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July 16th, 2010:

Keller gets “public warning” from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct

No, I don’t know what a “public warning” is, either. It’s the first time I’ve heard that phrase. But it’s what the Trib says Sharon Keller got as her “punishment” from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. What it sounds like to me is something less than a censure, which says to me they wimped out. But read the official doc for itself and see what you think.

UPDATE: Okay, I’ve finished reading the opinion, and it’s very clear that the SCJC holds Keller responsible for what happened. They called her conduct “willful or persistent” four times in their Conclusions Regarding Binding Obligations. I’m just puzzled by the “official warning”. Is this some legal term with which I’m unfamiliar? If you can, please help me understand that. Thanks.

UPDATE: From the Chron story:

Keller’s lawyer, Chip Babcock, said by telephone that she would appeal the decision. The appeal will be filed with a three-judge panel that will be appointed by the Texas Supreme Court, he said.

“Judge Keller is disappointed and shocked that the Commission has completely disregarded the findings of respected trial judge David Berchelmann, who presided over a four-day trial. It is perhaps not surprising that the same commission that made the charges finds them now to be valid despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Judge Keller looks forward to challenging this decision in the judicial system,” Babcock said in a statement.

Those who had complained of Keller were no happier.

“The people of Texas have been publicly warned today that we have an unethical judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who did not accord a person about to be executed with access to open courts or the right to be heard according to law. Yet she has been allowed to keep her job,” said Scott Cobb, president of the Texas Moratorium Network.

“Really, this is the worst-case scenario for Texas. Now we know the problems in the Texas death penalty system reach to Texas’ highest-ranking criminal appeals court, yet the judge who closed the doors to justice for this particular individual remains in office.”

Whatever, Chip. From where I sit, she got away with it. Have fun keeping this in the public eye. The campaign ads in 2012 are already writing themselves.

UPDATE: Grits points to this Statesman story, which notes that while an appeals process for these procedures was mandated by the Lege, the Supreme Court has not created that process yet. Even more fun! Grits thinks Keller is running in 2012, too.

Friday random ten: Songs for Olivia

My traveling companion for the trip to New York was my six-year-old daughter Olivia. We bring the iPod Touch along on plane trips because she and Audrey can watch videos on them. (Phineas and Ferb episodes are the hot property these days.) For this trip, and for the one that preceded it in June, I put together a playlist of kid-friendly and Olivia-approved songs for their listening pleasure. Here are ten tunes from that list:

1. America The Beautiful – Ray Charles
2. Bein’ Green – Rowlf the Dog
3. Born At The Right Time – Paul Simon
4. Dancing Queen – ABBA
5. Froggie Went A Courtin’ – Bruce Springsteen
6. If I Had A Hammer – Pete Seeger
7. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – They Might Be Giants
8. Jenny Jenkins – Lisa Loeb
9. Metro – The Vincent Black Shadow
10. Take A Chance On Me – Lager Rhythms

“Born At The Right Time” is the song that was going through my head the day Olivia was born. “Froggie Went A Courtin'” is an old family favorite that my grandmother used to sing to her grandchildren. “Metro” is the first song Olivia ever expressed an opinion about. “Jenny Jenkins” – the abbreviated Lisa Loeb version of it, anyway – was something we discovered when Olivia was into watching Jack’s Big Music Show.

And then you might notice the two ABBA songs. Olivia (and Audrey) loves ABBA. In particular, they love the movie “Mamma Mia” (thanks to my father-in-law, who has a thing for Meryl Streep, not that there’s anything wrong with that), and so I downloaded a copy of the soundtrack for her. Which in the end was the only thing she listened to. And sang along to, which amused me no end.

So there you have it. What’s on your iPod that’s suitable for a first grader?

Entire song list report: Started with “Join The British Army”, by Larkin. Finished with “Juke Box Music”, by The Kinks, song #2615. That’s 17 songs, which isn’t much but then I only got my hands back on my iPod on Thursday.

Ripping vinyl report: Still on break. Check back next week.

Term limits commission makes its recommendation

The Term Limits Commission finished its work on Monday and voted on a proposal that will be considered by Council.

Houston’s Term Limits Review Commission voted Monday night to recommend changing the existing limits from three 2-year terms to two 4-year terms.

After a contentious and chaotic final meeting, commission members also approved a transition plan that would allow Mayor Annise Parker and seven others to serve for a total of 10 years.

That decision may create a headache for a future City Council, as it effectively could shut down the body from November through January.

According to the city charter, if a majority of council members is being replaced in one election, they are not allowed to take any votes once an election turns them into lame ducks. If the changes were enacted as proposed, that could take place as soon as 2019.

If approved by City Council, the proposed charter amendment would be decided by voters in a Nov. 2 referendum.

The lame-duck stuff, and the allowing some current members to serve longer than six years, are new to me. The two four-year terms proposal was expected, based on everything we’ve seen before. My reaction to this is approximately the same as Mayor Parker‘s.

Parker said that while she is no fan of term limits, the recommendation of the city’s Term Limits Review Commission to limit the mayor, city controller and council members to two 4-year terms rather than the current three 2-year terms is “not something I’m going to get excited about.”

She urged council members not to engage in an extended battle on term limits or “tinker” with the recommendations but to “decide if this is a good improvement on what I consider to be a bad system … and move on.”

I’ll say this much: Given that we’ve already got the Renew Houston proposition on the ballot and that we may also get a red light camera referendum, I don’t see any reason why we need to rush to get this before the voters in November. There’s no reason it couldn’t wait till a May special election next year. My inclination for now is to say to table it for later. Campos, who raises some good questions, has more.

HISD Trustee Diana Davila resigns

This was unexpected.

HISD trustee Diana Dávila said Wednesday she will resign from the school board Thursday, more than a year before her term ends.

Dávila, who was first elected to the school board in 2003, said she is stepping down because of “personal family issues.” Dávila is married to Abel Dávila, the former chairman of the Houston Community College board who decided unexpectedly last year not to seek re-election. They have two children, ages 6 and 8.

“There are certain things going on in our lives currently that need our attention,” she said. “We have our own personal businesses that require some of our attention. And I have two growing children that require more of mommy’s attention.”

Dávila said her husband is expanding his pharmacy business, and she and her parents own a restaurant.

She said her resignation is not related to the article in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday that said she had tried to appoint her husband to an Houston Independent School District committee that oversees a nearly $1 billion construction program, a move the district’s inspector general concluded was a conflict of interest.

Dávila then recommended her political campaign manager, Manuel Barrera Jr., to the Bond Oversight Committee. Barrera resigned from that post Sunday, complaining that the newspaper story was intended to embarrass Hispanics.

Here’s that Sunday story, which I didn’t see while I was out of town. I wish the Dávilas the best with their personal business, but after the deadline day shenanigans from last year, I can’t say I’m particularly grieved by this turn of events. I’m just curious as to what will happen to her seat.

HISD’s private attorney, David Thompson, explained that state law specific to HISD says the board “shall” appoint a replacement to fill any vacancies. The person would serve until the next regular election, which is in November 2011. But the law also says that “should the board for any reason fail or refuse to fill” an open spot, it must call a special election.

I’m rooting for the special election to happen, which Dávila says is her preference as well. We’ll see what action the board takes. Hair Balls and School Zone have more.

RIP, George Steinbrenner

It was kind of a rough week for the New York Yankees, as they lost two of their icons while I was on vacation. I’ll have something to say about Bob Sheppard, their legendary and longtime public address announcer, in a subsequent post, but for now let me extend my condolences to the Steinbrenner family and the entire Yankee franchise on the passing of The Boss, George Steinbrenner. I was fortunate enough to pick up a copy of the Daily News special edition with its wall-to-wall coverage. (See also Jay Jaffe‘s writeup and roundup for more.) There are two things that stand out in all of this that I want to highlight. One is that for all of Steinbrenner’s bombast and bullying and attention-grabbing behavior, the words most frequently used to describe him are “kind” and “generous”. I’ve heard stories like this of him stepping in to help people and organizations in need, often in an extremely low-key way, for decades. It’s as much a part of who George Steinbrenner was as all of the things that made him a pop culture villain. (And in typical fashion, Steinbrenner was gracious and a good sport about that.)

The other thing is that Steinbrenner was about one thing, and that was for his organization to be the best, and to be the champions. Everything he did, and that includes a lot of the bad things, was geared towards that. It’s a cliche to hear people gripe about the Yankees spending gobs of money to “buy” championships, and how that’s somehow supposed to represent what’s wrong with professional sports. I say it’s owners who don’t care about winning that are the problem. Steinbrenner wasn’t in it to cash checks, his team wasn’t just another asset in a media/real estate/whatever portfolio, and if every team had an owner with the same desire to bring home a trophy there’d be a lot fewer long-suffering fans out there. He cared about his team’s fans in a way that very few owners do any more, and that will be greatly missed.

I’ve been a Yankees fan for as long as I can remember, and that more or less coincides with his purchase of the team from CBS in 1973. I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the thought that he won’t be around any more. He’ll never be forgotten, though, that’s for sure. Rest in peace, George Steinbrenner.

Texas blog roundup for the week of July 12

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn’t need to go to South Beach to form a dream team. We’ve had one all along, and here are the highlights.