Tag Archives: City of Houston

City of Houston: Is 2015 Going To Be Interesting?

Well, there’s no doubt that there are folks running for Mayor in 2015–good, OK, and awful–and there are those rumored-t0-be candidates–good, OK, and awful. The Chron’s Schleifer provided another report on where things seem to stand, especially regarding the possibility of a Latino candidacy.

Obviously, the biggest name is that of Sheriff Adrian Garcia. There are a lot of folks who would be excited for this kind of run, but there are also Democrats who are thinking about the ramifications of this for 2016, including my favorite Senator Sylvia Garcia.

“You’re going to be giving them an early 2016 gift,” said Democratic Sen. Sylvia Garcia, who had the sheriff at her home this month and expressed concern about a run. “Nobody wants a Latino mayor more than I do, but it’s got to be the right time.”

While there’s a lot of buzz about Garcia, folks should know that if he were to announce, he is done as Sheriff.  Those thinking about 2016 argue Garcia is needed on the ticket to help down-ballot Democrats. And then there’s even more to think about which I’m sure people are avoiding talking about. I do agree with Kuff that the 2016 Prez candidate will help down-ballot folks a lot more than someone like Garcia who has enjoyed support from the other side of the aisle that may not have really transferred to those down-ballot Democrats. If our incumbent Dems can’t win during a presidential election year, then our problems are much bigger than missing one of our anchors.

Anyway, the article mentions a host of others, including local State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who has been labeled the front-runner and top fundraiser. Still, I’m sure there will be plenty of cash available for the top tier candidates and their consultants and staffers.

Of course, At-Large 1 seems to have gotten interesting with a Chron article telling us that Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis has tossed his hat in the ring. I had also heard about Phillipe Nassif’s candidacy. I’ve heard other names, too, but I haven’t seen anything remotely official. Once all the candidates are announced, t’ll be a pretty diverse race, which will make it all the more interesting and a race to keep an eye on. Texpate has more.

Some fear some nastiness in this and other races, but as I’ve told folks recently, we need some contentious battles to get peoples attention. Let’s face it, elections generally have been boring affairs, other than for the volunteers and activists and the consultants. If candidates can commit to lively, productive discussion and debate, all the better. If the people aren’t caring enough until they get mad about bathrooms and charitable meals way after election season, then there’s a bigger problem in this game we call democracy.

More to come, I’m sure.

 

 

Tweet of the Day: Payday Lending Ordinance Passes

I’ll give the big prize to Mike Morris of the Chron.

PDiddie has more.

Council Should Vote For Payday Lending Regs

It’s just the right thing to do. But if there are members of City Council who want to talk about “free markets” or claim they haven’t heard anything from the community, Lisa Falkenberg at the Chron has a hard-hitting article this morning, including quotes from those affected by the predatory lending practices of the industry. And then this.

Guerrero said it never occurred to her to call her councilman: “I just never thought the City Council was involved with, you know, all these little loan places out there.”

I asked the grandmother the same question: Why hadn’t she complained to her councilman about her struggles with the loan companies?

“The truth is,” she told me, “I’ve never had anybody like you come up to me and show some kind of interest. I didn’t know there was somebody out there who had somebody’s back. There’s a lot of questions that we the people have. But there’s nobody out there to hear us.”

Do you hear them now, Councilman Rodriguez?

C’mon, this is a financial issue for most families, why would most think about going to their Council member for help? A State Rep., maybe, but it’s obvious that some State Reps have been influenced by the same lobbyists and PACs, so, they probably would have met the same walls. That said, as Falkenberg mentions, the lack of movement by the Texas Legislature has now placed the opportunity to do something about this problem in the hands of City Council members, thanks to Mayor Annise Parker.

There are other members of Council who might use terms like, “personal responsibility” to describe those who cannot get ahead of these loans. But the practices, as described by Falkenberg and those interviewed, say much about the industry as it is today and how the loan process is designed to do exactly what it is doing to families. All a politician who is interested in “industry” dollars for a 2015 run for something has to do is open their eyes–or take off the blinders.

When I went off to college, my parents would worry about my finances at least a few times a year and wanted to make sure I had a few bucks in my pocket–usually as I waited for my grant/loan check to be released. So, they’d visit the local “loan company”–a pawn shop and short-term loan place. Everyone in town knew him as “El Pat,” a white dude who built his business and relied on the Chicanos in the town. High interest? Sure. Predatory? Certainly not how things are today. Then again, we’re talking about the late 80s. Years and years of Republican promotion of the “free market” have allowed the industry to run amok.

Are these businesses needed? And will these businesses still make sizable profits–even enough to pay for an extra lobbyist–with these regulations? Yes to both.

So, the smart thing is to simply vote yes–or at the very least, allow an up or down vote.

Kuff has some background. Texpatriate supports the regs, too.

Post #5000 ~ Some Thoughts

Well, the 2013 election is finally over and I’m proud to say that DosCentavos.net went 6-0, as far as picks go. Congrats to Robert Gallegos, Dwight Boykins, David Robinson, Zeph Capo, Adriana Tamez, and Robert Glaser who had some big wins against well-funded opponents.

There’s some concern about dealing with Kubosh (my at-large 3 “leave it blank” campaign garnered 6.5%, but there was even more undervotes in at-large 2!). Mayor Annise Parker is a grown-up and an effective negotiator. If everyone else plays the grown-up, then things should go smoothly. And if one is a first-termer on council, they should get to work and not “wait their turn.” The people deserve the best representation. Because as close as some of these races were, or,  as notorious as some of the member-elects may be, people will be deciding if one should be re-elected in 2015. (Texpatriate has more on this.)

There is also some concern about the lack of women on the horseshoe, and I agree with every concern. Heck, there are only two Latinos on the council, as always. But much like I don’t support just any Latino because they have brown skin (Morales), the same is probably true for other folks of other demographic groups, as was evident this year. People need to be judged on the issues, and I hope that most of the 4% who voted decided in this manner, rather than just for the mere demographic numbers game we seem to get caught up on. The real test is when someone who isn’t a woman, or black, or Latino, or Asian, or LGBT, or disabled, defends and represents whatever aforementioned demographic, or at the very least listens to those constituents. And that goes for conservatives, moderates, and liberals on the council.

The more important thing to come out of this local election is that the payday lending lobby/pacs took it in the teeth on Saturday as those they funded lost. So, where do the lame ducks stand now? Will they go with the will of the people? Or will they stand by their check-writers? If we’re going to be asking questions about City Council, then let us begin with a pending issue–because the last meeting of the City Council is this week.

On the 5,000

For those that have been reading for the last almost-nine years, and have looked at at least one of my posts, thank you. Blogging is fun, especially if you don’t take yourself so damn seriously. But I will admit, the occasional “you’re awesome,” feels good, too.

Thanks to those who have contributed, as I cannot take credit for all of the posts. But the blog sure can, and I’m glad I helped make you famous. Thank you to the organizations who have invited me to speak. Above all, thanks to those of you who have become great friends during these last nine years, whether one is a politician/officeholder, or a reader who is genuinely appreciative of a good friend (me).

Now, the  bad news. I’ll be getting caught up in politics during the first third of the year, so, my blogging may not be as plentiful. If you’re a fellow lib-lab who wants to submit something, by all means, do. I do plan on doing more Podcasting with my entertainment political commentary partner, Dr. Rey Guerra and others.

I’m no Marxist, but they’re good people. – Pope Pancho

A Video Message To Readers – Loving You by Raul Malo and Michael Guerra

Another Delay for Payday Lending Regs

Looks like a payday lending ordinance was delayed for a week at Houston City Council by Andrew Burks and Jerry Davis today after they tagged it, as reported by Laurie Johnson at KUHF today. The bigger story is how it might be tagged again next week because CM James Rodriguez was absent this week.

Mustafa Tameez is a political analyst who knows the ins and outs of City Hall.

“When something comes for a vote on city council, councilmembers have the right to tag that and what that means is that the vote is delayed for a week while they get further information. If a councilmember is not present during that tag, they have a right to tag it the following week.”

And that’s where things get interesting.

This is probably a good time to point out that Tameez has a horse in this race: he’s a consultant for the coalition of organizations that want to pass the new regulations.

“The rumors in City Hall are that Councilmember James Rodriguez wasn’t here today because it gives him the ability to tag this next week when he’s here.”

“And what does that mean?”

“Well, next week’s meeting is the last meeting for city council this year. And as of next year, there’ll be a whole new city council. The industry doesn’t have the votes to oppose this payday lending ordinance, and so there are rumors running rampant around city hall that this is a tactic being used. It’s a Washington D.C.-style tactic.”

Rodriguez who has been quite vocal against the ordinance had this reaction.

“It’s a councilmember’s prerogative to tag items, it always has been.

The Mayor, though, states she’ll pass it one way or another.

“He has the ability — through procedural moves — to throw it into the next calendar year. But I fully expect to have it passed in January if it doesn’t pass this calendar year.”

So, if Rodriguez delays it again next week, rather than allow an up or down vote, it won’t be up again until January 8.

Oh, to be a payday lending lobbyist at Christmas time.

Texpatriate has more.

Mayor Parker Proposes Payday Lending Regulations

This is something I had been awaiting for a while. Here are the specifics.

