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June 13th, 2006:

On to Omaha!

You know, five trips to the College World Series in the last ten years really doesn’t suck. And of course, the last time the Owls made it to Omaha, coincidentally also after having been the #1-ranked team for a good portion of the season, they came home as national champions. I’ll take those odds. Go Rice!

UPDATE: Here’s some stats for the eight CWS teams for you.

The Northside Intermodal Transit Center proposal

The public meeting for the proposed Intermodal Transit Center north of downtown was this weekend. Here’s what Metro unveiled.

The terminal would be a half-mile north of the University of Houston-Downtown, where the existing MetroRail Red Line now ends, on a site bounded by Naylor, Burnett and San Jacinto streets and White Oak Bayou.

The centerpiece is a 400-foot-wide circular plaza, tentatively designated “the Great Space,” where transit riders would disembark into a setting with greenery, an open-air market and other amenities.

[Metro’s director of architecture and urban design Jim] Gast showed slides of Jackson Square in New Orleans, Rome’s Spanish Steps and DuPont Circle in Washington D.C. as examples of what such plazas can mean to a city.

As a transit hub, he said, the terminal would become the new north end of the Red Line, whose tracks would rise about 30 feet onto the plaza.

To continue north, riders would descend to street level and transfer to the planned North Line, whose buses on guideways would leave the terminal on its west side and curve north to North Main.

If ridership grows enough to justify converting the North Line to light rail, its tracks would enter the terminal complex directly on North Main and connect to the Red Line, Gast said.

Metro’s planned East End and Southeast guided rapid transit lines, which would also be converted to light rail as ridership increased, would enter the terminal complex from the east.

Eventual commuter rail lines from U.S. 290 and the Katy Freeway would enter from the west. Union Pacific would also continue to operate freight tracks there.

For buses, Gast said, there would be four bays initially and room for another 10.

North of the plaza would be the rail and bus terminals – enclosed structures with restrooms – and to the south would be parking lots that Gast said could hold 2,000 vehicles.

Drivers heading out of downtown on North Main could take any of three options: a bypass for through traffic on the terminal’s west side; a pickup-and-dropoff route on its east side via Naylor, San Jacinto and Burnett; or nearby San Jacinto, which would be improved to handle more traffic.

So the existing light rail line would be extended north of UH-Downtown to this terminus, where it would connect to the proposed BRTs (now apparently also called “guided rapid transit lines”). I don’t see anything here about space for relocating the Midtown Greyhound bus terminal. I’m guessing that would ratchet up the opposition to this plan considerably – judging from the article, right now there’s not much animus, just the usual concerns from local businessfolk who might be affected by construction.

There’s also no mention of a time frame in the story for this; going back to my archives, I see we’re talking 2011 or 2012. That’s assuming all goes more or less as planned, of course. I figure the fight over the Universities rail line is distracting some attention from this project, so perhaps we’ll see more of that once a location for that line has been determined. Or maybe not – this may wind up being much less controversial. Hard to see how it could be more, after all.

DeLay to be investigated for voter fraud in Virginia?

From the DC Political Report, via The Muse:

EXCLUSIVE: Tom DeLay To Be Investigated for Voter Fraud: D.C.’s Political Report has learned that a challenge has been filed with the City of Alexandria’s Voter Registrar alleging that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-TX) voter registration in Virginia was illegal. The challenge alleges that DeLay lacked domiciliary intent when he registered to vote and that he maintains legal residence in Texas. Similar to the legal action filed by the Texas Democratic Party, the challenge notes that DeLay is still registered to vote in Texas, has a Texas driver’s licence and is receiving a Texas homestead exemption. Under Virginia law, DeLay has the burden of proof that he has changed his domicile. His Texas domicile is presumed to continue until he has a residence in the Virginia and the intention to remain there. DeLay’s continuing presence in the Lone Star state is presumptive proof that he remains a Texas citizen.

Correction: In an earlier edition D.C.’s Political Report reported that the investigation would be conducted by Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel (D-VA). In fact the investigation will be conducted by Voter Registrar. The Commonwealth Attorney’s office will only get involved if there is evidence of criminal intent.

Emphasis mine. As I understand it, Texas’ law is pretty loose regarding one’s residence for voting purposes. I am neither a lawyer nor a Virginian, but the way this is written it sounds to me like perhaps things are a bit more stringent in the Commonwealth. I don’t seriously expect this to amount to anything, but until there’s more detail and analysis by someone who is familiar with these matters, who knows? Stay tuned.

Bell attacks Strayhorn

Coming out of the Dem convention, Chris Bell is taking aim at Carole Keeton Strayhorn for her many about-faces on different issues, such as CHIP. The following is from an article reprinted from the Rio Grande Guardian.

When Gov. Rick Perry has a bad idea, time and again Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn backs him up. That was the message Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell delivered to Rio Grande Valley reporters outside a Medicaid Eligibility Center earmarked for closure under a Texas Human Services privatization plan initially recommended by Strayhorn.

Bell said he was calling his border swing the Carole Strayhorn Reality Tour. He said he planned to visit Del Rio Monday afternoon and El Paso on Tuesday.

“The bottom line is this,” Bell said. “When Rick Perry has a bad idea, Carole Strayhorn has backed him up time after time after time, or vice versa. Rick Perry and Carole Strayhorn are two sleeves of the same empty suit.”

“While Mrs. Strayhorn has come to rival Mary Lou Ratton with her flip-flopping abilities, changing her positions on numerous issues and trying to trick Democrats into believing she’s our friend, facts paint a very different picture indeed,” Bell said.

Strayhorn is now running for governor as an Independent. She has blasted Perry for a drop in the enrollment of Texas children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. “It’s time to put children first,” Strayhorn has said. “It’s unconscionable that we’re dead last in percent of children on health insurance.”

Bell pointed out that in the Office of the Comptroller’s e-Texas report of April, 2003, Strayhorn recommended reducing the eligibility period for the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program from 12 to six months for the 2004-05 biennium.

“This resulted in the $231 million so-called savings that Rick Perry and Carol Strayhorn were originally so proud of,” Bell said. “It also resulted in over 200,000 kids losing health insurance.”

The case against Strayhorn’s Grandma-come-lately wooing of Democratic and progressive voters is pretty clear. Dave McNeely lays it out.

# Redistricting – As a member of the Legislative Redistricting Board, Strayhorn in 2001 cast the deciding vote to re-draw Texas House districts to reward Republicans and punish Democrats. In 2002, with corporate campaign funding help engineered by then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the GOP took over the House, installed Tom Craddick of Midland as Speaker, and with direction from DeLay and help from Perry, re-drew Texas’ congressional district lines to kill off half a dozen Democrats with decades of seniority.

# Vouchers – Got a loan of almost $1 million from voucher supporter James Leininger in her 1998 comptroller campaign. But earlier this year, Strayhorn vowed to ”veto any type of legislation that puts a single dollar into any voucher program.”

# Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – Called for cutting CHIP spending in 2003, by requiring registration every six instead of 12 months. But in 2004, she blamed Perry’s tight-fistedness for a large drop in enrollment. ”It’s time to put children first,” Strayhorn said. ”It’s unconscionable that we’re dead last in percent of children on health insurance.”

# Toll Roads – Strayhorn called for more toll roads as part of a Texas Performance Review report in 2001 on the Texas Department of Transportation. But since toll roads have become a focus of Perry’s road-building program, Strayhorn said in January that she is ”dead set against toll roads.”

# Tuition Deregulation – Strayhorn called for it in 2003, but nine months later said a student’s tuition rate should be frozen at what they paid as a freshman.

# TAKS Test – She endorsed grade advancement based on testing in 1998. But a few weeks ago, she said she would ”scale back the importance of the state’s standardized TAKS test.” Democratic standard-bearer Bell will be telling Democrats in Fort Worth this weekend, and voters around the state until November, that he may not be the perfect candidate against Perry, but he comes a lot closer than Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Thanks to Eye on Williamson for the link. I wonder sometimes if people like Ben Barnes and Tony Sanchez think about these things.

The only concern I have about this is that I’m not convinced it’s Strayhorn who’s currently the biggest poacher of Democratic votes. Given that Rick Perry’s numbers are consistently around 40% and that Strayhorn is around 20 in most polls, you’d think that would imply that at least half, maybe even three-quarters, of her total is coming out of Perry’s hide. It’s Kinky Friedman and his 10-15% that worried me more, even if I think his numbers are inflated by unlikely turnout projections. I understand the rationale for going after Strayhorn – the first mountain to climb is still the persistent perception that Strayhorn is the frontrunner among the challengers, and the best way to do that is to knock her down in the polls. I’m just saying that there’s still work to be done after that.

Elsewhere, Bell’s participation at a stem cell summit drew hearty praise and a call for support from a fellow attendee. And finally, there’s links to more media coverage of Bell at the Dem convention here.

Convention video

Vince has links to videos of all the convention addresses. Since I missed most of these, I’ll have to go back and watch a few. One that I have already watched is this one by all of the newer State House Democrats. It’s a very positive message, and nicely put together. Check it out.

Blue notes from Dot

Dot Nelson-Turnier is the latest blogging candidate among the State Rep contenders, as she debuts Blue Notes from Dot. I’ve got a lot of respect for Dot for being the first Democrat since at least 1990 to run for the HD150 seat and for challenging the infamous Debbie “Pit of Hell” Riddle. Check it out, and get to know Dot better.

Revisiting the James Byrd hate crime law

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, the author of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Act of 2001, looks at the law’s effect and concludes it could and should do more.

Texas prosecutors rarely use the hate crimes statute. Since the hate crimes law was passed in 2001, 1,617 hate crimes have been documented in Texas – 363 in Harris County – and only seven have been prosecuted under the hate crimes act.

Why don’t prosecutors want to apply this law? It’s not because they don’t want the maximum punishment for these sinister criminals. My friends in law enforcement tell me they won’t apply the law because it is not tough enough and that is why, come this next legislative session, I am ready to strengthen the law so it will get used effectively. I am proposing the following changes next session: creating a hate crimes registry so that the public has record of hate crimes perpetrators; raising the minimum punishment for hate crimes convictions; imposing a penalty or fine as a term of punishment; imposing cultural sensitivity training for those convicted of a hate crime; and allowing the victim of a hate crime to have their identity protected.

I confess, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of hate crime legislation. I’m a believer in allowing judges to use their judgment when it comes to imposing sentences. Legislative restrictions on judicial latitude, especially (but by no means solely) in drug cases, are a major contributor to overincarceration and the increasingly expensive burden of an aging inmate population. I’m leery about anything that might add to this.

Having said that, some cases do call out for assurance against undersentencing. I believe we can do a reasonable job of defining those cases and ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to protect the public from those who present extra dangers to it. I support the proposals Sen. Ellis outlines here, in particular the provisions to track hate crimes, and to keep the victims’ identities secret. I look forward to seeing what the final version of his bill looks like and having a productive discussion about it.