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Jarvis Johnson

Where the poverty is

It’s all around us, but more in some places than in others.

The number of Houston-area residents living in very poor neighborhoods almost doubled over the past decade, which researchers say increases their risk for unemployment, health problems and crime.

The neighborhoods identified in a Brookings Institution study of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas are concentrated in Houston’s inner city, with smaller pockets across the region.

Some of the increase came as rising unemployment pushed people already living in those neighborhoods below the poverty level. Researchers say the lack of affordable housing in more affluent neighborhoods likely contributed to the increased concentration of the poor, as well.

Many of these high-poverty neighborhoods – defined as those in which 40 percent or more of the residents are poor – have been the focus of renewal efforts for years.

“The Fifth Ward is void of jobs,” said Jarvis Johnson, whose City Council district includes the neighborhood east of downtown, home to several of the high-poverty census tracts cited in the study. “There aren’t any commercial grocery stores. There aren’t any places where young people can get a job.”


Kathy Flanagan Payton, who grew up in the Fifth Ward and now runs the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corp., said poverty too often leads to powerlessness.

“Poverty weakens the voice of the people,” said Payton. “It dampens the overall spirit of the community.”

Like Councilman Jarvis, she said the neighborhood is hurt by the lack of retail.

“No money is being spent in the community,” she said. “It’s all spent outside the community.”

I see that as being more effect than cause. Most of the money spent at a given business doesn’t necessarily stay in the community. Taxes go to the city and state, TIRZes aside. The owners and employees will spend their wages and profits where they live, which may or may not be in that community – if the business is not locally owned, much of its revenue may not even stay in the city.

Of course, having retail means having jobs, which certainly benefit the community, and it means having amenities that make people want to live there. It’s hard to attract people to a neighborhood that doesn’t have grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, dry cleaners, etc etc etc. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem – businesses don’t want to be where there isn’t an established market, and people don’t want to live where there’s nothing to do and no place to go.

The good news for the Fifth Ward, as I’ve said before, is its status as the last bastion of cheap real estate inside the Loop. Sooner or later, I believe, it will become attractive to the speculators and pioneer gentrifiers. The neighborhood appears to be ready for that.

[Payton’s] group builds affordable housing and is involved in efforts to renovate the DeLuxe Theater on Lyons Avenue, which Texas Southern University will use for classes and performances.

The goal isn’t to bring back the old Fifth Ward, which was the heart of African-American life in the 1940s and ’50s, Payton said, noting that it is now about 40 percent Latino.

“We’re trying to diversify the community, both socially and culturally,” she said, “to improve the overall economics that will lead to much-needed retail and bring jobs.”

I hope to see it happen. See here for more on the national story.

More on the red light camera ruling

I said before that what happens next with the red light camera ruling is a political decision. Here’s how that’s shaping up.

City Attorney Dave Feldman said Friday’s ruling will force the city to choose from canceling the contract with American Traffic Solutions — which might cost the city $16 million — or keeping the contract in force and turning the cameras back on. A third choice would be to hold another referendum and ask voters which of the two options to choose, he said.

“We lost on the issue of the validity of the charter amendment, so what the court is saying (is), ‘OK city, now decide what you’re going to do with the contract,’ ” Feldman said. “We need to decide how we’re going to move forward and what position we’re going to take with the contract in light of the fact he’s declared the charter amendment invalid.”

Mayor Annise Parker said Friday afternoon that although she supports the use of red-light cameras and has the authority to turn them back on, she will not do so before conferring with the City Council and possibly the voters.

“The cameras are going to stay off until council is fully briefed, and we have an opportunity to discuss all of our legal options and choose one of those legal options,” the mayor said.

Complicating matters for Parker is that the city is still in a contract dispute with ATS over damages the company suffered when the city turned off the cameras.

The mayor said she and the City Council received sound legal advice last year from the city attorney, who advised that they were mandated to put the question on the November ballot.

Which is the exact opposite of what the judge said, as observed by JJ in the comments. Be that as it may, it will be very interesting to see how Council members react to this. As we know from the precinct data, the strongest opposition to red light cameras by far came from African-American neighborhoods. Republican and Anglo Democratic neighborhoods were the strongest proponents, with Latino and multicultural neighborhoods being modestly opposed. I think it’s reasonable though not certain to assume that the four African-American Council members would oppose turning the cameras back on, though the prospect of paying $16 million to ATS might mitigate against that. CM Sullivan is a known opponent of the cameras. On the flipside, CMs Lovell and Clutterbuck are known to favor the cameras, and I’d expect Pennington and Stardig to go along with their voters. That’s five probably against, four probably in favor, and four that are up for grabs. Should make for a lively debate, that’s for sure.

Putting the question of reinstating the cameras or paying off ATS up for another vote strikes me as the least messy way forward at this point. The questions then become how big a factor is the potential hit to the budget in affecting voter behavior, and how does the change in participation levels from an even-numbered year to an odd-numbered year move the numbers? The two groups with the loudest opinions are also the ones that tend to vote the most in city election years, but there’s still dropoff for each. As for the first question, the irony is that the city might argue that the voters didn’t really know what they were voting for when they supported removing the cameras, which would no doubt make Paul Bettencourt’s head explode. Nobody ever said consistency was a virtue in politics. This is going to be fun to watch, I’ll say that much.

Drainage fee passes with exemptions

Council has passed the drainage fee ordinance required by Renew Rebuild Houston, with exemptions for existing church and school properties.

The fee will apply to all future “impervious cover” at church and school buildings, such as roofs and parking lots.

Council members C.O. Bradford, Mike Sullivan and Jarvis Johnson voted against the measure.

“As we launch these projects and complete them, not only will we be able to keep water out of people’s homes and business and improve transiting our streets, but we’ll be able to keep ahead of future growth in Houston,” Mayor Annise Parker said after the vote.


Though [Mayor Annise] Parker campaigned last fall for a fee without exemptions, she came forward with the limited-exemption proposal in recent weeks in the face of a divided council and community opposition to charging churches and schools at a time when the Legislature is contemplating severe cuts to education spending.

After the vote, Parker said she would have preferred to see the ordinance passed without exemptions, but said she and others were “touched by the plight of schools,” and heard the call for churches to be exempt at numerous town hall meetings.

It was, Parker said, “a compromise that gave exemptions, but also put them all on notice that we expect them to do better in the future as they build. We are going to build to the future in a greener fashion and we’re going to do whatever we can to prevent flooding in Houston. They’re all a part of that effort.”

It’s not what I would have preferred as you know, but I can live with it. I like the way the Mayor framed the point about future construction being subject to the fee. I still marvel at the arrogance of some of the churches, acting as if what they do makes no contribution to the problem. I suppose they’ll just redouble their efforts to get Dan Patrick’s blackmail bill passed. I just hope the city is right that this bill will fail Constitutional muster and that the litigation won’t be too expensive. How much better it would be if they’d put this behind them and move on, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

A very early look at 2011 fundraising

A couple of weeks ago I took an early look at the 2011 city elections, but there was a key ingredient missing in that analysis: Money. The fundraising season for city candidates, which has been closed since last January, will open again on February 1. Let’s take a look at where various cast members stand now, before all the fun gets underway again.

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Annise Parker Mayor 1,050,253 Ronald Green Controller 15,677

One of the nice things about being elected Mayor is that you can hold a late-train fundraiser or two before the year-long moratorium sets in, and people with checks will attend them. Keep that number above in mind when discussing other potential Mayoral candidates. Sure, some of them would be able to raise big bucks as well, but 1) that takes time; 2) a lot of people who might otherwise like them will already be on the Mayor’s team; and 3) you can be sure she’ll have a couple of events lined up for as soon as the curtain is lifted, making the hole they start out in that much deeper. It’s a big factor, and when you hear someone say they’re “exploring” a race, what they mean is they’re calling around to see if there are enough people out there willing to write them enough big checks to make it worth their time. Waiting for term limits to do their thing is almost always the wiser course.

As for Controller Green, he defeated two better-funded opponents in 2009, so his lack of scratch is no big deal. Better yet, as you will see there’s no one out there with the kind of moolah MJ Khan and Pam Holm had to begin with. I’ll say again, it’s my opinion that Green is a lock for re-election.

The returning City Council members:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Stephen Costello CCAL#1 28,938 Melissa Noriega CCAL#3 1,681 C.O. Bradford CCAL#4 4,238 Jolanda Jones CCAL#5 22,304 Brenda Stardig Dist A 21,892 Wanda Adams Dist D 342 Mike Sullivan Dist E 162 Al Hoang Dist F Oliver Pennington Dist G 64,223 Ed Gonzalez Dist H 19,975 James Rodriguez Dist I 45,923

CM Hoang’s report was not available as of this posting. There were numerous issues with his finance reports in 2009. So far, 2011 isn’t starting off so well for him on that front.

You can see why I’ve been skeptical of the rumors about CM Bradford’s potential candidacy for Mayor. He has not demonstrated big fundraising abilities in two different campaigns, and he starts out with very little. Again, I’m not saying he (or anyone else) couldn’t do it, but the track record isn’t there, and the piggy bank isn’t overflowing.

After winning a squeaker of a runoff in 2009, it’s good to see CM Jones with a few bucks on hand. While I believe she won’t be any easier to beat this time around, she will undoubtedly continue to be in the news, so she may as well be forearmed.

CM Pennington raised a boatload of money in 2009 and won without a runoff, so I’m not surprised he starts out with a decent pile. CMs Rodriguez and Gonzalez were unopposed in 2009, and given that they may have very different diatricts this year, I’m sure they’re happy to have the head start. I’d guess CMs Adams and Sullivan will be hitting the fundraising circuit sooner rather than later.

The departing incumbents:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Sue Lovell CCAL #2 98,935 Jarvis Johnson Dist B 0 Anne Clutterbuck Dist C 89,534

Hard to know what the future holds for CM Johnson, but another candidacy doesn’t appear to be in the cards right now. The same can probably be said about CM Lovell, who had once wanted to run for County Clerk. That ship has sailed, and I don’t see there being much of a Lovell bandwagon these days. I won’t be surprised to see her disburse some of her funds to other candidates in the future, however.

I do feel that we’ll see CM Clutterbuck run for something again. No, not Mayor – at least, not this year. There was a time when I thought she’d be a big threat to win HD134, but unless Sarah Davis (whom Clutterbuck supported last year) stumbles badly, that seems unlikely now. She could possibly be groomed to take over for her former boss Rep. John Culberson. I’d hate to see that if it meant she’d morph into a Washington Republican – she’s far too sensible for that, I hope. Actually, what I wouldn’t mind seeing is for the redistricting fairy to move her into Jerry Eversole’s precinct (this map doesn’t quite do that, but it’s close), because she’d be an excellent choice for Ed Emmett to make in the event Eversole does get forced out before 2012. Just a thought.

Finally, a few others of note:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Gene Locke Mayor 20,645 Roy Morales Mayor 5 MJ Khan Controller 1,657 Michael Berry CCAL #5 88,122 Jack Christie CCAL #5 0 Eric Dick CCAL #2 4,036 Mark Lee Dist C 1,287 Robert Glaser Dist C 301

If it’s an election year, you can be sure ol’ Roy will be running for something. Doesn’t really matter what – this is Roy we’re talking about. I’m sure he’ll let us know what soon.

Who knew Most Influential Houstonian of 2010 Michael Berry had so much cash left in his account? I seriously doubt he’d run for anything – he’s got a much cushier, not to mention higher-paying, gig now – but I suppose he could decide to throw a few bucks at someone. Hey, Roy, you got Berry’s phone number?

I have no idea if Jack Christie will take another crack at At Large #5. As I said above, I don’t think CM Jones will be any more vulnerable this time around, but who knows? It does seem likely she’ll draw a fringe opponent or two – Griff Griffin needs a race now that Lovell is termed out – so hoping for a runoff and better luck in same isn’t unreasonable. My advice, for what it’s worth, would be to start fundraising early, and not shoot your wad all in the last few days.

Mark Lee ran for District C in 2005, and for Controller in 2003. He’s reportedly looking at C again, but like Ellen Cohen will have to wait to see what the mapmakers produce. Robert Glaser ran against Clutterbuck in 2007 and 2009. Eric Dick, who as far as I know has not been a candidate before, will be running for the open At Large #2 seat; the cash on hand listed for him is the result of a loan.

There were a handful of other names listed among the reports, but none that are likely to be candidates this cycle. We’ll have a much better idea where things stand after the June 15 reporting date.

The Mayor editorializes for Prop 1

Mayor Parker lays out the case for Prop 1, the ballot referendum to establish a dedicated revenue source for street and drainage improvements.

Is it necessary? Absolutely! Approximately 65 percent of our streets and drainage systems are beyond their useful life – and at current funding levels it would take 100 years to replace them. Our police officers say that flooding and bad road conditions can keep police, fire or emergency medical personnel from responding quickly to emergencies. Likewise, a hard rain can prevent parents from picking up their kids from school or returning home after work. Just a few inches of rain can leave motorists stranded and bring this city’s commerce to a halt.

Is it the best option? Yes, and it will save millions of dollars for taxpayers! Instead of borrowing money and spending millions on interest payments, Proposition 1 mandates a responsible pay-as-you-go plan. For the first time in Houston’s history there would be a dedicated income stream – a lock box – that can only be spent for street and drainage improvements. Your vote would prohibit us from diverting these dollars for any other projects – with no exceptions. And your vote would mean the city could repair, replace or upgrade every street in Houston that is past its useful life.

Is it fair? On every level, yes. Everyone has a responsibility for helping to solve our drainage problems, and each of us will be asked to pay our fair share, but no more. This includes developers who will be assessed based on the impact their projects have on the drainage system. Commercial and residential property owners will pay a user fee based on their “impervious cover,” the amount of hard surface on their property – like buildings and driveways – that cannot absorb water. That fee is about $5 per month for a typical homeowner with 1,900 square feet of these hard surfaces. Property owners can estimate their own fee by following instructions on the city’s website.

It’s great to see Mayor Parker fully engaged on this, but there’s an awful lot of opposition to Prop 1 out there now. The Harris County GOP took the pro-flooding position last week. They’re joined by a non-trivial number of Democrats who claim they have a better plan than what has been proposed, not that they’ll do anything about it if they succeed in dunking Prop 1. The Metropolitan Organization, which should be foursquare behind Prop 1, is remaining neutral, at least for now, due to questions about the funding mechanism that have not been answered to their satisfaction. Four City Council members, CMs Jones, Adams, Johnson, and Bradford, have come out against Prop 1 with an op-ed of their own calling on the city to “start over” and come up with a different plan. (On the flip side, late in the day yesterday, I got a press release from State Rep. Garnet Coleman announcing his support of Prop 1.) And finally, as Rick Casey notes, various churches have lined up in opposition because they don’t want to have to pay for it. Prop 1 has its share of supporters, but that’s a lot of people against it. You know that I’m voting for Prop 1, but I’d be leery about betting on it.

CM Johnson gets no-billed on evading arrest charge

Some good news for Council Member Jarvis Johnson.

A Harris County grand jury has declined this morning to indict Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson on charges stemming from his arrest in June for evading arrest, according to his attorney.

Johnson was accused of fleeing an officer who tried to pull him over for driving 62 mph in a 45 mph zone in the 2300 block of the Eastex Freeway service road at 9:45 p.m. June 30. It was not a high-speed pursuit.

“I have maintained my innocence through this entire ordeal,” Johnson said. “We’re excited and certainly very appreciative of the grand jury coming back with a no-bill charge.”

See here, here, and here for some background. Though he still has some other business with the DA’s office, I’m sure CM Johnson is glad to have this behind him. Hair Balls has more.

DA investigating CM Johnson


Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson’s office pressured city officials to certify a security firm as a minority-owned business to win a lucrative subcontract for the company, which later gave a 40 percent ownership stake to a close Johnson associate, according to e-mails and documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

The contract and the councilman’s dealings are under investigation by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which last month issued a subpoena to the city seeking information about allegations of “inappropriate contact” between Elite Protective Services and City Council members and potential violations of the city’s ethics policies.

The councilman’s associate, Michael R. Harris, helped arrange for the company, Elite Protective Services, to become a subcontractor for a firm that in 2009 won the city’s two main security jobs worth more than $66 million, according to e-mails obtained by the Chronicle and a lawsuit he filed against the company. Elite Protective Services’ interest in the two contracts is $8.9 million.

Elite officials say they had no knowledge until recently that Johnson or his staff were advocating on their behalf and that they obtained work as subcontractors without the help of Harris, whom the city hired in 2009 as a lobbyist in Austin. They alleged in a countersuit that Harris “continuously stated that a particular City Council member would push to get Elite the subcontract with the city of Houston.”

More on that here. I don’t really have anything to add to this, I just hate to see it happening. Well, that and it’s clearly a good thing CM Johnson didn’t win his primary challenge against Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee this March, as the Democrats have enough trouble to deal with.

DA responds to CM Johnson

Council Member Jarvis Johnson said his piece last week about his recent arrest for not pulling over on a traffic stop. Yesterday, the Harris County District Attorney had their say about it.

Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson told police he did not pull over for an officer trying to stop him last week because he was doing something more important, prosecutors said in court this morning.

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Eilleen Bogar said Johnson told police “what he was in the process of doing took priority over the officer wanting him to stop.”

Bogar said she did not know what Johnson was doing. Details were not listed in the preliminary report Bogar had for Johnson’s arraignment this morning in state District Judge Michael McSpadden’s court.

After the brief hearing, Johnson’s attorney denied that the 38-year-old Johnson made that statement.

“We can emphatically deny that those statements were made,” lawyer Michael Harris said.

He declined to answer questions about what Johnson was doing before he was arrested for evading arrest, a state jail felony.

I’m still not speculating. But I sure can’t wait to see how this ends.

CM Johnson speaks

Council Member Jarvis Johnson has a few words to say about his arrest for evading police on Wednesday.

“I want to be very clear about the night in question,” Johnson said at a brief news conference. “I am not going to talk about the details, but I certainly want to let you know that at no time did I ever exit my car and run. At no point did I ever speed away from the officer, and at no point was there ever any physical or verbal confrontation.”


Seated next to his wife, Charlene, the councilman said he wanted to thank her and their two children “for being so understanding and for being so strong.”

He also introduced 27-year-old Candace Hurt as his secretary and scheduler and identified her as the second person in his car Wednesday night. Hurt stood silently behind Johnson and his wife during the news conference.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about the other person in the car and as I said that was Candace Hurt,” Johnson said. “I thank God that it was not during campaign season that I was stopped because quite possibly (a female staffer) might have been in my car at 12 o’clock at night, and I know that certainly would have took a whole other look on itself.”

Again, I don’t know what happened, and I don’t want to speculate. If this makes it as far as a trial – I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t make it that far – then maybe we’ll have a decent idea of who did or did not do what. Stace has more.

Council Member Johnson arrested


Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson was arrested Wednesday night after he initially refused to stop his vehicle immediately when a police officer tried to pull him over, officials said.

Johnson is charged with evading arrest, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.


According to a criminal complaint in the case, Houston Police Officer S. Running attempted to stop Johnson, who “did then and there unlawfully intentionally flee.”

The officer reportedly tried to stop Johnson around 10 p.m. for exceeding the speed limit in an area just north of downtown, but details are sketchy about why the officer initially tried to stop him. A woman riding with Johnson was released, police said.

CM Johnson later posted bond and was released. There will be a press conference today at 2 PM at which we will apparently hear his side of this story. Until then, I’m going to follow the advice of CM Jolanda Jones and not speculate about what did or did not happen.

UPDATE: From the updated version of the story:

This afternoon, the councilman issued a statement on the incident.

“Last night was an unfortunate situation where the officer erroneously surmised that I was speeding and fled his warning a claim I vehemently deny. At no point did I drive over 25 mph, run stop signs, or maneuver around any vehicle. I acted in no way that would give any indication that I was attempting to flee or evade apprehension.”

His statement later reads, “I sincerely hope that last night’s incident was not in response to my constant communication with the police in requesting an end to “speed traps” in the area, and an increase of patrol.”


This afternoon, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland issued a statement.

“On Wednesday, June 30, about 9:45 p.m., Houston City Council member Jarvis Johnson was arrested and charged with evading arrest after HPD officers attempted a traffic stop.”

“This is a matter to be resolved through the criminal justice system. I want all officers to know that I am proud of their service and commitment to the citizens of Houston, while enforcing all laws to keep the city safe. As Chief of Police, I am proud to be the leader of an organization of dedicated professionals.”

The story says that HPD confirmed it was “not a high-speed chase”. We’ll know more soon enough.

Dynamo Stadium deal tagged

While City Council was able to complete the Lakewood Church sale, they were not able to vote on the other major real estate deal on their agenda this week, as Council Member Jarvis Johnson put a tag on the Dynamo Stadium deal.

Johnson said he delayed the vote out of concern the stadium could put the city in violation of its contract with the Houston Rockets that no other municipal venue would be used to compete for major events, such as concerts, through 2013.

Last week, Johnson attended a committee meeting at which Andy Icken, the city’s chief development officer, assured him that no events outside of Dynamo soccer and TSU football would be permitted at the new stadium through 2013, to avoid any conflict with the Rockets.

I don’t know what CM Johnson’s issue was, but if we’ve learned anything about Council by now it’s that tags are just a fact of life. It’s not clear that this will have any effect on the hoped-for completion in time for Opening Day 2012, but it did lead to this:

Councilman James Rodriguez, whose district encompasses the stadium’s planned location, expressed disappointment at the delay.

“I just wish that when council members have questions, that they would be addressed in the committee process, not this late in the game,” Rodriguez said.

Without further comment, he then tagged two items involving Johnson’s district.

And to think, some people believe politics is boring.

Election results: Harris County

It was a bad day to be the establishment candidate for Harris County Clerk, let me tell you. Ann Harris Bennett crushed Sue Schechter for the Democratic nomination, winning with 63% of the vote. On the Republican side, wingnut Stan Stanart, who lost a 2008 race for the HCDE Board of Trustees after taking out a mainstream incumbent in that primary, won over 60% of the vote against Beverly Kaufmann’s hand-picked successor, Kevin Mauzy. Look for some scrambling to occur in both parties. I confess, I did not get to know Ms. Bennett, and did not see her victory coming. My bad on that one.

Meanwhile, Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez suffered the same fate as Victor Carrillo.

Don Sumners won the Republican nomination for county tax assessor-collector Tuesday, ousting incumbent Leo Vasquez on his promises to continue the anti-tax crusade that characterized his tenure as county treasurer in the 1990s.

Sumners campaigned on a slogan of “I was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.”

As treasurer, he publicly criticized Commissioners Court for increasing the tax rate and was an outspoken opponent of a bond measure that approved hotel and car rental taxes to fund football, basketball and baseball stadiums.

Summers will face Diane Trautman. Let’s just say that these are two races I’d really like for the Democrats to win. Elsewhere, Gordon Quan won a convincing victory in the Democratic primary for County Judge, and Republican Chris Daniel won the nomination for District Clerk for the right to face extremely well-qualified Democratic incumbent Loren Jackson.

I’ll try to sort out the judicial races later. The other big result in Harris County was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee winning easily in her primary.

As of late Tuesday, the veteran lawmaker had about 68 percent of the vote, fending off a challenge by [City Council Member Jarvis] Johnson that featured claims that Jackson Lee’s showboating style had impaired her ability to deliver for her hard-pressed inner city district.

Jackson Lee also defeated a political newcomer, Houston attorney Sean Roberts. Votes counted as of 10:30 p.m, showed she likely would face GOP challenger John Faulk, an accountant, in the predominantly Democratic district.

“The job is not finished. We promise you a fight in Washington to bring good health care to this district and to preserve NASA and the jobs that are ours,” Jackson Lee told supporters Tuesday night.

Faulk does appear to be the GOP winner. For purposes of comparison, there were 9,105 total votes cast in the GOP primary for CD18. Johnson collected 9,073 by himself in getting 28.33% against SJL.

In other Congressional news, we will have Roy Morales to kick around for a few more months, as the man who never met an election he didn’t like won the nomination in CD29 in a five-person field. He gets to be stomped by Rep. Gene Green in November before he decides what city race to pick for 2011.

Finally, Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill is in a runoff with Ed Hubbard. That’ll be fun to watch.

Houston Press interview with Jarvis Johnson

In case you missed it, David Ortez did an interview with CM Jarvis Johnson for the Democratic primary race in CD18. He had previously interviewed Sean Roberts, and will have one up with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee soon. You can of course also listen to my interviews with all three if you haven’t already – just go to the 2010 Elections page to find them.

Interview with Council Member Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Running to unseat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in CD18 is Houston City Council Member Jarvis Johnson, who was recently elected to a third and final term in District B. (My interview with him from that race is here.) As he observes, District B is almost entirely within CD18, so he is familiar to many of the voters there. CM Johnson is the first serious opponent Rep. Jackson Lee has faced since her victory over then-Rep. Craig Washington in 1994. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

A full list of the interviews I have done is on the 2010 Election page. As always, your feedback is appreciated.

January City of Houston campaign finance reports

In addition to state and federal officeholders/candidates, January 15 was also the deadline for City of Houston folks to file their campaign finance reports as well. As there are no elections coming up any time soon, I will not be going into obsessive levels of detail about them, but here are some highlights:

– Annise Parker had $66,249.27 in the bank as of 12/31, after raising $448,973.52 and spending $804,587.59 in December. Gene Locke maintained $82,853.40 after raising $520,810.76 and spending $757,361.19.

– Some people who filed reports are now running for other offices. Bill White, for example. As it happens, his account showed no money and no activity. I didn’t go looking, but my recollection is that he had already transferred his funds to his Senate campaign.

– As for the others who are now seeking greener pastures: Jarvis Johnson had $18,960.51 in his account. I did not see any transfer to his Congressional campaign, but he filed for that after December 31, so if he does move some money around, we’ll have to look for it elsewhere. Similarly, Roy Morales made no transfers to his Congressional account, either, but he only had $305.02 on hand, so it’s not like it matters. Finally, former Council Member Gordon Quan transferred $6,205.79 to his campaign for Harris County Judge. He had a few other small expenditures in there, and that should basically close out his city account.

– Al Hoang still hasn’t figured out how to submit a proper campaign finance report. It’s still done cumulatively instead of from the date of the previous report. The same questionable entries are still there. The Chron had a brief story about CM Hoang’s updated finance report yesterday:

Among the problems first raised by a blogger, who also questioned Hoang’s most recent report, was a lack of information about donors who gave Hoang contributions totaling more than $100,000. In his previous reports, there were no dates, occupations or employers listed for the donors, as required by city ordinance. In the latest report, posted last week, that information is included for all but a few donors.

Hoang acknowledged that several donations incorrectly listed as expenditures will be corrected in an amended report. He said his campaign treasurer is planning to meet with a campaign finance expert to ensure his future reports are in compliance.

This is too generous to Hoang. Yes, there are now dates listed for his campaign contributions, but that information is still meaningless. Only four dates are given, with all donations being listed for one of them – 57 donations on October 1, 216 donations on October 25, 82 donations on December 5, and 38 donations on January 7. These aren’t the actual dates those contributions were made, they’re the dates the last four reports were due. In addition, his cash on hand is given as zero, of which I am dubious. Slampo, who is the blogger referenced in the story but certainly not the only one that’s been pointing out Hoang’s amateurish finance reports, found a few more flaws with this one as well. This is ridiculous. Al Hoang is an elected official now. There are no excuses for not doing a better job.

– Hoang may claim no cash on hand, but he’s alone in that distinction. Here are the cash on hand figures for all current members of city government not listed above:

Ronald Green – $17,307.49

Stephen Costello – $1,700.00, plus $15,000 outstanding loan
Sue Lovell – $77,909.30
Melissa Noriega – $30,455.32, plus $15,000 outstanding loan
C.O. Bradford – $7,818.79
Jolanda Jones – $16,015.44

Brenda Stardig – $10,446.67
Anne Clutterbuck – $119,277.23
Wanda Adams – $11,013.48
Mike Sullivan – $801.60, plus $10,000 outstanding loan
Oliver Pennington – $17,459.49
Ed Gonzalez – $8,966.67
James Rodriguez – $52,974.00

Clutterbuck and Lovell are in their final terms, barring any dispensation from the term limits review crew, while Rodriguez can run for re-election one more time. They have enough cash on hand to merit keeping an eye on for whatever future plans they may have. Everyone else, I expect, will be busy replenishing the coffers.

Strange parallels

This Chron story about the primary challenges to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee goes out of its way to try to find parallels to Jackson Lee’s own successful primary election of 1994. A little too far, I think.

The district looks different: Its 228 square miles, mostly in the center of Houston, were reshaped in 2003 at the behest of Texas Republicans.

Its voters are different: African-Americans account for 40 percent of the eight-term Democrat’s estimated 652,000 constituents now, compared with 51 percent 16 years ago. Hispanics have doubled their share of the population to 36 percent. And the political power centers have shifted from the inner city churches to the neighborhoods like Windsor Village that ring Houston’s central core.

What’s more, the way candidates reach voters is different: When Jackson Lee first ran for Congress, she appeared with African-American ministers. On the day Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson declared his intent to replace Jackson Lee, his first interview was a roundtable with liberal Houston bloggers.

Then there’s the volatile political climate of 2010, similar in many ways to the 1994 wave that swept away three dozen incumbents, including Jackson Lee’s predecessor, Craig Washington. Just last week, two senior Democrats, Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, abandoned their re-election plans after finding themselves trailing in early polls.

Okay, as someone who has lived in CD18 since Mickey Leland was its representative, this is quite the stretch. It’s true that Rep. Jackson Lee has gotten some bad press recently. One can argue, as I’m sure Johnson and Roberts will, that she’s lost touch with the district. But Craig Washington spent the better part of 1993 dealing with stories about how he was paying his ex-wife’s rent with campaign funds, which were also allegedly being used to help him out of personal bankruptcy; and about how he missed a committee hearing that he himself had called for to attend a charity golf event; and how his attendance record was the fourth worst in all of Congress. To put it mildly, there’s nothing remotely like that in Jackson Lee’s record.

The Dodd and Dorgan comparison is equally flimsy. The reason for Dodd dropping out (lousy poll numbers that stem from his abortive 2008 Presidential run and a sweetheart deal from Countrywide Financial) and Dorgan dropping out (popular Governor John Hoeven decided to enter the race) are very different. Other than a general narrative of “2010 is likely going to be a rough year for Democrats” – which doesn’t have much relevance in a Democratic primary – it’s hard to see what that has to do with Jackson Lee’s situation. I at least am not aware of any polls that suggest Jackson Lee is in any danger. This doesn’t mean that she isn’t, but it would be nice to have some objective data before we start comparing her to incumbents that actually are on their way out.

Finally, while it’s true that CD18 looks different now than it did in 1994, Jackson Lee has won re-election three times since the 2003 re-redistricting. It’s not like she has to re-introduce herself to the voters, who showed her plenty of love in 2008. Again, I’m certainly not saying she can’t lose – Jarvis Johnson represents the strongest challenge she’s faced since 1994, and with two opponents, it’s that much harder to get a majority. What I am saying is that if she does lose, it won’t have anything to do with the reasons why Craig Washington lost to her all those years ago, and it won’t have anything to do with the politics of Connecticut or North Dakota. As is often the case in a primary, it’ll be a referendum on her, and she’ll win or lose on who she is and what she has or has not done while in office. That’s the story that we should be focusing on.

Jarvis Johnson files for CD18

I’d heard this was coming over the weekend, and here it is. Council Member Jarvis Johnson has filed for the Democratic primary in CD18, challenging Sheila Jackson Lee. From his press release:

Houston City Council Member Jarvis Johnson filed today in the Democratic Party Primary for the United States House of Representatives, Eighteenth Congressional District of Texas. Johnson currently represents District B on the Houston City Council.

“America is a great democracy and the people are given the opportunity to choose their leadership. Leadership should be chosen by their examples of delivering meaningful services to their communities,” said Johnson.

“Over the course of the next two months, I look forward to having a spirited debate on who can best represent the people of the Eighteenth Congressional District. We’re going to have a frank discussion on who’s capable of bringing and creating good paying jobs for the people of the district. Who can spark genuine economic development, and who can provide leadership to marshal resources to help eliminate the dropout rate,” added Johnson.

This ought to be fun. And there is another candidate out there, Sean Roberts, who has apparently also filed. Having a three-candidate race could only make this more interesting, and there may be a fourth as well. We’ll know soon enough. Texas on the Potomac has more.

UPDATE: Still more from PDiddie, Martha, and John.

Interview with Council Member Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Jarvis Johnson

Wrapping up my series of incumbent district Council member is Jarvis Johnson, who is finishing his second term in District B. Council Member Johnson has been one of the leading advocates for bringing wireless Internet access to various parts of the city, as well as being an adopter of social media through blogging and Twitter. (He and CM Mike Sullivan appear to be the most frequent users of Twitter among the not-running-for-another-office members of Council.) He has one opponent for November.

I want to say that at this point I am done doing interviews. I’ve got two more HISD Trustee interviews to run this week, to be followed by the Controller and Mayoral interviews I’ve got in the queue, but I am not scheduling any more candidate interviews. While I’ve done a huge number of these, I’ve not gotten to everyone. If you are, or you represent, a candidate with whom I’ve not done an interview, I’m willing to run a statement from you instead. Send me a few paragraphs (say about four) about yourself and your platform in which you address one or two issues that I’ve been asking about in these interviews, and I’ll print it. Please do not simply lift a bunch of text from your campaign website. You can contact me via email (kuff – at – offthekuff – dot – com) or Facebook message. I’ll run any statements I get as I get them, with October 30, the last day of Early Voting, being the deadline. Thanks very much.

Finally, you might also note that there’s a new tab on the top of this page called “2009 Election”, which collects all the interviews I’ve done in a more organized fashion, and includes information about early voting as well. There’s also a new item on the sidebar that links to my most recent interviews. Many thanks to Greg Wythe for the additions.

Download the MP3 file.


Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D
Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, District C
Progressive Coalition candidates
Council Member Mike Sullivan, District E
Council Member James Rodriguez, District I

Shorter to challenge Lovell

Isiah Carey reports.

The Insite had a brief conversation with Houstonian Rozzy ‘Roz’ Shorter. She’s not quite given up on her political career. You may remember Shorter as the local woman chosen by the Barack Obama camp to get the Houston audience hyped when then Seantor Obama made a campaign stop in the Bayou City. Shorter now says she’s already to take on sitting Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell. Shorter says At-Large Position 2 is perfect for what she wants to do and she’s willing to do serious battle with Lovell to take the spot. Shorter says she will make an official announcement in the weeks to come.

After Council Member Lovell’s close win in 2007, I figured she might get a serious challenger this time around. I don’t know Ms. Shorter, so I can’t say for sure if she’ll qualify as such, but at the very least she isn’t Griff Griffin. I’m happy with CM Lovell and see no reason not to vote for her, but this will be worth keeping an eye on, if only to see who among the electeds sides with Shorter.

By the way, if things break just right, Houston could end up with a Mayor, a Controller, and three out of five At Large City Council members who are all African-American, and that’s without there being such a candidate running for Peter Brown’s At Large #1 seat as yet. With CMs Jarvis Johnson in District B and Wanda Adams in District D, that could mean seven or even eight of the 16 members of city government are African-American. That would really be something.

On a side note, Mike Laster has his campaign website up and running for District F. He’s still the only candidate I’ve heard anything about in that race.

SJL rumors

Vince reports that “sources tell him” that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who happens to be my Congressperson, is going to leave that job to work for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I suppose that’s plausible – as Vince notes, SJL was one of Clinton’s most steadfast supporters around here, which has earned her some disgruntlement in the district. Jackson Lee herself denies these rumors. I’ll simply note that two of the people quoted in that story are restauranteur Marcus Davis, who briefly considered a write-in challenge to SJL last year, and Houston City Council Member Jarvis Johnson, whose name has been bandied about as a potential 2010 primary opponent to SJL. That suggests to me that this may be nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of a couple of interested parties. But hey, you never know – it’s not like an initial denial is always the end of a story. If there’s something to this, we’ll know soon enough.

Not so Tolerance Bridge

Remember Tolerance Bridge? When it was first announced, a lot of people expressed ambivalence (at best) about the name. Now the city has joined in on that.

“It has too many hints of negativity,” said Councilman Jarvis Johnson. “It’s like my grandmother saying ‘I will not tolerate somebody yelling.’ I don’t want to just ‘tolerate’ any other culture, I want to embrace it, if you’re really talking about unity.”

After announcing the project in early December, Mayor Bill White received some feedback about the title, and asked the Houston Arts Alliance to contact its membership for more ideas. The organization is taking suggestions through Jan. 31.

Here’s the Alliance’s website. I don’t know who is supposed to be suggesting alternate names to them, since I don’t see anything there that’s soliciting feedback, but I suppose you can use their contact page if you feel so inclined.

Neither the city nor Houston Arts Alliance could say who will make the final decision on a name, although [philanthropist Mica] Mosbacher said she is still looking for donors, so someone who gives “a major gift” could have “final input” on the name.

[Artist and blogger Bill] Davenport predicted it would all be for naught in the end.

“Inevitably, public art projects get nicknames,” he said. “They should just build it and wait to see what people nickname it. The people will win out.”

I kinda like that idea, and I say that as someone who had no objections to the original name. With the unique design this bridge will have, some wiseguy will come up with something.