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July, 2009:

LSP says Johnson reassigned from voter registration duties

Here’s their report.

The Lone Star Project has learned that Republican Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez has reassigned Associate Voter Registrar Ed Johnson from voter registration duties to a communications role. Johnson was exposed by the Lone Star Project as “the inside man” to Republican elected officials, particularly State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (HD138-Houston).

Vasquez’s actions appear to be a cynical attempt to distract attention from an ongoing lawsuit in which Vasquez is seeking to withhold documents and other records that would likely confirm that his office improperly rejected as many as 70,000 voter registration applications and improperly handled more than 1,200 provisional ballots.

I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else as yet, so it’s an unconfirmed report. But not a surprising one.

Friday random ten: Cooling down

After the earlier Too Hot list, I felt this was necessary.

1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – The Priestess and The Fool
2. Cold Shot – Stevie Ray Vaughan
3. Cold – Annie Lennox
4. The Cool, Cool River – Paul Simon
5. Cool for Cats – Squeeze
6. Cool Dry Place – Traveling Wilburys
7. I Can Be Cool – Bob & Gene
8. Cool Blues – Charlie Parker
9. Iceman – Bruce Springsteen
10. Ice Cream Man – Van Halen

Much better. What’s cooling you off this week?

Two billion dollars

Governor Perry’s grandstanding rejection of the federal stimulus money for unemployment insurance is going to cost us all more and more.

Texas is preparing to borrow as much as $2-billion to pay for unemployment insurance benefits. That’s what the chairman for the Texas Workforce Commission told KERA in a recent interview. KERA’s Shelley Kofler reports employers who fund benefits can expect a tax increase, too.

The fund that pays unemployment benefits to Texans ran out of money this month. That forced the state to take out the first of several no-interest, federal loans that will total some $643 million- just to pay benefits through September. Then what? Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken says the state will borrow more. A lot more.

Pauken: We are looking at putting a bond in place probably next year in excess of a billion and we could look at a bond in the range of a billion and a half or $2 billion.

Kofler: The state of Texas may have to borrow $2 billion?

Pauken: Yeah, that could well be the case in terms of a bond over a seven-to-10 year period.

Pauken wants to stretch the repayment of $2 billion plus interest over at least seven years saying that might limit a huge spike in the tax rate employers pay to support the benefits fund. But for employers, Pauken says there’s no escape.

Pauken: Oh, they are going to have to pay more next year. They have had lower rates in recent years because the economy has been so good in Texas, but it is going to go higher next year.

Remember, business owners, you will have Governor Perry to thank for this. Now even if we had accepted the stimulus money for unemployment insurance, we’d still be short of what we need to handle the increase in claims. Of course, a big part of the reason for that was because the Texas Workforce Commission stopped collecting the replenishment tax for the unemployment insurance trust fund, which is now broke, back when times were better, because of course the good times always last forever. That was done at the behest of Governor Perry, as Sen. Watson helpfully reminds us. So pretty much every decision Perry has made regarding unemployment insurance has wound up costing businesses money. He’s claiming we may not have to borrow quite as much as $2 billion, but given his track record so far, why should anyone believe him? More here.

Where’d that driver’s license data come from?

The Lone Star Project revisits the matter of Ed Johnson and Dwayne Bohac and their cozy relationship as business partners with a real in at the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office.

Last month, the Lone Star Project revealed that Harris County Associate Voter Registrar, Ed Johnson, is a paid employee of a GOP political consulting firm, Campaign Data Systems (CDS), owned by Republican State Representative Dwayne Bohac.  On the firm’s website Bohac boasted that the CDS voter data file is enhanced by information culled from “driver license” records.  The contact name provided to obtain the data is Ed Johnson, Bohac’s business partner AND the Harris County Associate Voter Registrar. How did CDS get the drivers license records? It appears that Bohac obtained the records improperly by way of his “man on the inside” Ed Johnson.  Here are the relevant facts and documents:

  • Under Texas law, official driver license records can be obtained ONLY from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) after paying a considerable fee and signing an agreement that the records will not be sold or given to other individuals or organizations.
  • Documents obtained from the DPS by the Lone Star Project confirm that the Harris County Elections office obtained and received regular updates of Texas driver license records. When obtaining the records, Ed Johnson himself signed an agreement on behalf Harris County that he WOULD NOT make the information available to any other individual or organization.
  • The DPS also confirmed that neither Campaign Data Systems, Dwayne Bohac nor any CDS clients individually requested or received driver license records at any time.
  • The only direct link between driver license records and Campaign Data Systems is Ed Johnson, who appears to have improperly used driver license records from the Harris County Elections Office to enhance voter data sold by Campaign Data Systems.

Did Dwayne Bohac and Ed Johnson break the law?
Dwayne Bohac must either produce evidence that CDS obtained Texas Drivers License records from a source other than the Harris County Elections office OR admit that he lied to clients and did not enhance their voter data with driver license records. Otherwise, Dwayne Bohac and Ed Johnson conspired to illegally obtain Texas Driver License records and use them for commercial political purposes which is a violation under the Texas Transportation Code, Sec. 730.013, and the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act of 1994.

You can click over to see the documents themselves. More will be coming next week.

Someone must be doing it

Ars Technica: 12% of e-mail users have actually tried to buy stuff from spam.

[The Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG)] conducted 800 interviews by phone and Internet across the US with people who had e-mail addresses not managed by a corporate IT staff. It found that two-thirds of the group said that they were very or somewhat experienced with Internet security, and a majority used filters of some kind in order to avoid spam. Eighty-two percent were aware of bots and botnets, though not many believed they were at risk of being victimized by one.

Slightly less than half (48 percent) said that they have never clicked on a spam e-mail. That’s the good news, but that means the other half have clicked on or responded to spam. But why? The answers will undoubtedly horrify you. A full 12 percent said that they were interested in the product or service being offered—those erection drug and mail order bride ads do reach a certain market, it appears.

Seventeen percent said that they made a mistake when they did so—understandable—but another 13 percent said they simply had no idea why they did it; they just did. Another six percent “wanted to see what would happen.”

(Interestingly, a larger percentage of people who were interviewed by phone said that they had never acted on a spam message compared to those who answered online. Guess it’s true that users would rather not admit their foibles when speaking to a real person.)

“Although a small percentage of the computing population, these numbers still earn a significant enough return on investment to support a booming spam-driven underground economy,” wrote MAAWG. Indeed, with spam making up a very large majority of all e-mail traffic—Microsoft recently claimed it was at 97 percent—even low sellthrough rates are enough to make things very profitable. With botnets supposedly sending more than 80 percent of that spam (according to Symantec), there are now relatively few man-hours involved in making money from a spam-based business. Just set it and forget it.

I really don’t know what there is to say about this. Somewhere, PT Barnum is laughing his ass off. Thanks to Dwight for the link.

KBH goes link trolling

Oh. My. God.

This morning, I came across a Web site for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s gubernatorial campaign.

A provocative twist: The site may have been juiced with the intent of drawing visitors with the help of more than 2,200 hidden phrases—including “rick perry gay.” (See the phrases here.)


[KBH campaign spokesperson Jeff] Sadosky and other campaign aides said this afternoon that only the two phrases using “rick perry gay” will be removed because they won’t play into the campaign’s future messages.

Broadly, the campaign said a vendor sold them on a tool that generates the phrases hourly or less in an attempt to divine the most frequent Web searches made by individuals who search online using one or all of the terms “Rick Perry,” “Kay Bailey Hutchison” and “Texas.”

Punch line: The generated phrases aren’t intended to drive up traffic to the standbykay site; they are intended to help Hutchison’s campaign decide most efficiently where to purchase banner ads or other Web-related advertisign that would drive people to the site, where visitors can volunteer, chase information or make donations.

It’s like God decided that Texas’ joke-writing industry needed a stimulus package of its own. If only Molly Ivins were alive to see this. But hey, at least now we know someone on KBH’s team is actually playing for keeps.

NHPO online survey for July

The National Hispanic Professional Organization (NHPO), in conjunction with The Carreno Group, conducted an online survey of the Houston municipal elections earlier this month, for which they have just released the results. I’ve placed it under the fold for your perusal. I’ll say three things about it.

1. There’s simply no way that Annise Parker really has 60%+ of the vote. I hate to say this, because Parker is my preferred candidate, but there it is. I think Stace sums it up correctly.

Now, this wasn’t a scientific result, but I do believe it shows just how involved the campaigns have been online. As Parker’s results show, and as I stated previously, her online presence is evident with such a large lead. From my own observations, I did not see much online action from the others in the race regarding this survey.


While some may criticize this survey, let’s call it what it is. A mere snapshot. Sure, there may be ways to add some more controls to the survey to make it more “scientific” (and in this day, more cell phones and less home phones make phone surveys just as ineffective). So, let’s call it what it is: a survey of likely voters who are well-educated, and active online. Besides, it can be fun to watch campaigns get activated and flexing that social media muscle.

2. Having said that, I do think the ethnic makeup of the survey-takers is a reasonable approximation of what we’ll see in November, though it’s skewed too much towards the Democrats. That’s no surprise given that the viable Mayoral candidates are all Dems, and it may result in the actual electorate in November being more Democratic than it is overall. But given the contested Council races in Districts A, E, and G, I wouldn’t be too sure of that. More to the point with runoffs likely in A and G, it may be a mostly Republican electorate that ultimately determines who our next Mayor is. So while this is a useful snapshot of Democratic voters’ preferences, even though it’s not a scientific poll, it’s still not really giving us something representative. I do hope we get some real polling done soon, say in September as an initial baseline; doing it before anyone goes on the air so we can compare how their ads affect their standing would be useful as well.

3. I tried to take this survey myself when it came out, but it didn’t allow me to skip questions, and it didn’t have a “none of the above” or “undecided” option. As I did not care for any of their choices in the “who would you like to see run for Mayor” question, I ultimately didn’t submit my answers. I gave that feedback to the Carreno Group, and I hope their next survey incorporates such a choice on all questions, as I think that will give a more accurate picture.

Anyway. Click on to see the survey results. The previous survey was discussed here. Anyone else here participate in this one?


From the “Nobody knows what KBH will do” department

That would be because she doesn’t know what the hell she’s going to do. Here’s Kay, take one, from the Mark Davis radio show.

Davis: So you’ll be coming out at some point. When do you think its decision time for you? When would you like when might we know?

Kay: I’m going to announce in August. Formal announcement I am in. Then the actual leaving of the Senate will be sometime – October/November – that– in that time frame.

Sounds pretty specific, right? Audio is here if you want to give it a listen. And now here’s Kay, take two, a little later in Washington.

If Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is trying to keep the rival camp in Texas’ gubernatorial primary — and all of Washington — guessing about how long she’ll keep her current job, she’s a success.

Over the course of just a few hours on Wednesday, she sent nothing but mixed signals.

First, she told a Texas radio interviewer that she intends to resign her seat in the Senate.

In Washington a short time later, Hutchison said she might stay in the Senate through next year’s gubernatorial race and really didn’t intend to indicate a change in her anticipated timetable.

“I did not realize this was going to be something that would be construed as different from what I’ve been saying,” Hutchison told reporters. “I had said that I would be leaving probably some time toward the end of the year, late fall. And that’s what I said in this interview.”

Clear? Maybe this will help.

The point I was trying to make in the interview was that I think there’s a chance that the governor would be dropping out of this race. I mean, it’s pretty unprecedented to have a governor trying to serve 15 years, and i was trying to say that. I stepped back once before [changing her mind in 2006], no one expected him to run for 15 years, and I think there’s a chance that he wouldn’t run because he would see how divisive it is and that he’s trying to stay too long and that you know he can really help in many ways if he doesn’t run, in which case I would be able to then stay in the Senate all the way to the end.

Link via Greg. I think Jason Embry, who gave a sympathetic interpretation of her verbiage, had it right in her initial reaction, which was that she stepped all over her own message. Actually, I’d agree with that if I thought she had one. Far as I can tell, it’s still a muddle.

I’ve made plenty of fun with KBH and her Intent to Announce Tour, which has lasted longer than some marriages I’ve known, and in the end she may well do what she’s saying and resign this fall. Crazier things have happened, after all. I still think a major argument against her resigning is that she doesn’t want to give Rick Perry the task of appointing a replacement, who would presumably be the favorite among Republicans to make it to a runoff; given how anemic for the current GOP Senate hopefuls, that shouldn’t be too hard to do. Trail Blazers runs down the list of potential appointees, though he overlooks one obvious choice. Texas Politics gets some reactions to Kay’s is-she-is-or-is-she-ain’t announcement from these same folk, and Vince makes the case that Perry would appoint Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. I guess I can see that, though it’s not clear to me that appointing the Dew advances Rick Perry’s interests, which is to say firing up the wingnut base. He does solve the fundraising issue, as he can write his own check, but I don’t know that he does much more than that. But read Vince’s case and see what you think. BOR has more.

One more thing:

Once Hutchison made her announcement Wednesday, [Perry] spokesman Mark Miner disparaged those who would quit their jobs before their terms expire. “When people elect you to an office they expect you to fulfill the obligations to the job,” Miner said.

And when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said on July 3 that she would step down with more than a year left on her term, Perry said, “Sarah Palin is a good friend and accomplished governor who will continue to be a strong voice of conservatism in American politics. Her state and our country are better off as a result of her tenure as governor and her candidacy for vice president.”

No mention of obligation-fulfilling there.

No one ever said Rick Perry knew what he was talking about, either. If you expect consistency on this point from him, be prepared for disappointment. Hell, he’ll probably have Palin herself attack KBH for being a quitter, which we all know Palin isn’t because she told us herself she isn’t one. If you’re vulnerable to whiplash, you’re in the wrong line of work here.

Post the meeting notices already

Apparently, it’s not so easy finding out when Metro has a committee meeting.

Metro does post the time of its regular monthly board meeting on its Web site, but not for the committee meetings. Reporting on government agencies has taught me that many decisions tend to get made in committee. Attending committee meetings is a good way to learn how an agency functions and to meet some of the key players.

Metro’s media contact, Raequel Roberts, said the only way to find out when the committees meet every month is to go to Metro headquarters downtown and check the lobby bulletin board. A meeting notice also is posted at the downtown Harris County courthouse, she said.

I asked her if there was someone I could call to find out the meeting schedule without using so much time, gasoline or Metro fare. Roberts told me no.

I am paid to keep tabs on public agencies. So if Metro wants me to jump through that hoop, then fine. But what about the thousands of Metro customers spread out over the 1,285-square-mile service area? What if they want to attend a committee meeting? Should they have to come downtown just to find out the meeting time, and then come downtown again to attend the meeting itself?

“They’re throwing up a veil of secrecy over the agency that shouldn’t be tolerated in the computer age,” said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, an advocacy organization that promotes open government. “Government agencies often forget for whom they work.”

Bill Ogden, a First Amendment and media lawyer in Houston, said the Internet is one of the easiest ways for the government to keep the public notified. The Internet is “cheap and the most readily accessible, so there’s no excuse not to do it.”


Two Metro board members said they didn’t see any problem with posting the committee meetings on the Web.

“I think it’s fine to do that,” said George DeMontrond, III, who chairs the Government/Public Relations Committee. “I don’t know why they don’t do it.”

“I don’t know why they shouldn’t be on the Web site, unless there was some reason they were trying to keep it quiet,” said Terence Fontaine, who was just sworn in as Metro’s newest board member.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly the appearance it gives. Bill Ogden is correct, there’s no reason or excuse for not doing this. Perhaps the board members who agree with that can take it upon themselves the make it happen.

More money for SUPERTRAINS

Good news.

[Thursday], the U.S. House passed its housing and transportation bill, which will provide funds for fiscal year 2010. Approved mostly by members of the majority Democratic party, the bill would allocate $4 billion to high-speed rail programs — if the Senate’s version, likely to be considered after the August recess, includes the same provision. If a planned infrastructure bank is authorized by the Congress later this year, $2 billion of the included funds would be shifted there and could be devoted to non-rail projects, though that prospect appears unlikely at this time.

In the President’s Budget, released earlier this year, Mr. Obama asked the Congress to devote $1 billion for the next five years for high-speed rail, in addition to the $8 billion already marked for the program under the stimulus bill. The House’s decision to increase that number to $4 billion is a direct reaction to the huge response from states and the private sphere for stimulus-based federal rail grants. The FRA revealed that forty states had applied for more than $103 billion.

Excellent. I hope this increases Texas’ chances of getting SUPERTRAIN funds.

Thinking forward to when the Texas T-Bone is up and running, how attractive would it be as a travel option? Right now, a round trip to Austin is a bit more than 300 miles for me, or about a tank of gas. That’s $25-$40 depending on one’s fuel efficiency at $2.50 a gallon gas. There isn’t a direct Amtrak route from Houston to Austin now, but a round trip between Houston and San Antonio would run you about $70. You’ll note those departure and arrival times aren’t exactly convenient, and the train ride is much longer than driving would be, but one presumes the future T-Bone train would run more frequently, with business day trips in mind, and likely at a lower cost. Assuming it has amenities like WiFi and electric outlets, even at cost that’s higher than driving and a comparable trip duration, I’d consider it a win. As long as I could get between the station and my destination in Austin easily enough – Austin’s future light rail line will be of some help, imperfect as it may be – it would be something I’d strongly consider. We’ve a long way to go before we get there, but it’s worth looking forward to. Thanks to Yglesias for the link.

Intown Q&A with Mayoral candidates

Houston Intown magazine is one of those freebie publications you’ll find at your coffee shop and whatnot. The current issue has a Q&A with the five Mayoral candidates that’s worth a look. For whatever the reason, their website isn’t set up with links to articles – it’s this annoying “virtual magazine” format where you see the page layout as if you were staring at the dead-tree edition, and you have to click on controls to “turn” the pages. Fortunately, the Q&A starts on page 6, so you don’t have to go far to find it. I have no idea why some of these little local pubs do it this way – 002 Magazine does as well – I find it really off-putting. It’s like they don’t want anyone to bother linking to them. Well, it didn’t work this time, but I doubt I’ll repeat the experience any time soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the magazine in PDF format. Thanks to Greg for sending it to me.

Interview with Noel Freeman

Noel FreemanContinuing with the At Large candidate interviews, today we hear from Noel Freeman, who is running in At Large #4. Freeman was a candidate for the At Large #3 special election of 2007, finishing seventh in the field of 11. He is an employee of the city’s Public Works and Engineering department, and he is a resident of the Heights.

Download the MP3 file.


Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1

The secret Superintendent search continues

HISD continues its stealthy ways in seeking a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Abe Saavedra.

The Houston school board, trying to protect the candidates’ identities, will interview the job seekers behind closed doors at its headhunting firm’s downtown office.

The board is scheduled to call the meeting to order at 9 a.m. [today] in a conference room at Heidrick & Struggles, located on the 68th floor of the Chase Tower.

The public part of the meeting is expected to last a few minutes before trustees go into closed session to question the job candidates.

I still think this is ridiculous. What are they going to do, bring the candidates in with bags over their heads? What’s their plan in the event one or more names do get leaked? Just be open about it and you don’t have to worry about these things.

The Texas Open Meetings Act appears to allow the school board to meet anywhere that is “accessible to the public,” said Matthew Festa, an assistant professor at South Texas College of Law.

“I would say reasonably any place in Houston is accessible. Nothing says it has to be in the official chambers,” Festa said.

Seems to me to be a glaring weakness in the law as written. I hope someone remembers this in 2011.

Csorba said the public can attend the brief open session before the interviews, though he’s not expecting a crowd.

It would be awfully funny if he were to be proven wrong about that. Which leads to another question: What happens if someone shows up with a camera and an Internet connection? Would they throw him out? Would that be allowed under the Open Meetings Act given that this is taking place on private property? This very likely won’t happen, but if it does, we’ll all see the lawsuit coming a mile away.

Just how viable is the Grand Parkway anyway?

So it’s official, Commissioners Court has voted to seek stimulus funding for the Grand Parkway Segment E despite numerous concerns about the way they went about it. Houston Tomorrow explores a facet of this that I hadn’t been aware of before.

Proponents of Segment E have come under fire in recent months for waiving a detailed financial analysis of the project, and the current proposal appears to be an attempt to mute that criticism. However, it comes four months after the Commissioners Court approved 30 engineering contracts worth almost $22 million, and five months after the seven counties voted to waive the market valuation process. The language of Tuesday’s agenda provides some flexibility, so it is unclear how detailed the viability study will be. The commissioners will also vote on increasing the value of one of the existing contracts, as well as purchasing two tracts of land to develop Segment E. The full agenda items are available at the bottom of this page.

Videotaped testimony from last summer’s terms and conditions negotiating process, which is no longer available online, revealed that the entire Grand Parkway is revenue-negative. Art Storey, executive director of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department, agreed with that assessment, telling the Commissioners Court in February, “The whole highway is demonstrably a loser.“ However, Storey insisted that Segments E and F, by themselves, are toll-viable.

At the same time, Storey and others hope that the $181 million for Segment E will jump-start the rest of the $5 billion, 180-mile project, including the non-toll-viable portions. Three days after saying that the Grand Parkway will lose money, Storey, who sits on the regional Transportation Policy Council (TPC),spoke in support of the Grand Parkway at a TPC meeting, saying that “the doing of it [building Segment E] will make the doing of the rest of it more likely and more feasible.” He was supported by TxDOT commissioner Ned Holmes, who does not sit on the council but made a special trip to Houston to lobby for the project and said that the stimulus money could “induce the entire Grand Parkway to be built.”

I don’t know that I have anything to add to this. Just keep it in mind the next time you hear someone complain about the cost of building rail lines.

Let’s do the time warp again

Businesses try to restrict Internet access for employees, employees diligently try to find ways around these restrictions. What year is it again?

It’s a common complaint from young people who join the work force with the expectation that their bosses will embrace technology as much as they do. Then some discover that sites they’re supposed to be researching for work are blocked. Or they can’t take a little downtime to read a news story online or check their personal e-mail or social networking accounts. In some cases, they end up using their own Internet-enabled smart phones to get to blocked sites, either for work or fun.

So some are wondering: Could companies take a different approach, without compromising security or workplace efficiency, that allows at least some of the online access that younger employees particularly crave?

“It’s no different than spending too much time around the water cooler or making too many personal phone calls. Do you take those away? No,” says Gary Rudman, president of GTR Consulting, a market research firm that tracks the habits of young people. “These two worlds will continue to collide until there’s a mutual understanding that performance, not Internet usage, is what really matters.”


There is, of course, another side of the story — from employers who worry about everything from wasted time on the Internet to confidentiality breaches and liability for what their employees do online. Such concerns have to be taken especially seriously in such highly regulated fields as finance and health care, says Nancy Flynn, a corporate consultant who heads the Ohio-based ePolicy Institute.

From a survey Flynn did this year with the American Management Association, she believes nearly half of U.S. employers have a policy banning visits to personal social networking or video sharing sites during work hours. Many also ban personal text messaging during working days.

Flynn notes that the rising popularity of BlackBerrys, iPhones and other devices with Web access and messaging have made it much trickier to enforce what’s being done on work time, particularly on an employee’s personal phone. Or often the staff uses unapproved software applications to bypass the blocks.

As a result, more employers are experimenting with opening access.

Didn’t we have this debate, like, last decade? I realize that Internet usage is more pervasive now, but the basic threats – productivity losses, exposure to malware, corporate security breeches, bandwidth overload – are the same, and people are now that much more used to having the Internet at their disposal. I don’t see how trying to clamp down now is going to be any more successful than it was ten years ago when the debate was over employees’ usage of email, though perhaps the current dismal environment for job-seekers will put a temporary lid on the complaints about it.

Of course, if employers really want to kill of websurfing at work, I have a simple solution for them, which I can guarantee will work: Make IE6 your standard platform, and disallow any updates to the browser or installations of new browsers. That’ll keep ’em out of Facebook and on their jobs.

Gallery arsonist arrested

An arrest has been made in the setting of the fire at the Gallery Furniture warehouse back in May.

A man fired five years ago from Gallery Furniture has been arrested and charged with arson, accused of setting the fire that destroyed the large warehouse adjacent to store’s main location on the North Freeway in May.

Robert Carroll Gillham, 66, is charged with arson, a first-degree felony. He is in Montgomery County Jail on an unrelated charge.

Gallery Furniture’s owner Jim McIngvale said he welcomed the news of the arrest.

“It’s very relieving to everyone at Gallery that there’s been an arrest made,” he said.

According to court documents, Gillham told several people, including his girlfriend, as early as last year that he was angry with McIngvale and wanted to burn the store.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and firearms interviewed Gillham’s girlfriend, who told investigators that she loaned Gillham her red Dodge Stratus to go to the warehouse after he promised to use different license plates.

She said he was gone about 45 minutes on the day of the fire and returned to say, “I’m OK, it’s done.”

She said he car smelled like gasoline when she got back in it later that night.

Arson investigators found melted red plastic and traces of gasoline in the northeast corner of the warehouse where the fire originated.

Court documents also show that police spoke to two men who said Gillham offered to pay them to burn the building or help him burn it. Gillham offered one $3,000 or $4,000 to set a fire.

As Hair Balls sardonically notes, that’s a pretty darned strong case. I’m just glad this fool didn’t kill anyone.

KBH to vote against Sotomayor

Nobody is surprised by this, right?

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she will vote against confirming Sonia Sotomayor to be a Supreme Court justice.

She said Tuesday she is concerned about Sotomayor’s views on the Second Amendment on the right to bear arms. Hutchison is from Texas, where the population is more than a third Hispanic.

Sotomayor is expected to be confirmed as the first Hispanic justice of the high court.

Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn, voted against Sotomayor on Tuesday as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination on a 13-6 vote and sent it to the full Senate.

Hutchison is seeking the 2010 GOP nomination for governor in Texas.

So KBH will follow Cornyn’s lead on Sotomayor just as she’s followed Rick Perry’s lead on health care and the economy. Has this woman ever had an original thought in her life? Maybe her latest campaign manager will help her come up with one. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

HISD trustee fundraising

Yes! One more report on campaign fundraising, this time for HISD Trustees. These reports are online, but I didn’t know where to look for them. Fortunately, School Zone did, and that’s good because the July reports are still in paper form. Here’s what we’ve got:

District I – Natasha Kamrani (has not announced whether she’s running again)
Total contributions: $0
Total expenditures: $900
Money on hand: $10,774.32

District VI – Greg Meyers (seeking re-election)
Total contributions: $23,437.93
Total expenditures: $9,117.85
Money on hand: $17,159.30
Notable contributors: Bob Perry of Perry Homes ($5,000); Greg Meyers Campaign ($2,886.33); Darryl King of The Principle Partnership Group ($1,000); Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson law firm ($1,573.33 in-kind for printing and postage; $998.27 in-kind for event catering); Bracewell & Guiliani PAC ($1,000); Thompson & Horton law firm ($500); Andrews & Kurth PAC ($500), C.C. Lee of STOA Architects ($500); Mary Walker of Molina Walker Architects ($500); James Rice of Rice & Gardner Consultants ($500); Randle Richardson, CEO of Community Education Partners ($500); Perry Radoff, attorney ($500); Corbin Robertson Jr. of Quintana Minerals Corp. ($500); Jackie Wadsworth of Information Management Services ($500); Houston Federation of Teachers PAC ($250); Don McAdams, school board consultant and former HISD board member ($200); Warner Ervin, HISD south region superintendent ($100); Ray Reiner of the Houston Association of School Administrators ($100)

District V – Dianne Johnson (not seeking re-election)
Total contributions: $0
Total expenditures: $2,088.30
Money on hand: $12,430.06

District VII – Harvin Moore (plans to seek re-election)
Total contributions: $0
Total expenditures: $4,977.69
Money on hand: $49,369.17

District IX – Larry Marshall (seeking re-election)
Total contributions: $87,044.75
Total expenditures: $24,062.52
Money on hand: $62,982.23
Notable contributors: Aaron Glenn, former Texans football player and businessman ($5,000); Jason Medlock, business partner with Glenn ($5,000); Emma L. Bullock of Houston ($5,000); Simon Wiltz of Sugar Land ($5,000); Christus Powell of Houston ($5,000); Herbert Fain of Houston ($5,000); Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson law firm ($3,529.76 in in-kind contributions for mailings and catering); DeAndre Sam of Houston ($2,500); Joseph Johnston of Houston ($2,500); David Medford of Missouri City ($2,500); Eric Medford of Sugar Land ($2,500); Mourhaf Sabouni of Missouri City ($2,500); Sharon Medford of Missouri City ($2,500); Andrews & Kurth Texas PAC ($1,000); McConnell Jones Lanier & Murphy consultants ($1,000); Randle Richardson, CEO of CEP ($1,000); former state Rep. Borris Miles ($1,000); Bracewell & Guiliani Committee ($1,000); Perdue Brandon Fielder Collins & Mott law firm ($500); Thompson & Horton law firm ($500); Judge John Peavy ($250); Paula Arnold, former HISD board member and bond communications consultant ($250); Don McAdams, former HISD board member and board consultant ($250); Charles Foster of Foster Quan law firm ($250); Billy Reagan, former HISD superintendent ($200); C. C. Lee, architect ($200); Warner Ervin, HISD south region superintendent ($200); Richard Lindsay, HISD’s chief business officer ($100); Kelly Frels, attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani ($100); Judge Zinetta Burney ($75); Willie Burroughs, general manager of HISD’s bond program ($50)

As I said before, the first two races will be the most interesting. I look forward to seeing what District I challenger Alma Lara’s report looks like.

As goes Cy-Fair, so goes Texas

Earlier this month, I noted that the Cy-Fair ISD was considering the repeal of an optional homestead exemption so it could pay for salaries and services it needed for the schools. They backed off after residents protested, choosing instead of lay off 75 employees. Cy-Fair isn’t the only district that allows this optional exemption, and it’s not the only one that is now trying to do away with it to meet its budgetary needs.

The local-option homestead exemption — as high as 20 percent of the residential property value on top of the standard $15,000 homestead allowance — was granted in more than 200 school districts during more prosperous times.

Districts can recoup half the amount of the extra exemption from the state, but only if the state has enough money left over after paying its other school-finance obligations. Some years they get nothing.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott told the districts last month that the state may not be able to afford future refunds.

“School districts should not expect automatic continued adjustment and should plan accordingly,” Scott wrote in a letter to the districts. “There is no certainty that a surplus of appropriations will exist in future years, and even less likelihood in the first year of a state fiscal biennium.”

