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Some Republican women unhappy about Sid Miller

Noted for the record.

Sid Miller

Sid Miller

For many female Texans working in Republican politics, last month’s release of a video showing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump boasting about groping women was bad enough. They have since watched in astonishment as male elected officials from their own state have engaged in coarse rhetoric of their own.

The simmer turned into a full rolling boil on Tuesday, when someone using state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Twitter account used a four-letter word that is frequently described as “the worst word in the English language.”

“When I heard about the tweet, I was stunned,” said Jennifer Waisath Harris, an Austin-based public relations consultant with a long history with the GOP. “I have not been surprised with some of the words that came of the commissioner’s mouth … but it’s one of those words you just don’t utter.”

The consequences of what Miller’s camp describes as an accidental tweet, juxtaposed with both Trump’s tone and recent comments from two Texas congressmen, has the potential to run off an entire generation of the party’s female talent pool, according to several women with strong ties to the party in Texas. They’ve spent their careers fighting for hallmark conservative values including school choice, opposition to abortion, limited government and a strong national defense.

“I can’t believe he even employs anybody who would post such a thing if he didn’t do it himself,” wrote Elizabeth Ames Coleman, a former Texas Railroad Commission chairwoman who also served in the Texas House, in an email. “Is everybody just so desensitized by the barrage of gutter-level talk that they don’t recognize it anymore? How embarrassing to have any Texas elected official perpetuate this kind of discourse.”

See here for some background. The story goes on in that vein for awhile, and I’ll get back to it in a minute, but first let’s jump over to this Statesman story, which provides more context for Miller’s tweeting habits.

At 1:43 a.m. Tuesday, more than 12 hours before a tweet from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Twitter account referred to Hillary Clinton using a sexually explicit, derogatory term for women, Miller, or whoever was tweeting on his behalf at that hour in the morning, tweeted a question — “Can we bring Milo back?!?”

Milo is Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart senior editor who Twitter in July banned for life for directing his vast army of 300,000 Twitter followers to bombard “Saturday Night Live’s” Leslie Jones with racist tweets for her starring role in the “Ghostbusters” movie remake.

Miller’s middle-of-the night Twitter query was directed at four other cult figures, like Yiannopoulos with large social media followings at the alt-right edge of the Donald Trump political orbit.

There is Ricky Vaughn, who commonly uses the vulgarism for Clinton, and it appears might have been the source for Miller’s offensive tweet, which was quickly taken down.

There is RooshV, a renowned “pick-up artist” who on Oct. 17 wrote that women should confine themselves to reproductive sex, child rearing and homemaking, and who has warned that if Clinton is elected, a heterosexual male will never again serve as president.

There is Mike Cernovich, the man The New Yorker in its Oct. 31 issue profiles as the “meme mastermind of the alt-right,” who, on his “Danger and Play” blog, developed a theory of white male identity that posits that “men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.”

And there is Jack Posobiec, special projects director of Citizens4Trump, who maintains that the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump talking about his predatory behavior with women was part of an attempted coup against Trump by House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP allies.

TM Daily Post riffs off of this and provides a few links to help illustrate who this particular basket of deplorables are. The point here is that the tweet that brought on this latest firestorm wasn’t just some accident of the kind that could happen to anyone. It’s that Miller and whoever else runs his social media accounts regularly swims in this cesspool of racist misogynistic douchebags. They’re buddies who laugh at the same jokes and share the same worldview. Put politics aside for a second and imagine that you’ve found yourself at a happy hour with these characters. Would you order a beer and hang out with them, or would you get the hell out of there and be glad to be rid of them?

Back to the Trib story, the theme of professional Republican women who have suddenly realized that they have been at this particular happy hour from hell all along but only began to notice it when the men they have worked for and supported have failed to say or do anything to derail these jerks is one that has started to appear. It’s not just Miller and Trump, either – the story notes recent comments by US Reps. Blake Farenthold and Brian Babin, among others, as part of the problem as well. Part of me feels sympathy for these women because how can one not feel sympathy, and part of me wonders what took them so long to figure out what was plainly obvious to the rest of us. Mostly I wonder what if anything they will do about it now that they have had this realization. The Trib story mentions some write-in votes for Evan McMullin, a lessened likelihood among Republican women to run for office (already a problem for the GOP), and some vague talk about reforming the party from within or splintering off into something else. The real question comes at the end:

[Randan Steinhauser, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee,] suggested that with Miller, at least, women would have the final word.

“We are political consultants by trade,” she said. “We’re conservatives, and as a strong conservative woman, I open the door to a strong conservative woman challenging Sid Miller.”

I’ll believe that when I see it. I might even take it seriously if it happens. As I’ve said many times about other matters of political controversy, nothing changes until someone loses an election over it. The filing deadline for 2018 is in a little more than a year. Put your money where your mouth is, and then we can talk. The Press has more.

Black Lives Matter takes an interest in the Harris County DA race

This will be worth watching.

Inspired by voters in Chicago and Cleveland who booted top prosecutors last week with candidates who pledged more accountability in police shootings, Houston-area Black Lives Matter activists have started a #ByeDevon social media campaign to try to oust Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson.

#ByeDevon, which appears to have debuted on Twitter last week, was shared and retweeted by individuals involved in local Black Lives Matter efforts as well as people who questioned the handling of the Sandra Bland incident and Houston-area members of the National Black United Front.

Anderson has drawn criticism for her handling of police shooting cases and for the lack of indictments against police officers who injure civilians. And activists have demanded an apology from Anderson for comments she made the morning after Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth was killed last year.

Anderson won the Republican primary earlier this month and is facing a rematch with Democratic challenger Kim Ogg in November.

[…]

Ogg said she welcomed the support.

“I’m glad they’re doing it,” she said. “I want them to be involved and we’ve seen that the public – at least in Chicago and Cleveland – recognized that it’s the district attorney’s responsibility to ensure that corrupt police or overly aggressive police or lying police are brought to justice and are held accountable to the public. I think it’s positive that young people are trying to raise their own community’s awareness and I think this is bigger than the African American community. I think the #ByeDevon hashtag could be the beginning of a movement for reform in the criminal justice system.”

[…]

[Black Lives Matter activist Jerry] Ford contends that Ogg would be better able to “close the communication gap between communities of color and law enforcement” and could “mobilize young people and people of color on the Democratic side to come out to vote.”

“We are going to mimic the strategy that took place up in Chicago,” Ford said, noting that #ByeDevon is patterned after the #ByeAnita social media effort to unseat Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez in Chicago. “I’m reaching out to activists around the country about the best way to move forward with this so we can be a success in November.”

Here’s the view on Twitter. Looks like the first use of the hashtag for this purpose was March 16. A subsequent post notes that ByeDevon.com has been acquired, so look for that at some point. This is modeled on the #ByeAnita hashtag used by Chicago activists in ousting the State’s Attorney who had not acted in the Laquan Edwards shooting.

That was a primary, and this is a general election, but the idea is the same – to engage and turn out people who care about the issues involved. This is a Presidential year so the turnout issue is different than it would be otherwise, but there is unquestionably room for growth. We’ve been a 50-50 county in the last two cycles; a few thousand votes here or there could make a huge difference. And the audience for this activism is primarily younger voters, always a good thing for Dems. I’ll be keeping an eye on this. Thanks to Houston Legal for the link.

UPDATE: More from Texas Monthly.

Twelve years

Twelve years ago today, I started this blog. That was on blogspot – believe it or not, it still exists; truly, the Internet is forever – and a few months later I had my own domain. I don’t do retrospectives, I don’t have a list of favorite or “most popular” posts readily available, and sometimes I don’t even remember to mark my blogging anniversaries, but I figured I ought to mention it this time, as I enter my baker’s dozenth year at it.

I tend to be a creature of habit, and when I find something I like that works for me, I just keep doing it. That’s the basic answer to the question of why I do this and how long I plan to keep doing it. It’s fun, I get something out of it, I’d miss it if I weren’t doing it, so I have no plans to stop. The day when those things are no longer true will come, but it’s not on my radar just yet.

One of the things I have enjoyed getting from this blog is a long list of friendships and acquaintances from across the political spectrum and in media, traditional and otherwise. I’ve gotten to meet a whole lot more people in real life because of this Internet thing than I could have without it. I’ve gotten to be on TV – I’ll be doing another episode of Red, White, and Blue to be aired on January 17 – and on radio – I’m doing another segment of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” for Houston Matters for this Friday, the 3rd – and discovered that I enjoy doing those things as well. More recently, I discovered that I have achieved the pinnacle of Internet fame when I stumbled across a Wikipedia page for this blog. I swear on whatever you have handy that I had nothing to do with that, and that I have no idea who created it.

Most of all, I enjoy the feedback I get from you, my readers. It still amazes me that there are people who read this blog. Thank you for doing so, thank you for commenting, and especially thank you for letting me know when I’ve got something wrong, and when I’ve got something right. I’d probably still write this thing if all my words were going into a big void, but it’s a lot more fun this way. As a reminder, there are multiple ways you can be notified about new posts on this blog. There’s good old fashioned RSS, there’s the Off the Kuff Twitter feed, and there’s the Off the Kuff Facebook page, which has 422 followers and which I’d dearly love to get to 500, if you’re so inclined. But however you access this blog, thank you for doing so, and thank you for coming back. Here’s to another fun year.

Stay classy, Greg Abbott

From over the weekend.

A Twitter poster who called Wendy Davis an “idiot” and “retard Barbie,” and said Greg Abbott would demolish her in the governor’s election, got a thank-you from Abbott’s campaign also via Twitter.

The exchange prompted a flurry of people on Twitter to suggest that Abbott should have refuted the offensive language instead of giving a shout out to the poster.

The poster, @jefflegal, frequently comments on political events and ridicules liberals. He had little patience for those who criticized his name-calling. He said he was using irony and “loved hearing complaints from liberals.”

Here’s the exchange:

The story has already gone national. Abbott, who according to TrailBlazers writes all his own tweets, later attempted to back away a bit:

Nor, apparently, will he condemn such language – and remember, even Sarah Palin considers the word “retarded” to be offensive. Look, Greg Abbott isn’t responsible for what a troglodyte like that has to say, but once he engages with him like that, it’s fair game. Abbott could have easily ignored him – it’s not like being tweeted at demands a response – but if he does choose to respond, the nature of his response, and what wasn’t said, is open to scrutiny. I will simply note that one of the keys to a Wendy Davis victory next year is a nice, big gender gap. It’s fine by me if Abbott and his Barbie-obsessed Twitter supporters keep on doing their best to make that happen.

One more thing, from this Trib story about the perils of candidates/officeholders doing unsupervised tweeting:

An Abbott source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the attorney general did not read the full message (and in particular, the offensive language) before expressing his gratitude.

What, was the tweet too long for him to make it all the way to the end? Maybe Twitter needs to reconsider that 140 character limit. Texas Politics, BOR, and dKos have more.

UPDATE: Despite giving Abbott more credit than he deserves, the DMN editorial board nails it.

July finance reports for Controller candidates

Continuing my look at July 2013 campaign finance reports for city candidates, here’s a look at the reports for the two Contoller hopefuls, incumbent Ronald Green and challenger Bill Frazer.

Candidate Raised Spent On Hand Loan ------------------------------------------------- Green 71,548 31,185 61,905 0 Frazer 52,648 45,956 31,826 15,000

Green report
Frazer report

Bill Frazer

Bill Frazer

As Greg notes, that’s a pretty respectable haul by challenger Frazer. It comes with two qualifiers, however. First, about $9,600 of the total raised was in kind, all of which was listed as catering/food/beverage for a fundraising event. Second, anyone supporting Frazer should be concerned about his burn rate. More than half of the money he spent was for consulting services – $24,500 by my count, $4K of which came from personal funds. Consultants are necessary for a citywide campaign, and good consultants are certainly worth what they’re paid, but that’s an awfully big share of the pie to go to what is basically overhead. That’s a lot of money that’s not being spent on signs or ads or other forms of outreach.

City Controller Ronald Green

City Controller Ronald Green

By comparison, Green spent about $8,500 on consultants, most of which was monthly retainers to his longtime campaign operatives. One could argue that Green isn’t spending enough on consulting services, or that he isn’t getting enough value for what he is spending, but I don’t know how to quantify that, and even if I could the bottom line remains that at this rate Green will have a lot more cash available to do actual voter contact. I know whose position I’d rather be in. Having said that, Green took in less than he did in the same period in 2011, when he raised almost $95K. Not sure what happened this time around.

Beyond that, there was nothing terribly remarkable about either report. Frazer spent some money reaching out to Republicans, who will undoubtedly be a big part of his coalition – $1,250 to the Harris County GOP to sponsor a table at the 2013 Lincoln/Reagan Day event, and $1,500 to the Spring Branch Republicans to sponsor a table at the San Jacinto Day Dinner; both were made from personal funds – but I didn’t see any contributions to him from the usual Republican heavy hitters. Green, who did get $5K from the late Bob Perry, got the usual contributions from the usual PACs and law firms, as do most incumbents. He also spent $31.78 on Twitter advertising. I’ve seen many expenses for Facebook ads over the past few years, but these were the first I can recall for Twitter ads. Yet another new frontier has been entered.

Social media update

This is just a friendly reminder that you can find much of this blog’s content on the official Off the Kuff Facebook page, which I hope you will like. I was asked recently what the purpose of that page was, and the answer is that I wanted to provide another way for people to get the content that I provide here. Some people (like me) like RSS feeds, some people like Twitter (the Twitter feed for this blog is @offthekuff, as noted on the sidebar), and some people like Facebook. It’s good to have options, right? For those of you who like the Off the Kuff Facebook page, I generally try to add a little something extra most days – I’ll share a link to some other blog post or story that I want to share but don’t necessarily want to devote a full post to, or I’ll write an add-on to a post like this story about my inept effort to do the first candidate interview of the 2012 cycle. I may also ask for feedback about specific things I’m doing or thinking about doing here, such as my recent decision to include more pictures on the blog. It’s an ongoing experiment, which adds some fun and some challenge for me, always nice to have after doing the same thing for a decade. Feedback is always appreciated, here or on the Facebook page, so please let me know what you think. Thanks very much.

Day One at the SBOE

Here’s your TFN Insider coverage of today’s SBOE science hearings. In Part I of the hearings, we find that the SBOE may not be such a major factor in school curriculum any more:

10:20  – Board members are quizzing the commissioner about how the new rules governing the purchase of instructional materials — changes codified in Senate Bill 6, passed during the legislative session and signed by the governor earlier this week — will play out in school districts. Commissioner Scott rightly notes that the law represents a sea-change in the way the schools purchase materials.Note: TFN is putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive analysis of this new law and its likely effects on the state board’s role in vetting and approving classroom materials. We plan to publish that analysis in the coming weeks. TFN communications director Dan Quinn previewed our conclusions in a story in today’s USA Today: “It has the great potential to diminish the influence of the State Board of Education.”

And we find that maybe, just maybe, the winds have shifted a bit:

11:20 – Interesting news out of the SBOE Committee on Instruction meeting earlier this morning. That five-member committee has long been dominated by far-right members, but there are signs that a change is coming. The committee’s first order of business today was to elect a new chair, after Barbara Cargill announced she was stepping down. In a move that seemed to surprise Cargill, George Clayton, R-Dallas, nominated new board member Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, as chair. Clayton and Farney, though conservative, have been ostracized by Cargill and the far-right faction. Cargill immediately nominated fellow far-right conservative Terri Leo, R-Spring, and the vote was deadlocked at two votes for each candidate. Democratic board member Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, is absent from today’s meetings, so the committee moved to postpone the election of chair until the September meeting when Berlanga will be present. Since there is no love lost between Berlanga and the far-right bloc, it seems likely that she will vote for Farney at the September meeting. Could this be a coup, signaling a return to common sense on this critical committee?

We can only hope. In Part II we find that all those annoying pro-science testifiers are making Ken Mercer and David Bradley cry, and in Part I of the debate, we find there’s nothing to be alarmed about just yet. Which counts as good news with the SBOE. Here’s Steven Schafersman‘s coverage; Josh Rosenau has weighed in on Twitter but not yet on his blog. All the Twitter action is on the #SBOE hashtag if you’re into that sort of thing.

Finally, an object lesson in not being able to do more with less:

With one-third fewer people, the Texas Education Agency just can’t do everything it used to do.

State Board of Education members were were told on multiple occasions this morning that a lack of time and staffers had prevented the agency from doing some of the prep work that it would have done previously, such as creating a briefing book on new legislation.

Citing similar constraints, agency staffers said they had yet to produce rules for the implementation of Senate Bill 6, which fundamentally changes how school districts can use state dollars to buy instructional materials and technology. It was passed during the special session last month.

School districts, for example, are waiting to learn how much they will get under the new system to cover the cost of textbooks, hardware, software and other expenses associated with disseminating lessons to students.

Sometimes, when you fire a bunch of people, stuff just doesn’t get done. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

UPDATE: So far, so good. On to tomorrow.

UPDATE: The Trib has more.

Saturday video break: We Three Kings are totally on Twitter

If the Christmas story were happening today, this is how it might go down:

Thanks to Harold for finding this.

The social network campaign

Governor Perry won’t show up at a debate, but he is a presence on the Internet.

The list of things that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Bill White, his Democratic opponent in November, disagree upon is long. But on the subject of social media as a tool to reach voters, the candidates are in harmony. Although the campaigns differ in their online tactics, both say they began to buy into social media in a big way early in 2009 and they’re each giving it unprecedented time and resources.

Perry and White both use smart phones to keep followers updated via Twitter and Facebook (White has an iPhone, Perry a BlackBerry). Their staffs tote equipment to send videos, photos, status updates, e-mails and blog posts from the road. Sometimes, the messages aren’t entirely earth-shattering. On Twitter, Perry posted a photo with teen stars Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato. And a recent Facebook post from White reads: “Andre Johnson does it again for the Texans. Can the Texans go 2-0?”

But the campaigns believe that their efforts — everything from off-the-cuff updates to more substantial efforts such as reactions to news stories, responses to voter questions and online videos — are giving Texans greater access to the candidates and delivering their messages to where the eyeballs are.

“They’re both very proficient,” said Mike Chapman, a partner in Apogee Campaigns, a nonpartisan consulting firm that’s closely following the campaigns. “Texas is getting a good representation on both sides of the aisle in terms of all the latest tools.”

[…]

The @GovernorPerry account has about 29,797 followers compared with about 4,621 followers for White’s @billwhitefortx.

While Perry tweets enthusiastically, White has taken a liking to Facebook, where his official page had been “Liked” 137,871 times compared with 43,227 times for the official Rick Perry Facebook page as of Sunday evening.

All of this is very interesting, and I’ve no doubt that both campaigns use social media proficiently. But there’s this little nagging voice in the back of my head that wonders just how much effect any of it really has. There were about 4.4 million votes cast in Texas in 2006, and it’s safe to assume there will be at least that many cast this year. Adding up all of the Twitter and Facebook friends and followers and you get less than 5% of that total, and that’s before you weed out duplicates, journalists and others with professional interests in the campaigns, out of staters, and phonies. The real story to me is not the numbers themselves but the metrics the campaigns themselves use to try to measure what the numbers mean. We all know that the 2008 Presidential election showed the immense potential of social networking in this context, but let’s be honest here, the 2008 Presidential election was sui generis. What do campaigns in 2010 and beyond aim to get out of their Twitter and Facebook and whatever the next hot new app is devotees, and how do they intend to determine if they’re getting it or not? That’s the story I want to read.

UPDATE: See also this Trib story.

School social media policies

The DMN has an interesting look at how Dallas-area school districts handle social networking by its employees.

[S]chool districts and teachers trying to reach and engage students and parents find that using the latest and most popular technology is faster, cost-effective and meets students and parents in their communication comfort zones.

Some teachers have established their own blogs and Facebook pages for their classes.

“It’s a wonderful way to reach out and get immediate feedback,” said Bob Morrison, superintendent in Mansfield ISD. “If you have your students subscribing to a classroom Facebook page and they’re having a debate about a topic, the teacher can see that and use it in her class.”

Large districts, such as Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD, have established districtwide Facebook pages. Some have created Twitter accounts, blogs and YouTube videos to spread district news. Mansfield ISD is working to create a smartphone application that would allow parents to check their children’s athletic schedules or add money to their lunch accounts.

“Technology is here. You can either embrace it or run away from it. We chose to embrace it,” Morrison said.

[…]

The Mansfield ISD employee handbook warns teachers that electronic communication should be limited to “matters within the scope of the employee’s professional responsibilities.” For classroom teachers, that means “matters relating to class work, homework, and tests” and for employees directing extracurricular activities, a similar stick-to-the-subject directive.

The policy also prohibits employees from “knowingly communicating with students through a personal social network page.” Employees may have their own social media pages for personal use, but they are to communicate with students through separate professional social network pages only and must allow administrators and parents access.

That’s a sensible attitude, and a sensible approach. Obviously, it’s more relevant today in districts where home computer use is more prevalent, but again we know that Texas schools will be using technology a lot more in the near future, so it’s best to get your arms around this now.

