First, two longish days after Houston's Proposition 1 was officially defeated (Houston, 72% of you didn't even vote, and that's a problem), the news broke that the Obama Administration has just said no to the Keystone XL Pipeline. I feel like celebrating, even while I know that another shoe is likely to drop, and probably soon.
Second, I'm not running for any offices in 2016, so don't even try to talk me into it. But the Green Party of Texas needs candidates.
We don't need candidates for every single position on every ballot, although that would be awesome beyond awesome. We do need candidates for statewide positions, especially State Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.
In the Supreme Court (that's civil law, just like SCotUS), Places 3, 5, and 9 are on the ballot; for the CCA, Places 2, 5, and 6. The term is six years. In each court, all nine places are currently occupied by Republicans and have been for the better part of the last 20 years.
Apart from these judicial races, there is only one statewide office up for election in 2016, and that is a seat on the Railroad Commission. Our 2014 candidate Martina Salinas has already indicated that she's up for running again. Ms. Salinas amassed more than 93,000 votes last year in a four-way race, good for 2% of the vote.
That 2% is a high-water mark for Texas Green candidates when the Democratic Party fields a candidate in a statewide race. But in order to maintain the party's ballot line for 2018, a candidate from that party must earn at least 5% of the vote. For that, I will candidly admit, we need the Democrats to not show up.
A few of our previous Green candidates have expressed interest. Joseph Altgelt, however, just got elected to the Laredo City Council (in a non-partisan race), so he'll be busy.
Candidates for these judicial seats must meet some fairly exacting criteria. For starters, they must have ten years of practice as an attorney in Texas. Contact me if you want to learn more.
Last night's election was a civics lesson for Houstonians, especially young Houstonians. Plenty of Millennials of my acquaintance were all over Facebook urging their friends to vote for Propsition 1. Some were actually out in the community, canvassing with Houston Unites.
Good for them. But it clearly wasn't enough. Final score (not yet certified at this time):
Yes 100,427 (39.03%)
No 156,882 (60.97%)
I did some canvassing for Houston Unites myself, but knocking on doors and making those automated phone calls produced a frustratingly small number of conversations. Even if I had kept it up, my efforts would not have convinced 30,000 people to change their votes from No to Yes, much less persuaded 57,000 non-voters to vote.
Supporters of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance may not have had time to learn the lesson yet. There is a mighty load, mostly emotional, to process first. However, I believe that the lesson goes something like this:
Houston Municipal Election Turnout: A Recent History according to harrisvotes.com
2015 General: 27.41%
2013 Runoff: 3.80%*
2013 General: 18.32%
2011 Runoff: 6.09%**
2011 General: 13.20%
2009 Runoff: 16.57%
2009 General: 19.12%
2007 Runoff: 2.70%*
2007 General: 13.52%
2005 Runoff: 3.98%*
2005 General: 19.60%
2003 Runoff: 22.69%
2003 General: 31.21%
1. Houston, I love you, but you suck at voting.
2. These inevitable runoff elections cost Harris County the same amount of money, regardless of the turnout. It's not worth that much money if so few people bother to vote. With so many candidates for open Mayoral and Council seats, Houston is ideal for switching to some form of Instant Runoff Voting or Approval Voting. If I like Turner, Bell, and (believe it or not) Costello, why should I be limited to voting for just one?
* Yes, really. In 2013, there were five Council races with runoffs, including two at-large. The races for seats in Districts A, D, & I drew anywhere from 5.20% to 7.64%. In 2005 and 2007, there were two district runoffs and one at-large.
** This one particularly hurt, because Jolanda Jones lost her at-large seat to Jack Christie by a narrow margin. She had won her first race by a 2-1 margin in the runoff.
Note: This entry was intended for publication in the Houston Chronicle's "Gray Matters" group blog, but I have not heard back yet from Lisa Gray concerning whether it is usable.
“Eighty-two, eighty-two, eighty-two.”
Fans of the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man may recognize the quote above as Raymond Babbitt’s way of counting 246 toothpicks dropped on the floor in the diner scene. There is also a Houston phenomenon, when three Westheimer buses pass under the West Loop in quick succession: 82, 82, 82.
Here in Hustle Town, traffic and freight trains all too often keep Metro buses virtually immobile for minutes on end, so that the next scheduled bus on the same route catches up…and sometimes a third. Then the buses play an elegant game of leapfrog the rest of the way, taking turns picking up and dropping off passengers, passing each other as they do. Scenes like this are part of why Metro has undertaken its massive Reimagining, which became reality in August.
To begin this series of reviews of Metro’s new routes, I wanted to make an end-to-end journey on the 82. Circumstances conspired against that happening, so I decided instead to chronicle a trip from my workplace in Montrose to a Thursday night soccer practice in George Bush Park. Since no bus routes serve Westheimer Parkway, I arranged for a teammate to pick me up at West Oaks Mall and drive me the rest of the way.
The 82 Westheimer was the first bus I ever rode in Houston. This was 1970, when third-graders still roamed free. The Galleria was but a multi-million dollar twinkle in retail developers’ eyes. The Harris County establishment had not yet established Metro. After school twice a week, my classmate and I would cross Westheimer via St. John’s School’s pedestrian tunnel, catch the westbound 82, pay our ten-cent children’s fare, and ride out toward Fondren Road. His mother would pick us up near the Cellar Door restaurant and take us to their home in Memorial Bend, where I stayed until my mother could retrieve me after work.
One challenge of a semi-nostalgic blog post like this one is resisting name-checking all the business establishments, especially local ones, that hold precious memories. In its 15-plus miles, and with my decades of exploring Houston, Westheimer Road simply has too many such places for me to list.
A second challenge is avoiding Inner-Loop snobbery. Here I fail miserably. Since my teens, I have preferred walkable, bike-friendly neighborhoods and independent, locally owned businesses. The further west one goes along Westheimer, the Walk Scores tumble from 81 in Montrose (Very Walkable) to 43 in West Houston (Car-Dependent). National retail and restaurant chains dominate Westheimer, but noticeably more so outside the Beltway. The observation deck at the top of the Williams Tower faces west, overlooking Outer Westheimer; an Inner-Loop snob quietly prays that this was not Philip Johnson’s intention.
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.