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December 29th, 2007:

Halftime blogging

GO GIANTS!!!!!!!

UPDATE: Dammit.

All I want out of this NFL season is for there not to be a Pats-Cowboys Super Bowl. Is that so much to ask?

Rosenthal’s apology in the news

Here’s the Chron story about Chuck Rosenthal’s apology statement. I’ll focus on what’s new here, some of which I had seen previously in the NYT and on Miya’s blog.

Jared Woodfill, Harris County Republican Party Chairman, said he is meeting with party leaders to discuss Rosenthal’s political future. But he declined to say whether the party would draft a primary election opponent for Rosenthal, who is running for re-election, call on him to resign, or support him despite the concern about his conduct.

“He’s done a good job as district attorney, but this is a serious mistake that we are dealing with right now,” he said. “We’re taking it very seriously.”

Rosenthal didn’t return calls and e-mails Friday.

The political problem, if any, posed by the e-mails was still unclear.

That’s a curious sentence. The political problem is that the emails, and the information about the county car being used by Rosenthal’s ex-girlfriend administrative assistant, make Rosenthal look like a fool who gives preferential treatment to certain people, and that’s on top of the allegations made in the lawsuit that he turned a blind eye to malfeasance by Sheriff Tommy Thomas. This may or may not translate into an electoral problem – as we all know, November is a long way off – but the nature of it as a political problem is, I think, pretty clear. It’s the scope of that problem that no one can be sure about.

The personal e-mails, along with attorney-client privilege e-mails, were originally sealed from public view in a motion by Rosenthal to withhold them as privileged communication. Last week, they were unsealed by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt.

In an emergency hearing Thursday, Hoyt said he intended only to unseal the motion, not the e-mails, which were attached as exhibits. He then resealed the exhibits, withdrawing them from public view on the U.S District Clerk’s Web site — but not before several media outlets downloaded the information.

Earlier in the week, Rosenthal said the release of the e-mails is political and pointed out that Kelley was a law partner of former HPD Chief C.O. Bradford. Bradford is Rosenthal’s Democratic opponent in his bid next year for re-election. Kelley, who ran unsuccessfully against Rosenthal in 2000, has said he and Bradford are still friends.

Bradford denied that he had anything to do with the disclosure.

That at least answers the question about why bother resealing them. It also firmly rebuts the charge that this was politically motivated, unless you think Judge Hoyt had something to do with it. This was basically an accident, one that obviously causes some real hardship for Rosenthal. Because of the unintentional nature of the emails’ release, I can feel a small bit of sympathy towards him. But not much – it’s still the case that he himself wrote those emails, using his county-owned email account. It’s still his actions that are the cause of his embarrassment.

In my last entry, I noted that I had not found any commentary on this, even a link to a story, by any of the Republican blogs in town. That got Kevin Whited all upset in my comments:

Are you REALLY wanting to establish the standard that someone who votes a certain way is obligated to blog about about everyone who affiliated with a party they have voted for at some point?

That’s an interesting conclusion to draw from my simple statement of fact (one that I note is still true today), but no, I’m not looking to establish any Department of Blogging Obligations. This is a huge story (front page, above the fold, two days out of the last three) that may have a big impact on one of the main local elections next year. If you really can’t think of any reasons why I might be interested in the opinions of my political counterparts on this, let me suggest a few possibilities:

– I’m genuinely curious as to what Republican voters think of this. Do you feel indifferent? Betrayed? Angry? If so, at whom? Do others feel the same as you? Personal reactions to current events is one of the big reasons why people read blogs, after all. It’s obvious (and well-blogged) how we Democrats feel about this. I’d like to know what the Republicans are thinking.

– Do you want to see someone challenge Rosenthal in the GOP primary, or do you stand with him? If you want to see him replaced, whom do you support? Do you have a candidate in mind, or do you trust Jared Woodfill and the local GOP leadership to come up with someone?

– Do you think this was a political hit job? If so, whom do you blame?

– Do you have anything to add to this story? My blogging compatriots and I frequently hear insider information from, well, insiders. Some of what we hear we can even write about. I presume the local Republican blogs are on the receiving end of this sort of thing as well, though I could certainly be wrong about that. Have you heard anything that hasn’t made it into a mainstream news account yet?

I would have thought this would be self-evident to anyone interested in Houston politics, but whatever. If none of Kevin or his colleagues care to talk about this, then I’ll have to guess as to what they might think. Given a choice, I’d rather hear it from them. But that’s the way it goes, I guess. On a lighter note, John Coby has more.

Looking Forward to 2008: Stephanie Stradley

(Note: I have asked a variety of people to submit an essay to me to be posted during the month of December, to be called “Looking Forward to 2008”. This entry was written by Stephanie Stradley.)

The year 2007 will mark the first year that the Houston Texans were more entertaining to watch than not. The previous years, for me, were more about being fascinated in the do’s and don’ts of putting together a professional football team from scratch. It’s not something I’ve witnessed up close with any other team. A lot of people found that to be a hard brand of football to watch, but I see it a bit like watching your kids grow. You see them fail and succeed, though it is hard to watch the failures.

Houstonians tend to fall into two categories in the post-Oilers era: 1. Those who are waiting for the Texans to be worth watching; and 2. Those who despised being teamless in Houston, and appreciate the Texans in the never-take-NFL-football-for-granted way. I clearly ended up in the second category. Like in politics, it’s much more fun when you have someone or something you can support, instead of just rooting against someone or something awful.

So, what do I see for the Texans in 2008? Well, fortunately, this year I haven’t had to already study in depth the top 10 draft prospects in the upcoming draft. The Texans clearly still have many needs, but it’s encouraging to see how hard they are playing despite leading the league in players on injured reserve. (Getting killed by Indy in Indy is something that happens to a lot of teams, including some much better and healthier than the Texans). I think their hard play is due to the type of player the Texans have been drafting, and how much they respect and want to play for Gary Kubiak.

I’ve always been optimistic about the Texans as they have a top notch facility in a football loving town where professional athletes like to live. If you talk to any of the coaching staff, the one thing they will always mention is that owner Bob McNair is a great owner who gives them all the financial resources they need. I think with that combo, eventually the Texans will be seeing more success on the field.

In the meantime, the smartest thing the Texans have done is not just allowed tailgating (it was prohibited during the Oiler years), but they have encouraged it. This has created a fan community where little existed, and helped you endure some pretty ugly football at times. I think the New Orleans Saints fans’ motto is “Win or lose, we still booze.” I’m not sure that alcohol as a therapy for losing is a good idea, but I will say that some of the best barbeque I’ve eaten in my life has been at Texans tailgate parties.

If you would like to tailgate in the upcoming year but don’t know who to tailgate with, I suggest visiting the TexansTalk website and posting something in the tailgate section of their message board. Lots of personable, helpful people over there who love to welcome other Texans fans to tailgate culture.

Hope your holiday season has been terrific and your upcoming new year better. If you want a delicious extra present, please click this link.

Stephanie Stradley writes about the Texans and other sports topics for AOL Sports’ FanHouse and is a frequent sports talk radio guest. Last year, she was named the 2006 Ultimate Texan Fan.

Never tell a geek it can’t be done more efficiently

Elise Hu has part eight of her series on Governor Perry’s email retention policies, which has come down to a contest between Perry and his minions against open-records advocate and all-around pit bull John Washburn – see here for my previous entry. In this episode, AG Greg Abbott has issued an opinion dismissing Washburn’s claim (PDF) that Perry’s office was attempting to nickel-and-dime him to death. Washburn has now fired back that this is simply an effort to use ignorance and claims of technical incompetence to stifle him. He then adds his own offer to compensate for the latter, complete with full source code. It’s a glorious example of righteous geeky indignation. Check it out.

Filing news: Richard Morrison for Fort Bend County Commissioner

I’ve mentioned this before, so it gives me great pleasure to note the official filing by Richard Morrison for Fort Bend Commissioner’s Court in Precinct 1. Here’s his press release:

Residents of Precinct 1 have lost confidence in Tom Stavinoha. His choice to approve a toll way as an extension of the Grand Parkway, his support of I-69 through the middle of Fort Bend County, his conscious decision to ignore flooding and drainage problems in the precinct, and his approval of the location of a 20 story pile of Houston’s garbage in Precinct 1 demonstrates how little he cares about the current families of Precinct 1. Residents of Precinct 1 are tired of leaders who will not stand up to the big moneyed interests and who engage in “pay to play politics” which leaves current residents without effective representation. Stavinoha has lost his focus on the families that live in Precinct 1 and their critical issues of quality of life and an honest ethical government. That is why today I filed to run for Fort Bend County Commissioner of Precinct 1.

The families of Precinct 1 are demanding a leader; someone with a backbone, willing to fight outside interests that want to pillage our county resources to the detriment of our current residents. I am a seventh generation Texan, whose parents and grandparents taught me to stand up for what you believe in, work hard and play by the rules. I will apply those lessons to the office of Commissioner. I will S.T.O.P the Grand Parkway Toll Road. I will keep I-69 and the Trans Texas Corridor as far away from Fort Bend County as possible. I will fix the flooding and drainage problems that exist in the precinct. I will fight against the location or expansion of any landfills in the county. And I will make sure that Fort Bend County acquires no more debt goes back to operating on a pay-as-you-go basis. I want to reform the Commissioner’s office, making it a place where leadership, responsibility and ethics prevail. I will mount a strong, issues based campaign to win this most important post in the 2008 General Election.

I will campaign as a voice to the families of Precinct 1. I am pro-business and pro-growth, but these issues should not diminish the quality of life of the families that already live in the precinct. I have chosen to raise my family in Precinct 1. My family and I have lived in Fort Bend County for 12 years. We are residents of Greatwood. My law office is in Precinct 1. My church is in Precinct 1. My children attend school in Precinct 1. My wife shops for groceries in Precinct 1. The County Commissioner needs to know how to prioritize the growth of Precinct 1 with the needs of its current residents.

Fort Bend County has a budget of more than $214 million per year, much of it is spent without explanation. No-bid contracts for expensive professional services are awarded primarily to big donors. Hundred million dollar bond issues are passed for roads to nowhere. When elected I will fight to pass ethics reform, so that Commissioner’s Court will not be able to accept donations from entities that have or will have no-bid contracts with the county.

I will restore the words “fair, honest and hardworking” to the office of the Commissioner. The Commissioner’s office will not operate in secrecy. I will make decisions based on facts, not campaign contributions. When elected I will do everything in my power to open up government to the voters. Budgets, appointments, contracts, and campaign contributions will be made available on the web for anyone who wants to see them. Every decision I make will benefit the current families of Precinct 1.

In filing for my candidacy for County Commissioner, I am sending a strong message that it is time to run Precinct 1 on behalf of the current families that live there. I will fight for higher ethical standards, provide stronger oversight to manage future growth, and make quality of life for the current residents a top priority.

I hope to have the support of all the families in Precinct 1. I need your time talent and treasure to get to take back seat on Commissioner’s Court.

David Mincberg has echoed some similar themes about ethics and no-bid contracts here in Harris County. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays in the election. Morrison supposedly has several primary opponents, so if you’re in his precinct, be sure to vote for him in March. Hal has more, including the equally welcome news that Albert Hollan will be running for the newly-created 434th District Court.

Elsewhere, BOR reports that a veteran family advocate and community lawyer named Sandra Phuong VuLe has filed to run for HD112 up in Dallas, which was left open by Rep. Fred Hill’s retirement. Hill was an anti-Craddick voice last session, so that’s a vital race to watch. It’s fairly red (Moody = 41.8% in 2006) but not completely unreasonable. And as we know from HD97, nothing should be considered truly out of reach as long as Tom Craddick is a factor.

We’re starting to see a lot more action in the local judicial races. As of this morning, twenty-four candidates, representing 21 judicial seats, have filed. Eleven of them have done so since Christmas. There are still nine seats (by my count) for which no one has yet filed, but I have no doubt that all slots will be filled by then. It’s just a question of how many contested primaries we’ll have – I’m expecting at least five.

One place we’re seeing a bunch of contested primaries is in the Constable and Justice of the Peace races, with several of the challengers being repeat customers. JP Jo Ann Delgado in Precinct 2 Place 1 faces Sandra Delgado again, while JP Hilary Green in Precinct 7 Place 1 will be opposed by 2004 hopeful Giovanna Carroll-LaFleur (formerly Phillips). Precinct 1 Constable Jack Abercia will square off against Jack Boatner again. Precinct 3’s Ken Jones now has two challengers, while Precinct 7’s May Walker now has three.

All incumbent State Reps have filed except for HD142’s Harold Dutton. No challengers yet in HDs 128, 130, 132, 136, and 150; all but 150 were unopposed in 2006. Still no contender for Congress in CD02.

Finally, South Texas Chisme brings us a great headline: GOP struggling to find candidates in Webb County. If nothing else, that’s good news for State Reps. Richard Raymond and Ryan Guillen.