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May, 2006:

Dallas is full, please come back another time

I’m not quite sure what to make of this story about the city of Dallas balking at giving temporary housing to some 40,000 special-needs people in the event they get evacuated from Houston during a hurricane.

Texas officials, haunted by last year’s images from New Orleans of poor and elderly citizens left behind in Hurricane Katrina’s wake, have formed a plan in which coastal cities would be paired with inland destinations that would house “special needs” evacuees, those without the means or ability to escape on their own.

At a recent meeting in Corsicana, an official with Gov. Rick Perry’s emergency management division asked North Texas officials to reserve shelter for as many as 40,000 such residents from Harris County.

But Kenny Shaw, director of the city of Dallas’ office of emergency management, told the Houston Chronicle that sheltering that many needy, disabled or elderly evacuees – and possibly their pets – would be a stretch.

“It would be a little bit of a chaotic situation if we got 40,000 people,” Shaw said. “We are not going to be able to house anywhere near a 40,000 special needs population.”

The state can’t make any city take special needs evacuees, meaning if “Big D” ultimately refuses to open shelters for them, they’ll have to be transported even farther away to wait out the storm.


Houston and Harris County opened facilities to tens of thousands of Louisiana residents after Hurricane Katrina. At the peak, Sept. 4, there were 27,100 people sheltered in the Reliant Park complex and the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The most sheltered at any given night in Dallas’ convention center, Reunion Arena and Dallas County’s old jail complex was 3,000, Shaw said. He said slightly fewer were housed in those three facilities during Hurricane Rita.

“Once we got to the 3,000 point, that was pretty much all we could do. We began distributing them to other cities in the Metroplex,” he said.

Robie Robinson, Dallas County’s director of security and emergency management, said he shares Shaw’s capacity concerns. Even with 16 counties to draw on, most of the resources are located in the four most populous: Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton, which have a combined population of 5 million.

“Forty thousand would be very, very tough to absorb,” Robinson said. “It’s fascinating. The challenges never end. Initially you have to get a grasp on what’s the worst case scenario.”

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller infuriated staffers in Gov. Rick Perry’s office last year when she complained of Dallas’ evacuation overload and struggle to find shelter for Katrina evacuees. At that time, Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt called Miller’s complaints “unbelievable” and “so much whining and nay-saying” in an e-mail she sent to the governor’s staff. But she’s not repeating those complaints this year.

“The fact of the matter is if a community says it can’t house more than a given number, there’s nothing you can do to force it,” she said.

Miller did not respond to a request for comment on the shelter issue Tuesday from the Chronicle.

I have to agree with Kathy Walt here – if Dallas says they can’t handle more than a set number of evacuees, I don’t know what you can do (short of waving money in front of them) to make them change their minds. I think they are perhaps being a little conservative in their estimate of what they can take on, and maybe part of the problem here is that “Dallas” makes up less than 40% of the Metroplex by population. Laura Miller and Kenny Shaw can’t dictate to Collin County, for example, and we all know how generous they are with their resources.

It makes sense to try and secure space for the people who will need the most assistance ahead of time. It seems to me, though, that if the Governor’s plan for this isn’t taking into account this kind of pushback from the cities he’s targeted as shelters for those folks, then his plan is fundamentally flawed. Maybe it’s time to wave some money around, assuming there’s anything left after the property tax cut stampede from the special session.

It’d be nice to get more of a Dallas perspective on this, but the Morning News just has an AP wire story that recapitulates the Chron reporting. I feel like there has to be a next move, though, what with tomorrow being Opening Day of hurricane season, so perhaps we’ll see a fuller response from the Capitol shortly.

In related news, SciGuy gets medieval on the “We’re all gonna die!!!” school of hurricane forecasting. Check it out.

Will Roger or won’t Roger?

Looks like the Astros may be getting close to signing Roger Clemens for the rest of the year.

Astros owner Drayton McLane negotiated deep into Tuesday night with Roger Clemens’ agents, and he appeared on his way to finalize the deal in Houston early this morning.

“We worked on it last night, so that’s why I’m going to Houston right now,” McLane said as he boarded his private airplane in Temple on Wednesday at 7 a.m. “We’ve worked to try to get this thing done.”

McLane said it’s too early to say if a press conference will be called for today to announce the deal, but he remains optimistic.

“Just sit tight,” he said.


“We’ve been close, but we just haven’t gotten a deal done,” McLane said. “Hopefully we’ll get something done today.”

I’m actually a little surprised it’s taken this long, given that Clemens was free to talk to the Astros as of May 1. He has had other suitors, of course, so perhaps it just took awhile for him to make up his mind about where he’d prefer to play.

I was amused last night to hear John Kruk on SportsCenter bemoan the fact that Clemens would get to bypass spring training if he signed now. He seemed to think that there could be an epidemic of players retiring at the end of one year and unretiring during the next season, then signing midyear contracts like the one Clemens may ink. Let’s put aside the question of whether Roger Clemens or John “I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a baseball player” Kruk would be more in need of a team-sponsored conditioning regimen. The point of spring training is to get ready for the season. If Roger Clemens or Curt Schilling (whom Kruk and Harold Reynolds cited as someone who might try the nefarious Retirement Dodge to avoid playing pepper in Fort Lauderdale) or anyone else can show up on May 1 or June 1 in baseball shape and ready to go, who cares if they did their time in Florida? Spring training is a beloved tradition and a cherished ritual, but it’s also just a bunch of games that don’t count in the standings. What matters is those games that do count. How you get ready for them is not as important as being ready.

I’ll update this post when the next announcement comes down the pike.

UPDATE: Clemens signs. Thanks, Patrick!

Kronberg on the special session

It’s nothing I haven’t written before, but I like it when folks such as Harvey Kronberg agree with me, in this case about the real outcome of the special session.

First, [the West Orange-Cove plaintiffs] correctly said that the recently passed legislation was more about reducing school property taxes than it was about creating a stable funding source for public education.

Second, the Legislature permitted school boards a maximum of four cents per $100 they could raise their property taxes. After that, any tax increase would have to be approved by the voters.

That may make some political constituencies happy, but it is an expensive proposition to conduct an election and may be an insurmountable obstacle for many small- and medium-sized school districts.

Finally, the school districts said the state is already telling them how to spend up to 97 cents of each dollar. Additional mandates from the state will eat up the rest.

Trust me. The Legislature can’t help itself. There will be more mandates

The plaintiffs correctly point out the state is treating locally raised property tax dollars as if it were its own money which deprives local school boards of any meaningful spending decisions.

When that three to four cent cushion evaporates over the next few years, school districts will be right back in court fighting the back door statewide property tax the Legislature just passed.

Chris Bell is out there talking about this, too. He’s also right that the expanded reliance on TAKS testing as the one true measurement of all things scholastic is misguided at best and counterproductive at worst. Standardized testing certainly has its place, but no single metric can do it all.

Fundraisers for Khan and Thibaut

We’re definitely getting into election season, because the fundraiser emails are coming fast and furious into my mailbox. Here’s two from this week to be aware of, both scheduled for Thursday. First up, Chad Khan.

Hon. Rodney Ellis/ Hon. Hubert Vo
Hon. Adrian Garcia/ Hon. Ronald Green
Hon. Gordon Quan/ Hon. May Walker
Hon. Jay Aiyer
*list current at time of printing

Invite You to a Fundraising Reception for
Chad Khan
Democrat for State Representative District 126

Thursday, June 1st
Beso Restaurant
2300 Westheimer (near Kirby)
6:00 pm to 8:00pm
Valet Parking Available
To RSVP, fax this form to: (713) 247-9605 or e-mail [email protected]
For more information please call Anna at (713) 247-9600

And next (in the order that they arrived in my inbox, anyway), Kristi Thibaut.

Dear HDF Members:

Please consider joining us for a Fundraising Reception on Thursday, June 1 for Kristi Thibaut at the home of Jeff Steen, 5621 Willers Way (77056) from 6-8 pm. A current member of the HDF Board, Kristi is running for the State Legislature from District 133. She is the ideal candidate for the District and will be a great voice in the Legislature! Please consider stopping by to say hi and support her candidacy.

To RSVP by email, send to [email protected]

Fundraiser for Spring hate crime victim

There is a fundraiser tonight for the family of the 17-year-old high school student from Spring who was viciously assaulted last month (see here, here, and here if you need a reminder of the details of the attack). His family has a lot of medical bills to pay, so if you can attend, please do. Details below:

The family of the hate crime victim is in urgent need of financial support for the drastic medical bills that have accrued. The young victim is still in critical condition, struggling through various medical procedures.

The host committee invites you to participate and donate to this worthy cause

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. (remarks at 6:30 p.m.)
2300 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77098

Corporate donations can be sent directly to the following account:
Galvan Family Trust
Bank of America ACCOUNT NUMBER 005864404494

For more information please call :713.550.7712
Please RSVP: [email protected]

Host committee at time of printing:

State Senator Rodney Ellis State Senator Mario Gallegos Commissioner Sylvia R. García

Rep. Jessica C. Farrar Rep. Ana E. Hernández Councilwoman Carol Alvarado

Hon. Sheila Jackson Lee Bill Sadler Marisol Rodríguez

Adrian Collins Karen Becerra Karen Domino

Olga Rodríguez Graci Garcés Sadie Rucker

Brandon Dudley Claudia Flores Rodas Loi N. Taylor

Max Cárdenas Ángela Mejia Armando Walle

José Jiménez, LULAC Deece Eckstein, People for the American Way

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Rep. Gonzalez’s letter to Accenture

Previously, I noted that US Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D, San Antonio) and three of his colleagues sent a letter to Governor Perry expressing their concerns over the manifest failures of the THHSC privatization effort. At the time, I could not determine who the other signers of that letter were, so I sent an inquiry to Rep. Gonzalez’s office. I got a response today, so here for your reading pleasure is the letter in question:

Page one

Page two

The three other signers were Reps. Al Green, Lloyd Doggett, and Chet Edwards. Now we just need to find out if Governor Perry has a response.

New downtown treatment facility set to open

Another story from the weekend: A new 300-bed drug treatment facility is set to open next week. It’s already in demand.

As of last week, county probation officials said, 170 men and 48 women were waiting.

Officials hope to cut the waiting time and ease jail overcrowding when they open their new 300-bed drug treatment facility, for men on probation, in the renovated Peden Building.

They expect to open a portion of the center – at 600 N. San Jacinto, a stone’s throw from the downtown jail complex – on June 5, with the rest of the building going into use in early July.

The center, one of five county residential treatment programs, is designed to help men complete their probation and become productive members of society.

“Some people don’t need to be incarcerated, but need intensive treatment,” said Kim Valentine, interim director of the county’s Community Supervision and Corrections Department.

State District Judge Caprice Cosper said that jailing substance abusers without helping them overcome their problem does little to prevent them from breaking the law again and clogging the court system.

“The fact is, most judges don’t want people who want treatment sitting in jail,” Cosper said. “As judges, we have a responsibility … to see that people put on probation are given the resources they need to succeed.”

County officials also hope the new center will help relieve the overcrowded jail, where the daily inmate population hovers around 9,000.

Link via Grits, who has some more background info on the Harris County jail overcrowding issue. Like Grits, I think this is an important piece in the puzzle, but by itself will do little to address the long-term problems with Harris County’s jails. It is a step in the right direction, though, so maybe it will serve as an inspiration to the decisionmakers for the future. We’ll see.

When bad technology happens to good people

Via Kimberly, I present to you the 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time. You can mourn the CueCat if you want to, I’m getting an involuntary shudder thinking about PointCast, which our help desk quickly decided it would not support. As someone who makes his living through BlackBerry servers, I suppose I owe them a debt of gratitude for pioneering the concept of push applications, but man, did their implementation suck. As did everything else on that list, so read ’em and weep.

Cactus Records to reopen?

Metroblogging Houston has a heard-from-a-friend report that the late, lamented Cactus Records might be reborn under new ownership at the same location. I say take it with a grain of salt, since a move like this would have (I presume, anyway) made much more sense when the inventory was a part of the deal. But hey, you never know, and if it turns out to be true, then you saw the link here first.

Who owns Astroworld now?

From the weekend, we had this story about the real estate investors who bought the land that Astroworld once inhabited. The biographical stuff doesn’t interest me that much, I was looking for clues about what’s next for that property. Alas, this is all I got:

The deal on the 104 acres is scheduled to close Wednesday, but McIver won’t show his cards until after that happens.

While he mentions the phrase “mixed-use” development when asked about how he envisions the property long term, he said that he’s still evaluating his options.

“I would hope the project would be something the city and the people of Houston would be proud of,” McIver said during a recent interview.

Another unknown is what role he will have in what’s built on this vacant parcel. While McIver said he’s not going to flip the property, most often he has bought and sold land for others to develop, often after making some improvements.

In short, who knows? We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out, and nothing may happen until after the property has been flipped again. Stay tuned.

“Texas Bigfoot” exhibit at UTSA

Taking a “serious” look at Bigfoot in Texas.

Sure, there’s the Bigfoot conference in the East Texas town of Jefferson each October, and that’s where a permanent Bigfoot museum is envisioned.

But here at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures, an exhibit and lecture series called “Bigfoot in Texas?” is lending long-sought credibility to a scientific inquiry that has struggled to gain academic respect.

Viewed by many scholars as a figment of folklore, for others Bigfoot is an elusive creature hiding in the damp woods of East Texas, where scores of sightings have been logged over the years.

Giant footprint casts, photographs, videos and other artifacts are offered as evidence in the exhibit, which opened April 8 and ends July 30. Items and information including eyewitness accounts were provided by the Texas Bigfoot Research Center and other private investigators who pounced on the institute’s invitation to assemble the displays.

Experts say the exhibit is the first backed by a university since a 1978 conference in Canada. The institute’s Bigfoot project director, Willie Mendez, said he got the idea last year as he pondered what to do next after a highly popular event on dinosaurs.

“I love what I do and I want to keep these doors open,” he said. “I thought, ‘What else is out there that would attract people to come in?’ ”

He conferred with UTSA and other academics before enlisting the Dallas-based research center, with its extensive archives and 50 volunteers with assorted expertise.

“These guys have some incredible investigators with them – wildlife biologists, DPS officers. They’re doing a really good job,” Mendez said.

Yet, the institute asserts strict neutrality on the issue of Bigfoot’s existence, as suggested by the question mark in the exhibit’s title.

“We don’t take any stance on it at all. The way the exhibit is set up is – you decide. We present the pros and cons and at the end of the exhibit, we ask you whether you believe. So far the vote has been 2-1 ‘yes,’ ” Mendez said.

If 2/3 of the people viewing this exhibit come away from it thinking that Bigfoot is real, then the exhibit is a failure, scientifically speaking. I’ve written about this before, and I’ll say it again. You don’t have to catch an actual Bigfoot to make me believe. Just find a body. Or a bone. Or hell, a DNA sample. All over North America, there’s evidence of animals that lived thousands and millions of years ago, and you expect me to believe we can’t find one Bigfoot skeleton? Please.

It’s interesting. With the relentless expansion of human development into the traditional habitat of various animals, we see story after story of unfortunate encounters between people and alligators, people and bears, people and mountain lions, all taking place in what was once the exclusive domain of those animals. Where are the stories of human encroachment on Bigfoot territory? Why has no one been forced to kill a Bigfoot to defend family, property, or self? Is their domain so wild and so remote that no exurban real estate speculator has ever set sight on it? Or is there perhaps a more prosaic explanation?

Now, I’ve not been to the UTSA-ITC exhibit, so it’s possible I’m being excessively harsh on them. Maybe they do lay out the facts accurately, and it’s just the visitors who are the failures. Like everything else about this phony phenomenon, however, I rather doubt it. For shame.

Seven fifteen

Congratulations to Barry Bonds for hitting home run # 715 yesterday. Whatever you think of him today, and however you think he covered the last steps on this journey, that’s a hell of a feat for a truly outstanding player. Tim Kurkjian puts some of Bonds’ greatness in perspective.

He slugged .809 in a five-year period: Ruth is the only other player ever to slug .800 in any season. Bonds is the sole member of the 700-home run, 500-steal club; only four players are in the 300-300 club, and no one else is in the 400-400 club. Bonds is the first player since Williams in 1941 and ’42 to lead the major leagues in home runs one year and in batting the next (Bonds did so in 2001 and ’02). And he has done most of this playing his home games at AT&T Park, one of baseball’s most challenging ballparks for a hitter.

Of all his amazing numbers, his strikeouts might be the most amazing. In an era in which former Blue Jays shortstop Manny Lee once struck out 100 times in a season without hitting a home run, and in which Adam Dunn struck out 195 times (72 looking), Bonds rarely strikes out. In 2004, Bonds became the first player since George Brett in 1980 to have more home runs than strikeouts in a 20-homer season — Bonds hit 45 that season, with only 41 strikeouts. The Rangers’ Brad Wilkerson, for instance, struck out 37 times this April.

Bonds has been pitched to more cautiously than any player in history. He is the all-time walks leader; in 2004, he walked 232 times, more than Willie Mays’ two highest season walk totals combined, and 62 more than the Babe’s season high. Bonds has more intentional walks in this decade than anyone has in his career since the statistic became official in 1955. In 2004, he had more intentional walks — 120 — than any team in baseball history. That year, he was walked intentionally eight times with no one on base. In his career, he has been walked intentionally 69 times with first base occupied; the next four active players have 28 combined.

I don’t know if Bonds will make it to 755 or not, but I would not bet against it. After he hit Number 715 yesterday (Olivia and I were watching the Tennessee-Michigan softball game – she kept calling it “baseball”, which was close enough for me – when ESPN cut away to witness the historic blast; we were more fortunate than some radio listeners, even if we never did find out who won the softball game) Harold Reynolds suggested that Bonds would not take the logical step of playing as a DH in the American League next year just for the purpose of surpassing Aaron, because he would not be playing at a certain level of excellence. I’m skeptical of that reasoning because it didn’t stop Pete Rose from continuining his pursuit of Ty Cobb long after he stopped playing at a Pete Rose level. Other factors may enter the picture, but I think if Bonds can play next year, he will. I think he wants to be the home run king, and if he falls short of that goal it won’t be by his choice.

Be that as it may, whatever happens Bonds will forever be remembered for this feat. And don’t weep for The Babe, as his legacy is doing just fine, thank you very much. If and when Bonds hits #756, may Henry Aaron be celebrated as much for establishing the mark for Bonds to reach as Bonds is for reaching it.

In memoriam

From Phillip Martin:

Since the commencement of the War in Afghanistan and the War in Iraq, there have been 3,057 coalition deaths, of which are 2,754 Americans, including 234 native Texans. Below are the names, ages, hometowns, and date of death of those native Texans that have died in the past few years.

The average age of the 234 Texans is 25.8.

We ask that you take time from your holiday schedule to stop, reflect, and pray for those brave men and women who have fought and died while serving their country.

I can’t say it any better than that. I wish I had more to offer to these valiant men and women and their loved ones than my sincere condolences and gratitude. Please read Phillip’s list, and remember their names.

UPDATE: Aaron Pena remembers Edinburg’s fallen sons.

Memorial Day observances

For those of you in and around Killeen, Mary Beth Harrell will be leading a Memorial Day service at the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery in Killeen at 4:30PM. Eye on Williamson has the details.

Here in Houston, the San Jacinto Democratic Veterans Brigade will have their annual observance from 9AM to 5PM at Hermann Park along Fannin, west of Hermann Circle Drive. See Stace for more.

CD22 candidate forum in Fort Bend

Juanita and The Muse report from the latest CD22 candidate forum for Republicans vying to become the Chosen One. This one was in Fort Bend. There’s also podcasts available at Elam’s site starting here if you’ve got the time.

Meanwhile, there may be a joint forum in the near future, around the time that DeLay actually departs. Stay tuned for that.

UPDATE: Bob Dunn adds his report, as does Mike Fjetland.

Noriega getting set to go to the border

State Rep. Rick Noriega, whose imminent deployment to the US-Mexican border as part of President Bush’s plan to bolster the patrol with National Guard troops has been discussed here before, talks some more about what lies ahead for him.

Noriega, D-Houston, had just returned from 14 months in Afghanistan last year when he was recalled to active duty for Hurricane Katrina. Houston Mayor Bill White asked that he serve as “incident commander” at the George R. Brown Convention Center after the Reliant Astrodome overflowed with New Orleans evacuees.

Then, after Hurricane Rita hit southeast Texas and western Louisiana the next month, Noriega was deployed to help set up shelters.

“I just hope and pray that we don’t have a hurricane,” Melissa Noriega said this week. “I don’t think there is anyone who has a better perspective, or who would be a better choice, to deal with what goes on at the border. Rick is experienced and measured and he has a light touch. He will do a great job. I just hope they don’t need him in two places at once.”

Members of the Texas Army National Guard recently completed hurricane preparedness training, Noriega said.

“This brings a significant challenge for the state,” he said. “There are different needs for the Guard in different sectors of the state. Are we getting stretched too thin? I think that’s a legitimate question.

“Gov. Perry is the commander in chief of the Texas Army Guard, and it is his responsibility to say ‘We can do these missions’ (or) ‘We can’t do those missions,’ ” he said.

He added, “If you ask a soldier, the soldier is always going to say, ‘We can do the mission.’ If you ask a politician, he is always going to say ,’I defer to my ground commanders.’

“I just hope that, at the time you have people deployed in the Valley, you don’t have to evacuate people from another part of the state,” Noriega said.

As for his feelings about being sent to the border, Noriega noted that he “wears two hats” as a soldier and a politician. “Putting on my ‘public official’ hat, I think that a lot of this exercise (patrolling the border) is terribly transparent,” he said. “It is political. I will just leave it at that.”

I don’t have anything to add to that right now. My best wishes to Rep. Noriega and his family while he’s away from them serving his country again.

UPDATE: State Rep. Aaron Pena welcomes his colleague to his neighborhood.

The Enron jury

Just filing this for future reference.

Conversations with panelists who sat in judgment of Lay and fellow former Enron executive Jeff Skilling revealed a spiritual group of Texans who went into the jury room teetering back and forth and came out confident the two prominent Houstonians broke the law.


Once the group chose human resources professional Deborah Smith as forewoman, Delgado, principal at Golfcrest Elementary in southeast Houston, said it tried to get organized.

“We went to the indictment and to the jury instructions. We had to understand what our task ahead was, understand what we had to accomplish,” said Delgado, taking a break from checking teachers out of the school for the summer.

Wendy Vaughan, a Katy roofing supplier and fitness company owner, said the group began plowing “diligently through every single count.”

“We were really just ironing out places where there may be reasonable doubt,” said Vaughan, 38.


The prospect of sending another human being to possible lengthy confinement was troubling, some jurors said, but not enough to skew deliberations, said Fernandez, 43.

“With me working in the (court) system, I told them, ‘If any of y’all are thinking about punishment, that’s not our duty at this time. Our duty at this time is guilt and innocence.’ ”

Jurors interviewed generally agreed the evidence and testimony of others ultimately overpowered the testimony of Lay and Skilling.


Multiple jurors named former Enron treasurer Ben Glisan Jr. and former investor relations chief Mark Koenig as the government’s most effective weapons.

Glisan, who calmly pinned Enron’s woes on misdeeds by Lay and Skilling, particularly impressed Delgado.

“He was the only witness who, when he was testifying, looked directly at Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay,” Delgado said. “He never took his eyes off of them.”

Meanwhile, former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow’s past behavior repulsed a few in the jury box.

“When you get your children involved in a scandal,” Delgado said, clearly annoyed as he recalled how Fastow funneled money through his family and allowed his wife to serve a yearlong federal sentence on a tax charge without intervening. “We knew he wasn’t credible one way or the other.”

Lawyers on both sides scored high marks, with Skilling’s defense team led by Daniel Petrocelli drawing raves for his style, organization and approach.

“I think Mr. Petrocelli comes off as very charming. I was very impressed with his presentation,” said Vaughan, who added that Lay defense team leader Mike Ramsey’s absence because of surgery didn’t seem to have an adverse effect.

Fernandez said prosecutors did an “excellent” job.

“I was very impressed by (Enron Task Force leader Sean) Berkowitz, and I was impressed by John Hueston,” she said.

Personally, I get the impression of a group of people who did their best to evaluate the evidence and deliver honest verdicts. Which, frankly, is what I expected from the beginning. I have no opinion about many of the issues that will be raised on appeal, but the question of whether a fair trial was possible before Houston jurors or not is one that I believe should be immediately swatted down.

Congressmen attack Accenture

The Accenture/Texas Health and Human Services outsourcing debacle is getting some attention from Congress.

Declaring it a failed experiment that is harming the neediest in the state, a group of Texas congressmen including Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, a San Antonio Democrat, urged state leaders Wednesday to immediately cease a plan to privatize the screening of welfare applications.

The story does not mention the names of the other Congressmen, and some Google News searching on my part came up dry. So, I called Rep. Gonzalez’s office and left a message with his media guy. I will post the letter when I get it.

Gov. Rick Perry’s spokeswoman, Kathy Walt, did not directly address the congressional request, but noted that Perry has confidence in the privatizing effort and in Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins, the point man for the outsourcing plan.

“The governor certainly believes that privatization is an appropriate cost-saving approach,” Walt said.

You wanna own this loser, Mister Governor, you go right ahead. Please tell me how much money we’ve saved so far and how much of that phony $646 million projection is still on track. Be sure to show all your work.

Actually, I can see one place where we may save a few bucks, now that you mention it:

Texas signed an $899 million contract with Bermuda-based Accenture LLP last year to have the company develop an “integrated eligibility system” that would quickly and accurately determine the social services for which applicants qualify.

But the program has been beset with problems. The HHSC has twice postponed expanding the system outside of a small pilot project in Austin. The contractor’s employee training program has been criticized, and a massive computer foul-up has resulted from an inability of various software programs to communicate with each other.

The program’s critics say the foul-ups have led to people not receiving benefits they were entitled to. Others, they say, have been improperly denied benefits because of misinformation provided by poorly trained Accenture employees.

Not paying the rest of the contract would lead to savings, I must admit. Assuming we don’t get sued, that is. If that’s the basis of Governor Perry’s faith in this program, well, I’ve underestimated the man.

The strongly worded letter was signed by four Texas Democratic congressmen and delivered late Wednesday to Perry, Hawkins and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Hawkins’ spokeswoman said the commission planned to push ahead.

Strayhorn, a Republican running against Perry as an independent in November’s gubernatorial election, applauded the congressmen “for getting involved in this Accenture mess.”

“The governor implemented this plan in haste,” Strayhorn said, terming the privatizing effort a “perfect story of wasted tax dollars, reduced access to services and profiteering at taxpayers’ expense.”

She has undertaken an audit and review of the Accenture contract and promised to provide answers to questions raised by state Democratic lawmakers who oppose privatization.

As you know, I’m no fan of Strayhorn, but that audit of Accenture is the sort of thing for which she was put on this Earth. I daresay she will leave no stone unturned.

Meanwhile, THHSC is also ganging up on Accenture.

A host of computer problems and poor training of contractor employees, resulting in misinformation to applicants and improperly filled out forms, has caused Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins to indefinitely postpone the [privatization rollout].

In addition, Hawkins has canceled the planned furlough of thousands of state workers and relieved the contractor of some of its duties.

It is not clear how much the state is considering penalizing Bermuda-based Accenture LLP, with which it signed a five-year, $889 million contract last summer.

It marks the first time the state has said publicly that its dissatisfaction with the contractor’s performance may draw sanctions.


Anne Heiligenstein, deputy executive commissioner for social services, said the agency is reviewing options for recovering unexpected costs and delays in its Integrated Eligibility system, which determines who qualifies for food stamps and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, among others.

But if the commission decides to impose financial sanctions, it could be months before a specific dollar figure is negotiated.


The rollout delay will likely negate some of the $646 million the commission told the Legislature it expected to save by outsourcing to the company.

That’s assuming there ever was $646 million in savings to be had. I will not concede that point.

Meanwhile, you need to read this email to Anne Heiligenstein from Annie Landmann, the Chief Clerk of the House Committee on Human Services. I agree with HHSC Employee, it’s an insult to the people who are still working there. There’s more from HHSC Survivalist, who reprints a letter from the USDA to Albert Hawkins denying the state retroactive funding “from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for costs incurred by the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS)/Intergrated Eligibility and Enrollment Services (IEES) Project” because “the State chose to move forward without prior approval despite knowledge of the associated requirement and the risk of losing federal financial participation without prior approvals.” And finally, Father John finds common ground with Molly Ivins.

Evacuation authority and other hurricane stuff

Some stuff from Thursday that got lost in the Enron verdict-a-rama:

Task force chief dismayed Perry lacks authority to order evacuations

The chairman of Gov. Rick Perry’s hurricane task force said Tuesday that he was disappointed the Legislature did not grant the governor power to call for mandatory evacuations.

Giving Perry such power, Jack Little said, was one of the top priorities out of the two dozen recommendations made by the task force Perry convened after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The goal of the task force was to determine what went right during the storms, and what should be fixed in time for the coming hurricane season, which begins June 1.

“We just felt like it was important in this state for the governor to be given that authority,” Little said.


The evacuation bill was withdrawn earlier this month, during the waning days of the special legislative session on school finance, by sponsor Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton. Bonnen later explained that he had been told by an aide to the governor that Perry wasn’t going to add it to the Legislature’s agenda.

Bonnen said the bill wasn’t fully understood by some local officials, and that Perry wanted to avoid confusion.

If you weren’t going to have this on the call for the special session from the beginning, then I think it was right to not try to shoehorn it in at the very end. I’m still skeptical about the need to give the Governor’s office more power, but I’m willing to be convinced. I just don’t think I could be convinced by a bill passed in haste, without some public hearings.

Speaking of hurricane stuff, there’s now a plan in place to better handle shelter for folks who have to be evacuated out by state or local authorities.

Under a new statewide evacuation plan, shelters will be set aside for people who evacuate cities such as Galveston in buses provided by emergency officials, Nancy Bass, the state’s mass care emergency coordinator said Wednesday during a Texas Hurricane Conference workshop on evacuation of “special needs” citizens.

Busloads of people from Galveston and Brazoria counties arrived at inland shelters in Huntsville and Katy during the Rita evacuation only to find that other evacuees already had overwhelmed the facilities. Many people on the Galveston bus, including children, elderly, those in wheelchairs and even some of their pets, wandered for hours in the night, finally being taken in by officials in Fairfield and Centerville, far beyond their expected destinations.

This year, evacuee groups organized by local emergency management officials will be sent to shelters reserved for such groups, Bass said. The facilities will not be among those publicized as available for the general public and evacuees who are making their own ways off the coast, Bass said.

Seems reasonable, as long as there’s enough publicized facilities for everyone else.

Finally, Perry is touting his plan for better use of contraflow lanes, and SciGuy gives us the gloomy news that hurricane season is getting longer each year. So be prepared to keep those hatches battened down through at least December this time around.

Radnofsky in Smith County

Nice article on Barbara Radnofsky in the Tyler Morning Telegraph. For an article that’s supposed to be about her, it actually is – her words, her positions on issues, and so forth. Quite a refreshing change from the usual ten-second-summary of her campaign followed by a half dozen paragraphs quoting her opponent’s spokesperson that I see all too often in campaign coverage. Incumbents generally get plenty of ink devoted exclusively to them. It’s only fair – and, not to put too fine a point on it, balanced – to do the same for challengers.

Dewhurst admits it’s not over yet

Via Eye on Williamson, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has admitted that there’s still a few bugs in the school finance system.

In a visit with the Chronicle editorial board this week, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst devoted much of his presentation to touting the improvements to public education to be funded by the new state school finance plan, which includes an expanded business tax and reductions in school property taxes.

Dewhurst acknowledged the predictions of Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and the Legislative Budget Board that the revamped business tax and one-dollar hike in the levy on cigarettes may leave the state confronting shortfalls of nearly $25 billion over five years. According to the lieutenant governor, the plan will consume the current state surplus of $8 billion.

I got a robocall from Dewhurst yesterday in which he breathlessly told me about how the Lege just cut my property taxes by a third, gave teachers a pay raise, and instituted more accountability in schools. Funnily enough, the subject of looming budget shortfalls never came up. Still, as EoW notes, it’s nice to see that the Lite Guv has settled the fuzzy math question.

State officially free of school finance injunction

Over at Kuff’s World, I’ve got the news that the injunction against the state that forced it to deal with the West Orange-Cove school finance lawsuit by June 1 of this year has been lifted. All the relevant documents are posted for your perusal.

The one you really need to look at is the plaintiffs’ response, which does not oppose the state’s motion but which lays out their continuing concerns. Like I said on Wednesday, this is not over yet.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story.

After the verdict

So it’s been a day now since Jeff Skilling and Kenny Boy Lay were convicted on multiple felony counts related to Enron’s collapse and death. As you might expect, the Chron has walltowall coverage of the verdict and reaction to it. I’ll leave that to you to read; there’s not much I can reasonably add to all that, but I will note that it’s all pretty much favorable to the prosecution, as you might expect after they nearly ran the table. For an opposing view, I recommend Tom Kirkendall. I can’t say I generally agree with Tom here, but he’s been the best at presenting an alternative perspective on the matter. Read what he says and come to your own conclusion.

There is one thing I do want to address, and that’s this.

If you want a date to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush Era in American life, you may as well make it this one: May 25, 2006. The Enron jury in Houston didn’t just put the wood to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The jurors took a chain saw to the moral claims of the Texas-based corporate culture that had helped fuel the rise to power of President George W. Bush.

Hogwash. Enron ceased being about Bush in any non-meaningless sense in 2002. That’s when this was supposed to have been a political liability for him. Lord knows I certainly fell for the idea that it would be. (Consider that another item in the Why I Should Never Make Predictions file.) I seem to recall another issue coming to the forefront in 2002 that pushed Enron off the stage and will much more clearly define the “Bush Era” for years to come. Right or wrong, most people decided a long time ago that Enron and Bush were at best tangentially related.

This trial and this verdict were about the misdeeds of two CEOs. I may not have been following the testimony obsessively, but I read enough to know that their politics and former connections weren’t even a subtext. It was about what they did and what they should have done. A nice parallel to the Bush Administration, sure, but that’s about it. TAPPED is right – this is gratuitous piling on to Bush by a previously deferential media now that he’s down and isn’t about to get back up. Not that I object to that per se, but let’s just say that some of this attitude might have been nice a little earlier than now.

Anyway. Houstonist has even more reading, if all those Chron links weren’t enough. And of course, we can’t begin to move on from this until we know what the cats think about the verdicts.

Net Neutrality bill passes out of committee

Good news: the Sensenbrenner-Conyers bill (HR5417, discussed here), passed out of committee on a bipartisan 20-13 vote. Every Democrat who voted, voted in favor, along with six Republicans. I’m especially pleased to see that my rep, Sheila Jackson Lee, did the right thing after being “undecided” as recently as an hour before the vote. Kudos, Rep. Jackson Lee. Now let’s hope the full House and Senate take this sucker across the goal line. Stay tuned.

Enron verdict in

I know I haven’t been following the trials of former Enron honchos Jeff Skilling and Kenny Boy Lay, but apparently the jury is back and we’re about to get some verdicts. So consider this a placeholder for when they’re in, with more to come later.

Hat tip: Progressive Texan.

UPDATE: Guilty, guilty, guilty! While I was waiting for the Chron to reload (it eventually crashed – too much traffic, I guess), Tiffany just called to say she heard it on the radio. Skilling went down on 19 counts, with acquittals on 9 others, while Kenny Boy was convicted on all ten counts six counts from one trial and three more (by Judge Lake) in the other. More when the Chron powers back up.

UPDATE: Finally, here’s the Chron story.

The jury heard 16 weeks of testimony and arguments and made its announcement early on its sixth day of deliberations. The eight-woman, four-man panel found Lay guilty of all six counts. They convicted Skilling on 19 of the 28 counts against him.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake set a sentencing date of Sept. 11.

Lake found Lay guilty of three counts in his personal banking fraud trial.

More from Loren Steffy and Trial Watch, which says Lay was convicted by Judge Lake on four counts of bank fraud, not three. Whatever, it’s guilty all around.

UPDATE: Dwight links to a bunch of bloggers’ reactions to the verdicts. (If you link to me linking to Dwight linking to these other bloggers, we’ll be one step closer to Meta Blog Nirvana.) Also, Loren Steffy has two posts where jurors give their reasons for convicting. Trial Watch reports on Kenny Boy surrendering his passport and posting bond.

More on crippling women’s health care

Eye on Williamson has a followup to the story on how the effort by State Sen. Steve Ogden to divert funds from Planned Parenthood clinics to “first-term providers” has been a disaster in Texas for many women. Check it out.

Perry signs HB2

Didn’t get to this one yesterday, but Governor Perry signed HB2, the most starkly partisan of the five tax bills from the special session, into law.

Gov. Rick Perry signed a law Tuesday assuring that revenue from new, higher state taxes will help pay for school property tax reductions and, he said, promote “greater tax fairness.”

But Democratic challenger Chris Bell said the measure was misdirected and should be repealed.

