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Ashby 2.0 gets sued

Let’s party like it’s 2007, baby!

Did you miss me?

Just when the 16-year battle over the proposed Ashby high-rise site in Boulevard Oaks appeared to drawing to a close, opponents have filed a lawsuit that again puts the fate of the project into question and reopens one of the most contentious land-use cases in Houston’s history.

Neighbors of the proposed high-rise at 1717 Bissonnet filed a lawsuit in Harris County District Court on Friday asking a judge to decide if the project is following rules set in a 2012 agreement between the city of Houston and the developer of what was then known as the Ashby. If the judge sides with neighbors, the project could be halted, sending current developer, Dallas-based StreetLights Residential, back to the drawing board and delay further construction of the high-rise, now named the Langley.


At the root of the neighbors’ lawsuit is an agreement known as a restrictive covenant, which specifically outlines what can be built on the property, including details about its density and size.

StreetLights argues its revised plan adheres to the restrictive covenant, but opponents say there are too many discrepancies. A key point of contention is the size and layout of a pedestrian plaza, which opponents say differs too much from the proposal outlined in the covenant.

They argue that the plaza is about 20 percent smaller than what is required, and that the layout of the plaza would encroach on the city’s right-of-way — eating into public sidewalks and streets, said Pete Patterson, the attorney representing the neighbors.

StreetLights maintains that its design for the plaza is actually bigger and better than the 2012 plan.

StreetLights argues its revised plan adheres to the restrictive covenant, but opponents say there are too many discrepancies. A key point of contention is the size and layout of a pedestrian plaza, which opponents say differs too much from the proposal outlined in the covenant.

They argue that the plaza is about 20 percent smaller than what is required, and that the layout of the plaza would encroach on the city’s right-of-way — eating into public sidewalks and streets, said Pete Patterson, the attorney representing the neighbors.

StreetLights maintains that its design for the plaza is actually bigger and better than the 2012 plan.

Previously StreetLights has said its new plan would reduce density and traffic because the Langley would featuring fewer units, one fewer floor on the tower and wouldn’t include a ground-level restaurant. The changes from the original plans, however, haven’t satisfied many neighbors.

“Our original hope was that a developer would come along to do something that would be fitting in the neighborhood” such as a lower rise set of town homes, said Penelope Loughead, 69, a plaintiff in the new lawsuit. “You can say it’s one story less, but big deal. Besides being totally out of context in this community of two-story homes, I’m very concerned about the effect of the density on this little tiny street.”

Loughead was part of the original group of neighbors who in 2013 sued to block the the Ashby. Although that suit was unsuccessful, neighbors say they have a strong case against the Langley design.

“What gives me hope and why we’re still in this right now is we have the backing of a lot of neighbors here,” Loughead said.

Okay, fine, the first lawsuit in this saga was filed in 2010, not 2007, by the then-developers against the city. The suit by the neighbors against the developers was indeed filed in 2013. What can I say, after a decade or so my memory of these things starts to get a little fuzzy. I have no clue what any of that legal argle-bargle means, I’m just gonna sit back and enjoy the show.

Converting empty downtown office space into residences

Something to think about.

Across the country, office-to-housing conversions are being pursued as a potential lifeline for struggling downtown business districts that emptied out during the coronavirus pandemic and may never fully recover. The conversion push is marked by an emphasis on affordability. Multiple cities are offering serious tax breaks for developers to incentivize office-to-housing conversions — provided that a certain percentage of apartments are offered at affordable below-market prices.

In January, Pittsburgh announced it was accepting proposals to produce more affordable housing through the “conversion of fallow and underutilized office space.” Boston released a plan in October aimed at revitalizing downtown that included a push for more housing, some of which would come from office conversions. And Seattle launched a competition in April for downtown building owners and design firms to come up with conversion ideas.

In the nation’s capital, Mayor Muriel Bowser has made office-to-housing conversions a cornerstone of her plan to repopulate and revitalize the district’s downtown. Her “comeback plan” for the capital city, announced earlier this year, seeks to add 15,000 new residents to the downtown area, adding to the approximately 25,000 who already live here.

Bowser’s administration says about 1 million square feet of downtown real estate is already transitioning from commercial to residential. But the city needs another 6 million square feet converted to meet her goal of 15,000 new downtown residents.

“We’re not going to have as many workers downtown as we had before the pandemic,” Bowser said earlier this year. “Our job is to make sure that we are getting more people downtown.”

But the conversion push has some skeptics. Housing advocates worry that the affordable housing requirements could get watered down. And even advocates of the conversion model say giving tax breaks to wealthy developers isn’t the best tool to achieve the goal.

“Developers who feel it’s going to benefit their bottom line will do it without an incentive,” said Erica Williams, director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. “This is a very costly proposal for an unproven program.”

And, as increasing numbers of employers turn to hybrid work models, there’s the question of whether people will want to move to downtown areas if they’re not required to be there every day.

“You have to make downtown a neighborhood — somewhere that’s living and playful and active,” Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey told an panel at the United States Conference of Mayors meetings in Washington last January. “How do you make it a neighborhood that has a vibe where young people want to be?”


Chuck D’Aprix, principal at Downtown Economics, a development consulting firm, said attracting new residents to a former downtown business district holds specific chicken-and-egg issues. The businesses that residents need are different from those of daytime office workers.

They include mid-size affordable grocery stores and day-care centers, pet supply shops, hardware stores and auto repair garages. And those places need to stay open past office hours.

“A lot of those services simply aren’t available right now in small city downtowns or mid-sized city downtowns, you know, they close up at night,” D’Aprix said.

But with vacancy rates at downtown office buildings continuing to rise, from 12.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 17.8% in the first quarter of 2023, according to the real estate firm CBRE, there’s an urgency to do something. Some of the hardest hit places include San Francisco with a preliminary vacancy rate of 29.4%, Houston 23.6%, Philadelphia at 21.7% and Washington at 20.3%.

I saw Houston’s place on this list and so wanted to blog it. I haven’t worked downtown since 2017 so I don’t have a great feel for what it’s like during the day these days. We could certainly use more affordable housing here, and it would be great to have some of that in the Inner Loop. The complementary businesses issue is something that will need to be dealt with, but Houston wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Also, if you consider that Houston has multiple “downtowns”, with Greenway and the Galleria and Greenspoint all having similar characteristics, there are more opportunities for this kind of reinvention. Mostly, what I’d like to see is a recognition from the various Mayoral candidates that we need to be open to all kinds of ideas about affordable housing. I don’t need a fully formed plan, just the acknowledgment that a plan is needed.

Superintendent Miles hits the ground running

We should expect a lot of this.

Mike Miles wasted little time Thursday before imposing major changes to the Houston Independent School District he now oversees, launching a plan to reconstitute 29 struggling campuses that forces employees to reapply for their jobs but promises higher pay to some.

“It is my great privilege to lead HISD in this work and make it one of the best school districts in the country,” Miles said in a tweeted statement. “For the families of students who are not getting what they need from their schools, improving your child’s education experience is job one.”

The Texas Education Agency selected Miles, a former Dallas ISD superintendent, and nine new board members to run HISD. The state-led ousting of the former superintendent and board capped years of legal feuding over a state takeover that critics decry as an anti-democratic power grab.

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, who served with Miles a decade ago in Dallas ISD, announced his pick on the first day of summer for Houston public school students.

The nine board of managers named are: Audrey Momanaee, Ric Campo, Angela Lemond Flowers, Michelle Cruz Arnold, Cassandra Auzenne Bandy, Janette Garza Lindner, Rolando Martinez, Paula Mendoza and Adam P. Rivon. The group includes HISD parents, a small business owner and a trial attorney. One newly appointed member, Garza Lindner, narrowly lost a bid for the board in 2021.

While the group will have its first meeting on June 8, Miles confirmed Thursday that 29 schools in the Wheatley, Kashmere and North Forest high school feeder patterns will be reconstituted as part of his efforts to establish “wholesale systemic reform” in struggling schools.

Staff from top to bottom, including principals, teachers and maintenance staff, will have to reapply for their jobs, which will be open to any qualified applicant. Those hired will earn an average of $85,000 per year and be supported by teacher apprentices and learning coaches, Miles said, in what he’s dubbing the “New Education System.”

He compared the system to a “hospital model,” in which the apprentices and coaches do much of the prep work and teachers, the “surgeons” in this scenario, execute the most critical tasks and get paid the most money. Lesson plans and instructional materials will be developed by central administration and distributed to teachers — though they will not be required to use them.

Teachers who are not rehired at their school, or who are not interested in reapplying there, will be placed at a different campus in the district, Miles said. Librarians will likely not be brought back to those campuses, Miles said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle editorial board.

See here for some background, and go read the rest. I don’t want to get into the specifics at this time, because we’re still dealing with the process that got us here and its many problems. By all means, give your feedback to Miles and the Board, it’s the only input we’re going to get. In the end, all this either works towards his stated goals or it doesn’t. I don’t have to like or agree with any of it, but I do have to hope it does work, because failure and the waste of however many years is a catastrophe.

Mike Miles and the Board of Managers

It’s official.

Former Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles − described as a military-minded leader who pushes reform − is the state’s choice for the new Houston ISD superintendent.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced his long-rumored decision Thursday morning, the day after school ended for the 2022-23 year. Morath served on the elected Dallas ISD school board that hired Miles as superintendent there in 2012.

Miles inherits a district in Houston beset by declining enrollment and a subsequent budget crisis, along with a sizable segment of families, teachers and local leaders who condemn this takeover as a politically motivated attempt to weaken urban public schools. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, Miles said he plans to spend his first year focusing on 30 of the highest need schools, introducing a “fundamentally different staffing model” that sees average teacher salaries rise to $85,000, but positions like librarians being cut.

He also pledged not to close any schools in his first year, but said there will “most likely” be closures down the line. He predicted his vision of a transformed HISD would take about five or six years to execute.

“We have to make progress this very first year, we have to get rid of this myth that it takes five or six (years) for one school to turn around. We’ve been able to do it in one year,” Miles said. “We can’t do 273 schools at one time, but we can make good progress on the 30 schools and grow that.”

It remains to be seen how much Miles, who most recently served as a charter school network CEO, will prioritize public engagement as he attempts to improve educational outcomes at struggling Houston schools. He leaves behind a reputation in Dallas as an innovative, but combative leader who sometimes derailed his own reform attempts by making enemies of district stakeholders, once going so far as to have a trustee physically removed by armed officers from a school that she represented.

“The challenge with Mike Miles wasn’t his ideas of turning around schools or trying to reform education, the challenge with Mike Miles was his approach with people. He’s a military-minded person, he came in saying ‘It’s my way or the highway,’ and he didn’t do well with Dallas politics,” said Edward Turner, a longtime Dallas education advocate.

While in Dallas, Miles was accountable to an elected board of trustees, at HISD he will be accountable only to a board of managers appointed by the same person who first brought him to Texas over a decade ago.

“I really think if your ideal person is somebody who doesn’t care about politics, will run a tight ship and turn something around, then Mike Miles is the ideal candidate for that,” Turner said.

We first heard Miles’ name as a possible appointed Superintendent two weeks ago. The Houston Landing did a long profile on him at the time, and they’re back with an in-depth interview and a companion piece with more details. I strongly urge you to read them, and to read the Chron editorial based on the ed board’s interview with him; there’s video of it (about 34 minutes) at the link.

Here also are your Board of Managers.

• Audrey Momanaee (recommended to serve as Board President): Ms. Momanaee is a Houston ISD parent and native Houstonian who grew up in a family of public school teachers and developed a strong sense of public service. Ms. Momanaee is an experienced litigation attorney and advocate for pro bono legal work, handling numerous cases to help families across Houston.

• Ric Campo (recommended to serve as Board Vice President): For more than 40 years, Mr. Campo has leveraged his energy, experience, and advocacy to build a better Houston. He has served on numerous public and private boards, in service to families, children, reducing homelessness, and promoting the city of Houston. Mr. Campo is the grandson of immigrant farmworkers and was the first in his family to graduate from college before successfully building his own company in Houston.

• Angela Lemond Flowers (recommended to serve as Board Secretary): An experienced educator, Ms. Lemond Flowers began her teaching career at Jesse H. Jones High School in Houston ISD, where her mother also taught. Ms. Lemond Flowers has devoted her career to the advancement of children’s education. She has served as a high school English teacher and in administrative leadership for over twenty years in Houston-area schools. She is the proud mother of four, including two Houston ISD graduates.

• Michelle Cruz Arnold, Ph.D.: The mother of a Houston ISD student, Dr. Cruz Arnold earned a Ph.D. in Education Policy and Planning and has spent more than twenty years as an education policy advocate working to create college and career opportunities for students. Dr. Cruz Arnold is a proud Houstonian who currently leads government relations and advocacy work for a national non-profit college access organization.

• Cassandra Auzenne Bandy: Ms. Bandy is a proud Houstonian, Houston ISD graduate, and parent of fourth-generation Houston ISD students. She is an active PTO volunteer at her children’s school. She is a chemical engineer by training and currently works as a business strategy manager at a global consulting firm.

• Janette Garza Lindner: Ms. Garza Lindner is a devoted wife and working mom of two children who attend Houston ISD schools. She is a management consultant within the energy industry, and her civic advocacy spans education, the arts, and making our neighborhoods safer and healthier. A life-long Texan, Ms. Garza Lindner was born and raised in Brownsville and has lived in Houston for more than 20 years.

• Rolando Martinez: Mr. Martinez is a native Houstonian, a Houston ISD graduate, and a parent of three children who all attend Houston ISD schools. He currently serves on the Houston ISD District Advisory Committee, and he works as a human resources manager at a large healthcare system in the Texas Medical Center.

• Paula Mendoza: Ms. Mendoza is a longtime Houston resident, the mother of a Houston ISD graduate, and a committed community leader and entrepreneur. She is a small business owner and has demonstrated her commitment to the Houston community through service on numerous non-profit and governmental boards, including the University of Houston Board of Regents, Texas Ethics Commission, and Texas State Board of Public Accountancy.

• Adam P. Rivon: Mr. Rivon is the parent of a Houston ISD student and is the founder and owner of a small business in the real estate industry. Mr. Rivon proudly served his country in the United States Army, earning a Bronze Star for leadership as an Army Artillery Officer during combat operations in Iraq.

Houston Landing and the Chron have additional info about these nine folks; the press release link I got from Campos. I have heard of Ric Campo and know/am friends with Janette Garza Lindner, who lives in my neighborhood; she was a candidate for HISD Trustee in District I, my district, in 2021. I don’t know anything more than what I read yesterday about the others, but offhand they look fine. I’ve said that we’d learn something about the TEA’s intentions from the Board they picked, so this is a good start. Given the unrepresentative demography of the applicant pool, they did a good job with that, too. Kudos to them.

I’m still mad that we’re in this position. I’m mad that the community has lost its voice, I’m mad at the state’s increasingly large appetite for bulldozing local control, and I’m deeply skeptical of the process and the belief that an administrative office that has no experience at managing schools or school districts has some special insight in running schools and school districts. I’m wary of Mike Miles, and even with my initial approval, this Board of Managers needs to prove itself. I see a lot more ways the next five to six years, as now-Superintendent Miles believes this will take, end in disappointment if not failure rather than anything that could be labeled a success.

But we need this to succeed, and I want it to succeed, because the children and families of HISD need and deserve it to succeed. We need to do better by our kids, and every year we don’t is a year they don’t get back. It’s a year that makes it that much harder for them to get educated and get on the path to a better life. I’m a political person and I can’t help but view this all through a political lens, but that’s not what really matters here. What matters is the kids. If Mike Miles and this Board can deliver on that, I’m still going to be mad about how we got here, but I can live with it. I wish them all well. Let’s stay focused on what matters and hold them to it. The Press, the Trib, and the TSTA have more.

Cruise cars spotted in the wild

There I was at the WalMart on Yale this week, with my parents, and what did I see but this:


Yes, it’s a Cruise car, charging up in the parking lot. We knew that at least initially they will have backup safety drivers, who I presume are responsible for plugging in the recharge cables. You will note that this car is named “Cheese Blintz”. I for one did not know these cars would have names, but thanks to that bit of trivia I can give you a count of how many of these vehicles I encountered, because this is what we saw on the way back:


Yep, two more cars, one of which is named “Brioche”. I saw the name of the third car at the time I took this picture, but I forgot what it was and you can’t tell because of the obstruction. I’m going to guess it’s another food-based name, because as we drove out of the lot I saw a fourth Cruise-mobile, this one called “Habanero”. You know what to look for now when you see one of these things out on the streets. These two had their backup drivers sitting inside as the cars were charging. That has to be a weird gig.

Anyway. That’s it, that’s the post. Have you seen one of these cars out and about? Are you registered to use the service? If so, what do you think?

One more thought: As noted before, Cruise is charging slightly less for a ride than Uber is. That may be because they don’t have to give a driver a cut (or at least eventually won’t have to), but note that unlike Uber, Cruise will have to own, maintain, insure, fuel up, and store its own fleet. It’s not at all clear to me which is the cheaper operational model.

Superintendent House’s last day

He’s out of there.

Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II is marking his last day in the office as the head of Texas’ largest school system on Friday, according to Mayor Sylvester Turner, nearly a week before the Texas Education Agency is set to take over the public school district.

“This will be (HISD Superintendent) Millard House last day. In 20 months as superintendent he has improved the academic performance of the schools that needed attention,” Turner tweeted Friday morning.

“He shepherded the district in difficult times. I want to thank him and apologize to him for how the State treated him,” Turner said.

Reached by phone on Friday, House clarified that he will be using vacation time in the days leading up to the takeover, and that Friday is his last physical day in office. He is set to give his last public remarks as superintendent on Tuesday night when he delivers the keynote address at Carnegie Vanguard High School’s graduation.

House said he plans to use the vacation time for doctor’s appointments and other personal matters.

“I will still be connected to the district until May 31st,” House said.


House took over HISD in July 2021 after spending four years as superintendent of Tennessee’s Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. In his roughly two years leading Texas’s largest school district, House guided the district out of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and lifted 40 of 50 schools off the D and F list.

In announcing the state takeover of HISD in March, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath applauded House’s performance as superintendent but said he was obligated to appoint a new leader alongside a new board of managers.

“Ultimately, a board of managers allows Houston to completely reframe the governing team to focus on servant leadership to truly believe that the board exists to serve the staff and students, not the other way around,” Morath said in March. “So it’s important that we set the district leadership team up with a fresh start.”

That “fresh start” is slated for June 1, when the TEA is expected to announce a new superintendent and an appointed board of managers to replace the democratically elected board that currently oversees the district. With less than a week until the takeover, the TEA has refused to publicly narrow down the list of board candidates beyond the 227 people who completed a two-day training session last month.

Many of the superintendent’s senior cabinet members and other high-ranking staff in the district are departing the district as the school year ends.

The main impression I have of Superintendent House at this point is that I still feel like I don’t know a lot about him or his vision for HISD. He was not nearly as communicative as some other Superintendents, like Terry Grier. I can’t recall him sitting down for a comprehensive interview of his plans and strategies and whatever else. He gets credit for the progress HISD has made during his tenure, but the main piece of his agenda was not implemented after public pushback, which again suggests a gap in his communications. We’ll never know what he might have done if he’d had more time. I wish him well with his next gig.

A trio of candidate announcements

From the inbox:

Molly Cook

Molly Cook, Emergency Room Nurse and Community Organizer, Announces Second Run for Texas Senate District 15

Molly Cook (she/her) is running again for Texas Senate District 15 in the 2024 Elections. Since the primaries in March 2022, Molly has worked as an ER bedside nurse, continued to be a leader in the fight for multi-modal transportation across Texas, launched and co-led the Fair for Houston campaign, spent time in Austin advocating at the Texas Legislature, and engaged with Democrats across Senate District 15 to help her neighbors understand and participate in the 88th Legislative Session. Molly’s campaign, like her organizing work, will focus on fighting for smart, compassionate policy to improve public health and public safety for all Texans. Molly believes in a bottom-up approach to policy, planning, and leadership that centers the voices of those most affected by our state’s policy decisions. Molly won over 40% of the votes cast in the 2022 Democratic Primaries for Texas Senate District 15.

Here’s a video of her announcement. Cook may or may not be running against incumbent Sen. John Whitmire, depending on the result of the Mayoral race this year, and may or may not have to also run in a special election, again depending on the Mayor’s race. She is also not the first person to announce a candidacy for SD15. Here’s Karthik Soora from mid-April:

Molly Cook’s website is here and Karthik Soora’s website is here. I’m going to be a busy man with the interviews this winter, and that’s even before we consider the possibility of a primary in CD18.

I’m also about to be super busy with city candidates for this November. As of a few days ago all of the interesting races were for Mayor, Controller, and Council, but now we have the first challenge to an incumbent in one of the other offices. Raj Salhotra, who ran for City Council At Large #1 in 2019 and lost in a runoff to CM Mike Knox, is running for HCC. From the inbox:

I am excited to announce that I’m running for Houston Community College (HCC) District V Trustee! Education is the key to escaping poverty and achieving the American Dream, and I have seen this firsthand.

My dad came to the US with $42, secured a world-class education, and started a small business. My mom came here when she was 12, earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and became a professor at the University of Houston-Downtown. Through education, my family and I have lived the American Dream.

With this privilege comes the responsibility to pay it forward and ensure everyone has the same opportunities. I have, therefore, dedicated my life to education – tutoring middle school students while I was in college, becoming a high school math teacher upon graduating, and creating Momentum Education, a non-profit focused on helping first-generation, low-income students get to and through college and into the workforce. Working with over 1,000 students has shown me the real potential for community college to change lives.

I am running for Houston Community College District V because I believe that HCC should: (1) provide pathways to career through effective workforce training and internships; (2) offer connections to universities via transfer advising and partnerships with four-year institutions; and (3) engage in good governance based in transparency and fiscal responsibility.

Here’s Raj’s website. He is running against incumbent Robert Glaser, whose lawsuit situation is still unresolved, to the best of my knowledge. Look for interviews in that race as well.

Speaking of the city races, there are of course approximately one billion people running for City of Houston offices right now. I’ve generally not followed campaign announcements outside of the Mayor’s race, but I have checked in on who’s running for what, with the January finance reports and a more recent post-SJL announcement check-in post. I’m happy to say now that the Erik Manning spreadsheet is back, baby! You want to keep track of this stuff, there’s your best source. I’ll ask him to add a column for interview links in the future. Thanks to this I now see that former Council member and previous Controller candidate MJ Khan is running for Mayor (!), bringing us to thirteen (!!) candidates for that position, and current HISD Trustee Kendall Baker, who is not up for election this fall, is now running for At Large #1, making him the eighth candidate in that crowd. You can see what I mean by “busy”.

Anyway, this has been your irregular update on Who Is Running For What and In Which Election. Let me know if you have any questions.

UPDATE: I received the following press release from Karthik Soora about the launch of his candidacy after this post was published.

Today, Karthik Soora, a renewable energy developer, Millennial non-profit leader, and award-winning former HISD public school teacher, announced his candidacy for Texas Senate District 15, challenging incumbent John Whitmire in the upcoming Democratic primary. Soora has raised over $100K in donations, drawing support from across Texas and 14 states before officially announcing his candidacy.

As a teacher, Soora witnessed the challenges faced by his students due to a lack of resources, including inadequate school funding, flooding, and lack of healthcare. He is now running to fix a corrupt system by passing real reforms that empower the rising majority of Texans to be heard in Austin.

“I am running for Texas State Senate because we can’t solve 21st-century problems with a 19th-century system. We need real reforms like banning current legislators from simultaneously serving as lobbyists, allowing citizen voices on issues like reproductive freedom and Medicaid expansion to be heard through referendums, and passing bold campaign finance reform to stop billionaires from buying our elections,” said Soora.

“Texas Democrats know the challenges we face – gun violence, attacks on our reproductive freedoms and democracy, underfunded schools, a lack of affordable health care and housing, and the climate crisis – and change starts with passing reforms to ensure that all Texans, not just the ultra rich and MAGA Republicans, are heard in the halls of power.”

The Soora campaign is committed to listening to people in every Super Neighborhood and municipality in District 15, meeting voters where they are, and fighting for them all. Soora plans to kick off a walking tour of the district in the coming weeks and months, drawing attention to gerrymandering and the need for political reform, as he listens and learns from residents of all backgrounds who have been ignored by career politicians in favor of powerful special interests and billionaire donors.

Soora’s historic campaign is backed by a powerhouse team, including media consultants for Sen. John Fetterman, Biden-Harris 2020, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, strategist Myles Bugbee of Persuasion and Pixels, polling firm Data for Progress.

He is one of the first Millennial or Generation Z Democrats, the first Indian-American and Hindu-American in the Legislature, the first in Clean Energy in the Texas State Legislature, the first AAPI in the Texas State Senate, and the first non-white individual to represent Texas State Senate District 15 since the founding of the Texas Republic.

I will as always keep my eyes open for other candidacies of interest.

The final 227

Somewhere in here are your Board of Managers.

With about a week until the Texas Education Agency plans to appoint a new Houston ISD superintendent and board of managers, the state agency says it is still considering more than 200 applicants for the nine-member board.

The Chronicle obtained through a public information request the names of the 227 people — educators, business professionals, parents and others — who completed a two-day Lone Star Governance training during one of two weekends last month. All of those people remained under active consideration for placement on the board as of Tuesday, said Jake Kobersky, the state agency’s media relations director.

“We’ll be whittling down from that list,” he said, confirming that no one from outside that group of 227 will be chosen for the board.


Niti Patel, an HISD parent who completed the training, said she was not invited to conduct a virtual interview or participate in the follow-up weekend session.

Instead, she and other participants said they received an email from Lecholop on April 28 thanking them for engaging in the application and selection process.

“TEA is in the process of vetting all applicants who attended LSG training and will continue to conduct candidate evaluations between now and the placement of the board in June. All applicants who attended LSG training remain in contention for potential appointment to the Board of Managers,” Lecholop wrote in the email. “Your genuine participation and belief that all students in Houston ISD can and will be successful are emblematic of why this intervention will be successful.”

Patel said she believes she has been eliminated from the process.

“I think if I was in the process of being narrowed, they would have talked to me by now,” she said.

The weekend training was educational, she said, and included activities like role playing a scenario in which an angry parent shows up at a board meeting. Patel said she was impressed by the other participants but felt that there was a lack of clarity surrounding the criteria and qualifications needed to serve on the board. She now believes the process may be a “sham.”

“There was a lot of talk about how student outcomes don’t change until adult behaviors change,” she said. “It wasn’t clear to me that this was anything more than an actual training…Later on, I found out it was kind of an audition for going to the next step.”

Pamela Boveland, a community advocate and adjunct professor at the University of Houston, said Lecholop and another TEA representative were “circling like sharks” during the training sessions. She did not get a follow-up interview and also believes she has been cut from consideration, although she has not received any communication explicitly telling her so.

“I don’t think they wanted to be caught with the 30 (names),” Boveland said. “We’re not still in the process…That’s as far away from the truth as it can get.”

Daniel Gorelick, an associate professor of biology at Baylor College of Medicine and an HISD parent, said he completed the two-day training session and a Zoom interview but did not progress to the next step. He said he learned a lot about how HISD and the school board work.

“I left that two-day session thinking that if they picked all nine people from that group we’d be in good hands,” he said. “There were really a lot of good, smart, dedicated, talented folks. I was actually very impressed.”

See here and here for some background, and click over to see both the original list of 450 applicants and the 227 who made the cut by attending the sessions. One of the latter is the parent of one of my daughter’s classmates; I texted them about this and was told they did not get any further interview from the TEA but was impressed by the people in their session and felt a lot better about the whole process afterwards. I remain skeptical of the TEA and how they have handled this, but as I have said before if they pick a good Board it will help. We’ll see.

Another path to hockey in Houston

If not expansion, then relocation.

The Arizona Coyotes have taken yet another blow in their hopes of finding a long-term home in the Phoenix area.

As a result, speculation has renewed about whether the desert’s potential loss could become Houston’s long-awaited path to the NHL.

While the results are still unofficial, a Tuesday referendum for a Tempe entertainment district that would’ve included a new arena for the Coyotes appears to be headed to a resounding defeat in the Phoenix suburb.

That had hockey fans and media speculating on the next destination for the Coyotes, who’ve had relocation rumors swirl around the franchise for the better part of two-plus decades.

While a move doesn’t appear to be immediate — NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN on Wednesday that he didn’t envision the team not playing in Arizona next season — staying at Arizona State’s Mullett Arena with its league-low capacity of 4,600 is a highly unlikely long-term proposition. The Coyotes moved there this season after playing from 2003-22 in the far-flung suburb of Glendale.

Enter Houston, the largest market in the country without an NHL team, making it a popular (and logical) candidate to get an NHL team and the subject of perpetual speculation. While NHL power brokers like Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, the chairman of the league’s board of governors, have advocated for Houston before and the city has a hockey-ready arena in Toyota Center, there are some obstacles to bringing a team here.

First, events in the arena are controlled by the Rockets. When owner Tilman Fertitta bought the NBA franchise in October 2017, he said “I would put an NHL team here tomorrow” as its owner or as a co-tenant if the situation worked to his liking. However, in the years since, Fertitta has said little publicly about the NHL.

It appears price is the big sticking point according to Elliotte Friedman, a hockey insider for Canadian cable network Sportsnet.

“The one thing there is that Houston owner, when they met with him about the NHL, it wasn’t at a number that the NHL liked,” Friedman said Wednesday on his “32 Thoughts” podcast with co-host Jeff Marek.

“I don’t know if that’s changed or how it would go, but that was the one thing that I know that they were concerned about. … At a time when Ottawa’s story is incredible because of the kind of interest that’s in the team and the passion that seems to be around owning the team, you want that kind of passion around your ownership group. They didn’t sense it from Houston.”

As noted recently, expansion is not on the table at this time, so if Houston is going to get an NHL team, it would have to be an existing one looking for a new place. Even if the Coyotes did move, there’s no guarantee they’d come to Houston – multiple other cities, including two that used to house NHL franchises, are also in the running. It would be at least a year before anything happens, so much can change. But for now at least, there’s still a chance. The Press has more.

Some dough for downtown

It would be nice.

Sen. John Whitmire

With just days left in this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature, Houston-area lawmakers are fighting for a measure that would likely provide several billion dollars to expand the George R. Brown Convention Center and for other downtown projects.

“This means everything to Houston,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat from Harris County and author of the legislation. “It’s just a real infusion of economic development downtown, where we we really need to focus.”

The measure, Senate Bill 1057, would essentially cut Houston in on a deal Dallas and Fort Worth have enjoyed since similar legislation was passed in 2013. It would allow the city and Houston First, the government corporation that operates Houston’s convention venues, to receive certain downtown hotel taxes in excess of the amount collected this year for up to 30 years.

The additional revenue would be modest, perhaps $2.3 million dollars in the city’s next fiscal year beginning July 1, according to analysis from the state Legislative Budget Board. But that amount could grow each year as the revenue swells past the 2023 baseline.

A spokesperson for the state comptroller’s office says that while the agency doesn’t do economic impact projections, it expects the city could reap more than $1.8 billion over 30 years.

State Sen. Carol Alvarado, a Democrat who represents parts of north and east Harris County, co-authored the legislation in the Senate, and state Rep. Sam Harless, a Republican of Spring, is sponsoring the measure in the House.

The money could be used to expand and modernize the George R. Brown Convention Center as well as for projects in the downtown area, says Michael Heckman, president and CEO of Houston First.

“Houston has an outstanding convention campus, but we can always do better,” Heckman said Tuesday. “This funding, if approved, would allow us to remain a tier-one city for years to come.”


Whitmire, who is a candidate in this year’s mayoral election as well as the longest-serving member of the Texas Senate, said the additional revenue could be used on projects other than those specifically tied to the physical convention center. Related projects within a 3-mile radius of city hall would be eligible, including potential new parks and green spaces that would better connect downtown with the EaDo neighborhood.

One project backers believe could benefit would be a proposed park over the sunken freeway that is part of the planned $9.7 billion, 20-year reconstruction and relocation of I-45.

“That’s just opening up downtown to the east side,” Whitmire said.

Overall this would have a fairly modest effect on Houston’s finances, but anything that brings more revenue to the city is worth pursuing. The bill is on the House general calendar so it should have a decent shot at passing. Here’s hoping.

River Oaks Theater renovations set to begin

A bit of good news.

The next step in River Oaks Theatre’s comeback starts this week. Construction on renovations to the historic movie theater will begin soon with an eye towards reopening by the end of the year.

Movie-loving Houstonians will recall the venue’s saga that played out in 2021 and 2022. Landmark Theaters closed the three-screen theater in 2021 due to unpaid lease obligations that accrued during the pandemic. Houstonians demonstrated outside the theater, calling for it to be preserved.

When it seemed like the theater might never reopen, Culinary Khancepts, a local company affiliated with Star Cinema Grill that operates State Fair and Liberty Kitchen, announced last February that it had leased the space with plans to renovate it. Now, that work is slated to begin.

Plans call for preservation of the theater’s signature Art Deco look, signage, and name while making necessary improvements to the overall interior. One of the major changes will be upgrading the kitchen to provide for in-theater dining along with cocktails and wine.

When it reopens, the theater will screen art house movies and host live performances, according to a release. Hopefully, that includes the interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show performances that had been a signature of the River Oaks Theatre. Whatever the specifics turn out to be, the company understands the significance of the space.

“We felt as Houston’s only owned and operated cinema companies that it was our duty to save this masterpiece. We look forward to serving our community with the best-in-class cinema experiences,” River Oaks Theatre president and CEO Omar Khan said in a statement. “The last year was spent working through design, city approvals, historical preservation, landlord coordination of building improvements, including a brand new roof and prepping the theater for a sprinkler system.”

See here for the background. It’s always a pleasant surprise when something iconic in Houston gets preserved and renewed, isn’t it? The Chron has more.

Meet Mike Miles

Houston Landing profiles the man who seems poised to be the imposed Superintendent of the taken-over HISD.

A hard-charging education leader devoted to shaking up the status quo in struggling school districts appears poised to become the superintendent of Houston ISD.

Mike Miles, the former superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and current CEO of a charter school network, has emerged in recent days as the likely incoming leader of HISD following comments by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner; U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; and the president of HISD’s largest teachers union.

The decision ultimately will be made in the coming weeks by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who is installing a new board and superintendent in HISD. The state intervention largely stems from chronically low performance at one HISD campus, Wheatley High School, which triggered a Texas law requiring action by Morath.

State education officials say no decision has been made about HISD’s superintendent, and no appointments will be announced before June 1. Texas Education Agency officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on speculation about Miles. Efforts to reach Miles were unsuccessful.

The potential appointment of Miles, however, makes too much sense to ignore: Morath served as a Dallas board member during Miles’ tenure; the two share a strikingly similar outlook on education policy; and Miles has spoken at length about the need for significant reforms in large, urban school district operations.

If Miles is Morath’s choice, the selection portends dramatic, swift changes in HISD.

The former Army Ranger, State Department diplomat and school district leader is known for aggressively upending bureaucracies and reshaping classrooms. His no-excuses approach to management and preferred policies — sidelining low-performing administrators, instituting accountability-related measures and reorienting teachers’ responsibilities, among others — have endeared him to those frustrated with underwhelming student achievement in urban school districts.

“Unfortunately, most district leaders are way too worried about their careers and future job prospects to really break the status quo; board members are way too worried about any noise from their constituents,” Miles wrote in a blog last month for Third Future Schools, a Colorado-based charter school operator where he serves as CEO.

“There is little vision and little appetite for true systemic reform, the effects of which might not be noticed for a couple of years.”

Yet Miles has left behind a trail of disgruntled community leaders, former employees and union champions at previous stops in Dallas and Harrison School District 2 in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he served as superintendent for six years. Miles’ opponents often bristle at his top-down leadership tactics, along with his distaste for more union-aligned approaches to education.

“The attitude, the atmosphere, in most of the worksites and campuses was one of fear and intimidation,” said Rena Honea, the longtime president of the Alliance-AFT teachers association in Dallas. “That’s how his rule was. Not a lot of collaborative input, which is what education should be: people working together.”

Miles undoubtedly would encounter similar resistance in Houston, where voters and political leaders have generally opposed Morath’s move to replace HISD’s school board and superintendent.

The potential selection of Miles also would stand in sharp contrast to the elected board’s preference in recent years for superintendents who aimed to build consensus and moved slower on major overhauls to the district. Miles’ appointment would harken back to the era of former HISD superintendent Terry Grier, whose management style and education policy outlook mirror Miles’ approach. Grier resigned from HISD in 2015 after 6 ½ years at the helm.

Miles, however, ultimately would answer to a board handpicked by Morath — who can remove any appointed member for any reason.

“He’ll have everything he needs to do what he wants to get done,” said former Dallas trustee Lew Blackburn, whose 18-year tenure on the board overlapped with Miles’ reign. “The board members here, we asked a lot of questions, pushed back on a few things. In Houston, there might not be as much pushback from the board of managers.”

See here for the background. There’s a lot more, so read the rest. The story notes that Miles succeeded in raising standardized test score while at DISD, and that is what we want and need here. How painful it will be to get there remains to be seen. Miles may not be the guy, of course – the TEA typically hasn’t said a word and presumably won’t until after June 1 – but it’s highly probable that the selection has been made, and I’m sure that Mayor Turner and Rep. Jackson Lee have good sources. We’ll find out soon enough.

The last HISD Board of Trustees meeting

Next up is takeover time.

The Texas Education Agency is still aiming to appoint a new Houston ISD superintendent and a board of managers as planned on or around June 1, according to an agency representative.

The new leaders will assume their roles immediately and will likely meet for the first time on June 8, said Steve Lecholop, the agency’s deputy commissioner of governance, during a presentation at the last meeting of the HISD elected trustees.

“We’re still on track to name the new members of the board of managers on or around June 1 — it’s our great hope that June 1 is the day,” he said. “In addition to the board announcement that day, the commissioner will also announce the name of the new superintendent.”

The board of managers will be sworn in the same day as the announcement, Lecholop said. Meanwhile, the superintendent will begin working under a 21-day interim contract until he or she gets formal approval by the board of managers.

The state-appointed superintendent and board of managers will begin by launching a 90-day community engagement strategy with assistance from elected board members, Lecholop said.

The TEA representative said he expects and encourages the elected trustees, after they are stripped of their voting power, to engage with the new district leaders by serving as a liaison to the community, providing institutional knowledge and helping the board of managers develop its goals, vision and values.

“You guys know your communities,” he said. “And that is incredibly valuable.”

Continued engagement, involvement and training, Lecholop said, is important to ensure a smooth transition back to elected control, which will happen over a three-year period after the district meets the TEA exit criteria.

Nice to know that the TEA considers the existing Board members to have some value. I’ve been mulling this over, because the outgoing Trustees are basically in the position of being asked by the management that just laid them off to train their replacements. (Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been in a similar position before.) The case for doing so if that you’re a professional, you care about the mission and the people you’re leaving behind, and you have pride in what you’ve done. The argument against is basically “Fuck you, I want nothing to do with this bullshit, this mess is all on you”. Not exactly dignified, and your reputation will take a hit, but for pure selfish emotional satisfaction it’s hard to beat.

I do think the outgoing (in power and responsibility, if not in position) Trustees should work with the incoming Board of Managers, because they are still elected officials and made a promise to serve the district and its stakeholders, but if they want to do so on something resembling their own terms, I will understand. I think it’s okay to approach this with the mindset that the appointees have something to prove before they can be trusted. I think it’s okay to make it clear to your constituents that what happens next is entirely the responsibility of the state of Texas, that if things go well it’s because they built on the solid foundation that you and your colleagues left for them and if things go badly it’s because they came in and wrecked it all. I think it’s not only okay but a requirement to talk to the press and anyone who will listen if the new guys are about to do something you don’t like and don’t think the public will like. You still have your voice, go ahead and keep using it. And hope for the best, because the sooner these guys are out of here, the better. Campos and the Press have more.

The 2023 Kinder Houston Area Survey

One of the great things about Houston.

Housing costs and the economy topped Houstonians’ concerns this year in the 42nd annual Kinder Houston Area Survey, which also showed a coalescing desire to close the income gap as residents reported widening disparities in their financial outlooks.

While some issues remain nationally divisive, that isn’t always the case in Houston. Ruth López Turley, director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, said she is hopeful as locals have increasingly reached consensus on a variety of economic and social issues.

“On the one hand, the inequalities are persistent. On the other hand, I find it very hopeful that now a majority, a large majority, want that to change,” López Turley said. “We haven’t seen any action taken, really, but the fact that more people want to see action taken, that’s the first step.”


The Houston area is also becoming more socially liberal, with younger population driving the direction of public opinion, researchers said.

The number of people who support the right to abortion has remained largely unchanged over the years – 56 percent in 1988 and 59 percent in 2023 – but beliefs on morality are changing. Houstonians felt abortion was “morally wrong” through the 2010s, but the answer split evenly in 2021.

This year, 58 percent said abortion was morally right and 42 percent said it was morally wrong, with older people were more likely to feel it was wrong.

Around 90 percent of the panel’s respondents supported abortion in cases where woman’s health at risk, and 80 percent supported the right to abortion when a serious birth defect is detected, according to the survey results.

People also support gun rights with restrictions – 76 percent said it is very important or somewhat important to protect the Second Amendment, but more than 81 percent favored federal laws requiring handgun registration. Another 93 percent supported universal background checks regardless of where a firearm is purchased. And two-thirds said they find it “very important” to control gun ownership.

Houstonians who were surveyed also overwhelmingly support providing pathways toward legal citizenship for individuals living in the U.S. without documentation, at 80 percent. About 70 percent say immigrants strengthen American culture rather than threaten it, and the share reporting that immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take out has grown from 42 percent in 1994 to 71 percent in 2023.

There’s more, so read the rest of the story and read the survey itself. The Kinder Houston Area Survey is a huge asset to Houston and we should be really grateful to have it. The Press has more.

A look at how the TEA trains Board of Managers wannabes

From the Observer:

Since mid-March this year, when the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced it would be taking over the Houston Independent School District, the state agency has demurred when asked about the district’s future, saying decisions will be made by a 9-member board of managers to be selected from the local community by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.

But interviews with and contemporaneous notes from participants in TEA’s April 22-23 board of managers applicants training, as well as an audio recording of the sessions obtained by the Texas Observer, reveal the state plans to limit the board’s role to enforcing high-stakes testing in schools and rubber-stamping financial and operational decisions made by the new superintendent, also to be selected by Morath.

In what seemed like a 16-hour indoctrination session, TEA’s “Lone Star Governance” program trainers had the 230 applicants who attended repeat self-flagellating mantras about their lack of integrity and lack of concern for student success to get them ready for what they called the “Lone Star Governance mindset.”

Lindsey Pollock, a former Houston ISD elementary school principal of 13 years and a current professor teaching in Sarasota University’s educational leadership graduate program, who participated in the training sessions, told the Observer: “I spent two days being demeaned by a presenter who had purposeful intentions to mislead and misrepresent the reasons we were all there. … They were only looking for people who were going to be agreeable.”


During the sessions, TEA trainers also told applicants that the board’s sole focus was to set the “student outcome” goals and the “goals and values of the community.” But when Pollock, the ex-principal, said community members value other measures of learning apart from the state’s standardized test, called STAAR, TEA’s training facilitator Ashley Paz backtracked and said student outcome goals have to start with standardized test scores.

Another participant raised concerns that other subjects would be overlooked with the state’s emphasis on standardized testing, to which Paz replied, “You don’t think reading and math are important?”

When participant Pamela Boveland, a retired director of research and technology at the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, asked Crabill, one of the trainers, if students in vulnerable communities would be provided with more resources to succeed, [A.J.] Crabill seemed to dismiss her question by citing his own upbringing: “As a child who … was in foster care and aged out, I have absolutely no sympathy for the idea that I could not be taught.”

Crabill also suggested that teachers are only as good as their students’ standardized test scores: “We might choose to increase teacher retention if we feel like that’s going to help us improve student outcomes. But if we do that and those outcomes don’t improve, we need to figure something else out. The only reason the whole system exists is to improve student outcomes.”

As a parent with a child in the school district, [Anne] Sung, the ex-board member, expressed concern that if the new board’s primary focus is standardized test scores, it would disempower the board to address the community’s diverse concerns.

“If they’re being told that the only thing that matters is STAAR scores, then you can’t weigh in when the community is concerned about other matters. I want my child to learn. But I also want my child to be happy at school,” Sung said. “It seems like we’ll be too busy staring at student outcomes or test scores to wonder why can’t we teach our kids about the real history of America, or why we are not allowed to vote for our own leaders here, or run our own elections? All of those things are connected.”

Hold that thought for a minute while we read this from Campos:

Brad Wray is a teacher and a District Advisory Committee Member with HISD. I have known Brad for years now. He sent this out this morning:

Yesterday, DAC representatives were invited to a Q&A with TEA Commissioner Mike Morath regarding the takeover of HISD. Below are answers to some of the questions that were asked. These are not direct quotes from Commissioner Morath, but I tried to capture the main point of what he was saying.

  • If the District has brought our district grade up to a B+ (Wheatley HS is up to a C), then why are you all here?
  • Answer: The law (HB 1842) says Morath shall either close a school or appoint a board of managers. Improved scores are irrelevant. 
  • What is the process for choosing a superintendent? 
  • Answer: Morath makes the decision. He can’t confirm or deny that it will be Mike Miles. (Houston Chronicle: Who is Mike Miles?
  • Any planned changes to pay scale? Will teachers get a pay increase due to inflation?  
  • Answer: Doesn’t expect any this coming year. Believes that teachers should make six figures. How resources are used is up to the Board of Managers. 
  • Will anyone who has been in the district be consulted with decisions you all are going to make? (You all are not from this area, so how will you be able to make the right decisions for a district of children and staff you know nothing about.)  
  • Answer: The Board will be made up of people who live in the district. Morath will strive to have a geographically representative Board of Managers. Existing “gerrymandered” district boundaries will not necessarily be adhered to. 
  • Do you plan to close schools? 
  • Answer: I have not closed any schools. It’s up to the Board. 
  • How will you address inequities? 
  • Answer: This is up to the Board. 
  • How will you alleviate uneasiness that we have about the takeover? 
  • Answer: Communicating what is happening. This won’t be any more extreme than what happens when a superintendent change happens. 
  • Will retention stipends be affected? 
  • Answer: I don’t foresee this changing, but this is up to the Board. 
  • Can you assure us that our schools will not be turned into charter schools? 
  • Answer: I could have chartered schools after year 5 but I have not. It’s up to the Board how schools are managed. 
  • How do you plan to manage the budget deficit? 
  • Answer: How resources are used is up to the Board

“It’s not the people in this room that are the problems, it’s the district leadership.” 

-Mike Morath 

Thanks for the info, Brad.

Yeah, none of this is alleviating my concern that the TEA will be completely unaccountable and the Board won’t be in much of a position to fight back, if they were so inclined. It’s going to be a long two-to-however-many years.

Mayor Turner’s final budget

This is what he’s handing off.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner will unveil a $6.2 billion budget proposal this week, the final spending plan of his tenure and one he predicts will have enough savings to cover his successor’s first budget gap.

The budget plan includes previously announced pay raises for all city workers, continues the mayor’s plans to address crime and illegal dumping, and adds another $11.3 million toward the city’s backlog of deferred maintenance. It also includes a stark increase in tax dollars for “Build Houston Forward,” the city’s streets and drainage program, jumping from $77 million this year to $123 million next fiscal year.

Perhaps most notably, though, it would sock away $401 million in savings, $220 million above the required reserve of 7.5 percent of the general fund’s expenditures. That, essentially, matches the latest estimate for what the city will have saved at the end of this fiscal year, and it marks the largest reserve in decades at City Hall.

“This represents the strongest fund balance in recent history for a proposed budget,” Turner wrote in his message accompanying the budget. “Additionally, the budget fully funds the Budget Stabilization Fund representing more than $20 million and does not include any deferrals, one-time land sales, or fund balance drawdown.”


Houston typically operates at a structural deficit with expenses growing faster than revenues, and it must close annual budget gaps with stop-gap measures. As in the last three years, this year’s spending plan would rely heavily on federal COVID-19 relief money to avoid that fate.

The Fiscal 2024 budget, which would take effect July 1, would use $160 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city received more than $1 billion in aid from the federal government during the last three years, money that has helped it avoid “significant” service cuts and layoffs, Turner wrote.

The city’s financial outlook likely will be a hot topic during this year’s mayoral race. Previous forecasts have called for deficits of between $114 million and $268 million during the next mayor’s first term, as the city weans itself off federal assistance. The city has spent $344 million of the $607 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act, as of March 31.

That would leave the city with roughly $263 million left before the adoption of this year’s budget, and about $103 million if the fiscal 2024 budget is adopted as drafted. Cities must obligate the relief money by the end of 2024 and spend it by the end of 2026.

As part of his message, Turner argued the strong fund balance would give his successor breathing room when crafting next year’s budget.

“As we look ahead, strong financial management will need to continue,” Turner wrote. “The city of Houston operates under one of the country’s most restrictive property revenue caps — in addition to complying with the State of Texas revenue cap, and the pressure of inflation. Despite those challenges, the financial health of the city is much stronger than existed on January 1, 2016. Any gap that may exist in FY2025 can be full covered by the fund balance.”

Turner was referring to Houston’s voter-approved revenue cap, which limits yearly growth in property tax receipts to a combination of population and inflation growth or 4.5 percent, whichever is lower. The city has cut its tax rate eight of the last nine years to comply with that restriction, foregoing about $1.5 billion in revenue since Fiscal Year 2015 through last year. In that time, it has saved the median homeowner roughly $946.

You can see more details and video from the press conference on Tuesday here. You know my opinion of the idiotic budget cap already, so I won’t belabor that except to say the next opportunity to have a referendum to amend or repeal it will likely be 2026. Hope the next Mayor can hold out till then. I expect we’ll hear a lot about the city’s current and future financial position as the campaign progresses. There will be budget hearings in the coming weeks, and vote on the budget by Council in June.

Does the TEA already have a new Superintendent in mind?

Mayor Turner thinks so, and wants the TEA to be more up front about its intentions.

Pressure is mounting on the Texas Education Agency to name the superintendent who will soon oversee the Houston Independent School District as the nearing takeover prompts growing speculation and calls for transparency.

Mayor Sylvester Turner took to social media over the weekend to call on the TEA to confirm or deny a widespread rumor circulating since March that the agency plans to appoint former Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles to replace Millard House II at the helm of HISD.

“I am hearing from people in Houston and Dallas that Mike Miles is the person,” he said in a statement. “The TEA Commissioner should confirm or deny. People within the district are making decisions based on what they are hearing. This process has been plagued by rumors from the beginning.”

A TEA spokesperson reiterated that the agency has made no decisions and plans to appoint a superintendent and board of managers no earlier than June 1.

Miles, who served as superintendent in Dallas from 2012 to 2015, is now the founder and CEO of Third Future Schools, a network of public charter schools serving 4,500 students in Colorado, Texas and Louisiana. He previously worked as superintendent at Harrison School District in Colorado Springs.

In recent blog posts and media appearances, Miles has spoken about the need for systemic change to the education system and a desire to prepare kids for the future workforce. His company believes in high expectations for children and educators, according to the website, along with accountability.

During his tenure in Dallas, Miles introduced several reform measures, including a new performance-based payment system for teachers and principals, and stirred some disruption and controversy due in part to his management style, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Miles did not respond to the Chronicle’s requests for comment on Monday.

Meanwhile, Turner said he has had no conversations with the TEA since March when it first announced state intervention in the district, a move that followed years of litigation and came in response to schools beset by chronic low academic achievement.

The mayor said the process has been “flawed and anti-democratic,” criticizing the state for providing little transparency to parents, school personnel and the press.

“The sole decision-making is in Austin and the stakeholders in HISD are being disregarded,” he said. “The state’s move to take over the largest school district in Texas comes with very little local input, no additional resources and no benchmarks by which it, the state, can be assessed and held accountable.”

If the TEA really does intend to name a new Superintendent on or just after June 1, then of course they’ve been talking to people and almost certainly have a final candidate in mind. HISD is a big district, this is a massive job that will come with a lot of scrutiny and even more skepticism (at best) from the community, and whoever it is will have to make arrangements in their lives to take the job. You know, like leave their current job and relocate to Houston. If they don’t have a finalist, then it’s understandable that they’d keep quiet about their search – it’s what HISD itself would do if they were the ones searching for a new Super – but once there is a single name, there’s no reason not to make it public. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the choice of Mike Miles, if that’s who it is, given how tumultuous his tenure was at DISD, but the process and the lack of transparency is at least as big a concern.

It’s important to remember here that none of the original conditions for the takeover still exist now, with the possible exception of the state of special education at HISD, which is something that the state doesn’t exactly shine at either. As such, any argument that what HISD needs is a clear-the-decks, change-everything visionary is at best debatable. One could say that this was Millard House’s remit when he was hired, but he won’t be allowed to follow through on it. Miles may have been the right person for DISD. I’m not really in a position to know. At least he was hired by the duly elected DISD trustees, who had to face the voters after they made that choice. There are some yellow flags here even without his current gig as a charter school guy, and we the stakeholders of HISD have no control over it. That’s a scary situation. And the TEA won’t even bother to tell us whether this is what we should be worrying about.

Meanwhile, another senior leader departs HISD ahead of the takeover.

Deputy Superintendent Rick Cruz will be leaving Houston ISD this summer for a new role in North Carolina, marking the latest departure among district Cabinet members as the state takeover nears.

Asheville City Schools has named Cruz as its new superintendent to oversee the 4,300-student school district, according to the district.

In his 15-year career at HISD, Cruz said he has been through many changes and worked under different leaders while climbing his way up from a teacher to a senior administrator. His departure is “not about the takeover,” he said. Rather, he decided earlier this year to pursue a superintendent role and was selected in January for a leadership program called Chiefs for Change that works to develop superintendents and state education leaders.

“My decision to start down that path started before the takeover announcement,” Cruz said. “It’s bittersweet because I love Houston, I love the Houston community… I’m proud of the progress that has been made. I will always have a very special place in my heart for Houston, but it is time for me to grow as a leader.”

Congrats to Rick Cruz on the promotion, which sounds like a great opportunity. I take him at his word when he says that decision wasn’t about the takeover, but I’m sure it was there in the background – how could it not be? However you look at it, even if we get the most status quo-focused appointed Superintendent and the most community-focused appointed Board, we’re still going to come back to a very different HISD than the one we started with. There’s no getting around that.

Houston’s violent crime rate drops in 2023

I have three things to say about this.

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday touted his crime initiative as the reason behind a double-digit year-to-year reduction in violent crime in the first quarter of 2023, but experts say the figures mirror wider national trends and warned it is premature to predict whether the downtrend will continue.

In a report to City Council, Police Chief Troy Finner said Houston experienced a 12 percent decrease in violent crime during the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period last year. The data continue the downward trend highlighted in the Houston Police Department’s January report, which showed a decline in violent crimes between 2021 and 2022.

From January to March, murders saw the largest year-to-year decline at 28 percent, dropping from 152 to 109. Other categories of violent crime also experienced decreases: reported rape by 6 percent, robbery by 10 percent, aggravated assault by 12 percent, kidnapping by 19 percent and human trafficking by 23 percent, according to HPD’s latest figures.

Turner attributed the improvements to the introduction of One Safe Houston, a $44 million initiative launched in early 2022 to tackle crime when the city’s murder rate was on the rise. The plan included additional funds for crime prevention activities, overtime for police patrols, as well as programs to assist domestic violence survivors and individuals experiencing mental health crises.

“I think what’s important to note is that this trend started after we instituted One Safe Houston,” Turner said. “One Safe Houston is working. And it’s now been in effect for more than one year, and the numbers are reflective (of its success). But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Finner said improved coordination with Harris County’s criminal justice system in recent months and more aggressive efforts by prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office also have contributed to the reduced crime rates.

New Orleans-based criminologist Jeff Asher said Houston’s numbers appear to align with broader national trends. The co-founder of AH Datalytics, a consulting firm that analyzes criminal justice data, Asher said a majority of the nearly 70 U.S. cities his company tracks have reported decreases in violent crime so far in 2023.

“The national trend has been a decline in murders and gun violence, so seeing the same thing in Houston is both encouraging and not surprising,” Asher said. “The likelihood is that it’s not small local things that are driving it, but, rather, national changes. But what those changes are exactly is challenging to ascertain at this point.”

1. The national trends are absolutely the main drivers of the drop in crime, just as they were the main drivers of the increase of the past couple of years. There are things that local governments can do to affect their crime rate, both positively and negatively. There are definitely ways in which we could improve how we collect and update and disburse and react to the national data, to help cities and states be more proactive and less reactive. Finally allowing the CDC to collect gun violence data so as to study it as the epidemic it is would help. But whatever we’ve been doing here, the national trends almost certainly have outweighed it.

2. It’s also important to remember that while the citywide trend is positive, the commission of crime is not uniform throughout the city, and so some areas may not only have crime rates that are higher than other parts of the city, they may also still be experiencing increases, or at least not experiencing decreases. A couple of Council members made this point in the story. How we deploy our resources is one way that we can bend the curve further.

3. Remember all those breathless Republican ads from the 2022 campaign about the unrelenting crimeapocalypse in Houston and how only they could do something about it? Yeah. ‘Nuff said.

Houston still doing well sheltering the homeless

Good news.

As she waited for the results of a yearly census of the Houston area’s homeless population, Ana Rausch clicked open an email detailing the soaring number of eviction filings in Harris County. This March, 6,600 households had evictions filed against them, compared to a pre-COVID average of 3,800.

As the vice president of program operations for the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston and Harris County, which coordinates the region’s homelessness response, she viewed the data with some worry. She hoped the count wouldn’t show a corresponding increase in homelessness.

Now that the results are in, she is relieved, she said. During a year that saw both evictions and funding for Houston’s programs combating homelessness soar, 2023’s overall count stayed flat from the year before, with the number of people living in tents, cars and other places unfit for habitation down and the number of people in shelters up.

Every year, thousands of volunteers fan out across the country to take stock of their regions’ homeless populations. It’s this census, known as the Point-in-Time Count, that has brought Houston national recognition for its success in reducing its homeless population by roughly two-thirds since 2011.

The 2023 results, released Wednesday morning, showed the count of people living in tents, cars and other places unfit for habitation dropped 17 percent in the Houston area, to 1,200 people from 1,500 the year before. At the same time, the number of people living in shelters increased 18 percent, to 2,000 from 1,700. In the past year, shelters lifted the social distancing measures that sharply reduced the number of beds available during the pandemic.


Mayor Sylvester Turner also trumpeted the reduction of people living on the streets, in vehicles or in other unsheltered situations. Such a result “does not happen by mistake,”  he said in a release. “Rather it’s the result of making it a top priority, enhancing our invaluable partnership with Harris County and the community, and strategically funding data-proven, holistic housing solutions.”

In 2022, Houston, Harris County, the Coalition for the Homeless and their partners poured resources into a strategy of closing down homeless camps by offering everyone in them housing. The strategy has required opening a navigation center, where people moved out of a camp can stay while awaiting their permanent housing, and renting out units where people can stay longterm with supportive services such as caseworkers. The city, county and their partners housed 2,500 people in 2022, and more than 9,000 people who had been without homes were housed through their programs on the night of the count.

In a year when inflation spiked and many eviction protections ended, “We suspect that we might be somewhat unique and remarkable in the fact that we saw our unsheltered count go down,” said Catherine Villarreal, director of communications for the Coalition. However, many cities have yet to release their results from this year’s count, so it’s to be seen how Houston’s results compare.

See here for some background. These counts aren’t perfect – people couch-surfing with friends and acquaintances will be missed, for example – but the big picture is there, and it’s a good one for Houston. There will always be more work to do, but we have done a lot to improve this situation for thousands of people. We should be proud of that. Axios has more.

Cruise comes to Houston

I’m genuinely curious to see how this goes.

Cruise, a General Motors autonomous vehicle subsidiary, is bringing its self-driving cars to Houston with the goal of offering driverless rides.

The cars will begin testing next week, said Megan Prichard, Cruise’s vice president of ridehail.

“We designed the technology to launch first in San Francisco with the idea that we would see all sorts of challenges: everything from roller skate parties, to heavy traffic to raccoons in the roads,” Prichard said. “And we thought that if we designed our technology for a dense urban environment, that we would be able to then pick it up and put it into other cities around the country and around the world with only a little bit of fine tuning.”

Initial tests will be supervised drives, with a Cruise employee in the vehicle as a backup safety driver while the vehicle learns about Houston streets. The company did not specify where it would be tested in Houston, and the first drives will be closed to the public. Prichard said there was no timeline for when rides to the public will be offered. The company declined to say how many vehicles it planned to have in Houston.

After launching in San Francisco last year, the company started running its autonomous vehicles — a fleet of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles equipped with sensors — in Austin and Phoenix.

Prichard said the company is expanding to Houston because it’s a large and growing metropolitan area.

“The area that we operate (in) will be the area that we determine to be safe, and the hours that we operate will be the hours that we determine to be safe. And then we’ll expand that out over time,” Prichard said.

See here and here for some background. While the Cruise app rolled out in Austin in January, they only began testing the cars on the streets there in March, and that was not yet the public rollout. As such, I have no idea how it’s gone in Austin, so I don’t have any basis for predicting how it might go here. For that matter, and for all the hype about autonomous vehicle delivery services in Houston, I have not seen any reporting on how that’s been received by the public. I haven’t seen any stories of spectacular failures, so that’s a positive sign. I’m still unsure how big the market actually is for any of this. You can specify a driver who doesn’t talk to you when you order an Uber, so how is this any different? Like I said, I don’t know, and I’m looking forward to finding out. Does this appeal to you at all? Leave a comment and let me know. CultureMap, which answers one of my questions by noting that a Cruise ride would be cheaper than an Uber, and Bloomberg have more.

