Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Friendswood

Coronavirus and hurricane shelters

Two things we have to be thinking about today.

Houston officials and public health experts are expressing concern that Tropical Storm Laura could amplify the spread of COVID-19 by displacing residents to public shelters or residences outside the area, increasing opportunities for transmission.

With that scenario in mind, Mayor Sylvester Turner on Sunday encouraged Houstonians to get tested for COVID-19 before the storm makes landfall. Forecasters have predicted it will come ashore late Wednesday or early Thursday, though the path remained uncertain by Monday evening.

Officials from Harris County and the American Red Cross began preparing for potential shelter needs months ago, County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Monday. At Red Cross shelters, officials will provide face coverings, conduct health screenings and follow federal social distancing guidance, the organization announced in a news release. It also will operate more shelters with a reduced capacity in each.

“This is not a situation where we would have the same kind of shelters we’re used to, where it’s completely open space and no division between folks,” Hidalgo said.

Turner, who urged people to get tested on Monday or Tuesday, tweeted, “You need to know your status for yourself, family members and friends.”

[…]

Dr. Peter Hotez, an immunologist at the Baylor College of Medicine, said that while disaster officials may come up with creative solutions to help contain the spread of COVID, public shelters would be “a nightmare even under the best circumstances.”

The effect may be especially pronounced, Hotez said, because those most likely to seek shelter in a public setting come from low-income communities where people are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID due to the prevalence of underlying health conditions.

It also would be difficult for contact tracers to follow the spread of the virus during an evacuation, he said.

“If you think about it, without a vaccine, what do we have? We have masks, we have contact tracing and social distancing — which are not great, but it’s all we have,” Hotez said. “With a hurricane, we’ve knocked out two of our three pieces of artillery equipment.”

These are obviously not the best of circumstances. Tropical Storm Laura is now officially Hurricane Laura, and it’s already a pretty strong one. Jefferson County, Chambers County, Orange County, and Galveston County are under mandatory evacuation orders, with parts of Harris County issuing a recommendation that areas in the storm surge zone evacuate as well.

Harris County officials urged residents of some coastal areas to evacuate Tuesday as Hurricane Laura could strike the Houston region Wednesday evening.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a voluntary evacuation order Tuesday afternoon for zones A and B and urged residents to leave immediately. She warned of a storm surge of three to five feet and high winds that could knock out power.

“All of us need to be prepared for the very real potential of a direct hit from this storm,” Hidalgo said. “Of course, we hope for the best, but we don’t want to find ourselves unprepared for the worst case scenario.”

These zones include part or all of Deer Park, La Porte, League City, Friendswood, Seabrook, El Lago, Morgan’s Point and southeastern portions of the city of Houston.

[…]

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned residents of congested traffic on freeways heading away from the coast and urged non-evacuating residents to avoid traveling if possible. Residents in the evacuation zone should not delay, he stressed, because Laura could change course unexpectedly.

“At this point in time, if it veers further to the west and becomes more of a direct hit on Houston-Harris County, we don’t really have a lot of time,” Turner said.

The mayor urged residents to be prepared for extended power outages, and noted that some households were without electricity for two weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008. He said people should be off the streets by 8 p.m. Wednesday, but stopped short of calling for a curfew.

Immediate safety concerns take precedence over more theoretical longer-term safety concerns. In the meantime, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. As of last night, it looks like the worst will probably (though not 100%) miss Houston, but that means Beaumont and Port Arthur are directly in its crosshairs. We’re going to need to mobilize a strong response, because it’s going to be bad.

As a programming matter, it is certainly possible that power and/or Internet outages will have an effect on my publication schedule. That’s a pretty minor consideration, but I wanted to note it just in case. Stay safe, everyone.

Benjamin Elder

Meet Benjamin Elder, a better and braver person than Dan Patrick will ever be.

Spend a few hours in Benjamin Elder’s company and you’ll realize he’s an average, bubbly 10-year-old kid.

All lanky limbs and wavy chestnut-colored hair, he’s easy to pick out of a room by his infectious laughter and toothy grin.

His favorite food is mac and cheese — really any kind of pasta dish — and he loves to play outside. He wants to be a scientist when he grows up, but he’s also interested in gymnastics. His favorite color is blue.

He’s a massive fan of American Ninja Warrior, an obstacle competition show. He has a pet hamster named Princess and two sweet dogs named Pepper and Maple. And his room is a shrine to Minecraft, stuffed animals, Pokemon figures and his martial arts medals.

Most people don’t realize he is transgender. And that’s kind of the point, his mother Ann Elder often repeats.

[…]

Despite the fight over which bathroom transgender kids can use, Ben’s doing just fine. A lot of other transgender kids have fears about even using the bathrooms in school, said Robbie Sharp, a Houston developmental psychologist and Ben’s gender therapist.

“For the kids, it’s not a matter of what’s on the bathroom door,” Sharp said. “It’s, ‘This is who I am, and this is the bathroom I go into.’”

Ben, in the meantime, breaks into laughter when he thinks about bathrooms. He struggles to get through his giggles while recounting a story about his best friend accidentally using the girls’ bathroom once.

In addressing the push against transgender-inclusive bathroom policies, he responds just like any other 10-year-old might address a serious issue — with short answers and humor.

“So Ben, what do you think about the Texas [lieutenant] governor wanting to make you use the girls’ bathroom?” his mother asks on the drive back home from dinner.

Ben quickly responds: “One word: Bad.”

“If you could talk to him, what would you say?” she follows up.

He’s pensive for a few seconds before his lips slip into a sly smirk and he prepares to address the non-present lieutenant governor. “You’re mean!” he says loudly. Then he erupts into a fit of giggles.

Ben’s mom Ann is one of the parents who called out Dan Patrick for putting their children in danger with his potty obsession. I’ll be as blunt as I can about this: If Dan Patrick, who has admitted that he doesn’t actually know any transgender people, is not willing to meet with Ben Elder and tell him to his face why he cannot use the boys’ bathroom at his school, then Dan Patrick is a coward. So what’s it going to be, Dan? What are you afraid of?

On challenging Ron Paul in CD14

Jason Stanford has a question.

So why aren’t we targeting Ron Paul again? The Texas legislature drew him the reapportionment equivalent of a target on his back. They took away some of his red meat territory and gave him Galveston and Jefferson counties, something which failed to raise Kuff’s spirits.

[…]

Kuff’s not the only one to think this is a non-starter. Everyone in Austin is waiting for relief from the courts or from Obama’s DoJ, and rumor is that the DCCC doesn’t even consider targeting Ron Paul a remote possibility. And yes, though unpopular Ron Paul does have name ID, and he can raise millions at the click of a mouse. And Obama only got 42% in 2008 in this district.

I think all of the arguments against targeting Ron Paul can be chalked up to entrenched pessimism. As I pointed out before, Democrats routinely win these kinds of seats nationwide.

But to really make a case, we’re going to have to see a path to victory in the numbers. First, the placeholder Democrats. Can your average numbnuts candidate do well? Luckily, we have a healthy sample of those, and Kuff breaks down the numbers.

Toss out the 2010 results. We can’t plan for a 100-year-flood every two years. And if 2010 is the new paradigm, we should all quit and sell gold. Those results are pointless either way. Moving on.

The apples to apples argument is statewide judicial candidate Sam Houston, who got 47.3% in the new CD14 in 2008, the last presidential year. Houston didn’t have much cash, was working against years of salesmanship about tort reform, and suffered, at least in the new CD 14, of the effects of a hurricane in Galveston, and he still came pretty close.

It is certainly not my intention to discourage anyone from taking on Ron Paul. I’d be delighted if someone did. My point in the writings Stanford cites is to provide some context, as I believe the partisan numbers in the new CD14 look better than they really are. My basis for this comes down to the trends in Galveston and Jefferson Counties, both of which are entirely within the new CD14, and which are about 75% of its total population. Take a look at how Bill Moody and JR Molina did in consecutive Presidential year and non-Presidential year elections:

County 04 Molina 08 Molina Change 02 Moody 06 Moody Change ================================================================== Galveston 46,065 41,996 -4,069 27,390 29,811 +1,421 Jefferson 48,351 46,024 -2,327 30,805 24,553 -6,252

Like I said, the trends are in the wrong direction. Moody was on the ballot last year as well, and his numbers (26,162 in Galveston; 24,539 in Jefferson) continue that trend. Galveston is a growing county, where most of the growth is coming from the northern, Republican suburbs like Friendswood and League City. Jefferson is a stagnant county made up of staunchly Democratic African-Americans and formerly Democratic Anglos, the latter of which are the bulk of the population and growing less Democratic every day. I hate to be a wet blanket, but I have higher hopes going forward for CDs like 06, 12, 31, and 32, where you can see the population trends be more favorable.

Again, I don’t want to write off any reasonable district. This one absolutely deserves attention, especially given its very different nature from the previous map. Looking beyond 2012, Paul won’t be around forever – he turns 76 this August – so regardless of what the past numbers look like, someone needs to be thinking about the future in CD14. I just want to be realistic about what we’ll be getting into.

Raise a glass to Luling and Friendswood

The ballot proposition to allow alcohol sales in Luling passed easily.

The measure passed with 340 votes in favor and 118 against, with two ballots yet to be certified.

The referendum was added to the ballot after a petition was submitted by Stuart Carter, leader of Luling Citizens for Economic Growth. Carter said he hopes the new law will attract chain restaurants and hotels to the city’s Interstate 10 corridor and provide jobs for residents.

[…]

Carter, who was having a small party at his house on Election Night, said he wanted to get a 95 percent mandate, but he is happy with 74 percent.

“The voters indicated they are ready for economic growth,” he said. “I’m drinking one beer, but I might drink two tonight. I might break my one-beer rule.”

Party on, dude. And when you’ve sobered up, hop in your car and drive over to Friendswood.

Breaking a 46-year dry spell, voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the sale of alcohol at restaurants and grocery stores in the city’s downtown.

Proposition 1, which would allow convenience stores and wine shops to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption, passed with 2,505 votes — 68 percent — for, compared to 1,163 — 32 percent — against, according to complete, unofficial returns.

Proposition 2, which would allow restaurants to sell mixed beverages, passed with 2,648 votes — 72 percent — for, compared to 1,021 — 28 percent — against.

Both propositions allow alcohol sales in a corridor along FM 518 between FM 528 and FM 2351.

A good day all ’round for those who enjoy a wee dram now and again.