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January 18th, 2012:

Interview with Diane Trautman

Diane Trautman

Also running for Harris County Department of Education, Position 3 At Large is Diane Trautman, who was the Democratic candidate for Tax Assessor in the last two cycles. Trautman has had a long career in education, as a teacher, principal, and professor at Sam Houston State, as well as a background in finance. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Sullivan says he’ll step down if he wins primary

He’s hoping to defuse a campaign issue.

CM Mike Sullivan

Houston City Councilman Mike Sullivan will submit his resignation in July if he wins the Republican nomination for Harris County tax assessor-collector in April’s primary, he said.

The resignation would not be effective until January, when he would be sworn in as tax assessor if he wins the Republican primary and the November general election. He will face incumbent Don Sumners in the primary.

[…]

Submitting the resignation letter in July would allow the city to hold a special election on the November ballot to finish the remaining year on his term.

In planning for his departure, Sullivan said, he looked for “the most democratic process we can engage in at no cost to taxpayers for there to be an elected representative for District E.”

This issue has come up before, in 2006 when Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was running for Congress, and in 2008 when Adrian Garcia was running for Sheriff. Both remained in office during their races, both faced that as a campaign issue to varying degrees, and both were replaced in a special election the following May after they won their elections and subsequently resigned, leaving their seats empty for the interim. Sullivan seems to have found a loophole, which I must admit is clever. It’s clever enough that I’m sure he’ll still be criticized for it, but I give him credit for coming up with a creative way to avoid the mid-year special election, which would save the city a few bucks.

“I understand his logic,” Sumners said of Sullivan’s plans. “Somebody is just going to have to explain to me an election for a position that still has an occupant.”

Um, we just had one of those last year. Jarvis Johnson, Ann Clutterbuck, Sue Lovell – they were all still Council members in November and December, even though everyone knew they were not going to be Council members as of January. They even voted on stuff, along with defeated CMs Jolanda Jones and Brenda Stardig. It’s called being a lame duck, a position with which I hope Sumners becomes familiar later this year. If that’s the best you can do, maybe Sullivan won’t face any flak for this. Campos, who notes that this is also an issue for CM Wanda Adams, has more.

Job growth in 2012

Depending on how you look at it, there’s good news, or fair-to-middling news for the Texas job market next year.

Source: Paul Krugman (click for originating post)

Texas job growth in 2012 will reach about 2 percent for the third consecutive year, Federal Reserve Senior Economist Keith Phillips said Tuesday.

Two percent equates to a net increase of 200,000 jobs statewide, Phillips said during a luncheon held at the San Antonio branch office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and attended by about 60 invited South Texas business leaders.

Texas annual job growth was 2.1 percent in both 2010 and 2011, Phillips said, fueled by expansions in the energy, high-tech and export sectors.

The growth rates for those industries will slow in 2012, Phillips said, but construction in apartments, offices and houses will offset that to keep job growth steady in Texas.

The good news is that there is job growth predicted, and it’s above the growth rate predicted for the nation as a whole. The not so good news is that it’s not any better than it’s been the last two years, which weren’t exactly boffo, and in fact may be a tad below those years. The unknown is how the job growth will compare to the growth in the population of employment-age people. It’s that comparison that will determine Texas’ unemployment rate.

This doesn’t fill me with confidence:

A year ago, Phillips had forecast a 2.7 percent Texas job growth rate. Jobs in the private sector increased at close to that rate. The surprise in 2011 was the loss of local and state government jobs, especially teacher positions, he said.

Fifteen percent of Texas jobs are tied to local and state governments. Budget cuts last year dropped the number of those jobs by 4.4 percent, Phillips said.

“I don’t expect more local and state job cuts in 2012,” he said.

Public sector job losses last year were a surprise? Really? Maybe at this time last year, before the Lege got to work, you could convince yourself that they wouldn’t really take a chainsaw to public education like they did, but the handwriting was certainly on the wall. Not expecting more cuts in 2012 seems like a bad bet to me, because funding reductions to school districts were backloaded a bit. I will not be at all surprised if there are more teacher layoffs this year. I agree that the bulk of the job losses in public education have already occurred, but I do expect there to be more this year. I’ll be glad to be wrong about that.

DC preclearance trial, Day One

E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, DC

While we wait for the Supreme Court to give us some indication of what happens next with our elections – they did not issue an opinion this week – the preclearance trial at the DC federal court got underway.

State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, testified that hearings were held statewide to allow input from all groups and citizens to form a bipartisan basis to redraw political lines.

Under cross-examination, though, Hunter said he was unaware that new political lines in Corpus Christi that eliminated a Latino state House seat also lumped all of his possible competitors into a neighboring district.

His claim that no one had complained about the minority makeup of the new state House districts was refuted with a videotape of Luis Figueroa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund telling a legislative hearing that eliminating the Corpus Christi seat would be tantamount to a Voting Rights Act violation.

Jose Garza, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus who was questioning Hunter, also told the court that he testified to the same problem before a state House committee.

There were hearings around the state, but it was also the case that there were almost no public hearings in the Legislature. The Congressional map passed through in record time, once the Republicans bothered to produce it. Seemed like the plaintiffs scored some points in the opening round, but it’s early days and there’s a lot of testimony to come, along with some pre-filed written testimony. The state’s case was simply summarized during pre-trial hearings.

In a hearing before the D.C. court, David Schenk, the Texas deputy attorney general, said the state did not intend to discriminate when it drew new political lines.

Without the intent of discrimination, the maps, which do protect Republican minority officeholders, should be approved.

“Texas did the best that it could,” Schenk argued.

I didn’t mean to smash into your car. I totally did the best I could driving, even if I was going 90 on a wet road at night. Without the intent to have an accident, I should be let go without a citation. Yeah, that sounds about right to me. We’ll see what the plaintiffs make of that. As always, Texas Redistricting has more.