Tuesday, March 17, 2015

City Hall goings-on: pensions, agendas, and scuttlebutt

Update: Multiple sources confirm this evening that county sheriff Adrian Garcia will enter the race for mayor, possibly within the next month.

Original post (with updates throughout):

 -- To review: The tension surrounding the city of Houston's negotiations with its firefighters over pension obligations culminated with an agreement a couple of weeks ago.  That was viewed as half a loaf by some of the Republicans on Council.  There was a brief tussle between Rep. Sylvester Turner -- who boosted his cred by brokering the deal -- and the Houston Chronicle editorial board over the value and impact of those efforts.

While that was going on, state Rep. Jim Murphy (a Republican from the affluent west side of town) managed to Bigfoot the pact with a legislative counter-proposal that Houston's municipal conservative coalition rallied behind.

Then a week ago, the pension showdown escalated when some of the more impudent members of council -- most of which are not trying to call attention to their mayoral election campaigns, mind you -- used an obscure procedure to call a meeting for last Friday and air their views.

(T)he symbolism of the meeting is more significant than any action that could be taken, given that the group will simply consider registering support for or opposition to the pension deal.

Regardless, Parker's liaison to council, William-Paul Thomas, said he will work against a quorum. Parker had said she would not put the deal to a council vote because it does not call for the expenditure of city funds.

That is what happened: C.O. Bradford, the wheelman in this caper, got overly authoritative and two of the more liberal council members stood up and walked away, denying the rebels their right to vote or send a message or whatever.

Near the end of Friday's meeting, Councilman David Robinson moved to delay the vote to "facilitate broader discussion" and consider the impact of several related bills being filed in Austin. Councilman C.O. Bradford, chairing the meeting, ruled that action out of order because he felt it was important to send lawmakers a message before the deadline to file bills, and a delay would render the vote moot.

Robinson then gathered his papers and left the dais, joined by Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, breaking the quorum needed to vote.

This revealed some agendas, hidden and otherwise.

One: WTF was C.O. Bradford doing running this show?  Is he bidding for political office in 2016, or currying favor with the right-wing again?  Or both?

Two: While "Stone Cold" Steve Costello and Oliver "Twisted" Pennington were out of sight at City Hall last week,  they weren't silent about Murphy's Proposed Law undercutting the city's pension agreement with the firemen.  From Teddy Schleifer's "Horseshoe" this week (which I keep telling you to subscribe to):

Costello and Pennington came out quickly in support of the Murphy bill, with Costello saying he “played a role in crafting this bill.” The Greater Houston Partnership encouraged Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to support the local control bill, calling the compromise agreement “more patchwork.” Read the letter.

Local control is a good thing, especially when Greg Abbott is against it.  So as Ted pointed out...

(Murphy’s bill) would give all cities in Texas the ability to negotiate directly with their pension boards, which has long been an ambition of Mayor Annise Parker.

Parker is now in the awkward position of not actively lobbying for a bill she has sought: “Best of luck,” a Parker spokeswoman said.

The problem here is when you ask Dan Patrick to weigh in on anything, because he's going to hide some rattlesnakes in it somewhere.  Nobody wants Patrick, or Paul Bettencourt for that matter, appointing themselves quasi-mayor of Houston and all else they survey.  Makes your skin crawl, doesn't it?  All they really want to do is undermine Mayor Parker.  That's all this is about, no matter what else gets said or done.  Parker Derangement Syndrome.

The hell with Patrick, Bettencourt, the GHP and Bradford and all of these other conservative poopy heads.  Get elected mayor or pound sand.

-- Pothole King Bill is also jousting with Stone Cold over what he derisively refers to as the rain tax.  Teddy S, once again.

NAME-DROP: King on Stephen Costello to KRIV’s Greg Groogan on drainage fee: “I heard Councilman Costello say on the radio the other day that people just need to be patient for six or seven years and the money will be there, but excuse me if I am skeptical that the money will really be there.” Full interview. 
NOT BACKING DOWN: Costello, for his part, forcefully defended the drainage fee and ReBuild Houston at his campaign launch last week. Keep your eyes on this King-Costello battle for the middle.

“Make no mistake: While this was a big step in the right direction, it was also just the start," Costello told supporters. "All you have to do is try to navigate your way through the neighborhood around potholes and daily traffic backups in your own neighborhood to know that this is not good enough." 

King has got to take votes away from Costello to have a chance at beating both he and Pennington to make the runoff.  So yes, watch how they spar with each other.  Only one of those three will be left standing after the first Tuesday in November.  And Pennington's wrapping up the "true conservative" caucus.

-- Via Schleifer and 'Horseshoe' once more: is anybody else a little ashamed by the fact that LVDP -- running for San Antonio mayor -- is fundraising in Houston?  On the other hand, just imagine how much of this outside-the-box money-grubbing you might see if there were real, actual limits on campaign contributions.  Tin-cupping and panhandling worse than at your local Walmart's parking lot.  Bake sales and American flag invoices might do the trick, too.  "Cupcakes for Costello!"  "Buy a churro, support Adrian Garcia!"

At least these guys would be able to show some small donor support.  That is Costello's real problem: he can't find anything to sell in River Oaks that they want to buy for less than $1000.  No support behind that dude except for the very, very rich.  Look at his campaign finance reports.  (This might be the only time I ever write those words.)

With a hard, low spending cap -- one Charles might be able to support -- all those buttons, stickers, pens and pencils, rulers, combs, etc. would cost you a dollar.  Hell, they want to get a $5 'donation' from you now for a bumper sticker and a yard sign, so why not?  If Obama can ask you to chip in three bucks, why can't the candidates who are unable to write themselves a check, or collect 250 large in one night -- or both -- do so?  It would give the non-1% contenders a shot, at least.

Attorney Sean Roberts, another potential candidate, tells the Chronicle: “I expect to make a decision before the end of the month.”

It sure wouldn't restore any grace to our political process, but it's still a better option than letting the wealthy buy them all off.

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