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October 15th, 2010:

More on Perry’s self-appropriation of Emerging Tech funds

The Statesman moves the ball forward on the Emerging Technology Fund story and Governor Perry’s self-appropriation of its funds. Two points from the story stand out to me.

Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s legislative leaders awarded a $4.5 million grant to a cancer treatment company launched by David Nance, a close Perry friend and campaign donor, after the company sidestepped two review committees, including a statewide board created specifically to evaluate and make recommendations on life-science companies.

In August, Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus gave Nance’s company the second-largest grant ever from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

Perry has yet to announce the award or explain what the company, Convergen LifeSciences Inc., will be doing, although it has started drawing down the money. By comparison, Perry has announced four other awards in the recent days as he campaigned across the state.

The award was given in August, yet the biggest glory hound in the state had nothing to say about it? I’m sure that if you could get your hands on a copy of Perry’s super secret calendar, you would see the announcement scheduled for some time after the election, because somewhere deep down, he knows what he did was wrong. Well, he knows that some annoying voters might think it was wrong, so naturally he didn’t want them to know about it until after he’d been safely re-elected. That’s as close to an admission of guilt as you’ll ever get from him on anything.

Dewhurst and Straus said their offices begin considering applications only after they have been recommended by Perry and the state board.

Dewhurst said he’s not sure that he knew that Nance’s application didn’t clear all the lower review boards but that he relies only on the state board’s recommendations.

“I never met or laid eyes on Nance,” Dewhurst added.

That’s David Dewhurst, slowly backing away. You think he recognizes this for what it is?

This video from the White campaign could use a little editing, but it captures the basic outline of the story:

Cut that down to 30 seconds and run it on TV, I say.

Friday random ten: Gone too soon

This month marked the 40th anniversary of Janis Joplin’s death, as well as what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. Both were taken from us far too soon. Here are ten songs by some other people who left this earth long before they should have:

1. In The Mood – Glenn Miller (1904-1944)
2. Soul Man – The Blues Brothers (John Belushi, 1950-1983)
3. The Sky Is Crying – Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)
4. Not Alone Any More – The Traveling Wilburys (Roy Orbison, 1936-1988)
5. Can’t Help Falling In Love – Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
6. Cool Blues – Charlie Parker (1920-1955)
7. God Bless The Child – Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
8. I Fall To Pieces – Patsy Cline (1932-1963)
9. Anarchy In The UK – Sex Pistols (Sid Vicious, 1957-1979)
10. Linus and Lucy – Vince Guaraldi Trio (Vince Guaraldi, 1928-1976)

I am now observing a moment of silence. Who are you memorializing this week?

Entire song list report: Started with “Off My Line”, by the Spin Doctors. Ended with “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by John Lee Hooker (1917-2001). That was song 3797, for 67 tunes this week.

Judicial Q&A: Wally Kronzer

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates on the November ballot. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. These Q&As are primarily intended for candidates who were not in contested primaries. You can see those earlier Q&As, as well as all the ones in this series and all my recorded interviews for this cycle, on my 2010 Elections page.)

1. Who are you, and what are you running for?

I am Wally Kronzer. I am a candidate for Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 5.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court of appeals is one of the intermediate courts of appeals in Texas that reviews appeals in all types of civil and criminal cases, except for Capital Murder cases (which go directly to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals).

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I know the law, and I know court of appeals practices. I also know how court systems operate differently in different counties. The way things are done in the Harris County legal community are not the way things are done in other counties such as Galveston or Brazoria County. I understand how courts of appeals decision affect both sides of the civil docket as I handle cases from all sides of the civil docket. I understand how the law effects employers and in employees as I routinely dealt with both before attending law school. I understand how criminal decision affect individuals and families from my pro bono work.

The courts of appeals need diversity of thought and background. For too long too many justices on the Houston area courts of appeals arguably possessed interchangeable legal backgrounds. The courts of appeals have to follow the law, but at times following the law has more than one option. I want to be a voice on the court of appeals asking, “Why is it that we keep following only the one option when the law allows another option?”

That leaves one question – why the 14th Court of Appeals for my first run at office. It is a two-fold answer. The 1967 the Texas Legislature created that court of appeals. Numerous former legislatures reminded me over the years that my father was heavily involved in the lobbying efforts to create that court of appeals as well as refining the other existing courts of appeals. Another reason is former Chief Justice Curtis Brown. Justice Brown and my father were very close friends dating back to their law school days. They were law partners when he took the 14th Court of Appeals bench. Justice Brown swore me in as an attorney after I passed the bar examination. Frankly, there is a certain logic and symmetry to my serving on the 14th Court of Appeals.

4. What are you qualifications for this job?

Like everyone running for these courts of appeals races, I did some terrific things while in law school. I am unique in that I did it in my early thirties going to school full-time, while working, with a family that included two pre-school children. While most candidates running for the court of appeals are primarily Houston lawyers, most of my court of appeals cases come from outside Harris County. I understand why the non Harris County judges and lawyers are uncomfortable with the local courts of appeals tendency to focus on Harris County cases. I also understand the relationship between state and federal law as I handle both state and federal appeals. I know what its like to stand before the Texas Supreme Court. I also know what it is like to stand before the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

I also have extensive court of appeals writing experience. Texas appellate courts are being told to tighten their budgets. The Texas Legislature is facing significant budget issues. Judicial candidates do not talk about this even though they should because the courts of appeals are facing significant funding issues, including staffing cuts, to meet budgetary restrictions. I look forward to having staff attorneys to assist me in drafting opinions, but I am well qualified to handle everything myself if the court of appeals must reduce its current staffing levels.

5. Why is this race important?

The Texas courts of appeals not only decide significant issues effecting individuals and business entities, but in approximately 85% of cases the courts of appeals are the final word on the matter.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

It will add an experienced court of appeals mind who will do his best to prevent the court from putting a round peg in a square hole and say, “It fits.”

Council passes revised historic preservation ordinance

I’m glad to see that City Council finally passed the long-awaited and much-revised historic preservation ordinance, and even more glad to see that the 90-day waiver for demolitions has been excised, so that what we have now is an actual ordinance and not merely a preservation suggestion. But it’s clear that the fight is a long way from being over.

“In a lot of ways, our work has just begun,” said Bill Baldwin, a Heights-area realtor and founding member of Responsible Historic Preservation for Houston.

Individual property owners should be able to choose to preserve the buildings they own, Baldwin said. He also warned that there will be significantly less investment in historic districts because demolition or even remodeling will be more expensive, and they may become less welcoming to new people.

“I have concerns on my neighborhood’s continued ability to be progressive and meet the needs of a growing and diverse city,” he said. “This is very burdensome for young couples, older couples or others who are facing other alternate choices for their habitation.”

Baldwin said he planned to begin to immediately gather support to rescind the historic status of his neighborhood in the Heights.

Council on Wednesday made that reconsideration process easier in an amendment to Parker’s proposal. Those who want their neighborhood to lose its historic designation must collect the signatures of 10 percent of property owners and turn them in to the city within 30 days. That will trigger a public meeting and a survey from the city’s Planning and Development Department. If 51 percent of property owners oppose the designation, the planning director must either recommend to City Council reducing the size of the district or eliminating it. Council is not bound to follow the recommendation.

We’ll see how that goes – it won’t be long before we know how many neighborhoods will undergo the reconsideration process. If a few wind up being a little smaller, I’ll take that trade. Otherwise, I’m glad this got done. Hair Balls and Swamplot have more, and an email from CM Sue Lovell, sent out later in the day that this passed, is reprinted below.


Endorsement watch: Kurt Kuhn for 3rd Court of Appeals

I’m not paying a huge amount of attention to races outside of Harris County, but one that is of interest is for an open seat on the 3rd Court of Appeals, whose district includes Travis County and which has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late. The Statesman has endorsed Democrat Kurt Kuhn to fill the vacancy.

Kuhn, 40, is an appellate law specialist and partner at the Brown, McCarroll law firm. His peers respect him, as his showing in the State Bar poll shows. Kuhn also has demonstrated in campaigning for the job the ability to reach out to Republicans.

Legal and political eyebrows shot up when Kuhn announced endorsements from former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips and former Supreme Court justices Craig Enoch and Scott Brister, all Republicans.

The Texas Municipal Police Association also has endorsed Kuhn.

That ability to reach across judicial partisan lines is impressive, especially when you consider that retired Supreme Court justices rarely get publicly involved in a judicial race.

The Statesman notes in its endorsement that the 3rd Court has a sizable backlog of cases which it believes Kuhn can readily assist with. Not mentioned is the fact that his opponent has been eagerly hitting the teabagger circuit – see this AusChron story for details – which adds an extra dimension to Kuhn’s bipartisan creds. This is an important court that’s been floundering about for too long, and by electing Kurt Kuhn there’s a chance to get it back on the right path. If you’re in this district, please check him out.

Texas blog roundup for the week of October 11

The Texas Progressive Alliance is imagining a world in which John Lennon lived to see his 70th birthday as it brings you this week’s roundup.