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LA Rolls Out the New Line

November 16, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

» LA Times: After decades of waiting, their trains have arrived

The East LA line of light rail opened up recently. It’s still too early to see if it gets taken to as favorably as the new line in Phoenix. But there’s one notable and similar feature tucked into this outtake:

A major impetus for the $898-million rail line was to make it easier and cheaper for residents to reach jobs in downtown and beyond. But the Gold Line extension is also important because of the promise it portends, Huizar said. He believes it could spark a renaissance, ushering in businesses and an arts district and leading to the discovery of neighborhoods that have “been neglected” for decades.

Roger Moliere, chief of real property management and development for the MTA, said several development projects are planned near stations, though he added that the recession was gumming up the process.

“My hope and expectation is that it will be an extraordinary economic boon to the area,” he said.

Eric Avila, a professor of history and Chicano studies at UCLA, said the Gold Line extension is a victory for social justice, and signals a shift in transportation planning. The freeways built around Boyle Heights “cordoned off the area from the rest of the city,” he said.

But development of the rail line hasn’t come without safety concerns. The Eastside extension dips underground in only a few spots. Most of it travels like a stitched-in zipper through narrow streets, at surface level and usually just feet away from cars.

That’s right … at-grade light rail. Somehow, I would have expected howls of fiscal irresponsibility had the plan been to run a more expensive elevated route (as we’ve seen before!).

Two Sides of Globalization

November 15, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

» WaPo: Globalization brings a world of hurt to one corner of North Carolina
» WaPo: A rising China is changing the way Americans live overseas and at home

I may be a small minority here, but I think it would have been even better if the Post had done a week-long series of articles such as these, touching on how various parts of the country are impacted positively and negatively by increased trade with Asian countries. As it stands, we end up with two sides of the coin represented, one from the rural midwest and another from the textile-reliant southeast.

In the case of Wisconsin ginseng farmers, there’s some positive in that China’s growing demand for better quality poses a great opportunity for American exporters. At the end of the day, it’s easier to improve quality when you have a better educated workforce. There may be some exceptions out there in the world, but quality improvements over time generally bode well for American companies as long as there’s not a large, entrenched incentive to resist change (see the American steel industry for an example or two).

In the case of the North Carolina furniture upholsters, the news may not be as good. In particular, I tend to view the average age of the employee being displaced as something that’s difficult to repair. It’s one thing to send a 28-yr old kid to job training in the hopes that he’ll land another solid career. But what to do with a 48-yr old? The article gives some good insight into the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, with this part jumping out for me:

The GAO analysis from 2000 found that 75 percent of displaced workers in TAA found jobs. Of those, only 56 percent earned 80 percent or more of their previous wage.

In 2002, Congress called for another impact analysis of the program. The report is two years away, a Labor Department spokesman said.

The inattention to the program’s effectiveness is evidence, critics say, that its primary purpose is political and that its actual benefits for workers are an afterthought.

That definitely sounds like a situation that could stand to improve, regardless of your views on free trade.

About Those College Football Games …

November 15, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

» Chron: Cougars’ 37-32 loss to UCF may derail C-USA title hopes (Steve Campbell)
» Chron: UH drops down to No. 24 in AP poll

Jackson Jeffcoat, your father needs you!

As things stand right now, SMU has control over their own destiny for the CUSA title game out of our division. Their remaining two games are against Marshall (5-5) and Tulane (3-7). I’m torn, obviously. There’s a certain amount of pride that comes from winning your conference (regardless of it’s strength), while at the same time, watching the Coogs play in Hawaii strikes me as more appealing than a dreary game in Memphis. I’ll be perfectly fine if this season merely serves as a wake-up call for next season.

But Case still deserves a plane ride to New York City for the Heisman ceremony.
» BoGlobe: Pro-style QB leads Holy Cross revival

» Worcester Telegram: Crusaders clinch PL’s bid to NCAAs
Interesting tidbit from the first article: the Philadelphia Eagles are scouting Holy Cross QB Dominic Randolph. Interesting tidbit from the second article: Holy Cross was seen showing off some Wildcat offense in their conference-clinching win against Lafayette. On to the FCS (the division formerly known as 1-AA) playoffs. Randolph’s stats seem to indicate a few issues with protecting the ball. But his scouting synopsis has grown in the past year from “lacks arm strength for the NFL” to “could be a solid backup in the NFL.” It wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world to see him improve on that between now and next year.


- TCU is for real.

- Quick, name the second leading rusher for Nebraska! Surprisingly, it’s not Rex Burkhead. Instead, it’s the guy from Trinity High. The two have split time, with Plano’s Burkhead getting time in the first half of the season until going down to injury. Robinson has picked up the time since then, though he’s apparently seeing limited time due to his own injury. Odds are good that the team will be playing in the Big XII title game.

The GOP Gets “Run Everywhere” Religion

November 15, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

» WaPo: A Republican on every ballot (Eli Saslow)
At least in South Bend

For more than a year, [St. Joseph County GOP Chair, Chris Riley] has worked 30 hours a week to recruit local Republicans for this moment. A flyer on the door welcomes all comers to Candidates College, a series of lectures for Republicans who want to run for office. Riley has asked the volunteers in the kitchen to prepare for 25 people, but privately he wonders whether that many will come.

“We are rebuilding this party from the ground up, and there’s nothing more important than finding people who will run for office,” Riley says. “We’ve been such a dilapidated party that people have been embarrassed to put their name next to us and run. If we can’t change that, then we don’t have anything.”

Early in his tenure as county chairman, Riley compiled a list of every elected position in St. Joseph County, a largely rural expanse of housing subdivisions and cornfields near the Michigan border. It is the fourth-largest county in Indiana, encompassing 10 towns and 13 townships, each with its own judges and town councils, its own clerks and coroners. By the time Riley finished his list, it included more than 100 political positions, fewer than 35 of those occupied by Republicans.

Riley thought Republicans could regain legitimacy only by finding candidates to run for all 100 slots, so he created a depth chart of would-be politicians. He began a habit of arriving at his law office in Elkhart each morning at 6:30 and devoting several hours to candidate recruitment before starting his regular workday. He developed a group of “five-star recruits” whom he e-mailed weekly: a dentist, the owner of local steakhouse and the public relations director at a South Bend hospital. Over and over, he called near strangers and asked: “Would you like to help rescue the Republican Party by running for office? And if not, do you know anyone who might make a good county assessor?”

Riley promised to provide each candidate with financial support for the campaign, yard signs, fundraisers and tutoring on political issues.

“I try to win people over with a little Irish charm, some lawyerly persuasion and a lot of free lunches,” Riley says. “I think we’ve convinced people that this is a cause worth fighting for, but we still need some good candidates to commit and give us their names.”

So minutes before the beginning of Candidates College, Riley stands by the entrance, waiting. The size of this crowd, he says, will render one small verdict on the state of his party.

“We’ll see,” he says, “just how much progress we’ve made.”

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again … being in the wilderness usually leads to this sort of thing. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to see Republican activists wanting their party to field candidates all up and down the ballot. It should be a warning sign if we ever see teh Democratic Party return to it’s more complacent, “only swing at good pitches” pattern.

A Path To Victory: A Tale of Three Neighborhoods

November 11, 2009 Uncategorized 3 Comments

One fairly broad point to add to the maps below – particularly why I think they bode well for Annise.(*) For starters, the results on November 3rd stand in rather stark contrast to the winning scenarios that Team Locke has been known to push both in the early stages of their campaign AND the one pushed in the closing days of the first round. Those on the receiving end of the pitch know full well that the results do not mesh with what they were sold. There was no west side Republican vote that went for the black guy in the race. There was no competitive standing in the Hispanic community. The Asian outreach may have gotten them a few precincts, but if that’s the high-water mark of success, this is reaching pretty deep into the barrel of wishful thinking.

In the end, the only substantial core of any vote Gene got was in the African-American community. He got about 70% of ‘em. Given the fight that Peter put up for those votes, this is something of an accomplishment. So I won’t minimize it for what it’s worth. Gene’s problem, however, is that he failed to really go beyond this base. Unfortunately for them, they were shifting money at the end to close the deal with this vote.

The result for the coming month is that Gene has the following two options for a path to victory:

1. Put together something approximating the Lee Brown coalition (minus the Anglo Dems, that is).

2. Try again with the GOP types.

At the close of vote counting on 11/3, my sense was that Gene might be able to benefit from his first round of introductions with the GOP types. Going through the numbers and looking at the maps, however, that seems to not be the case.

For years, I’ve heard it said that having an “in” with the inside crowd of city politics actually means something. Gene started off with Bob Lanier on his side. We now have conclusive proof of what that support got Gene Locke: a second place finish (as opposed to a more common fourth place finish) in Precinct 227. To the unfamiliar, that would be the precinct with the River Oaks country club in it and probably the highest average home value in all of Harris County. Gene finished second behind … you guessed it, Annise Parker.

Furthermore, there were three neighborhoods that I was very interested to see how the winners fared in: Garden Oaks, Meyerland, and Sharpstown. Each because they might have given an indication of where Annise Parker’s strength in the Anglo Dem regions was most limited. Here are the findings.

(Bear in mind that the precinct selection is not intended to encompass the entire neighborhood. These were selected in order to cover many neighborhoods while giving a representative result of each individual neighborhood.)

Garden Oaks:
This area is essentially the northern border of the Anglo Dem region and includes a few holdout GOP precincts (324 in particular) which tend to get brighter red in non-Presidential elections.

View Garden Oaks precinct cluster in a larger map

Parker: 40%
Morales: 30%
Brown: 19%
Locke: 9%

Meyerland represents the Democratic-leaning Jewish area of town (Bellaire being the Republican side of the coin). This is the most Democratic-leaning of the three areas profiled here, but is worth looking at for indications of whether there was any vote movement away from Annise Annise.

View Meyerland precinct cluster in a larger map

Parker: 46%
Morales: 21%
Brown: 20%
Locke: 11%

Moreso than Garden Oaks, this neighborhoods tends to lean more conservative for city elections. The numbers may be skewed here by the fact that Peter Brown did have a field office in the southwest side and did fairly well in much of District F. That may mean that his support is a different read in this neighborhood.

View Sharpstown precinct cluster in a larger map

Parker: 31%
Brown: 30%
Morales: 22%
Locke: 13%

Morning Takes

November 9, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

A few quick takes this morning. Sunday was a mess of a day for blogging: meetings, to-do lists, maps, work projects, wrap my head around UH winning a last-second game on the foot of a backup kicker, still trying to contemplate the grand meaning of a world with Big Top Cupcakes, etc ….

You can imagine how difficult it must be on the psyche.

- Plano’s downtown taxing district has an excess of funds. Now there’s an open discussion about how to spend it in a way to improve property values. The ISD wants some money to build a new elementary school. The city council wants to accumulate parcels of real estate so as to lure developers. Yeah, because a few more Public Storages and increased competition in the two pillars of downtown Plano’s economy: the skatepark and pawn shop sectors, are really going to drive property values in a positive direction. I’m not about to pass myself off as an expert in Plano’s “home-to-Elementary School” ratio, but a quick glance east of Central Expressway does suggest a likely shortage.

- In July, I noted that North Richland Hills was implementing a program to finance home improvements among residential households. Now they appear to be getting some notice for their efforts to give local businesses a facelift. It’s tough keeping up with the joneses in Metroplex suburbistan.

- If you live in fear of a red-light-camera planet, wait until the behavior detection cameras move beyond the airports.

- Among the more newsworthy stories from the weekend: Health Care Reform passed 220-215. Pro-life Dems got a bone thrown to them. The least-likely-to-be-re-elected Republican bolted his party, while 39 Dems opted to vote no. My sympathies are obviously with the no-voting Dems, though I would hope that they took David Brooks’ advice on working to make the bill somewhat more constructive.

What amazes me about the result is that so many progressives cheer on the passage, the costs being somewhat irrelevant to the fact that “more people get covered.” What I find unsettling is that the “coverage” fix did not cost one penny, for all intents and purposes. It was accomplished by legislative fiat, dictating that any American who wishes to settle on our soil must fork over money to an insurance company. So what do we get for the roughly trillion bucks over the next decade? Nothing, really. Or least a far cry less than what doctors and insurers will get. Someone tell me what’s “progressive” about that?

I mean, let’s set aside the discussion of the individual mandate for a second. And nevermind that the idea was first launched into “serious” policy discussion by Louisiana Senator, Democratic heretic, John Breaux in 2003. The first instance raised by Rhode Island Senator, John Chafee, was shot down fairly quickly in 1993. Note that the second link there is a 2003 American Prospect article slamming the idea of the mandate after Breaux raised it again in 2003. How far have we come since then?

- Now, in fairness, the 2003 Prospect take, the summary does conclude that the concept might be made more tenable if cost-cutting measures were in place, policies for the poor were subsidized, and mechanisms to pool risk were put in place. To the current bill’s credit, I think they at least try to accomplish a lot of that. Ezra Klein, in particular, addresses the argument that “govt can’t contain health care costs” as “a form of political nihilism.” I don’t doubt that the Republican Party Fox News take on “govt can’t do anything” certainly warrants the criticism. But the current bill itself does not do a concerted enough job to contain health care costs. There may not be an entire news network devoted to making that argument, but it’s still strikes me as a valid criticism. In the meantime, I’m stuck on this lousy island with Howard Dean. My kingdom for a coconut radio!

- Krugman updates with another one of those columns of his that I have to count as among the 5 or 6 per year that I have a hard time finding fault with.

- UH remains at #13 in the AP poll.

- The boss gets some ink in the Sunday Chronicle.

- Steven Tyler quitting Aerosmith to do solo work? Isn’t Joe Perry the one who’s supposed to quit the band?

Parody of a Parody

November 6, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Now THIS is entertainment …

What Government and Business Can Learn From Each Other

November 5, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Richard Haass, on the CEO as diplomat …

He’ll be speaking Wednesday to the World Affairs Council, though I suspect that discussion will hew more closely to the material of his book.

I’m Thinking We Should Have Elections More Often

November 5, 2009 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Traffic patterns for the past year …

That peak in the middle was for some national blog love for my thoughts (and more importantly, maps) on redistricting in Texas. I thought it was a fluke that I wouldn’t see repeated. Turns out, I was wrong on that prediction, too.

These things happen when you blog about the most important subjects on earth: politics and Texas High School football.

NYC in Red and Blue

November 5, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

New York’s mayoral election results, mapped out by precinct.

Makes me wish I had the dough for a custom flash programmer. My much-clunkier maps will hopefully get done today, provided I get data.

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad …

November 5, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Stryper may be cancelled for tonight (flu bug … coming back on 12/21), but this movie is still on the agenda for tomorrow evening.

Checking the Math

From my number-crunching post on 9/7 …

In short, open seat Mayoral contests flatten the playing field. The three strongest GOP seats (A, E, & G) will garner a collective 39-40% in both November and December. The two African-American districts will represent about 24-25% in both elections. The two Hispanic districts will represent about 15% in both elections. And the two others (C and F) clock in at about 20% both times.

Here’s how it turned out:

a-e-g   44.2%
b-d     22.8%
h-i     13.4%
c-f     19.5%


Of course, if I’d had a sense that turnout would have reached the floor-scraping level of ~181,500 ballots cast, I might have guessed that the GOP district number would be on the higher side. As it is, I think the theory holds that open-seat Mayoral elections dampen the fluctuations in district turnout. This time around, we might find out if there’s any dampening effect of having 5 runoffs citywide and only two in districts. The Mayorals and Controller wannabes will definitely spend some dough. I suspect Costello will raise some for another round. Sue might be paranoid enough to do likewise now. JoJo probably can’t raise much due to her … um, style.

Here’s the breakdown of Vote Share by Council District:

A  -  12.1%
B  -   7.9%
C  -  13.7%
D  -  14.9%
E  -  12.9%
F  -  5.8%
G  -  19.1%
H  -   8.1%
I  -   5.3%

“He Knows When To Turn the Light Saber On”

November 4, 2009 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Obama campaign manager, David Plouffe, plugging his book with Jon Stewart. I opted to download the book on the new company Kindle here at the office … only to have the boss smuggle the thing home and leave it there yesterday. Just as well, I’ve got another book to pick up today at church.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
David Plouffe
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Talking Heads: Election-Style

November 3, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Two notable talking heads on TV from last night.
The boss on KPRC …

Kuff on CNN …

The Trib Polls

November 3, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Today, I share a birthday with the Texas Tribune. It must be some sort of weird astrological thing that makes us both political junkies, because they kick things off with a statewide poll. Here’s the findings:

GOP Guv:
Perry – 42%
KBH – 30%
DK – 18%

Dem Guv:
Friedman – 19%
Schieffer – 10%
Earle – 5%
Gilbert – 3%
DK – 55%

GOP Lt. Guv:
Dewhurst – 26%
Abbott – 16%
DK – 47%

US Senate:
White – 13%
Dewhurst – 13%
Sharp – 10%
Shapiro – 3%
M. Williams – 3%
DK – 56%

ADD-ON: Evan offers a nice opener for the new site. Given his track record with Texas Monthly, I think it’s pretty good odds that the Trib leaves a lasting mark on the Texas news scene.

The Adverb Agenda Continues!

October 28, 2009 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Never underestimate the blogosphere’s capacity for navel-gazing. Mike McGuff goes so far as to offer some hot, steamy navel-on-navel action by doing some extensive Q&A with hateHouston proprietor, Kevin Whited.

To which, I can only add the corollary: never underestimate Whited’s ability to mis-represent himself …

I know some of the higher-ups at the Chron ordered a scrubbing of blogHOUSTON and that Dwight Silverman and Dean Betz apparently went along (sadly enough) because some higher-ups don’t get new media, but they clearly don’t comprehend what our occasional criticism was about. We just want smart local news coverage! And like any good consumer, we complain when it isn’t good. I hope that most good local journalists who stumble across the blog understand that we are obsessive about good (and bad) local news coverage.

Accuracy would probably require that the emphasis be stated as “we are obsessive about bad (and good) local news coverage.” But whatever. Whited takes a new riff on his old standard of suggesting that anyone who disagrees with him clearly does not comprehend something about him. Again … with the adverbs!

Apparently, it’s impossible for anyone to disagree with him or view his critiques at face value and to do so without one of the following: a) a problem with reading comprehension, or b) an inability to comprehend. Clearly, the world is full of idiots and Whited is just doing his gosh-darned best to live among them. If only we could all abide by Whited’s laws!

Adding to this, there’s the very clear case of Whited misrepresenting his “critique” in his interview with McGuff. It’s enough to warrant the label of being a flat out lie. Because if he were to own up to his numerous claims that the media has a liberal bias, agenda, and (not “or” … and) worldview that it seeks to impart to readers, he wouldn’t be able to say that he’s on a quest for “good news.” In other words, Whited suggests here that he would merely suggest the Chronicle hire more and better writers. What he leaves out here is that he would suggest the Chronicle hire more and better conservative Republican writers.

Whited, of course, has removed his old links from Reductio ad Absurdum, whereby he has previously accused the Chronicle of missing the boat on Houston’s ascendant conservative movement that was sure to lead to the election of Orlando Sanchez for Mayor. It helps, when your wrong, to know where the delete button is. Of course, as I’ve discovered myself, the worst thing you can possibly do to Kevin is make him defend his own words. Of course, Whited has no problem banning people from his blog when asked legitimate questions about an indefensible position. But heaven forbid someone ban him from a site when he’s less-than-forthcoming about his own position!

As if the world really needed further proof that his sense of superiority is entirely unwarranted?

Pearlstein on Tradeoffs

October 28, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

» WaPo: Path to health reform paved with trade-offs (Steve Pearlstein)
His conclusion …

For two years, the health insurance industry has generally made good on its promise to be a supporter of health reform rather than an obstacle. Not surprisingly, there are still aspects of the House and Senate bills it finds objectionable. But rather than resort to scare tactics that threaten to derail the whole reform process, the industry could have continued to work behind the scenes to address its concerns by offering to trim benefit packages, strengthen the individual mandate and allow slightly greater variations in premiums — details that most people, and most members of Congress, barely notice.

Likewise, it’s time for the White House to stop pretending that health reform will be a winning proposition for everyone, keeping everything about the current system people like while getting rid of all the things they don’t. Getting a fairer deal for those who are old and sick has inevitable consequences for those who aren’t, while the flip side of slowing the growth in health spending is slowing the growth in the incomes of doctors, hospitals and drug companies. A White House that aims for a new kind of politics ought to be able to acknowledge and defend such trade-offs rather than demonizing anyone who dares to point them out.

That would certainly be the optimal scenario, as I see it. Pearlstein also does a decent job of breaking down some of the pluses and minuses of the health care bills headed down the aisle in the House and Senate.
Unfortunately, the room for debating the merits of individual aspects of the plans have been shouted down by catcalls of “death panels” from the right and demands for a “public option” from the left. That a fairly wealthy, already well-insured state like Massachusetts mandates individual mandate doesn’t strike me as an immediate parallel for poorer or working-class areas in other regions – say, within a 1-mile radius of my ‘hood. As incrementalist as the overall approach may really be, there’s still a lot of important changes that are sorely lacking some honest debate.

Advertising to the Masses Few

October 28, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

How much money would you spend airing campaign ads to about 200 city voters? Click here to see how much Peter Brown and MJ Khan spent to advertise to them.

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Belatedly, it’s worth noting that I’m back in Austin for the legislative session. Theoretically, that would mean a slowdown in blogging. But given the pace over the past several months, who knows. For the sake of making myself feel better, the work product over this span of time seems to be about 568 pages of […]

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