Category Archives: Houston Votes ’13

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. 

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TexasCJC: Harris County’s Racially Targeted Policies

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has released a study on the impact of Harris County’s racially targeted policies, specifically its trace amounts policy and its anti-immigrant policies. From the study, though, one gets a sense that perhaps a bond between the African American and Hispanic communities can work together to effect meaningful criminal justice policies that benefit the entire community.

The study found that Harris County focuses its resources on drug crimes, especially felony drug possession; in fact, it has been the number one felony charge in the county for 20 years. Worse, although blacks and whites have similar drug-use rates, it is African Americans who are targeted most for arrest, prosecution, and conviction.

While blacks make up about 19 percent of Harris County residents, they made up almost 50 percent of those arrested for felony drug possession between October 2011 and September 2012, and they comprise 65.8 percent of those being incarcerated by Harris County in state prisons or jails for felony drug possession.

The County’s policies seem to apply to the Hispanic community, particularly its over-commitment to immigration enforcement. As DosCentavos has found in its own research, and now backed up by this study, the vast majority of those booked and then found to be unauthorized immigrants and reported to ICE have not been convicted of a crime or have been convicted of petty, usually undeportable crimes. Moreover, many of these detentions are more than likely based on racial and ethnic stereotypes, not much different from the African Americans targeted for drug arrests.

The report especially calls out the immigration policies for the stereotype that it creates–that all immigrants are criminals or likely to commit crimes. In fact, foreign-born detainees go to prison at lesser rates than U.S. citizens arrested for crimes.

Ultimately, this is all about safety. The contention that arresting people for trace drug amounts stops property crimes is far-fetched. Likewise, is the contention that somehow keeping working immigrants in deportation limbo in an ICE facility is somehow a crime-fighting tactic. All this does is cause a sense of distrust between the community and the police. Especially within immigrant communities, the effect of this distrust is a lower likelihood that crimes will be reported for fear of law enforcement.

Obviously, the new Republican DA is not helping by re-instituting its trace policy, and our Democratic Sheriff does not help by continuing the Secure Communities and 287g programs. But this opens up and opportunity for communities to work together to demand accountability and better services from a taxing entity, such as Harris County.

Read the entire report here.

SD-6 – ELECTION DAY – SATURDAY

Well, it’s Saturday, January 26, and according to Rick Perry, today is the day you get to vote in the Senate District 6 Special Election. You missed early voting, but you get one final shot at picking your next State Senator, but you need to vote in your neighborhood polling location.

Need to find your polling location? HarrisVotes has a cool tool where you just punch in your address and voila!, you get your location and a sample ballot! Click on the image below to get there. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm. Do your duty!

FindPoll

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

SD-6 More Money Pours In (and Out!)

Well, if the first report did not tell you this was an expensive race, then the 8-day report will knock you out.

In the last few weeks (up until last week), Sylvia Garcia raised another another $177,000 (including recent telegram reports in the run-up to Election Day), and has spent almost $300,000.  Garcia had $228,000 in the bank a week ago. The biggie donation was over $80,000 in-kind from Texas Organizing Project PAC, which endorsed Garcia and is doing a lot of field campaigning (that amount not included in final expense amount). Back to Basics PAC also provided a $10,000 in-kind contribution for research. Expenses include some big outlays for mail pieces and more media (I think I noticed over $150K of all that), but one that I found the most interesting was a January 10th expense to Lake Partners for another poll (wish I knew the results of that!). Otherwise, it’s salaries, field, consultants and other expenses.

For Carol Alvarado, another $199,000 was raised (including telegram reports up till today), with $314,000 spent. And a week ago, she had 109,000 left to spend. Some biggie expenses included a couple of huge media buys totaling  over $200,000; a campaign mailing at almost $30,000; various outlays to what I think are field expenses; then the usual expenses on consultants, staff, and campaign needs.

