Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

June 20th, 2008:

It’s an amazing thing watching a meme being born

I am aware of all Internet traditions. Or, putting it another way:

See here, here, and here for way too much more. Be prepared to waste at least an hour when you do.

SD10 polling

We’ve got a couple of polls in the SD10 race between Wendy Davis and Sen. Kim Brimer. From Politex:

In a poll conducted for Davis’ campaign by Washington, D.C.-based Democratic pollsters Bennett, Petts & Normington, Brimer nabs 39 percent of voters compared to Davis’ 35 percent if the election were held today. Results are based on 400 likely voters in the district. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

Austin-based TXPollWatch.com then released the results of an automated poll which has Brimer leading 44.27 percent to Davis’ 35.35 percent. The results are weighted based on a sample size of 466. The margin of error is 4.54 percent. (Texas Poll Watch is a brand new site and has caught some serious flak for another recent poll (Word doc).)

More on that TXPollWatch poll here and here. All I’ll say at this point is that TXPollWatch hasn’t established a sufficient level of credibility just yet.

Bryan Eppstein, spokesman for Brimer, said, “There are two Democratic polls and both polls show Brimer winning. What does that tell you? It shows Brimer’s going to win the race this fall.”

That’s one way of looking at it. Another way is to say that a 20-year incumbent who can’t crack 45% – heck, 40% in one poll – isn’t doing so hot. The Davis poll, whose memo is reproduced below, was a straight up “Who will you vote for?” ask, with no embellishments, and he got all of 39%. You tell me if that sounds like he’s in a strong position.

Here’s the Davis poll memo:

Wendy Davis, candidate for State Senate District 10, released today the results of a poll conducted for her campaign that verified that her record of leadership has positioned her for success this November. The poll revealed evidence that the failed record of her opponent, Senator Kim Brimer, has left voters displeased with his lack of representation and exhibiting an overwhelming desire for change.

Confirming the results and showing a widening trend of an earlier poll conducted by the Lone Star Project (PDF), and turnout data from the March 4th, 2008 primary (below), the new data makes clear that Wendy Davis is extremely well-positioned to defeat Kim Brimer in November.

Among the May 2008 poll’s most salient findings:

* When respondents were asked “If the general election were held today, for whom would you vote?” – without hearing any information, positive or negative, about the candidates – 20-year Republican incumbent Kim Brimer starts the race in a statistical dead heat with challenger Wendy Davis (39% to 35%).

* Only 41% of the electorate can identify Kim Brimer, a shockingly low number for an incumbent of 20 years. (The Lone Star Project poll had Brimer’s recognition at just 49.7% when identifying him as State Senator Kim Brimer.)

* Only 25% of voters say that Brimer deserves to be reelected, while 42% believe it’s time to elect someone new. (This corresponds to the Lone Star Project poll, which found that only 27.4% of voters surveyed wanted to see Brimer reelected.)

The poll was conducted by Bennett, Petts & Normington (BPN), a respected national polling firm, with a sample size of 400 likely voters in Texas’s 10th State Senate District. The poll had a margin of error of 4.9%. BPN conducted polling for Paula Hightower Pierson in her successful bid against State Representative Toby Goodman in 2006 and for Dan Barrett’s special election win in House District 97 last fall.

This poll also echoes the March primary results, when twice as many Democrats as Republicans turned out to vote. Looking specifically at this race, only 33,543 Republicans voted for Kim Brimer, while 62,574 Democrats voted for Wendy Davis. Both candidates were uncontested in their primaries.

It all sounds pretty good to me. If you haven’t done so already, you can listen to my interview with Wendy Davis, done during the Democratic convention in Austin, here.

