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April, 2023:

Weekend link dump for April 30

“How Gamers Eclipsed Spies as an Intelligence Threat”.

Hey, person named Kyle, what are you doing on May 21?

“While I’m not much of a believer in the idea that the young voters will save us — my own demographic, Gen X, is disturbingly favorable for MAGA candidates despite the fact we should know better — I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the Republican/conservative brand is toxic with the youth and even worse for those who haven’t hit voting age yet.”

“A top lawyer for Smartmatic, the voting technology company whose defamation lawsuit against Fox News is still pending, said Thursday that he won’t accept any settlement smaller than the $787 million Fox agreed to pay Dominion, and that his client needs a “full retraction” from the right-wing network disavowing the lies it spread about the 2020 presidential election.”

“Even if you could ignore all of that, there are still major red flags with the announcement of the Harry Potter TV reboot’s commitment to a “faithful adaptation” that didn’t just spring up out of nowhere after Rowling’s transphobia came out.”

The “forced grandma-ization exploit” that makes chatbots tell you things they’re not supposed to.

“How did the Twitter checkmark become toxic? It took multiple strokes of business failure: First by Musk making Twitter worse, second by charging more for Twitter Blue at the same time he was making the site worse, and third by making himself an unappealing person for people to associate themselves with in public. The masses are not balking at paying for Twitter Blue because they’re trying to shelter themselves within a crumbling elitist internet order, but because they think Musk is offering an unworthy product and is also a dickhead.”

RIP, Barry Humphries, comic actor best known for his Dame Edna Everage character.

“Gee, how come we don’t see liberal media outlets paying huge settlements in defamation lawsuits?”

“There was a one-of-a-kind reunion over the weekend at Arlington House — the national memorial to Robert E. Lee that sits atop a hill in Arlington National Cemetery. Descendants of the Confederate general gathered with the descendants of the people the Lee family once enslaved on the property in Virginia. Many of them are seeing one another in person for the first time after meeting virtually for the last two years in pursuit of racial understanding in what’s known as the Family Circle.”

See ya later, Tucker. Don’t let the door hit you, etc. Kind of amazing, given his long and disgusting history, all of which Fox News was fine with, but here we are. I’m posting these links on Monday and all this may become obsolete before Sunday, but at this time all the explanations for why this happened sound like BS. We’ll see if the shoe has dropped by the weekend.

“What Beck, O’Reilly and Kelly didn’t understand at the time, and what somebody should explain to Carlson this evening, is that Fox itself, which convenes the audience, is the star. And the star maker is whomever network owner Rupert Murdoch has assigned to run the joint. The nighttime hosts, as talented as they are — and Beck, O’Reilly, Kelly and Carlson are among some of the most talented broadcasters to slop the makeup on and speak into the camera — are as replaceable as the members of the bubblegum group the Archies, as interchangeable as the actors who’ve played James Bond, as expendable as the gifted musicians who played lead guitar for the Yardbirds.”

“Clarence Thomas’s Billionaire Friend Did Have Business Before the Supreme Court”.

“As a result, the Covid Crisis Group concluded that “Trump was a co-morbidity” with Covid. Comorbidity is a medical term meaning that a patient suffers from two or more chronic diseases simultaneously.”

RIP, Len Goodman, original judge on Dancing With The Stars and former judge on Strictly Come Dancing.

RIP, Harry Belafonte, legendary singer, actor, and civil rights activist.

“I don’t think I’m suggesting anything bold or controversial when I say that it’s a Good Thing that Plymouth’s town square is no longer dominated by a severed head on a pike. This is not to say that removing that spectacle absolved Plymouth of all of its sins or that it solved every other imaginable problem facing the place. No one is saying that. No one ever would say that any more than anyone has ever said that Bree Newsome magically ended all of South Carolina’s problems when she tore down the vile Klan-hankie decorating its capital.”

“The era of Nate Silver running FiveThirtyEight at ESPN/ABC News/Disney looks to be coming to a close amidst wider Disney layoffs.”

Disney finds itself in this regrettable position because it expressed a viewpoint the Governor and his allies did not like. Disney wishes that things could have been resolved a different way. But Disney also knows that it is fortunate to have the resources to take a stand against the State’s retaliation – a stand smaller businesses and individuals might not be able to take when the State comes after them for expressing their own views. In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.”

“The College Board says changes will be made to its new AP African American studies course, after critics said the agency bowed to political pressure and removed several topics from the framework, including Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations and queer life.”

RIP, Jerry Springer, legendary talk show host, daytime TV star and and former mayor of Cincinnati.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman at the center of the Emmett Till murder, has died.

What would that ban on drag actually look like?

It would be a mess, to put it charitably.

Obviously a pervert

Controversy surrounding Senate Bill 12, which aims to restrict “sexually oriented performances” and drag shows to protect minors, has stirred up concerns that it could have far-reaching implications beyond its intended scope.

The Dallas Morning News asked three Texas lawyers specializing in government regulation and constitutional law to take a look at the bill. David Coale of Dallas, William X. King of Houston and University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law professor Brian Owsle, came to the conclusion that the bill is “so broad and vague that it could be interpreted to criminalize a slew of commonplace behaviors.”

Senate Bill 12 was crafted to keep minors from attending what its author, Bryan Hughes, has described as “sexually explicit” performances by drag queens. However, as the bill is drafted, adults who aren’t in drag could also be arrested or fined for anything from dirty dancing to bachelorette parties.

The attorneys argued that the bill includes vague descriptions of new crimes, specifically targets people “exhibiting” as the opposite sex, is overly broad in its definitions of “sexually oriented,” and lacks discussion of an alleged lawbreaker’s intent.

They also warn that the bill could have varying applications depending on the discretion of local prosecutors, making commonplace behaviors potentially criminal affairs depending on the county one is in.

Read on to see five normal current activities that could be threatened by this bill. As is typical with legislation like this, the broadness and vagueness are features. Making people believe that something is illegal, or fear that it might be, is in some ways even better than actually making it illegal, because it’s self-enforced. We’ll see what happens in the House, and then if need be we’ll see what happens in the courts.

Two “Trump Train” defendants settle


Two of the eight Trump supporters accused of participating in a “politically-motivated conspiracy” by closely following, honking at and slowing down a campaign bus for President Joe Biden on a Texas highway in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election have settled with former state Sen. Wendy Davis and three others on the bus.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs announced Thursday they have filed papers to dismiss Hannah Ceh and Kyle Kruger as defendants in the lawsuit. The case against the six other defendants remains pending.

The terms of the settlement were not made public, but the two issued formal apologies for their involvement in the “Trump Train,” according to a press release from Project Democracy, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

“Looking back, I would have done things differently. I do not feel that I was thinking things through at the time, and I apologize to the occupants of the bus for my part in actions that day that frightened or intimidated them,” Ceh wrote in her apology.

The plaintiffs, who also include a Biden campaign volunteer, a former campaign staffer and the bus driver, claimed in the lawsuit that Ceh, Kruger and six others violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and Texas law when they, along with dozens of people in trucks with Donald Trump flags, surrounded the bus as it drove up Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Austin, shouting and honking at the bus and successfully slowing it to a crawl in a deliberate attempt to intimidate supporters and disrupt the campaign.

“I knew that my driving was risky, but I wanted to express my opposition to their campaign and send them a message to leave my community,” Kruger added in his apology. “While I regret now participating in such risky activity, and apologize to the occupants of the bus for my part in the actions that day, at the time I and other Trump Train participants were happy that, after our actions, the Biden campaign canceled the rest of the bus tour.”


Two of the other defendants who have not settled, Steve and Randi Ceh, were leaders of the New Braunfels Trump Train, according to the filing. Ceh is their daughter and a member of the group.

The filing alleges that Kruger, who is engaged to Ceh according to her social media, was driving her white Toyota Tundra while she sat in the passenger seat. According to the filing, Ceh posted videos to social media that showed her license plate number, which matched the license plate of one of the cars that allegedly surrounded the bus. Screenshots of Instagram posts attached to the lawsuit show Ceh in the passenger’s seat with text on the image that says “#operationblockthebus.” The filing said the social media posts show Ceh and Kruger driving “within inches of the bus.”

At one point, the filing claims, Ceh told Kruger that she was “getting too nervous” and participating in the caravan was “stressing her out.”

“Nevertheless, Defendant Kruger continued to come close to the Biden-Harris Campaign bus and abruptly swerved next to it,” the filing read.

Davis and the other plaintiffs filed a second lawsuit against San Marcos police, alleging they turned a blind eye to the attack. 911 transcripts filed in that lawsuit revealed San Marcos police refused to send help despite repeated requests for those on the bus. That lawsuit is ongoing.

The lawsuit against the “Trump Train” participants remains ongoing against the six other plaintiffs. In March, federal judge John Pittman set a trial date for April 22, 2024.

See here for the previous update, and here for more about the San Marcos police. I have a copy of the press release from the Texas Civil Rights Project, which contains the full apology statements from the two settlers, beneath the fold. I have to say, while the one from Hannah Ceh seems fine and appropriate, the one from Kyle Kruger sounds awfully non-apologetic. It has at least as much about the objectives of the Trump Train and their satisfaction in chasing the Biden campaign buses out of town than anything contrite. Maybe the confidential part of the settlement makes up for that, and maybe the case against Kruger was the weakest, I don’t know. I’m hoping for better for the rest of the case. See below for the TCRP statement, which includes the two full apologies.


Spending even more on court-appointed attorneys

But maybe there’s an end in sight.

Harris County is on track to pay $95 million by the end of October to private attorneys for representing low-income people accused of crimes — about $35 million more than the county budgeted for its indigent defense system.

The unexpected increase from last year’s unprecedented $60 million bill has prompted county officials to review whether that elevated amount is the result of the cost of reducing a pandemic-induced backlog of criminal cases.

County officials said increased requests for interpreters and psychiatric evaluations may be an indicator the criminal justice system is recovering from delays in court proceedings caused by the pandemic, as well as Hurricane Harvey damage to the courthouse infrastructure.

“Our hope is that this is a sign that cases are moving,” Daniel Ramos, executive director of the county’s Office of Management and Budget, told Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

Ramos said he noticed in January a deficit of more than $9 million caused by increased court appointments and lawyers being late filing their expenses.

That number more than doubled during the second quarter, an increase Ramos said he believes was caused by the volume of cases requiring indigent representation.

Covering the growing cost of court-appointed lawyers would require an additional $27 million for the county’s felony courts and another $9 million for misdemeanor courts, Ramos said.


Alex Bunin, Harris County’s chief public defender, dismissed any link the packed jail may have to the increase in attorney costs. He noted that a change in culture in the courts has allowed defense attorneys to expense more as Democratic judges became the norm at the criminal courthouse.

Additionally, the fees for court-appointed defense attorneys increased in March, the effect of which Ramos said he had not studied.

“The judges support paying the lawyers more,” Bunin said.

Commissioners Court on Tuesday agreed to consider adding the additional spending to the county budget at a later meeting after a brief conversation on whether the indigent defense funds were being used wisely. An audit on court appointments is expected to wrap up soon. The review will include an examination of the attorneys’ billing practices, the number of court appearances and whether they are visiting clients in jail.

Critics have panned the court-appointed lawyer process as a waste of taxpayer dollars in the wake of a Houston Chronicle investigation that broke down details about the $60 million paid to outside defense attorneys last year. A third of criminal defense lawyers who submitted invoices earned more than $200,000 and reported caseloads higher than state guidelines recommend, according to the Chronicle’s findings. One attorney earned $1 million.

Expanding the Harris County Public Defender’s Office could improve defendant representation and save money, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said.

“We should look into whether it’s an opportunity, a way to make sure the money is used more appropriately,” Ellis said.

See here and here for the background. I would hope that this is a sign that the backlog is shrinking because that would be a good thing on many levels. We’ll see what the data says. But whatever the case, I’m fine with paying more for these attorneys if what that means is better representation. I’m also very much in favor of expanding the public defender’s office, as that will act as a hedge against some of these cost increases; certainly, it will provide some amount of cost certainty. I look forward to Commissioners Court following up on that.

April 2023 campaign finance reports – Congress

And so we begin another Congressional campaign fundraising cycle. For obvious reasons, the opening list of who’s raising what for which office is a lot smaller than it’s been recently, though I do expect this list to grow a bit going forward. Here are the names and numbers of interest at this time:

Heli Rodriguez-Prilliman – Senate
John Love – Senate

Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Pervez Agwan – CD07
Sheila Jackson Lee – CD18
Francine Ly – CD24
Henry Cuellar – CD28
Colin Allred – CD32

Dist  Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
Sen   R-Prilliman      21,497     20,107   29,062      1,389
Sen   Love             44,861     45,764    6,015        352

07    Fletcher        266,678    141,909        0  1,446,476
07    Agwan           100,500     18,107        0     82,393
18    Jackson Lee      16,491     61,881        0    249,832
24    Ly               11,633        385    2,540     11,247
28    Cuellar         512,858    166,829        0    393,772
32    Allred          522,135    271,177        0  2,239,859 

Starting at the top, I found the Facebook page for Heli Rodriguez-Prilliman, which had a post about a February meet and greet event for her. That’s the extent of my knowledge; if someone knows anything more, please leave a comment. We know about John Love. There were a couple of other names that popped up on the FEC site but none had reported any money raised. Neither Love nor Rodriguez-Prilliman had raised much, but it was greater than zero so they get to be on the list.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher managed to avoid any primary challengers last year, but for 2024 Pervez Agwan has thrown his hat into the ring. He starts off with a decent amount raised, though he obviously has a ways to go to catch up.

I’m going to keep an eye on Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and CD18 here because someone may decide to not wait for the results of the Mayor’s race to declare a candidacy for this seat, and because until the July fundraising deadline comes around this is what we know about her campaign cash situation. As I said, she’s never been a moneybags, but I expect that to change at least for this election. And if an interested contender or two show up here in the next few months, they may stick around even if she ends up remaining in Congress.

Francine Ly, whose campaign URLs include the very cool moniker “FLy4Texas”, is first up in CD24, which as you know is the district I’m most interested in. I’m very interested to see how it performs in this upcoming Presidential year.

I don’t really want to have to keep up with what Rep. Henry Cuellar is doing, but as long as there’s the possibility of another big money primary race in CD28, I guess I have to. He sure did deplete his resources last time around.

As for Rep. Colin Allred, who may or may not be a Senate candidate next year, he’s a capable fundraiser and he’s got a decent piece of change in his coffers already. Ted Cruz is out there raising money, and has about a million bucks cash on hand advantage. If Allred challenges Cruz, I’d expect him to at least equal him in fundraising. I’ll keep an eye on him as we wait for that decision. (NOTE: This post was drafted before the news that Sen. Roland Gutierrez was planning to run for Senate. This doesn’t change anything now, but it may affect how Rep. Allred fundraises going forward, whether or not he gets into the Senate race.)

No one raising any money yet in CD15, but that will surely change soon. No one raising any money yet in CD23 either, which has got to be a first in a long time.

I may look at some Republican reports later, if and when it becomes clear that there are challengers who are capable of raising competitive amounts. Until then, this is what I have. Let me know what you think.

Harris Health seeks bond issue

Probably on your ballot this November.

Harris Health board members on Thursday unanimously agreed to move forward with a $2.5 billion bond proposal to build a new Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and make what they say are sorely needed upgrades throughout the county’s public health care system, which treats the region’s poor and uninsured.

The board next will seek approval from Harris County commissioners, who will have the final say on the bond amount and whether the proposal will be placed on the November ballot. The proposed bond would finance the project over 10 years, with an additional $300 million in county funds and $100 million in grants and philanthropy.

The health system has struggled to keep up with population growth, officials say, and the major expansion is necessary to handle the projected increase in uninsured patients who rely on Harris Health for care. During Thursday’s board meeting, Harris Health CEO Dr. Esmaeil Porsa choked up as he recounted seeing patients being treated in hallways during his regular walks around LBJ hospital.

“That should not be happening,” he said. “That is not equitable health. We should not expose our patients and our employees to this situation on a daily basis.”

Both Harris Health hospitals — LBJ and Ben Taub — opened more than 30 years ago at their current locations. Since then, the county’s population has increased from roughly 2.7 million to 4.7 million, with a quarter of those residents lacking insurance. In addition to a new, larger hospital on the existing LBJ campus in northeast Houston, the project would include a major expansion of the current facilities and three new outpatient centers.

Located at 5656 Kelley St., just north of Kashmere Gardens, LBJ hospital is the busiest Level III trauma center in the state with more than 80,000 annual patient visits, according to the health system.

The new hospital would become the county’s third Level I adult trauma center and the first outside the Texas Medical Center. A Level I designation provides the most comprehensive care for injuries, including 24-hour coverage by general surgeons and a broader availability of specialty services. The American College of Surgeons recommends at least one Level 1 trauma center for every million people.

The new LBJ would expand the number of inpatient beds from 215 to 390, with room to add another 60, and allow for the beds to be used for interchangeable needs, according to planning documents. The building adds capacity for patients under observation and includes a helipad for those who need to be transported by air. Additional parking garages will be built on the campus.

The current LBJ would undergo $433 million in renovations “to address critical service gaps” and provide more outpatient services, planning documents say. A renovation at Ben Taub would add a new inpatient tower with 120 patient rooms and extend the facility’s life span by 15 years. Low-volume outpatient centers would be expanded, and three new outpatient centers would be built in east, northwest and southwest Harris County.

Seems like some long overdue business to me. This does still need to be approved by Commissioners Court before it can be placed on the ballot, but I would expect that to be a formality. As is often the case with these things, I’ll be interested to see if there’s any organized opposition to it.

Konnech withdraws its lawsuit against True the Vote

Something strange is going on.

An election management software company withdrew a lawsuit last week that accused a Houston-based conservative nonprofit of making slanderous statements about the software company’s work during the 2020 election. The company reserved the right to refile the federal case at a later date.

The suit had a brief and tumultuous history on the Houston docket. In late October, True the Vote leaders testified that they had learned concerning information about the software company from FBI agents. The federal judge pressed the conservative leaders to disclose more of the details of their accusations. He then held the founder and a contractor for the conservative group in contempt and ordered them to serve time in jail. Then in February, the federal judge recused himself.

On April 19, Konnech Inc., a Michigan-based company specializing in election logistic software, asked the newly assigned judge to dismiss the case “without prejudice” against True the Vote. The company is also withdrawing its case against Catherine Engelbrecht, the organization’s founder, and contractor Gregg Phillips, according to court documents.

The Sept. 12 suit came in response to Engelbrecht’s and Phillips’ accusation that Konnech had allowed the Chinese government to access a server in China that held the personal information —  including Social Security numbers, phone numbers, bank account numbers and addresses — of nearly 2 million U.S. election workers. True the Vote’s “unique brand of racism and xenophobia” had defamed Konnech and its founder, Eugene Yu, the lawsuit said.

See here for the background. Note that this means that Konnech could re-file its lawsuits at a later date. The question is why they did this. TTV is touting this as a big victory for themselves, and it might end up that way, if the reason for the withdrawal was that Konnech decided they couldn’t win. If they do refile we may get some clue about this, but if not we may never know. At this point, I got nothing.

Sen. Gutierrez talks about 2024

He’s officially still thinking about it and will announce after the session. I’d say it’s a strong bet he’s already decided to run.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez

State Senator Roland Gutierrez said Wednesday he’s going to wait before deciding on running for U.S. Senate. If he jumps in the race, the South Texas Democrat would be challenging incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

It was six years ago that Cruz faced El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke at the ballot box. The Democrat came close to defeating Cruz, but the Republican held on with 50.9 percent of the vote.

Today political watchers are wondering if Cruz is still vulnerable to a strong challenger, especially after Cruz’s role in the Jan 6th attempt to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes.


Gutierrez has not ruled out running for Senate but he said a decision on challenging Cruz in the 2024 election is going to have to wait because he’s focused on the current Texas legislative session. And he’s particularly concerned with the issues connected to the Uvalde school shooting.

“I got to be 100 percent focused on the next five weeks. And gotta do what I can do for these families. My future we’ll figure all those things later down the road,” he said.

Gutierrez said when the session ends — which is in about five weeks — he will then consult with his family before making a decision to enter the race.

See here for the background. The middle of the story is about Cruz admitting to his complicity in the 2020 insurrection, which wasn’t exactly a secret but never hurts to remember. I obviously don’t know for sure that Sen. Gutierrez will run, though I do believe he will, but if he does he’ll give Cruz a good fight. And he won’t have to give up his seat to make the race, which I’m sure is a factor in his decision as well. I’ll be ready to make a donation when he makes it official.

DOJ sues Tennessee over its ban on gender affirming care for minors

There will be more of these to come, including and especially in Texas.

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Tennessee’s recently passed law that bans gender-affirming care for minors, emphasizing it “denies necessary medical care to youth based solely on who they are.”

The DOJ argues that the bill, known as SB 1, violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, discriminating against individuals on the basis of sex and transgender status, according to the complaint.

“By denying only transgender youth access to these forms of medically necessary care while allowing non-transgender minors access to the same or similar procedures, SB 1 discriminates against transgender youth,” a DOJ press release said.

The Justice Department has asked the court to issue an immediate order to block the Tennessee law from taking effect on July 1.

“No person should be denied access to necessary medical care just because of their transgender status,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “The right to consider your health and medically-approved treatment options with your family and doctors is a right that everyone should have, including transgender children, who are especially vulnerable to serious risks of depression, anxiety and suicide. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department will continue to aggressively challenge all forms of discrimination and unlawful barriers faced by the LGBTQI+ community.”

SB 1 — which was signed into law last month by Republican Gov. Bill Lee — prohibits health care providers from prescribing medications, like puberty blockers and hormone treatments for minors who identify as transgender or nonbinary, or performing surgeries and medical procedures “if the performance or administration of the procedure is for the purpose of enabling a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex.”

Health care providers who violate the ban could be sued by the state attorney general or private parties, according to the new law.


Last week, three transgender children and their families also sued Tennessee, claiming “the law violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause because it allows the banned medical treatments when they are used to treat conditions other than gender dysphoria.”

There’s a copy of the DOJ complaint embedded in the story. More than a dozen states have passed laws like this already, and Texas will do the same, or possibly something worse, in the near future. A likely scenario for when a lawsuit is filed against Texas’ future law is that a federal district court judge issues a temporary restraining order against it pending a ruling on the merits, and the Fifth Circuit lifts that to allow the law to be enforced. On the also-likely assumption that a different federal appeals court upholds a ruling against another state’s law, this will be on the SCOTUS docket in, I don’t know, a year or so. And then we’ll find out, as I said before, whether there’s still such a thing as civil rights in this country any more. I’ll keep an eye on it as we go.

House passes bill to stop Fairfield State Park closure

A rare bill that might do some good.

The Texas House of Representatives has passed a bill in an attempt to save a popular state park from permanent closure and development into a private community. The measure now moves to the state Senate.

Fairfield Lake State Park, about 70 miles east of Waco, was closed to the public at the end of February, after almost 50 years in operation. It has since temporarily reopened but is slated for permanent closure later this summer.

The House approved House Bill 4757 Friday by a vote of 131-8, a show of bipartisan support.

