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November 7th, 2015:

Saturday video break: Honey, Honey

Behold the majesty of ABBA at its peak:

If they aren’t the greatest English-language band that didn’t actually speak English, I don’t know who is. They also gave us the musical/movie “Mamma Mia”, from which we get this version:

My daughters know all the lyrics to all these songs – they’ve seen the movie a million times at my in-laws’ house (my father in law has a thing for Meryl Streep, not that there’s anything wrong with that) and have sung along with the karaoke videos that come included with the DVD. Needless to say, I had to buy the soundtrack for them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either.

And for a not-a-cover, here are the Milk Carton Kids, whose song title lacks a comma:

These guys were guests on a recent edition of NPR’s “Ask Me Another” nerd-quiz show. Go find the podcast if you like these guys or just want to hear more from them.

We still can’t get new maps

Seriously?

To avoid confusion and uncertainty, the state’s 2016 elections for Congress and the Texas House will proceed under the current political maps, a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio said late Friday.

The court previously approved maps for use in Texas Senate races, but the lines for congressional and state House districts remain under legal challenge.

While the judges are deciding those challenges, however, the election deadlines loom: Candidates will begin filing to run for office on Nov. 14 in advance of primary elections on March 1 of next year.

The courts have been known to move election and filing dates; in 2012, the primaries were moved from March to May, disrupting the normal political cycle in the state.

But in a seven-page order on Friday, the judges said they will not disturb the 2016 elections. “… the court finds that the status quo should not be altered … The 2016 election will proceed as scheduled, without interruption of delay, under plans H358 and C235 [the plans used in the previous election],” the judges wrote.

As you may recall, the post-Shelby retrials were concluded last September. As that seven-page order points out, those were trials over the 2011 maps, to make a determination about discriminatory intent, which would potentially subject Texas to preclearance again under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. A trial on the Section 2 claims for the 2013 maps still hasn’t even been scheduled. Since those maps are basically the court-drawn interim maps from 2012, there may not be any relief to be had anyway, but still. Shouldn’t we have this mess resolved by now? At this rate, it’s a close call whether this litigation will be wrapped up before the 2021 redistricting cycle. Sheesh.

What happened to Adrian?

Not what he thought would happen, that’s for sure.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

When Adrian Garcia announced in May that he would be giving up his job as sheriff and the top Democratic elected official in Harris County to run for mayor, he was heralded as an instant front-runner to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker.

Six months later, the man many thought could have been Houston’s first Hispanic mayor is out of the running and out of a job.

Garcia’s precipitous collapse, which left him more than 8 percentage points out of the runoff Tuesday, stunned even close race watchers and left the former lawman’s inner circle pondering where things went wrong.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said Massey Villarreal, Garcia’s campaign treasurer. “Nobody understood the big tsunami wave headed our way.”

Reflecting on the results, Garcia allies repeatedly pointed to the city’s polarizing equal rights ordinance, saying Garcia was swamped by the anti-HERO wave that swept the city ballot, buoying conservative candidates, including the one who ended up beating him out for the runoff.

[…]

The success of Garcia’s hotly anticipated candidacy depended on his ability to boost consistently low Hispanic turnout while assembling a coalition of other groups, an expensive task predicated in part on a robust get-out-the-vote effort.

Garcia’s campaign mounted a formidable fundraising effort, outraising his competitors by nearly $1 million through late October, and investing in an extensive field operation. Yet, turnout in predominantly Latino districts H and I still lagged behind participation in many conservative and African-American areas, as well as progressive District C.

“There was no way to anticipate the dramatic influx of voters in this election,” Garcia campaign manager Mary Bell said.

Citywide turnout topped 27 percent, an increase of 8 percentage points and more than 89,000 votes from six years ago, the time Houston had an open mayor’s race.

“Could they have done better? Yes,” Tameez said. “Would it change the math? Probably not.”

Tameez pointed to the fact that King captured more votes than Garcia and progressive former Congressman Chris Bell combined.

However, Tameez also spoke critically of how the campaign responded to a series of attacks that opponents began piling on Garcia about two months before election day, when a Turner-Garcia runoff still appeared the most likely outcome.

Bell and King repeatedly hit Garcia on everything from the sheriff’s office’s clearance rates to his handling of cases involving inmates who died or were mistreated while in jail.

Garcia’s campaign consistently was slow to respond, with staffers frequently declining to make the candidate Garcia available for interviews in response or speak to reporters on the record, waiting hours before issuing written statements.

It was not until the Friday before the start of early voting, when polls showed King moving into second place, that Garcia went on offense for the first time.

I’m not sure which “polls” this refers to, as only one of the last two polls had King ahead of Garcia, and that was by just one point. In retrospect, I’m not sure how useful most of these polls were. The HRBC poll, which clearly had a more conservative sample than the others, was the most accurate. The rest all had Turner in first, but that was the limit of their accuracy. And as I said before, it’s not clear to me that Garcia was truly in second based on the public polls, or if he was just the beneficiary of that one good initial poll. Doubt it matter that much at this point, and I doubt the polling will be any better in 2019. It’s the nature of the beast.

As for what happened to Garcia, there’s not much I disagree with above. That said, let’s be a bit more precise when we talk about a conservative voter “surge”:


Dist    2013   2013%    2015   2015%    Diff  13 Sh  15 Sh
==========================================================
A     13,560  19.17%  20,060  26.92%   6,500   7.8%   7.5%
B     13,780  14.40%  22,412  23.34%   8,632   7.9%   8.3%
C     32,489  25.30%  47,125  35.43%  14,636  18.6%  17.6%
D     19,681  17.78%  28,353  25.14%   8,672  11.3%  10.6%
E     18,712  17.75%  33,570  30.40%  14,858  10.7%  12.5%
F      7,794  11.61%  12,722  18.25%   4,928   4.5%   4.7%
G     27,348  23.59%  40,771  34.65%  13,423  15.7%  15.2%
H     10,271  14.27%  17,408  23.73%   7,137   5.9%   6.5%
I      9,553  15.20%  14,668  22.67%   5,115   5.5%   5.5%
J      5,947  13.01%   8,721  18.61%   2,774   3.4%   3.3%
K     15,485  19.62%  22,648  28.18%   7,163   8.9%   8.4%

The last two columns represent the share of the total vote for that district. The three Republican districts were 34.2% of the total Harris County vote in 2013, and 35.2% of that vote in 2015. To be sure, that’s a lot more total votes, I’m just saying that the proportions weren’t all out of whack. Now, there may well be a higher concentration of Republican-friendly voters within each district. I don’t have a good way to measure that, unfortunately. For what it’s worth, King received almost exactly 30,000 more votes than Roy Morales did in 2009; his total in 2009 would have been 37.8% of the vote. I don’t know that I have a point here, I’m just fiddling around.

Anyway. We’ll never know how Garcia might have done in a year that didn’t have HERO on the ballot. I’m sure it didn’t help him, but I can’t say how much it hurt. This election was another opportunity to wonder when Latinos will start to vote in numbers more proportionate to their share of the population. If I knew the answer to that, I’m sure I could make some good money as a consultant. This wasn’t the year, and Garcia wasn’t the candidate. Check back in 2019 or 2023, I guess. For now, Garcia has endorsed Turner for the runoff. What happens for him next I don’t know, but I feel pretty confident saying this wasn’t his last election.

Prosecution responds to Paxton’s motions to quash

They’re pretty harsh.

In a 19-page court filing peppered with disdain — one footnote likens Paxton’s defense to an exchange from the 1978 film Animal House — the prosecutors called the attorney general’s legal arguments this week that the judge overseeing his case abused his discretion a “pre-trial shell game” based on a “quicksand-like foundation.”

“Paxton’s motion is a tale of sound and fury calculated to cast himself as a victim, and not a criminal defendant, in the court of public opinion,” they write. “That Paxton’s motion is not only desperate, but utterly without merit is predictable; that it recklessly and unnecessarily tars both a respected jurist and his spouse without a legal or factual basis to do so is unconscionable.”

[…]

Asking the court to reject what they at one point refer to as a “Grassy Knoll-like conspiracy … far more appropriate as a plot point in an Oliver Stone motion picture,” prosecutors Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer and Nicole DeBorde noted that the three charges against Paxton are the result of a “comprehensive investigation spearheaded by the Texas Rangers.”

His legal arguments, they write, are based on “a stunning lack of any controlling legal authority to support his unsupported and unsupportable claims … [he] wants this Court to quash these indictments based on the cumulation of non-errors, in the face of long-standing authority to the contrary.”

See here for the background. My first thought (actually, my second thought after “How can you allude to an Animal House reference without specifying it?”) was that they must be comparing Paxton’s defense to the Otter Defense, which made me wonder if the prosecutors had inadvertently cast themselves into the roles of Greg Marmalard and Dean Wormer. Thankfully, The Scoop Blog has the goods:

The prosecutors’ motion also takes a clever whack at the defense’s arguments by citing the 1978 film Animal House:

Paxton’s insistence at crafting an alternative narrative, one that avoides any mention of his own criminality, while it re-writes, distorts, or simply ignores the historical facts that inform his claim, calls to mind the following cinematic exchange. OTTER: “We’ll tell Fred you were doing a great job taking care of his car, but you parked it out back last night and this morning… it was gone. We report it stolen to the police. D-Day takes care of the wreck. Your brother’s insurance company buys him a new car.” FLOUNDER: “Will that work?” OTTER: “It’s gotta work better than the truth.”

Tarrant County Judge George Gallagher is presiding over Paxton’s criminal case.

Ouch. They have a copy of the prosecution’s response, and it’s worth a read. Again I’d love to know what the lawyers think. No word as to when the judge may take action. I can’t wait. The Press has more.

Uptown living

It’s a thing that is happening.

Home to the city’s glittering epicenter of retail, with a dramatic skyline dominated by the towering Williams Tower and other office buildings, Uptown Houston is best known for the places where people work and play. Increasingly, it’s a place where people want to live as well.

A $1.7 billion investment in condominium towers and apartments over the last five years there has pushed residential development past retail as a percentage of overall real estate. Uptown is now 28 percent residential, compared with 25 percent retail.

Leaders at Uptown Houston, which runs the tax increment reinvestment zone and management district there, say residential opportunities are still in their infancy. Another 4,000 living units are under construction.

“Office, residential, retail and hotel all sort of blend and work together to create an urban neighborhood,” Uptown Houston president John Breeding said. “I think we’ve reached a new level of urbanization.”

The office market still dominates in Uptown, which ranks among the top 15 biggest office centers in the nation. Office makes up 37 percent of the district.

But residential is on the rise. O’Brien’s complex recently opened at 1900 Yorktown, the eight-story building advertising units with built-in wine cellars, oak floors and a large “Vegas-style” pool.

Announced residential projects in the Galleria area include a 26-story development called Belfiore being built at Post Oak Lane and South Wynden Drive, and a 28-story condominium tower called Astoria on Post Oak Boulevard. The Wilshire, a 17-story condominium project, and the SkyHouse River Oaks apartments replaced a 1960s-era apartment complex on Westcreek, now adjacent to the recently opened River Oaks District.

[…]

The regional housing market, long dominated by spacious single-family homes in suburban areas, is evolving as buyers increasingly are attracted to urban locales where it’s possible to walk to nearby attractions, said Jacob Sudhoff of Sudhoff Properties, a high-end real estate brokerage firm specializing in condo sales.

The Uptown-Galleria area is ground zero for this change as international buyers, oil executives and downsizing empty nesters trend toward the luxury for-sale units.

“Houston has finally turned into a condo market, and in the past we never were,” Sudhoff said. “There’s a correlation between amenities, walkability and the location of these condominiums.”

I think it’s a good thing that formerly non-residential areas such as Uptown now feature actual residences. The best way to avoid and reduce traffic is for people to be places where they don’t need to get into a car to go about their business. This is why things like sidewalks, bike paths, and transit matter. Some number of people who work and shop in the Uptown area have no choice but to drive there. If the people who do live there or live close to there can do those things by walking, biking, or taking Metro – and if there are more of those people to begin with – then they’re not competing with the folks who have to drive for space on the Loop. (I’ve made the same argument about parking for bikes at restaurants.) Doesn’t that make sense? Now if we could figure out how to get some more affordable housing into and around places like Uptown, then we’d really have something. I’m sure the next Mayor will get right on that.