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July 21st, 2010:

Fundraising: Harris County State Reps

I’ve collected fundraising reports for Harris County State Rep races of interest; they’re all beneath the fold. Here are the highlights:

– In the rubber match between State Rep. Kristi Thibaut in HD133 and former State Rep. Jim Murphy, Thibaut has a slight lead in fundraising – she collected $116K to Murphy’s $112K – and cash on hand, $150K to $125K. I’m actually a little surprised there wasn’t more money raised in this race, but I figure by the time it’s all done at least double the amount raised so far will have been hauled in.

– Ellen Cohen has a commanding lead over Sarah Davis. Cohen took in $230K and has $265K on hand. Davis collected $54K, but thanks to a total of $114K in loans, all coming from Kent and Edie Adams beginning with the January 15 reporting period, she has $103K on hand.

– In HD138, Kendra Yarbrough Camarena did well, raising $106K, with $120K on hand. Dwayne Bohac clearly wasn’t taking any chances, as he raked in $201K, with $228K on hand.

– Possibly the biggest surprise was in HD144, where challenger Rick Molina out-raised first-term incumbent Ken Legler, $92K to $82K, and also held more cash, $23,597 to $11,545. It’s not clear to me why Molina’s COH figure isn’t higher, since he only spent $36K; Legler spent almost as much as he raised, $81K in all.

– As of last night, the reports for Hubert Vo and Jack O’Connor in HD149 were not available. According to the explanation, “the Ethics Commission may not make a report filed with the Commission available on the Internet unless all candidates and related specific-purpose political committees in a race have filed. To date, all reports in this race have not been filed. Therefore, this report is not currently viewable.” Note that there is a Libertarian candidate in this race as well. I’ll add these reports to the post when I find them.

As I said, other races of interest are posted below. Overall, I’d say the Democratic candidates have done a good job, with Republicans other than Legler and his puzzling cash shortage in decent shape, too. With no Congressional races of interest, and the County Judge race not evenly matched early on, these may be the highest profile contests in the county this year.

UPDATE: Vo and O’Connor’s totals are in. Vo raised $15K and has $37K on hand. He’s always done some self-funding, and has $95K in loans outstanding. O’Connor took in $12K and has $6500 on hand, but those numbers are a bit misleading. $10K of O’Connor’s contributions were two $5K in-kind donations, each for a month’s rent. He also reported $6K in a loan to himself on his detailed report, but for some odd reason that didn’t show up in the summary.

(more…)

More on the broadband map of Texas

Shouldn’t a map that purports to document broadband availability in Texas do a better job than this of actually including broadband providers?

At an unveiling last month, the Texas Department of Agriculture touted its map of broadband Internet availability as the first step in closing a “digital divide” that denies rural Texans critical services.

But a political divide has opened instead, as critics question the tool’s accuracy and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples’ relationship with the organization that created it.

Staples’ Democratic rival, Hank Gilbert, and a handful of local providers, consumer groups and mapping organizations say the agency tailored the application to fit Connected Nation, the nonprofit selected by the department and the Texas Public Utility Commission to create the map. The Agriculture Department and the company defend the process, while their critics contend that the map will direct federal stimulus money toward major telecommunications companies at the expense of smaller Internet providers.

“They hit the big guys,” said James Breeden, founder of LiveAir Networks, which covers rural parts of Central Texas. “I didn’t even know they were putting together a broadband map until I saw it on the news and went ‘Oh.’ Then I logged in and went, ‘Oh, really!’ ”

He said he couldn’t find his company or two nearby providers on the map. Some areas didn’t show the correct distributor. Others named one when none existed. “The map is just off. It’s not technically accurate,” he said.

Perhaps if the Department of Agriculture had hired a local non-profit to do this work instead of sending the stimulus dollars that paid for it out of state, the results might have been better. There’s a lot of other questions about the process that led to this map as well as the map itself, which the article does a good job of highlighting. I’m sure there’s more there as well, if someone has the time to dig in. Check it out and see what you think.

The State of Texas versus IBM

It’s never a pretty sight when an outsourcing relationship goes bad.

IBM Corp.’s $863 million data center consolidation contract with Texas is teetering on collapse.

Seven months of negotiations aimed at righting the troubled project and salvaging the partnership fell apart at the end of June.

On Friday, the state gave IBM 30 days to fix the myriad problems that have plagued the effort to merge the data centers of 28 state agencies into two upgraded and secure facilities.

Turning around the mammoth project in a month will be a formidable task for IBM because some of the problems have been known for years and still persisted. Many industry insiders expect IBM and the state to part ways.

Karen Robinson , executive director of the state’s Department of Information Resources, provided IBM a seven-page litany of alleged contractual violations and “chronic failures.”

