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October 6th, 2009:

Holm goes on the air

Via Mary Benton, we have the first non-Mayoral TV ad of the season, from Pam Holm:

My thoughts:

– Basically an intro ad, though a fairly substantive one. Holm’s pitch – she’s a strong financial manager who’ll keep a sharp eye on your tax dollars – is straightforward enough, and she makes it herself in direct fashion.

– Plenty of code words and catch phrases to remind Republicans of her bona fides – “protect your tax dollars”, “fought wasteful spending”, etc etc etc. As that fits nicely into all of the Mayoral messaging, it ought to have broad appeal.

– I hope she paid Vince Ryan a royalty for the use of his “watchdog, not a lapdog” slogan from 2008. Hey, it worked for him, so what the heck?

– I’d have lost the cutesy bit at the end where she turns to her husband and says “Right, Chuck?” One presumes she already has his approval. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but I thought that diluted her message a bit.

– Benton says she doesn’t know how much of an ad buy her team made. I took a peek in Holm’s finance report and didn’t see anything earmarked for TV, but given that report only goes up till September 24, that doesn’t mean anything. She had spent $10K on radio, in addition to $26K on direct mail. I doubt she has the funds to do a broadcast blitz, but she could probably be on cable for most of the rest of the month. Given that, it won’t shock me if MJ Khan joins her on the air soon.

– You see this, Ronald Green? This is what you have to worry about. Yeah, I don’t really a see a way in which you don’t make it to the runoff, either. But you know, you still have to win the runoff. How are you going to get your supporters back to the polls in December if they don’t even know you’re running?

– Finally, on a tangential note, I finally saw an Annise Parker ad on the tube tonight, on KHOU during the local news. I believe it followed a Peter Brown ad. Haven’t seen a Locke ad yet, but they just started running.

UPDATE: Greg has more.

UPDATE: Houston Politics weighs in.

Corrections, clarifications, and conundrums

This is a followup to my post from this morning about the 30 days out reports. I’m sure there will be more of this stuff to come, from plenty of folks, but this is what I’ve got as of now.

– First, please be sure to see the updates I made to that post. In particular, be sure to read Martha‘s posts about the reports filed by C.O. Bradford and Roy Morales, and see my update about Phillip Garrison’s report. More generally, David Ortez has some observations about the reports as well.

– I doubt I’ll have the time to closely examine every report in detail, but I took a closer look at a couple that had oddities in them that I wanted to examine. One of them is the report of perennial candidate Michael “Griff” Griffin. Griff, who I can only speculate must really like seeing his name on a ballot, reported no contributions in either July or October, and loaned himself $1000 in April, yet he reports expenditures totaling over $3000 since the beginning of the year. He spent about $2200 before July 1 and a bit more than $800 since then. Needless to say, that doesn’t add up. I don’t know if the expenses above the $1000 loan that he declared should be considered subsequent loans to himself or if there’s something else going on, but regardless it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be spelled out in a campaign finance report. I realize this is small potatoes, but by the same token, how hard could it be to do that?

– Along similar lines, I note that District F candidate Joe Chow reported exactly zero dollars on hand in both July and October. Yet his October report, which includes a $5000 loan to himself from June, shows that he took in less money than he spent. Now, he listed one single expenditure for the period ending June 30, a printing fee of $120, though he added some more pre-July expenditures in the October report, and given that he raised $5510 in the first six months, I’m sure he has some cash on hand, whether the loan amount is accounted for as cash on hand or not. But you can’t easily tell how much cash he has from what he reported.

– As I said, Griff’s report is small potatoes, though in the context of District F Chow’s totals are much more substantial. I’m pointing them out because they seem like such obvious red flags that I don’t quite understand why the forms weren’t simply rejected out of hand by the City Secretary. How can you leave the boxes for the totals blank, as Griff did? Davetta Daniels in At Large #5 did the same thing. At least in her case the contributions she listed outweighed the expenses, but the bottom line remains that you can’t tell at a glance what her cash on hand position is. Nor can you tell for Chow, who like Daniels appears to have several thousand dollars at his disposal. So I ask again: How is it that a form where certain required values are left blank can get accepted? If this were a web form, they wouldn’t have been allowed to submit it till those boxes were filled in. Shouldn’t the City Secretary do the same?

– Meanwhile, several candidates’ reports are still not available online. Among them are Alex Wathen and Bob Schoelkopf in District A (there’s no July form for Schoelkopf, either); Roger Bowden in B; Otis Jordan and Larry McKinzie in D; Lewis Cook, Peter Acquaro, and Robert Kane in F (no July forms for Cook or Kane, either); and Mills Worsham in G. Bear in mind that quite a few reports didn’t appear until many days after July 15, despite the fact that they had been submitted. I’m just noting this for the record, and will continue to look for them and update the spreadsheet as I find them.

– What is now available are the HISD Trustee candidates’ reports. Ericka Mellon summarizes them for us.

– One other report that isn’t there is for CM Noriega in At Large #3. I am told that unopposed candidates are not required to file a 30 days out report, or an 8 days out report, so that’s the reason for that.

– Finally, on a tangential note, Karen Derr also writes in to say that she has been producing campaign videos as well. I appreciate the update, and invite anyone else that I’ve omitted to correct me on this point.

Interview with Council Member MJ Khan

MJ Khan

MJ Khan

Next among the candidates for Houston City Controller is Council Member MJ Khan, the incumbent in District F. Khan, a native of Pakistan, is a professional engineer who also has an MBA from Rice University and owns a real estate development company. Khan sits on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs committee and currently chairs the Flooding and Drainage Issues committee. He is married to Dr. Attiya Khan, who is a cardiology fellow at the Texas Heart Institute.

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
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D
Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, District C
Progressive Coalition candidates
Council Member Mike Sullivan, District E
Council Member James Rodriguez, District I
Council Member Jarvis Johnson, District B
Mike Lunceford, HISD Trustee District V
Ray Reiner, HISD Trustee District V
Council Member Ronald Green, candidate for Controller

More on the 30 days out report

Here’s the Chron story on the 30 days out finance reports. It discusses the disparity in cash on hand totals between Annise Parker, Peter Brown, and Gene Locke.

“[Parker’s] got a challenge to compete on the airwaves down the home stretch,” said Keir Murray, a Houston political consultant. “It just puts you in a position to scramble as a campaign if your opponents are on television and you can’t match them. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard.”

Murray, who worked for Brown in a 2005 City Council race, is unaffiliated in this contest.

Parker Campaign Manager Adam Harris insisted she will have enough money to continue running a robust campaign effort that will include television advertising through election day, Nov. 3.

“We are right on target with what our plan has been the entire campaign,” he said. “I feel very good about where we are with fundraising now.”

Harris noted that their numbers are artificially low because the $738,000 of expenditures listed in the report include $500,000 for advertising, not all of which has been spent. But rival campaigns tracking the ad expenses using publicly available information said that as of Oct. 12, Parker will have spent $405,000, leaving little remaining after the advertising production costs.

No one will ever admit they missed their fundraising target, so make of this what you will. I have heard of an internal poll taken by the Locke campaign about two weeks ago that showed Parker in the lead, so her position is still fairly strong. I also expect there to be a lot of money raised and spent during the runoff. The main question at this point is whether Locke and Brown’s financial advantages today can enable them to make up ground with the still sizable number of undecided voters.

Political consultant Marc Campos noted that Locke only began introducing himself to voters through TV ads on Monday and his campaign report showed little to nothing in expenditures for direct mail or radio advertising.

“It should be good news for Gene Locke and his supporters, but today is the first day voters in general get to see who he is,” said Campos, who is unaffiliated in the race. “They can beat on their chest all they want, but they’re still in uncharted waters.”

Say it with me now: More poll numbers would be nice to have. Until then, we’re all just guessing.

