Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Uptown/Galleria TIRZ Terrorizes Traffic

Some time ago, I wrote an article in an effort to inform readers about how their tax dollars are being spent on improvement projects in and around the Galleria area.  Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, or TIRZ were the target of my article titled, So What Is a TIRZ Anyway??.  Now it seems that there are more players involved in this game, and they're all too eager to spend MORE of your tax dollars on seemingly unnecessary projects, all seemingly in an effort to line their own pockets. 

Rewind to Monday, June 20th when a group of folks, the Uptown Property Owners PAC, who are in opposition to the project held a press conference.  The project is one in which the Uptown Management District has decided to widen Post Oak Boulevard by two lanes to build a dedicated bus lane.  It came to my attention yesterday (about an hour out) that there was going to be a press conference held outside of one of the affected properties to feel the impact of the proposed project, The Cosmopolitan at 1600 Post Oak Blvd.  I rushed down to film the presser to gather some more information in order to share it with you.  To save you from watching the video in its entirety, I have picked out a few highlights to help let you know what the folks opposing this project are hoping to accomplish.

According to a spokesperson for the group, former Channel 13 investigative reporter, Wayne Dolcefino that this group of citizens have some goals they hope to accomplish.  They are asking: 1) that the "project not go forward, first and foremost; and 2) that there be a temporary ban on permits for new high rise construction until a truly independent study is done of traffic and Emergency Response Times. There are plans to add 11 million square feet of property without doing anything to make the traffic better.  One other quick thing, the Uptown has announced that this bus project, which will run down the middle of the road here, is going to eliminate right turn lanes on Westheimer and San Felipe from Post Oak  This is going to make traffic worse, not better.  This is a tremendous waste of money and a project that is stained epically from the get-go."

The group represented at the press conference has also stated that they would like to take a survey of the residents living in the Uptown Galleria area to see if they will even take the bus, and they're challenging Mayor Turner to do this study.  The Uptown TIRZ...has raised (or taxed) over one hundred million dollars to build this bus project.  Jim Scarbourough of the Uptown Property Owners PAC is advocating that the money that was taxed or raised could be better used to fix flooding issues in Meyerland, etc.

The group has raised safety concerns that could arise with the bus lane addition, Emergency Response issues and the possibility of increased flooding in the area.  That's not all, though.  Here's where it gets juicy.

According to Dolcefino, "One other thing, my office filed a criminal complaint claiming that Uptown violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.  The DA is conducting a criminal investigation, I've spoken to them as late as Friday and they are reviewing the real estate contracts that have already been done.  One of the bizarre things about this project, besides the absolute idiocy of it, is that Uptown doesn't own the right of ways.  They own some, but most of the property they don't even own yet."

Oh, and one more thing, "Kendall Miller, the chairman of Uptown, is making millions of dollars on this deal; he's probably making it legally.  He should not be a guy that is involved.  Kendall Miller lobbied for the money from the feds and the state.  He was involved in executive meetings on this project.  He's on the Uptown Management District, he's on the TIRZ and the UVA.  It is a classic example of these kinds of conflicts.  The only company that's done a study on whether this bus project will work at all was Walter P. Moore.  That was the big so-called independent study.  Walter P. Moore is a contractor for Uptown, involved in making money if this project goes forward.  That's not independent, that's getting the answer you want to get.  A real independent study should be done, and in this case, by an out of town firm, I would suggest."

So, there you have it.  What can you do to help, you might be asking.  Call Mayor Turner's office at 713.837.0311 to ask him to put a stop to the project.  You can also go to their website, Save Uptown Houston and donate to their legal fund.  Not only that, but you can sign the online petition to help stop the project from going forward.  It's time to hold these un elected bureaucrats accountable, starting with the TIRZ and the Uptown Management District. 


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Simpson Wins Bid for Re-election: Proves to be a Referendum on Slates

Tuesday, May 24th, Paul Simpson, Harris County Republican Party Chairman won his bid for re-election after being forced into a run-off by slate mailer endorsed candidate Rick Ramos.  Simpson went into this race a bit behind the eight ball, if you will, coming in just slightly behind Ramos who garnered 39.81% of the vote during the March 1st primary.

Ramos was a virtual no-show prior to, during and after the primary election held on March 1st.  Never having been involved within the party structure prior to filing to run for the county chairman position, one of the few things he campaigned on was his ability to 'diversify' the Harris County GOP.  He also traveled around the county sharing the story of his Cuban-born father and the struggles he endured to make it to the United States to pursue the American dream.

During the run-off election, he was again, a no-show to ALL of the events held by various clubs and organizations.   No interviews, no forums and not a single yard sign or push card that I saw.  He seemed to be relying only on the power of the slate mailers.  Bad news for Ramos was that they just didn't come through for him this time.

The screen capture featured above is the election results from Harrisvotes.org.  This has to be one of my favorite pictures of all time.  Why, you ask?  It shows that Paul Simpson beat slate endorsed Rick Ramos in ALL three categories; Absentee, Early Voting AND Election Day!  This is a YUUUUGE blow to the momentum of the slates, and it proves that the slates CAN be beaten at their own game!

Steven Hotze's strategy, one of the more significant players in the slate mailer game, is generally to prey upon the absentee voters; the over 65-crowd who receive their ballot by mail, usually attached to a 'slate' of his recommendations.  Well, as you can see by the results, Hotze did not receive the desired effect.  Ramos was beaten almost two to one on absentee ballots.

So what can we attribute the Simpson win to, exactly?  The power of the grass roots army that rallied around Simpson, that's what!  He had teams organized at every meeting and every event.   Not only that, but Simpson had  phone bankers and block walkers going out during the week and every weekend leading up to election day.

The race had been virtually 'called' before even one precinct reported their results.  As County Judge Ed Emmet said at the Simpson victory party, "This is really unusual.  Normally, we don't declare a winner and introduce him before the first precinct reports.  But in this case, the voters have overwhelmingly said that Paul Simpson is the greatest Harris County Republican Party Chairman of all time."



So as you can see, the slates appear to be on life support.  I hope that across Harris County and the state of Texas that the grass roots will keep working together to deprive the slates of the influence they have had for such a long time.   Encourage voters to do their own research!  Remember, the people choose, not the slates!  Slam the door on the slates!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hey, Harris County, Throw the Slates in the Trash!

I've written about them before, and I'll write about them again.  I will keep reiterating as long as I have to in order to put a stop to these slate mailers that are put out every single election cycle. 

I have no problem with a group or an individual endorsing a candidate for office, it's just when you pay money to the endorsers, then, that's when I have a problem.

Terry Lowry's Link Letter, Steven Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Harris County AND Gary Polland's Texas Conservative Review are the three top offenders in the slate mailer category.  I am so sick and tired of these three top paid endorsers being the voice of the county.  Now, it's not entirely their fault, though.  Yes, there is some blame to go around here.

The electorate is by and large...uninformed!  If you mail them something like what the aforementioned three mailers do, the voting populous will follow those recommendations without question.  They feel that the endorsers have done the research and they trust their decisions.  I mean, it's a whole lot easier to take someone else's word about who to vote for instead of actually doing the homework necessary to elect a qualified candidate.

How do we end this practice?  In my opinion, it starts with you, the voter.  We have to continue to share the truth about these mailers and then we have to make them irrelevant.  How do we do that?  Simple; when you see those mailers in your mailbox, throw them out and do your own research on who is best suited to be elected.  Those mailers are counting on you not to do your own home work to decide who best represents you.  Prove them wrong!  I'll even help you get started.  If you need a sample ballot to see who and what you'll be voting on, head on over to Harris Votes.org.  On the home page you will see "Sample Ballot".  Click on that link and type in your information and you can take it from there and remember, the people choose, not the party!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xjfm64NS454

 Click on the photo to watch the video that I've made to see why the slate mailers need to be thrown away!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Grassroots Thrive Under Simpson Leadership

I hear a lot of people saying that they want to 'Take Back Our Party' without a real, clear, concise plan of how to do it.  Well, maybe they have a plan, but it involves egos and purity tests. 

I, for one, am not in agreement with those plans.  I think there are different ways to take back our party.  We can do that by attracting and retaining precinct chairs.  We can also build the party by training precinct chairs and activists and educating them on how to reach voters and turn out the vote. 


Paul Simpson, our current Harris County GOP Chairman has done the things necessary to grow the party; trained activists, focused on recruiting precinct chairs, and then utilized those same volunteers to increase the voter base.  I've included a picture for your reference to see how many NEW precinct chairs we had at Monday night's Executive Committee Meeting.  


May 16th Executive Committee Meeting
Paul is in the runoff election to remain in his county chairman position, and he needs your help and your vote.

Go to harrisvotes.org and find your polling place.  Early voting is going on NOW until Friday, May 20th and Election Day is May 24th.  If you want to see more action and efforts like what is depicted in the photo above, then you will elect Paul Simpson for GOP County Chairman!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy Fourth Birthday, Political Chicken!

I love writing.  I DO!  I love using words to tell stories and influence people and shape an argument around an issue or a candidate.  My all time favorite thing is not only writing, but looking back over what I've written the past FOUR years!  I love to see the ground I've covered and the issues I've discussed. My blog gives me more than just a place to inform the voting populous and share my opinion; it's almost like a personal catalog of my life, told to you through the blog medium.

That's right, The Political Chicken is four years old!  To be honest, I used to be embarrassed to tell people that I had a blog, because it seemed that everyone and their brother had a blog, right?   I could just hear the mental eye roll, "Oh, you've got a blog, huh?"  Well, here I am, still excited and PROUD now that I do have my own blog, a creative outlet for me and a way to vent to, share with and encourage you, the reader, the sharer and the fan.  So, thank you for your encouragement and your comments and even your criticisms.  Well, some of them.

Over the years as I've written my birthday celebration blogs, I've tried to liken the progress of my blog to the developmental stages of a child.  Like, what might a two year old be doing at this stage, etc.  Two year olds are kind of wobbly on their feet, toddling around and getting into everything.  The same could be said of this blog at the age of two.  Now looking at turning four, I ask myself, what would a four year old be doing that could be similar?  Four year olds like silliness, like funny, exaggerated stories, ask 'why' questions, and believes the only viewpoint is her own.  Hmmm...is there a correlation?   You decide.

There's been lots to do in and around the political world over the last year, and since I wrote my Happy Third Birthday, Political Chicken blog post, I've had some exciting things come my way.  One of the first opportunities that came my way earlier last year was a chance to have a position on the Texas Conservative View.  We are a group of women based out of Houston who meet and interview candidates.  We then publish our endorsements and findings on our website, eblasts and through mailers.  You should check it out at texasconservativeview.com.

Also, late last year, I made a few appearances on our local Fox 26 television station with a couple local activist friends to discuss not only the Republican debates, but the Democrat debate as well.  Tom Ziska was our moderator and we had a great time.  Fast forward to early this year, in February, to be exact, I was asked to appear on CNN New Day with Chris Cuomo not once, but TWICE!  I appeared there as a Cruz supporter (shock, I know) to give a prediction about the debate and returned to discuss the debate the next day.  THAT was fun!

Alright, enough about my glamorous, whirlwind life, let's get to the stats, shall we?  Coming in at number one, although it was published last year and sort of re-published again recently, is the blog titled, "State Republican Executive Committee to Select New State GOP Chair March 7th" has a whopping 772 views.  Coming in at a close second is the blog titled, Katy ISD: Got Debt?
That blog had 752 views.  Rounding out the top three with the most page views was the one titled Jared Woodfill: Tenet vs. Track Record which came in at 404 views.

One more time, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite articles.  This one appeared on Texas GOP Vote and once it was published, nearly crashed their server!  The title is While Texas Senate Debates Texas Abortion Bill, Let's Talk About Sex.  Off. The. Charts.  The pro-choice and lefties nearly lost their collective minds after I wrote that.  Now THAT was some fun.  Another article that I loved writing was the one that I wrote after a trip to FreedomWorks headquarters entitled, The FreedomWorks Obamacare Summit: Yes We Can...Defund It!  The last one of my favs comes from an inspirational YouTube Video; Keynes vs Hayek; Round Two.  The video mixes rap and acting and humor to educate folks!  Imagine!  And then go and watch it to see how great it is.

So there you have it!  Another trip around the sun for The Political Chicken!  I've said it before, and I'll say it again,  stay with me, this is just the beginning!  MUAH!



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Saving Texas One Municipality At a Time

With all of the political involvement I'm involved in, and all of the knowledge I have and am still collecting about the political process, I forget sometimes that not everyone else 'nerds out' about this stuff.  Like, how the convention process works at the district, state and national level.  Or how many elections there are during the year and how many taxing authorities we actually give our money to.

I think that as a movement, the tea party did a great job of grabbing the attention of the conservative electorate to look at the national stage of politics.  I mean, let's face it, there are plenty of things to try to watch there in Washington, D.C.  Then, we became more focused on the local levels of government, starting with the state house and senate.  It got even more focused on school boards and mud boards.  I'd like to narrow your focus even more.  Oh, yeah, it can be done.


There is a taxing authority, one that I just learned about a few years ago called an Emergency Service District.  There are fifteen Emergency Service Districts, or ESDs for short, in and around unincorporated Harris County.  The ESD's have a board of commissioners that are elected by the public.  Oh, that's news to you?  Well, yeah, me, too.  YOU have the opportunity to have a say in who represents you on this board.  You pay for these services on your property tax bill.  The elections are not well publicized, so you need to find out which ESD you reside in and do some research on the candidates.  If you go to this website, you should be able to find out which ESD you're zoned to and where to vote.

Yet another taxing authority that you may or may not have heard about is one that's specific to Harris County and has been in existence for 127 years!  That's right, readers, it's called Harris County Department of Education.  You also pay for this sneaky little tax when you pay your property taxes.  It's a negligible amount, but the fact that they collect taxes from every resident in Harris County adds up fast!  The sad part is, you've probably never even heard of them, and they'd like to keep it that way.  They also have a board of trustees, but they're chosen during the November general election, and if you vote straight ticket, no matter which 'ticket', you've probably never even paid attention.  Well, that's over now, you've got to look!  Click here for their website and information about the board.

In an effort to educate folks further, I came up with a tool to get voters informed about what exactly their elected officials did or are supposed to do.  Can you stand the excitement?  Stay with me.  The thinking was that if I educated enough people with that handout, that they could in turn, use that as a way to better vet the candidates running for that particular position.  I have published and re-published the information before, but I think it might be time to revisit that project from the past...

I mentioned convention earlier in this post, and that's a whole process unto itself.  Since it is so involved, I won't go into it in any depth here, but my friend Felicia Cravens wrote a blog with some really great information.  You can find the article here.

If you live in the Katy ISD School District, you'll also be heading to the polls on May 7th to vote in a board of trustee election. Find more information here about hours of operation and polling locations.

So, consider yourself locked and loaded with new-ish information to head to the polls on May 7th AND to state convention.  And don't forget the run-off election coming up on May 24th!  And if you, like every other person, are hoping to go to national convention, well, good luck!



  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Texas GOP Does Not Need A Gatekeeper


Notice the title?  Gatekeeper as defined by Wikipedia is this:  "A gatekeeper is a person who controls access to something."   There are gatekeepers for all kinds of activities and clubs and even churches, for that matter, but since I'm involved in the political world, I'm thinking of the GOP.  I can think of a gatekeeper of the Republican party; actually I can think of a few of them.  Someone who thinks that the Republican party is an arm of the Baptist Church; where religiosity and exclusion meet.

You know the kind of person I'm talking about.  The kind of person who uses their Christianity and 'holier than thou' attitude as a weapon.  Who invokes the name of Jesus to instill fear in those who would oppose them.  Who ALWAYS paint their opponents as less than Christian or as not conservative enough.   Let me tell you something, I have a personal relationship with Jesus, and that's not the Jesus I know.

There's a saying that goes something like this, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words."  Funny, it doesn't say anything about shouting others down and shoving the Bible down people's throats.  As I've said, I'm a Christian, and that's not the Jesus I know.  The Jesus I know is about love and compassion and grace and mercy.  "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?"-Romans 2:4



This is MY blog and this is MY opinion.  So, take it or leave it.  However, it is my feeling that Jared Woodfill along with Steven Hotze are religious gatekeepers for the Republican party.  Or at least, they try to be.  They want to keep the 'riff-raff' from joining in the ranks of the Republican party, and I'm not even talking about elected officials.  I'm talking about activists, precinct chairs, you name it.  Anybody who doesn't agree with their opinion lock stock and barrel are sinners, and not to be included in the Republican
 process.

I've got news for you folks, we are ALL sinners, saved by grace, and while we're talking about sinners, let's remind ourselves who Jesus was often found in fellowship with.  Jesus didn't eat with the religious elite, remember? He didn't rub elbows with the Pharisees or with Pontius Pilate.   He ate with the sinners and tax collectors and the broken and the sick.   He was ALL inclusive.


Funny thing is that Jesus wasn't and still isn't about passing a purity test.  If you came with a desire to be changed, to accept his forgiveness and mercy and grace, you could and you still can.  If we elect Jared Woodfill as State Party Chair, there will be rules and purity tests for the activist who want to become involved.  Information will not be disseminated to all activists, but only to  a select 'worthy' few.  He will turn this party into a top down tool for his power the same way he treated the Harris County Republican Party.

No, the Texas GOP does not need a gatekeeper.  What it needs is a leader.