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July 19th, 2010:

Opposition to Renew Houston

Last Tuesday, while I was out of town, Council Member Stephen Costello did a presentation about Renew Houston at HCDP headquarters. (CM Sue Lovell was supposed to be with him but was unable to make it because a committee meeting for which she was the chair went long.) I wasn’t there, I don’t know how it went, but a couple of bloggers, Open Source Dem and Stan Merriman were there, and they weren’t impressed. I now wish I had been there, because I don’t quite get what it is that they don’t like.

You can go read their pieces and see what you think for yourself. Both seem to agree that the need is there to improve drainage. Open Source Dem mostly seems to dislike the fact that CM Costello is a Republican. He’s none too impressed with the Democrats on Council, either, saying “Most Democrats on Council seem to defer to the GOP on public health, public safety, public works, and above all public finance, but handle anything involving cute puppies with exquisite tenderness.” I daresay that would come as a surprise to CM Melissa Noriega, who chairs the Public Safety committee, and CM Jolanda Jones, who isn’t particularly deferential on many things, and pretty much everyone else for that matter, but never mind. I’m really not sure what that has to do with anything.

Merriman’s post is even more opaque to me. The one point he makes that I feel I can comment on is his contention that this ought to be viewed as a project that’s “perfect for federal stimulus funds”. Hey, I’d love to see the feds get involved in this sort of infrastructure improvement all over the country – Lord knows, just in terms of water-related needs, there’s a ton to address. Last I checked, though, that ain’t gonna happen, certainly not when “concern” about the deficit is driving the conversation and it takes 60 votes in the Senate to go to the potty. I’d put my money on the Astros winning the World Series before that.

So where does that leave us? I’m going to go back to what I said before. Either you believe this is a problem that needs to be addressed or you don’t. If you do believe this is a problem that needs to be addressed, but you don’t like Renew Houston, what exactly is your plan to address it? Remember, it’s been nine years since anyone proposed a solution. Voting down the Renew Houston proposition, much as it was with health care reform in Congress, doesn’t mean that proponents of Doing Something About The Problem will come right back with a solution that’s more to your liking. It means the issue will disappear from the conversation for another few years, and more likely than not what will come up next when someone else decides to pick up the ball will be something less ambitious. I don’t see how that helps.

Is Renew Houston the best possible solution to the drainage problem we all agree the city has? I don’t know what the “ideal” funding mechanism would be, given that it’s a local issue, so I can’t adequately answer that question. There are things to criticize about Renew Houston, as Tory and Neil have done. But it’s what we’ve got, and the choice isn’t between Renew Houston and some other ordinance/referendum/whatever that could be passed as an alternative, the choice is between Renew Houston and doing nothing for another ten years. I believe Renew Houston is an improvement over the status quo, and I plan to vote for it.

Comparing the reports

Just out of curiosity, I thought I’d see how Bill White did with his fundraising compared to the last two Democratic candidates for Governor. Here’s what it looks like:

Bill White

Totals From Report For William H. White
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $55.00
Total Political Contributions: $7,447,799.33
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $3,276,436.29
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $9,045,425.60
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

Chris Bell

Totals From Report For R. Christopher Bell
Filed on: July 14 2006
Covering the Period February 26, 2006 Through June 30, 2006

Total Unitemized Contributions: $18,282.77
Total Political Contributions: $1,312,467.89
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $7,275.23
Total Expenditures: $533,999.70
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $654,501.62
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

Tony Sanchez

Totals From Report For Tony Sanchez for Governor, Inc.
Filed on: July 15 2002
Covering the Period March 03, 2002 Through June 30, 2002

Total Unitemized Contributions: $187.25
Total Political Contributions: $8,666,412.70
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $12,486,908.86
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $0.00
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $17,761,662.81
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

The main thing to note about Sanchez is that much of his money came from himself. Take a look at his list of individual contributors, and you see that at least $6 million of that Total Political Contributions amount came from his family interests. (I say “at least” because I just scanned it, zeroing in on the Sanchez name, rather than going line by line. What I saw was two donations, one for one million and one for five million, from Sanchez Spousal Trust.) Moreover, by my count there were 1147 total contributions listed for Sanchez during this period; the total number of contributors is less than that, as some gave more than once. That’s less than one-tenth of the number of new contributors that White’s campaign claimed – 11,700 – which is the number that really stands out to me. Sanchez of course spent a lot more money than White will ultimately raise, but there is a difference between raising it and spending it. The former is evidence of how broad a candidate’s appeal is, and on that score we haven’t seen anything like Bill White since at least the days of Ann Richards.

Family planning saves money

It does a lot more than that, of course, but in these times we may as well highlight the financial aspect of it.

A state and federal program that provides free family planning and related health screenings to low-income women ages 18 to 44 saved Texas $40 million in 2008 — a financial boon during cash-strapped times, advocates said Tuesday.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal and Healthy Futures of Texas President Dr. Janet Realini unveiled the findings of a recent Health and Human Services Commission study that examined the cost savings of the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

The program, which began in 2007, is aimed at reducing Medicaid-paid births and unplanned pregnancies. The state invested $2 million a year, which the federal government matched.

“In the end, we prevented 10,000 unplanned pregnancies and reduced state and federal Medicaid spending on childbirths by $113 million per year,” said Villarreal. “That’s smart government. But this is not just about dollars and sense. It’s about changing lives. This program helps women delay pregnancy until they’re ready to care for a child.”

You can read the full report here (PDF). As Rep. Villarreal says on his blog, this really ought to be a no-brainer. I don’t know what else there is that needs to be said.

Back to Basics PAC back on the air

From the “Stuff That Happened While I Had Put Down The Internet” department, here’s an update on the Back to Basics PAC, which produced and ran a great TV ad about Rick Perry’s budget hypocrisy.

Since we’ve released the ad showcasing the double-faced hypocrisy of Governor Perry, Texans have taken notice, and we’ve clearly struck a nerve with Governor Perry and the Texas GOP. The day after our ad aired on a $250,000 buy in Houston, Dallas, and Austin, the Texas GOP filed a frivolous complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission to try to shut us down.

Their ethics complaint was based on a lie. We hand-delivered a letter to Ms. Rosemary Edwards, the head of the Travis County Republican Party, demanding an apology from them.

You can see the ad here, and you can make a contribution here to keep their ad running if you are so inclined.