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June 24th, 2008:

TexBlog PAC endorses Chris Turner

I am happy to pass along the following announcement:

TexBlog PAC Proudly Endorses Chris Turner

TexBlog PAC formally endorsed Democrat Chris Turner for State Representative today. Turner is running in House District 96, in southern Tarrant County, against Republican incumbent Bill Zedler.

Winning House District 96

Donate to Chris Turner Today! Help Us Take Back the House!

House District 96 contains most of the southern areas of Arlington and Fort Worth, along with the communities of Crowley, Kennedale and Rendon and parts of Mansfield and Burleson.

In 2006, Republican Bill Zedler narrowly avoided a loss, managing only 52.46% of the vote:

Additionally, as Turner’s website shows, Democrats turned out in the March primary at a rate almost 2.5 times higher than Republicans – a larger ratio than the statewide average. More Democrats voted in the HD 96 House District in Tarrant County than in any other House District in the County.

About Chris Turner – A Committed, Hard-Working Candidate

Donate to Chris Turner Today! Help Us Take Back the House!

Born in Sherman and raised in Dallas, Chris went to Dallas’ Skyline High School and is a UT-Austin graduate with a degree in Government. Before launching his campaign, Chris Turner worked as District Director for Texas Congressman Chet Edwards (D – Waco). During his time with Congressman Edwards, Chris gained experience working across party lines to meet the needs of Texans from all walks of life.

Chris’ experience with the highly successful Congressman Edwards campaign will come in handy as he runs for office in HD 96. From his website:

Chris has also managed Edwards’ last four highly competitive and successful re-election campaigns, during which he was recognized for his leadership ability and organizational skills in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Donate to Chris Turner Today and Help Us Take Back the House!

We will be writing more about Chris in the coming days, weeks, and months. In the meantime, please join our efforts and donate anything you can – $10, $25, or $50 – to help us take back the House as we do our part to turn Texas blue!

Chris Turner joins Diana Maldonado on the list of TexBlog PAC endorsed candidates. We will be announcing a third endorsed candidate at the Thursday fundraiser at the Rice Lofts, so please come out there and see who that will be. Finally, if you haven’t done so, you can listen to my interview with Chris Turner here.

Still time to help Noriega in the Boxer challenge

Last week, I said you could lend a painless hand to Rick Noriega‘s fundraising efforts by voting in Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Choose a Challenger contest.

PAC for a Change is kicking off our 2008 “Choose a Challenger” contest — an opportunity for you and our entire online community to decide which Democratic Senate Challenger our PAC will support next. The winner of our online contest will be featured in a fundraising email to our PAC for a Change community, potentially adding tens of thousands of dollars to his or her campaign war chest this fall — going a long way towards helping us build a stronger progressive Senate majority in 2009 and beyond.

Voting is open till tomorrow – the site doesn’t say specifically, so I’m assuming just until midnight tonight, and as of last report Rick was leading, but not by enough to take if for granted. So if you haven’t done so, please visit the Choose a Challenger contest and cast your vote for Rick Noriega. All you need to provide is an email address. Thanks very much.

New frontiers in multitasking

As I was taking the girls to preschool this morning, we passed by a woman riding a bicycle while talking on a cellphone. Not with one of those fancy hands-free devices, either – she had one hand on the phone, which in turn was up to her ear, and one hand on her handlebars. I’m amazed that between the traffic noise and her bike helmet, she was able to hear anything. And it got me to wondering when I’d see the first “Hang up and pedal!” bumper sticker. You know that as fewer people drive and more people bike, it’s gonna happen sooner or later.

Good news comes in threes

When was the last time you read three simultaneously-published positive pieces about Houston in the national press? I’m thinking “never”, but maybe my memory just doesn’t stretch back far enough. Here they are:

Newsweek: Houston, We Have No Problems

Chicago Tribune: Houston doesn’t have a problem

Washington Post: Houston’s pipelines of prosperity

It’s not all good – the Newsweek piece has way too much stereotyping, all three focus too much on how well luxury goods are selling, there’s zero mention of Houston’s many cultural amenities, and I could live a long time without needing to see the name “Halliburton” mentioned in an article like these. But it’s much friendlier than what you usually see in the national media about Houston, even if it is a bit over the top. Lisa Falkenberg for one isn’t quite as sanguine:

Compared with the dire reports of layoffs and foreclosures and food bank spikes in other parts of the country, Houston is a great story. Except for the few facts that keep getting in the way.

Just last week, data released by the Texas Workforce Commission indicated a slowdown in key non-energy sectors, including construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and professional and business services.

While Houston-area employers created 58,300 new jobs — or an increase of 2.3 percent — during the past year, that’s the slowest year-over-year increase since June 2005. Initial claims for area unemployment benefits were up 12.3 percent in May compared with a year ago.

While the half of Houston’s economy dependent on energy is benefiting from a comfortable energy-based cushion, the other half is vulnerable to the same forces affecting cities elsewhere.

Fuel costs were among the factors that drove Continental to cut flights and jobs — and into an alliance with United. Another Houston-based company, AIG, the world’s largest insurer, is undergoing management changes after losing billions in investments linked to risky mortgages and other debt.

The idea that Houston is floating along in a protective, petroleum-filled bubble and is immune to the economic struggles the rest of the country is facing is flawed. Or, in the words of economist Barton Smith, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston, it’s “wrong, wrong wrong.”

“It bothers me,” he said of the overly glowing media attention.

“The bottom line is we are slowing down. We have been slowing down for almost a year,” he said.

Not everyone agrees with Falkenberg’s dash of cold water, but I think she has a point. Barton Smith was sounding that alarm here over the weekend. He’s quoted, though not saying anything like this, in the Post article. All three pieces give some mention to other, non-rosy things about the state of our fair city, but the tone in each is positive to the point of glowing.

But on the other hand, so what? We’ve gotten more than our share of bad press over the years, in ways that were equally overblown. Hell, the universe still owes us one for inflicting us with The Crooked E. So if we’re the beneficiary of a few puff pieces, and if they make people want to move here – assuming they can sell their current houses, of course – that’s fine by me. Whatever draws people here in the first place, they usually figure out pretty quickly there are plenty of other reasons to like it here.

So check these articles out, and send the links to your non-Houstonian friends. Then send them links to things like the Art Car Parade and the Catastrophic Theater and Pride Texas and whatever else you’ve got to make sure they know it’s more than just the jobs. Houstonist has more.

The sheriff speaks

Sheriff Tommy Thomas comes out of his bunker long enough to answer a few questions about all that nasty news about himself and his office. Looking at what he’s got to say for himself, I’m thinking he’d have been better off staying quiet.

“I’ve been in this business nearly 40 years, and I’ve never had my integrity questioned. To have this happen, obviously, I think is pure politics,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, some things happened that I’m not happy about. But the responsibility lies with me. I understand that.”

[…]

Amid the controversies, and some internal questions about why he was not publicly defending himself or the department, the sheriff accepted a Houston Chronicle request for an interview. The 30-minute conversation occurred Monday, a few hours before activist Quanell X and other critics held a rally outside the jail calling for his resignation, a demand Thomas rejected.

[City Council Member Adrian] Garcia criticized Thomas on Monday, accusing him of “management through damage control, not good leadership.”

“It’s about time that Sheriff Thomas stopped hiding long enough to answer some questions,” Garcia said. “But the fact remains that his lack of leadership has severely damaged the reputation of the good, hardworking deputies.”

[…]

One by one, Thomas addressed the various allegations and widespread rumors swirling in political circles in recent months:

  • Thomas said he did nothing wrong in accepting design services from Hermes, who he said was selected for county work by a committee reviewing at least three bids. He said he paid Hermes to redesign plans for a “retirement home” to save some oak trees. He declined to disclose the amount. “You’ll just have to take my word for it,” he said. “I paid him, and I paid him fair market value.”
  • The sheriff beat back the suggestion that he lives beyond his means, noting that his wife, Debra, makes a good salary at a software company. He said he no longer has a mortgage on a $200,000 home in Katy and noted that he bought the ranch land 15 years ago for $90,000. “I think it was a damned good investment,” he said.
  • Thomas also said information technology staffers prompted the decision to delete e-mails on a 14-day schedule, but he acknowledged the “bad timing” after controversy erupted over the e-mails of former District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. “We were told by our technical people that we’re about to shut down the system, we’ve got so many e-mails,” the sheriff said.
  • He declined to discuss much about the Ibarra case, citing the ongoing lawsuit. But he suggested their complaint was overblown. “As far as the surveillance goes, it was something that was a matter of a few hours. They were suing the county for millions of dollars,” Thomas said. “They (deputies) didn’t approach these guys or anything. They merely went by their house. I guess I don’t see the real harm when we’re being sued for that kind of money.”

Where to begin? Well, it seems to me that if you’re being accused of getting a sweetheart deal from a contractor who’s done official county business, the first thing you’d do is disclose how much you’re paying him to do your own stuff, so that anyone would be able to see that you’re being charged a fair market price for his services. To do otherwise would just further the speculation that you got something that the rest of us couldn’t get.

As for the email deletion issue, which was a crock from the beginning, how about the fact that a state district court judge ruled that the Sheriff’s office violated state law by implementing that policy, and called its arguments in defense of it “not meritorious”? How about the fact that this policy led to the deletion of emails that were relevant to the Ibarra lawsuit, despite the HCSO’s claim that that sort of thing would never happen, and the fact that the same judge chastised the HCSO for its lack of credibility and its reluctance to follow his orders? That’s all a bit more than “bad timing”, isn’t it?

And then there’s the Ibarra lawsuit – lawsuits, really. I don’t know what to say, other than it’s pretty easy to see why the first suit wasn’t enough to get the message through. Does the Sheriff not know anyone familiar with the concept of public relations, or do none of those folks want anything to do with him?

Finally, there’s this:

Sgt. Richard Newby, president of the 1,800-member Harris County Deputies Organization, said he was compiling a poll showing deputies siding slightly with Garcia.

But he said many do not believe the negative allegations about Thomas.

“The sheriff has always worked behind the scenes, not in front of the cameras, and he’s been very effective,” Newby said. “Have there been problems and mistakes? Yeah. But they’ve been taken care of as they’ve come up. A lot of this we wouldn’t be seeing if it wasn’t an election year.”

So, what, it’d all have been hushed up instead? Forgive me if I’m not terribly reassured by that.

Well, there you have it. I hope it won’t be as long till the next time Sheriff Thomas speaks. The entertainment value along make the experience worthwhile.

Once again, why is Kinky Friedman still in my newspaper?

Oh, good grief. Haven’t we read this before?

Musician and author Kinky Friedman still wants to be governor of Texas and says he’ll run in 2010 as a Democrat — if he can raise enough money.

Friedman, in a phone interview with WOAI Radio of San Antonio, said he’ll run again if he’s “got a war chest that is sizable enough.”

Friedman today told KRLD Radio of Dallas-Fort Worth that he’d probably need three-to-five million dollars.

Yes, we have seen this before. I have three words: Not. Gonna. Happen. He won’t get anywhere near that kind of money, and if he decides to run anyway, he’ll get his ass handed to him in the primary. (Among other things, being called “Our guy in Texas” by Bill O’Reilly is unlikely to help.) Then maybe he’ll finally go back to doing stuff he’s good at, like making music. The world, or at least the state of Texas, will be better off when he does. Thanks to Muse for the link.

Mayor White talks transit

I finally had a chance to listen to this interview on NPR with Mayor White that the Houston Politics blog flagged. It’s pretty good, though very general, on the topic of density, transit, and what Houston will look like in the future. I suppose it doesn’t much matter, since he wouldn’t be in office long enough to see any of it get started, much less come to fruition, but I’d still like to hear Mayor White spell out a vision for Houston’s future in transit. Assuming nothing screwy happens in the courts, we should be well on our way to implementing the rest of the Metro Solutions 2012 plan, and we may be making some headway on those new commuter rail lines – at least, we may have answers to some key questions about them by then – and it’ll be high time to get to work on what comes next. Obviously, whoever succeeds Mayor White will be the key player in that, but I see no reason why he shouldn’t start the conversation. Who knows, maybe he’ll be talking about some of these issues anyway when he makes his run for Governor. Anyway, give it a listen and see what you think.

Texas blog roundup for the week of June 23

It’s now officially summertime, and whether or not the living is easy or the cotton is high, you can count on the Texas Progressive Alliance to help keep things cool. Click on to read the blog highlights for the week.

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