Interview with Twila Carter

Twila Carter

Continuing on with At Large #3, today we meet Twila Carter, who among other things has had one of the best jobs of anyone I’ve interviewed: For over a decade, she served as Senior Vice President of Community Relations of the Houston Astros and Executive Director of the Astros Foundation, raising over $60 million in that time for various causes. Carter has served as Vice Chair for the Texas Council on Family Violence and Family Time Crisis and Counseling Center and on the board of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse. She also serves on the Advisory Board for the Houston Area Women’s Center. I will admit that I started by asking her about the Astros Foundation gig in the interview:

Kathy Blueford-Daniels
Dani Hernandez
Judith Cruz
Plácido Gómez
Mario Castillo
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla
Joaquin Martinez
Tarsha Jackson
Leah Wolfthal
Melanie Miles
Abbie Kamin
Sallie Alcorn
Letitia Plummer
Nick Hellyar
Obes Nwabara
Danielle Bess
Holly Vilaseca
Marina Coryat
Donnell Cooper

This week is mostly about At Large #3, and next week we will get into a couple of propositions and other things before we move on to Controller and Mayor. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is here. My previous posts about the 2023 HISD election are here and here. My posts about the July campaign finance reports for City Council candidates are here and here.

Posted in Election 2023 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The whistleblowers say they aren’t going away

Glad to hear it.

A crook any way you look

In a Monday filing to the Texas Supreme Court, the whistleblowers [Blake Brickman, David Maxwell, Mark Penley and Ryan Vassar] argued that Paxton has failed to uphold key parts of the settlement agreement, including the $3.3 million payment and a promise to apologize for calling them “rogue employees” after they were fired. Thus, they argued, the court should lift an abatement that was put in place during mediation, and return the case to the court’s active docket.

Doing so, they said at a Monday press conference, would allow them to do what the House impeachment managers could not — including examining financial documents and putting Paxton, Paul, Paxton’s girlfriend Laura Olson and Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton under oath.

And they vowed that their trial would be free of the political influence that they said affected the outcome of Paxton’s trial in the Texas Senate. In a shot at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Brickman said their lawsuit wouldn’t feature a judge who received $3 million from pro-Paxton groups ahead of the trial.

Brickman also called Paxton’s claim that he was the victim of a political witch hunt “ludicrous,” noting that he was reported by sterling conservatives to the FBI while it was under former President Donald Trump.

At a Monday press conference, the whistleblowers also denied claims that they, rather than Paxton, were the ones who sought to settle the lawsuit last year. In a Monday letter that was sent to Texas Senators and provided to reporters, a lawyer for one of the whistleblowers pushed back on those claims and provided a timeline that he said directly refutes “misinformation” from Patrick and others about who initiated the settlement talks.

“The fact is that [the Office of the Attorney General] initiated discussions that led to the abatement and the Attorney General’s request for funding, “ wrote Joseph Knight, who represents Vassar.

As I said at the time the settlement agreement was first announced, before all of the madness that was subsequently unleashed, it was a shame this one would not go to trial because there was surely a lot of dirt to be had by it. Maybe now we’ll finally get that, in a not-biased courtroom and without Paxton and others being able to hide behind Dan Patrick. I can dream, can’t I?

Whatever does or doesn’t happen in a future courtroom, I’ll say the same thing to these gentlemen that I said to Republican members of the House after Dan Patrick spat on them: You absolutely must, vocally and consistently and unabashedly, support not just the next Republican opponent to Ken Paxton, but the Democratic opponent as well, since we all know he’ll skate through the primary. Anything less is craven surrender. You guys aren’t that. Beat him in court, and then do everything you can and everything you must to beat him at the ballot box. The Chron has more.

Posted in Legal matters, Scandalized! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Endorsement watch: Picking someone in District E

The Chron makes their first candidate endorsement for November 2023.

Houston City Council races are officially nonpartisan, but since just about everything seems partisan these days, let’s go ahead and say it: District E, the bizarrely shaped district that conjoins suburban Kingwood in the north and suburban Clear Lake in the south, appears made to elect a Republican. So it’s not surprising that both candidates for the open seat have solid Republican credentials.

Our choice is Martina Lemond Dixon, 53, currently a member of Humble ISD’s school board. If her name rings a bell, it might be because we at the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board endorsed her in the 2022 primary, when a crowded field of Republicans vied to run for county judge against Democratic incumbent Lina Hidalgo. Then, as now, we are impressed by Dixon’s commitment to service and drive to improve her community: She told the editorial board during our candidate screening that she went for a district seat, rather than an at-large seat representing the whole city, because she wanted to be the first person constituents call with problems. And surely they will.

Dixon is also board chairman of the Harris County Appraisal District — but asks that you don’t hold that against her. A year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed her to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Her priorities are public safety, fiscal responsibility and, as a homeowner who sustained severe damage during Harvey, flooding infrastructure.


Both Dixon and her worthy opponent, Kingwood Tea Party stalwart Fred Flickinger say they’d model themselves less on hell-raising Republican at-large member Michael Kubosh, and more on the current Republican representative of District E, the pragmatic, constituent-serving Dave Martin. We applaud their role model.

Flickinger, 60, who helps lead his family’s hydraulic equipment company, seems to view problems (and solutions) through more of a partisan lens than Dixon, and we worry he’d function more as an obstructionist rather than a constructive coalition builder.

A vote for Dixon is a vote for a government where Democrats and Republicans can work together to improve citizens’ lives. Houston needs that. And so does the rest of America.

Let’s maybe not put that much weight on one Council race. The first link in the endorsement is to an overview of the race if you want to know more about these two candidates. (There was a third candidate initially, but the new district lines had drawn her out of E, so that candidacy ended.) I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do get press releases from Paul Bettencourt’s office about Fred Flickinger, so draw your own conclusions.

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Interview with Donnell Cooper

Donnell Cooper

The last open At Large seat is At Large #3, which also has the biggest field of nine candidates. I have interviews with four of them this week, beginning with Donnell Cooper. Cooper is a Houston Community College Acres Homes campus manager and adjunct professor who won a Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for his many hours of volunteerism in the community. He serves as president for The Greater Houston Frontiers Club, a national nonprofit organization that has provided more than $2 million in local scholarships to students in Harris County and works to increase HCC scholarships through the college’s Black History Committee. Here’s what we talked about:

Kathy Blueford-Daniels
Dani Hernandez
Judith Cruz
Plácido Gómez
Mario Castillo
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla
Joaquin Martinez
Tarsha Jackson
Leah Wolfthal
Melanie Miles
Abbie Kamin
Sallie Alcorn
Letitia Plummer
Nick Hellyar
Obes Nwabara
Danielle Bess
Holly Vilaseca
Marina Coryat

This week is mostly about At Large #3, and next week we will get into a couple of propositions and other things before we move on to Controller and Mayor. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is here. My previous posts about the 2023 HISD election are here and here. My posts about the July campaign finance reports for City Council candidates are here and here.

Posted in Election 2023 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harris County libraries are now “book sanctuaries”

It’s great that they’re doing this, and terrible that they have to.

As book bans and challenges occur across the state and nation, Harris County libraries have joined a movement dedicated to preserving people’s right to decide for themselves what they want to read.

Harris County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday for the Harris County Public Library system to become a Book Sanctuary, joining a network of 2,828 book sanctuaries across the United States.

According to the resolution, “The freedom to read is under threat across the nation, and nowhere more so than in the state of Texas which challenged 2,349 books, of which at least 511 were removed from school libraries and classrooms in 2022, and is on pace to once again lead the nation in challenging and removing books in 2023.”


Chicago established the nation’s first Book Sanctuary in September 2022 during Banned Books Week and set up a website inviting other institutions to follow suit.

“A book sanctuary is a physical or digital space that actively protects the freedom to read. It provides shelter and access to endangered books, and can be created by anyone and can exist anywhere — in a library, a classroom, a coffee shop corner, a community center, public park, your bedroom bookshelf, or even on social media,” according to the Book Sanctuary toolkit.

Last year, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said during Banned Books Week the county library had over 600 banned titles in its circulation.

Between the Legislature and various rogue school districts, there are unfortunately a lot of reasons to need something like this. I’m glad Harris County took this step, and I hope that someday we can look back on it and have a somewhat uneasy laugh about what a strange time in history that was. Assuming the next Lege doesn’t ban cities and counties from establishing themselves as “book sanctuaries”, that is.

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Metro introduces its bike share program

Sounds pretty good, actually.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County is expected to contract with a Canadian operator that will provide up to 700 e-bikes and 100 charging stations as the agency embarks on the creation of its own bike-share program.

The proposed three-year contract, with options for two additional years, valued at as much as $10.5 million, is scheduled to be considered by Metro’s board of directors next week.

The move could seal the fate of struggling Houston BCycle, the bike share operator that launched in 2012, and quickly expanded to more than 150 docking stations across the city. Riders pay one-time rental fees to use bicycles and return them to any docking station, or can purchase memberships for more frequent use.


BCycle – not Houston Bike Share – was among four bidders seeking a contract with Metro. Houston Bike Share is a nonprofit that operates the Houston BCycle bike-share program. BCycle was not one of the top two bidders chosen for oral presentations by Metro’s technical committee.

The transit agency’s Public Safety, Customer Service and Operations Committee voted Thursday in support of a recommendation to put a proposal for negotiations with Quebec-based PBSC Urban Solutions before Metro’s full board of directors. The company, according to BikeHouston executive director Joe Cutrufo, provides equipment for some of North America’s most established bike-share programs in Montreal, New York City and Chicago.

“The equipment is head and shoulders above BCycle’s equipment,” Cutrufo said,

PBSC operates in 31 cities across 15 countries, including 12 cities in the United States.

The company initially will bring in 140 e-bikes, 20 grid-connected and solar-ready charging stations, and 200 docking points at launch, with plans to add to those numbers every year of the potential five-year contract. The contract also includes Shift Transit as a subcontractor to take care of daily operational tasks, such as bike and station maintenance and manning a 24/7 call center.

The focus for the new program will be on seamless integration into Metro’s current services. The new program will be a part of the agency’s Trip app for planning travel and will be a part of the future fare collection system set to launch next summer.

“From the get-go, we’ve agreed it’s a good idea to have bike share be integrated with the transportation system because bike share is public transportation,” Cutrufo said.

In January, Houston Bike Share thought it had an agreement with Metro in place for the transit agency to absorb Houston Bcycle’s operations. From Metro’s perspective, the agreement was for a six-month period to evaluate the current state of operations. In May, the agency put out a request for proposals for implementing a new bike-share system.

Metro Chief Financial Officer George Fotinos said BCycle’s existing operation does not align with Metro’s multimodal model. He suggested, however, that both Houston BCycle and Metro’s program could operate in Houston.

According to Fotinos, the technology and asset base offered by BCycle were out of line with where Metro wants to go. Metro staff estimated it would take about $10 million to bring the BCycle equipment up to its standards.

See here and here for more on the state of B-Cycle, and here and here for more on the Metro/B-Cycle partnership that wasn’t. The Chron adds some details.

The aim is to use cycling either to connect to places within biking distance or to access frequent transit, Metro CEO Tom Lambert said. Though costs are not finalized, the plan would be to charge a price for the bikes similar to the buses and trains, where a person pays $1.25 for a three-hour block of time.

“If you are starting with a bike and going to a bus, that is one trip,” Lambert said.


If approved, the proposed system would be similar to the BCycle system for users, but with noticeable differences. The app and payment system will be different and integrated with Metro’s fare system.

Hopes of a partnership between Metro and the nonprofit were dashed, Metro officials said, when it became clear absorbing the nonprofit was not worth the cost or hassle.

“The current infrastructure and model on the ground does not align with Metro’s vision,” said George Fotinos, the agency’s chief financial officer.

The aging bikes and kiosks were also a factor, Fotinos said.


Locations where someone can find a bike are also likely to look very different. BCycle, especially outside the central business district, is popular but largely recreational, with stations in parks and shopping areas. Metro’s aim is to link potential riders to transit with convenient bike pickup and dropoff locations, meaning bikes at major transit hubs. Dozens of the existing stations are not in prime locations for Metro, while other spots might be ideal.

Asked if some current BCycle stations could be removed and replaced with the new Metro kiosks, Lambert said “maybe,” noting that officials are still researching where to place the first wave of bikes.

Unlike BCycle, which has both conventional and electric bikes, all of the Metro system will be e-bikes, pedal assisted to make riding them less strenuous.

Starting with 20 stations and 140 e-bikes, the plan includes adding another 20 stations and 140 bikes annually. If extended to the full five-year contract, that would mean 100 stations and 700 bikes – slightly smaller than the full build-out of the BCycle system.

The transit-centric system, meanwhile, does not stop BCycle from carving out its own niche and remaining operational in some way.

“Both operating in the space is no sin,” Fotinos said. “We are fully promoting all multi-modal uses… One does not preclude the other.”

I look forward to seeing the formal presentation next week. There are lots of questions, like where the initial stations and first expansion stations will be, what the cost will be and whether there will be an annual pass option like what B-Cycle has, whether there might be a discounted fare if one just uses the bike, and so on. Maybe this can help better define what B-Cycle might be going forward, if it can get the funding. Maybe PBSC should be invited to bid on a contract for the rest of the city’s system. I take Joe Cutrufo’s word that their product is superior to B-Cycle’s seriously, so let’s keep all options on the table.

Posted in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weekend link dump for September 24

“Before Alex Rodriguez flipped the switch on his defiant, longtime drug-cheat image … before the post-career entrepreneurial whirl and frolic across the celebrity landscape with superstar then-fiancée Jennifer Lopez … before the TV gigs with Fox Sports and ESPN and a failed attempt to purchase the New York Mets followed by the successful bid for a minority piece of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx … before all that, A-Rod had to finally come clean about his sordid past. Here’s how it unfolded.”

“It’s not just that Romney, by speaking out and then walking away, is both a hero and a coward, then. It’s that he is intrinsically a part of the winding daisy chain of cowards who shun him in public and thank him in private. His very existence allows them to believe that in whispering that they are with him even as they roam the world making it safer and safer for Trump and Trumpism, he has become an unwitting enabler of precisely the thing he most deplores. And for every coward that secretly confesses to Romney, there is yet another coward in his shadow, seeking expiation from him, in a seemingly endless chain of people who say one thing and then do quite another, because they want to be famous, or because they want to hang on to power, or because they are afraid someone with a gun will murder their children.”

“EVs are cutting the world demand for oil, but not in the way you may think”.

“Hollywood is paying a steep price for never really figuring out the streaming model”.

You tell ’em, Larry.

“The Snarky Reason Behind the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Boat Name”.

Being Mean to Scabs Is Working”.

“One thing should be made very clear to the girl who comes up the city, and that is that the ordinary ice cream parlor is very likely to be a spider’s web for her entanglement.”

“In every variation and iteration, of course, these two stories are related. “America’s religious exodus” is obviously and inextricably tied up with the massive, global, transdenominational scandal of clergy sex abuse and cover-up. How could it not be?”

“But, as opposed to stand-up greats like Richard Pryor who supplemented their commentary with clearly exaggerated alter egos, Minhaj never even hinted that he was doing a character, or giving voice to stories he’d heard from others, or gesturing toward the broader landscape of Muslim Americans. Minhaj took what real, everyday brown folks were going through and led those people to believe that he’d also been there—earning his fame and plaudits from that very trust, as well as the trust that engendered among those who wished to understand brown Americans.”

“News flash: don’t wait for the big reporters to clarify this for anyone or explain that it hardly makes sense that the self-described “most pro-life president ever” might now be a credible spokesman for reproductive rights. Get serious people: Democrat and abortion rights supporters generally will have to do this on their own.”

“The question now is simply whether Kavanaugh wants to kill the Voting Rights Act with this argument, in a case where the state is in open revolt against a court order, or does he want to wait until some other state does the exact same thing without the stench of having previously lost the argument.”

“The Supreme Court is coming for Affirmative Action in the Military”.

“It’s always difficult when a board removes a founder, but in this case, it’s easy. Kick rocks, buddy.”

“For the first time, researchers have sequenced RNA from an extinct animal species — the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus).”

RIP, Pete Kozachik, Oscar-nominated visual effects and stop-motion artist best known for The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Good riddance.

Lock him up.

Let Them Wear Shorts. As a dedicated shorts-wearer myself, I could not agree more.

“From almost any other judge, the ruling in Spectrum WT v. Wendler would be a shocking rejection of basic free speech principles; from Kacsmaryk, it’s par for the course.”

“The reason that disinformation fighters spend a lot of time on Republican lies is because Republicans lie a lot. It’s that simple.”

“Haley Van Voorhis, a safety at Division-III Shenandoah University, became the first woman non-kicker to appear in an NCAA football game on Saturday”.

Posted in Blog stuff | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Chron talks to some Mayoral candidates

You can find a bunch of Mayoral Q&As with the Chron editorial board here on this Mayoral Candidate Questions page. All of them also include a brief video of the chat, with the following Mayoral candidates so far:

John Whitmire

Sheila Jackson Lee

Lee Kaplan

Gilbert Garcia

Robert Gallegos

MJ Khan

As of Friday afternoon, they had not published a Q&A with Jack Christie, but I assume one is in the works. I’m glad the Chron took the time to talk to these candidates; I’m curious as to how many of the seventeen total hopefuls they will do this with. Along those lines, I’m a little puzzled why they took the time to talk to these candidates.

A parody of the National Anthem may not be what voters attending Thursday’s mayoral forum expected to hear, but it’s what mayoral candidate David Lowy delivered as his opening statement.

Instead of “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air,” the candidate – dressed in a leopard print jacket and gold-rimmed sunglasses – promised to “bring fun to this town” and “make a smile from a frown.”

By the time Lowy finished his song, audience members were either applauding or staring in disbelief. Regardless, it was a performance they would never forget.


Being provocative isn’t the only way for trailing candidates to set themselves apart. Annie Garcia, a lawyer running for mayor, is staking her campaign on public backlash over the state takeover of the Houston Independent School District (HISD).

“On November 7, use your first vote to send a message,” Garcia said in her closing statement at Thursday’s forum. “Vote for Mama G, and we’re going to get Greg Abbott the hell out of HISD.”

Even if she does not win, she hopes her campaign will send a message to the next mayor that the issue cannot be overlooked. The mayor, however, has limited powers when it comes to education.


Kathy Lee Tatum, another mayoral candidate in attendance, played directly to the emotions of the room, noting her own struggle navigating Houston with a disability.

Despite her limitations – a consequence of her arthritis – she said she and her husband constantly have to assist people whose wheelchairs have fallen into potholes or uneven roads and sidewalks. This point drew applause from attendees who said they had experienced similar problems with accessibility in Houston.

Respect to Kathy Tatum for addressing a badly overlooked issue, one that I’d like to see other Mayoral candidates address as well. I’d point you to her webpage but she doesn’t have one and her campaign Facebook page is bare bones, to say the least. Garcia, who was in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary for US Senate, is also discussing a serious issue, it’s just that it’s one she couldn’t really do anything about as Mayor. As for David Lowy, maybe try open mike night at the Mucky Duck sometime? I dunno.

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Katy ISD’s book banning

What are these people doing?

Katy Independent School District has remained silent on the reasons 14 additional books were removed from shelves and how the district’s book review policy is being implemented, despite a public pledge of transparency on book banning.

Of the seven Katy ISD board members, only Rebecca Fox would discuss her opinion on the move, saying the new policy may need to be revisited if exhaustive book reviews continue.

In August and September, an internal committee found 14 books, including titles by Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle and Judy Blume, to be inappropriate for children for reasons the district would not make public. In June, the board had directed $93,000 in new books ordered for campuses to be put in storage until they could be reviewed.

Prior to enacting the new policy, Katy ISD removed four books in 2022, eight in 2021 and four in the first seven months of 2023.

This year the district expanded the terms under which a book could be pulled for review, adding “nudity” in the definition of inappropriate material. For the first time, six elementary school books have been removed.

The book “No, David!” — winner of the Caldecott Honor Book and several other national awards — is one of them.

The cartoon David takes every opportunity to misbehave but is always reminded that his parents love him anyway, according to the book’s publisher, Scholastic Inc. At one point in the story, a David jumps out of the tub and and is pictured running off without clothes on.

Drew Daywalt’s “The Day the Crayons Quit” was one of 44 books flagged for review in August that was later retained. An illustration depicts a beige crayon that has lost its wrapper, becoming “naked.”

Fox, who voted in favor of the book review policy, said it’s an example of how implementation has deviated from the policy’s intent.

“Nudity was added to the policy, but a book about a crayon with a wrapper is not nudity. That’s not what was intended by the policy,” she said. “If this continues, we may have to revisit the definitions of the policy.”

You think? I know that the “imagine if a Democrat/liberal had said/done this thing” trope is hoary, but this is one time where you really should try to imagine it. Fox News might literally melt down. And in this case, it wouldn’t actually be that hard to see why. I mean, what kind of depraved pervert finds something sexual in an unwrapped crayon? Yes, common sense ultimately prevailed for that book, but why was that even a question?

Anyway. This is where deep-seated homophobia takes you. Katy ISD needs to dump its at large districts and elect some decent human beings to its Board. Until they do, this is what they’re gonna get.

Posted in School days | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Mars” mission update

Keep these coming, please and thank you.

Ultra runner Kelly Haston is not going stir-crazy inside her 1,700-square-foot Martian habitat, and that’s a pleasant surprise.

“It is comfortable and spacious, and I do not yet miss being outside,” Haston said. “I am an avid trail runner, and I was worried I would miss being outside with friends and loved ones.”

Haston is the commander of a four-person crew spending 378 days inside Mars Dune Alpha, a 3D-printed “Martian habitat” at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

They have restrictions on how much water they can use for showering. Their food is shelf-stable, meaning it will keep without refrigeration, and communication lags can be up to 22 minutes each way.

They’re pretending to be on Mars to help NASA identify the physical, mental and social challenges that could arise when living on another planet.

And as of Aug. 23, when she answered the Houston Chronicle’s written questions, Haston did not feel cooped up. The crew regularly leaves the habitat to explore Mars, and this has satisfied Haston’s urge to go outside. They explore by putting on spacesuits and leaving their habitat for an adjacent 1,200-square-foot sandbox. They don virtual reality headsets and take long walks on treadmills to conduct scientific collections and observations.

“The terrain is beautiful,” Haston said, “with many different land formations to see and explore.”

See here for the background and more on the CHAPEA mission here. So far it sounds like a combination of summer sleepaway camp and the early days of COVID lockdown, with far less existential angst. If she and her crewmates are still talking like this in another 300 days or so, I think there may be a lot of people who’d gladly sign up as volunteer beta testers. We’ll see when there’s another update.

Posted in Technology, science, and math | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Whiny loser Mealer drops her election contest lawsuit

Girl, bye.

Alexandra del Moral Mealer, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s former Republican opponent, dropped her lawsuit challenging the results of the election she lost last November by over 18,000 votes, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Mealer filed an election contest lawsuit on Jan. 6, one of 22 similar cases brought by GOP candidates in Harris County.

Mealer explained her decision in a statement Thursday.

“My goal in filing an election contest was not to relitigate my race,” Mealer said, “but rather to make sure future races are fair to all voters and candidates. To this end, I sought to uncover all the data and records I could that relate to the November 2022 election.” Mealer added that she plans to advocate for changes to the Texas Election Code regarding public access to data.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee called Mealer’s lawsuit a “waste of time and resources.”

“She didn’t win the election and she wasn’t going to win the election contest, yet she insisted on continuing to spread conspiracy theories in an attempt to overturn the will of the voters,” Menefee said in a statement Thursday. “It’s time for the other losing Republican candidates to drop their lawsuits as well.”


Mealer’s former legal counsel, Elizabeth Alvarez, filed a letter last month with the court saying she did not support Mealer’s recent claims of ballot fraud. Mealer denied that her allegations about the election were a matter of ballot fraud.

Hidalgo’s attorney, Neal Manne, criticized Mealer on Thursday for failing to identify a single voter who was unable to cast a ballot.

“The lawsuit was frivolous when she filed it, and she has wasted a tremendous amount of the County’s and the Court’s time before finally acknowledging tonight that there is no evidence to support her outlandish claims,” Manne said in a statement.

Manne added that his firm represented Hidalgo pro bono.

“We will continue to provide free representation to other candidates whose electoral victories are being challenged in lawsuits that really are just cynical political stunts,” Manne said.

Sartaj Bal, another GOP candidate, also dropped his lawsuit Thursday.

Last month, the first election challenge went to trial in a lawsuit brought by Erin Lunceford, who lost her race to incumbent 189th District Judge Tamika Craft by 2,743 votes, a far narrower margin than Mealer’s.

Craft’s attorneys provided the judge with an email Bal sent to party leadership before filing his lawsuit, questioning whether they would have enough evidence to win a new election.

“Again, we have zero admissible evidence in our possession at this time and in my opinion it’s game over until we do — if we ever do,” Bal wrote.

See here for more on the original election contests, here for more on the one contest that has had a court hearing, and here for more on the first of now-three lawsuits that have been dropped. I think you know how I feel about M****r and her bullshit by now, so I’m just going to leave it there. May I never have to see or hear her cursed name again. Reform Austin and the Press have more.

Posted in Election 2022, Legal matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

City runoff election will be December 9

Slightly reducing the overall intrigue factor of the season.

The runoffs for Houston’s City Hall elections will be held Dec. 9, the secretary of state’s office confirmed on Tuesday.

Houston voters will head to the polls Nov. 7 to elect a new mayor, city controller and 16 City Council members. In any race where a candidate does not garner a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will proceed to a runoff.

It is widely expected that the crowded mayor’s race will require a second round of voting, along with several hotly contested council seats.

Under a new law passed by the Texas Legislature this year, the runoff must be held on a Saturday between 30 and 45 days after Election Day. The secretary of state’s office could determine which Saturday, leaving Dec. 9 and Dec. 16 as this year’s options.

The selection inspired speculation among political observers because of its potential conflict with the deadline to file for next March’s primary elections, which is Dec. 11.

Both mayoral front-runners, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire, are long-tenured elected officials and may choose to run for re-election to their current seats if they do not prevail in the mayoral contest.

The Dec. 9 selection means either candidate would be able to file after the runoff, rather than facing the politically perilous decision of filing to run for re-election while still in pursuit of the mayor’s office.

See here for some background. As noted, there are already candidates for CD18 (Amanda Edwards, Isaiah Martin) and SD15 (Molly Cook, Karthik Soora), so if the loser of the most likely runoff decides he or she wants their old job back, they can still try to make it happen. That may also cause some folks who had filed for one race to switch to the now-open seat. The prospect of a December 16 runoff would have made this all a lot more chaotic, but this will still make for an active couple of days. And don’t forget, there will be at least one special election to contend with as well. It’s going to be a busy couple of months however it shakes out.

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The Arlington nun mutiny

Oh my God this story is wild.

Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582), Doctor of the Church and co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites

There’s a strange saga unfolding in Texas. It involves allegations and accusations of illicit sexual relationships, drug use, theft, abuse, spying, planted evidence, and plots to steal a multimillion-dollar property. The people involved are Catholic priests, bishops, and some pretty fired-up nuns.

What has become an open, bitter feud between the bishop of Fort Worth and 10 cloistered nuns in Arlington, Texas, has scandalized and thrilled American Catholics. The cops, the courts, and the Vatican are involved. Onlookers are taking sides. It’s still unclear who’s going to come out on top. And it all started with a startling confession from a devout nun.

The series of events began in December 2020, shortly after Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, the 43-year-old prioress of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, had a seizure. Gerlach, who had joined the order as a teenager, normally lives a life of quiet prayer and seclusion. But at some point during that month, while she was recovering from the seizure and was heavily medicated, she told a priest and her caregiver (another nun) that she had committed some kind of sexual sin (with another priest).

The story probably could have died there. Unluckily for Gerlach, though, that priest appears to have told his boss, the diocese’s bishop, Michael Olson. And when Olson got wind of the confession sometime in April 2023, he would kick off a strangely intense drama that spiraled to levels no one could have predicted.

I cannot begin to do this story justice with an excerpt. Go click over and read the whole thing, and tell me that your jaw didn’t hit the table as you were doing so. Fort Worth Report has a handy timeline and links to its past stories on this saga if you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole. I’ve said this about some other wild stories I’ve seen, but I really want there to be a prestige podcast about this when it’s over. I think Texas Monthly could do it justice. Now go read, you won’t regret it.

Posted in The great state of Texas | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview with Marina Coryat

Marina Coryat

We wrap up our week of interviews with At Large #2 candidates with Marina Coryat, a Trinidadian immigrant who has served as Communications Director for Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson since 2019. Coryat has worked in the city’s Solid Waste Management Department and at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, and she has been a McDonald’s franchise owner and founder of her own boutique public relations business, Refined Communications LLC. Here’s the interview, please note that there were a couple of audio issues but we got through them:

Kathy Blueford-Daniels
Dani Hernandez
Judith Cruz
Plácido Gómez
Mario Castillo
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla
Joaquin Martinez
Tarsha Jackson
Leah Wolfthal
Melanie Miles
Abbie Kamin
Sallie Alcorn
Letitia Plummer
Nick Hellyar
Obes Nwabara
Danielle Bess
Holly Vilaseca

This week was about At Large #2, and next week will be as promised about At Large #3. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is here. My previous posts about the 2023 HISD election are here and here. My posts about the July campaign finance reports for City Council candidates are here and here.

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Book ban lawsuit opinion released

It’s a strong one, not that that will mean anything to the troglodyte nihilists at the Fifth Circuit.

In temporarily blocking enforcement of a new Texas law that limits books with sexual content in school libraries, a federal judge called the law “extraordinarily difficult,” “prohibitively expensive” and a violation of the First Amendment.

District Judge Alan Albright, in an order released late Monday night, granted several book shops a temporary injunction order pausing implementation of House Bill 900, which bans sexually explicit materials from school libraries, requires booksellers to rate their books based on sexual relevance and prohibits school districts from purchasing from vendors who don’t use these ratings.

While supporters of the law have said it would protect children from sexually explicit material in schools, rights groups and school librarians have called HB 900 confusing, and businesses have said it’s overly burdensome and costly.

In his order, Albright raised questions about the law’s effectiveness and clarity.

“For whatever reason, Texas chose not to have anyone employed by the state at any level make the initial evaluation of the sexual content,” Albright wrote in his order. “It chose instead to impose this extraordinarily difficult and prohibitively expensive burden solely on third parties with totally insufficient guidance.”


Almost immediately after Albright handed down his decision, the state issued a notice that it plans to appeal the injunction in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Albright also noted that HB 900 allows the TEA to force businesses to change ratings the state agency disagreed with without any power to appeal.

“Therefore, this Court holds that the State of Texas impermissibly seeks to compel an individual or a corporation to create speech that it does not wish to make, and in addition, in which it does not agree with,” Albright wrote.

The bookstore owners in a statement lauded the judge’s decision.

“We thank the court for its clear and decisive ruling and applaud its finding that this law violates the First Amendment, imposes impossibly onerous conditions on booksellers and ignores the vastly different community standards across local communities,” the owners wrote.

The State Board of Education has begun creating guidelines that businesses and schools would need to abide by as per HB 900. It wasn’t immediately clear from the judge’s order whether that work could continue as the court proceedings move forward.

See here, here, and here for the background. Law Dork delves into the opinion to show just how much this judge – a Trump appointee, by the way – excoriated the state and the defense they put on for this. That said, he concludes by noting that the judge also explained how a less-incompetent version of the law could have passed muster with him, so even if the plaintiffs ultimately prevail in court, this saga is likely to continue, at least for as long as book banning is a priority for the Republican majority. You know what you need to do about that.

Posted in Books, Legal matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

City to provide some funding to B-Cycle


Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner plans to extend a half-million dollar lifeline to the city’s nonprofit bike share program, he said Wednesday.

Turner said he will present City Council next week with a proposal to send funding to Houston Bike Share, which runs the BCycle program that offers bicycles for use from stations around the city.

“I am going to be recommending that we provide an additional half million in funding to transition them forward, because I don’t want the end-user to lose,” Turner said. “I think it would be a loss for the end-users, for others, if the service were to completely stop.”

Turner’s proposal essentially would keep on life support a transportation program that has fallen on hard times in recent years after going through a citywide growth spurt.


At-large Council member Sallie Alcorn said she strongly supported the mayor’s proposal, adding it was a shame the system has trimmed down the number of working stations. She said the Houston Chronicle op-ed should serve as a wake-up call for corporate donations.

“I really think the article was a good push for getting some corporate involvement. I mean, we’re the fourth-largest city in the country,” she said.

Joe Cutrufo, executive director of BikeHouston, said Turner’s proposal was in-line with the “transportation paradigm shift” the mayor has pushed forward over the last eight years.

“We’re glad to see the mayor putting emphasis on people getting around without a car,” Cutrufo said, adding, “Bike share is important. Without a bike share system, we become less multimodal.”

Cutrufo cautioned the measure would be a stopgap, and the injection of funding would not sustain the program without further investment.

“To have a reliable bike share system requires reliable sources of revenue,” he said. “In absence of a major corporate partner or a local transit system, bike share requires some level of (government) subsidy.”

Turner said he had spoken to both METRO and the city’s planning department about options for keeping the program alive.

See here for the last update, about the shutdown announcement. The Chron adds some details.

Neeraj Tandon, [Houston Bike Share]’s chairman, welcomed the announcement.

“We will make effective use of the proposed funds to continue operation of a limited network,” he said in a statement on behalf of the nonprofit. “Meanwhile, we will continue to seek partners to maintain and reopen additional stations.”

The system uses BCycle, which provides the bikes, computer system and kiosks where users can check out a bike and then return it to any operational station. Users typically have the bike for 30 minutes for $5. Monthly and annual memberships come with a free hour or use, then incur fees after. E-bikes are available for additional fees.

It costs about $7,500 annually to operate a BCycle station, based on the nonprofit’s previous spending, meaning the city’s commitment could cover about 66 stations for the next year, or roughly resurrect the entire system for a few months.

About 50 stations are operational, after reductions began late last year, mostly in the downtown core and select parks, down from a peak of 153.


Metro, which earlier this year approved its own $500,000 commitment but then did not provide that directly to the nonprofit, said its focus on bringing the system into its operations will be more centered on linking the bikes to transit stops.

What exactly that could look like for users, however, remains unclear months later. Metro has said that could include its operation of BCycle kiosks near transit stops, or an entirely new system. Both of those scenarios leave open the chance someone else could sponsor and maintain other stops, or operate entirely independently.

Under current city laws, BCycle and only BCycle equipment can be placed in the city right of way. Dockless bikes and scooters, common in other cities, cannot be in public areas.

I’m still bummed that the Metro thing didn’t come together, but it looks like there’s still room for a partial partnership to happen. It seems to me that it would make a lot of sense for Metro to use existing infrastructure and inventory for its project rather than start from scratch, but as always the details matter. If something can be worked out for that, it would be great. If this story and the city’s contribution spurs some further sponsorships, even better. Honestly, I’d love to see Harris County step up as well. Whatever the case, I’m glad that execution has been stayed for B-Cycle. Now we need to get it back to something like full operations again.

Posted in Local politics, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dispatches from Dallas, September 22 edition

This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.

This week, in news from Dallas-Fort Worth, the big news is, of course, the Ken Paxton acquittal and the domino effect it’s having on North Texas politics. There’s also news about local districts joining a lawsuit against the TEA; city budget news in Dallas and Fort Worth; immigration news; assorted problems with environmental racism in the Metroplex; a wild story from Wise County that needs the Skip Hollandsworth treatment; blessing the drag queens; the best of Dallas; and more.

This week’s post was brought to you by Polyphia, a new-to-me Dallas band I found through the Dallas Observer’s best-of issue, mentioned below. They’re an instrumental progressive rock band, which isn’t what most of my friends think of as my style, but I really like them. They’re guitar-intense and I’d recommend you give them a try if you’re into Rodrigo y Gabriela or similar music.

Before we dive into the news, in case you haven’t heard, the government will mail you more COVID tests because COVID isn’t over, no matter what anybody says. Starting on 25 September, ask for your tests at Stay safe out there, friends!

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve already read as much about the Paxton acquittal you can stand, and possibly more, so I’ll spare you most of the local stories. Here’s a sampling of the reaction pieces with information you might not have heard: the chair of the Collin County Republicans called the acquittal a ‘triumph’; the Tarrant County Judge (also Republican) blames the ‘corrupt media’ for the impeachment.

Meanwhile our supposedly-sensible business Republicans in the Metroplex are Not Pleased. A sampling of headlines: Why did Ken Paxton beat impeachment? Not enough evidence, too much partisan politics (Star-Telegram); A sad day for Texas: Acquitting Ken Paxton condones corruption, abuse of power (Star-Telegram editorial board); Ken Paxton verdict is an injury for Texas and conservatism (DMN editorial board); and With Ken Paxton verdict, mini-MAGA Texas Republicans mock conservative values (Star-Telegram again). Also here’s a NY Times article that you can send to your out-of-state friends that explains all these headlines: Behind Paxton’s Impeachment, a Republican Battle for Control of Texas.

You may have read a story about this already but Trump allies all but put the fix in on the trial. The Axios piece makes some additional sense of what my State Senator had to say which is that the Republicans were willing to be vote 21 but not vote 20. Close followers of the trial may remember that Defend Texas Liberty gave Lite Guv Dan Patrick $3 million back in June; as mentioned in the linked article, that’s what Jonathan Stickland is doing with his time now that he’s out of the Lege, with his work funded by Tim Dunn and the Wilks family. Defend Texas Liberty has been threatening all along to primary any Republican who voted for impeachment in the House or Senate, which both the DMN, the Dallas Observer and the Star-Telegram are concerned about. As mentioned in the Star-Telegram piece, the two Republicans in the Senate who voted to convict won’t face voters again until 2026. The Texas Standard has an interview with a Republican consultant on what may happen next spring as we go through the GOP primaries. A lot of the House members have pretty solid conservative credentials, so we’ll see how that plays out when the MAGA types start calling them RINOs. If the potential outcomes weren’t so bad I’d be getting the popcorn ready.

The DMN thinks that the five House Republicans from Collin County (all of them) will get primaried by Defending Texas Liberty. Meanwhile, they think that, short of the securities fraud case from back in 2015, eight years ago now, coming back to bite Paxton in the butt, Collin County’s favorite boy’s future is very bright. And as mentioned in the DMN piece, Paxton’s next RINO target may be John Cornyn, which will be another toss-up between brutal embarrassment and getting the popcorn out.

As a palate cleanser from all that, please enjoy this story about a thirteen-year-old journalist from Katy who covered the trial for his neighborhood paper. For him, like all of us, it was a learning experience.

While nothing can possibly top Ken Paxton’s acquittal for news, let’s look at what else is happening in the Metroplex this week:

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Interview with Holly Vilaseca

Holly Vilaseca

We continue our week of At Large #2 with a familiar name, Holly Flynn Vilaseca, who served for five years as HISD Trustee, being appointed in January 2017 to fill out an unexpired term and then winning a full term that November before being defeated in 2021. She served on the Audit and Special Education committees while on the HISD Board. Before then, Vilaseca was a bilingual pre-k and early childhood teacher for six years via Teach for America, and now works as a Performance Infrastructure Executive for Johnson Controls, Inc. She has served on the City of Houston Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board for Mayors Parker and Turner, and she has served on the board of the Mexican American School Board Association. I’ve interviewed her twice before, in 2017 and 2021. Here’s interview #3:

Kathy Blueford-Daniels
Dani Hernandez
Judith Cruz
Plácido Gómez
Mario Castillo
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla
Joaquin Martinez
Tarsha Jackson
Leah Wolfthal
Melanie Miles
Abbie Kamin
Sallie Alcorn
Letitia Plummer
Nick Hellyar
Obes Nwabara
Danielle Bess

This week was about At Large #2, and next week will be as promised about At Large #3. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is here. My previous posts about the 2023 HISD election are here and here. My posts about the July campaign finance reports for City Council candidates are here and here.

Posted in Election 2023 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rep. Rhetta Bowers jumps into the CD32 primary

Really crowded now, and already a little spicy.

Rep. Rhetta Bowers

State Rep. Rhetta Andrews Bowers, D-Rowlett, has joined the large primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, in representing Congressional District 32.

Bowers made her campaign official Tuesday, reversing a previous decision not to run and facing off against a Texas House colleague, Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Farmers Branch.

Bowers released a video where she touted her legislative experience and promised to “keep standing up for you and the progressive change we need.” She also took a thinly veiled jab at Johnson, suggesting she “broke ranks” during the House Democratic quorum break in 2021.


Johnson had long been expected to run for the seat and made her bid formal after the regular legislative session ended in late June. Bowers said earlier that month that she would not run.

“It’s curious that Rep. Bowers has flip-flopped on her previous statement about running to Texas voters,” Johnson said in a statement that noted how little money Bowers recently had in her state campaign account. “I am still the candidate with the best ability to raise and deploy the necessary funds to ensure Democrats hold this seat.”

Bowers’ announcement did not directly address her reversal, but in a news release, she said it is “imperative that the historically marginalized communities of our part of Texas continue to have a voice and a seat at the table in Congress.” Bowers is Black and after redistricting in 2021, the district no longer has a white majority of eligible voters; Johnson is white.

Bowers did not spare Johnson in her launch video as she addressed the 2021 quorum break, when most House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., in protest of new GOP voting restrictions. Johnson could not be accounted for at a certain point, and a Texas Monthly reporter tweeted that “[Johnson] and her wife & [state Rep. Jessica González] and her fiancé are in Portugal for a vacation they had been planning, with non-refundable tickets, for a year-and-a-half.”

“I was away from my family for 38 days and when some broke ranks, I stood on principle until the bitter end,” Bowers said in the video as it showed a headline about Johnson’s reported trip.

See here for the previous update. As this story notes, we’re up to ten candidates for this seat now, and there could be more. It could also be the case that one or more of them decides not to actually file for this when the time comes. Like Rep. Johnson, Rep. Bowers was elected with the class of 2018, and she has also done a fine job as State Rep. I don’t have a dog in this fight and I don’t envy anyone in CD32 the decision. May the best candidate win.

Posted in Election 2024 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Endorsement watch: For that amendment, you know the one

The Chron approves an amendment but forgets to tell us which one.

So much has changed in the 15 years since Renu Khator became UH’s president. She set a clear goal for Tier 1 status and worked toward it step by step, developing support from donors and state leaders.

In fundraising, it can take years of building up trust before a big ask succeeds, and that’s what Khator accomplished. It took nearly 100 years for UH to accumulate a $1 billion endowment but that saved up fund could more than double overnight this fall.

The Legislature budgeted nearly $4 billion for a new endowment that would include UH, Texas Tech, University of North Texas and Texas State University. Before UH can claim its share, though, voters have to approve a constitutional amendment establishing the Texas University Fund.

We can’t stress enough how transformational this investment will be, not just for UH, but for our city. The continued prosperity of Houston depends on cutting edge research and an educated workforce.


As we’ve written before, UH has worked hard to earn Texas’ respect. Texans have a clear chance to put another university among the top 50 public universities. Vote “yes” for the proposed $1 billion endowment boost.

“Great!” you say. “I’d love to vote for that! Which amendment on the ballot is that one again?” Umm, well, this is as much as the endorsement editorial tells you. You’re smart people, surely you can figure it out while you’re there casting your ballot, right?

Have no fear, I’m here to help. Looking back at the Trib story in my post about the amendments on the ballot, it seems clear to me that it’s this one:

Proposition 5HJR 3 “The constitutional amendment relating to the Texas University Fund, which provides funding to certain institutions of higher education to achieve national prominence as major research universities and drive the state economy.”

What it means: If passed, the amendment would rename the National Research University Fund to the Texas University Fund. The university fund would gain the annual interest income, dividends and investment earnings from Texas’ rainy day fund to support research at state universities. Total money moved to the university fund in the 2024 fiscal year would be limited to $100 million. The annual amount may be adjusted for inflation and is limited to a 2% growth rate. The Texas A&M and University of Texas systems will not receive money from the fund as they receive research funds from a separate Permanent University Fund.

House Bill 1595 will also take effect if the amendment is passed, requiring the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to determine which universities are eligible and the size of each deposit. The fund will be managed by the comptroller and the Texas Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company.

So yes, vote for State Proposition 5. And remember who told you which one it was.

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Texas blog roundup for the week of September 18

The Texas Progressive Alliance believes that the truth about Ken Paxton will be known as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Continue reading

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Interview with Danielle Bess

Danielle Bess

Next up in At Large #2 we have Danielle Bess, a native Houstonian, Navy veteran, and real estate professional. Bess has been involved in politics for a long time, having worked with campaigns ranging from Obama for America, Sheila Jackson Lee for Congress, Annise Parker for Mayor, and Ron Kirk for Senate. Her work has included affordable housing and community development projects, and rebuilding or repairing homes damaged by floods. She was a candidate for HD147 in 2022, and you can listen to the interview I did with her for that race here. You can also listen to the interview I did with her for this race right here:

Kathy Blueford-Daniels
Dani Hernandez
Judith Cruz
Plácido Gómez
Mario Castillo
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla
Joaquin Martinez
Tarsha Jackson
Leah Wolfthal
Melanie Miles
Abbie Kamin
Sallie Alcorn
Letitia Plummer
Nick Hellyar
Obes Nwabara

This week is once again (mostly) At Large Council candidates, with At Large #2 as the main focus. Next week will be – you guessed it – At Large #3. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is here. My previous posts about the 2023 HISD election are here and here. My posts about the July campaign finance reports for City Council candidates are here and here.

Posted in Election 2023 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once again with questions about Mike Miles’ finances

More good work from Houston Landing.

New Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles’ plans for the district are built on the promise of more.

More pay for teachers. More staff in classrooms. More security officers on campuses.

But all of those extra perks cost lots of money. And right now, HISD can’t afford them without digging deep into its savings.

To carry out Miles’ vision for Texas’ largest district, HISD projects to spend nearly $250 million more than it will receive in the current fiscal year — a total that would dwarf any recent operating deficit incurred by the district, financial records analyzed by the Houston Landing show. The deficit projection calls into question the long-term sustainability of plans announced by Miles, who wants to increase investments even more in the coming years if financially feasible.

For the moment, HISD’s projected 2023-24 deficit does not spell financial peril.

HISD’s chief financial officer estimated that the district has about $900 million in reserves, well above the roughly $500 million mark that the state encourages HISD to keep. Nearly half of those reserves were built up over the past several years, a period during which HISD routinely over-budgeted its costs. HISD’s state-appointed board, which took power in June along with Miles as part of state sanctions against the district, has signed off on tapping the reserves.

But HISD can’t continue to spend beyond its means forever. It’s a reality that Miles acknowledged in an interview last week.

“We understand how budgets work and we understand what levers to pull,” Miles said. “I’m not here to save money. I’m here to help teachers raise the quality of instruction and get kids ready for the year 2035.”

Still, Miles hasn’t detailed how he plans to close the gap, leaving some local officials and community members concerned about HISD’s financial outlook.


To date, Miles has outlined parts of a roadmap that would allow HISD to close the deficit next year.

The new superintendent expects to cut some costs through eliminating hundreds of central office jobs, along with planned efficiencies in bus transportation and human resources. (An August investigation by the Houston Landing revealed Miles had overstated central office job cuts while more than doubling the number of administrators earning annual salaries of more than $150,000.)

Miles also expects some costs this year will not recur, such as interactive whiteboard purchases and the $10,000 stipends.

And while Miles hasn’t laid out plans for closing or consolidating schools as a cost-saving measure, he’s alluded to that potential. In an interview with the Landing upon taking the job, Miles said he “most likely” will bring a list of campuses that should to be closed ahead of the 2024-25 school year to HISD’s appointed board.

A 2019 report by the Texas Legislative Budget Board showed HISD’s schools have space for roughly 250,000 students, while enrollment fell to about 182,000 students in early September. Closing about 40 schools of the district’s nearly 250 campuses could save HISD $26 million in annual operating costs, the Legislative Budget Board said.

On the revenue side, Miles argued HISD could receive more state funding for summer school and pay-for-performance teacher compensation models, which likely would total tens of millions of dollars annually. Terry also said he expects public school districts will receive some additional funding following the October special legislative session.

In the meantime, the lack of clarity risks further inflaming tensions between community members opposed to Miles’ administration and HISD’s leadership.

Ann Eagleton, a longtime budget hawk and parent of HISD graduates, said she’s alarmed by the pace of the district’s spending — particularly in light of next year’s expiration of pandemic stimulus cash that has helped cover costs of catching up students.

“I don’t really feel like the board of managers is asking that many questions about how we’re going to move forward,” Eagleton said. “Because once that surplus is gone, it’s gone.”

HISD Board President Audree Momanaee did not respond to a request for comment.

See here for more on those central office cuts that weren’t quite what we thought they would be. I have been asking about the fiscal viability of Miles’ plans for some time now. We’re still not any closer to an answer. It’s not that this all can’t be made to work in the HISD budget. There’s a lot of moving parts, but you can see where the numbers could add up, especially if he follows through on a plan to close and consolidate schools. Which will open up another whole can of worms, but really does seem inevitable if HISD’s enrollment doesn’t bounce back in a significant way.

The main problem continues to be one of trust, especially as the answer that we get from Miles and his minions on these questions is basically “you don’t need to know the details, we’ll tell you when we’re ready”. Mike Miles has not earned that kind of trust. A Superintendent that was hired by the elected Board and had actual oversight on them would never have that kind of trust, either. Miles’ overall track record doesn’t inspire any benefit of the doubt, between the funny math on central office cuts, his exaggerated claims about HISD academic performance, the whole libraries debacle, and so much more. We haven’t even touched the special ed situation, in which there are more questions, a paucity of details, and some unknown cost to whatever the solution will be. And in the meantime we’re hoping for more money in this upcoming voucherriffic special session, where the vibes are immaculate? Yeah, you can see where the skepticism comes from. Sure would have been nice if Miles had made an effort to build bridges and establish trust, but here we are.

Posted in School days | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Endorsement watch: Just say No to blocking a wealth tax

Good call by the Chron.

When Elon Musk relocated his business empire from California to Texas in 2021, he likely took billions in state tax revenue with him.

Some California lawmakers want to claw back that lost revenue through a “wealth tax” proposal that would levy a 1.5% tax on billionaires. The bill would permit the state to pursue the tax for former residents, such as Musk, who fled for tax-friendly states.

“Wealth tax” proposals are increasingly in vogue – eight states have introduced a version of one this year – in part because of the extreme concentration of wealth among the nation’s top earners. The chasm between rich and poor has never been more clear: the top 10 percent of earners in the U.S. own 69 percent of the nation’s total wealth. Billionaires enjoy a plethora of tax loopholes that allow them to pay virtually no federal income tax. Musk, for instance, paid no federal income tax in 2018, despite seeing his wealth grow by nearly $14 billion over the previous four years.

Still, Texas is in no danger of joining the wealth tax party. Heck, even California doesn’t appear to have the stomach for it. The state’s Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently that the wealth tax bill is “going nowhere.”

So why, then, are Texans being asked this November to consider Proposition 3, a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state Legislature from imposing a tax based on wealth or net worth of an individual or family? There doesn’t appear to be much of a groundswell for such a tax and there aren’t any active proposals in Texas. State Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant), the author of the constitutional amendment, told the House Ways & Means Committee in March that it was a “proactive measure” inspired by proposals from “some members of Congress” to impose a national wealth tax.


Yet enshrining a tax policy ban in the Constitution strikes us as shortsighted. Who’s to say what Texas’ economic outlook will be 30 years from now? It would be foolish to take it off the table entirely as new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, could further concentrate wealth in the hands of a tiny few.

Hefner believes the “people should have a direct say” on whether they should be subjected to a new tax. We agree, which is why if, years from now, a majority of future Texans want to impose a wealth tax, they shouldn’t have to get two-thirds of each chamber to overturn a constitutional amendment to do so.

We urge Texans to vote “no” on Proposition 3 and give future generations the flexibility to craft a tax policy that reflects the will of the people and the needs of the state.

I covered some of this ground yesterday, and I’m glad to see that the Chron editorial board gets it. As I said, I’m aware of a grassroots campaign that is gearing up against this, but time is short and there are a lot of voters to reach, so please spread the word if you can. You might also look to see how your State Rep voted, because Republicans could not have gotten this piece of junk across the finish line without some help.

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Interview with Obes Nwabara

Obes Nwabara

Continuing on in At Large #2, today we talk with Obes Nwabara, who is a son of Nigerian immigrants and a 2009 graduate of UH. He has worked in a number of industries including energy, food service, and healthcare, and i that last position helped create a pilot program for Baylor Scott & White Health that allowed patients to use rideshare services to get to their doctor’s appointments at no cost to them. He serves on the Art Colony Association board of directors where he helps oversee the annual Bayou City Arts Festival and has worked with several Democratic campaigns including Beto 2018. He was one of three candidates considered by precinct chairs for a nomination to the HCDE Board in 2020, and I did a Q&A with him that you can read here. This is what we talked about:

Kathy Blueford-Daniels
Dani Hernandez
Judith Cruz
Plácido Gómez
Mario Castillo
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla
Joaquin Martinez
Tarsha Jackson
Leah Wolfthal
Melanie Miles
Abbie Kamin
Sallie Alcorn
Letitia Plummer
Nick Hellyar

This week is once again (mostly) At Large Council candidates, with At Large #2 as the main focus. Next week will be – you guessed it – At Large #3. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is here. My previous posts about the 2023 HISD election are here and here. My posts about the July campaign finance reports for City Council candidates are here and here.

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A guide to the constitutional amendments for November 2023

There are many to vote on, and at least one to strongly oppose.

Texans will decide the fate of 14 constitutional amendments recently sent to the ballot by state lawmakers during the Nov. 7 election.

Many of the proposed amendments would create or alter funds to support:

  • Higher education research
  • Water infrastructure
  • Gas-fueled power plants
  • Broadband infrastructure
  • Maintenance and creation of state parks

Several others would address taxes by:

  • Raising the homestead exemption for homeowners from $40,000 to $100,000
  • Creating some tax exemptions for medical equipment and child-care facilities
  • Banning lawmakers from imposing “wealth taxes” without voter approval

Other amendments would affect Texans in certain professions by:

  • Granting retired teachers cost-of-living raises
  • Raising the mandatory retirement age for state judges
  • Protecting farmers and ranchers from nuisance claims as cities around them grow

And two would impact Galveston and El Paso counties specifically, allowing Galveston County to eliminate the position of county treasurer and for El Paso County to use bonds for parks and recreation development.


Proposition 3HJR 132 “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax, including a tax on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family.”

What it means: Several states have proposed so-called “wealth taxes” in recent months, referring to a tax on a person based on the market value of assets they own, which can include real property and retirement accounts, minus their debts or liabilities, such as bankruptcies. Texas has not introduced this and does not have a similar tax.

Supporters of those taxes argue that the impact on the extremely wealthy would be minimal, that the definition of “wealth” can be defined in a way that best suits each state, and that it would help pay for costly programs without impacting lower income people. Critics say raising taxes on someone’s wealth discourages business and that the revenue from it will be less than anticipated. They also say that overall wealth would decline, which would result in less investment and loss of tax revenue from other sources, such as sales and property taxes.

This amendment would force lawmakers to ask voters for authorization before they could impose any new state taxes on residents that would be based on net worth or wealth.

Read the whole thing to get a capsule analysis of each proposition. Per Campos, the Chron has already endorsed four of them – two and five a couple of days ago, and four and nine before that, though for some reason those have only appeared in the print version. I’ve looked but have not seen them online.

Proposition 3, which would pre-emptively ban a non-existent and unlikely to be adopted anytime soon wealth tax – more to the point, it would require the passage of another amendment to allow the imposition of such a tax – is worthy of your opposition. For one thing, it should be clear that this would only be in the interest of the small number of people who might be subject to such a tax. If your net worth doesn’t have at least eight digits, quite possibly more like nine, this is a complete non-concern for you. Well, except in the sense that the revenue such a hypothetical pie-in-the-sky tax might generate could pay for something useful, like universal pre-K or whatever your favored idea is.

On a more complex level, the main thing this amendment does is take away one more option to make our convoluted and jerry-rigged tax system a little fairer. The main problem we have is that the system as it now exists has done a very efficient job of separating the amount of tax one may need to pay from the capacity one has to pay it. This is a feature that income- and wealth-based tax systems do pretty well (acknowledging that there are always loopholes and rich people are both very good at creating and exploiting them), while a system in which the resale value of your home is the main driver of your tax bill very much does not do well. This requires us to to increasingly esoteric things to prevent regular folks from being taxed out of their homes, most of which have the ancillary benefit of being even better for rich folks. Meanwhile, the one thing that could offer some balance is far enough off the table to be practically non-existent. And now we want to add one more thing to that list of forbidden possible fixes. Does that strike you as a good idea?

So vote against State Proposition 3. Tell your friends to vote against State Proposition 3. I am told that there is a campaign in the works to oppose Prop 3, and I will pass that along when I am informed of it. The rest, you can figure out on your own – most years, most of the propositions are pretty anodyne. But this one is not, and it should be rejected.

Posted in Election 2023 | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stay petty, Dan

We like the divisiveness.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick requested a full financial audit of the impeachment proceedings of Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday, making good on a vow he delivered after Paxton was acquitted of all impeachment charges in the Texas Senate.

In a letter sent to State Auditor Lisa Collier, Patrick requested that her office immediately begin to determine “the total amount of expenditures, encumbrances and future unpaid obligations” by the Texas House, Senate, Office of Attorney General and other “all other legislative entities.”

“The goal,” Patrick wrote, “is to determine the absolute total cost of the state of preparing for and conducting this trial from the beginning through its conclusion. This must detail all expenses” including those for investigators, travel, food and lodging.

Collier did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The state auditor is an independent governmental agency that investigates allegations of fraud and impropriety.

Patrick’s request follows his blistering speech at the conclusion of Paxton’s trial, in which he said the House and Republican Speaker Dade Phelan “rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before.”

Phelan responded by accusing Patrick — who presided over the Senate trial — of “confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display.”

The speaker’s office declined to comment Monday on Patrick’s official audit request.

See here for the background. I’d like the auditor to respond with an estimate of how much it will cost to do this dumb vanity project, but I suspect she would rather keep her job. My advice to you and your colleagues still stands, Dade. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss.

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The MOB versus Mike Miles

Presented for all the obvious reasons.

Rice University’s marching band mocked state-appointed Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles during their halftime show at Saturday’s football game against Texas Southern University.

The small band, known as The Mob, performed a brief “Austin Powers”-themed show characterizing Miles as Dr. Evil — the main antagonist of the popular movie series. The show criticizes Miles’ removal of librarians at around 85 HISD schools and his song-and-dance skit during the district’s annual convocation ceremony.

“Ever since taking over the Houston school board, Dr. Evil has been working on his plan to brainwash his new army of mini-me’s,” the student announcer says to begin the show. “Watch as he fires the teachers and principals to institute total control.”

HISD hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment on the performance. Over the weekend, Miles posted on Linkedin: “There is so much misinformation that it would be hard for even serious people to know what is going on in the Houston school district.”

Ethan Goore, a co-executive producer of the show, said The Mob aims to use their platform to try and address injustices in society through their performances. He said the band chose an “Austin Powers” theme partially because Miles’ name sounds similar to Mike Myers, the actor who plays Dr. Evil in the movie series.

“We’ve been hearing a lot from teachers that we know and parents who have kids in the HISD system that they are not completely satisfied with what’s going on currently, and that they wanted there to be more awareness about the issue,” said Goore, a junior at Rice. “That’s really where we jump in, and the way that we do it is through our halftime shows.”

The show, titled “Mob-stin Powers: The Superintendent Who Fired Me,” opens with students forming an “H” on the field and playing “Evil Ways.” One band member, playing Miles, lightly bonks another band member on the head with a screw-shaped sign saying “Fired” and the student falls on the field.

Apparently the MOB was prescient in that bit of show action. Note, as a pedantic matter, that MOB = “Marching Owl Band”, so “MOB” is in all caps. I don’t know if Miles’ LinkedIn comment is aimed at this show or if it’s more of a general comment about how nobody understands what he’s doing, but either way I find it amusing.

I believe art should be allowed the opportunity to speak for itself, so I will leave you with the following:

Enjoy! KHOU has more.

Posted in General snarkiness, Other sports, School days | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Interview with Nick Hellyar

Nick Hellyar

We move now into At Large #2, where I will have four candidates to bring to you. First up is Nick Hellyar, who had run for At Large #4 in 2019 and finished third in the field of eleven that year. Hellyar owns a real estate company and has been involved in politics for literally most of his life – I met him way back in 2006 when he was a high school student supporting the Congressional campaign of his former teacher Jim Henley. Since then he has worked on various campaigns and served as District Director for then-Representative Carol Alvarado’s Houston office. Here’s what we talked about:

Kathy Blueford-Daniels
Dani Hernandez
Judith Cruz
Plácido Gómez
Mario Castillo
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla
Joaquin Martinez
Tarsha Jackson
Leah Wolfthal
Melanie Miles
Abbie Kamin
Sallie Alcorn
Letitia Plummer

This week is once again (mostly) At Large Council candidates, with At Large #2 as the main focus. Next week will be – you guessed it – At Large #3. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is here. My previous posts about the 2023 HISD election are here and here. My posts about the July campaign finance reports for City Council candidates are here and here.

Posted in Election 2023 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

A brief word about voter registration in Houston

First, some important news:

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Houston residents have one month left to register to vote in November’s City Hall elections.

Residents can visit various Harris County government offices, post offices, libraries or state agencies to fill out and submit a completed application form. You can also email [email protected] to receive a registration application in the mail, or call 713-274-8200 for help.

You’ll need to list your name, Harris County address, date of birth, citizenship status and your driver’s license number or another form of identification, such as a Texas identification card or the last four digits of your social security number.

Voters can check their registration status on the county’s website or with the Secretary of State. The deadline is Oct. 10. If you postmark an application on Oct. 10, you still will be able to vote even if the application does not reach the county on that day.


Early voting begins Oct. 23 and will continue through Nov. 3. Voters have until Oct. 27 to request a mail ballot, and must provide a reason, such as being over 65 years old or disabled. Election day is Nov. 7.

Just a reminder, if you were registered to vote last November and you haven’t moved, you’re fine. If you did move, go now and update your registration. If you’ve got a kid in college and want them to vote in November, either have them come home to do it if they’re within a reasonable drive, or get started on the work to get them an absentee ballot now. They have to fill out the form to request the ballot, then request it, and it all has to be done via US Mail. Don’t wait.

As a reminder, when talking about turnout in this year’s election, it’s important to keep in mind that there are a lot more registered voters in Houston now compared to 2015, the last time we had an open seat Mayor’s race. That by itself should result in an increase in total turnout – not turnout as a percentage of registered voters necessarily, just an increase in the total number of people casting a ballot. It will not shock me if we top the 2003 high water mark for turnout just based on that. Not a guarantee, of course, but a distinct possibility.

Finally, I found my long-ago post about the relative ages of city voters. Here’s the original post, and here’s the post I had stumbled across that led me to it. The original also contains data for the much youth-friendlier years of 2010 and 2014. My data might have come in handy for the reporter who wrote the story referenced in this post, though note that story refers to voters over the age of 65, while I discussed voters over the age of 60. The point remains that in the last few elections conducted before Houston shifted to four-year terms, about 70% of voters in those elections were fifty or older, while about five or six percent were under 30. I don’t know if that has changed for the two elections since, but since 2015 was still on that cycle and 2019 was a weird year for multiple reasons, I would not make any inferences about trends. I’ll see what I can do about getting the data for the 2015, 2019, and 2023 elections after this one is over, and we’ll go from there.

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The end of B-Cycle

This sucks.

At Houston Bike Share, the nonprofit agency that runs the BCycle system, we’ve been working to find new funding for more than a year. We’ve made tough decisions, suspending stations and raising prices. And now, in the face of a major cash crunch, we plan to shut down the operation completely in the next two months.

This breaks our hearts.

As volunteer directors on the board, we have helped set the direction of bike share in Houston throughout much of the organization’s history. We’d like to share the back story on how we got to this point and offer thoughts on how bike share in Houston can get back on a roll.


During the 2020 COVID pandemic, Houstonians flocked to bicycling and BCycle for safe, socially distanced fitness, recreation and transportation. Our annual ridership peaked at over 300,000 trips.

Unfortunately high ridership came at a price: Our operating costs grew. By 2022 we were operating over 150 stations, and ridership was steady at nearly a quarter million annual rides. But with a network more heavily focused on transportation, rather than recreation, revenue did not keep pace. Sponsorships dried up. Meanwhile, our bikes and stations were aging and required more maintenance and repair.

In October 2022 we sounded the alarm: This wasn’t sustainable. We convened our largest partners (the City of Houston, Harris County, and METRO) to devise a strategy. The METRO board agreed to create a partnership that included interim funding to sustain operations but later decided to not collaborate with us, and instead published a request for proposals to establish their own, much smaller bike share system.

Despite our best efforts to identify a source of long-term funding to support Houston Bike Share, we have been unsuccessful. Over the past year we have approached government, corporations and philanthropies. Most have not responded to our requests.

We’re proud of the work we’ve done with Houstonians over the past 11 years to provide a healthy, affordable transportation option. We proved that there is demand for bike share in Houston when it’s offered at a nominal cost.

But our experience has also shown that rental fees alone can’t support a robust bike share system here. It requires ongoing support, similar to the support taxpayers provide to fund mass transit.

See here, here, and here for some background. I hate to hear this, because I think B-Cycle has been a valuable addition to the city. I will hold out hope that they can still be saved. It sounds like what happened here was more an unfortunate confluence of events and not any real failures.

We’ve done a good job in recent years expanding our non-car transportation infrastructure. Using a form of bike share to extend the Metro network makes a lot of sense, but I can see how the existing B-Cycle installation was more than they needed and not the best fit where there was overlap. I’m interested to see what Metro develops, but I still think it’s a shame that they couldn’t adapt B-Cycle for their purposes. It’s a net loss overall.

UPDATE: Here’s a news story about the shutdown that mostly recapitulates the op-ed.

Posted in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Weekend link dump for September 17

The problem with a TV executive saying “we’ve got to be careful not to overuse the content” is that they’re probably already overusing the content, or at the very least planning to overuse it.

Get ready for the war on no-fault divorce, coming to a state legislature near you.

“If you’re scrolling through your feed on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and come across a post from an account that you’re not following, you just might be seeing an unlabeled ad.”

“But this broader take is something Republicans have piped up with quite often during the Trump years and after them: Anytime Dear Leader failed, it was because non-Republicans tricked or distracted or conspired against him. Trump has never been responsible for his own failures, which include getting caught attempting to extort the Ukrainian government, getting caught lying to federal investigators about highly sensitive nuclear and military secrets being kept in boxes in unsecured rooms of his for-profit Mar-a-Lago resort, or a pattern of promising to solve all of America’s problems anytime now, but possibly in two weeks, and seldom following up on any of it.”

Get those taxes.

RIP, Dennis Austin, co-creator of PowerPoint.

RIP, Charlie Robison, Houston-born singer-songwriter.

This is why some people like metal detectors.

Let them fight.

“Movements that can’t make positive arguments for their favored positions, even to friendly audiences, cease to be political movements properly understood and become something more like rearguard actions. They seek to use inertia, incumbency and stratagems to hold on to gains and do their best to avoid fights on the open ground of public opinion where at least incremental losses seem inevitable. That’s where anti-abortion, “pro-life” politics stands on the eve of the 2024 election.”

“HGTV Sells ‘The Brady Bunch’ House at a 9% Loss for $3.2 Million”.

“New York City’s pension funds and the state of Oregon sued Fox Corporation on Tuesday, alleging the company harmed investors by allowing Fox News to broadcast falsehoods about the 2020 election that exposed the network to defamation lawsuits.”

RIP, Zeus, pure-bred American Great Dane who was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s tallest dog.

RIP, Fernando Botero, painter and sculptor whose depictions of people and objects in plump, exaggerated forms became emblems of Colombian art around the world.

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Paxton acquitted on all counts


A crook any way you look

The Texas Senate on Saturday acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton of 16 articles of impeachment alleging corruption and bribery, his most artful escape in a career spent courting controversy and skirting consequences of scandal.

No article received more than 14 of the required 21 votes to convict. Only two of 19 Republican Senators, Bob Nichols of Jacksonville and Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills, voted in favor of convicting for any article — a stark contrast to the nearly 70% of House Republicans who impeached the attorney general in May.

Paxton, who attended just two days of the trial and was not present to witness his exoneration, was characteristically defiant.

“The sham impeachment coordinated by the Biden Administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, disrupted the work of the Office of Attorney General and left a dark and permanent stain on the Texas House,” Paxton said in a statement. “The weaponization of the impeachment process to settle political differences is not only wrong, it is immoral and corrupt.”

The dramatic votes capped a two-week trial where a parade of witnesses, including former senior officials under Paxton, testified that the attorney general had repeatedly abused his office by helping his friend, struggling Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, investigate and harass his enemies, delay foreclosure sales of his properties and obtain confidential records on the police investigating him. In return, House impeachment managers said Paul paid to renovate Paxton’s Austin home and helped him carry out ­and cover up an extramarital affair with a former Senate aide.

In the end, senators were unpersuaded.

“This should have never happened,” Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, told reporters outside the chamber. He criticized what he called a rushed and flawed investigation by the House.

The not guilty verdicts immediately restored Paxton to office, lifting the automatic suspension triggered by the House vote in May to impeach him. The votes sealed the failure of a risky gambit by House Republicans who began in secret in the spring to investigate, and then purge, a leader of their own party.

And they came after sustained pressure on senators from grassroots groups, conservative activists and the leader of the state Republican Party who vowed retribution at the ballot box if Paxton was convicted.

Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, was on hand to witness his acquittal. Required to attend but barred from deliberating and voting because of her relationship with the accused, she listened stone-faced during the trial as multiple witnesses testified about the attorney general’s infidelity, exposing as a lie his 2018 declaration to his wife and senior aides that the affair was permanently over.

After the acquittal, she hugged her husband’s lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee, and shook hands with the defense team.

The Senate also voted 19-11 to dismiss the remaining four articles of impeachment that the chamber had agreed to set aside prior to the trial. Those articles dealt with Paxton’s long-running securities fraud case, which is expected to go to trial early next year.

Despite the victory, Paxton’s troubles are far from over. He faces trial on charges of securities fraud dating back to 2015.

I don’t even know what to say about this other than I don’t think we got nearly enough division on the GOP side out of this, but perhaps that remains to be seen. I’ll just move onto this related story about his remaining legal troubles, which will not have such a friendly and credulous jury deciding them.

[Paxton] still faces state securities fraud charges, a case that has stretched out for eight years and counting, starting with an indictment just months after he took office in 2015. The case has been delayed for years by pretrial disputes — including a back-and-forth battle over the trial venue that saw it moved to Houston from Collin County, which Paxton represented as a state lawmaker.

And Paxton has been under investigation by the FBI since October 2020, although no charges have been filed.


Federal law experts and former prosecutors contacted by The Texas Tribune say the impeachment result isn’t likely to alter the course of Paxton’s securities fraud case. As far as the FBI investigation, they said, witness testimony in the impeachment hearings could help federal officials evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case.

In the state case, Paxton faces two counts of securities fraud, a first-degree felony that carries a punishment of up to 99 years in prison, stemming from his 2011 efforts to solicit investors in Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the McKinney tech company was paying him to promote its stock. Paxton also faces one count of failing to register with state securities regulators, a third-degree felony with a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

Sandra Guerra Thompson, a former New York City prosecutor who teaches criminal law at the University of Houston Law Center, said Paxton’s victory in the impeachment trial likely means his state criminal case will continue on its present trajectory.

“The same motivation to try to delay [the case] would continue from his perspective, and the prosecutors would have the same motivations to move forward,” she said. “It’s very perilous for a public official to have charges like that against them. Because even if you get them reduced to a misdemeanor, they’re still crimes of moral turpitude. So it’s problematic.”

A conviction, she said, would have made a plea agreement more likely because prosecutors would have less urgency to take the case to trial in an effort to remove him from office.

Last month in a Houston courtroom before a new judge, defense lawyers and prosecutors agreed to return Oct. 6 to deal with pending motions and set a trial date.

“At some point, it has to come to an end,” special prosecutor Brian Wice told reporters afterward. “I think today was the first step in a journey of a thousand miles to make sure that justice ultimately comes to be.”

One can only hope. There’s also that State Bar of Texas complaint, which could result in sanctions up to and including disbarment, but nothing criminal and nothing that would disqualify him from office. The next hearing in that case was supposed to have started this past Monday but was put on hold for obvious reasons. I expect we’ll get a new court date soon, maybe for before the state securities fraud trial in October, more likely I think for after.

I’m not going to ruin the rest of my Saturday with hot takes. I’m going to watch a little football, and we have Dynamo tickets for the evening. I will note two things before I close. One was this prediction from Republican consultant and data guy Derek Ryan, who suggested that if there wasn’t 21 votes to convict some number of Republican Senators would likely flip back to acquittal, a prediction that appears to have been borne out in the aftermath. And two, there may yet be some real lingering division that could yet have political implications down the line.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick broke his personal silence Saturday on Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment after the Senate voted for acquittal, blasting the House’s impeachment process as deeply flawed.

“The speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before,” Patrick said from the dais after the verdict was finalized.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, fired back, saying Patrick ended the trial by “confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display.”

Patrick was the presiding officer of the trial — effectively the judge — and his feelings on the matter were the subject of much speculation. While he got praise for how he handled certain aspects, like the trial rules, he also drew scrutiny for accepting $3 million from a pro-Paxton group in late June.


Patrick also called for a state constitutional amendment reforming the impeachment process. He proposed that all House testimony should be given under oath and subject to cross examination, adding that an impeached official “should not be put on unpaid leave” while awaiting trial.

Patrick also said “millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment” and called for a “full audit” of the House’s spending on it.

Phelan responded with a statement that was just as hostile, saying Patrick “attacked the House for standing up against corruption.”

“His tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process afforded to us by the founders of this great state,” Phelan said. “The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice.”

There is no love lost between Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, who have previously battled over policy issues. But Patrick’s speech represented a new escalation in their feud and came after he withheld his personal opinion on the impeachment for months, trying to show he was taking the trial seriously.

And shame on anyone who believed that he was. I’m just going to say to Dade Phelan and any other Republican member of the House that Dan Patrick just completely slimed, the answer to this problem, no matter where you are and what you’re doing in two years’ time, is to vigorously support and campaign for an opponent to Dan Patrick in 2026. And yes, that includes whoever his Democratic opponent is, because we both know he’ll glide through the primary. Either that, or just accept all the shit that he’s going to dump on you and concede that he’s correct to do so. Which option do you prefer?

Posted in Scandalized!, That's our Lege | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Yes, let’s plant more trees

Good to see.

Some of Houston’s most vulnerable neighborhoods could soon see new shade trees and better parks.

Driving the news: The Houston Endowment granted $8 million to Trees for Houston and the Houston Parks Board to help increase access to parks across the city and plant trees in places where they’re sorely needed.

  • $4 million is going to each organization to “supercharge” their work, Lisa Hall, vice president of program strategy at the Houston Endowment, said in a blog post.

How it works: The Houston Parks Board will use the funds to focus on small park projects, per the blog post. Previous grants from the endowment went toward bigger, signature parks like Buffalo Bayou.

  • Plus, a significant part of the grant is the inclusion of Trees for Houston, a decades-old organization that plants trees in parks and neighborhoods across the city.

Why it matters: Houston is home to several heat islands, where heat-absorbing surfaces and structures contribute to higher temperatures.

I’m lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a lot of trees, and the only way I was able to walk my dog during the day this summer was to stick to routes with lots of shade. That was bearable even on the hundred-degree-plus days. One of the reasons I heard during this miserable time for why it stayed so damn hot during the night was that the streets absorbed so much sunlight and heat during the day that they never really cooled down overnight, which had a corresponding effect on the city as a whole. Trees, and the shade they generate, is an answer for that. So yes, more trees. They’re good for lots of reasons.

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