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August 16th, 2006:

Immigration: Hearings, petitions, ads

It’s too bad this wasn’t scheduled for when the Ringling Brothers folks were here. We could have had two circuses in town at the same time. At least the protests outside were small and relatively peaceful. And may I just say that I fervently hope this is a faithful transcription and not a copy error:

About two dozen people, some waving American flags and carrying signs that read “stop the invasion protect or borders,” remained outside the courthouse once the hearing began.

I can only presume that means this guy was in attendance.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to note that the anti-immigration petitioners are now conceding that they will not qualify for the ballot this time around.

According to city law, Houston’s charter can only be changed once every two years. This fall, Mayor Bill White is proposing to alter a voter-approved limit on city revenues which was put into the charter in 2004. If the mayor’s item is passed by voters, the immigration petition can’t legally get on the ballot until November 2008.

However, if the mayor’s plan is voted down, or if it doesn’t make it onto the ballot, then an election on the immigration petition could be held as early as May 2007. That assumes the group circulating the petition gets 20,000 valid signatures from city residents approved by City Secretary Anna Russell in time.

[…]

City Council must vote to set all charter issues before they’re put on the ballot. The last council meeting before the deadline is August 23rd. City Attorney Arturo Michel says its possible someone could delay the item at that meeting, rendering it moot.

Organizers with the group ‘Protect Our Citizens’ said this week that they’ve collected thousands of signatures from people who support the proposal. They could not say when the petition might be turned in.

My understanding is that it’s not “possible” someone “could” delay the item at the next Council meeting, it’s guaranteed that someone will do so by putting a tag on it. And the reminder about one charter change per two years is nice to have. I’d be voting for the mayor’s proposed change to Prop 2 from 2004 anyway. Now I’ll feel better about it.

And finally, in the “two things are universal, hydrogen and stupidity” files, the DSCC stepped into a pile of mierda with an offensive ad that paired illegal immigration with terrorism.

The 35-second ad is posted on the Web site of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and attempts to show the failings of Republican leadership on the issue of national and international security. The ad mixes images of bin Laden, the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with footage of two people scaling a fence while the screen flash the words “millions more illegal immigrants.”

What began as an attempt to wrestle the traditionally Republican-dominated issue of security away during a hotly contested election year, instead risks driving Hispanic voters away from the Democratic Party, said Houston Councilwoman Carol Alvarado.

“You cannot compare people who come over for economic opportunities to people who are coming over to terrorize our country,” she said. “They should not be in the same message, same video or even in the same conversation.”

Alvarado wrote the committee chair, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to urge the removal of the ad and warn that the “Democratic Party can only stand to lose by alienating millions of Latino voters.”

Gerry Birnberg, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, also wrote Schumer and called for an end to donations to the campaign committee. “Give money to the candidates but not the (committee), because they are just wasting it,” he said.

Birnberg and Alvarado said they agreed with the majority of the ad and its overall criticism of Republican leadership.

“The (committee) is correct in criticizing the Republicans,” Birnberg said, “but (they were) over the top and out of line when they suggested that people coming to this country to work are somehow equivalently evil and dangerous as a madman terrorist.”

The ad is here. Birnberg is right: Edit out the bit about illegal immigration and you have a strong, effective message that doesn’t insult a large portion of the Democrats’ base. Whoever thought this up, and whoever approved it, needs to apologize and either fix or kill this. BOR, Stace (multiple posts, just start at the top and scroll down), and Marc Campos have all been on this.

City Council redistricting off the agenda

Looks like the earlier reports of City Council redistricting were premature. Apparently, there’s not a definitive answer to the question of whether or not Houston’s population now exceeds 2.1 million, which would trigger a requirement to redistrict and add two more seats.

[Mayor Bill] White thought the estimates might show the population grew to 2.1 million, triggering a City Charter provision that requires the extra single-member council districts.

But the American Community Survey, which officials say isn’t an accurate gauge for precise population totals, estimated about 1.94 million. And another census estimate, using different methods, recently showed the population only slightly over 2 million.

“We will act in good faith and compliance with the charter, but you have no official number showing population over 2.1 million,” White said. “I can’t pull a number out of the air.”

As I noted when I first blogged about this, the 2003 Census estimate of Houston’s population was just over 2 million. The official 2000 number was 1.95 million, so unless you think we’ve lost people in the last six years, I have to call into question that ACS figure.

[Former Councilman Carroll] Robinson said some estimates and forecasts have the city population at or approaching the 2.1 million benchmark.

The Texas State Data Center, for example, estimated Houston’s population was 2.05 million in January 2005, months before tens of thousands of hurricane evacuees – as many as 150,000, by some estimates – moved to the region.

[…]

State Demographer Steve Murdock, with the Texas State Data Center, said the American Community Survey data released this week wasn’t the proper type for redistricting.

He said the decennial U.S. census, which relies on a head count rather than statistical sampling, is the best source for that. He also said the latest data probably didn’t accurately reflect the city’s totals.

Each year, he said, the bureau also develops population estimates using administrative records on births, deaths and migration to gauge changes from the most recent official census. The latest of these, released in July, showed the population at 2,016,582.

That seems low to me, too. I realize now when I blogged this in December that I’d misunderstood the growth rate that the Census had cited. I thought they meant 2.9% annually, which would have easily put us over 2.1 million by now, but they really meant 2.9% cumulative from 2000 to 2003. If we assume that rate of growth from 2003 to 2006, applied to the 2003 estimated population, we get 2,067,971. Close, but no cigar, and at that rate we’d probably not top 2.1 million until late 2008 or early 2009.

That, of course, doesn’t take into account the influx of Katrina evacuees, for which the numbers tend to be pretty speculative. I do think it’s reasonable to claim that we’re at the 2.1 million mark, but as it takes a couple of assumptions to get there, I’m not sure that it’s sufficiently justified to start the redistricting machinery. I would not object to pressing forward, but I can certainly understand the case for waiting.

Isn’t something missing here?

I finally got around to reading this article from yesterday about our Dynamic Duo of Senators (She’s the ranking member with a moderate reputation! He’s the go-to guy for supporting the White House message! Together they fight crime Democrats!) and noticed a slight omission. In the entire piece, this was the only mention of elections:

Cornyn is up for re-election in 2008, which enables him to focus on larger issues at least until then. However, [SMU political science prof Cal] Jillson said, the senator could face political trouble then if he has been perceived by the state’s voters as downplaying or ignoring their needs.

I seem to recall Senator Hutchison being up for re-election this year. If they’re going to bring the subject up at all, they could at least give it a full airing.

Now, I’ve said before that I don’t like feature stories about candidates where half the text is attack quotes from the spokesperson of that candidate’s opponent. This wasn’t a candidate story per se, but regardless of that it wouldn’t have been appropriate to have included quotes from Barbara Radnofsky, who (I say this to remind the Chronicle, as they seem to forget this sort of thing) is Hutchison’s opponent this cycle. Of course, that’s predicated on the expectation that the Chron, in the interest of giving the voters a full and balanced picture Hutchison and her legislative record, devotes a similar front-page story to Radnofsky and her resume. I look forward to seeing this article Real Soon Now.

An email from Radnofsky to the Chron regarding this story is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Khan to host seminar on the effects of HB3

Also from the inbox:

Chad Khan, candidate for State Representative in District 126, will be hosting a seminar on August 24 at 6pm on the effects of House Bill 3, which will have significant effects on the tax bill due by small business throughout Texas. Joining Chad, and discussing in more detail, will be Paul Colbert. Colbert is a finance consultant and former State Representative from Houston.

HB3 is one of the most drastic changes in Texas tax law and has recently been certified as an income tax by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. It serves as a 1% tax on at least 70% of a company’s revenue and begins to take effect in 2007. The purpose of this seminar is to educate business owners about the effects of this law and how to begin planning ahead.

The event is free and will be held at Houston’s Ballroom, located at 14880 Bammel North Houston Rd. To RSVP, call 281-377-4705 or email [email protected]

A PDF of the flyer for this event is here. And as long as I’m blogging about Chad Khan, there’s a fundraiser being held for him on Mondaty, August 28, at Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen, 6925 Cypresswood Drive at Stuebner-Airline. A Word doc with the details is here.

Cohen and Wong invited to debate at Rice

From the inbox:

Dear Ellen Cohen and State Representative Martha Wong:

On behalf of the Rice College Republicans and Rice Young Democrats, we would like to invite you to a debate for House District 134 at Rice University on Wednesday, September 20, at 7pm, with arrangements to be agreed upon by the candidates.

As a center of academic learning within the community, Rice University is uniquely suited for a debate for House District 134. Debate about ideas is central to our education and growth as Rice students, from the most philosophical discussion of the proper role and methods of government, to the most lively lunch table exchange about the day’s headlines.

Additionally, as voters within the district, Rice students would be well served to hear the candidates talk about the issues that affect them on their own campus so they can make an informed decision when they vote on November 8.

The Rice College Republicans and the Rice Young Democrats would be honored to host you for a debate at our campus. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Ryan Goodland
Rice Young Democrats, President

John Stallcup
Rice College Republicans, President

Assuming this happens, I will try my best to be there.

Chron slaps Culberson again

The Chron delivers another backhand to John Culberson for his anti-leadership on rail.

The congressman, who once tried to press criminal charges against Metro for an alleged discrepancy in its financial reports, recently wrote to Metro Chairman David Wolff regarding rail on Richmond. In his letter, Culberson claimed that more than 90 percent of the people who lived or worked along Richmond opposed the rail project. But Culberson’s staff could not state the total number of residents, business operators and property owners along Richmond. It is impossible to calculate 90 percent of an unknown quantity. Culberson’s pronouncements regarding the opposition are meaningless.

In an attempt to appear cooperative, Culberson suggested that Metro use the Southwest Freeway to connect the Main Street corridor with Westpark. But he forbade Metro from taking any traffic lanes or private property.

From an engineering standpoint, it would be easier to get the camel through the needle’s eye than to meet Culberson’s demands. Even if such a line could be built, it would be too expensive and probably would fail federal ridership standards.

“Metro created this dilemma,” said Culberson, the man who for a decade helped to block all federal aid for rail transit in Houston, placing this city behind its competitors and sending tax dollars paid by Houston motorists to Dallas and other cities.

I say again, this is Culberson’s attempt to undo the referendum. If he couldn’t make his claim about the ballot language, he’d find something else. There’s nothing in his track record to suggest that he’d ever work to support light rail in Houston.

As for his even more bogus 90% claim, RichmondRail.org presents the case against Culberson’s numbers. Maybe it’s time someone did a more comprehensive survey. Who knows what we might find.

In the end, I believe that as long as Culberson is in office, we’re going to have to fight and refight these battles. If you’re as tired of it as I am, and especially if you live in CD07, you have an alternative.

A snapshot of Houston today

I love stories about demographics. I’m just a numbers geek (as if you couldn’t tell), so anything with data in it fascinates me. This is from the American Community Survey.

Texas’ high school graduation rate, 79 percent, was ahead only of Mississippi’s among the 50 states and District of Columbia.

In case you’ve ever wondered where Chris Bell‘s line about Rick Perry being chair of the Thank God For Mississippi Committee comes from, now you know.

In the city of Houston, Hispanics make up 55 percent of the children under age 15, and just 17 percent of people 75 and older. In sharp contrast, 55 percent of those older residents are Anglo.

The disparity was mirrored throughout Texas, where 46 percent of children under 15 are Hispanic while 72 percent of state residents 75 and over are Anglos.

Overall, the population of Texas is among the nation’s youngest; the median age of 33 years exceeds only Utah’s.

The new demographic data is based on a rolling survey of 250,000 randomly selected U.S. households each month of 2005. The survey was conducted only in jurisdictions with populations over 65,000.

It excluded group quarters such as dormitories, nursing homes and prisons.

[…]

According to the mid-decade portrait, immigrants now make up 12.4 percent of the U.S. population, up from 11.2 percent in the 2000 Census. And the foreign-born population is spreading from gateway cities like Houston to historically Anglo cities and states in the Northwest, Northeast and other parts of the South.

The highest immigrant populations, however, continue to be in places like Houston and Texas.

Nearly 30 percent of Houston residents were foreign-born in 2005; 71 percent of those were not U.S. citizens.

That means that about twenty percent of Houston residents are not US citizens. I wouldn’t have guessed it was that much. I say Houston’s attractiveness to immigrants is a good thing and will continue to be so. I hope we as a city value that.

Anyway. All the data is here if you want to dig in and play around with it.