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March 11th, 2016:

Friday random ten: In the city, part 1

I’ve done Random Ten lists based on songs with state names, but I haven’t done any based on city names.

1. Abilene – Yes
2. Albuquerque – Weird Al Yankovic
3. All The Way To Memphis – Mott the Hoople
4. Allentown – Billy Joel
5. Amsterdam – Asylum Street Spankers
6. Anahuac – Austin Lounge Lizards
7. Anchorage – Michelle Shocked
8. Angel From Montgomery – John Prine
9. Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen
10. Autumn In New York – Harry Connick

I discounted “Angel of Harlem” by U2 since Harlem is a neighborhood, but I wouldn’t argue too vociferously with someone who would include it. I feel like I ought to keep track of the number of songs with “New York” in the title. Given the size of my library and the prevalence of such song titles, I’ll be surprised if we don’t hit double digits.

Full Fifth Circuit will hear voter ID appeal

Here we go again.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The full U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to take up the Texas voter ID case Wednesday, adding another chapter to the law’s convoluted journey through the federal court system.

The decision to hear the case, Veasey v. Abbott, en banc comes more than six months after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the full court to review a three-judge panel’s ruling that the law has a “discriminatory effect” that violates the Voting Rights Act, but that it is not a “poll tax” barred under the U.S. Constitution.

“Today’s decision is a strong step forward in our efforts to defend the state’s Voter ID laws,” Paxton said in a statement. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process. We look forward to presenting our case before the full Fifth Circuit.”

Civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department had urged the court not to revisit the case. But Paxton argued in a series of appeal filings in August that the plaintiffs had not named any Texans “whose right to vote will be denied or even substantially burdened by maintaining the status quo.”


Election law expert Rick Hasen noted Wednesday that the current impasse over the next Supreme Court nomination may add even further significance to 5th Circuit’s ruling.

“The stakes are especially high because this is a case which could divide 4-4 before the current Supreme Court, meaning what the entire 5th circuit does may be the final word on Texas’s law,” Hasen wrote on his blog.

No date has been announced for arguments in the case.

See here and here for the background. Let me quote from Rick Hasen’s post to get a feel for this:

It is not clear what internal deliberations were taking place at the 5th Circuit which took the Court more than 5 months to issue this order, but the full 5th Circuit will consider Veasey v. Abbott en banc by the full court. Veasey was significant because this was a case where the court gave a narrow but real victory to voter id plaintiffs in finding a Voting Rights Act Section 2 violation. The stakes are especially high because this is a case which could divide 4-4 before the current Supreme Court, meaning what the entire 5th circuit does may be the final word on Texas’s law.

Given the makeup of the 5th Circuit, as well as the panel members in the original decision, it is not clear how the panel will vote in this case, but if I were plaintiffs I would not be too happy with this order.

There is also the issue of timing—the Fifth Circuit will rule, and who knows how close this will be to the election, and if the Court will let the voter id law be in effect for this election. One can imagine judges on the 5th Circuit who want Texas to use the voter id law in this election to drag their feet long enough to assure a decision does not come until after the election.

Well, I can’t say I’m happy about this either, but it is what it is. The three-judge panel in this case was two to one Democratic, but the decision was unanimous, so there you go. It should be noted that if the plan is to delay any decisions till after November, then by the time it gets to SCOTUS we could have a President Clinton-appointed Justice filling out the bench, so it’s not clear what that buys you. We’ll see when they set a date. Trail Blazers, Paradise In Hell, ThinkProgress, and the Press has more.

Now what for recycling?

Sure hope there’s a plan.

Houston’s curbside recycling program is in limbo after Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council rejected a new contract with Waste Management on Wednesday, prompting concern among residents and environmental activists about a potential lapse in service.

Such a lapse would come about a year after the city finally expanded its curbside program to all homeowners. It also would occur amid an ongoing City Hall push to close a budget gap of more than $126 million by July 1, an effort likely to result in layoffs of city workers.

Turner emphasized that he is committed to recycling but said he was uncomfortable entering into an agreement he viewed as working against the cash-strapped city’s best interests.

The city’s current contract with Houston-based Waste Management to process recyclables expires March 16.

“We will continue with recycling. We just have to put forth a strategic plan where it can continue, where it’s cost-efficient, and we’ll try to do it in such a way that’s the least disruptive,” Turner said. “Instead of it being like twice a month, it may have to be once a month for right now, but we are certainly talking to a number of other players out here in the marketplace.”

Turner plans to announce a new recycling plan Monday. He declined to offer details on the options available to the city but said he is looking to other bidders.


In an emailed statement, Waste Management said the firm remains open to working with the city and is prepared to accept recyclable materials without a contract.

“Amidst the unfortunate rhetoric coming from the city are very workable solutions,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, the potential – and last-minute – solutions floated by the mayor and city officials can’t be characterized as constructive because they’re economically unworkable. This can’t be a one-sided solution. Losing money on a recycling contract with the city isn’t a solution in our view.”

Waste Management’s current noncontract recycling rate is $104 per ton, the same amount Turner proposed paying under a one-year deal.

See here for the background. I don’t know what Mayor Turner has in mind, but I can’t wait to hear it. If I were the one who had to come up with something, I might suggest a two-year deal – Waste Management proposed four years, the city said one year – with the hope that commodity prices (largely a factor of China and its economy) might have crept back up by then. The city doesn’t want to get locked into a long-term deal where they have to pay a high price, while Waste Management wants some price certainty. Maybe that would work, and maybe there are some other players out there eager to jump in on this market. I sure hope so. In the meantime, we may wind up paying the rack rate for awhile. Tune in Monday to see what the Mayor has up his sleeve.

Shots fired at Sen. Whitmire’s office


Sen. John Whitmire

Sen. John Whitmire

State Sen. John Whitmire said Thursday afternoon he believes the gun used in the predawn shooting of his Houston-area office was likely an AR-15 assault rifle.

The Houston Democrat’s office was fired on at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. No one was injured in the shooting, which was first reported by KHOU.

“[The bullets] were .223” he said, referring to the caliber of the slugs found. A somber-sounding Whitmire said the situation is “serious” as investigators are still determining whether his office was the sole target.

“We’ll take precautions. But it’s part of the job, unfortunately, in this day and time,” he said. “They are checking in this general area to see if anyone else received any gunfire. We don’t know yet. I don’t know yet.”


Whitmire said that as a lawmaker he gets his fair share of threats, but no single person or group immediately came to mind as a possible suspect in the shooting.

He said his position as chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee opens him up to criticism.

“I deal with some controversial issues,” he said. “[People] have expectations that I can’t meet or don’t want to meet. But it’d be total speculation to say where it came from.”

More from the Chron.

The Houston Police Department and the Texas Rangers are investigating the incident.

“No one was injured and the building was unoccupied,” HPD Spokesman Kese Smith said.

Police are trying to determine whether any surveillance cameras recorded the incident, Smith said, adding that 9-1-1 call logs show a neighbor reported hearing a “loud banging sound or possible gun shots” at around 12:30 a.m.

Throughout the day, small clusters of curious neighbors gathered outside the office, a two-story house with white wood siding, watching watch police and Texas Rangers comb the scene.

One bullet had torn through a transom supporting the structure’s wrap-around porch, ricocheting into the front of the structure. Bullets had also smashed through a window above the front door, a shutter, and through the side wall of the house.

Thankfully, no one was in the office, which is a really nice historic two-story house, at the time. I sure hope this was something random and not targeted, but we’ll see what the investigation says. And while these shots were fired at an office, which one might reasonably expect to be unoccupied late at night, it’s in a residential area. A stray bullet could have easily gone into a neighboring yard or house. Let’s hope they find the asshole who did this.

Travis County GOP shakes its fist at its new Chair

Poor babies.

At a packed Travis County GOP executive committee meeting Tuesday night, it took less than a minute for someone to acknowledge the elephant not in the room.

“Give us wisdom to deal with the situation that we’re in,” Peggy Bower prayed during the opening invocation, to a chorus of quiet amens. “We pray this can be used as a lesson to everyone about how important it is to stay informed.”

Bower was referring to the recent election of Robert Morrow, the conspiracy theorist and author who won the Travis County GOP chairmanship in the March 1 election with a 55 percent majority. Morrow’s political beliefs — and non-stop stream of graphic tweets, which on Tuesday alone included references to bestiality and various Republican leaders’ sexual preferences — quickly attracted international attention.

Over the course of the two-hour meeting, which Morrow did not attend, Travis County GOP precinct chairs voted overwhelmingly to condemn “all profane or slanderous statements” Morrow made.

“The Travis County Republican Party seeks to raise the level of public debate,” the resolution read.

Although Morrow did not respond to the resolution specifically, he did tweet several pictures of women with what he described as “big titties” while the meeting was in session.

See here and here for the background. The Statesman has a few extra details and a copy of the Sternly Worded Letter than these folks wrote, which I have on good authority will surely frost Morrow’s cookies. Yes, I am enjoying all of this. The Press has more.