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Precinct analysis: 2019 At Large #5

Our last At Large race, and another one with many candidates. There wasn’t a clear division among the nine contestants here, so I’m presenting them all.


Dist Batteau  Garcia Flowers    Dick  Rivera  Bonton  Alcorn   Woods McNeese
============================================================================
A        654     955   1,232   4,224   1,676     952   2,526     835   1,333
B      1,421     826   1,905   1,206   1,567   2,973   1,068   1,328   1,674
C      1,459   1,502   2,782   7,167   2,769   1,377  14,491   1,852   2,147
D      3,661   1,076   3,588   1,910   1,901   2,385   2,528   1,733   2,130
E      1,275   1,271   1,498   7,117   2,865   1,311   3,966   1,233   1,774
F        553     599     865   1,997   1,165     848   1,172     646     809
G      1,107     939   1,693   7,974   1,821   1,199   9,274   1,237   2,754
H        577   1,718   1,449   1,635   2,459     843   2,574     789     703
I        654   1,661   1,173   1,251   2,277     639   1,369     573     570
J        371     447     585   1,415     865     474   1,034     434     468
K      1,440     910   2,056   2,523   1,729   1,755   3,012   1,250   1,611
									
A      4.55%   6.64%   8.56%  29.36%  11.65%   6.62%  17.56%   5.80%   9.27%
B     10.17%   5.91%  13.64%   8.63%  11.22%  21.28%   7.65%   9.51%  11.98%
C      4.10%   4.23%   7.83%  20.16%   7.79%   3.87%  40.77%   5.21%   6.04%
D     17.51%   5.15%  17.16%   9.13%   9.09%  11.40%  12.09%   8.29%  10.19%
E      5.71%   5.70%   6.71%  31.90%  12.84%   5.88%  17.78%   5.53%   7.95%
F      6.39%   6.92%  10.00%  23.08%  13.46%   9.80%  13.54%   7.46%   9.35%
G      3.95%   3.35%   6.05%  28.48%   6.50%   4.28%  33.12%   4.42%   9.84%
H      4.53%  13.48%  11.37%  12.83%  19.29%   6.61%  20.19%   6.19%   5.52%
I      6.43%  16.34%  11.54%  12.30%  22.40%   6.29%  13.47%   5.64%   5.61%
J      6.09%   7.34%   9.60%  23.22%  14.20%   7.78%  16.97%   7.12%   7.68%
K      8.84%   5.59%  12.62%  15.49%  10.62%  10.78%  18.49%   7.68%   9.89%

Here again in our hypothetical ranked-choice election world – which by the way would take a change to state law, so if this is something you really want to see happen, I suggest you contact your State Rep and State Senator – of the nine candidates present I’d list no more than two. Of the remaining seven, I only have the barest idea about the two perennials, one of whom is now in the runoff. Having a lot of candidates run is not at all the same as having many good choices.

Sallie Alcorn led in Districts C (by a large margin), G, and H. Her strength in those districts gives her a clear path to victory if she can consolidate the Democratic vote. Like the other Dems in the runoff she has collected the establishment endorsements, and she is running against an actual Republican elected official. Some Dem activists are not on board, however, in part because she has collected some endorsements from conservative groups like the Houston Realty Business Coalition, and in part because of some hard feelings from the GLBT Political Caucus endorsing her over Ashton Woods. I have no idea how much to make of that.

You don’t need me to tell you about Eric Dick, but I will anyway. This is his fourth run for city office – he ran for At Large #2 in 2011, for Mayor in 2013, for At Large #2 again in 2015, and now this. He was elected to the HCDE in Precinct 4 in 2016, and has been adjacent to some scandals. He littered the town with his yard signs in 2011, hilariously and dishonestly claiming that all the ones that had been illegally placed on utility poles were the work of overzealous volunteers, and made crude sexual jokes about Mayor Annise Parker. After his initial campaign, ads for his law firm became a fixture on the back page of the Houston Press (RIP), and just the other day I saw a brief ad for his firm – not his campaign, because he’d have to report those expenditures – on TV. In other words, whether you ever wanted to or not, you have probably heard of Eric Dick. He led the way in Districts A, E, F, and J, and I have no doubt that helped him. His name and the fact that despite being an actual elected Republican official he’s not closely identified with the Republican Party are his two best assets in the runoff.

Beyond that, what is there to say? Michele Bonton carried District B, perennial candidate Brad Batteau carried D, with Catherine Flowers right behind him, and Sonia Rivera carried I. None of them raised any money, and one presumes their voters are gettable. Alcorn has funding and endorsements, including the Chron – my interview with her is here in case you want to give it a spin – and Dick has himself. We’ll see what happens.

Eric Dick is just trolling us now

Like a three-year-old having a tantrum – and against our better judgment – he gets the attention he so desperately seeks.

The problem, one of many examples

Two City Council candidates facing thousands of dollars in fines for violating the city’s sign ordinance during their 2011 campaigns accused Mayor Annise Parker on Friday of targeting them for their conservative beliefs.

Eric Dick, a lawyer who fell short in his bid for an at-large seat two years ago and who is running for mayor this year, drew ample criticism during the 2011 race for blanketing the city with red signs bearing his last name in prominent white letters. He and Clyde Bryan, who challenged westside District G incumbent Oliver Pennington, used the backdrop of the July 4 weekend to, as Dick put it, “declare independence from Annise Parker and her tyranny.”

City and state laws ban signs from public rights of way, including roadsides, utility poles and overpasses.

Dick was cited for 90 sign violations, and Bryan for 41. The cases are being tried one at a time. So far, Dick’s have ended in a mistrial and a $100 fine; Bryan was found not guilty in one case and had several others dismissed.

Dick and Bryan cited Councilman C.O. Bradford’s example as proof of their persecution. Bradford was hit with 22 sign violations in 2011, all of which were dismissed.

“(Parker) selectively chose the people that were going to get violations,” Dick said. “(Bradford) received many violations, but he got a free pass. Why? Because he’s a Democrat. The Republicans got stuck with it. She’s using city money to attack people that oppose her views.”

Asked why Parker would dismiss Bradford’s cases for political reasons when the two are not allies and Bradford has, in fact, endorsed Ben Hall, Parker’s most prominent opponent, Dick said, “He’s a Democrat. She’s hoping she’ll get the support of the black community.”

Bradford couldn’t help chuckling at that. “The whole idea that this administration gave Bradford preferential treatment?” he said. “Let me just put a big question mark behind that.”

[…]

[City Attorney David] Feldman and [Chief Prosecutor Randy] Zamora said the sign ordinance was enforced aggressively in 2011 following complaints to public officials about political signs, particularly Dick’s.

“Dick, we all know his signs were all over the place. You couldn’t miss it,” Feldman said. “The ones that are prolific are the ones who are going to draw the attention, and Dick and Bryan were prolific.”

Let’s review the bidding here.

1. Most years, most candidates follow the city’s sign ordinance most of the time. Why bother putting signs on utility poles when there are so many empty lots one can plant them in instead?

2. Eric Dick signs were everywhere in 2011, including many signs on utility poles. People complained enough about this that the local news covered it.

3. Dick steadfastly denied any knowledge of how the signs got up on those utility poles or any responsibility for their placement. This despite the fact that his campaign finance reports show thousands of dollars in expenditures on signs, including over $3000 to “Ron the sign guy”. Dick insisted it was “overzealous volunteers”, over whom he apparently had no control, that were responsible.

4. In the aftermath of the election, in which Dick received 7% of the vote, he has leveraged his notoriety into business for his law firm. Like it or not, you know the name “Eric Dick” now. So do many other people. This is a good thing for a small business owner.

5. And now he’s back, with a “campaign” for Mayor, whining that he was treated oh so unfairly by that mean Mayor and her minions, who dared to enforce the law against him. Oh, the humanity!

Eric Dick is doing what he is doing to get people to pay attention to him. Sometimes he makes enough noise that we are forced to pay attention to him. That doesn’t make him worthy of the attention, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we get anything out of it. There’s nothing to see here, folks. Let’s all just move on down the road. Texpatriate, three of whose board members actually attended Dick’s silly press conference, has more.

UPDATE: More from PDiddie.

Recycling campaign signs

Great idea.

Plenty of these for the taking

[Mike Martinez] has been running Food is Free since founding it in late January, and now he’s asking for old campaign signs to line the edges of garden boxes. They can be dropped off in front of his house at 5608 Joe Sayers Ave.

The group, currently trying to register as a nonprofit, makes free wicking bed gardens, self-contained boxes bordered by plastic with soil on top of gravel or tumbled glass that acts like a natural water table. By watering through a pipe that leads to the rough bottom, Edwards said, the roughly 4-foot square planting boxes only need to be watered once every two to four weeks.

“It helps people that don’t have time, have failed at gardening or they just weren’t interested before to get started with gardening,” [co-founder John VanDeusen Edwards] said.