The article notes that the Texas Education Agency prefers to let individual ISDs set their own policies on this rather than impose a standard from above. So I wondered: What are HISD’s policies regarding social media for its schools and employees? I didn’t find anything on the HISD website, so I sent an email inquiry to them. Here’s the response I got:

Access to social media and networking sites (like YouTube and Facebook) are blocked from district computers at all schools and offices. We do not have a district Facebook or YouTube page. But, HISD does have a twitter account and following. The messages are posted by our communications department or by the superintendent himself. We do not have a policy addressing social media sites someone may access and post on during their off duty hours. We do address the issue to some extent in the Code of Student Conduct through our policies regarding cyber-bullying. There is also a state law that makes it a crime to access a computer from someone else’s account and post matters under their name with the intent to make others believe that the account holder is posting it. Additionally, the district can take action for matters posted by an employee, if it has a direct and substantial impact on their performance of their duties, or if it appears that there is a relationship that goes beyond the professional relationship between teacher and student. Employees are not restricted regarding their ability to have an account on a social networking site, however, as the article demonstrates, there are a lot of pitfalls should matters posted on the site extend beyond professional matters and stray into personal matters.

I actually found several HISD-related Twitter feeds, including HISD Media, HISD Recruiter, HISD Special Ed, and the main HISD feed itself. Superintendent Terry Grier is on Twitter, as are at least four trustees: Greg Myers, Paula Harris, Harvin Moore, and Anna Eastman. I have to say, I rather like the Mansfield approach, and I hope HISD will give this some more thought.

The city of Houston’s social media guidelines

I received the following email from Justin Concepcion, who manages social media for Mayor Parker’s office, in response to the questions I asked in this post about how the city of Houston handles social media:

We are in the process of creating a social media policy for the City of Houston. However, currently, it is still in the draft phase. I’ve been working very closely with our legal department and a COH social media committee to ensure the policy fits all the parameters needed to address this growing field.

As far as utilizing social media, the previous administration already encouraged city departments to utilize it as a communications tool, so many of the departments already have sites established. They are listed on their respective site and on here: http://www.houstontx.gov/socialmedia/index.html – The policy we’re creating is to address growing concerns on how departments should use it and personal use by city employees.

He also said they have just released the first phase of their new website, and that he will pass along my comments about having each departments’ social media links on their homepage, which most of them already do have. My thanks to Justin for getting back to me on this.

Social media guidelines in San Antonio

Interesting.

There’s no standard policy or set of procedures governing how public entities or their employees should use social networking sites. Agencies are in various stages of evaluating what constitutes proper online conduct.

Bexar County is writing a social media policy that would address personal networking. There’s nothing about it in the county’s computer resources use policy, last amended in June. The city of San Antonio put out an administrative directive in January that explains how employees should represent their departments and themselves online, spokeswoman Di Galvan said.

“The city of San Antonio was one of the first to have a social media policy that’s been implemented in the state,” Galvan said. “We tried to find other policies and really couldn’t find any that addressed a municipality. Employees want guidelines, and that’s what we provided to them.”

[…]

The city hasn’t defined exactly what would be considered inappropriate. The directive puts it this way: “Ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself as a City professional, appropriate with the public trust associated with your position, and conforms to existing ethical standards.”

The city has comparatively strong rules for how its departments must manage their social media networks — and it has 58 such networks. The Police Department doesn’t have one yet, but the Fire Department does.

Just curious – does the city of Houston, or Harris County, have any such guidelines for their employees, or for how its departments must manage their social media networks? I think both are a good idea. One simple thing that ought to be a part of the latter is to ensure that various departments’ social networking sites are prominently linked from their departments’ home pages. A quick tour of the City of Houston and Harris County department pages shows a few that are and many that aren’t. You can find the Houston Public Library on Facebook, and you can find the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook, but you can’t find either of them linked from their respective department homepages. I must note that this is no different from San Antonio, where you can find the San Antonio Convention Center on Facebook, but you wouldn’t know that from its official homepage. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Join Senator Kirk Watson & Bill White in Online Video Town Hall, Monday July 12

State Senator Kirk Watson will host an online video town hall with Bill White on Monday, July 12th at 5:30pm. You can join the conversation yourself, submit questions, and enjoy a high-tech, low-key campaign chat with two of Texas’ most prominent Democrats. They’ll be taking questions in real time during the town hall via Twitter, Facebook and UStream. Or, you can submit your question now on Kirk’s Facebook wall (http://bit.ly/dmrnVa) or his Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/KirkPWatson. The event is free and open to everyone – you just need to log on to Facebook and go to Kirk’s Facebook page from 5:30 to 6:30PM on July 12 to watch or participate. BOR has more.

New frontiers in open meeting laws

There’s an awful lot here to think about.

The Texas Legislature may become the first in the nation to tackle whether tweeting and texting is being used to circumvent open meetings laws and whether the private devices of public officials can be subject to open records searches.

“They are new tools to communicate with constituents … and in some ways they are a better way to engage the public in the public policy process,” said Keith Elkins, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

But he told the Senate State Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the tools of the Internet and smart phones can lead to quorum and open meetings violations.

“Everybody here today has been texting and answering e-mails,” Elkins said. “It is not beyond the realm of possibility that a quorum of any body has texted each other to say ‘Yes, I’m voting and why.’ ”

[…]

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, said he would be concerned that people may think he was violating the law by texting during a meeting when, in fact, he may be dealing with a family emergency, a message from a constituent or even taking a moment to read the Gospel of the Day.

“Texting has become an excellent way to get staff to assist you during committee meetings,” Lucio said.

Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said he is concerned about subjecting private computers and private cell phones to public information requests. He said he also is worried that public officials may end up having to carry three cell phones to cover public use, campaign use and private use.

“Everybody ought to have some expectation of privacy, even if they are a public official,” Duncan said.

No question there’s a can of worms here, but I am sympathetic to what the Senators have to say. Among other things, many public officials are parents, and I’d bet they get lots of text messages from or about their kids, just like millions of other parents do. Basically, this is in some sense no different than email, and we had this conversation about email some years ago. Everyone more or less understands the rules with email – what you can and can’t send from your official account, for example – and it shouldn’t to too hard to translate those rules for other forms of communication. Just codifying what’s allowed and what’s not will do a lot to discourage official business from taking place out of sight.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be loopholes to exploit. That happens now with email. We’ve seen Governor Perry and various members of the Bush administration use personal email accounts for a lot of stuff that may have been official or campaign communications because they can avoid this kind of scrutiny by doing so. There isn’t always a sufficiently clear distinction between different kinds of communications, so any number of things can fall between the cracks by accident or design. With new technologies constantly emerging, those who want to operate in secret will always have an advantage, as the law will never be able to keep up. Confusion is an issue, too, as illustrated by this paragraph:

Not long after a Florida state commission recommended all agencies adopt policies on electronic messaging last year, the state’s utility regulation agency was caught in a scandal when staff gave out private Blackberry messaging accounts to utility lobbyists, who treated them to a Kentucky Derby trip. Though no texts were preserved, it gave the appearance of trying to circumvent the state’s open meetings law.

I’m not what they mean by “BlackBerry messaging accounts”, but as far as I know, one normally sends text messages to a phone number. You can use BlackBerrys for instant messaging as well, however, and I suspect this may have been referring to IM accounts, which can be on various services like AIM or Yahoo or Microsoft OCS if you are on a BlackBerry Enterprise Server that is configured to work with it. Personal IM usage would not be recorded on a BES, if that’s what these guys were doing. Getting a real handle on this will be a challenge, but using existing guidelines for email usage will be our best bet for where to start.

One last thing: The opening sentence of this story referred to “tweeting and texting”, but that was the only mention of anything related to Twitter. Say what you want about Twitter, it’s not normally used for clandestine communication. Yes, you can protect your tweets, and yes you can send text-like direct messages, but for the most part Twitter is the opposite of what needs to be dealt with here.

Like I said, it’s a complex issue. Vince makes a compelling case that what’s at issue is open records, not open meetings. I encourage you to read what he has to say on the subject.

McGuff interviews the Mayor

Mayor Annise Parker discusses her social media strategy with Mike McGuff:

Interesting stuff. Among other things, the Mayor mentions that a new and improved City of Houston website is on its way. I can’t wait to see it.

No texting while deliberating

If you get called in for jury duty in Harris County, you can now get free WiFi in the Jury Assembly Room. But once you get into a courtroom, and especially if you get empaneled, you should expect to have to unplug.

If you think you’re going to use your spanking new iPhone to entertain yourself next time you’re on jury duty, think again.  Judges are going to take an even dimmer view of jury member use of Blackberry, iPhone or other electronic devices as a judicial policy-setting group has told district judges they should restrict jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate.

The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management for the United States District Courts said it developed instructions that would be issued by judges, “to address the increasing incidence of juror use of such devices as cellular telephones or computers to conduct research on the Internet or communicate with others about cases. Such use has resulted in mistrials, exclusion of jurors, and imposition of fines. The suggested instructions specifically inform jurors that they are prohibited from using these technologies in the courtroom, in deliberations, or outside the courthouse to communicate about or research cases on which they currently serve, the group stated.

Specifically, those instruction spell out that jurors should not you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information either before the trial, during deliberations or after until the judge instructs otherwise.

The instructions state jurors must not use cell phones, e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, or communicate through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

In the old days, judges instructed jurors not to read the newspaper or watch the news, or discuss the case with anyone. This isn’t really different from that, it’s just a revision for modern forms of news and discussion. Better to spell it all out than to risk a mistrial somewhere because a juror didn’t realize that not discussing the case meant not posting a Facebook status update about it, too.

Endorsement watch: Republicans (very quietly) for Roy

The Saturday edition of the Chron the past couple of weeks has had a feature in the City & State section called Campaign Watch, which is a blog-like collection of short items relating to the 2009 elections. For some odd reason, none of this stuff is apparently available on the Chron.com website. Anyway, one of the stories today is headlined “County Republican Party Makes Pick”, and says that even though they basically did nothing else for him in terms of financial help or voter outreach, the Harris County Republican Party officially announced its endorsement of Roy Morales for Mayor on Friday, after only a week of early voting.

Which is nice for Roy, I suppose – it’s not like he’s exactly overwhelmed with support – but you’d think the least they could do is mention it somewhere prominent. It’s not, for example, on the front page of the HCRP website, where you’d think at least a link to such a big announcement might be. It is there – if you go to HCRP 2009 Elections page and click the link on Roy’s name, you’ll see it. I nearly missed it the first time I went looking, but it is there. They haven’t used social media to spread the word, either – it’s not on their Facebook page, it’s not on the Harris County GOP Facebook group page, and it’s not on the HCRP Twitter feed. Oh, and if you take a close look at that last link, you’ll note that the whole “doing it in the Facebook with the Twittering” thing still needs a little work.

Now you may say, they just announced this yesterday, give them a little time to get their stuff together. Well, except that the story says that the actual endorsement was made at their Executive Committee meeting on Monday the 19th. Roy himself announced the endorsement on his webpage on Tuesday the 20th. The HCRP didn’t bother to announce it till Friday, and this is all they’ve done with it in the meantime. Boy, with friends like these, huh?

Weekend link dump for October 18

You have to wonder what Tom Lehrer would have made of tweeting in Church.

Are you the unknown liberal?

if big media companies really want Google to stop “stealing” their content, they can make that happen today, all by themselves.

Columnist, heal thyself.

Eddie Murphy predicted the housing bubble. Well, okay, only sort of.

Some people really like making Nazi analogies. I guess it’s easier than thinking.

From the Department of People Who Have Too Much Time On Their Hands: Food flags.

What could you do with 63 hours? In all honesty, I’d probably waste most of it surfing the Internet.

Discovery Green is very green.

Not everybody is impressed by Malcolm Gladwell.

Damned if they do…

I too would favor a big government solution to the problem of way too loud TV commercials.

Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

No NFL team for you, Rush.

Apparently, I’m a super liberal. Well, I think I’m pretty good, but modesty prevents me from going any farther than that.

The Ten Worst Halloween Costumes of the Year. So far. Unless you think these are even worse.

Funny pictures are the reason why God gave us the Internet.

Calvin Trillin says what needs to be said.

Where those Heights arson fires have been.

Oh, Beyonce.

Tony Perkins lies a lot for money.

Beyond cutting edge, baby!

Dead people generally aren’t a threat to anybody.

Grab a mop!

The Wait Wait Pumpkin Carving Contest. Surely you can do better than Pumpkin Blagojevich.

Want the country to fail? There’s an app for that.

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.

PREVIOUSLY:

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

City of Houston social media

The City of Houston is doing it in the Facebook with the Twittering, plus some bonus YouTube action as well. Follow BARC, various Community Affairs offices, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and more, some of which update more often and have done so more recently than others. I think this is a good idea, and would like to see more city departments do it, as well as a greater commitment to regular updates from those that are currently doing it. Oh, and I think the page should include a listing of City Council members’ Twitter pages as well. Thanks to Miya for the tip.

No vote from HISD on several school upgrades

Last week, I noted that a parents group and some HISD trustees were complaining about there not being a vote on three school construction projects that were promised as part of the 2007 bond referendum. Even though we now have a new Superintendent in tow, which was supposedly the holdup on these items, they’re still not getting any action.

Parents trying to get facilities upgrades at several Houston ISD campuses said Monday that Board President Larry Marshall has once again thwarted efforts to bring the matter to a vote this week.

Saying she is in a “complete state of shock” after the posting of the board’s workshop schedule for Thursday morning, which contains only three of seven schools, education activist Mary Nesbitt is calling on parents and others to come to the workshop to get the board to honor commitments by Supterintendent Abe Saavedra to correct facilities deficits at Bellaire High School, Grady Middle School, Sam Houston High and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Nesbitt called Marshall’s actions “completely unprecedented and without regard for the wishes of the other board members who made a formal request to put forward the package of seven schools.”

Nesbit sent out another message to the Facebook group HISD Parent Visionaries about this, which I’ve reproduced beneath the fold. Trustee Harvin Moore said on Twitter that this was “The most bizarre power play I have witnessed in six years on the HISD board”. The workshop will be held at 7:30 a.m. Thursday in the Board Services Conference Room at district headquarters, 4400 W. 18th St., and I daresay it will be contentious. Be there if you can.

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The exodus from the DA’s office

The Chron writes about disgruntlement in the DA’s office.

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos promised to clean house when she was elected in November and promptly fired seven senior prosecutors. Now other experienced prosecutors, including a member of Lykos’ upper echelon, are leaving, citing a lack of communication and a toxic work environment.

With career prosecutors leaving without being asked, some are worried Lykos is driving away those she’d hoped to keep, leaving the office hurting for experience, institutional memory and mentors for newer prosecutors.

Lykos said there is no problem. Employees leave jobs for a number of reasons, and space at the top gives rising stars room to advance.

“Turnover is normal and it gives younger, eager prosecutors upward mobility,” Lykos said.

Murray Newman, who used to be an assistant DA and who has been one of the biggest critics of Pat Lykos and her office around, hails the story and piles on to it. I obviously have no insider knowledge here, but in fairness it must be noted that there’s always some turmoil when there’s a change at the top of an office like the District Attorney. There’s been a certain amount of disgruntlement at the Sheriff’s office as well, with Robert Goerlitz, the Secretary/Treasurer of the Harris County Deputies Organization being a leading critic – see these two documents, which Goerlitz forwarded to Carl Whitmarsh’s listserv awhile ago, for an example. Having said that, there’s not been anything like the exodus from the HCSO’s office that there has been from the DA’s office. Even to an outsider like me, it seems clear that something different is going on there.

Speaking in political terms, I’d say this is mostly inside baseball until such time as a former employee announces an electoral challenge to Lykos, or current and former ADAs publicly back an opponent to Lykos, much as the deputies’ organizations supported Adrian Garcia over Tommy Thomas last year. Until then, it’s interesting but not really predictive of anything. The next election is a long way off, after all.

On a related note, I’d like to thank Murray for pointing me to the Fake Pat Lykos Twitter feed, and for reminding me again just what a goober HCRP Chair Jared Woodfill is. I guess he hasn’t paid much attention in all those doing it in the Facebook with the Twittering classes the local GOP is teaching.

Tuesday Council roundup

Council Member Sue Lovell, who is running hard for re-election after her close win in 2007, has added some fundraising muscle to her team.

Houston Vice Mayor Pro Tem Sue Lovell announced today that Robert Miller would lead the Finance Committee for her campaign for re-election to At-Large Position 2 on the Houston City Council.

Miller is chair of the Public Law Practice Group at the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell and a past Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas.

“Robert Miller and I have worked together on so many important projects that are making a real difference for Houston,” said Lovell. “I am thrilled – and honored – to work with him again on my campaign.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Houston needs Sue Lovell’s leadership in the next two years,” said Miller. “With a new mayor and controller facing an uncertain economy, Council Member Lovell’s knowledge, experience and results-driven approach will be critical to continuing our progress.”

This is a good get for Lovell. Miller’s one of those people who knows everyone and should bring with him a lot of opportunities to add to her campaign coffers. Expect her to have a strong 30-days-out report.

One of Lovell’s opponents, Roslyn “Rozzy” Shorter now has a new website. She’s also on Twitter, meaning I’d better update my post. She did not report raising any money in the first half of the year, however, so it’s hard to say how much of a threat she’ll be to Lovell.

Speaking of fundraising, I’ve updated my spreadsheet to reflect the fact that a number of previously missing reports are now – finally! – available online. Anyone who still doesn’t have a report up at this point is presumed by me to have not filed one.

Over in At Large #5, new entrant Dr. Davetta Mills Daniels had her campaign kickoff reception tonight. You can see the invitation and sponsor list here as a Google doc. I’ll be very interested to see what her finance report looks like in October.

Meanwhile, At Large #5 Council Member Jolanda Jones released this letter of support from current, former, and retired Houston firefighters. I presume that was in response to this story about female firefighters who met with Mayor White and pushed back on the charges of rampant sexism and racism within HFD.

Finally, the Houston Press has a detailed report from Monday’s Council hearings on BARC that includes grades for various Council members’ performance. That’s a novel way to approach this sort of thing, and I daresay it will get some strong reactions from inside City Hall Annex.

Doing it in the Facebook with the Twittering, HCRP-style

Lisa Falkenberg checks in on the Harris County Republican Party’s efforts to bring social media skillz to their masses. It’s easy to make fun of them for this – okay, it’s easy to make fun of them in general – but I figure that theirs is a party that needs to enter the 21st century on many things, so any step in that direction is a good thing. That being said, I think they’ve got bigger issues to deal with than just a lack of Facebook savvy, as highlighted in this bit at the end of Falkenberg’s piece:

Eighty-year-old Ruth Hasty of Spring Branch got the message loud and clear. She came for education and got it.

“I’ve heard of Facebook. I get these messages and I would like to know what it’s all about,” she said. “I probably will sign up. I think it’s a pretty good venue.”

Jack O’Connor, 61, of Houston, agreed, saying if Obama can e-mail people from Europe during the campaign, Republicans can organize over Facebook, although he acknowledges the age obstacle.

“As you can see, there’s not many people under 40 here,” he says. “I think this is re-enfranchising people who are over 40. And I think that’s good. Let’s wake up.”

The thing is, old people – and as someone on the wrong side of 40, that includes me – already vote. They turned out in force last year, in fact, for all of the good it did the local GOP. Now maybe the Harris County codger contingent lagged the rest of the state, or maybe the increase in older voters here was driven more by minority turnout than elsewhere, I don’t know. What I’m saying is that I don’t think the marginal gains to be had by energizing older voters are all that great, and even if they are, I’ll take the Democrats’ appeal to the under-40 crowd over it any day. When it’s the kids that are doing it in the Facebook with the Twittering for the local GOP, that’s when I’ll take notice.

City candidates on Twitter

Since I brought up the subject of Houston city candidates on Twitter last week, I figured I’d put together as complete a list of such candidates’ Twitter feeds as I could, since I’d already gotten such a head start on it. Before I present that list, I just want to add as a public service to current and future candidates, please configure your account with your full name, so that when someone does a Find People search, they will get a good result. Several candidates whom I follow on Twitter could not be found by this method, which strikes me as a pretty basic oversight. Just FYI.

Now then. Here’s the list, as best as I can determine. If you know of someone I’m missing, please tell me in the comments. Thanks.

Houston Mayoral candidates

Annise Parker
Gene Locke
Peter Brown
Roy Morales
TJ Huntley

Houston City Controller candidates

Pam Holm
MJ Khan
Ronald Green

Houston City Council Members and Candidates

Karen Derr – At Large #1

Roslyn Shorter – At Large #2

Jeff Downing – District A
Alex Wathen – District A
Amy Peck – District A
Lane Lewis – District A
Brenda Stardig – District A

Jarvis Johnson – District B

Mike Sullivan – District E

Peter Acquaro – District F
Robert Kane – District F

George Foulard – District G
Mills Worsham – District G

Ed Gonzalez – District H

That’s a pretty good list, though with fewer incumbents than I would have expected. For the sake of completeness, I also searched for HISD and HCCS trustees. The only one I found was Greg Meyers, HISD trustee for District VI. I’d like to see that change.