House Bill 2 is the second of five tax and education-related bills approved during the recent special session to get Perry’s signature. It would spend all the revenue from a new, expanded business tax, a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax and tightened sales tax collections on used cars to help recoup the revenue lost from cutting school operating taxes in most districts by about one-third over the next two years.

After that, two-thirds of the revenue generated by those taxes will pay for further property tax cuts and one-third will be spent on the public schools.


Bell said he generally supports the new business tax. But repeating concerns expressed by Democratic legislators and some educators, he said some of the additional money should be spent to boost school funding, not just to lower property taxes.

“I think that (House Bill 2) is one of the measures that’s going to need to be undone, if we’re going to be able to realize any new revenue to face the problems that we have here in Texas,” he said.

I don’t think there’s any question that HB2 as is will cause problems in the near future. As I said in my post on what the West Orange-Cove plaintiffs will do next, I see only three possible outcomes: Less property tax relief, more taxes somewhere else, or further cuts in spending beyond even the draconian, to-the-bone cuts from 2003. If I were a betting man, I’d put my chips on an increase and/or expansion of the sales tax, because there’s already support for it in the Republican caucus. Watch those straws in the wind carefully next January, because we ought to know fairly early on what changes will be proposed.

From the “People unclear on the concept” files

I believe we have a new definition of “out of touch”: Uncritically citing a Colbert Report segment as support for your position that evil liberal forces are out to get you.

Poor Tom. How the mighty have fallen.

Net neutrality: Jackson Lee “on the fence”

Here’s an email action alert that hit home for me:

Dear Charles,

This is an urgent action alert. Your House member, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, is one of the key votes who have still not declared whether they will support Net Neutrality during an important committee vote Thursday morning.

It’s late in the day, but please help secure a “yes” vote for Net Neutrality. This issue is critical—it’s about whether we save the free and open Internet.

Can you call Rep. Jackson-Lee right away to urge support for Net Neutrality during Thursday morning’s vote?

Here are the numbers – it’s best to call the Washington, D.C. office and then your local office:

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee
Phone: 202-225-3816
District Offices:
Houston: 713-861-4070
Houston: 713-691-4882
Houston: 713-655-0050

Some tips when calling:

1) Urge your representative to support the bipartisan Sensenbrenner-Conyers Net Neutrality bill (HR 5417) in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and then ask if she will support it without amendment. (Saying without amendment is key.)

2) If you get a voicemail option, leave a message. They will get it before Thursday’s vote.

3) If you do call or leave a voicemail tonight, please consider calling again Thursday morning. Every call counts big time.

Help us keep tally of who is voting the right way. Please click here to let us know you called and to share how it went:

Thanks for helping to save the Internet.

–Eli Pariser, Adam Green, Noah T. Winer, and the Civic Action team
Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

I just called from home. The person I spoke to at the DC office (don’t bother with the Houston office, they’ll just tell you to call DC) said Rep. Jackson Lee was “still on the fence” about this. I urged her to support the Sensenbrenner-Conyers bill without amendment. If you’re in CD18, please take a moment to make this call, too. Thanks.

BTW, I’m pleased to see that the Chron got this one right.

If those who provide links to the Internet are allowed to dictate what portions of it the public can access, diversity of content and services will wither as the medium is auctioned to the highest bidder. Congress must guarantee that the Internet retains its status as a vibrant free marketplace of the mind.

Well said. Now please call Rep. Jackson Lee if you’re a constituent of hers and let her know where you stand on this.

UPDATE: More reps to call. Pleaes check and see if any apply to you.

What will the West Orange-Cove plaintiffs do?

Some time before close of business on June 1, the state of Texas will file a motion to lift the injunction imposed by the State Supreme Court ruling in November that declared the property tax system unconstitutional. The plaintiffs in that case will not oppose the motion, meaning that it will be lifted as a matter of course.

That will not be the end of the story, not by a longshot. I talked with one of the attorneys for the West Orange-Cove plaintiffs this week and asked him what they will do from here. The answer is over at Kuff’s World.

Days late and dollars short

Wow. This Chron article on the results of the unofficial Fort Bend County survey of CD22 Republicans may have set a new standard for lame. That’s saying something.

A survey of Republican voters in Fort Bend County showed Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace as the favorite to replace U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the November ballot.

Wallace received 640 votes while state Rep. Charlie Howard got 292. Tom Campbell, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully against DeLay in the March primary, got 216 votes.


“I do not see it as being a scientific survey,” Campbell said. “I’m not sure exactly what it does except to show some indication of people’s preferences.”

Howard said survey respondents could have been influenced because the survey was mailed at about the same time Wallace sent out an announcement to voters that he was running for the post.

“And, there was no deadline on when the survey had to be in. I have had people call me as late as yesterday saying, ‘Hey, I’m filling this out and I am going to put your name down and want to make sure you still want the job,’ ” Howard said.

The survey was mailed last month to Republican primary-voting households in Fort Bend County. The results were tabulated at the party’s executive committee meeting last week.

Yes, last week. Fort Bend Now had the story on Saturday, with a pre-release piece on Friday. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The survey generated 1,325 responses for 29 different candidates, said Fort Bend County Republican Party Chairman Gary Gillen.

“It listed all the folks who were actively being talked about or had suggested that they might be interested in serving in that position,” Gillen said


Former party Chairman Eric Thode sent the survey last month to about 18,000 addresses.

The process for filling the opening starts when Republican Party precinct chairmen from the four counties of the 22nd District each select an elector. The four electors will then vote for a candidate for the November general election.

Some GOP members said it was a waste of money to have the local party send out a survey. Gillen said the survey cost the party about $6,500.

He said the real opposition to the survey came from party members who did not want to see their particular candidate poll poorly.

“The most important thing that comes out this process, in my opinion, for the Republican Party is that the nominee we select be electable,” he said. “And I think this gives the precinct chairs who will be making these decisions a little bit more information than they had before.”

There is so much more to this story than what’s in this limp article that I almost don’t know where to begin. How about these two stories from FBNow, which have much more detail and a long string of comments to give you the full flavor of how controversial this poll was. Then there’s Chris Elam, Juanita, and The Muse. Read all that and compare it to the Chron piece and ask yourself why in the world it took them four whole days to come up with something that unenlightening. Sheesh.


With the untimely passing of Harris County Treasurer Jack Cato on Monday, the local Republicans now need to field a replacement candidate. Lucky for them, they’ve got someone who is uniquely qualified to hold this position.

Two-time mayoral candidate Orlando Sanchez, who unsuccessfully challenged County Treasurer Jack Cato in this year’s Republican primary, is a leading candidate to replace him on the fall ballot, party leaders say.


Republican County Chairman Jared Woodfill and other party leaders said Sanchez will be a formidable candidate because he was endorsed by 256 of 454 precinct chairmen in the primary election against Cato.

“Orlando will be very strong. He has worked with precinct chairs for years,” Woodfill said.

The GOP nominee will be opposed in November by Democrat Richard Garcia, who advocates abolishing the treasurer’s office.

At least two county commissioners also believe it may be time to abolish the obscure office, which has no real power. That would require statewide voter approval of a constitutional amendment. Several other counties, and the state of Texas, have abolished the treasurer’s post.

Yes, who better to run for the most meaningless countywide office than Orlando Sanchez? When the show fits, you’ve gotta wear it.

The treasurer’s post pays $96,000 a year, and its main function is to disburse payments authorized by Commissioners Court.


Commissioners El Franco Lee and Garcia said that with Cato’s death, the county should consider abolishing the treasurer’s post. “This may be the right time,” Garcia said.

To abolish the post, the Legislature would have to put the issue before the statewide electorate, and voters would have to pass a constitutional amendment. The Legislature almost never puts such an issue before voters if a commissioners court and the county treasurer do not request it, Eckels said.

Sanchez opposes abolishing the post.

Of course he opposes it. Who wouldn’t want a job that pays $96K a year to distribute checks? Fiscal conservativism is so 1994.

The state of Texas abolished its office of Treasurer in 1995. What is Harris County waiting for?

New SurveyUSA Governor’s poll

There’s a new SurveyUSA poll on the Texas Governor’s race. Here’s the result:

If the election for Governor of Texas were today, and you were standing in the voting booth right now, who would you vote for? Democrat Chris Bell? Independent “Kinky” Friedman? Republican Rick Perry? Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn? Or some other candidate?

18%     Bell (D)
16%     Friedman (I)
41%     Perry (R)
20%     Strayhorn (I)
1%      Other
3%      Undecided

Basically, that’s a five-point dip for Strayhorn and a three-point gain for Bell, which stands in contrast to the previous poll that showed Strayhorn ahead of Bell by ten. Perry is two points better this time, while Friedman is the same.

1,200 Texas adults were interviewed 5/19/06 – 5/21/06. Of them, 1,021 were Registered Voters. Of them, 605 were judged to be “likely” voters. Crosstabs reflect Likely Voters.

That’s an expectation of 59.3% turnout, which means I have the same problems with this result that I did with the other one. I’d really love to know how SUSA is coming up with this likely voter model. I’m going to have to see if I can find a contact to ask about that.

Interestingly, the first Rasmussen poll showed Strayhorn significantly ahead of Bell, which was then followed by a second result that showed the two of them virtually tied. That’s basically what happened here with SUSA. I don’t know what to make of that – it may just be random weirdness.

What is consistent is Perry’s hovering in the 40% range. If Bell can consolidate Democratic support, that’s a figure he can surpass in November. While I still believe that these polls are not taking into account historical rates of straight-ticket voting, which would guarantee Bell at least 20 to 25% of the final total, it’s clear he has his work cut out for him in this regard. Would someone please mail this result to Ben Barnes?

By the way, I think a poll designed to measure the preferences this year of people who have voted straight ticket for either party in the past would be a great idea. Everyone is guessing what the effect of Strayhorn and Friedman on the ballot will be with people who normally stick with one party. Why not ask them and see what happens? Maybe I’m right and straight-ticket Dems say they’ll do what they always do, and maybe I’m wrong. Why guess when you can measure? C’mon, pollsters, you know you want to do this!

SUSA link via Political Wire.

The Governor’s fuzzy math

Both the Chron and Express News political blogs note that Governor Perry is rolling out an ad campaign to tout property tax relief. In doing so, he’s playing quite a bit fast and loose with the math. From the E-N blog Strange Bedfellows:

Higher home values will produce larger school property tax cuts, which may explain why the governor’s campaign used home sales prices to come up with an average $2,000 tax savings that Gov. Rick Perry touts in new TV and radio spots.

Homes sales prices are much higher than what homes are assessed at for tax purposes.
Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black says Perry used homes sales prices compiled by the Texas A&M Real Estate Center as a way to determine “the average value of the home.”

“If you want to know the best barometer of what homes are worth in the state, it’s what they are selling for,” Black says. “That’s the best number we can come up with.”

But home sales prices have little to do with property taxes – and the average San Antonian should not count on a $2,000 tax cut – not even over the next three years as the small print disclaimer says in the ad.

The average home sales price in San Antonio has ranged between $155,000 and $163,000 during the first three months of 2006, according to A&M’s Real Estate Center.

But Bexar County’s average home value is $117,300, according to the Bexar County Central Appraisal District.
The difference between home sales prices and their value for taxes “is precisely the reason why the governor has been calling for sales price disclosure,” Black says.

Sales price disclosures would produce more accurate information for tax assessments.

That $117K figure is almost identical to the average assessed value for HISD as cited in the Chron post. Let’s review what the Perry camp is up to:

1. They start with a figure – sales price – that is not the basis of how property taxes are assessed, meaning they’re overestimating to begin with.

2. They do not take into account increases in assessed values, which even with tighter appraisal caps in place would reduce their figure further.

3. Property taxes and school taxes are two different beasts. The former may be going down, but the latter very likely isn’t for most people. Those increases are not taken into effect.

4. They assume that the budget math will be in place to allow the full reduction to $1 per of $100 value in 2007, which is probable but by no means assured.

5. They overlook the other tax increases, which will hit smokers the hardest.

6. To top it all off, they round up from their already inflated calculation of $1936 to $2000.

Pretty darned impressive, if you ask me. Gotta give it up for the Governor – he’s never been one to let such muddlesome details get in the way of his story.

Oh, and did you notice the irony in Perry’s call for sales price disclosure? Given the gap between average actual sales price in Bexar County and average tax assessment, requiring the sales price on houses to be disclosed will almost certainly have the effect of causing the initial assessment after a sale to be higher than it would have been otherwise. If you think new home buyers should start out paying more property taxes than they currently do, that’s exactly what you’d want.