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May 13th, 2016:

Friday random ten: In the city, part 10

New York, New York, so nice they said it twice…

1. New York State Of Mind – Billy Joel
2. New York State Of Mind – Rowlf the Dog
3. New York, New York – Big Daddy
4. The Night Chicago Died – Paper Lace
5. Nutbush City Limits – Ike & Tina Turner
6. Odessa/La Filamena – The Mollys
7. Oh Atlanta – Little Feat
8. Old Woman From Wexford – Flying Fish Sailors
9. Olympia – Jon Anderson
10. Opelousas (Sweet Relief) – Maria McKee

In retrospect, I’m not sure why I listed all these “New York State Of Mind” versions separately, instead of once with each artist as I usually do. I can tell you that it ultimately helped me finish out this series with exactly the right number of entries, so I’m not about to go back and make a correction. New York would still have the most songs to its name regardless. Chicago’s trying to get in the game as well, but it will be too little too late in the end.

Paxton’s day in appellate court

The grand jury was out to get Ken Paxton, apparently.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Lawyers for Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday tried to cast doubt on the makeup of the grand jury that indicted him. They’re hoping to overturn a lower court’s decision not to dismiss the securities fraud charges against him.

Much of the discussion at the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals centered on the composition of the Collin County grand jury that indicted Paxton on state charges nearly a year ago, setting up a legal drama that led to federal charges earlier this year. Paxton has pleaded not guilty to the state charges, which allege he misled investors in a company in which he had personal dealings before he became the state’s top law enforcement official.

Paxton’s lawyers argued Thursday morning that the the appeals court should reverse last year’s decision by Collin County District Judge George Gallagher not to end the case against Paxton before trial. Paxton lawyer Bill Mateja told the 5th Court of Appeals that the grand jury that indicted Paxton was not sufficiently random, the result of a judge who allegedly gave prospective jurors too much leeway in removing themselves from the process.

“Quite simply, the court did not follow the rules,” Mateja said, later acknowledging that if the grand jury were voided, it would affect every case it heard, not just Paxton’s. “It is better to nip this in the bud now than allow this to fester.”

Special prosecutor Brian Wice countered that there was nothing improper about how the jury was put together, saying Collin County District Judge Chris Older, who oversaw that process, “had inherent discretion” and “acted in good faith.” Even if the jury’s composition was less than random, Wice said, Paxton’s lawyers have so far failed to show how it harmed them.

See here, here, and here for the background. Seems like a lot to ask the court for a ruling that would have the effect of potentially throwing out a bunch of other indictments, but what do I know? There was another question at issue as well.

The other point of contention was whether Paxton was properly registered as an investment adviser when he encouraged some of his own legal clients to seek the services of Frederick “Fritz” Mowery, a friend who operated an investment firm in the same building as Paxton’s law office. Paxton received a commission on these referrals.

Arguing against the third-degree felony charge, Mateja said Paxton was registered with the federal authorities because so was Frederick “Fritz” Mowery, the friend who operated the investment firm that Paxton recommended.

He added the federal investment definition for investment advisor representative “trumps the state’s definition.” He also called the state definition too broad, saying it could require people who distribute leaflets for investment firms or newspapers that advertise for them to register as a representative.

Wice disagreed, saying the state law is clear and that Paxton should have been registered with the the Texas State Securities Board.

Yes, that’s Ken Paxton’s lawyer arguing that federal law trumps state law. Because Ken Paxton has that much respect for the power of the federal government. How anyone managed to keep a straight face during this is a mystery to me.

Anyway. The courtroom proceedings were staid and boring compared to the political spectacle, which involved Paxton making a video whining about how terribly, terribly persecuted he’s being for this itty bitty financial peccadilloes. I mean, what’s a little fraud among friends, and I right? The Lone Star Project takes apart Paxton’s claims. I’m hoping the 5th Circuit judges do the same; both sides say they expect an expedited ruling, but that would still be months from now. Finally, it turns out that there’s yet another former employee of the AG’s office who is collecting salary for doing nothing. It’s a long story, so read it all; there’s a bit at the end about how this particular employee had oversight of a disastrous project to upgrade and outsource the management of child support enforcement systems. Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but that all smells fishy to me in a way that the others did not. Read it and see what you think. The Chron has more.

Meyers voter ID lawsuit on hold

That’s my interpretation of this.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers and his co-plaintiff yesterday nonsuited their lawsuit against the state that claimed the voter ID law was unconstitutional.

The plantiffs plan to refile their lawsuit after they gather more evidence, said their attorney, Andrew Sommerman. The nonsuit came just one day after they argued their case before Dallas’s Fifth Court of Appeals.

“This was a hearing on a plea to the jurisdiction. We got the impression after arguing in front of the panel, the court of appeals would want to see more evidence about one thing or another,” said Sommerman, a partner in Sommerman & Quesada in Dallas.

The Fifth Court justices on the panel seemed to want more evidence about the number of people who had been denied their vote because of the voter ID law, Sommerman said. He said he feels good about the merits of the lawsuit, but there needs to be more work to regarding the jurisdiction question.

See here for the background. My bit of Google-based research tells me that to “non-suit” means to drop the matter (in this case, at least) without it being concluded or decided. It’s not clear to me why this information is needed, or why the pause in the action has to happen, but since the federal lawsuit has surely covered this ground, I imagine it can be provided in fairly short order. I’ll keep my eyes open for further developments.

I-45 update: North St Bridge and more

The latest update from the I-45 Coalition:

Dear I-45 Coalition member,

October 2015 was the last update … it’s now May 2016 … several things have changed in the past 8 months.

As a quick summary, TxDOT will be rebuilding I-45.  This will be a massive project that includes rerouting I-45 downtown by abandoning most of the Pierce elevated and routing I-45 below-grade next to I-59 by George R Brown Convention Center. There are 3 Segments involved in the project – Segment 1 (610 to Beltway 8);Segment 2 (610 to I-10) and Segment 3 (the Downtown Loop).

We are currently in year 11 of an approximately 12 year planning phase … prior to shovels hitting the ground for 4-6 years of construction.  TxDOT has held 4 public meetings so far, the last one in April 2015.

The next meeting will be a public HEARING (much different than a meeting) in late fall 2016 … probably October or November 2016. This will be the last opportunity for the public’s voices to be heard before construction begins! Comments received during the Public Hearing will be considered, then a ‘Record of Decision’ (ROD) will be issued & construction will begin (when funding is secured).

I am part of the I-45 Coalition, which is an all-volunteer group that was formed to address issues related to the planned construction of I-45 and to work with TxDOT to ensure that the pending construction comply with these 3 tenets: (1) No expansion beyond the existing right-of- way (2) Alternative means of transportation must be explored (3) No negative impact on the neighborhoods quality of life.

Well … #2 has never been explored, #3 is yet to be determined & #1 was initially going well, but has changed recently.

For Segment 2 – Initially, TxDOT was staying within existing right-of way (ROW) in Segment 2, except for some intersections. Now, things have changed – per TxDOT “The project now requires limited ROW acquisition on both sides of the highway between Quitman and Cavalcade to allow for ramping and connectivity between Quitman and N. Main. These changes were brought to us by neighborhoods wanting better access to the freeway.  There is also a small sliver of ROW at the gas station on the northwest corner of N. Main to avoid impacts to the Hollywood Cemetery.”

Between Little White Oak Bayou to N. Main, on the East side of I-45 a service road is being created/expanded. “The length of the ROW is approximately 2400’ and the width varies between 10’ to 120’. Despite the large range in width, only the first row of properties adjacent to the highway would be affected. There are a total of 17 affected parcels.  Of those, 12 have structures and one has a billboard that will be impacted.”

North St. Bridge – This will be gone. No vehicular bridge. No pedestrian bridge. The main I-45 roadway will be raised to almost grade level at North St. so there will be no way to have any bridge there.

You can look at TxDOT’s plan, maps & designs on their website, www.ih45northandmore.com

The I-45 Coalition will keep you updated as plans progress. It will be critical to attend the Hearing, when it is announced.

If you are not on our contact list, please go to www.I-45Coalition.org , then “How You Can Help” & enter your email info. Or go on Facebook & search for I-45 Coalition or https://www.facebook.com/groups/126404660719854

The project is on a short fuse now… please stay involved!

Jim Weston, I-45 Coalition

See here for the last update. I’ll be sorry to see the North Street Bridge go, but I can’t claim it’s highly trafficked. Mostly, I hope that Mayor Turner and the various people who represent this area are staying on top of developments and expressing their own concerns and opinions to TxDOT. Remember, there are other possibilities. I’ll keep an eye out for an announcement about that meeting.

Endorsement watch: Still saying No to Reynolds

The Chron reiterates its opposition to Rep. Ron Reynolds in the HD27 primary runoff.

Angelique Bartholomew

Angelique Bartholomew

Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton has been indicted for securities fraud. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is under criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers for misusing state funds.

When corruption and criminality become the go-to descriptors for statewide Republicans, it becomes that much easier for Democrats to claim a moral high ground.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds makes it that much harder.

[…]

If Democratic voters want to show that theirs is the moral compass that points to true north, then they should vote out Reynolds and replace him with his challenger in the runoff for District 27: Angelique Bartholomew.

Bartholomew, 46, is a certified mediator and director of compliance for a medical firm. A mother of five, she has degrees from Fisk University and Miles Law School and has been endorsed by Annie’s List. She’s running for office on a platform of meat-and-potatoes issues such as education and affordable healthcare.

The Chron had previously endorsed Steve Brown in HD27, but he did not make it to the runoff. You know how I feel about this, so I won’t belabor it. Reynolds was recently profiled by the Trib, in which he expressed confidence about the runoff. He nearly made it over the 50% line in March, so all his issues aside, he’s got to be seen as the favorite in this race. As always, it’s a matter of who is motivated to show up for this election. I’m hoping those who are motivated are ready for a change.