Reminder: TexBlog PAC fundraiser

Just a reminder about the TexBlog PAC fundraiser for next Thursday:

Please join host Mustafa Tameez

and sponsors:
and sponsors:
State Representatives Ellen Cohen, Jessica Farrar, Armando Walle, and Ana Hernandez
Houston Controller Annise Parker
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress Michael Skelly
Democratic Candidate for State Senate Joe Jaworski
Democratic Candidates for State Representative Carol Alvarado, Sherrie Matula, Joel Redmond, John McClelland, Kristi Thibaut
Houston area bloggers Martha Griffin and Charles Kuffner
and James Hernandez, Casey Jones, Jay Aiyer

as we come together to take back the Texas House
and announce another TexBlog PAC endorsement

Join us at a

TexBlog PAC Event

with special guest

State Representative Garnet Coleman

Thursday, June 26, 2008

5:30 to 7:30 pm

Rice Lofts, Room 203

909 Texas Avenue

$25 Contribution Suggested

Sponsorships available at the following levels:

$500 $250 $125 $50

Please make all checks payable to:

TexBlog PAC

501 E. Stassney Lane, Ste 1010, Austin TX, 78745

or contribute online by visiting:

http://actblue.com/entity/fundraisers/18185

We hope to see you there!

You have issues

It’s Friday, right? That means it’s the perfect day for stuff like this.

Today, Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill issued a statement taunting Democrat David Mincberg for having nothing under the “Issues” section of the Web site for his campaign for chief of county government.

A while later Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerald Birnberg issued a statement pointing out that Mincberg’s Republican opponent, County Judge Ed Emmett, has a campaign Web site that lacks an “Issues” section in which to discuss issues.

So Woodfill attacks Mincberg for something that Emmett is even more guilty of? Well, a serious discussion like this deserves a serious response. So here’s my answer to Jared Woodfill:

I think that about covers it, don’t you?

More red light cameras in the works

Among other things related to the budget Wednesday, City Council approved a request to identify more intersections for red light cameras.

Councilman James Rodriguez asked for the budget amendment, arguing that red-light cameras are good sources of revenue, and the money can be used to put more police on the streets.

The administration agreed with the proposal, as did all council members except Mike Sullivan of District E (Clear Lake and Kingwood). The vote asked HPD to identify 50 new intersections, which would each have a few cameras. The total number of new red-light cameras would be about 125.

HPD should return to the council with the new locations within two months, according to the amendment.

Council Member Rodriguez had originally asked for 200 more cameras, so this is a scaled-down version of that request. As for the revenue question, we’ve already seen a decrease in the number of citations being given at the intersections that are currently camera-enabled. That’s a trend I would expect to continue, and to occur at any new intersections as well, so I’d be very careful about basing any future expenditures on camera monies. The city of Dallas learned a harsh lesson about that recently; let’s not follow that example.

Putting this another way: It’s fine by me if the cameras generate revenue because of a large volume of red light runners. I’m perfectly happy to see those people get stung for putting other people in danger. If the revenue plateaus and eventually declines because people are running fewer lights than before, that’s fine by me as well. If we wind up spending some money to maintain cameras at certain intersections, instead of the cameras paying for themselves, because they’ve demonstrated they have a positive effect on safety at those intersections, once again that’s fine by me. What I don’t want is for the city to game the system by reducing yellow light times or whatever in order to maintain a projected revenue stream that’s now falling short because drivers have wised up. For that reason, I’d prefer that the city view any revenue they get from these things as found money, and not a reliable source. So far, I believe the city has acted properly.

As it happens, if the Kubosh brothers get their wish, that would be a moot question.

Bail bondsman Michael Kubosh and his attorney brother Paul are looking to force a citywide referendum on the cameras.

“Let the citizens of the city of Houston decided whether or not they want this red light camera scheme,” said Michael.

His brother calls the city’s program dishonest.

“They’re lying to the public. They’re saying this is about public safety,” said Paul Kubosh. “If they would just come out and say, “We want your money because we want to spend it the way we see fit.”

“I wouldn’t say fraud. But they’re lying to the public.”

It may not be until March before any referendum could be put before voters. A state law prohibits a measure that has failed in a previous election to be brought back before voters for 24 months.

The last attempt to let the voters decide the fate of red light cameras went in favor of those who support the program. This year’s election falls on Nov. 4, just a few days shy of 24 months.

Well, they didn’t get what they wanted from the courts, so why not go for a referendum? It’s certainly possible they might win – I’ve not seen any public opinion data on the cameras, so this is very much an open question. I’d assume it would be next May for the vote, not March, since March is only a uniform election day in even-numbered years, but whatever. If they can get the sigs, then let’s vote on this and be done with it.

New DNA tests for Darlie Routier

Remember Darlie Routier, the housewife from Rowlett who is on death row for the stabbing deaths of her two young sons? She has maintained her innocence all along, saying that it was an intruder who killed her boys, and since the trial some strange facts – the court reporter was fired for committing thousands of errors in the trial transcript, her husband admitted that financial problems had led him to consider a plan to hire a burglar to steal stuff from the house to defraud their insurance company – have come to light, though an appeal for a new trial was denied five years ago. Now, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals has granted her request for new DNA testing on some of the evidence from her trial, on the grounds that it may cast doubt on her conviction.

The items to be retested:

Blood stains on her night shirt that previous tests showed to be soaked in blood from her and the boys. She claims newer techniques may find another source of blood.

A blood stain on a tube sock found in an alley. The sock contained blood from both boys and a third blood stain that did not yield a result. The court agreed that newer techniques might yield a DNA result.

Dried flakes on a utility room door. Although the flakes were previously tested and found not to include human DNA, Routier alleges they are dried blood that should be re-examined.

Pubic and facial hairs. The pubic hair yielded no result and the facial hair was found to be from someone other than Routier or her husband. She maintains the facial hair is from the alleged intruder and hopes to connect it to the results from the other retested items.

The court denied retests of a bloody palm print on the coffee table and blood stains on a butcher knife, which investigators said was the murder weapon.

In granting the new testing, the court said the state’s case against Routier remains strong, but if the new testing shows the results Routier alleges, there’s a chance a jury would not convict her.

“There is at least a 51 percent likelihood that the jury would have seen her as a victim herself, or at least that it would have harbored a reasonable doubt that she was not,” the court wrote.

It should be noted that this case is in Dallas County, home of numerous DNA-related exonerations. The Dallas County DA’s office had no comment for this story, but it’ll be interesting to see how they play this. Given that this was not a case of a conviction due to questionable eyewitness testimony or a coerced confession, they’re on far more solid ground being in opposition to Routier. But DNA is DNA, and if more modern testing can corroborate enough of Routier’s story to cast doubt on the result of her trial, then I think they’ve got to consider their options. I’ll keep an eye on this.

“Helicopter parents”

You’ve met “free-range kids”. Now meet their nemesis: “Helicopter parents”.

It begins innocently enough. When our children are infants and toddlers, they need us to protect them at every turn. Babies are just walking (or crawling) catastrophes, and danger lurks in and around every corner. Parents are trained to worry about their children even as they sleep: Don’t put your child on his stomach or he could die of SIDS! Don’t sleep with your child in your bed, or they could be smothered! and eat: Don’t feed your child anything before 6 months of age! Don’t give your toddler grapes! Or hot dogs! Or popcorn! and play: Have you anchored all your furniture? Can that toy become a choking hazard? Is that covered in lead paint?

But the truth of the matter is the anxiety-inducing messages begin before the child is even born: Don’t eat soft cheeses! Don’t eat tuna! But be sure you eat enough fish! Just not the kind with mercury in it! Don’t drink! Don’t smoke! Don’t take hot baths! Exercise, BUT NOT TOO MUCH!

And the result is that parents in our information age are never without something new to wring their hands about, and are nearly suffocating their children with worry.

See, this is why I read about politics. It’s much less worrisome.

Seriously, author Therese Odell makes a good case for chilling out and letting the kids grow up. Which I hope is what Tiffany and I are doing with our girls. At least, I can say I don’t recognize ourselves in the description Odell gives, and that’s reassuring. But kindergarten is looming around the corner for Olivia, so the opportunities to completely decompensate will grow rapidly. I’m hoping this will serve as a reality check for when that happens.