So there you have it. Again, if I missed someone you know of, please tell me about it in the comments. If you want more, David Ortez put together a nice list of Houston candidates’ web presences, including Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. Hair Balls also has a good post on social media strategy briefing that the Annise Parker campaign had on Wednesday. Check ’em out.

UPDATE: Via comments and Facebook messages, I’ve added Twitter feeds for Brenda Stardig (District A), Council Member Mike Sullivan (E), and Robert Kane (F). Thanks for the feedback, please keep ’em coming.

UPDATE: TJ Huntley’s Twitter page is now accessible again.

Parker reports $800K raised for Mayoral race

Tomorrow is the deadline for filing campaign finance reports for City of Houston elections. In the meantime, expect campaigns that did well in that department to announce their results ahead of time. One such announcement comes from the Annise Parker campaign, which proclaims over $800,000 raised for the six-month reporting period. From their press release:

The Annise Parker for Mayor Campaign released its fundraising totals through June 30 today, raising $810,114.92 from 2,254 donors.

“We’re building a grassroots campaign like Houston has never seen before,” said Parker. “It will take all of us to keep Houston moving through these tough times to a strong economic recovery – and that’s why there is a place in our campaign for everyone to make a difference.”

The full release, which goes into detail about the numbers, is beneath the fold. According to the PDF report from January 15 that I can find via the simple campaign finance report search form but annoyingly cannot link to, Parker had about $238K cash on hand six months ago. That will give her a pretty good total, though it should be noted that Council Member Peter Brown started the year with $897K on hand. Gene Locke, who didn’t formally announce his candidacy until March (he filed his Treasurer’s report in February), doesn’t have a January finance report. Roy Morales does have one, with no money shown in it.

The one other announcement of which I am currently aware comes from City Council Member Pam Holm, who is running to replace Parker as Controller. She announced on Twitter raising $300K for the period. Add that to the $241K she started the year with, and she’s in strong financial shape. As for her opponents, At Large #4 Council Member Ronald Green began the year with $32K, and District F Council Member MJ Khan had $300K. I know Green has been busy fundraising these past few months; he’ll need to have been quite successful to catch up to these two.

By the way, since Parker touts her Facebook and Twitter followings in her release, and since I found out about Holm’s numbers via Twitter, I realized as I was writing this that while I was following all of the Mayoral candidates’ feeds (Parker, Locke, Brown, Morales) as well as CM Holm’s feed, I didn’t even know if Green and Khan had them. Turns out that they do – Khan, Green – and so now I’m following them as well. Oh, and if you’re wondering about Mayoral candidate TJ Huntley, well, here’s his Twitter feed. Go ahead, click it. I got nothin’.

If I receive or hear of any other announcements, I’ll add them to this post. There ought to be a boatload of announcements from state and federal candidates as well – for example, I’ve just seen (via Twitter, of course) that Kirk Watson has reported over $1.4 million on hand. Not as much as the Republicans, but then he’s not actually running for Governor yet. Anyway, and in the meantime, here’s Parker’s press release. Muse has more.

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Metro light rail groundbreaking

Asa we know, today was groundbreaking day for Metro on the North and Southeast lines. Here’s the coverage I could find: an oddly negative story from KTRK, stories from Fox and KHOU, and a story from Texas Cable News that has something near and dear to my heart, namely numbers.

Metro estimates that by 2030 about 129,000 people will be using Metro light rail. Here is the breakdown:

Light Rail 2030 projections

North Corridor 29,000

East End Corridor 14,950

Southeast Corridor 28,750

Uptown Corridor 8,500

And University Corridor 49,200

That doesn’t include the Main Street line, which I might add has far exceeded its initial ridership projections. The projection for the Uptown line feels low to me, but I’ll leave that to the experts to comment on. We don’t have a set route for the Uptown line in any event, and the possibility of the Universities line having multiple routes – one to Gulfton, the other along the Uptown track – is still out there, so these numbers are even more up in the air than usual. But they’ll be something to look back on in another five or ten years, so file them away for later. Urban Houstonian was at the ceremony and posted these pictures for your perusal.

Support the Central City Co-op

Some of you may know that my wife, Tiffany Tyler, has been working with Central City Co-Op. Last year, she helped launch the farmers market they run at Discovery Green – she was its first manager – and has continued to work with them on their Board of Directors. Central City is embarking on its first capital campaign this summer. She sent the following email to friends and supporters of Central City, which I’m reproducing here:

As most of you know, I’ve spent the past 2 years working within Central City Co-Op.  I’d been a co-op shopper and member since 2003, and took the opportunity after my corporate severance to become more involved in this community-based organization.  I am now chairman of its Board of Directors.

The Co-op has a central mission of bringing fresh, organic produce to people in the Houston community at a reasonable price.  We use a network of local farmers and a national distributor to source our produce, and a group of strongly committed volunteers supporting the equivalent of 3 paid staff to make the business work.  This includes our Wednesday operations on Taft Street AND the Farmer’s Market at Discovery Green on Sundays.  Each market day, remaindered unsold produce is donated to feed the least fortunate in our community.  In 2008 we donated over $10,000 in produce to support SEARCH, the Salvation Army and the Beacon at Christ Church Cathedral.

Our volunteers and staff have worked in area schools to do nutrition education and outreach, including Healthy Harvard Happenings.  We work now with the Urban Farm Belt coalition to help develop more community-based gardens so that people in the inner city will have access to the fresh produce they need to have balanced diets at reasonable cost.  Our Sunday operation at Discovery Green provides free booth space to community service groups to bring their messages of caring for the environment and each other to the masses of park attendees each weekend.

We pride ourselves on being a Texas not-for-profit corporation, serving our community.  We do not have IRS 501 C3 status, however, and this presents challenges as we apply for grant funding to grow and expand our educational programming.  It also hampers us when we need to replace capital goods.  Things like refrigerators, computers, shelving and scales do break.  The margins we use to keep our prices low don’t allow us a lot of wiggle room.  So we need a capital campaign.

We have begun our first capital campaign this summer, with a goal of raising sufficient funds to replace and expand our refrigeration system, buy new shelving and replace our scales.  We have multiple projects planned throughout the summer and fall to meet this goal.  Our summer projects include:

a car wash ticket sale for Bubbles Express.  Now through the 22nd of July, purchase a Choice Wash ticket from us for $8 (the same $8 they charge you if you drive up), and the Co-Op keeps $4.  We all like clean cars, right?  And the Bubbles on Washington Avenue is really convenient.  And did you know that they RECYCLE the water in their carwash?  Each 18 gallons used in a typical Choice Wash gets used for 2 or 3 cars (depending on how dirty they are).  And of course it is filtered and then sent to the treatment plant.  So there’s no groundwater contamination AND it uses very little water.  Doesn’t it just make you want to buy a block of tickets from me right now?  They’re good through 22 December, so you can stock up!

a community garage sale.  On Saturday 11 July, the folks at Fixers Automotive on Harvard at 11th are letting us use their space for a large community garage sale.  We’d love to have your household goods for sale, and we’d love to have you stop by and clothe your kids or round out your household in some other way.  Contact me for drop-off information.  We’ll be selling from 8 am to noon on the 11th.  And we’ll have carwash tickets there, too.

I encourage all of you to support Central City Co-op.  I’ve found it to be a wonderful group of people who believe passionately in good food, good stewardship and strong community.  We are always looking for more good folks to help, as well, so if the spirit moves you to learn more and become involved, please don’t hesitate to ask me for more information.

Thanks for your time.  I look forward to hearing from you.

You can also follow Central City Co-op on Twitter or join their Facebook group. If you want to help out with the car wash ticket sales, or just want to buy some car wash tickets, please send an email to [email protected] Or just leave a comment here and we’ll get in touch. Thanks very much.

Cillizza on White

The WaPo’s Chris Cilizza surveys the Senate campaign scene, and makes an interesting comment about Texas:

Democrats’ best opportunities to broaden the current playing field are in Louisiana and Texas.

[…]

Texas is a bit more of a longshot although a special election race, which would be triggered by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) resignation to focus full time for governor, would create an unpredictable dynamic where Democrats might have a chance. The party’s preferred candidate is Houston Mayor Bill White although former state Comptroller John Sharp is running too. In truth, for Democrats to have a pickup opportunity, Sharp would probably need to step aside.

Cillizza’s suggestion that a Sharp departure makes the seat a more likely Democratic pickup stands in contrast to the Rick Casey scenario, in which White and Sharp finish ahead of a larger field of Republican wannabees and face each other in the runoff. In favor of this possibility is the fact that no big-name Republicans have entered as yet, and the ones who are in lag far behind the two Democrats in fundraising. On the other hand, there’s nothing really stopping a Dewhurst or an Abbott, both of whom are rumored to want in, from getting in, and this was always a thread-the-needle shot to begin with. I’d just about put money on one of the Williamses – Roger the multi-millionaire potential self-funder, or Michael the grassroots and Twitter hero – to make it into the top two if the field we have today is the field we get in the end. Besides, Sharp claims he isn’t going anywhere, though of course as with any race it ain’t over till the filing deadline passes. So who knows?

“Texas Democrats’ First Truly Statewide Campaign of the 21st Century”

Go read Phillip’s analysis of the Bill White campaign and its effective and extensive use of social media. Good stuff, with lots to think about.

Charging for Twitter

I’m sure something like this will eventually happen.

Twitter Inc.’s co-founders say the rapidly growing online communications company will eventually charge fees for its services, but it’s unclear which ones and what will drive revenue.

“There will be a moment when you can fill out a form or something and give us money,” said Evan Williams, co-founder and chief executive officer.

“We’re working on it right now,” Williams said at The Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference.

Williams and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone mentioned possible revenue-generators, including a service that would authenticate the source of information. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts could pay to make sure that impostors don’t send messages under its name.

Still, after nearly one hour of questions from journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher and from the audience, the co-founders gave no clear picture of Twitter’s business model. Stone demurred when asked what would be the company’s key revenue driver in two years.

More venture capital? I like Twitter, I find it useful, I’ve enjoyed using it to keep up with what various friends are doing, but I don’t know about paying for it. Some things are just meant to be free, I guess. Good luck figuring this out, that’s all I can say.

City Council redistricting lawsuit dismissed

Marc Campos mentions this in passing:

This past Friday, a federal judge threw out Lopez v. City of Houston. That is the lawsuit filed by Vidal Martinez to force the City of H-Town to draw two more district council seats immediately. I guess it is not going to happen until 2011.

I’ve searched Google, and I’ve searched the Southern District Court webpage, and other than this May 8 tweet from Liz Lara Carreno, I can’t find anything more on this beyond what Marc has written. The lawsuit, you may recall, was filed in February to force the city to abide by the 1979 ruling that required two new district Council seats to be created when the population hit 2.1 million. The city’s argument was that they wanted to wait till after the 2010 Census, while the plaintiffs argued that sufficient data existed today to do the job in time for this November’s election. A copy of the suit is here, in RTF format. If anyone can point me to an opinion or an order or something so I can have some idea of the reason for the dismissal, I’d appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Budget yes, UI not yet

The conference committee on the budget finished its work yesterday.

While final details are still emerging, the 10 conferees worked out a last minute plan for spending $700 million of federal stimulus money for state fiscal stabilization. They hope that it will avert a special session, even if Perry vetoes some or all of the money. It appeared to go to school textbooks in part. And there were other things funded that are near and dear to the Perry family, such as preservation of a couple more county courthouses ($7 million) and restoring the fire-gutted Governor’s Mansion.

Burkablog and Floor Pass, which notes that the committee will vote out the budget on Tuesday, fill in a few more details. The first obstacle is making sure Governor Perry will sign it, but so far there’s no evidence that he wants to force a do-over. Not dipping into the Rainy Day Fund, for which we can all thank President Obama and the stimulus package, likely helps out there.

Unclear at this time is the fate of the Davis/Walle amendment, which would drain money from the Texas Enterprise Fund in the event that SB1569 gets vetoed. And speaking of SB1569, it took a few steps forward in the House, but ultimately was not brought to a vote. The best writeup I’ve seen about what went on during this comes from Ed Sills’ TxAFLCIOENews; I’ve reproduced it beneath the fold.

According to Brandi Grissom on Twitter, the House has recessed for the night due to its computers being down, without having passed any bills today. They’re scheduled to work Saturday and Sunday, and according to Gardner Selby, voter ID is supposedly atop the calendar for Saturday. That’s assuming they actually get to it – as we’ve seen multiple times this session, being on the calendar is no guarantee of anything. The Democrats will surely do what they can to run out the clock if they feel they must. We’ll see how far down the agenda the House gets tomorrow.

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Gearing up for the voter ID showdown

SB362 was not on the calendar today, but it is expected to be brought to the House floor before the Tuesday deadline for approving Senate bills, perhaps as early as tomorrow. House Dems had a press conference today, accidentally pre-empting a Republican presser in the process, to decry voter ID and vow to fight it tooth and nail if it does come to the floor. None of that is new, though the hints that there might be a quorum-busting maneuver, plus the suggestion (on Twitter) that the Dems have the votes to defeat SB362, are. I suppose if the latter is true then there’s no need for the former, though given Rep. David Farabee’s comment that he could support a voter ID proposal that had a phase-in period, I suspect no one wants to take any chances in the event the Republican hardliners decide to grab the half a loaf that’s almost surely available to them. The clock is the Democrats’ friend on this (at least until Governor Perry calls a special session), and they emphasized the short amount of time remaining till sine die and the long list of things like windstorm insurance reform that still need to get done. I think in the end it will come down to counting noses. If the Dems really can beat this thing, which I think they can do as SB362 stands (remember, the GOP is a vote short right now), it’ll die. If the Republicans give a little, they can probably peel off enough support to get something passed. I’d say the choice is theirs.

UPDATE: Via Twitter, voter ID is not on the calendar for Friday. This is just a guess, but maybe Jim Dunnam is right and the votes aren’t there to pass it, and the delay is to give the Republicans time to get a majority. At which, needless to say, I want them to fail. Keep hope alive.