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  • MVP
    November 17, 2017

    There are 30 votes that are cast for the AL MVP Award. Two baseball writers from each of the 15 AL team markets. Jose Altuve received 27 first place votes yesterday. Where were the other three votes from?

    Not me. Commentary is talking about Dem Party folks who are recruiting other Dem Party folks to run for positions in Harris County. Commentary is not part of that effort – sorry.   I have one race I am currently working on and of course my very good friend State Rep. Carol Alvarado put out a statement a couple of days ago that speaks for itself.

    Sure, I have said recently that Dems ought to field candidates for a bunch of offices. I have said this just in case a Dem tsunami hits in 2018. Realistically, I’d be happy if Dems picked up a couple of legislative seats, a countywide or two, and all the judgeships. Am I involved in the development of a strategy on this – absolutely not. I have not been invited to any meetings. Haven’t in a long while, a very long while.

    Sure, I have said that Hunker Down needs to be banged around a bit. He knew better than to duck on SB 4. Has he said anything on DACA? Supporting DACA should be a no brainer.

    I hear and read what other folks hear and read on the internet and on twitter. I am not part of any of the deals that may or may not be going on. I have had maybe a couple or more folks mention to me to why not get so and so to run for certain positions and I reply that is not my concern. I just hear that other folks are working on this.

    Just wanted to be clear on this.

    From Bill King:

    Reform TIRZs, Don’t Repeal Property Tax Cap

    My former colleagues at the Houston Chronicle editorial board opined this week that the City’s property tax cap should be repealed and that the tax increment reinvestment zones (TIRZs) need to be reformed.  [Click here to read.]  They are wrong on the first count but right on the second one.  

    To begin, let’s get some facts straight that were mangled in the editorial.  

    First, the City does not have a revenue cap; it has a property tax cap.  Property taxes make up about 25% of the City’s total revenue.  That is the only source of revenue that is limited under the City charter amendment that was approved by voters in 2004.  The other 75% of revenue is not restricted.   There is a cap on all revenues in the charter that was also approved by the voters in 2004, but because the property tax cap got more votes, the City only enforces the property tax cap.  

    Repeal advocates insist on mischaracterizing the limitation as a “revenue” cap to mislead the public into believing that the City’s ability to raise any form of revenue is impaired by the restriction.  But since the charter amendment was enacted, City revenues have increased by a whopping $2 billion (67%), including the enactment of the drainage fee, which was the largest single tax increase in the City’s history.

    Second, the increase in taxes is not “constrained by an arbitrary algorithm.”  The limit is the lesser of population growth and inflation or 4.5%.  Limiting Council’s ability to increase property taxes to population growth and inflation is a reasonable limitation and should be a rough estimate of the need to increase taxes.  If the City’s population and inflation were growing by more than 4.5%, I would have to agree that the limitation is arbitrary.  But because the City’s population has been growing at a very slow pace and inflation has been low since 2004, the 4.5% limitation normally does not come into play.

    Third, and most importantly, the property tax cap repeal advocates always omit that the charter amendment begins with this clause: “The City Council shall not, without voter approval . . .”  In other words, in any year that the Mayor and Council believe that the City needs more tax revenue than the limitation allows, all they need to do is ask for the voters’ approval.  If they feel handcuffed by the charter amendment it can only be because they believe they cannot make a credible case to the taxpayers to pay more.  

    My former colleagues are right about the detrimental effect the TIRZs are having on the City’s finances.  Last year, the TIRZs collected $132 million in property taxes, nearly 14% of the City’s total property taxes.  That is more money than the drainage fee brought in last year.  

    They are also correct that the taxes collected by the TIRZs are excluded from the property tax cap.  As a result, TIRZ tax receipts have soared.  Last year the property taxes collected by all TIRZs increased 13%.  The receipts for the six richest TIRZs went up by an astonishing 27%!

    Of course, the City has devised a number of clever ways to claw back more and more of this revenue over time and subvert the voters’ intention as expressed in the cap.  Each TIRZ pays the City an administrative fee and most make other contributions toward “shared” expenses.  But there is no question that if the City had all of this revenue back, it would go a long way toward solving its long-term structural deficit.

    One of the challenges in bringing any of this revenue back to the City is that the TIRZs have been on a debt binge in recent years.  They currently owe around half a billion dollars.  So, much of their revenue is committed to repaying that debt.  Of course, voters had no say in the creation of this debt, notwithstanding that property taxes will be used to repay it.  

    There are certainly some good projects that are undertaken by the TIRZs.  But increasingly they are grasping for projects on which to spend their largess; witness the idiotic $200 million bus lane project in Uptown.

    Of course, our benevolent State Legislature has its finger in all of this.  All of the TIRZs were created by state statute.  So, the State will have to be involved in any restructuring.  Given numerous conflicts of interests between our local delegation and the TIRZs and their first cousins, the management districts, good luck with that.

    Two baseball writers from the Kansas City market and one from the Toronto market gave Altuve second place votes of course.

    MLB.com’s Alyson Footer is fed up with media types asking Altuve about his height. I agree.

    Some are already making comparisons about which player is the most beloved ‘Stro of all time.   Altuve, Hall of Fame great Craig Biggio, or Hall of Fame great Jeff Bagwell. That is kind of silly. I mean, have the Yankees chosen Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Joe Dimaggio, or Derek Jeter?

    Biggio and Bagwell are Hall of Fame greats. Altuve has a World Serious title. They are all beloved.

    But it is Ok to name Altuve H-Town’s Sexiest Man Alive.


  • Sexiest Man Alive in the 29th Congressional District
    November 16, 2017

    It is green bin day today!

    The AL MVP Award will be announced today and let’s hope the Baseball Writers do the right thing and select Jose Altuve. We all know that Hall of Fame great Jeff Bagwell has been the only ‘Stros’ MVP winner when he won the NL MVP Award in 1994. Who was the AL MVP winner that year – 1994?

    Did you actually think I was going to put out a sexiest man alive award or list for the 29th Congressional District? I wouldn’t even know how to go about putting together that kind of list.

    I mention it because Blake Shelton was named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year yesterday and some folks got riled up on the internet. I know Blake Shelton because he’s that fella on “The Voice” that I have never watched. He’s been on the “Today” show a few times. I think I have maybe seen him on the Grammys show. He goes out with Gwen Stefan and I have to tell you I wouldn’t know a Blake Shelton or Gwen Stefani tune even if you spotted me a few verses and bars.

    So, he’s on every week on NBC on “The Voice” and nobody says squat, but name him People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and folks go bonkers. Do you even know who was last year’s Sexiest Man Alive? Who handed the speedo over to Shelton yesterday?

    Ok, back to the 29th Congressional District. Can’t think of one so how about the sexiest man alive in the Harris County Democratic Party and one for the Harris County Republican Party? This all kind of silly.

    This came out yesterday:

    Statement from the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on the retirement of Congressman Gene Green from the United States Congress: 

     

    “The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce thanks Congressman Gene Green for his more than 26 years of service. In his more than two and a half decades of service in the United States Congress, Congressman Green has proven to be a champion of health issues, energy policy, education, a stronger labor force and so much more. He – along with outgoing Congressman Ted Poe – have served the people of the Greater Houston region with honor, distinction, and a selflessness not often found in today’s political environment. 

    As Congressman Green finishes out his last term, the conversation has already begun about who will be elected to succeed him. When the Texas Legislature established the 29th Congressional District, they did so with the intent of sending a Latino to Congress. It is absolutely critical that, unlike prior elections important to our community, we will be able to come together to elect a congressperson who is truly representative of our community. In today’s political and business climate, the Hispanic community simply has too much at stake to not elect a representative who will fight for the interests of our families, our businesses, our city, and the future of our community.  

    Many qualified candidates will – and already have – announced their intent to run for this seat. The Chamber does not endorse candidates, but looks forward to working closely with whoever becomes the elected representative. In the interim, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will continue to engage voters via our media platforms, which boast an audience reach of more than 3.3 million people. As the Leader of Houston’s New Majority, it is the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s hope that each candidate understands who they are running to represent because, put simply, the future of our community will depend on their leadership in the United States House of Representatives.” 

    Regards,

    Dr. Laura Murillo

    The State GOP is getting some advice from their consultant on 2018. Here is from the Chron:

    AUSTIN — After months of assurances from top Republicans that they still hold a firm grip on Texas voters, a top campaign adviser to Gov. Greg Abbott is warning that recent Virginia elections should be a “wakeup call” to the Texas GOP.

    In a private memo to Abbott’s aides, senior political adviser Dave Carney cautions that despite the fact that Texas is solid red in recent statewide voting patterns, suburban voters could pose significant problems for Republicans in next year’s mid-term elections.