[…]

In Edwards’ backyard, where he also has a small farm and 27 chickens, there are stacks of hundreds of the corrugated plastic signs that lined Austin’s avenues throughout May. The bigger ones are more useful because he can cut them to fit, rather than having to squeeze several in, but Edwards will take them all. The metal used to hold up the signs can be used to make tomato cages, he said.

David Wahlberg’s campaign dropped off a tall stack of the signs, Edwards said, after the lawyer’s win in the Democratic primary for the 167th District judge. “Leffingwell and (Brigid) Shea’s campaigns were both fired up about giving us their signs” as well, he said.

Boy just imagine if Eric Dick had agreed to donate all his campaign signs from last year. They’d be set till the end of the decade. And no, those jokes aren’t going to get old any time soon.

Robocalls versus illegal street signs

I so love this.

The cheap signs smashed into lawns and along the corners of busy intersections are hard to miss. “We Buy Junk Cars!” ”Cash for Your House!” ”Computer Repair.” The eyesores have vexed Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober for the past few years as he wastes valuable resources plucking up the signs only to watch them pop up in even greater numbers.

While stopped at a red light a few months ago, Bober studied the unsightly signs and came to a realization that would help him fight their proliferation: The criminals had left their calling cards in the form of business phone numbers.

“These people want us to call them, so let’s call them so much their head spins,” said Bober, who bought a $300 software program in March that makes robocalls to the businesses. The volume of calls has reached as high as 20 calls each to 90 businesses in a day.

The signs are eye-catching and cheap, and businesses place them mostly along the sidewalks and medians of high-traffic intersections where there are no homeowners to complain. Companies can blanket an area with signs for a few hundred dollars and have been emboldened to continue because there have been virtually no consequences.

To city officials, the signs are costly litter that require city workers to pick them up. Posting them is also a crime, a relatively minor offense that carries fines of up to $250 in Hollywood.

Officials in Hollywood had struggled with how to discipline the companies because they are sometimes based in another state where they don’t have jurisdiction.

That’s Hollywood, FL, by the way, not California. Apparently, the Mayor’s crusade against this visual blight has been successful: The robocalls have led to a 90% reduction in the number of signs on the streets. The robocalls leave pre-recorded messages – in this case, announcing that the signs are illegal and that the calls will continue until someone comes down to city hall and pays a fine for them. Only seven such companies have actually done that, so I presume the others have stopped putting more signs out, which seems to me to be enough of a win to make this worthwhile. Some other Florida cities have tried this as well. I’m thinking Houston might want to take a look and see if it might be worth the effort.

One more thing:

South of Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale officials are also struggling with signs that littered a busy intersection advertising child support reductions and credit repairs, including a sign from Caravan Credit Services.

But company officials said they didn’t order the sign spam.

“It must have been an old sign. We stopped doing that,” said Ross Linthicum, executive vice president of the Houston-based company. “A couple of salesmen took it upon themselves to do that. … You do get people that still go out there and do it, but it’s in our paperwork not to do it.”

Mm hmm. This is what’s now known in the industry as the Eric Dick defense. It wasn’t me that put up those signs, it was my overzealous supporters who did this entirely on their own without my knowledge or consent. Blame them, not me.

Bandit signs

It’s campaign season so there’s a lot more of these around.

Local and state laws long have outlawed the placement of signs on public rights of way – the land alongside roadways, including utility poles and the area around them – but that does not stop countless candidates and small businesses from planting their advertisements there.

The illegal marketing repeats itself on freeway overpasses, utility poles, vacant lots and medians much faster than city crews can take them down. The city of Houston’s three employees whose full-time job is to impound illegal signs collected 11,000 so-called “bandit signs” last month.

That leaves plenty of work for a handful of volunteers who take it upon themselves to remove illegal signs.

Or, in the case of Rick Hurt, paint them over.

Driving about town in a white Chevy Lumina with the words “Blight Buster” on the back, Hurt seeks out offending signs and uses a paint roller on a pole to get to the signs he cannot reach or that he cannot take down safely.

Hurt targets signs of any stripe on public property. He takes particular satisfaction in the role he and other anti-sign activists played in a $105,000 judgment against a credit company for sign violations.

My kind of guy. Seems to me there’s an opportunity that’s being missed here. Given the amount of fines that can be levied against them, there ought to be a better way to go after the violators. Maybe we need to look at the ordinances and see if it’s possible to provide some kind of financial incentive for private citizens to pursue the complaints. I don’t know how that might work, but I’m sure someone with better knowledge of the system than I can come up with something. I’d bet it would be very popular, too. What do you think? Greg has more.