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."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

'Bigotree' Emerges in Texas Democrat's Druken Tree Crash

In the world of social media, often after a tragedy occurs somewhere in the actual world, Tweeters, Facebookers and Instagrammers take to their pages and profiles and change their profile pics in support of the victims of the heinous crimes.  Those profile pic changes can be felt around the world, I'm sure of it. 

One other thing that just comes naturally to the Western world is hashtags.  Hashtags are often invented to help show solidarity with the victims of crimes.  Those hashtags are imperative in healing a hurting world after a terrorist attack.  It's been proven.

Let us look at the incident that happened just yesterday here in Texas.  One Democrat State Representative, Victoria Neave, was arrested for allegedly drinking and driving after she crashed into a tree.  It's a bit ironic, though, her alleged drinking and driving when she was one of many state reps who supported Texas' ban on texting and driving.  I detect a bit of a double standard.

Speaking of double standards, myself and a few other friends noticed that there was little to no support for the tree that was victimized in the crash.  He's subsequently been named 'Albert' and we'd like for you all to show your support for him, too.  I mean, where's the love for Albert?  The profile pics?  The hashtaggery?  You'd support people, but what about a tree? 

That tree was just standing there, minding its own business, not hurting anyone.  He was a shelter for little woodland animals, all of which we can assume that representative Neave hates because she so carelessly crashed into their home.  Why not?  I mean, if a GOP representative crashed into a tree, he or she would be accused of hating on trees and nature and woodland animals.

So, if you want to help Albert the tree, you'll download the picture and use it as your profile picture immediately.  Together, we can make sure this never happens again!

*satire* 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Republicans vs. Democrats: A Culberson Town Hall Wrap Up

Pensions.  Health care.  Tax reform.  Immigration.  All of these issues affect us.  Not just 'you' us, but ALL of us.  Each individual has a story about how each one of these issues affects their lives.  There isn't any sweeping legislation that is a one size fits all solution, and I think going forward, legislators and the public need to remember that when we're considering what we're asking for.

Unfortunately, we live in the era of Big Government, and although it's not necessarily a new thing, it's still a thing.  They have this attitude of, "Anything the private sector can do, the public sector can do better."  This is not just an attitude of the federal government; it's a view held by Democrats and leftists alike.  That was never more evident at the John Culberson town hall.

The town hall was hosted at Spring Branch Middle School Auditorium and it was filled to capacity.  Seven hundred constituents flooded the town hall with questions to be asked and confrontations to be had with the Congressman.  The majority of the attendees were Democrats and there was a theme running through them all.  I'd love to tell you it was sweetness and light, but alas, that was not the case.

From the moment that they booed the opening prayer, and left out 'Under God' in the pledge, the mood had been decided. It was clear to me that the folks that were in attendance were out to control the entire town hall.  They were there to intimidate and to shout down and make their noise.  And that, they did.

I've got to say, I didn't blame the constituents for their frustrations, although they could have been much more civil about it.  I and others have felt similar frustrations with Congressman Culberson over the years. The only difference between myself and the Democrats is that going into any conversation or meeting, THEY would KNOW that they're going to disagree with the Congressman and that he's not going to represent their interests very well.

I think that the Congressman could have handled the crowd a bit better than he did.  Each time someone rose to ask a question, he often responded with "That's a very thoughtful and important question."  On the surface that might sound good, but it came across as very condescending.  The constituents recognized it and often followed those words with 'boos' and began chanting, "do your job'.  It was embarrassing.

I went there as an observer.  Full disclosure, I have been a long time skeptic and critic of the Congressman, but I went there really wanting to hear what he'd have to say.  There was one few thing he really stood strong for, like being against a single payer healthcare system which I was glad of.  Others, like something that he kept repeating, "Keep politics out of science and art.", that I wasn't so sure of.  Sounded good for the crowd he was in front of, I guess.

Another constituent was there, Mary Jane Smith, precinct chair and long time GOP activist, and this is what she had to say about the way the Congressman handled himself; " He was misinformed on several points. I was disappointed, although not surprised, when he said to the opposition that he was going to vote for same ole funding for National Institute of Health, (NIH), increased funding for education, public broadcasting, and was against Trump's decrease funding of the Dept of State."

The Republican constituency that lives in Congressional District 7 didn't show up for this town hall.  Hell, they didn't show up for the general election!  CD-7 went for Hillary!  I have news for them and for whomever is reading this, the Republican leaders, activists and voters had better not get comfortable over the next four years. The opposition is alive and well in even the most conceivably conservative areas in Harris county. The GOP still has to make OUR voices heard in the legislative process and the election process!  The squeaky wheel gets the grease!