Weekend brunch for 15 September 2019

News and views from around the web

Image credit: Gerd Altman/Pixabay

[WB1] The Houston Chronicle took a closer look at crime statistics in this weekend’s edition, debunking some of the more outrageous claims about crime made by one of the mayoral candidates. Bottom line: Crime has not been getting appreciably worse in recent years according to their statistical review, although violent crime is higher now than when Sylvester Turner took office as mayor:

Overall, violent crime in Houston is up about 4 percent since 2015, the year before Turner took office, despite a sharp decline from 2017 to 2018. Non-violent crime has dropped about 6 percent since 2015.

The reporting does not spend much time on HPD’s abysmal clearance rates, although HPD chief Art Acevedo was allowed to provide this dismissal of criticism of HPD clearance rates:

“That’s interesting,” Acevedo said, “because [Tony Buzbee’s] home was broken into and we have 10 suspects arrested in relation to his own burglary.”

Turner’s acolytes on twitter and elsewhere have seized on Acevedo’s comment. It strikes us that this is a really strange campaign message to send: “Don’t worry about HPD’s abysmal clearance rates citywide because we solved that one case for a rich, high-profile white guy in River Oaks.”

[WB2] Speaking of violent crime, neither HPD nor the Harris County criminal justice system bathed itself in glory over the past couple of weeks in the handling of a case involving one Brandon Bell. As KTRK-13’s reporting notes, Bell (who had a long rap sheet) was out on a personal recognizance bond for criminal trespass, failed to show for his court appearances, and went on a crime spree (that involved the attempted murder of a priest and the shooting of a cop) before ultimately being shot and killed by HPD.

HPD chief Art Acevedo used the incident for more grandstanding on gun laws (his favorite topic), but he really should have a closer look at the disappointing police work that contributed to this deadly criminal being on the street far longer than he should have been. The KTRK-13 story doesn’t really get into these details, but the charging document (pdf) reveals that the original carjacking victim of Bell’s actually drove around the city for hours, located her car and the perpetrator (in the same clothing!), and called HPD. That’s right – in Art Acevedo’s and Sylvester Turner’s Houston, too much policing is self-policing (if you want to solve a crime, anyway). HPOU spins this as a Harris County criminal justice problem, and that’s right to a degree. However, the initial HPD indifference in the carjacking investigation – as Don Hooper notes, it took from 2 September to 9 September to file the aggravated robbery charge — is problematic (and is arguably reflected by the abysmal clearance rates we discussed above).

[WB3] KTRK-13’s Ted Oberg broke an investigative story this week on the latest Houston Way pay-to-play curiosity: Over 120 Kelsey-Seybold doctors and executives contributed over $80,000 to Sylvester Turner’s campaign on the same day, and not long after, the city’s contract with Cigna (involving Kelsey Seybold as a provider for City of Houston employees) was renewed. Mayoral candidate Bill King blasted the alleged Turner campaign shakedown.

[WB4] Speaking of the Houston Way, it extends into the county as well. The Chronicle’s Zach Despart checks in on the latest in the bizarre Houston Poker Club scandal, which touches city and county politics, Harris County criminal justice, and (of course) campaign finance.

[WB5] Meanwhile, Josh McGee (one of the architects of the Turner/Patrick/Huffman Houston pension “reform”) argues that Little Rock’s mayor should take over their poorly performing schools, NOT the state. He previously argued that Texas should not take over HISD (see WB5). Can you imagine putting Sylvester Turner (and associates) in charge of HISD? Parents should take a hard pass on that.

[WB6] KPRC-2’s Mario Diaz reports that the years-long mission of one Sharon Adams, sent to Los Angeles by Houston-area taxpayers to promote Houston to the film industry, has come to an end:

Her fancy title came with a lot of perks, including a $4,400-a-month stipend for Adams’ office and condo near Beverly Hills. It also included an expense account for pricey meals and travel, not to mention her eye-popping annual salary of nearly $175,000 a year — all of it paid with public dollars.

The gig was quite a ride for Adams, but as Channel 2 Investigates discovered, she wasn’t able to land a single major television series or movie to be filmed in Houston during her nearly four-year tenure.

It was great “work” while it lasted.

[WB7] The Democrats who now run Harris County government are attempting to ram through the largest tax increase possible without voter approval. Does anyone remember those Democrats promising to raise taxes exorbitantly when they swept the country races in 2018?

David Jennings notes how the two remaining Republicans on Commissioners Court can head off the tax increase, if they can summon the political courage.

In the meantime, the property tax cap in the City of Houston forced leaders to lower the property tax rate for the fourth time in five years this week, although the Democrats who run Houston city government would like to eliminate the cap and seem envious of their tax-and-spend Harris County counterparts.

[WB8] At least no significant funds are being devoted to the Ed Emmett Memorial Astrodome Parking Structure at the moment.

[WB9] The City of Houston has eased entry and regulatory barriers to Houston’s taxi industry, which has been radically disrupted by ride-sharing companies. Yellow Cab opposed the move, unsurprisingly, as they long for the days when they controlled the political agenda and could freeze out competition (or put existing competition out of business). Those days are not missed in the least.

[WB10 ] Tory Gattis is pushing back against one opponent of the I-45 expansion.

[WB11] Rob Bradley Jr. blasts the Houston Chronicle editorial board’s “crusade against fossil fuels.”

[WB12] Mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee visited the Post Oak BRT boondoggle and released a video blasting the poorly managed project. We recently commented on the ongoing problems.

[WB13] Former METRO chairman Gilbert Garcia announced his opposition to the METRO Next referendum on the Red White & Blue Houston Public Media program (skip to the 24:30 mark):

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