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December 3rd, 2007:

Filing news: Murphey and McDavid

I’ll be doing quick hit posts like this as news of various candidate announcements comes my way…

I received a press release from a fellow named Sam Murphey, who is running as a Democrat in HD55, the open seat that had belonged to Diane White Delisi.

Today I am here to announce my candidacy for State Representative, District 55. We are pleased and proud that you all are here to show your support. As someone who has spent 38 years in service to our country both in and out of uniform and 44 years as a resident of Bell County, I care deeply about Texas and the Bell County in which our children and grandchildren will grow up, marry, have families of their own, and make their future. We all want to see a Texas where our children can grow up healthy, get a good education in our public schools, and have a fair opportunity to attend an affordable Texas college or university. We should expect a Texas where working families aren’t drowned by sky high utility bills, over priced insurance rates, expensive toll roads and high taxes.

Our state government faces serious challenges in the years ahead in many areas. Transportation, health care, education and agriculture are just a few. We need positive change in Austin to solve these problems, and it will take new leadership to make that change happen. We need to end the partisan bickering that now prevails in Austin and put Texas families first, not special interests.

Today I am here because I believe I am the best qualified candidate in this race to move Texas toward these goals. I have defended America in uniform during times of peace and war at lonely outposts around the globe. I have worked hard for the families of Bell County and Fort Hood as a senior member of Congressman Chet Edwards’ staff. And I have helped to grow and promote business and economic development in Bell County through leadership in area Chambers of Commerce. This experience, along with my proven leadership ability, sets me apart from others in this race.

Together we can help end the divisive partisanship that has raged in Austin for the past several years and bring back the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship that has traditionally been the hallmark of the Texas legislature. Together we can find solutions to the difficult problems facing our State and our County; quality education for our children, safe and accessible roads for personal travel and vital commerce, health care for all our citizens, and agriculture to maintain plentiful and affordable food for our families’ dinner tables.

Today is the first day of our campaign effort. This election is about who has the experience and proven record of leadership to get real results for Bell County in Austin. Over the coming months, our campaign will work hard to earn the support of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents across Bell County.

My name is Sam Murphey. Today it is my honor to file my application for State Representative, District 55 and formally place my name on the ballot.

I’m thrilled to see a candidate like this step up in a red district like HD55. This looks like a very tough row to hoe, but if the HDCC is involved (as is clear from the email I got), then this is a race to watch.

Here in Houston, Ginny McDavid will make her official filing for HD138 tomorrow.

FILING PARTY

Come join us for Virginia’s Filing Party!

Tuesday, 12/4/07
4:30 pm – join us at HCDP
Headquarters for Virginia’s filing
(1445 North Loop West)

5:30 – 7:30 pm-Reception at Cavatore’s
(2120 Ella Blvd.)

* CPA for 19 years; public & private industry experience
* Flight attendant with over 17 years experience with a major international carrier
* Awarded Civilian Desert Shield & Desert Storm Medal by the US Air Force
* Active in the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Air Transport District 142
* Democrat challenging Republican incumbent Dwayne Bohac in Texas House District 138

Where HD55 is red, HD138 is purple. With all the attention Harris County is going to get next year, this ought to be a high profile race. Stay tuned.

Noriega kicks it off

Exploring no more, Rick Noriega is now officially a candidate for Senate.

State Rep. Rick Noriega, of Houston, officially filed today as a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Noriega called the war in Iraq an occupation and assailed incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of pandering on immigration.

“America wins wars. We are in an occupation of a country,” Noriega said of Iraq.

Noriega said the nation needs to refocus the war on terror on fighting al-Qaida in Afghanistan and set a timetable for getting out of Iraq. He said Iraq needs a political solution, not a military one, but said the pullout should be done in a way to maintain security for U.S. troops.

Noriega also said Cornyn, a Republican, has been an obstructionist on getting meaningful immigration reform and border security passed in the U.S. Senate.

“It’s unfortunate that he had to pander to extreme ideological group on this issue,” Noriega said. “We have people who want to be obstructionist and use this as a wedge.”

Noriega said comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to secure the border while still providing workers for American businesses.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about Noriega’s candidacy. I mean, you’ve probably figured most of it out by now, based on everything I’ve written so far. But still. I’m jazzed about this.

Click on for the campaign’s press release, and a draft copy of Noriega’s remarks. I’m expecting some video tomorrow.

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Statement from Annette Dwyer on District E 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 Annette Dwyer in District E.)

Why should voters of District E vote for Annette Dwyer? I believe that District E voters will agree that I am uniquely qualified to serve as their next council member for three reasons: Education, experience and a demonstrated commitment to serve.

When it comes to experience, I am the only candidate in this race with a broad base of professional experience working in both the private and public sectors.

When it comes to education, residents of District E share a high level of education, and a strong commitment to supporting education to benefit our families and the future of our community. I share this commitment.

I am the only candidate in this race with a college degree. I worked hard to earn the money to put myself through college, and later through graduate school. I received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked for a number of years as a newspaper reporter and editor. I earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Houston Clear Lake, and put that education to use as an economic development planner with the Harris County Department of Community and Economic Development. I worked to develop county construction projects, learned the value of thoroughly analyzing contracts and budgets, and scrutinized proposed projects to make sure goals would be met and budgets adhered to.

No other candidate has this hands-on experience creating and improving infrastructure. The district relies on its council member to bring tax dollars back to the community for Capital Improvement Projects, including street improvements, flooding and drainage projects, libraries and fire stations, and other “big-ticket” items. There are a number of important projects that need to be completed in District E, and we can’t afford to have a council member who needs “on-the-job” training, or who is still learning about budgets and contracts.

I have already demonstrated that I am not afraid to stand up against special interests to fight for what is right for the community. I spent more than three years leading efforts to bring the proposed San Jacinto Rail Line to a successful resolution, avoiding construction of a rail line which would have been used to transport highly toxic chemicals through residential areas. Residents of District E should expect nothing less of their council representative, and I will continue to fight for what is right for all areas of the district.

Residents throughout District E have expressed concerns about development, and possible negative impacts on our neighborhoods. I share these concerns and will work to make sure that future development has a positive, and not a negative, impact on our community. Because I have not received money from developers, I will be able to act in the best interests of District E residents.

Since 2001, I have served on the Citizens Advisory Committee for District E, and have earned the respect and trust of other community leaders throughout the district. I continue to serve on a number of boards dealing with civic and regional issues, including flooding, transportation, police staffing, business development and park space. I have met with the mayor, city council members, police chief and county commissioners, and with representatives from TxDOT, Harris County Flood Control and other organizations and agencies to take action and address these issues.

District E Voters — I believe that District E deserves to be represented by a council member with education, experience, and a demonstrated commitment to working on issues and getting things done. I have built a reputation for taking action, solving problems and building consensus, and I ask for your vote on December 8.

For more information, please visit my web site at www.annettedwyer.com, or contact me at (832) 201 9009. Thank you for this opportunity to share my qualifications and my passion for public service.

Thank you, Annette Dwyer. Please click here for a statement from Michael Sullivan.

Will Phil King be this year’s Kent Gruesendorf?

One can only hope that Rep. Phil King will meet a similar fate as his former colleague Kent Gruesendorf did. But at least he’s got a challenger, one with a pretty extensive resume, and that’s a good start.

Former U.S. House Republican leader Tom DeLay is political history, but Democrats still smarting from that congressional redistricting plan he engineered four years ago may want to keep an eye on an anticipated Republican race in North Texas.

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who sponsored the redistricting bill that booted several veteran Texas Democrats from Congress, is expected to be challenged in the GOP primary by Weatherford Mayor Joe Tison.

Tison was unavailable for comment late last week, but insiders said his announcement may come as early as today.

It has arrived. I received his press release this morning. It’s beneath the fold for your perusal.

If so, it would mark the first time that King, first elected in 1998 in the largely Republican district west of Fort Worth, has been opposed in his own primary. The race also could affect the 2009 speaker’s race because King is one of Speaker Tom Craddick’s top loyalists.

Tison, who has been Weatherford mayor since 2000, is being recruited by Texas Parent PAC, a pro-public schools political action committee that helped unseat several Craddick lieutenants in 2006.

Tison is definitely a ParentPAC kind of candidate – according to his release, he’s an educator and was once named Superintendant of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. I’ve no doubt that on education issues, he’ll be orders of magnitude better than King. As I expect education to be a dominating issue in 2009, I’ll be rooting for Tison to win. Well, that and the redistricting thing. I admit, I’ve still got a grudge.

As for the effect on the Speaker’s race, I have been told that Tison will not vote for Craddick. That’s not what last year’s crop of ParentPAC Republicans did, so even though I trust my source on this, I’m a bit wary. I’d like to see a public statement by Tison on the subject. Be that as it may, getting rid of Phil King has merit on its own. If it turns out we get another anti-Craddick vote out of the deal, I’ll consider it to be gravy. Click on for Tison’s press release.

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Statement from Michael Sullivan on District E 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 Michael Sullivan in District E.)

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you and your readers as to why they should vote for Mike Sullivan for Houston City Council, District E.

I have been campaigning for this position for 2 years, meeting with voters all across the district, from Clear Lake to Kingwood, and from the Hobby Airport area to the South Belt area. Residents throughout the district have been clear in what they expect from their Council Member, and I know that I can meet and exceed their expectations.

Once elected, my first step will be to put together the very best constituent service team at City Hall. I will be respectful, responsive, and resourceful in solving problems. I will “own” your problem until it is solved. I will also conduct frequent Town Hall meetings throughout the district to receive input from the residents of District E. Besides covering general topics of interest to residents, I will rotate specific themes, i.e., police and fire/EMS, solid waste, quality of life, ongoing project updates, and other timely topics.

Public safety issues are foremost on everyone’s minds. Property crime is rampant and crimes against victims are more prevalent than anyone wants to admit. I have solid and straightforward plans on how we can improve our police coverage in our communities, resulting in “more boots on the ground tomorrow”, all while we ramp up our cadet training program. This is why the Houston Police Officers’ Union has endorsed me; they know I understand what needs to be done and that I will work with them to see it carried out.

Last, rest assured that no one will be able to return more tax dollars to District E than me. As a Community Liaison for Council Member Michael Berry since 2003, I have learned, through “hands on experience”, how to deliver projects and funding to this council district. My work with Council Member Berry has been real, not some nebulous community activity in name only. I still have a City of Houston employee ID card and am at City Hall on a regular basis, learning all that I can to serve District E once elected.

I am also the only candidate in this race who owns their own business, has prior elected office experience (as a Trustee of the Humble Independent School District), and has actually worked at City Hall. This experience clearly sets me apart from my opponent.

Let me end by asking for your vote, and to share with you that the Houston Chronicle gave me their formal endorsement this Saturday, December 01, 2007. I am both honored and proud to also have the endorsement of Wil Williams, a former candidate in the District E race. Mr. Williams has supported me based on my ability to create working relationships with the diverse group of residents in this city, and because he and I share a common vision.

For more information, please go to my website, www.MikeSullivanCampaign.com, or call my campaign office at 713-554-9202.

Thank you.

Thank you, Michael Sullivan. I have not yet received a statement from Annette Dwyer. I will print one as soon as I do.

More on HDs 52 and 46

Today is opening day for Filing Season, so we political junkies are going to be up to our clavicles in news, gossip, and speculation for the foreseeable future. I’m going to do my best to keep on top of things, but I can guarantee you that there’ll be more than I can follow. At least we’ll know for sure who’s in and who’s not soon enough.

So to get things started, here’s a look at the “Krusee wannabees” in HD52.

Only one has filed the paperwork to raise money to explore making a race: Bryan Daniel, originally from Jarrell, who headed up the state office of rural development for the United States Department of Agriculture.

Others being mentioned are former County Commissioner Frankie Limmer, lobbyist Randy Lee, former Round Rock Council member Gary Coe, Round Rock Council Member Joe Clifford, and Larry Gonzales, chief of staff to Rep. John Otto of Dayton.

Eye on Williamson has more on these folks. Meanwhile, over in Travis County, BOR has more on Brian Thompson, the potential challenger to Rep. Dawnna Dukes. Judging from the comments to the that and their previous entry, the statement made by Dukes’ consultant about the district not having any idea who Tom Craddick is did not go over well. Keep an eye on this one, it has the potential to get pretty hot.

Paper or plastic?

Are plastic bags evil? Some places think so.

In recent years, countries from Ireland to Australia have passed laws to cut use of plastic bags. But the movement only recently gained momentum in the U.S.

While plastic bags were not used widely in supermarkets and other retail outlets until the early 1980s, they’re now ubiquitous, and Americans use billions a year.

Last month San Francisco’s ordinance began outlawing plastic bags at large supermarkets, encouraging them to use recyclable paper bags or compostable ones made of cornstarch or potato starch. The ban will be extended later to big chain pharmacies.

A number of other cities are also considering plastic bag bans, including Boston; Baltimore; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Santa Monica, Calif.; and Annapolis, Md. In Texas, Austin and El Paso have looked at bans as well.

Yet in Austin, and other cities including New York and Philadelphia, discussions recently have shifted toward plastic bag recycling.

“The only thing we all agreed on was a need to recycle more,” said Rick Cofer, who runs a Web site called www.bagthebags.com in support of a plastic bag ban in Austin.

Cofer has participated in meetings with city officials, environmental groups and the plastic bag industry since Austin’s city council passed a resolution in April calling for a reduction in plastic bags.

Recycling programs have gained momentum amid concerns that bags made of recycled paper or “bioplastics” would cost more to produce than conventional plastic bags, and consumers could end up paying the bill.

A conventional plastic bag costs about 2 cents to make, compared with 5 to 6 cents for a recycled paper sack and 6 cents or more for a bag made of compostable plastic, said Donna Dempsey, managing director of the Progressive Bag Alliance, a plastic bag industry lobbying group run out of Houston.

The plastic bag industry hopes that recycling programs, if passed in some major cities, could serve as models for the rest of the nation.

“We believe New York is the tipping point,” said Isaac Bazbaz, whose family owns Superbag, a major plastic bag supplier to Wal-Mart that has its headquarters and factory in northwest Houston.

I think a greater emphasis on reuse and recycling is always a good thing, even if the price of producing a recycled plastic bag is currently higher than it is for producing a new one. I’d expect that cost to come down as the demand for recycled plastic bags increases, and even without it, easing the burden on landfills makes up for the differential. I’d like to see more incentives for recycling as we go. Perhaps there’s still time for Mayor White to address that before he moves on.

By the way, we do use plastic grocery bags for pet waste retrieval and disposal. I also use the plastic sleeves that home-delivered editions of the Chron come in for that purpose. What do you do with yours?

Questioning the commissioners’ campaign spending

The Chron continues its reporting on the campaign finance habits of Commissioners Court with a piece on how they spend all that loot they raise.

In filings dating to January 2006, several commissioners, most notably Steve Radack and Jerry Eversole, disclosed some campaign expenses in ways similar to those that have led to fines for other Texas politicians. For example:

  • Hundreds of campaign expenses, particularly Eversole’s, were labeled with vague descriptions such as “public relations” and “misc.” — sweeping designations that encompass everything from meals to purchases at boutique gift shops and typically offer little clues as to what was purchased or who benefited from those purchases.
  • Dozens of reimbursements made to office workers from several commissioners’ campaigns, most frequently Radack’s, did not detail the purpose of those payments.
  • Radack, commissioner of Precinct 3, omitted the addresses of hundreds of expense payees until mid-2006. He has begun including that information on recent filings, but his old reports still do not include addresses, which are required by law.

When Texas politicians report campaign expenses, they are expected to follow regulations intended to show the public who the money was given to and what goods or services were received in return.

The Texas Ethics Commission enforces those rules but only acts when it receives a sworn complaint. No Harris County commissioner has faced a substantiated complaint while in office in at least 15 years, according to records.

“The disclosure laws in Texas are built largely on transparency,” said Tim Sorrells, deputy general counsel for the ethics commission. “They’re designed so people can look at the reports and be able to ascertain what’s going on.”

Well, there’s your problem right there. As the Chron showed in last Sunday’s story, County Commissioners’ finance reports are done on paper, and are not available online. Seems to me it’s a no-brainer to require electronic filing, but it’ll take an act of the Lege to make it happen, and however sensible this may be, there will be resistance.

Interesting, by the way, that the bulk of the questionable activity here was done by the Republican commissioners, Radack and the now-under-investigation Eversole. It’s true that former Judge Robert Eckels was a champion of greater transparency and campaign finance limits – perhaps this is why he and his partymates on the Court never got along that well. The Chron editorialized about this, and hit on a relevant point:

Able to give unlimited campaign donations, professional services vendors who are not subject to competitive bidding for government contracts instead compete to give the most to their patrons in office. It’s a situation that appeals to the worst tendencies in elected officials, tempting them to reward those who are most generous with both contracts and access.

As reported by the Chronicle’s Chase Davis, major county vendors such as Dannenbaum Engineering’s James Dannenbaum; Turner, Collie and Braden Inc.; and Andrews Kurth LLP have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to county officials since 2003. The officials awarded the donors millions of dollars in contracts. It’s not illegal, but it suggests a “pay to play” system that does not serve the public interest. In today’s lean and mean business environment, it’s hard to believe those firms are contributing huge sums simply to support good government — unless it’s defined in their minds as government with lots of contracts to let.

Former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels took a lot of heat from colleagues seven years ago when he decried loose ethics in government and advocated contribution limits for campaign gifts from those who do business with the county. At the time, Eckels opined that there was a perception of corruption in county government and “an implied coercion in the process, even if its not actual coercion.”

This is something I’ve touched on before, most frequently in connection with Tom DeLay and his longtime penchant for corporate shakedowns. You hear all the time that “there is no quid pro quo” when a company that makes a big donation gets something favorable passed or unfavorable quashed, even when the donations are made right as legislation that affects it is being crafted or debated. But if it’s true, as the beneficiaries of the donations always claim, that the money had no effect on their actions, then why would any rational profit-maximizing entity make those non-tax-deductible donations? What’s their motivation if not to improve the bottom line? And even if you do think this they’re just being played for suckers, it still leads to the perception of corruption that Eckels talked about, which both increases cynicism and makes other businesses feel compelled to get in on the game, whether rigged against them or not. It’s bad all around. Let’s get some transparency into the system so we can at least start to deal with this.

Death of Facebook predicted: Film at 11

Via Dwight, Cory Doctorow says Facebook is doomed.

Having watched the rise and fall of SixDegrees, Friendster, and the many other proto-hominids that make up the evolutionary chain leading to Facebook, MySpace, et al, I’m inclined to think that these systems are subject to a Brook’s-law parallel: “Adding more users to a social network increases the probability that it will put you in an awkward social circumstance.” Perhaps we can call this “boyd’s Law” for danah boyd, the social scientist who has studied many of these networks from the inside as a keen-eyed net-anthropologist and who has described the many ways in which social software does violence to sociability in a series of sharp papers.

Here’s one of boyd’s examples, a true story: a young woman, an elementary school teacher, joins Friendster after some of her Burning Man buddies send her an invite. All is well until her students sign up and notice that all the friends in her profile are sunburnt, drug-addled techno-pagans whose own profiles are adorned with digital photos of their painted genitals flapping over the Playa. The teacher inveigles her friends to clean up their profiles, and all is well again until her boss, the school principal, signs up to the service and demands to be added to her friends list. The fact that she doesn’t like her boss doesn’t really matter: in the social world of Friendster and its progeny, it’s perfectly valid to demand to be “friended” in an explicit fashion that most of us left behind in the fourth grade. Now that her boss is on her friends list, our teacher-friend’s buddies naturally assume that she is one of the tribe and begin to send her lascivious Friendster-grams, inviting her to all sorts of dirty funtimes.

In the real world, we don’t articulate our social networks. Imagine how creepy it would be to wander into a co-worker’s cubicle and discover the wall covered with tiny photos of everyone in the office, ranked by “friend” and “foe,” with the top eight friends elevated to a small shrine decorated with Post-It roses and hearts. And yet, there’s an undeniable attraction to corralling all your friends and friendly acquaintances, charting them and their relationship to you. Maybe it’s evolutionary, some quirk of the neocortex dating from our evolution into social animals who gained advantage by dividing up the work of survival but acquired the tricky job of watching all the other monkeys so as to be sure that everyone was pulling their weight and not napping in the treetops instead of watching for predators, emerging only to eat the fruit the rest of us have foraged.

Keeping track of our social relationships is a serious piece of work that runs a heavy cognitive load. It’s natural to seek out some neural prosthesis for assistance in this chore. My fiancee once proposed a “social scheduling” application that would watch your phone and email and IM to figure out who your pals were and give you a little alert if too much time passed without your reaching out to say hello and keep the coals of your relationship aglow. By the time you’ve reached your forties, chances are you’re out-of-touch with more friends than you’re in-touch with: Old summer-camp chums, high-school mates, ex-spouses and their families, former co-workers, college roomies, dot-com veterans… Getting all those people back into your life is a full-time job and then some.

You’d think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for handling all this. It’s not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there’s a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I’d cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, “Am I your friend?” yes or no, this instant, please.

I use Facebook more as a lark than anything else, and I can’t say I’ve experienced anything Doctorow describes. Besides, after nearly six years of blogging, it’s not like I’m anonymous any more. What do you think about this?

Now, Facebook being bad about privacy, that I could see killing it. Fortunately, they seem to have gotten the message. More or less.