Weekend brunch for 23 June 2019

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Kathryn Loydall/Pixabay

[WB1] The Houston Chronicle reported this week that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has threatened to issue subpoenas to the Houston Police Department for information related to the 7815 Harding Street Massacre in January. HPD failed to fulfill a previous request for certain information requested in May, according to the DA’s office, prompting the threat of subpoenas. The Chronicle notes that the demand “suggests that the police department has dragged its feet in providing records despite promises from Chief Art Acevedo for an open and transparent investigation.”

[WB2] During deliberations over the $5.1 billion budget that Houston City Council passed this week, the proposal to study the idea of a “commuter fee” failed to win approval. It’s a bad policy idea that presents a host of operational challenges, leading critic Marc Campos to suggest “If they want, maybe they can do a pilot program of sorts and slap a fee on city employees who don’t live in the city and see how that goes.” Over at Urban Reform, Charles Blain notes some of the positive amendments (such as Councilmember Mike Knox’s proposal to use zero-based budgeting in the 2021 cycle) that won approval.

[WB3] The Houston Airport System’s troubled expansion project ran into more difficulties this week when, as KTRK-13’s Ted Oberg reported, the project’s management office had to bring in bottled water after bacteria were found in the office’s makeshift water system.

[WB4] The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has come under criticism from area leaders for its rule that prevents local authorities from using federal Harvey recovery funds to rebuild a home with more bedrooms than the number of people living there (regardless of the original configuration). The City of Houston and Harris County have requested waivers that would exempt them from the rule. The GLO passed the request on to HUD. A HUD spokesman says the department has no position on the matter and the GLO can go ahead. We say that this is typical, big-government bureaucratic BS that an aspiring pol like GLO Commissioner George P. Bush ought to be able to have solved…yesterday.

[WB5] TXDOT’s expensive proposal to remake I-45 (with its attendant promises of dramatic improvements to commute times despite no significant expansion of capacity for $7 billion or so) is also drawing criticism, both from groups that would be affected by the rebuilding (who seem to be drawing much more attention than, say, those people on Post Oak who opposed METRO’s expensive and unneeded BRT boondoggle there) and the usual suspects who oppose any money spent on highway projects. Interestingly, the LINK Houston advocacy group (which initially identified itself as a transportation advocacy group) seems to have reoriented themselves in a way that is more in keeping with the new local buzzword and less oriented to transportation per se:

“What concerns us as a group is inequity,” said Oni Blair, executive director of LINK Houston, a local transportation advocacy group.

It’s always interesting when the veil slips a bit with various advocacy groups.

[WB6] Harris County completed one of new Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s key “equity” initiatives this week, releasing a summary report of a 9-week survey aimed at understanding groups with low levels of civic participation. The survey’s oversampling of such groups/neighborhoods drew criticism from Rice University political science professor Mark Jones, who said “It would be irresponsible to use this document for any serious public policy initiatives, based on the logic that this somehow represents the will, or the opinion, or attitudes of the population of Harris County residents.” Jones also noted that the survey was fairly expensive ($318,000) for what was accomplished.

[WB7] Mayoral candidate Bill King again criticized the City of Houston’s “sweet sixteen” agreement with several Houston-area strip clubs, pledging to let the deal die when it is set to expire (in 2020) and urging Mayor Sylvester Turner to return the $50,000 in campaign donations he has received from strip club owners. One mayoral staffer ponders how the city will EVER fight human trafficking without the “sweet sixteen” agreement (seriously!).

[WB8] This sort of anecdotal reporting doesn’t really say much about “affordable housing” in the Houston area. The Chronicle can surely do better than this, maybe even visit with Tory Gattis and Charles Blain for some ideas?

[WB9] Anecdotes aside, Texas and the Houston area are booming economically, and energy continues to lead the way locally – which means it’s probably about time for the Chronicle’s opinion writers to put out something nasty about the area’s most important industry.

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