Weekend brunch for 13 October 2019

News and view from around the web

Image credit: Wally Gobetz/flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

[WB1] Harris County Commissioners Jack Cagle and Steve Radack voted with their feet this week, skipping a meeting scheduled by the Democratic leadership of Harris County to raise property taxes outrageously without any hint of a plan to spend the new windfall. Thanks to a provision in state law that requires a quorum of four members for such a maneuver, the absence of Cagle and Radack broke quorum and the tax increase did not take place.

[WB2] Another week, another Houston Way scandal at City Hall: Greg Groogan reports for KRIV-26 that City Controller Chris Brown, supposedly the city’s financial watchdog, profited handsomely from a land deal involving the City of Houston. Brown conveniently neglected to share any details with those who voted on the deal, drawing criticism.

The Houston Way has long been a term we’ve used to describe ways in which the Houston ruling class (and those connected with them) manages to profiteer through their positions, at the expense of taxpayers, transparency, ethics, etc. The current group of local leaders have taken The Houston Way to a whole new level in recent years.

[WB3] Speaking of The Houston Way, various mayoral candidates (and others) continued to criticize Mayor Sylvester Turner over his effective creation of a non-competitive, non-transparent, $95,000/year “internship” for a special friend. The Houston Chronicle editorial board, certainly masters of irrelevancy, say none of those concerns are relevant and you shouldn’t worry yourself thinking about them. We agree – you really shouldn’t spend precious time thinking about most anything that editorial board instructs you to do.

[WB4] Angela Blanchard, one prominent member of the Houston ruling class, suggests you’re a racist if you criticize the Houston Way or the patronage culture described above.


Sorry, Miss Blanchard – we just call stink on things that smell. It’s a different sense that doesn’t involve color.

[WB5] The City of Houston’s mayoral staffers spend a lot of their day campaign-tweeting, by the way. Here are a few examples from the past week.

How is this of value to Houston taxpayers? Maybe do some real work for the city on taxpayer time instead of… that?

[WB6] The 2019 murder rate in Houston is outpacing last year’s murder rate, the Houston Chronicle begrudgingly reports (following their earlier “fact check” of candidate claims regarding crime, which has largely fallen apart as 2018 statistics have become available – see WB2).

[WB7] The Chronicle reports that candidates for office in the City of Houston continue to be creative (or deceptive, depending on your perspective) when it comes to their residency.

[WB8] The Harris County Flood Control District is moving to reclaim some property tracts that will be required for flood control projects but have been (inadvertently or purposely) claimed by area homeowners over the years.

[WB9] The New York Times (not the local newspaper) reports on the plight of renters two years after Hurricane Harvey, and the class-action lawsuit they filed in Corpus Christi federal court on Friday.

[WB10] Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg continues to oppose elements of a Harris County bail reform settlement that’s being finalized, summoning Harris County police chiefs to rally against certain elements of the proposal.

[WB11] The Arnold Foundation (now Arnold Ventures) is suing its former executive leader Denis Calabrese for damages in excess of $3 million, contending that Calabrese betrayed the organization’s trust in order to create illicit kickback schemes.

[WB12] Another pedestrian lost to the Danger Train this week. Houston seems to have created the most dangerous at-grade rail in the country.

[WB13] Editor Mike Snyder is retiring from the Chronicle, and penned a farewell that includes this curious line:

Our chief competitor, the Houston Post, folded in 1995, costing many fine journalists their jobs and depriving the city of an important voice.

Of course, we learned years ago from Tim Fleck and Jim Simmon (once known as Slampo) that Dean Singleton bragged about cutting a deal to sell the Houston Post to Hearst (so they could shutter it) way back in 1994. As Paul Harvey might say, that’s the rest of the story (though it’s not at all surprising that Snyder chose to omit it).

[WB14] The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune has discovered that neither Chicago nor Illinois has enough taxpayers to pay for the pension benefits that politicians overpromised various employee groups over the years. How many years will it be before the Houston Chronicle editorial board is forced to write something similar? (And no, we do not believe the Sylvester Turner/Joan Huffman/Dan Patrick pension “reform” authored by Josh McGee did anything but postpone this eventuality by a few years).

[WB15] The Astros got past Tampa Bay to close out their series this week, only to fall in the first game of the ALCS on Saturday night to the Yankees. Go ‘Stros!

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