Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What Color Is Harris County, Anyway?

You've heard it before; "Keep Harris County Red".   Or, "Turn Harris County Red."  Some others out there want to "Turn Harris County Blue".  What does all of that even mean??

Well, unless you're completely new to politics, you have probably already figured out that the colors that are being referred to are the colors of each party, red for Republican and blue for Democrat.  What about the 'keep' and the 'turn' part, though?  Glad you asked.

Lots of people that live here in Harris County  know that our county is a battleground for control between the two major parties. To those that say that they want to turn Harris County red, I say--it is!  The county is solidly under Republican leadership; County Judge Ed Emmett and three out of four of the county commissioners are Republican!  Republicans also hold more judicial benches than Democrats do.  So, YES, Harris County IS a Republican county.

So I'm obviously in the 'Keep' camp.  We've got to keep Harris County a Republican County and the only way we can do that is to challenge ourselves as activists and precinct chairs to get out and meet the voters face to face.  Block walking, phone banking and mailers, when they're afforded, can be great tools to help turn out Republican voters.  (More on that later)

Now the Democrats are obviously those who want to turn Harris County 'blue'.  We won't get much into the ideological differences between the two parties, but unlike most major cities and bigger counties, Harris County remains red while the City of Houston is most solidly blue.  Which brings me to the point of this whole article.

I'm a doer, and if there's anything that I can physically DO to make a change for the good, I usually try to do it.  In following the blue print of wanting to 'do' something, we as Republicans have a real, tangible opportunity to DO something!  What's that?  To begin to turn the tide at City Hall!

Remember that Democrat stronghold that the City of Houston has on it?  Raise your hand if you would like to be part of loosening that stronghold!  (You should have both of your hands raised at this point.)  Then join me and others to help elect a Republican to the city council seat in District K.  The late Larry Greene held this seat and there is a special election being held on May 5th to finish out his term. 

There are two Republican candidates along with a crowded field of seven Democrat candidates vying for this seat.   Gerry Vander-Lyn is one of two Republican precinct chairs running for this position and I'm supporting her candidacy.  I'm also leading the block walking efforts for her campaign, and I'd love for you to join me on one or ALL of the block walks we'll be doing up until election day.

Click the link found here to RSVP for the block walk that's happening this Saturday.  We could sure use your help!   For those of you who dismiss the idea of being able to make a real, substantive difference, then may I say that 'can't never did anything'.  Also, please don't come to me after the election and whine about how the party didn't do anything to get involved in local elections, because, remember:


It's often been said that, "As Harris County goes, so goes Texas, so goes the nation"  What do you want your county, your city and your state to look like? 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Political Chicken Has Body Pride

Serious body pride.  Do you have it?  Well, you should.  I didn't have it until the beginning of last year.  Something about turning forty spurred me on to do something for myself; something that would benefit me and in turn, my family.  I had no idea, really, when I started the process of shedding a few extra pounds that what I was going to get would be so damn powerful.

I am a woman.  I am a wife and a mom and so much more.  I, like many other mothers, did not manage to lose ALL of the baby weight from my three pregnancies.  I wasn't obese or anything like that, I just had a bigger mid-section than I wanted and that, my friends, is what made me decide to finally do something about my weight gain.

I always admired other mothers with flat tummies and was awed by the willpower I knew it took to get rid of the tummy I began to loathe.  It all came down to one word, 'DIET'.  Yep, it's a scary word.  I knew that if I wanted the slim tummy that I admired on other women, that I was going to have to grab hold of that word and stare it in the face and do some damage.

Enter my lifestyle change; the Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy.  I could explain what it is and how it works, but I'm sure you're intelligent enough to click on the link and research it for yourself, if you want to.  The diet is a 30 day metabolism reset whereby you eliminate all processed foods along with sugar, alcohol, caffeine, dairy, wheat and the like.  Hey, I didn't say it was easy, but it was worth it.

The diet came with exercise recommendations, one of which was to get a massage on Friday.  I have not ever heard of another diet plan suggesting a massage as a form of exercise.  Ever.  I loved that part of the diet.  For four weeks, I got a weekly massage.  Now, it was a little pricey, as my husband will vouch for, ahem, but so worth it.

Four weeks later, I was twenty pounds lighter.  Not only was I slimmer, I was much more confident in my own skin than I had been in a long time, if ever before.  That was enough to keep me going.  I have managed to stick with the lifestyle change, save for my weekly burger and beer, and I have continued to lose more weight.  My total weight loss to date is twenty-seven pounds.  I like to say I've lost almost thirty pounds because it sounds like more.  I will get to a thirty pound weight loss eventually.  

Back to the first words I used to start this little story off with; 'body pride'  That is the absolute best way to describe how I feel about myself now.  I'm confident in other areas, too, don't get me wrong. There is just something about looking good and KNOWING that you look good that does something for you that nothing else can.  Zipping up skinny jeans that fit you also does something for you; it just makes you feel yummy inside. 

There's also something about knowing that you can go to your closet and have a full range of choices is empowering.  Same for buying clothes in a store.  Nothing can hold you back from getting what looks good on you except for maybe the price tag.  Heh.

This was an empowering step I took in my life and if you want to do something to improve or to empower yourself, maybe this is what you're looking for. Go on, make 2018 the year you get some 'body pride'.  You'll be glad you did.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Kansas City BBQ Tour Review

I heart bar-be-que.  I think most people do, and there's many places in Texas for good bar-be-que.  I have lived in Texas all of my life, but with the dawn of The Food Network and shows like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and other travel/review food shows, it makes one curious about the food featured on those shows.  Enter Kansas City bar-be-que.  Kansas City, MO or Kansas City, Kansas?  YES!

My husband and I had a few free days back in June of 2017 and we decided to use those days to fill our bellies with glorious, Kansas bar-be-que.  The star of the show on this tour; burnt ends.  Meat candy. If you've never had a burnt end, I suggest you try one immediately!  Basically a burnt end is pieces of the 'fat cap' of the brisket cubed and smoked twice!  Seriously delicious.  We tried four different Kansas City bar-be-que restaurants and here they are ranked in order of favorite to least favorite:

1. Joe's KC BBQ- We visited the original location still inside a gas station where you can pump gas and then go inside and get some of their delicious bbq.  They opened that location in 1996 and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down.  The line was ridiculously long at 2:00 PM.    Definitely worth the wait.  If you ever get to visit Joe's, be sure and order their world famous sandwich, The Z-Man.  Delish.

2. Q39- This was our first stop on the unofficial bbq tour and, man, it did not disappoint.  The brisket was on point; it was juicy and flavorful and smokey.  Did I mention delicious?  They're also known for their onion rings, so of course I ordered some of those.  Out of this world.  Their assortment of bar-be-que sauces were amazing, but with meat that good, you didn't even need (or want)
the sauce. 

3. Third on the list is Smokehouse Barbeque.  We went there late one night, right before closing.  The staff was extremely friendly and attentive.  The brisket was good and so were the sweet potato fries.  There wasn't anything horrible about the place, but there wasn't anything that stood out to me, either.  I'm not a food critic, so take my opinion with a grain of salt as you choose, but this place was just good, not great.

4. Jack Stack BBQ was last on my list.  I am a brisket girl (obviously) and their brisket left a little to be desired.  The meat seemed like it had been sitting for a bit, not because it was cold, it was just stale. 

We stayed in a quaint little bed and breakfast place a little off the beaten path.  We traveled in the middle of the week, so one of the nights we stayed, we actually had the entire place to ourselves, which was amazing.  I gave it five star review on TripAdvisor, so that means it was a special place.  The Inn on Crescent Lakes was the name of it and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there.  You should go!

Last but not least was our trip to the WWI museum located in Kansas City, MO.  It was more wonderful than I could have ever hoped for.  I'm not a history buff by any means, but this museum made me WANT to be one.  Never having really studied WWI, it seems that would have put me at a disadvantage, but the way they presented the information and the artifacts made it really easy to follow the progression of the war.  Now I'm hooked on learning about the war and history in general.  Now that's a good museum! 

I hope you've enjoyed our virtual trip around Kansas City together.  Now, get off your butt and GO there!  You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

An Earmark By Any Other Name Is Still an Earmark

You've heard "trust but verify" from none other than Ronald Reagan, no doubt.  The Tea Party movement taught us to do that, and I hope you still are.  Especially in the case of John Culberson, my congressman.

Congressman Culberson has been the star of many a blog posts here on The Political Chicken, and I'm feeling the need to turn the spotlight on him once again.  Not because he's done anything NEW and egregious, but because of things he's STILL claiming to be.  If you visit his website, he touts himself as a Jeffersonian Republican, but anyone who's studied his voting record can dispute that fact.  Something that I did in a post titled, "Is John Culberson A Jeffersonian-Republican...Or Not?

Just like your favorite infomercial, but wait, there's more.  Not only do the votes I highlighted in the blog referenced above prove that he is NOT a Jeffersonian-Republican, the fact that he's been making efforts to bring back earmarks proves it even further.  Not only that, but when you take into account that Jefferson himself was against earmarks and addressed them in a letter he wrote to James Madison, it proves Culberson's claims as laughable.

In the letter, Jefferson writes of earmarks, "it will be a scene of eternal scramble among the members who can get the most money wasted in their state, and they will always get most who are meanest.  We have thought hitherto that the roads of a state could not be so well administered even by the state legislature as by the magistracy of the county, on the spot. What will it be when a member of N.H. is to mark out a road for Georgia?"   Sounds familiar.

The fiscal watchdog organization, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is also, obviously, against the use of earmarks.  Their former director of government affairs Bill Christian had this to say, "For those who rely too heavily on the “Article I” argument (that Congress controls the power of the purse), this is an important distinction that cannot be repeated enough:  Yes, members of the House of Representatives are sent to Washington, D.C. to “represent” their various and diverse districts on issues of national importance; they were not, however, sent to the national capital to demonstrate how much more clever they might be, in manipulating the national treasury at the expense of their less senior and/or less powerful colleagues.  Surely, the Founding Fathers did not intend for the “power of the purse” to be used to “rob Peter to pay Paul.”.  CAGW also named Culberson their 'Porker of the Month' in their December 2016 issue.  

What makes this also very 'funny' is that Culberson is out there campaigning so darn hard for the earmarks to be reinstated all the while claiming to be a Jeffersonian Republican.  Culberson is campaigning for this effort using the Article 1 argument, which Bill Christian has said is another version of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul."  And while Culberson and those that want to return to earmarking funds for their districts say that doing so won't increase spending, it still increases the deficit!   

Another recent development in the effort to bring back earmarks is the potential threat that Hurricane Harvey is posing for the Texas Gulf Coast.  The Houston Chronicle reports in an article that now Congressman Culberson is working to use this potential crisis to his advantage to get earmarks returned, and he's got two local Democratic congressman on board; Al Green and Gene Green.  They offered their support, "when he proposed some loosening of the federal prohibition on earmarks."  Well, now isn't that surprising, that a Democrat would want to spend more of your tax dollars?  What was all of that talk about draining the swamp again?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Threat of Mayor Turner's Tax Increase Looms After Hurricane Harvey

"We're all in this together."  To quote Bill Lumberg from the cult classic Office Space, "I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there."  Many of you know that Mayor Turner is proposing a temporary tax hike to help pay for the damage that the city incurred after Hurricane Harvey   Thankfully we have some conservative friends on Houston City Council, one being Councilman Mike Knox.  He's there to shed some light on what is going on.  Here is the information that he shared via social media a few weeks ago and his position on the tax increase:

"Tropical Storm Harvey created an unprecedented degree of damage in the Houston area.
The mayor says we need immediate funds to get the debris collected and removed, to replace city vehicles destroyed, to repair city buildings damaged, and to fix damaged roadways. His position is we cannot wait for FEMA to begin this process so we must raise the property tax rate, using the emergency clause contained in it."

"Okay, I can agree with all of these facts. Now here is the problem:  If the tax rate is increased the money it generates will not be available until way after January or February of next year. You see, the tax rate has to be approved by council, which cannot be accomplished until October 18th."

"The tax rate notification must then be forwarded to the County Tax Assessor/Collector who must then send out the tax bills and then we have to wait for the owners to send in their tax payments.
The maximum we expect from this tax increase is 113 million dollars more than we would get without the temporary tax increase."

"There is nothing quick about this process.  There is, however, a better and much faster way.
The city holds back 7.5% of its budget in the ready fund balance for emergencies. In our current budget that amounts to approximately 150 million dollars. In addition, we have approximately 50 million dollars over that amount for a total of around 200 million dollars available today to spend on the "emergency" items. A figure substantially larger than the amount we would receive from the increased tax."

"The mayor could place this request on tomorrow's agenda and be spending it on debris removal and other items by Friday. Without the need to raise anyone's tax rate.  It appears to me the Mayor is using everyone's emotion and desire to quickly recover from the horrible devastation to enact an increased tax rate for this coming year, when he must know the funds could not be available until the Spring of next year."

"The discrepancy in the stated nature of the emergency and the necessity for immediate funding, combined with the natural and unavoidable delay in obtaining the funds, gives me significant reason for pause. Especially when a faster and immediately fundable mechanism exists to accomplish the stated goals."

There have already been a few hearings on this and for all of the outrage on Facebook and elsewhere, only a handful of people actually showed up to speak against this tax increase, which is anything but temporary.  I've been in touch with Councilman Knox since he posted the above text and he said that there are a few more hearings to follow.  Monday, October 2nd at 6PM and Wednesday, October 11th at 9 AMThe hearings will be held at 901 Bagby Street on the 2nd floor.  Thanks to Councilman Knox for keeping us informed of the situation. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Senator Bettencourt Attempts to Improve TIRZ and Management Districts' Transparency

What the State of Texas needs is more un-elected bureaucrats and more management districts able to pass bonds stealthily and meet without notifying the public.  Said no one ever.  I can't remember the last time I met a tax payer who was eager to open their wallet to pay more in taxes.  Or a tax payer who thought it was a good idea for taxing authorities to veil their activities from the public.  I know I personally cannot stand it when that happens, and the truth is, it happens everyday and we don't even know about it.

Which is why I was so glad to see that my own state senator Paul Bettencourt had authored a bill, SB 2047 to correct some of the veiled tendencies of these smaller management districts in and around the state of Texas.  I can think of one type of management district that I would love to see more transparency imposed on; the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone(s) or TIRZ for short.  If that acronym rings a bell, it should because I've written about them not once, but twice right here on my humble little blog.  I'll include the links to catch you up in case you've forgotten since they made their debut.  Here's the first one titled, So What Is A TIRZ, Anyway?.
The second article highlighted a specific problem in the Uptown TIRZ, called Uptown TIRZ Terrorizes Traffic.

In reading the bill, however, there were a few questions that I had and I fired the questions off to Senator Bettencourt's office.  After reaching out to his staff, I found out that the bill that I had come across, SB 2047 was actually just for Management Districts, not for the TIRZ's.  However, they pointed me to a bill that Senator Bettencourt had authored as well, SB 650.  The questions I asked were more or less in the text of SB 650.  His staff was supremely helpful.

The Political Chicken (TPC): Are these regulations retroactive for the TIRZ that have already been formed?
Senator Bettencourt (SB): "Please keep in mind that SB 2047 focus was on Management Districts, not TIRZ.  They are similar but at the same time different.  SB 650 was Senator Paul Bettencourt's bill on TIRZ reform that was heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.  SB 2047 was not heard by IGR.  The bill would have applied only to those districts that would have been formed after the enactment of the bill, September 1, 2017.  It would not have been retroactive."

TPC: How does a TIRZ or a management district obtain a non-profit status?  Does a non-profit status exempt them from being required to comply with the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA)?
SB:  "They are subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act."

TPC:  A few of the TIRZ that already exist, ie, St. George Place, Uptown and Memorial City are hardly 'unproductive, underdeveloped or blighted'.  How can the state of Texas disband these TIRZ that are more self-serving, IMHO than helpful to the areas they supposedly serve?
 SB: "Senator Bettencourt filed SB 650, which would have provided reform to the creation of TIRZs. Under current law, one of the avenues for property to be placed into a reinvestment zone is via a petition put forward by at least fifty percent of the appraised property owners in the proposed zone.  However, there is little guidance for those petitioning to help understand what type of land would qualify.  SB 650 would have added the requirement that the land to be included via land owner petition must be unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted.  Additionally, it directs the Texas Attorney General to develop definitions for these terms.  Furthermore, SB 650 would have required the use of dedicated revenue be used on land located inside of the zone.  SB 650 also would have added a notice requirement prior to the issuance of tax increment bonds or notes.  It provides that notice must be given to property owners in the municipality in which the district is located, members of the commissioners court, and each state senator and representative whose district includes territory in the county in which the zone is located.  Additionally, it must provide notice to the commissioners court and members of the legislature in which the zone is located when the municipality submits their request for approval to the Texas Attorney General.  There were also various bills filed that would have made it easier to disband these zones."

Also - note that this is not an issue that is on the call for the upcoming special session.

So, there you have it, boys and girls.  We'll have to wait until the next legislative session to get more transparency from the municipal districts AND the TIRZ's.  I would like to personally thank Senator Bettencourt and his staff and the efforts he and his team put forth during the 85th legislative session to increase transparency in government on all levels which is what his constituency in Senate District seven sent him there to do.   Well done, Senator Bettencourt!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dr. Hotze, You're Doing it Wrong

Alright, folks.  I've held my tongue as long as possible, but when you run across internet gold like this, sometimes you've just got to speak out.  Over the years since I started this blog, I've not been shy about my disdain for a few people that would call themselves 'party leaders'.  Those that run a 'conservative' PAC in the state of Texas that formed some time ago to enable those in charge there to continue to gate-keep from their high horses.  As one of my activist friends would say, "Name names."  Oh, don't you worry, that's coming.

Steven Hotze is well-known in Harris County for his contributions to the local political scene.  By that I mean that he runs a slate mailer with paid for endorsements by candidates seeking elected office; mostly state representatives and judges that are local to Harris County.  He also uses his place of position to lobby in support of traditional family values laws and potential laws that come across the desks of state legislators.  He opposes abortion, gay marriage and the bathroom bill which would allow people to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex with which they identify.  This has been and still is a hotly contested issue seeing as how it's been raised again in the Texas 85th special session coming up on July 18th.

I actually AGREE with Dr. Hotze on his traditional family values.  I'm pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.  I, too, am a Christian and feel called by the great commission in Matthew 28 where Jesus gives us the charge to, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  There's just one glaring problem with Dr. Hotze's method; he's doing it wrong.

I'm not an avid reader of the Huffington Post by any means, but this article showed up in my news feed, and I just had to say something.  In the article, it quotes Dr. Hotze as saying in the name of Jesus, "...May they (legislators) be consumed, collapse, rot and be blown away as dust from their current positions because of their wicked works, thoughts and deeds. May people scorn them and nations abhor them. May their punishment lead them to repentance and faith in Christ. May God’s will be done in their lives."

I can't think of a worse prayer.  I do not agree with that at all.  If Dr. Hotze is truly about Christ and doing His work, he's doing it wrong.  This is an embarrassment to the name of Jesus and to Christians alike.  It's also an embarrassment to the GOP.  And we wonder why we can't win people over with our conservative principles and values.  To counter what Dr. Hotze is saying, I'm reminded of the scripture verse in 1Peter 4:8 which says, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins."  

Well, I guess there's just one thing left for me to say to Dr. Hotze, "Bless your heart."