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August 12th, 2006:

Will Cuellar have a challenger?

Rep. Henry Cuellar visited Hidalgo County late last week to meet and greet with the new constituents of CD28, and to maybe stave off a strong challenge from someone there who doesn’t want to be represented by a Laredoan.

Come next year, District 28, which he now represents, will include all of Starr County and parts of Hidalgo County as well.

“I actually asked for this area, so I hope I can represent this area for a long time,” says Cuellar.

But local democratic leaders have other ideas for the district, including a candidate’s who’s homegrown.

Hidalgo County’s Democratic Party chairman Juan Maldonado tells Action 4 News he’s narrowed the list of potential challengers to just two.

370th District Court Judge Noe Gonzalez and 13th Court of Appeals Judge Linda Yanez.

“Why is it important to have a local candidate? Two reasons. Because local of course means having them close to us and representing us directly. But more than that Henry Cuellar is a Republican. He’s running as a Democrat, but he is Republican,” says Maldonado.

Why might Maldonado feel that way about Cuellar? This might explain it.

The so-called “aggressive” congressman says he gets so much done because he is non-partisan.

In fact, Cuellar endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, and after that, Gov. Rick Perry against fellow Laredo leader Tony Sanchez.

Seventy percent of the time, he said, he votes Democrat.

“I’m Democratic but my loyalty is to my district, not to my party,” he said.

Seventy percent isn’t very much these days, given the parliamentary style of Congress. And it’s not so much the number of times he votes with the Republicans but the bills on which he jumps ship. The bankruptcy bill, for one. (To be fair, he’s not alone on that score. Chet Edwards and Al Green have some explaining to do, too.)

Having said that, a review of Cuellar’s record, when he’s not cozying up to Rick Perry and George Bush, isn’t that bad. He did some good things in the State House, such as author the CHIP bill, and he’s talking sensibly about immigration. But let’s just say he’s going to be viewed with suspicion for some time to come.

Cuellar says he intends to do his best to represent the Valley and its interest, but tells us he’s confident he’ll win … with or without its support.

“When you look at the numbers that are produced here, there was 9,600 the last non-presidential election, precinct by precinct in this part of Hidalgo County. Webb County produced over 40,000 … that’s almost four to one,” says Cuellar.

If those 9600 help keep Cuellar from getting too far out of line, I’ll be satisfied. Mostly, anyway. Thanks to Jeff N. and South Texas Chisme for the links.

A different kind of mixed reaction

The beginning of this story about a Metro public hearing regarding a rail corridor will probably sound familiar to you.

Sentiment was split regarding the pros and cons of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s alignment plans for its North Corridor bus rapid transit line at a public hearing Saturday at Davis High School, 1101 Quitman.

The 250 people who attended Metro’s second and final public hearing on the plans were equally split among those who want the project to move forward as quickly as possible and those who oppose Metro’s proposals.

Opposition concerns ranged from the line’s proposed route from the Main Street light rail line to Northline Mall and its effect on northside neighborhoods.

Sounds like another Universities situation, right? Not quite.

They also questioned why the light rail line, initially proposed for the corridor in the Metro Solutions referendum of 2003, had been changed to a bus rapid transit line.


Moses Villalpando, president of the North Lindale Civic Association, said the change from light rail to bus is one of the reasons he is protesting the current plan.

“We voted for light rail, not for buses,” Villalpando said.

As I understand it, the neighborhood associations in this area are all very much in favor of getting this line built. They just want it built as light rail, as was originally proposed. More on this in a minute.

Current alignment options begin at the University of Houston’s downtown campus and head north on Main Street, stopping at a new intermodal facility at Burnett.

The line would continue north on Main to Boundary, then head east to connect with Fulton.

The next segment of the line would either continue north on Fulton or Irvington. The Irvington alignment would turn west on Cavalcade and connect back to Fulton. It would then follow Fulton north to Northline Mall.

Each bus would carry a maximum of 90 passengers. Light rail trains have a 200-passenger capacity.

A number of residents expressed concern over the Irvington alignment, and lobbied for the line to follow Fulton from Boundary to the mall.

“We do not need Irvington Boulevard destroyed,” said Virginia Duke, a Lindale Park resident.

Said North Lindale resident John Buck, “Fulton would have significantly less of an impact on the neighborhood.”

As it happens, Virginia is a friend of mine. I talked to her about this story last night. The residents want it built on Fulton because Irvington has an esplanade, which the neighborhood association built and pays to maintain, that would have to be removed for the tracks. The folks there also believe having the line on Irvington would split the neighborhood. Fulton, by contrast, is less residential, and as far as Virginia knows no one actually opposes building it there. She believes the driving force behind the Irvington proposal is the Harris County Department of Education, whose office building is on Irvington.

Despite concerns about the proposed route, safety and the potential taking of property, many voiced support for the North Corridor.

They included U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Gene Green, D-Houston, and At-Large Houston City Councilman Peter Brown.

“This is a safe, quiet, fuel-efficient alternative,” Brown said. “It’s good for neighborhoods, it’s good for property values and it creates jobs.”

Said Northside resident Mary Almendarez, “We voted for this, we need it and we want it. We need to find a way to make people happy.”

Virginia was emphatic about the neighborhood associations being in favor of this line getting built. The comment she told me she made at the meeting was “We were promised this in 2008, and now it’s going to be 2010. I just hope y’all build it before we all need to be carried to the ribbon cutting.”

Denton County Young Democrats

Please welcome the Denton County Young Democrats to the Texas ‘sphere. John McClelland tells us a bit more about their launch as both an organization and a blog. Welcome aboard, y’all.


I got an email yesterday about an effort called OneWebDay, which is scheduled for September 22, that sounds interesting. Here’s a description.

The Web is worth celebrating.

OneWebDay is one day a year when we all – everyone around the physical globe – can celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities.

As with Earth Day – an inspiration and model for OneWebDay – it’s up to the celebrants to decide how to celebrate. We encourage all celebrations! Collaboration, connection, creativity, freedom.

By the end of the day, the Web should be just a little bit better than it was before, and we’ll be able to see our connection to it more clearly.

I like to think that I celebrate the web every day, but if this tickles your creative side, follow the link to the OneWebDay site and find a way to express it. They can help if you’ve got something collaborative in mind, and they’ll link back to your project since that’s what this is all about. Check it out.