Weekend brunch for 18 August 2019

News and views from around the web

Image credit: United Soybean Board/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

[WB1] The Texas Education Agency released academic accountability standards on Thursday, and some HISD schools (unsurprisingly) did not fare well and may face state sanction. Furthermore, the state may take over HISD’s dysfunctional board in an effort to right the sinking ship (which has been enabled for too long by partisan politicians who engage in the soft bigotry of low expectations while the school system is plundered and children suffer).

[WB2]  This week, METRO finally put forward the long-anticipated referendum on its “plan” to borrow up to $3.5 billion to pursue a host of projects, including expansion of light rail and bus rapid transit. We put “plan” in quotes, because it’s more of a vague outline of projects the organization would like to do than a detailed accounting of route alignments, costs, benefits, and the like. The organization will spend millions “educating” voters on the plan (otherwise known as campaigning for it). Conveniently, METRO also announced that it will spend some of the cash it’s been hoarding to clean up filthy existing bus stops, lest some customers think about voting against the latest borrowing plan. Note Neal Meyer’s previous articles on why voters should reject any plan (such as this one) that proposes to build more expensive light rail and bus rapid transit in the absence of any justification from bus ridership data.

[WB3] A German journalist documented her (failed) attempt to use METRO to get around the city efficiently from Westchase, a bustling part of town with relatively affordable housing. It’s worth noting that expanded bus service might have helped this typical commuter get around more effectively, but boondoggle investments in Post Oak fixed guideway buses (and misguided efforts to connect “activity centers”)… not so much.

[WB4] Scapegoats have apparently been found for the city’s embarrassing mixing of recycling and curbside trash. Councilmember Mike Knox called the city’s internal report “an effort to whitewash the event.”

[WB5] Two years after Josh McGee, Sylvester Turner, Joan Huffman, and Dan Patrick purported to “solve” Houston’s pension problems, the Houston Chronicle reports that retiree health benefits loom as the next crisis. Actuary Mary Pat Campbell provides a good overview of the challenges facing so many public pension programs (and taxpayers) here.

[WB6] The Houston-area’s Johnson Space Center will not lead lunar lander development for NASA’s 2024 moon mission, in what can only be regarded as a stunning failure for Houston’s and the state’s Congressional delegation

[WB7] Urban Reform notes the undue influence of lobbyist, donor, bundler, and patron Cindy Clifford on municipal affairs. She’s a poster child for The Houston Way style of pay-to-play backscratching and has been for years. In Houston, it’s good to be part of the ruling class (and even better to be a part of the ruling class that doesn’t actually have to run for election).

[WB8] KPRC-2’s Mario Diaz asks whether Harris County taxpayers are funding Commissioner Rodney Ellis’s campaign vehicle (and the answer seems to be yes). Earlier this year, the Houston Chronicle also looked at Ellis’s ethically dubious treatment of his campaign funds.

[WB9] U.S. Senator Ted Cruz enjoyed tickets cumulatively valued at around $12,000 to several Rockets games in 2018, courtesy of a donor (as first reported by Roll Call magazine, which the Chronicle initially neglected to credit, and then neglected to link). Mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee suggests that the Chronicle next should look into Mayor Sylvester Turner’s frequent attendance at local sports events (and who’s footing the bill for his choice seats). Somehow, we’re guessing Roll Call isn’t going to do the heavy lifting for the Chronicle on that one.

[WB10] Local attorney Mark Bennett reflects on the ongoing Kim Ogg Credibility Sh!tshow.

[WB11] Houston City Council districts could undergo a shakeup after the 2020 Census, Houston Public Media reports. Councilmember Dave Martin says one priority should be to split his district so that its two major suburbs (Kingwood and Clear Lake) get distinct representation.

[WB12] Charles Blain reports that Orlando Sanchez, formerly the Harris County Treasurer, is running for Houston city controller.

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About Kevin Whited 4195 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX