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January 2nd, 2014:

Judge grants TRO halting Dave Wilson’s inauguration to HCC

From the inbox:

A state district judge has ordered David Wilson to refrain from taking an oath of office to serve as trustee of Houston Community College System District II until a court can determine the issue of his residency.

Judge Elaine Palmer granted the application filed by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan asking that David Buren Wilson be prohibited from being sworn in until a court can hear evidence about where Wilson actually resides.

Harris County Attorney Ryan filed suit last week in the 151st District Court questioning whether Wilson was a resident of Houston Community College District II at the time he was elected.

The judge set a hearing for January 10th at 3 pm.

See here for the background, and here for a copy of the restraining order. Here’s the Chron story:

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said it is unclear if Wilson resides at 5600 West 34th Street., which is the address he used in order to be eligible to run for the college district’s Place II position.

Wilson’s attorney, Keith Gross, questioned what is motivating the probe, including whether other board members fear Wilson will uncover corruption in their ranks.

He said his client, a 67-year-old small businessman, lives in an apartment inside the building, gets his mail there and has the address on his driver’s license.

“We are going to fight this all the way,” Gross said. “As long as I have known David Wilson, he does not roll over, ever.”

I believe that. I believe Dave Wilson will appeal this to the end of the earth and back again. I hope you know what you’re in for, Vince Ryan. Because Dave Wilson can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever.

Wilson did not return requests for comment, including an opportunity to let a Houston Chronicle reporter inside the metallic two-story building to see his quarters.

County appraisal district records describe it as a commercial building with 11,340 square feet of space. It appears to hold at least one classroom and a warehouse area.

[…]

Ryan, the county attorney, said the building does not appear to have an occupancy permit required for it to be a residence, and might not have undergone proper inspections.

Let’s talk about the residency requirements to run for office for a minute. I personally draw a distinction between residency in a district and residency in a taxing entity such as a county, city, school district, or community college district. District lines are drawn on sand. For districts determined by our Legislature, we’re lucky to have two consecutive elections where they’re all the same. As we learned in 2003, they can be changed at any time if the Governor wants them to be changed. People are regularly drawn into and out of various districts for political purposes. I’m in a different State Rep district and a different State Senate district than I was in 2011, and it’s not because I’ve moved. It happens all the time, and while I think it’s a perfectly valid campaign issue, I am comfortable with there being a very loose definition of who “lives” in what district for eligibility purposes.

It’s very different for taxes, ordinances, regulations, and other things may apply based on whether or not you live within that entity. If you’re running for a Harris County office, you better damn well live in Harris County. Same for Houston and other cities, HISD and other school districts, HCC and other community college districts. We just had a Mayor’s race where that was a salient issue, as it should have been. I don’t need anyone to be a native of these places, or even to be a longtime resident. I just need you to have the same skin in the game I do, and for this I don’t tolerate shenanigans.

That’s why this matters for Dave Wilson. The key point of contention is that Wilson actually lives outside of HCC’s territory, in a house on 7370 Lake Lane that is listed on the property tax rolls in the name of his wife, Connie. That house, which is in the taxing region for Lone Star Community College, has a homestead exemption on it, as you would expect for a primary residence. If that is where Wilson really lives, then he has no skin in the game by my lights and thus has no business running for HCC Trustee at all.

It would have been best to deal with this before the election, but the fact that Bruce Austin was too incompetent a candidate to raise the issue in time shouldn’t mean that Wilson gets a free pass. Permits and inspections are one piece of evidence, but we all know that there are plenty of homes in Houston for which that paperwork isn’t in order. So show me that 5600 W 34th St is really someplace someone would live. Show me that it’s got a bed, a shower, a fridge, a microwave oven, and a hookup for cable, satellite, or the Internet. Actually, show me that it has at least three beds, because if you do a voter registration search by address for “5600 w 34th”, you get three registrations, one each for David Buren Wilson, Cameron Hunter Wilson, and Taylor Renee Wilson. Are there really three people living there? If so, I will withdraw all my objections and will urge County Attorney Ryan to drop the lawsuit. Maybe Wilson will let Lisa Falkenberg drop by and see what she thinks. For what it’s worth, I found no registrations at 7370 Lake Lane.

One more thing. As I noted before, up until at least 2011, Dave Wilson had been using a different warehouse as his “home” for voter registration purposes. That warehouse was at 1512 W 34th, which is down the street a little less than three miles away. Why would he “move” from one warehouse to another? There’s one obvious answer to that question. To check that answer, I went searching for voter registrations at nearby addresses. I found one that’s just around the block from Wilson’s old digs. Here’s a Google map of the area, and a screenshot of the two together; A is the neighbor and B is 1512 W 34th. Lo and behold, Wilson’s near neighbor is in HCC District 1, not HCC District 2. That’s why he changed his registration from one warehouse to the other. He had to so he could target the HCC District 2 seat. If that were the only issue, as stated above I wouldn’t care. But if Dave Wilson really lives in the house on Lake Lane, he’s not eligible to run for any HCC Trustee seat, and it very much does matter to me. We know this isn’t the first time Wilson’s residency has been questioned. Let’s get this sorted out once and for all.

The Marshall legacy

The Chron has a story that looks back on the long career of outgoing HISD Trustee Larry Marshall. No question, Marshall was a star as an educator, and left an indelible mark on HISD thanks to the well-regarded magnet school program that he helped create. He should be riding off into the sunset amid hosannas and praise. The reason he’s not is captured here.

Larry Marshall

Larry Marshall

Questions about his consulting work surfaced early in his board tenure, when a former HISD administrator, Frank Watson, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the district in 2000.

Watson, who oversaw employee benefits, alleged he lost his job because he refused to do a favor for one of Marshall’s health-care clients. The district ultimately settled the case with Watson.

Marshall’s past consulting work for Community Education Partners also has drawn scrutiny. HISD contracted with the company to run its alternative schools.

Marshall has said in court records that he stopped consulting for Community Education Partners after the school board passed a strict ethics policy in 2004. The new rules banned the district from doing business with companies that had financial ties to trustees and close relatives.

At a board meeting in June 2010, Marshall defended his past consulting work amid criticism from community activists.

Since I have been on this board, I have sacrificed over $500,000 of income that could have been generated, to put something back into a system that I got something from,” Marshall said, before voting with the board majority to renew HISD’s contract with Community Education Partners.

Emphasis mine. If the reason you stopped doing something is because a “strict ethics policy” was put in place that forbade from doing what you had been doing, you might want to take a moment and reflect on the nature of your past actions. Similarly, if you are upset that being in public service is preventing you from earning a wad of money, you really ought to consider resigning so you can go ahead and collect that payday you so obviously want. Unless, of course, the only reason that treasure trove exists is because of your power and connections as a public servant, in which case it just sucks to be you. But seriously, if you’d be rolling in the dough if it weren’t for you meddling kids those pesky ethics rules, then do everyone – including yourself – a favor and step down from your position so you can become a lobbyist. You’ll have all the earnings potential and far fewer enforceable ethical constraints.

Anyway. Perhaps this story was unfairly slanted against Larry Marshall – he refused to comment on it, so we don’t know what his side of the story would be. I’m sure I have a skewed impression of Larry Marshall because almost all of what I know about him stems from his ethical issues. I knew basically nothing about his early career as an educator, which really was stellar. But whose fault is that? Larry Marshall chose his path. For all the good work he did earlier in life, HISD is better off now that he is exiting from service to them. I wish him well in retirement, and I hope I never see his name in a news story relating to HISD purchasing or contracting processes again.

Utah appeals to SCOTUS

This was inevitable.

RedEquality

Utah took its fight against gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the high court to suspend same-sex unions that became legal when a judge struck down the state’s voter-approved ban.

The heavily Mormon state wants the marriages to stop while it appeals a judge’s decision, which said banninggay couples from marrying violates their right to equal treatment under the law.

In papers filed Tuesday, the state asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor to overturn a decision that has led to more than 900 gay marriages in Utah. Sotomayor handles emergency requests from Utah and other Rocky Mountain states.

Sotomayor responded by setting a deadline of by noon Friday for legal briefs from same-sex couples. She can act by herself or get the rest of the court involved.

[…]

In the papers filed Tuesday, Utah argues that children are best raised by a mother and father in a good relationship.

“On average children navigate developmental stages more easily, perform better academically, have fewer emotional disorders and become better functioning adults when reared in that environment,” it says.

I see Utah is making the thoroughly discredited argument about “responsible procreation” that other courts have torn apart. I’d say “good luck with that” but this is one of those times when mere sarcasm is inadequate. I hope SCOTUS crams that piece of baloney right down your throat, Utah. It’s nothing less than what you deserve. Their request for a stay can be found here if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, a new movement has been launched to increase support for marriage equality here.

Equality Texas is partnering with the national group Freedom to Marry to launch a new project called Why Marriage Matters Texas, which will focus on storytelling as a way of changing hearts and minds.

“For the first time in a long time, marriage in Texas is moveable,” said Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas. “The public opinion is shifting our way. This is something we can actually dedicate resources to and have a realistic expectation of having results. We’re gearing up to work in a concrete way to bring the freedom to marry to Texas.”

Williams said while recent polls show a steady increase in support for marriage equality among Texas voters, much of the shift has been due to an increase in the number of young people, non-native Texans and Hispanics.

“If we’re going to be able to push the changes in public opinion beyond demographic shifts, we’re going to have to go and talk to people about why our marriages matter, in the language of emotion and the language of human relationships,” Williams said. “You can spit statistics to people all day long, but what changes people’s hearts and minds are personal stories of people affected by the issues.”

The website is here, though it’s still under construction. Again, the federal court hearing to decide on an injunction against Texas’ Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage constitutional amendment is February 12. A whole lot more than I would have ever expected has happened since that court date was set. Assuming SCOTUS denies Utah’s appeal, one has to ask what grounds exist now to not grant that injunction? Six weeks from now we could be in for a very big change for the better. BOR has more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of December 30

The Texas Progressive Alliance bids farewell to 2013 and wishes everyone a happy and healthy 2014 as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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