Trumps Popularity and Success

The mayor of Livermore California explains Trump’s popularity and success.   This is perhaps the best explanation for Trump's popularity

Marshall Kamena is a registered Democrat and was elected mayor of Livermore, CA.. He ran on the democratic ticket as he knew a Bay Area city would never vote for a Republican. He is as conservative as they come. He wrote the following:

Trump’s 'lack of decorum, dignity, and statesmanship' By Marshall Kamena, Mayor of Livermore, CA.

My Leftist friends (as well as many ardent #NeverTrumpers) constantly ask me if I’m not bothered by Donald Trump’s lack of decorum. They ask if I don’t think his tweets are “beneath the dignity of the office.”

Here’s my answer: We Right-thinking people have tried dignity. There could not have been a man of more quiet dignity than George W. Bush as he suffered the outrageous lies and politically motivated hatreds that undermined his presidency.

We tried statesmanship.

Could there be another human being on this earth who so desperately prized “collegiality” as John McCain?

We tried propriety – has there been a nicer human being ever than Mitt Romney?

And the results were always the same. This is because, while we were playing by the rules of dignity, collegiality and propriety, the Left has been, for the past 60 years, engaged in a knife fight where the only rules are those of Saul Alinsky and the Chicago mob.

I don’t find anything “dignified,” “collegial” or “proper” about Barack Obama’s lying about what went down on the streets of Ferguson in order to ramp up racial hatreds because racial hatreds serve the Democratic Party.

I don’t see anything “dignified” in lying about the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and imprisoning an innocent filmmaker to cover your tracks.

I don’t see anything “statesman-like” in weaponizing the IRS to be used to destroy your political opponents and any dissent.

Yes, Obama was “articulate” and “polished” but in no way was he in the least bit “dignified,” “collegial” or “proper.”

The Left has been engaged in a war against America since the rise of the Children of the ‘60s. To them, it has been an all-out war where nothing is held sacred and nothing is seen as beyond the pale.. It has been a war they’ve fought with violence, the threat of violence, demagoguery and lies from day one – the violent take-over of the universities – tilltoday.

The problem is that, through these years, the Left has been the only side fighting this war. While the Left has been taking a knife to anyone who stands in their way, the Right has continued to act with dignity, collegiality and propriety.

With Donald Trump, this all has come to an end. Donald Trump is America ’s first wartime president in the Culture War

During wartime, things like “dignity” and “collegiality” simply aren’t the most essential qualities one looks for in their warriors. Ulysses Grant was a drunk whose behavior in peacetime might well have seen him drummed out of the Army for conduct unbecoming.

Had Abraham Lincoln applied the peacetime rules of propriety and booted Grant, the Democrats might well still be holding their slaves today.

Lincoln rightly recognized that, “I cannot spare this man. He fights.”

General George Patton was vulgar-talking.. In peacetime, this might have seen him stripped of rank. But, had Franklin Roosevelt applied the normal rules of decorum then, Hitler and the Socialists would barely be five decades into their thousand-year Reich.

Trump is fighting. And what’s particularly delicious is that, like Patton standing over the battlefield as his tanks obliterated Rommel’s, he’s shouting, “You magnificent bastards, I read your book!”

That is just the icing on the cake, but it’s wonderful to see that not only is Trump fighting, he’s defeating the Left using their own tactics. That book is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals – a book so essential to the Liberals’ war against America that it is and was the playbook for the entire Obama administration and the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis.

It is a book of such pure evil, that, just as the rest of us would dedicate our book to those we most love or those to whom we are most indebted, Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer.

Trump’s tweets may seem rash and unconsidered but, in reality, he is doing exactly what Alinsky suggested his followers do. First, instead of going after “the fake media” — and they are so fake that they have literally gotten every single significant story of the past 60 years not just wrong, but diametrically opposed to the truth, from the Tet Offensive to Benghazi, to what really happened on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri — Trump isolated CNN. He made it personal.

Then, just as Alinsky suggests, he employs ridicule which Alinsky described as “the most powerful weapon of all.”... Most importantly, Trump’s tweets have put CNN in an untenable and unwinnable position ... They need to respond.

This leaves them with only two choices. They can either “go high” (as Hillary would disingenuously declare of herself and the fake news would disingenuously report as the truth) and begin to honestly and accurately report the news or they can double-down on their usual tactics and hope to defeat Trump with twice their usual hysteria and demagoguery. The problem for CNN (et al.) with the former is that, if they were to start honestly reporting the news, that would be the end of the Democratic Party they serve. It is nothing but the incessant use of fake news (read: propaganda) that keeps the Left alive.

Imagine, for example, if CNN had honestly and accurately reported then-candidate Barack Obama’s close ties to foreign terrorists (Rashid Khalidi), domestic terrorists (William Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn), the mafia (Tony Rezko) or the true evils of his spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright’s church.

Imagine if they had honestly and accurately conveyed the evils of the Obama administration’s weaponizing of the IRS to be used against their political opponents or his running of guns to the Mexican cartels or the truth about the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the Obama administration’s cover-up.

So, to my friends on the Left — and the #NeverTrumpers as well — do I wish we lived in a time when our president could be “collegial” and “dignified” and “proper”? Of course I do.

These aren’t those times. This is war. And it’s a war that the Left has been fighting without opposition for the past 50 years.

So, say anything you want about this president - I get it - he can be vulgar, he can be crude, he can be undignified at times. I don’t care. I can’t spare this man. He fights for America!










Is HCAD going to pile on Harvey victims?

By Bill King

In an incredibly tone-deaf statement, the Harris County Appraisal District ("HCAD") announced yesterday that some homeowners who were flooded in Harvey might see a 21% increase in their appraised value this year!

Really? These folks have got to be feeling like Job at this point. First, no one warns them that the levies are about to be overtopped, notwithstanding the models showed this would happen at least 72 hours in advance. Then, the Corps opens the gates and floods them. Then, the local governments will not invoke emergency appraisal for 2017. Then, the City makes the permitting to rebuild a nightmare. And now, HCAD is going to hit them with a 21% property tax increase!

The possible 21% increase is based on a state law that limits increases to 10% per year. But, apparently under that law, if last year's appraisal was reduced for damages, it can be ignored and HCAD can apply the 10% per year to the pre-damage value.

While that may be theoretically possible under the law, I cannot imagine that any home that was flooded in Harvey has actually increased in value by 21% since 2017.   My realtor friends tell me that at virtually every showing prospective buyers ask whether the property flooded in Harvey.

But according to the story in the Chronicle Thursday, a HCAD spokesman said that its appraisers are not finding any stigma associated with flooded properties. Excuse my French, but this is b.s. Anyone who thinks that the value of a property is not affected by its flood history is an idiot.

While there may be certain unique circumstances that justify a 21% increase in the value of a Harvey-flooded property, if HCAD really raises values by 21% on a widespread basis, we need to clean house over there. And there should probably be some governance changes to the central appraisal system generally. My friend, Charles Blain, wrote this article about the role local elected officials, who generally have an interest in seeing higher appraisals, play in CAD governance.

Hopefully, HCAD's warning yesterday will be limited to a few one-off situations. But if it is widespread, look out for the pitchforks and torches.



Mueller Report or you to read


Houston city council could vote on garbage fee next week

Robert Downen March 20, 2019

District D City Councilman Dwight Boykins’s idea for a garbage fee to help offset the cost of raises for Houston firefighters mandated by Proposition B last November will go before council for a vote next week. Boykins has been delaying dozens of council agenda items in protest of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s refusal to swear in firefighter cadets who have completed their training.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday said he would put a proposed garbage fee on next week’s city council agenda, but will not vote for it.

Turner agreed to put the idea promoted by Councilman Dwight Boykins as a way to to offset the cost of firefighter raises mandated by Proposition B to a council vote, even as he called it “regressive” and said it would hurt low-income Houstonians.

“I will put it on the council agenda next week to let council members have their say, but I will not vote to impose this fee on the people of Houston,” he said on Twitter.

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Under Houston’s strong-mayor format, Turner decides what goes on the council agenda.

Boykins first pitched the idea of a monthly garbage fee of $25 to $40 to help cover the cost of the firefighter raises in December. At the time, he estimated the fee could raise as much as $172 million a year that would go into a special revenue fund for Houston’s Solid Waste Management, thereby freeing up other monies to pay for the firefighter raises.

The raises, which the Turner administration has estimated will cost about $100 million a year, are required under the Prop B charter amendment approved by voters last November. The pay-parity measure requires the city to pay firefighters the same as police officers of equal rank and experience.

Boykins’ original proposal largely fell flat among his council colleagues, some of whom said the fees were far too high. Boykins since has floated lower rates, and said Wednesday that he would call for fees between $19 and $27 a month when council votes.

In a statement Wednesday, Boykins said he was the “only member of City Council to put forth a proposal that creates a steady revenue stream while preventing massive and destructive layoffs.”

“My proposal is an alternative that secures public safety while saving the jobs of up to 500 firefighters, 200 police officers and up to 300 city employees,” Boykins said. “It’s an opportunity for city leaders to lead, and I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this measure.

Turner earlier this week announced his administration has begun the process of implementing the raises, a plan that includes the layoff of about 400 firefighters and another 100 municipal employees. No police are included in the layoffs.

Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, said the union supports Boykins’ idea. He said Turner has yet to put forth a solution that does not “put public safety and citizens at risk.”

The mayor’s agreement to put the garbage fee proposal to a council vote came in the second week of Boykins delaying dozens of items on the council agenda in protest of what he says is unfair treatment of Houston Fire Department cadets.

The cadets graduated from training earlier this year, but Turner has refused to swear them in, saying it would be wrong to promote them during a citywide hiring freeze he implemented last fallwhen it became clear Prop B could pass. He did, however, swear in more than 60 Houston Police Department cadets this month.

Two weeks ago, Boykins blocked 33 of 39 agenda items.

He similarly delayed most of the Council’s agenda on Wednesday, drawing criticism from Turner and other council members.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ellen Cohen said Boykins’ behavior “makes a mockery” of the council, adding the tactic is intended to give members time to further study proposals and not to “hold hostage” city business.

"There are no political games here on the part of this administration," Turner said before accusing Boykins of playing his own “political games.”

Other council members said they supported Boykins use of the parliamentary maneuver and voted against several attempts to override his tags.

Even those votes were not without argument, however. At one point, Boykins tried to allow a handful of agenda items to go to vote, prompting backlash from other council members who said tags need to be used consistently, or not at all.

“You’re either all-in or all-out,” Council member Brenda Stardig said after one such vote.

Boykins later defended his actions, citing the “frustrations” expressed to him when he’s met with firefighters.

“Tagging the agenda is not something I’m proud of doing,” he said. “I’m just doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do. … I don’t look forward to doing this every time.”


Mayor Sylvester Turner, working to close a $160 million budget deficit, has proposed scrapping payments that scores of Houston neighborhoods served by private trash haulers receive to help offset the cost of their waste contracts.

The idea when the program started in the 1970s was that residents should not have to pay property taxes for city trash services they were not receiving - particularly because they were already paying for waste pickup in their homeowner association dues. The city also came out ahead because the $6 monthly per-house subsidy was cheaper than the cost of the city serving each home itself, now estimated at $18 per home per month.

In scraping together a balanced budget for the fiscal year that starts in July, however, Turner felt the program was expendable. In many cases, the subsidies go to residents who have chosen to pay for more extensive services than those the city provides, such as having the trash picked up more frequently than once a week, or having workers walk up a resident's driveway to retrieve the trash rather than the homeowner rolling a bin to the curb.

Cutting these "sponsorship" payments to the 48,000 homes participating would save the city $3.5 million.

"When I drilled down in every department and every line item and I saw that line item sticking out, my question was, 'Is this one that people can give up without hurting them and the core services, things that are essential to the city?' " Turner said. "I decided this was something the city at this particular point in time was not in a position to continue to sponsor."

City Council will begin hearings on Turner's proposed budget Monday, leading up to a final vote that could come as early as May 25.

In the past, mayors who sought to roll back the trash payments were rebuffed by council, and at least one neighborhood sued the city when its application to participate was denied.

Councilman Dave Martin, whose District E contains 32 neighborhoods with sponsorship agreements, said he is concerned the move will wind up costing more if residents cancel their contracts and force the city to serve them.

"They're going after the consumers for the money instead of making the proper budget cuts within the city departments," Martin said. "Cut the budget an additional $3.5 million and leave everything alone. I can find a $3 million budget reduction underneath the pillows in some of the departments."

'Taxes for nothing'

Solid Waste Management Department leaders anticipate some neighborhoods will cancel their contracts but expect the change still will result in a net savings for the city.

Trailwood Village board member Tricia Bagley repeated a common criticism among Kingwood residents, who feel the city forcibly annexed them in the 1990s to leech tax revenue out of an affluent area and provide few services in return. Without the trash subsidies, she said, her neighborhood will be "paying taxes for nothing."

"I was shocked they were considering that. It's just a city thing that they tax us and then we don't see any results on it, and now they're not going to reimburse us on this?" Bagley said. "Some people will say, 'Oh well, rather than raise our assessment, let's just use the city.' And then some people may be up in arms because they're very accustomed to having backdoor trash pickup."

At the $216 estimated cost of providing city waste services per home annually, Houston would need fewer than 16,000 homes to move from private waste contracts to city service to secure a net savings. That figure does not account for the cost of trash containers the city may need to purchase to begin serving a new neighborhood.

"If they end up saying it's that big of a difference, that they will give up their contracts and will turn to the city, then yeah, OK, more than likely I'll remove it," Turner said. "I'm not trying to make their situation bad, I'm simply trying to balance a budget that's $160 million short, and I've asked people to engage in shared sacrifice."

The mayor also suggested, wearing a slight grin, that reporters examine the subdivisions now receiving trash subsidies.

The three City Council districts home to 83 percent of the city's sponsorship agreements, records show, also are the three districts with the highest median household incomes in the city: District G on the west side, District E in Kingwood and Clear Lake, and District C, which covers much of the western half of the Inner Loop.

An extra $6 per month

Martin acknowledged that he and many of his neighbors receiving private trash service in District E can cover a $6-per-month increase in their civic association dues.

"If you're used to getting your trash picked up twice a week and you're used to backdoor service, most people are probably going to say, 'Keep my six bucks,' " Martin said. "They're mostly the people that have the means to pay an extra $6 a month."

Yorkshire Civic Association president Jack Smart echoed that. Residents in his 157-home neighborhood at Memorial and Kirkwood pay $17.52 a month for trash service after the city reimbursement, he said, and likely accept paying $23.52 a month if the subsidy ends, too. Yorkshire residents get twice-weekly pickup from their back doors, Smart said, and have more flexibility on when and how heavy trash is picked up than the city provides.

"Sylvester Turner is a pretty savvy guy, in my opinion. He may be counting on the fact that a lot of the wealthier subdivisions don't want to put up with the level of service the city provides," Smart said. "Most of the people here would rather continue with private pickup even if we have to pay an extra $6 a month."


Flood Equity Update

At our Last meeting we signed letter to the County Commissioners to requestmore meetings todiscuss any changes to Flood Bond Priority of Projects. here is the response I received and my analyis of the information.

Judge Hidalgo (County Judge's Office)

Tue, Mar 5, 3:12 PM (22 hours ago)

to me

Ms. Morlen:

Thank you for your email.  A staff member will be in contact with you regarding this matter.


The Office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo


Baker, Gabe (County Judge's Office) 

Tue, Mar 5, 4:00 PM (21 hours ago)

to me

Dear Ms. Morlen,

Thank you for your email and for the attached letters from the KARW. We at Harris County are committed to serving and improving the livelihood of all county residents, and the understood needs in Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, Huffman, and Crosby not of a lesser concern than that in other areas.

In order to clarify on the various misunderstandings that are circulating about the bond prioritization guidelines, I would like to direct you to the Harris County Flood Control District site which has all the details about the current draft framework as well as pertinent FAQs.

When you follow the link above, you can find the full draft guidelines under the link titled, “Read the DRAFT ‘Prioritizing the Implementation of HCFCD 2018 Bond Projects’”.

I hope this is helpful, and feel free to reach back out to me if there are further questions.




Flood Risk Reduction Benefits HCFCD strives to complete projects that help the most people first (worst first approach). Flood risk reduction benefits can be calculated in terms of water surface elevation reductions, reductions in limits of the 1% floodplain (100-year floodplain), or the number of structures where flooding risks have been reduced. The preliminary engineering report phase for each Bond project will quantify these benefits. If a preliminary engineering report is not prepared at this time, HCFCD will estimate the benefits in terms of structures where flooding risks could be reduced.

 Types of Bond Projects The following are the major types of projects within the 2018 Bond election. · Right of Way, Planning, Design and/or Construction Projects – Traditional infrastructure projects HCFCD uses to reduce flooding potential. · Floodplain Preservation and Right of Way Acquisition – Acquisition of property deep in the floodplain for preservation as well as acquisition of property for future projects. · Subdivision Drainage Improvements – Projects typically in partnership with another agency that has primary jurisdiction to improve the internal subdivision drainage in conjunction with HCFCD channels. · Storm Repairs and Restore Channel Capacity - Projects that include fixing side slope failures and desilting channels to the restore the channel capacity to the original design. · Flood Warning System – Improvements and advancements to the existing HCFCD Flood Warning System · Floodplain Mapping Updates – Updates to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 1% floodplain maps and other mapping products

Project Prioritization Evaluation criteria were developed to rank each of the remaining 2018 Bond projects. The criteria allow for an opportunity to create objectivity in the prioritization process. Two methods were utilized to rank projects: Weighted Factors Analysis and a Pairwise Analysis, both of which are described in the sections below. For each method, the following criteria were used and are discussed below.

· Existing Conditions Drainage Level of Service

 · Lack of Service

· Flood Risk Reduction * HCFCD is looking to determine the number of housing units and using that as a metric as opposed to structures. For example, an apartment building is one structure, but will contain multiple housing units. A flood damage reduction project could benefit multiple families and this benefit wouldn’t be captured by only considering structures. HCFCD will continue to work on this effort as we refine the methodology

· Long Term Maintenance Costs

 · Minimize Environmental Impacts

· Potential for Multiple Benefits

· Project Efficiency

· Partnership Funding

Table 9: Weighted Factor Ranking of Bond Projects :

The Weighted Factors analysis allows criteria to be weighted based on percentages that sum to 100 percent. Each of the criteria was given a percentage weighting

. · Flood Risk Reduction Weighting Factor 25%

 · Existing Conditions Drainage Level of Service Weighting Factor 20%

· Lack of Service Weighting Factor 15%

· Project Efficiency Weighting Factor 15%

 · Partnership Funding 10%

· Long Term Maintenance Costs Weighting Factor 5%

· Minimizes Environmental Impacts Weighting Factor 5%

· Potential for Multiple Benefits Weighting Factor 5%


I used the weighted graph to contrast Kingwood against the highest priority area. The pairwise analysis has the same result as the weighted analysis. In the Pairwise Kingwood is ranked 7 and Conveyance Improvements to Halls Bayou Trib is ranked 2


Kingwood is in the Black rank 8 contrasted with Conveyance Improvements to Halls Bayou Trib rank 1



Flood risk reduction: Flood Plane removed from less than 10% of structures (100 Structures) =3 (6) less than 75% of structures

Potential for Multiple Benefits 10 (7)

Long Term Maintained Cost 10 (10)

Environmental Impacts 6 (2)

Existing Conditions Drainage 3 ( Flooding occurring every 45 years) (10) Around a flood occurring every 7 years

Project Efficiency 4 (10)

Lack of Services 10 (10)

Partnership Funding 0  (10)

Weighted sum 4.8 (8.5)

Rank 8 (Rank 1)


This explains the numbers for the highlighted areas above

Flood Risk Reduction: Flood risk reduction benefits are calculated in terms of the number of structures, as opposed to the value of structures, where flooding risks have been reduced. The HCFCD used the internal structural inventory database to determine the number of structures benefitting from the proposed projects. The structural inventory database will ultimately take into account if multifamily structures (apartments) benefit by the proposed project. Providing flood risk reduction for multi-family structures can arguably benefit more people. Additionally, the percentages shown in the table below are calculated by evaluating the percent of structures removed from the effective 1% floodplain in all of Harris County by each proposed project. Based on the Harris County Appraisal District’s building footprint database, there are 183,833 structures that intersect with the limits of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mapped 1% AEP (100-year) effective floodplain. Table 3 defines the scoring associated with the 1% flood risk reduction of each Bond project.(Please referee to the table in the link above if you want the scoring Criteria)

Project Efficiency Table 7 provides scoring for ranges of project efficiency. Project efficiency is defined as the total cost of the project divided by the number of structures within the mapped 1% AEP (100- year) effective floodplain that receive a flood damage reduction benefit.


As you can see, I contrasted Kingwood against Conveyance Improvements to Halls Bayou. When I look at this, I don’t see a huge difference in the category numbers overall  but there is a huge difference in the weight of the two areas. We have a difference in Existing Drainage. They have a higher lack of service than us that is not to say we do not have a lack of service. Lastly, we have no partnership funding. What it comes down to this that the Flood Control People and Judge Hildago have now decided one we do not have enough people who are affected by the flooding and two we do not flood as often. These are the key points. Thus, they have determined that we are a low priority. No consideration was taken for the value of the amount of damage done to an area or the number of businesses impacted, or jobs lost. Many would say this places low socio-economic areas ahead of all other areas apartments over homes and businesses. You have to determine for yourself if this is the case. We were promised when we voted for the bond worse first. I don’t know if this is truly worse first. Regardless of were you lived if you flooded you were all in the same boat regardless if you flood every year or you flood every 7 years or if you flood every 45 years. But we all know that the devastation has not occurred every 45 years. The first major flood occurred in 1994. The problems that caused the devastating 1994 flood were not addressed then and the second devasting flood occurred in 2017. Now we were told if you vote for the 2 Billion Flood Bond the issues would be addressed and by what I see here they will not be addressed anytime soon. It is important to remember this is a draft. The County Commissioners meet on March 12th downtown. If you are concerned about the Bond Projects, I would encourage you to attend the meeting. Remember the squeaky wheel gets the attention.


A Letter from City Councilman Dave Martin in regards to Repriorization of Flood Bond Priorities

Residents of District E,

 Many of you may have seen my interview last night with FOX 26 reporter Greg Groogan regarding the reprioritization of Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) bond projects. I stand firmly that income should not be used as an equalizing factor for these projects because natural disasters do not strike based on income. Last summer, HCFCD hosted 23 community meetings on the proposed projects to be included in the bond and there was never a mention of adding income-based criteria to the ranking criteria. It was understood and presented to voters in these community meetings that projects would be completed based on hardest hit areas and the number of residents that would benefit from the projects.

This item is expected to be discussed at the March 12, 2019 Commissioners Court meeting. Commissioners Court meetings are open to the public, and begin at 10:00 a.m. at 1001 Preston Street, Suite 934, Houston, TX 77002. Commissioners Court meetings are also streamed online here and you can get more meeting information by visiting the Commissioners Court website.

Earlier this week, I traveled to Austin to participate in Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Day and Bay Area Economic Partnership's Space Day at the State Capitol. I joined members from across District E in advocating for legislation related to Sand Mining, Post Disaster Recovery, Taxation, as well as the impact of the aerospace industry in Texas.

Representative Dan Huberty has been instrumental in authoring House Bills 907, 908, and 909 which seek to establish best management practices for aggregate production operations, increase penalties related to illegal aggregate production operations, and increase oversight associated with aggregate production operations. All three of Huberty's bills have been referred to the House Committee on Environmental Regulation. We appreciate Representative Huberty's hard work on these pieces of legislation that, once passed, will have a tremendous impact on the communities in the Lake Houston Area.


Senator Brandon Creighton has authored Senate Bill 1800, which seeks to amend the Texas Constitution for the purpose of creating a Texas Resilience Infrastructure Fund (TRIF), which would assist in the financing of resiliency projects. The TRIF would be a special fund in the state treasury outside of the general revenue fund for the development of flood prevention and mitigation projects. This bill has been referred to the Texas Senate Committee on Water and Rural Affairs, which Senator Creighton is the currently the Vice Chair. Thank you to Senator Creighton for working hard on this piece of legislation that seeks to better prepare the state of Texas for future natural disasters.

Thank you to Representative Dennis Paul for authoring House Bill 303 and Senator Larry Taylor for authoring it's companion bill Senate Bill 1039 which seek to establish a spaceport development corporation in Houston, Texas. Representative Paul will be presenting this bill to the Texas House International Relations and Economic Development Committee this coming Monday, March 4 at 10:00 a.m. More information on Monday's committee meeting can be found here.

The Texas Legislature is hard at work on a myriad of issues and we thank these state representatives for their tireless work for the betterment of our area. If you do not already subscribe to your legislators' weekly newsletter, I highly recommend getting added to their distribution list for more timely updates.


Dave Martiin


Countywide Voting Centers in Harris County, TX What are they and how do they work?

 Election Day vote centers (EDVC) can be precinct-based or non-precinct-based locations for voting depending on the county plan

• All polling locations are open to all eligible voters in Harris County

 • All locations are located based on population density  (This could mean that rural areas and unincorporated areas would lose their polling locations making it difficult for older citizens to get to the polling Centers)

• Prioritization is on convenience for the voter

• Vote at your neighborhood precinct location or where you work, shop or go to school

 • Locations can be any existing precinct location, large or small

Recommended plan: Leave all 700 ED ( Election Day) polling locations open including some Early Voting locations as well. (This will only be done for the trial to see which centers to keep.)

Why are Election Day Voting Centers better?

• Increases voter convenience and satisfaction

• Continuation of the same successful style of voting as during early vote

• Solves the confusion so many voters have about where their assigned location is on ED (This is irrelevant people know where to vote they have voter registration cards and have voted in ED Precincts before. The EVC have become a convince)

• Reduces the costs of administering an election over time

• Increases the efficiency of collecting and counting votes ( Votes are all counted electronically as soon as polls close. Troutman has stated her next project is to have new machines that will have paper ballots and that is where the counting and recounting will come in)

• Allows us to monitor and evaluate voter traffic on election day and use that data to make better choices on how to serve our voters Challenges of EDVCs  

• Breaking with tradition

• Harris County has had Early Voting at any location for years, but Election Day has always been in the voters local precinct

Voter education

• There will need to be a significant public education campaign in which all stakeholders are included and elected officials in Harris County all push the same message 

 Equipment and Technology

• At this time, there will not need to be a significant technology purchase as this type of technology has already been used on election day

Plan to Educate Voters

• Post information on Harris County Clerk Website

• Post notices on Commissioner Court bulletin board

• Run ads and PSAs on Harris County TV access stations

• County Clerk Hispanic, African-American, and Asian Voter Outreach Coordinators will hold community meetings in all 4 Commissioner Precincts

• Other outreach will be done with minority organizations, disability rights organizations, Harris County Elected Officials, & Election Workers

• Use social media and telephone town halls

• Host more community hearings/meetings as needed throughout the county Harris Countywide Plan for EDVCs

• Leave all current 700 ED locations open including EV locations

• Look at voting patterns after a few elections to determine voter needs

• Check with community before consolidating any existing voting locations

• Start with a smaller election Best Practices of Implementation

 Exit polls from counties in Texas that use EDVCs show:  ( All Election Day Voting Centers are currently used in small rural Texas Counties out West where you may have a community with only 20 people living in it so it is easy to implement a center for say two or three communities. Harris County has 3M plus residents residing in it. The number of people that the entire sate of New Mexico has living in it. Election Day Voting Centers will more than likely ensure long lines because the number of Election Day Precinct Polling places will be reduced.)

• Enhanced voter performance  ( Truthfully, I do not see how this will enhance Voter Performance and I am not really clear what the Clerk means by enhanced voter performance )

• Increased voter participation

• Voters preferred EDVCs to traditional precinct-based voter locations 

• Some studies have shown a lower cost per vote cast than traditional locations Next Steps / Action Items ( Understandable less workers less polling places but it more then likely will be longer lines because people will no longer have their precincts to vote at so they will be funneled into other areas creating larger polling centers.)

• As soon as practical after additional community and public hearings have been held, we would come back to Commissioner Court and report on the additional public outreach and ask for authorization to apply to the Texas Secretary of State to implement a Countywide Polling Place Program in Harris County.


Pros and Cons of Election Day Voting Centers

Current Status On Election Day in Harris County, a voter may cast a ballot only at the polling place designated for that voter's precinct. During Early Voting, though, voters may use any Early Voting location offered by their election authority.

Here are the Pros and Cons of moving to Election Day Polling Centers. You can decide if you like it or not.

Pros • Savings: Set up fewer polling places, which reduces the numbers of building rentals, pieces of equipment to program, cartage and judges of election.

• Convenience: Voters can pick a site most convenient to where they are during voting hours.

• Inconvenience: Those who must walk or rely on public transit might have difficulty reaching the nearest voting center.

 • Tradition: There is resistance to this change.

 • Difficulty: Requires more sophistication and real-time computer systems to prevent the prospect of a single voter casting ballots at multiple sites.



Democrats Push Job-Killing Wage Mandates

Wage mandates serve as an onerous mandate that could threaten to shutter local businesses and price new workers out from employment.

By Brandon Waltens|January 17, 2019

Multiple pieces of legislation filed by Democrat lawmakers in the Texas House and Senate would seek to increase wage mandate.

Like clockwork, Democrat lawmakers have once again filed legislation to increase the state’s minimum hourly wage — a proposal that threatens jobs and the current prosperous economy in Texas.

The minimum wage in Texas is currently set at the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Obviously, this rate of income is not likely to help finance a summer trip to the Hamptons, but it’s not supposed to. Rather, entry-level jobs and wages are designed to introduce young and new workers to the workforce, allowing them to earn some money while gaining experience and the opportunity of upward mobility.

Wage mandates serve as an onerous mandate that could threaten to shutter local businesses and price new workers out from employment.

Multiple pieces of legislation filed by Democrat lawmakers in the both the Texas House and Senate would seek to increase that mandate.

State Reps. Chris Turner (D–Grand Prairie) and Senfronia Thompson (D–Houston) have filed bills to raise the rate to $10.10 an hour, with State Sen. Jose Menendez (D–San Antonio) filing similar legislation in the Texas Senate.

Going even further, Democrat State Rep. Ron Reynolds (Missouri City) filed a bill in November to raise the rate to an astounding $15 an hour — all while serving jail time behind bars.

When liberal cities like New York and San Francisco adopted $15 minimum hourly wages, many businesses were forced to shutter their doors. In fact, a recent study from Harvard Business School found that a $1 increase to minimum wage increased the likelihood of an average restaurant being forced to close by 14 percent.

Far from only killing businesses, the proposal also kills jobs as many places, such as McDonalds, bring in automated kiosks to replace costly employees.

Perhaps even more pernicious is legislation filed by State Rep. Lina Ortega (D–El Paso) and State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D–El Paso), which would give counties and municipalities carte blanche to raise their own minimum wages as high as they would like.

Think $15 an hour seems high? Despite the disastrous effects of their $15 minimum wage, liberals in New York City have already begun to beat the drum to increase the number to $33.

One can only imagine how high the out-of-control Austin City Council would set their wage mandates, were the state to abdicate their own authority and give them the opportunity to do so.

Minimum wage legislation has not yet been referred to committee, as the 86th legislative session is still in its infancy. Should legislation reach the floor, it will be up to Republican lawmakers in both chambers to support the party platform and reject the Democrats’ job-killing proposals.


New Harris County Clerk pitches countywide voting centers

By Zach Despart

New Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman on Tuesday will propose to Commissioners Court a non-precinct based countywide polling system, where voters can cast ballots at the locations most convenient to them.

“Life gets in the way; you’ve got to pick up the kids, or go to another job,” Trautman said at her office Monday. “But if people actually had a choice of when and where to vote, I think you would see a big difference in turnout.”

In last November’s mid-term election, Harris County residents could vote at any of 46 county locations during the two-week early voting period. They had to cast ballots at their assigned precincts on Election Day, when the county operates more than 700 polling sites.

It is unclear how many voting centers would be needed, which could vary depending on what is on the ballot and projected turnout. Trautman said she would begin by using the county’s 46 early voting locations as Election Day voting centers, in addition to its precinct polling sites. Her office, she said, would use the resulting turnout data to make future decisions about the number of centers needed.

During her campaign, Trautman pitched voting centers as a way to increase turnout by 2 to 5 percent. She said voters are more likely to participate when they can cast ballots on Election Day near their work or school, which may be outside their precincts.

Former county clerk Stan Stanart, whom Trautman defeated last November, was open to moving to countywide polling places. He said in October that the option is available only because the county moved to electronic poll books on his watch. Without the modified iPads, which can communicate with each other so voters cannot cast ballots at multiple locations, each polling place would need a paper record of the county’s 2.3 million voters.

Trautman declined to set a deadline to complete the switch to voting centers, so as not to rush the process. She said she plans to start with lower-turnout elections, such as May school board balloting or November’s Houston city races, and evaluate the results. She said to debut the program during a presidential election, when more than 1 million voters regularly turn out, would be irresponsible.

The new clerk said she has studied Travis County’s voting centers model, which debuted in 2011, and hired away Michael Winn, that county’s elections director. Winn said voters needed several cycles to get used to the new system, which he said eventually boosted turnout 10 to 12 percent.

“Voters really enjoyed the fact that during lunchtime or after work, in that crunch time before polls close … vote centers make it so they can go without worry to a place within their proximity,” Winn said.

Through studying turnout patterns and consulting with neighborhood leaders, Winn said Travis County was able to close about 20 percent of its traditional polling places without hampering turnout.

Trautman said she is open to consolidating Harris County polling sites, but only after consulting with communities. She acknowledged the role polling places play in the civic fabric of neighborhoods — especially where residents once had been denied suffrage — and said she would leave open sites that hold such significance.

The Harris County Democratic Party endorsed the proposal, and a spokeswoman said County Judge Lina Hidalgo supports the idea. A spokesman for the county Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

More than a dozen community members have signed up to speak about the issue at Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

Among them is AJ Durrani of the Empowering Communities Initiative, which represents nine local Asian-American groups. He urged the clerk’s office to ensure there are enough voting centers in minority communities. A miscommunication between a Korean-American group and poll workers during early voting this past November in Spring Branch led to scores of voters being denied translation services.

“There are churches all over the place for voting on election day, why not some of the ethnic community centers?” Durrani said.

Another resident who signed up to speak encouraged the county to recruit mosques as polling sites.

Kyle Longhofer, a former Democratic Party official and election judge in Fort Bend County, said the switch to voting centers there in 2016 cut down on the number of provisional ballots cast by voters who arrived at the wrong polling places. Provisional ballots are segregated from regular votes, and often are challenged and thrown out.

“You hate to see people waste their vote,” Longhofer said.

Harris and other Texas counties in 2020 also must grapple with the consequences of the Legislature’s decision to eliminate straight-ticket voting, which increases the time needed to cast a ballot. Even though 76 percent of Harris County voters cast straight-ticket ballots in November, long lines dismayed voters during early voting and on Election Day.

Trautman said she expects the early voting centers to alleviate that problem. If a location is crowded, she reasoned, election workers can direct voters to a nearby polling place with a shorter wait.

The voting centers are Trautman’s first major proposal as county clerk since taking office Jan. 1. Rearranged furniture and half-hung portrait frames show her staff still has much moving in to do at its Caroline Street office, but Trautman said she was eager deliver on campaign pledges. She also plans eventually to replace the county’s aging voting machines.


What to watch in the Texas Legislature 

A new session of the Texas Legislature gets under way Tuesday and with it will come a new House Speaker, some new members, plenty of new committee heads and a brand-new opportunity for Texas to address some of its longest-standing and most urgent challenges.

Those challenges form a list much longer than there will be resources - from dollars to political capital - available to address them. 

Dennis Bonnen New Republican Speaker of the House

Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angelton, is expected to be elected Speaker of the House,He will be the new member of the triumvirate ( Govenor, Leiutenant Governor, and Speaker) that traditionally sets the tone for each session. Bonnen is a conservative but was a top lieutenant of outgoing Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican. Their styles were different: Bonnen was known as the hammer to Straus’ scalpel. 

Bonnen, a banker and most recently chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, will be leading a strongly conservative House, but one that added new Democrats to the mix after the midterms in November.

Education funding and tax reform

Everybody seems to agree that Texas’ dilapidated school finance system should be fixed — they just can’t agree on how. Complicating the issue is that some Republicans want to provide property tax relief this session by capping the growth of local property taxes, the largest source of education funding. 

Texans want a break on property taxes. Texas has no income tax, so the burden falls disproportionately on property taxpayers, who pay more as their property values increase. 

Still, a few developments give confidence that the Legislature will address the education funding system this time around. Not only has Abbott pledged that Texas will spend more money on education, Bonnen, the incoming speaker, has vowed to make school finance his No. 1 priority this session. Business leaders across the state, whose success is tied to an educated workforce, are speaking out in support.

True reform of the Education Funding Syatem will accomplish the basics — such as updating old formulas to reflect the true cost of educating Texas’ diverse population — but it will also make the necessary investments for excellence.

Hurricane Harvey

This session marks the state’s first opportunity to help fund massive infrastructure projects and pass regulatory changes that could make our city and state safer during the next major hurricane.

Criminal justice reform

Congress recently passed its own prison- and sentencing-reform law, plenty of credit was paid to Texas as an exemplar of what could be done.

A slate of members, including two from Houston, filed legislation last time around to end civil asset forfeiture, similar legislation is expected this year. Law enforcement groups are likely to fight once again to keep the program in place, given that current law allows agencies to use proceeds from seized property to fund operations. The trouble is, sometimes the property owners lose what’s theirs even if they are never charged — much less convicted of a crime. 

Expect to see discussion, too, about whether bail reform ought to be addressed by a statewide set of rules, or perhaps ones that apply to our biggest cities.

Unincorporated Harris County

The challenges of unincorporated Harris County are nothing new. For decades neighborhoods have sprouted up in the vast prairie west of Houston without any formal municipal governmental structure. Special districts have provided basic needs, such as neighborhood streets and water. The county government picked up the rest -- notably law enforcement and roads. No mayors. No city halls. No local sales taxes.

Hurricane Harvey revealed the weaknesses of these special districts to meet residents’ needs and the ongoing fight over property taxes has the county looking for another way to pay for services.


Governor Abbott's property Tax Relief Plan 2019



City's Net Assets Plunge by over $1 Billion


A few days before Christmas, the City of Houston released its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for FY2017-2018. In recent years, the City's standard operating procedure has been to release the CAFR over the holidays to minimize the attention it will receive because the news is generally not good.

This year is no different. The City's net position, that is, the difference between all of its assets and all of its liabilities, fell by just over $1 billion. About $300 million of the reduction was an operating loss, i.e., current expenses exceeded current revenues. The balance was due to a change in the accounting rules for the expense of providing health benefits to the City's retirees (commonly referred to as "OPEB"). As of the end of FY2017-2018, the City's net assets stood at $762 million.[i] The City's unrestricted net position hit a negative $6.45 billion, the largest unrestricted deficit in the City's history.[ii]

The City's operating loss of $300 million came notwithstanding that the City's revenue rose by $209 million, a 4.3% increase over FY2016-2017. Sales tax revenues were up by 6.6%. Notwithstanding this robust increase in revenue, I am sure that Turner and others will renew their call to repeal the property tax cap and raise your property taxes even more.

 This year's CAFR once again confirms that the City is on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory. Chris Brown, in his introduction to the CAFR, bluntly states that the City's budget is not structurally balanced and relies on accounting gimmicks to "balance" the budget each year. He is right. If we don't get our arms around the City's financial problems, they will adversely affect our City's long-term growth and competitiveness.

[i] Some of you may recall that in 2016, the CAFR showed for the first time in its history that the City's net position was a deficit. In 2017, the City booked a $1.9 billion gain from the changes to its pension plans. I won't get into the bizarre world of pension accounting here, but simultaneously with booking this gain, the City also deferred $1.7 billion of pension expenses to be recognized over the next five years, which in my opinion makes the gain booked by the City in 2017 completely bogus. Click here to see the CAFR disclosure on the deferred pension expense.

[ii] A governmental entity's "unrestricted net position" is calculated by subtracting its capital assets and those funds that are legally restricted to a particular purpose. It is not unusual for a governmental entity to have a negative balance in its unrestricted net position; however the size of Houston's deficit at over $6 billion is alarming.






Blue Wave sinks Harris County


Tuesday November 6th a Blue Wave Hit Harris County. The County lost all it’s major positions to the Democrats. Our new County Judge is a 27-year-old with no true job experience. This is the person who will be handling Billions of Dollars in Harvey Relief Monies and making decisions as to how the money will be spent. Not only did we lose these seats we lost every single Judges position on the ballot except JP Place 2 Judge Korduba. We  even elected Socialist Democrat Franklin Bynum who ran as a Democrat to Harris County Criminal Court 8. He believes the bail system is unfair and people should be free to walk the streets till their trial date even if they beat someone up in commission of a robbery ( Hey they didn’t kill anyone right?)

So, what happened? Here’s what happened.

 1) We didn’t vote Straight Ticket 500K Democrats vs. 400K Republicans voted Straight Ticket, giving Democrats a 100,000-vote margin and the result was a down-ballot sweep

2) Not only did we not vote straight ticket we were too lazy to go through the whole Ballot and do our Civic Duty and vote for the Judges. This year we had the longest Ballot in the State and we didn’t go through the ballot and vote for the judges.

In 2020 there will be no straight ticket option we have to go through the ballot and vote or we will lose all the time.

4) We didn’t flood the Polls and the Democrats did. Why didn’t we flood the Polls the same old tired excuses we always hear come to mind, I don’t need to vote others will do it for me (and yes, they certainly did) I’m a Never Trumper and I will not help him ( How about helping yourself did you ever think about that), I’m just too tired after working all day ( You had two weeks of Early Voting plus Election Day surly you weren’t that tired every day. I bet you made time to go out to dinner,) and lastly my vote doesn’t matter ( Every Vote Matters just look at Broward County they are counting and Devining every vote. Even votes made by people inelgibile to vote. ).

Well Folks Elections have Consequences just like President Obama stated and boy will we be facing severe Consequences in the city and the county. Our courts have now been completely changed. Many of these new judges don’t like the death penalty for murder, they don’t believe in bail or holding criminals, or prosecuting Illegal Immigrants. The grownups who ran the county finances are now gone. Our new County Judge never dealt with finances she was a language interpreter. She hadn’t even lived in the county or state prior to running, her parents lived here, she has been pursuing degrees in law and public policy at NYU and Harvard over the last few years. She came back from MA. to get on the Ballot to run and then went back to school and returned this summer from MA. after school to campaign. Now that she has won, she says she has decided to put her degrees on hold ( I guess we should be greatful for that.).  I have to wonder does she have any idea what the county is like or even how it runs she has never attended a Commissioners Court ( If I wanted to be a County Judge I would of made it a point to go to Commissioners Court several times to see what the job entails.).

Lastly if you liked the announced projects that our Harvey Bond Issue was going to cover hang on to your hats because our new County Judge has stated she has yet to determine whether to make changes to the projects list for the $2.5 billion flood protection bond voters approved in August ( I wonder if she has even read it or voted in the election.).

So, folks we will be riding the Blue Wave the next two years you better put on your water wings or jump in your boat as we are heading into rough water.



There will be layoffs: Houston mayor, City Council discuss passage of Prop B

A clearly frustrated Houston mayor warned Wednesday of pending layoffs after voters approved a measure aimed at pairing the pay of city firefighters with that of their police counterparts.

The measure, listed on the ballot as Proposition B, passed with a 19-point margin Tuesday.

Mayor Sylvester Turner began the discussion Wednesday by recognizing that the voters have spoken and that the city must now figure out how to pay for the annual $100 million being added to the budget.

“That is a huge mountain to climb,” Turner said. “I will be very, very honest and very candid with you, I don’t know how we’re going to pay for it.”

During Wednesday’s council meeting, Turner said the Fire Department will be the first place he will look for the money to cover the measure. He said he has already instructed Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena to move the department to a three-shift rotation instead of four and look at other ways to reduce costs. He also said there will not be any new personnel hired at the department any time soon.

“It doesn’t make sense to bring on anyone and then have to lay people off,” Turner said.

Turner said officials are looking at how to rework the classification of employees within the Fire Department to determine how layoffs will proceed, which will have to be approved by the City Council.
There is still much to be discussed and decided, Turner said, but he said one thing is for sure – major changes are required.

“We did not ask for this, but we are obligated to balance our books,” Turner said, looking around the room at the council members. “It will be a disruption of services. It will be. There will be layoffs.”

Council members agreed that they will wait to move forward on the issue for two weeks while all of the options are weighed.

Turner said his understanding is that the new ordinance takes effect Jan.



Turner's Former Law Partner to be Paid $6.7 Million

in Legal Fees from Harvey Disaster Funds


If you have not watched Ted Oberg's story on the $35 million contract for Harvey "outreach services" Sylvester Turner is asking Council to approve, please go right now and watch it (click on image below).  If you are like me, you will probably feel like you need to take a shower afterward.

The contract is for "outreach, intake and case management services" related to potential applicants for the federal housing disaster money that is supposed to start showing up in Houston in the near future.  $35 million is a lot of outreach, intake and case management.

The contract is with a company named ICF, which specializes in disaster recovery services but has a spotty reputation.  The company has been sued for over $200 million by the State of Louisiana for work it did after Hurricane Katrina and, according to the Times Picayune, was banned from doing business in Louisiana.

This proposed contract stinks in so many ways it is hard to know where to start.  But where the stink is the worst is in the involvement of Turner's former law partner, Barry Barnes. Amazingly, out of the roughly 60,000 lawyers in Harris County, ICF just happened to choose Turner's former lawyer to handle the legal work relating to the outreach program.  I am not exactly sure what legal work would be needed to do outreach to flood victims, but it is hard to imagine it would be very extensive.

The original materials submitted to the City Council's Housing Committee indicated that Barnes was to perform "limited legal services" for fees "to be determined."  On two occasions during the hearing, the Housing Department staff assured the Committee that Barnes was providing "limited legal services."

But according to Oberg, there was a proposed contract with Barnes that would pay him a whopping $2.7 million.  That is shocking enough, but incredibly by the time the proposal got to City Council, Oberg says Barnes' proposed fees had grown to over $6.7 million.  Why on earth would you need $6.7 million of legal services for what is basically a program to identify and help people fill out grant application forms?

At the Housing Committee hearing, ICF's proposed price was $27 million.  But by the time the request got to City Council the cost had increased to nearly $35 million. Does anyone believe that the dramatic increase in Barnes' fees was unrelated to ICF jacking up its price to the City?

Turner claims that he had nothing to do with the procurement process and it was just happenstance that his former law partner was selected by ICF to be paid $6.7 million for providing "limited legal services."  Right.

A few other facts about the proposal you need to know: The Housing Department admitted ICF was not the low bidder.  There was no bid process to select the subcontractors.  And, of course, several of the subcontractors have dutifully made large campaign contributions to Turner and other members of City Council.

The City of Houston expects to receive over a billion dollars of federal aid for Harvey disaster recovery over the next several years.  This is hardly an auspicious start.  If the very first contract out of the blocks lines the pockets of Turner's former law partner with $6.7 million in legal fees, one can only assume that graft will be endemic in the administration of the balance of the billion dollars of flood relief.  No wonder state and federal authorities are questioning the City's ability to administer such a massive program competently and without wholesale corruption.  This has got to make them even more reluctant to turn over disaster money to the City.

  Folks, this out of control.  This is the worst corruption I have seen in over 40 years of watching City Hall.  But what makes this particularly disgusting is that it is being done at the expense of thousands who are still suffering from Harvey.  How many families' homes could be repaired for $6.7 million?

  How can anyone on City Council vote for this abomination and ever look at themselves in a mirror again . . .  or in the eyes of one of their Harvey-affected constituents still waiting on help?

I don't ask you to do this often, but please forward this email to everyone in your address book.  Oberg did a great job digging this out.  We need to make sure everyone in the City knows about this travesty.


Rebuild Houston Has Not Paid Down One Penny on the City's Debt

by Bill King

One of the greatest hoaxes ever foisted on the Houston public is the claim that the Rebuild Houston program has paid down $1 billion of the City's bond debt.  In reality it has not paid down one penny on the debt.  Here are the facts.

  According to the City's June 30, 2017 audit, the City's total bond debt as of June 30, 2011 (the last fiscal year before Rebuild went into effect) was $12.3 billion.  As of June 30, 2017, that bond debt had risen to $13.5 billion, a nearly $1.2 billion increase.  And since then, the voters have authorized another $1.4 billion dollars in bonds which have either been issued since then or will be in the near future.  

To be fair, the intent of Rebuild Houston was to reduce only one specific category of bond debt, an account referred to as "Public Improvement Bonds" (PIB).  These are the bonds that the City has issued to general improvements like streets, drainage, parks, city buildings, etc.  For decades the City issued bonds to build these various improvements and then reissued new bonds as the old ones paid off to start new projects.

  There was never any intention that any funds from Rebuild Houston would actually go to pay down the PIB bonds.  Rather, the City would stop issuing new bonds for streets and drainage and consequently the PIB debt would begin to go down as the City retired those bonds from the General Fund.  The theory was that as the balance was reduced, the City would save money from having lower bond payments and those savings would be transferred to Rebuild to fund streets and drainage on a pay-as-you-go basis.  

But what the Rebuild advocates did not count on was that the City would step up its issuance of PIBs for other purposes.  As result, there has been only a minuscule reduction of the PIB balance, and therefore no consequential savings from the hoped-for reduced debt payments.   Again, referring to the schedule of the City's debt in its latest audit, it shows that the PIB debt in 2011 was $2.468 billion.  By 2017 the PIB debt had only been reduced by $67 million to $2.401 billion, a 2.7% decrease.  But the average outstanding debt during the time Rebuild has been in effect has actually been $70 million higher than what was owed in 2011.

So, how in the world do City officials stand up with a straight face and claim Rebuild has paid down a billion dollars of debt when the debt is just as high as it was before the Rebuild program was implemented?  You might want to take a couple of aspirin before reading the explanation, because their contorted justification of this claim is likely to give you a headache.  

When Rebuild was adopted, there was an accounting problem.  No one knew how much of the $2.4 billion of outstanding PIB debt related to streets and drainage.  So, they had to make an estimate.  They settled on assigning 70% of the then-outstanding PIB debt to streets and drainage.  

Each year thereafter, the outstanding debt "attributed" to streets and drainage was reduced by 70% of principal payments made on all PIB bonds.  So, by the end of FY2018, the theoretical amount of the PIBs attributed under this estimate to streets and drainage had been reduced from about $1.8 billion to just over a $1 billion.  Of course, that still does not get you to a billion dollars.  So, to further exaggerate their claim, they also added the interest payments made over that time.

  So, in the City's financial alchemy, a billion dollars of principal and interest payments made from the General Fund, and which the City would have had to make whether Rebuild was ever enacted or not, has been magically transformed into Rebuild paying down a billion dollars of City debt.  What utter horse hockey. 

  The financial antics of the City would be comical if this were not so serious.  In 2017 and 2018, the City cut infrastructure spending over $180 million from the 2016 level, a reduction of over 20%.  And this reduction was made notwithstanding that the City's revenue increased in both years.  The failure of the City to invest in its infrastructure has a direct impact on the daily lives of Houstonians, particularly when it comes to protecting us from flooding.

  Our City officials should spend their time trying to actually fix our streets and drainage instead cooking the books in a vain attempt to justify a program that is clearly an abject failure. 



Harris County Republican Party Chair Urges Democrat Voter Registrar to

Stop Confusing Voters and Follow the Law

Laments Democrat Voter Registrar Incompetence and Asks if Democrats Actually Live in UPS Stores

HOUSTON - Paul Simpson, Harris County Republican Party Chair, today responded to false attacks by the Harris County Democrat Party and others trying to pin the blame on Republicans for mistakes by Democrat Harris County Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett who wrongfully suspended thousands of voter registrations, and trying to intimidate citizen volunteers from following Texas law:

“Democrat Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett’s records lists thousands of voters registered at locations that do not seem to be residences, including UPS stores, churches without residences, industrial facilities, and the Harris County Jail. Volunteer Harris County Republican Ballot Security Chairman Alan Vera exercised his right as a registered voter to ask Ms. Bennett to verify these addresses - a request that Texas law allows only a registered voter to make. The list of addresses included voters of all stripes - even a Republican precinct chair.

“In response, the Democrat Voter Registrar mistakenly suspended the registration of thousands of voters.

“The Harris County Democrat Party then claimed Mr. Vera’s request had ‘changed the registration status’ of thousands of Democrat voters, when the list was party-neutral and it was the Democrat Voter Registrar who had suspended those registrations. More disturbingly, a Democrat partisan then published online the personal information of party volunteers who work with Mr. Vera, in a vain attempt to intimidate them.

“We will not be intimidated. It is inexcusable that Democrat Ann Harris Bennett failed to follow the law. She should not have suspended voters’ registrations. And the outrageous doxing and threats against Republican volunteers by leftists only hardens our resolve to fight their dirty tricks.

“This also shows that the Harris County Democrat Party doesn’t understand the law, and traffics in ‘fake news’ in a futile effort to gin up support for dismal Democrat candidates dedicated to failed left wing policies that Texans reject. Or do Democrat voters actually live in UPS stores, industrial facilities, and the Harris County jail?

“Democrat Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett should NOT have jumped the gun by suspending those voters’ registrations. Instead, the law requires her to give them 30 days to respond to a written inquiry about their residence, to ensure they vote in the right jurisdictions. We urge Democrat Ann Harris Bennett to follow the law and quit violating voters’ rights.”


Texas Election Code does not permit local registrars to question the eligibility of registered voters based on residency, but registrars are required to act on challenges to the registration of other voters in their county initiated by local citizens. Texas Election Code Section 16.033 states a county registrar “may use any lawful means to investigate whether a registered voter is currently eligible for registration in the county,” but it“does not authorize an investigation of eligibility that is based solely on residence.” If the challenge is based on residence, Section 16.0921 says “the registrar shall promptly deliver to the voter whose registration is challenged a confirmation notice.” Section 16.0921 says that if the voter fails to respond to the registrar’s notice within 30 days from the date the notice was mailed, “the registrar shall enter the voter’s name on the suspense list.” Bennett appears to not have followed the statute to provide voters 30 days to respond, but instead suspended registrations immediately. 






Harris County releases $2.5B flood bond project list, two days before voting begins

The Harris County Flood Control District on Monday released its complete list of projects that would be funded by the county's $2.5 billion flood infrastructure bond proposal, two days before early voting on the measure begins.

The 237 projects include $1.2 billion for channel improvements, $401 million for detention basins, $242 million for floodplain land acquisition, $12.5 million for new floodplain mapping and $1.25 million for an improved early flood warning system.

Matt Zeve, the flood control district's operations director, said the vast majority of projects will address problems engineers identified years or decades ago but lacked the funding to tackle. The flood control district's budget totals just $120 million annually.

"It's always been OK, how do we afford to solve these problems?" Zeve said. "With the bond, we'll have funds to solve some of these drainage and flooding issues.

If approved, the bond would be the largest local investment in flood infrastructure since Hurricane Harvey flooded more than 154,000 Harris County homes a year ago. Voting begins Wednesday and concludes on Saturday, Aug. 25, the one-year anniversary of the storm's landfall.

The bond also would put $184 million, coupled with more than $500 million in outside funding, to purchase around 3,600 buildings in the floodplain. It would not pay for a third reservoir to complement the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in west Houston, but would chip in $750,000 to help the Army Corps of Engineers study the idea.

Thirty-eight projects were added based on ideas from residents at more than two-dozen public meetings this summer. These include $6 million to improve flow in Horsepen Bayou, $15 million to do the same in Brays Bayou and $30 million to design and build new bridges over Buffalo Bayou.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said the additions to the projects list proved that the flood control district was serious about incorporating ideas from residents.

"We said from the start that we recognized that this effort was going to have to be as transparent as anything the county has ever done," Emmett said in a statement.

More than 4,500 residents attended the meetings, according to the flood control district's head count. They submitted around 2,400 comments and made 682 requests for flood infrastructure maintenance.

The flood control district left $500 million un-allocated on the projects list. Zeve said while engineers initially planned to draw down that sum as more projects were added, the flood control district decided to leave room for new projects over the 10- to 15-year lifespan of the bond.

"We want to give ourselves some wiggle room," Zeve said.

The proposal is a gamble by Harris County Commissioners Court, whose members are betting residents see the value in a significant investment in the area's flood management system. There is no option for skeptical voters to approve a smaller sum.

If different funding sources become available, such as through the state or federal government, the county may not need to borrow the full $2.5 billion. Emmett said last month that $700 to $900 million of the bond would be used to secure federal matching funds, potentially netting the county an additional $2 billion to spend on flood infrastructure.

The bond will increase property taxes for homeowner 2 to 3 cents per $100 of assessed home value, according to county budget analysts. Those who are disabled or above the age of 65, and whose home is worth less than $200,000, would pay no additional taxes.

For a full list of the 237 Projects approved by Harris County Flood Control


"Let's Raise Taxes for More Police":  We Saw this Movie in 2006

Last week it was suggested that Houston voters should agree to pay more in property taxes in order to hire more police. We have already done that once, in 2006.  Perhaps before we rush to allow the City to increase property taxes by more than the 4.5% annual amount the City charter now allows we should take a look at how that 2006 increase worked out.

As most of you know, in 2004, Houston voters amended the City charter to keep the City from raising property taxes by more than the sum of inflation and population increase. In 2006, the City came back to voters and asked for an additional $90 million above that cap, in perpetuity. That is to say, $90 million would be added to the calculation of the 2004 cap each year in the future. That extension of the cap has now been in place for 11 years, so Houston taxpayers have forked over nearly a billion additional dollars over the original cap for "public safety."

How much additional public safety has our nearly one billion dollars bought us? Turns out, not so much.

FY2006-2007 was the last year before the City began collecting the extra $90 million each year. According to the City's annual reports, since 2007 the City added a whopping 20 employees to the police department's payroll, a three-tenths of one percent increase (0.3%). [ii] Seventy police officers and forty-five cadets have been added, but the number of civilian employees and cadets have fallen by ninety-five, meaning that more officers have been transferred from patrol and investigation to administrative jobs.

Of course, the HPD budget has risen significantly, going from $576 million in 2007 to $827 million this year, a 44% increase. The budget for personnel has grown from $535 million to $782 million, a 46% increase. The average per-employee personnel cost (salary plus all benefits) has grown from $85,283 to $123,553.  

Based on any objective measure I can find, there is no evidence that these added expenses have made the police department more efficient. The number of arrests made by HPD fell from 122,000 in 2007 to just under 52,000 last year, a 57% decrease. It issued 544,000 fewer tickets last year than in 2007, a 58% decline. The City only started reporting clearance rates in the budgets in 2012. That year, HPD cleared 18.6% of "Part I" offenses (all violent crime plus burglary and auto theft). In its budget request this year, HPD estimated it had cleared 13.4% in FY2016-2017. HPD estimates of its response times have not changed significantly.

Nor is it true that HPD is significantly understaffed compared to other cities. According to a 2016 Governing Magazine study, the ten largest cities in the US have an average of 25 officers per 10,000 residents. Houston has 22 and is, therefore, 12% below the average. However, there are three cities, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia which are significantly above the average at 42, 43 and 41, respectively. If you drop those three out, the average of the remaining cities is 21, slightly below Houston.  

Of course, it is patently absurd to compare Houston to New York in terms of police staffing because of all of the special risks New York faces, e.g., the United Nations. Chicago and Philadelphia have violent crime rates that are roughly equivalent to Houston's, indicating that their larger forces have not accomplished much. It is also worth noting that these three cities have the largest negative net deficits of all U.S. cities. So, they should hardly be examples by which we should manage our city.

The next five largest cities in Texas have an average of 15 officers per 10,000, well below Houston. Among the five, only Dallas is higher at 25.

  So, does Houston need more police officers?  Probably.  But personally I am fed up with throwing more money at the police department with no accountability.  I mean, have you ever heard anyone at the City ask why arrests are down by 57% in the last ten years, including a 16% drop last year?  Have you heard anyone ask HPD why the violent crime clearance rate is down by nearly 5% in the last six years?  I certainly have not.

  Communities all over this city are already coming out of pocket to hire constables and private security companies to patrol their neighborhoods because they cannot get HPD to do so.  Does anyone really believe that if we allow the City to raise property taxes, patrols will suddenly appear in their neighborhoods.  After the City used the drainage fees to pay for employees and pet projects, does anyone believe this money will really be used to hire police officers?  Until we have some demonstration that the City can more efficiently manage HPD and that it can keep its promises on how it will spend our money, I am not voting to give it another dime.











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