This is the fruit of our bizarre and shortsighted obsession with tax cutting. We demand refunds in good times and we refuse to give back in bad times, and all the while the services we need wither and decay. I keep wondering at what point we’ll figure out that we can’t get something for nothing, and that if we really do want things like good schools and roads and hospitals and whatnot we need to pay for them.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based nonprofit which advocates for needy Texans, opposes the optional homestead exemption. The group says the exemption’s benefit is concentrated in the highest income levels, with more than 43 percent of the benefit going to the 20 percent of households whose annual income exceeds $117,899.

“The regular homestead exemption of $15,000 gives a bigger exemption to those households that need it most,” said Dick Lavine, the center’s senior fiscal analyst. “Also, it seems like regional competition. The way this panned out, some areas of the state are getting a little more than others.”

Lavine said it also costs the state; this year the value lost to the exemption is projected at $428.2 million, according to the state comptroller’s office.

That’s part of the problem with basing your tax structure on something like property taxes. The Express News, which documented how the lion’s share of lower home appraisals via tax protests went to the wealthiest homeowners, demonstrates another flaw. The system we have serves a few people very well, and the rest of us not nearly so well. Simply restoring some balance would solve an awful lot of problems, but needless to say that’s much easier said than done.

Education stimulus money for Texas approved

Good news.

The U.S. Department of Education has approved Texas’ application for using $3.2 billion in federal stimulus money, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said.

That money will be used to pay for textbooks and a $1.9 billion increase in school funding, which covers an $800 raise for all Texas teachers.

There had been concerns that the Texas application might not win federal approval.

Congressional Democrats had complained loudly that Texas misused its stimulus money by filling the state’s budget holes with the federal dollars while leaving untouched the $9.1 billion rainy day fund.

“While I am pleased that our hardworking Texas teachers are each assured a well-deserved raise, we could and should have done much better by our local public schools,” Doggett said.

Approval was expected but it’s always good to see the I’s get dotted and the T’s get crossed. And just remember, whenever you hear Rick Perry talk about giving public school teachers a raise this year – and you can bet that he will – it was that bad ol’ federal government he hates so much that made it all possible. In particular, it was President Obama and all the Democrats in Congress. Both of our Senators voted against the stimulus package, so KBH has as much claim to this as Perry does, which is to say none at all. Texas on the Potomac has more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of July 27

Time again for the Texas Progressive Alliance weekly blog roundup. Click on for the highlights.


MLS All Star Game coming to Houston


As the MLS All-Stars prepare to take on English Premier League club Everton in Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game in Sandy, Utah, the league announced Monday that Houston will host the 2010 edition.

“The city of Houston has consistently and fervently supported the Dynamo and other high-profile soccer events in recent years,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber, who joined Dynamo president Oliver Luck in Park City, Utah, for the announcement. “Houston will be a tremendous site for the 2010 MLS All-Star Game, and we are pleased to reward its vibrant soccer community with the week of festivities that surround this marquee event.”

The date, opponent and venue for the event — either Robertson Stadium, home to the Dynamo, or the much bigger Reliant Stadium — will be announced at a later date.


The Dynamo had been pushing for either an MLS All-Star Game or an MLS Cup final since the team relocated from San Jose, Calif.

Still, Luck said the selection caught the team somewhat by surprise, considering it is one of the few MLS clubs without a stadium of its own.

“We knew we were operating at a disadvantage,” said Luck, whose team has been negotiating a stadium deal with the city of Houston and Harris County for more than 11/2 years. “I think this shows MLS has really warmed up to Houston.”

Most other leagues would have said something like “When you build the stadium, you’ll get the event”. You don’t think it’s a coincidence or a run of good luck that we got the Super Bowl and the MLB and NBA All Star Games in recent years, do you? In the meantime, I hope this game is at Reliant. I’d buy a ticket for that. Congrats to the Dynamo for getting this done.

Interview with Lonnie Allsbrooks

Lonnie AllsbrooksReturning to the At Large races, the next candidate for this year’s interview series is Lonnie Allsbrooks, who is running for At Large #1. Allsbrooks is the owner of the Beer Island bar in the Heights and has been in the restaurant/entertainment business his whole career. His entry into this race was sparked by a dispute with the city over a beer-and-wine license for a second Heights establishment. Allsbrooks is a resident of the Heights.

Download the MP3 file.


Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A

Texas Monthly on Sharon Keller

Texas Monthly gives the long-form magazine article treatment to Sharon Keller and her upcoming trial before the Commission on Judicial Conduct. It’s well worth reading, and they try their best to humanize her, but I can’t bring myself to care about that. I think she’s amply demonstrated that she’s a bad judge, whose decisions are largely pre-ordained by her self-professed “pro-prosecutor” viewpoint. The Michael Richard “we close at five” affair is just the moldy cherry on the rancid sundae of her judicial career. The sooner she becomes a former judge, the better it will be for Texas.

Hurricane season quiet so far

That’s nice, but it doesn’t mean we’re in good shape.

Although the first Atlantic named storm typically forms by July 10, the real activity doesn’t usually begin until August, and a lull in early season activity doesn’t necessarily presage a weak overall season.

The 2004 season, for example, didn’t see its first storm until Hurricane Alex began developing on July 31.

Yet after Alex the season rapidly ramped up, finishing with 15 storms and 6 major hurricanes, including Hurricane Ivan. A storm the size of Texas, Ivan was one of the 10 most intense hurricanes ever in the Atlantic basin before striking Gulf Shores, Ala., and causing $19 billion in damage.

And while El Niños may suppress overall activity, such years can still produce savage storms. One of the three most-intense storms at a U.S. landfall, Hurricane Andrew, developed during an El Niño in 1992.

So have some of the most famed storms ever to strike Texas and Louisiana: Alicia (1983), Betsy (1965) and the great storm of 1900, which came during a severe El Niño, said Jill Hasling, president of Houston’s Weather Research Center.

“There might be fewer storms during an El Niño,” she said. “But it only takes one.”

Yeah, that’s been my mantra of late – it’s not how many hurricanes there are, it’s how many big ones there are, and one of them is plenty. Conditions this year are such that there’s also the possibility of a storm forming in the Gulf of Mexico and striking land quickly, as was the case with Hurricane Humberto in 2007, or more scarily the Hurricane of 1932. So, you know, keep those emergency supplies in stock, and don’t rest easy.

Should the Aggies move to C-USA?

I’m unsure if Richard Justice is kidding or not in his apparently annual suggestion to the Aggies that they realize they’re in over their heads in the Big XII and join C-USA instead. I mean, his serious stuff often reads like parody (or worse), so who can tell? Either way, speaking as a fan of Rice – you know, one of the schools the Aggies wanted to get away from because we were beneath them and their athletic prowess – all I can say is HA HA HA HA HA! Karma sure is a bitch sometimes, isn’t it? The Rice Owls fan forum has fun with this as well.

Irving to appeal ruling in single-member districts lawsuit

No surprise.

The Irving City Council plans to appeal last week’s federal court ruling that ordered the city to create single-member council districts before holding any more City Council elections. Mayor Herbert Gears said the city will also request that the order be stayed during the appeals process. If that motion were to be granted, the city could conceivably hold another at-large council election in May.

“We don’t believe we’ve done anything illegal,” Gears said.

The council met in executive session Wednesday afternoon to receive legal advice on last week’s ruling. The city has already spent more than $367,000 to defend the lawsuit, which was filed by resident Manuel Benavidez. Gears said the city does not want to incur needless legal costs, but does not agree with the judge’s ruling that the city’s at-large system violates the Federal Voting Rights Act.

“We think it’s very important to protect the integrity of our community,” Gears said.

But Gears also said the city plans to work with lawyers for Benavidez in developing a single-member district plan to present to the court by October.

Reaching a settlement is almost always the lower-cost option. The city of Irving can drag this out, and they may even prevail on appeal, but I would hope they think this isn’t something for which they should go to the mat. As noted here and in the previous story, there are some existing recommendations for single-member districts for Irving to consider. The good news is, they’re trying to work it out.

Even though the council is appealing U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis’ ruling, it is also working on two other fronts to bring single-member districts to Irving.

“We have known for some time that this in our city’s future,” Mayor Herbert Gears said.

The council continues to work on the possibility of placing the matter before voters on a November ballot. And leaders say they will work with Bill Brewer, an attorney for lawsuit plaintiff Manuel Benavidez, to present Solis with a proposed plan by an October deadline.

“The goal here is to come up with a system that best fits the rules of the Voting Rights Act, and that is a system that gives Hispanics an opportunity to elect somebody from their neighborhoods,” Brewer said.


One area where Irving and Brewer find common ground is the possibility of creating a hybrid electoral system of some single-member seats and some at-large seats. That’s the system several residents, leaders and former leaders prefer. And it’s one that other cities, such as Arlington and Grand Prairie, use.

“There’s obviously some ground for compromise if the City Council is willing to do it,” said former Mayor Joe Putnam, who sat on the latest charter review committee.

Sounds like they’re at least pointing in the right direction. I wish them luck in figuring it all out. Greg has more.

Weekend link dump for July 26

One small step for a blog, one giant leap for blog-kind.

White flour! Via Chad.

You are not a Bible character. That goes double for you, Mark Sanford.

Along those lines, this is just putting lipstick on a bunch of pigs.

Apparently, Julia did not approve of “Julie and Julia”.

If you’ve ever had a burning desire to make an idiot of yourself on film, here’s your chance.

Is this the end for the beer coaster?

Bring back Rock 101 KLOL? Only if the pre-gun nut version of Jim Pruett comes with it.

RIP, Gidget, the Taco Bell chihuahua.

If you think health care reform is going to be expensive, not reforming health care will be way more expensive.

Ron Paul, matchmaker.

MLB versus Jon Stewart. Hey, Bud Selig, it’d be nice if y’all went after the guys Stewart was talking about, too.

You have to admit, this would explain a lot.

Running on, running on empty

Finally, we have a Republican health care plan.

The catch that saved the perfect game.

Five-legged dog in Coney Island freak show dispute. With a headline like that, do you actually need to read the story?

Apparently, John Cornyn can see Bangalore from his house. I think maybe it’s time someone updated the Putin over Alaska image.

It really is the case that the thing you can’t find is in the very last place you look.

Maddow on Perry

I mentioned in passing that Governor Perry has decided that since his battle against the stimulus package was so effective, he needed to turn to health care reform, which he planned to oppose on 10th Amendment grounds. No, I have no idea what that means, either. Jack Balkin, who knows a little something about constitutional law, tries to figure it out.

Perry’s assertion raises several interesting questions. The first is how, if at all, Texas would refuse to participate. I assume that Texas could not prevent Texas residents from purchasing a national public insurance option. It would not and could not prevent federal law enforcement officials from enforcing federal regulations of private insurers who operate within the state of Texas. Similarly, Texas state officials would not try to close down federal government office buildings in Texas where the health care program is being administered.

So what exactly is Perry threatening to do? There is one possibility that I could think of (there may be several others as well): Perhaps Perry is saying that if the plan expands Medicaid for poor people, he would stop participating in the Medicaid program. Currently all states participate in this federal/state cooperative program. Medicaid currently provides health insurance program for low-income parents (mostly mothers) and children, a long-term care program for the elderly, and funds for services to people with disabilities.

Since Medicaid is a cooperative venture, any state can back out any time it wants. All Perry has to do is take the political heat, which would presumably be pretty intense, given the fact that a large number of mothers, elderly persons and disabled persons in Texas make use of Medicaid programs.

Perhaps more interesting is Perry’s theory of why expanded health care programs would be unconstitutional. I can think of two possibilities. Presumably the federal power to create such a program comes from the General Welfare Clause (Article I, section 8, clause 1), which gives the federal government the power to raise taxes and spend money for the general welfare. It’s hard to see how the proposed health care program violates the Constitution under existing doctrine.

Perry might claim that no state can willingly consent to participate in federal programs of the type contemplated. But that argument would probably make many other state cooperative ventures unconstitutional, including Social Security and Medicare.

Second, Perry might argue that although the federal government can spend money on some social welfare programs, after a certain point, federal expenditures become so intrusive that they dominate the regulatory playing field, effectively preventing states from creating their own independent programs and therefore this violates the Tenth Amendment. This argument seems a bit of a stretch, but if we took it seriously, it would threaten the constitutionality of a lot of federal programs, including federal grants that Texas depends on and that Texas citizens desperately need. Perry has been more than happy to take federal money for any number of federal health care programs in the past. It is not clear whether he has had a change of heart about their constitutionality as well.

I kind of doubt Perry has put this much actual thought into the legal implications of his words. It is, as always, him playing to the cheap seats and hoping for the best. Balkin thinks that if Perry actually followed through on this nonsense he’d suffer for it politically. That’s probably true, at least if it comes to a head before next November and Perry is the Republican candidate for Governor against a reasonably well-financed Democrat. But all Perry cares about right now is making it through the primary, and this kind of stuff is catnip to the voters he actually cares about. What’s Kay gonna say? (Answer: “Me, too!” Way to be a leader, Kay!)

Needless to say, all this is once again putting Texas in the media spotlight. Here’s Rachel Maddow in MSNBC:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

I’d dispute Lou Dubose’s claim that KBH will run a smart campaign against Perry – there’s no evidence as yet to back that up – but otherwise it’s spot on. I really hope it is darkest just before the dawn because it’s pretty damn dark down here right now. Thanks to EoW for the Maddow link.

Grits on the jail czar

When I blogged about the creation of a “jail czar” position in Harris County whose job it will be to deal with overcrowding in the local jails, I said hoped that Scott Henson would comment on it. He did leave a comment in the post, which he has since expanded on at his own blog.

From my perspective, the two biggest drivers at the Harris County Jail of both overcrowding and cost are excessive pretrial detention and the evolution of the jail into the county’s main mental health treatment facility, both of which will require more than “coordination” by a “czar” to fix.

That said, the solutions, at least, are fairly clear: 1) Convincing judges to expand the use of personal bonds instead of requiring bail for low-level offenses, and 2) expanding outpatient mental health services, housing and specialized community supervision through the probation department (including making sure they take their meds) for mentally ill offenders, particularly those who are frequently in and out of the jail on low-level offenses.

The first is almost purely a political problem of convincing local elected judges to change their bail decisions; the second is mostly an issue of resources, with responsibility lying chiefly at the feet of the county commissioners court and the local MHMR authority to provide community-based alternatives to jail.

I’ve asked the Harris County Sheriff’s PIO office for a copy of the consultant’s study that recommended creating the “czar” position, so I’ll have more on this subject after I finally review that document. The same consultant analyzed the Harris Jail four years ago and this Grits series adumbrated at that time many of the same recommendations about which the county is finally (apparently) getting serious now.

Perhaps having a former member of the judiciary (Caprice Cosper) as the czar will help to convince the current judges that a change in their bail-setting policies is needed. And since Commissioners Court hired Cosper in the first place, perhaps they’ll listen when she tells them to do something about mental health and mental retardation issues. I can hope, right?

Red light cameras? There’s an app for that

Of course you can use your iPhone to avoid red light cameras and speed traps. Dwight tells us about it.

Most Houston drivers know that the city has set up cameras at certain intersections to snap photos of those who run red lights. The drivers are then fined, with a copy of the photo and a notice to pay sent to the house to the address associated with the vehicle’s registration.

But most drivers don’t know exactly where these cameras are, unless they’ve consulted any of several maps that show their locations.

Now there’s a free iPhone app called Trapster that alerts you to the cameras as you approach them. Trapster also warns when you may be approaching a speed trap. The latest version works with the notification feature of the new iPhone OS 3.0 to alert you even if the app isn’t running.

Trapster uses a database of 400,000 known traps, augmented by user reports. If you’ve got the app, you can report a speed trap or red-light camera just by tapping a button as you pass it. Other users of Trapster can vote on the veracity of your report, which helps improve the reliability and accuracy of the database.

There are other options if you aren’t iPhone-enabled, the most effective of which is simply not running red lights or speeding. Boring, I know, but as driving while playing with one’s phone is dangerous, it’s probably for the best.

Galveston goes smoke-free

Good for them.

The Galveston City Council adopted a comprehensive smoking ban Thursday, forbidding people from lighting up in bars, restaurants, private clubs and tobacco stores.

Council members Karen Mahoney, Elizabeth Beeton and Tarris Woods joined Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas, who championed the ban, in voting for the ordinance. Council members Danny Weber and Susan Fennewald voted against it. Councilwoman Linda Colbert was absent.

The ban will take effect Jan. 1.

The adopted ordinance is more restrictive than the regulations the council previously discussed, a compromise that guaranteed its passage.

Mahoney, Beeton and Thomas agreed to approve the ban with an exception for tobacco stores, but Woods said he could only give his support if the measure was universally applied.

To make sure the ban passed, the other three agreed.

Several prominent restaurateurs and business groups who opposed a similar smoking ban proposed in 2006 said they would support it this time as long as it put all businesses on a level playing field. They lobbied against giving an exception to private clubs, saying it would provide a loophole for unfair competition from anyone who opted to run what was really a for-profit business as a members-only establishment.

That makes their ban stricter than Houston’s, and they accomplished it in one round. This is where I’d usually say something about the prospects for a statewide ban, but after this past session I’m giving up on that. If it ever happens, it happens. Thanks to Houstonist for the tip.

Saturday video break: Motoring

You know what this feature really needs? A big steaming dose of cheesy 80s goodness. And it just doesn’t get any cheesy-80s-goodness-ier than this:

What can I say? The 80s, man. You had to be there. Via Awesomely Bad Lyrics, which may be my new favorite blog.

Jones gets another opponent

In the wake of her comments about Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Jeff Caynon, Council Member Jolanda Jones has drawn a new challenger for her seat.

On Friday, retired HISD administrator Davetta Daniels filed to challenge Jones in November.

Daniels says Jones has been an embarrassment.

Bellaire native Carlos Obando also announced for the seat back in January.

Daniels ran for HISD Trustee in District IV in 2007, losing to Paula Harris by a 66-34 margin; click on Page 19 here to see the result. She represents a much more serious threat than Obando, whose campaign finance report is still not up, as she’s likely to draw from Jones’ existing base of support. Jones had a decent fundraising haul and has $54K on hand, but that’s not that much of an advantage. If Daniels gets some traction, she could be in real trouble.