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August 3rd, 2006:

DeLay loses appeal

Hot off the presses.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay must stay on the November ballot for the office he resigned from in June, according to a lawyer for the Texas Democratic Party.

Details of the ruling were not immediately available.

Democrats sued Texas Republican Chairman Tina Benkiser had violated state law and the U.S. Constitution in declaring DeLay ineligible for office so the party could replace him on the ballot.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin ageed with the Democrats’ position last month and issued an injunction against Benkiser.

The GOP appealed the decision to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit.

A panel of two Democratic presidential appointees and one Republican appointee heard the case on Monday in New Orleans.

Republican lawyer James Bopp Jr. has said the party will appeal again, if it lost the ruling before the panel. The party could ask the full 5th Circuit to hear their appeal, or they could take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the AP, the decision, which you can read here (PDF), was unanimous. While there may yet be more appeals, Hotline on Call says:

Our TV editor, Emily Goodin, reminds us of what DeLay said last night on Hannity and Colmes:

Tom DeLay: “The courts look like they want to keep me on the ballot. The Democrats don’t want to give our people a choice. And if I’m forced to be on the ballot, I’m going to be on the ballot” (“Hannity & Colmes,” FNC, 8/2).

To which I say: Bring it on. The Stakeholder has the reaction from Nick Lampson. Finally, BOR has some choice excerpts from the ruling.

Is this the end of the legal wrangling? What excuse will the Republicans give for this setback? Stay tuned and find out.

UPDATE: The RPT will appeal to the Supreme Court. As TPMMuckraker says, just how badly does DeLay want off the balllot? Pretty damn badly, it would seem.

UPDATE: Rick Hasen adds his analysis of the ruling.

[T]he Republican Party cannot get around the fact that while there is an effort to declare DeLay ineligible because he moved out of state, he in fact voluntarily withdrew from the race he was already in. For these reasons, I expect further appeals to fail.

BOR has more, including a pithy quote from Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie.

UPDATE: How could I overlook The Muse, who had three good posts on this topic? And if you’re wondering what happened to those amicus briefs that were filed on DeLay’s behalf, Juanita has the answer.

Warren Moon

Oldtime Houston Oilers fans ought to enjoy this retrospective on the life and times of Warren Moon, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend. A little sample:

Clyde Walker had a brown Ford Falcon. Warren Moon needed a ride. And they have rolled together since high school, paving memory lane – Moon playing disc jockey to Walker’s driver and playing keyboard on the dashboard.

Walker was there for the death threats before a game against Crenshaw High – and the five touchdowns Moon threw as he shrugged them off. And the high-school all-star game Moon wasn’t invited to that they watched together, in silence, from the stands.

“People just had no sense of what he was capable of,” Walker says. “Just like at UW.”

[…]

Walker put up with racist slurs bandied around the stands, listened to fans question his friend’s intelligence, until he could take no more. Then he stood up, started talking back and only narrowly avoided several fights.

“It was tough to listen to the ignorance, to listen to the racism, to listen to the frustration a lot of fans were feeling,” Walker says. “They didn’t get it. I felt sorry for some of those people.”

They feel sorry, too. People have approached Moon in the years since he led the Huskies out of obscurity and to a 1978 Rose Bowl victory, grown men, bawling, asking for forgiveness.

“Those were some bittersweet days,” Moon says. “I learned a lot about people. I learned about how tough I was. And I learned a lot about adversity and success.”

[…]

Looking to leave Canada for the NFL, [Moon and agent Leigh Steinberg] took a secret visit to Houston in the middle of the night, went to the Oilers’ facility when no one was around, ate dinner at an obscure downtown restaurant.

Seven teams were interested in Moon. Houston owner Bud Adams promised oil fields. New Orleans took the duo on a boat, pointed at the skyline and said, “All this can be yours.” They arrived in New York City at 5 a.m., trash strewn in the streets, two cab drivers fighting on the curb.

The headline the next day in a New York tabloid read: Spaced-out Giants Shoot for the Moon.

They narrowed the list to two teams: Houston and Seattle. Both teams offered $5.5 million for five years, the largest contract in NFL history at the time. Only Houston offered $4.5 million as a signing bonus, the Seahawks only $1.1 million. Houston hired Hugh Campbell, Moon’s coach in Edmonton, at the last minute.

To this day, Moon swears he wanted to sign with the Seahawks. But $4.5 million guaranteed was too much to pass up.

Congratulations to Warren Moon for his well-deserved enshrinement.

Metro will press on

Despite the entirely predictable opposition from Rep. John Culberson, Metro will keep doing its ridership studies and eventually announce its intended route for the Universities line.

In response to Culberson’s request, addressed to board chairman David Wolff, the Metropolitan Transit Authority issued a statement saying that the 2003 referendum, in which voters narrowly approved light rail expansions, “called on Metro to seek federal funding to help pay the costs and we’ll continue following the federal process so as to secure these funds.”

The statement added that Metro “remains committed to open dialogue and communication with all points of view” and to “balancing competing needs to improve mobility for the city and region.”

Opponents note that the referendum ballot specified a Westpark rail line and did not mention Richmond.

Metro contends the ballot language referred to corridors in which it can choose a specific route based on ridership, cost and other factors.

Although the federal funding process will continue through 2007, Metro staff expects to recommend a route for more detailed study by Tuesday.

According to Christof, there are seven options currently in play. He analyzes the various population figures for each, and also gives some more data on the Richmond options, and discusses the possible variations on the TSU end of the line. Check them out.

Meanwhile, the Chron gives Culberson the backhand he deserves.

It’s fitting that Rep. John Culberson chose a Montrose area hot dog eatery as the site to declare his opposition to the use of any part of Richmond for the westside portion of the light rail University corridor. Instead of providing responsible leadership, the 7th District GOP official is attempting to score political points with a highly vocal anti-rail minority at the expense of everyone else.

Last year Culberson joined then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in supporting the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s successful bid for federal funding for a regional transit plan that included westside rail. But old political habits die hard, and Culberson now seems to be reverting to his past political stance as a knee-jerk opponent to all things rail.

In letters to Mayor Bill White and Metro chairman David Wolff, Culberson makes the factually unsupported claim that 97 percent of the people who live, work or own property on Richmond strongly oppose Metro’s plans. Since the transit agency is considering a number of options for either putting rail along all of Richmond or utilizing crossover routes at various points to Westpark, one wonders what crystal ball the congressman was using to come up with those numbers.

Since more than 700 residents have signed petitions supporting rail and the operators of Greenway Plaza and other major businesses on Richmond have welcomed it, Culberson’s 97 percent figure is nothing more than political wishful thinking. Culberson’s clout on the congressional committee that apportions federal transit dollars has given him his power to hold the region’s entire mobility plan hostage to his own political agenda. In his letter to the mayor he singled out White and himself “as the two elected officials with primary responsibility for mass transit funding in Houston to protect our constituents and to ensure that their nearly unanimous decision is honored.” The congressman has got it wrong. Only Mayor White is responsible for the city’s needs as a whole and near unanimity has never been a requirement for civic progress.

In any major public works project, there will be opposition from some homeowners and businesses. As Metro supporters note, Culberson had no problem with supporting the condemnation of hundreds of properties in the expansion of the Katy Freeway.

Culberson’s Democratic opponent in the November elections, Jim Henley, believes that this is a local issue and “we should follow the leadership of the mayor, Metro and City Council.”

Will they remember this editorial at endorsement time? We’ll see.

Finally, RichmondRail.org has some information on an interesting pro-Richmond advocate. Click the More link to read about him. Hey, Culberson, did you count this guy in your bogus 97% statistic?

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Another River Oaks Theater update

Houstonist is staying on top of the River Oaks Theater situation, with another update about response to the reports that the historic theater may soon face an ignominious demise. Supporters of the theater took their case to a mostly sympathetic City Council on Tuesday.

“This is about more than the River Oaks theater,” said at-large council member Peter Brown, a registered architect. “This is about more than historic preservation. People are seeing that because Houston has been so reluctant to enact basic standards, the city is losing its character. We’re losing the soul of the city.”

Mayor Bill White said he has appointed at-large council member Sue Lovell to “take a look at where we go next.” Proposals include identifying culturally significant buildings; creating significant tax incentives for owners to preserve them; and enforcing a waiting period for public comment before their demolition.

None of those proposals sound particularly onerous to me; I’d have to think that anything involving a tax break for preservation will be received reasonably well. I’ll be very interested to see what Council Member Lovell comes up with.

Naturally, there was some skepticism:

At the council meeting two people voiced reluctance to pursue a wider-ranging preservation ordinance. “I don’t want to become a city developers don’t want to do business in because we change the rules,” said council member Michael Berry.

Property-rights activist Barry Klein agreed. He added that preserving an owner’s rights should trump historic preservation. But even Klein admitted a soft spot for the theater. “I personally signed that petition,” he said.

If we were talking about a situation where the rules were constantly being tinkered with, then I could sympathize with Berry’s argument. But doing what I think a lot of people (myself included) would say is a long overdue review of the city’s historic preservation rules is hardly pulling the rug out from under developers. Sure, it’s possible to go overboard, but does anyone think that’s even remotely likely to happen? Let’s at least see what our options are and go from there.

As for Klein’s concern, again I’d say that going the tax incentive route should alleviate them. All that does is give developers and property owners another option, one they can choose or choose to ignore as they see fit. If that gets put on the table, I’d think it would be acceptible. But I guess we’ll see.

Also via Houstonist, a reminder that it’s not just the River Oaks Theater that may be imperiled.

Tucked discreetly behind the theater building, its entrance unmarked, lurks the Marfreless couch bar, whose regulars fear losing their unique refuge to the wrecking ball.

“I feel that the charm is going to be lost,” said Alicia Pekmezaris about the changes to the shopping center and how it will affect the neighborhood.

The bar does not advertise, except through word of mouth. The music is soft, usually classical, intended to facilitate conversation.

“Even if the bar is still here, I don’t think people will enjoy going to a bookstore before a movie. I think people will prefer going to a bar where they can have a world-class martini,” Pekmezaris said.

As I’ve noted before, Marfreless is owned by my cousin-in-law. I sent him an informal inquiry about the bar’s status when the River Oaks story first broke, and he didn’t know any more about what might happen than I did at that time. I’ll have to check with him again soon and see if that has changed.