The lawsuit argued the city was violating its own charter by refusing to redistrict and add two council districts when its population passed the 2.1 million threshhold in late 2006.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake rejected that contention, finding the plaintiffs had failed to show the city's charter compelled redistricting. Martinez promised an appeal.
"This is just the first step in a long marathon," he said, noting that the outcome of the case could depend on a U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with voting rights that originated in Austin. "Nobody should take any happiness out of this very preliminary ruling by the court. In the end, justice has not been done with a 30-year agreement and contract the city made with the Houston Latino community."
City Attorney Arturo Michel said the ruling upholds the city's contention that it could not follow federal law regarding redistricting without the accuracy provided by the upcoming decennial population count by the U.S. Census Bureau. Federal law requires precinct-level data for redistricting, which would not be available until after the 2010 count. Using data from the 2000 count, the city argued, would lead to inaccurate district boundaries.
"That will allow you to identify where voters are and come up with the representation system that is the fairest," Michel said. "What's more important is that you have a complete and accurate Census count so that you know where people are, and then you can divide your districts in a way that will be fairest to everyone."
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.
Eight months ago, the city of Houston succeeded in closing down a strip club, its first such victory after finally getting a favorable verdict in the lawsuit to overturn the 1997 ordinance that more strictly regulated sexually-oriented businesses. They're now hunting more game.
Lawyers for the city filed a lawsuit Friday to close a Galleria-area topless club for not having a sexually oriented business license, the beginning of a City Hall crackdown on dozens of unlicensed clubs across Houston.
The lawsuit followed the arrest Thursday evening of nine employees of All Stars Men's Club, 2688 Winrock, including six dancers charged with solicitation of prostitution.
The suit asks 113th District Judge Patricia Hancock to issue a permanent injunction, arguing the club would not qualify for a required license because it is located 800 feet from a church and is closer than 1,500 feet to an area more than 75 percent residential.
"This is part of a bigger effort by the White administration to use the powers that are available to the city to protect and improve the quality of life in the city's neighborhoods," said private attorney Patrick Zummo, who was hired by the city to help enforce its sexually oriented business ordinance.
"We are working on another lawsuit that would include many of those businesses that are operating illegally, and which will probably be filed in the next couple of weeks."
"We know from both Houston's experience, and the experience in cities across the country, that sexual oriented-businesses are associated with higher rates of crime in the area around them and with lower property values," Zummo said. "That's why the federal courts allow reasonable regulation of these businesses."
According to one study, a little more than half of HISD's high school freshmen ultimately graduate.
Despite dozens of commencement ceremonies planned for the next two weeks, only 58.5 percent of Houston-area students who should be graduating will be earning diplomas this spring, community advocates said today.
Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, announced on the steps of Houston City Hall this morning that his group commissioned the Texas Education Agency to conduct a study of six-year graduation rates. They learned that that 53 percent of the students who begin as ninth-graders in the Houston Independent School District had not graduated from any Texas high school in six years.
"We feel there is a real crisis, a crisis of graduation," Sanborn said, pointing out the link between poverty and education levels. "We really don't think the TEA and the school districts are being honest with the public."
Sanborn said HISD estimates it graduates as many as 77 percent of its students within four years. That number is based on faulty data that doesn't count as dropouts students who claim they're going to be home schooled, attend private school or move out of state or country.
Sanborn said the first step in fixing high schools is admitting the severity of the problem. He called for the state Legislature, the TEA and individual school districts to become more transparent and use the graduation rate calculation formula Children at Risk used in this study.
Karen Garza, HISD's chief academic officer, said the district certainly sees dropouts as an important problem that they are working to address. She questioned whether the Children at Risk numbers fail to consider how mobile the population of this urban school district is by excluding students who may start here but graduated in Oklahoma or Mexico or anywhere outside of Texas.
"We acknowledge this is a major issue. We've got to get better at keeping kids in school," Garza said. "We want solutions. We offer more and more options, things like flexible hours and on-line courses."
But, Garza said, HISD uses the formula prescribed by the TEA and she doesn't see the Children at Risk calculation as being any more reliable.
Council Member and Mayoral candidate Peter Brown comments on the Children at Risk study. I'm still a bit amazed at how education has become an issue in this race, and I'm still not sure what role the Mayor should be playing in Houston's public education; it's not clear to me how much of a role the Mayor could play without legislative action, anyway. That said, I'm always glad to see public education be the topic of conversation, at least among people who care about its success. Maybe just by keeping the spotlight on it, we can have a positive effect.
I've got to agree with Stace here: Why should anyone in Houston care what some outfit that's based in Spring thinks about anything related to Houston politics or policies? Last I checked, the citizens of Spring don't vote in Houston elections or pay Houston property taxes. Some of them may pay sales taxes in Houston, which would put them on roughly the same footing as the undocumented immigrants this particular outfit is so worked up about. Beyond that, I'll give these guys the same advice I give other non-residents who want to tell us how to run things: Move here and run for Mayor yourself. Until then, who cares what you think?
Faced with a dour economic climate, Mayor Bill White unveiled a $4 billion budget proposal on Tuesday that keeps the property tax rate the same and holds spending at what it was the current fiscal year.
The plan, which includes funds for one new library and the replacement of five, the expansion of recycling programs and more money for the widely criticized Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, limits operating expenses to an increase of one-half of 1 percent. That's largely due to a nearly 25 percent decline in how much the city will keep in reserve this year.
Under his budget plan, the city will hold almost $171 million in reserves, about $50 million less than the current fiscal year. If too much of the reserves were spent, the city could jeopardize its AA bond rating and end up paying higher costs for new roads or other infrastructure projects.
City Controller Annise Parker highlighted several possible pitfalls. The budget assumes the administration will find an additional $10 million in savings during the year and that Lyondell Chemical Co., which has filed for bankruptcy protection, will pay $16 million in property taxes.
The city also has not replenished the $20 million "rainy day" fund it used to cover expenses from Hurricane Ike, and has not accounted in the budget for money it may owe the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she said.
Further, the revenue estimates from her office are nearly $38 million less than those from the city finance department.
"There are a lot of 'what ifs' in this budget and ... really no margin for error."
Greg made an observation about the District H result that I'd like to explore a bit.
Yolanda's early numbers were a little surprising as it would have meant a runoff between her and Ed if those numbers held. But even more surprising than that was Welsh leading the E-day returns with 36% to Ed's 29%.
While I don't think there was much that could be done about it for an election of this kind, I do think in general that there is a real need for more early voting places. In particular, I think there's a need for more EV locations inside employment centers, because I think having more of them near where people work would make voting a lot easier. Moody Park is closer to where I live than any other EV location, but I never used it before this election because it's not convenient to my daily commute; I work southwest of where I live, and Moody Park is northeast from my house. I generally vote at the Multipurpose Center on West Gray because it's between where I live and where I work, or at the Fiesta on Kirby because it's walking distance from where I work.
Unfortunately, as the trend towards more early voting continues, those locations become less convenient because the lines are so long. Here's the early voting by location for this past November. The Multipurpose Center had by far the most votes cast of any EV location. When you realize that it serves basically the entire Montrose/Upper Kirby/Greenway area, and likely a good chunk of the Galleria area, that's no surprise. Where else are all those people going to go?
The two State Rep districts that have only one EV location and which had the largest number of early votes cast were HDs 134 and 136. The former encompasses the Greenway Plaza area, and the latter includes the Galleria area. Yet neither of those highly dense business districts has an early voting location of their own. Looking at the EV map from November, all of that area is served by the West Gray MSC, which I believe is why it is so ridiculously crowded all the time. I say this has to change.
What makes sense to me would be a new location in the Greenway area, and a new location in the Galleria area, one in HD134 and one in HD136. I don't know what the requirements and restrictions are on EV locations, but if I could just wave a magic wand I might pick something like the Houston Intown Chamber of Commerce building at 3015 Richmond, and something in the vicinity of San Felipe and Post Oak. Again, I don't know what the details are, but geographically speaking that's what I have in mind. Bonus points for locations that will be served by the eventual light rail expansion, as these would be.
None of this would have changed the calculus of the District H special election early voting, of course. You'd have needed an EV location in the Heights for that, and that really doesn't make sense given that HD148 already has two EV sites, which happened to be the two District H sites as well. But a lot of people, all throughout early voting, expressed surprise to me that the West Gray MSC wasn't open for this. They didn't think about it not being in H, they thought about it as being the one place they've ever gone to vote early. It's time for there to be more places like that.
UPDATE: Marc Campos suggests that the reason Heights turnout was so much bigger on Election Day was because voters there didn't want to cross I-45, which he calls "the Mexican-Dixon line". I'm sure that has something to do with it, but again, I think people go where it's convenient to their daily routine, which neither Ripley House nor Moody Park are for me, or likely for anyone who lives west of I-45 and works south of where they live. During the afternoon, traffic on I-45 North becomes appreciably worse north of downtown. Who wants to deal with that if they don't have to?
UPDATE: Greg adds on.
UPDATE: To clarify something here, I do not claim that the early voting locations had any effect on the total turnout in this election. Rather, I believe, as does Marc Campos, that the fact that Maverick Welsh did better on Election Day had to do with where the early voting locations were. I also believe, as I wrote in this post, that there should be more early voting locations, including some in high-density employment centers, since I believe that people vote early where it is convenient for them.
The HISD Board of Trustees will hold a series of eight public meetings to get feedback about what people want in their next Superintendent.
Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm hired by the schol board, will lead the community meetings and plans to use the input in its hunt for superintendent candidates.
Meetings also will be held with various business, faith-based, parent, educational and employee groups.
Trustees have set a goal of hiring a superintendent in July but have said the timeline is flexible.
- Today: 6:30 p.m., HISD South Region Office, 4040 W. Fuqua
- Tuesday: 6:30 p.m., Bellaire High School, 5100 Maple
- Wednesday: 6:30 p.m., Wheatley High School, 4801 Providence
- Thursday: 6:30 p.m., Washington High School, 119 E. 39th
- May 4: 6:30 p.m., Revere Middle School, 10502 Briar Forest
- May 5: 6:30 p.m., Reagan High School, 413 E. 13th
- May 7: 6:30 p.m., Deady Middle School, 2500 Broadway
- May 9: 2 p.m., Ryan Middle School, 2610 Elgin
Earlier this month, HISD agreed to broadcast its monthly meetings on its cable access station. While the promise of making their meetings more transparent to the public was appealing, it would seem there's still a few bugs in the system.
The capsule review of Houston ISD's first televised board meeting last Thursday is two thumbs down. It was neither good TV nor good public policy.
Viewers were put through the sort of excruciating self-promotion and hyperbole that has given HISD a reputation for shameless "spin."
Spin is actually a kind word for what was old-fashioned, heavy handed propaganda by trustees.
Efforts to clean up Harris County government appear to be on indefinite hold as any serious debate about ethics reform has been derailed for months by infighting and political gamesmanship.
Commissioners Court has yet to act on a slate of suggestions prepared by an ethics reform task force that County Judge Ed Emmett appointed as scandals involving his colleagues clouded his Republican primary campaign.
The most significant reforms would require legislative approval, but only one bill has been filed as the biennial session's end quickly approaches.
That legislation, which aims to block county officials from profiting from their connections after they enter the private sector, was drafted at the behest of Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and does not have the backing of the full court.
When asked why the reform package has gone nowhere, locally or in Austin, court members are quick to assign blame to someone else.
Commissioners Steve Radack and Jerry Eversole said it is up to Emmett to bring the package up for a vote since he is the one who appointed the task force. He does not need court's permission to push his own bills in Austin as long as he does not claim he is speaking for the entire court, Radack added.
"If Emmett doesn't have the courage to place the proposals on the agenda, he shouldn't blame me because I would vote for anything constructive and beneficial to Harris County," Eversole said in a statement.
Ethics reform became a major theme of Emmett's campaign last year after Eversole came under fire for questionable campaign spending and former District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal resigned following the release of e-mails that included racist jokes, sexually explicit images, campaign materials and affectionate messages to his executive assistant.
Emmett promised on the campaign trail to push for legislation authorizing Harris County to establish a board to investigate ethics complaints, to require lobbyists to register and to close the revolving door. He acknowledged, however, he has done little lobbying on the measure since Commissioner El Franco Lee twice referred the package to the County Attorney's Office for comparisons between current law and the recommendations.
County Attorney Vince Ryan submitted his final report in February. The court took no action, and the package has not reappeared on the agenda.
Failing to adopt the reforms he touted could provide ammunition to a Republican primary challenger in 2010, when Emmett faces running again for his first full four-year term.
Garcia said she agrees with every element of Emmett's package and would like to add campaign contribution limits and strengthen other financial reporting requirements.
She said she was the under the impression the court supported her revolving-door bill when she took it to [State Sen. Mario] Gallegos, a Houston Democrat.
She said she did not find out that Radack opposed the bill until Thursday night, minutes before she was supposed to testify about the measure before a Senate committee.
Radack said he would support the bill if it was amended to block city officials from remaining in office while running for a county post. Garcia remained Houston's city controller while she ran for her current seat in 2002.
Casey on City Council redistricting
Vasquez responds to Coleman and Hernandez
From the "Silver Linings" department
HISD to broadcast some meetings
Making reregistration easier
Them's good eatin'
More on the deputy drivers
More SJL rumors
Interview with Vidal Martinez and John Castillo
The Census and City Council redistricting
A tale of two Orlandos
More on the city council redistricting lawsuit
District Clerk update
Lawsuit filed to force city to redistrict
Saavedra to step down
Round and round we go with City Council redistricting
CIP meeting for District H
Here we go again with City Council redistricting
As The Court Turns
Judge sides with Garcia on fired employees
The state of the city 2009
We'll have the Treasurer to kick around awhile longer
Garcia talks recruitment again
Saavedra backs off magnet transportation plan
Sheriff Garcia asks for more recruits
Meet the new bosses
RIP, Penthouse Club
Voter registration separation
One for a million
Make your check payable to
Vasquez officially selected to replace Bettencourt
More on Leo Vasquez
On the agenda for Commissioners Court
Bettencourt deadline looms
More on magnet schools
Magnet school transportation
Commissioners Court starts considering replacements for Bettencourt
Still more on Bettencourt
City projects lower revenues
The Mayor's Austin agenda
More racist emails surface
Lloyd Kelley update
You won't need to register that bike
The ethics plan finally gets introduced
Ibarra brothers sue Lloyd Kelley
Et tu, Mike?
Plaintiff against Sheriff's office no-billed
Voter registration may not reach 2004 levels in Harris County
City wins billboard lawsuit
Mayor White: Not so fast on that plant permit
HISD versus Saavedra
Public defender plan to be reviewed
One less SOB
The County Board of Ethics, for what it's worth
Eversole looking over his shoulder
City Council spending
The city of Houston versus the strip clubs
How many eligible voters are there?
Charitable political contributions
Where's your report, Chuck?
Hotze loses again
Mayor White challenges the EPA
How much overtime is too much?
Them that has the gold gets the patrols
Deputies arrest plaintiff in suit against Sheriff's office
Sheriff apologizes for racist emails
06/30/08 | permalink
Turn that thing up!
More from the Sheriff
Council passes the budget
Another strip club lawsuit
Council's budget wishes
Council gets its turn with the city budget
Another defendant in lawsuit against Sheriff's office
Sheriff's surveillance unit disbanded
Ibarras sue again
We should all have such critics
Commercial valuation baloney
Another front in the air quality battle
Commissioners Court gets upset over lease deals report
Build green and save some green
Probe of Sheriff's office urged
Way to be on top of it, Ed
Big Sheriff is watching you
The city budget for 2009
The DA's information office
Shocked? No, not really
More on the HCDE and Wolfe
HCDE trustees demand Wolfe's resignation
Kelley to get $1.4 million
HGLBT's Jenifer Pool achieves a milestone
Recycle or lose it
Ibarras must settle for their settlement
More on the Ibarras' request to withdraw settlement agreement
Ibarra brothers want to go back to court
Council approves billboard deal
New billboard ordinance delayed
KTRK wins injunction in Sheriff's email deletion case
Updated billboard reduction plan set for Council
City wins another round in revenue caps lawsuit
County disputes Kelly's fee demand
Judge fines Rosenthal for contempt
Council OKs contract with HOPE
HOPE ratifies its contract with the city
Let's review those deals
What's another hundred grand?
Kelly to county: Payment time
Another SOB setback
The new DA speaks
More on the new interim DA
Rosenthal's replacement coming
Deleting them doesn't make them disappear
HOPE and Houston come to an agreement
More on the Sheriff lawsuit settlement
Settlement in lawsuit against Sheriff's office
More Michael Wolfe
Rosenthal testifies in Sheriff's lawsuit
From the "Nice Work If You Can Get It" department
Plaintiffs score early points in civil suit against Sheriff's office
Lawsuit against Sheriff's office begins
Rosenthal's deal with the AG
Lawsuit filed over city's clean air ordinance
More on Rosenthal's resignation
More on the recusal motion for Judge Hoyt
Suit against Sheriff delayed
The Sheriff's emails
Judge calls a halt to the Rosenthal hearings
Don't delete those emails!
Last word on Louie Welch
More on former Mayor Welch
RIP, Louie Welch
The state of the city 2008
Countywide smoking ban proposed
And the Sheriff's office gets in the email deletion act
Feds widening local investigation
County sues builders over "bandit" signs
DA investigating incident involving Borris Miles
The sheriff's new home
Beware the builders
Houston City Council Committee Assignments
Online campaign filings for county officials
One year after for Orlando
Barbs and bouquets, but mostly barbs
Is it about to get worse for Chuck?
Two for terminating term limits
Sports Authority chair ousted
Rosenthal's apology in the news
Chuck's curious statement
Billboard battle delayed again
Why, Chuck, you sly devil
V.O.T.E.R. meeting next week
Billboard ordinance gets put off till next year
An HCDE smackdown
Developing new rules
More on HOPE and the HEC
Questioning the commissioners' campaign spending
HOPE versus the city over 9-1-1 ads
Time to terminate term limits
Cleanup can be done
Will the Mayor sail smoothly in his last term?
Fort Bend GOP update
FBGOP in limbo
Fort Bend GOP leadership quits
Mayor to polluters: Clean up or else
Blog My Wage
HOPE-ing for higher wages
Emmett: No lawsuit yet
Council approves Woodlands deal
Council to vote on Woodlands deal today
Token tax cut passes
Judge narrows sign ordinance injunction
HOPE and CHIP
Park fees ordinance passes Council
City asks for narrowing of billboard injunction
City gets slapped in billboard battle
An HISD threefer
Airport concessions contract extended
Food fight upcoming
Miya steps on toes
What's so bad about a food fight?
HOPE in Houston
Chang named District Clerk
District Clerk appointee to be named today
How will the Woodlands govern itself?
Smoke-free Sugar Land
It's Time For HISD's "Reach Out To Dropouts" Effort
Anti-smoking ban lawsuit dismissed
Bacarisse to step down?
Burge departs Sports Authority
Can This Name Change Be Stopped?
Strike three for the SOBs
Paying for green space
You there! Put that cigarette out!
Arguing over the 1997 Houston map
The next (last?) SOB appeal gets underway
Council vote on Center may come today
Lawsuit filed over smoking ban
Harris County bond vote coming
HISD asks for bond money
Hotze lawsuit against city over revenue caps tossed
Who's your PAC?
Nick Lampson In The House
GHCVB still suffering leadership woes
Council passes wind power proposal
City Council legal spending
More on the now-online city campaign finance reports
City campaign finance reports now available online
Wind power for the city
County bonds and staffing issues
On the SOB battle
Real preservation laws coming soon?
Day labor center will live to see another year
Houston City Hall Water Crisis Averted
"I don't feel tardy"
The Mayor and the veterans
For that kind of revenue stream, I'd be a Pepper
Day Labor centers
Pension deal reached
More on the county bonds proposal
County bonds coming
"Where's Orlando?" update
Pension still pending
No safe harbor for SOBs in Harris County
No safe harbor for SOBs in Harris County
The new trash fees
New trash days coming for some
Strip clubs get an stay of execution
The taxes of sin
Budget yes, pension plan not yet
Response to Mayor's response
Mayor disputes pension story
More city pension woes
Here come the bikini bars
City to SOBs: Move it or lose it
The cost of the anti-SOB battle
Michael Berry interview
"Pro Tem Four" to be tried together
Open letter to Mayor White about Houston Media Source
Michael Berry, radio mogul
Strip club crackdown coming
Community meeting for TSU
Pearland kids get anti-smoking measure on the ballot
The Chron talks trash
Read the reports
There's no such thing as free trash
Looks like Orlando will escape the legislative axe
Possibly the last thing I'll say about Ed Emmett for awhile
The Ed Era begins
For whom the door revolves
Are you ready for Ed?
No Council redistricting till 2010
Say "Bye-bye, Bob" on Tuesday
Bill filed to prevent future annexation of The Woodlands
Council approves WiFi contract
More on Woodfill and Eckels
Woodfill wants to pick Eckels' successor
Pay or play
Will Eckels' departure be a twofer?
Eckels: It was all about me
City Council redistricting: Back on the agenda?
Eckels: "Who cares what you think?"
Eckels says "So long, suckers"
Eckels to tell us what he wants to be when he grows up today
Eckels to give State of the County address
City wins strip club lawsuit
Eckels contemplates resignation
You can sort of still smoke 'em in Bellaire
The state of the city speech
The state of the city 2007
You can still smoke 'em in Bellaire
Radack v. Sanchez
Is this the end for the Harris County Treasurer's office?