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November 1st, 2014:

Saturday video break: Dimples

The great John Lee Hooker, y’all:

And the Spencer Davis Group, featuring a very young but still completely recognizable Steve Winwood:

The recording I have is by Winwood as a solo act, but I couldn’t find a video for that. Happy Dia de los Muertos, y’all.

2014 final EV totals

Here they are, and here are the full 2010 EV totals. Yesterday was the busiest day, as is typical with early voting. I have some more general thoughts to express, but with the Halloween madness yesterday I never got to finish them. I’ll have that either tomorrow or Monday. In the meantime, happy Day of the Dead.

Lyft leaving?

Sorry it’s not working out for you. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

Lyft

Less than a week before new city regulations take effect, one of two app-based, paid-ride companies is preparing to end its local business rather than use a city-required procedure to conduct background checks.

“We’ve made the very difficult decision that if Houston doesn’t amend its process, we’ve decided we have no choice but to pause operations,” David Estrada, vice president of government operations for Lyft, said Wednesday.

Estrada said the company will ask the city to delay implementing the rules. If it does not do so, he said, Lyft will cease operations in Houston until the process can be streamlined.

“Houston is one market, but our goal is ride-sharing across America,” Estrada said. “We want to be in every market, but we have come to the decision we want to take a stand.” This is the first time Lyft has announced it would leave a market based on local rules.

[…]

The rules set to go into effect Tuesday include requirements that drivers present their vehicle for inspection, submit a warrant check and personal information to the city and undergo drug screening.

The companies already take many of these steps, but their procedures are not exactly the same. While the companies use online background checks, Houston requires applicants to use the state’s fingerprint-based background check company. This was a sticking point for Lyft.

“We have found a more efficient way to do these things,” said David Mack, Lyft’s director of public affairs.

The drivers would face expensive drug tests and permits just to do something many consider a hobby or side job. Estrada said drivers consider the process onerous. “It treats them like a criminal first,” Estrada said.

The city-required method would cost drivers about $62. Lyft covers the cost of its procedures when it approves drivers.

I’ve said before that I didn’t quite understand the fuss over this. Seems like a pretty extreme position for Lyft to take, especially given that Uber is apparently prepared to live with it, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I’ve also said that I’d like to see the rules get reviewed again in a year or so, so maybe they’ll get another crack at this later. The Highwayman, Hair Balls, and Texpatriate have more.

House starts thinking about school finance

Good to see.

Jimmie Don Aycock

For the past several weeks, state lawmakers have been meeting to discuss how to better fund public education in the wake of a court ruling calling Texas’ school finance system inequitable, inefficient and illegal.

Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, confirmed he and 12 to 15 members of the state House have formed an ad hoc, informal group to discuss the state’s method of funding public schools ahead of the 2015 session. The bipartisan group has held a few meetings since the system was declared unconstitutional by State District Judge John Dietz in late August, Aycock said. Attorney General Greg Abbott later appealed that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

“I think our group is, basically, looking at what’s practical and doable, independent of whatever the Supreme Court ruling is,” Aycock told the Houston Chronicle on Friday. “And as you might expect in that group, there’s a variety of opinions.”

Aycock said the group has not yet yielded any concrete ideas – no specific bills or funding amounts have been discussed – noting many of the most important funding decisions sat not with his panel but with the appropriations committees.

Ideally, however, he said he hoped the group would first tackle the issue of equity.

“That’s my personal, biggest concern,” said Aycock. “If I could solve anything, my priority would be the equity issue. I’m a big believer in we need to try to fund as equitably as possible. I don’t think we’ll ever achieve perfect equity.”

A couple of the plaintiffs’ attorneys had positive reactions to this, and I tend to agree. If there’s one Republican I have some faith in on this, it’s Aycock. He will at least lead an honest discussion, and he will have the members’ trust. Whether there is anything they can come up with that can then be passed in both chambers is another story, but that’s not his concern right now. It’s not clear to me that equity will be any easier to tackle than adequacy will, but I suppose one can cling to the belief that the Supreme Court will not force that issue. Be that as it may, I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

Another HCC lawsuit

Hard to keep track of them all.

The former top attorney and acting chancellor of Houston Community College filed a lawsuit Monday alleging she was fired because she told the FBI of her suspicions that board members sought to use bond funds to award kickbacks.

Renee Byas, ousted in August, said in the lawsuit that some of HCC’s elected board members wanted to change procurement rules “so they could hand out bond-related contracts to friends or family.”

The whistle-blower lawsuit is the latest in a series of accusations of improper business dealings involving one of the nation’s largest community colleges. And it alludes to renewed interest in the institution by federal investigators.

Neeta Sane, chairwoman of the HCC board, denied that Byas was fired in retaliation for talking to the FBI and said she did not know of any instances in which board members tried to steer contracts to preferred vendors.

HCC won voter approval in November 2012 of a $425 million bond issue, the largest in the college’s history, creating numerous construction projects to put out for bids.

“I’m just so disappointed in all these allegations,” Sane said.

The lawsuit alleged that Sane and trustee Chris Oliver met with Byas for four hours in January “trying to convince her to abandon the strict procurement rules because people in their districts ‘wanted contracts.’ ”

“At one point during the meeting,” the lawsuit continued, “Ms. Sane showed Ms. Byas a list of firms who were supposed to ‘get’ contracts.”

Sane said she recalled looking with Byas at a list of project managers included in a public meeting agenda, but Sane said she never asked the acting chancellor to select certain firms.

“I would never be involved in a meeting like that,” added Oliver, the board’s vice chairman.

[…]

Byas, represented by high-profile Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, also alleged in the lawsuit that Sane and trustees Dave Wilson and Robert Glaser “cornered” her at a conference in Santa Fe, N.M., and questioned why she couldn’t revise the procurement process so that local firms could be given contracts for bond projects.

See here for some background. I’m amused by the presence of Dave Wilson’s name in this lawsuit – he has faithfully sent me a press release every time there has been news about his battle with County Attorney Vince Ryan, but radio silence this time – and not amused at all by the presence of the other names. HCC does a lot of good, but their governance has never not been a mess. There may be nothing to this lawsuit, but it’s not like anyone can say that with confidence. Campos and Hair Balls have more.