November 03, 2006
"Getting Schooled"

The Press has a great cover story on Jim Henley and his campaign for Congress. If only the Chronicle expended this kind of energy covering non-top tier local races! There's a lot of good stuff about Henley's teaching career and how it helped him recruit a huge number of volunteers, about John Culberson's continued descent into madness (Does his call to "carpet bomb" Iraq mean we can quit pretending this war was ever about spreading freedom and democracy? And where (and how) does he propose to relocate the women and children to before we start?), and about an issue I've touched on, that of Richmond rail.

One problem for Henley -- well, one problem beyond the fact the district is gerrymandered for a Republican -- is the inner-loop neighborhoods along Richmond. Usually they could be relied on for some Democratic support, but they are mightily pissed at Metro for trying to build a light-rail line through their neighborhoods. Culberson has made clear he agrees with them, and if reelected he'd be a formidable ally for the residents. (Although perhaps not as formidable as in the past, if Democrats take control of the House.)

Henley says it's not the job of a congressman to say where the line should go; that should be left to local residents and officials. That stance will cost him some votes he'd normally get, and he's not really in a position where he can be writing off too many of those.

I'm still not sure what kind of effect the rail issue will have, but I'm trying to get a better handle on it. I did a little driving around the area at lunchtime, and afterwards sent an email to story author Rich Connelly, excerpted here:

As far as how pissed the residents are, I'm not so sure I buy it. I grant you, the folks on Richmond itself are pro-Culberson and anti-rail. But I drove around the area today, and outside of Richmond itself, there's no other evidence of this. Go down Portsmouth or Colquit, both of which are one block away from Richmond, and you'll see almost nothing but Henley (and Ellen Cohen) signs, with a nontrivial number of signs for good measure. I checked several blocks between Alabama and Bissonet, and it was the same everywhere. I didn't see a single pro-Culberson or anti-rail sign anywhere but on Richmond itself.

Now maybe there are folks who agree with Culberson on these streets but choose to remain silent about it. Maybe just having the Culberson signage on Richmond is enough to sway the folks who live and drive there. All I'm saying is that the visible pro-Culberson forces are (as far as I can tell; I haven't driven the whole area yet, just some of it) confined to Richmond itself.

We'll see. Meantime, read the article. Kudos to Connelly and the Press for taking the time to write it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 03, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

If only the Chronicle expended this kind of energy covering non-top tier local races!

The Chronicle has a mainstream audience. I would certainly welcome more of a local/regional emphasis (and the shuttering of that useless D.C. bureau), but I don't know why anyone would expect a mainstream newspaper to go overboard with fawning profiles of fringe lefty candidates. I know the TexRoots has a high opinion of itself, but I think Jack Sweeney aims for a broader and larger subscriber base (not that the editorial page is always reflective). :)

That said, this story fit well in the local alt-weekly, which has a different audience and a different focus. And the photograph of Henley was awesome.

Posted by: kevin whited on November 3, 2006 8:09 AM

Geez, Kevin, you're the one who's always calling for the Chron to shutter its DC bureau in favor of more local coverage. Does that not include candidate profiles, or do you only want them to cover stories that interest you?

Even I wouldn't expect the Chron to do this long a story on any candidate, but the lack of in depth information about local candidates whose names aren't Lampson or Sekula Gibbs is a glaring shortfall on their part.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 3, 2006 9:30 AM

On another note, I was totally inspired by what a great teacher he seems to be--democracy thrives on energy like that described in the article and lived out by all the students and former students. Great piece--glad you brought it to my attention!

Posted by: Melissa Noriega on November 4, 2006 4:20 AM

Dear Letters Editor:

In your story about Henley, your writer asserts that there is a strong base of support for Culberson because of the Rail issue. The fact is more people support Richmond Rail than oppose it. While most of the businesses along Richmond have been against rail because of an organized effort of Fear mongering by the Afton Oaks Community, there is very strong support for rail inside the communities along Richmond. In fact our organization has collected over 2500 signatures in support. Furthermore, drive up and down streets near Richmond and you will see many of our signs that support rail on Richmond. The problem is that we have not gotten in Metro's face or been given equal time in the press or on talk radio ( KSEV host Ed Hendee has a special relationship with Culberson).

What you have in the anti rail folks is a very vocal minority who has been used by Culberson. Just look to see who Culberson's contributors are to see why he bulldozed small businesses on the Katy Freeway but suddenly he is a hero to the small businesses along Richmond. Culberson wants more roads and no rail despite what his constituents want. Culberson's 2 billion $$ fiasco on the Katy freeway has made Rumsfeld look like Patton!!!

Culberson may win but he is vulnerable from a moderate Republican because he has been in constant opposition to rail at the expense of his constituents, just look at the groups that have lined up against Culberson on the rail issue (see Everybody from the Greater Houston Partnership to the Menil Collection would like rail on Richmond.

There is a story that you paper is missing about Rail. 1) How many people support rail 2) Culberson's opposition to it 3) the lobbyist who are telling him to oppose rail and who they represent 4) what the true cost in property taxes and loss of quality of life that Culberson's constant roadbuilding is having on Houston taxpayers.

Jonathan J. Paull
The Commercial Bank Building
917 Franklin Suite 250
Houston, Texas 77002
713 227-1525
713-227-5840 (FAX)

Jonathan Paull is one of the Directors of and a member of the Houston Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Posted by: Jonathan Paull on November 6, 2006 3:51 PM