We ask again if the HISD Board should bother doing anything right now

I think the answer is still mostly No, but there’s some nuance to that.

The Houston Independent School District board met Thursday to discuss potential cuts to the district’s $2.2 billion budget as it faces a growing a growing deficit and a looming takeover by the Texas Education Agency.

Superintendent Millard House II has already walked back plans to slash school budgets by roughly $40 million after an outcry from the Board of Trustees, which insisted against campus-level cuts. That leaves cuts of just $15.3 million to the HISD central office with the district facing a projected $118 million deficit that could rise to $258 million by the 2024-2025 school year, as enrollment drops and pandemic-related funds dry up.

Most of those $15.3 million in savings would come from closing unfilled positions. The district had previously proposed reducing small school subsidies and high school allotments, along with returning to an attendance-based school funding policy that was suspended due to COVID-19, before those suggestions were nixed by the board.

HISD expects enrollment to continue to decline by nearly 3 percent between this school year and the next, from roughly 189,000 students to 184,000. The district’s enrollment has already fallen by about 31,000 students since the 2016-2017 school year, according to HISD data.

“As enrollment declines, that’s an impact to our revenues. That’s less money coming in than we have to be able to spend,” said Jim Grady, a consultant who presented the proposed budget to the board.


It’s not clear how the impending state takeover will affect the budgeting process, but the local board is moving forward with their plan to lay out a financial plan as normal. Another, final budget workshop is scheduled for May 18.

See here for some background. I’ve spoken in favor of the Board doing as little as possible in the time it has left, so as to leave the difficult and surely unpopular decisions that will need to be made about the looming deficit and the likely need to close some schools (seriously, what are we doing about that enrollment drop?) to the unelected overlords who will soon have to run the place. But maybe that’s too simple. Maybe it’s better to do at least some of the easier and more straightforward things on their own, in part because they will be done anyway and in part to perhaps head off some weird directions that the Board of Managers could take if given full discretion over these initial conditions. Give them slightly less room to do things we wouldn’t have considered, as well as less room to build up political capital for making the “hard” choices that really aren’t that hard. The Board of Trustees exists as a decision-making entity until June 1, and the district needs to pass a budget by June 30. My position is maybe more in flux now than it was before, but I’m still comfortable saying to the Board to not overthink this. Do the easy things, and pass on the rest.

A ride down the West 11th bike trail

I’ve been riding the West 11th bike trail since it opened, mostly to go to some of my favorite lunch places. It’s been great, modulo the occasional hazards like trash/recycling bins out for collection and delivery trucks or construction vehicles parked there or protruding from a driveway. I had never biked along West 11th before because the two-lanes-each-way vehicular traffic moved far too fast and too recklessly to ever feel safe enough. I’d take one of the side roads, or if I wanted to cross at a light I’d go to White Oak or 14th, depending on what my destination was. The dedicated lane on 11th is a better experience than all of those, and I appreciate being able to cross Studewood at a light as well, as that can be tricky and occasionally death-defying otherwise.

Early on in the path’s existence I set out to take a ride and pause for some pictures along the way, to document the experience. I’m finally getting around to publishing them now – it’s been a busy few weeks in the news, in case you hadn’t noticed – so while the pics themselves are a bit old, I now have more experience to speak from. So come ride along with me, and see what the fuss is about.


The first evidence of what was to become the trail was the painted “bike lane” indicators on Michaux, followed by the installation of a lane divider/crossing path on White Oak. You don’t see it as much now, but in the first few weeks it was common to see people approaching this intersection, from either street, and only realizing upon arriving there that they can’t turn left. When it happened to me, I made the forced right, then turned left on Norhill onto Usener, left onto Usener, and left again onto Michaux, and then finally right onto White Oak to continue on my way. I saw one person turn left into the oncoming traffic lane – fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic – and then slide over. Seems like most people in the ‘hood have figured this out now, which is good.


Of course, West 11th is the opposite way on Michaux. I just went that way to take the first photo. This is Michaux approaching 11th. I don’t really know what the little lane is for. I guess it’s a bit of a protection if you’re turning right (east) onto Pecore, which is what 11th becomes at Michaux. But there’s no separated bike lane that way, at least not at this time, so who knows.


You have to turn left (west) from Michaux to get into the bike lane. 11th used to be two lanes beginning or ending here, with the eastbound right lane being right turn only except for the #30 bus.


At Studewood. The concrete lane separator comes and goes, mostly to allow access to various driveways but also for right-on-red turns. I’ve been conscious of this as a driver along 11th, which I didn’t really have to be before because there were never any bikes. I’ve not had any issues with cars wanting to turn right yet. It’s no different than on non-bike lane streets like White Oak, to be honest.


At Heights Blvd. The “wide turn” sign is there because of the bike lane on Heights, which now has a concrete separator that looks like a platform right there. I’ll have a better look at it on the way back. Note the “no left turn” sign onto Heights southbound – as with the White Oak situation, not everyone has figured this out yet. That left was a real hazard before the bike lane, but it does mean if you’re coming this way you either need to turn at Yale, or scoot over to a side street to access Heights southbound from there. Note also the bank of lights on the far end of Heights, with the one lone (and hidden by the bus stop sign) light on the sidewalk. I don’t quite understand that design decision – there were two sets of lights before this, as really there are two intersections. If you want to have only one bank of lights, I might have argued that it belonged at the first intersection, not the second one. Anyone have a theory about this?


At Yale. I saw several other bikers while out on that initial ride, and I see regular bike traffic now. This guy was turning left onto Yale, which is why he wasn’t in the same lane as me. I can’t think of any other wrong-way biker I’ve seen since then.


Here we are at the junction of the north-south Heights Bike Trail, which will connect you to the MKT Trail to the south. I turned around here because I was just out for funsies and didn’t have a destination in mind. Note the “stop for pedestrians” sign, which exists at a number (but not all) of the cross streets now. The vehicular traffic has actually been quite good about respecting this, which is very nice. Before the West 11th lane diet and the trail, people going along the Heights trail often felt like they were taking their lives into their hands crossing here, as four total lanes of cars would whip by, often at speeds over 40 MPH. People had been calling for a traffic light at this intersection, but the trail and the lane reduction, which has definitely led to lower speeds, and the “stop for pedestrians (and, implicitly, bikes)” sign have done the trick.


At a few points along the concrete lane dividers, there are some vertical visual markers of the bike lane, presumably to remind drivers of the lane’s existence. Clearly, someone needed that reminder.


This is the platform for what I thought was a B-Cycle location in construction, on the south side of Heights. There’s an identical thing catty-corner on the north side. Given what’s going on with B-Cycle now, I’m not sure of the purpose of the platform anymore. But there they are.

So that’s a small taste of what the ride is like on West 11th. Someday when the North Main lane has been built – here’s an April 18 update that says initial construction begins in June, so this is not far off – I’ll do a similar ride. Let me know what you think.

The I-45 project will be old enough to vote before it is finished

Isn’t that nice?

Often called a once-in-a-generation project, the planned $9.7 billion-plus rebuild of I-45 from downtown Houston north to Beltway 8, including a total reconstruction of the downtown freeway system, is expected to take a generation to build.

A child born today would drive along the completed freeway around the time they graduate from high school in 2042, according to a new schedule released by state highway officials.

“Just kill me now,” joked Reuben Shuvalov, 42, who commutes to an accounting job in downtown Houston from his home in Spring.

Cleared for development following a two-year pause and lifting of a lawsuit by Harris County, the Texas Department of Transportation is finalizing the sequence of construction across three segments, broken into at least 10 separate projects to remake portions of I-45, key intersections and nearby local streets. Officials updated the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council on April 28, including expected start and finish years.


“That is just how the development of how the plans are coming along,” said Varnua Singh, deputy district engineer for TxDOT’s Houston office.

Work will be phased based on numerous factors, including funding, the need for some work to precede other parts of construction, and drainage in some spots prior to construction of depressed sections of the freeway on the east side of downtown.

As a result, the first project considered part of the larger rebuild is an $86.1 million project to upgrade drainage through EaDo, just east of Interstate 69 between I-45 south of downtown and Buffalo Bayou.

“The drainage is the first piece,” Singh said. “That is why we are trying to get it out the door.”

That work precedes construction south of downtown, where the first major project is the rebuilding of I-69 between Texas 288 and I-45, expected to cost $584.8 million and start in 2025. That rebuild, through the area where the two freeways converge, will take roughly five years, during which work will begin on nearby segments to Spur 527 and where I-10 and I-45 separate north of the central business district.

It is that 2027-2031 period when many of the projects will be active work zones that worries some about the effects on downtown jobs and businesses.

“Past freeway projects typically only affected one or two spokes at a time, and downtown employers just dealt with it since it only affected a portion of their employee base,” said Tory Gattis, a senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, which advocates for business-focused downtown development. “But with the normalization of remote and hybrid work, as well as this project affecting all the freeways coming into downtown, it could definitely be the tipping point to major employers following Exxon to the suburbs or just going more remote so their employees won’t have to fight their way downtown as often.”

See here for the previous update. All of the first batches of work will be on or south of I-10, so we’ve got that going for us. Hey, remember when driverless buses cruising along at 100 MPH were going to relieve us of all our traffic concerns? Those were the days. The Press has more.

More HISD departures

Gonna be a very different district when we get it back.

Three more senior staff members at Houston ISD are departing their high-ranking posts at the district as the Texas Education Agency prepares to appoint new leaders to govern the largest school district in Texas.

Police chief Pedro Lopez Jr., chief of schools Denise Watts and chief talent officer Jeremy Grant-Skinner will leave the district this month or next, according to public records. Watts’ last working day is June 14 and Grant-Skinner’s is May 31, according to resignation forms obtained through a public records request, which show that both submitted their resignation in April.

Lopez, meanwhile, has been selected to serve as top cop in Killeen, a city roughly 75 miles north of Austin.

Killeen city manager Kent Cagle last week selected Lopez to lead the Killeen Police Department following a nationwide search that netted 20 applicants, according to a press release from the city.


The departure of three chiefs from HISD comes as the takeover of the 186,000-student district has stirred confusion and concerns among parents, teachers and other community members.

The state agency plans to suspend the powers of Superintendent Millard House II and HISD elected trustees on or after June 1, replacing them with appointed managers to govern the district for at least two years.

One other member of the superintendent’s cabinet has already departed the district ahead of the takeover.

Max Moll, former chief engagement officer, left his position at HISD in April, noting in a Twitter thread that he was grateful for House’s steadfast leadership in challenging circumstances.

“His leadership is inspiring, focused, and selfless, and Houston will be worse-off because of his potential departure,” Moll wrote on social media. “I still believe in the power of public education and its ability to transform lives. (Houston ISD) will continue to shape the future of our city and, for that reason alone, we all must ensure its next chapter is successful. Our city, students, and families deserve nothing less.”

While all three of these people were in senior leadership positions, none of them were longtime HISD employees, all being hired between 2020 and 2022. We were between Superintendents for much of that, and some level of turnover is always going to happen. It’s still the case that their replacements will be hired by a Superintendent that will not be picked by the elected Board. The effects of this takeover will be longer-lasting and more far-reaching than just in the classroom.

Spring Branch ISD versus “James and the Giant Peach”

Note: The following is a guest post, written by my friend Diana Martinez Alexander. I occasionally run guest posts, some of which I solicit and some of which are sent to me.

Southlake. Garland. Frisco. Now Spring Branch is pushing to join the ranks of school districts in Texas who are making the news for all the wrong reasons.

“Parents’ Rights” is the newest buzzword used by conservative politicos, and that has translated into small contingents of vocal individuals with seemingly coordinated talking points on CRT, gender identity, Socio-Emotional Learning, and attacks on books and distrust of librarians and educators. The ACLU has even gotten involved in a case where a high school track team member faced consequences for running in a *gasp* sports bra.

The latest situation centers around an elementary grade field trip to the Main Street theater as a culminating activity for some students reading the book of the same name, James and the Giant Peach. Apparently, a common tactic of allowing cast members to double up on roles or play a character of another gender is a bridge too far for some community members. So after this concern was shared with district officials, the remaining schools from SBISD had their trip to the Main Street Theater canceled.

Never mind that some students read this book with the promise of seeing the play. Never mind that this theater is renowned for providing quality productions for nearly fifty years. Never mind that this may have been one of the few opportunities for these elementary school students to experience theater. Never mind all of the effort and work from staff to make the arrangements for this field trip. Never mind that parents had an opportunity to sign a permission slip for their children to attend.

Instead, a handful of chest-thumping parents have made international news as the district kowtows to their demands. However, this misplaced deference comes at great cost to SBISD. Strictly in terms of our reputation, the public widely admonishes the decision to cancel the field trip and frankly, wonders what the heck is going on in our community. Second, this results in a chilling effect on teachers and staff making any decision which could be perceived as controversial, to the detriment of students’ learning experiences. This could very well lead to a loss of experienced staff afraid of retribution, particularly those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. (We are already there, as just this week I heard of at least two instances of staff on leave relating to this increased hostility.) Lastly, this could have a very direct impact on the district’s theater productions, many of which have been nominated for Tommy Tune Awards. It’s a widely used practice to have students play characters of another gender, much like Shakespeare or Grecian theater.

Over and over, I’ve been hearing the same refrain: Parents should have the ability to make decisions on the books, extracurricular activities, and field trip participation for their child. But not all the children in a school community.

In response to an email on 4/27/23 I sent regarding this decision, Superintendent Blaine wrote:

“Based on the concerns we heard, the decision was made to request campuses planning to attend make [sic] alternative arrangements. My responsibility is to ensure that content students are exposed to during school hours is age appropriate. Given the information we had, the decision was made to err on the side of caution. Please understand these decisions are not always easy to make and are always done in the best interest of our students.”

You can also view a response sent by one of the SBISD principals to parents below.

I don’t see any winners here, only losers. The students definitely lose out on an opportunity to engage with their learning, build love of the arts, and experience theater in person. Again, this disproportionately impacts historically marginalized students who may not be otherwise exposed to the arts. A larger population of Title 1 schools are on the north side of the district. (Title 1 schools receive funding based on the percentage of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch.)

And in SBISD, divided by Interstate 10, it’s been a struggle to have voices heard by the board without equitable representation on the board. People are working to even the playing field, with a lawsuit filed in 2021 to change from at-large representation on the school board to single member or a hybrid model.

Speaking personally, I am ready to have someone with an authentic perspective on  the struggles of our Title 1 schools and campus communities on the north side representing us on the board, like candidates David Lopez for Position 1 and Becky Downs for Position 2.  As a graduate myself, former employee, parent of a graduate, and current SBISD community member, I see the devotion and loyalty held by many for our little corner of Harris County.  I also see the determination of those fighting against the erasure of those deemed problematic by right-wing extremists.  Good, I am glad.  

We’ll see on election day, May 6th, if #PeachGate makes a difference in the results.  Otherwise, students may learn the lesson that their families will only matter in decisions if they espouse the basest viewpoints amplified by conservative think tanks that aim to dismantle public education as we know it.  In Spring Branch, we are not willing to let that happen.

More on the demographics of SBISD:

Spring Branch District Profile

Diana Martinez Alexander is currently an educator in a large urban school district in Houston, serving special education students, linguistically diverse populations, and lower socio-economic communities. She is a proud daughter of immigrants, wife, mother, educator, and advocate who is devoted to working for community.

Note from Charles: The Chron story about this saga is here.

First round of cuts for Board of Managers wannabes

And then there were two hundred and twenty-five.

Fewer than half of the people who applied for the Houston ISD board of managers completed a weekend governance training required to move forward in the application process, according to the Texas Education Agency.

The agency said 225 people completed a mandatory two-day Lone Star Governance training that took place over the past two weekends. Those applicants are eligible to advance to the next phase of interviews, while those who did not attend the training, left early or skipped the second day have been eliminated from the process.

With a little more than a month until the agency plans to appoint the board of managers, the TEA is now moving forward with the interview phase of the selection process, which includes virtual and observational interviews, according to the agency.


Applicants included 199 men and 260 women, according to the TEA. The applicant pool was roughly 39 percent Black, 33 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic, 7.5 percent two or more races, 4.5 percent Asian and 4.3 percent another race.

Nearly 70 percent of the applicants held a master’s or doctorate degree, including 38 people with a doctorate in education, according to the agency.

Candidates were dispersed throughout the school system, according to the TEA, with 53 applicants from HISD district one, 36 from district two, 17 from district three, 73 from district four, 67 from district five, 36 from district six, 54 from district seven, 38 from district eight and 48 from district nine.

See here and here for some background. I don’t have anything new to add, but I guess I’m glad that there’s a decent number of applicants from each district, though we could have done better in District III. Not surprising, given the previous news about the demographic makeup of the applicant pool, that this is one of the more heavily Latino districts. We can and should continue to protest this entire process, but we should also want the selected Board to be as qualified and representative as it can be. No reason to make a bad problem even worse.

Don’t hold out hope for hockey in Houston

In case you had been doing so.

There is what seems to be perpetual interest in bringing an NHL team to Houston.

The interest, however, isn’t mutual at this time for hockey’s premier league to grow beyond its current 32 teams, commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday.

“It’s not anything we’re looking at right now in terms of ‘OK, it’s time to expand,’ ” Bettman said at a meeting with a group of Associated Press Sports Editors in New York.

The latest round of NHL-to-Houston speculation flared up last month, with chatter from two prominent ESPN commentators and a leading hockey insider in Canadian media saying “there is definitely something with both Atlanta and Houston and the NHL.”

But Bettman on Tuesday said the league is content at 32 teams, the number it reached after adding expansion franchises in Las Vegas and Seattle in 2017 and 2021, respectively. Houston has not had a pro hockey team since the American Hockey League’s Aeros moved to Des Moines, Iowa, after the 2012-13 season.

“I don’t think it’s our manifest destiny to have 34, 36 or 38 teams,” Bettman said Tuesday. “I think we’re great at 32. We have a terrific footprint. But yeah, places like, in no particular order, Quebec City, Atlanta, Houston, Salt Lake City are all expressing interest. But it’s not something that in the moment we’re dealing with. I don’t know if we will or we won’t.”

We’ve been talking about bringing an NHL team to Houston for over a decade, even before the minor league team that was in existence at the time vamoosed to Iowa. Hasn’t been much talk lately, though Pasadena tried to lure a minor league team a few years ago. I’m not a huge hockey fan – daughter #2 has picked up an interest in the sport; I owe her a trip to Dallas to see the Stars in the fall – but it would be fun to have a team here. As has always been the case, maybe someday.

How much downtown parking do we need?

I don’t know the answer to that, but this is how much we have.

Downtown Houston dedicates more than a quarter of its land to parking spaces, surpassing the percentages in most major U.S. cities, a new report shows.

A photo from the 1970s that went viral last year showed Houston’s downtown nearly engulfed by parking lots at the time. While less extreme today, 26 percent of the city center still serves as parking spaces, ranking Houston seventh in parking density among 50 major American metropolitan areas analyzed by the Portland-based Parking Reform Network.

Houston isn’t alone in Texas when it comes to high parking concentration, the report shows. San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth closely followed the Bayou City in ninth, 11th and 12th place, respectively. Topping the list is Arlington, which sees a staggering 42 percent of its land occupied by parking lots and garages.

In contrast, New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Boston dedicate only 1 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent and 6 percent of their downtown areas to parking, respectively.

A car-centric downtown often leads to a less pedestrian-friendly environment, according to the network, whose research shows that an increase in central city parking typically results in a significant decrease in walkability.

“With all this parking, little land was left for anything else, making housing more expensive, less dense, and farther apart,” the report read. “It’s clear that if we want to have walkable cities, we need cities that are less parkable.”

As more than half of Houstonians consistently express their desire for a more walkable urban design in surveys, the city has taken steps towards this goal in recent years. These initiatives include expanding Houston’s network of sidewalks, implementing pedestrian-friendly rules for new developments in select neighborhoods and permanently closing down traffic on parts of Main Street.

In 2019, Houston also eliminated minimum parking requirements in parts of the Midtown and Downtown East neighborhoods — an exemption that already existed in the central business district — in order to prevent an excessive number of parking lots from consuming too much urban core space.

Meanwhile, some parking lots in Houston have started to vanish in the past decade. Between 2010 and 2022, 21 lots were demolished and replaced with buildings, Axios reported. These new developments include Discovery Green, Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Partnership Tower, Marriott Marquis, Hampton Inn and Suites and Aris Market Square.

I generated the Houston downtown parking map here and embedded it above. Some of the parking indicated is multi-level, which isn’t great from a pedestrian-experience perspective, but at least takes up less surface area. I’m not sure what more can be done to squeeze in more actual buildings, with useful things in them, but at least we’ve taken some steps to increase what’s available. Ginger noted this tool in the April 7 Dispatches from Dallas; I couldn’t resist adding on when I saw the Chron story.

Even more Board of Managers applicants

Maybe now they have enough.

When the Texas Education Agency in June appoints a new superintendent and nine managers to govern the Houston Independent School District, longtime educator and mother Anita Wadhwa hopes there will be someone like her sitting on the new board.

“Sometimes on boards, they don’t have people who are on the ground doing the work,” she said. “I just want to make sure that voice is represented — whether it’s with me or someone else, it doesn’t matter.”

Wadhwa is among 462 people, many of them educators, HISD parents or other professionals, who applied to the board of managers through the final deadline on Thursday night, according to the TEA. The extended deadline netted an additional 88 applications. Still, the Hispanic population remains vastly underrepresented with just 52 applicants. Latinos make up roughly 62% of the student body but 11% of the candidate pool.

“The reason for this low response has been a poor recruitment process that does not allow community input, a lack of transparency on qualifications, and a very short window of time,” said Sergio Lira, president of the Greater Houston LULAC Council, in a statement. “We feel that this is a calculated process that is meant to keep Latino numbers down.”

Forty people were disqualified from the process because they live outside district boundaries. A third of the applicants are white, nearly 40% are Black and 4.5% are Asian, according to the TEA. Nearly 70% hold a master’s or doctorate degree, including 38 people with a doctorate in education. There are many HISD teachers and employees in the mix, according a partial list of applicants, but the TEA has said those people must resign from their job if they are selected.

The partial list of names released last week by the TEA includes professionals from all spheres: attorneys, doctors, nurses, coaches, professors and educators. While many applicants have little name recognition, some have put been in the public sphere through civic leadership, prior elections and advocacy work. For example, among the applicants are Catherine Mincberg, who served as an HISD trustee more than a decade ago, and Lawrence Allen Jr., a former member of the state board of education and brother of a current HISD trustee.

When we last looked at the BoM applicants, we noted that the deadline to apply had been extended for two weeks, for unspecified reasons. I looked through the list of names in this story and didn’t see any that I hadn’t recognized from before, so either the Chron’s list wasn’t updated or nobody of sufficient renown to be spotted by the likes of me applied during that extended period. I did see Cathy Mincberg‘s name in there before, and according to her LinkedIn bio, she was a Trustee from 1983 through 1995; that “more than a decade ago” is doing quite a bit of work there. I should note, this is not at all intended as snark about Mincberg, who is also the ex-wife of former HCDP Chair and 2008 Dem candidate for County Judge David Mincberg. It was just that my reaction to the “more than a decade” descriptor was “I’m pretty sure I know the names of every HISD trustee since 2003, and she wasn’t one of them, so how much more than a decade are we talking here”. Well, now you know. Also, she was a previous applicant to the BoM.

Anyway, the same issues as before apply. Not nearly enough Latinos among the applicants. No accountability except via decree from Mike Morath. No clue, at least by me, how they’re going to be able to reach the super high metrics Morath has set. Redistricting of trustee districts still needs to be done, and there hasn’t been a bond issue since 2012; sadly, we’re no longer in a zero-interest economy, so it’s going to cost more to replenish the capital stock. Just remember, the state of Texas is now responsible for all this and more. Every single problem from now till they hand it all back, and then some, is on them.

So yeah, climate change is bad for Houston

Some science for you.

As Houston continues to grapple with extreme weather conditions, scientists find record-breaking sea level rises in the U.S. Gulf Coast, which could leave cities such as Houston more vulnerable to severe storms and flooding in the coming decades than previously anticipated.

Since 2010, sea levels along the Gulf Coast and Southeast coastlines have been rising by roughly half an inch per year due to a combination of human-caused climate change and an extended period of unfavorable natural conditions, according to a new study published by the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Although half an inch might not seem like a lot, it can have significant consequences for coastal communities. A NASA analysis determined that for every inch of sea level rise, about 8.5 feet of beachfront vanishes along an average coast. In fact, these rates are on par with the “worst case” scenario if greenhouse gas emissions continued to surge throughout the 21st century.

Higher sea levels also can cause more flooding even on sunny days, often leading to considerable damage to properties and infrastructure, according to the paper’s lead author, Sönke Dangendorf, at Tulane University. This latest research joins a long list of recent studies highlighting the negative effect climate change could have on the Houston area.

“These rapid rates are unprecedented over at least the 20th century and they have been three times higher than the global average over the same period,” Dangendorf told the Tulane News. “The results, once again, demonstrate the urgency of the climate crisis for the Gulf region. We need interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts to sustainably face these challenges.”

The findings by Dangendorf and his team were consistent with those of Jianjun Yin, a geosciences professor at the University of Arizona. In his recent article in the Journal of Climate, Yin used satellite observations to estimate the total amount of sea level rise in the East and the Gulf Coasts from 2010 to 2022 was about 5 inches. The drastic rate has made disasters such as Hurricanes Michael and Ian more devastating than they otherwise would have been, he told The Washington Post.

“The faster (sea level rise) on the Southeast and Gulf Coasts … coincided with active and even record-breaking North Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent years,” Yin said in his study. “As a consequence, the elevated storm surge exacerbated coastal flooding and damages, particularly on the Gulf Coast.”

The study and an abstract are here. I don’t think the premise or the conclusions will surprise anyone who has lived through the last decade or so here. It’s more a question of how much worse it gets, and how much of a risk that is to everyone living here. And, in a more hopeful vein, what we can do to mitigate that and protect ourselves.

There are a lot of people running for office in Houston already

If you regularly check the page, you may have noticed this article continuing to appear, even though it was originally published last November. The reason for this is that they are tracking who has officially filed for office, and are updating it weekly.

The campaigns for Houston’s November mayoral election are in full swing, with several contenders in the mix and millions of dollars flowing to candidates.

In Houston’s strong mayor form of government, the mayor acts as the chief executive of the city, presiding over City Council while also directly managing the city’s 22 departments. The mayor oversees a nearly $6 billion budget and manages more than 20,000 employees.

That means the next administration will have a chance to shape the city’s finances, and will have final say over the number of police officers patrolling the streets, how your garbage and recycling is collected, how streets are repaired and designed, and how the city manages its water system, among other issues.

Mayor Sylvester Turner is term-limited and will leave office in January. The campaigns to replace him in this year’s open election actually began years ago, an unusually early start for municipal politics. State Sen. John Whitmire, the longest serving member of the Texas Senate, announced his plans to run for mayor way back in November 2021.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee made her long-rumored campaign official on March 26, telling parishioners at City Cathedral Church she plans to run.

The congresswoman’s announcement shuffled the race: About a week later, Chris Hollins, the former Harris County clerk, said he would drop out and run for controller instead. And Tony Buzbee, the millionaire attorney who challenged Turner in 2019, said he is considering another run because he thinks he is the only candidate who can beat Jackson Lee.

The mayoral field includes former City Councilmember Amanda Edwards, attorney Lee Kaplan, Councilmember Robert Gallegos, and former Metro Chair Gilbert Garcia.


Candidates can file a document appointing a campaign treasurer, which allows them to start fundraising.

Dozens of candidates have filed those documents so far. Others, like outgoing City Council members, have announced campaigns for new posts.

We’ll update the list every week or so, as new candidates surface.

The 10 incumbent council members are included in this list. As of April 18, the candidates are:

You can click over to see, but I’ll provide a few highlights:

– There are now twelve Mayoral candidates, with the addition and subtraction of Chris Hollins, now a Controller candidate. Tony Buzbee, who has not filed a designation of treasurer, is not included. The list also includes a number of perennials and “who the heck is that” types. Be that as it may, there are six candidates – John Whitmire, Sheila Jackson Lee, Amanda Edwards, Gilbert Garcia, Robert Gallegos, Lee Kaplan – who can claim to be serious.

– Lots of action already in the open At Large races – four candidates for AL1, five for AL2, and seven for AL3. I expect all three of them to continue to increase in size.

– For District Council open seat races, there are three candidates so far in E, five in H, and two in I. Again, I expect these to grow, though probably not as much as the At Large races will.

– There are now four candidates for Controller, the two current Council members Dave Martin and Michael Kubosh, former Mayoral candidate Chris Hollins, and Chief Deputy Controller Shannan Nobles. My prediction that this race would attract at least one prominent Democrat looks pretty good right now.

– Several incumbents don’t yet have opponents. Tarsha Jackson in B has three opponents, Letitia Plummer in At Large #4 has two opponents, and Carolyn Evans-Shabazz in D and Ed Pollard in J each have one.

– Two people have filed to run for something but have not yet specified which office. There had been three when I looked about a month ago, but one either withdrew his candidacy or picked a race, I don’t remember. They have until the filing deadline to make their choice. Along those lines, anyone who has filed for one office can switch to another before the deadline. Nothing is written in stone until then.

– I’m already exhausted thinking about how many interviews I’m going to need to do.

Ashby 2.0 cleared for groundbreaking

It’s actually happening.

Did you miss me?

Along-embattled residential high-rise project in Boulevard Oaks is set to move forward, with one Houston City Council member calling the news “terrible.”

The Langley , a new luxury rental community jointly developed by El Paso-based Hunt Companies, Inc. and Dallas-based StreetLights Residential has just been given the green light to break ground by the City of Houston.

As neighbors are well aware, The Langley (1717 Bissonnet St.) is the new iteration of the hot-button mix-used development that was long dubbed the Ashby high-rise. A turf war between the Ashby’s developers and Boulevard Oaks residents and representatives dates back some 15 years. (The occasional “Stop Ashby High-Rise” bumper sticker can still be spotted in the Inner Loop.)

Locals filed a suit against Buckhead Investment Partners, a judge eventually sided with developers in 2016.

The Langley, a more intimate version than the original high-rise, is meant to appease residents who opposed the large development’s footprint and effect on traffic and flow. As the Houston Chronicle reported, the city of Houston approved StreetLights Residential’s permit for site and foundation work in March.

Now, it appears the The Langley is cleared to break ground. No word yet if Hunt Companies and StreetLights Residential hope to complete the project by 2025, the original target date.

City Council Member Abbie Kamin minced no words on Thursday, April 20. “This is terrible news and I won’t sugarcoat it,” she wrote in an email to constituents. “Residents and I have been fighting this grossly out-of-scale development – and its negative impacts on traffic, congestion, safety, and quality of life for neighbors – with both hands tied behind our backs.”

Hunt Companies and StreetLights Residential are “taking advantage of Houston’s lack of zoning,” Kamin continued. She added the developers are “using state vested rights laws to disregard new residential buffering standards, and other neighborhood protections that have been fought for and passed by City Council during my time and before.”

Kamin, for her part, vows to fight for residents. “Let me be clear: I stand strongly opposed to this development and others that do not incorporate and include the measures we have put in place to make development better for neighborhoods,” she wrote. “I will continue to advocate for and alongside our residents to mitigate the impacts this construction project is going to have on the neighborhood.”

See here and here for the background. It’s hard to know what CM Kamin and the rest of the opposition can accomplish at this point, but it can’t hurt to try. We know from the previous experience with this property that a vocal group of homeowners in a nice neighborhood can do quite a bit. As I’ve been on this train for a long time, I’ll ride it till it reaches its destination. Never would have thought it would still be going after all these years, and at this point clearly with some more to go, but here we are.

UPDATE: From the Chron story:

Pete Patterson, an attorney representing some neighbors who oppose the Langley, said the neighbors sill don’t think plans meet the requirements outlined in the 2012 agreement with the city.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Patterson. “We’re reviewing our options and we’ll be making a decision with respect to legal action in the near future.”

Litigation would certainly extend this ride even more. Who knows how much longer I’ll have to keep an eye on this?

How was there still an active lawsuit over the 2004 revenue cap referendum?

I am gobsmacked.

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday struck down part of Houston’s revenue cap, creating the possibility that the city may have to comply with an even more stringent cap in the future.

Elected officials in Houston long have blamed the city’s revenue cap for lagging services, keeping more than $1.4 billion from the city’s coffers since 2014. If Houston were forced to implement the stricter cap, current and former city officials have argued it would be “financially devastating.

“The ruling in the 19-year-old legal dispute stems from the 2004 municipal elections, when Houston voters passed two separate caps on the city’s revenues. Anti-tax activists proposed a measure that would cap increases in total city revenues to the sum of population growth and inflation. That initiative became known as Proposition 2.

Then-Mayor Bill White, in response, offered an alternative: The city would limit annual increases in property tax revenue to the sum of population growth and inflation, or 4.5 percent, whichever is lower. City Council put that measure on the ballot, known as Proposition 1, with language saying it would preempt Proposition 2 if it got more votes. Both caps allow the city to ask for voters’ approval to exceed their respective limits.

Houston voters passed both measures, and supported Prop 1 by a greater margin, 64 percent to 56 percent for Prop 2. The city implemented the White administration’s version and came up against the cap for the first time in 2014. It has cut its property tax rate eight times in the last nine years to comply with that measure.

“There is an impact on the services the city can deliver in the general fund with Prop 1,” said former Mayor Annise Parker, who served as city controller when the ballot measures passed. “It would be financially devastating to implement Prop 2.”


The city’s charter has a provision for when inconsistent amendments are adopted, saying “the amendment receiving the highest number of votes shall prevail.” The question for the trial court will be whether the two propositions are inconsistent.

“The trial court noted that aspects of the two amendments may be harmonized, but it did not undertake that effort because it gave effect to the primacy clause and disregarded Proposition 2 in its entirety,” Bland wrote.

Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office said the city has argued for nearly 20 years that they do conflict. He said Friday he is confident the trial court will agree, leaving the current cap in place.

“Houston has faithfully enforced one of the country’s most restrictive property tax revenue caps for almost two decades,” Turner said in a statement. “When Houston voters were presented with a choice of two competing caps, they clearly chose a restriction on property tax rates and revenue alone. I remain confident that the conclusion of this case will find the charter amendment revenue caps are inconsistent and apply only the limitations of Proposition 1 with which the City has faithfully complied — in addition to complying with the recently enacted State of Texas revenue cap.”

I couldn’t find anything in my archives relating to this lawsuit, so I have no idea what its history is. The city has prevailed in past litigation, but as with the neverending efforts to kill Obamacare the fringe lunatics who keep fighting this keep finding new ways to keep trying. I have no idea what happens next, but as I am waiting for news of a different Supreme Court ruling as I write this, I hope this is the worst news from any kind of Supreme Court we got on Friday afternoon. I’m going to go light a candle and toss some salt over my shoulder now.

HCC approves its redistricting map

In the end, what was expected.

The Houston Community College Board of Trustees approved on Wednesday a redrawn voter map that made small changes to all nine single-member districts but failed to reunify a previously split Third Ward.

The trustees approved the drawing, 8-1, with only District 4 Trustee Reagan Flowers voting against. She sought to regain the north part of the historic Third Ward ten years after her district ceded it to District 3, a predominately Hispanic area in east and southeast Houston that had lost population in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Alternate maps that Flowers favored never gained traction. Latino communities came out in force to support the plan that was voted on and approved. and election lawyers said it also contained the most equitable changes across the districts and had the least potential of diluting voter strength.

“(The map) actually rebalances you as a system,” said Lisa McBride, a partner at Thompson & Horton LLP. “It’s a little bit of impact to every single member district but it’s not so much that it actually would change any election outcome.”

The redistricting effort occurred as HCC’s District 3 once again counted population losses in the 2020 U.S. Census. Districts have to be redrawn when the population of the most populous district — now District 6, in west Houston — exceeds the population of the least populous district by more than 10 percent at the time of major Census updates.

The population estimates led the HCC board to spend the last 14 months considering various redrawn maps – all with the intent of finding places for District 6 to shed population and District 3 to expand. The trustees needed to approve a new map by the summer, in time to plan for the November election.

In approving “map 1A,” District 3 Trustee Adriana Tamez said, the board succeeded in its goals of preserving existing boundaries when possible and preserving constituent relations.

“There were challenges, including population growth in the west side of the System,” she said. “Map 1A adheres to our agreed upon criteria, with as little disruption as possible, not only for district 3, but for all districts across the system.”

See here for some background. There was definitely some opposition from Trustee Flowers and residents of the Third Ward, but the challenge of keeping that part of town all in the same district when the adjoining District 3 needed to add population required bigger overall changes, and in the end that was not the consensus choice.

On a completely tangential note, HISD still has its redistricting to do. The most recent update I have on that is from January, and with the forthcoming takeover I have no idea what will happen. If they had had an easy update to make, they’d have done it by now, but these things are rarely easy. As we know, there are still HISD Trustee elections this November, and the districts right now are not in compliance with the law. Something will have to happen sooner or later.