Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

October 16th, 2010:

Endorsement watch: The remaining countywides

After making a normal and expected endorsement of County Judge Ed Emmett and an abnormal and unexpected endorsement of Orlando Sanchez, the Chron goes Democratic for the remaining three countywide offices.

District Clerk: The duties of this office include summoning jurors for the district and county criminal courts, maintaining court records, preparing daily court dockets and receiving child support payments.

The choice for voters in this contest is easy. Democratic incumbent Loren Jackson has done an excellent job upgrading the electronic capabilities of the office and making it more efficient and user-friendly. On his first day in office, Jackson created an express window lawyers had long sought so they could quickly file papers and return to the courts.


County Clerk: In this contest to replace retiring incumbent Beverly Kaufman, the Chronicle endorses Ann Harris Bennett, a veteran of more than 14 years’ service as a district court coordinator.


County Tax Assessor-Collector: In this contest to fill the unexpired term of Republican Paul Bettencourt, who resigned shortly after his election in 2008, the Chronicle endorses the Democrat who narrowly lost to him, Diane Trautman. The incumbent appointed by Commissioners Court, Leo Vasquez, lost to a challenger in the GOP primary.

The Chron had endorsed Trautman in 2008 as well. I feel quite confident saying that the Tax Assessor’s office would be subsumed in much less controversy today had she won back then or been appointed to replace Paul Bettencourt after he cut and ran.

I’ve got all the relevant candidate interviews on the 2010 Elections page. If you don’t feel like listening to them again, then go check out Mark Bennett’s review of an interview that Jackson’s unqualified challenger did with David Jennings of Big Jolly Politics. You already know how good a District Clerk Loren Jackson is, that will give you an appreciation of the contrast between him and his opponent. PDiddie has more.

Saturday video break: Happy anniversary

Tomorrow is my twelfth wedding anniversary. What else could I post but this?

No ties or pianos will be given, and no singing police officers will be involved in our celebration, but I feel confident that it will be happy anyway.

Endorsement watch: County courts

There are four County Civil Courts At Law and 15 County Criminal Courts At Law, with the Chron endorsements for all of them being spread over three days. Starting with the civil courts, the Democratic nominees received endorsements in two of the four races.

County Civil Court at Law No. 3: Damon Crenshaw, the Democratic challenger, would bring 25 years’ experience in small business litigation, representing individuals and corporations.

County Civil Court at Law No. 4: Bruce Mosier, the Democratic challenger, receives our endorsement for this bench, along with that of the Association of Women Attorneys and the Mexican-American Bar Association.

Here are the relevant Q&As:

Damon Crenshaw (note: from the primary)

Bruce Mosier

Erica Graham, Civil Court At Law #1

Cheryl Elliott Thornton, Civil Court At Law #2 (note: from the primary)

In Part One of the Criminal Courts At Law races, Dems took four of eight endorsements:

County Criminal Court No. 2: Democratic challenger Mary Connealy Acosta has 15 years’ experience as a criminal defense attorney and is intimately familiar with the operations of the Harris County criminal courts system.

County Criminal Court No. 3: Veteran Houston criminal defense attorney Judith Snively is the stronger candidate for this bench.

County Criminal Court No. 4: Democrat Alfred “Al” Leal was a county criminal court judge in Court 9 for 12 years.

County Criminal Court No. 6: Democratic challenger Denise Spencer, an experienced prosecutor in New York City and Fort Bend County, is our choice to bring change and new ideas to these misdemeanor courts.

And in Part 2, Dems took two of seven:

County Criminal Court No. 9: Democratic criminal defense attorney Juanita Jackson Barner is our choice to enforce the law while helping youthful offenders make positive lifestyle choices.

County Criminal Court No. 13: In a match-up between well qualified candidates, Democratic candidate Dennis Slate, a City of Houston and Pearland associate municipal judge, is our choice to fill this open bench.

For whatever the reason, I only got a handful of Q&A responses from this group of candidates:

Judith Snively

Al Leal

Juanita Jackson Barner

Mark Diaz, Criminal Court At Law #11

Cheryl Harris Diggs, Criminal Court At Law #12

Dennis Slate (note: from the primary, but an updated Q&A from him is in the queue for next week)

Toni Martinez Ingverson, Criminal Court At Law #15

All Democratic candidates are listed here. Q&As for Republican candidates are here.

The case for using social media in the schools

Sounds good to me.

A year after seventh grade teacher Elizabeth Delmatoff started a pilot social media program in her Portland, Oregon classroom, 20% of students school-wide were completing extra assignments for no credit, grades had gone up more than 50%, and chronic absenteeism was reduced by more than a third. For the first time in its history, the school met its adequate yearly progress goal for absenteeism.

At a time when many teachers are made wary by reports of predators and bullies online, social media in the classroom is not the most popular proposition. Teachers like Delmatoff, however, are embracing it rather than banning it. They argue that the educational benefits of social media far outweigh the risks, and they worry that schools are missing out on an opportunity to incorporate learning tools the students already know how to use.

What started as a Facebook-like forum where Delmatoff posted assignments has grown into a social media component for almost every subject. Here are the reasons why she and other proponents of educational social media think more schools should do the same.

The arguments they make are persuasive to me. As we know, some school districts in Texas have done a good job of dealing with social media, while others largely have not dealt with it at all. It’s clear to me that it can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, so we may as well find some people who can figure out how best to make it fit in our schools.

KTRU deal signed

Just in time for Rice’s homecoming weekend.

[Wednesday] afternoon, Friends of KTRU announced they had been informed that Rice and UH have signed an agreement to transfer the station’s ownership, and have retained the law firm of Paul Hastings in an attempt to thwart the sale.

B.J. Almond, Rice Senior Director of News and Media Relations, confirmed to our sister blog Rocks Off by phone that the agreement has been signed.

The announcement came in a letter from Rice President David Leebron to Rice students, faculty and alumni, he said.

In the letter, President Leebron said the sale will now go before the FCC for approval, a process that may take several months.

“We will consult with KTRU’s student managers about the timing for turning the tower over to KUHF, but we expect that to occur by the end of the semester or calendar year,” Leebron said in an excerpt from the letter posted on Rice’s Web site. “In the meantime, KTRU will continue to deliver its programming on 91.7 and online through”

Not surprisingly, KTRU supporters saw it a little differently.

“It is shameful that the Rice University administration has not heeded the thousands of voices asking to stop the sale of KTRU,” KTRU station manager Joey Yang said in the Friends of KTRU statement. “Instead, Rice has chosen to throw away more than 40 years of student-run tradition in favor of a new cafeteria for the campus. For this reason, we must pursue legal avenues for stopping the sale.”

I can’t say I expected anything to come from the valiant efforts to save KTRU, but for those who were invested in it this is the end of that chapter. I have a feeling there’s going to be some unrest among the alumni this weekend. Leebron’s letter is reproduced beneath the fold.