Monday, December 26, 2011

While we were out....

Houston's "Downtown Pavilions" went into receivership....

(Downtown’s Houston Pavilions taken over by receiver, Nancy Sarnoff,

Despite this the City has declared the property (whose anchor tenants are the House of Blues and Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes) a "success". Obviously using some definition of success with which are are not yet familiar....

Houston gets "bike sharing" (at Light Rail stations to boot!)

(Houston to get bike sharing and Nissan Leafs*, Zain Shauk,

This little "newswatch" blog piece wasn't bad, but the 'news' story from Chronblog on this issue should have never made it passed even the most junior editor....

(Bicycle-sharing program will start in downtown Houston, Allan Turner,
Imagine a Houston where you could step from a light rail station, rent a bicycle for a nominal sum and pedal to your destination. The only greenhouse gas you'd emit would be your own carbon dioxide as you huffed and puffed along. Rather than fretting about burning noxious gasoline, you could gloat about burning calories.
Cringe-worthy, and not a word of opposition in what was clearly designed to be an advocacy piece and nothing resembling journalism.

During time when finances for the City are historically tight, it's telling that this bumbling administration and City Council closed the curtain on 2011 with some fiscally questionable decisions. It's almost comical that ChronBlog asked the question whether gridlock has been good for Texas or no.

Given the actions of our local politicians (many of whom share fiscal ideology with many in the National Democratic Party) the more gridlock the better.

*I won't even discuss the "leasing" of Nissan Leafs. I'm sure someone would say this has as much potential to the taxpayer as did Bill White's failure of a Prius purchase plan.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Twas the night before, the night before, the night before Christmas

(used via a creative commons license.)

And all through the house, not a blogger was blogging, not even the lightly read and intermittently updated.

In other words: Happy Christmas y'all. Here's hoping you spend it with good times, good friends, all of your loved ones around you safe and happy (and warm) and free from food-borne illnesses.

If you comment on here, don't be surprised if it's not approved until after the Holiday has passed. I've got tamales to eat ya' know?

City of Houston passes High Rise Ordinance, takes first bite of elephant...

Many of my three (or so) regular readers are undoubtedly familiar with the question: "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer of course being "One bite at a time."

Yesterday zoning and land-use advocates took their first bite into the zoning elephant and are already coming back for more.

(Houston City Council OKs high-rise limits, Zain Shauk,
After four years of arguments and delays, Houston City Council on Wednesday approved restrictions on residential towers, passing an ordinance inspired by the so-called Ashby high rise.

The decision came during the final council meeting of the year, giving Mayor Annise Parker a victory as she pushed for two controversial sets of regulations to pass before seven new city representatives are sworn into office in January.

The other proposed regulations stalled, however, with the council voting unanimously to delay a vote on new automobile shop rules until February and leave the issue to the new council in the upcoming term.

The restrictions on high rises, which will require those structures to be built at least 30 or 40 feet from surrounding homes, depending on the street sizes, faced opposition from five council members who wanted it delayed.
In reality, this is a fairly toothless ordinance. One that was undoubtedly crafted to provoke the following response:

(Buffering Ordinance Falls Short, The Apple Dumpling Gang,
Those who endorse incremental change may applaud the Residential Buffering Ordinance as a small step in the right direction. But if the city's goal is to protect neighborhoods against the kind of unwelcome surprises posed by projects like the Ashby high-rise, the Residential Buffering Ordinance falls tragically short. We believe that the city can do better.

By better, the Gang is undoubtedly referring to form based codes which, in reality, are zoning for those who don't like the mean-ol' Government telling them what they can or cannot do with their land. The problem with form-based codes is that the argument based for/against them is based on a false premise.

(Regarding the proposed High Density Ordinance, Andrew Burleson, NeoHouston
A far better and more effective approach to development regulation is form-based code. In a form-based code the scale of a building and the way it relates to its surroundings is regulated, and land-use is not regulated.
Got that? Land-use is NOT regulated, so we're dealing with the much more benign "codes" than a full on frontal zoning ordinance which would tell you at what time you could wake up in the morning to relieve yourself.

At first blush, form-based "codes" sounds much more benign, kind of like a soft summer afternoon at a beach bar on a Sunday evening, rather than the full on Saturday evening rave that zoning is sure to become. The problem with this analogy, is that you're still drunk at the end and wake up with a hangover the next day.

By limiting the form of buildings you also limit the possibilities for their use. While it's true that one can put a restaurant into a converted bungalow, one would have difficulty building a multi-unit residential property in one. You also would have difficulty doing office space of any meaningful size (obviously we're omitting law-offices from this discussion, which (like roaches) can take up residence pretty much anywhere) limits the possible uses for which new construction can be designed. Conveniently, this also ensures that very un-urban suburban plat neighborhoods are allowed to thrive (at now inflated real-estate prices) while low-rent areas are more likely to be re-developed to handle the desire for "urbanism". In short, the wealthy keep their yards while the DINK's get their lofts. Everyone is happy except the poor, who are increasingly driven out to the fringes of town to eek out a living on their own. If you can then eliminate the main arteries that allow the poor to enter urban enclaves to reach employment centers, all the better. By shoe-horning the poor into a few public transit options, you better control and monitor their movement. This is the urbanist' dream. Paris, but without the sense of history, classic beauty and Gypsy beggars.

All of this ignores the "slippery slope" argument, which states that, once form-based codes are in place, Urbanist proponents will then say they're "not enough" and begin the push for full scale zoning. Next is a congestion charge, forced evictions and then? Unfortunately I'm not a creative enough writer to imagine what would come next.

Whatever does come next will be, fortunately, at the behest of the voters. Because to make these changes the City will have to submit them to the public for a vote, which means that City residents will get exactly what they ask for. That's why I don't have a problem with amateur urban-planners making imaginary capital spending budgets with other's money. I might not agree with Andrew Burleson, and find him to be amazingly thin skinned, but I don't begrudge him the right to advocate for his future vision for Houston (a vision, undoubtedly, that would be different than what I described here but which, in my estimation, relies too much on the benign wisdom of the planners to be realistic) as a matter of fact I welcome it. I also welcome articles such as this:

(National Economist puts Houston on Cities to Watch List, Nancy Sarnoff,
Steady job growth and a construction revival make Austin and Houston two of my five cities to watch. Texas isn’t hung over from the housing boom like the other big states of the South and West, so there’s little to hold back growth. Honorable mention to Fort Worth and San Antonio.

Clearly what Houston is currently doing is working out just fine. I've yet to see a good argument as to why we should continue to try and fix what's clearly not broken, only to replace it with items that clearly are?

Until then, we watch with amusement as Houston continues taking bite after bite out of the zoning elephant, all while assuring its residents that it is doing no such thing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

High bills are one thing.....

....apparent incompetence is another thing altogether.

(Houston hits Harris Co. with huge drainage fee bill, Deborah Wrigley, KTRK 13 News Houston)
County commissioners have yet to recover from the first payment of the city's drainage fee that involves Reliant Park. This latest bill is ratcheting up tensions even more, but this time for good reason.

Reliant Park includes everything from Reliant Center, to the Astrodome, to Reliant Stadium and it's all county property that was built and paid for with county bond funds.

In downtown, there's Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park; both are city-owned properties. And that is why the county is wondering about its latest drainage fee bill.

"It apparently includes charges for both Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park," said Willy Loston with the Harris County Sports Authority.

To make matters worse, the letter states that the $88,000 the county paid in its first fee installment was an under-billing and about $4,000 more is due. And this latest bill is $107,000.
I'm wondering how long it will be until the City of Houston taxpayers realize that their County taxes are going to pay these bills? For County residents, many of whom don't use the stadiums they're now being (double) taxed for, this has to sting twice as hard.

From the beginning this money grab drainage fee has been a poorly implemented, terribly designed mess. One that will only get bigger and bigger as the City's thirst for funds increases.

Until then, there appears to be a lot of work that needs to be done to tie down rates, fees due and what actually needs to be taxed by a municipal works department that's horribly understaffed and overworked. Amazingly, despite no evidence of even the most basic competence, Mayor Parker drew no serious challengers during the last cycle and we're assured of two more years of this wandering mess.

If she doesn't draw a serious challenger in 2013, you have to wonder if Houston's City Government is finished a functioning democratic entity? After all, if the InterLeft has a problem with single-party State rule, then surely they would have a problem with single-party Municipal rule that ensures bad elected officials serve until term limited only because they are aligned with the preferred power brokers?

Sadly, no. The roar you're most likely to hear is them telling the County to "stop whining" and pay up, whether the bills are fair, correct or even for things they don't own.

HISD Must-reads

If you're a resident of HISD's jurisdiction, have a kid in their school, are just worried about where your hard-taken taxpayer dollars are going, or are among the many who claim it's all "for the children" (and the teacher's unions of course), then you should take the time to read these three excellent pieces released today by Texas Watchdog....

Rash of improper influence over high-dollar contracts at Houston ISD -- while teachers are cut and schools are closed, Mike Cronin & Jennifer Peebles, Texas Watchdog

Former Houston ISD procurement chief reveals problems in the agency, talks about his dismissal, Mike Cronin, Texas WatchDog

Houston school district launches two audits, but questions abound on whether either will solve HISD's problems, Mike Cronin, Texas Watchdog

There are some issues one would hope prove to be non-partisan. Somehow I doubt that will be the issue in this case. There are sure to be a lot of politically sacred-cows gored here, be interesting to see who feigns the most outrage over this. The spin should also be good for some clean fun. I encourage you to go read all three pieces and then share them with everyone you know who has a child attending HISD, or who pays taxes to them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

(New) Metro solution: We'll just wait until the furor dies down

Gotta hand it to the new Metro: They get the whole 'news cycle' thing:

Expect delays: Metro pushes back route changes until February, Caroline Evans, West University Examiner
Bus riders will have a little more time to adjust their travel plans before Metro goes through with route changes and eliminations. Metro announced via Twitter and Facebook Thursday that the proposed changes, which include eliminating the 35 Fairview and the 49 Chimney Rock, will be put off until February so staff can meet with affected communities and try to come up with other options.
What Metro's bloated PR department understands is that, by the time February rolls around, many in Houston will have forgotten that Metro was planning these 'service adjustments' altogether.

If there's any real difference between 'new' Metro and 'old' Metro it's the former's superior ability to properly handle a friendly media. You can be sure that, by February, there will be a laundry list of new, positive, stories about how Metro is squandering spending $900 Million of taxpayer money on an expanded toy train system designed to move the pretty people from haute location A to haute location B thus ensuring that these 'service enhancements' are buried on page 27.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another scalp for Dolcefino's wall

This time, It's the CEO of the Port of Houston.

According to the story, Mr. Dreyer is saying that he's "had enough" and is resigning. Enough of what is anyone's guess?

My guess is he's had enough of the public demanding to see what's going on over there. For years has given organizations like the Port and Metro a free pass, choosing to forgo their watchdog responsibilities in favor of rah! rah! cheerleader reporting.

What this news hole (journalism desert?) has created is an opportunity for television news to improve ratings on a monthly basis with slickly-produced, high-tech journalism segments that (in Wayne's case anyway) typically get results.

Not thinking it through

Social media. It's tough. Especially Twitter, where there are very few hard and fast rules how to successfully communicate with the masses....

For example, right now I'm guessing the Houston Tomorrow smart dumb-growth, green ecomental set wishes they had timed these two tweets at different times....

Economic and demographic shifts driving Americans to drive less: - Sent at 7:52 PM, 12/13/11

Pedestrian deaths rose in 2010 nationwide: - Sent at 7:52 PM, 12/13/11

This group can't even get social media right, and they think they should be in charge of the Urban planning for Millions of people? The obvious comeback is that they should all take more walks, Darwinism and what-not, but we here at HCA don't want people dead, just proven to be the central-planning, anti-poor, pro-ruling class, Statists they are. So, they can keep driving their SUV's to work, we don't mind....

Thanks to them for keeping the humor going though, as a local blogger it's much appreciated.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Houston Transit Paradox

On the one hand, Houston "world-class transit" proponents LOVE that Metro is being given the keys to the car of $900 Million dollars to do with as they please:

(Metro gets its money (finally, $900 million), The Apple Dumpling Gang,
Houston Metro's success in landing $900 million in federal funds for expanding light rail here is little short of a miracle given the national climate of towering deficits and partisan gridlock.

Congratulations to the transit agency's leadership team of Gilbert Garcia and George Greanias for getting it done. And kudos to old pros inside the agency like John Sedlak for doing their part behind the scenes. Hard to believe, but these are the first federal funds granted for Houston rail. Ever.

On the other hand, shiny new apps are being lauded for that old-fashioned, creaky bus service:

(An app for Houston's bus system, The Apple Dumpling Gang,
The app, which Metro says will be available by the end of the year, will list all the bus stops and schedules. We hope this comprehensive view of the system will help Houstonians see that, yes, their city does have a functioning mass transit system.
The problem with this is that, unmentioned here, Metro is currently slashing that very bus service in order to free up money to pay for the red-ink that has become the new 'transit backbone'. Imagine just how expendable those bus lines will become once the expense of an expanded network is factored in.

The solution? You will not be surprised to hear that Peter "plan" Brown*, feels that Houston just needs a plan:

(Get a plan, Peter Brown, letters)
Essentially, there is no coordinated plan; not for the city, not for the region. Without a goal-oriented plan, backed by clear, sustainable growth policies, Houston tax-payers will be the losers, because scarce public dollars will be wasted.
Of course, the counter-argument is that 'plans' such as the ones that Brown is championing, are big money wasters that involve massive resources but which actually get little done. Fittingly, groups with high-minded names such as Brown's Better Houston and David Crossley's Houston Tomorrow love to promote plans that ultimately involve groups of like-minded people (especially people who think EXACTLY as do they) making life's decisions for the rest of us. These are the same groups of people who promote so-called "green" housing construction standards that make home prices even more prohibitive for the poor, and plans to rip up all freeways that run through cities which would make it prohibitive for the poor to get to work.

After all of that, if you can't see the paradox here it is: Proponents of so-called "world class" transit solutions are actually proposing mass-scale solutions whose real end goal is to push the poor outside of the city center and to the suburbs. The more they call for "transit" the less they are actually hoping to provide.

The core of any urban transit program should be allocate resources to ease the most common type of commute, while also providing transit who are most reliant on it. In Houston that should mean ensuring that car transit is primary, and poor neighborhoods have good strong bus service that gets them to places such as job centers, grocery stores and other community centers. Houston's transit future, as envisioned by the cool kids, is actually a plan that's designed to move upper-class urbanites with excess disposable income from their nice lofts to entertainment areas. Successful cities are not typically planned this way.

*That's Peter "plan" Brown, who garnered the support of a mere 22% of the electorate in the 2009 Houston mayoral election. That's means that just about 4 out of every 5 Houston voters disagree with him, and since his ideas closely mirror those of Houston Tomorrow you could say that they disagree with them as well. Despite this, the Apple Dumpling Gang (the editorial board of what was once the newspaper of record for America's fourth largest city)are willing to ignore the will of a strong majority to back plans like this.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Things (bad) newspapers do (part II)....

Run riveting political analysis such as this:

(Runoffs will decide final makeup of Houston City Council, Zain Shauk,
"The mayor has some real stake in this, of course," said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. "She had a fairly rocky two years, I thought, with council. So, the new council, will it be better for the mayor? Worse?"
Never mind that the Chronicle still can't get Richard Murray's identification correct (He's a Democratic analyst and party activist, not "just" a political science professor as they continually note) but that analysis should have been thrown back into the ocean like a small fish.

Not content to stop there, Houston Democratic political analyst (and bicyclist!) Bob Stein gets his chance to weigh in:
Although Jones often has voted with Parker, she "has never been an easy vote" and likely will become more aggressive in a third term, Rice University political science Professor Bob Stein said.

"She will be term limited," Stein said. "All the gloves will be off with Jolanda. She won't have to worry about appeasing stakeholders or interest groups."
Ummm, the thing with Jolanda has been (whether people have liked it or not) that the gloves were never ON with her.

The problem with over-relying on the same, reliably left-leaning, experts is that eventually, they just have nothing new to add. Curiously absent from almost any story on local politics are voices from Republican poli-sci professors. There are some in Houston, and you don't have to go too far to find them. (St. Thomas University for example) If wanted to include a variety of thought in its analysis it wouldn't be that hard to find. That they don't tells you a lot about the editorial influence over their reporting.

Things (bad) newspapers do....

Assign articles about Playboy magazine articles to the online religion editor.

Things over at the Chron have been declining for a while, but they're really starting to show stress fractures of late.

Friday, December 9, 2011

That's Billion with a "B"

My two (or so) regular readers know that I'm skeptical of so-called "green energy" on a broad scale. The technology, and reliability, are just not there to make this economical when expanded at anything larger than cottage industry levels. Today's story by Texas Watchdog underscores that thought:

(Texas Public Utility Commission pushes for $7 billion transmission lines for wind power, Mark Lisheron, Texas Watchdog)
With a shale oil and gas revolution bringing us an era of inexpensive fuel and greater energy independence, an ever-resourceful state has found a way to add $7 billion to our electric bills.

The Public Utility Commission, chafing because deregulation has left it out of actual power generation decisions, wants ratepayers to pick up the tab to run wind power lines from West Texas to North Texas and Houston, according to a skeptical story today by the Dallas Morning News.

Quite unlike the downward plunge in fossil fuel prices, a project that just a few years ago was estimated to cost $5 billion is now almost $7 billion. And when Donna Nelson, the chairwoman of the Utility Commission who thinks laying the lines is prudent at either price, says the current figure is only an estimate, its track record would suggest the number will not be getting smaller.
All of this money spent for energy that's only expected to satisfy a small slice of Texas' energy needs is ridiculous on it's face. I see a burgeoning role for green energy at a micro level, but when you start to expand the concept the cost/benefit analysis gets very, very unfavorable.

Environmental stewardship is not the problem. It's possible to be green without being a raving ecomental. Really, it is. Let's start by trying to not pollute, recycle what we can, grow some square foot gardens and try and keep our cars in running order. If we choose to install personal solar panels onto our homes that's all the better. Because that's where 'green energy' has a future in my opinion. These pie-in-the-sky, job creating behemoths that are being fed to us from fantasy land are just going to result in the waste of Billions (with a B) of taxpayer dollars that could better be served fueling the real economy.

The backlog that wasn't.

Excellent reporting by the Texas Watchdog today on Sheriff Garcia's on-again/off-again warrant back-log:

(Poof! Harris County Sheriff's Office backlog disappears, Steve Miller, Texas Watchdog)
A reported backlog of warrants at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has suddenly cleared up, thanks to a statement from the office that there is no backlog.

The Houston Chronicle reported in November that 30,000 misdemeanor and felony warrants were not part of the database that state law enforcement uses to catch scofflaws both casual and serious.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia said at the time he would need a dozen staffers to clear up the problem and that the situation put his deputies at risk in the streets.
I remember when this came out, there were dire predictions of hardened criminals running loose in the streets, Sheriff Garcia all but predicted doom if his department didn't get more money.

But now the office says that some of the numbers it put out were right --- it claims there is still a list of 19,748 misdemeanor warrants yet to be entered --- but that, oops, it made a mistake on the felony number of 10,088.

The article goes on to quote County Judge Ed Emmett, who chastises Garcia (rightly) for playing politics with public safety.

The good thing about Sheriff Garcia's election was that it cleaned out the department which had devolved into a "good ol' boys club" under the rule of Tommy Thomas. The bad thing is that, it appears, Harris County has elected someone into the office who lacks the qualities required for good leadership. This next election would be a good time to fix that, although it's HARD to vote out a County incumbent so I've serious doubts that this will happen.

A more likely result is that the InterLeft, running around with their hair on fire and a fresh dose of daily outrage, will accuse Emmett of 'playing politics' and bemoan the fact that someone more to their liking isn't in charge. (read: A Democrat). For me, I don't care if the replacement is a Democrat or a Republican, just get someone in who can properly administer the department, ensure that public safety levels are maintained, and who is competent. That should be the minimum standard for Sheriff regardless of party. Thomas couldn't do it, Garcia is now displaying the ability, so it's time for someone else.

Thanks to Texas Watchdog for their Community Commons license which allows for ample blockquoting.

You get what you want to get.

Environmentalists are breathless today as a new EPA survey has come out "suggesting" that hydraulic fracturing is responsible for contaminated ground water in Wyoming.

(EPA links fracking to contaminated water in Wyoming, Neela Banerjee, Boston Herald)
The Environmental Protection Agency said that hydraulic fracturing, a controversial natural gas drilling process, likely contaminated well water in Wyoming, a finding sure to roil the debate about expanding natural gas drilling around the country.

EPA’s new draft report found dangerous amounts of benzene in a monitoring well near the town of Pavillion, in central Wyoming.
This Boston Herald article is fairly light on substance, surprisingly, the Houston Chronicle does a much better job filling in the blanks:

(EPA links fracking at Wyoming to tainted well water, Jennifer Dlouhy,
The EPA stressed that the findings are limited to Pavillion, where fracturing has taken place both at and below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to drinking water wells - conditions that are not common elsewhere in the U.S.

Oil and gas drilling has been conducted in the region since the 1950s, and some of the 169 gas production wells in the area were fractured as little as 1,220 feet below the surface.

By contrast, energy companies are extracting natural gas from Texas' Eagle Ford shale at depths of 4,000 to 14,000 feet.

Elizabeth Ames Jones, chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, said Texas' geology is different than Pavillion's.

"Hydraulic fracturing does not go on close to the surface here and it would be impossible to migrate up from miles below the earth to a water table," she said. She added that Texas also has stringent well construction rules to ensure water safety.
In short, what the EPA has is evidence of something, that hasn't been peer-reviewed, that's of a limited sample size, and for which there's no replication in shale fractured wells anywhere else in the Country, a one-off. A one-off that environmentalists are sure to try and use to stop shale gas development throughout the country.

What this study means is that the burden of proof is now on Encana to demonstrate that their Wyoming property is properly constructed and, if not, that they can mitigate any damage that's conclusively linked to their wells. It would seem that further testing, and tracking is needed, as well as a peer-review of the EPA's findings. What we're likely to get are politicians waving a poorly-developed flag in a rush to judgement. A judgement that many of them were determined to find no matter what. It just took them finding a field with a unique drilling profile. If you look hard enough you can find a data point to support any political agenda. The EPA now has found (albeit tenuously) the environmental argument. That they were looking for just that should give you pause.

The hope would be that this study leads to a cleaning of the water in this region. Instead we're going to hear calls to severely curtail promising energy production in the name of post-normal science. It's one of the biggest problems with Lisa Jackson's EPA, and the reason people are correct in saying that their powers need to be severely curtailed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eight Hundred Seventy Thousand

That's the number of jobs US Shale gas, the same gas that Leftist groups (along with the EPA) want to do away with, will create by 2015 according one study by IHS:

(Shale gas will support 870,000 jobs by 2015, study says, Houston Business Journal)
Shale gas plays will support more than 250,000 new U.S. jobs by 2015, according to a study published Tuesday by IHS Inc., an international information company.
The study said in 2010, the shale gas industry supported more than 600,00 U.S. jobs, and by 2015, it will support 870,000 jobs. By 2035, the industry is expected to support 1.6 million jobs.
Think about those numbers the next time you hear politicians talk about how much they want to create jobs, while following policies that won't.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Metro flies route cut balloon, Chron tries to provide cover.

Too bad (for them) the residents aren't buying it....

(Bus riders give Metro an earful on proposed route cuts, Zain Shauk,
Frustrated bus riders gave transit officials an earful Monday at a hearing on proposed bus route cuts, including one that would not be replaced by an alternative.

The changes proposed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority include the elimination of 10 bus routes and adjustments, including a few expansions to 40 others. The agency is proposing to expand service on some routes.
Overall however, the "service adjustments" amount to a severe decrease in service to neighborhoods that most rely on Metro. The neighborhoods that it's Metro's prime directive to provide service. If they fail on this, then they fail on their core mission. And, yes, they are failing on this as we speak, dedicated to building a shiny, fancy toy train that's designed to move shiny, fancy people from shiny, fancy place to shiny, fancy place. If you can keep the dull, plain people OFF the shiny, fancy train then that's all the better.

Meanwhile, you have to feel sorry for the poor. While the left-leaning un-elected Fed bureaucrats in D.C. are trying their best to price cars out of their reach (that's even admitted by the regulations staunchest supporters such as Thomas Friedman*) local, left-leaning un-elected bureaucrats in Houston are trying to take away the very transit that they are suggesting they rely upon. And the supposed "watchdog" media, is cheering them on every step of the way.

The late Marvin Zindler was right: It's HELL to be poor (although he knew very little about that)

*Yes, that's the same Thomas Friedman who chides others for not being 'green' enough while he himself lives in an 11,000 sq ft mansion. Green indeed.

One Bad/One Good

First, the bad:

(Seliger calls out Michael Quinn Sullivan, Paul Burka, BurkaBlog)
The Amarillo state senator published an op-ed piece in the Midland Reporter-Telegram on Sunday called “Who Will Watch the Watchers,” in which he criticizes Sullivan for what he calls “fraudulent misrepresentation of voting records” by him and his “misnamed special interest group,” Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Sullivan had lashed out at Seliger two weeks ago, so it’s always good to see someone take on a bully. Since a link is not available to the piece, here are some excerpts from Seliger’s op-ed:

Nice to see Burka openly parroting Democratic Party talking points now. It's long been known that he's a lib/Dem opinion writer, maybe he's gotten tired of trying (unsuccessfully) to hide it?

As for the link not being available?


(Beware of fake fiscal responsibility group lobbyist and his phony Legislative ratings, Kel Seliger,

You'd think MSM companies would be more conscious of poorly attributed blog posts with large swaths of test copied and pasted without proper attribution.

Now, because bad news has been shown to have an adverse effect on the health and well being of those who read it......

As a public service we leave you with this (properly attributed) story:

(Focus on domestic oil will reshape U.S. energy industry,Houston Business Journal)

Originally sourced from:
(Big Oil heads back home, Guy Chazan, The Wall Street Journal)
The dramatic shift by U.S. oil majors such as ConocoPhillips and other exploration and production companies to focus on domestic production in shale plays rather than focus on major projects in the Middle East or Africa will have a key impact on the industry.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the switch to extracting oil and gas from shale will also affect the world's geopolitics, and, ultimately the world's consumers.

For example, while Middle East countries for decades were the frontrunners in oil production, the report said that a new study by PFC Energy, a Washington-based consultancy, predicts that the U.S. will be the top global oil and gas producer by 2020, bypassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.

We're (soon to be) #1!!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The choices we make.

We should not be allowed to make, according to the anonymous ed board of ChronBlog.

(Congress caves on school lunches, The Apple Dumpling Gang, ChronBlog)
If declaring all that makes us sound as though we favor a nanny state, then so be it. When it comes to diet and health, this country's young people - all of us really - need more guidance and help. And better leadership on the subject than it is apparently getting from Congress.

Translation: We feel that all of you are too stupid to make the correct choices when it comes to your diet.

I have a better idea: Shutter the Editorial Board, which is obviously too stupid to understand the 10th Amendment to the United State's Constitution. School menus are the provision of the States, and the boards that people elect to oversee them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

So much for which to be Thankful.

Even with all of the bad news, tragic news, and everything else that has floated around this year we still have a lot to be thankful for in America regardless of one's political persuasion.

I for one am Thankful that we are still free enough to choose to celebrate the Holiday in the manner of our choosing.

Happy Thanksgiving to my two (or so) regular readers, and to the rest of you as well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

KROI starts tomorrow (Maybe)

Do you even care?

Mike McGuff has been all over this as have many in the InterLeft. It seems that a "news" stations is something that a world class city has to have in order to be more "world class".

I'll be honest, I haven't listened to KTRH 740 since they changed up the format and brought in Matt Patrick. I used to listen to J.R. and Lana from time to time when I knew there were big stories for them to talk about but, for the most part, when it comes to morning, drive-time radio I can usually be found switching between 790 and 610 most mornings. (I stopped listening to 1560 -along with most of the rest of you- when they switched over to the Yahoo! sports radio format) I doubt that the presence of a new 'news' station in Houston is going to change that much.

It doesn't help KROI's position, from my viewpoint, that they've decided to provide a normal time slot to Geoff Berg. There are Progressive opinion-makers I wouldn't mind hearing on a daily news show but this guy, one of the more vile and fact-free members of the InterLeft, isn't one of them.

That being said, the actual "news" line-up of the station is pretty strong and, if they can keep the opinion pieces to a minimum, they might serve a niche market in a city that claims to want it.

Is that niche large enough to sustain a radio station over the long-term? I have my doubts, but I will be listening.....When I'm not surfing the sports talk stations that is.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meanwhile, out in the 'burbs.....

There's been a lot of news coverage of late surrounding The City of Houston's endless deliberations regarding their new(proposed) parking ordinance. If this kind of dithering reminds you of the City's issues surrounding Ashby High-Rise you wouldn't be far from the truth. The last few City administrations have had difficulty walking the line between catering to the vocal minority that is the Inside-the-Loop, smart dumb growth set, and staying true to Houston's historic core belief of growth through a lack of central planning. That Houston's 'walkable urban' group has never been comfortable with what makes the City great (a great many of them imports from Cities with strong urban planning, bad job markets and higher costs of living), Houston's elected officials have created a business and development unfriendly environment which is having an unintended effect....

In short, many historic "Inner Loop developers" are choosing to move their expansion plans to those hated 'suburbs'.

(New Woodlands homes coming from surprising source. Jennifer Dawson, Houston Business Journal)
News came out this week that construction has begun on a 41-home gated community in The Woodlands.
The project size is not particularly significant. But what caught my eye is who’s behind the new development — Pelican Builders Inc. and Boxer Property — two Houston names not typically associated with suburban residential development.
The single-family community is being developed by Pelican Builders — which specializes in high-density, urban residential projects.
It's true, both Pelican and Boxer are still pursuing projects inside the Loop, it's telling that they feel the need to venture so far outside of it.

I've said before that, counter to the 'anti-suburbia' hysteria constantly produced by urban proponents, there are 'walkable communities' that exist outside of what many consider to be the traditional urban core. The Woodlands has several of these, as does Sugar Land and Pearland. Even Conroe has dense, walkable areas. Just today, in my far NorthWest Cy-Fair neighborhood, I hopped on my bicycle, rode over to the local grocery store, and dropped off some dry-cleaning before heading home, a trip that took just under an hour. If I wanted to, right now, I could walk to a coffee shop, a local bar, a bevvy of restaurants and a movie theater, all within 10 minutes.

It's not that I dislike urban living, it's that I have 3 large dogs and like to have a big back-yard, luxuries that cost a pretty penny inside the Loop. It's not without some irony however that I see well-to-do urban core residents (most of whom are proponents of 'walkable neighborhoods') fighting tooth and nail to keep the luxuries that I have out here in what many consider the boon-docks. I would even venture to argue that my little outer-band neighborhood is far more 'walkable' than many ideal urbanist-approved areas inside the Loop.

The point here is that "walkability" is a concept that can take on many forms, in many locations, and it's presence isn't contingent on geographic location. Nor does it fit stereotypes well. For all you hear about the "white-flight" suburbs*, remember that the ideal of a single-family home with three bedrooms and a 2-car garage is increasingly becoming attainable for historic minority demographic groups. They're discovering the lifestyle, and they're enjoying it. The great thing about living out here is that there are options for all, options that the market has decided are good things to pursue.

*Funny that most of the disparages: Pasty white, drive down the block to pick up a can of corn, bland, monochromatic, etc. are all coming from a fairly bland, chain-coffee sipping, Macy's shopping, mostly white Prog urban group who wants everyone to view things exactly as they do.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Newsish come, Newsish Go

For a while now I've been railing against Prog websites, posing as non-ideological news outlets, whose sole purpose is to attempt to frame today's issues in a progressive bent. I call these organization "newsish" because what they produce reads like news but, after closer examination is not, in the traditional sense of the word.

The most successful of these newsish outlets is The Texas Tribune whose greatest claim to fame is establishing the untruth that Texas cut $4 Billion from public education* (an untruth that has now mysteriously grown to $5.4 Billion.) To be fair, the Tribune does some good work on elections, and the interviews they crank out are of high quality and (occasionally) entertaining (although often biased).

Some of these sites (see: The Trib) have been so successful that many now consider them to be the model for news:future.

Not so fast.

Today the newsish outlet American Independent announced they are shuttering.

While it's tempting to say that this is the beginning of the end for newsish sites I believe that what did in The Independent was more bad journalism and amateurish writing rather than some fundamental flaw in their business model. As I said before, the Tribune churns out some decent product outside of their content that's obviously written to forward the cause, the Independent was never able to do that.

I've also stated that I have no qualms about news outlets with an agenda, provided they're open and honest regarding that agenda. My problem with organizations such as The Trib and Independent is that they're continuing to put on the brave face that they're somehow objective journalists.

That's a claim that's ridiculous on it's face because even traditional journalists aren't objective in this day and age.

So hail and farewell to the American Independent. I can assure you that we will missish you greatly.

*In reality Texas' education funds, in terms of real dollars, INCREASED from the previous budget, although it was $4 Billion less than if they had kept the previous formula (Something the lege NEVER does). What Texas really did was provide the education system with a smaller increase, due to a National recession. It was one of those rare cases where an increase was successfully spun as a decrease by a dedicated few.

Tell me again how this 'hurts the rich'?

Maybe someone can explain this to me 'cause I'm not getting it....

(Occupy Houston protesters arrested near downtown bridge. Mike Glenn,
Police arrested about a dozen Occupy Houston protesters during a march that ended Thursday evening at a downtown bridge.

The protesters linked arms and squatted in the middle of the intersection at Commerce and Travis.
It would seem to me that blocking a major roadway doesn't hurt the 1%, it hurts those of the 99% who are trying to hoof it home after a full day's work to spend time with their families.

Not that clear thinking has been a mainstay of the Occupy movement.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Clearing up something on central planning....

So, Houston's restaurant and inner Loop crowd is up in arms over Houston's (proposed) parking ordinance changes....

As they should be, because big government, central planning diktats are rarely workable in a large, diverse urban setting. One size fits all typically becomes one size fits none and it's typically the small businesses that suffer most.

While I agree with them, I do have one SMALL bone of contention with the way this debate is playing out....

(Notes on Parking Ordinance Changes in Houston, The software agorist)
Let’s not suburban cookie cutter this, but work out collaborative solutions that fits each area of our fine city
The idea that Suburban parking standards, set out by market forces and typically not by a domineering, ham-fisted central government are the City's model here is bunk. Yes, it's a mistake to try and make dense, urban areas into a replication of the suburbs, but to compare the two situations is casting a negative light on Suburbia that it doesn't deserve. NBC has already tried this with that horrid TV show Suburgatory, and look how long that lasted. Plus, the idea that there's something "inferior" about the suburban approach to living undercuts the main argument that the "walkable"* urban living group is making.

Individual choice means just that. If you want to imagine true purgatory on Earth, imagine 7 Million people wedged inside the Loop asshole to elbow. The point here should be that there are a myriad of solutions that could provide Houstonians with the flexibility they say they are after. If you don't think so, go take a look at the many "walkable" neighborhoods that actually DO exists outside of the Loop and Beltway 8.

*As my friend Kevin notes, most of the urbanites in Houston have precious little idea what a "walkable" neighborhood really is.

This is why no one takes you seriously (Part II)

Consider this: these are the same people that were frothing at the mouth over the TCEP "censoring" an AGW proponent in a recent report.

("Now would be a good time to think about saving our lives, David Crossley, The List @
[As usual, comments from supporters of climate change will not be published]
Translation: If you don't agree with me, I won't publish your comments.

Pot, meet Kettle.

The good news is that AGW proponents like David Crossley do more to HURT their own cause than any fact could ever do. Prior to Climategate, the momentum was firmly behind them, wind at their back and all of that. Now the emperor has been revealed as the naked, science-free rogue many AGW deniers knew him to be, and they're starting to run into stiff headwinds.

Even more unbelievable is that (the former newspaper of record for America's 4th largest City) is allowing a blogger, posting under their domain, to blatantly violate their comment policy.

This is why no one takes you seriously

I'll give the Houston Tomorrow people this, they're single-minded in their wrongness about the future of Houston's economy.
Texas maintains some the largest scale and fastest growing megapolitan areas in the United States. The state is now the hub of the world energy economy, as well as a major center for logistics, corporate headquarters, and medical research and technology.


The combination of these three megapolitans — each specializing in different sectors — make the triangle’s economy remarkably diverse and resilient. However, the state faces risks, especially in the area of human-capital investment, that could derail growth.
What they mean by "human-capital investment" are more trains, toys and trinkets for the so-called "creative class". What they forget, is that Houston is a white-collar, working-class City through and through.

What the Houston triangle "needs" to stay competitive are more jobs, a more consistent, business-friendly environment that spurs growth, and a continued reliance on the idea that people should be able to live where they want, without nanny-state, know-it-all types trying to make life's decisions for them.

If you want a good laugh, go check this out. If you want to hear some serious talk about the future of the region, go watch and read Tory Gattis.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The job you're hired to do

Greg, from Rhymes with Right, does a very good job picking apart this article by Anita Hassan regarding the back-log of processed warrants at the Harris County Sheriff's office.

While the piece offers zero feedback from anyone other than the HCSO spin-doctors (Garcia himself), Greg provides some much needed context and a little history lesson in Garcia's hiring practices.

Go-read both pieces, and then steel yourself for the wave of InterLeft spin that's sure to come.

I've no argument that former Sheriff Tommy Thomas had to go, but the main plank of Garcia's campaign was on his competence. The question that has to be asked is: "If Garcia is turning up incompetent then does he deserve to be re-elected?"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sticking together

Chris Moran of reminds us that the establishment that plays together, sticks together
Thibaut, a state representative until she was swept out in the Republican landslide last year, also has the endorsements of state Sen. Rodney Ellis and her former state representative colleagues Alma Allen, Carol Alvarado, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Jessica Farrar, Ana Hernandez Luna and others.

Were I Andrew Burks Jr. (Thibaut's opponent) I'd use that as a selling point for my election.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Yes, they do think you're that dumb...

From Patricia Kilday-Hart's column on corporal punishment:
A clarification: My Wednesday column claimed that 68,000 Harris County voter registration applications were "rejected" in 2008. According to the county attorney's office, during 2007 and 2008 the voter registrar's office rejected 3,518 persons who applied for voter registration cards. During the same period, the tax office also sent 64,036 notices to voters who had submitted incomplete applications; of those, 29,386 ultimately registered, according to county records.

That's not a "clarification", that's a "correction".

That Kilday-Hart and the editors of the Chron believe you and I don't know the difference says a lot about how they view their viewers. To be fair, it's not limited to the Chron (or their Texas Hearst brethren), other media outlets go out of their way to blunt criticism by attacking the critics through grammatical silliness or false appeals to partisanship.

For example. One time, several years back, I was attempting to debate a point of something with Kyrie O'Connor, now (unbelievably) the interim editor of the San Antonio Express-News. Once it became apparent she couldn't refute my argument on "facts", she chose to take advantage of my inability to edit chron.comments and my one mis-use of "its" vs "it's". Did I make a typo? Yes, undoubtedly. Did that make my entire argument invalid? Only in the minds of the press. It doesn't stop there, instead of answering legitimate questions about The Texas Tribune's story on the Texas Windstorm Association, Trib Editor Evan Smith accused me of "grousing".

Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, the readers saw it as more than that:
Erin Anderson
So, to recap: $327 Million taxpayer dollars for 1,000 (temporary) jobs (when the "stimulus" money is gone, so are the jobs), 8,600 homes "weatherized" (with half of homes inspected found "deficient"), agencies unprepared to administer the program, shoddy record-keeping, and outright fraud. Yet the conclusion is that this program is successful and thriving??

Recipients of free money are always happy with the results. But the other 24 million Texans who did not get free weatherization or a government-subsidized job do not believe this was a "successful" use of our tax dollars. Throwing around "free" money (aka "stimulus") is an inefficient way to allocate resources that always results in high levels of waste & fraud.

And since the U.S. is almost $15 TRILLION in debt and borrows $0.43 of every dollar it spends, that's about $140 Million that will have to be repaid with interest by taxpayers. But most importantly, that's $327 Million that now cannot be spent on any other higher-priority uses, such as hiring more teachers & firemen like the President is always talking about (for example, 6,500 teachers at $50,000 each). Not the definition of success.
Is that "grousing"? Or is it a serious question regarding the completeness and context of the article?

This isn't the first petty argument I've received from Smith, who seems to spend more time editing my blog (for free, I thank him for that) than he does his own publication. Typically he gets me for misspelling his cub-reporters names. Obviously, I want to give them the correct credit, so I fix these errors whenever I can.

All that being said there's a big difference in the funding (and supposedly, the mission) of and the Tribune, if not between the attitudes and political leanings of their reporters. The Chronicle is corporate owned, and presents itself as a non-biased media source. The Tribune is non-profit, and plays lip service to not being partisan but is lacking a single Republican on its board of directors. Its main funding comes from Democratic sources. It was very much founded as a Colorado Model organization (Also known as: News-ish) and has followed their business plan to a T.

Which leads us back to Kilday-Hart's "clarification". When Kilday-Hart wrote the original column it was forwarding an idea (that Kilday-Hart and Democrats both share) that Republicans are evil anti-Democracy warriors seeking to deny the right to vote to those who won't vote for them. The data point that she "clarified" seemingly lent credence to that argument. Except that it didn't, and the truth of it severely damaged Kilday-Hart's original argument. By "clarifying" it, instead of "correcting" it as should have been done, Kilday-Hart is implying that her original argument is still valid. That you, the paying (or non-paying) customer are too dense to figure all of this out. It's a very negative view of the general populace, one again (conveniently) shared by Kilday-Hart and the Democratic Party.

The larger, overriding, problem is that a majority of Texas lock-step political media would rather wash their eyes out with bleach rather than spend time conversing and sharing with the work-a-day Texas citizen. You can tell by the tone that they view most of them as rubes and hacks again, a view conveniently shared by them and the Democratic Party.

Does this mean that the media has a "Democratic bias"? No, that argument is sad an only made by people too dense to understand the difference between partisan and ideological. But they are, for the most part, much to the left of Texas' mainstream political population, just as I feel the Tea Party is right of the same. This wouldn't be a problem if they would admit their progressive leanings. Let us know the truth and go from there.

But they don't. Therein lies the rub.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The obvious response..... the news that (some) humans are heating up, and destroying Gaia is fairly obvious right?

(From the Comments of Eric Berger's anti-population post)
namsmog says:

November 1, 2011 at 11:57 am
Families do not afford to have 10 kids, they burden the rest of us with over consumption, social problems, dumb politics, wars/terrorism, you name it; human gene pool is a cesspool; no mammal has had such an adverse impact on all the rest of the species as humans…

If you consider humanity to be at fault, then the obvious solution is to remove yourself (as part of humanity) from the equation.

That will never happen, of course, because mental giants such as namsmog view themselves to be a breed above the normal flim-flam of humanity. Enlightened beings who could save everything if just everyone else would do them a favor and die. (or, at a minimum, do whatever it is they think they should do.)

At it's core, AGW is similar in goal to the Occupy folks, both of which swear fealty to the far left wing of one of our two major political parties.

Think about that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Did PeckBlog Plagiarize?

Saw a Tweet from Amy Peck tonight advertising an analysis of Texas' Constitutional Amendments on her blog. Always interested in political analysis I thought it wise to head over there and take a look. This is what I found:

Proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments, Amy Peck, PeckBlog

Here are the proposed state constitutional amendments coming up in the November election. As a state employee, I do not think it would be ethical to post my opinions about the proposed constitutional amendments. So instead I have posted an analysis and arguments for and against each proposed amendment. Post any questions you have in the comments, and I will do my best to get you an answer.

In and of itself, that's not too bad. The problem comes with the "analysis". If you go and read the PeckBlog "analysis" you might notice that it looks very familiar to the analysis found here. Again, this is not, in and of itself a problem.

What IS a problem is that it appears that Amy Peck has 100% either straight copied, or summarized the Texas Legislative Council's work without attribution, essentially presenting it as her own.

However you cut it, that's plagiarism.

Now, it's probable that this was unintentional, that Peck just used the TLC's document and is ignorant of copyright laws, and the pratfalls of not offering proper attribution. At worst, she intentionally ripped all of the content and presented it as her own. I don't think there's any way you can look at the two documents and make any kind of argument that the information on Peck's blog is her own.

Let's hope that we're dealing with the former and Peck corrects her error and apologizes.

Do endorsements matter?

My initial thought is: These two probably don't.

Bell endorses Jones. Chris Moran,
Rodriguez, Harris and Stipeche for HISD board. The Apple Dumpling Gang,

Let's start with the easy one.....


I'm not sure the candidate who couldn't out draw a corpse is really someone who I would rely on to bring the vote. It's a testament to Kelly Cripe's savvy as a PR flack that she's wise enough to not use it in a mailer. Chris Bell? Meh.

At least, that's what most people would say, but Bell is a fave rave with the local InterLeft and Because of this, his endorsements are constantly paraded out in support of favorites that are probably going to win (comfortably) anyway. The effect of this is that Bell's self-delusion of popularity (Wow! My endorsement really put THAT candidate over the top!) is maintained and he's still mentioned as a serious Democratic candidate for almost any office that opens up for which he's eligible.

Even worse, is the Apple Dumpling Gang's endorsement.

First: No one pays attention to them any longer, and second, they obviously don't place the same weight on a Prog politician's cronyism as they do on a Republican candidate's cronyism. Besides that, when your definition of "qualified" seems too be more closely tied to idealism (in this case: Prog) than to actual qualifications you run the risk of losing credibility. For many years now the Apple Dumpling Gang has had zero.

If you haven't heard the phrase "post normal science" I encourage you to go look it up. Not only is it anti-science, but it's also the foundation for much of the human-driven climate change movement. What we're getting close to in Houston is "post normal politics". Where key players are recasting basic facts in a more favorable light to ensure a desired result.

I'd say you should think this is a problem no matter what side of the aisle you're on, but we know from the recent past that, at least, one side has no problem with hi-jacking civil discourse to advance something that's destined to fail. (Yet which has been sold to them as a panacea all facts to the contrary)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alternative methods for traffic reduction

Courtesy of Metro rail.

Link to the text version of the story is here

Obviously this OLD plan wasn't doing the job as efficiently as possible. The obvious flaw, which Metro obviously overlooked, was that people were getting their cars fixed and back on the road soon after the Danger Train "relieved traffic".

Well now we can't have that. This new "phase 2" plan brilliantly attacks the problem from both ends. Metro takes out your car, and blocks the entrance to the places where it can get fixed.

I guess you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs (or, in this case, cars)

Three unlikely data points (updated)

If you spend anytime at all listening to "those in the know" in Houston you'll hear a lot of stuff about how Houston will die on the vine without expensive, centrally planned, (and horribly inefficient) transit or how Houston is ugly or that Houston will lose their competitive advantage if they don't immediately stop what they are doing, give all of their planning over to David Crossley and his group and stop losing out to other cities in the race for "the creative class" and high priced workers.

Given all of the opinion and computer modelling that they've thrown at the problem (note: Not hard evidence, computer modelling) you might be surprised to find these three hard data points staring you in the face:

1. Houston home sales rise, break price record. Houston Business Journal
2. Harris County foreclosures take major dip. Houston Business Journal
3. Houston sets US pace for income growth, study shows. Houston Business Journal

So let me get this straight. Ugly, blighted, dumb, transit-deficient Houston, home of big traffic delays and buildings that no self-respecting liberal journalist could love. Houston, with its grungy air, mouth-breathing tea-party types and a cast-iron aversion to central zoning. Houston, a city so dumb some people don't want to live asshole-to-elbow in Crossley Towers (after their construction in a formerly blighted area of course, keeping them fully away from the "proper neighborhoods") where sustainable living, square foot gardens on two square foot balconies are the norm. Houston home of food deserts and an intellectual back-water where some people think they might, just might think they want a fenced-in backyard and believe that they should have some modicum of control over the property they own......

....that Houston is leading the nation in salary growth and is, by all accounts, experiencing a population boom.

Maybe we're not the armpit of civilization our would-be ruling class is making us out to be?

Funny, right after I posted this article David Crossley's group, Houston Tomorrow, rolled out this clap-trap, obviously meant to be a slight (again) at the Houston region:

Houston Region ranked 11th most stressful by Forbes, David Crossley, Houston Tomorrow.

There's just one small problem:
The Houston region is #11 out of 15 in Forbes new list of the Most Stressful Cities in America.

(emphasis mine)

Unsaid in the Houston Tomorrow article is that Houston came in BETTER than liberal utopias Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego and waaaay behind dense, transit heavy, walkable (Crossley's gold standard) New York (#1) and Chicago (#3). Again the facts don't match the rhetoric.

One District at a time

Maybe that's the path?

(Business owners want Montrose Management District dissolved, Ken Fountain, West University Examiner)

The Montrose Management District, not yet a year old, may be facing extinction.

Like all of the Houston’s management districts, the Montrose Management District runs on assessments solely to owners of commercial, not residential property. It was formed under a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2009 -- after two failed earlier attempts -- to encompass the western part of the Montrose area. In January, it merged with the already existing East Montrose Management District to form one district.

From the outset, a group of small business owners have opposed the district, appearing at board meetings to voice their objections. Many claim that they were unaware of the district’s formation until last fall, when they received mailed notices of a meeting to set the property assessment.

Ever since, they’ve vowed to collect the number of signatures from property owners required by state law -- equal to 75 percent of the assessed commercial property in the district -- to force the board to dissolve the district.

And succeed they have, or so it seems. As of last word the District's lawyers are pouring over the signatures trying to determine if the signors "oppose the totality of the district". My guess is they will, and they'll have no other choice to disband.

If you need to know more about why this is a bad thing, take a look at this blogHouston piece that outlines some of that "bad crony capitalism" that The Apple Dumpling Gang finds so offensive when practiced by the wrong politicians (i.e. politicians who do not share their ideals.)

You'd think that the Mayor's life partner and the seemingly under-qualified son of fund "manager" David Hawes being employed by the district would have fired off a round of warning bells....You'd be wrong,

It's not the job of those from the ruling class party to worry about things such as conflicts of interest and cronyism, only to point out when they think the other side is doing it better than them.


Texas Watchdog, Rhymes with Right

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You know "for flood control"

So say we all?

(How tight is Houston's drainage tax 'lock box'? Bike trails funded by Rebuild Houston money for streets and drainage, Steve Miller, Texas

It was passed by Houston voters as a tax to address the city’s decrepit drainage system and Third World streets. But $857,000 of the new Proposition 1 fund --- which Mayor Annise Parker pitched as a "lock box that can only be spent for street and drainage improvements" --- is slated for hike and bike trails.

The money will pay for "design, acquisition and construction" of trails as part of an overall plan to provide "an alternate route of travel for bicyclists and/or hikers away from street traffic," according to the city's latest capital improvement plan.

If you're not reading Texas Watchdog for your daily news, my question is "Why not?"
The answer is THIS type of reporting that one won't find at Houston's newspaper of record. It's the type of reporting that Houston certainly needs.

Supposedly, the hapless Parker administration is none too happy that this news has been released to the public, which is all the more reason why it SHOULD be released to the public.

Don't expect the city's prog InterLeft to get upset about this, that's not what they do.

You should probably be upset about it however, because your tax money is going to end up paying for this*

*Not that we here at HCA have a problem with bike trails, we're avid bicyclists after all, but we believe in paying for them in an honest way, not under the guise of "flood control"

Friday, October 7, 2011


Good story today in about RenFest....

Grateful it survived fires, Renaissance Fest opens Saturday, Hallie Jordan,
Rather than preparing for the nation's largest Renaissance Festival, crew members spent a week in September defending the 55-acre fairgrounds from one of the largest wildfires the region has ever seen.

Using heavy equipment, 5,000-gallon water tankers and a small fire truck of their own, the fair's 14-member maintenance team worked around the clock to keep the flames at bay just a month prior to Saturday's opening.

The blaze came within 100 yards of the property, and right up to the edge of a 60-foot firebreak the crew cleared around the festival site. By removing trees and plants from the area, the team was able to help contain the blaze and protect the fairgrounds' permanent structures.

Nice to hear the Houston area's local "things white people like" festival is going to pull it off this year. It was getting a little dicey there for a bit with all of that fire. GREAT job by those 14 maintenance workers stopping the blaze.

Unfortunately, travel plans will preclude me from going to the Festival this year, but if you want to go out and have a good time, get some decent food and overpay for some beer served quite often with some good natured ribbing?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Funny, I don't feel occupied

It's amazing how the media gets worked up about 150 or so people while all but ignoring 10,000.
(Protesters target bank, City Hall In Houston this morning. Robert Stanton,
More than 200 protesters — young and old, healthy and disabled — converged in downtown Houston Thursday under the banner of the Occupy Houston movement.
The demonstration was an outgrowth of a New York event focused on what the protesters called social and economic inequality and corporate greed. It began at 8:30 a.m at Market Square Park with about 150 protesters — many carrying placards and chanting — who then marched to the J.P. Morgan Chase Bank Tower before moving on to City Hall.
The crowd grew to more than 200 by midmorning, according to a police officer at the scene.
“We have officially occupied Hermann Square Park,” a speaker told the crowd, referring to the reflecting pool area on the east side of City Hall. “We are not going anywhere until the people are heard.”

Supposedly, according to a tweet by KHOU's Alex Sanz "rally" organizers are claiming 700 people attended. To get to that number they must be using the same models used to calculate global warming. Either that or they're using the Keynesian multiplier.

Some are calling this the "Tea Party of the Left". I don't buy that. It may be a rally of the rank and file of the Democratic Party, but it's still just a bunch of young people with no jobs running around living out some Che fantasy while chanting things that are hard to hear at a distance.

On the bright side, all of the signs I saw were spelled correctly.

It's no secret that I've no affinity toward the Tea Party. I view them as the tantrum wing of the right. They're pretty good at making noise but, so far, haven't shown the ability to govern the darn place. I don't expect to see this from the Occupy folks either.

More damaging to the Democrats is the Occupy Manifesto a treasure trove of anti-American ramblings that can be summed up as "gimme". Where the Tea Party doesn't want to pay taxes only to have them go to those they consider to be lazy and freeloaders, the Occupy folks want to get a free ride without putting in any effort.

In the end, the Tea Party is guilty of having limited vision, while the Occupy movement has shown no vision, no drive, and no proclivity toward doing much but playing bongos, smoking, wearing Guy Fawkes masks and quoting philosophers out of context.

Bread and circuses is all this is. Bread and circuses.

Wake me when it's over and the adults come back in the room.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is anyone still tracking these?

Yet another greatest hit from the Danger Train.....

(15 hurt as Metro train, dump truck collide downtown, Dale Lezon,
Fifteen people were treated for minor injuries Tuesday morning after a dump truck collided with a Metro light rail train downtown. The truck, headed west on Capitol, struck the train at Main and Capitol at 9:15 a.m., according to Metro officials.
Thirteen passengers, the train operator and the dump truck driver were taken to St. Joseph Medical Center and Ben Taub General Hospital. They had bumps and bruises and other non-life threatening injuries, officials said.
The dump truck apparently ran a red light, according to Metro officials. The driver said the sun reflected on the traffic light and he couldn’t see that it was red. The train had a green light.

Glad to hear everyone was (for the most part) OK. Bumps and bruises but nothing (too) serious. There used to be someone on the web that was tracking the number of Danger Train collisions. Does anyone know if this is still around?

On another note: Notice how Metro officials are quick to release the information when the other vehicle (not the Metro driver) appears to be in the wrong. Had Metro been potentially at fault the story would have been: Metro is still investigating.

A bigger problem is that, years after the train has been operating, collisions with the train are still fairly commonplace. The (Metro-fed) idea that Houston drivers are wholly to blame (What part of safety don't you understand?) obscures the fact that these lines are poorly engineered. Streetcars share lanes with automobiles, but they are subject to all traffic laws, including red lights. Non-grade seperated rail in areas with high automobile traffic are accidents waiting to happen.

As Metro continues to plow ahead with this dangerous, unflexible (notice that, while the rail was down, unsexy busses had to fill the gaps. Yes, the very busses Metro has been cutting since the train started operating) rail accidents are going to continue to skyrocket, transit options are going to continue to decline, and Metro is going to continue to sink further and further into a financial abyss.

Meanwhile, as rider capacity declines, automobile congestion is going to increase.

All of this raises the Question: What problem was "Metro Solutions" trying to solve?

Monday, October 3, 2011

True bi-partisanship

When Democrats and Republicans truly work together, the results are often disastrous for the American people
(Turning Your Cell Phone Into A 'Sell Phone'? Ned Hibbard, FoxNews Houston)
A bill just filed in Congress would make your mobile phone “fair game” for the kinds of calls you might not want to take. For the past two decades, your cell phone has been off limits to automated dialing programs. But that protection – like the Nokia ringtone – could be about to vanish. “Pretty much, it's probably the worst bill I've ever seen,” says telemarketing opponent Joe Shields. He’s talking about House Resolution 3035, known as the “Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011.”

Got that? Those annoying automated phone calls you get at home can soon eat up paid minutes on your cell phone. You'll be PAYING for the privilege of being annoyed.

Who's responsible for this mess of a deal?
The bill is bipartisan in that it’s sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat. But FOX 26 News looked at the top nine political contributions of the congressman who introduced the measure. And it may be worth noting that four out of the nine came from telecom or banking groups.

The one thing good about America is this: Despite all of the anti-Democracy rants by the Progs of late it's still the best system for identifying the sponsors........and voting them the heck out of office. Which is why the Prog's anti-democracy rhetoric is so dangerous.

(Sorta) back in the saddle quick hits


Think Occupy Wall St. could become a campaign liability for Progressives?
 The problem they're going to have here is that 70% of Americans are way right of this type of expression. Not that Wall St. doesn't have it's problems, but the answer to them is not to blow up the entire capitalist system and replace it with some Marxist Utopia that won't be...a utopia at all. The main problem the left in America has right now is that there's no such thing as moderation to them. Taking it too far is not far enough to their ardent supporters (bloggers).
Speaking of pushing it too far: The GOP isn't with these two bills but they also have a proclivity to get out of hand.
Getting rid of the EPA would be good move (you could have better regulation and policy without them), but it's not in-line with what the majority of the electorate is willing to go along with. There's a fine-line between being pro-economy and anti-consumer. IMO the government should always have heavier regulation over things people NEED (food, water, electricity, gas etc.) and only health and safety regulation over things people WANT. That's a pretty striking difference from what a few on the far right are proposing.
On a serious note: Nothing to see here, move along.
To suggest that regulators and those that they regulate not have any human feelings is absurd. There's nothing here that suggests the State department is being swayed by these friendships, only that both sides are acting human. The Socialist/Environmentalist movement wouldn't be happy unless the regulators called the TransCanada employees a bunch of capitalist pigs.
It makes you wonder what Obama's internal polling numbers are showing if they're going to these lengths to shut out the public on his jobs plan addresses

I'd be willing to bet the polling results aren't good, despite an administration and media coordinated press to
win support.

In a word: Heh.

You gotta think the Occupy Wall St. peeps (and the Prog bloggers that support them) would just as soon sell their first born for medical research than admit the Tea Party was on to something. Far better to misrepresent and call them vulgarities.


A man called Cactus

The urbanists and transplants are going to have a seizure over this one. Surely County Commission called "Cactus Jack" isn't world class right?

In which the Houston Chronicle admits the media didn't do it's job.

Had reporters done what reporters typically do - dig for facts - they might have gradually uncovered a raft of details that put Jones' claims in a different light. They could have learned that the combined recollection of virtually every KBR employee who dealt with Jones that day described a different version of events. That company records seemed at odds with Jones' memory on many points. That medical evidence did not support her descriptions of her injuries or her claim of being drugged. That previous diagnoses by her own doctors in Houston said she suffered from a psychosomatic illness that included faking some symptoms.

There have been far too many stories of late where the media, after the fact, has admitted that "whoops, we kind of dropped the ball on that one, sorry, we'll do better NEXT time." The problem is that the "next time" comes and the media does what it has done for years, slant the news. The Houston Chronicle, under it's current leadership, is among the worst of the MSM outlets for slanted (towards the Houston establishment usually) reporting. You expect this type of behavior from The Texas Tribune, the Texas Observer or other newsish outlets, whose funding is typically from party activists and/or interest groups. Sadly, you have to expect it from the mainstream as well. Far better if all of them would just own up to their bias and let us all digest the news with full disclosure.

To be fair, the National news media is worse than the Houston Chronicle.

KBR was a tailor-made villain. Too bad it doesn't appear they've turned out to be. Damned facts.

No matter how many times you put lipstick on a pig it's still the same 'ol pig.

The Chron could have a hundred apps, and it's still not going to change the fact that their local news reporting is sub-par, quite often getting scooped on stories of local interest by National or out-of-town publications. The iPad was hailed as the saviour of newspapers, my prediction is that it won't move the needle AT ALL. What newspapers need to do is get back to some old fashioned watchdog reporting. For the pro-establishment Houston Chronicle, this would mean a 100% re-vamp of the product. I don't believe that Jeff Cohen is the visionary that is necessary to pull off a feat of this magnitude.

So much to talk about. I'll leave the Perry Presidential stuff for The Texas Iconoclast

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I'm going to quit blogging for a while to put my focus on issues of a personal nature. Be back soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

If you hear "consensus" and science.... away. Huntsman is wrong, science doesn't HAVE consensus. For anyone familiar with the scientific model, consensus is a joke. Which is why all of the AGW climate change proponents are 100% wrong. There's plenty of evidence that the Earth is heating, what's not proven, or even supported by ANY credible scientific study, is that said increase is due to human activity.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Political blind spots

I'm not much for writing long, flowing tributes to days when bad things happened because, quite frequently, they end up looking like this:
  • The years of shame, Paul Krugman, New York Times

  • What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

  • Bush's Fatal 9/11 flaw, Peter Beinart, The Daily Beast

  • George W. Bush thought al Qaeda’s attack was the major geopolitical event of our time. He was wrong.
    It's funny to me that a large portion of Democratic activists are still fighting a losing battle against the Bush presidency, much in the same way I thought Republicans were foolish for continuing to fight against the Clinton presidency long after he was out of office. If anything, the disaster that has become the Obama presidency has made us realize that neither of the previous two presidents were as bad as the opposite side made them out to be. This political blind spot by Democrats is distracting them from the real story.... Rick Perry is on the rise, and he can (and probably will) BEAT Obama in 2012 if something doesn't change.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011


    The problem with using this argument:
  • Global Commuter Stress is Growing, David Crossley, Bossiness Tomorrow
    The annual global Commuter Pain survey, which IBM released today, reveals that in a number of cities more people are taking public transportation rather than driving
  • When making the argument that people should ride public transit in Houston is this..... For the most part, there IS no reliable, robust, flexible public transportation in Houston. If the MetroRail expansion gets Federal funding and moves forward there will be even less. Of course, Hoston Tomorrow has never let facts* get in the way of a chance to advocate for controlling people's lives and travel patterns so why should that start now?

      *The whole story is that there is plenty of money in the Rainy Day fund to cover the budgets of fire departments and no serious observer truly believes that they are going to run out of money.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Slamming the Port

    OK, well...sorta.
  • County report criticizes Port administration, culture. Mike Morris,
  • Port of Houston Authority officials operate with a culture of impunity, running the public agency like a private business, defying open meetings laws and employing other secretive policies, the Harris County Attorney's office said in a new report.
    Some might say that "running government like a business is a good thing. Unfortunately, the Port Authority has been ran more like a slush fund than a business. Any rational business would have fired the board by now.

    Sports Section