Weekend brunch for 27 January 2019

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Bill Wilson, flickr (CC BY 2.0)

[WB1] In her successful campaign for Harris County judge, Lina Hidalgo was rightly critical of Ed Emmett’s prioritization of spending $105 million on his vanity Astrodome parking structure boondoggle. This week, Ms. Hidalgo shared that her predecessor’s $105 million budget didn’t even include air conditioning, and that she has concerns that the boondoggle may not be “self sustaining.” Here’s hoping Miss Hidalgo continues to give this boondoggle the scrutiny it deserves. ADDITIONAL: Swamplot, Houston Public Media.

[WB2] Mayor Turner left town once again this week, this time to be feted by his fellow mayors in Washington, D.C. — and one of his biggest boosters. Meanwhile, back in the city, KPRC-2 checked in with some neglected residents in the Fifth Ward who are tired of their neighborhood being turned into an illegal dump, and KRIV-26 reported that the City of Houston is refusing to deploy new fire department cadets who have completed their training (despite recently deploying new police cadets).

[WB3] Top mayoral aides seem to spend a lot of their working time behaving badly on twitter (as do some of their respondents, in all honesty). They don’t seem to realize that this only makes them and Boss Turner look small.

[WB4] Empower Texans reported on the news (from the previous week) that the Harris County Department of Education voted to end their taxpayer-funded lobbying contract. Perhaps this will be the year that the state legislature finally abolishes the organization.

[WB5] Democrat Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee temporarily stepped down from a number of key posts while she deals with a lawsuit filed by a former aide. It’s not clear that this matters one bit to her constituents or potential challengers.

[WB6] The Houston Chronicle posted an article from longtime staffer Mike Snyder this week on the newspaper’s cozy relationship with political leaders during its Houston Endowment days, and the impact on coverage. Indeed, we’d say that culture of accurately telling the stories of institutional sources (stenographic journalism) rather than aggressively holding Houston’s powerful to account (watchdog/accountability journalism) still is very much alive at the newspaper (despite the efforts of former editor Nancy Barnes to re-orient). In fact, Snyder’s own coverage of the METRO beat from some years back was a pretty good example of partnership reporting.

[WB7] Speaking of METRO, Tory Gattis gives the organization’s new METRONext 2040 plan a B-, and offers some suggestions to improve it. Light rail still features WAY too prominently and is way too expensive, as Gattis notes, and the Bus Rapid Transit bits aren’t exactly cheap (at $42 million/mile). METRO should (but probably won’t) pay heed to Gattis’s assessment of the high risk of obsolescence versus the extremely high costs of some pieces of the plan.

[WB8] Cory Crow checks in on the current state of the Houston Area Leadership Vacuum.

[WB9] Local hyperpartisans continued to double down on the original narrative regarding the incident involving the Covington Catholic students, despite that original narrative being widely discredited (and a number of people on the left and right issuing apologies for wrongly jumping to conclusions).

[WB10] Sylvia Garcia and Lina Hidalgo have… a moment.

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