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August 8th, 2012:

The door will stay open

Good decision.

A proposal to give Houston City Council the ability to meet behind closed doors is dead.

What a mayor’s spokeswoman called a “lack of consensus” was manifest in a committee meeting last week during which several council members criticized the idea as bad policy and bad timing.


Mayor Annise Parker’s agenda for Wednesday’s council meeting seeks approval to put the two charter housekeeping amendments and the five bond measures on the November ballot. The closed-session proposal was not on the agenda.

Mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans wrote in an email that Parker had no pre-conceived opinion on closed sessions.

“She is able to see all of the arguments both for and against. Given the lack of consensus on Council, she decided not to move forward,” Evans wrote.

That’s clearly the right call. If there really is a need for this – if there’s an example or two of something that was discussed in an open Council session that would have been better off being discussed behind closed doors – then bring it up and let’s debate the merits with full information, and maybe consider a referendum in the future. Otherwise, let’s join hands and get the bonds and cleanup amendments passed. Stace, who has the bond items detailed, has more.

Some coverage for Sadler

It’s a start.

Paul Sadler

The Tea Party has toppled another mainstream Republican, this time in Texas. Lost in much of the coverage of the primary contest between Houston attorney Ted Cruz and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was the November general election, which will feature a real, live Democrat. The assumption behind the media oversight, of course, is that with Texas about the reddest of the crimson states, a Democrat running for national office had better just do it as cheaply and as graciously as possible before his inevitable loss, given the party’s 18-year losing record in elections for statewide offices.

Paul Sadler, the oilman’s son who is opposing Cruz in November, wants to hear none of that talk. “It’s not as long-shot as people think,” Sadler said Wednesday from his office in Austin, the day after his own primary victory. “My phone has been ringing off the hook. A lot of those calls were from Republicans and independents saying, ‘We’re not going there,’ and there are a lot of them.” “There” being the Tea Party.

We know it’s possible for Democrats running statewide to attract Republican votes. We know this because two years ago Bill White got between 200,000 and 400,000 votes from people who otherwise mostly or exclusively voted Republican. Had the last gubernatorial election been in 2008 instead of the debacle that was 2010, Rick Perry would be just another idiot Fox News correspondent today. How Sadler communicates to these people – how he lets the Kay Bailey Hutchison wing of the state GOP in on the fact that he has a lot more in common with KBH than a conspiracy theorist like Ted Cruz does – without any money and in such a way that it does not cause base Democratic voters to revolt is a question I can’t answer. But if he can do that then yes, I think there’s the potential for a more competitive race than anyone would have you believe.

Funding to rebuild Yale Street Bridge acquired

Good news.

Calling the Yale Street bridge “functionally obsolete” after a recent engineering study, the Texas Department of Transportation has secured “out of cycle funding” to replace the bridge, Councilwoman Ellen Cohen announced late Monday. Cohen said that means the project won’t have to go through federal bureaucracy and that a new bridge could be built within five years.

After an increasingly dire series of surveys of the 91-year-old bridge, a city-commissioned study by engineers from Entech, dated June 1, not only corroborated earlier findings that led to the banning of 18-wheel trucks, but downgraded the vehicle limit to 7,200 pounds — about the weight of a fully loaded large SUV.


In her announcement, Cohen said she was organizing a meeting between those neighborhood groups, TxDOT and Houston public works officials to occur after Labor Day to discuss a timeline outlined in the memo from TxDOT.

See here for the previous update, and here for the TxDOT memo, which lays out the estimated timeline. Five years sounds like a long time, but with funding secured at least you know it will get done.

Diaz has larger lead in Constable Precinct 2 race

Sixteen votes. Hey, it counts.

After provisional ballots were tallied Tuesday, [Chris] Diaz’s tally stands at 2,078, while [Zerick] Guinn’s is at 2,062, said Jill Moffitt, Democratic judge of the central count.

“I’m glad that they’ve finally come up with the final resolution,” Diaz said, thanking his supporters and volunteers. “I’m very happy with the final count and, hopefully, everything will work out in the future. We’ll move on the November election and see how we can fare in that.”

That’s up from the three-vote lead Diaz had after the County Clerk finally posted the correct tallies on Wednesday morning. It was pretty clear that the provisional ballots would be good news for Diaz.

Chris Diaz

Monday the Democratic ballot board met to determine which of the overseas ballots and provisional ballots cast on Election Day should be tallied. Tuesday those votes will be counted, along with GOP results (though no Republican races are nearly as close as Guinn and Diaz’s).

Of the 118 Democratic provisional ballots examined, said ballot board chair John Behrman, 92 were accepted. Of those, said former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia — who was in attendance as a poll watcher on Diaz’s behalf — 16 were determined to be cast by Precinct 2 voters.

And of those 16, 14 appear to have been cast in and around Jacinto City, Diaz’s base.

“I would assume that they are his voters, but I could be wrong, you never know,” said Guinn, who remained upbeat. “Everyone who voted, who supported me or my opponent, I’m excited that they’ll have an opportunity to be excited about who they chose in the race. What’s important to me is that people’s votes count.”

Indeed, though there are still some questions to be answered about that. Be that as it may, the results will be canvassed on Thursday, then it’s up to Guinn to decide whether or not to pursue things further. For now, it looks like Chris Diaz has won the runoff and will be the Democratic nominee for Constable in Precinct 2 in November.