The people came with passion. The people came with data. The people came with reminders that widening highways does not reduce congestion and increases tailpipe emissions in the long run. A local furniture mogul came with a paraphrase from William Jennings Bryan about "crucifying [Houstonians] on a cross of concrete."
This is a sequel to yesterday's post about the North Houston Highway Improvement Project. The first expenditures on Segment 2 of the project got the go-ahead today, despite strong opposition from advocacy groups and Near Northside residents whose neighborhoods will be affected.
Only a few people spoke in favor of the NHHIP; dozens including Gallery Furniture entrepreneur "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, spoke against it. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston City Councilmember Dwight Boykins offered motions to delay the vote, which was all the crowd was requesting. But a majority of the Transportation Policy Council had already made up its collective mind to spend the first $100 million dollars toward what McIngvale called "the $7 Billion Boondoggle."
Hidalgo cast the only Yes vote on her motion to delay. The rest of the TPC is ready to let the bulldozers roll.
Here are a few links to reports in local media sources:
“This plan is not a good plan for the city of Houston and represents the past and not the future of transportation in the City of Houston,” former district judge and Metropolitan Transit Authority board member Dwight Jefferson said, noting how prior freeway projects—including I-45—cut large gashes in black and Latino communities.
I can imagine the conversation when you mention the North Houston Highway Improvement Project to people who aren't familiar with Houston's highway system.
"We need to stop the expansion of 45!"
The agenda of the Bike Houston Ambassadors gathering last week included some information about NHHIP, the three-phase expansion and rerouting of Interstate 45 between the North Belt and Downtown. I have seen articles and op-eds about it in the Chronicle, emails about it from various sources. The breakfast meeting that I attended this morning provided a lot more lowdown on the proposal.
Even for bulldozer-happy Houston, this is pretty lowdown, in everything but the price.
This morning at the Buffalo Bayou Partnership near UH Downtown, Air Alliance Houston's executive director Bakeyah Nelson conducted an information exchange at the monthly Breakfast with Bakeyah (typically held on the last Thursday of the month). Wonks from various advocacy groups and some wonky individuals gathered to learn what they could and share what they knew. And I had a minor revelation that policy advocacy truly feeds my soul and is something I should do for a living if possible—but that's for another time and post.
Consider the Impact, Delay the Vote
Aside from spilling the dirty details of NHHIP, Nelson's main ask was that people who have the time should show up at tomorrow morning's meeting of the Houston-Galveston Area Council's Transportation Policy Council. H-GAC's TPC consists of representatives from Houston City government, Harris County, Galveston County, and METRO. Air Alliance's position is that the TPC should delay voting on the Texas Department of Transportation's proposal to spend the first $100 million dollars on the segment of I-45 between the North Loop and I-10.
AAH and related groups are unlikely to convince H-GAC and TxDOT that the project is wasteful and unnecessary and should be scrapped immediately. Delaying the vote, however would give H-GAC's decision-makers time to consider the project's impact on thousands of lives, buildings, homes, and jobs. Zoom in on the photo above to see the main points.
The TPC convenes for a public hearing at 9:30 am, Friday 26 July, in the meeting room at 3555 Timmons Lane, 77027.
As usual, this is a lightly modified version of a review posted on Goodreads.
NOTE: I'm successfully resisting the temptation to read others' reviews before posting this one, although I did see that a Goodreads & Facebook friend also gave this book a full five. Primarily, I wanted to see whether any readers found any problems with Pollan's forays into describing the research protocols or the neuroscience.
FULL DISCLOSURE: To my knowledge, I have never taken any psychedelic substances, but I am currently taking Wellbutrin (bupropion) daily for moderate depression.
So...there's mountains of scientific evidence that tryptamines like LSD, psilocybin, and DMT (found in ayahuasca tea and in your own brain) can be used to help conquer addictions, various mental disorders, and fear of death. Further, these chemicals have shown greater effectiveness than commonly prescribed medications like my current pharmaceutical friend Wellbutrin—and you need only take them occasionally, not every day.
But you don't just eat magic mushrooms at a party and magically quit smoking the next morning: It has to occur in the correct setting, with the correct mindset, and with a trained guide. Despite their well documented efficacy, the US government has made unauthorized possession of these substances a federal crime, and has put the research on hold for most of the last half-century. So science has had to unearth or reinvent parts of the wheel it had in production back in the 1960s.
Whether he knew it or not at the beginning, Prof. Michael Pollan undertook a most ambitious odyssey in producing How to Change Your Mind. His account of that odyssey combines:
Yes, I'm late to the party on this item, but Green Party of Texas luminary Laura Palmer just posted the official press release last night. GPTX is one of several groups and individuals who are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas over its unreasonable obstacles to the ballot.
News of the lawsuit appeared in the Houston Chronicle (paywall) more than a week ago. The Green and Libertarian Parties both received mention in the headline. The Texas Tribune got its version of the story out on 11 July, and RawStory picked it up the next day.
Palmer herself is listed as a plaintiff, sharing billing with the Libertarian, Constitution, and America's Parties of Texas. TSU law professor Thomas Kleven, who in 2016 ran for Congress in TX-18, also appears on the list.
But...HB 2504! Why Sue Now?
In light of HB 2504 becoming state law this year, guaranteeing Texas Greens a ballot line through 2026, why would GPTX press the issue via a lawsuit? Why would the Libertarians and Railroad Commission candidate Mark Miller, who pulled off a 5% coup in a four-way race in 2016, join in?
A few years ago, in the wake of my run for the US Senate, beloved friends and HAUSmates started calling me "Senator." The nickname stuck, and it has become my playa-name in the Burner community. It helps distinguish me from the other Davids in that crowd, not all of whom even have playa-names.
BikeHouston calls me an Ambassador, meaning that I (a) help promote the interests of the organization in my area of town and (b) help shape its approach to policy initiatives in city government. Last night, a couple dozen of us ambassadors got together at the BH office and did some (b) work.
Several BH initiatives and programs came under discussion, including:
Unlike Part 1, this gallery features only selected photos from the our 6,000-mile journey through 15 states in 15 days, via 15 Interstate highways. Also unlike Part 1, I'm adding captions and Alt text here.
We didn't get photos from every state or person we visited along the way, but we got most of the locations that weren't just overnight stays. Plus, Kayleen went out of her way to find souvenir fridge magnets from all 15 states on the trip.
Herein is the first of two summer vacation slideshows that I thought I might be able to post last week. However, I have been a busy unemployee lately. It isn't that I haven't had enough time, but that I haven't had enough time in one continuous chunk. Part of my busy-ness was making sure that the US Women's National Team won that World Cup thing to justify all that swagger.
This first gallery comprises photos from the Fremont Solstice Parade, held almost three weeks ago on a chilly Saturday in "Junuary." It contains no photos of the procession in which I participated, the nearly one thousand paint-clad cyclists and skaters who rolled down the parade route before the parade itself began. If you're curious, you can search on Flickr for Fremont Solstice Cyclists to find photos of nekkid humans on bikes and skateboards.
You'll find the other gallery here.
I present to you these 60 photos with minimal context or explanation. You can look at the pictures and form your own conclusions on what it all means. The context I will provide is that the Fremont Arts Council in its various incarnations has for 30 years staged these deliciously trippy parades through this artsy district just west of the University of Washington.
The FAC takes pains to remind the public that the Solstice Cyclists are a separate entity, and that the wheeled procession is not part of the parade. The organizers of the Cyclist group maintain friendly relations with the FAC mostly by following the FAC's rules and dictates, which purportedly exist for reasons of logistics and safety. This leads inevitably to some grumbling among the cyclist participants, along the lines of Why must we do A this year? Why can't we do B? We've done B for years, and it's never caused any problems. The two entities usually negotiate a satisfactory compromise.
The rules for entries in the parade are fairly simple, per the website:
☼ No printed words or logos: Please do not wear your team jersey or a t-shirt with words printed on it. We ask that you do not carry signage identifying your crew during the parade. Also, please do not pass out handbills or flyers to the crowds during the parade. Your group will be identified in our publications, website, and will be announced to the crowds as you pass by in parade.
In no particular order, my favorite parade entries in this, the third Solstice Parade I've attended, are:
We're back in H-Town after our big roadtrip to Seattle, Chicago, and various points between. During the two weeks' travel, I took a break from blogging, as there was no time for it with all the driving and hotel check-ins and visiting friends and other activities. For me, you might say that it was a vacation from unemployment. As for Kayleen, she started her new job Monday, the day after we returned. Selected photos from out excursion will appear in a later post.
This Is What a Crowd of Pissed-Off (Mostly) Democrats Looks Like!
Yesterday I got back to activism, showing up at the weekly protest in front of Sen. John Cornyn's office, with a larger-than-usual crowd gathered to yell "CLOSE THE CAMPS!" and other slogans. I don't like chanting, but it warmed my heart to be present there. I didn't even mind all the Democratic Party t-shirts that showed how deluded the wearers are. MoveOn, for example, had a fairly large contingent in attendance. My UU brethren numbered about a dozen. I was immensely gratified that venerable Houston activist Gloria Rubac and some friends showed up to represent F.I.R.E. (Fighting for Immigrant Rights Everywhere). We got some media coverage from the Chronicle and several TV stations (e.g., KPRC).
Despite Cornyn's recent flippant tweet about having to withdraw his money from Bank of America in response to its no longer doing business with private prison companies, the senior senator from Texas has apparently introduced legislation to stop the family separation policy. Republicrat Rep. Henry Cuellar has put the same bill before the US House. Did the protests have anything to do with that? I'd like to think so, even if not; the bill was announced two months ago. If adopted, watered down or not, the bill would still bring a return to the unacceptable "keep families together behind bars" policy of the Obama administration.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.