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December 28th, 2009:

Katz to file for Lite Guv

Looks like we’re in for another contested primary for Democrats in statewide races.

Two weeks after former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle surprised many by filing to seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, Austin deli owner Marc Katz plans to add his name to the primary race on Wednesday.

I’ve heard it said that Katz was only going to run if no other viable candidates stepped forward. If that’s the case, then either he doesn’t think much of Earle, or he never really meant that and always intended to run. In any event, that’s three contested primaries at the statewide level for Democrats, with this one possibly becoming a multi-candidate race. Considering where we were as recently as six weeks ago, that’s a pretty remarkable achievement. In any event, Earle has written about why he’s running for Lite Guv, which is worth your time to read. I look forward to hearing more about Katz’s reasons for running.

Perfection isn’t everything, but losing still stinks

So, anyone else watch that Jets-Colts game? I’ve read a lot of commentary about it today, some in favor of Coach Caldwell’s decision to pull the starters but more against, and there are two points I think need to be highlighted.

1. I can understand the desire to give starters a little extra rest, and to minimize the chances of a fluke injury derailing the team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl. I’m having a much harder time understanding the rationale for doing so in the middle of a game that’s still up for grabs. If the game wasn’t close, that would have been one thing. But to pull Peyton Manning, a guy who’s played in 191 straight games in part because he so seldom gets hit, when leading 15-10 midway in the third quarter? That’s out there, to say the least. Not playing Manning and the other regulars that got pulled at all would have made more sense to me.

2. All of the commentary I’ve seen has focused on the Colts and the effect Coach Caldwell’s actions would have on them. But it’s not just about the Colts. By essentially conceding the game to the Jets, Caldwell may have changed the playoff picture. Certainly, the Jets, who now control their own playoff destiny, were affected, in their case positively. The Texans, who now need two of the Jets, Broncos, and Ravens to lose to have a shot, and the Steelers, who need all that and more, were damaged. In baseball, at least, it’s generally considered poor form for a team that has already made the playoffs to put a weak lineup out against a team that is still competing for the postseason. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have some qualms about the Colts having that much influence over all these teams’ playoff chances. That just isn’t right.

The Bridge World has written about what they call “sportsmanlike dumping”, a condition that occurs when it’s in a competitor or team’s best interest to not do as well as they could in a given game or match so as to increase their odds of winning a championship. That’s the Colts’ basic argument here: This game meant nothing to them, so their strategy was not predicated on winning it, but on maximizing their chances to win the Super Bowl. Giving some starters the second half off was their way to do that. That’s fine as far as it goes, but as The Bridge World has noted in some of its more detailed examinations of the phenomenon, which tend to occur in tournaments that have poorly thought out conditions for advancement, the ethics of the situation can change if your championship-optimizing behavior disproportionately affects another team. If by not playing your best you prevent another team from advancing, is that right? That is precisely the case here. So I ask: What responsibility, if any, do the Colts have to the Texans and the Steelers and the NFL in general to play their best in a specific game? I don’t think you can truly evaluate Caldwell’s decision without taking that question into account. Sean Pendergrast goes into that from the Texans’ viewpoint.

Finally, I note that two years ago when the Patriots had started out 14-0, there was a fair bit of nattering in the press about how a perfect regular season is less important than a Super Bowl win. I thought Jim Henley had a good response to those concerns, and I just find it interesting that we’re revisiting all that a mere two years later, but from the perspective of a coach who agreed with that formula, unlike Bill Belichick. Belichick ultimately didn’t get what he wanted. We’ll see if Caldwell does. All I can say is that if the Colts flame out before the Super Bowl, it’s gonna be ugly. What do you think?

Judicial Q&A: Lee Arellano

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so this is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Lee Arellano. I am a candidate for the 270th CIVIL District Court of Harris County, Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This is a court of general CIVIL jurisdiction that hears many types of cases; including, but not limited to, breach of contract, employment disputes, real estate matters, personal injury and death, insurance disputes, etc.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

There are about 100 Democratic candidates running for 65 judicial benches that are up for re-election in 2010. The Democratic Party Chair has spread out the 100 announced candidates among the 65 judicial benches and I was assigned to the 270th CIVIL District Court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

By the time of 2010 general election I will be in my 30th year as a licensed and practicing CIVIL trial lawyer. Over the last 20 years, as a court appointed mediator, I assisted hundreds of other lawyers and their clients resolve contested CIVIL cases in both state and federal courts. I am the only candidate in my race who is BOARD CERTIFIED in CIVIL Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Since 1974 I have also held a Texas Real Estate Broker’s license.

