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January 15th, 2011:

Saturday video break: Joltin’ Joe

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. In his honor, here’s a classic clip of his favorite baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, appearing as the mystery guest on “What’s My Line” in 1955.

All together now: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you? Hope you enjoyed it, Dad.

The pothole patrol

Haven’t seen this yet, but I’m sure I will sooner or later.

As the operators of the city’s Street Surface Assessment Vehicle — a van equipped with lasers that scan streets for rough patches, potholes and cracks — Bruno Rodriguez and Patrick Johnson take a lot of flak.

An elderly man on a scooter once crossed the center line to intercept them, waving his arms, and demanded that his road be fixed. Drivers have cut them off in the middle of the street, climbed from their cars and done the same.

“It happens all the time,” Johnson said. “My mom called me when she found out what I did and said, ‘Hey Patrick, you know, Airline is really messed up …’ ”

Johnson said he understands residents’ concerns. After all, Houston voters judged their city’s infrastructure bad enough to impose an annual fee on themselves last fall to fund $125 million a year in drainage and street repairs.

Campaigning last year for the referendum, now called Rebuild Houston, City Councilman Stephen Costello said need, not politics, should decide where the dollars are spent.

Costello believes the $500,000 van, combined with another city program now mapping areas of the city that struggle with flooding, may be exactly what is needed to ensure that happens.

“I campaigned on a need-based system and, as long as I’m here, I’m going to continue to advocate for that. But I know there are going to be 11 district council members,” he said, referencing the pending expansion of the City Council dictated by the 2010 Census. “There’s going to be issues of, ‘Each council district has needs.’ But I don’t want to forget older neighborhoods that really have been forgotten.”

You can see a list of bad streets and submit your own report here. Here’s one example that’s near and not so dear to my heart and rear axle:

From Allen Parkway all the way to I-10, the northbound lanes of Shepherd Drive are filled with large potholes and inadequate patch jobs that make the road nearly impassible at speeds in excess of 20 mph. As you cross over I-10, there is a large bump that is as large as a speedbump in the right two lanes. This continues as you head north on Shepherd, especially as you cross over 9th and 10th Streets.

As someone whose daily routine takes him over that stretch of road at least once, I’m nodding my head in vigorous agreement. Road construction may be inconvenient, but I can’t wait for it to happen there.

We’re not getting rid of Jerry Eversole that easily

Federal indictments? Pshaw. Ain’t nuthin’ stopping Jerry Eversole.

Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Eversole on Tuesday declared that he will be acquitted of federal bribery charges in his upcoming trial and left open the possibility he will run for re-election again in 2014.

Speaking after his first Commissioners Court meeting since his federal indictment on Dec. 21, Eversole said his legal troubles will not prevent him from continuing to serve.

“It does not impede my job. I was elected to do a job as Harris County commissioner, and I will continue to do that job,” Eversole said.

In other words, he’s the same ol’ Jerry he’s always been. You know, I don’t think I can argue with that.

One might wonder if the local Rs would just as soon see Eversole hang up his cleats and call it a career. There’s no shortage of people who’d love to have his job. Plus, if someone presses the case that Harris County (estimated to be 39.8% Hispanic as of 2009, certain to be more so in the official 2010 numbers) ought to have a Hispanic opportunity seat on Commissioners Court, it’d likely make things easier if Eversole was the odd man out. Greg has provided two examples of what such a map might look like, with the former being a clear-cut 2R/2D map and the latter being 2R/1D, with a D-leaning swing seat.

But that’s not ol’ Jerry’s concern. He’ll keep on keeping on, raising money for his legal defense fund next campaign, and not worrying about such trivialities. That’s what made him the man he is today. In related news, Eversole wants to get his trial over with even though his attorney wants to take things a wee bit slower, and a group called the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice wants Eversole to resign. I daresay the Commissioner is more likely to get his wish than the Coalition is.

The BCS blahs

Were you thinking that the BCS bowl lineup this year was a bit of a snoozefest? You weren’t alone if so.

Ticket sales for some of those games — the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta bowls — have been sluggish, and ratings generally have been lukewarm for matchups that haven’t gotten the casual fan excited.

“We have to find a way to revitalize the market place,” Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan said.

The ratings for Hoolahan’s game were down a touch, from 8.5 last year when the game was on Fox to 8.4 this season, ESPN’s first as the TV home of the BCS — though the Superdome in New Orleans was filled to capacity Tuesday for BCS-newcomer Arkansas and Ohio State, one of college football’s glamour programs and a reliable draw with its enormous alumni base.

The Fiesta Bowl and the Orange Bowl had more serious issues.

The Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 between Oklahoma and Connecticut drew a 6.7 rating, down 22 percent from last year, and UConn sold only about 5,000 of the 17,500 tickets the school was required to buy from the organizers.

Attendance at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., was 67,232, about 6,000 below capacity for the game.

At the Orange Bowl in Miami, Stanford and Virginia Tech drew a 7.1 overnight rating, down from last year’s 7.2 for Georgia Tech-Iowa, and the attendance of 65,453 was about 9,000 below capacity at Sun Life Stadium as neither team came close to selling its allotment of 17,500 tickets.

Perhaps if there were some way to make each game more important. You know, by making them part of a quest for something bigger. I’m sure someone can think of a system that could accomplish that. See this NYT story about PlayoffPAC for more.

Good beer, good times

Nice to know that quality still matters.

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. increased production by 22  percent last year, continuing a streak of double-digit annual growth even as the U.S. beer industry stagnated.

The Houston brewery, founded in 1994, expanded capacity by about 80 percent in 2010 with a move into a larger plant and the purchase of seven new fermentation tanks. Despite startup hitches that led to the dumping of several batches and retail shortages, Saint Arnold produced a company-record 31,445 barrels of beer.

Once the hiccups were solved, shipments soared 38  percent during the second half of the year, said founder Brock Wagner.

In the fall, Saint Arnold began distributing in Louisiana, the company’s first foray outside of Texas. That expansion, remaining capacity for an additional 16,000 barrels and sustained interest in locally made craft beer have the brewery poised for continued growth.

“I don’t see anything slowing it down,” Wagner said.

That includes the recent openings, and planned openings, of several craft breweries in Texas. Rather, Wagner said, established breweries should benefit from any increased market interest.

This makes me happy. The Saint Arnold brewery is one of the best things about Houston. Keep up the great work, y’all.