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October 1st, 2010:

Friday random ten: Fall back

We’ve finally had our first taste of fall weather this week, which around here means high temperatures under 90. In honor of that, some fall songs (and one autumn song).

1. Autumn In New York – Harry Connick
2. Another Place To Fall – KT Tunstall
3. Fall Behind Me – The Donnas
4. Hero Takes A Fall – The Bangles
5. I Fall To Pieces – Patsy Cline
6. If I Should Fall Behind – Bruce Springsteen
7. Let It Fall – Mutual Admiration Society
8. The Mighty Fall – The Buddhacrush
9. We Will Fall Together – Streetlight Manifesto
10. Are You Ready For The Fallout? – Fastball

Sorry, had to cheat a little to get to 10. What are you falling for this week?

Entire song list report: Started with “My City of Ruins”, by Bruce Springsteen. Ended with “Newry Highwayman”, by Solas, song #3624, for 129 tunes this week. The last M song was “Mystify”, by INXS. The first N song was either “N.I.N.A”, by Larkin, or “Naive Melody”, by The Old Believers, your choice.

Ripping vinyl report: Unfortunately, my laptop has had some issues that may force me to reinstall Windows on it, so after backing up all my music to a removable drive I’ve decided to temporarily suspend adding to the collection until I deal with this in a more permanent fashion. Sorry about that.

Monday is the deadline to register for this election

From the Inbox:

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Leo Vasquez reminds citizens who have not yet registered to vote that Monday, October 4 is the registration cutoff for this year’s Nov. 2 election.

“Although this not a presidential election year, we will again be voting for the governor, numerous other statewide officials, legislators, judges and local officials, including the Harris County judge,” Vasquez pointed out.

If you are a citizen who wants to vote in the Nov. 2 election and has not yet registered, please act now. You must complete an application and deliver it to one of our branches by 4:45 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4 or mail it in time for it to be postmarked no later than Oct. 4.

Citizens can obtain a voter registration application at any Tax Office branch location, local post offices, libraries and City of Houston community and health centers. For a map of Tax Office branches, go to Or you may also download an application in English, Spanish or Vietnamese at

If you were previously registered to vote in Harris County and have not moved or changed your name since the last election, then you are still registered and do not need to file any additional paperwork. However, if you have recently moved to a new address in Harris County or changed your name, please be sure to update your registration. Voter registration help is also available by telephone at (713) 368-VOTE.

Remember, if you don’t vote you don’t get to complain about how the elections turned out. I’m sure everyone reading this is already registered, but if you know someone who isn’t, please remind them they need to fix that now.

Interview with Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown

I’ve focused entirely on Harris County so far in this interview series. That’s because there are a lot of interesting races here, both at a district and countywide level, and also because that’s where I live. But there’s a lot of action going on in Fort Bend County too, as it has become a battleground as its demographics have changed. To get a feel for what’s going on out there, I sat down for a chat with Stephen Brown, the dynamic new chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party. Here it is:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

The anti-Prop 1 factions gear up

The usual suspects have gotten the band back together to ensure that no action is taken to mitigate flooding in Houston.

Former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt has teamed up with anti-tax advocate Bruce Hotze and conservative activist Norman Adams, significant players in a previously successful effort to scuttle a drainage fee during the Lee Brown administration. They reformed the “No Rain Tax” PAC, Bettencourt said, and expect to raise enough money to run radio ads and phone banks against the measure.

Bettencourt said it was “preposterous” that the details about how the program would be implemented have yet to emerge with the vote only five weeks away.

“This is an open-ended blank check from the taxpayers,” he said.

I’ll stipulate that it’s taken a long time for all of the details of Prop 1 to be finalized. But let’s be clear, that’s just a convenient excuse for these guys. Had there been a fully realized plan six months ago, with every i dotted and t crossed, they’d claim some other reason to oppose this. That’s because they don’t want to pay any money to alleviate flooding problems in Houston. I don’t know if that’s because they don’t think there are flooding problems in Houston, or because they’re too cheap to pay the five bucks a month that Prop 1 would cost them, but I do know that in the nine years since the last time they defeated a proposal that was intended to tackle this problem, they haven’t offered any solutions of their own, or supported any candidates that offered a solution that they approved of. Thus, my conclusion that they’re not interested in being part of any solution.

I point that out to say once again that the choice here is not between Prop 1 and some alternate plan that you think would be cheaper or more effective or faster to implement or fairer or whatever. The choice is between Prop 1 and doing nothing for another decade or so, because I guarantee that if Prop 1 goes down, no further attempt will be made to tackle the problem until long after everyone has forgotten about this one. If you agree with Bettencourt, Hotze, and Adams that flooding isn’t a problem, then your choice is clear. If you’re voting against Prop 1 because you believe there’s a better way to solve the problem, then I look forward to seeing you work to get your preferred solution implemented, whatever it may be. As someone who does believe there is a problem, I’d hate to have to wait another ten years before we try to fix it.

As far as that faux concern about not knowing what the specifics will be, Mayor Parker has now set forth the details of the drainage fee. Council will not vote on it before the election, but there will probably be a resolution presented to Council so the principles of the Mayor’s plan can be approved. Yes, we should have had the details sooner than this. But I’ve believed from the beginning that the principle of needing to deal with this was sound, and that has been my motivation for supporting this effort.

One more thing:

Stan Merriman, a local Democratic activist who opposes the initiative and is working with [a different anti-Prop 1 PAC], said he could not support a fee structure that would require the same amount from an owner of a 5,000-square-foot-lot in Sunnyside and River Oaks.

“That’s fundamentally unfair,” he said.

Now that we have the Mayor’s plan for Prop 1 implementation, I hope it’s clear that Merriman’s assertion is factually wrong. Merriman has posted his bullet-point list of objections to Prop 1 in the comments to a couple of my posts as well as at Stace’s place. Among other things, he seems to be saying that there’s very little we can actually do about flooding, which was not something that he mentioned in his previous writing when he said that we should be “viewing such a project as one perfect for federal stimulus funds”. Be that as it may, I’ll say again that if Prop 1 does go down, I look forward to supporting the effort that Merriman and others like him plan to lead to do something about this. Because otherwise, if they don’t have one, they’re just agreeing with Bettencourt, Hotze, and Adams that there is no flooding problem in Houston.

UPDATE: Here’s the official link to the principles for Prop 1.

Bay City coal plant gets TCEQ approval


Texas’ environmental agency granted air pollution permits for a proposed coal- and petroleum coke-fired power plant in Matagorda County over the objections of local officials and residents Wednesday.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted 3-0 in support of the permits for the 1,320-megawatt White Stallion Energy Center, which would be built about 90 miles southwest of Houston.


The plant would be built less than 20 miles from the boundary of the eight-county Houston region that is in violation of federal limits for ozone. Rules on industrial pollution — in particular, new sources – are tighter inside such areas than outside, even though ozone, or smog, isn’t bound by county lines.


The decision came nearly three months after two state administrative law judges ruled that the permits should not be granted because of problems with the application, saying the developers used faulty data in their air quality analysis and failed to consider the impacts of coal dust.

The judges’ findings were not binding on the TCEQ, which has final authority on permits. The commissioners said the project’s developers had addressed the concerns.

TCEQ’s Public Interest Counsel also recommended denial of the permit, saying the agency did not require the developers to use the lowest-polluting technology for their coal plants.

That’s the TCEQ for you. Of the polluters, by the polluters, for the polluters. The interesting thing was just how deeply unpopular this project had become.

The man from Kentucky came to this coastal prairie town two years ago with a vision for a new energy future: His company would build the cleanest coal-fired power plant in Texas, generating new jobs and new money for a place in need of both.

The idea had undeniable power at first. But now, with the White Stallion Energy Center about to receive an air pollution permit from the state, many local officials and residents are having second thoughts — even in the face of 12 percent unemployment in Matagorda County.

The proposed power plant may be a chimera, critics say. It may drain precious water from the Colorado River, foul the air and harm wildlife in an area known for ranches and rice, beaches and birds.

In and around Bay City, the county’s hub, opponents are planting roadside signs showing a menacing monster billowing from smokestacks, with the rallying cry: “Stop White Stallion Coal Plant.”

“It’s a bad thing,” Michael Ledwig said as he posted one of the signs on the front gate of his property on FM 2668, about a mile from the site of the proposed plant. “It’s a lot of pollution for a small amount of jobs.”

I am in general skeptical of the concept of “clean coal”. And I believe that any time a new coal plant is being built, or even contemplated, instead of something genuinely green, it represents a missed opportunity. Coal is yesterday. We need to be thinking about tomorrow. The TCEQ’s decision will be appealed, but I can’t say I have any faith that will make a difference. Forrest Whitaker has more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of September 27

The Texas Progressive Alliance is still looking for that first nip of fall in the air as it brings you this week’s blog roundup.