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July 4th, 2010:

Weekend link dump for July 4

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

The 50 State Blog Roundup for July 3.

The Stanley Cup is now even more fabulous than it was before.

Does using Twitter make you a better writer? I can think of some Twitter users for whom that isn’t true.

What if they threw a teabagger convention and no one bothered to attend?

Actions are illegal, not people.

RIP, Sen. Robert Byrd. I recommend Josh Marshall and Paul Begala for their remembrances.

Who is ASCAP speaking for?

We need a 21st century version of the Coogan Act.

Allowing for more legal immigration would solve a lot of problems.

What Fred said.

Deficit cutting while in a recession is a lousy idea.

Tonya Harding is getting married again.

Economic crisis? What economic crisis?

Michael Bourn’s homerless streak comes to an end.

How many bars are you getting here? Never mind, it doesn’t matter.

I never understood Chatroulette anyway.

Now that‘s what I call constituent service, and he’s not even elected yet.

Your modern conservative movement.


Once again, I’m old enough to remember when Republicans supported cap and trade. Those were the days.

It’s always appropriate to include an appreciation of William Shatner in your blog post, no matter what the subject is.

The America of John Boehner’s childhood.

RIP, Don Coryell.

Who needs the World Cup when you have the World Wife-Carrying Championships?

Where’s Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart has bought a tract of land near the Heights.

The store would be part of a larger development just south of Interstate 10 near the northwest intersection of Yale and Center.


A development site plan obtained by the Houston Chronicle shows a 152,015-square-foot Walmart flanked by a parking lot for 664 cars and additional retail spaces for a bank, fast-food restaurant and other stores.


Retail sources said the new Walmart likely would be one of the chain’s Supercenters, which average 185,000 square feet and combine full grocery and general merchandise, according to the company’s website.

In addition to serving residents in the Heights and other surrounding neighborhoods, the new store would seek customers from a growing population around the Washington Avenue corridor.

Swamplot and Prime Property have more on this. Here’s the question I have: How are people going to get to this place?

Google map view of the area

Google map view of the area

Here’s a link to that Google map; click the thumbnail for a larger image. The only real access to this site will be via Yale. The freight train tracks to the south completely cut off traffic except at Heights, Yale, and Patterson off to the west. Note that Bonner, the west end of this site, dead ends at the tracks. You can’t walk there from Heights Blvd except from Center. Koehler, to the north, only connects at Patterson. How are people going to get there?

You could, I suppose, connect the two pieces of Bonner, which would help. (Would the developer pay for that, I wonder?) You could also connect Bonner and maybe Bass Court to the eventual I-10 service road extension that will link Durham/Shepherd to Watson/Sawyer. (Note that as of today, you can only access Yale from I-10 on the westbound side.) I don’t know what the timeline is on any of these things, nor do I know if such connections are part of TxDOT’s plan. I do know that if you’re depending on Center Street to move traffic, I’d be worried. Center is a narrow little road on which traffic flow can be impeded by someone parking, and it’s used by a lot of trucks because of the various industrial sites that remain in the area. I figure the developers have a plan for all this, I just can’t quite picture it myself.

Finally, I have to wonder what the Super Neighborhood 22 folks think of this. It doesn’t seem to fit in with their vision for the Washington corridor. I’m getting an Ashby Highrise feeling about this. Typically, there’s already a Stop Heights Wal-Mart Facebook page. I don’t much care for Wal-Mart and don’t foresee myself shopping there – our Costco membership and the Target on Sawyer meet our needs quite nicely, thanks – but it doesn’t offend me that they’re looking at this parcel. I just don’t see how they’re going to make it work.

One more thing:

H-E-B said it recently made an offer on the Ainbinder parcel but was later informed that a counteroffer from Wal-Mart Stores was accepted, spokeswoman Cyndy Garza-Roberts said.

“We will continue to look for sites to bring an H-E-B to the Heights,” she said.

No question that there’s a crying need for a grocery store around there. If the Wal-Mart in question includes groceries, that may ameliorate the complaints somewhat. But the questions about how do you get there from here would remain had H-E-B won the bid. Marty Hajovsky and Nancy Sarnoff have more.

Texas 20/20 on the budget

Via First Reading, a group called Texas 20/20 has taken a look at what other states have done to deal with their budget shortfalls, and how that may apply to Texas in next year’s legislative session.

The author is former Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton, who was a high-ranking aide to Democratic and Republican comptrollers.

Here’s an excerpt: “The key lesson from this review of approaches in other states is that most have balanced their budget only by using a variety of approaches and making painful budget and revenue decisions. There is no simple solution to budget problems as large as those that Texas will face in 2011. When the size of the budget gap is large, lawmakers must approach the task of balancing the budget with creativity and innovation. They must also be willing to decide what the key state services are — what must be preserved and what can be pruned. That is the goal. Reality, as the examples in the other states demonstrates, is often different.”

The full report is here. I will simply note two things. One, this is a detailed illustration of what Ezra Klein has called the anti-stimulus, as all these cuts have acted as a drag of nearly equivalent force to the federal stimulus package of 2009. The scary thing is that there’s much more of this to come, with potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs – teachers, police officers, fire fighters, those kinds of jobs – at risk. That’s because state governments, by and large, are required by their constitutions to balance their budgets, all of which acts to magnify the effect of an economic downfall. The federal government can do something about this, and it did some of it last year, but between the utter intransigence and indifference to suffering of the Republican Party and the shameful fecklessness of too many Democrats, we’re unlikely to get any further action from the feds. I can’t even guess how much worse it would have to get for there to be a change in thinking, but at this point nothing is beyond imagining.

The second point is that as useful as this report is, it does not mention the multi-billion dollar structural deficit that Texas faces thanks to that ginormous unaffordable property tax cut from 2006. We may survive this legislative session more or less intact, and we may finally see better economic conditions by 2013, but we’re never going to truly solve our budget issues until we deal with that. BOR and Dave Mann have more.

Council redistricting news

Campos had an interesting tidbit from the other day.

The H-Town City Council [Wednesday] morning started discussing next year’s redistricting process. Instead of creating a city council committee on redistricting, the H-Town Mayor mentioned that she will probably let the process run through the Ethics and Council Governance Committee – currently chaired by CM Mike Sullivan, a GOPer – interesting. At this morning’s meeting, CM Sullivan embraced the process and let his colleagues know that he would be fair. I guess it’s a done deal. Commentary doesn’t have a problem with CM Sullivan on this. We can work with the fella on redistricting if you ask me. Stay tuned!

The Ethics and Council Governance Committee normally considers “Regulations adopted in the Code of Ordinances Chapter 18, including regulations for the registration of lobbyists, and matters related to the Council Rules as adopted in Chapter 2 of the Code of Ordinances.” Its members are CMs Clutterbuck, Lovell, Rodriguez, Noriega, Pennington, and Costello. None of the other committees conduct business that could be considered related to redistricting, so if you’re going to use an existing committee for that purpose, this would be the one. I have no reason to believe this committee would do anything but a competent job. For sure, I expect all of the interested parties in this process to get the chance to be heard. We’ll see how it goes.

There may be hope for FIFA yet

Maybe. We’ll see. But it’s a start.

With pressure for video replay mounting after two blatant missed calls at the World Cup, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said soccer’s governing body will reopen the issue after the tournament.

Blatter said Tuesday that FIFA deplores “when you see the evidence of refereeing mistakes.” It would be “a nonsense” not to consider changes, he said.

He still doesn’t think a replay implementation would have done anything about the Argentine offsides goal against Mexico. I say that’s a tautology. A setup in which a booth official is empowered to view replays and intercede as needed would have nullified the goal, and a setup that lacks that feature would not have done so. But at least he’s willing to consider using some form of replay. I note with interest that FIFPro, the group that represents pro players worldwide, favors replay. As long as there’s pressure, there’s hope.