Friday, August 28, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Bill King continues to struggle with HER Ordinance.

Yesterday, I theorized that the Bill King for Mayor campaign is starting to take on water. I thought this because of two reasons.
1. He's losing small chunks of the conservative vote to Stephen Costello.
2. His campaign is being seen as an attempt to re-position himself as a conservative option, which is failing in the eyes of some of the voters that he is relying on falling his way.

There's another reason that I think Mr. King finds himself struggling:

His position (or lack thereof) on HER Ordinance hardly screams "leader"

Here's the quoted tweet from UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
Lightning round. Yes or no answers only. Vote for HERO ordinance? Yes from all candidates except Ben Hall (no) and Bill King (abstain).

(Emphasis mine)

Putting on my armchair political consultant's hat for a minute, I think this is absolutely the worst position that any candidate who is positioning himself as a "leader who can get things done" would want to take.

Bill King looks like he's afraid to address the big issues here.  I realize what he's going for is to appear uninterested in such little things as the Grand Urinal Bargain of 2014 but it's not working. What it looks like is that he's uncomfortable addressing what is potentially the biggest (and most divisive) ballot issue in November.

He's also ceding the social conservative vote to Ben Hall.

Neither of these things bodes well for the King campaign. As a result I've dropped him in my odds for making a run-off. Currently, we're a little over two-months out from the voters heading to the polls. That's both good for the King campaign and a negative as well.

The good news is that most Houston voters aren't paying much attention to the race.  This means that the only people who have noticed his indecision are the relatively small groups that have staked out activist positions on HER Ordinance.

The bad news is that, two months for a campaign that appears to react as slowly to issues as does his, could be not enough time to right the ship and hone the message. Mr. King needs to do a much better job on this, and fast if he wants to have a chance.

I currently have the odds at 299 to 1 against that he won't.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Mayoral Race getting close to when it matters.

What follows is an intermittent series where I take a look at the current state of the Houston Mayoral Race for 2015. I have no special insight or connection to any campaign, nor should any of this read as an endorsement of any of the candidates.  The thoughts below are my own and are worth exactly what you paid for them.......

There's a saying in Houston politics that local elections don't start getting any traction with the public until after Labor Day.  This year, that would be September 7th which means that we're getting close. Houstonians are going to start paying attention in less than two weeks. Give or take.

The latest news to come out of the Mayoral race is that the first round of local television ads are about to drop. Since most people get their local election information from ads of this type, particularly from the candidate who can afford to run them in prime time, Steve Costello is someone to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks.

We're also sure to have ads running in key spots from Ben Hall, who is mainly self-financing (again) but who seems to have a lot of money available to do so, Sylvester Turner, who has done nothing to lose his position as the odds-on favorite (who really hasn't done much honestly except spout platitudes that sound like deep thoughts but are really just superficial political pap), and Adrian Garcia, who's base of support is so-far proving to be unfailingly willing to overlook his lack of leadership as Harris County Sheriff.

Furthering the four-horse race meme is the Daily Cougar, who purported to pen an overview of the election but omitted two of the main candidates from their coverage entirely...

Mayoral Race to cover top community issues. Leen Basharat, Daily Cougar

With Mayor Annise Parker’s final term ending and the new Houston mayoral election just around the corner, tension rises as ten candidates race to become the next mayor.

According to the Houston Chronicle, during the last mayoral election in 2013, only 13 percent of the city’s registered voters actually voted in the mayoral election. This stems the concern of whether Houstonians may know what the mayor’s role really is.
The article never mentions exactly who the ten candidates are. Instead it takes statements from Ben Hall, Sylvester Turner, Adrian Garcia and Chris Bell, mentions Sylvester Turner near the end and omits Bill King, Stephen Costello and Marty McVey entirely.  To be fair, it's a college newspaper who's reporter clearly gets her information mainly from the Chronicle so there's that.

Meanwhile, we've started to see a steady stream of tweets from Bill King on road conditions and funding but there's scant evidence, to date, that this tactic is drumming up any support.

In fact, it seems as if he's losing small chunks of the Republican vote and that his back to basics appeal has slightly backfired, leaving the contrarian Republicans to view him as a hollow "conservative".  I'm not entirely sure that "conservative" was the look Mr. King was going for here. I think he's trying to cast himself as the moderate in the race, running on common sense in the face of Liberal overspending and misplaced priorities.  The problem he's having right now is that I just don't see any path to victory for him at this point.

There's always the possibility that television ads can change the game. If that is the case then Mr. King is going to have to knock those ads out of the park to move up in the ranks to become a first tier contender.

The same logic holds true for Stephen Costello. Who has amazingly not been attacked strongly by his opponents for being the mastermind behind the crudely constructed Rebuild Houston program, in part because I think that Progressive politicians such as Turner, Garcia and Bell understand the value of having in place a large slush-fund in order to move money to the politically connected. Costello's still suffering from a name identity deficit in relation to the big two candidates in the race.

Chris Bell (perennial candidate) is amazingly on a little bit of a surge right now. He's gotten some favorable publicity from the Houston Chronicle, and he seems to have taken a populist (from a well-to-do, Caucasian, inside-the-loop perspective) tone that seems to be playing well with his target audience.  With that in mind, for him, he's on a winning streak.  We expect this to last until voters go to the polls. (again)

At this point Marty McVey has to be considered among the "also-ran" candidates despite still getting invites to most of the forums. His campaign seems to be running on fumes, lacking original ideas and the candidate himself appears to be resigned to the fact that he'll be running for City Council in a couple of years.

Without further ado, here are the updated sports book odds for each candidate to possibly make it to the run-off (complete with summary)

Sylvester Turner  (5/9) - Still the favorite and still doing nothing to prove otherwise. His election has a coronation feel to it, in the manner of Hillary Clinton, which means that he's anything but certain. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his favorite status once the barbs start flying and if he has to offer actual policy positions instead of empty platitudes.

Adrian Garcia (3/1) - Bell attacked Garcia for the jail issue, and Houston yawned. Any attack against Garcia needs to be made in Sept and (even better) October leading up to the election to stick. Football season is starting and the Texans have not yet been eliminated from playoff contention.  Again, it will be interesting to see if he has the legs to reach the line considering his shortcomings while in office.

Ben Hall  (10/1) - I think Hall rises just a little because he's positioning himself to be the "Anti-HER Ordinance" candidate. No other candidate has struck out a position against HER Ordinance as strong as Halls. I'm not sure any of the other candidates care to court those voters leaving him a better path to making the run-off.

Stephen Costello  (20/1) - I think his money and his presence on TV mean that you have to keep him in the running.  He's also taking away key votes that other candidates need to compete.  I still think Costello is going to fall under the weight of Rebuild Houston, but if no-one successfully ties him to that.....

Chris Bell (50/1) - I probably have Bell too high here but I've learned to never underestimate the ability of the Houston Democratic vote to back this bag of silliness that continually reminds us he's here. Oddly, I think Sylvester Turner would love to face Bell in a run-off, he'd appear like a moderate in comparison.

Bill King (300/1) - My big dive has been taken by the King campaign. There are signs that he's losing the conservative vote to Costello and Hall and his campaign seems to be floundering on issues such as HER Ordinance and Houston METRO. If anything, King's attempts to position himself as a "nuts and bolts" type has failed due to some of his Chron columns rubbing the social conservative vote the wrong way.

Others (Infinity-1/1) - I lump McVey into this group now, he's pretty much the same non-entity as are the other candidates.  Should something happen to all of the six major candidates listed above, I might start breaking these out.

So, that's how I see it at the starting gate.  As we sneak up to Labor Day and school gets back in session the race is just about to be fully engaged.  To quote horse racing.....Aaaaand....They're OFF!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quick Trip Review: Rethinking Total Rewards

For several years now the wife and I have made Las Vegas a vacation mainstay.  Since 2008 we've visited there around 2-3 times per year, watching shows, seeing the sites, gambling (less and less as the years pass) and genuinely just having a good time.

For most of that time we've been MLife loyalists, staying at Excalibur, NY/NY, Luxor, Mandalay Bay etc. On a couple of occasions we also slept at Circus Circus (don't recommend UNLESS you have children) and Treasure Island.  On the two occasions that we stayed on Fremont Street we went local and stayed at the Golden Nugget.

One group of hotels we never seriously considered were the Caesar's Group also known as Total Rewards Casinos. The reason for this, mostly, was that for a while they were generally old and, to be honest, a little rough around the edges. The group's flagship, Caesar's, was looking a little threadbare, and the other casinos, Bally's, the Flamingo, Harrah's and Imperial Palace were in various stages of disrepair, Planet Hollywood and Paris were nice, but pricey considering the MLife alternatives.

Recently however, Caesar's has stepped up their game.  The Forum Shops at Caesar's have revitalized the property as has the opening of Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill and (more importantly) NOBU Hotel and restaurant which, along with some high-profile entertainment residencies, has revitalized their flagship hotel.  Recently, the Flamingo has been spruced up, as has Bally's with the introduction of the Grand Bazaar Shops.

The most important update however was the conversion of the dilapidated and falling into ruin Imperial Palace to the Quad, and eventually the LINQ. This also coincided with the controversial building of the LINQ promenade and High Roller Observation Wheel.

Last weekend we took advantage of a Total Rewards semi-annual sale (which seems to occur once per quarter rather than semi-annually) and decided to spend our 17th wedding anniversary trying something new at the LINQ.

For starters, here are a few pictures of the room:

The rooms, while still new, are fairly small, but the beds are comfortable and the water is hot (which wasn't always the case at Imperial Palace near the end).  They do come with 47 in. flat-screen TV's which is nice, the room safe is easy to use and there is complimentary water (nice in Vegas August heat). While the art on the wall is odd at first, if you partake in one of the hotels many bars you can come back in the evening and argue what it says.

Where Total Rewards really impressed me was in the pre-checkin experience. Let me explain. When I stayed at MLife properties I always had to call two or three days in advance to confirm my reservations. I never got contacted or anything of the sort. In other words, the onus was on me to figure things out.

For Total Rewards, I received multiple e-mails both confirming my reservation (helpful) and offering shots at either discounted upgrades or amenities.  For example, the first e-mail that I received was about a week-out from my trip, informing me that the property had our reservation confirmed and that resort had the option of early check-in.  That I would receive an e-mail the morning of my arrival (I did) and that I could check in there (I did) arrive at the hotel, and that I would receive a text where to get my tickets when I arrived.  This meant skipping the check-in line, and also gave us flexibility arriving, since the bell desk would hold our bags should we decide to go play/have a cocktail, and then bring them to our room when we arrived.  Does MLife offer this?  I have no idea because they never contacted me to offer it.

The second e-mail that I received offered us a shot at an upgraded room for a discounted rate, it also offered us discounted tickets to ride on the High Roller.  If you select the upgrade, and the upgrade is available, you get charged the extra dollars per night. If the room is not available, then no harm, no foul, you get your regular room.

The third e-mail I received invited us to eat at different restaurants with discounts for each.  Yes, I realize that each of these e-mails were trying to sell me something but they're things that you probably want to buy. Given that free upgrades in Vegas are non-existent (unless you are a fairly high-roller [we're not] and even then let's discuss the meaning of "free") and that meals in Las Vegas can run well into the hundreds of dollars, every discount is appreciated.  While we had different plans this trip it's something I might consider in the future.

One annoyance at the LINQ is their wake-up call. It's a recording of Guy Fieri hollering at you (as he does) to come down to his place.  Granted, it did wake me up but I've very little interest eating at an establishment with this menu. We did eat at Chayo Mexican and Tequila Bar which was very good, and I had a breakfast sandwich at The Nook which was...meh.

As far as the bars go we found 3535 to be nice while both Catalyst Bar and TAG Sports Bar were pretty normal casino bars where you play video poker to get comped drinks. At every bar however the bartenders were nice and the drinks came in a timely manner.  Of all the drinks the specialty cocktails at 3535 were my wife's favorite.

The LINQ has also brought back a revised, updated version of O'Shea's Casino which is a great place to grab a spicy bloody Mary the morning after.  If you're a fan of frozen drinks, you could do worse than the Purple Zebra which has a fairly large selection of drinking vessels available for selection.

One place I wanted to try, but something kept coming up was Squeeze Fresh Cocktails who had a drink menu that looked promising. Maybe next trip.  We also wanted to try Brooklyn Bowl which advertises Gluten Free fried chicken.  As a sufferer of Celiac the wife was very intrigued by this. There are several places to eat and drink, especially on the promenade that look interesting including Haute Doggery, The Yard House (which is a chain, and fun in Houston), the Tilted Kilt (which didn't make it in Houston), Off the Strip and the infamous chain Hash House a Go-Go, (Open 24/7)

Finally, the gaming.

We found the slot payouts to be fairly loose, much looser on this trip than any of the MLife properties. They have a small, but varied, array of slots ranging from pennies to $25 (the highest I found).  Curiously, the LINQ doesn't have a high limit room, choosing instead to have a high-limit slots "area" and the highest table limit I found was $25/hand on blackjack.

That's the good, now for the bad. All of the blackjack tables that I looked at had two rules that are very negative to the player. They all required the dealer to hit on soft 17, and they all paid 6/5 on BlackJack.  I found this all over the strip on the $5 & $10 tables but the LINQ was one of the few that I saw keeping the rule on $25 tables as well. Unfortunately, both of these rules are increasing in frequency on the Strip and, considering how full the tables were, there's little hope they're going away.  At this point, if you're a BlackJack player, I can only recommend that you move off the Strip for your gaming. And please, if you're just a casual player, do us all a favor and boycott these horrible tables. Only if people stop playing will this terrible trend go away.

My game is video poker, and while I did play at the LINQ their odds are fairly awful. To be fair, the odds are about the same at all Total Rewards casinos and are pretty much in sync with MLife.  Jacks or Better is typically 7/5 [or even, on a handful of machines 7/4] (I saw it as low as 6-5 at Caesar's), while Double Bonus is 7/5, DoubleDouble Bonus is typically 8/5.  I did find 9/6 Double/Double at NY/NY but the machine did not accept rewards cards.  If you're a serious player though go find those machines. (They're by the entrance by the reception desk. Three machines with red banners.) Again, for Video Poker, your best odds are to be found off the Strip.

In all, we enjoyed our stay at the LINQ and are planning to stay there again on our next trip to Vegas. The hotel trends younger than us demographically, but we didn't feel out of place and were never made to feel old or unwelcome by the staff. The big downside for us was the location of our room. Unfortunately, we were on the 2nd floor by the entrance to the pool, which means that we heard shouting every morning starting at the time it opened. We also had a horrible view. All we could see from our room was concrete pillars, other rooms, and a driveway.  We were also near the delivery zone so we heard the "beep, beep, beep" of trucks as well.

Still, with a little better room location it would have been fine, and since we're both fairly deep sleepers we made do.  Plus, I like to play in the mornings (when the tables are less crowded) and my wife likes to run so the early morning noise wasn't so bad.

For my next post I'll talk about some of the food we had, including some that was great, and some that was very disappointing. Thanks to my wife's ability to never forget to take a picture, I'll have more of them as well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Presumptuous Blogging: Things you should read (08/24/15)

Doing a little catch-up from last week....

Chris Bell hits Adrian Garcia on the Harris County Jail mess. - To whomever from the Bell Campaign is reading this blog.  You're welcome.

Behold the ghost of Frank Wilson. - The more things change......

Wanna grow an airport? Corporate welfare for all the planes!!!  Also noted in the article, there is potentially no document more inaccurate than a financial impact statement commissioned by a public/quasi-public/or private entity trying to justify their feeding at the public trough.

Let me get this off my chest. - "Another year of tread ON the tires" is a sports saying that needs to stop.  It's another year of tread OFF the tires.  Tires with a lot of tread on them are a good thing.

OK, back to other stuff.....

Anyone really think the 'heat' these politicos are feeling is really how much they'll lose in donations by taking either side? - Because....yeah.

Good Stuff From Evan - Who I wish had time to blog more but I also understand that he a) has a life and b) is sometimes just uninterested.  Still, when he does produce content.

The Deadspin: Why your team sucks (Houston Texans) is one of the funniest items of the pre-season. So, of course, the usual group of Houstonians who are perpetually offended are offended.

Ah Sid - I wonder if the TLSPM understand that their negative coverage is a positive amongst his base?

There is little more pathetic than the New Mrs. White lashing out at Perry. - After YEARS of getting outfoxed, beaten and ignored by him, even their weak attempt at a final victory shout seems lame. It's time for newspapers to seriously consider eliminating the unsigned editorial. Especially the Chronicle whose efforts are more lessons in high political comedy than they are meaningful commentary.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Dreamliner - Every time I've scheduled a trip on this plane, it's been canceled for "mechanical reasons" and I've ended up on something else. Every.Single.Time.

The light that shines brightest....  What Jarod should have done is get a job with Houston Metro.

This is an OUTRAGE!  - Finally, an expenditure of tax monies that we can all agree on, liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian even.

And finally.....

BlueBell is coming back. For those of you who love your ice cream with High Fructose Corn Syrup and artificial colors......

Friday, August 21, 2015

Texas Leadership Vacuum: An Opportunity for Garnet Coleman

Shortly after the entire story of the sorry affair surrounding the untimely demise of one Sarah Bland hit the airwaves, one of Houston's own State Representatives ended up with egg on his face when dashcam video of his traffic stop revealed not that he was treated "like a child" as he claimed but that Mr. Coleman was a) driving really fast b) has done that before (and gotten a warning), c) tends to pull the "do you know who I AM? card frequently (which means that he thinks he's better than everyone else an entitled to certain privileges that shouldn't be available to all) and d.) either makes things up for publicity's sake or has a severely maladjusted offense-o-meter.

A decent man would offer an apology to the officer who he besmirched and I'm not aware that Coleman has done anything of the sort. As a matter of fact, he's still protesting that he's correct. All of which suggests that his offense-o-meter is knocked out of whack, perhaps irreparably.

If this is future Coleman then we couldn't help wonder how else he might decide someone treated him wrong?

In the spirit of bipartisanship we're here to help.

Texas ranks among absolute worst states for women's equality. Nicole Raney, CultureMap

The study draws from 11 key metrics across three main categories: workplace environment, education and political empowerment. The data set mainly focuses on differences in the workplace, such as income and unemployment rate, but also includes the number of residents with bachelor's degrees and the percentage of females holding lawmaker positions.

Now, before you accuse us of asking Coleman to resign, this is simply not our goal.  What we are really hoping for here is a press conference where Coleman can expound on the details he was "treated like a woman" by another politician, a police officer, or some other public official.  If Coleman REALLY wants to double down he can blame all of this on the fact he was wearing his "I Stand with Wendy(?!?)" replica pink shoes that day.  It's a win/win for both Coleman (who gets some free pub) and the media Austin Bureau who is (admittedly) struggling to find things to write about.

Coleman has a long history of making blunt, oft-times outrageous, statements. And while we've progressed a long way from the days when his mental-illness was used against him politically the pendulum has swung a little too far in the other direction, to a place where he seems to be above criticism.

Which is too bad.

Because, unfortunately in society today, there is STILL a problem with "driving while black" in the minds of some officers and women, while they have made great strides, still have obstacles and hurdles to overcome.  Antics like those of Coleman  only serve to distract from the real issues, and they give opponents of any change ammunition in their fight.

That said, there is something to the idea of political comedy.  Joe Biden has almost mastered it, as has Sheila Jackson-Lee on a more local level. If Garnet Coleman can rise to the level of those two in the comedy department who knows how high he can go?

Of course, this leaves us with a problem. Namely that many of the same people who will take this blog post literally and seriously are the same that take politi-comedians seriously as well.  And those people vote, which is why we need better.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: You will be re-imagined Houston, whether you like it or not.

The "New" Metro, in a very "Old" Metro fashion, has rolled out its new bus service to rave, glowing reviews from those who had a hand in the design, gushing coverage from the Chron's secretarial transportation beat writer and a mix of reactions from everyone else.

One thing is clear, Metro is in full-on PR control mode here. I even had Mr. Spieler himself respond to my tweets on the issue.  What really stood out to me in that conversation is that this was, almost entirely, driven by his impressions on what is "working" and what is not.  It wasn't that Metro talked to system riders in the design phase, it's that they themselves rode the system and decided that it wasn't working.

And that's my biggest concern about this.  Not reimagining the bus system, In fact, there was almost universal acceptance that the old system was broken and ineffective, but the top-down manner in which it was completed.

Metro's new-urbanists had a goal in mind (increase bus service in some areas, improve service downtown and tie it all to the DangerTrain) and they were hell-bent on achieving that.  By the time the plan was submitted to the public for opinion, the work was all but complete, and the small adjustments that were made focused around the fringes, adding a little bit here, shaving off some there, with no big overhauls to the grand plan.  In short, it feels a little bit like groupthink.

Lest it sound as if I'm opposed to the new system let me say this.  I truly hope that it works, especially for those communities who find themselves more dependent on public transportation than others. I think the jury is still out whether or not it helps them however, despite Metro's protestations to the contrary.

Time will tell, fingers crossed and all of that.

Putting all of that aside I will say that a full-on re-route of this magnitude, and that Metro appears to have pulled it off relatively seamlessly, is quite the logistical accomplishment and they should be given an 'atta-boy' for making that aspect work.  It could have gone a lot worse. It's a credit to the teams on the ground (the drivers, dispatchers, etc.) that it did not.  There's not enough praise given to those people in all of this although there should be.

So now we watch and wait and hope that this is an improvement over the old mess.  I wish Metro luck.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: The Texas Supreme Court as Mayor Parker's Nanny.

In the battle over HER Ordinance, the Parker Administration has to be getting tired of getting their hats handed to them by the Texas Supreme Court.

Texas Supreme Court says City erred on HER Ordinance ballot Language. Mike Morris and Katherine Driessen.

The justices, writing in "yet another mandamus proceeding concerning the City of Houston's equal rights ordinance," said the city charter is clear in requiring that voters be asked to vote for or against the ordinance. Parker had instead argued it was proper to vote for or against repealing the measure, and the council approved language with that approach Aug. 5.
The judges did allow the words: "Houston Equal Rights Ordinance" to remain in the ballot language, which makes sense.  I would object to HERO (or, HER Ordinance, which I use) since that is clearly political in nature.

What remains to be seen is how the Parker administration reacts to this ruling.  Although I'm unsure what wiggle room they have.  It's fairly clear that they need to re-work the ballot language to comply with the court's order.  Will they try (again) to do something squirrely?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Handicapping the Mayoral Race

Last night, all of the heavy hitters, and a few of the spray hitters, in Houston's election for its next Mayor participated in a candidate forum organized by State Representative Senfronia Thompson. On the heels of that I think it's high time to take another look at the candidates and reassess their likelihood of making a run-off.

Unlike my last post on this, I'm going to place the candidates into tiers, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and then (again) provide a sports books odds (my guess really) as to how likely they are to make it into a run-off election. (Which is where I think this is going.)
The Top Tier
1. Sylvester Turner. (-400) Whether or not you agree with Mr. Turner on the issues, and it's sometimes hard to determine whether or not you do because he tends to be rather light on specifics, he is the unquestioned leader in the paddock. Turner has two things that any good candidate for Mayor in Houston wants to have.  1. A natural, unquestioning constituency. 2. Strong political patronage in the form of State Senator John Whitmire.

This dual advantage is being played well and it provides Turner with a key advantage: He doesn't have to get all that specific on the issues because no-one who's likely to vote for him cares.  In truth, it's going to be enough that he's seen on the "right side" of a number of items including municipal pensions, HER Ordinance and increasing city 'revenues'.  He's also seen as someone who will support the Inner Loop business cartel.

The frustrating thing about Turner is that he's currently being allowed to skate through with little opposition from his supposded opponents. Possibly due, in part, to his political connections, he's not being challenged on some of his more daft statements such as "We must speak out against violence in any form."  Ummm..OK, but HOW?  And why?  Until one of his opponents forces Turner to provide some meat behind his platitudes his lead is unlikely to shrink.

2. Adrian Garcia. (-150) The former City Councilman and former Harris County Sheriff also has what is seemingly an unquestioning group of supporters.  Here's a man of little political gravitas whose high-point in elected office appears to be his selfie game on Twitter. Never mind that he had a disastrous partial-term as Sheriff, and that his successor has been forced to attempt to rebuild morale and salvage a department that has been left in shambles, his opponents are not challenging him when he speaks on law enforcement.

In a sane world, the mess that was the Harris County Jail system would be an anchor around Garcia's neck as he tried to float to the top of the heap. In the Houston area, where true leadership is a mirage, he's actually considered a viable candidate.  While I don't think he's the shoo-in to make the run off as is Turner, I definitely think he's the 2nd most-likely candidate in the race and one of only two candidates that I give positive odds to.

Garcia doesn't have the natural political patronage that Turner enjoys, but he's going to garner quite a bit of support from the Hispanic community regardless of his record. As with Turner, this allows Garcia to run a campaign without really mentioning the issues.  Right now his strategy seems to be to kiss the women and slap the babies while hoping no one notices that his trunk of ideas has cartoon moths flying out of it.

The 2nd Tier
3. Ben Hall (+250) I struggled just a little bit placing Ben Hall this high.  Then I realized that, amazingly, he's emerging as the chosen candidate for the counter-conservative GOP movement in Harris County. Given that and his work to gain support from Evangelicals and I think this is about right.

Hall has decided to embrace the anti-HER Ordinance crowd at the risk of inflaming the GLBTIQ community. He's doing this in an effort to grab votes from his conservative opponents, as well as gain key endorsements from Pastors targeted by Mayor Annise Parker as she fought to pass HER Ordinance. Early results suggest that this has been successful, but I'm not sure just how successful they will be over time.

This is especially true when you consider Hall has decided to go against the Police Union which will anger some (although not all) of the conservative vote that he's trying to court.  Hall is a candidate that is trying to serve two masters and I've a feeling this, and the fact that he's just not all that strong of a candidate, will cause him to fall short.
4. Chris Bell (+500) I realize what you're saying here. "Wait, Chris Bell?!?  THAT Chris Bell?!? He of the 'moonshot for education' and many failed attempts at office?!?"

Yup, THAT Chris Bell. Chris Bell who seems to have around 10-15% of the Inside the Loop, progressive vote just because of name ID.  A guy who has never met an issue he doesn't like provided it has the potential to raise campaign funds. A man who has continued to show his illegitimacy as a front-line candidate by focusing on issues that are not of primary import to the long-term health of the city.

That is what Chris Bell has always been, a second-tier candidate with unserious ideas who has been willing to take one for the Democratic team if need be.  At some point, I imagine that he'll find a place to run where he's unopposed by a serious challenger and will settle into a cushy government role in the mold of Orlando Sanchez. Until then, he's the humorous candidate in the race, but he does come with a natural constituency (White, relatively well-off, Inner-Loop progressives) so that has to be factored in.

The 3rd Tier
5. Bill King (+750) Right now, I'm struggling to find a path to victory for King.  Of all the candidates he seems to have the clearest message (Back to Basics) and a natural constituency (Conservatives) but he has done a horrible job, so far, consolidating both.

My gut feeling is that King is taking certain votes for granted, assuming they have nowhere else to go, something that has already been proven false by some contra-GOP members supporting either Hall or (wait for it) Chris Bell to some degree.

At this point I'm at a loss to say how King makes the run-off considering what's in front of him and his candidacy's seeming unwillingness to play for the win.  We've seen the results of the "run for the runoff" strategy (Orlando Sanchez, Roy Morales, although King is a better candidate than both combined) and I think we're seeing a repeat of this here.  Were I in the endorsing business, I might give the nod to King, but then again I might not as I've yet to see from him the ability to be the common-sense leader of his campaign that he says he's going to be for the City. As a good friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, stated: (paraphrased) King's seems to be struggling to cover the 'basics' of campaigning, much less governing.  Forgetting all of that, I think the conservative split is going to doom his chances.
6. Stephen Costello (+1000) Like Garcia, I think Costello enters this race with more negatives positives and more baggage than any other candidate. He's trying to position himself as a conservative option in a city where he's proven open to crony capitalism on the municipal level (not illegal mind you, just very un-conservative) and he was the primary architect behind RenewHouston, which is a troubling morass of a tax increase that's been slapped down by the Texas Supreme Court.

The most amazing thing?  Again, his opponents seem reluctant to point this out.  Either they lack the political will to do so or they realize that the presence of a fairly unaccountable slush-fund for infrastructure projects provides a future Mayor with a big political hammer is a very big prize. Unfortunately, for them, it's looking more and more likely that the slush fund will not be around and the Costello campaign will fail to make many waves.

What Costello can do is siphon enough votes from the King campaign to keep a conservative out of the run-off. I don't think this is his goal but I do think its how he's currently positioned and what his role will ultimately be.  Saying that however, I'm unsure if the City of Houston conservative voting bloc is a.) big enough to make much impact and b.) organized with enough solidarity to matter.
7. Marty McVey (+Whatever) Give him this much, McVey is hanging in there and he's showing up at all of the forums and he's parroting the progressive line.  His problem is that there are four candidates in this race that are a.) more well known in the progressive community than he and b.) much better at this politics thing.

I consider this race political training for McVey, who needs to learn the political truism that you should start small and work your way up.  After the Ted Cruz/Senate thing, more and more candidates are jumping in at levels above their station and running for offices they are not ready to occupy.  This is NOT an elitist view, but just reality.  You deal with the same thing at your job, probably, when 2- 3-year employees suddenly think they're management material.

I expect we'll see McVey running for City Council or some other office in a future election, and given the amount of name recognition he's currently building, I expect that he'll have a successful go at it.  Whether or not he'll be very good at the job is another matter entirely.

McVey strikes me as someone who's a little fluid in his political make-up, who's just a bit squiggly on his core values. A lot of his political rhetoric smacks of "me-too!" rather than well thought out, reasoned political thought and he's not near as good as sound-byte politics as Turner or Garcia. He's the long-shot, and I don't see that changing.

As I wrap this up I'd like to remind everyone of a couple of important items:

1. We're a LONG way away from election season. - As a matter of fact, we probably won't see things kick into high gear until after Labor Day.

2. As a result, this could change. - We are 'just one gaffe away' from everything being flipped on its head.

There is a possibility that one candidate will change tactics and begin to hit the others on their weaknesses. If this happens, and if they have enough money and an effective team, then this could turn around.  We're sure to see a negative ad before this race is over. I'm betting the Ben Hall campaign launches it, but I've been wrong (many times) before.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Presumptuous Blogging: Things you should read (08/11/2015)

We are smack-dab in the middle of silly season......

Dear Beyonce, please save HER Ordinance. Despite the fact that you are a New Yorker, and have few remaining ties to Houston, pretty please?

Let's force airlines to cut fees because Something! must be done. Which, by the by, can be somewhat avoided through planning etc. What cannot be avoided are the resulting higher fares that would result from fees going away. The law of unintended consequences and what-not.

Politics is killing horse-racing in Texas. This despite the fact that the sport is flourishing Nationwide. Sen. Nelson seems bound and determined to protect the State monopoly on gambling in the form of the Texas Lottery.

It's strange to see Adrian Garcia promoting an endorsement that went to another candidate.  Welcome to the "We're number 2!" theory of campaigning for Houston Mayor. (See also: Bill King, Stephen Costello, Ben Hall and Chris Bell) [On another note: Is a group who claims Jolanda Jones as a leader really a group whose endorsement should be coveted?  Discuss]

Speaking of the election for Houston Mayor. The TV ads they are a'comin. You've been warned. (It would have been nice if they waited until after the beginning of football season.)

I give you peak crazy in the feminist movement. We are there.

More on HER Ordinance. Given all of the problems Houston is currently facing. How much of a priority would this be if Houston had something resembling leadership?

One of the biggest lies foisted on the American people are US Economic 'jobs' reports.

It appears Rick Perry may be the first to go. I always thought his window closed in a whirl of 'Oops.' four years ago. It seems I was not mistaken. This is too bad because he seems to have found his stride as a candidate recently.

First they lie about the potholes. Next thing you know they won't be shooting straight about the depths of Houston's financial problems......oh, wait.

We run a lot of red lights in Houston, and a lot of people die as a result. - Cue the "Red Light Cameras Now!" crowd who are, again, attempting to place a Band-Aid on the cancer of bad-driving in Houston.

Six places to avoid in Houston if you value your sanity. If you are still an "undecided" voter, knowing what we know about Houston and its current condition.......

And finally.....

Hard Knocks on HBO premiers tonight. Which I will be watching and so should you if you can.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Presumptuous Blogging: Things you should read (08/06/15)

"Curiouser and curiouser" said the cat.

Ken Paxton sure is in the news a lot lately. Sadly for him and his supporters, not for doing his elected job so much as running afoul of the system of justice. (I leave it to you to decide on your own whether the charges are valid or not)

Speaking of which, Pulitzer Prize giftee, Lisa Falkenberg weighs in with something about towels and her former HS graduation backdrop.  Of course she did.

Garnet Coleman and the alleged racist traffic stop that wasn't.  Turns out dash-cam video can unearth political jiggery-pokery as well as police malfeasance.

In Spieler's world, adjusting bus routes to help 0.03% (What is that about 10 people?) of riders is a worthy and noble cause.  Job done here, on to fun things like Metrorail pub crawls, weddings and figuring out how to keep the poor and unwashed off of Houston's modern, sleek transit plaything.

Mayor Annise would like for you to please remember that HER Ordinance is NOT her signature issue.  This despite the fact that she has termed it 'personal' and has put the more pressing issue of pension reform (and city finances) on the back burner to help push it through.

Things you won't see on ChronBlog:  Why do people not want Tesla cars? Of course, it's hard to get real science reporting when the "science" reporter is too busy penning love letters to Elon Musk, dabbling at being a weatherman without a degree in meteorology and trying to ensure that everyone is convinced we are living on a superheated rock that's in danger of melting our faces off.  Other than that.....Science!!!

The City of Houston vs. Black Churches? - Of course, Parker says that the Houston Housing Authority is NOT the City of Houston. Never mind that she appointed the current head of the organization. (To be fair, in Parker's world she ended homelessness in Houston and fixed the city's currently crumbling infrastructure so there's that)

Any 'clean power' plan that downgrades the focus on natural gas is not, in any way, about 'clean' power. - It's about damaging a certain class of political donor who tends to give the majority of their money to the other side.

In reality, ALL news video is "highly edited" to make things more shocking. - What the media is not saying is that, unlike say....60 Minutes, the group that ran the stings on Planned Parenthood also released the unedited, raw footage.  This proves the fact that in politics, it's not what's real but what you can make the uninformed THINK is real.

And finally....perhaps the best insight into the idiocy of local political thinking that you will ever find, courtesy of the Chron's Grey Matters blog-type thingy....

a city council member has informed him that she is trying to find a way to amend the ordinance so that he can keep his kites on display. His solution? "Businesses whose majority of sales come from kites would be exempt."

*drops mike*

Tales of a sub-par media outlet: Anonymous comments bring the fun(ny).

Of all the angst and moaning over HER Ordinance heading to the voters, some of the funniest comes from the anonymous commenters on

HER Ordinance heads to voters in November. Katherine Driessen,

From "Blue Texas" in the comments:

What a great opportunity for us to vote on other peoples(sic) rights. Maybe we should revisit "colored" folks using white drinking fountains, or sitting on the front of the bus. How about we put(sic) women's right to vote on the ballot?

Or better yet, how about we have a vote, in Houston, on castrating every white male republican we find within the city limits after sundown.(sic)

If this was political parody it would be well played.

But it's not. It's what passes for an attempt at real political satire by some (not all) in what's left of the Texas Democratic Party.

Want to know (one reason) why you're losing votes folks?

Beyond that it's probably worthwhile to take a look at some of the finer points in Mr. Blue's commentary....

What a great opportunity for us to vote on other peoples(sic) rights. Maybe we should revisit "colored" folks using white drinking fountains, or sitting on the front of the bus. How about we put(sic) women's right to vote on the ballot?

Except that, those rights are protected by either Federal statute, or Constitutional Amendment and cannot be overridden by a Houston city ordinance or election. From a Federal perspective, the GLBTIQ community is NOT currently a protected class.  This is what's known as a straw man argument.  It's also a non-sequitur.  For a straw-man to be effective it has to be realistic and illustrative.  This is neither.

Perhaps there is something to the argument that the recognition (not granting, the government cannot "grant" rights) of rights for a minority class should not be subject to the whims of the majority.  I am OK with the validity of this and think it's an important part of the American experiment. What IS (and should be) subject to the voter is how their elected officials choose to word that recognition. In this case, in her haste to make HER Ordinance what she wanted it to be, Mayor Parker chose some pretty dodgy wording that could have many unintended consequences going forward.

I am all for the GLBTIQ community's civil rights being recognized, but I (and others) have some fairly legitimate concerns about the 'gender self-identity' language that was inserted into the ordinance. It was way too broad and left way too much room for misinterpretation.  A tighter, more focused bill would still have detractors but it would probably also garner enough public support to pass. My contention on this has never been that it's a bad issue (maybe odd timing considering all of the other, more pressing, problems Houston is facing) only a bad ordinance.

Maybe, instead of building straw men and trying to roll back the Civil Rights Act and all of the Supreme Court rulings surrounding it, sensible people should work to craft a better ordinance?

Or better yet, how about we have a vote, in Houston, on castrating every white male republican we find within the city limits after sundown.(sic)

Snicker.  Try as I might I cannot come up with a rebuttal that's funnier than this statement just presented on its own.  That the writer thought it clever makes it funnier still.

I've been accused, by many, of being angry on this blog.  Those who know me understand just how wrong that accusation is. In fact, I'm very happy, and when I blog it's always with a chuckle, even on serious issues such as this. There is little funnier than the political class running amok and the responses of  the courtesan class that attempt to justify the same. If you want to see real, impotent, lashing-out at others political anger go read the comments on  Especially if you're feeling down and need a laugh (or three).

If you're Republican however I might suggest you avoid Mr. Blue after sundown.  He's probably against trophy hunting of animals, but I'm willing to bet he'd create a viewing room for his collection of Republican trunks.  (Yeouch!)

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vaccum: For HER Ordinance: Commence Shenanigans.

Political truism:  Any time a politician is personally invested in a law, if they consider it either a "personal crusade" or a "legacy builder" for instance, you can be sure that they will do whatever they can to keep the law on the books.

We've already seen this with Mayor Parker and HER Ordinance.  From attempting to stamp out opposition through confiscatory subpoenas to illegally overriding the City's procedures for voter referendum certification (to a point that the Texas Supreme Court issued not only a stay, but also a directive to either repeal or put the issue to vote) we've seen the mean, petty side of Parker on display over this act.

In what is sure to not be the last act of a desperate woman, we now see the all to familiar attempt to make yes equal no and no equal yes.....

Ballot language Questioned in Equal Rights Ordinance. Doug Miller,

Here's the ballot language as it appears on the city council agenda:

"Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual's sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?"

There is a legal question as to whether or not this election is a repeal election, or whether Parker here is complying with the ruling of the court which states:

The Relators assert that under the Houston Charter, after the City Secretary certifies the
petition’s sufficiency, the City Council has a ministerial duty to immediately reconsider the ordinance and, if it does not repeal it, put it on the November 2015 ballot.
We agree with the Relators that the City Secretary certified their petition and thereby invoked the City Council’s ministerial duty to reconsider and repeal the ordinance or submit it to popular vote.

The language within the City Charter is fairly clear, at least it seems clear enough when common sense is applied. However, Houston government is currently not operating under the established rules of common sense, but under the  drive of a Mayor who's more interested in her personal political priorities (and future political candidacies) than she is in fulfilling her duties as Mayor for all Houstonians.

Think about this:  There are Federal laws which cover every minority group within HER Ordinance except one, and it's the one with which Parker happens to identify. In contrast, there are NO Federal laws covering Houston's financial mess, the growing infrastructure decline or the lack of financial oversight on almost all areas of Houston's governance. That Parker is throwing all of her support behind the former, while all but ignoring the latter, speaks volumes about whether she's governing, or trying to create a personal legacy as a launch pad for future, personal, political gain.

If anything, Houston's elected leaders should submit a straight-forward Her Ordinance proposal to the voters, asking them to either approve the ordinance or reject it, and turn their focus to more pressing problems than who uses what potty and whether or not city buildings have gardens on the roofs or are LEED certified.

Parker has stated that pension reform and the City budget are going to be items for "the next Mayor to deal with".  I would argue the counter. What Parker should do is focus on the larger items at hand, push to repeal the poorly-crafted HER Ordinance and let a Mayor who has less skin in the game give it another go.  This would not preclude Parker from being an advocate for the New ERO as a private citizen.  As a matter of fact, I would hope she would still choose to do so.

Maybe with a little bit more measured thought and a little less "this is very personal to me" anger we can end up with something better than the Grand Urinal Bargain of 2014.

I realize, of course, that this is a pipe dream.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Presumptuous Blogging: Things you should read. (08/03/2015)

Lots of stuff to catch up on....

Mayor Annise Parker is going all in to save HER Ordinance. - At the cost of the City of Houston's long-term financial future. 

What the Chron thinks is valuable political reporting. - Or, it could be said, that this is what certain Chron reporters are into these days.....

The TLSPM "gets" what Perry's victory means. - They're just angry because of what it means so they're trying to downplay it. (This is a group that tried, and failed, for years to 'get' Perry. Now what they viewed as their best chance is slipping away.)

Speaking of HER Ordinance... - The Pastors that were (perhaps unconstitutionally?) targeted by the administration are fighting back.

It's a little ironic that HER Ordinance is hurting those she wants to most support. - This is what happens when a politician gets "personal" and stops doing the job for which she was elected.

And then there's this. - Parker's single-mindedness on preserving HER Ordinance is threatening to make some pretty drastic changes to City Charter that could take a while to unwind. The damage could be very real.

Paxton to surrender, wrong questions being asked. - Why do you need to register with the State to provide investment advice anyway?

Perry has quietly been having some pretty solid policy speeches of late.  While "oops" is what the TLSPM would like you to remember the truth is Perry, of whom I'm no fan, has been knocking it out of the park lately, for the most part.

Fikac's obsession with Patrick's Facebook continues. - Her writing is just getting weirder and weirder.

The dumbing down of politics is a habit at the Chron. - First porn stars now Game of Thrones. Next we'll be seeing Nick Anderson try to do a Doonesbury knock off.

For your enjoyment, an article on smoked boudin. Maybe the most important piece of journalism appearing in the Chron this month.

Preserving wetlands in a coastal area is a worthy goal. - But I doubt the critics, or the Chron, realize what their goal of ultimate preservation truly means.

"What part of safety don't you understand?" With METRO and her supporters, it's always the rubes that live in Houston's fault. Never mind that the design is faulty.