Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Parker up, Dome down

A $217 million bond measure to fund a massive Astrodome renovation failed by several percentage points, a decision expected to doom it to the wrecking ball.


"We're going to have to do something quick," County Judge Ed Emmett said afterward. "We can't allow the once-proud Dome to sit like a rusting ship in the middle of a parking lot."

He called it "an interesting evening to say the least" and added, "We have an electorate that is for whatever reason anti-bond."

The news came as a blow to representatives of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"There's no disputing this building is an icon," said the Trust's Beth Wiedower. "Its legacy will live on even if it doesn't. It seems like its fate is sealed; obviously we are disappointed in the outcome."

The other Harris County bond referendum on the ballot, a $70 million initiative to fund part of a city-county inmate processing center, narrowly passed in complete but unofficial returns. The vote will let the city shutter its two aging jails.

It's not hard to say that turnout was driven by the Dome proposal. But since the margin of victory for the "Nos" was about 16,500 votes ... and 19,685 voters -- out of nearly 260,000 -- did not pick either 'for' or 'against', what to think about that?

Compare this to the Houston mayor's race, where Parker won with 57% of 169,549, and just 4800 undervotes. That tells me that a hundred thousand people in unincorporated Harris County (or incorporated in another municipality) made their way to the polls -- or mailed in a ballot -- but at least four times as many of those voters made no choice about the life or death of the Astrodome.

That is just weird.

In other news, Ben Hall wiped himself out as expected.

Mayor Annise Parker swept to a third term Tuesday night, beating back a crowded field led by former City Attorney Ben Hall.

News of Hall's concession call was greeted with a burst of applause at Parker's Election Night event at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The mayor took the confetti-strewn stage right at 9 p.m.

"I love this city," she told supporters. "Tonight I feel it loves me back."

Of the race with Hall, she added, "This was not a limping across the finish line. This was a decisive victory."  Indeed, Hall conceded about 90 minutes after polls closed.

"We may not have enough votes to be the mayor of Houston. But it does not end our journey," he told supporters.

Despite the early Election Night exit, Hall said his campaign awakened City Hall to some of the criticisms and needs of Houston residents. Issues like the poor quality of roads and reducing crime were brought before voters, he said, as a result of a hearty campaign.

Some supporters just wished it last a little longer, applauding Hall for his gentlemanly campaign. Alvin Zimmerman, Hall's campaign chairman, called Hall's efforts "upstanding and righteous, as opposed to what he faced."

That last quote is the weirdest thing I have seen or heard regarding the mayoral contest yet.

Hall's supporters -- many of them Republicans to be sure, but also many evangelical African Americans who have historically voted D -- all seem to be as delusional as Hall himself is.  It's just Tea Party, alternate reality psychosis.

And as for this biannual municipal coalition of Republicans and conservative blacks who think they can build a winner together... stop kidding yourselves, hate mongers.

More about city council races next.

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