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May 14th, 2016:

Saturday video break: I’ve Seen All Good People/Your Move

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs take on a typically tricky Yes staple:

I love Susanna Hoffs’ voice, and I love her interpretation of this song. You should definitely check out her various collections of covers with Sweet, called “Under The Covers”, volumes one through (I believe) three, with each focusing on a specific decade, starting with the 60s. Note the comments on the YouTube page for this; lots of people thought the degree of difficulty for this song was too high, but they were more than pleasantly surprised to see S&H pull this off. A live recording of them doing a shorter version of this is here, if you’re interested.

And here’s Yes:

I am so glad that this kind of live concert footage exists from the pre-MTV/YoTube days. For those of us who never got to see a band like Yes in their prime, it’s amazing to be able to experience it virtually now.

Supreme Court upholds school finance system

I’m stunned.

BagOfMoney

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling upholding the state’s public school funding system as constitutional, while asserting it could be better.

“Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement. But it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements,” Justice Don Willett wrote in the court’s 100-page opinion, which asserted that the court’s “lenient standard of review in this policy-laden area counsels modesty.”

“The judicial role is not to second-guess whether our system is optimal, but whether it is constitutional,” the ruling said.

It is the first time the state has won a school finance case. Justices Eva Guzman and Jeff Boyd delivered concurring opinions.

I haven’t had the time to review this, and it may take me a couple of days to do so. The immediate reaction I have is that the Supremes are saying it sucks, but not badly enough for them to do something about it this time. One wonders where the bar is, not that it does any good right now. I’ve posted an analysis that was forwarded to me in email beneath the fold. In the meantime, there are two things I know: One is that the Legislature is not going to spend any time on school finance this session, and two is that nothing will change until we elect different leaders. I don’t know what else to say. A statement from Mayor (and former State Rep.) Sylvester Turner is here, and the Rivard Report, the Observer, and the Austin Chronicle have more.

(more…)

Castro says he’s not been vetted for VP

So much for that, it would seem.

Mayor Julian Castro

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro said Tuesday that, despite all the speculation that he’s being considered to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, he hasn’t been vetted by the Democratic front-runner’s campaign.

Castro, who endorsed Clinton last year, was asked by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin if he would accept a spot on Clinton’s presidential ticket and replied, “That’s not going to happen.”

When asked if he had been vetted, or contacted by the Clinton campaign, he said, “I am not … I haven’t heard from anyone.”

Ever since he gave a well-received speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, Castro has been buzzed about as a potential vice presidential pick in 2016.

[…]

Castro has been coy about the vice presidential buzz, telling Baldwin that he’s “going to be back in Texas next year,” a line he has repeated over the past few months.

Well, we could use someone to run for Governor in 2018, and that would offer the opportunity to beef up the ol’ resume, so perhaps this is for the best. There’s been a lot of buzz, going back to 2013, so let this be a lesson in just how much buzz means sometimes. Not that this will cause Castro’s name to be taken off the “also being considered” lists that every story about potential VP picks must include, but at least now you have some idea of how seriously to take them. In the meantime, perhaps we could hear a bit more about Labor Secretary Tom Perez? Thanks.

Sheriff primary runoff overview

Unless you live in HD139, this is the most consequential runoff on the Democratic ballot.

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez

[Ed] Gonzalez has drawn heavy support from the Democratic establishment, including former Mayor Annise Parker, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and the Harris County chapter of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats. [Jerome] Moore’s supporters include the Houston COGIC political action committee, which supports candidates who share its values.

Both Gonzalez and Moore have called for greater transparency at the sheriff’s office and pledged to personally, regularly, inspect the department’s jail, which has come under repeated scrutiny in recent months. A Houston Chronicle investigation of the jail found extensive problems ranging from patterns of use of force by guards to poor medical care for inmates.

Gonzalez, 47, touts his 15 years as a Houston police officer and his work on the Houston City Council, where he chaired the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

“I’m think I’m uniquely qualified to be the next sheriff,” Gonzalez said. “I’m the only one with combined law enforcement experience … and I have the proven leadership skills.”

Gonzalez has argued for more oversight in the jail as well as broader education and training programs for inmates to help lower the number of repeat offenders.

[…]

Moore, 42, who worked as a deputy for the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable’s Office for 16 years and previously for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, said he wants to take “more than 600 crooks” off the streets and touts the supervisory experience he gained as a lieutenant at Precinct 5.

Like Gonzalez, he called management of the county jail as a top priority for the next sheriff, as well as taking a more community focused approach to policing.

“Too many people are dying in that jail,” he said, citing the recent case of a man beaten to death while in jail on a minor theft charge. “We’ve got to do better in the jail … Right now, we don’t have accountability in that jail.”

My interview with Ed Gonzalez is here and with Jerome Moore is here. To the extent that endorsements affect one’s decision about whom to support in a race, I would point out the COGIC PAC’s endorsements from the 2015 elections. Whether one believes that this is going to be a great year for Democrats in Harris County or another Presidential cycle where the base vote is evenly split and the quality of individual candidates is the difference-maker, the winner of this runoff has an excellent chance to be the next Sheriff. Let’s make a good choice.

So far, so good for Mayor Turner

That’s the general consensus of his first four-plus months in office.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Faced with a $160 million budget shortfall that would leave some wringing their hands until deadline day, Mayor Sylvester Turner presented his plan a month ahead of schedule. The proposal being reviewed by City Council includes a few one-off gimmicks, by Turner’s own admission, but would close Houston’s budget gap without huge layoffs or service cuts.

Four months into the job he dreamed of for a quarter century, the former lawmaker has eschewed the traditional pressure to sprint into office with a laundry list of policy objectives. Instead, Turner has concentrated primarily on formulating next year’s budget, the first of several fiscal hurdles.

Turner’s bet? Hitting targets such as next-day pothole repair and balancing the budget early will earn him the political capital to take on Houston’s longer-term problems, namely rising pension and debt costs.

Eager for unity in that process, Turner has kept his goals broad – for which he has drawn some criticism – and invested in bettering mayor-City Council relations, laying the groundwork for a first term built on corralling Houstonians around the painful task of shoring up city finances.

“We resolve the pension issue, we get the revenue cap removed, we satisfy Moody, S&P and Fitch, the credit rating agencies, oil prices start to go back up, this city will take off,” Turner said during a recent interview, laughing at the apparent simplicity of his plan.

[…]

A creature of the state Legislature, which starts slowly and builds toward the end, Turner has approached the mayor’s office with a similar rhythm, Houston lobbyist Robert Miller said.

“Those who are saying he’s not moving quickly enough or are not satisfied with the progress are missing that he knows exactly what he wants to do, and he knows exactly the timing in which he wants to do it,” Miller said. “The most important issue he had to deal with was the budget, and he’s doing that. … Then you will see him begin rolling out the other initiatives and personnel changes that he thinks need to occur.”

There’s not a whole lot in the story that will come as a surprise. As I said when writing about Mayor Turner’s State of the City address, he has stuck very closely to the things he spoke about on the campaign trail. A big part of his strategy to achieve some of the goals he has laid out is to build trust by getting certain things done first so that the tougher items can be done later, when everyone feels comfortable that he’s doing what he said he would do. One of the metrics to watch for is the amount of dissent and pushback he gets from Council members. On that score, there’s so far been very little – no public criticism of his budget proposals, no challenge to his standing firm against Uber’s ultimatum, no complaints about how his office handled flooding issues. Those things will come because they always do, but until then the harmony we’ve had so far is at least an indicator that everyone feels like they’ve been listened to. Whatever else you think, that’s a big accomplishment.