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December 31st, 2007:

Looking Forward to 2008: Martha Griffin

What am I looking forward to in 2008? Taking back the Texas State House!

I’m ready to have a legislature that cares about kitchen table issues – those things that make me wonder if it’s possible for families to have any forward progress in their financial situation – the cost of electricity, insurance, higher education and health care, to name some of the biggies.

The Republican leadership’s focus on TAX CUTS! TAX CUTS! TAX CUTS! are just starving the baby. Texans are being starved slowly of all of our infrastructure and ability to get ahead sort of like a frog in a boiling pot of water doesn’t realize he’s cooked until it is too late. Not to mention we are being literally choked by the quality of air in the state. The purposeful neglect of our environment and park system is appalling.

All this can change when we elect talented, reasonable, fiscally responsible law makers who care about Texas – our beautiful state and diverse families.

It wouldn’t be an end of year post without an End of Quarter mention. Yeah, today is the last day to contribute to campaigns and have it show up on the end of year financial report. I took a look around ActBlue today to see who is leading the online fundraising there. Here are the top ActBlue Texas House candidates by total fundraising:

1. HD-46 Challenger Brian Thompson: 88 donations, $10,095
2. HD-129 Challenger Sherrie Matula: 24 donations, $3010
3. HD-36 Challenger Sandra Rodriguez: 11 donations, $2200
4. HD-138 Challenger Virginia McDavid: 21 donations, $1885
5. HD-97 INCUMBENT Dan Barrett: 44 donations, $1684

Thompson and Rodriguez are challenging Craddick Ds (wave goodbye to Dukes and Flores). Barrett recently won a special election against an opponent who made a campaign issue of his pledge to vote for Craddick. Matula and McDavid are both challenging incumbent Republicans. Matula’s opponent, 5-term Republican incumbernt John Davis, has drawn a primary challenger, mostly due to Republican disgust over his ethics problems.

It’s not too late to help one of these worthy House candidates – or others equally worthy – by tossing some New Year’s Eve change their way. ActBlue link for the whole list: here.

This our time. Time to Turn Texas Blue.

Filing news: Adrian Garcia for Sheriff

The last of the countywide pieces falls into place as Adrian Garcia announces his candidacy for Harris County Sheriff. Here’s the email:

Dear Friends,

Today I announce my candidacy for Harris County Sheriff. Our County deserves the best public safety in Texas, and I am asking you to join me in making our communities safer and our families more secure.

As a Houston police officer, I busted drug dealers and fought against gangs because I wanted to protect and serve our City’s neighborhoods. I joined the Houston City Council because I wanted to continue to make a difference.

Now, I want to serve as your Sheriff because we need new leadership.

As I look at the landscape of public safety, the lack of leadership in the Harris County Sheriff’s Department stands out as a weak link. With the third largest Sheriff’s office in the country, we should be leading the way on fighting crime.

Harris County’s hardworking deputies deserve a Sheriff who can lead them into a new era of preparedness and public safety. You shouldn’t have to wait for an election year before for you hear from your sheriff. I’ve been on the front lines of public safety since I became a cop and that’s where I’ll always be.

Thank you,

Adrian Garcia
Candidate for Harris County Sheriff

www.AdrianGarcia.com

We most certainly do need new leadership, in Harris County and elsewhere. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do to help bring it about. There’s an introductory video on his main page, for those of you who aren’t familiar with him yet. It’s not sharable just yet or I’d embed it here – I figure that’ll change as the campaign formally gears up. In any event, today is a good day.

UPDATE: Here’s the video:

Thanks, Greg!

Other news:

– Many more judicial candidates have filed. I’m counting 31 contenders, with four contested primaries so far, and more still to come on both counts.

Kristi Thibaut is back for another run at HD133. A gentleman named Kevin Murphy has announced his candidacy for the open HD29 in Pearland and surrounding areas. Rep. Harold Dutton, the last incumbent to file, has done so. Rep. Ellen Cohen appears to have an opponent, someone named Carlos Obando. And like a bad burrito, former State Rep. Al “Sexy Cheerleading” Edwards is back to give us all heartburn in HD146. Fire up those Daily Show clips, kids.

– On a not-quite-yet-still-somehow related note, Susan Delgado will face Gilbert Pena in the primary for SD06 to lose to State Sen. Mario Gallegos. Nobody will notice.

– The Democrats have three contenders for Sheriff – Garcia, Guy Robert Clark, and a fellow named Charles Massey El, about whom I know nothing. Diane Trautman will face 2004 candidate John T. Webb for the nomination for Tax Assessor.

– Constable Jack Abercia has a second opponent in Precinct 1, an Art Aguilar.

– The awesomely-named Sam Houston has made his filing for the Texas Supreme Court official.

– Finally, as reported by Vince, Judge Susan Criss has asked the TDP for a review of primary opponent Judge Linda Yanez’s petition signatures for the Supreme Court race. Vince has the details, but it boils down to a claim that Yanez did not get 50 valid signatures in each of the 14 judicial districts, as required by law. We’ll see what the party does.

The defiant Chuck R

Chuck Rosenthal tells the local GOP where they can stick it.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal bluntly rejected the local Republican Party leadership’s request Sunday night that he abandon his 2008 re-election campaign because of the scandal over personal e-mails he sent to his executive secretary on government computers.

“What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” Rosenthal asked party chairman Jared Woodfill, according to County Judge Ed Emmett, who attended the emergency meeting.

After the four-hour, closed-door meeting that included questioning of Rosenthal, 15 members of the party’s Advisory Committee voted unanimously to urge him to withdraw from the March 4 Republican primary for district attorney.

“The consensus was this is a position of high trust, and when this position is questioned, when this position is breached, we feel like it’s important that we make a change,” Woodfill said.

But Rosenthal, exiting the Greenway Plaza meeting about a half-hour before the it ended, said, “I’m going to run for district attorney and I am going to win.”

He said he did not know if he will have an opponent in the Republican primary.

“I certainly hope not. I don’t think they’ve got anybody with the qualifications to run against me,” Rosenthal added.

But Woodfill said he is certain that one or more challengers will register before Wednesday’s deadline. He said the party has been in touch with about 10 potential candidates, none of whom he’d name.

[…]

Emmett, the chief county government official, could be seen discussing the situation with Rosenthal in a side room while the party leaders continued their meeting. Rosenthal frequently raised his arms and gestured during his discussions with the county judge and the party chairman.

Emmett said the GOP activists made the right decision in calling for Rosenthal to step down.

“At this point he is damaged goods, and the party is reflecting that,” Emmett said.

Woodfill, the party chairman, called the e-mails horrible and said Rosenthal had made a serious error in judgment.

Whatever else happens, I just hope the Bradford campaign is taking notes, because there’s quite a wealth of quotes here that ought to show up in campaign mailers at some point. “We feel like it’s important that we make a change”; “At this point he is damaged goods”; “[A] serious error in judgment”; if they do succeed in replacing Rosenthal, there’s always “I don’t think they’ve got anybody with the qualifications to run”. I’m pretty sure there will be plenty more where these came from.

While I certainly understand the allure of finding another candidate, I wonder what Jared Woodfill’s Gang of 15 is hoping to accomplish by this approach. There isn’t any time to do a draft (somewhere I heard that former County GOP Chair Garry Polland had said something about being approached, but he turned it down; take that for what it’s worth), so the best you can do is find someone who you think would be acceptable to the masses and put the squeeze on, with promises of money and volunteer support. If the best they can do after last night is come up with a few names to bat around, I have to wonder if this is little more than a bluff.

For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s not, and they’ve got a live possibility. They’ll have to run a negative campaign, one that flogs all these embarrassing revelations over and over again, in order to win, which is far from guaranteed. And they’re sure to have a damaged nominee with some burnt bridges behind him or her when all is said and done. At least they’ll be running against a Democrat that has his own negatives, so maybe the attrition won’t be so bad for them. But no matter how you slice it, the picture is pretty bleak.

Which means it’s quite lovely from my perspective, since I think it’s critical to bring about a change in direction at the DA’s office. We’ll see if an actual primary challenger emerges for Chuck R. More from Greg, PDiddie, and ReeC Murphey.

Chron wants something done about billboards

The Chron editorialized about the Mayor’s billboard reduction proposal that has been put off until some kinks an be ironed out. I’m still not quite sure what they said, however.

The mayor said he shares the same goal as opponents of his proposal: reducing the number of billboards in Houston. He said he wants to use this common ground to craft a consensus.

During the ensuing negotiations, White should answer the charge that most of the 881 billboards would come down anyway by 2013, without having to allow hundreds of new billboards in locations now free of the large signs, or along federal highways where they would be protected in perpetuity.

Beautification groups should explain why, if the small billboards are no longer profitable, they still blight low-income neighborhoods.

Unsightly billboards detract from Houston’s quality of life and contributed to the failure of its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. The city should pursue the strategy that will reduce the most billboards in the next few years without presenting hundreds of billboards a new lease on life and their owners’ permission to blight locations now billboard-free.

Identifying that strategy will be the task of White’s administration and billboard opponents.

I think they’re saying “We want fewer billboards faster, and we want you guys to figure out how to do it.” Well, I guess you can’t argue with that.

Looking Forward to 2008: Paula Harris

(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 Paula Harris.)

New Year, New Adventure, New Learning opportunities – they all are cause for excitement and energy and the expectation of opportunity. This is the time of year I spend time canvassing my brain for the appropriate theme for the new year. One idea I have as I move forward into 2008 is the theme “BACK to the BASICS”. In these times of complicated problems and complex solutions, I just want to make sure that I examine and deduce everything in its most simplified manner. This will be a year of discovery and my learning curve is probably equivalent to that of an entering college freshmen. With that said, I will focus on uncovering the root cause and underlying issues as we look to identify and solve issues. This method will work in my personal, public service, spiritual and professional life. To further explore this theme, I engaged experts in simplification, a group of 7 year olds. I asked them as Charles Kuffner asked me “What are you looking forward to next year?”. The answers were simple, concise and all similar. They are looking forward to

1. Their birthdays.
2. Holidays (Christmas and Halloween ranking highest)
3. Doing well in school.
4. Summertime.

It’s that simple. I am going to take a page from their book because what I see and hear from them, in the simplest form, is

Another year of life
Valuable time with family, friends and God
Setting and achieving goals
Rest and time for self

With that said, I know that there will always be complex issues that need to be addressed, but as I approach the freshness and innocence of a new year that will be a completely new experience for me and my village I am headed “Back to the Basics” for 2008.

As the newest HISD Trustee that represents District 4 there is so much to look forward to. There are new relationships, new adventures, new goals and new achievements. We have a higher community focus on education that has not been experienced as of late. What makes this so exciting is the potential to have input, recommendations, solutions and volunteerism from a population that has not been engaged in our schools for this latest generation of inner city children. Our community leaders have indicated that they are ready and more than willing to take the challenge, roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that it is going to take to turn our schools and achievement levels around. The thrilling part of this equation is knowing that the extra commitment to our children will equate to higher student achievement. Gaining commitment from pastors, civic leaders, business leaders, parents and other stakeholders to engage on each campus through the campus “Shared Decision Making Committee” (SDMC) will be a monumental start. The SDMC is an educator and community group that sets school budget, policy, procedure and strategies for success. A strong SDMC can provide the support that our school leadership needs to begin the systematic positive change needed in our schools.

When I say “Back to the Basics”, I am also defining the pilgrimage back to our strong community driven solutions, championed by the people and organizations that can put an enormous amount of sweat equity into our children. Historically, the reason we as a community have invested in our children was not because they were birth children or relatives. We have traditionally invested using the village mentality, that all of them are ours and their success is our success and their failure is our community failure. Our schools need help and I am turning to the very people who made sure that I was successful in school. My success in 1970’s HISD classroom was not guaranteed by the governmental establishments, it was the community that made sure that the establishment provided the basics and the community made sure the tools were in place to take us to the next level. With that said, as the new school board member I will be depending on our community to be involved in our schools and to keep this high level of excitement, interest and alignment with our schools. My commitment is to work diligently to ensure that the programs, policies, strategies, resources and decisions made at the board level, positively affect student achievement in our community.

Let’s look forward to 2008 as a year to declare “if it’s to be, it’s up to me”. We have to heat things up, demand accountability from everyone who has access and decision making powers over our children and in turn our future. I not only welcome community involvement, our children need it and will depend on it.

Looking forward to 2008, the potential for positive change is great. If we take a page from the playbooks of our 7 year old advisors and remember to be excited about another year of life and the potential it brings, spend time with friends and family while you work for your community, set your goals and expectations high then work hard for success, and lastly never forget that in order to help others, you must take good care of yourself.

I have to say a special thank you to my esteemed panelist of advisors who are wise beyond their 7 years and I wish each and every one of you the best that the new fresh year has to offer.

Paula Harris is the newly-elected Trustee for HISD District 4.

Two for terminating term limits

Outgoing City Council member Carol Alvarado joins Chris Bell in advocating an end to term limits in Houston.

Think about it. The city is responsible for providing protection for the millions that work, live in and visit our city every day. We make sure that they can get around our city with relative ease on our roads and streets. We pick up their garbage. We make their parks attractive destinations for families and visitors. We provide Houstonians with an infrastructure that allows them to take full advantage of our entertainment venues like the finest restaurants, theaters, cinemas and sports venues. We have constructed great airports that make it easy for folks to get in and out of our city with minimal hassles.

Yet, something is a bit out of kilter when the leadership of the most important government entity in the region is being hamstrung by term limits — six years for members of city council and six years for mayor.

For me, the term limits debate is personal. Not because I’ll be leaving my city council position in a few days or because term limits prohibited me from seeking re-election; rather, it’s about a public works project in my neighborhood that took me a decade and a half to complete.

There are several ways one can quibble with the logic Alvarado uses in her example. The project did get done anyway, so term limits were not insurmountable. The time span of the project (16 years) might well have exceeded any one Member’s time in office anyway, thus leading to the same learning curve issues Alvarado described. The real problem may be with city processes that make such a project take so long to do. I don’t doubt that having longer tenures on Council would have helped, but clearly it wasn’t impossible.

Be that as it may, it’s good to see more voices being raised against term limits. However, until an active Council member or candidate speaks up, I don’t expect anything more to happen.

Filing news: Rhettmania!

The silly season gets a little sillier.

Rhett Smith, a security guard who last year ran as a Republican for governor, filed Friday to seek the 2008 Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Assuming his paperwork holds up, he’ll join a Democratic field including state Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston, educator Ray McMurrey of Corpus Christi and perennial aspirant Gene Kelly of Universal City.

Yet Smith has another longshot prospect in sight; he’s suing the state of New Hampshire in hopes of landing on that state’s presidential primary ballot. Voting there takes place Jan. 8.

“I’d rather be president,” Smith said.

[…]

Smith, 57, was the 2004 Democratic U.S. House nominee challenging Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio. He subsequently ran in the non-partisan race for mayor of San Antonio.

While running for governor last year, Smith told an American-Statesman reporter: “I am comfortable with the Republican Party.” Asked Friday about his switch back to the Democratic side of the ballot, Smith said party officials “might not like it, but I can run in whichever party I want.”

Hard to imagine someone outdoing Gene Kelly for Least Serious Candidate on the Senate ballot, but Rhett’s the man for the job. They don’t come much more marginal than him.