Weekend brunch for 23 August 2020

News and views from around the web

Marco and Laura bear down on the Gulf Coast (Image credit: KTRK/13)

[WB1] Since it’s 2020, of COURSE two hurricanes (Marco and Laura) are likely to form in the Gulf at the same time, with potential impact for Houston over the coming days.

Get your hurricane plans in order, just in case, and keep an eye on Space City Weather for the latest analysis.

[WB2] Meanwhile, roughly three years after Harvey, the City of Houston has failed in its legal effort to keep the Texas General Land Office from taking over recovery funds aimed at repairing housing damaged by the hurricane. According to the Houston Chronicle, the city’s housing director contends that “the city remains on track to spend its Harvey funds by the August 2024 deadline, despite completing just 76 single-family home repairs thus far.”

Three. Years. Later.

[WB3] The tropical storm activity has knocked COVID-19 out of the news locally, at least momentarily, but the area numbers continue to trend positively. In particular, the reproductive rate – R(t), a key estimate of the measure of community spread – has now been below 1.0 for 13 days in a row as of publication. Any number below 1.0 indicates that the spread is slowing.

If we hit 14 days in a row  – which seems likely – it will be time for Harris County to consider lowering the silly backwards-facing alarm/gage thing they put together (after the protests, of course, not before) to the next-highest level, as the outbreak is clearly not “worsening.” It will also be time to tune out overly alarmist arm-waving like this in the area newspaper of record.

[WB4] That said, COVID-19 remains deadly, and acting as if your family gathering (or mass protest) is somehow exempt from the virus would not be a smooth move just yet. Ask Houstonian and former Secretary of State James Baker, who’s tested positive:

[T]hey think they were exposed to the coronavirus last week while visiting family in Wyoming. Some of those relatives have since been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The virus doesn’t care about the righteousness of your cause or gathering. Be careful, people.

[WB5] It seems nobody knows exactly where/how the City of Houston is spending some $405 million of COVID relief funds.

[WB6] Remember those Houston Chronicle stories extolling the bright side of the pandemic and oil-price downturn a few months ago?

Now the newspaper is singing a different tune, lamenting the emptying of downtown. Here is a curious observation:

The strides developers, business leaders and city officials have made in transforming the city center from a mostly commercial district into a more vibrant neighborhood with new housing, parks and schools are being threatened by the pandemic, whose economic and societal tolls may take years to undo.

Of course, the newspaper has championed just about every expensive initiative proposed to transform downtown from a commercial center into a destination/neighborhood/place, but isn’t the real takeaway that all the initiatives and expense have pretty much been a failure? That is to say, downtown remains a commercial district that is dead in the time of COVID. As Neal Meyer has noted, maybe COVID has provided a good opportunity to evaluate and even rethink some of these expensive initiatives.

[WB7] Texas oil and gas companies are bracing for significant new restrictions on the industry if Joe Biden wins the presidency. As the industry goes, of course, so goes much of Houston (if you thought tech innovation in Houston wouldn’t involve Houston’s top industry, think again).

[WB8] Otis Mallet was completely cleared this week of a drug conviction based on testimony from disgraced former HPD officer and Harding Street Massacre ringleader Gerald Goines. Over 150 additional convictions tied to Goines remain under review. Also this week, another HPD narcotics officer who was placed under investigation decided to resign.

[WB9] Unsurprisingly, Houston ISD, which serves many disadvantaged students and suffers from chronic leadership problems, has lost track of some 7,500 students who just disappeared from online classes when schools were shut this spring due to COVID-19, according to Ted Oberg/KTRK-13 news.

[WB10] We’re three games into the NBA “Playoffs in the Bubble” – which just feels weird. Nonetheless, the locals are up 2-1 on Oklahoma City in the first round. Go Rockets!

Stay safe and dodge the virus (and hurricanes)!

Kevin Whited
About Kevin Whited 4244 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX