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November 16th, 2009:

Endorsement watch: Toyota endorses Eastman in HISD I

In the aftermath of the election, I had wondered whether candidates who didn’t make the runoff would be endorsing one of those who did. We all know about the Mayor’s race and the Controller’s race by now, but I was also curious about the HISD District I Trustee’s race, since that’s where I live. Via email from the Anna Eastman campaign, we have an answer:

Anna Eastman today received the endorsement of her former opponent, Linda Toyota in the HISD Trustee, District 1 race.

“It is important to have HISD Board members who are open minded and committed to continuing to move the District forward,” said Toyota. “Two-way communication with diverse constituents in the District, insuring accountabilities are in place and board governance through meaningful policies continues to be important to me. It is for these reasons I have decided to support Anna Eastman for our District I school board trustee.” She continued, “Your vote for Anna Eastman will insure that our schools will continue to improve and teachers can be recognized for their accomplishments.”

“Linda Toyota demonstrates a commitment to education and the children of Houston as evidenced by her campaign, community involvement and work history. I am proud to have her confidence and endorsement as I enter into this stage of the campaign,” said Eastman.

Anna Eastman has also been endorsed by:

Houston Business-Education Coalition
Houston Chronicle
Harris County Women’s Political Caucus

Eastman’s opponent, Alma Lara, has most of the Democratic establishment’s endorsements. That’s partly because she was in the race early on, well before Eastman got in and had the chance to compete for them, and partly because she too is a good, solid candidate. Unlike 2005, when the difference in quality between eventual winner Natasha Kamrani and her opponent was stark, you really can’t go wrong this year.

The Dynamo Stadium issue in the Mayor’s race

Moving away for the moment from ridiculous homophobic scare tactics in the Mayor’s race runoff to an issue of actual substance, we have the matter of the Dynamo Stadium deal and where the respective candidates stand on it.

[Annise] Parker supports the deal as structured by [Mayor Bill] White — in which, her campaign says, the city will recoup some costs for the land.

“She remains firmly opposed to any additional taxpayer dollars going to the Dynamo project, and will not entertain any new stadium projects, especially during these tough economic times. If the county does not do its part, then all bets are off,” according to a statement released by her campaign.

[Gene] Locke, too, pledges not to use property tax money, but he argues that a stadium built with mostly private money is something the city can’t afford not to pursue.

“This stadium will anchor development on the east side of town and help improve Houston’s economy at no additional cost to taxpayers,” Locke said in a statement released by his campaign. Locke supports the three-way $80 million plan, according to the statement, and also intends to negotiate for the city to be reimbursed for land costs.

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Bob Stein does in saying that the difference between the two is “politics, not policy”. As I see it, the place where they do differ is in the event that the county fails to pick up its share of the tab. My interpretation of their stated positions is that Parker may or may not pursue a different deal of some kind, whereas Locke would. One can certainly make the case that Locke, who has an extensive background with this kind of dealmaking – for good and for not so good – and who has the so-far-not-committed-to-Mayor-White’s-deal Commissioner El Franco Lee firmly in his camp, is in the stronger position to close this thing once and for all. That’s kind of a nuanced argument to make on a flyer handed out at a soccer game, and given the public’s limited understanding of the status of the actual deal, which if the comments on this Houston Politics post are at all indicative basically boils down to “Locke wants to spend money on a new stadium and Parker doesn’t”, it’s far from clear that this would be a net positive for him anyway. Be that as it may, I think it’s fair to say that if you really want to see a Dynamo Stadium get built, Locke is your candidate, and if you don’t really care all that much you probably prefer Parker.

That’s assuming the issue is critical to how you vote, of course. The Chron quotes one devoted fan for whom it is, and it’s certainly possible there are others like her. Whether there’s more of them than there are people who would vote the other way is not clear to me. It’s still worth a shot for Locke, and it’s certainly a preferable way to try to win than some other approaches.

McCall not running for re-election

State Rep. Brian McCall (R, Plano), one of the Republicans that helped oust Tom Craddick as Speaker, will not run for re-election next year.

McCall, 51, said he is looking at other opportunities because it is time to try something new after 19 years in the House.

“When I took my first oath of office, Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas and George Bush had never run for state political office,” said McCall, a businessman and investor.

He said when he first ran for the Legislature, he set a few simple goals, most of which he said he’s accomplished.

“The fifth one was to leave on a high note,” McCall said. “So few in politics know when to get off the stage.”

House Speaker Joe Straus praised McCall as a friend, leader and consensus builder.

“His career has been nothing short of outstanding,” said Straus, R-San Antonio. “He helped set the tone for effective governing in the House.”

McCall is a well-respected member, and he certainly has my thanks for his work in ridding us of the Craddick menace. His district is not competitive, so while I hope a good Democratic candidate will run, it’s highly unlikely this seat will be on anyone’s electoral radar after the primary. My best wishes to Rep. McCall in his retirement. BOR has more.

Kay may stay, but the jockeying never goes away

Jason Embry ponders the landscape now that we know we’ll still have KBH to kick around through at least March.

[I]f Gov. Rick Perry appoints [Lt. Gov. David] Dewhurst to replace Hutchison, or if he wins a special election before November 2010, the state Republican Executive Committee can choose another GOP nominee for lieutenant governor. And that could trigger other openings on the statewide Republican ballot.

The question is: Will Perry be less likely to appoint Dewhurst because he does not want to disrupt the rest of the GOP ticket and kick the task of nominating to the SREC? Perhaps he will find it easier to just appoint someone who isn’t currently in office or who isn’t up for re-election to a high-profile spot in 2010.

So let’s say that KBH does resign right after the primary (I know, I know, I don’t believe it either, but stay with me here) and Dewhurst is named to replace KBH in the Senate. The SREC then gets to pick a replacement nominee for Lite Guv. Embry has previously discussed what might happen if they pick someone who is already on the 2010 ballot, such as AG Greg Abbott; I can’t find the relevant statute this morning, so I’ll take his word for it. All of this is moot if it turns out she never does resign until and unless she gets elected Governor, but at least it gives us all something to froth about.

Still more on the Heights recycling center

You may recall that the city had proposed selling the neighborhood recycling center on Center Street to the Admiral Linen business next door, and that this move was opposed by residents in the area. The city is still considering this possibility, and the residents are still opposing it.

Harold Hayes, director of the city’s Solid Waste Department, said last week the department hasn’t shelved plans to sell the property at 3602 Center St. The city’s real estate division is searching for an alternate location for the recycling center, he said.

But residents in the area, who are organized as the Washington Avenue/Memorial Park Super Neighborhood Council, oppose the idea. The coalition’s president, Jane Cahill West, characterized the idea as “a fire sale” and a “sweetheart deal,” and said selling the Inner Loop property would be like selling the “crown jewels.”

[…]

City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, who represents the area, said Mayor Bill White intends to pursue the offer from Admiral Linen. He said he will host community meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the issue.

“It hasn’t been resolved where to relocate. I think that needs to be worked out. Should we sell the property, number one, and number two is, what’s the timetable to have an alternative plan? That’s where it is right now,” Gonzalez said.

[…]

Members of the Super Neighborhood coalition think the city should keep the Center Street property, lease part of it to Admiral Linen, then use the proceeds to develop a parking garage on the site which could help solve parking problems associated with the growing entertainment scene just blocks away on Washington Avenue, West said.

“Selling that property will be to the detriment of our community and to the city at large,” West said. “There’s not enough land in the Inner Loop as it is for the city to provide services we need.”

I don’t necessarily have a problem with the idea of selling this location, if there’s a good alternate location in hand and the city gets a good price for it. But there isn’t an identified alternative yet, and West is correct that this isn’t such a good time to be selling prime property like that. Surely the city would fetch a much better price for the place in another year or so, by which time there may be a viable alternative that folks can live with. In the meantime, I think it’s worth exploring the option the Super Neighborhood folks have proposed, which might just give everyone at least some of what they want.