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June 15th, 2007:

It’s not about Roy

Thus says Miya:

I am a little surprised that the Morales campaign has decided against being interviewed on TV for a pre-election profile. A little refresher, a profile piece is where we spend about 90 seconds of news time to run down why the two candidates are running for council. It’s basic, there are no “hidden” agendas, and it’s just a chance for candidates to tell viewers who they should vote for. Oh, and it’s basically free TV — which, last time I checked, is something politicians LOVE. However, after repeated attempts to set up an interview before Saturday’s runoff election, campaign manager Justin Jordan finally told me that they don’t have time. Morales is too busy. WHAT? Has anyone been to candidate school lately? When are local politicians ever too busy for local TV? I may not be the most experienced reporter around, but I’ve never had a council candidate who wants to be elected turn down free air time.

The reason for this is simple. This campaign, at least at this point in time, isn’t about Roy. It’s about all those scary people that Jared Woodfill and company are afraid of (and want you to be afraid of, too). There’s a reason the entire runoff strategy has been about fear and loathing. You can’t beat something with nothing. You can only hope to tear it down.

It’s not about Roy. That’s pretty much all there is to it. When you view it that way, it makes perfect sense.

Okay, so this is the antepenultimate time I’ll run that picture. As soon as I figure out what comes before “antepenultimate”, I’ll apologize for the goof.

Right message, wrong messenger

I said yesterday that I believe a special master is needed to oversee the review of the many questionable convictions brought about by the problems with the HPD crime lab. I think it would be a good idea for someone with some gravitas on this issue to speak out about the need for a special master, and why it would be good for everyone, the police and District Attorney’s office included. I don’t, however, think this is the best person for that job.

“It looks like to me that they’re trying to sweep some of their final problems under the rug,” state Rep. Kevin Bailey, chairman of the House Committee on Urban Affairs said Thursday.

[…]

Bailey, D-Houston, said a special master is needed to examine the cases because the local criminal justice system should not investigate itself.

“That’s why so many people don’t have a lot of confidence in the judicial system in Harris County,” Bailey said. “Not just because of the problems of the past, but (criminal justice officials) continue to not get it, and they continue to appear to ignore the facts and the proper way to resolve these cases.”

While serving as chairman of General Investigating and Ethics during the 2003 and 2005 sessions of the Legislature, Bailey held hearings into the crime lab scandal, which was uncovered in 2002. He remains a member of that committee in addition to chairing Urban Affairs. Bailey was also instrumental in the passage of legislation requiring accreditation for all crime labs in the state that perform DNA testing.

Although he has not discussed the the final report with other state leaders, Bailey said he envisions some form of joint pressure by his Urban Affairs committee and the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics.

“Urban Affairs has authority over the cities, so we could do it alone,” Bailey said, “but the General Investigating committee has much greater subpoena power.”

If Rep. Bailey had made a peep when anti-clean air bill SB1317, which its own author said was “about city sovreignity”, was moved out of Urban Affairs and into Environmental Regs so that it would be ensured easy passage, then I might take his insistence of the might of Urban Affairs more seriously. I agree with what Rep. Bailey is saying here. I’m just not impressed by the fact that he said it. If and when someone else gets on this train, then we can talk.

Mikal Watts talks

RG Ratcliffe had a conversation with Senate hopeful Mikal Watts, and it makes for some good and thoughtful reading. I am, obviously, not as impressed as some at Watts’ self-proclaimed “pro-life” stance, though I’ll give him credit for being consistent about it in a way that’s rarely seen or heard from Republicans. This is a core-belief issue for me, and I doubt I would ever vote for a “pro-life” candidate in a contested primary when there’s a viable alternative available. But Watts’ statement on the issue does make me feel better about the possibility of him being the candidate in November. That’s no small thing.

Another good sign: Watts seems to do pretty well by the Hackett test. I wish Ratcliffe had asked him more specifically about lessons learned from the Tony Sanchez debacle of 2002, because I think it’s pretty clear that running a “I’m like the Republican, but better” campaign isn’t going to cut it. It looks like Watts will avoid this trap, but I’d still have liked to hear it more explictly.

I really am excited about the prospect of a high-profile, well-fought primary for the right to take on John Cornyn. I want Watts to be a good candidate who’ll get his supporters as fired up about supporting him as I know my preferred candidate will be with his supporters. I want this to be about the excitement that comes from choosing between two good options. I want the folks whose candidate winds up falling short to see their person embrace and wholeheartedly endorse the winner, so that we all feel passionate about moving the battle to the general election. That’s what a contested primary should be about, and that’s what I want this one to be about. As of today, at least, I feel pretty good about the possibility of getting it.

First Houston, now Conroe

As we know, the city of Houston struck a deal with The Woodlands a few months ago to take any future annexations off the table. That deal was later codified into legislation, which has since been signed into law. One piece of that legislation also gave The Woodlands the ability to come to a similar arrangement with Conroe, which has had its own plans for a piece of The Woodlands east of I-45. As of yesterday, that too is now off the table thanks to an agreement between The Woodlands and Conroe.

In December 2005, Conroe officials announced the city would annex Municipal Utility District No. 39, an 858-acre area that includes the Harper’s Landing neighborhood of about 1,400 homes. The announcement spurred protests from residents who said they did not want to be a part of the city.

As part of the agreement, Conroe will end its proceedings to annex District 39 and release it from the city’s boundaries in 2014.

In return, The Woodlands will put $320,000 into a regional fund to be used for mutually beneficial projects agreed to by leaders of both communities. The fund will be handled by The Woodlands’ Town Center Improvement District, a special management district.

The district will then make continuing payments to the fund using 1/16 of sales tax and tax income from the utility district.

The regional participation agreement will not have a term limit.

The deal brokered over the past several months is similar to the regional participation agreement recently reached between The Woodlands and Houston, enabling the community to become a city in the future without the possibility of annexation.

”I think this is a groundbreaking step toward cooperation between The Woodlands and Conroe, and the agreement sets the foundation for that,” said Joel Deretchin, president of The Woodlands Association.

I guess the only issue left is when does The Woodlands become the city of The Woodlands. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects the way The Woodlands does its business when that happens.

Still more red light cameras coming

With Governor Perry expected to sign the bill to authorize red light cameras (SB1119), expect to see them pop up in places outside of Houston soon, if they’re not already there.

Montgomery County Commissioners Court approved red-light cameras in The Woodlands in April, and the devices were installed at two intersections in May. In the first two weeks of operation the cameras caught more than 600 violators, Precinct 3 Commissioner Ed Chance said. In June, the cameras have recorded 336 more, he said.

Chance, whose precinct includes most of The Woodlands, said cameras were installed at the intersections to gather information about traffic movement in the master-planned community and ”to show state legislators the severe problem with people violating traffic lights.”

[…]

Elsewhere, officials in Sugar Land and Humble are studying possible sites for cameras. Humble’s cameras could be working by August, and Sugar Land’s police chief said the city’s system should be ready by September.

Both cities, Sugar Land in Fort Bend County and Humble on the northern fringe of Harris County, are crossed by major highways carrying heavy traffic.

Humble City Manager Darrell Boeske said cameras probably will be installed at five intersections there. He said a likely spot for a camera is at FM 1960 and the U.S. 59 service road.

“About 90 percent of our accidents happen on those two streets,” Boeske said.

Sugar Land officials are still determining where the cameras will be installed.

Three highways, U.S. 90A, U.S. 59 and Texas 6, cross the city.

Police Chief Steve Griffith said a probable spot for one camera would be at U.S. 59 and Texas 6, in the heart of the city’s business district.

Like ’em or not, they appear to be here to stay, even with a sunset clause of sorts in the final bill. Look for the signs, and be ready when the light turns yellow.

Keeping an eye on the River Oaks Shopping Center

Miya Shay has been doing a nice job keeping track of what’s going on with the River Oaks Shopping Center and the imminent demolition of its north half. She speculated about the effect of the recently-approved tax abatements for historic structures, and got someone from Weingarten to answer a question about it. She posted a letter from Historic Houston warning about a rumored plan to demolish the shopping center without going through the proper permitting process. And finally, she’s got some photos of the empty storefronts, as their last days tick by. Check it all out.