Tag Archives: city council

#StaceSlate Goes 5-2; Houston Elects Turner

Thanks to not picking in a couple of races, I went 5-2 with my City of Houston run-off picks. Congratulations to Sylvester Turner, Chris Brown, David Robinson, Amanda Edwards, and Mike Laster, AKA The StaceSlate. Of course, I am saddened to lose my own CM Nguyen–but not by much. And about my friend, Jason Cisneroz, I will say that he’s not done yet.

Here are a few thoughts that came to mind as the vote was coming in:

21.36%:  Turnout was sad, to say the least. It is safe to say that if over 700K other Houstonians really cared about their city (other than standing in line for hours at Krispy Kreme or spending the time to find a matching arm cast for their #99 jerseys), we’d have some major wins on election night. I don’t know what the solution is, but while a few non-voters may have issues with those in the running, at some point one just has to chalk it up to laziness and lack of caring. Or as my favorite t-shirt states:  Los Pendejos No Votan.

And Then There Was One: Latinos are now left with one Latino on the Council table–Robert Gallegos. As I half-jokingly, half-seriously told someone close to Gallegos, he’s also reppin’ us brown folks on the west side of town. Some will say we shouldn’t break things down by race or ethnicity, but I say those folks miss the mark with their hopes for some sort of utopia. No one understands a community better than someone who has had close to similar experiences–at times it may be socioeconomic circumstances, other times it may be due to similar negative experiences at the hands of right wingers. Of course, sometimes, ethnic representation isn’t all it is cracked up to be, and to this, I thank Amanda Edwards for handing Right-Wing Roy Morales an embarrassing loss. Ultimately, representation is also about standing and defending against what is wrong in the world, so, we have a responsibility to elect the right people. It would just be nice if we could elect a few brown people; especially citywide. Hint-Hint:  2019 At-Large seats!

2016: Whether it was the city elections or the coming Democratic Primary, I’ve heard (and read) friends of mine bemoan competitive races. There were folks upset we had Turner, Garcia, McVey, and the other guy who called himself a Dem but endorsed the right-winger in the run-off, but it made for great discussion (for those listening). It’d be nice to coalesce behind one candidate early-on, but that’s not what democracy is all about. Besides, we all want there to be a coalescing behind “our” candidate. The 2016 primary will have some competitive races, and already I’m getting friend requests and follows from some of the competitors. And that’s the way it should be, if we’re really into that democracy thing. Sure, it might get negative, ugly, we may see law firms trying to buy candidates, and churches violating the separation of church and state (which I hold dear) by endorsing candidates, but until we decide to really fix things, then complaining about competitive elections because we like a particular candidate and not the other doesn’t help democracy. Actually, none of the aforementioned stuff helps democracy and is a reason some people may not vote, but that’s for another discussion–if we really want to have it.

Congrats to the winners; serve us well.

 

 

 

 

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City of Houston Races Are Set!

city-of-houston5PM Monday came around and the final filings were released by the City of Houston for the 2015 races. Looks like there will be contests in most races, some will be decided on November 3, others in the December run-offs.

Council Races on my radar (click here for full lists):

District F (home):  Kendall Baker, Steve Le, and incumbent Richard Nguyen. From the looks of it, Baker and Le are pro-discrimination, while Nguyen is a HERO supporter and has served my new district well.

District H:  Jason Cisneroz, Roland Chavez, Karla Cisneros, and Abel Davila. Jason is a friend of mine, I’ve made no secret of that.

District I:  Robert Gallegos (incumbent) and Herlinda Garcia. If this is the same Garcia who ran for HCC on the fake-Black Dave Wilson anti-Gay ticket, then, we know where she stands. Gallegos, on the other hand, hit the ground running once elected and has done a great job for the district that I almost landed at when moving.

District J:  Mike Laster, Manuel Barrera, and James Bigham. Before I moved to F, I supported Laster for his second term. He’s represented the district well and is a HERO supporter.

At-Large 5:  There are five candidates, but the only one worth watching is Philippe Nassif.

At-Large 1:  With eight candidates, only two have interested me:  Lane Lewis and Tom McCasland. Of course, I’ve known Lewis for a while and have supported him in the past.

At-Large 2:  Incumbent David Robinson remains the only candidate of the five who filed that is interesting and serving constituents well.

At-Large 4:  Seven filed for this seat; however, the two that I have met and remain the most interesting and qualified are Amanda Edwards and Laurie Robinson.

At-Large 3:   Doug Peterson is the only candidate I’ve really met from my Democratic activism. Some might want anyone but Kubosh, but Peterson is getting the Dem nods.

City Controller:  This one has six candidates, but the only one I’ve given my attention is Chris Brown.

What is unfortunate is that while many of my favorite candidates have an actual interest in serving and addressing multiple issues, their opponents seem to be more interested in being bigots, or making this a bathroom election. Houstonians need to learn about the candidates, about the real issues, and vote accordingly.

Well, those are my thoughts for now. I’ll work on something for the Mayoral race soon.

Chron did a little breakdown of the races.

Tweet of the Day: Payday Lending Ordinance Passes

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

PDiddie has more.

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.

Some Opposition to Payday Lender Regs

Texpatriate provides some in-depth coverage of the opposition to Mayor Annise Parker’s proposal to regulate payday lenders here in Houston. The regulations are similar to other cities around Texas.

Perhaps the most vocal opponent of this regulation was Councilmember Dave Martin, the conservative who represents Kingwood and Clear Lake. Councilmember Martin, as your might recall, was the one who first threw cold water on the Wage Theft regulation. Today, he lamented the Payday lending reform as “looking for a solution where there is no problem.”

Meanwhile, Councilmember C.O. Bradford blasted the measure as something that should be solved by personal responsibility, trying to pass off the duty to the borrower. I have to say that I had expected better out of Bradford. Also in opposition was Jerry Davis, as well as Helena Brown (who opposes just about everything).

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Councilmember James Rodriguez also appeared hostile to the regulations. Given that District I is one of the most vulnerable districts to such usury, it really caught my eye that Rodriguez would take such a position. One may recall that Rodriguez’s close friend and predecessor on the Council, Carol Alvarado, when she ran for the State Senate, was heavily underwritten by the payday lenders. A little cursory research reveals that these same benefactors are supporting Rodriguez’s hand-picked successor, Graciana Garces, in her bid to succeed Rodriguez on the Council. I contacted the Garces campaign and was told that she has not made up her mind on the measure since “she has not studied it.” I find this absurd in no small part, mainly because the ordinance is nearly identical to those passed in other Cities; we have known for a while what it looks like.

And Horwitz is correct. One look at contributions from corporate PACs like Cash America, and one will find some contributions to some of those who aren’t rallying around the ordinance. More telling is the fact that Mayor Annise Parker also accepted some sizable checks from them, but doesn’t seem fazed by that fact as she introduces this ordinance.

The payday lending lobby has grown in influence, even making a play in 2012 by supporting Mitt Romney. Obviously, a few rules that allow for fairness in lending while allowing these corporations to keep their sizable profits, irks them to no end. On top of all of the political contributions, one must ask how much they spend on lobbying these government bodies. Certainly, the people don’t have PACs to defend and protect them.

Obviously, this was just introduced and there will be some negotiation and back-and-forth, much like with the wage theft ordinance. One thing is for sure, I’m glad Robert Gallegos, candidate in the run-off for District I, is on record as being for the ordinance.

KUHF has more.

Early Voting Begins on Wednesday, December 4

Well, it’s that time again–Early Voting for the Run-Offs for City Council begins on Wednesday, December 4. You can vote at ANY early voting location (PDF of locations). The important thing is to VOTE!

And what are the DC nods, you ask? Well, here goes. I’ll start with those things on my actual ballot. I’ll probably make comments at a later date.

City of Houston At-Large 2:  David Robinson.

City of Houston At-Large 3:  LEAVE IT BLANK ~ With all due respect to my friends in the GLBT community, I cannot and will not vote for an anti-immigrant Hispanic.

HCC District V – Robert Glaser

The other races not on my ballot, but for whom I’m rooting.

District D – Dwight Boykins

District I – Robert Gallegos

HCC District I – Zeph Capo

HCC District III – Adriana Tamez

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.

Big Money Lobbyists and Groups Line Up Against Wage Theft Ordinance

ABC-13 has the latest (video).

Apparently, members of a couple of local restaurant and contractors association are OK with companies stealing wages from hard-working Houstonians. These groups are threatening to weaken or just defeat a wage theft ordinance that would protect thousands of workers.

Much like they write checks to incumbents and candidates, it seems they are willing to put up some big money lobbyists to fight for them, too. I’m looking forward to finding out who these lobbyists are, or if they have PACs.

Here’s a note from Fe y Justicia Worker Center.

While we were disappointed the vote on the Wage Theft Ordinance was postponed until next week, that feeling is overcome by the warmth of the strong solidarity from each of you!

Apparently creating consequences for employers that intentionally steal their employees’ pay is such a threat to some unscrupulous businesses that they’ve hired high-paid lobbyists to work behind the scenes against it. You know what that means?

As Martin Mares, Fe y Justicia Worker Center’s Board Treasurer commented, “les pusimos el dedo en la llaga” – we’re hitting them where it hurts!

Give ’em a few bucks, so they can continue their work against the big money.

Will you join us for the final vote on Tuesday, Nov. 19th at 1:30pm at City Hall Council Chambers? Can you make one more call to your council members

Together we can win respect for the value of all Houstonians’ labor!

KUHF/KHOU Poll Has Mayor Annise Parker Leading Pack

KHOU and KUHF sponsored a poll conducted by Bob Stein and Stephanie Post at Rice University which finds Mayor Annise Parker leading the pack, but as the numbers currently stand, would lead to a run-off. Here are the results:

Houston Mayor

There are nine candidates for Houston Mayor. Voters were read their names and asked if the election were held today, whom would they vote for?

Frequency Valid Percent
Annise Parker 131 34.1
Keryl Douglas 2 .4
Eric Dick 8 2.0
Charyl Drab 1 .3
Derek Jenkins 3 .7
Victoria Lane 1 .2
Don Cook 1 .3
Mike Fitzsimmons 3 .7
Ben Hall 52 13.6
Don’t Know/Refused 183 47.8
Total 384 100.0

Voters were asked to rate the job performance of Houston City Mayor Annise Parker.

Frequency Valid Percent
Excellent 55 14.2
Good 164 42.8
Fair 119 31.1
Poor 34 8.9
Don’t know 11 2.8
Refused 1 .2
Total 384 100

When no candidate receives a majority of votes cast in an election, a run-off election is held between the two candidates with the largest number of votes. The City of Houston currently conducts its run-off elections for municipal offices such as mayor, controller and city council on Saturday. The city is considering conducting run-off elections on Tuesday. Voters were asked if they would support this change?

Frequency Valid Percent
Excellent 55 14.2
Good 164 42.8
Fair 119 31.1
Poor 34 8.9
Don’t know 11 2.8
Refused 1 .2
Total 384 100

Then voters were asked, if they would still feel this way if they knew the City of Houston would save money holding run-off elections on Tuesday?

Frequency Valid Percent
Yes 75 49.2
No 57 36.9
Don’t know 21 13.9
Total 153 100

That’s the first I hear about a Tuesday run-off possibility. I’ve never been a fan and I would suggest we keep Saturday.

Back to the poll, though, there’s so many ways to interpret that half of the voters polled are undecided and both sides can make a lot of hay out of it. Although Texpatriate seems to think that the 48% are undecided Republicans who can’t seem to choose between Hall and Dick, I tend to think that voters haven’t really gotten a dose of the hard-core stuff, yet, especially on TV. Sure, there was some initial sparring through the airwaves (and lately in the Chron), but once we get a daily dose of ads and more news coverage, voters will begin to give the election more attention.

The poll does drive home the fact that Ben Hall has yet to make a real impact with voters. When 57% of those polled think the Mayor is doing a good/excellent job, and another 31% find her fair (which means tolerable, I guess?), then Hall is being given the message that he needs to do more than just complain about the Mayor on a daily basis.

I’m hoping there will be more regarding City Council races. Laurie Johnson at KUHF reports that run-offs are expected in open seats, and that incumbents, like District A’s Helena Brown and At-Large 2’s Andrew Burks, could end up losing. What is this based on? Well, it doesn’t say, other than comments from local professors. So, yeah, I’m hoping there’s polling that’s about to be reported to back up these assertions.

PDiddie has more, as does Texpatriate.

Here’s the KUHF story.

Kuff Interviews District I Candidates

I’ve got to hand it to Kuff. He always comes through for the voters by interviewing the major candidates for races. The District I race has been one of the busiest, and it’s even been the topic of discussion in my and Rey’s first podcast. Here are the links to Kuff’s interviews of District I candidates that DosCentavos has been following.

Ben Mendez

Robert Gallegos

Graci Garces

There are a lot of substantive questions and enough variety in the answers for those voters who have yet to decide for whom to vote. If you want to know who supports the Mayor, or who does or doesn’t support Meet and Confer for the Firefighters Pension, or who has a better understanding of the district and its needs, you will find this information here. Give it a listen.