I’ve added more totals to my Google spreadsheet since I published last night, as new reports have continued to appear. Despite what it says in the sidebar of this story, Roy Morales has in fact filed his report. He raised $23K, which is actually better than he did in the first six months, and has about $4600 on hand. In other words, he’s still a footnote. Outside of the Mayor and Controller races, most incumbent Council members who have opponents are in good shape. Sue Lovell has $165K on hand, while her opponents have less than $10K combined. Jolanda Jones was actually outraised by Davetta Daniels, $19K to $7K, but Jones has $50K on hand; I guesstimated Daniels’ COH total at about $14K because she didn’t give totals, so I added up her expenditures and subtracted from the contributions (which I also added up myself). Anne Clutterbuck has $149K and Mike Sullivan has $103K; Sullivan’s opponent Phillip Garrison raised a quite respectable $30K but has only $16K on hand. I can’t quite judge the state of the races in B and D, as Jarvis Johnson (raised $15K, has $41K on hand) and Wanda Adams (raised $16K, has $29K on hand) raised modest amounts but none of their opponents (Roger Bowden in B, Otis Jordan and Larry McKinzie in D, all of whom announced after the July reporting deadline) have visible reports.

Among open office contenders, C.O. Bradford in At Large #4 had the strongest period, bringing in $113K with $41K on hand; Noel Freeman had $21K and $11K. Stephen Costello in At Large #1 and Oliver Pennington in District G did well again, with $79K and $72K, respectively. Karen Derr raised $47K, which was more than any other contender and more than all incumbents other than Lovell, but she reported only $9475 on hand. Costello ($119K) and Pennington ($102K) dominate that number, as they are the only ones with over $100K on hand; Bradford, George Foulard in G ($29K raised, $47K on hand), and Mike Laster in F ($18K raised, $29K on hand) are the runnersup. I should note that I do not see reports yet for Mills Worsham in G or for several contenders in F, so this may get revised later.

Finally, on a side note, I had said previously that only a couple of Council candidates had been putting out campaign videos. I overlooked Noel Freeman, whose YouTube channel has multiple vids. If I’ve missed any other examples, please let me know.

UPDATE: What I’ve done so far is just look at the totals. Martha has started digging into the detailed reports, and she found that while Bradford did raise a decent amount of cash, more than 60% of what he took in was in-kind donations, including some that appear to have exceeded the individual contribution limits. Take a look and see what she reports, and also look at her closer peek at Roy Morales’ report as well.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Phillip Garrison, the challenger in District E, reported all of his contributions received since the beginning of the year in his total, instead of just the amount raised between July 1 and September 24. I went through the individual contributions, and $24,190 of it was raised on or before June 30, meaning his actual amount raised (cash and in-kind) for the reporting period was $6,135. Also by my calculation, he’s spent $11,603.90 since July 1, which is consistent with his July report, so I believe his cash on hand amount is accurate.

TPJ files complaint with Ethics Commission against Craddick

Texans for Public Justice has filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against former Speaker Tom Craddick, alleging that he obfuscated campaign donations made to several Democratic supporters of his prior to the 2008 primaries. From their press release (PDF):

Jobs PAC reported that it received $250,000 from Tom Craddick’s campaign committee on January 10, 2008. According to news reports, around that time Craddick campaign employee Christi Craddick also provided Texas Jobs with written instructions to distribute the funds to Democratic Reps. Kevin Bailey, Dawnna Dukes, Kino Flores and Aaron Pena.1 All four incumbents previously supported Republican Speaker Craddick and faced challengers in the 2008 Democratic primary.2 According to its own reports, Jobs PAC wrote three checks of $50,000 apiece to the campaigns of Reps. Bailey, Flores and Pena on January 11, 2008. By its own accounting, at the time Texas Jobs wrote these checks its sole source of funding was the $250,000 that it received the day before from the Craddick campaign. Rep. Dukes, the fourth lawmaker, told the Austin American-Statesman that she rejected an offer to receive $50,000 from Texas Jobs because her opponent already was making her Craddick ties a campaign issue.3

“Tom Craddick wanted to move tens of thousands of dollars to his favorite Democrats without letting voters know,” said Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald. “Hiding the true source of campaign funds is illegal. Craddick could have contributed the money directly and openly. Instead, he used Texas Jobs to launder his money and keep Texans in dark.”

The TPJ filed a criminal complaint with the Travis County Attorney’s office last year when this information first came out. I am not aware of any updates to this case, but I suspect that it went nowhere, else there’d be little reason to take things up with the TEC. We’ll see what happens. More on this can be found here and here.

The Mayorals on mobility

Carolyn Feibel discusses the Mayoral candidates’ plans for transportation and mobility.

Two candidates, City Controller Annise Parker and Councilman Peter Brown, disagree on what Metro’s main focus should be. While supporting light rail, Parker said buses should remain the “heart” of the transit system.

“I have been increasingly concerned that in their efforts to build out the light-rail lines, which I support, that they are neglecting the current bus system,” Parker said. “When we cut back our routes, when we run the fares up, we’re hurting people that have no other choice.”

Brown said, “You can’t serve a low-density city like Houston with a bus system.” He did not specify what he wants Metro to focus on instead, but called for the bus and rail systems to be “integrated.”

“We’ve got to have a rationalized plan for rail, and bus to feed the rail,” Brown said. “We’ve got to encourage people to live closer to where they work.”

Former city attorney Gene Locke knows Metro well. Until January, he worked as special outside counsel for the agency, defending it from litigation and consulting on a number of projects. He helped draft the language of the 2003 voter referendum to build new light-rail routes.Locke said Metro should expand express bus service along major corridors and consider putting a circulating trolley or bus through downtown and retail areas like the Galleria. He also proposed a pilot program to eliminate fares at special times, such as during sporting events or festivals.

Acknowledging that finding money for new services could be a problem during a recession, Locke said Metro will need to “consider programs in the context of budget.”

All three candidates — Brown, Locke and Parker — said they would work closely with city engineers to make sure the rail construction goes smoothly as city streets are torn up and repaved.

Brown, who says he’ll give the Metro board a complete makeover, and Locke have detailed plans on their websites; Parker does not have an Issues page specific to this. I’ve asked every candidate I’ve interviewed about Metro and where they should go from here, and you’ll hear more about that from the Mayoral candidates in my interviews with them next week.

As for poor ol’ Roy Morales, there’s a reason why he doesn’t get to sit at the grownups’ table:

Morales also distinguished himself from the other three candidates by not knowing the answer to the question “What is the Transportation Policy Council?” Houston’s mayor gets two appointments to the 24-member regional body, which decides how to spend millions in federal transportation funds throughout the eight-county metropolitan area.

Pop quiz: Who are those two representatives from the city of Houston on the TPC? Answer here, if you don’t already know. Poor Roy.

More Alamo Drafthouse locations on tap

Some news of interest from Nancy Sarnoff’s new blog.

The two Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in the Houston area are being sold to an investment team that plans to open at least seven more in Texas.

Triple Tap Ventures LLC will convert the company-owned locations at West Oaks Mall and on Mason Road in Katy to franchises.

The Austin-based theater/dining concept shows first-run and independent films while a wait staff serves hot meals, beer and wine to your movie seat.

The new franchisees wouldn’t say where in Houston they plan to build new stores, but there’s been talk over the years about this type of operation opening near downtown Houston.

“There is a lot of potential to grow Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas throughout Houston and we are currently evaluating a number of sites throughout the metropolitan area. We plan to develop the concept rapidly throughout the area and all of our expansion territories,” Neil Billingsley-Michaelsen, president of Triple Tap Ventures, said in an e-mail.

As she notes, I passed along a suggestion to them from ‘stina that I think would rock: Let the Alabama Theater become a theater again. I have no idea how viable this idea is, but I sure do hope they at least consider it.