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June 30th, 2013:

Weekend link dump for June 30

A photographic look at Staten Island in the 1980s. Really takes me back, I have to say.

“Scientists are in awe after discovering a Queensland lake that has barely been affected by changes in climate for 7,000 years.”

The NBA teams up with the White House to promote Obamacare.

If Jean-Paul Sartre were an app developer.

Will someone please make this into a Lifetime movie?

Corporations are people, my friend! Yeah, I’ll believe it when Texas puts one on death row.

The periodic table of the Muppets. Kermit is hydrogen.

I’m not a member of The 15 Percent, but a number of my relatives are. If you think about it that way, the number is surely a lot bigger.

Our long national Twinkie nightmare is coming to an end.

The AOL Reader is out. The Digg Reader is out. NetNewsWire now has one. There are still others out there. I’ve been using Feedly. What are you doing to replace Google Reader?

“But the truth stalks us like bad credit.”

The more Paula Deen talks, the worse she sounds.

“They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”. Or, to put it another way, what Dilbert said.

Turns out the IRS wasn’t just targeting conservative groups, but was actually trying to enforce the law about political activity by non-profits. And the genesis of the scandal was a grossly misleading report from a Bush-appointed Inspector General.

“You’ll probably be surprised to hear that golf, in fact, accounted for surprisingly few lighting deaths, with a total of just 8 fatalities between 2006 and 2012″.

On kids and business travel. I agree, the barrier for the mother to travel is likely to be at the father’s workplace.

All hail Bull Durham.

In addition to everything else, Mariano Rivera is now an honorary member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

“Why has gold been such an abysmal investment, if you can even call it that?”

To seek out new life and new civilizations.

As is so often the case, The Onion speaks the truth.

Remember how Ronald Reagan once said that Latinos are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet? Yeah, not so much anymore.

The top nine moments from this crazy week in the Texas legislature.

The Internet demands that Connie Britton play Wendy Davis in the movie about the filibuster, y’all.

Full speed ahead for Parks By You

Excellent.

Houston City Council on Wednesday approved an agreement with the Houston Parks Board to tackle the ambitious trails plan voters approved in a $166 million bond issue last November.

The Bayou Greenways 2020 project fulfills a century-old vision first laid out by urban planner Arthur Comey in 1912, with a $205 million, 160-mile connected networks of citywide trails. As the name implies, the goal is to finish the work in 7 years.

For a sense of where the trails are going, check out this map.

[…]

The Houston Parks Board has committed to raising $105 million to accompany the $100 million from the bond issue (the other $66 million is for other projects), and already has raised $20.3 million. Parks board director Roksan Okan-Vick said bulldozers will start moving in a few months, starting along White Oak Bayou.

“This is a transformational project,” Okan-Vick said. “It will change the way we think about our city and change the way others view and think about our city.”

I can’t wait. Here’s more from the Mayor’s press release.

Mayor Annise Parker, the Houston Parks Board and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) announced the start of the $205 million Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative designed to create a 150-mile greenway system within the city limits. The project is a result of the 2012 proposition B bond election passed this past November with overwhelming voter support (68% voting margin).

“Thank you Houston! Because of your support the Bayou Greenways 2020 project will create a 150-mile system of parks and trails within the city limits on the banks of our bayous,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “This project is truly a partnership project with city, county, nonprofits, businesses and many more interested parties joining together to connect trails and parks. Bayou Greenways 2020 demonstrates our combined commitment to parkland and greenspace that has been shown repeatedly to enhance our quality of life and competitiveness here in Houston. This project truly showcases Houston’s can-do attitude.”

[…]

“This is the largest urban park project in the nation; but, the beauty of it relies on its simplicity,” said Roksan Okan-Vick, Executive Director of the Houston Parks Board. “Our mission is to secure the equitable distribution of parkland for our entire region, and these bayous have no boundaries, connecting neighbor to neighbor, and homes to businesses throughout our area. We are so grateful to be a part of this historic effort by this administration.”

The completion of Bayou Greenways 2020 fulfills a 100-year-old vision presented by urban planner Arthur Comey in 1912. His vision to unite the city with grand greenspaces along the bayous will come into being by creating 150 miles of continuous and accessible parks and trails along the major bayous within the city. Those bayous reflect Houston diversity and crisscross the entire region. They include: Brays Bayou, Buffalo Bayou, Greens Bayou, Halls Bayou, Hunting Bayou and White Oak Bayou. In addition, Clear Creek and the San Jacinto River are included in this project. Bayou Greenways 2020 will be completed in multiple phases over seven years (expected to be completed in 2020) and will positively impact every council district.

Today’s agreement also provides for transparency and accountability. All construction plans, trail alignments and design of trails and/or trail related facilities are subject to HPARD approval. All construction contracts are subject to approval by City of Houston Legal and General Services Departments. A reliable long-term maintenance agreement between the City of Houston and the Houston Parks Board is also envisioned, and will establish reliable long term funding sources for ongoing maintenance of the Bayou Greenways 2020 trail system. This agreement will be negotiated between the City of Houston and the Houston Parks Board and presented to City Council for approval no later than December 31, 2013, with implementation set by July 1, 2014. Contractors will comply with MWSBE requirements according to Chapter 15 of City Code.

This document has more details and maps of the project locations.

This is going to be awesome. No city in America has anything quite like this. If you want a sneak peek at the White Oak construction, go here to sign up for a short walking tour of a key part of it on July 20.

Burnam to re-file marriage equality bill for Special Session 2

From the inbox:

Upon the announcement [Wednesday] of a second special legislative session by Governor Rick Perry, as well as the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, State Representative Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) today announced his intention to re-file his Marriage Equality bill from the 83rd regular Legislative Session, HB 1300.

“The Supreme Court found today that the federal government acted to ‘impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages.’ I can assure you the Texas Legislature did the same. As such, it is time to renounce our homophobic state laws and usher in marriage equality in Texas,” said Rep. Burnam.

Governor Perry announced his intention on Wednesday to call a special session to deal with all unfinished business from the first session, including the abortion bill killed by Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) in her historic filibuster. However, in the first special session, Governor Perry had also added several issues throughout the session.

“I call on Governor Perry to add marriage equality to the special session call,” said Rep. Burnam. “Clearly granting equal rights to all Texans is more urgent than imposing restrictions on women’s health and liberty based on junk science and sham medical research.”

“It is the shame of our state that we continually have to wait for a federal judge to make us do the right thing. It happened with segregated schools, segregated parks and segregated housing. Let’s not let it happen with segregated marriage rights.”

In the 83rd Legislative Session, Rep. Burnam had introduced but had failed to even get a hearing for the bill. The bill is not a constitutional amendment, but rather amends key parts of Texas state law to extend parental, property and other legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples.

Here’s HB1300. This is absolutely the right thing to do, and I salute Rep. Burnam for doing it. That said, Rick Perry will host a fundraiser for Wendy Davis before he’ll put this on the special session agenda. Democrats did a good job introducing marriage equality bills during the regular session, and I expect them to be back in a big way on this in 2015, but regardless of any Supreme Court decisions, this is unfortunately not going to happen now.

Enrolling the uninsured

This is going to be such a huge job.

Get Covered America

Fresh produce wasn’t the only thing you could find at the Farmers Market [last] Saturday.

Volunteers with the Get Covered America campaign were passing out flyers and letting people know that starting Oct. 1, American citizens can enroll for low-cost health insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“Get Covered America is a national grassroots campaign to educate people about the enrollment opportunities made possible by the affordable health care act,” volunteer Ian Davis said. “The enrollment period will start in October and today marks the 100 day countdown, so we’re doing a national day of action.”

Davis, an organizer with Get Covered Texas, says it’s important Texas is included.

“Texas has the most uninsured of any state in the country, so this is ground zero of really solving the health care problem,” Davis said.

Musician Daniel Smith is someone who doesn’t have health insurance.

“It’s just kind of like, don’t get hurt or sick you know,” Smith said.

Davis says there are plenty of people like Smith who don’t know they’re eligible.

“Over half the folks that are eligible for those benefits are unaware,” he said.

There were kickoff events like this around the country last weekend. BOR was at the Austin event. There was an event in Houston on Saturday the 22nd, right here in the Heights, but the only information I saw about it was an email that same morning. I hope we can do a better job of getting the word out than that. This is the only thing I saw in the Chronicle, so when I say “we”, I mean them, too. They did have a story on the federal push to get people enrolled on Tuesday, so perhaps they’ll be on the case going forward. We’ll see.

The actual enrollment period for the health insurance exchanges begins on October 1, and the race is on to get the word out. Something like 2.6 million Texans may qualify for insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, but they have to know about it and they have to know what to do to get the subsidies and enroll in an insurance plan. This is a massive national undertaking that will be done without the assistance of the state government here, for obvious reasons. One organization that may be helping to promote the exchanges will be the NBA, and I for one look forward to seeing what the Houston Rockets will do as part of that effort. (The NFL, and thus the Houston Texans are also in play.) Let’s hope we hear a little bit more about it between now and then.