Category Archives: City of Houston

Garcia Makes It Official, Is Running for Mayor

adrianpicLongtime lawman and public servant Adrian Garcia finally answered the question on Wednesday:  Will he, or won’t he? He will run for Houston Mayor, Garcia announced before dozens of friends and family members at the Lindale Park Community Center located in the Northside where he resides.

Stating he’s the candidate who can balance a budget, save taxpayers millions, and protect Houston families, Garcia added, “We commit to enhancing a quality of life that benefits everyone, from the wealthiest to the humblest, but never ignoring one for the other.”

In a speech in which he credited much to his wife and family, he reminded folks of what he was taught when he was young.

“I have done what my parents taught me to do years ago, and that is to simply work hard and do a good job”

Talking with several of his supporters, the one word that all agreed this campaign would be is tough, but that with their hard work and determination Garcia can come out victorious in the end.

Frankly, I’m glad he’s in the race, despite any concerns about a new right-wing Sheriff I might have. Bottom line, he was forced to resign, while others in the running get to keep their elected positions. Garcia in the race could add some excitement, as well as some ánimo to the electorate for a real discussion on the issues. I think Kuff just said something similar. Great minds!

It’s no secret, I’ve been critical of Garcia in the past, but he’s also served the community well all these years. I’m no one-issue voter; if so, I’d show up and not vote for any of them, right? So, let’s keep an eye on this race. Enjoy!

Update:  Holy mole , my buddy David Ortez was also at the announcement.

Video of part of stump in Spanish.

The Price of Ramen Noodles Is Too Damn High!

Update After the Oberg Story: Did you know that it would take 6.8 million packages (at 25 cents each commissary price) of ramen noodles to pay the Harris County consultant who has saved the Jail money? No, this info was not in Oberg’s report, not that there was much of anything else.


ABC13’s Ted Oberg is doing a story on a no-bid contract that the Sheriff has given to a consulting firm. According to the Sheriff in one of ABC13s ads promoting the report, the consultant has saved the county a lot of money.

One thing I noticed from ABC13’s teaser is that the money paid to the consultant comes from profits from the jail commissary. So, that means that the overpriced ramen noodles, cupcakes, sodas, and other items bought by the inmates is paying for it. That’s a lot of ramen noodles eaten and no tax dollars wasted, at least at first glance.

I have to wonder if there’s a story to this. I would think the bigger story is that the price of ramen noodles is too damn high. Either that, or it’s sweeps week for the local news.

We shall see.

UPDATE:  The HCSO/Sheriff Adrian Garcia released this statement on the savings to taxpayers over the years.

When Sheriff Adrian Garcia took office in 2009, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office was overspending its budget by about $58 million annually. In fact the agency had balanced its yearly budget only once in a decade.

In 2015, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has come in under the budget allocated by Commissioners Court for the fourth consecutive fiscal year.

Fiscal Year 2015, as it was known in county government, ended Feb. 28. After allowing for all accounts to settle from the previous budget year, the HCSO is celebrating another year of successful budget discipline.

“Keeping the people of Harris County safe is our top job,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. “Safeguarding public funds and protecting the pocket books of tax payers is a close second.”

“We are keeping the lid on crime for the 1.7 million people in the unincorporated areas of the county while keeping the door shut against monstrous budget deficits,” the sheriff added. “We accomplish this on the front lines with deputies on patrol and in the back offices where employees with business backgrounds eliminate financial waste.”

Some of the biggest savings have come from drastic reductions in overtime pay to staff the county jail, inmate rehabilitation programs that reduce repeat crimes, management of supply contracts and wider use of generic medications for ill inmates.

In the previous three years, budget savings allowed the Sheriff’s Office to put more deputies on patrol. About 90% of the $422 million budget for FY15 was allocated for law enforcement payroll.

“We’ll continue to work with Commissioners Court and other stakeholders to make sure we have the resources to preserve Harris County as a safe place that people choose every day as the place where they want to live, work and raise a family.”

Is He Running? ¿O que?

Schleifer at the Chron reports that Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s announcement for Mayor may be imminent. Or at least that signals are being sent. Or that his biggest supporters and check-writers think he is. In other words, we’re still waiting.

adrianI think I laid out my concerns about Democrat Garcia resigning as Sheriff to run in a multi-candidate race for Houston Mayor in our podcast. At the same time, I admit that such a candidacy would be historic because he’d be far more progressive than most other Latinos who have run for Mayor in recent history. I think I’ve made my disagreements with Garcia regarding 287g/SCOMM pretty clear on the blog over the years. Still, I respect and like the guy because he’s been the big local winner.

A quick look at some of our hardest working Dems’ comments on Facebook (I won’t name names) and comments from a few I’ve spoken with, shows some real concern that, as Schleifer reports, we could end up with Sheriff Ron Hickman or Sheriff Allan Fletcher from the Republican side of things. Among other concerns are a complete turnaround in progress made at the County Jail on mental health, overall management, immigrant family visitations, and especially progress made on GLBT issues. But as the article states, he’ll seek out Republican support and money, so, how Garcia splits the difference and what issues he runs on for a “nonpartisan” race are yet to be seen, obviously. Perhaps he’d be the next person who can find the winning coalition needed to win without offending entire constituencies.

For voters who aren’t fans of perennial or multi-run City candidates, Garcia does offer himself up for the first time for this position, so, there’s always that. The other first-timers sit on the conservative side of things for the most part and with little crossover appeal.

Anyway, there will be a lot more to blog and chat about if Garcia does make the announcement. It’s obvious he can raise the money, hire the needed staff, and run a professional, disciplined campaign. So, for now, we still wait. Of course, some of us want to listen and ask more questions of some of the candidates before deciding which button to click in November (and December).

One thing’s for sure. Schleifer mentioned a possible point of attack against Garcia:  His lack of a college degree. Yeah, because, apparently, a police academy education is equal to basket-weaving? All I can say is that such an attack will incense Houstonians; no, it would be just plain dumb. It surely would piss me off. But we can go into that if it becomes a thing.

Kuff has some point-by-point thoughts that are a must-read. Also, Brains and Eggs, Texpatriate, and Texas Leftist have their own takes.

Mayor Annise Parker Reports on Hire Houston First

Mayor Annise Parker reported the results of the City’s contracting efforts to ensure Houstonians are hired first. Back when Parker was first talking about it in 2009 as a candidate, DosCentavos really liked the idea. Here are the results, thus far:

As of September 30, 2012, more than $139 million of city business had been awarded to designated Hire Houston First firms, sustaining more than 6,000 jobs.  This encompassed 895 formal bid contracts for construction and purchasing contracts as well as informal non-contract purchase orders.  81 percent of the time, HHF companies won the formal bid contracts because they submitted the lowest bids.  The other 19 percent of the time the city utilized the local preference component of HHF to award the work to the local firm.  The majority of these formal bid contracts were for construction work.

“My goal was to encourage the use of local companies and workers on taxpayer-funded projects to maximize the economic impact of our governmental spending,” said Mayor Parker.  “I knew our local firms would be competitive.  Now we have the numbers to prove it.  As the program moves into its second year, I want to see more Houston area companies designated to benefit from the local preference when the bid competition warrants.  Our tax dollars need to stay here where they are supporting local businesses and the jobs they provide.”

HHF allows the city to consider a vendor’s principle place of business and to grant preference to local businesses in awarding certain city contracts.  For contracts under $100,000, the city may select the local firm’s price if it is within five percent of the lowest bid from an out-of-town company.  For contracts exceeding $100,000, there can be no more than a three percent difference between the out-of-town low bid and the next highest offer from a local vendor.

The total number of HHF designated firms is 617, an average of 51 new approvals each month.  322 of these companies have never been awarded contracts by the city.  The remaining 295 have had at least one city contract.  Out of 68 prime contracts awarded to HHF firms, 61 went to firms that had previously been awarded city contracts.  The remaining seven contracts went to HHF firms that have never worked for the city prior to their HHF designation.   Their contracts totaled $2.7 million.  532 of the 617 approved applications are in Harris County. The numbers are expected to grow as the city’s Office of Business Opportunity steps up outreach to get more companies registered in the second year of the program.

To qualify for designation, businesses must meet at least one of two requirements:

  • Be headquartered in the incorporated city limits or the eight local counties of Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller, or
  • Have 20 percent or more of the entity’s workforce and a substantial part of its operations regularly based within the city limits or the eight counties.

Sounds great, but I immediately wondered about how minority- and women-owned firms benefited, especially Latino and Latina-owned firms. Still, hiring locally is still quite important and a great source of local buying-power. 

Give Me The 311!

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the 311 Department announced today that there is a new 311 Smartphone app ready to take your service requests for stuff, like garbage container issues, traffic signal maintenance, water line break, dead animals, etc. My favorite in SW Houston will be the Road Maintenance one since I’ve driven through some kidney-busters recently.

Prior to 311’s transformation, the 311 Call Center provided telephone Service Request and information service 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Due to budget-required layoffs in FY2012, 311 had to stop offering service on the weekends. As of August 15, 2012, 311 Help & Info launched 24 hour a day, seven day a week service.  Additionally, 311 installed a labor model that more closely matches the demands of Houstonians. Furthermore, the service extension was implemented at an operating cost to the City of $600,000 less per year than the former 311 Call Center model.

In addition to expanded call-center hours and the new Smartphone app, 311’s redesigned website,www.Houston311.org, enables Houstonians to easily submit a request for service online. For example, the 311 website only received 2,144 “hits” in January 2011. In January 2013, following its redesign, the website received more than 13,485 “hits.” Over the past week, 311 has also launched a new interactive mapping tool that allows Houstonians to track the progress of their request and view other requests in the area.

Learn how to use it here. And to download the app, you can find it on Google Play or the Apple one.

Houston Fights Crime Better Than Most Major Cities

Thanks to the Office of Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez for the heads-up. Click the image to enlarge. This info is quite encouraging.

Houston Crime

Catching Up on City Stuff

The Labor Guy

After all the pedo ruckus some of us made a while back, it looks like Mayor Annise Parker finally got a Labor dude on the Port Commission, Dean Corgey. Since everyone was talking about “firsts” after another appointment, is it safe to say that the working people got their first representative on the commission?

An Opponent for MAP?

Looks like a wealthy lawyer is once again making noise about running for Houston Mayor. We’ve all been wondering, from which direction will he run at Mayor Parker? The Chron talked to him.

In our conversation this morning, Hall stressed job creation, economic growth, international trade, and a more creative, compromise-seeking approach to the city’s pensions issues, and also emphasized that the city’s strength lies in its diversity. He said Parker’s 16-year tenure at City Hall as a council member, controller and now mayor, has produced “leadership fatigue.”

That’s a bold statement from someone who has walked those halls for a long time, too.

The 2013 Elections

It’s about that time to start thinking about the 2013 Elections. With all the activity at Houston Community College lately with what will end up being two appointments, I’ve had my ear talked off about another HCC race–District I. Yes, that one is up again. Unfortunately, my own HCC trustee has resigned, but he leaves after producing some good results:  Thank you, Richard Schechter!

Now, the City elections will be interesting. At-Large 3 is open, as is District I–one of the Latino seats. Both will have a long list of candidates. Will any current Council members be targeted? Well, with the Mayor getting a well-financed challenge, it’s possible that some would want to try some sort of coattail riding–if coattails even form. So the DC will have the ojos open.

A Closer Look at Houston’s District J

My Council Member, Mike Laster, gave a State of the District report the other day and provided a snapshot of District J. Here’s his report as written in his Journal.

Demographics and Destiny…

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to present a “State of the District” message to those gathered at the Southwest 2000 Bi-Monthly Breakfast hosted by Houston Baptist University. In preparation for my presentation I consulted the “Council District J Profile” produced by the City’s Planning and Development Department. The “Profile” can be found for review as an icon attachment at the District J website.

The Profile information is compiled from the 2010 U.S. Census data. It gives us a snapshot of the communities in District J when it was created along with District K.

The Profile confirms much of what we know intuitively about our neighborhoods – simply because we live here. Just over 181,000 persons call this part of Houston home. The District is three times as densely populated than the rest of Houston, hosting 9,000 persons per square mile to the City’s 3,100 persons per square mile. We are profoundly ethnically diverse – both from a residential and commercial stand point. Sixty-Eight percent (68%) of our households speak a language other than English at home. I firmly believe that it is the international connections of our people that will help District J lead Houston in international economic development in the coming years.

We are not without our challenges though. While 66% of our population is between the ages of 18 and 64, 41% of the population does not have a high school diploma. The District is home to 75,240 total housing units (both apartments and single family residences), yet 79% of those are renter occupied. Most concerning is that the median household income for District J has fallen nearly $7,000.00 in the past decade to $30,269.

While these numbers help us accurately understand who we are as a community, they do not determine our destiny. They serve as a starting point. I profoundly believe that the decent, hard-working people of District J will come together to build a community filled with pride and optimism. With effort and good will, we will build a better southwest Houston.

Now that I’ve resided in District J for ten months and will more than likely remain for the long haul, I need to start getting more involved, particularly in the area in which I live, which is surrounded by Harwin, Fondren, Hillcroft, and Bellaire, which isn’t a part of the civic association, according to the SCA maps. This little area is described quite well by the demographic information–we have $300K townhomes, $60K condos, and lots of affordable apartments. Just like any other neighborhood, we want good streets and great services, so I’m looking forward to hearing about the various construction projects and improvements being made to the area.

Mayor Parker Launches Parental Involvement Campaign

“Is My Child Ready?” was launched this week by the Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives. The program’s work is to engage parents so that they may get more involved in their children’s education.

The campaign coincides with the release of students’ STAAR test results by area school districts scheduled for this spring.  The STAAR exams are part of the state’s new standardized academic accountability system.  The campaign will target “hard to reach” parents to encourage them to ask their schools key questions about their children’s performance on the STAAR test.

The commitment I liked most was this.

The campaign will promote parents’ long-term involvement in their children’s education with an emphasis on post-secondary readiness.  Currently, more than half of Texas freshmen in two-year colleges and nearly a fourth in four-year schools require remedial courses.  Deficient academic preparation also leads to low rates of college completion.

While Texas legislators are seeking ways of blaming college advising and student services offices as a means of cutting their budgets, it is good to see Mayor Parker promoting a solution, rather than some punitive measure, like I expect the Lege to do. It seems she knows one of the roots of the problem, so, hopefully, the Lege will follow suit and commit to these types of programs, too.

And it’s bilingual, too.

The multi-media campaign will deliver messages in various formats, including billboards, signage on METRO buses, electronic communications via SMS texts, emails and campaign websites and posters at libraries, multi-service centers and schools throughout the Houston region.  Public information sessions for parents will also be held.

TEXT “READY” or “LISTO” to 91011
The campaign invites parents to text “READY” to 91011 or visit www.ismychildready.org for key facts and specific questions to ask schools about their children’s STAAR test scores.  Spanish-speaking parents can text “LISTO” to 91011 or visit the campaign’s Spanish language website www.estalistomihijo.org.

“We want parents to talk with teachers and counselors and become informed on what they can do every day to help their children do well in the classroom,” said Mark Cueva, Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives division manager.  “Asking questions about a student’s performance on the STAAR test and what parents can do to help that child do better is a good starting point.”

For full information about the campaign, visit www.ismychildready.org.

Way to go, Mayor! Every bit counts in this effort! Perhaps partnering with local higher education institutions is a good next step?

HFD’s Holiday Safety Tips

Thanks to the Houston Fire Department for posting their Holiday Safety Tips (and thanks to Mayor Parker for the heads up). Since it’s chilly these next couple of nights, here are some important ones.

Fireplace

  • Use a screen at the base of the fireplace. Use a flash arrester at the top of the chimney to keep the sparks off the roof.
  • Never use any paper or flammable liquids in the fireplace.
  • To set the fire: Make sure the damper is open before building the fire. Use aged wood and an approved product designed for igniting a fire in a fireplace. OR use a gas fired log lighter that has been installed by a licensed plumber and purchased through a reliable company. Read labels to make sure you are using the correct item for that designed purpose.

Portable Space HeatersSpace Heater Graphic

  • Do not use extension cords on electrical heaters.
  • Make sure wires are in good condition.
  • When purchasing a heater, check to see if it has a safety switch (when it falls over, it will cut off).

Gas Heaters

  • Make sure they have copper flexible threaded connectors rather than rubber hose (American Gas Association Seal).
  • Use soapy water to check for leaks. Never use a match.
  • You will want a blue flame to make sure it is not putting off too much carbon monoxide. A blue flame produces less hazardous carbon monoxide.
  • Make sure you have enough ventilation for the recommended size room and heater.
  • Keep heater away from anything combustible (at least 3 feet) and secure,so as not to tip over.