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July 20th, 2010:

Fundraising: Harris County

The top story for the Harris County money race is that County Judge Ed Emmett has a big lead in financial resources over challenger Gordon Quan.

Gordon Quan said he knew from the start that challenging County Judge Ed Emmett would be a David and Goliath race. Their bank accounts now confirm this: Quan has $63,000 to sling against Emmett’s million-dollar might.

[…]

“The onus is on Gordon to close that gap, and quickly, if he’s going to have a shot,” said political consultant Keir Murray, who is not affiliated with either campaign.

Nonetheless, Murray and others said, the race is not over before it really has started. Quan still has time to raise money.

County races also are influenced by top-of-the-ticket contests, such as this year’s gubernatorial election between Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White. Emmett and Quan’s names are deep into a ballot that in some places will be dozens of pages long.

“When you have a ballot with over 100 names on it, I don’t know that people are going to be looking for just my name or his name,” Quan said.

The surgery took him away from the campaign for six weeks, Quan said, but he now is in the midst of a schedule of speaking at ethnic gatherings, Democratic club meetings and senior citizens events.

You can see Quan’s report here and Emmett’s very large report here. Prevailing conditions, straight ticket voting, and GOTV efforts will likely have more of an effect on the county races than campaign finances will, but as we saw in 2008 that only goes so far. Emmett has incumbency, greater name recognition, and modulo what may happen this season, he still wears a halo from his performance during Hurricane Ike. He’s got to like the position he’s in right now.

Nobody else has anywhere near Emmett’s resources, which is not surprising given that with the possible exception of Tax Assessor, none of these offices are high profile enough to draw a lot of interest from the contributing classes. Here’s what I found poking through the county’s campaign finance reports page.

Ann Harris Bennett Contributions - 34,010.00 Expenditures - 7,130.36 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 26,728.24 Stan Stanart Contributions - 2,425.00 Expenditures - 2,314.81 Loans - 20,000.00 Cash on hand - 13,415.56

Bennett got $10,000 from Annie’s List, $3,000 from the ROADWomen PAC, $1,500 from EMILY’s List, and a decent assortment of other donations besides. About half of Stanart’s expenditures were listed on the Schedule G form, which is for expenditures made from personal funds. He likes the Spaghetti Warehouse – I counted a dozen entries for what I presume was lunch for himself there, ten on the Schedule Fs and two on the Gs. His loan must have been made in a previous reporting period, as it was not documented in this report.

Diane Trautman Contributions - 60,566.00 Expenditures - 18,323.00 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 74,766.04 Don Sumners Contributions - 1,500.00 Expenditures - 2,501.76 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 1,500.00

Sumners had four contributors – former Coucil Member Bruce Tatro, both Kubosh brothers, and a woman named Mary Williams. Trautman had nearly 50 pages’ worth of contributors, including the same donations as Bennett from Annie’s List, EMILY’s List, and the ROADWomen. She also got $1000 from her peeps in the Kingwood Area Democrats. I am deeply gratified to see her do so well in comparison to Sumners.

Loren Jackson Contributions - 63,030.16 Expenditures - 42,617.70 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 49,396.30 Chris Daniel Contributions - 32,000.00 Expenditures - 45,989.86 Loans - 20,000.00 Cash on hand - 2,148.56

The money race between Loren Jackson and Chris Daniel may appear competitive, but if you go through Daniel’s report, you’ll see he had two enormous contributions from family members (his mom, and I believe his sister), totaling $29,100. As it happens, one of his expenditures is for that exact amount, with the explanation that it’s the payment of loans from earlier in the cycle. In other words, taking out that bit of churn, Daniel raised less than $3,000 and spent about $17,000 on actual campaign-related things, $5,000 of which was money going into Allen Blakemore’s pocket. Jackson had a $4,500 contribution from the Texas Democratic Party plus a few $2,500 donations.

Billy Briscoe Contributions - 16,445.76 Expenditures - 13,671.74 Loans - 2,500.00 Cash on hand - 3,024.02 Orlando Sanchez Contributions - 1,850.00 Expenditures - 1,054.53 Loans - 5,175.00 Cash on hand - 933.76

I had no idea what to expect from Briscoe, who’s seeking the least useful office in Harris County. His total contributions looks good, except that $14,195.76 of it is listed as coming from “Campaign Account of Billy Briscoe”. I guess that’s a transfer from a previous campaign, but I don’t know for sure. As for Orlando, clearly he’s as diligent about fundraising as he is at his job. Having said that, his expenditures report had the best single line item I’ve seen. On page six, the third entry down is $16.00 for a subscription to “Glamour” magazine. I guess he has to do something to while away those lonely hours. All I know is I couldn’t make this stuff up.

UPDATE: Briscoe’s $14,195.76 came from his campaign for State Rep. Thanks to PDiddie in the comments for reminding me about that.

UPDATE: Orlando speaks to the Press about his “Glamour” subscription. Why he didn’t just buy the one issue he says he needed from a newsstand remains a mystery, but at least we now know why he subscribed.

Park ambitions

Dream big.

Two of Houston’s heaviest-hitting business groups — the Greater Houston Partnership and the Quality of Life Coalition — are promoting an ambitious master plan to develop land along 10 of Harris County’s major bayous, creating an enormous system of “linear parks.”

With a potential half-billion-dollar price tag, the Houston Bayou Greenway Initiative would include almost 250 miles of new or upgraded hike-and-bike trails, not to mention canoe trails and more than 50 new parks that would do double duty as flood-retention basins or wetlands that improve the quality of the city’s groundwater.

“Two hundred and fifty miles!” exults developer Ed Wulfe, who represents both the Partnership and the Quality of Life Coalition. “That’s the distance from here to Dallas!”

The Bayou Greenway would be the biggest parks initiative in Houston’s history, says Tom Bacon, president of the Houston Parks Board, and would add desperately needed greenspace to neighborhoods widely spread across Harris County.

How much would it all cost? Roksan Okan-Vick, executive director of the Houston Parks Board, offers a rough estimate in “big round numbers:” $255 million to acquire land for the trails, build them and landscape them with native trees and plants, plus $240 million to add the 50 parks.

The Greenway would be a patchwork of projects carried out by hundreds of parties: city, county, state and federal agencies; nonprofits; municipal utility districts; Tax-Increment Reinvestment Zones; neighborhood groups; private developers; and private philanthropists.

I love the sound of this, I’m just not clear on what it means. The main question, of course, is “How will this be paid for?” For that,we go to the Houston Parks Board:

The Greater Houston Partnership will take the Bayou Greenway Initiative to our elected representatives in the coming months to secure support, and hopefully obtain funding commitments over the next two to three budget cycles. As that process moves forward, HPB will continue to work with the community, increase its partnerships with other bayou organizations, continue on-going communication with its public partners, and pursue private funding opportunities.

In other words, this is still more wish list than anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I love the vision, and I hope to see it come about. There’s still a lot that needs to fall into place for it, and no guarantees that any of it will happen. Click that last link to see a map of the proposed new trails, and to find an email address for Roksan Okan-Vick if you want to get involved.

Metro lets more bikes on the trains

I’ve mentioned the efforts by BikeHouston and other activists to expand bicycle access to light rail trains. This past week, they scored a victory on that front.

Bikes are still barred during peak travel hours in the morning and afternoon, but the definition of “peak hours” has changed.

Bikes can now be carried onto trains anytime except 6:30-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.

“Biking and METRO are important alternatives to driving and are natural complements, reducing both traffic and helping clean our air,” said Acting President & CEO George Greanias. “With these expanded hours we can accommodate riders during our busiest light-rail hours, and make more room on the system for those whose commute includes bicycles.”

Sounds good to me. Kudos all around.

Texas blog roundup for the week of July 19

The Texas Progressive Alliance has never lost containment and needs no relief wells as it brings you this week’s blog roundup.

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