For example, Robinson said IBM had abandoned its obligation to provide enough people to do the work outlined in the contract.

IBM had reduced the personnel in one key project area from 124 in October to 40 in June. That pullback, in part, has brought the merger process to a virtual standstill.

The original contract set December 2009 as the completion date for the transition. So far, less than 12 percent of that work has been completed.

[…]

Jeff Tieszen , a spokesman for IBM, said the company “has fulfilled its obligations under the contract and today’s action by DIR was unnecessary and unjustified.”

“IBM very much regrets the state’s action and will aggressively protect its interest going forward,” Tieszen added.

Tieszen would not comment beyond the terse statement.

I don’t know about you, but I smell a lawsuit coming. As noted these problems are not new, though as recently as six months ago it looked like IBM was going to get another chance. So much for that. Just remember, when all is said and done, the point of this exercise was to save the state money. Unlike some other privatization fiascoes I could mention *cough* *cough* Accenture HHSC TIERS *cough* *cough*, this project needn’t have been controversial or on the fast track to Failsville. There’s nothing particularly unusual about data center consolidations. I don’t know enough to be able to say how or why it all went wrong – this would make a great topic for one of those sweeping Texas Monthly investigative stories, Jake; I’ll bet the Trib could do a bang-up job, too, not that I’m hinting or anything – but from what I can see it looks like individual departments had no choice but to participate, and if the state is to be believed, IBM didn’t have enough employees working on it. There’s nothing unusual about the former, though that doesn’t make it a good idea, but the latter sure is curious. Anyway, as I said before, never underestimate the potential for a Rick Perry-initiated privatization process to get screwed up. The DMN has more.

Comparing stadium experiences

The Sugar Land Sun has an interesting three-part series comparing the minor league baseball experiences in Fort Worth and New Orleans to what we might expect in Sugar Land with its forthcoming stadium. Here’s the introduction:

Both cities provide key comparisons to Sugar Land that should allow residents to have realistic expectations of what non-Major League Baseball could bring.

The Fort Worth Cats play in the independent American Association and have no affiliation to a Major League Baseball franchise. Sugar Land’s team will play in the Atlantic League, an independent league.

The Cats share another trait with Sugar Land’s team: Both are or will be located in major metropolitan areas, and will vie for dollars with other sports options.

[…]

Like the Zephyrs, the Sugar Land team will compete against other sports options, namely the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Hornets, for ticket revenue.

And like the Zephyrs, the Sugar Land team will play in a stadium financed by taxpayer funds.

There is a key difference between the Zephyrs and would-be Sugar Land team: the Zephyrs are a Triple-A team with an affiliation to a Major League Team, the Florida Marlins. That give the team a little more cachet with baseball fans who want to see tomorrow’s Major League stars hit the field.

Actually, a fair number of true stars-in-waiting will bypass AAA ball, or at least not play a full season there. Double A is your better bet. But the point is well taken.

Here’s the Fort Worth story, and here’s the New Orleans story. Each provides a relevant point of interest for Sugar Land. From the former:

[A] 2005 analysis conducted by the University of North Texas estimates that the stadium, which it says [team owner Carl] Bell’s companies have spent $9 million at that time, generated $14 million for the city of Fort Worth, and $20 million for Tarrant county as a whole, an area nearly 36 times bigger than Sugar Land.

Sugar Land’s projects estimate the stadium will generate $7.7 million annually, or $23.1 million in the same time frame.

And from the latter:

[Jay Cicero, president and chief executive officer of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the team’s first general manager since it moved to New Orleans] said the team’s base comes from locals and usually doesn’t rely on tourists.

“It’s 99.5 percent local,” he said. “You may some regional group nights where you get fans from farther away, but it’s mostly local fans.”

Historically, Minor League and independent baseball teams rely on local fanbases, especially when the economy goes south. When tourism dries up, local fans determine whether a team lives or dies.

When announcing its agreement with Opening Day Partners, the city estimated that 300,000 people would visit the stadium. The team would have to average 4,285 fans per game to hit that mark, excluding any other events such as college of high school baseball tournaments, that may be played there.

Should the team reach that mark, it would be the fourth-highest attended team in its league, according to current Atlantic League statistics. The team would also draw more than the average attendance of every Minor League Baseball team affiliated with a Major League Team.

I think Sugar Land will meet its projections initially, as I expect there will be a fair amount of excitement over the stadium’s opening and the team’s arrival. Maintaining that will be the challenge, especially if the team isn’t competitive right off. I think Sugar Land will have somewhat better prospects for having a fanbase that extends outside of Fort Bend County, from folks in neighboring counties who might not want to drive all the way into Houston, or who might be enticed by the lower minor league ticket prices. But it’s a good idea to keep all of this in mind, and to ask about how well the reality matched the projections in a few years’ time.