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June 13th, 2009:

Gonzalez wins in District H

In the end, it wasn’t that close.

Houston police officer Ed Gonzalez won the runoff special election to fill Houston City Council District H Saturday, defeating former high school teacher and City Council staffer Maverick Welsh.

Although the campaign was hard fought, with both candidates personally knocking on thousands of doors and calling registered voters repeatedly, Gonzalez ultimately prevailed by a wide margin.

With all 13 precincts reporting, Gonzalez earned 61 percent of the vote to Welsh’s 39 percent with 4,680 ballots cast. That actually exceeded the total number of ballots cast in the initial nine candidate special election May 9, a rarity in Houston runoffs.

“I feel just tremendous,” Gonzalez said Saturday night. “I feel very humbled at the fact that the voters of District H have spoken.”

Gonzalez will immediately fill the seat vacated by Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a close friend and former police colleague with whom he has worked on several previous political campaigns.

He said he plans to establish relationships with members of City Council and ensure that all constituent services and relationships with the community remain strong.

The final vote total was 2854 for Gonzalez and 1826 for Welsh. Kudos again to Stace for calling the higher turnout. For what it’s worth, if we’re doing a little tooting of one’s own horn, I had a pretty good guess on the final turnout number. Here, the early vote total was 47.9% of the cumulative amount, or a smidge higher than it was for the May election.

As far as the negative stuff, one way to look at this is that if you simply compare Welsh to Gonzalez in May, Welsh got 46.2% of the vote share. Gonzalez, who won all three aspects of the vote this time, therefore won a bigger percentage of the vote in the runoff. I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that the barrage of negative mail from the Welsh campaign hurt him, but it sure didn’t help.

Be that as it may, my congratulations to Council Member Ed Gonzalez on his victory today. I have full confidence in his ability to do the job. Best wishes, and good luck to you.

Saturday video break: He’s dead, Jim!

I still haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie. But I’ll always have this:

Live long and prosper, yo.

Runoff Day in District H

Today is Runoff Day for the District H special election. Polls are open from 7 AM till 7 PM. Voting locations are here; if you’re not sure what precinct you’re in, go here. Early voting was heavier than I expected it would be, so I’m very curious to see if that carries over to today’s activity. I think I speak for everyone involved in this when I say that I’ll be glad when it’s over and we finally have a Council member for District H. Best of luck to both candidates today.

What about Dwayne?

The Lone Star Project turns its attention to Ed Johnson‘s partner, State Rep. Dwayne Bohac.

[Friday], the Lone Star Project formally submitted open records requests of Dwayne Bohac, Tax Assessor Collector Leo Vasquez, Harris County DA Pat Lykos -a CDS client, and others. Given the refusal of Harris County Republican officials and Dwayne Bohac to respond responsibly to media inquiries about Ed Johnson, they must be compelled to produce records before evidence is destroyed or otherwise withheld from public or legal scrutiny.

[…]

To this point, Dwayne Bohac has said nothing to the press about his company, his activities or his employees, despite all being implicated in the scandal.  Bohac owes Harris County voters answers to at least the following questions.

Why does Bohac only sell to Harris County campaigns?
CDS claims to sell voter lists and software services, which should be applicable all over the state.  However, CDS only sells to Republican campaigns in Harris County. Is this because Ed Johnson is only available to help in Harris County?

What Harris County voter information has Bohac and Johnson obtained?
The Campaign Data Systems’ website claimed that, “Most data providers allow you to target using only registered voter data and voter history. However, CDS gives you two additional lists—drivers license data and property tax records.” (See the website) Ed Johnson’s position the with the Harris County Tax Assessor Collector, who oversees the voter registration department, may give him access to property tax data, vehicle registration data and other information in addition to the voter data for which he has full access. Bohac should tell Harris County residents what public data he has obtained and where he obtained it.

Why is Dwayne Bohac routing money through Decide Consulting?
Dwayne Bohac has never paid Campaign Data Systems from his campaign account.   Instead, he has suspiciously paid Decide Consulting more than $27,000 since 2004. Decide Consulting was founded by another Bohac business partner, David Moise.  This firm is described as a, “software management and consulting business.” Decide has no other political business listed on its website or on Texas Ethics Commission filings. These payments may be an effort by Bohac to steer profits to his business and business associates, while circumventing Texas Ethics Opinion 35 which prohibits payments to a business when the candidate owns more than a 10% stake for more than actual expenditures. As the opinion says, “the business may not make any profit on such a transaction.”

Good questions. I wonder when someone other than Pat “Conflict? What conflict?” Lykos or Leo Vasquez’s spokesperson will answer any of them. Campos has more.

Unemployment insurance taxes set to rise

Good news, business owners! You’re going to see a tax increase soon.

Most Texas employers should plan for their unemployment insurance taxes to increase significantly next year, Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken of Dallas said Tuesday.

While tax rates won’t be set until December, Pauken said that mounting layoffs are close to exhausting a state trust fund, forcing him and two fellow commissioners recently to authorize what they expect to be $2 billion of interest-free borrowing from the federal government.

[…]

Pauken’s projections came nearly three months after Gov. Rick Perry, with the backing of many business groups, rejected $556 million in federal stimulus money for unemployed Texans. He said President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress attached too many strings to the money and that Texas would have had to expand eligibility for benefits.

Pauken said that though things could still change, it’s probable that the commission next year will need to raise an amount from employers comparable to the amount raised in 2003 – or 2.4 percent of all taxable wages.

In 2003, the “minimum tax” paid by nearly 278,000 employers was 0.67 percent of the first $9,000 of an employee’s wages, or $60.30 per worker. This year’s minimum tax rate is only 0.26 percent, or $23.40 a head.

For all 448,000 employers, the average tax rate in 2003 was 1.67 percent, compared with 0.99 percent this year. If next year’s rates mirror those from six years ago, the average employer would pay about $150 per employee, up from just under $90 this year.

If the commission doesn’t issue bonds to defer the pain into future years, he said, the commission next year would have to slap an even bigger “deficit tax” on employers.

Under that scenario, Pauken said, the commission would have to squeeze from employers an amount approaching 2.9 percent of all taxable wages – a level not seen in the last decade or so.

And just remember, you have Rick Perry to thank for all of this. A statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman about this is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Going green in Seguin

Cool.

The residential wind turbine is one of several renewable initiatives featured at the $6 million Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative’s Seguin office complex, which just opened May 19.

The two-story, 24,000-square-foot facility includes solar panels that offset water-heating needs and a rainwater collection system with two 4,800-gallon tanks that also catch condensation from the air-conditioning system to irrigate the landscaping.

Darren Schauer, general manager and CEO, said growth and concern for the environment prompted the design of the unique complex.

“It’s a way for us to learn what these technologies can do so we can share that information with our members,” Schauer said. “We don’t want to be a utility beholden to old, traditional ways. We want to be one out there working with members, trying to be innovative and find new and better ways to meet their needs as far as energy needs.”

After the failures of the Lege to move the ball forward on renewable energy, I figure every little bit helps.