News and views roundup (11/29/10 edition)

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Did everyone get enough turkey?

If not, we have a few turkeys in today’s catchup news and views roundup:

  • Red light camera battle continues this week with lawsuit (Samica Knight, KTRK-13 News)

    You may remember several weeks ago, Houston citizens petition to get the cameras on the ballot, then at the beginning of the month voted them out.

    Since then, the city filed a lawsuit against American Traffic Solution, the Phoenix-based company that installed the cameras and that lead to a countersuit by ATS. In its lawsuit, the camera company says the election was invalid, claiming the city of Houston broke the law by allowing Proposition 3 on the ballot in the first place.

    Now a federal judge has ordered that the cameras stay in place while it’s decided whether the referendum was, in fact, legal.

    The on-air version of the story last night seemed much critical of the city’s apparent duplicitousness in this matter than the online version.

  • Red Light Camera Controversy Continues (Ford Atkinson, KRIV-26 News)

    American Traffic Solutions, which has the red light camera contract, claims voters had no right to overturn an ordinance dealing with public safety.

    The claim, according to Houston attorney Randall Kallinen, violates a company promise.

    “The red light camera company has said and has promised they were not going to sue to have this election overturned. That’s exactly what they did,” says Kallinen.

    Not only is that exactly what they have done, but they have seemingly done it with the assistance of Mayor Annise Parker and the city’s “preemptive” lawsuit that was filed. The mayor needs to stop hiding behind the city attorney and too-clever legal ploys, and assure citizens that regardless of the outcome of these wasteful lawsuits, the city will heed the will of voters and be ridding the city of the red-light cameras as quickly as possible.

  • Judge halts Houston's red-light camera removal — for now (Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle)
  • Mayor Parker Wants Qualified, Eligible Veterans In All City Positions….Just Not In UNION REPRESENTED Ones! (Big Jolly Politics)
  • Traffic signal light outages spark concerns (Satara Williams, The Champions Sun)

    “Budget shortfalls have limited our traffic signal maintenance funding,” Wayne Gisler, the Assistant Manager of Traffic Engineering for Harris County, said in a email to Wang, ” In order to maintain the signals operating in a safe and efficient manner during our fiscal crisis, we’ve had to limit maintenance to emergency repairs only.”

    Many understand the pitfalls of the economy and the financial bind that it has imposed on several fronts.

    However, some believe that more funds should be funneled into signal infrastructure opposed to other arenas.

    “I understand the budget but there’s a bigger picture. They’ve spent tax money on work for the Grand Parkway,” Wang said. “If you build a piece of infrastructure you have to be able to maintain it. If you can’t maintain it, then you shouldn’t build something new.”

    This is not unlike spending millions upon millions for a toy train, only to neglect the rest of the transit system (which has seen overall utilization plummet year after year despite significant population increases). While Houston’s sexiest blockquoter* will never criticize a LibDem boondoggle, we have no such aversion to criticizing government when it screws up, whoever is at the head. County government needs to do a better job on traffic signal maintenance. Kudos to the community newspaper for calling attention to the matter.

  • Almost Famous (J.C. Reid, 29-95)

    I agreed with Caswell’s implication that Eater.com’s decision was driven more by style than substance, as did the echo-chamber of Houston’s food bloggers and Twitterati (for what that’s worth).

    Ultimately, though, I kept thinking to myself, “Who cares?” Yes, Houston’s restaurateurs and chefs must consider professional reputations and economic factors that could benefit greatly from more national exposure. But would that be good for Houstonians and the Houston food scene? Would Houston’s chefs be better off showboating for a national audience like so many other regional chefs have done? As much as I’d like to see Houston chefs like Bryan Caswell, Monica Pope, or Chris Shepherd get their own TV shows, I’d much prefer them in their own kitchens cooking for fellow Houstonians. And somehow, I get the feeling, that’s what they’d prefer to do too.

    And even if there was a concerted effort to raise the national profile of the Houston food scene, how could you “brand” the bubbling cauldron of cuisines, dishes and ethnicities that make up the culinary landscape of Houston? (“Creole” and “New Creole” are terms that are sometimes used). The sheer size and diversity of Houston food scene is overwhelming even for those of us who spend a great deal of time trying to make sense of it all. On a recent speaking gig in Houston, TV food personality Anthony Bourdain admitted to being “intimidated” by Houston.

    A highly compelling essay on Houston and its food scene. Enjoy it, Houston — you don’t need trinkets and dumb regulations to convince coastal elites you’re world class.

* Hat tip to Slampo.


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Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX