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November 10th, 2009:

The Whitmire/Bradley hearing

As noted, today was the day for the Senate hearing chaired by State Sen. John Whitmire to inquire with John Bradley about the status of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The main data point to note is that Bradley says the full panel will meet in January to begin the process of writing and adopting rules. I’m sure there will be more to say about it tomorrow, but for now, go read The Contrarian, BOR, the Texas Trib, and a whole bunch of posts at Texas Politics (start here) for reports on what happened.

Brown for Parker, Holm for Khan

As expected, Peter Brown endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor in the runoff.

In a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Brown today announced that he would be casting his vote for Parker in the runoff election December 12 and he asked all his supporters, friends and family to do the same.

Brown said: “One candidate stands out with a 12-year proven track record of public service, particularly in terms of efficient, transparent government, the quality of life in our neighborhoods, and fiscal responsibility, especially important in these difficult economic times.“

Brown also encouraged all of his “supporters, friends, and all who believe in the enormous potential of our great city” to join Parker’s campaign.

“I am proud to accept this endorsement from Peter Brown,” said Parker. “Councilmember Brown has dedicated his life to improving the quality of life in Houston. I know his service to his community will continue and I look forward to working with him as Mayor.”

If I hadn’t known this was coming, I’d have gotten a pretty good hint after receiving two press releases from the Gene Locke campaign, one touting the endorsement of Bishop James Dixon (Community of Faith), Pastor D.Z. Cofield (Good Hope Baptist Church) and Pastor Emeritus William Lawson (Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church), all of whom had been Brown supporters in the first round, and one rapping Parker for accepting the endorsement of someone she’d been criticizing not long ago. I know, hard to believe such things happen in politics; I trust you can fetch your own smelling salts as needed. Had the shoe been on the other foot, I’m sure Locke would have happily accepted the endorsement of someone who had been busily trashing him in the closing weeks of the campaign, and Parker would have sent out a similar release pointing it out. It’s the circle of life, you know? Miya has more.

Also as expected, Pam Holm gave her endorsement to MJ Khan in the runoff for Controller. From his press release:

“M.J. Khan has shown that he has the knowledge and dedication to really be a strong voice for the taxpayers of Houston, as the next City Controller,” stated Pam Holm. “I have endorsed M.J. today because I know that he will lead the City in a fiscally responsible manner and help the City through these challenging times. I will support M.J. throughout this runoff election and let my supporters know that he is the candidate who can effectively serve the citizens of Houston as the watchdog of the city’s finances.”

Councilmember Holm is currently serving her third term on Houston City Council, representing District G. As a candidate for City Controller she campaigned for a clear path toward fiscal responsibility, emphasizing the need for increased transparency with the city’s finances

“I am both humbled and honored to receive the endorsement of Councilmember Holm. Her endorsement is a great boost to my campaign. Along the campaign trail she championed for transparency, smarter government and sound fiscal leadership. I plan to continue to carry that torch for her during this runoff election,” M.J. Khan stated. “As the campaign moves forward we are garnering more and more support and with the endorsement of Councilmember Holm we are building an even stronger base of support.”

Khan’s presser followed Parker and Brown’s, and was followed by Locke’s all in front of the reflection pool. If the city charged rent for using the steps to City Hall for this sort of thing, we’d have this budget shortfall solved already.

Peter Brown has an announcement, too

We are about to find out who Peter Brown is backing in the Mayor’s race. From the press release he sent out last night at 10:30:


Peter Brown will host a press conference, joined by family, friends and supporters, announcing his endorsement in the mayoral runoff.

WHO: Houston City Council Member and former Candidate for Mayor Peter Brown
WHAT: Peter Brown makes an official endorsement in the mayoral runoff
WHEN: Tuesday, November 10th at 1:30 PM
WHERE: Steps of City Hall, 901 Bagby St., facing the reflection pool

This is immediately after MJ Khan’s press conference, in the same location. Speculate away in the comments who you think he’s got in mind.

UPDATE: KHOU’s Alex Sanz says on Twitter “Reports are circulating that Houston councilman Peter Brown will endorse former opponent Annise Parker in the race for Houston mayor.”

UPDATE: Mary Benton says Brown is endorsing Parker, too.

Precinct analysis: City Council At Large races

Moving on to the At Large City Council races. I’m going to look at each of them here. First up, At Large #1:

Dist Cook Litt Alls Cost Derr Rodr Perk Batt ============================================================ A 1,521 1,629 397 4,806 4,144 2,087 919 439 B 1,091 679 252 1,063 1,622 1,466 3,133 1,138 C 1,340 6,626 339 4,423 2,852 1,611 826 673 D 1,689 2,994 526 2,372 3,472 2,026 2,203 2,821 E 1,903 1,287 475 4,842 2,979 2,343 1,104 725 F 1,298 779 193 1,610 1,128 1,153 553 324 G 2,056 3,039 417 8,914 4,218 1,860 1,140 630 H 684 1,309 359 1,635 3,790 3,304 585 334 I 609 671 169 999 1,017 2,976 471 640

I think this is the kind of result you get when you have a lot of candidates, none of whom have citywide name recognition, and not a whole lot of money spent, Stephen Costello somewhat excepted. Costello ran strong in Republican areas, especially District G. I presume that’s where his ads ran on cable. He also led in F and was runnerup in C. Karen Derr did well in her backyard of District H, and reasonably well in neighboring District A. She led in District D, though with a fairly modest 19% of the vote. You can see each of their paths to victory here. Costello needs to amp up his numbers in the Republican and outside the Loop districts while staying competitive in C. Derr needs to dominate the Democratic districts – she has already collected a number of endorsements that went to Herman Litt originally, plus that of the HCDP – and stay close in A and G, both of which reach inside the Loop. She should benefit from having Litt, Rick Rodriguez, and Kenneth Perkins (who as far as I can tell never filed a finance report during this cycle) out of the race. Costello had the benefit of being the only Republican candidate in Round One, and so probably shouldn’t expect too many votes to be transferred to him – he apparently has Lonnie Allsbrooks’ endorsement, judging by the appearance of Costello signs at Beer Island – but the votes he does have should be pretty solid. This one could go either way.

At Large #2:

Dist Lovell Burks Shorter Griff =================================== A 8,333 2,311 940 3,908 B 3,156 3,841 1,684 1,332 C 10,803 2,582 1,254 3,342 D 7,108 6,390 3,039 2,071 E 7,278 3,330 1,175 3,717 F 3,333 1,317 740 1,568 G 11,617 3,404 1,087 5,762 H 5,856 1,708 1,023 1,930 I 3,272 1,434 945 1,233

Not much to see here, really. Lovell came close to an outright win, with Burks and Griff having a nearly equal share of the vote against her. She had majorities in districts A, C, G, and H. She has some issues with the African-American community but still did reasonably well in B and D. I don’t see any path to victory for Andrew Burks that doesn’t include dominating those two districts, and even then it’s unclear how he gets to a majority. You never know what can happen, but I don’t see how Lovell doesn’t win next month.

At Large #4:

Dist Bradford Shafto Freeman Garmon ======================================= A 5,762 2,935 4,031 2,873 B 9,561 666 883 589 C 8,815 2,780 4,261 1,905 D 14,467 1,673 2,884 848 E 6,614 2,604 3,792 3,266 F 3,051 1,227 1,779 959 G 9,296 3,226 5,447 3,942 H 4,942 1,933 2,683 905 I 3,757 1,264 1,517 660

I’m not sure if I underestimated Bradford, overestimated Freeman, or both. It had seemed clear to me that Bradford’s name recognition was a double-edged sword for him – if it had been an unequivocal positive, he’d be our District Attorney right now. By my calculation, he ran about a point and a half behind the average Democratic judicial candidate inside the city of Houston last year, which was enough to hold him back. But if there were any lingering negative effects, it’s just not apparent in the data. He did very well in the African-American districts, easily outpacing Gene Locke in each. He performed well in the three Republican districts, carrying each one and only dropping below 40% in District A. He had a near-majority in Freeman’s home district H, and a clear majority in District I. I don’t know if things might have been different had Freeman been able to raise more money, but it doesn’t really matter. However you slice it, Bradford is Council Member-elect, and all the others who had opponents are in runoffs. You have to tip your cap to him for that.

At Large #5:

Dist Obando Christie Daniels Jones ======================================== A 2,190 8,713 944 4,544 B 843 1,002 940 8,907 C 2,522 6,322 1,532 7,844 D 1,485 1,877 2,727 14,022 E 2,333 9,040 1,143 3,978 F 1,214 3,032 625 2,304 G 2,456 14,922 1,118 5,376 H 2,752 2,536 841 4,735 I 2,156 1,478 725 3,154

When Jack Christie first entered this race, I thought he had a good chance to make things interesting. Then he posted non-existent numbers for the 30 days out report, and I thought it meant his campaign was a non-starter. And then his 8 days out report showed a bunch of spending and I had to reassess again. He showed a lot of strength in the Republican districts, and he did well in C and F besides. I get the impression that the Republican base is more excited about his candidacy than any of the other citywide races, so he should get a lot of his voters back for the overtime period. If he can bring out some new voters, or find a way to grow a little inside the Loop, he can win. Jones, like Bradford, basically maxed out in B and D; I thought it was possible for Davetta Daniels to siphon off some support from her in those districts, but she was a non-entity in B, and didn’t do that much in D. If anything, Jones was probably more hurt by Carlos Obando’s presence in H and I than Daniels’ in D. If she can shore up her support in those places, and keep Christie at arms’ length in C, she ought to win. I think she’s the favorite to win here, but I wouldn’t put it at better than 3:2 odds.

So that’s the end of these analyses. I may have one or two more things to add later. Hope you found this useful.

UPDATE: Greg brings the neighborhood data.

Meet John Bradley

So today is the day that Sen. John Whitmire gets to grill Williamson County DA John Bradley, the new Chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, about his plans for the Commission and the status of the Willingham case. I very much look forward to hearing what Bradley has to say even if I have little faith in his being a force for good. I hope he proves me wrong, but I’m not counting on it. Anyway, if you want to know more about the man, I recommend this Statesman profile and this Texas Trib story for more. The former is a bit too positive for my taste – could they not find anyone willing to talk smack about the guy? – but there you have it.

In the meantime, State Sen. Rodney Ellis and Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck will hold a press conference after the Whitmire hearing to give their perspective on where we stand. Click on to read their press release.

UPDATE: Grits has more.


Restorative justice

Let me commend this Bill King op-ed, about the plight of ex-cons in Texas and the efforts of the Restorative Justice Ministry Network to try and help them re-integrate into society, to you. It’s well worth reading. The issue, and why you should care, in a nutshell:

At the rate we put people in prison in Texas we need to be concerned about what happens when they are released. Worldwide, the incarceration rate is about 160 individuals for every 100,000 people. The second highest incarceration rate is Russia at about 650. The highest is the United States at 750. In Texas, the rate is about 1,000. That is, at any given time, about one person in 100 in Texas is in a prison or jail, six times higher than the world average and higher than even the world’s worst dictatorships. Even if we stop putting people in prison at the current rates, we will be releasing 20,000 to 30,000 prisoners each year for many years to come just from TDC. Many thousands more will be released from county and city jails.

King doesn’t go into this, as his piece is more about the moral case for action, but locking up all of these people costs us a crapload of money, each and every year. Unquestionably, there are people who need to be locked up for good, but they’re a relatively small number. Many of the current inmates aren’t a threat to anyone, and some never were a threat to anyone but themselves. Keeping them locked up, and making it hard for them to deal with being out once they do get out, is a huge drain on us all. This is wrong, and it’s unsustainable. We need to find a better way. Good for Bill King to be talking about it.

Grier starts the fight against dropouts

New HISD Superintendent Terry Grier hits the ground running.

As his first major initiative as Houston ISD chief, Grier is launching a credit-recovery program similar to ones he headed up in San Diego and Greensboro, N.C.

Houston ISD’s new program will add so-called graduation coaches to each high school. Those teachers would oversee credit-recovery computer labs, where struggling students will spend part of their school day redoing classes they failed.

“This will transform education,” Grier said, adding that he expects the new software in these labs to eventually be used for advanced classes, summer school, SAT preparation and Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tutoring.

Reducing the dropout rate is what Grier was hired to do. If he can do that, he’ll be a success here no matter what. I wish them all the best of luck with this.