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November 20th, 2008:

Where’s the DA?

May as well enjoy those indictments of Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales while you can, because it sure looks like they won’t last very long.

Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were bewildered Wednesday when the prosecutor in a slew of indictments against them failed to appear in court.

Willacy County prosecutor Juan Angel Guerra’s no-show ruined hopes their motions would quickly quash cases against their clients and stumped the presiding judge as well.

“At the very least, I expected the district attorney to be here,” Manuel Banales said, asking Guerra’s office manager, “Do you know where he is?”

The manager, Hilda Ramirez, was subpoenaed by defense attorney J.A. “Tony” Canales after buzz in the courthouse that Guerra was nowhere to be found. She told the judge she had been trying to reach Guerra all day.


When Banales asked Ramirez if she were concerned for Guerra’s safety, she said she didn’t know how to answer the question. Guerra’s cell phone message box was full much of the day, but an assistant who answered the line late Wednesday said he was not ill.

I’m trying to decide which crime-and-courtroom TV drama this saga most resembles. Maybe “Hill Street Blues”, if you could credibly portray Guerra as some kind of tragic anti-hero, or “Boston Legal” if you think it’s farce all the way. If you have any better suggestions – and by all means, include your casting if possible – leave them in the comments. In the meantime, if this indictment survives much past the scheduled Friday arraignment, I’ll be shocked. Like I said, enjoy it while you can.

Precinct analysis: The Richmond Rail Effect 2008

Back in 2006, I did a series of posts that examined CD07 election results in the precincts surrounding Richmond Avenue and the route that was proposed at the time for that stretch of the Universities line to try and answer a question originally raised by Rich Connelly about whether support for rail on Richmond would be a loser in that area. My conclusion was not only did Jim Henley not lose votes to John Culberson in these precincts, he likely gained votes, and thus his support for rail on Richmond was an asset, not a liability. Even though rail was essentially a non-issue this year, I figured as long as I was knee-deep in precinct data, I might as well take a look back to see how Michael Skelly stacked up. Here’s the data for the last three elections:

2004 Pcnct Ballots Culb Pct Mrtnez Pct C/M Pct M/C Pct =============================================================== 39 1809 473 26.15% 1187 65.62% 28.49% 71.51% 60 1625 422 25.97% 1027 63.20% 29.12% 70.88% 123 866 236 27.25% 544 62.82% 30.26% 69.74% 139 1688 773 45.79% 767 45.44% 50.19% 49.81% 177 1024 635 62.01% 310 30.27% 67.20% 32.80% 178 1346 905 67.24% 328 24.37% 73.40% 26.60% 233 1597 837 52.41% 610 38.20% 57.84% 42.16% 569 1791 1065 59.46% 685 38.25% 60.86% 39.14% 802 237 46 19.41% 162 68.35% 22.12% 77.88% Total 11983 5392 45.00% 5620 46.90% 48.96% 51.04% 2006 Pcnct Ballots Culb Pct Henley Pct C/H Pct H/C Pct =============================================================== 39 1273 246 19.32% 958 75.26% 20.43% 79.57% 60 1050 202 19.24% 790 75.24% 20.36% 79.64% 123 513 117 22.81% 364 70.96% 24.32% 75.68% 139 1061 423 39.87% 564 53.16% 42.86% 57.14% 177 658 403 61.25% 237 36.02% 62.97% 37.03% 178 968 697 72.00% 231 23.86% 75.11% 24.89% 233 1583 791 49.97% 696 43.97% 53.19% 46.81% 569 1076 556 51.67% 454 42.19% 55.05% 44.95% 802 205 42 20.49% 149 72.68% 21.99% 78.01% Total 8387 3477 41.46% 4443 52.97% 43.90% 56.10% 2008 Pcnct Ballots Culb Pct Skelly Pct C/S Pct S/C Pct =============================================================== 39 1800 316 17.56% 1310 72.78% 19.43% 80.57% 60 1524 372 24.41% 1048 68.77% 26.20% 73.80% 123 913 222 24.32% 625 68.46% 26.21% 73.79% 139 1689 677 40.08% 921 54.53% 42.37% 57.63% 177 1076 587 54.55% 437 40.61% 57.32% 42.68% 178 1395 911 65.30% 452 32.40% 66.84% 33.16% 233 2844 1309 46.03% 1370 48.17% 48.86% 51.14% 569 2175 1075 49.43% 995 45.75% 51.93% 48.07% 802 208 47 22.60% 142 68.27% 24.87% 75.13% Total 13624 5516 40.49% 7300 53.58% 43.04% 56.96%

As before, “Pct” refers to the percent of the total ballot, which includes undervotes and votes for the Libertarian candidate. “C/x Pct” and “x/C Pct” are the straight-up Culberson versus Martinez/Henley/Skelly percentages. Precincts 39, 60, 123, and 802 are in Montrose, 178 is Afton Oaks, the epicenter of anti-rail activity back in the day, 177 and 569 are Lynn Park, Highland Village, and St. George’s Place, all of which border Afton Oaks, and 139 and 233 are Greenway Plaza.

Overall, there’s nothing too exciting here. Skelly lost a few points in 60, 123, and 802, but he had a pretty high standard to meet. He gained a little or more everywhere else, and flipped 233 to blue. He topped Henley by a small margin, with his biggest gains coming in Culberson’s strongest turf. Given Skelly’s gains in the district as a whole, that’s about what you’d expect.

So there you have it. I didn’t really have a point to make with this post, I just felt it needed to be included, at least before someone asked me about it. I figure that as there are still hurdles to be cleared for the Universities line, and construction is still at least a year away, this may become an issue again in 2010. Just keep these numbers in mind when Culberson or one of his proxies claims that he has the support of the voters in the area.

Pay that ticket or you can’t register your car

Last month, we heard that the city was considering an ordinance that would let the state deny a vehicle registration based on an unpaid red light camera ticket. City Council has now passed that ordinance.

Now, if a driver does not pay after 85 days, the city can get the Texas Department of Transportation to put a “hold” on the vehicle owner’s registration that cannot be cleared until the ticket is paid.

“It’s not complex,” Mayor Bill White said. “If you get a citation when you’re running the red light, then you pay the citation. Or, if you think there’s some mistaken identity, then you go and contest it. It’s pretty simple. But what you don’t have an option to do is just ignore the citation.”

Council members Michael Sullivan, Jolanda Jones and Ronald Green opposed the measure, although numerous others had questions about how effectively it could be implemented and whether it would add a burden to vehicle registration for those who may not be aware they were ticketed.

Sullivan said he was skeptical of the ordinance for a number of reasons: what if a couple goes through a divorce and the notice of a ticket goes to the wrong address? What if someone gives away a vehicle as a gift? He also cast doubt on whether the process would be fluid, given that it involves the city, a private contractor that administers the cameras, the county, which handles vehicle registration renewals and the state, which will apply the holds.

I understand Council Member Sullivan’s objections, but I still think this is a reasonable step for the city to take. Surely if we were talking about any other kind of violation that had been ignored, it would be uncontroversial. While I am certain there will be some problems – there always are, with any system – I don’t expect there to be too many. If there are, it should be fixable. I don’t think the possibility of problems is enough to make this unacceptable.

Another Final Four for Houston

Looks like that trip to Indianapolis has paid off.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that Reliant Stadium will be the site of the 2016 men’s basketball Final Four, setting the stage for the city to host one of the nation’s premier sporting events twice during a six-year stretch.

The Final Four will be held April 2-4, 2016.

Houston already had been scheduled to host the South Regional in 2010 and the Final Four in 2011, which will mark the 40-year anniversary of the city’s first Final Four in the Astrodome.

The other winning bids were for: New Orleans in 2012, Atlanta in 2013, the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium in Arlington in 2014 and Indianapolis in 2015.

“We saw an example of what Houston has to offer during the 2008 South Regional and have every reason to think that their future events will be special,” said Mike Slive, chairman of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.

Houston was competing against nine other cities or regions trying to land the event from 2012 through 2016. Bids from Detroit; Minneapolis; Phoenix/Glendale, Ariz.; San Antonio; and St. Louis were rejected.

“It was definitely not easy,” said Shea Guinn, president of SMG-Reliant Park. “This is one of the premier sporting events in the entire world. The fact 10 cities were bidding is a testament to that. We were up against some tough competition.”

Great news. Well done, y’all.

Hand over that BlackBerry, Mister President

That does it. I don’t want to be President when I grow up any more.

Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry.

Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.

For years, like legions of other on-the-move professionals, Obama has been all but addicted to his BlackBerry.

But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about keeping e-mail secure, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A final decision has not been made on whether he could go against precedent to become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.

Boy, do I feel his pain. There are solutions for encrypting email on a BlackBerry, over and above the normal encryption of BlackBerry-transmitted emails, but I suppose a higher level of paranoia than even that would be called for here. As for the public records stuff, it’s not the BlackBerry per se that’s the issue here, it’s the personal email correspondence, which falls into a grey area and is subject to abuse by the unscrupulous, that’s in question. Better to be above suspicion and do things the prescribed way, even if that means unhooking from the grid. Being President may be a great gig, but that’s a high price to pay if you ask me.