The contributions that popped out most for both was one each from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Otherwise, it was lawyers, unions, businesses and individuals for both of them; although, it would seem Alvarado has a huge lead with big business PACs.

A DC-tip-of-the-sombrero goes to Joaquin Martinez who reported over $5,000 raised–100% from individuals. Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes reports over $16,000 in loans for the race, and he had mentioned he was using his own money to run at a recent event. The other candidates didn’t report anything eye-catching.

Early voting finished yesterday with 8,245 cast, including 2,876 ballots by mail. Election Day is Saturday, 7 to 7 at your neighborhood polling location. If you live in SD-6, go to the Harris Votes website, type in your address and find your location and sample ballot.

People are asking for projections. I kind of agree with Kuff.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I’d suggest that between 40 and 50 percent of the vote in this race will be cast early, so on the extremely optimistic assumption that there will be about 9,000 votes total cast early, we’re looking at an over/under of about 20,000 – say between 18,000 and 22,500, to be obnoxious about it. If we’re closer to 8,000 votes cast by tomorrow, lower those endpoints to 15,000 and 20,000.

I didn’t see any major expenses for the usual ballot by mail experts in the latest reports, so, I’m wondering if there will be a final push to contact those other 4,000+ mail ballot holders. Otherwise, let’s hope for a big election day.

Update:  Kuff has money and projections. In fact, he changed up his projections on me!

With four more days for mail ballots to arrive, I’d guess the number will ultimately be about 8,500 when the first results are posted Saturday evening. As such, my official guess for total turnout is between 17,000 and 22,000.

I’ll be a rebel and stay with original projections of between 15,000 and 20,000. PDiddie has more, too.

Final Day of Early Voting – SD6

Well, if you live in SD-6 and you are not one of the just over 7,000 who have cast a ballot in the special election, then that means you’re part of the 97% (or so) who are either suffering from election fatigue, don’t like any candidates, or are just plain apathetic and probably won’t even read this post. Or maybe you will come out in droves today and Saturday.

Today is the last day that you can cast a ballot at any early voting location. Come Saturday, you will need to vote in your assigned precinct location.

Hopefully, the Ethics Commission will post the 8-day finance reports to see what kind of money has been spent in the run-up to election day. Waking up to the local news this morning, I did catch at least one-ad each for the well-financed candidates. Whether the ad buys were in the first report or these are new expenses, we shall see.

With close to or over a million dollars being spent by the candidates and over $400K by the county to put on this election, let’s hope for a big jump in participation.

Kuff has numbers and projections.

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?

District J: Securing Our Families Conference – Aug 29

Houston Will Vote on $410 Million in Bonds

Moran at the Chron reports the following:

Mayor Annise Parker emphasized that the measures do not call for a tax increase to pay the principal and interest on the bonds.  The actual language of the bond measures, however, authorizes a property tax increase if council later decides that it’s necessary.

Here’s how the money breaks down:

  1. Proposition A — Public safety: $144 million
  2. Proposition B — Parks: $166 million
  3. Proposition C — General government: $57 million
  4. Proposition D — Library: $28 million
  5. Proposition E — Housing: $15 million

What is general government, you ask? There’s no specific list of projects in the material put before council, but Proposition C calls for issuing bonds for “…the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, remediation and equipment of permanent improvements that support public health, sanitation and other essential general services of the City….”

Soon after the bonds were proposed, there was already a PAC pushing for their passage. As I mentioned recently, CM Melissa Noriega spoke at a brown-bag discussion about the bonds and whatever is being proposed is definitely needed. The parks proposal is particularly interesting with a majority of the bond going to the Bayou Greenways Project, which would benefit all of the City Council districts.

I’m sure we’ll be getting more information as the campaign rolls out. Thus far, I’m in favor of these bonds, especially since there would not be a tax increase and there would be new opportunities for our great city.

FYI:  The vote to place the bonds on the ballot was 12-3 with Sullivan, Pennington, and Helena Brown voting no. No surprise there.