Weekend brunch for 7 April 2019

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Vivian D Nguyen - flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

[WB1] This week, the Houston Chronicle posted video footage recorded by a neighbor during the Houston Police Department’s fatal raid on two people and their dog on 7815 Harding St. As noted in the story, the videos “leave many questions unanswered, including what actually happened inside the house, who fired first, whether officers were injured by friendly fire and whether a confidential informant who Goines said made a controlled buy ever existed.”

[WB2] The battle over Houston firefighter pay parity (as required by voter approval of Proposition B) continued this week, with the Turner administration issuing layoff notices to firefighter cadets amid ongoing disputes over potential phase-in times and incentive pay (Houston Chronicle, KTRK-13, KRIV-26). The president of the Greater Houston Partnership (which, incidentally, supported the Turner pension deal in the state legislature that reduced earned firefighter benefits and ultimately led to the passage of Proposition B) says everyone should compromise and play happy (along with a few proposals that are more serious), even as the mayor and staffers continue to bully media and citizens alike on the issue.

[WB3] Speaking of pension reform, Mayor Sylvester Turner claimed during his campaign kickoff event that under his watch, the city’s unfunded pension liability “has almost been cut in half.” Municipal finance gurus Bill Frazer and Craig Mason note that the mayor’s numbers are wildly inaccurate and paint a highly misleading picture of “the health of the City’s pension systems and the true burdens they have on overall city finances.”

[WB4] A Houston Chronicle investigation turned up highly irregular financial arrangements between charter schools operating within HISD as a vote to renew their contracts loomed. Nevertheless, the dysfunctional HISD board voted to renew those contracts.

And THIS sort of thing, dear readers, is how a culture of corruption and graft has come to pervade so many taxpayer-supported institutions across the Houston area (whether it’s HISD, cronyism and pay-to-play at the city and county levels, HCC, various TIRZs and management districts, METRO, etc.). Normal citizens (taxpayers) trying to earn a living can’t keep up with all the various tax-and-spend entities (some of which are shielded from scrutiny by design), and even when strapped investigative journalists do manage to uncover highly inappropriate arrangements, we too often see business as usual – nothing to see here, please move along (and keep those tax payments coming!).

[WB5] Activists have questioned another (bad) decision by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who decided this week to dismiss murder charges against former Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy Chauna Thompson. Thompson provided assistance to her husband in the act of choking a man to death. The activists are rightly concerned that Thompson, under current civil service provisions in Harris County, might well be able to reclaim her old position as a deputy.

[WB6] METRO has, in the words of the Houston Chronicle’s friendly METRO stenographer, “scaled back” light rail options to be included in the organization’s future transportation plans. Airport rail is, of course, terribly expensive, slow, and unlikely to draw much ridership – but it has that “world classy” feel that so many insecure Houstonians desire.

[WB7] In a twitter thread, Charles Blain observes that “only in the mayor’s world are taxpayer savings a bad thing.”

[WB8] One of the new Democratic Harris County Judges, in what is surely a poor advertisement of his qualifications for the higher office he’s now seeking, accidentally resigned this week.

[WB9] The Houston Chronicle editorial board steps in it (again).

[WB10] Unsurprisingly, the influx of affluent suburbanites and ongoing gentrification of Montrose has pushed out some of Lower Westheimer’s more *ahem* gritty historical businesses in favor of Things Affluent White People Like. “If we had [Austin’s] South Congress, this would be it,” enthusiastic real estate broker Mark Davis told the Houston Chronicle” (Heaven help us). But large national chains are still staying away, so… yay?

[WB11] A liberal Austin publication is very much in love with new Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

[WB12] The Astros returned for their home opener after a frustrating road trip to start the season, and the University of Houston extended coach Kelvin Sampson (and son).

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About Kevin Whited 4306 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX