Weekend brunch for 28 March 2021

News and views from around the web

It's bluebonnet time in Houston. Image credit: _tiffany/flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

[WB1] Local media reported this week that the February winter storm cost the City of Houston some $3.2 million just to power the city’s streetlights, because that system apparently was on a variable-rate plan (think Griddy, but for a large municipality that should have known better). Mayor Sylvester Turner, who has been highly critical of Governor Greg Abbott’s handling of the crisis, frequently reminds anyone who is listening that he is the CEO of the city. Imagine what a blunder like that would have cost a CEO of an actual enterprise that is accountable to shareholders?

[WB2] Warren Buffet has an expensive proposal to “fix” the Texas power grid – with just a few catches. Consider this your periodic reminder to be very wary when anyone – self-interested investors or generally uninformed journalists – propose “easy fixes” to Texas power generation. Electricity market design is complicated.

[WB3] The Houston Business Journal reports stenographically (which is to say, uncritically) on a $112 million bond sale from the Uptown Development Authority to fund city projects related to affordable housing. Question: Isn’t this a dubious maneuver legally, since no public vote was offered? At best, it seems like a cynical way for a quasi-governmental body to approach public accountability and transparency.

[WB4] Despite criticism from the City of Houston, a lawsuit from Harris County, and delaying actions by the Federal Highway Administration, HGAC reaffirmed support for the planned $7 billion rebuild of I-45 in Houston. Interestingly, all the urban reps on the regional transportation authority voted against the move, but were outvoted by all the more suburban reps. That tension is likely to be a recurring theme of local, state, and national political and social affairs in the coming years.

[WB5] A federal judge has signed off on Houston’s agreement with the feds to make $2 billion in sewer upgrades, which means water bills are headed even higher in Houston.

[WB6] The Chronicle talks to Houston’s newly named police chief, Troy Finner. The new chief will have to tackle surging violent crime in Houston along with rebuilding community trust in the department after the Harding Street Massacre (and perceptions of a dirty narcotics division) and other black eyes.

[WB7] The New York Times reports on Houstonians who are struggling with the burden of home ownership (the story doesn’t really reach the conclusion that Houston housing is no longer as affordable as it once was, and that the “rental” costs imposed by the state on home ownership in terms of the tax burden make home ownership an increasingly difficult proposition for many, but these are problems).

[WB8] The Houston residential real-estate market had a banner year in 2020, Houstonia reports. Unfortunately, that banner year is likely to be reflected in a surge in property tax valuations (I got a 10% pop, and many neighbors report the same). Here’s hoping smart blogHOUSTON homeowners already protest their property taxes every year, but if not, please consider doing so!

[WB9] Former Texas Watchdog investigative report and editor Lee Ann O’Neal argues that the “surge in Asian hate crimes” that has momentarily claimed press attention is more bogeyman than fact.

[WB10] A strange Chronicle story asks if Texas can learn anything from so-called preppers after the winter storm, but only seems to find preppers that didn’t seem all that prepared. We plan to offer some thoughts on improving one’s self-resilience as hurricane season approaches (note: this isn’t quite the same as “prepping” traditionally understood, which is overkill for most people).

[WB11] Longtime Houston Chronicle columnist Leon Hale has died at the age of 99. He acquired many fans over his six decades or so as a columnist for two Houston newspapers. While “beloved” is a term that has become much overused, in Hale’s case it’s fitting. May he Rest in Peace.

[WB12] The Houston Cougars remain alive in the NCAA tournament, and play for a shot at the Final Four on Monday. Go Coogs!

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Kevin Whited
About Kevin Whited 4262 Articles
Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX