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Houston Republican Councilmember Costello Hosting Screening Of Film About Street Artists At Taxpayer-Subsidized Downtown Movie House—Eric Dick Is Vindicated

Republican Houston City Councilmember is hosting a movie screening of a documentary called Stick Em’ Up.

This movie about so-called street artists here in Houston. The event is to be held at the taxpayer-subsidized Sundance Cinema in Downtown Houston on Tuesday, September 18. Here are details if you like to attend.

Here is a description of the movie from the Stick Em’ Up Facebook page—-

“Stick ‘Em Up! is a captivating film that explores the little-known world of wheat pasting, an inner-city art form that’s as provocative as it is misunderstood. Documentary filmmaker Alex Luster delves into the minds and motivations behind some of Houston’s most notorious guerilla street artists, capturing the lifespan of their art… conception, creation, placement and – ultimately – removal by the city’s abatement enforcement….”

It sure is something that “notorious guerilla street artists” can find a platform at a taxpayer-subsidized movie house and with the help of a Republican City Councilmember.

The revolution must be much closer than I had dared hope.

With one exception that I’ll discuss in a later post, I really don’t care that persons are engaged in street art or graffiti or whatever you wish to call it.

Everyday people are all out and about littering and polluting the air and befouling the world in so many ways. Graffiti is in many ways just what we merit for how we so often treat our surroundings.

But I also recall the criticism and scorn that my friend Eric Dick received for his quite comprehensive sign campaign in his unsuccessful 2011 Houston City Council bid.

I felt last year that the Republican Dick had run an honest effort in many ways even if I was not inclined to vote for him.

I’ll bet a dollar that many of the folks who did not like Eric’s signs are quite at home at the Downtown artsy movie house watching a movie about street artists.

I’m not going to go on with some rant that people should stop painting and plastering stuff on city streets. Nobody would listen to me if I did.

I’ll just say that the best and most well-known street artist in Houston is none other than Eric Dick. Below you see a picture I took of one his top 2011 efforts.

August 22, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Don Cook Makes His Case For Houston Council At-Large #1

Longtime progressive activist Don Cook is running for Houston At-large Council seat #1. The incumbent in this race is Stephen Costello.

(Above–Mr. Cook.)

Don has always cared about Houston and about the individual citizens who live in our city.

Here is Don’s take on the At-large #1 race—

The Houston City Council At-large position 1 incumbent is seriously conflicted between personal gain and the benefit of the people in his relationship with a small group of cronies involved in the 20 year, $8 billion drainage project he has promoted, and the contract with the city his company has for this project. The drainage fee associated with this project is really a regressive tax, harming the middle class and poor more than the wealthy, while he has bragged that his drainage fee is 1/3 the putatively alleged (and possibly further rising) average fee. The austerity budget passed by the city council, laying off hundreds of city workers and cutting services, will suppress the local economic recovery and destroy more jobs. Since the banks are metaphorically stuffing the mattress with their bailout money by purchasing government bonds rather than investing it in the economy to promote jobs and recovery, it falls to government at all levels to sell those bonds to them and invest in the economy, causing prosperity to ripple out. The bond market, incidentally is leading the investment markets, and municipal bonds led in the second quarter this year. Finally, HPD must be held accountable for civil rights violations. Since the leaking last February of the video of the Chad Holley beating by several HPD officers, I have been working with the Black Justice Coalition. I have been participating in their weekly rallies and I have been helping to collect signatures on their petition for a civilian review board for HPD. No agency or organization is capable of, or should be trusted to, review itself, and if the police are not part of the community, they will be apart from the community.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Don-Cook-Houston-City-Council-At-Large-1/296029187080446

November 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Who Can Liberals & Progressives Support In 2011 City Of Houston Elections?—Who Is Running For Houston City Council?

It is time for our Houston municipal elections.

(Above–Houston City Hall.)

Early voting runs October 24-November 4. General Election Day is November 8.

Here is a link to help you find out where to vote.

Who can a liberal or progressive support in these elections?

As is so often the case in Houston, the pickings are slim.

Houston city elections are low-turnout affairs in which an electorate not representative of Houston’s demographics chooses from candidates who discuss a very narrow range of issues. Just how much is it that can we hear about red light cameras?

The credibility of the candidates on the ballot is often judged by how much money they have raised.

Here is my look at the Houston city ballot and, also, some additional links to help you figure out how you’d like to vote.

Houstonians merit liberal and progressive options at the ballot box.

Houston was a 61% Obama city in 2008. If we can’t muster up some decent candidates, then maybe we should use our political energies to support Occupy Houston.

While we should vote in every election, the energy and hope we are seeing from the Occupy Wall Street movement is more positive  and hopeful than anything occurring in our municipal elections.

Here are my endorsements—

Mayor-–I’m leaving my ballot blank for Mayor. I simply don’t believe Mayor Annise Parker has any consistent commitment to progressive values. Good people will disagree, but the Mayor has had two years to offer leadership on pressing issues of poverty and on the lack of broad political participation in Houston. She seems to have little interest in these subjects.

Mayor Parker is likely to win reelection in 2011. The absence of competent and credible opponents, and her campaign war chest of more than $2 million helps make this so. Yet despite her good electoral outlook for 2011, the Mayor is concerned with winning a strong majority of voters in 2011 so as to strengthen her hand with City Council, and to help her fend off challengers in 2013.

I’ve no desire in helping the Mayor accomplish these goals. No matter what percentage of votes cast in 2011 Annise Parker ends up  winning, it will be done with an overall turnout of somewhere between 10% and 15%. There is no way the Mayor will have a credible mandate from an involved public. Why should Mayor Parker be given the illusion of a mandate when she has never engaged in serious grassroots efforts to expand voter turnout in Houston, and when she does not pursue policies that are inclusive of Houstonians of every economic status?

(Update 10/31–Mayor Parker has received a grade of A- for fiscal conservatism from the Texas Conservative Review. I say again that Mayor Parker does not warrant the support of liberals and progressives.)

(Below–Recent picture of ongoing drought in Houston as seen in Memorial Park. The grassroots have dried up. Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino)

Council At-Large #1–Incumbent Stephen Costello plays all sides of the political aisle while Green Don Cook does not work hard in his campaigns. Mr. Costello’s Renew Houston plan addresses the serious issue of flooding in Houston, but is also regressive in how it is funded and makes little effort to include green solutions in the plan. I’m leaving my ballot blank in this race.

Council At Large #2–I’m supporting Jennifer Rene Pool in this 10 candidate race.  She will occasionally say liberal and progressive things. Maybe she means some of them.

Council At-Large #3–Incumbent Melissa Noriega is a thoughtful person and has my support.

Council At-Large #4–Green Amy Price is an energetic and upbeat. She works hard to learn the issues and will be a councilmember who seeks solutions and who listens. Incumbent Democrat C.O. Bradford has on his balance sheet his terrible administration of the crime lab when he was Houston’s police chief, and his calls for austerity-type budgeting for Houston.

Council At-Large #5–Only you know if you want to support Jolanda Jones for one last term. She is always involved in some type of fuss. Sometimes it seems to be her fault, while other times it is not her fault. In any case, you wish that Ms.Jones was a more disciplined and effective advocate for the poor and disenfranchised in Houston. Her story on Council seems in good part to be of an opportunity missed. After some thought, I’ve decided I’m going to vote for Ms. Jones.  Ms. Jones made a recent visit to Occupy Houston and I appreciate that fact. I’m not aware of any other incumbent city official who has done the same.

Council District C-–I live in this district. Karen Derr is a more progressive option than Ellen Cohen. I’m going to be voting Ms. Derr. Ms. Cohen is a fund-raising machine who in the recent past has accepted campaign funds from gay marriage opponent Bob Perry. I’d rather have a fresh voice in City Hall rather  than a candidate who seems to have the advantage in part due to her friendship with Mayor Parker, and in part due to her ability to raise a lot of money from big donors. Ms. Cohen gives the impression of being an incumbent even before she is elected.

Council District H–I don’t live in this district. However, incumbent Ed Gonzalez merits mention as a decent person and as someone open to hearing voices on all sides of a debate.

There are also 10 amendments to the Texas Constitution on the ballot. Here is my in-depth analysis of these propositions.

There are 2 resources that stand out when considering our city elections. These resources cover all the Houston district council seats up for election in 2011.

Houston blogger Charles Kuffner has a page at his blog Off The Kuff with his interviews of many of the candidates. This page also has links to the websites of the candidates and listings of selections by the various interest groups that endorse in city elections.

The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area offers a voter’s guide that profiles and asks questions of all the Houston candidates.

Fellow blogger Perry Dorrell at Brains And Eggs has made a series of excellent posts endorsing candidates in Houston for 2011.

Greg Wythe at Greg’s Opinion has also made some well thought-out endorsements.

Houston city elections often seem to be a taxpayer-financed subsidy for a political class of consultants, city contract seekers, and all-purpose opportunists who all have little do with everyday life in Houston.

That said, you should still go and vote. I don’t have the heart to tell you otherwise.

The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.

Vote in Houston in 2011 and then commit yourselves to making our local democracy better.

(Below–Houston skyline in 1971. Photo by YixilTesiphon. Here is a link to a history of Houston.) 

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yet Another Sports Stadium In Houston—Thank You Taxpayers

Great news!—Houston is getting yet another stadium.

In case you did not feel that facilities built over the last decade for the baseball Astros, football Texans, and basketball Rockets were enough, now we will have a new stadium for the soccer Dynamo.

The pictures at the top and bottom of this post come from the Facebook page of Houston City Councilmember Stephen Costello.

In the center of the photo above is Mayor Annise Parker. She is wearing orange. Three people to the left is Houston U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.

I’m not certain who the other folks are. I suppose I could study the picture and maybe guess. But the bottom line is that they are the interchangeable municipal luminaries who back big-ticket projects in Houston year-after-year while rarely–if ever– mentioning that we have a 60% child poverty rate in Houston.

(Above–Some things never change. Painting is “Thumbs Down.” It is an 1872 work of Jean-Leon Gerome.)

The Dynamo stadium uses less public money than have the recent sports complexes in Houston. Though the city paid $15.5 million to buy the land where the stadium will be located, and the Dynamo will get sales tax “rebates” amounting to $3 million over the next 30 years. The City of Houston and Harris County have also committed $10 million each in taxpayer dollars towards the facility.

Taxpayer funds will be used even as we plead poor on services for the poor, education, honoring pension commitments, and keeping up our roads.

Claims of the economic benefits of stadiums are greatly exaggerated.

The sign below says “This your stadium.”

Sure.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Renew Houston—Why The Regressive Funding? Who Gets The Jobs? Where Are The Green Plans?

There is an effort to place on the November 2010 ballot in Houston an initiative to fund a large multi-year program to strengthen and rebuild Houston’s streets and drainage system. This plan is called Renew Houston.

(Above–Urban runoff. Picture taken by Robert Lawton.)

As anybody who lives in Houston knows, this is an important concern.

Here is the Renew Houston web page.

Here is a Houston Chronicle story on this issue.

A Renew Houston press release says this initiative  is “citizen-driven.” What are the odds of something being “citizen-driven” in a city like Houston where turnout  for mayor’s races often runs around 15%?

Renew Houston could post a list of donors to show if it is citizen-driven.

Republican Houston At-Large City Councilmember Stephen Costello recently invited local bloggers to attend a briefing about Renew Houston. I went to this briefing.

Mr. Costello is leading this issue. Why is a Republican leading a citywide push in a Democratic city where there are so many unmet needs that go unaddressed year-after-year?

I don’t know. Next time you see one of our Democratic Councilmembers, ask them what it is they do all day.

While I support as a matter of principle large government programs meant to fix or build stuff, and that will employ people,—with the exception of taxpayer funds to build our Nero-like sports stadiums—I have questions about Renew Houston.

The sentence below is from the Chronicle story about one of the major funding sources for the plan–

“…. the “Stormwater User Fee” that is expected to amount to about $5 per month for an average homeowner and $90 a month for an average commercial property owner with 14 units per acre.”

This is a flat or regressive fee. With Renew Houston, property owners will pay the same no matter the value of the property. Should progressive ends be met by regressive means?

I also wonder who will get the jobs created over the life of the program.

On the introductory mailer sent out to voters in Houston, there was a so-called “union bug.”  This is a small union logo showing that the printing was done by a union shop.

That’s fine. I believe in unions. But what the bug suggested to me was that the Renew Houston people have gone to the unions, and said that jobs that union members may get will be forthcoming if they get on-board to support the initiative.

It is time to expand the pool of qualified blue-collar job seekers in Houston with an aggressive  program of apprenticeship and outreach into the most chronically poor Houston neighborhoods.There is no reason unions could not be part of this effort. Maybe also we could train some new engineers and college educated professionals along the way.

Mayor Annise Parker, a Democrat, could insist upon this as a condition of her backing of the plan. If  she did this, maybe Ms. Parker could expand her support in the next election beyond just over half of the 16% of people who voted in the 2009 election. People in every part of Houston would see that they matter at City Hall.

District I  Councilmember James Rodriguez could do the same. At his campaign web home, Mr. Rodriguez talks about “Bringing capital improvement  projects to the district” and “Promoting development that embraces the expectations of all our stakeholders”

Here’s your chance Mr. Rodriguez. Are people in your district going to get a fair share of this regressively-funded, taxpayer-sponsored program, or are they going to be shut-out in a closed shop? You could walk around Harrisburg Blvd, and Canal Street, and Navigation Blvd. and tell folks that you are going to fight for them, instead of relying on low-turnout and keeping your mouth shut as a reelection strategy.

(Below–As illustrated here, infrastructure is quite metaphoric. Here we see that all is connected. If there is a new source of revenue and a new source of jobs in Houston, then there will be those who get the beneficial runoff of prosperity and others who will be left high and dry.)

A final concern I have is the lack of any green plans in the Renew Houston strategy presentation I was shown.

The latest issue of the excellent urban policy magazine Next American City talks about ways to reduce the flow of rainwater into drainage systems with urban gardens, rain barrels, more trees and other plans. ( I subscribe to Next American City and suggest that you do the same.)

Renew Houston should discuss and implement long-term efforts to reduce the strain on our drainage systems with some of these green plans. In this way, what we build will work better and last longer.

I’m certain an enlightened progressive like Mayor Parker would not support this program unless it employed green strategies.

Though, I do note that in her campaign plank on infrastructure, Ms. Parker says nothing about green efforts on these important and costly plans.

(Below–An urban garden in Minneapolis planted to treat storm water from the concrete parking lot also in the picture.)

For the moment, I’m withholding support for Renew Houston until the issues I mention here are addressed. While meeting an important need of infrastructure improvement,  Renew Houston also seems narrowly-crafted to benefit engineering firms, to benefit those already in the pipeline for jobs to the exclusion of people who could benefit from training and work, and to use methods of drainage and waste-water removal not up to date with the new demands of sustainable urban living.

My fellow Houston bloggers Perry Dorrell, Charles KuffnerJohn Coby and Tory Gattis were at the briefing and have written posts on Renew Houston. Each of these bloggers is committed to a better Houston and their views should be considered.

June 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments