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December 1st, 2007:

Endorsement watch: Runoff edition

Almost missed this today: The Chron makes its endorsements for the four runoff elections.

Jolanda Jones, Houston City Council At-Large Position 5 — Jones is a family and criminal law attorney who helped bring attention to shortcomings in the Houston Police Department’s crime lab. She has extensive community service experience and pledges to work for safer neighborhoods, increased affordable housing opportunities and a vibrant Houston economy.

Wanda Adams, Houston City Council District D — Adams is an employee in the Houston Solid Waste Department’s Recycling Go Green Initiative. Among her priorities on council will be ensuring the district has good streets and sidewalks, developing public/private partnerships to spur economic development and supporting environmental quality initiatives.

Michael Sullivan, Houston City Council District E — Sullivan is a business owner with experience in city government as the community liaison for Houston City Councilman Michael Berry. He is also a past Humble Independent School District trustee who is active in various business development and community service groups. His goals on council include holding the city to high standards of fiscal responsibility and open constituent communication.

Carol Mims Galloway, Houston Independent School District, District II — Galloway is a former city councilwoman and president of the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She held the school board position she now seeks from 1992-99. Her opponent is Michael Yarbrough, also a former council member, who the Harris County Appraisal District contends wrongly accepted property tax discounts for years.

The first two are repeats from the November election, the second two are new, as the Chron had previously touted Wil Williams in District E and Reginald Adams in HISD II. I’m not exactly sure why they couldn’t have this done before the start of early voting, but whatever. And it’s always interesting to note, as in the case of the Galloway endorsement, when the Chron feels the need to call out the other candidate for something he or she had done. In this case, I can’t say I’m surprised. But it’s still interesting.

RIP, Evel Knievel

And another icon of my childhood has passed away.

Evel Knievel, the red-white-and-blue-spangled motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho’s Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died [Friday]. He was 69.


Immortalized in the Washington’s Smithsonian Institution as “America’s Legendary Daredevil,” Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.

Though Knievel dropped off the pop culture radar in the ’80s, the image of the high-flying motorcyclist clad in patriotic, star-studded colors was never erased from public consciousness. He always had fans and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

His death came just two days after it was announced that he and rapper Kanye West had settled a federal lawsuit over the use of Knievel’s trademarked image in a popular West music video.


He began his daredevil career in 1965 when he formed a troupe called Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Daredevils, a touring show in which he performed stunts such as riding through fire walls, jumping over live rattlesnakes and mountain lions and being towed at 200 mph behind dragster race cars.

In 1966 he began touring alone, barnstorming the West and doing everything from driving the trucks, erecting the ramps and promoting the shows. In the beginning he charged $500 for a jump over two cars parked between ramps.

He steadily increased the length of the jumps until, on New Year’s Day 1968, he was nearly killed when he jumped 151 feet across the fountains in front of Caesar’s Palace. He cleared the fountains but the crash landing put him in the hospital in a coma for a month.

His son, Robbie, successfully completed the same jump in April 1989.

In the years after the Caesar’s crash, the fee for Evel’s performances increased to $1 million for his jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in London — the crash landing broke his pelvis — to more than $6 million for the Sept. 8, 1974, attempt to clear the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in a rocket-powered “Skycycle.” The money came from ticket sales, paid sponsors and ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”

The parachute malfunctioned and deployed after takeoff. Strong winds blew the cycle into the canyon, landing him close to the swirling river below.

On Oct. 25, 1975, he jumped 14 Greyhound buses at Kings Island in Ohio.

Knievel decided to retire after a jump in the winter of 1976 in which he was again seriously injured. He suffered a concussion and broke both arms in an attempt to jump a tank full of live sharks in the Chicago Amphitheater. He continued to do smaller exhibitions around the country with his son, Robbie.

I’m thinking the only appropriate sendoff for him would require his hearse to jump over a pit of crocodiles or something. The standard, boring funeral procession just won’t do. It’s just a shame Howard Cosell isn’t around to do the play by play.

PDiddie has more. Rest in peace, Evel Knievel.

Statement from Jolanda Jones on At Large #5 runoff

(I have asked the candidates involved in next Saturday’s runoff to send me a brief statement saying why people should vote for them in that runoff. I will run the responses for candidates for each race concurrently. This statement is from Jolanda Jones in At Large #5.)

I am running for Houston City Council because I believe in a Houston where a kid like me can grow up to be a successful lawyer and businesswoman, a homeowner, a candidate for City Council and most importantly, a mom who can afford to give her son the opportunity for a bright future.

My name is Jolanda Jones, and I would be honored by your support. I’m a criminal law and family law attorney, and was instrumental in exposing the serious problems at the HPD Crime Lab.

I currently serve on the LARA board, where I’m working to redevelop abandoned properties with affordable housing. I was recently re-confirmed by a unanimous vote of City Council.

I grew up very poor in the Third Ward – but I’m one of the lucky ones.

  • I had access to good public schools, after-school sports and other activities, and a strong community.
  • And I used that opportunity to become a Rhodes Scholar nominee and Female Athlete of the Century at the University of Houston.
  • As an athlete and scholar I could have attended many of the nation’s most distinguished universities on full scholarship – but I chose to go to the University of Houston because I love this town. I still love this town and I’m running for City Council to make it better.

While I’m interested in working on many issues, my primary areas of focus are public safety, affordable housing, quality of life – especially as it relates to economic development – and improving educational opportunities for youth.

  • I want to see our police force up to full strength, more coordination between law enforcement agencies and more accountability for our public safety tax dollars.
  • I have strong views on improving our affordable housing programs and protecting our city’s long-term investment in affordable housing.
  • I believe that improving our quality of life is the best way to make Houston attractive for businesses to start here, stay here, or move here.
  • And I believe every Houston leader should make a commitment to giving our kids the same opportunity to succeed that I had – a good public education and access to positive and productive after-school activities.

Thank you for considering my candidacy.

Thank you, Jolanda Jones. Please click here for a statement from Joe Trevino.

Statement from Joe Trevino on At Large #5 runoff

(I have asked the candidates involved in next Saturday’s runoff to send me a brief statement saying why people should vote for them in that runoff. I will run the responses for candidates for each race concurrently. This statement is from Joe Trevino in At Large #5.)

As a public servant for over 30 years, I have left my mark on Houston. If anything, I hope my legacy in that regard is a positive one. I am now in a position to serve Houston’s expansive and diverse community in a new capacity. Over the years I gained extensive experience in prioritizing tax dollars, while also ensuring that the critical needs of constituents were met. I believe that my experience as a public school administrator will be useful on council. I am someone who has ground-level management experience as to the needs of the overall community and am uniquely qualified to serve all Houstonians. While Ms. Jones is also a very good candidate, I think that Houston would be better served with someone with my managerial background.

Thank you, Joe Trevino. Please click here for a statement from Jolanda Jones.

GOP will use paper ballots in Wharton County

Looks like we’ve got our first successful rebellion against electronic voting machines in Texas.

On whether computerized electronic voting machines are reliable and secure, the Republican leadership in Wharton County votes “no.”

Precinct chairmen in the county southwest of Houston decided this week to return to using paper ballots in the March GOP primary for president, congressional seats and local races. About 3,000 people are expected to vote in the primary.

The move is a rejection of the touch-screen technology that Wharton County rolled out for the statewide election a few weeks ago. In Texas, the Democratic and Republican parties conduct their own primaries in individual counties, and the election process is overseen by the secretary of state.

In the statewide election, businessman Jim Welch tried to vote at a fire station in Boling. Some of his votes on state constitutional amendments changed before his eyes, he said, and when election officials acknowledged the problem and offered to let him start over, he concluded the equipment was unreliable and declined. Welch later complained to county and party officials.

County election administrator Judy Owens confirmed that a voting machine malfunctioned because of a calibration problem with the touch function, but she emphasized that the machine was taken out of service immediately and that Welch was given a chance to vote accurately on another machine.

“Occasionally if someone press, press, presses a particular button, it can cause problems. We had someone go out and fix things,” she told the Wharton Journal-Spectator on Election Day.

County commissioners are sticking with the iVotronic electronic voting system, which is used widely in Texas and manufactured by Election Systems & Software of Omaha. The company says extensive testing proves its system is accurate and secure and that the machines need to be calibrated in preparation for every Election Day.

But Welch’s complaint alarmed Debra Medina, chairwoman of the Wharton County Republican Party.

After checking with county officials and a nationally recognized electronic voting critic, and reading about ES&S’s legal dispute with voting jurisdictions in California about its equipment, she sought a change. The dozen or so precinct chairmen, from among the county’s 22 precincts, agreed this week to avoid using the new equipment.

Without an explanation for why a machine lost its correct calibration on Nov. 6, Medina said, there is no guarantee that a more serious disruption won’t take place in March.

“I don’t want to be on the front page of any newspaper having to say our vote (was) unreliable,” she said. “We work very hard to get voters to the polls, and if we can’t rely on the vote to be the intent of the people, what are we doing?”

Medina said she is looking into using ballot cards that, like standardized test sheets, are marked with dark circles and then tabulated by equipment called optical scanners. Or the party could revert to using old-fashioned paper voting forms counted by hand.

Count me as a fan of optical scanners, which as I understand it have a very low error rate. I think a better idea than ballot cards is to use an electronic interface like what we have now, and have that spit out a paper ballot for the scanners to count. I’d also be happy with the e-voting machines now if we had paper ballots to act as a backup in the event of a disastrous loss of data or just a controversial situation like the phantom vote problem that the Tarrant County GOP faced in last March’s primary, using these same ES&S machines. Going back to hand counts is in my opinion a step way too far. Save that for recounts – let’s improve the technology we have now for the regular business.

It’s interesting that a county Republican party is the first to make this break. Voting machine concerns have mostly been the province of Democrats. That does not seem to be the case in Wharton, however.

“I kind of like the (iVotronic) machines,” said [Wharton County Democratic Party] chairman Roger Benavides. “They had one problem, and they corrected the one problem, that’s all it was.”

“Even if you change it, you still have to put up with (the iVotronic equipment) in the next election,” he said. “You might as well get the people used to using them.”

I can already hear the cries of anguish by some of my colleagues today.