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August 18th, 2012:

Saturday video break: Mustang Sally

Song #54 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Mustang Sally”, originally by Mack Rice and covered by Wilson Pickett. Here’s the original:

Yet another song I hadn’t realized was a cover and whose original was unknown to me. Unlike many of the others, this one isn’t bad. I grooved to it. Still, it’s not quote right, is it? This one is:

That’s more like it. As was the case with Try A Little Tenderness, The Commitments did an awesome version of this as well:

Sorry about the cutoff and naughty word at the end there, but that was a clip from the movie, so there you have it. Here’s the uninterrupted song. You do know that singer Andrew Strong was 16 at the time of filming/recording, right? Take that, Justin Bieber. Oh, and yes, that is Mr. O’Brien from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine” jamming in the background of that video.

If you’d like something a little different, here’s the great Buddy Guy with his rendition:

Consider this all a somewhat belated tribute to the late Dr. Sally Ride, trailblazer and inspiration to us all. I have no idea what she thought of this song – my guess is that people sang “Ride, Sally Ride” to her more often than she needed to hear it – but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to hear it and not think of her. Rest in peace and forever may you ride, Sally Ride.

Metro board passes amended GMP referendum

More consensus this time.

The board voted 8-1 for a measure that, if approved by voters, would continue the so-called General Mobility Program in its current form, allocating a quarter of Metro’s 1-cent sales tax to Harris County, Houston and 14 small cities in Metro’s service area. The local governments use these funds for road and bridge projects.

However, the payments would be capped at 2014 levels, and any growth in revenues from October 2014 through December 2025 would be split evenly between Metro and the other jurisdictions. Another referendum on whether to continue the payments would be required prior to Dec. 31, 2025.

If voters reject the ballot measure, the payments would stop and Metro would retain all its sales tax proceeds.

See here for some background. Christof Spieler was the lone No vote on the amended referendum. I had the opportunity to hear Metro board Chair Gilbert Garcia speak about the new referendum after the board voted on it, and he said that this agreement would mean an extra $400 million for Metro from 2014 through 2025, which Metro would use to pay down debt as well as to provide more buses and bus shelters, with the aim of increasing overall ridership and thus broadening support for transit and Metro overall. Garcia noted that retiring some of the debt that Metro now carries would free up other funds for rail – he certainly agreed that the University line is critical to the overall system, that he thought the sales tax projections might be low given the starting point of a sluggish economy, and that the Metro board can call for another referendum to revisit the GMP allocation again any time before 2025. This isn’t ideal, but it’s better than what was originally proposed in that it will actually provide more money for Metro, while likely avoiding a contentious campaign. There’s definitely something to that. We’ll see how it plays out from here.

Council approves funding for sobering center


City Council agreed Wednesday to spend $4.3 million to outfit a warehouse at Star of Hope Mission and $353,000 a year to operate it as a place to take drunks instead of jail.

City officials expect the 84-bed facility to open later this year and justified the expense on the hope that it will save money by diverting thousands of people from expensive and time-consuming jail bookings.

Police officers who detain people whose only crime is being drunk in public will have the option of dropping them off at the so-called sobering center for at least a four-hour stay without an arrest on their record. Because the drop-offs are much quicker than jail bookings, police would return to patrol sooner.

The Mayor’s press release has the key numbers plus some more details:

The city’s annual cost to lease, maintain and staff the new center is estimated to be $1.5 million, compared to the $4-6 million currently being spent to process public intoxication cases at the city jail.

The Houston Center for Sobriety will be an alternative to jail for people detained for public intoxication, allowing the opportunity to regain sobriety in a safe, medically-monitored environment. The Houston Police Department (HPD), Houston Department of Health and Human Services and Houston Fire Department (HFD) will provide city services at the site. In addition, the building will also house the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Unit, bringing together staff dispersed throughout the city into one location.

A 501(c)3 foundation will also be created to aid in future fundraising for operations and possible future expansion.

See here for some background. This should pay for itself in a couple of years, and it moves the city a step closer to exiting the jail business. Good work all around.

Les Alexander on the verge of buying the Dynamo

I like the thought of this.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander is in the final stages of negotiations to purchase the Dynamo and secure the 30-year lease and development agreement on BBVA Compass Stadium, three officials with knowledge of the process said Thursday.

The deal is not complete, but the sides are close, said the three officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Anschutz Entertainment Group owns 50 percent of the Dynamo. Oscar de la Hoya and Mexican billionaire Gabriel Brener own 25 percent each. AEG president Tim Leiweke’s spokesman, Mike Roth, declined to comment on the negotiations with Alexander. Brener is scheduled to be in Houston for the Dynamo’s game Sunday against Columbus.

The Dynamo are a good team, and Alexander is a good owner. The Rockets have had their share of setbacks in their effort to claw their way back to the elite of the NBA, but it’s not been the result of a lack of determination by Alexander and his crew. While the Dynamo aren’t exactly in dire need of a change of direction (that would be the Astros, though their recent change in ownership seems to have them on a better, if long and slogging, path) they could do a lot worse than having Les Alexander writing the checks. On a tangential and somewhat tendentious note, having Alexander and not Phillip Anschutz in control would make me feel better about buying Dynamo tickets since then my money would not be going to bad purposes. A win all around, as far as I’m concerned.

Hang up and walk

We all know that texting and other smartphone tomfoolery while driving is a bad idea. Turns out that texting while walking isn’t so safe, either.

On city streets, in suburban parking lots and in shopping centers, there is usually someone strolling while talking on a phone, texting with his head down, listening to music, or playing a video game. The problem isn’t as widely discussed as distracted driving, but the danger is real.

Reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years and are almost certainly underreported. There has been a spike in pedestrians killed and injured in traffic accidents, but there is no reliable data on how many were distracted by electronics.

“We are where we were with cellphone use in cars 10 years or so ago. We knew it was a problem, but we didn’t have the data,” said Jonathan Akins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.

State and local officials are struggling to figure out how to respond, and in some cases asking how far government should go in trying to protect people from themselves.

In Delaware, highway safety officials opted for a public education campaign, placing decals on crosswalks and sidewalks at busy intersections urging pedestrians to “Look up. Drivers aren’t always looking out for you.”

Philadelphia officials are drafting a safety campaign that will be aimed in part at pedestrians who are looking at their devices instead of where they’re going. “One of the messages will certainly be ‘pick your head up’ — I want to say ‘nitwit,’ but I probably shouldn’t call them names,” said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and public utilities.


A University of Maryland study found 116 cases over six years in which pedestrians were killed or seriously injured while wearing headphones. In two-thirds of the cases the victims were men under age 30. Half the cases involved trains. In a third of the incidents, a warning horn was sounded just before the accident.

“With the smartphone technology these days and everything at your fingertips, it’s almost getting to be an obsession or a compulsion with people,” Fox said. “You see it in airports or train stations or malls — if there’s any kind of downtime, they’re jumping right to that phone.”

About 1,152 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. last year for injuries suffered while walking and using a cellphone or some other electronic device, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which receives annual data from 100 emergency rooms and extrapolates the information into a national estimate. But that’s likely an underestimate because patients may not mention they were using a cellphone or other device at the time at the time they were injured, or the doctor or nurse may neglect to include the information in their report, said Tom Schroeder, director of the commission’s data systems.

The difference between texting while walking and texting while driving is that you’re more a menace to yourself with the former. How big a problem this actually is remains hard to define – one presumes it’s less of an issue in places like Houston where there are fewer pedestrians than in places like New York – but I suppose it’s just a matter of time before someone becomes the poster child for this. Try not to do this when crossing the street or on a crowded sidewalk, OK?