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December 3rd, 2009:

Runoff EV report, Day 4

Consistency, thy name is early voting runoff turnout. Here are the in-person totals for each of the days so far:

Monday = 5,834
Tuesday = 5,726
Wednesday = 5,787
Thursday = 5,772

Flat as Houston itself. It’ll be interesting to see how things are tomorrow given the weather forecast. I’m glad I voted today, that’s for sure. How many of you have voted yet?

Filing season opens for 2010

Today is the first day to file for the March 2010 primaries. BOR is following the action from Travis County. No surprises yet – those usually happen later in the period – so far it’s mostly incumbents filing for re-election. I’ve received a bunch of press releases related to that today. Of interest is one from Jeff Weems, who is running for Railroad Commissioner – I’m going to keep track of all the downballot statewide offices, since there are a few that don’t have a known candidate yet – and State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon. The big one to watch for will be Lieutenant Governor. We’ll know a lot more about the state of the slate once that piece is in place. The state and county parties usually maintain spreadsheets of the filings as they come in, so I’ll peek in on those periodically to see where the action is. The deadline is Monday, January 4, so stay tuned.

District F runoff overview

Here’s the Chron story on the District F runoff.

The condensed version of Al Hoang’s vision for Sharps town’s shopping center echoes a Reagan-era foreign policy pronouncement: Tear down this mall.

Mike Laster’s recent work on Sharpstown Mall is more analogous to Vietnam War-era peace talks. Mall owners can use someone to help them decide the shape of the table before they sit down to hash out a revitalization plan.

Both point to the mall as a bellwether of southwest Houston’s economy, and each sees his approach to the mall problem as indicative that he will do more for District F if elected in the Dec. 12 runoff.

I don’t have any insight into this, so I’ll leave it to those who live in the district to comment about it if they’d like. What I will say is that I’ve known Mike Laster (interview here) for a few years, and I think he’d make an excellent Council member. I also know that Al Hoang has accepted Steven Hotze’s endorsement with open arms, so even if I knew nothing of Mike Laster, I’d be more than inclined to support him.

I didn’t mention this before, but I am also supporting Lane Lewis in District A. He’s a hard worker and has a solid grasp of the issues, and as is the case with Laster would make an excellent Council member. Meanwhile, his opponent Brenda Stardig missed that candidate forum on Monday night, and as with the Hotze endorsement story was unable to be reached for a comment about it. I can’t say I’m impressed by that. I don’t live in either of these districts, but if you do, Mike Laster and Lane Lewis are the guys I’d vote for.

Meet the HISD Parent Visionaries

I’ve mentioned the group HISD Parent Visionaries a couple of times in this space. Here’s an article about them from the Examiner.

Parent Visionaries was spawned after HISD’s former superintendent, Dr. Abelardo Saavedra, voiced an interest in eliminating or reducing magnet school transportation. The parent group, largely from District V, became vocal in opposition and since, has spread support to parents in other districts in HISD.

“Our goal is to have memberships from all districts,” says Mary Nesbitt, one of the group’s driving forces.

Parent Visionaries now claims a list of about 350 members who communicate in person and online.

As noted in the story, HISD Parent Visionaries was active in the Trustee elections, with two of their three endorsed candidates – Mike Lunceford in V and Anna Eastman in I – either winning or making it to the runoffl. They have now endorsed Trustee Larry Marshall in his race in IX, and in each case – Marshall versus Adrian Collins, Eastman versus Alma Lara – they are opposed by candidates who are backed by the Houston Federation of Teachers. It’ll be very interesting to see who wins this particular fight.

Lampson for Comptroller?

Former US Rep. Nick Lampson may be getting back in the game.

Former Congressman Nick Lampson, a moderate Democrat from southeast Texas, is considering a race for state comptroller, he confirmed this afternoon.

“It’s something that I’ve been asked to look at,” he said. “I don’t know that I will but I don’t want to close the door on it right now, either. I’ll hear from some of my friends who are talking and seeing if there’s not some actual way that an election could be won by a Democrat statewide.”

Lampson’s look at whether he could unseat Republican incumbent Susan Combs is a further sign of renewed Democratic interest in next year’s statewide races, now that many expect Houston Mayor Bill White will jump into the governor’s race. White, who raised $6 million for a U.S. Senate special election that may never materialize, is expected to discuss his plans Friday.

No surprise that White for Governor may draw in more candidates for the downballot races. We certainly need someone credible for Comptroller, and after the debacles that were Fred Head and Marty Akins in the last two cycles, someone like Lampson is just about manna from heaven. I’m a little surprised he’d consider it, given that he’d had quadruple bypass surgery about two years ago and seems to be doing some pretty fulfilling work right now, according to the story, but if it’s in your blood as he says, it’s in your blood. I do hope we get a bit of regional and ethnic diversity on the ticket, as it’s just a good idea to reflect the electorate as best as you can, but there are still some slots open, including on the Court of Criminal Appeals, so there’s time for that. Let’s just make sure we get it done.

Fingerprint problems

Lovely.

An audit of the Houston Police Department’s fingerprinting comparison unit revealed so many problems that investigators will be reviewing all violent crime cases for the past six years, officials said Tuesday.

Major problems in the Latent Prints Comparison Unit included significant deficiencies with staffing, a lack of proper supervisory review, inadequate quality control, technical competence inconsistent with industry standards, insufficient training and inadequate standard operating procedures, according to the police.

Some of these problems may have been going on for decades. Is there anyone at this point who doesn’t support the idea of a regional crime lab that’s independent of HPD or any other policing agency? I hope this is a high priority for the 2011 legislative session, and I especially hope the intent is to pay for something that won’t be operating on a shoestring. Getting it right the first time has got to be cheaper overall than this.

The Speaker knows what we’re up against

I’m sure House Speaker Joe Straus is looking ahead to the 2011 session and stockpiling the Maalox and Excedrin.

Among the “interim charges” to 31 committees handed out by Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio – issues for lawmakers to study and consider – are examinations of tax changes that could boost state revenue and reinvigorate Texas’ flagging economy.

The speaker’s study list includes seeing if some state tax breaks have outlived their usefulness, though he didn’t specify which ones. He also asked whether incentives – presumably tax breaks – would stimulate manufacturing, energy production, and the film and music industries.

On the spending side, while Straus sounded a note of compassion for the needy, he also appeared clearly alarmed at possible overspending and waste, especially in health care. He ordered budget-writing and social services committees to look at chronic delays at state eligibility offices that have frustrated many Texans applying for food stamps.

[…]

Dick Lavine, senior fiscal analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income Texans, welcomed Straus’ scrutiny of big tax giveaways.

Lavine, a former House tax policy researcher, said the exemptions study could be “a way to start plugging the holes” in Texas’ revenue base.

“We have a tax system that is filled with exemptions that may at one time have made sense, but nobody has gone back to look at them to see if they’re still accomplishing their objectives and are still the most cost-efficient way of getting to those objectives,” he said.

You know what my preference is, but there’s merit to this approach as well, even if it’s unlikely to be able to fill the gap. But maybe it’s more likely to happen than rolling back the property tax cut, even a little bit. It’s a good idea regardless, as long as we keep it in perspective. I just hope the will exists to follow through.