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January 23rd, 2012:

National single payer health care conference in Houston this weekend

From the inbox:

Healthcare-NOW! National Single Payer Strategy Conference in Houston 

WHAT: Over 120 Representatives from 25 states and 52 organizations meet in Houston to plan strategies to advance a single payer national health insurance plan in the USA. The best health care system plan for accessible, cost-effective, equitable and high quality health care is expanded and improved “Medicare for All”.  Workshops and topics include:

*economic impact of the PPACA legislation, funding and affordability,  the individual mandate, challenging electoral candidates to press forward for single payer during the election year

* defending attacks on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security

* health care inequities; exposing pharmaceutical and insurance industry corruption of government

* state plans for universal health care coverage

* building coalitions with faith-communities, professionals, peace, justice, consumer rights and labor groups

* shareholder “divestment” campaign from profit-making insurance companies

* connecting to the OccupyWallStreet movement and occupying the health care debate

* lessons from the southern states and the civil rights movement to achieve health care as a civil right

WHEN: Saturday, January 28, 2012 2pm-9pm and Sunday, January 29, 9:00am-5:00pm

WHERE: Hilton Hobby Hotel, 8181 Airport Blvd, Houston

Conference info: Co-sponsor host: Health Care for All Texas

WHO: Senior leaders from national and regional coalitions, academic, medical care, health policy analysts, movie producers, videographers, writers and activists. Speakers AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW include:

 _ Dr. Claudia Fegan, Chief Medical Officer, Ambulatory & Community Health Network, Cook County

 _ Dr. Walter Tsou, past president American Public Health Association; Physicians for a National Health Program

 _ Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy, National Nurses United

_  Mark Dudzic, Labor Campaign for Single Payer Health

 _ Dr. Margaret Flowers, Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care

_ Dr. Jerry Frankel, Physicians for a National Health Program (Texas)

_ Donna Smith, (Sicko movie) American Patients United; California Nurses Association

_ Tim Carpenter, Nat’l Director, Progressive Democrats of America

_ Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director, Nat’l Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights

_ Dr. Margaret Nosek, Executive Director, Center for Research on Women with Disabilities

_ John Lozier, Nat’l Health Care for the Homeless Council

_ Katie Robbins, Healthcare for the 99% -OccupyWallStreet-NY

_ Laurie Simons & Terry Sterrenberg, producers, The Healthcare Movie 


Contact: Colleen O’brien, Media Representative, Health Care for All TX -Houston,

281-660-9765, [email protected], or Cathy Courtney, HealthcareNOW Conference Planning Committee -Houston 832-677-6766, [email protected]

I am unable to attend but I wanted to pass this along in case anyone reading is interested and able to be there.

Interview with Erica Lee

Erica Lee

Erica Lee is one of three candidates running for Harris County Department of Education, Position 6, Precinct 1 – yes, that would be the Roy Morales seat. She’s got a pretty impressive resume for the position, having been a classroom teacher and a budget analyst, as well as having a master’s in public policy. And yes, she is the daughter of US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. Here’s the interview:

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.

City reaches settlement with ATS

I’m still trying to figure out what it means.

Going, going...

It will cost the city of Houston at least $4.8 million to get out of its contract for red-light cameras, according to a lawsuit settlement headed to the City Council on Wednesday.

American Traffic Solutions has agreed to take down the cameras within 60 days in exchange for $2.3 million upfront and a cut of future collections of delinquent fines from red-light runners.

“This settlement is going to be funded by the people who ran the red lights,” said City Attorney David Feldman, who negotiated the deal. “We would not agree to any settlement that would result in the taxpayers generally having to bear the burden. It had to come from the violations themselves.”

The complex deal does not guarantee that Houston taxpayers are off the hook.

If collections don’t cover the obligation, the city will pay $2.4 million in installments over the next three years. Feldman said he considered any dip into the general fund, which pays police officers and firefighters and finances other operations, unlikely.

Under the agreement, the city will also pay ATS $240,000 for technical assistance, such as access to video footage, as the city pursues scofflaws.

Beyond that, a future ATS payday depends on the city’s success in collecting from the 240,000 delinquent red-light runners. If the city were to collect all $25 million in outstanding fines — highly unlikely since some of them are already 5 years old — ATS’s payout could reach $12.3 million.

According to the press release, the funds to pay this will come from “previously collected fines that are in escrow”. I have sent an inquiry to ask how much is currently in that escrow account – sure would be nice if it’s at least $2.3 million – and how much of that $25 million the city has tried to collect before. I will let you know what responses I get. If this actually can be resolved without touching general revenue, that’s great. We’ll see how it goes.

The last Presidential poll involving Rick Perry you’re ever likely to need

Yes, I know, there’s some talk that he might try again in 2016. Bring it, I say. In the meantime, PPP shows what might have been in Texas.

PPP polls Texas

Our poll of the state last weekend found Perry leading Obama just 48-47, including a 51-44 deficit with independents. Perry had led Obama by 7 points on a September poll there.

Perry will come home to only a 42% approval rating, with 51% of voters disapproving of him. He’s fallen from 78% to 67% favor with Republicans over the last four months, and independents split against him 35/59. By comparison Obama’s approval rating in Texas is 44%, although his disapproval is also higher than Perry’s at 54%.

Our Texas Presidential poll is another reminder that a Gingrich surge would be very good news for President Obama. Obama actually holds a slight edge over him, 47-45. Only 33% of Texans have a favorable opinion of Gingrich to 53% with a negative one.

The GOP would start out ahead with any of its other potential nominees: Romney and Santorum lead Obama by identical 7 point margins at 49-42, and Paul has a 6 point advantage at 46-40. Democrats’ dream of turning Texas to the blue column doesn’t seem likely to come true this year unless they get the gift of running against Gingrich.

We also tested a three way contest involving Obama and Romney with Paul running as an independent candidate. In that scenario Romney leads Obama just 40-38, with Paul getting 17%. Although a Paul third party bid seems highly unlikely it’s interesting to note that he actually wins the independent vote with 32% to 30% for Obama and 27% for Romney. That really shows the extent to which voters unhappy with both parties this year are at least open to considering an independent candidate.

The poll was done between the 12th and the 15h of January. More here, and full crosstabs are here. Note that the sample voted for John McCain by a 51-40 margin (he won by 55-44 in 2008), and in every other respect I could see sounded perfectly valid for the state. Consider this another data point in my “2012 will be like 2008” hypothesis. This poll came on the heels of one that had Perry running third in the GOP primary in Texas, which probably didn’t have anything to do with his dropping out shortly thereafter but also probably didn’t help to persuade him otherwise. There’s also a Senate race poll, which is mostly a reflection of name and party ID. Note that frontrunner David Dewhurst doesn’t get a higher level of support than Mitt Romney does. My guess is that if we actually held the election now, Dewhurst would defeat his opponent by a point or two more than Romney defeated Obama, but that’s about it. There’s less room for swing in Presidential years.

Anyway, all the usual caveats apply. For an interesting comparison, see the October, 2011 UT/Texas Trib poll, in which Perry fared the best against Obama, winning 45-37. Romney was the weakest of the Republicans they tested then, barely scraping by on a 36-34 count. Boy, those were the days. If you go back to their May survey, you will see the all-powerful “generic Republican” winning by a convincing yet ultimately illusory margin. Nothing like having to cope with actual candidates to give you a reality check.

More thinking about growth

Jobs and job growth for the region (Source: Greater Houston Parnership)

Since I’ve been carping about not enough talk about growth as a long-term financial management strategy for the city, I am compelled to note this op-ed in the Chron by newly elected HCC Trustee Carroll Robinson and Todd Clark, who are singing from my hymnal.

We have to support and grow more local small businesses and entrepreneurs while also working to attract more corporations (of all sizes), international visitors and skilled immigrants to our city.

Not only do we have to rebuild and maintain our physical infrastructure, we must also build and grow intellectual infrastructure and capital of our community. We must use our universities, the Texas Medical Center, Houston Technology Center, our venture capitalists and the intellectual talent and resources moving out of the Johnson Space Center as the foundation upon which to build.

We need to more actively promote Houston as a technology hub city. The city needs a high profile, High Tech Advisory Council to help recruit more technology start-ups and established enterprises to Houston. The city should help coordinate and host an annual High Tech Start Up Summit at the George R. Brown Convention Center.


We can fix the city’s long-range finances if we stay calm, work together and take full advantage of all of our competitive advantages. Houston is a city of colleges, the energy capital of the world, the home of the world’s largest medical center, a major international port and the best gateway to South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Houston is an international city and we should take maximum advantage of that fact and the connections our residents have to the rest of the world.

These positive efforts should be our focus for fixing Houston’s long-range finances, not taking away pension benefits that were earned.

We already have too many people living in poverty in our city. Let’s not make cuts that will increase poverty in Houston. Let’s focus on creating the conditions – great schools, safe neighborhoods, art and cultural amenities, a strong private sector and organized workers – that will grow and sustain a broad middle class in Houston.

Clark is a member of the Long Term Financial Management Task Force, so seeing his name in the byline is encouraging. You may or may not agree with what they say here – I confess, any mention of buzzwords like “six sigma” makes my eyes glaze over – but the point is they’re talking about growth and not cuts, and that’s the way I want this conversation to go.