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July 26th, 2012:

How do you say “J’accuse!” in Korean?

Here we go again with the Korea kerfuffle.

CM Helena Brown

City Councilwoman Helena Brown on Tuesday accused Mayor Annise Parker of sabotaging her recent taxpayer-funded trip to Asia to promote direct air service between Seoul and Houston.

Brown joined Houston Airport Director Mario Diaz in visits to Beijing and Taipei early this month but did not meet with Korean airline officials. The itinerary originally included meetings in Seoul, but those were canceled shortly before the trip because Korean airline executives would not be available, according to a spokeswoman for the mayor.

According to a statement issued by Brown’s office on Tuesday, “the mayor did everything possible to undermine and sabotage the planned trip. Mayor Parker had no intention to cooperate in any capacity with CM Brown’s efforts to serve the constituents, as Mayor Parker continues to place political expediency above the responsibilities of public office to the great disservice of the Asian community and the Houston community as a whole.”

Parker spokeswoman Janice Evans responded, “Council Member Brown’s trip to Asia was handled the same as any other trip. The mayor’s assistant for international trade and development was assigned to help and provide support. The mayor even offered to help the council member in rescheduling the trip once Asiana Airlines sent notice it would be unable to accommodate a meeting.”

Emails obtained by the Chronicle indicate that members of the mayor’s administration provided Brown with an itinerary, assisted her with a visa application, selected and wrapped gifts to present to Asian dignitaries, made travel arrangements and prepared a briefing binder. The mayor also personally approved Brown’s travel authorization that estimated more than $16,000 for expenses.

Here’s the full statement from CM Brown. I have not seen any further response from the Mayor to this, nor have I seen any statement from others singled out by CM Brown, namely Andy Icken and Mario Diaz, so you’ll have to judge the allegations by your own evaluation of Brown’s veracity and reliability. (Turns out Mayor Parker is out of town, so well played on the timing.) One could attempt to be charitable to all involved and chalk this up as a series of miscommunications, but then one would have to note the irony of CM Brown, who dodges meetings with Mayor Parker and whose preferred means of expression is the written statement, complaining about other people not adequately communicating with her.

The working poor are pretty much screwed in Texas

These are the people that Rick Perry doesn’t care about.

It's constitutional - deal with it

Jose Gallegos’ company eliminated employee health insurance to save money, so when his gut started hurting and his skin took on a yellow tinge, he resisted seeing a doctor. When he finally went to the emergency room, physicians diagnosed stomach cancer.

Gallegos made too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy his own insurance, so he scraped together what he could, and his wife, Andrea, took on three jobs. Just over a year later, at 41, he died, leaving behind four children.

Two years later, it was Andrea’s turn. A crack and sharp pain in her back drove her to the emergency room, where she learned she had breast cancer. It had snapped one of her vertebra. Now 45, she said the cancer remains in several other vertebrae, but at the moment it’s not spreading.

Families like the Gallegos stand at the center of a debate over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which could have expanded Medicaid coverage to 1.3 million uninsured Texans. But Republican Gov. Rick Perry has said he will not widen the program because it would cost too much.

“It gets me mad,” Gallegos said. Perry “made a decision without us.”

Nowhere did Obama’s health care law hold more promise than in Texas, which leads the nation in the portion of its population that is uninsured. A quarter of Texans have no coverage, many of them families like the Gallegos who are considered the working poor.


Without a Medicaid expansion, the state’s working poor will continue relying on emergency rooms — the most costly treatment option — instead of primary care doctors. The Texas Hospital Association estimates that care for uninsured patients cost hospitals in the state $4.5 billion in 2010.

So at the 2010 rate, the cost of uninsured people using the emergency room, a cost paid by all of us in county taxes and higher insurance premiums, would be about $45 billion over ten years, as opposed to the $16 billion over ten years that Medicaid expansion would cost. Forget the $100 billion plus that the state would pull down from the feds to subsidize Medicaid expansion, how does this math make any sense?

Republicans have had complete control of state government since 2003, and in that time they have done nothing to deal with the issue of the uninsured in Texas. Indeed, they have made the problem worse by throwing a bunch of kids off CHIP in 2003; we’re still not back to the level of coverage we had before that. Now that the federal government has finally done something about this, they’re digging in their heels and saying NO. They say they want the federal money with no strings attached so their can design their own plan. Even if you believed they had a plan, given their long track record and their public comments about how expensive this all is – made without acknowledging the expenses imposed by their own inaction, of course – there’s no reason to believe their plan would do anywhere near as much as expanding Medicaid as is would do. Yes, it will cost the state some money to do that, money they’re currently making us pay by other means. The Legislature, God help them, may have to figure out a way to pay for it, just as they’re likely going to have to figure out a way to pay for public education again. The state has gotten by for a long time without having to pay for these needs. They’re running out of ways to get out of that obligation. There’s an awful lot of people in this state who have been ignored and made to suffer for a long time who will be a lot better off when that finally happens. Lisa Falkenberg and BOR have more.

County wants to keep its share of the GMP

No surprise.

I still hope we get to have all this some day

Harris County Commissioners Court made it official Tuesday, passing a resolution calling on Metro to keep a quarter of its 1 percent sales tax flowing to road projects.

The 5-0 vote leaves only Mayor Annise Parker backing Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia’s proposal to cap the so-called “general mobility” payments so the transit agency can put more toward buses and rail.


Garcia said he expects at least two or three ideas to be presented at Metro’s meeting on Thursday. The agency will choose one proposal Aug. 3 and will craft ballot language Aug. 17.

County Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle and County Judge Ed Emmett said the status quo is unfair to residents in some unincorporated areas of the county who pay taxes to Metro but get few services.

“It’s long overdue for the citizens of the unincorporated area of Harris County to stand together and fight against the unfair Metro sales tax imposed upon them,” Radack said, deriding Metro’s light rail as “a choo-choo train.”

Radack said common sense dictates the mobility payments should continue at the current level, given that the unincorporated county is growing faster than Houston.

“We’re not even on the discussion of what would be the reasonable or right, fair, thing today,” Cagle said. “We’re just saying, ‘Hey, don’t move the ball further into the hole.’ ”

Even Commissioner El Franco Lee, much of whose precinct is inside the city of Houston, said he favors the status quo.

“We get a better return the way it is now,” Lee said. “My understanding of that cap change is not favorable to the unincorporated area.”

You can always count on Steve Radack to elevate the discourse wherever he goes. All due respect to Commissioner Lee, but I’m not shedding any tears for unincorporated Harris County. They get plenty of my tax dollars, and more than their share of transportation projects. Last I checked, most of us here in Houston won’t be adding a drive down the Grand Parkway to our daily routines. That’s life, and that’s the way this works. Commissioner Cagle is correct that we haven’t worked out yet what is fair or reasonable. Nor do we know yet what Metro will propose; some kind of kick the can down the road compromise is a possibility. The Commissioners have expressed their opinion, at least one member of Council would like that body to do the same, and ultimately it will be up to the voters to decide. I trust Harris County will be willing to abide by their decision, even if it’s not the answer they want. Houston Politics has more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of July 23

The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds everyone that this is the only week of early voting for the July 31 primary runoffs as it brings you this week’s roundup.