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October 16th, 2022:

Weekend link dump for October 16

Don’t let the bastards get you down, Kate Starbird. Hang in there and I hope there’s an effective way to fight back as well.

“As voters cast ballots in the 2022 midterms, they face significant changes in the voting rights landscape since 2020. 2021 was a record-breaking year for legislative activity around voting rights, and many of the same trends have continued into 2022.”

All efforts to avoid the future robot apocalypse are appreciated.

“The lies are louder. The facts are not getting across.”

“Scientists Have Discovered a New Set of Blood Groups“.

“However, once I’ve smoothed out the lines a bit and added trendlines, the conclusion is pretty obvious: on a national level, fear of crime is either flat or going down. There’s no sign at all that people are increasingly interested in security equipment.”

“These views do not square with cold utilitarianism. You can’t insist that every fertilized egg is a human being and then fail to condemn Herschel Walker, who, from that perspective, almost surely paid to kill another human being. At least, you can’t do so and expect to retain any moral high ground.” As Amanda Marcotte points out, the kids – as in, the kids raised in these “pro-life” households, whose parents are now defending Herschel Walker, are watching. And a lot of them get very disillusioned by this.

RIP, Nikki Finke, entertainment journalist and founder of Deadline.

Always be claiming to be victimized. It’s the manly thing to do.

The Flintstones was not a documentary.

If Game of Thrones was a “Homeric tale”, then House of the Dragon is more of a Greek tragedy. I’ve really enjoyed it so far.

“A Study Finally Shows Just How Much Deadlier COVID Has Been for Republicans“. Blame anti-vaxxers.

That’s right, you’re not from Texas. Or so the lawsuit says.

Wait, Tulsi Gabbard still exists?

Boy, The Former Guy sure does like surrounding himself with shady characters. I wonder why?

“What does Sean Hannity find so offensive about unconditional love exactly?”

RIP, Angela Lansbury, legendary star of stage, screen, and TV. Her passing caused Jerry Orbach to trend on Twitter, as people were amazed to discover that Lennie Briscoe and the dad from “Dirty Dancing” was also the voice of Lumiere from “Beauty and the Beast”. Here’s a fantastic video clip of Lansbury and Orbach recording “Be Our Guest”, which I guarantee you will enjoy.

“Connecting reparations — the concept of compensating Black Americans who are the descendants of enslaved people for the inhumane suffering of their ancestors — with people who commit crimes https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/10/opinions/tommy-tuberville-reparations-democrats-crime-obeidallah/index.html — and way beyond a dog whistle.”

“According to a consumer survey published by accounting firm KPMG, 20 percent of respondents say inflation has already inspired them to cancel at least one streaming service. And if inflation continues at its current rate, 37 percent of respondents said they plan to drop one or all of their streaming subscriptions. (What will they do with themselves?)”

I would have really preferred to live in a world in which Bill Murray was not a jackass and a sex pest. Alas, that is not the world I live in.

“While there have been conflicting reports on the impact of the Jan. 6 hearings, our polling has been more conclusive. Since the hearings began, more Americans have come to view Jan. 6 as a violent attempt to overthrow the government and more Americans now see the committee’s findings as legitimate.”

Now this is justice.

“What was once believed unthinkable is now a reality: Netflix with ads is here.”

RIP, Bruce Sutter, Hall of Fame relief pitcher primarily for the Cubs and Cardinals.

RIP, Robbie Coltrane, BAFTA-winning actor best known as Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies.

All the owners hate Dan.”

There may be a county budget deal available

I don’t trust anything Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey say, but we’ll see.

The two Republican members of Harris County Commissioners Court said Friday they would attend a special meeting Monday to discuss a compromise tax rate proposal by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, potentially ending a monthlong impasse that has held up budgetary decisions and become a significant issue in November’s county judge and commissioners races.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said he would attend the meeting if he was assured no vote would take place.

The county attorney’s office confirmed Friday afternoon that the purpose of the meeting is for court members to have a discussion and that no final vote on a tax rate can occur.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey announced he would attend the meeting a short time later.

The two Republican commissioners have skipped the last three Commissioners Court meetings to block the three Democrats on the court from adopting a property tax rate. They view the Democrat-supported rate as too high at a time residents are dealing with the highest inflation in years amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They also want the county to fund more law enforcement.

Garcia’s proposal, unveiled in a Friday morning news conference, would set the overall property tax rate at 56.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, 1.2 cents lower than the rate originally proposed by the Democratic majority.

The current overall county tax rate is 58.1 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Under the rate of 57.5 cents originally proposed by the Democrats, the owner of a $250,000 home with a standard 20 percent homestead exemption would save about $12 in the first year, assuming the appraised value was unchanged from the previous year.

Under Garcia’s proposal, that homeowner would pay $36 less.

Garcia’s plan calls for an additional $20 million to hire 200 additional law enforcement officers, echoing Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey’s call for 200 additional law enforcement “boots on the ground.” It also includes a 2.5 percent pay increase for law enforcement officers.

“Today I make you my final offer,” Garcia said. “It checks every box that each of my colleagues has stated as a priority. … If my Republican colleagues continue to refuse to show up to work, it proves, once and for all, they had no intention on getting any deal done.”

State law requires a quorum of at least four members to set the property tax rate. The court has until Oct. 28 to set the tax rate. Failure to come to an agreement would force the county to adopt what is known as the “no new revenue rate,” a levy that generates the same amount of money as the previous year. In Harris County’s case, the no new revenue rate would include an additional $45 million from developed properties added to the tax roll this year.

Again, this is a legislative minority getting to set the terms because of an anti-majoritarian component of our state constitution. If we are going to bring up the quorum-busting by Democratic State House members again, I will remind you that 1) unlike the State House Dems, Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey can do their thing from the comfort of their homes – they do not have to flee to another state to avoid being detained by the cops and dragged back to the county courthouse; and 2) the Republican legislative majority eventually got everything they wanted and all they had to do was wait it out, while the Democratic Commissioners Court majority has no choice but to negotiate. Either way, they cannot do what they would have done if the two Republican Commissioners didn’t have this power. These are two very different situations.

As far as the fear that somehow the three Democratic members of Commissioners Court will suddenly appear, gavel them into an official meeting, and pass their preferred budget before they can abscond again, the following is from the Harris County Attorney’s office:

Harris County Commissioners Court has issued a notice for a special meeting on Monday, October 17 that will focus on proposed tax rates and changes to the budget.

In response to members of court claiming they will skip the meeting because of concerns that a tax rate may be adopted, Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee issued the following statement:

“There is no ‘vagueness’ about whether Commissioners Court can adopt a tax rate at Monday’s special meeting. The answer is no. Nor does the court having the Monday meeting mean that they could adopt a tax rate at some subsequent meeting with fewer than four members present.

If any member of court plans to skip Monday’s meeting, they should be honest about why, and not claim that they’re doing so out of fear that a tax rate could be adopted.”

State law requires that prior to a Commissioners Court holding a tax hearing those rates must first be noticed to the public at least 5 days prior to the hearing. Any vote to adopt those rates must take place after the hearing but not later than 7 days after the hearing.

Like I said, we’ll see. I don’t trust these guys and neither should you. Even if there’s an agreement reached, it was done under ridiculous circumstances. The Adrian Garcia deal, if that’s what we get, is fine as it is, it’s the process that’s the problem.

New regulations for outdoor music events proposed

Good idea, but it feels to me like there ought to be more.

Houston is considering tightening up permitting requirements for some large outdoor music events to avoid wasting city resources accommodating last-minute notices.

On Thursday, officials from the Houston police and fire departments went before City Council’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to discuss proposed revisions to how the city regulates special events. The suggested changes would apply only to outdoor music events with more than 500 attendees that take place on private property.

Meanwhile, regulations concerning events on public property, which have garnered considerable attention following the Astroworld tragedy last year, have not undergone significant changes, according to city officials.

Outdoor music events on private property currently are not subject to the same level of review and monitoring as those on public land, according to Susan Christian, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. The latest proposal is aimed at closing that gap, she said.

Under the proposal, organizers would have to outline a detailed safety plan and submit permit applications at least 60 days prior to the event or pay a late fee. Organizers who violate any requirements could be on the hook for extra public expenses incurred by the city in connection with the event.

The proposal was prompted by a rising number of incidents in recent years in which organizers did not inform the city of their plans in a timely manner — often not until days before the events took place — sometimes resulting in thousands of dollars in additional costs for city staff and first responders, Christian said.

“A lot have happened since COVID, and we’ve seen on several occasions where this particular issue arises that has cost us a lot of money and pulled resources away,” Christian said. “We just need some help so that we’re not having to stop everything we do with some of these bad players.”

Seems reasonable. I’m a little puzzled by the statements about events on public property not getting any significant changes, but maybe there’s a semantics issue in there. There is a city-county task force reviewing “procedures, permitting and guidelines for special events”, which may still have something to say. There was also a state task force that issued some recommendations about permitting, which may or may not have any effect. I don’t know if any of this is enough, but I do want to know that everything is being reviewed and nothing is off the table.

Microbreweries are getting back on track

A bit of good news.

Texas craft breweries rebounded in 2021, a promising sign after the pandemic staggered the industry.

The state of beer: Of the state’s 10 largest breweries, seven increased production in 2021 compared with 2020, according to an Axios analysis of data from the Brewers Association.

Just one Texas brewery — Spoetzl Brewery — saw a year-over-year decline in production, but the Shiner-based brewery continues to see the highest sales in the state, with more than 500,000 barrels sold last year.

  • The state also saw 12 breweries close and 45 open, the data shows.

The big picture: The craft beer industry grew by 8% in 2021, while the overall market moved up 1%. Texas placed two breweries — Saint Arnold and the brewer of Shiner — among the nation’s 50 largest.

  • Yes, but: The rebound could be hampered by supply chain problems and a carbon dioxide shortage caused by contamination at an extinct volcano in Mississippi.

Yes, the CO2 shortage. Hopefully that will get worked out soon. You’d think of all the things on this planet we would not be short on that would be it, but here we are. I’d like to see this same reporting done on a more local level, say a Houston story about how all of the microbreweries in our area are doing now. There could be a lot of variance, based on size or location or business capability or just dumb luck. The growth of small breweries in Texas has been a huge success story, we should know more about how it’s going now this far into the COVID era. But at least at a high level, things are looking up.