporty they are or what their 0-60 time may be (although I will discuss those things). I hope that you come away from this with a better idea how a car would be in everyday conditions, not around a test track.  What follows is my opinion, and my opinion only. I have not received any compensation or influence in writing this other than my own impressions on each vehicle. Your mileage may (and will) vary.  Finally, the following should not be considered either an offer, or advice, on whether YOU should buy a particular car or not. Go out and make your own decisions.

Part 1: The KIA Optima

Part 2: The Dodge Dart

Part 3: The Toyota Camry

Part 4: The Mercedes CLA 250

Part 5: Cars that didn't make the grade.

When starting this series I meant to offer up two more installments, one on the Ford Fusion and one on the Volkswagen Jetta. Unfortunately, time and real life had interfered so I'm going to briefly mention them here, and then tell you what I ultimately ended up buying.

Ford Fusion

I liked this car, a lot. I liked the styling, the ride, the handling as well as the comfort of the cabin. Finding a comfortable driving position in this car was very easy.  I didn't like the gas mileage for the model I test drove (The SE which clocked in at a paltry 22 MPG estimated in the City) nor did I like the price if I tried to equip it as I wanted. ($26,000 with better wheels, dual-zone climate control, a rear-view camera and heated seats [a biggie for my wife, who gets cold anytime the temperature drops below 70 degrees]) As usual, I skipped the electronic nanny and, as a dog owner, I tend to shy away from leather seats.

I did opt for the technology package and, although Sirius XM radio is a thing now, I would skip that because I've had it for a while and never find myself listening to it.  I also didn't like the fact that AWD was prohibitively expensive in this car. Given Houston's rather uncertain driving conditions, I feel like AWD with traction control is a big positive.

Volkswagen Jetta S w/Technology

I selected the Jetta S not because of price but because I found the two-tone leather seats on the higher trim models to be distractingly ugly. I also didn't like the limited choice of color options that they were providing.  The SE (highest model) only had a leather seat option that I could find, for example, and, as you know, I tend to shy away from "sport" suspension which is typically a code-word for "rough ride" in automotive circles.

First off, this car felt German. Everything was precise and made sense. When you opened and closed the doors there was a satisfying "thunk" that implied sturdiness. This was a sound that was noticeably lacking on the KIA Optima, as an example.  The gas mileage was projected to be good (25 MPG in the city estimated) and the ride was fine.  Handling was a little bit off-putting but the car overall went where I expected it to go.

Downsides?  For one, no option for AWD (something that Volkswagen seems content to only provide on their Audi's) and a lack of customizable options.  Of all the cars I drove this one was certainly the cheapest (the MSRP for the one I drove was $22,500 and I got a "real price" quote [more on that in a future post] of $21,500 which the dealer suggested was non-negotiable) although it was quite a bit smaller than the other cars I navigated to the Jetta because the Passat felt uncomfortably large when I drove it.  That is odd because the other cars that I drove didn't feel as unwieldy as did the Passat, I'm not sure why.

What I bought.

Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium

In the end, the newly redesigned Legacy checked most of the boxes that I was looking for in a new car. It had a comfortable ride, good handling, AWD, dual-zone climate control, cloth seats that were heated, Bluetooth and other technology.

It was also very inexpensive considering all of the technology and accessories that are included as standard. The car that I ultimately purchased had an MRSP of $24,960.  That's AWD, dual-zone climate control, cruise, automatic lights, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, hands-free telephone use with voice activation (which also works for climate control, radio changes and a host of other features) for less than $25K. Considering what else is out there that's a heck of a bargain.

The Subaru Legacy is also the highest rated family sedan by Consumer Reports.  One of the biggest selling points, to me, was the 4 Cyl "Boxter" engine that comes standard. My wife drives a Subaru Legacy with the same engine and I consider it to be among the best engines on the road today. It's reliable, has plenty of power (although it is not, as many reviews will mention, going to win you any drag races) and it's quiet and economical. (the Legacy is rated at 26 MPG estimated in the City, I've been averaging a MPG or two above that, even in Houston rush-hour traffic.)

Going over one of Houston's many pot-holes is now no big deal. The ride is very smooth and the cabin is a very nice place to be. It's not fancy by any means, but well thought out and the power driver's seat has many different adjustments that allows the driver to customize his/her position. The road noise is OK as well.  You hardly hear any engine noise although you do hear a little tire noise and some wind whipping past.  One bonus, my car had the windows tinted by the dealer, which gave me more negotiation room since add-ons of that type are almost pure profit.

Annoyances?  Well, there's a gauge right behind the wheel that tells you whether your are driving economically or not. It's bothering because it cannot be turned off. In Houston rush-hour it's a little ridiculous to tell me that I'm not getting the most out of the car when I'm sitting still on a freeway. Also, while Car & Driver panned it, I've found the CVT suspension to be pretty good. Yes, it's a little jerky when moving along in slow speeds, I've found that you can circumvent this by switching over to "manual" mode and compensating with the paddle gear shifters.  However, most times I just let the computer do it's job and I'm not bothered by the slight jerk.

All in all I've been happy with my choice. I think I'll be even happier when I bring the car in for the first free oil change. (Subaru provides free maintenance for two years) and I'm going to break down and put some of the free ownership badges on the back since this is our 2nd Subaru, and camping, rallying and cooking badges are pretty cool.

OK,  that's it for car blogging. I hope you found something interesting in all of these posts. I know that I've enjoyed writing them.  Good luck in your own car hunt if you find yourself needing one.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Did Garcia Just Admit he was a bad choice for Sheriff?

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia announced his candidacy for Houston Mayor today. Seemingly thinking that a job history more focused on taking selfies is more important than minding his department's purse strings or managing the Harris County Jail is good enough to get him elected into office.  Optics and all of that.

What struck me most however was not, as mentioned in the story I link to below (which you should read), that Mr. Garcia's announcement speech was short on accomplishments and policy and long on 'personal story', it was expected that he would try to gloss over the fact that, while in office, he's been closer to the artist that provides the court rendering for newscasts rather than an active participant. No, what surprised us the most is that in his resignation letter he appears to be implying that he was the wrong guy for the job.

Garcia makes it official, joining crowded field for Mayor. Rebecca Elliott & Gabrielle Banks, ($$$)

(As is usual, the Chron does not want you to read their actual journalism (preferring instead you watch slideshows) so we quote very selectively and urge you to go read the entire story.)

In a letter Wednesday informing the court of his decision, Garcia, a Democrat, offered the court his "counsel and input." He urged the commissioners and judge to appoint an independent or another Democrat and to avoid choosing any law enforcement official who has aspirations of further elected office.
Emphasis mine.

On the first point one would expect Mr. Garcia to wave the partisan flag (a little). Of course, when he ran for the office originally he downplayed (or didn't mention much) the fact that he was a Democrat, preferring instead to focus on the many allegations that plagued his Republican predecessor.  In fact he did a good job distracting from the fact that he wasn't all that qualified to be a Sheriff in the first place.

On the second point. Isn't Garcia describing himself here?  Isn't Garcia a 'law enforcement official who has aspirations of further elected office"? Never mind that he's resigning from a position with huge public safety implications to further those aspirations?

According to reports morale within the Harris County Sheriff's Department is at an all time low. The Harris County Jail is a shambles and the crime clearance rates are near the bottom of the State rankings. So, from that perspective, clearing the way for another individual to come in and try and get a handle on this mess is probably overdue.

I'm just amazed that, either through bad advice or bad judgment, Mr. Garcia was able to write without irony that the Harris County Commissioner's Court should select someone as his replacement that is decidedly only like him in party affiliation.  For all of the important bits that do matter, Garcia is suggesting that he was the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong job.

Call it me but that's not an ideal way to kick-off a campaign. Whoever he hired to handle campaign strategy has to be in a bar somewhere right now ordering it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Many Acts, One Long Play.

For all of the self-congratulatory stuff the City of Houston is batting around these days you'd think our fair City is operating free of any issues whatsoever.

1. Where is the rest of this money going? I get that the value of the cut-down trees was placed at $400K and that the Wendy's franchisee settled for $300K, but did the cost of those three replacement trees really come to that?  If so, where did the rest of the money go, what was it used for etc?

2. The BARC turn-around is a success story, no matter how you look at it. The Politicians will try and take credit, but much of the praise lies with the staff of the Center and the dedicated volunteers of the assorted rescue groups who are doing much of the heavy lifting on this.

3. Remember: TALK about pot-holes is not FIXING pot-holes. All we're being given now is a bunch of talk. While that's probably enough to satisfy Houston bloggers of a certain political persuasion, it shouldn't be enough to satisfy the general Houston public.

4. The next time you hear that the 'rain tax' is working....

5. I totally missed this. In seriousness, here's hoping that Ms. Pennington has a full and speedy recovery.

6. Ed Emmett's Grand Adventure - Remember that vote on the Astrodome?  Yeah well guess what? It didn't turn out the way they wanted so they're going to keep plowing forward until you forget about that.  Side Note: Wouldn't you think that an indoor theme park of this nature would be vetoed by either the Texans or the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo?

Is it election season yet?

Monday, May 04, 2015

TLSPM: Of Jade Helm 15, Abbott and measured responses.

Fresh off being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, the Chron's Lisa Falkenberg aims her keyboard at Governor Greg Abbott and his response to Jade Helm 15....

Abbott fans the flames of radical paranoia. Lisa Falkenberg, ($$$)

After reading Ms. Pulitzer's piece my thoughts are....."meh". While I'm not on board with Mr. Abbott's 'response' to the issue I do understand while some people (not all of them 'radicals') might take issue with special forces training occurring in Texas given the current administration's negative view toward the State*.

Does this mean that I think Obama is laying secret plans to take over the State after voiding the next election and naming himself President for Life?  Nope. However, I don't think monitoring by the State military is going to amount to much either.

A better response would have been to remind everyone that this is Jade Helm 15. Which indicates that Jade Helm 1-14 were conducted without the Feds running over the civil liberties of those being "invaded". From that perspective, I think Abbott got some bad advice and may have overreacted just a bit.

It's disappointing, but it's hardly the end of the world or a sign that the Governor is somehow stirring up the radicals and turning Texas into a dry powder-keg of revolution just looking for a spark. If anything, the TLSPM 'response' to the so-called radical actions by Abbott are just as radical in that they drip with a sense of partisan rage. What Falkenberg, and other members of the TLSPM are doing is something that you would expect to come almost exclusively from the pub-shop of the Texas Democratic Party.

Given that the TDP currently is in a state of disarray, maybe they should count their lucky stars that, on this issue, the TLSPM is basically doing their job pro bono?  In Falkenberg's case, she's ALWAYS been prone to overstate and feign incredulousness when trying to make her point. Her sense of outrage is always paired with a disbelief that anyone might, possibly, take a look at the world in a manner different then she does. It's beyond her abilities to grasp that people make decisions on issues taking into account a wide variety of inputs not limited to being a 'sixth-generation Texan' or having 'red hair'.

Texas could have had, deserved actually, a reasoned reaction to these events that didn't involve trying to work everyone into a lather. Sadly, it doesn't feel like there's anyone currently in the TLSPM that's really up to the job.

Just another reason that newspapers would do better refraining, for the most part, from political commentary and focus instead on reporting the facts in a full and transparent manner.  Better reporting on Jade Helm 15, and the Governor's response to it, would have been far more productive than sitting down in front of a keyboard and spleen-venting.

Of course, it's the spleen-venting that the bosses feel attract page-views so unfortunately you can expect to see even more of this going forward.  In the end it's Texas, not the Governor, who lose out.

*On that note, whenever you see someone in the comments section say that they "used to vote Republican" but are now sick of the party you can pretty much bet that they never voted Republican and have always been sick of the party.  Real Republicans, while they might disagree with some of the Tea Party groups, are not bolting the party en masse due to some sense of shame. That's a lie that's being propped up by the Democratic Party in an attempt to over-emphasize the far-right element of Republicans while trying to deny that they themselves moved far-left a long time ago.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Downtown. THIS time, we MEAN it!

Downtown Houston. Constantly on the verge of "breaking out" and passing some mythical milestone where residents suddenly pour into the area, bars and restaurants spill over with hip, young patrons who live car-less lifestyles and retailers ply their wares at elevated prices to afford the high rents.

At least, that's the (recurring dream)

This is not an unusual prediction to see in the Chronicle. There is always a consultant somewhere who's willing to provide Sarnoff a quote stating something similar. Unfortunately for the downtown set, the giddy predictions also have to be tempered with the reality that there's very little retail in the area, no grocery stores, and not much easy access to schools, etc.

Downtown Houston is now, and will always be, Houston's business center. And no matter how many high-priced consultant you bring in that fact is not going to change. What's really concerning is that, in many cases, the consultants brought in to make these proclamations are paid for in TIRZ money, or, taxpayer money that's segregated from the general fund for exclusive use in the district to which it is assigned.

The arguments against these TIRZ are strong and multi-faceted, especially in a city like Houston which has fallen in love with them to the point of distraction and misuse. But that's a series of posts for another day.

What's important here is that Houston is still being led down an expensive, developer's dream of a highway to nowhere. And, they're doing it mostly at taxpayer expense to assuage the fantasies of the unproductive class who view Nirvana as being a Houston where 2 Million (white) rich folks are packed inside the Loop asshole to elbow riding around on toy trains, stopping at cafe's and sipping coffee, shopping at private label boutiques free of the scourge of name brands, eating hemp and spending their evenings at cafe bars.

Meanwhile, at the end of every shift, 4 Million poor and middle class minorities hop on a shoddy bus service to get back outside the city center where they live in their multi-family units while the wealthy retreat to their condos within the city.

You see it happening to Houston everyday. It's the Paris model, a model that's now proven to not work at all. What's even worse is that it appears, by residential patterns, that most Houstonians are rejecting this model but the unproductive set continue to try and foist it on them.