The bill would require the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to approve any application for new or amended water rights related to Fairfield Lake, as well as adjoining Big Brown Creek. Parks and Wildlife officials had previously raised concerns about how the developer planned to use the water.

Right now, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is responsible for evaluating and approving applications to change water permits. If signed into law, the bill would mean changes to the permits would have to be approved by Parks and Wildlife in addition to the TCEQ.

The land in question is not owned by the state, but is instead leased from Vistra Energy, which formerly operated a power plant near the park. Vistra is in contract to sell the land to Todd Interests, a Dallas-based developer, which plans to turn the site into an exclusive gated community with multi-million dollar homes and a private golf course.

The water permit for the lake is currently for industrial use. Vistra says it has not used the water since 2018, when the power plant closed. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Chairman Arch ‘Beaver’ Aplin previously told lawmakers that Todd Interests wants to change the water permit from industrial to consumptive, residential and recreational, and send thousands of acre-feet to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

“They want to be able to move 14,000 acre-feet, which is over a third of the water at the conservation pool level,” Aplin told lawmakers in a March 9 committee hearing. “The lake will not be the lake as we know it when you stick a straw in it and take a third of the water out of the lake. It just won’t.”

Shawn Todd, CEO of Todd Interests, pushed back in a statement provided to KXAN. “The State had multiple opportunities over the last four years to lawfully purchase the land under Fairfield [Lake] State Park,” Todd said, alluding to months of negotiations which ultimately failed. “Taxpayers would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars if Texas Parks and Wildlife had acted responsibly.”

“Today, the same politicos who failed the State are now resorting to brazen and surreptitious actions to cover up their inactivity by abusing governmental powers to unlawfully take water and property rights from a Texas landowner,” Todd said. “These same politicos hypocritically proclaim they are pro-business and strong private property rights advocates. These undemocratic actions should be alarming to any Texas landowner or voter. The proposed bill is a direct attack on private property rights and, if enacted, will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.”

See here, here, and here for the background. I shouldn’t laugh, but Shawn Todd’s belief that the Lege acts in a “pro-business” fashion is adorable. I mean, sure, they love some businesses, but the lists of anti-business actions they’ve taken just this session, let alone the past decade or so, is too long to even summarize. The Lege, as now ruled by this batch of Republicans, is all about the id. If they don’t like something, they’ll do whatever they want to get rid of it, regardless of any other consideration. If you haven’t figured that out by now, maybe get some better news sources. (Speaking of, the DMN’s lament about the lack of respect for the “free market” is the kind of thing that could only be written by someone who also regularly emails Santa Claus. I mean, come on.)

As it happens, in this one case, I think the action they’re taking is in pursuit of a worthy goal. Whether it will work, beginning with whether the Senate will go along and then later if it will survive litigation, is another question. But for now, it’s a good day for Fairfield State Park. I’ll take the good news where I can get it.

Dispatches from Dallas, April 28 edition

This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.

This week in news from the DFW area, book bans (local and statewide), election administration, some scary climate predictions for Galveston, more Six Degrees of Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow, a local is running for president in 2024, and zoo babies are back!

Also early voting for the May 6 election has started, so get out there and vote in your local elections, fellow Texans. May elections have a low turnout so your vote is important!

Today we’re going to talk about book banning in Texas schools. In case you want to know what’s banned in your local districts, PEN America has a database of school book bans for fall 2022. Frisco ISD is the big north Texas book banner right now, with about 5 of the 9 pages in the index that are devoted to Texas book bans devoted to Frisco’s removals. If that sounds like a lot, it is, and the numbers are increasing: ALA: Number of unique book titles challenged jumped nearly 40% in 2022.

And that’s just the local districts, not getting into the shenanigans the Lege is up to this year: Texas education board could ban textbooks that discuss gender identity under proposed bill. That’s HB 1804 for those of you calling your legislators. Also in the Lege, the House passed HB 900 and Franklin Strong’s Substack post on it is worth your time. He summarizes the discussion based on five points. Three are by Representative Erin Zweiner, who rightfully draws the lines connecting this years book bans (sex and gender) with last year’s book bans (“CRT”). Two are by Representative Jerry Patterson, who sponsored this bill. Patterson represents Frisco ISD, which as we noted above, has removed a lot of books from classrooms and libraries this school year. (We talk about Frisco ISD a lot around here. It’s also where Marvin Lowe, who harassed a transgender student at TASB, is a trustee.)

On the (likely) future Biden/Trump matchup

It’s way too early to pay any attention to state polling, but there are a few general principles to discuss here.

President Joe Biden announced his reelection bid on Tuesday, setting up a potential rematch with former President Donald Trump — two candidates most Texas voters have said should not run again.

Biden’s pitch, made in a 3-minute video, seemed tailored to a Texas audience as the president focused on a slew of issues Republicans in the state have prioritized, including outlawing abortion, restricting LGBTQ rights and banning books.

“Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take those bedrock freedoms away,” Biden said in his announcement video. “Cutting Social Security that you’ve paid for your entire life while cutting taxes for the very wealthy, dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love — all while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.”

“The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer,” he said.

But the president heads into 2024 with a lot of ground to make up with Texas voters, 43 percent of whom had a very unfavorable view of Biden in the latest polling by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

And former President Donald Trump, who has dominated polling in the GOP primary, is just as unpopular in Texas, with 42 percent saying he is very unfavorable.

Sixty one percent of Texas voters, meanwhile, said Biden should not run, while 58 percent said the same of Trump, according to the poll, which was released in February.

Still, Biden fared better in Texas in 2020 than any Democratic presidential candidate in years, losing the state to Trump by just 6 percentage points.


Biden likely got a boost in 2020 from independent voters who had a very negative view of Trump. They now have a worse impression of Biden, with 54 percent of independents seeing him as very unfavorable, compared to 42 percent who said the same of Trump.

While few think Biden will actually win the state in 2024, whether or not he can improve on his past performance largely depends on who else is on the top of the ticket, said Joshua Blank, research director at the Texas Politics Project.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who narrowly won reelection over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018 and faces a 46-percent disapproval rate in the state, is also seeking reelection. His campaign could have an impact, depending on the quality of the Democratic candidate challenging Cruz, who would likely be the primary focus of Democratic effort in Texas, Blank said.

“I think a fair case could be made that GOP congressional and Texas legislative candidates might perform better with someone besides Trump and Cruz leading the ticket,” Blank said. “Biden might find Texas a greater challenge facing a GOP candidate other than Trump who doesn’t carry the same baggage as the former president — and someone who he hasn’t already beaten, at least nationally.”

I don’t take the “shouldn’t run again” numbers too seriously, for either candidate. Biden’s overall popularity among Dems is high, and I feel confident that when the choice becomes “Biden or Trump”, he’ll have no trouble getting Dems in line. I mostly think the same for Trump, though he has much bigger potential pitfalls in front of him, nearly all of which will be faced in a courtroom. Biden’s main areas of concern are his age, the potential that he could backslide on issues Dems care about, and not being seen as putting up enough of a fight against Republican malfeasance and creeping authoritarianism. He’s striking the right notes for now, and as long as he stays on that path I feel pretty good about what’s ahead.

A big unanswered question for me is how the abortion issue will play in Texas in 2024. While its largely positive-for-Dems effect in 2022 in other states is well known, it really wasn’t tested as an issue here. The 2022 election was much more about the grid and (in the wake of Uvalde) guns. I don’t have any criticism of that – those were super salient issues, ones on which the Republicans should have been plenty vulnerable – but they didn’t work as we would have liked them to work. The scenario I hope for, both from the Biden campaign and from the campaign of the Democratic nominee for Senate, whether Roland Gutierrez (not yet confirmed, for what it’s worth) or Colin Allred or someone else, is basically a promise to restore Roe v Wade, with extra language to head off the more recent attempts to curtail abortion access (in other words, codify what was in the Hellerstedt decision) and a ban on bounty hunter civil suits. This also requires winning back the House and having enough Senators willing to nuke the filibuster, but you have to start by setting the stakes, and doing this sure does make flipping the Ted Cruz seat that much more of a prize.

Will this work? I mean, we have over 30 years of results to suggest that the odds are against it, but it would give plenty of people – including, I would think, independents and the kind of Republicans that have been pretty reliably crossing over in some number of races since 2016 – a reason to turn out and support Dems at the top of the ticket. It would be nice to have everyone pulling in the same direction, and who knows, it might mean some real national investment in these races. Like I said, we’ll remain the underdogs, but it’s at least a coherent vision. That’s better than what we’ve usually had.

House re-passes its redistricting map

Done and done.

The Texas House on Wednesday reapproved the map of districts for its 150 seats, which was redrawn in 2021 and fortified the Republican majority while diluting the voting strength of Hispanic and Black voters.

The House made no changes to the map that was used for the first time in last year’s elections. Instead, its 85-65 vote on House Bill 1000 was meant to ensure lawmakers met constitutional requirements calling for legislative districts to be redrawn in the first regular legislative session after the results of the decennial census are published.

Pandemic-related delays pushed the release of the 2020 census results past the end of the last regularly scheduled session in May 2021.


Like the Senate map, the House map drew the ire of Democrats, civil rights groups and Texans from across the state who criticized Republicans for not adequately reflecting the crucial role people of color played in fueling the state’s population gains. Of the nearly 4 million people added to the population count in the 2020 census, 95% were people of color. Nearly 2 million were Hispanic.

Both maps are the subjects of a collection of federal lawsuits challenging the Legislature’s redistricting work as discriminatory against Texans of color. In that litigation, the broad set of plaintiffs suing the state argue the Republican-controlled Legislature used the once-a-decade redistricting process to draw maps solidifying the GOP’s political dominance while weakening the influence of voters of color.

They are joined by the U.S. Department of Justice in their legal challenge, which also includes the Legislature’s redraw of the state’s congressional map that largely protected incumbents in Congress while reducing the number of districts in which Black and Hispanic residents make up the majority of eligible voters.

In court, the state has largely argued plaintiffs do not have enough evidence to show the Legislature discriminated against Texans of color in its mapmaking and that, if anything, the Legislature made decisions based on partisan considerations.

The three-judge panel in charge of the case has yet to reschedule a trial over the new political maps after delaying a September 2022 trial because of disputes over discovery that left both the state and the various plaintiff groups questioning whether they’d have enough time to prepare to make their cases in a federal court in El Paso.

See here for the previous update. Both chambers still have to approve the other’s map, which I expect will be entirely perfunctory. I expect the state lawsuit is now moot (and the plaintiffs were right but never got anything for it), so whatever may happen from here will occur in the federal courts. I’m sure you can guess how optimistic I am about that.

How much downtown parking do we need?

I don’t know the answer to that, but this is how much we have.

Downtown Houston dedicates more than a quarter of its land to parking spaces, surpassing the percentages in most major U.S. cities, a new report shows.

A photo from the 1970s that went viral last year showed Houston’s downtown nearly engulfed by parking lots at the time. While less extreme today, 26 percent of the city center still serves as parking spaces, ranking Houston seventh in parking density among 50 major American metropolitan areas analyzed by the Portland-based Parking Reform Network.

Houston isn’t alone in Texas when it comes to high parking concentration, the report shows. San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth closely followed the Bayou City in ninth, 11th and 12th place, respectively. Topping the list is Arlington, which sees a staggering 42 percent of its land occupied by parking lots and garages.

In contrast, New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Boston dedicate only 1 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent and 6 percent of their downtown areas to parking, respectively.

A car-centric downtown often leads to a less pedestrian-friendly environment, according to the network, whose research shows that an increase in central city parking typically results in a significant decrease in walkability.

“With all this parking, little land was left for anything else, making housing more expensive, less dense, and farther apart,” the report read. “It’s clear that if we want to have walkable cities, we need cities that are less parkable.”

As more than half of Houstonians consistently express their desire for a more walkable urban design in surveys, the city has taken steps towards this goal in recent years. These initiatives include expanding Houston’s network of sidewalks, implementing pedestrian-friendly rules for new developments in select neighborhoods and permanently closing down traffic on parts of Main Street.

In 2019, Houston also eliminated minimum parking requirements in parts of the Midtown and Downtown East neighborhoods — an exemption that already existed in the central business district — in order to prevent an excessive number of parking lots from consuming too much urban core space.

Meanwhile, some parking lots in Houston have started to vanish in the past decade. Between 2010 and 2022, 21 lots were demolished and replaced with buildings, Axios reported. These new developments include Discovery Green, Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Partnership Tower, Marriott Marquis, Hampton Inn and Suites and Aris Market Square.

I generated the Houston downtown parking map here and embedded it above. Some of the parking indicated is multi-level, which isn’t great from a pedestrian-experience perspective, but at least takes up less surface area. I’m not sure what more can be done to squeeze in more actual buildings, with useful things in them, but at least we’ve taken some steps to increase what’s available. Ginger noted this tool in the April 7 Dispatches from Dallas; I couldn’t resist adding on when I saw the Chron story.

Texas blog roundup for the week of April 24

The Texas Progressive Alliance is rooting for the Daisetta Sinkhole to migrate to the Capitol as it brings you this week’s roundup.


Endorsement watch: TDP candidates in May elections

From the inbox:

AUSTIN, Texas — As early voting begins today for the May 6 municipal elections across Texas, the Texas Democratic Party is releasing its list of endorsed candidates:

  • Dr. Staci Barker, Lewisville ISD, Board of Trustees Place 7

  • Barbara Cain, Lindale ISD, Board of Trustees Place 3

  • Dr. Michelle Cantu-Wilson, San Jacinto College, Board of Trustees Position 2

  • Cynthia Carrasco, City of Alice, Mayor

  • James E Connor, City of Kennedale, City Council Place 5

  • Jai Daggett, City of Pearland, City Council Position 3

  • Stacey Donald, Collin College, Board of Trustees Place 3

  • Karla Duran, Northside ISD, Board of Trustees District 3

  • Johnny Flores, Hays CISD, Board of Trustees District 2

  • Mariano “Andy” Garcia, Pasadena ISD, Board of Trustees Place 6

  • Zoe Grant, City of Temple, City Council District 2

  • Rameka Griffin, Lindale ISD, Board of Trustees Place 4

  • Sergio Harris, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, Board of Trustees Position 5

  • Antonio Johnson, City of Pearland, City Council Position 7

  • David Jones, City of Harker Heights, Mayor

  • Shawn Knuckles, City of Morgan’s Point Resort, City Council

  • Chevonne Lorigo-Johnso, Pflugerville ISD, Board of Trustees Place 7

  • Nicole Mason-Driver, City of Malakoff, Mayor

  • Mario Amador Muraira, City of Freeport, City Council Ward C

  • Lynda Nash, City of Harker Heights, City Council Place 4

  • Shannon Probe, City of Round Rock, City Council Place 1

  • Lisa Tibbets, Howe ISD, Board of Trustees Member

  • Brittany Verdell, City of Carrollton, City Council Place 2

  • Megan Wallace, Collin College, Board of Trustees Place 1

  • Stacey Wilson, City of Harker Heights, City Council Place 5

The Texas Democratic Party is also warning voters in Grapevine-Colleyville, Southlake Carroll, Midlothian, Fort Worth, and Frisco ISDs of attempts at a hostile takeover by shady, far-right actors funneling out-of-state dark money (click here to read NBC News’ August 2022 piece about “[h]ow a far-right, Christian cellphone company ‘took over’ four Texas school boards”).

“Patriot Mobile and other shady organizations funneling dark, out-of-state money into our elections are on notice: mainstream Texans have caught onto your game and we won’t stand for your attempts to buy local school boards and plant your extremist candidates,” said Texas Democratic Party Political Director Ryan Garcia. “Pack up and quit meddling in our local elections – no amount of money in the world can destroy Texans’ love for our public schools. No matter how hard you try, your attempts at undermining public education and indoctrinating Texas kids with your ultra-conservative worldviews won’t succeed.”

I refer you also to the Book-lovinf Texans’ guide to the May elections, which has more detailed information about several of these races and the candidates involved, both good and bad. I don’t have anything to vote for this May, but you might, so if you do make sure you vote carefully.

Senate votes to outlaw transgender people

Another dismal day at the Capitol.

Transgender Texans of all ages could have their access to transition-related medical treatments severely limited — or effectively ended — under a bill the Texas Senate preliminary approved Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1029 would make physicians and health insurers financially liable for their patients’ lifetime medical, mental health and pharmaceutical costs resulting from complications of gender-affirming medical care even if the providers lack fault or criminal intent. The bill exempts such treatments for kids with “medically verifiable genetic sex disorders.”

According to health groups, the bill would make it highly unlikely for health care providers offering these treatments to be able to get medical liability coverage, leaving them personally on the hook for potential medical, legal and other costs. These financial risks could deter physicians from providing puberty blockershormone therapies and gender-affirming surgeries to trans people of all ages in the state.

The Senate voted 18-12 Tuesday to give the bill initial approval. It now awaits another vote before it can move to the House. The Senate has also already approved Senate Bill 14, a priority bill that would ban transgender kids from receiving transition-related care, like puberty blockers and hormone therapies. A House committee has also advanced that legislation, and the majority of House members have signed on to support such a ban.

Major medical groups approve of transition-related care and say it lessens higher rates of depression and suicide for trans youth.

SB 1029’s prescriptive liabilities, meanwhile, would also likely prompt health insurers to not cover transition-related treatments for trans Texans, even if they are adults.


LGBTQ and health groups say SB 1029 is a stealthy tactic for decimating trans Texans’ access to treatments that have been supported by leading medical associations — without ever directly banning transition-related care for all ages.

“It really is just an attempt to chill health care for all trans people,” said Christopher Hamilton, CEO of nonprofit Texas Health Action.

On one hand, it’s not guaranteed that health care providers offering these treatments would be sued by their patients. On the other hand, the bill’s lack of a statute of limitations and requirement that lifetime costs be covered could make even a low number of claims extremely costly.

SB 1029 could as a result have a much bigger impact than the Republican Party of Texas’legislative priority and key legislation for this session like SB 14, which have limited their focus to restricting transition-related medical care only for trans youth.

“This isn’t about kids’ safety. This isn’t about medication safety,” Hamilton added. “It’s specifically targeting transgender people because they’re a small group of people who are easily marginalized.”

And because of the state’s size, this could have an outsized impact on trans Americans. In Texas, there are approximately 93,000 trans adults — less than 0.5% of the state’s adult population — according to a 2022 study from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Williams Institute. But the raw figures indicate that Texas has one of the largest trans communities in the U.S. Around 30,000 Texans aged 13 to 17 are trans, which is about 1.5% of this age group’s population.

I have four things to say:

1. Once you’ve decided that one form of safe, voluntary, and necessary health care can be outlawed, there’s no reason to believe some other form of it can’t be outlawed as well. If you think there’s a limit to what Republicans might do with this, all I can say is that we’re nowhere near it.

2. You really, really have to hate trans people to do this. The legislation being passed in various states to outlaw gender affirming care in minors is appalling and reprehensible, but you can at least see some kind of justification for it. This is one hundred percent about smacking around a group of people that you don’t like and who don’t have the power to stop you. It’s absolutely monstrous.

3. It’s certainly possible that the House won’t go for this. It’s not that I have any great belief in that chamber’s moderation, just more that they’re not all on board with everything Dan Patrick does. It’s also possible that Patrick will try to force a special session because the House isn’t giving him everything he wants. Also, this bill was authored by Bob Hall. As previously discussed, Bob Hall is stupid and evil and one should never do anything he supports.

4. If this piece of trash does pass, I guess we’ll get to find out if there actually is such a thing as civil rights in the year 2023. If it’s OK to outlaw trans people, who knows who else it will be okay to outlaw.

Meanwhile, in other mifepristone news

Keep an eye on this.

A federal judge said during a Monday hearing that he’s leaning towards ruling in favor of a company that makes generic mifepristone in its quest to prove it has standing to sue over West Virginia’s abortion ban.

The West Virginia officials are trying to get the case dismissed, arguing that the company is rooting its argument in claims about speculative economic damage — that it does not claim that it ever sold mifepristone in West Virginia or describe any plans to do so.

Judge Robert Chambers, a Clinton appointee in the southern district of West Virginia, said GenBioPro, the mifepristone manufacturer, is winning him over as he considers the arguments.

“To be honest with you — because I want you to be able to respond — the closer we’ve gotten to this hearing the more inclined I am to conclude that there is injury in fact, that they don’t have to have that level of contact in sales within the state that they might have to have for some other purpose,” Chambers said to one of the lawyers for the West Virginia defendants.

He detailed that GenBioPro has been in the business of making generic mifepristone for a few years, that its markets seem to have expanded as the Food and Drug Administration lifted restrictions on mifepristone’s prescription and distribution and that the drug is used in the vast majority of medical abortions.

“All of that seems to me to start tipping the balance much more towards the plaintiff in a finding that this is not a generalized grievance, this is not a speculative economic loss, this is something pretty direct,” he added.

Chambers said he would try to issue a ruling on the standing question in the next several days, and that if he finds GenBioPro to have it, indicated that he’d like to have the parties back in to argue the merits of the case in mid- to late-May.

GenBioPro filed this lawsuit against West Virginia in January, after the state adopted a more stringent abortion ban post-Dobbs. It’s the first of its kind to move forward, though GenBioPro had filed and then later withdrawn a lawsuit against Mississippi last August. I couldn’t tell you what the differences were between those two suits, but you can find out more about the WV one here.

Two things to note here. One is that GenBioPro also recently filed a lawsuit in Maryland to protect existing access to mifepristone, as a hedge against what SCOTUS would do with the Kacsmaryk ruling. That suit is still in its initial stages. And two, I would think that a favorable ruling here, if it withstands appeals, would open the door to a similar challenge in states like Texas that have equally draconian laws. Again, I don’t know why the Mississippi lawsuit was withdrawn, and I definitely don’t have the legal knowledge to say with any degree of confidence how other states may or may not be like West Virginia in this regard. I am saying that it’s a possible avenue of attack, and I’m sure folks here will be keeping an eye on it. Given the likely timeline, a much better route would be winning enough in 2024 to pass federal laws protecting abortion access more broadly. But it never hurts to have some redundancy.

Precinct analysis: State Senate and SBOE 2022

State House 2022
A comparison with 2012
Congress 2022

As with Congress there won’t be much to see here. The fewer the districts, the more precise the redistricting can be. Here’s the State Senate:

Dist  Abbott   Abb%     Beto  Beto%
19    96,050  43.8%  119,728  54.6%
20    78,929  44.9%   94,682  53.8% 
21    88,609  40.5%  126,105  57.7%
27    87,773  49.0%   88,970  49.6%

02   168,600  59.2%  112,075  39.4%
07   172,986  60.0%  111,308  38.6%
08   195,298  58.3%  134,859  40.3%
09   161,729  57.4%  115,562  41.0%
11   164,256  58.7%  111,345  39.8%
12   205,220  58.4%  141,603  40.3%
25   237,836  60.0%  152,508  38.5%

SD27 is the former Eddie Lucio district, and Dems just barely hung on to it last year. Freshman Sen. Morgan LaMantia will be on the ballot again next year, and obviously I hope that being the incumbent plus it being a Presidential year will help her out. I’m sure Republicans will put a lot of money into it anyway. The other Dem districts don’t particularly worry me, but we will of course look for any trends.

Not much to say about the Republican-held districts. Angela Paxton, out there opposing any exceptions to Texas’ forced birth laws, and she’ll be on the 2024 ballot as well. It sure would be nice to put a lot of money into making that a campaign issue, if only to see what if any traction there is to be had with it. Her SD08 and all of the others are in that pile of “districts that moved at least somewhat in a blue direction last decade”, and if there are to be any potential flips on this part of the ledger we’ll need that to continue.

Onto the SBOE:

Dist  Abbott   Abb%     Beto  Beto%
01   205,022  44.6%  246,944  53.7%
03   218,370  44.7%  263,062  53.8%

02   206,855  51.6%  188,418  47.0%
06   351,539  57.1%  254,937  41.4%
07   348,281  59.8%  225,552  38.8%
08   284,992  59.2%   89,318  39.3%
12   402,314  59.9%  260,723  38.8%

SBOE2, which had been on a knife’s edge last decade, is now Republican-held, meaning the Dems are back to having five seats. It seems that the new map made the now-Dem SBOE5 a lot bluer at least partly at SBOE3’s expense, as it had been a 65%-plus district before. Again, I’m not worried about either of those two, but as above we’ll keep an eye on them. I don’t know when we’ll get a crack at SBOE2 again – unlike in the Senate, the process to determine who gets the two-year term and who gets the four-year term in the SBOE doesn’t draw much coverage. Given the size of these districts, unless the state itself turns blue I don’t see any other competitive races on the horizon. I’d love to be proven wrong, but these districts have a lot of slack in them. For all that SBOE6 shifted last decade, it stayed red in the end. It’s now been reset to 2012 levels, and at this point the best case scenario looks like a repeat of that cycle. Again, I’ll be happy to be too pessimistic about that.

You can always count on Sid Miller to be a bigot

There are other words I could have used as well.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is ordering his employees to dress “in a manner consistent with their biological gender,” the latest move by the state’s Republican leaders against transgender people.

Miller issued the requirement as part of a “dress code and grooming policy” that is dated April 13. The Texas Tribune obtained a copy of the policy, which was first reported Monday by The Texas Observer.

The two-page policy applies to all employees for the agency that Miller leads, the Texas Department of Agriculture, as well as interns and contract employees. If anyone violates the policy, they will be asked to go home and change. If problems persist, the memo says, employees can face “remedies up to and including termination.”

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said this dress code provision violates Title VII — which bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — as well as the First Amendment’s right to free expression and the Equal Protection Clause.

“State agencies should be focused on doing their jobs and not discriminating against their own employees and trying to make political statements through their agency regulations,” he said. “There is no important governmental interest that this can meet.”


Ricardo Martinez, CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said the vague language is trying to enforce gender stereotypes.

“Are women no longer allowed to wear suits? Can men wear necklaces?” Martinez said. “While this policy was clearly designed to target transgender employees, it will have a negative impact on everyone. Any policy that is designed to target a specific group degrades the whole department. Texans deserve better.”

The policy is obviously discriminatory towards trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, as well as being oblivious to the fact that intersex people exist. It’s also insulting to cisgender people. The language in the policy, which you can see at the end of that Observer story, is embarrassingly condescending. Even without the bizarre focus on people’s genitals, it’s never a good look to not treat adults like adults. While Sid does graciously allow the ladies to wear pants, any time you’re talking about skirt length and cleavage amounts, you’re getting into some fraught – and very, very sexist, because we all know the enforcement of this is going to fall most heavily on the women – territory. If there isn’t a lawsuit filed within a week, I’ll be surprised. The Current has more.

Sexual harassment lawsuit against Collin County DA settled

From last week.

Greg Willis

Collin County Commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to settle an amended lawsuit against the Collin County District Attorney’s Office by three current and three former employees of that office.

The suit accused District Attorney Greg Willis and First Assistant District Attorney Bill Wirskye of sexually harassing multiple women who work or have worked in the district attorney’s office, and of retaliating against them when they refused to comply with their sexual advances.

In a statement released by Collin County Judge Chris Hill, he also claims the lawsuit falsely claimed members of the Commissioners Court were aware of the misconduct in the office and refused to take action.

The statement goes onto say the Commissioners Court engaged an independent legal firm to investigate the allegations immediately upon learning of them. That investigator talked with more than 30 current and former employees at the DA’s office, who they say discovered numerous inconsistencies, inaccuracies and false statements in the allegations. Multiple employees also reportedly directly disputed many of the lawsuit’s allegations.

“As the female leadership in the Collin County District Attorney’s Office, we would like to issue this statement in support of District Attorney Greg Willis and First Assistant Bill Wirskye,” said 11 current female chief prosecutors in the Collin County DA’s Office. “They have cultivated an environment that empowers women and supports working mothers. We are proud to continue to seek justice alongside their leadership.”

The Commissioners Court said in the statement they ultimately concluded the allegations were unfounded and refused to settle claims of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, along with allegations against court members.

“In spite of the Court’s objections, the county’s insurance company was concerned about the potential costs of litigation and any potential judgment, and the insurer offered the six plaintiffs $1.75 million to settle the lawsuit,” the statement reads. “The six plaintiffs amended their lawsuit, retracting the allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, retracting all allegations against the Court members, and retracting the allegations against the District Attorney and the First Assistant District Attorney.”

The plaintiffs alleged in an amended filing that they suffered retaliation and subsequently accepted the settlement offer.

Afterward, the three remaining employees resigned from their employment with the county, the statement added, as a condition of the settlement agreement.

See here and here for the background. Willis is a longtime Ken Paxton crony, which is what interested me in the case to begin with. There’s some information in the story about the allegations – there’s more in those links I provided above – but no response about the dismissal from the plaintiffs’ side, so all we have is the defense posturing to analyze. The original allegations were pretty shocking, but a lot of things can happen between the filings and the courtroom. I’m fascinated by the defense putting the onus on the settlement on the county’s insurance company, like “we wanted to fight this in court but those actuarial wusses held us back”. I sure wish I knew more, but this is often how it goes. KERA has more.

The case of the no-evidence lawsuit

The lack of evidence in the Harris County election lawsuits is so glaring, I don’t know how we’re talking about anything else.

In the weeks following Harris County’s November election, 22 Republican candidates who lost their races filed lawsuits challenging the results and asking for new elections.

One of those was dismissed in January by House Speaker Dade Phelan on the grounds that Republican House candidate Mike May had failed to include a required fee with his petition.

The remaining cases will not go to trial until mid-June at the earliest. Judge David Peeples, a visiting judge from San Antonio, is hearing all of the remaining election contest lawsuits and likely will consolidate them into two separate trials based on which approach the attorneys in each case take.

Much of their argument, per their court filings, relies on the premise that county officials deliberately created ballot paper shortages at polling locations in predominantly Republican neighborhoods, turning away so many GOP voters that Republican candidates lost elections they otherwise would have won.

Harris County has a countywide voting system, meaning voters were able to cast ballots at any of 782 polling places on Election Day. If a voter went to a location that was out of paper, others polling places were available, typically within one mile.

A Houston Chronicle analysis of polling locations, county data and interviews with 40 election judges, including 32 who ran the polls Republicans said turned away voters, found at least 20 locations ran out of paper on Election Day, about 2.5 percent of the polls open across Harris County on Nov. 8. Some ran out for just 15 minutes, others for up to three hours. A handful of other locations suffered equipment and technical malfunctions that resulted in those polls opening late or having long lines.

While GOP candidates have argued voters were disenfranchised by the ballot paper shortages, the term may not fit the circumstances, according to Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

“The courts are going to have to decide whether people were disenfranchised or not,” Rottinghaus said. “That is something that is a judgment beyond what we can claim politically.”

For now, it remains unclear how large a role the ballot paper shortages will play in determining whether the judge decides to order any new elections.

First things first, just to be pedantic, but what loser Mike May filed was an election contest, which is adjudicated by the House. It’s not a lawsuit, which is heard in a district court. That’s why it was Speaker Phelan who dismissed it. It’s of a piece with the lawsuits filed by the other crybaby sore losers, but it’s a different thing and should be noted as such.

Second, I’ve skipped the main part of the article, but it really has nothing different from any previous reporting. Specifically, it doesn’t have any claim that some sufficiently significant number of people who tried to vote at one of these locations were not only unable to vote there, but were unable to vote at all as a result of the paper shortages. Why they couldn’t – not didn’t, but couldn’t – have gone to one of the 762 locations elsewhere in the county that wasn’t having any problems is a question that I presume the defense will ask them, but it doesn’t really matter because these people don’t exist. Maybe Andy Taylor or the furniture guy have located a couple of people to testify to their failure to vote. Anything is possible. But to even potentially affect all but the single closest race you would literally need thousands, usually tens of thousands of these people (in the closest race you’d need a few hundred), and there is no way they exist. It is simply not possible.

I will point out, as I have done before, that the reason these sites ran out of paper is because more voters showed up than the elections office projected were likely to show up. That’s an error, but quite a small one in context – again, there were 782 voting locations, and only 20 to 30 in the most generous interpretation of the data had shortages. In the pre-paper ballot days, this would have manifested as longer lines due to a lack of voting machines, which is very much a thing we have experienced in Harris County in the past. The lines for early voting in the 2008 Democratic primary were legendarily long because of this, as Dems were obliterating all records for turnout that year. Maybe they could have done a better job, and I would certainly expect that they will learn from this, but the only unique thing about this situation was the paper. We have seen this story before, more than once.

As for the claims about intent, specifically the intent to suppress Republican votes, I’m not a galaxy brain like Andy Taylor, but I don’t know how you can have evidence of intent when there’s no evidence of actual wrongdoing. As the previous reporting showed, the problematic areas were roughly split between centers in Democratic and Republican areas. There were slightly more in the Republican areas, but not a lot. It would not be at all difficult to only target Republican-located centers for this treatment if you wanted to. The data telling you where to aim is well known. To believe that there was an intent to suppress Republican votes in this manner is not only to believe in the criminality of the elections office, but also their total incompetence. You can make that claim if you really want. The explanation that this was just a missed projection is a whole lot stronger.

Finally, I don’t know what the standard the judge will use in these cases is. What I do know is that the core of the Republican argument is a whole lot of theory, hypotheticals, what-ifs, and coulda-shouldas. It’s the legal equivalent of a frustrated football fan after a tough loss saying if the ref hadn’t blown that call and if Miller had made that catch and if the coach had called a better play on that third down and if Johnson hadn’t gotten injured we could have won. If this is enough to order new elections, under what conditions would any election be decided by the voters? Why would we even bother if anyone can successfully petition for a do over any time they don’t like the outcome?

Even more Board of Managers applicants

Maybe now they have enough.

When the Texas Education Agency in June appoints a new superintendent and nine managers to govern the Houston Independent School District, longtime educator and mother Anita Wadhwa hopes there will be someone like her sitting on the new board.

“Sometimes on boards, they don’t have people who are on the ground doing the work,” she said. “I just want to make sure that voice is represented — whether it’s with me or someone else, it doesn’t matter.”

Wadhwa is among 462 people, many of them educators, HISD parents or other professionals, who applied to the board of managers through the final deadline on Thursday night, according to the TEA. The extended deadline netted an additional 88 applications. Still, the Hispanic population remains vastly underrepresented with just 52 applicants. Latinos make up roughly 62% of the student body but 11% of the candidate pool.

“The reason for this low response has been a poor recruitment process that does not allow community input, a lack of transparency on qualifications, and a very short window of time,” said Sergio Lira, president of the Greater Houston LULAC Council, in a statement. “We feel that this is a calculated process that is meant to keep Latino numbers down.”

Forty people were disqualified from the process because they live outside district boundaries. A third of the applicants are white, nearly 40% are Black and 4.5% are Asian, according to the TEA. Nearly 70% hold a master’s or doctorate degree, including 38 people with a doctorate in education. There are many HISD teachers and employees in the mix, according a partial list of applicants, but the TEA has said those people must resign from their job if they are selected.

The partial list of names released last week by the TEA includes professionals from all spheres: attorneys, doctors, nurses, coaches, professors and educators. While many applicants have little name recognition, some have put been in the public sphere through civic leadership, prior elections and advocacy work. For example, among the applicants are Catherine Mincberg, who served as an HISD trustee more than a decade ago, and Lawrence Allen Jr., a former member of the state board of education and brother of a current HISD trustee.

When we last looked at the BoM applicants, we noted that the deadline to apply had been extended for two weeks, for unspecified reasons. I looked through the list of names in this story and didn’t see any that I hadn’t recognized from before, so either the Chron’s list wasn’t updated or nobody of sufficient renown to be spotted by the likes of me applied during that extended period. I did see Cathy Mincberg‘s name in there before, and according to her LinkedIn bio, she was a Trustee from 1983 through 1995; that “more than a decade ago” is doing quite a bit of work there. I should note, this is not at all intended as snark about Mincberg, who is also the ex-wife of former HCDP Chair and 2008 Dem candidate for County Judge David Mincberg. It was just that my reaction to the “more than a decade” descriptor was “I’m pretty sure I know the names of every HISD trustee since 2003, and she wasn’t one of them, so how much more than a decade are we talking here”. Well, now you know. Also, she was a previous applicant to the BoM.

Anyway, the same issues as before apply. Not nearly enough Latinos among the applicants. No accountability except via decree from Mike Morath. No clue, at least by me, how they’re going to be able to reach the super high metrics Morath has set. Redistricting of trustee districts still needs to be done, and there hasn’t been a bond issue since 2012; sadly, we’re no longer in a zero-interest economy, so it’s going to cost more to replenish the capital stock. Just remember, the state of Texas is now responsible for all this and more. Every single problem from now till they hand it all back, and then some, is on them.

So yeah, climate change is bad for Houston

Some science for you.

As Houston continues to grapple with extreme weather conditions, scientists find record-breaking sea level rises in the U.S. Gulf Coast, which could leave cities such as Houston more vulnerable to severe storms and flooding in the coming decades than previously anticipated.

Since 2010, sea levels along the Gulf Coast and Southeast coastlines have been rising by roughly half an inch per year due to a combination of human-caused climate change and an extended period of unfavorable natural conditions, according to a new study published by the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Although half an inch might not seem like a lot, it can have significant consequences for coastal communities. A NASA analysis determined that for every inch of sea level rise, about 8.5 feet of beachfront vanishes along an average coast. In fact, these rates are on par with the “worst case” scenario if greenhouse gas emissions continued to surge throughout the 21st century.

Higher sea levels also can cause more flooding even on sunny days, often leading to considerable damage to properties and infrastructure, according to the paper’s lead author, Sönke Dangendorf, at Tulane University. This latest research joins a long list of recent studies highlighting the negative effect climate change could have on the Houston area.

“These rapid rates are unprecedented over at least the 20th century and they have been three times higher than the global average over the same period,” Dangendorf told the Tulane News. “The results, once again, demonstrate the urgency of the climate crisis for the Gulf region. We need interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts to sustainably face these challenges.”

The findings by Dangendorf and his team were consistent with those of Jianjun Yin, a geosciences professor at the University of Arizona. In his recent article in the Journal of Climate, Yin used satellite observations to estimate the total amount of sea level rise in the East and the Gulf Coasts from 2010 to 2022 was about 5 inches. The drastic rate has made disasters such as Hurricanes Michael and Ian more devastating than they otherwise would have been, he told The Washington Post.

“The faster (sea level rise) on the Southeast and Gulf Coasts … coincided with active and even record-breaking North Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent years,” Yin said in his study. “As a consequence, the elevated storm surge exacerbated coastal flooding and damages, particularly on the Gulf Coast.”

The study and an abstract are here. I don’t think the premise or the conclusions will surprise anyone who has lived through the last decade or so here. It’s more a question of how much worse it gets, and how much of a risk that is to everyone living here. And, in a more hopeful vein, what we can do to mitigate that and protect ourselves.

Weekend link dump for April 23

The actual role COVID relief funding played in inflation.

The video for “We Didn’t Start The Fire” with AI-generated images is weird and fun.

“If you want to find ongoing, comprehensive coverage of the effects of abortion bans on care of miscarriages and pregnancies that threaten the health of the mother, there’s a go-to source you might not be anticipating: People magazine. The mainstay of hair salons and medical waiting rooms and checkout aisles has been covering these stories frequently, and explicitly putting them in the context of anti-abortion laws.”

The Jackie Robinson-Carly Simon connection is amazing, and I can’t believe I hadn’t known of it before.

“The unauthorized disclosure points to broader systemic failures in the safeguarding of U.S. intelligence information, as well as new insider threats that pose thorny legal and policy challenges. As intelligence and law enforcement leaders assess the damage, Congress should be asking tough questions to hold the executive branch accountable and prevent future leaks.”

“Dubious autism treatments used to be a fringe-left thing. Then came Trump and Covid.”

“So why do [anti-drag] bills garner such emphatic support among those on the Christian right? As sociologists who study conservative Protestants’ discussions of faith, gender, and sexuality, we believe the answer lies not so much in claims about drag performers and trans people (distinct but sometimes overlapping groups) as it does in conservative Protestants’ own sense of themselves.”

“Women in Congress Are Wrongly Defending Dianne Feinstein, Who Should Retire”.

Honestly, I thought Kendall’s name was underlined, but I can see the argument for “crossed out”.

“How to see who else is using your streaming service subscriptions”.

“CBC/Radio-Canada has paused activities on its corporate and news Twitter accounts, after the social media platform put a “government-funded media” label on its @CBC account, in its latest move to stamp public broadcasters with designations.”

“Hollywood Writers Approve of Strike as Shutdown Looms”.

Kudos to the Dodgers. Well done.

“Solar panels have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, but they contain valuable metals, including silver and copper. With a surge of expired panels expected soon, companies are emerging that seek to recycle the reusable materials and keep the panels out of landfills.”

“If you forged your political identity pre-Trump, then you belong to a GOP establishment now loathed by a majority of Republican primary voters. Even if you agree with Trump. Even if you worked for Trump. Even if you were on Trump’s ticket as his vice president.”

“Still, the item that pulled the most weight was the LP, which was not only a delivery system for the sounds but also a perfect accessory for the accompanying lifestyle. After dropping stylus on platter, one could sit back and examine the sizable LP jacket with its cover art, liner notes, and technical information, or else carefully reorder one’s collection according to name, genre, label, or spine color.”

“Once again, Dominion isn’t an activist organization. We shouldn’t expect it to act like one. The result of this case has been absolutely devastating for Fox’s reputation.”

We all missed out on the opportunity to win $5 million of Mike Lindell’s money.

“This really works out for me because I was plan[n]ing on never using this website again after tonight, anyway”.

RIP, Buzzfeed News. Sad to see them go.

There are a lot of people running for office in Houston already

If you regularly check the page, you may have noticed this article continuing to appear, even though it was originally published last November. The reason for this is that they are tracking who has officially filed for office, and are updating it weekly.

The campaigns for Houston’s November mayoral election are in full swing, with several contenders in the mix and millions of dollars flowing to candidates.

In Houston’s strong mayor form of government, the mayor acts as the chief executive of the city, presiding over City Council while also directly managing the city’s 22 departments. The mayor oversees a nearly $6 billion budget and manages more than 20,000 employees.

That means the next administration will have a chance to shape the city’s finances, and will have final say over the number of police officers patrolling the streets, how your garbage and recycling is collected, how streets are repaired and designed, and how the city manages its water system, among other issues.

Mayor Sylvester Turner is term-limited and will leave office in January. The campaigns to replace him in this year’s open election actually began years ago, an unusually early start for municipal politics. State Sen. John Whitmire, the longest serving member of the Texas Senate, announced his plans to run for mayor way back in November 2021.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee made her long-rumored campaign official on March 26, telling parishioners at City Cathedral Church she plans to run.

The congresswoman’s announcement shuffled the race: About a week later, Chris Hollins, the former Harris County clerk, said he would drop out and run for controller instead. And Tony Buzbee, the millionaire attorney who challenged Turner in 2019, said he is considering another run because he thinks he is the only candidate who can beat Jackson Lee.

The mayoral field includes former City Councilmember Amanda Edwards, attorney Lee Kaplan, Councilmember Robert Gallegos, and former Metro Chair Gilbert Garcia.


Candidates can file a document appointing a campaign treasurer, which allows them to start fundraising.

Dozens of candidates have filed those documents so far. Others, like outgoing City Council members, have announced campaigns for new posts.

We’ll update the list every week or so, as new candidates surface.

The 10 incumbent council members are included in this list. As of April 18, the candidates are:

You can click over to see, but I’ll provide a few highlights:

– There are now twelve Mayoral candidates, with the addition and subtraction of Chris Hollins, now a Controller candidate. Tony Buzbee, who has not filed a designation of treasurer, is not included. The list also includes a number of perennials and “who the heck is that” types. Be that as it may, there are six candidates – John Whitmire, Sheila Jackson Lee, Amanda Edwards, Gilbert Garcia, Robert Gallegos, Lee Kaplan – who can claim to be serious.

– Lots of action already in the open At Large races – four candidates for AL1, five for AL2, and seven for AL3. I expect all three of them to continue to increase in size.

– For District Council open seat races, there are three candidates so far in E, five in H, and two in I. Again, I expect these to grow, though probably not as much as the At Large races will.

– There are now four candidates for Controller, the two current Council members Dave Martin and Michael Kubosh, former Mayoral candidate Chris Hollins, and Chief Deputy Controller Shannan Nobles. My prediction that this race would attract at least one prominent Democrat looks pretty good right now.

– Several incumbents don’t yet have opponents. Tarsha Jackson in B has three opponents, Letitia Plummer in At Large #4 has two opponents, and Carolyn Evans-Shabazz in D and Ed Pollard in J each have one.

– Two people have filed to run for something but have not yet specified which office. There had been three when I looked about a month ago, but one either withdrew his candidacy or picked a race, I don’t remember. They have until the filing deadline to make their choice. Along those lines, anyone who has filed for one office can switch to another before the deadline. Nothing is written in stone until then.

– I’m already exhausted thinking about how many interviews I’m going to need to do.

Ashby 2.0 cleared for groundbreaking

It’s actually happening.

Did you miss me?

Along-embattled residential high-rise project in Boulevard Oaks is set to move forward, with one Houston City Council member calling the news “terrible.”

The Langley , a new luxury rental community jointly developed by El Paso-based Hunt Companies, Inc. and Dallas-based StreetLights Residential has just been given the green light to break ground by the City of Houston.

As neighbors are well aware, The Langley (1717 Bissonnet St.) is the new iteration of the hot-button mix-used development that was long dubbed the Ashby high-rise. A turf war between the Ashby’s developers and Boulevard Oaks residents and representatives dates back some 15 years. (The occasional “Stop Ashby High-Rise” bumper sticker can still be spotted in the Inner Loop.)

Locals filed a suit against Buckhead Investment Partners, a judge eventually sided with developers in 2016.

The Langley, a more intimate version than the original high-rise, is meant to appease residents who opposed the large development’s footprint and effect on traffic and flow. As the Houston Chronicle reported, the city of Houston approved StreetLights Residential’s permit for site and foundation work in March.

Now, it appears the The Langley is cleared to break ground. No word yet if Hunt Companies and StreetLights Residential hope to complete the project by 2025, the original target date.

City Council Member Abbie Kamin minced no words on Thursday, April 20. “This is terrible news and I won’t sugarcoat it,” she wrote in an email to constituents. “Residents and I have been fighting this grossly out-of-scale development – and its negative impacts on traffic, congestion, safety, and quality of life for neighbors – with both hands tied behind our backs.”

Hunt Companies and StreetLights Residential are “taking advantage of Houston’s lack of zoning,” Kamin continued. She added the developers are “using state vested rights laws to disregard new residential buffering standards, and other neighborhood protections that have been fought for and passed by City Council during my time and before.”

Kamin, for her part, vows to fight for residents. “Let me be clear: I stand strongly opposed to this development and others that do not incorporate and include the measures we have put in place to make development better for neighborhoods,” she wrote. “I will continue to advocate for and alongside our residents to mitigate the impacts this construction project is going to have on the neighborhood.”

See here and here for the background. It’s hard to know what CM Kamin and the rest of the opposition can accomplish at this point, but it can’t hurt to try. We know from the previous experience with this property that a vocal group of homeowners in a nice neighborhood can do quite a bit. As I’ve been on this train for a long time, I’ll ride it till it reaches its destination. Never would have thought it would still be going after all these years, and at this point clearly with some more to go, but here we are.

UPDATE: From the Chron story:

Pete Patterson, an attorney representing some neighbors who oppose the Langley, said the neighbors sill don’t think plans meet the requirements outlined in the 2012 agreement with the city.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Patterson. “We’re reviewing our options and we’ll be making a decision with respect to legal action in the near future.”

Litigation would certainly extend this ride even more. Who knows how much longer I’ll have to keep an eye on this?

The future Las Vegas A’s

I mentioned this story in passing in that post about MLB in Utah, but it deserves a closer look.

The Oakland Athletics have signed a binding agreement to purchase 49 acres (with an option for additional land) near the Las Vegas strip, according to Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The A’s intend to build a stadium that seats at least 30,000 and that has a partially retractable roof, per team president Dave Kaval. They intend to have the stadium complete ahead of the 2027 season. (You can read a timeline of how the A’s reached this point by clicking here.)

It’s worth noting that the A’s lease in Oakland expires after the 2024 season. Kaval told the New York Times that it’s possible the club will then relocate to Las Vegas and play in the minor-league park that currently houses the Triple-A Aviators.

“For a while we were on parallel paths (with Oakland), but we have turned our attention to Las Vegas to get a deal here for the A’s and find a long-term home,” Kaval told the Review-Journal. “Oakland has been a great home for us for over 50 years, but we really need this 20-year saga completed and we feel there’s a path here in Southern Nevada to do that.”

The A’s relocation plan includes passing a bill through the Legislature, “to create a funding mechanism, including a special taxation district covering the stadium site, which would allow for sales tax proceeds to be reinvested in the area, along with an allocation of transferable tax credits estimated to be worth around $500 million,” according to the Nevada Independent. The stadium would be located near the homes of the NFL’s Raiders and the NHL’s Golden Knights.

The A’s have attempted to finagle a new stadium since 2009. At one point, it appeared they had made progress toward a ballpark in Oakland located at the Howard Terminal site. Obviously that deal never came into fruition. MLB had set a January 2024 deadline for a stadium deal. In the past, the A’s had also been weaned off revenue sharing as a means of forcing the issue.

“We support the A’s turning their focus on Las Vegas and look forward to them bringing finality to this process by the end of the year,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement to the Review-Journal.

If and when the A’s relocate, they’ll become just the second MLB team since the 1970s to do so. The Montreal Expos, of course, became the Washington Nationals following the 2004 season. The Expos were, at the time, owned by the league itself. The A’s have played in Oakland since 1968. The franchise had previously spent time in both Kansas City and Philadelphia, though both relocations took place before the 1970s.

Relocating has been a possibility for the A’s for awhile, more because of its stadium situation than anything else. Its ownership has done so much to alienate its fanbase and the local government that in some sense this was inevitable, but only if you accept the premise that the owners had no other way to act. Be careful what you ask for, Las Vegas, that’s all I’m saying. Yahoo and Fangraphs have more.

SCOTUS halts the anti-mifepristone ruling


The Supreme Court ruled Friday to pause lower court rulings that would have imposed restrictions on mifepristone, keeping the drug accessible while the case proceeds.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas would not have granted the stay.

Despite the fact that the initial lawsuit rested on dubious standing grounds and was infused with anti-abortion myths, it was strategically placed to travel through a circuit of notoriously right-wing courts up to the far-right Supreme Court.

Even those pounding the alarm about the dangers this case would pose to the Food and Drug Administration’s functioning, drug approval process and the whole pharmaceutical industry harbored doubts that the Court wouldn’t take any opportunity to further restrict abortion rights.

But the widely panned lower court rulings proved a bridge too far even for the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade.

In his dissent, Alito reels off a series of critiques lodged against the conservative majority for using the shadow docket to hand down rulings with no explanation.

“I did not agree with these criticisms at the time, but if they were warranted in the cases in which they were made, they are emphatically true here,” he huffs. “As narrowed by the Court of Appeals, the stay that would apply if we failed to broaden it would not remove mifepristone from the market.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision, at the least, would nix the FDA’s approval of generic mifepristone, potentially taking it off the market.

He then argues that nothing the court says really matters, since the FDA has enforcement discretion in which drugs to target.

“The FDA has previously invoked enforcement discretion to permit the distribution of mifepristone in a way that the regulations then in force prohibited, and here, the Government has not dispelled legitimate doubts that it would even obey an unfavorable order in these cases, much less that it would choose to take enforcement actions to which it has strong objections,” he writes.


The case will now proceed at the Fifth Circuit, which still has to rule on the merits. It’s on an expedited timeline there, with briefs due throughout May. The timing for a final decision from the appeals court is still uncertain; a likely return to the Supreme Court could come after that. The high court said the stay would remain in place until it either refused to take the case or issued a final ruling.

An initial 5th Circuit panel gave the anti-abortion group a favorable ruling, upholding challenges to mifepristone that the FDA had lifted in recent years and potentially removing the FDA approval of generic mifepristone altogether.

A coalition of blue states joined the docket, pointing out that any restriction of mifepristone enforced nationwide would impinge on their rights as states to determine their own abortion regimes — something the Supreme Court claimed was its intention in Dobbs.

See here for the previous update, and there’s a copy of the ruling at the link above. It must be emphasized that this is just putting the lower court ruling on hold while the appeals process plays out. In the end, the Fifth Circuit could rule as it did in partly staying the order, thus taking away mifepristone by mail and other things, on the same lack of evidence and hostility to the idea of abortion, with some unsubtle hints about the Comstock Act. And then SCOTUS could do whatever it wants to do, with some kind of “middle ground” between the completely lawless Kacsmaryk ruling and a full overturn as the goal. We are very much not out of danger. But at least for now, and probably until early next year when the SCOTUS ruling would be likely to be handed down, we’re back at the original status quo. That’s something. TPR, the Trib, Mother Jones, Vox, and Slate have more.

How was there still an active lawsuit over the 2004 revenue cap referendum?

I am gobsmacked.

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday struck down part of Houston’s revenue cap, creating the possibility that the city may have to comply with an even more stringent cap in the future.

Elected officials in Houston long have blamed the city’s revenue cap for lagging services, keeping more than $1.4 billion from the city’s coffers since 2014. If Houston were forced to implement the stricter cap, current and former city officials have argued it would be “financially devastating.

“The ruling in the 19-year-old legal dispute stems from the 2004 municipal elections, when Houston voters passed two separate caps on the city’s revenues. Anti-tax activists proposed a measure that would cap increases in total city revenues to the sum of population growth and inflation. That initiative became known as Proposition 2.

Then-Mayor Bill White, in response, offered an alternative: The city would limit annual increases in property tax revenue to the sum of population growth and inflation, or 4.5 percent, whichever is lower. City Council put that measure on the ballot, known as Proposition 1, with language saying it would preempt Proposition 2 if it got more votes. Both caps allow the city to ask for voters’ approval to exceed their respective limits.

Houston voters passed both measures, and supported Prop 1 by a greater margin, 64 percent to 56 percent for Prop 2. The city implemented the White administration’s version and came up against the cap for the first time in 2014. It has cut its property tax rate eight times in the last nine years to comply with that measure.

“There is an impact on the services the city can deliver in the general fund with Prop 1,” said former Mayor Annise Parker, who served as city controller when the ballot measures passed. “It would be financially devastating to implement Prop 2.”


The city’s charter has a provision for when inconsistent amendments are adopted, saying “the amendment receiving the highest number of votes shall prevail.” The question for the trial court will be whether the two propositions are inconsistent.

“The trial court noted that aspects of the two amendments may be harmonized, but it did not undertake that effort because it gave effect to the primacy clause and disregarded Proposition 2 in its entirety,” Bland wrote.

Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office said the city has argued for nearly 20 years that they do conflict. He said Friday he is confident the trial court will agree, leaving the current cap in place.

“Houston has faithfully enforced one of the country’s most restrictive property tax revenue caps for almost two decades,” Turner said in a statement. “When Houston voters were presented with a choice of two competing caps, they clearly chose a restriction on property tax rates and revenue alone. I remain confident that the conclusion of this case will find the charter amendment revenue caps are inconsistent and apply only the limitations of Proposition 1 with which the City has faithfully complied — in addition to complying with the recently enacted State of Texas revenue cap.”

I couldn’t find anything in my archives relating to this lawsuit, so I have no idea what its history is. The city has prevailed in past litigation, but as with the neverending efforts to kill Obamacare the fringe lunatics who keep fighting this keep finding new ways to keep trying. I have no idea what happens next, but as I am waiting for news of a different Supreme Court ruling as I write this, I hope this is the worst news from any kind of Supreme Court we got on Friday afternoon. I’m going to go light a candle and toss some salt over my shoulder now.

HCC approves its redistricting map

In the end, what was expected.

The Houston Community College Board of Trustees approved on Wednesday a redrawn voter map that made small changes to all nine single-member districts but failed to reunify a previously split Third Ward.

The trustees approved the drawing, 8-1, with only District 4 Trustee Reagan Flowers voting against. She sought to regain the north part of the historic Third Ward ten years after her district ceded it to District 3, a predominately Hispanic area in east and southeast Houston that had lost population in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Alternate maps that Flowers favored never gained traction. Latino communities came out in force to support the plan that was voted on and approved. and election lawyers said it also contained the most equitable changes across the districts and had the least potential of diluting voter strength.

“(The map) actually rebalances you as a system,” said Lisa McBride, a partner at Thompson & Horton LLP. “It’s a little bit of impact to every single member district but it’s not so much that it actually would change any election outcome.”

The redistricting effort occurred as HCC’s District 3 once again counted population losses in the 2020 U.S. Census. Districts have to be redrawn when the population of the most populous district — now District 6, in west Houston — exceeds the population of the least populous district by more than 10 percent at the time of major Census updates.

The population estimates led the HCC board to spend the last 14 months considering various redrawn maps – all with the intent of finding places for District 6 to shed population and District 3 to expand. The trustees needed to approve a new map by the summer, in time to plan for the November election.

In approving “map 1A,” District 3 Trustee Adriana Tamez said, the board succeeded in its goals of preserving existing boundaries when possible and preserving constituent relations.

“There were challenges, including population growth in the west side of the System,” she said. “Map 1A adheres to our agreed upon criteria, with as little disruption as possible, not only for district 3, but for all districts across the system.”

See here for some background. There was definitely some opposition from Trustee Flowers and residents of the Third Ward, but the challenge of keeping that part of town all in the same district when the adjoining District 3 needed to add population required bigger overall changes, and in the end that was not the consensus choice.

On a completely tangential note, HISD still has its redistricting to do. The most recent update I have on that is from January, and with the forthcoming takeover I have no idea what will happen. If they had had an easy update to make, they’d have done it by now, but these things are rarely easy. As we know, there are still HISD Trustee elections this November, and the districts right now are not in compliance with the law. Something will have to happen sooner or later.

MLB in Utah?

It’s on the table.

A Salt Lake City consortium led by the former owner of the Utah Jazz plans to pursue a Major League Baseball franchise in the coming years, touting the area’s population growth, strong economy and baseball history as draws for a coveted expansion slot, people involved with the project told ESPN.

Big League Utah, a group headed by longtime Jazz owner Gail Miller, will join Nashville’s Music City Baseball and the Portland Diamond Project in lobbying to join the current 30 MLB organizations. Las Vegas, considered a prime destination for a franchise, has emerged as a strong candidate if the Oakland Athletics relocate.

While sources said MLB does not plan to expand until it figures out the futures of Oakland and the Tampa Bay Rays — both of whom have considered moving amid struggles to secure new stadiums in their current metropolitan areas — commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN in July: “I would love to get to 32 teams.”

The Salt Lake City coalition includes the Larry H. Miller Company — the conglomerate founded by Miller’s late husband, Larry, an automobile magnate — as well as local business leaders and former major league players Dale Murphy and Jeremy Guthrie, both Utah residents. The group has targeted building a stadium in the Rocky Mountain Power District, a 100-acre mixed-use zone located between Salt Lake City’s new airport and its downtown core, an investment that would come on top of an expected $2 billion expansion fee.

“Salt Lake City is a major league city,” said Steve Starks, CEO of the Miller Company. “We believe that as a top-30 media market in the fastest-growing state in the country with the youngest population, that’s where our attention should be — and that we could accomplish bringing a team to the Wasatch Front.”

Starks said the group surveyed local fans about their favorite sports leagues for potential expansion and that MLB was the top choice, ahead of even the NFL.

“It would be, I think, a validation of everything that we’ve worked so hard to do,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox told ESPN. “We’ve proven ourselves in a sports capacity with Olympics in 2002 and coming back in 2030 or, more likely, 2034. We’ve hosted two NBA All-Star Games. We know we can do this. It would just be meaningful for people who love this sport, who care deeply about it. We’re a baseball state.”

Already owners of the Salt Lake Bees — the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels whose average attendance last year was 5,873, the 18th highest in minor league baseball — the Miller Company is building a new stadium for the team set to open in 2025. The Jazz, who moved to Salt Lake City from New Orleans in 1979, regularly sell out Vivint Arena.

Conversations with MLB about the possibility of expanding to Salt Lake City began about a year ago, when Starks inquired about the viability of a bid, with Las Vegas; Nashville, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Montreal among the other potential candidates.

Leaders of the Salt Lake City group highlighted a media market larger than that of four current major league teams: San Diego, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. They stressed Utah’s significant growth, as its population of about 3.3 million swelled by a higher percentage than any state from 2010 to 2020, according to the Census Bureau, and the Wasatch Front population — stretching from Ogden to Provo — is around 2.7 million. On top of that, the group said, Utah’s 2.4% unemployment rate in February was the fourth lowest in the country, with an economy trumpeted in recent years as among the strongest in the United States.

I’m a proponent of MLB expanding, and I believe they should be thinking bigger than 32 teams. As such, I sometimes play a little game of “how many new MLB teams could I reasonably place somewhere in North America”. Salt Lake City has been on my list of fantasy destinations, so this possibility doesn’t come as a big surprise to me. SLC would not be on my short list for a two-team expansion, but if we’re talking six teams, or especially ten teams (yes, expand to 40 teams, and yes I see that SLC is not on that list) then it’s definitely a contender.

That said, there are some concerns, including the existing minor league team and a more existential problem, which Jay Jaffe notes in his overview of the Big League Utah proposal.

After decades of drying that have accelerated in recent years due to climate change and population growth, the Great Salt Lake reached a record low water level in November, dipping to 4,188.6 feet above sea level, having lost 70% of its water since 1850. A June 2022 report in the New York Times sounded a dire warning regarding the air quality if the lake continues to dry up: “Most alarming, the air surrounding Salt Lake City would occasionally turn poisonous. The lake bed contains high levels of arsenic and as more of it becomes exposed, wind storms carry that arsenic into the lungs of nearby residents, who make up three-quarters of Utah’s population.”

January 2023 story in the Washington Post highlighted a report by researchers at BYU that showed that without dramatic cuts to water consumption — consumption driven by the same population growth that makes the area appealing as an expansion site — the lake was on track to disappear in five years. Since then, thankfully, the city has experienced its seventh-snowiest winter on record, with eight local ski resorts reporting record snowfalls. Already, the lake has risen three feet in five months, though it’s still six feet below “the minimum acceptable elevation for the lake’s ecological and economic health,” according to BYU ecologist Ben Abbott, the lead author of the January report.

The current snowpack and its runoff could raise levels another three or four feet, but the long-term sustainability of the lake remains in question, all of which would make for a thorny issue for MLB to consider in the context of a Salt Lake City bid. The likelihood that it will be a few years before the league makes up its mind about expansion — what’s the rush, right? — at least leaves time to see which way the wind is blowing, so to speak.

On the one hand, every city is already dealing with the effects of climate change, and some will have very big challenges going forward (Miami, anyone?), so we shouldn’t be too hard on SLC. On the other hand, any time you talk about arsenic in the air, that sounds like a problem. SLC is also at an elevation similar to Denver, so it would likely be a pretty offense-happy place. Assuming MLB can ever get the Oakland and Tampa situations resolved (which could be imminent for the A’s), we’ll see where we are with this.

There were fewer voting sites with paper issues than we thought

That’s my takeaway from this.

On Election Day last year, an unusual problem occurred around 6 p.m. — the polling place at El Lago City Hall ran out of paper ballots.

Republican presiding judge Chris Russo, the election worker running the polling location in the far southeast corner of Harris County, said he had been calling the county elections office’s hotline for more than three hours to request more paper. Russo said he told the 40 or so voters waiting in line that they had a few options.

“If you stay in line, you will vote today,” he recounted telling them. “But if you think you can make it to another polling location that has ballot paper and you think that is a better use of your time, you are free to do so.”

When the county finally delivered more paper at 9 p.m., only a handful of people remained and were able to vote.

El Lago was one of about 20 polling locations in Harris County that ran out of paper on Election Day, according to a Houston Chronicle review of county data and interviews with dozens of poll workers. That is a tiny fraction of the 782 polling places across the sprawling county that day.

Now, the ballot shortages in Harris County are placing local election officials at the center of a legal showdown and a raging political debate in Austin as the GOP-controlled Legislature is trying to move urgently to strip local officials of the power to oversee elections. County election officials also face scrutiny from lawsuits filed by 22 local Republican candidates who lost and a separate suit by Houston furniture mogul Jim McIngvale. One of the lawsuits, involving a Texas House race was dismissed by Speaker Dade Phelan in January.

A Houston Chronicle examination of election data found that while there were problems and technical glitches, there remains no evidence voters were systematically disenfranchised. Nor is there evidence the Election Day issues prompted people not to vote in numbers great enough to change the outcome of any of the races being contested.

Nonetheless, without all the facts being known, bills filed in Austin this year could make it easier for the state to order new elections, strip the county’s oversight and authority to conduct elections. They would also add criminal penalties for running out of ballot paper, create a team of state marshals to investigate election code violations and file criminal charges, and abolish the county Elections Administrators office.

The remaining lawsuits filed by 21 local Republican candidates include one from Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer, whose bid to oust incumbent County Judge Lina Hidalgo fell short by more than 18,000 votes. These candidates are asking judges to overturn the results and order new elections. Most of those candidates lost their races by 12,000 to 29,000 votes, according to official county results.

The argument made in most of those lawsuits is that Election Day problems, including ballot paper shortages and technical issues that delayed the opening of some polls, resulted in polling locations turning away thousands of voters whose ballots could have changed the outcome of those races.

It is impossible to know if or how many people at El Lago City Hall, let alone countywide, did not vote because of paper shortages or other technical or equipment malfunctions.

Harris County uses a countywide voting system, meaning voters could cast ballots at any of 782 polling locations on Election Day instead of being restricted to their home precincts. Voters turned away from one location could go to another polling place, typically about a mile away.

To win, the plaintiffs would need to prove that voting irregularities affected the election results.

That could prove a high bar to clear.

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said the challenge will be proving that people intended to vote but could not.

“If they ended up voting, it’s clear that it wasn’t so onerous that they weren’t able to effectively overcome it,” he said.

Twenty locations is quite a bit fewer than what I had previously seen in mostly Chron stories. It’s also a lot lower than the 121 locations claimed to have had problems by a KHOU story that I missed, which according to this companion story is the basis for a lot of bullshit claims and bad bills. What continues to be missing from all of these articles are the names and stories of people who were actually unable to vote as the result of any paper shortages. Which is still the only thing that matters as far as the contested elections go.

Go read both stories, they’re well reported and quite informative. The first one does a good job of showing where voting slowed down or stopped as a result of paper outages; in all cases, there were just more people showing up at that location than there had been paper to begin with. That kind of missed guess about Election Day turnout is a tale as old as time, and had we still been using the old non-paper machines, no one would have noticed. This story has been blown so far out of proportion it’s hard to even recognize it. See reporter Jen Rice’s Twitter thread for more.

UPDATE: While I don’t think this bill to ban county voting centers on Election Day will get through the House, it must be noted that if it does and there are problems of any kind on Election Day that affects the ability to vote, the people at the affected locations will be well and truly screwed. It’s paranoid bullshit all the way down.

On vying for the 2028 RNC

I get competing for this, but that doesn’t make me enthusiastic about it.

As part of Houston’s push to win the Republican National Convention in 2028, the George R. Brown Convention Center could be expanding.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, passed legislation out of the Senate this week that would allow Houston to use hotel occupancy taxes to make improvements and expand the convention center, though he did not detail what those plans might look like.

“Houston needs to modernize and expand the George R. Brown Convention Center to remain competitive and attract large conventions, such as the 2028 Republican National Convention,” Whitmire said in his push for the legislation.


If Houston were to win the convention, it would be in July or August 2028 with most of the activity at the Toyota Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center. However, when conventions are held in a city, there are dozens of offshoot events that can happen all over the region in hotels and at college campuses.

Holly Clapham, chief marketing officer for Houston First, didn’t detail plans for a potential expansion but said if the legislation Whitmire is pushing becomes law, “it would help ensure Houston remains a Tier 1 convention destination for years to come.”

Houston Republican State Sen. Paul Bettencourt is among those opposing Whitmire’s bill because of how it is allowing hotel occupancy tax revenue to be used for expenses that weren’t originally intended. Bettencourt said he doesn’t want the Legislature to set a precedent for taxes collected for one purpose to be shifted to some other use.

“I am concerned about the long-term implications of it,” Bettencourt told Whitmire.

Whitmire, who is running for mayor of Houston, said similar legislation was previously passed to allow Dallas and Fort Worth to use hotel occupancy taxes to expand their convention centers, and he just wants Houston to have that chance so it can better compete for big national conventions.

See here and here for some background. I survived the 1992 RNC, and as noted in those earlier posts my plan for the 2028 RNC if we get it is to be out of town. I support the idea of allowing the George R. Brown Convention Center to to expand and upgrade, so that’s fine as far as that goes. Maybe we can get that and also not get the 2028 RNC. That would be fine.