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  • Hippest Neighborhood
    June 24, 2021

    The H-Town I-45 aggression project got put on hold yesterday by the federal government.  Check this from the Chron: 

    In a statement, TxDOT spokesman Bob Kaufman said the decision to slow development by FHWA “indefinitely suspends key steps” on a project state and local officials have sought for more than 15 years. 

    “It’s unfortunate there is an expanded delay on this project, but TxDOT remains fully committed to working with FHWA and local officials on an appropriate path forward ,” Kaufman said. “We know that many in the community are anxious to see this project advance.” 

    Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Menefee said Wednesday the county remains committed to redesigning the proposal. 

    “We do need and our community deserves an I-45 project, Hidalgo said. “We also need a project that respects the wishes of the community.” 

    Here is the entire Chron article: Federal officials halt development on TxDOT’s $7 billion rebuild of I-45 (houstonchronicle.com). 

    The TxDOT spokesperson wasn’t talking about H-Town and Harris County “local officials” on the “working with” thing.  Nope. 

    From the Trib today on ERCOT: 

    Last Monday, Texas’ main power grid operator asked Texans, mid-heat wave, to turn their thermostats to 78 degrees during the afternoon and evening for the week to reduce electricity demand on the grid after 12,000 megawatts of power generation unexpectedly went offline — enough to power 2.4 million homes on a hot summer day. 

    By the end of the week, that appeal from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas expired without a public announcement, and ERCOT officials still have not said why they asked Texans to cut back on electricity use. 

    Were there damages to the power grid infrastructure stemming from February’s deadly winter storm? Were there nefarious actors looking to manipulate the electricity market? What does this mean for power generation during the rest of the hot Texas summer? 

    ERCOT hasn’t said — or released data to answer any of these questions raised by industry experts. And that is exactly how the Texas power grid is supposed to work, energy experts said. 

    “ERCOT knows what plants fail, but not why,” said Bob King, an energy consultant in Austin who has worked in the Texas energy industry for more than 30 years. 

    ERCOT is a quasi-governmental body that manages the state’s power supply; it’s overseen by the Public Utility Commission, a state agency with leaders appointed by the governor. While ERCOT oversees the grid’s daily operations, the grid itself is a network of independent companies, cooperatives and some cities that aren’t required to quickly give ERCOT detailed explanations when power generation goes offline. 

    Here is the entire Trib article: ERCOT still doesn’t know why Texas power plants went offline last week | The Texas Tribune. 

    What a Greg Abbott mess.

    This is a headline on the HoustonChronicle.com:

    Two new retail developments are doubling down on Houston’s hippest neighborhood 

    Care to guess where is H-Town’s hippest neighborhood? See more from the Chron:

    With millennial-approved color palettes and branding, experiential pop-ups and a model that entices locals to hang out in an Instagrammable setting, lifestyle retailers are doubling down on the hipness that is the Heights. 

    Boasting indie-cool boutiques and restaurants mixed with forthcoming national retailers, including Ray-Ban, M-K-T (pronounced as three letters) is a new development comprising five repurposed, single-story buildings and green spaces conceived by Austin-based Michael Hsu’s Office of Architecture. 

    Situated on the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, the 12-acre site has office, retail and dining space. The first retailers opened in late 2020, with ongoing tenant announcements and grand-opening events. 

    I’m hip for sure.

    That’s ten in a row. Our last loss was back on Saturday, June 12 when we lost to the Twins in Minneapolis.  Our current win streak includes wins like 14-3, 10-2, 8-2, 10-2 and 13-0. That’s downright ugly. 

    We are in Detroit for four. 

  • Some Care
    June 23, 2021

    My friend Bill King tweeted this a couple of days ago: 

    Later today I will be driving to Austin to file the paperwork to form the SAM Party of Texas.  I will serve as its founding state party chair. 

    Jasper Scherer of the Chron tweeted this afterwards: 

    Ex-Houston mayor candidate @BillKingHouston says he’s filing paperwork today to form the Serve America Party of Texas, which describes itself as “current & former Democrats, Republicans, & independents who have come together w/ a common goal – to fix our broken politics in Texas” 

    My pal Kris Banks then tweeted this about Bill: 

    Does anyone still care what this person says or does 

    Well, Jasper did. 

    Erica Grieder of the Chron also cares.  Check out how she starts her column today: 

    Organizers of a new political party in Texas want to take advantage of voters’ disgust with partisan politics and turn their anger into a force in upcoming elections. 

    “I think you can have dramatic investment in public schools and have robust school choice; you can see Roe v Wade as protecting a woman’s right to choose, but also establishing the state’s interest in viability,” said David Jolly, the former Florida congressman and executive director of the nationwide Serve America Movement, when we met on Sunday evening at Maggiano’s. 

    “Neither party will allow these conversations,” he said pointedly. 

    “There’s no nuance,” agreed Bill King, the former Kemah mayor and businessman who’s now the chair of the SAM Party of Texas, the Serve America Movement’s iteration in this state. 

    Both are convinced that the problems in our politics have less to do with the Democratic or Republican parties than with the duopoly itself, or the “two-party doom loop,” as King put it in a recent op-ed. He argued that both parties benefit from the polarization and ideological stridency that left many Texans as exasperated as he was, watching this year’s edition of the Texas Legislature. 

    Here is all of Grieder’s column: New “big tent” party in Texas might have a real role in statewide political landscape (houstonchronicle.com). 

    That’s funny.  Jasper and Erica really don’t care what Kris says. That’s funny. 

    Like it or not, Bill is one of the smartest guys in these parts. He has made it pretty clear that he has had it with the two-party system.  I may not agree with him, but he makes good points. 

    Here in Texas, statewide, we only have a one-party system and that is getting pretty old. 

    Nine in a row. Nine in a row. 

  • Ranked Voting
    June 22, 2021

     New York City Democrats are voting today in their primary for Mayor of the city.  They are using the ranked voting system. Don’t ask me how ranked voting works.  I have been watching how it kind of works on CNN.  You vote for your top five candidates and assign each a rank like one through five.  You don’t have to rank five.  You can just rank one if you want. 

    It is going to take a while to count all the ranked votes. Like a few weeks.  I don’t know about that.  It seems like the poll watchers would get tired. You would have to do a lot of convincing and educating to get Commentary to support this voting system.  I will try to be watching closely. 

    I really don’t have a favorite candidate in the New York City mayoral contest. 

    City of H-Town water users are fixing to get a major price hike.  See this from today’s Chron: 

    The biggest hike to Houston water bills in decades could begin next month, as City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on a plan to overhaul how much the city charges its utility customers. 

    The plan would see most water bill rates go up by 47 percent over the next six years, with wastewater rates going up 63 percent. That includes jumps of 9 and 20 percent, respectively, this year if council approves the plan. 

    Bills vary by customer type, meter size and water usage, but the most common bill for a single-family customer would see overall charges go from $27.39 now to $31.46 for 3,000 gallons of water in a month. By 2026, the bill would be $48.68, a total increase of 78 percent. 

    A customer who uses 4,000 gallons in a month would see the bill go from $57.15 toI  $60.96 this year, and $88.78 by 2026. 

    The median monthly usage for single-family customers is 3,400 gallons. Houston Public Works officials say nearly 60 percent of single-family customers will see an increase of $5 or less this year under the plan. More than a quarter of single-family customers will see increases of $5 to $20, according to Public Works

    Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration has said the hikes are necessary to comply with a $2 billion consent agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency the city signed earlier this year, a long-running legal issue stemming from sewage leaks that mostly occurred in poor neighborhoods and communities of color. The mayor called those spills “horrendous.” 

    Here is the entire Chron read: Houston to consider biggest hike to water bills in at least 17 years this week (houstonchronicle.com). 

    This will hit poor folks the hardest.  Same thing for folks with a modest fixed income.  

    It seems like our water rates have been rising for a while.  I don’t know about raising the rates this much. I think the timing is very poor for a rate hike. It is kind of cold-hearted.

    Just so you know, the days are now going to get shorter starting today. 

    One of Commentary’s favorites is celebrating her BD today.  Happy Birthday to Marisol Valero! 

    Back in the old days, Marisol and I would go to Astros games a few times each season. 

    We have now won eight in a row. We lead the AL West by a game.  We had a no-no going into the eighth inning last night.  Wow! 

  • Long Hot Summer
    June 21, 2021

    Today is the first full day of summer.  It is going to be a long hot summer.  It will be a summer of grid watching.  It turns out last week, we lost a major manufacturing company locating to Texas because of our grid issues. 

    We will also get a front row seat to watching the GOP candidates for Texas governor scapegoat migrants and folks of color.  It has already begun.  Gov. Greg Abbott wants to defund Texas prisons and move $250 million to build a wall. Sheer nonsense. Abbott and Donald Trump will be going to the border next week. One of his opponents wants to close the border all together.  The GOP will be further moving to the extreme. 

    Last week, Abbott vetoed the state legislative budget and GOP state representatives are silent.  A national embarrassment. 

    From the Chron this morning on yesterday’s rally at the State Capitol: 

    Several thousand were in attendance, chanting “let us vote” between speakers and holding up signs: “Protect voting rights,” “Texas voters matter,” “Don’t mess with Texas voters.” 

    CNN’s Jake Tapper has made it pretty clear he’s not going to have deniers, err GOP lying arseholes on his program. Good for Jake. NBC’s Chuck Todd is ok with having them on “Meet the Press.”  I will be ok not watching “Meet the Press” from here on out.  There are already enough Sunday news talk shows I can watch. 

    Before our series with the White Sox started on Thursday, the White Sox owned the best record in MLB.  Not anymore. We swept the four-game series.  Now we have the best record in the AL and the third best record in MLB and have a seven-game winning streak.  I have no idea how we are going to be playing in September, but we are playing good baseball these days. 

    We now are on a roadie to B’More and Detroit. 

  • Juneteenth
    June 18, 2021

    Hey, today’s a federal holiday. Everyone knows that I grew up Baytown, which is down the road from Galveston. I have tried my darndest to be a student of history throughout my life.  I didn’t learn about Juneteenth growing up.  I am pretty sure I learned it from the late and former State Rep. Al Edwards and his dogged pursuit in making it a state holiday. 

    I remember some saying way back then that what is up with Rep. Al Edwards always promoting Juneteenth.  The answer is today.  Have a nice Juneteenth Weekend! 

    It’s official. Pasadena City Council District B Member-Elect Bianca Valerio will be the first Latina to ever serve on the Pasadena City Council.  Just think about that.  Congrats are in order.  So cool.  I am glad to have had a part in her win. 

    A couple of days ago I said this:  

    The H-Town Mayor has tweeted this more than once: 

    I would be very reluctant to sign any petition that would force something on the ballot unless you fully understand the cost. There is nothing wrong saying “no thank you”. St 

    The Dean signed the petition yesterday. Here’s from The Dean’s FB: 

    Proud to sign and support Houston fire fighters petition to hold a referendum on their right to binding arbitration. Arbitration works. 

    That’s funny. 

    This thing with the Houston Firefighters should have been handled in 2016 – period.  This is ridiculous that it hasn’t been worked out.  It is going to be difficult to demonize the Firefighters.  Remember, folks.  They were on the front lines during the pandemic. 

    Gov. Greg Abbott has lost it.  Off the deep end. Bonkers. He has taken cruelty to a stratospheric level.  He’s ordered the prison folks to get a prison ready for migrants.  Yep.  He’s a POS for sure. Don’t even argue with me. POS. 

    Happy Birthday today to Sir Paul.  It is now 15 years since he was 64.   The Beatles Channel on SiriusXM will be playing his tunes all day today.

    The Astros had another impressive win last night.  They are definitely playing good baseball. 

    Ok. So, you are dying to know. The only MLB Hall of Fame great with a Juneteenth BD is Lou Gehrig. 

    Original Astro/Colt 45 player with a Juneteenth BD is Bob Aspromonte. 

    Former Astros and now Rays pitcher Collin McHugh has a Juneteenth BD as well as Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom. Now you know.