    “It would be easy for us to say Texas is not Virginia. It would be easy for us to say the Democrats in Texas aren’t that well organized,” wrote Carney, a New Hampshire-based political consultant who has served as an adviser to Rick Perry and Abbott and was the White House political director for George H.W. Bush.

    “That would be a huge mistake.”

    A copy of the memo was obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

    Here is the entire Chron article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/texas/article/Abbott-advisor-Va-Dem-wins-should-wakeup-call-12357522.php.

    A few things here. I don’t see anything in the article where the consultant says the Texas GOP ought to moderate on some of their issues and positions, so I guess it is still Ok to go after State Rep. Sarah Davis. He is not telling them to back off of the bathroom bill or even to distance themselves from Trump. He is just telling them to prepare for more Dems to show up next year and maybe get more GOPers to vote.

    I don’t know what the Dem leadership has in store, but I do hope they at least field candidates in all positions for starters. It is going to be difficult for Dems to fumble on this one since a lot of it is out of their control.

    Frank Thomas of course with the White Sox won the 1994 AL MVP Award. The Big Hurt and Baggy were both born on May 27, 1968 but you already knew that.

    This is good news from the Chron:

    ORLANDO, Fla. — In the two weeks since the Astros won their first World Series championship, requests to see the trophy have been “off the charts,” team president of business operations Reid Ryan said Wednesday.

     

    Anyone from the Astros’ corporate partners to local churches and rotary clubs to radio and television stations have sought the company of the Commissioner’s Trophy. So, like other recent winners of the Fall Classic have done, the Astros are planning a trophy tour to begin during this offseason and extend into the regular season when the team’s on the road.

    More details about the tour will likely be announced next month, according to Ryan.

    “Fans want to see it. The outlying communities want to see it – San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, places like that,” Ryan said. “We want to make sure we get out and get to take it to those communities as well because they’re all part of our fan base.”

     


  • The 29th Again
    November 15, 2017

    Our Skipper didn’t win AL Manager of the Year Award yesterday. He was third in the voting. When was the last time a ‘Stros skipper won the Manager of the Year Award?

    Just so you know, State Rep. Carol Alvarado sent this out yesterday:

    Dear Friends,

    I would like to thank Congressman Gene Green, his wife Helen and their family for their service and commitment to the people of the 29th Congressional District for the past 24 years.  I had the privilege of working for him and more importantly took tremendous pride in having him as a friend and mentor.

    Over the past 24 hours, I have been humbled by the encouragement I have received from countless friends and supporters to seek the Democratic Party nomination for the 29th Congressional District.  I am fully prepared to fight for all the people of the 29th Congressional District on issues like DACA, immigration reform and protecting our DREAMERS.  As well as championing women’s reproductive health, the Affordable Care Act and access to health care.  In addition, attainable higher education, and the creation of good paying jobs.

    I will continue to visit with key stakeholders in our community and will be making an announcement on my candidacy in the coming days.  

    Carol

    Political Ad paid by Carol Alvarado Campaign, Yolanda Alvarado, Treasurer.

    Rebecca Elliott of the Chron has this write-up today on the 29th.

    Gene Green’s retirement opens the door for Harris County to send its first Latino representative to Congress, a milestone that has been a long time coming in a region that is more than 40 percent Hispanic.

    In fact, Green’s 29th Congressional District was drawn in 1991 to reflect the area’s Hispanic population but never has elected a Latino representative.

    Interest in succeeding the longtime Democrat already is fierce.

    State Sen. Sylvia Garcia and state Rep. Armando Walle threw their hats in the ring Tuesday to represent the district that covers much of eastern Houston and part of Pasadena.

    State Rep. Carol Alvarado is considering running, and former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has asked the county party for filing paperwork.

    “I hope that whoever is running realizes this is a very, very, very important opportunity for the Latino community to get not only descriptive representation, but also substantive representation,” University of Houston political scientist Jeronimo Cortina said. “What we don’t know yet is how the primary is going to be dealt with. It could be ugly, but it also could be very amicable.”

    Cortina’s colleague Brandon Rottinghaus echoed that sentiment.

    “The seat’s going to be won by a Latino one way or another,” he said, adding, “It is kind of a black eye for the city and the county that the number of elected Latinos is fairly low compared to other places to where there are a similar number of voting age Latinos.”

    Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Green-s-retirement-could-lead-to-Houston-s-first-12357701.php.

    Everyone knows that Commentary was heavily involved in the drawing of the 29th when it was first created way, way back in 1991. This is what we have always wanted. So now it is going to happen one way or another. This will be a very lively campaign. This the way it is supposed to happen, right?

    The race could also have implications on other Democratic Party primary races, especially the countywide races because of the expected and possibly dramatic increase in Latino voter turnout.

    Amicable, ugly, pretty, gorgeous, dainty, hardly. Let’s see.

    Then I got this forwarded to me yesterday from Kathryn:

    Dear Kathryn,

    I want you to be among the first to know that I am exploring a run for Harris County Judge. I filed the paperwork today that allows me to begin raising funds for the Democratic primary.

    I will make a decision within 30 days. The primary election is March 6, 2018 and the general election is November 6, 2018.

    This is a big step not only for me, but for my family. It would be my highest honor to have you join us on this journey.

    Many, if not most of our friends, neighbors and colleagues know very little about county government – how it spends its billions of tax dollars or how it addresses a long list of problems such as flood prevention, traffic, transit, road conditions, crime, health care, mental health care and criminal justice reform.

    It’s actually harder than you think to find out what’s going on in county government.

    Certainly, Hurricane Harvey has raised a number of very serious questions, with more being asked every day. Has our county been proactive when it comes to flood prevention? If not, why wasn’t it at least reactive when it had the chance after the Tax Day Flood and Memorial Day Flood?

    Even before Harvey, I got a closer look than most at county government through my work with the Houston Food Bank, the Houston Long Range Financial Management Task Force, Planned Parenthood and the Houston Parks Board. I was not impressed.

    I watched the neighborhood in which I raised my four children fill with muddy water from the release from Addicks Dam. I watched the 20-minute bimonthly County Commission meetings move into private sessions. I watched the incumbent Harris County Judge – who boasts of his expertise in transportation policy – fail to develop a comprehensive transportation strategy, or a strategy to develop a countywide park system or to improve the quality of our air and water. 

    As I watched all of this, I knew we needed a change. That’s why, over the next 30 days, I’m going to continue talking with leaders, policy experts, voters and donors. 

    And I’m going to keep asking questions about why so much of our county government appears to be underwater.

    I’ve learned many valuable lessons in my three decades of experience as a leader in large business and nonprofit organizations. Problems fester if you don’t address them. Saying, “It’s not my job” is not a reliable strategy. And there is no accountability without financial transparency and comprehensive ethics rules.

    If I can help our county do a better job, and if I can put together a winning campaign, then I’m in. If not, I’ll continue to work from the outside to bring change. The status quo is not good enough.

    I would be honored to have your support, answer your questions and receive your advice and wisdom. 

    Thank you!

    Warmest regards,

    Mike Nichols

    I don’t think I know the fella. He took a shot or two at Hunker Down. During the primary, he has to hit Hunker Down a whole lot harder.

    Larry Dierker of course won NL Manager of the Year in 1998.

    Commentary is thinking A.J. Hinch is A—Okay with a World Serious 2017 ring.


  • November Surprise
    November 14, 2017

    How many individual ‘Stros had 2017 postseason dingers and how many total postseason dingers did ‘Stros players have?

    Well that was kind of a stunner.   The November surprise so to speak. Commentary is talking about Cong. Gene Green’s decision to retire.

    Check these tweets:

    Abby Livingston‏Verified account @TexasTribAbby

    Lots of names of potential contenders considering running for Green’s seat: state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, state Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez and attorney Beto Cardenas

    Texas delegation fact: No freshman woman has been elected to Congress for a full term since Granger in 1996. With five open seats and three competitive Dem primaries – is this the year?

    Rep. Gene Green’s pollster, @ZacMcCrary, said he could easily imagine the number of Democrat candidates running for Green’s seat amount to be in the double-digits.

    From the Chron:

    “I have been fortunate to have never lost an election since 1972 and I am confident that I still have the support of my constituents and would be successful if I ran for another term in Congress,” Green said in a statement. “However, I have decided that I will not be filing for re-election in 2018. I think that it is time for me to be more involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren. I have had to miss so many of their activities and after 26 years in Congress it is time to devote more time to my most important job of being a husband, father and grandfather.”

    Green, who turned 70 last month, is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

    Look, it hasn’t even been 24 hours, so it would be silly to start handicapping the race. Reminder, we haven’t had a full-blown Latina/Latino Dem primary of this size and magnitude in Harris County, like never. Let’s let the dust settle first. There will be a lot said in the coming weeks and months for sure.

    It is called party purity. Gov. Greg Abbott want to take down State Rep. Sarah Davis in the GOP primary just because she won’t be his lapdog. She had a good F-You response yesterday here:

     “I have always voted my uniquely independent district, and when it comes to campaign season I have always stood on my own, which is why I outperformed Republicans up and down the ballot in the last mid-term election. Republican voters in (House District) 134 will not be told for whom to vote, and will not nominate a candidate who will be so easily defeated in the fall because they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the extremist fringe group, Empower Texans.”

    Carlos Beltran is retiring. Here is what GM Jeff Luhnow said yesterday:

    “He was worth every penny for us,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, site of the annual GM meetings. “The fact that we were able to have him finish his career with the Houston Astros meant a lot to us. It meant a lot to our players. It meant a lot to our city.

    “He obviously had a historic run in 2004. To be able to come back and help us win a championship – and he helped us win in a lot of ways. Even though his numbers were not what they were (in 2016), he contributed in a lot of ways that were not really seen by our fans. … He really was a player-coach for us this year, and he contributed in ways that lead me to believe there’s no way we win the championship without him this year.”  

    I agree. I hope he is at The Yard when the team gets their World Serious rings next season. Now that would be cool!

    8 ‘Stros had a total of 27 postseason dingers of course.

    Our 1979 ‘Stros had a total of 49 dingers for the entire season.

    I am still celebrating the title.


  • The Trophy
    November 13, 2017

    Which three MLB players hit the most dingers during this past postseason?

    I sent out and tweeted a photo of my nephew Dave with the World Serious 2017 Championship trophy this past Friday. Dave works for Telemundo and GM Jeff Luhnow visited the station and brought along the trophy. Cool!

    Jim Crane, the owner, took the trophy to a gala at the MFA the other night and it was accidentally knocked over and suffered some minor dings. Luckily some museum staff were on hand and performed minor surgery and fixed it up.

    Commentary loves the idea of the trophy being hauled over the H-Town region, so folks can take a photo with it. I will patiently wait for my opportunity. I also think everyone who has supported the ‘Stros through the years should get a photo with the trophy, especially those who showed up at The Yard during the three consecutive 100 plus loss seasons.

    From the Chron E-Board this past Saturday:

    (Thumbs down) Texans owner Bob McNair could have atoned for his sins (“we can’t have the inmates running the prison.”) with one move: signing blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a replacement for the injured Deshaun Watson. That would have been a bold move, one that would have brought the team a player in the mold of the one carried off the field with a knee injury. What we get instead is Josh Johnson, who hasn’t completed a pass in the NFL in six years, and this cryptic explanation from coach Bill O’Brien: “Colin Kaepernick’s a good football player. Hasn’t played football in a while.”

    And this:

    (Thumbs twiddled) One reasonable take away from this week’s election: The only thing keeping Democrats viable is Donald Trump. It certainly isn’t the party’s narrative. It has none. Our state’s Dems were either hubristic or delusional at a Texas Tribune panel discussion Sunday in Austin. Former San Antonio mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro suggested he might mount a run for the White House in 2020. One problem: He likely can’t win in his home state. Meanwhile, Wendy Davis didn’t rule out challenging Greg Abbott one more time. Another problem: Her last campaign was one of the most poorly run in Texas history.

    Hey, but she gets a movie made about her. It was reported that Sandra Bullock has sort of agreed to play former State Sen. Wendy Davis in a flick about her filibuster called “Let Her Speak.” Interesting. I wonder if they make the flick will they let part of it be shot at the Capitol.

    Filing deadline is four weeks from today.  I amwaiting for local and state Dems to show me their cards, err candidates.

    It is November 13 and the Hallmark Channel is running Christmas flicks.

    Let’s see, Jose Altuve had 7 postseason dingers, #SpringerDinger 6, Carlos Correa 5, and Alex Bregman, Aaron Judge of the Yankees, and Justin Turner of the Dodgers had 4 each of course.

    Someone asked me on Friday if I was still celebrating our first ever World Serious Championship. I replied, “heck yes!” I am going to keep celebrating. What? You want me to be focused on the Texans?