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October 29th, 2005:

Endorsement watch: My turn

At long last, here’s my list of recommendations for the 2005 elections. I’m only going to make choices for races that will be on my ballot, and as James Campbell wrote today, these are just recommendations, not commands.

Mayor – Bill White

City Controller – Annise Parker

At Large #1 – Peter Brown

At Large #2 – Jay Aiyer

At Large #4 – Ron Green

District H – Adrian Garcia

HISD trustee position 1 – Natasha Kamrani

Ballot propositions:

Prop 1 – NO
Prop 2 – NO
Prop 3 – YES
Prop 4 – NO
Prop 5 – YES
Prop 6 – NO
Prop 7 – YES
Prop 8 – YES
Prop 9 – NO

Most of these decisions are fairly easy, since many races are not contested or not seriously contested. I can’t think of any scenario in which I’d be likely to change my mind, however – these are all high-quality people, and I’m very happy to be voting for them. The two with real choices are At Large #2 and HISD1. While there is more than one worthy candidate in each of those slots, I believe that Jay Aiyer and Natasha Kamrani represent the best of those choices. I think Jay has the strongest credentials in that race, and I’ve been very favorably impressed by Kamrani’s overall vision and plans for HISD. If you have the chance, in the waning days of the campaign, to meet either of these folks, or any of the others for that matter, I think you’ll understand why I feel as I do about them.

I’m not offering any recommendations in At Large #3 and #5, but for different reasons. There’s no one in #3 that I think is worth a vote. I wish there were someone running against Shelly Sekula Somthingorother that I could support, but the only thing that her opponent has done that I’ve noticed is leave spam comments on at least three different blogs, mine included (you didn’t see it here because I deleted it). I realize that I myself floated the idea of spoofing another candidate’s site in spam comments as a new-wave dirty trick, but I don’t see that happening here. Frankly, if I thought Somethingorother were smart enough to do that kind of thing, I’d have a whole new respect for her. So feel free to skip that race.

At Large #5 is a little different. I’m definitely more in line with challenger Mike Stoma philosophically than I am with incumbent Michael Berry, and that’s a consideration that normally carries a lot of weight for me. This is one of those times where it’s not so clear-cut. I believe that Berry was uniquely qualified this term to lead any organized anti-Bill White effort, since he had spent a fair amount of time on the Mayoral campaign trail with White in 2003 and he certainly has his own vision of what Houston should be like. He also has more gravitas and experience than the other At Large members who might have acted as a counterweight. Finally, we all know he wants to run for Mayor again some day, right? Well, not only did he not do that, but right from the very beginning he was publicly appreciative of Mayor White’s priority initiatives. Whatever you may think of the Boy Wonder, I feel that at some point, one must at least consider voting for someone who’s been supportive of things you favor. For that reason, I say make your own choice and feel good about it either way.

As for the ballot amendments, the two I feel the most strongly about are #1 and #2. Beyond those two, there isn’t much to get me all riled up. I’ve noted before that some people are advocating a blanket No on these propositions. Obviously, I think some are worthy of consideration, but none of them will break my heart if they don’t pass. Vote No on the first two and you can do what you want with the rest as far as I’m concerned.

Kaplan’s followup

Today’s Chron has a fuller story on the closing of longtime Houston Heights department store Kaplan’s-Ben Hur, which I noted last week. It’s mostly a nostalgia piece, with quotes from the currnt owners and several faithful customers, but what caught my eye was this:

Closing the store allows the family to sell the property. Greenwood King real estate agent Erik Fowler, who is not involved, estimated the land alone, about 85,000 square feet, could be worth from $1 million to as much as $2 million.

The question is what would be built there to replace it. Here’s a map to the location of the store. On the one hand, it’s well situated for some kind of high-end retail. Yale is a busy street, the area is close to many residential neighborhoods, and the many antique shops on 19th and 20th Streets already bring in a stream of people with some disposable income burning a hole in their pockets. The main problem is parking. Kaplan’s doesn’t have much, and spots on the nearby streets go quickly. I don’t know that any business which would have to rely heavily on the residents who will mostly walk there, as Kaplan’s did, will be able to generate the kind of cash flow necessary to cover its monthly note or lease. Maybe a strip center would be able to do it if it had the right mix of shops in it. It’s not a slamdunk is all I’m saying.

Residential property is a possibility. You could fit quite a few $300-500K homes on those 85,000 square feet. The main problem is that, well, it’s in a mostly commercial area fronted by a busy street. I just don’t know how appealing that would be to too many folks who are in the market for a three-bedroom house. I don’t think there’s no buyers for what would go up there, but I do think it’s a smaller segment.

What would be interesting is if someone decides to go for a mixed-use property like you now see in Midtown: a multistory building with shops or eateries on the ground floor and apartments or (more likely) condos above it. You’d still have to solve the parking issue, but depending on how you design the place you might be able to tack on a small garage on the back, for use by both residents and customer. It’s all a pedestrian-friendly area, so that would work in your favor as well, and the benefit of condos over larger houses is that it’ll be more attractive to the single and childless couple buyers who’d have fewer objections to living near traffic than parents would.

Anyway. Worth keeping an eye on once the Kaplan family officially puts it on the market.

Poor, poor pitiful Tom

Poor, poor pitiful me!
Poor, poor pitiful me!
Oh, these boys won’t let me be
Lord have mercy on me!
Woe, woe is me!

— Various artists, including Terri Clark, Linda Rondstadt, and Warren Zevon

It just breaks my heart to see a man brought low like this.

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay sent constituents a letter Thursday calling the prosecution against him the “politics of personal destruction,” and said he has come under attack because he’s been a strong advocate of conservative causes.

The letter is the second the Sugar Land Republican has sent to supporters since he was first indicted in Travis County on election law violations last month. DeLay has repeatedly said he is a victim of political persecution by District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.

“Because of their decade of defeat, Democrats have now dropped to the least common denominator — the politics of personal destruction,” DeLay said, using the same defense mounted by former President Clinton during his impeachment.

DeLay said the prosecution against him is part of a larger pattern of “liberals” using the criminal justice system against conservatives.

“What we’re fighting is so much larger than a single court case or a single district attorney in Travis County,” DeLay said. “We are witnessing the criminalization of conservative politics.”

That man sure does know how to throw one heck of a pity party, does he not? He’s even got people at the Austin Chronicle shedding tears for him.

I’m sorry, I’m getting all verklempt over here. Talk amongst yourselves.

(AusChron link via The Stakeholder.)