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June 1st, 2006:

Old neighborhood, new retail

I just spotted this story about some new retail development in Montrose. It’s exactly two blocks away from where I lived for nearly four years back in the 90s, so I’m interested in it.

To take advantage of the growth of high-density residential and office in the near southwest submarket, Wellington Development Co. has acquired one acre inside the loop for close to $1 million. Wellington’s plans for the plot are to develop about 25,000 sf of retail, with an estimated project value topping out at $3.5 million.

The development tract, assembled in several direct deals with local owners, takes up the corner of Montrose Boulevard and West Dallas Street. “There are very few corners inside the loop that are currently available for development, particularly when you get between River Oaks and Downtown,” says Chris Hotze, partner in Wellington Development. He tells that Wellington is examining more land acquisitions in the area “if it’s available. We’ve had discussions with the next-door neighbor of what we just bought.”

Anyone know if this dude is from the same family as Steven and Bruce Hotze? Because that would suck.

Hotze says the hope is to be moving dirt by first quarter 2007. “This is a strong site for a retail spot,” he says. “The 1.9-million-sf American General Headquarters is right there plus a significant number of new projects, lofts and high-rise condos.”

It’s also a stone’s throw from the not-yet-started new housing at the old Ed Sacks Waste Paper site. There’s a crapload of new condos and townhouses nearby, mostly (gag) from Perry Homes. I drove by the site this evening, so I can verify that it will be on the southeast corner of Montrose and Dallas – southwest is a very busy Chevron station, northwest is American General property, and northeast is that old warehouse plus some new housing units.

This area could certainly use some more retail space. I’ll be interested to see what they get there. The one concern I’d have about this is that navigating Dallas at this intersection is annoying and a bit dangerous, since there is not a protected left turn signal from Dallas onto Montrose. The city is going to have to do something about that sooner or later; before this new traffic magnet comes online would be nice. Making the whole area more pedestrian-friendly, given the sizeable population that’ll be within a few blocks of the intersection, would also be a good idea. I hope the developer will do a little asking around to see what the locals might like before doing like CVS and assuming that a suburban-parking-lot approach is the only way to go.

Link via Houstonist.

Sklar gets kudos for renewable energy pledges

Now this is the kind of thing I like to see. Not only does it show Shane Sklar in a positive light, it portrays Ron Paul’s strength as a liability:

Democratic congressional candidate Shane Sklar’s call for diversifying the nation’s energy supply shows the kind of leadership his incumbent opponent cannot provide for the 14th Congressional District, for Texas or for the nation.

Hailing the opening of the $15 million Galveston Bay Biodiesel facility, which will convert soybeans and other feedstocks into fuel, Sklar emphasized that “renewable energy projects … promote clean air, energy security and economic growth.

“When I am in Congress, I will fight to make sure Texas farmers and entrepreneurs are on the cutting edge of renewable energy technology,” the young Democrat pledged.

Given how longtime U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s narrow reading of the U.S. Constitution restricts what he thinks Congress can do, it is impossible to expect such leadership from “Dr. No.”

Ouch. I’ll reproduce the rest of the editorial beneath the fold. Read the rest, it’s worth it.


Falling clout and the Bush effect

As long as the newspapers keep serving up stories about Republican discontent – about HB3, immigration, budget deficits, whatever – I’ll keep writing posts trying to understand what (if anything) it all means for November. I’ve got two more of these posts over at Kuff’s World, so go check them out or run screaming away from them as the mood strikes you.

One new item to add to the GOP Grumbling files comes from Capitol Annex, where faithful small-government devotee Jeb Hensarling is taking President Bush to the woodshed. Who’s next to take a whack? I don’t know, but I’ll sure enjoy reading it when I find out.

Zone Nguyen

Via Greg comes this nice article about 2004 Harris County judicial candidate Zone Nguyen, who has since relocated to Laredo. Nguyen, who is a reservist in the Army with the JAG corps, spent several months in 2004 at Guantanamo with the Office of Military Commissions, where he worked on the prosecutions of various detainees.

He prepared initial disclosures for three of the four detainees who have been charged at Guantanamo: Australian David Hicks, Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al-Bahlul of Yemen and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi of Sudan.

“It was interesting to be at the forefront of history and to participate in it – everyone wanted to get things going and start trying cases right away,” Nguyen said.

“I feel that that we could have achieved our goal of being full and fair,” he said. “But in the end, we’re just dealing with obstacles that make it seem like we don’t want to try these people.”

Nguyen described the initial work of his legal team as “cutting edge.”

“We were creating new laws, grabbing from U.S. and international laws, to create a true legal system,” he said.

The goal was to create a body of new laws the military could use to prosecute suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens and who did not commit crimes on U.S. soil.

“It was like starting a whole new country, in terms of determining what would be considered right or wrong, and why,” Nguyen said.

The analogy he gives is wanting to create something like the International Criminal Tribunal, which prosecuted the late Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Yugoslavia. But the U.S. military wanted to create a new mechanism they could oversee to try people in the U.S. war on terror.

“The war on terror is real. We need a mechanism for this,” Nguyen said. “The world needs to see trials.”

It’s a good read. I had the opportunity to hear Nguyen speak about his experiences after he returned home in 2004. There’s at least a couple of good magazine articles, if not a book, in there. Houston’s loss is Laredo’s gain.

The Intermodal Transit Center plan

Metro has taken the next step in its proposal to build an Intermodal Transit Center north of I-10 near UH-Downtown.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority board Tuesday voted to have staff negotiate the purchase of nine acres of the railroad’s Hardy Yard, bordered roughly by Main to the west, Elysian to the east, Burnett to the North and Lyons and Conti to the south.

The site is near North Main about a half-mile from the University of Houston-Downtown station at the north end of Metro’s present Red Line, to which it would connect.

Metro spokesman George Smalley said the agency wants to build an “intermodal” terminal to “provide a nucleus” for buses and pedestrians to connect with the Red Line and future light rail or Bus Rapid Transit on the planned North, East End and Southeast lines.

Metro’s long-term plans also call for a commuter rail line from U.S. 290 and northwest Houston that could terminate at the site, he said.


A public meeting on the project is set for 5:30 p.m. June 8 at Ketelsen Elementary School, 600 Quitman.

Background info on the ITC can be found here.

Dallas: Maybe not so full after all

I figured there’d be a followup to yesterday’s story about the city of Dallas balking at the proposal that they house up to 40,000 special needs evacuees from Houston in the event of a coastal hurricane. Today, at least one Dallas official says no, wait, we can do that.

Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher said area officials should take inventory and try to identify new shelter sites to supplement the convention center, Reunion Arena and other public shelters.

“This community will absorb what it needs to,” Keliher said. “If the state thinks it is 40,000, then we need to work with the state and identify where 40,000 people would go. No doubt that we would step up and do what needs to be done.”

I’m not surprised by this development. Yesterday’s story was mostly about the opinion of one person, Kenny Shaw, the director of the city of Dallas’ office of emergency management. It’s not unusual that someone else might differ on this matter. Shaw himself has more to say today:

[Shaw] reiterated Wednesday that the American Red Cross has said it can provide shelters for only 15,000 people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and surrounding counties.

He said the Dallas area wants to help its neighbors, but simply doesn’t have the capacity required in the state’s plan.

“If they’re going to make plans that involve us, they need to ask us to the table and work it out,” Shaw said.

He said he would like to discuss the plan further with the state, but is waiting for Perry’s administration to make the first call.

This gets back to my point yesterday that if the state’s plan is to count on Dallas (or anyplace, for that matter) to provide this kind of assistance, it needs to do more than just assume it will happen. I don’t think I’m stretching here when I say that Shaw’s words sound a lot like “how do you expect us to pay for all this?” to me. What’s Governor Perry’s response?

Kathy Walt, the governor’s spokeswoman, said state officials have already held meetings to inform Dallas officials of the plan. She reiterated that if North Texas can’t handle the influx of people, “there will be contingency plans to turn to other communities for assistance.”

The governor, in Houston on Wednesday to sign the new education funding law, was optimistic, saying that Dallas people are “good and compassionate individuals, and when something happens to their neighbors, they are going to be there to take care of them.”

What’s that saying? “Hope is not a plan”? Something like that. Sorry, but that does not fill me with confidence.

Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack was understanding of Dallas’ initial response, especially after Houston’s post-Katrina experience with rising crime rates and difficulty getting reimbursed by FEMA.

”Anybody who is paying attention to the strain on Houston’s budget or Harris County’s budget related to helping evacuees is aware of severe financial problems,” Radack said.

Dallas Councilman Bill Blaydes didn’t make any promises, but agreed with Keliher’s general message, saying “this city will not shirk its responsibility to humanity.”

If the worst happens, and there’s another hurricane-induced mass evacuation from here, I would certainly expect that Dallas will do what it must to help out. It’s one thing to talk about plans and contingencies and budgets now, and another thing to be presented with a busful of invalids with noplace else to go. Shaw is not wrong to be concerned about these things now, while they can still be discussed in a deliberate manner. Holding meetings to “inform” Dallas what’s expected of it is insufficient. Where’s the plan, Governor Perry?

In related news, Eric Berger writes about the four hurricane lessons we should have learned from last year and whether or not we did, while Houstonist attends the 2006 Houston/Galveston Hurricane Conference.

UPDATE: Polimom notes that Dallas’ attitude contrasts sharply with those of Austin and San Antonio. Let me clarify something here: I do think Dallas has a moral obligation to at least be willing to help people in need like this, and the comments reported yesterday and today fall somewhat short of their acknowledging that obligation. But if, as I’m starting to suspect, they’re really complaining about a lack of direction from the Governor’s office, then I think that’s valid. It seems to me that this is something that can get cleared up in a fairly non-messy fashion if the right people get together and discuss what they need to make this work. If we could get more of that and less using the newsies as meeting coordinators, that’d be swell.

Once again, Hispanic support for Bush in Texas

Sometimes being first is better than being correct. I point you to a tidbit in this story about Republican agida over immigration for an example.

President Bush has been courting Latino voters for years, as both a gubernatorial candidate and presidential candidate, and it has paid dividends. In his 2004 re-election campaign, Bush won 44 percent of Hispanic voters nationwide and nearly 60 percent in Texas.

That “nearly 60 percent” figure came from an AP exit poll released shortly after the 2004 election – the exact number in question was 59. Only problem is, the AP issued a revised statement a day or so couple of weeks later, adjusting that number down to 49 percent. That did still represent an improvement of six points for Bush from 2000, but it’s not nearly as sexy as that 60 was.

Even before that correction, I was very skeptical of that figure, because I just couldn’t make the math work based on a county-by-county breakdown of Bush/Kerry numbers. Turns out also that the 44 percent national figure was also revised downwards, but I’m not as exercised about that one. It’s not so much to ask that a Texas newspaper pay attention to a story like this for more than a day, is it?

UPDATE: I just now realized that the date on that Mystery Pollster piece is December 1, 2004. Though he says he’s a “bit behind” in reporting on the revised exit poll data, it can’t be the case that the revision was within “a day or so” of the original report, so I’ve corrected that statement. I’ve also sent an email to the reporter on this story to point this out, as Kevin suggested. If I hear anything back, I’ll post about it.

UPDATE: I have received a gracious reply from reporter Greg Jefferson, who said that a correction is forthcoming. I will post that URL when I see it.

Lamar Smith was against judges before he was for them

Lamar Smith, then:

Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) today announced the formation of the “House Working Group On Judicial Accountability.” Rep. Smith and Rep. Chabot serve as co-chairmen of the Group.

“This Working Group seeks to accomplish several goals. First, we want to educate Members and the public about judicial abuse. Second, we will try to prevent judicial abuse and third, we will support the nomination process for judges who will not substitute their own policy views for the law,” said Rep. Smith.

“The fact remains that the judiciary is a co-equal branch of the federal government. They are subject to checks and balances. Congress is right to evaluate them when they behave like un-elected super-legislators,” added Smith.

Emphasis mine. And again, Lamar Smith, then:

Three weeks ago, religious conservatives angry about rulings that have limited public displays of religion assembled in Washington for a conference titled, “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith.”

San Antonio’s Republican Rep. Lamar Smith addressed an audience there in place of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was attending the Pope John Paul II’s funeral.

“While judicial activism has existed from the founding of our nation, it seems to have reached a crisis,” Smith told the audience. “Judges routinely overrule the will of the people, invent new ‘rights’ and ignore traditional morality.”

Finally, Lamar Smith, now.

The most pointed opposition to the Judiciary bill came from Texas Republican Lamar Smith, who said he would prefer “to leave these decisions to the courts to work out on a case-by-case basis under the antitrust law.”

The existing bill is far too regulatory and could “put a straitjacket on this important sector of the economy,” Smith warned.

That was on the subject of Net Neutrality, where Smith was one of 13 Republicans to vote against the Sensenbrenner-Conyers bill last week. Isn’t it amazing how much wiser and more statesmanlike judges became for Smith after he lost a legislative battle and needed a backup plan to stop something he didn’t like? A lesser man than he would surely have gotten whiplash from such a turnaround.

Link via the Texas 21 blog. If you want a better choice for CD21, you know where to find it.