With support from other major Texas cities and numerous advocacy groups, Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled proposed regulations for payday lending in Houston. The mayor’s plan establishes minimum business practices for payday lending institutions and mirrors ordinances previously adopted in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio and several smaller Texas cities.

“I had initially favored a Houston-specific measure, but decided that joining with other Texas cities in a united front on this issue is the best way to send a strong message to the Texas legislature,” said Mayor Parker.  “Lenders deserve to make a profit on their investments, but not by charging astronomical interest rates to desperate consumers who have nowhere else to turn for emergency financial assistance.  The statewide model I am recommending for approval by Houston City Council achieves this balance.”

Payday and auto title loans are high cost, small-dollar loans offered to individuals without credit checks and little consideration for their ability to repay. The initial term is typically two weeks to one month, with the term usually determined based on the borrower’s pay cycle. A borrower who fails to make a payment on an auto title loan could wind up losing his means to get to work and take his children to school.

Under existing Texas law, there is no limit to the fees that payday lenders and auto title businesses can charge and no limit on the number of times they can charge high-fees for essentially the same loan – often trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt where they are never able to pay down the loan.  For example, a fast cash payday advance of $500 that is rolled over five or more times could wind up costing $1200 or more.

Houston’s proposed ordinance would help alleviate this problem by:

  • Requiring payday loan and auto title loan businesses to register with the city annually
  • Limiting payday loans to 20 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income
  • Limiting auto title loans to three percent of the borrower’s gross annual income or 70 percent of the vehicle value, whichever is less
  • Limiting single payment loans to no more than three refinances or rollovers and installment loans to no more than four installments
  • Requiring each installment, refinance, or rollover payment to reduce the total principal owed by at least 25 percent
  • Defining a rollover or renewal as a loan within seven days of the previous loan
  • Requiring loan agreements to be written in easy-to-understand language
  • Requiring contact information for nonprofits offering financial literacy and cash assistance

This sounds OK to me. There’s no doubt that folks have a need for emergency loans–heck, I’ve been there as a college student awaiting the arrival of the student loan check with rent due a week before disbursement. And as a college student, there’s no doubt that there was an uneasy feeling that one may  lose a crappy, yet running, vehicle.

That said, there’s also some responsibility on the part of the borrower, but I think this proposal provides for a good shot at fairness for all.

Senator Sylvia Garcia had this to say:

I applaud Mayor Parker and the Houston City Council for presenting a package of payday lending regulations to protect our citizens from unscrupulous payday lenders. The proposed package is modeled after an ordinance that was passed by the City of San Antonio and other major urban cities. I look forward to supporting Mayor Parker and the city council’s efforts to pass a Houston ordinance as quickly as possible.

So, let’s hope this gets passed in December.

How Did We Do? Post Election Madness

Well, it’s not over. Not by a long-shot. We have a whole ‘nother round in a month. For now, let’s look at how the DC picks did.

Mayor:  Annise Parker wins a third-term by brushing aside attacks from a self-funded candidate. It didn’t help that there were too many people in the running this time around, but, you know, democracy and all… I’m glad I got this one right.

City Controller:  Ronald Green wins it! Whew!

At-Large 1:  I picked Stephen Costello and he won.

At-Large 2:  David Robinson was my pick and he makes it to Round 2.

At-Large 3:  I picked Jenifer Rene Pool who ended up coming in 3rd place, just 1,051 votes behind Roy Morales. Morales is now in a run-off against Michael Kubosh–which is scary.

At-Large 4:  Bradford Wins.

At-Large 5:  Horwitz came in third. Christie gets another term.

District J:  It was Mike Laster in a squeaker. Well, not really. He was unopposed. There were a lot of undervotes, though.

District D:  My friend, Christina Sanders came in 4th Place. There’s a run-off between Boykins and Provost.

District I:  As I told everyone, cast your vote for Gallegos, Mendez, or Garces. Apparently, that’s how it went, but even fourth place was only 340 votes from first. It really was a four-person race. That said, it looks like we have Gallegos and Garces, although Gallegos squeaked by Mendez by 20 votes. District I will be in safe hands, but it’s up to the voters to decide which hands.

HCC – 5:  I picked Robert Glaser and he appears to be in a run-off.

HISD – 7:  Not the best night for Anne Sung, but she is now officially on the map as someone who stepped up and ran a great campaign.

So, I guess I didn’t do so bad in my picks. Some won, some made it to round 2, others had strong showings and could have some effect on run-offs.

In other races, HCC District I will have a run-off–just barely–with Zeph Capo coming in second. Navarro-Flores, with the help of hate-monger Dave Wilson, almost came out victorious. I figure it’ll get uglier. I think a progressive and aggressive Latino-surnamed candidate could’ve shaved off some points for the incumbent and perhaps made this a four-person race like in COH District I. I had a guy in mind, but…nevermind. That’s a whole other can of frijoles.

The jail bond squeaked by and the Dome lost. I wasn’t supportive of either, mostly on principle. I won’t bother explaining.

As my friend at the ballot board mentioned last night, these are unofficial results. Overseas and provisional ballots could change outcomes. Maybe. Big maybe.

That’s it for now. Kuff has more, as does PDiddie and Texpatriate.

Mayoral Halloween Tips – 2013

This is from Mayor Parker and the folks at City of Houston:

“Halloween is a time for children of all ages to have a good time with family and friends,” said Mayor Parker. “It can also be dangerous for our young goblins, ghosts and ghouls who are excited and maybe not paying close attention to their own safety. We want trick-or-treating to be fun and safe for everyone.”

The mayor, HPD and HFD offer the following safety tips:

  • Always go in a group. Don’t let young children walk alone. For older children, make sure you know where they are going and that they are with a supervised group with a responsible adult.
  • Be cautious of strangers; never go into a stranger’s house or accept a ride from a stranger.
  • Only approach houses where the outside lights are on as a signal of welcome.
  • If you feel threatened or in danger while trick or treating you can go to any Houston fire or police station.
  • Have children wear light colored or reflective costumes and don’t let them wear masks that obstruct their vision. Face painting is safer than a mask. Add reflective tape to your child’s costume if it isn’t already reflective. Also make sure their costumes fit and won’t cause them to trip or fall. Costumes should be flame retardant. Carry a flashlight or glow stick so you can be seen.
  • Children should wait until they get home to eat candy. Parents should examine the candy for possible tampering; if it looks suspicious, is not wrapped or is loosely wrapped, get rid of it.
  • Motorists need to be extra cautious and watch out for trick-or-treaters – especially after dark.
  • Illuminate pumpkins with small flashlights or battery operated candles instead of real candles. If using candles, keep them away from curtains and combustible items, including decorations. They should not be placed along walkways where costumes might brush against them.

The HPD Juvenile Division and patrol officers have been busy this week checking the residences of registered sex offenders. Not all sex offenders are barred from contact with children, but officers are making sure that those that are meet the conditions of their parole or probation and are not giving out candy.

HFD reminds us that the end of Daylight Savings Time this weekend is a good time to make sure the battery in your smoke detector is working. There are now smoke detectors on the market with batteries that will last up to 10 years.

Hall For Hall

hallforhall

So, Ben Hall pulled an Elise Chan (SA’s anti-gay ex-councilmember) and stated he would be against a non-discrimination ordinance for the City of Houston. Anyone who’s surprised he would pull the anti-GLBT card to appease the GOP, stand on your head.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. At all. And my friend Kuff, too, who has links to the KUHF interview and other stuff. What is disturbing is that Ben Hall would lie to Democrats about supporting an NDO and then attempt to appease Republicans by saying otherwise. Of course, I’d like to know what organizations and unions that endorsed Hall feel about that, too.

Things aren’t going well for the multi-million dollar candidate, so, he’s taken mostly right-wing stances on issues during early voting. He doesn’t seem to believe in paying his fair share; he doesn’t believe in fair rules for businesses and corporations; and now, he doesn’t seem to believe in basic civil rights. He really is Hall for Hall.

Texpatriot, Texas Leftist, and Coby have more.

The Latest City Campaign Money Reports Are Up!

There weren’t any surprises in the campaign finance reports, which were due yesterday. Mayor Annise Parker out-raised all of her opponents, while Ben Hall out-loaned all of his opponents.

Mayor Parker raised a little over $755K, spent $2.18M and has heads into the final month of campaigning with $1.193M. Hall, on the other hand, raised less than $200K for his SPAC, spent $1.3M, and had a little less than $263K in the bank. The big number on his report is the amount he’s loaned his SPAC–$1.8M. The Hall candidate account spent $190K, but it seems that’s just money he donated to the PAC.

There are other reports that I’ve looked at, but I’ll be updating this post throughout the day as I give them a deeper look. At-Large 3 did see a lot of activity, as well as District I.

As some say, money doesn’t win you elections, but it helps.

District I:  Graci Garces outraised all of her District I opponents, but as we move into the last month before election day (and a couple of weeks before early voting begins), cash on hand and what has currently been invested is important. Robert Gallegos has a little over $11K after spending $7K; Garces a little over $7400 after spending $30K; Mendez reports over $17K after spending  almost $26k; and Ablaza over $20K after spending $20K. From the looks of it, Gallegos is running things more from the grassroots than the rest seeing as how he doesn’t report much in consulting and staff expenses. That’s what was most noticeable, at least for me.

Kuff has more. Greg has stuff, too, on AL-3. Me, I got tired of looking at boring reports.