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April 27th, 2012:

Friday random ten: Here there be randomness

Feels like the kind of week for some old school random ten-ness.

1. Dancing Barefoot – U2
2. San Lorenzo – Pat Metheny Group
3. Race Car Ya-Yas – CAKE
4. I’m In The Mood – John Lee Hooker
5. Racing In The Street – Bruce Springsteen
6. If You Love Me (You’ll Sleep On The Wet Spot) – Asylum Street Spankers
7. Urban Life – The Buddhacrush
8. Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
9. Ripple – Bob Weir and Ratdog
10. Lotus Blossum – Joe Henderson

Yeah, nobody does a love song quite like the Spankers. They split up a year or so ago and I’m still bummed out by it. What are you listening to this week?

Here come the lobbyists

It’s getting real in the United versus Southwest fight.

This was one of the less impolite images I found on Google

Both sides have enlisted A-list lobbying teams. United’s includes Marty Stein, who until little more than a year ago was Mayor Annise Parker’s agenda director; former City Attorney Anthony Hall and Greater Houston Partnership Airports Task Force Chair Michelle Baden. Southwest has former City Councilwoman Graci Saenz, and Jeri Brooks, communications director for Parker’s 2009 campaign, lobbying at City Hall. State Rep. Garnet Coleman also is advising Southwest.

Darrin Hall, Parker’s deputy chief of staff, called it the largest and most intense lobbying effort he has ever seen in eight years at City Hall.

Then, there is the money. A Chronicle review of campaign contribution records dating back to 2007 turned up nearly $90,000 in donations to current council members, the mayor and the 2010 inaugural celebration by Continental’s employees political action committee, and past and present Continental/United executives. Parker alone has received $52,298 since the beginning of her last term as controller.

It’s not just money, explained Chris Bell, a former city councilman and former congressman.

“Politics is a relationship business and those relationships are built up over time,” he said. Continental built those relationships, not with just campaign cash, but by sponsoring and buying tables at local events, supporting arts organizations, lobbying and being out in the community.

Southwest, by contrast, doesn’t do campaign contributions. United built up all that good will as Continental, and going by public reaction at least it’s not clear how much of it has carried over. Of course, if you go by Council’s reaction you get a different picture; Mayor Parker, on the other hand, is more in line with public sentiment. It’s too early to say how this will play out, but I will say this: The best counterweight to lobbyists and campaign contributions is your own voice. If you have an opinion about this, whoever it favors or opposes, call your Council member, the five At Large members, and the Mayor and tell them what you think. Be brief, be clear, and be polite to whoever answers the phone. They do pay attention, and they keep track of how many of each type of call they get on an issue like this. Sending an actual piece of snail mail is as good as a call, sending an email is not as good but better than nothing. Unless you have your own lobbyist to do this work for you, it’s your best bet.

Rep. Reynolds busted for barratry

Oh, for crying out loud.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, was arrested Tuesday evening [for barratry, the unlawful solicitation of clients by lawyers] and posted $5,000 bail shortly after midnight. A former associate municipal judge for the City of Houston, Reynolds, 38, is a managing partner in the Bellaire law firm of Brown, Brown & Reynolds, as well as an adjunct professor at Texas Southern University.

“While the facts of the case have yet to be disclosed to me, it is my intent to fully cooperate with the prosecutors who are pursuing the charges,” he said in a statement.

Harris County prosecutors say that Marcela Halmagean filed the complaint against Reynolds, alleging that he used a representative to solicit her as a prospective client after she was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Harris County. Halmagean is a Houston lawyer whose firm practices business, commercial and family law.

Texas law prohibits soliciting a client for legal services. Barratry is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Here’s his full statement via his Facebook page, in which he says “it appears that the charges filed against me are politicized” and that he maintains his innocence and will “vigorously” defend himself. All I can say is I hope he’s right. Until then, I expect he’ll have some explaining to do to constituents.

Bike sharing is officially almost here

From Citizens Net:

Beginning Wednesday, May 2, 2012, Houston will be one of only 15 U.S. cities to launch a bike share program to make getting around downtown a whole lot easier. The bike share program, known as Houston B-cycle, is perfect for trips that are too far to walk but too short to drive.

Houston’s initial phase will include three stations and 18 bikes and will demonstrate the potential of bike share in Houston. Houston B-cycle will initially be available at City Hall, the George R. Brown Convention Center and Market Square Park. The self-service bike B-Cycle Station will be available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. Bikes can be checked out during these hours and dropped back off at the same location or any other B-cycle station. The bikes can be ridden anywhere and locked up even if no kiosk is available.

Houston B-cycle is a membership-driven bike share system requiring a minimum age of 18 to join. Memberships are available by day, week or year. All members have unlimited access to the bikes. With a paid membership, the first 90 minutes are free. All memberships start at the time of your first bike use, not the day and time you purchased the membership. Riders are encouraged to wear their own helmets.

Houston’s program will be managed and operated by the nonprofit Houston Bike Share, which has the mission to implement, expand and operate a Houston-based bike share program that will be environmentally friendly, financially sustainable and affordable. For the first year of the pilot program, Bike Barn will donate maintenance for the B-Cycle Stations and Bikes. The program is sponsored by the City of Houston, Bike Barn, BikeHouston, Downtown District and Houston First Corporation.

For more information, memberships and maps visit www.bcycle.com, email Lisa Lin at [email protected] or call 832.393.0850.

The Houston B-Cycle page now has some stuff on it. This whole thing has taken longer than I thought it would, but better late than never. Let’s hope it’s as successful as San Antonio has been.

Your voter registration card is in the mail

Someone was just asking me about this, so I’m glad to see that they’re on their way.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The only voter ID anyone should need

Harris County officials prepared to ship out 1.7 million voter registration cards Tuesday – after an unprecedented nearly five-month delay resulting from a grilling court battle over redistricting.

Across Texas, election officials are required to send out new voter registration cards to all 11.6 million active voters no later than Wednesday, under deadlines set by a federal judge who oversaw the redistricting case. Some counties already sent out their cards, but Secretary of State Spokesman Rich Parsons said he could not confirm how many would meet the judge-imposed time limit.

Renee Fleming, a business service network representative with the U.S. Postal Service, oversaw the delivery of 6,255 pounds of cards at the Houston downtown post office on Tuesday.

[…]

Statewide, however, about 1.3 million registered voters, nearly 1 in 10, won’t get a new card this week because they are listed as being “in suspense” – which typically means officials lack a valid address for them. In Harris County, one in five voters under 30 is “in suspense,” mainly because younger voters tend to move a lot.

“The bulk is people who have moved and not updated their addresses,” said Harris County voter registration manager Tom Moon. “They can still vote – they’re not ‘unregistered.’ ”

Any Texas voter who doesn’t receive a new yellow registration card soon – and hasn’t moved out of county – can vote with a valid ID. However, voters should check their registration status and update addresses or re-register by midnight on April 30 to avoid problems or paperwork at the polls, if they plan to vote in the May 29 primaries, Parsons said.

Voters can update addresses online if they remained in the same county and have a Texas driver’s license.

So there you have it. As the sidebar of the story somewhat messily notes, you can learn more at VoteTexas.gov, you can confirm your registration status here, and you can update your address if you moved within the same county and have ID here. New voters will get their cards a little later. I would say that unless you’re one of those new voters if you don’t have your voter registration card by the end of next week, you should probably call the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office at 713 274 8683 to inquire. And if you aren’t currently registered to vote, the deadline to do so for the May 29 primary is Monday, April 30. Time’s running out, so don’t wait any longer.