5. Why is this race important?

The 270th is primarily a court where one comes to recover money resulting from personal injury, legal or medical negligence, an insurance claim, an employee/employer dispute or any other type of monetary dispute. I have litigated or mediated all of these types of disputes, and many others. I have tried jury and bench trials to judges in state, county, Justice of the Peace, and federal district and bankruptcy courts. I have been involved in cases before Texas administrative agencies, state and federal courts of appeal and the Texas Supreme Court. The Democratic primary voter must send the most qualified candidate to run against the Republican candidate in the November 2010 general election, and I am the candidate who wants that job and is seeking your vote in the March 2010 Primary Election.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

The judiciary is a co-equal branch of government and being a part of that great institution would be a honor and a great way serve the citizens of Harris County. I am a native Texan, born in Galveston and raised in the small industrial town of Texas City by a single mom who instilled in me the values of hard work, a good education and the importance of compassion. As a mediator my ability to really listen and discern the root causes driving people’s disputes has proven to be a valuable asset in getting cases settled and moved off of the courts’ dockets. I possess more than sufficient experience to thoroughly qualify me to be seated in the 270th Civil District Court.

As one of the 2003 co-founders of the non-profit group, Harris County Democratic Lawyers’ Association (, I have worked hard to build a solid Democratic networking organization. I am proud to say HCDLA now has many Democratic minded members, including a number of elected officials, judges, lawyers, business people, academicians and many candidates who seek public office. The members elected me president of HCDLA 5 times in the past 5 years and many have come out in strong support of my candidacy for the 270th. This list can be seen at My commitment to volunteerism is well known to our community, the Houston Bar Association and to the Harris County Democratic Party. From this experience, I now understand the impact that diversity and ethnicity has on our society as a whole and I will bring these experiences and lessons to the bench when I am given the honor of being elected judge of the 270th.

As judge, I will follow the law, respect this nation’s Constitution, the Texas State Constitution and all local laws. My candidacy offers the dignity, trust and respect that the citizens of Harris County expect to see in their judiciary. After years of mediating and handling contested civil matters, my record shows that I know how to best get this job done. My name is Lee Arellano and I am asking for your vote in the March 2010 Democratic Primary Election.

Welcome to the not-quite-a-city of The Woodlands

On January 1, a unique experiment in city-like governance will commence in The Woodlands.

A new government body, approved by residents two years ago and called The Woodlands Township, will take control of the Montgomery County community 30 miles north of Houston.

“We’re transitioning from community associations that predominately provided services to a central government unit,” said Don Norrell, serving in the new role as president of the Township. “The key is centralized government.”

The change is historic because no other community in Texas has ever had legislation written to create such a unique government entity and to enable it to enter into an agreement with a city to avoid annexation.

The township is a special-purpose district that, in some ways, will look and act like a municipality when it really isn’t.

The township, for example, can collect property and sales taxes to provide services, but it can’t adopt ordinances. It can maintain parks and trails, but it can’t fix potholes or build new streets.

The township board will be responsible for making important decisions about the community just like a city council. It will be made up of seven board members, including a chairman who is similar to a mayor. Daily operations of the government will be overseen by a president whose duties are similar to a city manager.

It doesn’t say in this story, but according to this archived Chron story, the Town Center Improvement District board “would transition from an 11-member body, consisting of appointed and elected directors, to a seven-member communitywide elected board by 2010.” It also says that five of those seats were up for election in 2008, but I can’t find any evidence of that in the Montgomery County election returns. I guess they held the election, and will hold another one in 2010, but I’ll have to take someone’s word for it. As for the setup they’ve chosen, I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other, I’m just sort of fascinated by it. There will likely never be anything else like it.

Recycle that tree

We have had an artificial tree for the past few years, so this story about where and how to recycle your Christmas tree isn’t relevant to our household, but it may be to yours. There’s no good reason for a dead tree to be taken to a landfill when there are better uses for it, so please take a minute to find out how to dispose of yours properly. Thanks very much.

From one Mayor to another

One week from today, we’ll be swearing in Annise Parker as our new Mayor. In advance of that, State Sen. Kirk Watson, who was once the Mayor of Austin, offers a few words of advice to the Mayor-Elect. Not that there’s likely to be any shortage of that, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway.