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May 18th, 2016:

Abbott comments on Austin rideshare referendum

Sort of.

Uber

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday the fight is not finished when it comes to regulations in Austin that have driven ride-hailing companies out of the state capital.

“The issue’s not over,” Abbott said in an interview on CNBC. “Republicans in the Texas Legislature have already raised proposals coming up in the next session to override the Austin vote.”

Pressed on whether ride-hailing companies Lyft or Uber would return to Austin, Abbott said: “I’d just say the game is not over. It’s halftime, and we’ll see what happens in the second half.”

Lyft

[…]

In the CNBC interview, Abbott was read a tweet from venture capitalist Paul Graham that said “Austin has zero chance of being a serious startup hub without Uber and Lyft.” Abbott denied that, saying the city is “already a dynamic startup hub.”

“That process has already left the barn, as we say in the state of Texas, and there’s nothing that will slow it down,” Abbott said. “And the dynamics that’s causing Austin to be a startup hub are already in place and will not be diminished by” the Proposition 1 vote.

As we know, legislation has already been proposed to enact statewide ridesharing regulations, though whether such a bill (if it passed in the first place) would include fingerprinting requirements or not remains an open question. Normally, one doesn’t have to parse Greg Abbott’s words closely, but I can’t tell from this story where he really stands. Is this a priority for him? Is he anti-fingerprints? Unclear at this time. I’m not sure if that’s because Republicans are not of one mind when it comes to fingerprinting, and Abbott wants to see how the wind is blowing before he commits himself, or if it was just a vague question asked by an idiot CNBC host that wasn’t designed to elicit a specific answer. In any event, Abbott and Dan Patrick don’t have to single this out as a priority to get a bill to pass, but if they do it increases the likelihood of it happening.

TEA Commissioner has no opinion yet on federal transgender bathroom directive

Noted for the record.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Tuesday praised the state Supreme Court’s recent opinion upholding the state’s public school funding system and demurred on questions about bathroom use by transgender students.

“Last time I checked, it was a free country,” Morath said in a wide-ranging interview with The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith when asked whether Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s efforts to overturn a policy in Forth Worth allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity clashed with Morath’s belief in the importance of local control.

The issue erupted last week when the Obama administration ordered every public school in the nation to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity rather than their biological sex.

[…]

But the Texas Education Agency is still reviewing the federal directive, Morath said Tuesday, contending that it was too soon for him to weigh in on the issue.

“Until we have a clear sense of our options, it’s just not appropriate for me to comment,” he said.

Not very illuminating. I’ll take him at his word about not having fully reviewed the federal directive, but that’s a temporary excuse. To be fair, if Dan Patrick shoves a potty package check bill down everyone’s throat, then Mike Morath’s opinion of the federal missive matters not at all. Still, it would be nice to know just what kind of person Mike Maroth is. Please have an answer ready the next time someone asks you about this, sir.

Trash subsidy will not be trashed

From the inbox:

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

After weighing the budgetary impact and obtaining input from City Council, Mayor Sylvester Turner has decided not to pursue elimination of subsidies to homeowners associations that opt out of City trash collection services.

Under the program, which began in the 1970s, the City pays a monthly $6 per household subsidy to homeowners associations that contract for more expensive trash collection service from private haulers. Elimination of the subsidy was predicted to save the City $3.5 million annually, but only if the homeowners groups stuck with their private haulers.

“Many of the neighborhood associations have indicated they will request City collection if the subsidy is abandoned,” said Mayor Turner. “As a result, we are now looking at increased costs as opposed to the savings that had originally been anticipated. Therefore, it no longer makes sense to pursue this at this time. We can balance the budget without it.”

Elimination of the trash subsidy was one of several options put forth to help close a projected $160 million budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1. City Council will consider the budget on May 25, a full month earlier than normal. Mayor Turner has requested early approval to send a strong message to the credit rating agencies about the attention the City’s fiscal challenges are getting from City Hall.

See here for the background. I was rooting for this to be killed, but if the numbers say it will cost more than it will save, then so be it. That doesn’t mean we can’t plan to phase it out over the next few years, however. I’d like to see that on the table going forward. The Chron story has more.

HISD finishes renaming schools

From last week:

Eight names that have adorned Houston school buildings, uniforms and yearbooks for decades will vanish next year after trustees came together Thursday to approve new ones without Confederate ties.

The renaming decisions followed months of controversy that had split the school board, heightened racial tensions, and fueled mixed reactions from parents, students and alumni. Before the votes Thursday, however, the four trustees who initially opposed the renaming process, criticizing the lack of community input, said they would back away from their resistance; in some cases, they abstained.

“Let’s come together and take this energy and really steer it toward our students,” said trustee Greg Meyers, who previously opposed the renaming items. “We’ll get past this. No matter what the name, it’s what happens inside.”

The new names will take effect in the fall. Reagan High School will become Heights High after its neighborhood. Davis High similarly will change to Northside High. Lee High will take the name of former longtime educator Margaret Long Wisdom.

Johnston Middle will become Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School. Jackson Middle will turn into Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School of Excellence, after the late East End civic leader. Dowling Middle will take the name of Audrey H. Lawson, after the late charter school founder and first lady of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.

Lanier Middle will swap only its first name to honor former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier instead of Sidney Lanier, a poet who had served as a private in the Confederate Army.

The board voted in March to change Grady Middle School to Tanglewood.

See here and here for the background. My feelings about this haven’t changed since I wrote that second post. I feel confident that in due time, most people will forget this ever happened. It would have been a much better process if HISD had taken the time to put forth a statement of principles and standards for this process and solicited public input to make recommendations for the Board to consider; as John Nova Lomax has written on more than one occasion, the choice of schools to be renamed – or not, as in the case of Mirabeau B. Lamar High School – and the selection of substitute names has been haphazard and uneven, which is a big part of the reason this was as controversial as it was. There’s no reason why HISD can’t do this as a review process, if it wants to. I’ll understand if everyone is just happy to be done with this, but at the very least, we should make sure we know what we’re doing if we ever decide to do it again. In the meantime, I hope that the threatened legal action over these name changes does not come about. The Press has more.